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SoulMeet

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Welcome to SoulMeet

Your Soulmate is Waiting

 

The sad truth is that so many people never find their soulmates. SoulMeet is here to help. Close the distance, find your soulmate faster.

 

[ Click here to create your profile ]

 

“Midoriya, we’ve sunk way too much money into this event for you to punk out now,” Haruna said in her usual brusque manner. If Izuku’s life were a ship, Haruna was the rudder that never failed to keep him moving in the right direction. Actually, if Izuku’s life were a ship she would be every part of the ship and Izuku would be the stowaway hiding below decks, or maybe the mermaid nailed to the prow of the ship.

“You hardly need me for it to run smoothly,” Izuku said, tugging on his collar. He felt as if it were suffocating him. He was starting to sweat, his pits pricking with moisture and he moved into his office, so he could panic behind the frosted glass. He shifted the phone to his other ear and loosened his tie, desperate for a full breath.

“That’s true, but only having half the ownership at an event like this sends the wrong message.”

Haruna was great with messages, branding. SoulMeet would hardly be the worldwide sensation it was without her. He hated that she was right. Still, he must argue.

“But—“

“I know you don’t have a real excuse.”

“Aside from my crippling social anxiety?”

“Push through it,” she said with all the nonchalance of a person who’s never felt anxiety. It was true Izuku let his anxieties rule much of his life. It was just easier to let it consume him than to push through it, but he knew he could do it if he really wanted to.

He didn’t want to. If there was ever an appropriate time to go with his twinging guts and hide, it was tonight because—

“Ground Zero is on the guest list,” he blurted, seeking comfort he surely wouldn’t get. She wouldn’t understand.

“The douche you went to middle school with? Big fucking deal. It’s been, like, ten years since you’ve seen him.”

Haruna knew vaguely of his failed friendship with Japan’s number three hero. Well, she knew they once knew each other. She didn’t know that Bakugo Katsuki used to bully him mercilessly, or that Izuku harbored a masochistic crush on him all through middle school. He hardly thought Haruna would care if she did know. She was the closest thing he had to a friend—non-internet friends, at least—but she was more like an assistant or a life coach than anything. A lot of the time, Izuku thought she saw him as a hurdle to jump over before getting to her own success. She couldn’t code, and she didn’t have the patience to learn. Not to mention that SoulMeet and the algorithm it thrived on was Izuku’s intellectual property. They had a symbiotic relationship. She was a living, moving organism with goals and agency and he was her favorite, or at least most useful, barnacle.

When Izuku didn’t respond, Haruna sighed.

“Midoriya, it’s a big venue. You’ll probably never see each other. And if you do? You’re the goddamn guest of honor. All he’s going to see is a sharply dressed millionaire with a kickass company. Revel in your own success for once in your life.”

“I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Haruna,” Izuku said, a little misty eyed. He was so thrown by the unexpected praise that he managed to stop pacing a hole in the floor of his office.

“Yeah, well, you respond better to tough love and idle threats. So, if you’re not in that town car at seven sharp dressed to the fucking nines, I’ll kick your ass. Got it?”

Izuku grimaced and groaned, but accepted his fate nonetheless.

He hung up and folded himself into his desk chair, running his hands through his sweat-damp curls anxiously. Did he have time for a haircut? Suddenly, he felt his usual mess of hair was too unruly for such an occasion. That was most definitely his nerves talking. There was absolutely nothing that could be done about his hair, no matter how much time he had. His phone pinged, jarring him from his downward spiral of self-deprecation. Even though he knew what it was, he checked the notification out of habit.

SoulMeet - kingexplosionmurder sent you a message

Izuku smiled, happy for a temporary distraction. He swiped the notification.

kingexplosionmurder: fuck this day

smolmight: 100% agree. whats got you down?

kingexplosionmurder: long workday. shitty people. you know normal stuff.

smolmight: hmm. well its nice to know youre out there suffering with me (>_<)

kingexplosionmurder: back at you. i just wanted to say hi...

kingexplosionmurder: ive been thinking about you

Izuku smiled, his cheeks a little pink. A few months ago, his beta account—the account he made to test out SoulMeet whenever he made updates—received a message from one kingexplosionmurder. His profile was scant, with a throwaway meme for a picture and no photo of his soulmark. Just like Izuku’s beta profile, he chose not to disclose his real name. Izuku almost thought it was one of those bot accounts he and Haruna tried so hard to filter out. If it was a bot, it was a very convincing one. They’d been talking almost every day since, and Izuku was very enamored with the idea of him.

smolmight: thinking of you too. good luck with the rest your shitty day. XO

Izuku was no stranger to internet friends. Internet friends got him through middle and high school. Fumblr posts, FaceSpace comments, Winstagram likes, Geddit upvotes… They kinda saved him. Izuku would never admit to anyone how miserable he was in middle school. He had no IRL friends. The only time anyone talked to him at school was to hurl insults his way and the only meaningful relationship in his life was with his mom.

The day he realized he seemed way cooler behind a computer screen, and thus, worthy of other people’s attention, was the best day of his life. It was one of the things that started him on his path to creating SoulMeet—and SoulMeet changed his life on a monumental scale. Because of SoulMeet, he didn’t have to waste his mom’s money on college. He dropped out after two years, after he met Haruna, and they quickly realized the gold mine of ideas he was sitting on. He paid his mom back for the tuition within the first four months of launching SoulMeet. After the first year, he bought her a house—a nice one with a porch swing and a garden, the one his dad never gave her. His parents were not soulmates—a fact that followed him around like a weight shackled to his ankles his entire life.

Marriage between non-soulmates was all but unheard of in his parents' generation, and children coming from such a marriage even less likely. The taboo was slowly fading away these days, and the government actually recognized non-soulmate marriages now, but he was still the only soulless child he'd ever known. Izuku always tried to tell himself that made him special, but even he knew better. He remembered the first time someone referred to him that way.

“My parents won’t let me invite a soulless kid like you.”

It was some classmate of his when he was really young—neither of them really understood what he was saying. All he knew was Izuku was the only one in his class who wasn’t invited to his birthday party. That was enough to make him cry at four years old. In the same year, he found out he was Quirkless, his best friend found out he was destined for greatness (and therefore, no longer wanted to associate with Izuku), and his father found his soulmate—a tall, rail thin blonde woman in America.

Izuku’s life could be broken down into one word: less.

Soulless, Quirkless, friendless, and finally, when he turned thirteen and he was positive things couldn’t get worse (they did), Markless.

He spent the majority of his early life being bullied and singled-out for one thing or another, but when everyone he knew started showing off their soulmarks and he had nothing to show back, it'd really started to bother him. He knew what people thought of him, of his mom, because they were never shy about saying it to his face. It was believed that the offspring of non-soulmates never get soulmarks. Izuku always held out hope that it was just a superstition, but the fear that the rumors were true niggled at the back of his mind, ever present. Once he got over the shock of knowing he was destined to be alone, he found it almost comforting to not have to worry about it anymore. At least, he didn't have to wonder.


 

The party that night was to celebrate five years of SoulMeet, and a huge partnership with FaceSpace that would most likely double their reach and productivity. There would be dinner, alcohol, speeches, and celebrities as far as the eye could see. All of those things made Izuku incredibly uncomfortable, but it also forced him into a kind of autopilot.

He smoothed down the lapels of his forest green suit with its black accents. It was tailored to perfection, and despite the fact that he thought he looked liked a green bean, Haruna said that the green suited him. After a few sad attempts at tying his bow tie, he gave up, letting it hang limply around his neck as he checked his watch. It was 7:02.

He took a deep, much needed breath and attempted to smooth his curls down against his head once more before leaving his apartment. Just as he suspected, the black town car was waiting for him on the curb. He climbed in, appraising Haruna’s flouncy, pale pink dress and her wild, brunette curls. She looked so soft, and then she opened her mouth.

“Thank fuck you came out on your own. These heels are killing me already and I was going to murder you if I had to leave this car to come get you.”

Izuku huffed a laugh, holding his hands up in defeat because resistance was futile.

“Can you do my bow tie?”

“You’re hopeless,” Haruna said, rolling her eyes, but still making quick work of the black satin fabric at his neck. For as much as they complained about each other, Izuku had a soft spot for her. There was something to be said for someone like Haruna—tough, confident, amazingly self-assured—choosing to stick around someone like Izuku.

Izuku was the brains of the operation, and—despite his protests—the face of it as well. But Haruna was the mouthpiece. She could talk her way into and out of anything. She could argue with anyone six ways to Sunday and always come out the winner. She was also a tech genius.

Izuku first met her from a flyer posted in his dorm, advertising quick and cheap tech fixes. He could barely afford his ramshackle, used laptop, much less afford to get it repaired, so he called the number on her flyer and met her at a cafe. She literally held his laptop and asked it what was wrong, closing her eyes reverently.

Izuku thought she was insane, but only seconds after asking, she pulled apart his laptop, fiddled with some of the parts, cleaned others, and put it back together good as new—or in his case, used. And it worked. Turns out, her Quirk was called Technopath. She could talk to tech, she could feel its pains and problems as if they were sentient beings. For this reason, SoulMeet’s servers had never gone down once. She loved to boast about SoulMeet’s 100% reliability rating.

“Did you write your speech?”

“More or less,” he said, shrugging. Most of the time his speeches were all the same. A brief, highly redacted, highly impersonal history of who he was and how he came up with SoulMeet, many gratuitous thanks, and overwrought praise for Haruna and every other person that brought SoulMeet to life, and sometimes a Q & A.

“I’ll be with you all night, so don’t freak out. I won’t let you do anything stupid.”

“I think if I was going to do or say anything stupid enough to tank the company it would’ve happened by now,” Izuku said, only half believing his words. He wanted to put on a good face for Haruna. She did so much for him and the company.

“You’d be surprised what you’re capable of when you’re babbling. Either way, try to have fun and relax.”

She may as well have asked him to juggle while riding a unicycle. That would’ve been easier to achieve than having fun or relaxing while in the same room with investors, celebrities, heroes, and Bakugo Katsuki. Izuku let out a sigh at the thought.

“You won’t see him, Midoriya. And if you do, I’ll do all the talking.”

“That almost seems scarier than talking to him myself. What would you say?”

“Really mean shit. And then I’d ask his cell phone to explode in his pocket.”

“You’d do that for me?” Izuku asked, touched for the second time that day. Maybe she did know about his past with Bakugo, just from listening to him talk over the years. Maybe she did care.

“And then some, birdie,” she said, shoving his shoulder harder than necessary, but still somehow with affection.

She’d been calling him that for years. She said it was because he was constantly squawking, and because he reminded her of a baby bird she tried to nurse back to health when she was a little girl.

“It was so pathetic and helpless. It died.”

“Wow, thanks so much.” Izuku made a face.

“Don’t worry, birdie. I’ll keep you alive.”

 

It wasn’t until Izuku was rich that he realized the hero industry was ruled by cash and photo ops. He’d been naive and idealistic when he was young, believing it was run solely on altruism. If that were true, almost every top Pro in Tokyo wouldn’t be spending their Friday night here, dressed in suits and gowns.

Who was protecting the city?

He tried not to think too much about it as he and Haruna made their way to their table saying quick hello’s to people he didn’t recognize, but she assured him they were important. He was more focused on meeting new heroes—he could just make out a table of Pros in the corner. He recognized Pinky and Chargebolt loudly greeting the others seated at their table. He thought about how lucky he was to have so much access to their world. He would never be part of it, but he was closer than he'd ever believed would be possible.

He’d never grown out of his hero obsession, he only switched from notebooks to a laptop. In fact, he’d made most of his friends in hero chat rooms. He posted sketches of his favorite heroes and got into intellectual disputes over who was the best, who had the most potential, and who was vastly overrated for their rank. Surprisingly that’s how he first connected with the second and tenth most popular heroes in the nation, Todoroki Shoto (endeavorsux) and Uraraka Ochako (spaceherotaku), though they were only middle schoolers back then. They would be in attendance tonight, and Izuku would be glad to see them. It wasn’t often that internet friends got to become real-life friends and he cherished them even though their schedules kept them too busy to interact much of the time.

Part of the reason all the Pros are around the party was to announce Haruna's latest marketing ploy. SoulMeet was teaming up with a select few of the top 20 heroes to raise money for charity. Haruna came up with the idea when she found out just how many Pros Izuku personally knew. She was going to make the announcement that night once all the speeches got going. She planned to do a series of TV spots about the Pros talking about their soulmates. It was all corny and mushy but it was for a good cause and it would only make SoulMeet more popular. Izuku had yet to see the names of the Pros on the project.

“You’ll have to find out with the rest of the world.”

“Haruna,” he whined, curiosity eating away at him as he made grabby hands for Manila folder with all the information. She flicked him in the forehead.

“That’s what happens when you don’t lift a finger to help with these projects,” she said, thoroughly delighted watching him squirm.

 

Haruna hung a coat and bag over the back of her chair while bemoaning the concept of a coat check. Izuku was only half-listening.

“It’s so stupid. Why would I wait in line for someone to hold my purse? Ridiculous.”

“Mhmm,” Izuku muttered, still watching the table of Pros.

“Are you listening?” Haruna punched his shoulder, demanding his full attention.

“What?” He sounded dazed and Haruna rolled her eyes.

“We can’t sit down yet or I’ll never be able to get back up. You’re so lucky you don’t have to wear heels to these things.”

Izuku nodded slowly, unsure what response she expected from him. She punched his shoulder again.

“Okay, boss. I’m along for the ride,” he said in an attempt to placate her. His shoulder was sore, but he held out his arm for her to take. She put an absurd amount of weight on him, sagging against him in an effort to ease the pain in her feet.

“You know, you could wear flats. You’re the goddamn guest of honor, remember?” He mimicked her words from earlier. Haruna was just as responsible for SoulMeet as he was, and she had the confidence to rock just about anything she decided to wear.

“Heels command attention and respect. Have you ever not listened to a woman in heels?” She started to walk him in the direction of a group of people he knew to be investors. He started to speak, but her question must’ve been rhetorical because she quickly added, “And I’m trying to leave here on the arm of someone else. No offense, birdie, but you’re not my type.”

Izuku smiled at her. Haruna couldn’t care less about soulmates. She cared deeply for her's, but not in the way the world told everyone they were supposed to.

“Alright, so we schmooze with investors for a while and then we find you a man. Who’s it gonna be tonight?”

She grinned conspiratorially at Izuku and pointed a perfectly manicured finger at a tall, disheveled man with gravity-defying purple hair.

“Control Freak?”

“You know him?”

“I know of him. He’s a Pro. I’m surprised he’s here, to be honest. He keeps out of the spotlight.”

“Perfect. You’re going to break the ice by nerding out and asking for an autograph and I’ll do all the rest.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.”

She punched his arm again and he laughed. She always thought he was joking when he said things like that, but he was absolutely serious. They were laughing and bickering too much for Izuku to noticed the imposing figure not ten feet away from them.

“The fuck are you doing here, Deku?”

Chapter Text

kingexplosionmurder: hi

kingexplosionmurder: is there a reason why you don’t have your soulmark posted?

smolmight: im not really looking for a soulmate

kingexplosionmurder: good. me neither.

smolmight: hmmm

kingexplosionmurder: what

smolmight: ive never met anyone who isnt looking for their soulmate

smolmight: its suspicious

kingexplosionmurder: how the hell is that suspicious? you dont want one either.

smolmight: im markless

kingexplosionmurder: i may as well be.

smolmight: ???

smolmight: sus

 

Izuku was suddenly sweating, his vision going spotty in the way it always did when he was in the beginnings of a panic attack because there was Bakugo Katsuki looking unfairly tall and handsome in a sleek black suit. He swallowed thickly, trying to push through the wave of sudden horror that had a vice grip on his internal organs. Bakugo stepped closer and Izuku was resigned to the fact that whatever happened after Bakugo sauntered over would not be a pleasant encounter. He was twitchy and panicky, subconsciously waiting to be shoved. He tried to tell himself that Bakugo was an adult, not to mention a Pro hero already under scrutiny for his thorny personality, so physical violence shouldn’t be on the table, but it was a knee jerk response. Old habits, and whatnot.

“I’m—” he started, not quite knowing what to say. He hated how weak and breathy he sounded. Blessedly, Haruna spoke for him, just like she promised.

“He invented SoulMeet. How could you not know that?” Haruna’s rude and defensive manner had Bakugo narrowing his eyes at her and the hold she had on Izuku’s arm. He seemed to be making a concerted effort not snap back at her. The second-long standoff had her standing up straighter and puffing out her chest, mirroring Bakugo. He refocused on Izuku, giving him an appraising look. He couldn’t imagine Bakugo saw anything mildly impressive.

“No shit? This is what you’ve been doing the last ten years?”

“More or less,” Izuku muttered, looking anywhere but in Bakugo’s fiery, red eyes.

“Well, call off your guard dog and come meet my friends. We should catch up.”

“Huh,” Izuku said, dumbstruck. He was too stunned to have any affectation in his words.

He wanted to catch up? What was this nonchalance? This...interest in Izuku and his life? Haruna looked a little thrown as well. She eyed Izuku, as if to say you were afraid of this guy?

“Do you have a concussion or something?” he blurted.

Pros sustained head injuries all the time. He read once about a hero who went a little nutty after their sixth or seventh head wound—then one day she was a completely different person with no recollection of her life or family or her career. Maybe he smacked his head on the job and he was too delirious to be volatile. Bakugo raised an eyebrow.

“Same old Deku. Always asking dumb fuckin questions,” he said, but without the venom Izuku could remember so clearly from years ago.

When Izuku made no move to answer him—or, you know, move —Bakugo stepped back and slightly turned in the direction he wanted Izuku to follow him in and made a welcoming gesture.

“My table’s this way, nerd,” he said, a smirk on his impossibly handsomer face. It wasn’t fair that he only got more muscular, tanner, blonder with age and Izuku had only managed to grow 7 centimeters since the last time they met. The only thing Izuku had more of was freckles and anxiety and none of that would help him out of this predicament.

Maybe Izuku was the one who smacked his head. Maybe their driver crashed the car on the way here and both he and Haruna died on impact, and now they were in some strange limbo. Maybe it was opposite day and Bakugo was really telling him to fuck off. What if Bakugo just wanted to embarrass him in front of all his friends at his own event? Either way, Izuku was confused and ready to run at the first chance he got.

“Do you still want me to blow up his phone?” Haruna whispered when Bakugo turned fully around. It sounded like she was only slightly joking. Izuku shrugged, not taking his eyes off the back of Bakugo’s spiky, blonde head as he walked to the Pro table Izuku was eyeing earlier.

“Would you hate me if I abandoned you to flirt with that purple guy?”

“Please, don’t.”

She gave a small huff and tossed her hair, but she continued to hold his arm. Supportive wasn’t usually a word Izuku would use to describe Haruna, but he was pleasantly surprised by her.

“Fine. But if 10 minutes passes and nothing bad happens, I’m leaving.”

“What,” he said, his voice a high hiss. Clearly, he should’ve know better than to use supportive and Haruna in the same sentence.

“You heard me. I knew you were overreacting, you big baby.” She rolled her eyes. Izuku was about to argue with her when Bakugo looked back at Izuku, almost as if to check if he was really following. How odd. He cleared his throat.

“So… computers?” Bakugo asked, falling into step next to Haruna. She looked unimpressed by his gruff line of questioning.

His attempt at catching up was neither welcome nor necessary, but Izuku wasn’t about to tell him that. Izuku wanted the spotless floors of the ballroom to open up and swallow him whole so he didn’t have to tell him anything. Haruna elbowed him in the side after an overlong silence.

“Not just computers. Tech in general.”

“How’d you get into that?”

“Support track at Gijutsu Academy.” Izuku was an ace in the support course, and that was saying something at Gijutsu. It was a highly competitive technical school with a focus in technology. A lot of the prototypes he made in his second year, before he'd shifted focus to IT and coding, were bought up by big hero support companies. Everyone said he'd have a bright future in inventing and improving hero tech until he focused more on computers. He wouldn't tell anyone why he switched at the time, but it was because being so close to heroism made him sad. He was good enough to be support, but not good enought to actually be a hero. He was much happier now that he was separate from the hero industry.

“You went to Gijutsu?”

Izuku nodded, a little surprised that he didn’t already know that. Izuku knew for a fact that his mother still talked to Mitsuki Bakugo at least once a week, and his mom’s favorite past time was telling anyone who would listen about his accomplishments. Did his mom not tell him anything about Izuku over the years, or did he just not care to listen?

“Graduated top of his class. Probably would’ve graduated with top marks in university, too, if we didn’t drop out,” Haruna said, preening on Izuku’s behalf. Her bragging had his cheeks pinking. Bakugo didn’t want to know his life story.

“You dropped out?”

Or did he? Why was he feigning interest? What were his accomplishments compared to that of Ground Zero, the third most popular hero in the nation? He’d been kicking ass and taking names since his first week at UA. Izuku couldn’t help but follow his career, picking through it with a fine-toothed comb.

“University is for people without original ideas. This little genius had SoulMeet planned before he was through with freshman year,” she said, ruffling his hair in a very un-Haruna-like gesture. There had to be some joke Izuku wasn’t clued in on. Was he considered famous enough to be on a hidden camera prank show?

“What are you doing?” Izuku hissed in Haruna’s ear when Bakugo wasn’t looking their way.

“Unlike you, I’m an excellent wingman,” she whispered haughtily.

Izuku pouted. He supposed Haruna was helping him by talking him up, but the false praise made his skin crawl. He just wanted to escape.

By then, they’d made it through the sea of partygoers to stop in front of the large Pro table. The seats were only a third of the way filled, taken up by none other than Red Riot, Chargebolt, and Pinky. Izuku’s panic over Bakugo’s presence was tempered in the wake of his obsessive hero worship. He’d never met any of these heroes—admittedly because they were known to be close to Ground Zero, and Izuku didn’t want to chance a run in.

“Oh my gosh,” Izuku said, bringing his hands up to cup his cheeks like a giddy school girl. Bakugo cleared his throat and gestured to Izuku.

“Guys, this is Deku. He’s my—“ Bakugo’s words tapered off abruptly. He probably didn’t know what to call him. That was fine. Bakugo’s introduction was already off to a rocky start. Sometimes, Izuku wondered if Bakugo even remembered his real name anymore.

“Deku? Like Deku, Deku?” Red Riot asked cryptically, locking eyes with Bakugo.

“Izuku, actually. Midoriya Izuku, founder and CEO of SoulMeet. Nice to see you, again, Red, Pinky,” Haruna said, nodding politely to both heroes. They must be part of the new marketing plan. Izuku felt that introducing him as founder and CEO was more than a little extra. He often felt that leading with his accomplishments only made people expect more from him than he was capable of. Like building an incredibly successful company from the ground up meant he was a people person.

“I’m a big fan of all of you—especially you Red Riot! You’re, like, one of the most underrated heroes right now.”

“Call me Kirishima,” Red Riot said, a warm smile showing off his pointed teeth.

Pinky smiled affectionately at her soulmate, and then at Izuku, her black and gold eyes mesmerizing. Pinky was a Pro who spent a lot of time in the spotlight and it showed. Izuku had never seen a photo of the Pro, candid or otherwise, where she didn’t look like she’d stepped off the pages of a magazine. He wondered if she had a stylist, or if her impeccable taste was all her own.

“He’s the ninth most popular hero. That’s underrated to you?” She leaned closer to her soulmate, and hung an elbow off his broad shoulder. She laughed at Red Riot’s obvious blush.

“He’s top five material, at least . People just put too much stock in flashy Quirks.” Izuku gushed, slipping into a seat across from Red Riot and Pinky. Haruna took the seat on his left, and Bakugo took the one to his right. Izuku tried not to think about how close Bakugo was to his personal space bubble.

“He’s not that great,” Bakugo muttered, gruff. Izuku boldly decided to ignore that, but he saw Chargebolt elbow him from the corner of his eye.

"Don't be jealous," Chargebolt said, laughing under his breath at Bakugo's reddening face and pinched expression. He was trying to ignore that too.

“I mean, in your first year of UA alone, you were instrumental in taking down that yakuza group with Uraraka—”

“How do you know about that?” Red asked. Heroes in training never got any “official” credit for the work they did during internships. The press wasn’t allowed to mention their names without both agency and school permission. That was a rare occurrence.

“Oh, Uraraka told me.”

“How the hell do you know Round Face?” Bakugo all but sneered, his eyebrows low and scrunched in the middle. Izuku knew that look, and instinctively leaned away from him, into Haruna.

“Do you know a lot of Pros, Midoriya?” Chargebolt asked from around Bakugo.

“I’ve met a lot of Pros, but I only know Shoto and Uravity personally.”

“And me,” Bakugo said, sounding annoyed about being forgotten. Bakugo’s pride was still too easily wounded.

“Right,” Izuku squeaked. Haruna placed her hand on his, a small comfort. After so many years together, she’d learned to sense his discomfort.

“So, you invented the world’s most popular dating site? Bakugo never told me that!” Red Riot said. Izuku made a face. He wondered why Bakugo told him anything about Izuku. And what? Probably that he was sad and Quirkless and got his ass handed to him by a sludge villain. Izuku suppressed a groan.

“He didn’t know,” Haruna said, sounding a little indignant on Izuku’s behalf. He tried to give her a look that said please, shut up but she resolutely ignored him. The last thing Izuku needed was Haruna and Bakugo at each other's throats. He also really didn’t want to delve into their history before Izuku could at least down a drink. Almost as if she were reading his mind, Pinky waved over one of the waiters with a tray of drinking flutes.

“Well, I’m happy to have witnessed such a beautiful reunion. Let’s down these frilly drinks in celebration!” She passed the flutes of bubbly champagne around the table so that everyone held one.

“To SoulMeet and soulmates and friends,” she said, clinking her glass with Izuku’s then Haruna’s before expertly downing it, as if it were a shot. Izuku followed suit. Bakugo did the same, eyeing Izuku and Haruna over the top of his glass. Izuku could feel those red eyes boring holes into him. Haruna set the flute down daintily.

“Not that this hasn’t been the best ten minutes of my life, or anything, but I’ve got networking to do. Nice to meet you, heroes. I’ll see some of you again, I’m sure.” Haruna stood, smoothing the ruffles of her dress. Then she grabbed Izuku’s arm, digging her sharp nails into his bicep, as if she could impress upon him the importance of what she was about to say by squeezing all the blood flow out of his arm. She whispered in his ear.

“Don’t be a pussy.”

Izuku wanted to roll his eyes, but she had a point. No one had accosted him yet.

“She’s right. Let’s dance, Eiji. Denki, would you like to join us?” Pinky asked, standing gracefully, her hand in Red Riot’s. Chargebolt shook his head.

“I’ll hang here for a bit. Sero’s supposed to be here soon.”

Pinky gave him a frighteningly pointed looked and tried again with more emphasis, “Denki, would you like to join us?”

“Oh! Yes, let’s go,” he said, slapping Bakugo on the back before standing.

“Wait! Um, before you go. Could I get your autographs? Please?” Izuku asked, his neck getting hot. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and grabbed a few napkins off the table.

“Of course! It was nice to meet you, man.” Red Riot too the pen and the napkin and scrawled his signature on it as best he could before passing it to Pinky, and she passed it to Chargebolt.

“Thanks!” Izuku accepted the pen and napkin from Chargebolt before they headed for the dance floor.

“You don’t want mine?” Bakugo asked when Izuku pocketed the pen again. Izuku looked up at him, confused.

“Oh. Uh, I figured you wouldn’t want to,” he said, in an idiotic moment of honesty. That was better than admitting that he still had Bakugo’s autograph. He signed the first notebook entry he ever made. He signed it as Kacchan, but that was neither here nor there.

“Just give me the stupid pen, Deku,” Bakugo said, huffing and scowling. Izuku complied, and tried his best to be subtle about the fact that he was scooting his chair away from Bakugo’s. He had to sign two napkins because he ripped the first one when he wrote too hard. Izuku wanted to laugh at that, but he quelled it out of self-preservation.

“So, is she your soulmate?” Bakugo asked, watching Haruna walk toward Control Freak. Izuku barely held back a snort. The idea of him and Haruna being soulmates was too funny, although he supposed they were compatible to some extent.

“No way,” he said, allowing himself to laugh a little. He found himself relaxing a bit—something he couldn’t remember ever doing in Bakugo’s presence, not since they were five at least. Maybe the champagne was rounding out the edges of his anxiety. The question seemed to come out of nowhere. Izuku couldn’t connect it with any part of their conversation that evening, aside from the fact that they were at a SoulMeet party.

“I don’t have one,” he said, deciding it would be best to just get that information out of the way. He wasn’t all that surprised that he didn’t remember everyone teasing him for being Markless in school.

“Really?” Katsuki looked genuinely confused, maybe a little mad, his eyebrows pinched and his mouth a hard line.

“Yeah. I guess all those rumors about being soulless were true, or maybe it’s the Quirkless thing.”

Izuku shrugged it off. He’d had a long time to get used to the idea of being alone. It’s not like he’d never dated either. Some people didn’t mind getting to know someone that wasn’t their soulmate, but relationships outside of soul bonds just never worked out long term—his parents were a testament to that. Regardless, he really hadn’t felt alone at all since he started messaging with kingexplosionmurder, but he would never admit that to anyone. They were each other’s secret—practically secret from each other. They mostly talked in the abstract, avoiding names and other identifying attributes of their lives, but they talked a lot about real things that mattered.

Katsuki was silent for a long time, and Izuku found it more convenient than awkward as he’d fallen into thinking about other things.

“Is that why there’s a Markless option on SoulMeet?”

“You’re on SoulMeet?” Izuku regretted his incredulous tone, especially when Bakugo made a face like he’d incriminated himself.

“Against my will. Kirishima made my profile and I haven’t done much with it since,” he said, almost aggressively casual—if that was even possible. Izuku nodded. He could relate. Before kingexplosionmurder, he hadn’t used his account to do more than test updates.

“Well, you never know what you’ll find. SoulMeet’s not just for soulmates.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, how will anyone ever find their soulmate if they don’t meet new people? The algorithm matches you with people you share commonalities with, but it’s your choice to get to know them. I’ve learned that the internet puts everyone on a level playing field. It makes the world much smaller, easier to branch out.”

Izuku was talking more than necessary, going off on one of his tangents. It was jarring to realize how comfortable he was talking to Bakugo once it became pretty clear that he wasn’t in any danger of losing his temper with Izuku. He seemed like an entirely different person. Izuku didn’t think he himself had changed much, but the way Bakugo stared at him led him to believe that maybe Bakugo was seeing him in a different light too.

He stared a little longer before clearing his throat.

“Always knew you were a huge nerd,” he said, gruff, averting his eyes to nowhere in particular.

“Right. Yeah, well, I have to go. Haruna will yell at me if I don’t talk with some of the FaceSpace reps before dinner and speeches get going.”

Izuku started to back out of his seat, ready to make his escape. He tucked the autographed napkins into the pocket of his slacks.

“Are you going to be at that SoulMeet commercial shoot?” Bakugo blurted it out before Izuku had a chance to cut and run.

“Part of it. Are you?”

“Yeah. So… I guess I’ll see you around?”

Izuku nodded. He was having trouble averting his gaze from Bakugo’s unusually open face. His eyes were warm, like they were when they were best friends so many years ago.

“Yeah. See you around, Kacchan.” The nickname slipped out, but Kacchan didn’t seem all that bothered by it. He smirked.

 

“How’d it go with Control Freak?” Izuku asked, after he’d found Haruna and supported her on the walk back to their table. Dinner was due to be served soon. She huffed.

“Swing and a miss. He asked about you.

“Me? Why?” Izuku had never met Control Freak. He was elusive and a little prickly with the press, much like his mentor, Eraserhead.

“His gaydar is better than mine, apparently,” she said, wistfully. Izuku snickered at her forlorn expression. She punched him for it.

“I gave him your number.”

“Why!” Izuku squawked. It was her turn to snicker as they found their seats.

“Because I’m a good friend, and you haven’t gotten laid in forever.”

Forever was an understatement. The last person he’d been in a physical relationship with was Shoto, and that had to end when he found his soulmate—a pretty girl in his high school class named Yaoyorozu Momo. Izuku had met Yaomomo a few times in the past. She was lovely, but he always felt a weird kind of guilt around her. He wondered if she knew about his relationship with Shoto. It was a little more than obvious that Shoto leaned more toward being attracted to men than women, but their soul bond was a match made in heaven. They were both incredible heroes from wealthy hero industry families. It made sense; it was honestly surprising they didn’t realize it until after they’d graduated. Izuku was gobsmacked when Shoto casually announced that she was pregnant last year. He was happy for them— beyond happy. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t also jealous.

Dinner was exhausting in the way speaking to investors always was. Even after five years, Izuku hadn’t mastered the art of networking. He mostly let Haruna speak, only cutting in when he was specifically asked something. He just wanted to eat, get his speech over with, hug Uraraka and Todoroki, then go home to his All Might sweatpants.

“Birdie, you ready for your speech?” Haruna asked when the dinner plates were cleared away. Izuku sighed, his social meter was at an all time low. He snagged a champagne flute off one of the passing trays.

“I will be after I finish this,” he said before downing it.

“That’s the spirit.” She gave him a strained, possibly sympathetic smile as they walked to the stage.

Chapter Text

kingexplosionmurder: so… Markless. That’s gotta throw a wrench in your dating prospects.

smolmight: yes and no. ive dated here and there its just never too serious.

kingexplosionmurder: how is it that the Markless guy has more game than me?

smolmight: i have zero game. like on every level.

kingexplosionmurder: you don’t seem so bad to me

smolmight: im hopeless irl

kingexplosionmurder: what the fuck is irl

smolmight: in real life

kingexplosionmurder: 

kingexplosionmurder: ok i take it back. that’s the nerdiest shit ive ever heard.

kingexplosionmurder: no one with game would ever say irl.

smolmight: says the guy with no game

 

Katsuki wasn’t sure what he was doing when he called out to Deku. He just blurted the words out like a complete dumbass from ten feet away, and before he knew it he was pushing past people to get to him. He was stunned to see him. He’d spent a lot of time wondering about Deku over the last thirteen or so years—way more time than he’d care to admit. Every time he wondered what he looked like now, or what job he was working, or even what city he lived in the green soulmark on his rib cage seemed to pulse with guilt.

What kind of soulmate didn’t know these things about their other half? What kind of soulmate purposely stayed away for thirteen years?

Katsuki’s soulmark appeared when he was fourteen years old, after a villain snatched him up and nearly killed him. It took him many years to come to terms with the fact that Deku saved his life just as much as All Might did. Katsuki was nothing if not a prideful shithead—he’d come to terms with that too, eventually.

That night, after he’d washed away all the soot and sludge, he noticed something new. A soulmark. He knew it was overdue to appear. Most of the kids in his class got theirs when they were twelve or thirteen. He knew the second he saw it who his soulmate was. It was the same green as Deku’s hair, his eyes. It was a color so common and yet he only associated it with stupid Deku. The fact that it was shaped like All Might was a dead giveaway.

He’d always been told that soulmarks were mysterious, cryptic blessings a person could only figure out once they met the one . His wasn’t mysterious at all.

The only mystery was why Deku?

Of all the people in the world, Deku couldn’t be further from his idea of a soulmate. He was weak and pitiful and Quirkless. Still, every now and then he saw a fire in those eyes that was worthy of Katsuki, that might’ve been better than Katsuki. He was as obsessed with bringing it out in him as he was with stomping it out the second it flared to life.

Deku was his soulmate. Katsuki couldn’t claim to give a shit about love or companionship or the one , but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to be the best goddamn soulmate the world had ever seen. Just like everything else he did in life, he would give it his all. Soulmates didn’t hurt each other. So he stopped hitting Deku, he stopped berating him and making fun of his Quirkless status. He quickly realized that without the hitting and berating they hardly ever interacted. Deku avoided him like his life depended on it—like he was afraid of his own soulmate.

Why didn’t Deku say anything about his mark? Was his less obvious than a green fucking silhouette of All Might?

Katsuki used to blame Deku for failing as a soulmate, for not giving him a chance. Deku was too smart not to figure it out. With his obsessive personality, Katsuki knew Deku wouldn’t stop until he put two and two together. He waited for that day with a saint-like patience he never knew he could possess.

It never came.

When he was younger, his emotional range only went from annoyed to angry to furious. It was a long time before he realized that his anger stemmed from hurt or fear or insecurity. For years, he walked around with a chip on his shoulder, pissed because if Deku really wanted him for a soulmate, he would’ve said something. For years, his pride kept him from realizing he was the problem, not Deku.

Katsuki had failed Deku as a soulmate long before he ever knew what he was. He failed him as a friend first. Never mind all that, he failed him as a decent human being.

Even in knowing all that, he still made a beeline for him, determined to show him how much he’d changed.

 

Deku was scared of him. Self-pity was a shitty look on anyone, but it was especially ugly on Katsuki. Every time Deku jumped or leaned away from him, he felt like he was burning in a hell of his own making. Katsuki never believed all the shit his friends spouted about soulbonds—about how it hurt to see your soulmate hurting, like you were shouldering the burden with them; about how the bond made you ache to be near them if you spent too much time apart. He believed it now.

Could Deku feel all that too?

When Deku finally called him Kacchan , he felt like his heart was going to fall out his ass if he stood up. So after Deku excused himself to network—something he absolutely couldn’t imagine someone as shy as Deku doing—he opted to stay seated at his empty table, content with watching him flit nervously around, shaking hands with strangers. He blamed his sentimentality on the bond. It had thirteen years of lost time to make up for; weird, fuzzy feeling attacked him every time Deku smiled at someone else, blushed at someone’s words. His friend—Haruna, he remembered—was almost constantly on his arm. He knew he shouldn’t be jealous. He should be happy that he found companionship with someone. Whatever they were, she’d never be able to claim him as a soulmate. Only Katsuki had that privilege. Even as things were, that fact still managed to give him an ego boost.

 

“What are you staring at, Bakugo?”

He hadn’t noticed the seats at the table filling up once again. Uraraka, Tsu, Yaomomo, and that half and half bastard were sitting across from him openly staring at him stare thirstily at Deku.

“Why didn’t you tell me you knew Deku, Round Face?”

“How would I know your mysterious soulmate?”

“I was wondering the same thing,” Kirishima said, appearing out of nowhere to sit next to Katsuki, with Ashido, Sero, and Kaminari filling up the rest of the seats shortly after.

“Yeah, tell us everything about Midoriya!” Ashido said, screeching loud enough that the people at the next table gave her odd looks.

Katsuki prickled at the fact that two people at the table knew Deku better than he did, but he allowed his pride to take a hit in exchange for information no matter how bad his palms itched to blow something up.

Uraraka gasped, her padded fingertips covering her round cheeks. Todoroki looked slightly more uncomfortable than he always looked.

“Midoriya is Deku?”

Katsuki ground his teeth. He didn’t feel the need to confirm or deny anything. The conversation had already gotten away from him. Much of his time spent with friends consisted of listening to them all talk circles around him.

“Yes! Where have you been hiding him? He’s cute as a button,” Ashido said.

“Todoroki’s known him since middle school,” Yaomomo said, pensively resting a finger on her cheek.

“Yeah, we all met on Geddit. He posted this really in-depth analysis on Thirteen’s Quirk after they debuted and we started chatting about it.”

“How does Todoroki factor into that?” Sero asked.

“He doesn’t. He used to troll him about his Endeavor posts.” Uraraka laughed. Todoroki’s usually placid face pinched at the comment.

“Wow, Todoroki. That’s the pettiest thing I’ve ever heard,” Ashido said, giggling.

Petty,” both Kaminari and Sero said in unison, no doubt referencing some horrible video they found on the internet.

“Can we get back to the issue at hand? We’ve finally found Bakugo’s soulmate!”

“Say it a little louder, shithead! I don’t think the whole goddamn party heard you!” Katsuki snarled. He was much better at curbing his aggression, but he wasn’t perfect. He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I thought love was supposed to make people happy,” Kaminari whispered to Sero.

“I mean, it’s Bakugo,” Sero whispered back. Kaminari nodded sagely. He was saved from further conversation by the waiters placing dinner in front of them.

 

“How’d it go? Did you guys get to talk about your bond?” Kirishima asked during dinner, his voice low and secretive.

He’d mentioned Deku to Kirishima a few times. For a guy with more hair than brains, he was too perceptive. He’d noticed all the times Katsuki had skirted any conversation about soulmates and soulmarks, how defensive he was about it. He was the only one who knew the whole story. He told him all the shit he gave Deku for years only to find that he was his other half—the person he was supposed to care for most in the world. Kirishima didn’t have a hard time believing that Katsuki used to be even more volatile than he was at the time. Somehow , most of the shit he told Kirishima about Deku permeated through his group of friends, and eventually to the whole damn class. Pretty much everyone knew something about Katsuki’s long lost soulmate, but no one knew his real name until that night.

“He...he said he’s Markless.” Katsuki was confounded. Deku would rather lie to the world—be even more of an outlier than he already was— than to accept Katsuki as his soulmate. Kirishima gave him a sympathetic smile, always too positive.

“Just talk to him, man. It can’t be a coincidence that you’ve found each other again.”

“Yeah, and you’ve changed so much. Just give him a chance to see it,” Ashido said, clearly eavesdropping on their hushed conversation.

 

“You’ve got stars in your eyes, Bakugo,” Kirishima whispered, almost reverently. He couldn’t be bothered to scowl at his best friend for being mushy, he was too busy watching Deku speak.

“Thank you for coming tonight. My name is Izuku Midoriya and I invented SoulMeet. I started coding SoulMeet—or a simple prototype of it—in high school, but I started thinking about it as early as middle school. In middle school, the internet was my best friend. I loved how small it made the world, how confident it made me feel to know that there were people in the world who agreed with my points of view. I wanted to bring that energy to SoulMeet. I met Haruna Miko, my partner, in university and the rest is history.

I always say that SoulMeet isn’t just for soulmates. It’s a community of like minded people from all over the world, hand picked to speak with you. All anyone has to do is make a leap of faith. That’s what love is. When I found out I was Markless, I thought I’d never know what real love felt like. Real love is everywhere if you’re willing to look for it, to see it for what it is.

I see real love in my partner. She keeps me going and I can honestly say nothing would ever get done without her. I see real love in my mom, the first person to show me that a soulmate is an extra blessing, not a minimum requirement for happiness. I see real love happen every time a new person connects with someone on our servers. Thank you everyone for the love and support you’ve show me and SoulMeet. To another five years.”

Deku raised a glass to toast his accomplishments.

He looked incredibly uncomfortable through most of the speech, but again Katsuki could see the light of determination glow in his eyes. He wanted to get closer, to climb the stage and stand face to face with him so he could let that light set him on fire. Katsuki was glad to know that everything he did hadn’t put that light out.

Could he really be Markless? He seemed so earnest about it—and the Deku he once knew was a terrible liar. He couldn’t have changed that much. So, did that mean that Deku was perfect for Katsuki, but Katsuki wasn’t perfect for Deku? He’d never felt like more of a piece of shit in his life because maybe they could’ve been each other soulmates if Katsuki hadn’t turned on him. He may as well have beaten the soulmark out of him.

 

“There’s no way Midoriya is your soulmate.” Half and Half snuck up beside him while he was (again) ogling Deku. For all the work he’d done on his anger management, Todoroki always managed to get under Katsuki’s skin the worst. They couldn’t interact at all in high school without it turning into a brawl, and the fact that the fucker was beating him on the hero rankings made his blood boil.

“Excuse me?”

“He doesn’t have a soulmark, so you must be mistaken,” Todoroki said, gritting his teeth. Katsuki refused to give him the courtesy of eye contact, opting to stare at Deku some more.

“I don’t see how any of that is your fuckin business.”

Todoroki grabbed his shoulder, shoving him just enough to turn Katsuki in his direction. Katsuki snarled, baring his teeth.

“Izuku deserves better than you. He’s amazing and—”

“Izuku? Since when are you on a first name basis with Deku?”

Uraraka didn’t even call Deku by his first name. So what made Todoroki so special?

“We’ve known each other a long time.” He said it coolly, like it was just a fact that couldn’t be refuted.

“I’ve known him longer,” Katsuki said because he was incapable of not making everything a competition.

“You knew him. Past tense. When’s the last time you even thought of him? Izuku deserves more than a passing thought.”

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, so back the fuck up—”

“Shoto, you okay?”

Suddenly Deku was there, sliding between them to put some much needed space between the hot-headed heroes. Deku’s hands seemed to instinctively go to Todoroki’s shoulders, his back to Katsuki. If he leaned back any more his back would be flush against Katsuki’s chest, and Katsuki might be able to smell him, and maybe quell his urge to press his face into his curls so could stop wondering if they were as course and ratty as they were when they were kids.

“I’m fine,” Shoto said, his eyes only leaving Katsuki’s at the last second. He’d never seen a softer look on Todoroki’s scarred up face than when he was looking at Deku. Somehow, Katsuki ended up feeling like the third wheel on a date—even though the soulmark on his body was telling him that half and half bastard was the extra in this situation.

“The last thing the number two and three heroes need is a bunch of tabloid gossip about how they got in a fist fight at some party,” Deku said, his voice low and authoritative for once. He hadn’t looked at Katsuki yet, and that irked him. He wanted to turn him around by his shoulders and make him look at him until he saw how much Katsuki had changed.

“You’re right. I wouldn’t want to ruin your big night.”

Deku huffs a self-deprecating laugh and even though Katsuki can’t see it he knows he’s smiling.

“I’ll come by your table later. I want to catch up with you and Momo and Uraraka.”

Todoroki nodded, looking a bit defeated, and stiffly walked back to his table—the table where his pregnant wife and soulmate sat. He could see that Momo was staring at them.

“Deku,” Katsuki said, placing a light hand on Deku’s green-clad shoulder when Todoroki was far enough away. Deku started at the contact and Katsuki swiftly took his hand away.

“Kacchan, you’ll never be the number one hero if you keep starting fights.” Deku turned to him ( finally) and gave him a sad, half-smile. Katsuki wanted to argue that he hardly started it, but all he could think to say was, “You remembered.”

Deku gave him a funny look at that.

“How could I forget? It’s all you ever talked about.” He didn’t say it like it was an accusation, but that’s how it felt to Katsuki.

“What’s up with you and Half and Half?” Katsuki blurted out. He wanted to punch himself in the face.

“Nothing,” Deku said, a little too loud and a little too forcefully to be believable. Not for the first time that night, Katsuki couldn’t think of anything else to say. He wracked his brain for anything to keep Deku’s attention a little bit longer, and came up short.

Their silent staring competition was interrupted by someone clearing their throat. Like a spell breaking, Deku’s eyes slid away from his to acknowledge the intruder.

“Hi,” Shinso said, politely nodding to Katsuki before his attention focused solely on Deku.

“Control Freak! Hi!” Deku—ever the fanboy—started to turn the slightest shade of pink.

“What do you want, Mind Fuck?” Katsuki said, his words much more venomous than they’d been in years. Why was the universe determined to keep Deku away from him?

“GZ, as ever, you’re a joy to be around. Midoriya, right?”

Deku nodded, all thoughts of Katsuki seemingly gone out the window.

“Wanna dance?” Shinso asked, somehow managing to sound both bored and eager, his tired eyes sliding all over Deku. Katsuki noticed a huddle of people in the center of the room dancing. When had the music started?

“Um, sure,” Deku said, slowly devolving into a stuttering, blushing mess. He took Shinso’s proffered arm and allowed himself to be stolen away. Almost like Katsuki’s existence was worth little more than an afterthought, he turned back to give a small wave.

“I’ll see you later, Kacchan,” Deku said.

Something suspiciously close to his heart hurt watching him walk away on Shinso’s arm.

Chapter Text

smolmight: so whats your type???

kingexplosionmurder: my type?

smolmight: yeah! boys?? girls?? all the above?

kingexplosionmurder: my soulmate is a guy.

smolmight: that tells me nothing

kingexplosionmurder: i like guys. i like my soulmate but i haven’t seen him in about a decade.

smolmight: tell me about him!

kingexplosionmurder: no

smolmight: oh come on

smolmight: you don’t have to tell me his name or anything. whats he like?

kingexplosionmurder: cute. he’s small and has freckles. and he’s really smart.

kingexplosionmurder: or at least he used to be. like I said it’s been a long ass time.

smolmight: im sure hes still the same.

kingexplosionmurder is offline.


“Are you enjoying the party?” Izuku felt awkward and fluttery dancing with Shinso. Despite his crazy hair and tired eyes, he was very cute. He’d never noticed before. All the grainy cell phone videos of his work didn’t do him justice. He had a lazy smirk that had Izuku’s stomach tying itself in knots, but in an oddly pleasant way.

“Probably about as much as you are,” he said, his smirk lifting into a real smile.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No offense, but you don’t strike me as a social butterfly. I have a feeling you don’t like all the attention you’re getting tonight.”

Izuku’s cheeks pinked. He wasn’t wrong, but he couldn’t really complain either. If someone had told him hours ago that he’d be dancing with a cute guy, or reconnecting with his childhood friend at the party, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Some attention is nice,” he mumbled, looking away from Shinso’s satisfied smirk.

“I agree.”

Izuku was trying to remember the last time he flirted with anyone successfully. Shinso seemed to be flirting with him and it was turning Izuku into a puddle of nerves and heart emojis.

Rein it in, crazy, he reminded himself. Izuku was bad at flirting and dating and remaining detached. He could never push the issue of soulmates completely out of his mind long enough to enjoy being liked. Even now, he was subtly searching Shinso’s exposed skin for any sign of a soulmark.

“We’re platonic,” Shinso said, so out of nowhere that Izuku jumped a little. He thought he was being subtle.

“Oh, I wasn’t—”

“It’s okay. I don’t mind.” The hand on his waist came up to pull his collar down. Izuku realized he had to be one of the only people there tonight without a tie on. Shinso exposed the small pink soulmark he had just above his collarbone. It was shaped like a gear. He was very pale for a hero. Most heroes were tanned from long patrol days, like Kacchan.

“Oh, uh, it’s nice.” Izuku wanted to punch himself for being an idiot. Everything was going so well. Shinso laughed and let his collar fall back into place, and his hand went back to Izuku’s hip and a small thrill shot up Izuku’s spine. They weren’t so much as dancing as they were talking and touching lightly while moving their feet.

“You might actually know her. You were a big deal in Support in high school, right?”

“I wouldn’t say I was a big deal. I was top of my class, but there was always this one UA student that blew me out of the water at showcases.”

Shinso smiled. “So, you do know her. Hatsume Mei.”

“Hatsume is your soulmate? Small world.”

“The smallest. She’s been bitching about you since freshman year,” he said.

“What did I do?” Izuku spluttered. He couldn’t imagine being on Hatsume’s radar. She did her third-year internship on I-Island, she was so good. She was a legend among Support nerds and heroes alike.

“At first, she was mad because you were so good. Secretly, I think she liked that you pushed her. When you changed your focus from Support she blew up her lab...more than usual, anyway. She said she had no real competition anymore.” Shinso smiled fondly at the thought. Izuku could tell he really loved her just by that smile. He couldn’t imagine why they’d chosen to be platonic, but that wasn’t really something socially acceptable to pry into.

“And how do you fit into this story?” Izuku asked, trying to be cute by looking up at Shinso from below his lashes. He was so tall he thought it might have actually worked.

“I went to all her showcases. I may or may not have had a slightly unhealthy crush on you since then,” Shinso said, his voice a little husky. How does he just say stuff like that without getting embarrassed? Izuku didn’t even say anything and he was immensely flustered. He could just picture how he looked. If Haruna were anywhere near him she would’ve pointed at him and screamed tomato head! Thank god she was far and away near the stage.

“I—um, wow. That is… wow. I don’t know if I believe that,” he stuttered, letting a nervous laugh bubble out of him. Shinso laughed good naturedly, and moved his hand to tuck a stray curl behind Izuku’s ear. Izuku’s stomach dropped in response, his heartbeat pitter-pattering pathetically. Izuku had never felt more like a swooning maiden. Jesus Christ, he’s smooth.

“Why else would I come to this shitty party? No offense, but it’s not really my scene.”

“I was wondering about that when I saw you here. You like to stay out of the spotlight.”

“Nice to see you’ve been paying attention to me too.”

The song ended and they were left standing in the middle of the dance floor, waiting for the next one to queue up. Instead of dancing, Shinso held out an arm to him again. Izuku didn’t hesitate to take it. They were headed toward the pro table again, their pace slow and easy, like Shinso didn’t want the conversation to end. Izuku had a similar feeling.

“Haruna may have mentioned you earlier,” Izuku said, blushing fiercely at the reminder that Shinso had his number.

“I like her. She’s kinda crazy, like Mei. Maybe we can all hang out sometime.”

“Wouldn’t that be kinda weird?”

“Doesn’t have to be. Soulmate shit doesn’t concern me or Mei. You can relax, and Haruna seems to keep you calm.”

“You are… very perceptive. It’s kinda freaky.”

“I have to be good at reading people for my Quirk. It kinda bleeds into my everyday life. Sorry.” Shinso said it in a way that let Izuku know he wasn’t that sorry. It just seemed like something he was in a habit of apologizing for.

“It’s okay. It’s kinda nice.” Izuku laughed. He lived so much of his life inside his head. It wasn’t so bad to have someone else in there with him. Shinso practically beamed at that. Izuku figured people were often unnerved by Shinso. He couldn’t imagine why.

“Good. ‘Cause I was wondering if you’d like to do this again sometime. But, like, more normal.”

“Normal?”

“Yeah. Not in suits, namely. I’m thinking pizza and a movie. Dancing optional.”

“Pizza and a movie sounds great. I’ll be the one in an All Might onesie,” Izuku said, trying for confident and flirty. And then he realized he admitted to owning an embarrassing onesie. He didn’t think his face could get any redder at that point. Shinso guffawed, and stopped walking, just short of the pro table. Izuku noticed Kacchan sitting in one of the chairs, looking like someone pissed in his bento. They made eye contact for a moment before he refocused on Shinso.

“I’ll be right next to you in an Eraserhead kigurumi.”

“You have Eraserhead merch? Impossible!” Izuku had been looking for Eraserhead merch since middle school and came up lacking.

“Let’s just say I have an in. Play your cards right, you might just get some.”

“Marry me,” Izuku blurted out, and then slapped his hands over his mouth like her could prevent any more idiocy from spewing out of him. Shinso threw his head back and laughed again, and Izuku was transfixed by the shifting muscles in his pale neck. He wanted to bite it.

“I have a patrol shift tonight, so rain check. I’ll call you?”

Izuku nodded, his hands still over his mouth for some reason. He removed them and Shinso stuffed his hands in the pockets of his rumpled grey slacks. He pressed his lips together, a small smile forming.

“It was nice to finally meet you, Midoriya. I’ll see you soon.” And with that, he was gone.

———

Katsuki was not proud to admit he spent the majority of his time alternating between watching Deku and Shinso flirt and moping about Deku and Shinso flirting. It was obviously going well. Deku was cherry red as Shinso tucked an errant curl behind Deku’s ear, and Katsuki was furious. Deku didn’t flinch when Shinso touched him, and somewhere under all that fury Katsuki was hurt.

Even after Shinso left Deku walked around the party with a wobbly, star struck smile on his face. He lost track of him after he started chatting with Uraraka, Yaomomo, and Todoroki. Katsuki couldn’t help but feel like he’d lost—he didn’t lose often, but he’d come to know the feeling in his years at UA. And losing to Shinso of all people? Disgusting. Almost as disgusting, he reminded himself, as thinking of Deku as an object to be won. He resisted the urge to drag his hands down his face.

He couldn’t give up. Even if Deku never saw him as anything more than his estranged childhood friend, he owed it to Deku and himself to repair their relationship. Deku didn’t deserve the things Katsuki did, and a real apology was the least he could do. But how? Yes, the act of speaking the words had come easier to Katsuki over the years, but Deku deserved more. Deku deserved Katsuki’s bleeding heart on a silver platter, but Katsuki didn’t know if he could do that. Not even for him.

He was about to get up and find Deku when the chair next to him pulled out. Haruna plopped down in the chair with little grace.

“Listen up, shitstick. I haven’t seen Birdie this happy at a SoulMeet shindig ever , so don’t you dare fuck this up for him.”

“Shitstick? Who the fuck is Bird?”

“The guy you’ve been eye fucking all night! Jesus Christ, he told me you were smart. Keep up.”

“Why do you call him Bird?” Katsuki asked, as if that was vital information. He chose to completely ignore the fact that she’d just insulted his intelligence, and the fact that she’s noticed his fixation with Deku. Pissing off Deku’s partner was definitely a step in the wrong direction.

“It’s a very short story that I’m not going to tell you because I’m not here to tell you anything about Midoriya. I’m just here to say that he’s happy right now. If he wants to suck face with that purple guy all night, you’re gonna let him.”

“He’s my soulmate,” he blurted, because what other embarrassing thing could he say to make this worse?

Haruna’s head whips back like he slapped her.

“Excuse me, what?”

Chapter Text

“Hey, guys,” Izuku said, as he came upon his small circle of friends by the stage. Shoto, Yaomomo, and Uraraka smiled at him. Uraraka, much to Izuku’s, embarrassment, engulfed him in a giant bear hug, lifted him off the ground, and swung him around like he weighed nothing—all without activating her Quirk.

“Midoriya, I’ve missed you!” Uraraka gushed as she spun him.

“I’ve missed you too. How’s Iida?”

“Busy, as always. I tried to get him to come but he rightly pointed out that he was already taking time off for your ad campaign. It very literally takes the jaws of life to get him to take a night off,” she said, shrugging. Izuku smiled at the thought of Iida explaining as such with a harsh look on his serious face, his arms waving robotically.

“That’s okay. I’ll be at the shoot anyway, so I’ll see him then.”

“I was wondering if you’d show up! I know Haruna handles all that stuff for you.”

Izuku winced. Uraraka didn’t seem to mean anything by it, but he always felt guilty about shirking his responsibilities to the company. Truthfully, the only reason he was going was to meet more heroes and needle them about their Quirks. He would never admit that though.

“Hi, Midoriya. Sorry we had to opt out of the campaign. I doubt anyone wants to see my big belly,” Yaomomo said, absently touching her stomach. She hugged Izuku in an embrace that could only be considered motherly. She was going to be a great mom. He hugged her back fervently. He really liked her when he wasn’t thinking about the complicated tangle of emotions he felt for her soulmate.

“I don’t know, Yaomomo, I bet that’s a very specific fetish you could make a lot of money on….” Uraraka said, the dollar signs practically shining in her pupils. Uraraka grew up poor, and though she was now more than comfortable on her pro hero salary, and the salary of her pro hero soul mate, she was always thinking like a broke college student. Yaomomo looked a little horrified at the thought. Izuku decided to stop that train of thought.

“No problem. I understand. When are you due?”

“Two months. I’m not sure if Shoto mentioned it yet, but we’re having twins.”

“Oh, wow. Well, if you ever need a babysitter, I’m...actually, I’m terrible with kids but the offer is out there!”

Shoto laughed. He’d been very quiet, and Izuku could feel his eyes on him every now and then. Izuku gave him a nervous smile, not quite sure if he should hug him or not. That was the worst part about their break up—Izuku never knew what was allowed within the realm of friends. Luckily, Uraraka barreled on without noticing the awkward air around them.

“We saw you dancing with Shinso! I didn’t know you knew him.” She poked Izuku’s pinking cheeks.

“Oh, I don’t. He just asked me to dance.”

“Putting the moves on you, you mean.” Uraraka grinned conspiratorially, wiggling her eyebrows.

“I wonder how Bakugo feels about that,” Yaomomo said in a low whisper, almost as if she didn’t mean to say it. Shoto gave her a look and shook his head just slightly.

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, eyebrows furrowed. Does Kacchan not like Shinso? Well, Kacchan doesn’t really like anyone so he wasn’t sure why that was worth commenting on.

“Oh, right. Why didn’t you say you knew Bakugo?”

“I never mentioned it? Must’ve slipped my mind, I guess,” Izuku said, looking at his feet. He was a piss poor liar. He knew very well that he’d never mentioned it. He knew they were his classmates. Izuku had enough stacked against him in life, and he wanted to be his own person in their eyes. He didn’t want to be known as Bakugo’s Quirkless friend, Deku.

“Well, he won’t shut up about you. I just never knew he was talking about you all this time! Why does he call you Deku?” Uraraka asked. Shoto bumped her shoulder.

“Uraraka, don’t,” he mumbled. Uraraka gave him a withering look.

“Since when are you on Bakugo’s side? Midoriya deserves to know.”

“Know what?” Izuku asked, utterly confused. Bakugo talked about him? He thought it was weird that Red Riot knew the name Deku, but he figured it was a one time thing, and that whatever was said about him wasn’t exactly positive.

“Bakugo is convinced you’re his soulmate,” Yaomomo said, despite Shoto’s warnings. Shoto looked angry, puffs of cold air escaping from his mouth. Izuku shivered. Despite the fact that Shoto’s ice Quirk was active, the look in his eyes when he was angry was always that of Endeavor’s. Shoto stormed away, taking the cold with him without another word to the group. Yaomomo looked wistfully after him, but stayed put. Izuku tried not to let his eyes linger too long on Shoto’s back.

“That’s… not possible. Not to mention ridiculous. Kacchan hates me,” Izuku said, sounding more like a sad sack than he meant to.

“Even if that were true, I wouldn’t get too upset about it. Grumpy ol’ King Explosion Murder hates everyone.”

“What?” Izuku asked, taken aback by the familiar nickname.

“I said he hates just about everyone. Except you, if that gloomy look he gets on his face when he brings you up is anything to go by.”

“No, no, not that. That name. Where did that name come from?”

“King Explosion Murder?”

“Yes!” Izuku said, trying not to grab Uraraka’s shoulders and shake the information out of her.

Yaomomo and Uraraka laughed in unison and Izuku thought of tinkling bells. Yaomomo spoke up before Uraraka.

“He wanted it to be his hero name, but Midnight shot him down. He’s been trying to keep it alive ever since.”

Izuku paled. That had to be a coincidence. Maybe kingexplosionmurder was a Ground Zero fan? Maybe that was a well known thing in his fan club.

“You okay, Midoriya? You look a little green,” Yaomomo asked. Uraraka giggled.

“More so than usual! Hah! But really, you do look a little sick.”

“I—um, I have to go. I’m just tired,” Izuku mumbled, his inability to lie on full display again.

“Oh, alright. I guess it is a little late. I should go find Shoto anyway. You should come visit the house sometime, Midoriya. We miss you.” Yaomomo smiled, speaking on behalf of her soulmate. They all exchanged awkward hugs and quiet goodbyes, and as Izuku walked away he heard Uraraka ask, “Was it something I said?”

Izuku was more than ready to head home. He had too much to think about. How could so many things happen in one night? This was why he rarely left his apartment for anything but work… and hero cons, and villain fights, but that was neither here nor there. Never in his life had one night been so fraught with new information.

He was ready to find Haruna and flee for his life. Nothing seemed more important than putting on his All Might pajamas and melting into the safety of his warm bed. He couldn’t hide from confronting all the things he’d learned forever, but putting a night of rest before that couldn’t hurt.

He spotted Haruna at the empty pro table, only to find that she was talking to (more like threatening) the only person he felt like avoiding, but it didn’t look like a conversation he should let continue. Haruna had that feral look on her face. The scary one that said my dick is bigger than yours even if it’s nonexistent. Izuku quickened his pace.


“Excuse me, what?”

“Don’t make me say it again,” Katsuki said, looking anywhere but at her. His embarrassment at blurting out something so stupid—true, but still incredibly stupid—was palpable in the air around them.

“He’s Markless. He literally said that in front of the whole room. How did you miss that?”

“I know what he fucking said!” Katsuki snapped. Haruna leaned back, her chin tucked defiantly into her neck in the face of his outburst. Slowly, she took a deep breath, like she was trying very hard not to throw hands with him. As much grief as he knew he was about to get, he decided he kind of liked her. She had guts. It was a trait he rarely saw in civilians anymore. He found it refreshing.

“Are you attempting to call Birdie a liar? Because he’s the shittiest liar I’ve ever met and I don’t take kindly to people attacking his character.” Haruna stared Katsuki down, waiting for an answer. She sat coiled like a snake, her silver eyes waiting for him to fuck up.

“Despite what everyone seems to think, I actually do know Deku. I know he’s not a liar. I also know that he’s my soulmate.”

It made Katsuki’s skin crawl to say that to a stranger. It seemed to personal to divulge, much less to divulge it twice in one conversation. Haruna narrowed her eyes and took another deep breath, probably ready to rip him a new one. Instead, she said, “Birdie, what’s wrong?”

“Haruna, I’m ready to go home.”

Katsuki visibly started. He very nearly fell out of his chair at the sound of Deku’s voice. Get a fucking grip, he chastised himself. It’s just Deku.

But that wasn’t necessarily true. Deku was never just to Katsuki. Even before he knew Deku was his soulmate, there was something undeniably special about him. It endlessly annoyed Katsuki that he couldn’t just leave Deku behind where he supposedly belonged. When he found out he was his soulmate, it was almost a relief to have an excuse—something to shove all the blame on for the complicated feelings he refused to acknowledge.

Katsuki turned in his seat to look at Deku, but when their eyes met, Deku’s green eyes were shiny with stress and sadness, and he quickly looked away from Katsuki. He was still a crybaby. His tendency to cry always irked Katsuki, but now there was something else. Something like a deep seated need to find the fucker that made his soulmate cry and rain a retribution of epic proportions down on the bastard. And then, with a moment of unwelcome clarity, he realized, Oh, I’m the bastard.  

Before he could banish himself to a downward spiral of berating his entire existence, he wondered if Deku heard any of their conversation. Would it be a good thing if he heard? It would certainly save Katsuki an agonizing conversation. As much as he wanted to confess the truth to Deku, he couldn’t imagine it going well. Maybe if the truth just fell out in a haphazard conversation Deku happened to overhear, that would be better. Probably not, but things couldn’t get much worse at this point.

“I’m just...exhausted. Are you coming? Or did you…?” Deku’s sentence fell off, his eyes shifting curiously between Katsuki and Haruna. Haruna guffawed, looking horrified.

“God, no. Never! Ugh, gross,” Haruna said, shaking her head like it would keep whatever thought she had at bay. What are they on about? Suddenly, Katsuki was pissed off. His anger management counselor always told him that pissed off wasn’t an appropriate description of the way he was feeling. Out of habit, he quickly corrected his thoughts, going deeper to find the source of his anger. It was easily termed as jealousy. He’d spent the whole night jealous of one person or another. At the moment, he was jealous of Haruna and the ease with which she and Deku understood each other. They were able to have a conversation entirely comprised of eye contact.

“I do, however, have some unfinished business with him. Give me ten minutes and I’ll meet you outside. I’m crashing on your couch tonight, okay?”

Deku nodded, starting to turn away from them. He stopped, as if he remembered something, and turned to Katsuki.

“Um, it was nice to see you again, Ka—Bakugo. Goodnight.” And there he was again, watching Deku walk away. His stomach dropped at the sound of his family name. It wasn’t the first time that night Deku referred to him as Bakugo, but it felt different that it had at the start of the night. It felt cold and confused and wary. Deku looked rumpled and unsure and so totally done with everything, not unlike the way Katsuki felt after an entire hours long patrol shift of non stop fighting. When he was out of earshot, Haruna huffed and Katsuki regretfully looked away from Deku’s retreating form.

“What in the goddamn fuck did you do to that little green bean?” She clenched a fist, then waved away any excuse Katsuki could start to say.

“Never mind. Just give me your phone.”

“Huh? Why the f—“

“Because this conversation isn’t over. It’s like pulling teeth to get Midoriya to talk when he’s in a mood, and I still have some questions about you. I won’t get any answers from him, so I’ll call you and you’re gonna tell me everything.” She held a perfectly manicured hand out expectantly while she stood up. Katsuki hesitated, his hand slowly resting on the lapel of his suit where his phone lay in the breast pocket.

Haruna rolled her eyes before letting out a deep breath and dropping her hand. She closed her eyes and Katsuki nearly jumped when his phone vibrated.

“There. I have your number now. If you don’t answer I’ll use my Quirk to track you down.”

And with that, Haruna sauntered away on the strappy pink stilts that only slightly passed for heels. Her parting words were a muttered, “Men are fucking useless.”

Katsuki couldn’t help but feel like he’d just survived a natural disaster. Or better, he’d just survived the first half, only now passing into the eye of a hurricane. What was to come would surely be worse.


kingexplosionmurder: i just had the single worst night of my life.

kingexplosionmurder: or maybe it was kinda good? what do i fucking know? how was your night?

kingexplosionmurder: hmm. i guess you’re asleep? lucky bastard. we’ll catch up in the morning. goodnight smolmight.

kingexplosionmurder is offline.

 

Izuku thumbed through the conversation while waiting for Haruna to get out of the bathroom. He desperately wanted to wash this night off his body. He felt a sick sense of horror reading his old messages to kingexplosionmurder. He read and reread all the personal , intimate things he’d unknowingly shared with Bakugo Katsuki of all people. Did he know that smolmight was Izuku? Was it an elaborate trick to make him feel even stupider than he already felt on a regular basis?

Izuku had trouble believing Bakugo would put that much effort into ruining Izuku’s life. Bakugo was petty and rude and occasionally mean, but he wasn’t the sadistic mastermind Izuku’s anxiety was making him out to be. Bakugo was mean with his words and his fists. He wouldn’t stoop to catfishing. Right?

And kingexplosionmurder seemed to genuinely appreciate smolmight. He shared things with him too. From the beginning they’d had an easy give and take, and an unspoken rule to never reveal who they really were. Was it possible that Bakugo was just as lonely as Izuku sometimes felt? Was it possible that smolmight helped him fill the same void that kingexplosionmurder filled for him?

It was absolutely insane to be hit with the knowledge that everything kingexplosionmurder ever said about his long, lost soulmate was actually about Izuku. They didn’t speak about him often, but when they did he could feel the painstaking care with which he spoke and the regret he felt from the other side of the screen. But all that care and effort and regret just begged the question, where was Izuku’s soulmark? Bakugo was convinced about his soulmate’s identity. His friends said as much to confirm it. When Izuku was younger, he always saw Bakugo’s word as law. He was infallible. Was there any chance that he could be wrong?

“Sexting Control Freak?” Haruna asked from across the room. Izuku let out a squeal. He’d completely forgotten she was there, he was so lost in tonight’s revelations.

“Wha—! Of course not!”

“Why the hell not? He’s hot.” Haruna ran a towel through her damp curls. That was another thing about learning all those things about Bakugo. It soured all the fun he had with Shinso. He should’ve known he couldn’t meet an attractive up and coming pro who couldn’t care less about soulmarks without there being some complication. Was it selfish to want Shinso when he apparently had a soulmate he was stringing along? When Izuku’s only response was to lock his phone and ram his head into a nearby couch pillow, she continued.

“And I saw you two dancing. Your face only gets like that when you’re aroused.” She laughed, almost sadistically.

“How on earth would you know that?” Izuku asked, his ever reddening face still smashed in the pillow.

“I know way too much about you, Birdie.”

“That’s actually horrifying.”

Izuku groaned and rolled himself off the couch, hoping a scalding hot shower would make him feel better.

 

It didn’t. He spent the entire time thinking of soulmates, and sharp red eyes and soft purple hair and licking the muscles on Shinso’s pretty, pale neck. He wondered if Shoto was okay. He thought about the cool anger in his heterochromatic eyes and the way it felt when he kissed him the first time. It smelled like smoke and singed hair because the entire left side of his body caught on fire. He wondered what Bakugo’s soulmark must look like and where it was and if he’d ever be in a position to see it. What if it was on his butt? Or his inner thigh? What if they— STOP.

Izuku was dead on his feet as he stepped out of the steaming shower. He reached for his towel and something in the mirror caught his eye. There was something on his right shoulder, just barely there in the fogged over mirror. He wiped it off to get a better look, and immediately screamed. It was a high, hysterical sound. Something he was sure the entire floor of apartments could hear.

“Birdie? Did you fall in the toilet again?”

“Wha—! I have never once fallen in the toilet! I—Agh!” His eye caught his shoulder in the mirror again, eliciting another round of hysterical noises.

On his shoulder was a large, orange X with two small black dots. It was a familiar symbol, just one he’d never seen on his body.

A soulmark. Kacchan’s soulmark.

“Motherfucker,” he whispered, sharp and high and in awe.

Chapter Text

Moogle Search

soulmark appearing age 28

late bloomer soulmarks

dormant soulmarks

SOULMARKS

how the fuck do i suddenly have a soulmark for my incredibly hot estranged friend?

synonyms for estranged

soulmark research

soulmate sciences

 

An excerpt from “Dormant Soulmarks.” A study conducted by Dr. Linda Carter, Masters of Biological Sciences and Doctorate of Soulmate Studies.

Very little is known about Soulmarks. Though we may call the study of such things Soulmate Sciences, so much of the findings are tied up in conjecture and theory. There are very few reported cases of Marklessness since the advent of Soulmarks. Though there may be more, since the stigma that comes with such an affliction results in a hesitancy to report, Markless individuals make up roughly 20% of the population at any given time. Of that 20%, only 2% report presenting a “late-bloomer” Mark, or for the purposes of this study, a dormant Soulmark.

Among this minuscule sampling, few things correlate between each individual. For most, SoulMarks appear during the early stages of puberty. With dormant Marks, there is no set age for appearance. Among the sampling group, the oldest recorded appearance was 78 years old. This further muddied the waters for establishing a baseline of study.

Though this study was ultimately deemed inconclusive, the team believes it is important to note that a third of the sample group reported previously knowing their Soulmate before their Mark appeared. In the interviews the team conducted early on, the discussion of emotional maturity was a common thread among these individuals. Most of them expressed similar sentiments of “not being ready” when they first met their Soulmates. We are currently theorizing that dormant Soulmarks rely on emotional maturation, whereas typical Soulmarks appear after a physical maturation. This is the subject of a future study.

 

“Well, that’s not very helpful, now is it, Linda?” Izuku asked—more like screeched at—his computer screen. He felt like tearing out his hair in chunks. He felt like throwing this mouse across the room. He felt like tracking Dr. Linda Carter down and asking her how she managed to get a PhD in something she clearly knew nothing about. He’d been scouring the internet for two days. Coincidentally, that was also the last time he showered, turned on a light in his apartment, ate something other than granola bars or instant ramen, and conversed with other human beings. Izuku always knew he was a hermit, but this was a new low.

The internet had failed him. Izuku never thought he’d see a day where he could be disappointed by the World Wide Web. But maybe it wasn’t the how or why so much as it was the how does that make you feel, Izuku? Maybe what he really needed was a therapist. WebMD couldn’t solve all his problems. The truth was Izuku didn’t know how to feel, and researching the how and why was the only distraction he could think of. Well, there were plenty of other distractions he could employ, but he was too nervous to call Shinso. It felt wrong to call him while he spent so much time trying not to think of Bakugo. Kingexplosionmurder has been very chatty lately as well. He had sixteen unread messages in his SoulMeet chat, and no plans to ever open the app again. He took a few deep, shaky breaths to prepare himself. He was to reintegrate into society that day. Izuku had been dodging Haruna’s calls and texts and she finally got sick of it and used her Quirk to force a video chat.

“Get off the couch and brush your goddamn hair, we’re going to eat lunch together like normal human beings. You’re going to soak up some much needed vitamin D and I’m going to eat a fuckload of carbs because your crazy is stressing me out!”

Izuku flinched. Haruna was ten times meaner when she was stressed, but she was always brutally honest. Izuku didn’t have a leg to stand on.



“What the fuck is that?” Haruna asked, her silver eyes trained on the roll of bandages Izuku wrapped around his arm to keep his new soulmark hidden.

“Oh, uh, I think I hurt my arm?” Izuku fidgeted and fussed with the bandage, patting it, as if to make sure it was still there.

“How?”

“The, uh, dancing? Maybe?”

Haruna gave him a flat, unimpressed look. She saw right through him. He gulped.

“Dancing,” she said slowly, testing the word. It reeked of nonsense even to Izuku. Izuku nodded, suddenly too weak to speak. Haruna spluttered a laugh and punched his unbandaged arm.

“Birdie, if you’re gonna lie to me at least try to make it convincing. Not even someone as unathletic as you could hurt themselves slow-dancing.”

Izuku’s only response was to rub the soreness out of his arm. Haruna must’ve been a boxer in another life. With one deft movement, she yanked the bandage covering his secret shame. It unraveled just as quickly as Izuku’s sanity.

“Well, that’s new,” she said simply, as if it was an everyday occurrence to wake up with a Soulmark at the ripe old age of twenty eight. Izuku hung his head praying to gods he didn’t believe in for a villain to strike him down and put him out of his misery.

“Haruna,” he whined, making grabby hands at the bandage dangling in her hand.

“There are so many puberty jokes I want to make right now.”

Please, don’t.”

“I’ll save them for a rainy day. For now, what the actual fuck, Midoriya?”

“My thoughts exactly.” He sighed and began fiddling with his bandage. The symbol of his Mark was far too recognizable. The last thing he needed was some nosy journalist snapping pictures of Ground Zero’s soulmate. God, what an odd thought.

“Maybe the better question is what the fuck are you gonna do about it?” Haruna asked, he could almost see her shifting into problem-solver mode.

“Cry? Maybe never leave my apartment again?”

“Don’t be so dramatic. This is good, right? I know you’ve always wanted a Mark. No matter what you say in all your speeches, I know you hate being Markless.”

“You know who this Mark is for, right?”

“I’d have to be blind and dumb not to know that, Birdie.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Izuku asked. He was mostly asking Haruna, but if someone else decided to intervene he wasn’t exactly going to picky about advice.

“You can stop torturing yourself for one. All of this is beyond your control. Focus on what you can control.”

Izuku refrained from admitting that being in control was as unfamiliar a concept to him has having a Soulmark. She sighed, and shoved a mini muffin in her mouth.

“Don’t look so pathetic. You don’t have to marry the guy. Look at Kimiko and me. We’ve been friends even longer than we’ve been Soulmates. Our Marks hardly changed our relationship.”

Izuku nodded, not really looking in Haruna’s eyes. She continued on with her speech.

“Soulmarks don’t have to mean anything. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture like it does in all those shitty love movies you like.”

Izuku was about to defend all those “shitty” RomComs. They were actually quite well written and entertaining and they always tugged on his heartstrings, but that wasn’t the point he was supposed to be taking from Haruna right now.

“You know who might be a good person to talk to?”

“If you say Bakugo, you might actually see me get angry for the first time since you’ve known me.”

“As thrilling as that would be to see, I meant Shinso.”

“Oh. Oh god, that would be so weird.”

“Would it?”

“Can you imagine starting a date by saying oh, by the way, I have a Soulmate now and I wanted your opinion on it even though I barely know you. Wanna make out?”

“Maybe you should make out first. Wouldn’t wanna pass that up!” She laughed. Izuku was glad someone at the table was happy.

“I feel that you’re trying to be helpful, so I will try to think about this critically,” Izuku said, trying to be diplomatic.

“That’s all I ask, Birdie. Now, scram. I’m actually meeting someone here and I know for a fact you’d rather die than be here when he shows up.”

“Who?”

“Take a wild guess.”

“Why are you meeting with him?”

“We have some things to go over for his involvement in the SoulMeet campaign,” Haruna said smoothly. Izuku had a hard time believing her. She was a good liar, but Izuku had come to know and fear the scheming look in her eyes.

“Don’t tell him about my Mark, please. I’m not ready to face him. Or it. Or anything really.”

“Your secrets are safe with me. Some advice, though? Don’t shut yourself up in your apartment. Wallowing in the dark will get you nowhere.”

Izuku nodded. Maybe he could call Shinso. He’d texted him once or twice in the last day or so, putting out feelers. He seemed serious about taking him on the date they briefly discussed the night of the party. He pulled out his phone, as if that would help him decide what to do. His phone pinged with another SoulMeet notification.

 

kingexplosionmurder: oi wtf. you dead or some shit?

 

Izuku sighed, cleared out the new message, and called the most recent addition to his address book. It rang two and a half times before Shinso’s low, smooth voice crackled over the connection.

“I was beginning to think I’d never hear from you.”

Izuku couldn’t help the small smile tugging at the corner of his lips.




Katsuki was agitated. He sent his thousandth fucking message to smolmight (all of them remained unanswered) and found a seat on the train. The occasional person recognized him even with the cold mask obscuring his face, but his temper was well known enough for people to know better than to bother him. The days following the SoulMeet party we’re slowly eating away at Katsuki. He couldn’t stop thinking about all the moments he fumbled. There were so many things he could’ve done; so many ways he could’ve kept Deku’s attention if he’d just been able to think faster. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t even think to get Deku’s number.

He’d had a chance to integrate Deku back into his life and he failed. Not to mention that he’d let slip the fact that he was his Soulmate to the one person that could do the most damage with that knowledge. He was angry that he was going to meet Haruna. He was angry that he had no clue what to say to pacify her. He was angry that he had no idea what she could possibly say to him. He was in for a rollercoaster of a conversation and he wasn’t entirely sure he’d come out of it unscathed.

The train stopped, and the whole way to the cafe Katsuki felt like he was walking to the gallows. He was determined not to fuck up monumentally, but he had no way of knowing how to do so. He felt so precarious, and the fact that smolmight wasn’t there to talk to burned and festered in his soul. He hadn’t realized what a genuine comfort smolmight was until he was gone. And what the fuck? He thought they were friends. At some moments in their long-standing text friendship, he felt like they might’ve been more. He’d told smolmight things he’d never think of telling Kirishima, and that had even surprised him. Something about smolmight opened him up beyond his hard, impenetrable hero persona. Hell, smolmight pushed past his hard, impenetrable person persona. Something about smolmight made him act like the person he wanted to be for Deku. So why the silence? Why, when his life was in the shitter, had one of his biggest supporters left him?

“You’re two minutes late.” Haruna sat at a table for two looking annoyed, testily stirring the straw in her iced chai latte. Katsuki grunted and threw himself in the seat across from her in response.

“So should we fuck around with small talk or get to the point?”

“Never been one for small talk,” Katsuki muttered gruffly. He adjusted the mask on his face. Even after all that time as a pro, he’d never gotten used to wearing it. He took it off in favor of a baseball cap and sunglasses before leaning back in his chair to stare coolly at Haruna. It’d been a long time since he’d felt like he wasn’t totally in control of a situation. Haruna had all the power and he felt it.

“Good. Me neither. So tell me about Birdie.”

That nickname irked him. It reeked of inside jokes and years of cozy friendship and Katsuki wanted to know more.

“Why do you call him that?”

Haruna smirked, leaned back in her seat, and threw her arms casually behind her head in a relaxed I’m the boss gesture.

“Come on. I’d like to get something out of this horrible meet up,” Katsuki said. In an attempt to rattle her he stole a mini muffin off her plate and ate it in one bite.

“You do know I’ve got all the power right? I’m sure that must be strange for you, but you’ll just have to deal with the fact that I’m not spilling his secrets. That’s nonnegotiable.”

“I don’t even know why I’m here.” Katsuki started to get up from the table, hoping she’d take the bait and make him stay. He was trying not to panic as she let him go. He took three unsure steps back toward the train station before she relented.

“Wait.”

He had to stop himself from sighing in relief, his chest like a deflating balloon. He turned his head toward her, waiting. She huffed, just a little. It blew a stray curl away from her face.

“Sit down. I promise to be civil.”

“Civil,” Katsuki deadpanned, unimpressed. She rolled her eyes.

“I promise not to treat this like work. And I’ll answer some of your questions if you answer mine.”

It was a raw fucking deal, but he knew she still held a disproportionate amount of power despite what he’d managed to pry from her long slender fingers.

“Fine.” He threw himself back into the chair and took another mini muffin. “So why birdie?”

“Because he’s always squawking. And he reminds me a baby bird.”

“That’s it? Why’d you made it sound like some fucking state secret?”

“To annoy you. Why do you call him Deku?”

Katsuki’s insides withered at the question. It wasn’t the worst thing she could’ve asked, but it nicked the tip of the iceberg of emotional baggage between him and his Soulmate.

“You can read the kanji in his name as Deku. It’s a shorthand for useless.

“I know. He told me.”

“Why ask?”

“I wanted to make sure you’d be honest.”

“I may be a lot of things but I’m not a liar.”

She waved a hand at that, seemingly placated.

“Why do you think he’s your Soulmate?”

“That’s a pretty personal question.”

“Are you gonna answer it or pussyfoot around for another few minutes?”

“The day I got my Mark, he saved me. Also, it’s green. Like, the same green I’ve only ever seen in his eyes. And it’s shaped like All Might. Who else is obsessed enough with All Might to have it manifest as a Mark?”

Haruna didn’t answer. Instead, she took a sip from her latte to stall. He could see the gears moving behind her eyes.

“You used to bully him.”

“That’s not a question.” Katsuki crossed his arms. Then he immediately uncrossed them because he read once that crossing your arms was an unconscious gesture to try to protect yourself. He didn’t need to protect himself. He wasn’t under attack… it just felt like he was.

“Nothing gets past you. Why would you want him as a Soulmate, anyway? Doesn’t seem like he means much to you.”

“Deku never seems like much until you think about it. Until you really see him. I’m not good at being one-upped. I didn’t handle my emotions well back then. He just… pissed me off all the time.”

“What’s different now?”

“I know I was wrong? That counts for something, right?”

Haruna shrugged. She sipped on her latte, clearly thinking. It made Katsuki nervous. He was waiting for the whole conversation to blow up in his face.

“So you see him now?” She asked, parroting his words back to him.

“Yeah.” He could always see Deku, if he was being honest. He just never let himself feel. Never let himself think about him. Haruna was quiet for a long time. The silence had Katsuki going over every word he said, looking for whatever came out of his mouth that was wrong.

“Is he happy?” He asked when he couldn’t take another second of her pensive staring.

“Pass,” she said, a little flippant.

“That’s almost definitely a no.”

“It’s a pass. I can neither confirm nor deny an objective thing like Midoriya’s happiness.”

“You’re more infuriating than my team of lawyers, you know that?” Katsuki rolled his eyes.

“Honestly, not the first time I’ve heard that. You should see me in a boardroom. Do you want Midoriya to be happy?”

“Of fucking course!” Katsuki snapped. He’d spent the entirely of this short conversation coiled like a spring. He was surprised he hadn’t snapped sooner.

“Even without you?”

“Pass,” Katsuki mumbled, looking down at his clenched fists.

“You can’t pass.”

“Since when is that a rule?”

“Since I made it one. Answer the damn question.”

Katsuki huffed and fidgeted and shrugged. Why was he telling her anything at all?

“I want him to be happy. That said, I’d rather be around to see it.”

“That’s… a sufficient answer.” Haruna played with the straw of her latte again, and Katsuki decided it was time to go on the offensive.

“Does Deku have a Soulmate? Is he really Markless?”

For a second, he saw something in Haruna’s expression. A flicker. A tiny, almost imperceptible twitch in her arched eyebrow.

“Pass.”

Katsuki sighed. There was something there. Something he could use that she wouldn’t let go.

“Haruna, can you give me something to work with? I just want to be in his life again.”

Haruna paused and bit her lip. It was the first sign of any hesitance or nervousness she’d shown since he sat down. She looked at him like she was trying to make a decision.

“You know that cheesy Soulmate movie, Heart and Soul?”

“The one where a hero meets her Soulmate when she rescues him from a burning building? And she spends the whole movie whining about having a civilian for a Soulmate and wondering whether or not to put him at risk by being with him?”

“That’s the one.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen it. Unfortunately. What about it?”

“It’s his favorite movie. He watches it when he’s upset.”

Haruna offered him half a smile and she started to gather her things. She still seemed to be on the fence about Katsuki, and by extension on the fence about him being any kind of Soumate worthy of her friend. But it was something. Katsuki nodded.

“Thanks, I guess,” he muttered. They parted ways and Katsuki felt like he finally understood how Ashido and Kaminari felt when they failed an exam in high school. On the train, he added that shitty movie to his Wamazon account.

Chapter Text

Izuku answered the door in his All Might onesie, hoping and praying that Shinso was also dressed like a dork. He was, but somehow his Eraserhead kigurumi looked right on him instead of silly. It probably had something to do with the fact that Shinso was tall, muscular, and amazingly self-assured—all things that Izuku was not. The short conversation they’d had on the phone earlier in the day was laden with casual flirting and easy jokes—mostly from Shinso, but Izuku did his best to keep up with him. It felt light, and it was a welcome difference compared to all the depressive wallowing he engaged in over the last few days. Now, though, that he was at his door, Izuku’s stomach dropped. His nerves made him feel tingly and weird, no matter how much he wished he could put them away.

“Hi,” Izuku said tentatively, already wary of Shinso’s smile. He had something behind his back.

“Did you know,” Shinso started, his smile getting bigger and cuter all the while before he held a familiar magazine in front of his face, “that I’m on a date with the second-most eligible bachelor in Japan?”

“Oh, god. I totally forgot about that. How did I end up as number two?”

Izuku reddened. Months ago, Esquire Japan approached him about participating in an eligible bachelors profile. Since Haruna handles those calls, he didn’t really have a choice but to do it. She said it would be perfect publicity right before the commercial launch. It was something that Izuku did in a haze of sweaty nerves and then quickly blocked out of his mind. Shinso still had one hand behind his back, and he hoped whatever was back there was less embarrassing than the magazine.

“Personally, I think you deserved the top spot. You were robbed.” Shinso lowered the magazine to reveal his shit-eating grin. His violet eyes sparkled with amusement. Izuku made a grab for it as he walked through the door, but Shinso used his superior height to hold it just out of his reach.

“Give me that!”

“Not a chance. How else am I supposed to know you enjoy long walks on the beach at sunset?” Shinso laughed.

“What! I never said that. Does it really say that? I talked about the beach clean up I hosted!”

Shinso laughed harder and finally handed Izuku the magazine, clearly taking pity on him.

“It doesn’t say that. I’m just messing with you.” His smile softened. “I did enjoy reading it though. You sounded very interesting and intelligent.”

Shinso pushed a flyaway curl off Izuku’s face, and stroked his temple.

I’m going to pass out.

Shinso laughed, his eyes crinkling as his smile got bigger. Apparently, Izuku said that out loud. His face was on fire.

“Don’t pass out before I can give you this. I had a hell of a time securing this top secret merch.” Shinso finally revealed what he was holding behind his back and Izuku had to make a concerted effort not to squeal as he pulled the matching kigurumi out of Shinso’s hands.

“I love it! Give me a minute to change. Have a seat and we can start looking for a movie.”

“Take your time,” Shinso said easily, folding himself onto the couch, that infernal magazine back in his hands.

Izuku peeled his onesie off in the privacy of his bedroom and replaced it with the fluffy, black kigurumi quickly. The hood hung long and low, with a graphic of Eraserhead’s iconic goggles over the eye holes. It even had a fleecy copy of his capture weapon wound around the neck. Izuku burst out of his bedroom and struck an odd, self-conscious pose.

“This is so cool. Thank you!”

“I figured you’d like it. Did you have a movie in mind?”

Izuku seated himself on the couch, tucking into the corner opposite from Shinso. They sat very far away from each other, but Izuku couldn’t make himself scoot any closer. Shinso didn’t seem to mind it, though. He was spread out on the couch, smiling serenely at Izuku. He remembered he still had the silly hood on and pushed it off his face, his curls a static mess.

“Um, there’s a new All Might docuseries out, but I know that can be a bit boring. What movies do you like?”

“Anything, really. I don’t have a lot of free time to watch them, so I don’t really pay attention to what’s out. Are you watching any good shows?”

Izuku reached for the remote to pull up his Wamazon watch history, and then froze, suddenly self-conscious. He tried to remember the last thing he watched, and hoped it wasn’t anything embarrassing. Shinso, seeming to sense his apprehension, took the remote out of his hand, and begins clicking through the new releases, careful not to stray too close to the because you watched section.

They settled on a crappy horror movie because they both admitted they liked to make fun of the bad decisions everyone made. They took bets at the beginning of the movie on who in the group was going to be the killer, and who would survive the whole thing.

About halfway through the movie, Izuku started to relax, unfolding himself from the complicated knot he’d curled into to avoid being too close to Shinso. Shinso smiled at him when he noticed, but didn’t say anything about it. He just went back to watching the annoying jock character get his throat ripped out.

Closer to the end of the movie, when the final girl was preparing to fight for her life, Shinso spoke.

“Hey,” he said, softly. Izuku tried not to jump at how much closer he sounded.

“Hi,” he said, shy and nervous as he surveyed Shinso’s long, lanky form lean just a bit closer to him.

“Are you going to stay all the way over there the whole night?” His voice sounded warm and liquid, like sliding into bath water. He didn’t know what to say, he didn’t really know what to do, either. He was trying to pluck up the courage to bring up the topic of his Mark. He really wanted to talk about it, but at the same time, he wanted to ignore all thoughts of Soulmates and Kacchan, and just enjoy his time with someone who appreciated him.

Izuku shuffled a bit closer, so they’re both basically sharing the center cushion of his couch, and his heart leapt into his throat when Shinso threw an arm over the back of the couch and rested it there, almost touching Izuku. Izuku felt drunk. His nerves mixed with the heady desire to be liked by Shinso and proved to be a powerful, almost debilitating cocktail.

When Shinso’s finger started making lazy circles on Izuku’s shoulder, Izuku let himself lean a bit closer to him, into his broad, open chest. It was a small thing, an almost imperceptible shift, but it was tying Izuku’s stomach in knots, and he couldn’t make himself focus on the movie anymore. Who cared what was happening to the final girl when Izuku could feel and hear every breath Shinso took? Izuku almost leapt out of his skin when Shinso’s arm curled a bit more around his shoulder, stroking his hair.

He looked into Shinso’s lilac eyes—they were so close, and Izuku really did feel like he was going to pass out any minute. He smiled at Izuku, his eyes shifting between his own and his lips.

“Can I kiss you?” Shinso whispered. They were so close, Izuku could feel his breath tickling his face.

“Um,” he said, trying to will himself to just say yes, and boot Kacchan completely from his mind forever, but that wasn’t fair to anyone—and Kacchan seemed to own a permanent residence somewhere in the back of his head. Just like the real Kacchan, the one in Izuku’s imagination couldn’t be silenced.

“I was hoping I could talk to you about something,” he said, putting a light hand on Shinso’s chest to stop the unconscious leaning in they both seemed to be doing.

“Sounds like I struck out,” Shinso said, laughing a bit at his own joke.

“No! I mean, well—“ Izuku tripped over his own words, his thoughts a complicated jumble. “Okay, I’m ignoring that because I know you weren’t serious.”

He disentangled himself from Shinso to stand up, and ended up tripping over his own coffee table in his escape, fully cementing his emphatic portrayal of a seriously chemically imbalanced idiot.

“Are you alright?”

“Physically, sure—but I can’t think when you’re that close to me, and I really need to talk to you about something!” Izuku’s anxiety was eating him alive, and he could feel the crazy oozing from his pores. Poor Shinso was going to have him committed after this ridiculous farce of a date. Shinso raised his hands in a placating gesture, willing Izuku to take a breath. He did, albeit a shaky one, before he started undoing the buttons of his kigurumi.

“Whoa, Midoriya, this is… I don’t even know. Please, don’t take your clothes off.”

Izuku huffed a laugh, but continued on with the buttons. Not only was he drenched in nervous sweat, but he needed to get this thing off so he could just show him the Mark. Then, maybe he could actually begin to talk about this stupid thing on his body that was starting to feel like an awful curse.

He got the fleecy black fabric off his shoulders. He had a T-shirt and basketball shorts underneath, so he wasn’t feeling naked or exposed, but Shinso looked incredibly uncomfortable.

“I promise I’m not doing anything weird,” he said, his voice a breathy, neurotic sigh. He got his arm free of the sleeve and rolled up the arm of his undershirt, exposing his Mark in all its orange glory.

There was a long pause and Izuku brandished his arm and Shinso made a confused face, tilting his head slightly.

“Okay?” He said, clearly befuddled.

“I have a Mark now. I’m kinda freaking out about it,” Izuku said simply.

“I see that,” Shinso said slowly, like Izuku was a wild animal, or a violent mental patient. “Was there something specific about it that you wanted to talk about?”

“Um, yes. I wanted to know… what to do, I guess.”

Shinso let out a low whistle. He gave Izuku something of a sympathetic smile.

“Well, first of all, maybe sit down and breathe normally? You’re freaking me out, man.”

Izuku nodded, and sat back down on the couch, far away from the bubble of attractiveness Shinso seemed to emit like a second Quirk.

“So, I’ve got to tell you I’m really not the authority on soulmate stuff. You know that, right?”

“Okay, I’m not exactly making a good case for my problem right now. I’m so sorry to dump this on you, but you just… you seemed to know so much about your own relationship, and you seem at peace with it, and I wanted your advice,” Izuku said, trying to bring his voice down to a decibel that might be considered appropriate for an indoor setting.

“Alright. Just chill out, okay? I would feel really awkward if you actually passed out.”

“Okay. Yes. Right,” he said, punctuating each word with a shaky breath.

“Why don’t you start from the beginning?”

Izuku nodded, feeling, for a moment, like Shinso was far too good a person to be dealing with Izuku at the moment. Then, he did just that.

He told Shinso everything, starting at his life at the tender age of four and ending with the moment he discovered the Mark, and all the bullshit science he spent days wading through trying to make sense of what was happening. Shinso sat quietly through all of it, even when the credits rolled on the movie and Wamazon prompted the start of the next one. When Izuku finally finished, and Shinso still hadn’t spoken, he said, “So, you see, it’s pretty complicated.”

“That’s an understatement, Midoriya.”

“What do you think?”

“I think Bakugo needs a good therapist.”

“I probably need one too. Is it crazy that I’m even considering talking to him about it?”

“I don’t think so. It’s not healthy to just sweep this under the rug. Honestly, Bakugo’s probably been wondering why you ignored him all these years. I’ve seen his Mark before, so I know he’s got one.”

Izuku hadn’t even thought of that, how confusing it must’ve been for Kacchan to know what Izuku was supposed to be to him when they were younger. Was he waiting for him to say something? Was that the reason he just stopped all contact with Izuku in middle school?  He knew that Kacchan blamed himself for the state of his relationship with his vague, unnamed soulmate from their SoulMeet chats—but the way Kacchan spoke about him was so incongruous with the way they interacted when they were younger. Even with his Mark as incontrovertible proof, he still didn’t quite believe that he was always the long, lost love kingexplosionmurder mourned for.

“He was… pretty nice to me at the party. I was shocked. What do you think I should do?”

“I think you should talk to him. Get to know him again. You don’t have to fall in love with him tomorrow—you don’t have to fall in love with him at all.”

“Can I ask you a personal question? How did you and Mei decide to be platonic?”

Shinso was silent for a moment, and Izuku feared he may have gone too far. Just because Izuku had word vomited his entire life story out didn’t mean that Shinso wanted to get into his own personal life.

“If it’s too personal, you don’t—“

“No, it’s okay. I’m just trying to think of the best way to explain it. It’s nothing profound, really.”

Izuku nodded, waiting patiently. He was nervously ringing the discarded long sleeves of the kigurumi pooled around his lap.

“It wasn’t really a decision we made, so much as it was what was comfortable for both of us. We met at school, and we barely got to know each other before it hit me at she was my soulmate. You’ve seen my Mark, it just fit so perfectly with Mei that I confronted her about it early on. She wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of it. She made a lot of excuses about how she didn’t know me and how she didn’t like people in general and she was too busy being the best support student in Japan to waste time on me,” Shinso said, a small smile quirking his lips. Izuku smiled softly too. He loved hearing stories like this. He loved love, and how crazy it all seemed in the beginning. He loved hearing how nothing slowly bloomed into something, into everything.

“She avoided me for a while, but eventually she came to me. She made it very clear that she didn’t want to do anything other than talk—as if she assumed I had some ulterior motive or something. It took a year for her to tell me she was ace, but when she did everything started making sense. I think she was afraid of what I expected from her. I won’t say much more about her because that’s really her story to tell, but all we really did was be straightforward about what we needed from each other.”

Izuku nodded, thinking absently about honesty. Izuku was a bad liar, but he couldn’t say he was great about telling the truth either. Sometimes he avoided truth because it was easier than facing down his own shortcomings. It was easier to hide away than to have an honest conversation. It was never easy to be honest with Kacchan—the truth got him hurt just as much as lies did.

“I love Mei more than anything else. We’re friends but it’s more than that because we put each other before ourselves, but we had to work at that and find our own way of doing things. People think they have to show their soulmates how they feel physically, but it’s not really like that. It’s soul-deep, as cheesy as that sounds. You feel it, no matter what you do, but it works because you work at it. You have to…hit your stride, I guess.”

“Soul-deep,” he said, testing the words on his tongue, trying to discern their meaning. He never thought he’d have a chance to feel anything like what Shinso described.

“If that’s something you want with Bakugo then it’s something you need to pursue wholeheartedly, even if it’s not a physical or romantic relationship, you really just need to clear the air with him.”

“You’re right. I just… we’ve never really talked like that.” Izuku felt an immense sadness wash over him as he said those words. He’d never really gotten over the sting of losing Kacchan as a friend, let alone the sting of realizing they were more like enemies by the time middle school came around.

“Well, if it ends platonically, it’s not the end of the word. And if that’s the case I’m here and willing. Just saying. If it’s not, well, I'm still here. I like you Midoriya—as a friend or more, it’s really whatever you decide.”

For the second time that day, Izuku thought that having choices, making his own decisions, was something he was entirely unfamiliar with.

“Thanks, Shinso. And sorry. This is probably the weirdest date you’ve ever been on.”

“Not even close.” He smiled at Izuku, and they spent the rest of the night hanging out and ordering a pizza. Shinso was as easy going as they come, so it wasn’t weird that their date went from free therapy session to platonic hangout in the span of maybe two hours.

When he left, Izuku checked his phone and found thirteen new SoulMeet messages, all sent from Kacchan. His heart gave a sad little lurch. Maybe it was time to stop icing him out.

Chapter Text

Katsuki walked through the front doors of the agency, already over the workday. He stayed up way too late watching that stupid movie (twice), trying to parse every detail for hidden clues. He was grateful for all the grease paint he slathered over his eyes, and his mask, because it meant no one would noticed his baggy, purpling eyelids. The day went from bad to worse when he saw a copy of Esquire Japan sitting innocuously on his desk, waiting for him. Kirishima probably put there as a joke because he sucked and he had the sense of humor of a five year old. He grumbled, and for a small span of time, he considered just blowing the thing up. He had no desire to read whatever bullshit the interview said, but he couldn’t risk another demerit for setting off the fire alarms again.

His publicist—a shrewd woman who didn’t seem the least bit afraid of him—told him that if he wanted to move up in the ranks they’d have to work a certain angle: the hot, single hero angle. An angle he’d like to set on fire just to watch it burn.

“We’ve got to use what we can—your personality is entirely unusable—which means print campaigns. You’re easy on the eyes, so some eye candy would be good. Preferably shirtless… and you’re single. The only thing you have that the number 1 and 2 heroes don’t have, is a bachelor pad.” The insufferable woman talked a mile a minute, and now that he’d seen Deku again, he retroactively realized whom all her chatter reminded him of.

Katsuki wanted to throw her out a window when she informed him that he’d be posing for the magazine and taking part in the SoulMeet shoot. He was not a publicity hero. He wanted his work to speak for itself, but clearly his work was subpar. Third place was the first loser, and Katsuki refused to be any kind of loser.

“Kirishima,” he bellowed, knowing his obnoxious friend had to be somewhere nearby, watching.

“Bakubro! You’re famous,” he said, sauntering up to Katsuki’s desk with a toothy grin.

“No shit,” he said, his voice a low growl. “Get this shit off my desk.”

“I think you’ll want to read it.”

“In what universe?” Katsuki was confident, and he admittedly had a wicked superiority complex that he was still working through, but he wasn’t a complete narcissist. If Katsuki wasn’t so annoyed, he might be a bit stung by the thought that Kirishima assumed he was that self-absorbed.

“Just read it! Skip over your thing entirely. Go to the next page.”

Katsuki narrowed his eyes at Kirishima, but he flipped open the cover nonetheless, curiosity reluctantly piqued. Kirishima stood on the other side of his desk, still staring, still smiling with a mischievous anticipation. He imagined a golden retriever wagging its tail. Katsuki shooed him away with a glare and folded himself in his desk chair, already weary.

He flipped through the pages with more force than necessary, reveling in the fact that, every now and then, some of the pages would rip. When he finally found the feature profile, the wacky font read, Japan’s Five Most Eligible Bachelors, in a shimmery silver. There was a pleasing geometric pattern behind the font, and it extended out to curl around the article blurb, confining it to a small white space on the page. He ignored the introduction and turned the page, his own face staring back at him. He was relieved when they told him he didn’t need to be shirtless for the shoot. Katsuki had no problem baring his chest, but a shirtless photo shoot screamed desperate —probably in wacky, silver font.

Instead, they had him in a suit, the blazer unbuttoned and the shirt artfully disheveled, the tie loose around his neck. They made him sit in a chair—more like a gaudy throne, actually—and told him to act natural, despite the layer of makeup they caked on him. The shot they used showed him splayed over the chair, leaning grumpily, yet still somehow languidly, with one leg kicked up over the armrest. He had his usual scowl on, and the photographer had called it handsomely annoyed. Katsuki was sure there were more than a few unusable shots of him rolling his eyes. He flipped the page, ignoring his printed interview entirely, and was met with a genuine surprise on the next page.

There, in the center of the page, his name written next to a silver, whimsically scrawled two, was Deku.

His heart pinched in his chest at the sight of him, and he wrote it off as a side effect of the bond. They didn’t have him sitting in some stupid chair. He was sitting on the floor, legs lazily crossed in a pair of jeans Deku would probably never pick out to wear himself, and a cream colored button down, the sleeves rolled up halfway. He looked soft, like some mythical woodland creature you’d only be able to see if you were quiet enough not to spook him, the little wildflowers stuck in his hair and held in his hands added to that effect.

He looked like he’d been caught by surprise, his mouth a small, almost nervous smile, and his big, green eyes wide in their sockets. Looking at him like that, looking at him as much as he wanted to without fear of being caught, had something small and delicate inside Katsuki shriveling up. Maybe it was his lungs because Katsuki felt like he was holding his breath, and he couldn’t pull in enough oxygen even if he wanted to.

He devoured the article, reveling in the intelligent way Deku expresses himself. It read like he was trying to talk about anything other than himself. He talked about his philanthropy work, his favorite ways to spend his free time, what he was looking for in a partner. Katsuki paid special attention to this answer, reading it over and over and memorizing Deku’s words and wishes.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find someone to settle down with, but they’d have to be kind. I know it sounds silly or generic to say that, but really that’s all I want. Someone to take me as I am, and build me up with kindness. Someone to share quiet moments with….

The interviewer rudely interrupted him, poking and prodding for more details, citing his involvement with SoulMeet and his openly Markless status.

I used to think being Markless was a curse, but now I see it as an opportunity, I guess. I have an opportunity to meet and learn from and get to know so many people. And if it does turn into something more, then I’ll know it’s because they chose me, and I chose them.

Katsuki wondered at the way Deku could be so open and still not really share much of himself. He was good at interviews, far better than Katsuki ever was. There was something inherently likable about Deku’s interview—specifically crafted to make a person want to know more. The interviewer asked point-blank if he was seeing anyone, and Katsuki’s heart clenched with the anticipation of reading his answer.

No, I’m not. My work keeps me really busy, and I’ve got a bit of an independent streak. I’m an only-child, and I’ve spent a lot of my life with a really small group of friends. I’m more comfortable alone than in a crowd. I’ve learned to love alone time [laughs].

As Katsuki read that one bracketed word, he wished he could hear it. He was sure it was a tight, self-deprecating laugh—the only laugh he’d ever actually heard leave Deku’s lips always sounded like that. Katsuki wanted to be that person Deku described: kind and quiet and comfortable. He was the antithesis of those things. He was loud and abrasive and Deku was still afraid of him after all these years, but there was a part of Katsuki that sympathized with Deku’s plight for quiet time. He liked to be alone too. He buried himself in work to avoid being overly social. In a certain light, Deku could fit into him like a puzzle piece, all the jagged edges he possessed meshed seamlessly with Deku’s. Were they really so similar? And if they were to be together, to bridge the gaps widened by time and a regretful history, could their differences fade away over time? Could Deku smooth the rough, ugly parts of Katsuki enough for him to be the kind, gentle person he wanted?

Katsuki hardly noticed he was smiling until Kirishima appeared out of nowhere.

“I knew you’d like it!”

Katsuki quickly snapped the magazine shut and schooled his face into a bored scowl.

“Shut up,” he said, gruff and reeling for something to say, something to explain away the fluttery feeling in his stomach.

“He looks cute with all those flowers in his hair, huh? Like spring, if spring were a guy.”

“Fuck off,” he said, because Kirishima wasn’t allowed to say things like that about Deku, especially not in the agency, where all his coworkers could hear him. Katsuki felt shy and exposed for the first time in his life. He felt his face getting hot with embarrassment, and willed himself to have better control.

“Have you seen him since the party? Are you going to ask him out?”

“Kirishima, seriously, just… lay off.” Katsuki averted his gaze, so as not to give anything away. It was a rare occurrence for him to feel anything other than annoyance pulsing under his skin, it was a rare occurrence for him to feel more than one thing at a time, but at that moment he felt like a shitstorm of negativity. He was tired, downtrodden, feeling entirely inadequate after what he had just read, and he hoped Kirishima didn’t pick up on it.

“Let’s get a beer after work. When does your shift end?”

“Five,” he said, the word blowing out of him like a sigh. If he was going to talk to anyone about how he was feeling—aside from his therapist—it would probably be Kirishima. Kirishima was the only person who’d ever seen him with his walls down, but they didn’t talk like that too often. Katsuki liked to keep things surface level.

“Great! I’m done at four. I’ll just hang around here and then we can head out.”

Katsuki nodded, ready to get the hell out of the agency and start his patrol. Before Kirishima left him alone, he put a tentative hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay to lean into that fuzzy feeling, you know?”

Katsuki shrugged him off and shook his head.

“It’s just the bond.”

“It’s not. We’ll talk later, bro. Stay safe on patrol.”

 

His patrol was terrible, and not terrible like, I almost got my ass handed to me by a villain, but terrible in the way that it was quiet. Not a single villain, not even a petty criminal to take his anger out on. Katsuki was itching to punch something, and he hated himself for feeling like that. It’d been a long time since he felt so out of control, so pissed off for no reason in particular. Several times throughout the day he had to stop and breathe and force himself to name the emotion he was really feeling. It wasn’t anger or annoyance—it was just pain. Pain and a mountain of regret.

He had that article, and Kirishima’s words bouncing around his head all day. It’s okay to lean into that fuzzy feeling, you know? But it wasn’t. It would’ve felt great to lean into that feeling if he deserved it, but how could he deserve that feeling if he pushed Deku away so many times, in so many different ways he couldn’t even count anymore?

By the time he was showered and changed out of his uniform, the black grease paint stubbornly clinging to his eyelids, he was in a bit of a rage. Kirishima took one look at him, and decided they weren’t going out.

“Let’s go to your apartment instead. I’ll pick up a sixer on the way, yeah?”

“Whatever,” he bit out, pushing past him to stomp towards his apartment. It was a short, quiet walk, only interrupted once when Kirishima slipped into a corner store to buy beer. Katsuki followed him in and walked out two seconds later when he saw the cover of that stupid fucking magazine by the register.

 

“Alright,” Kirishima said, tentatively, when they finally settled on the couch and Katsuki had already drained half his beer. “Why are you so upset?”

“Did you read that article before you put it on my desk?”

“Yeah. I thought he sounded sweet and smart.”

“He wants someone kind,” Katsuki said, allowing himself to sound half as miserable as he felt. He took another deep swig from his can just to have something to do.

“Bakugo,” Kirishima said, looking pained, like he wanted to say something like you’re kind, but he couldn’t make himself lie.

“Someone to take him as he is, and build him up with kindness,” he said, as much to himself as to Kirishima. “I’m not kind, and I don’t build people up. All I ever did was hurt him.”

“You're fixating on the past,” Kirishima said. Katsuki could tell that he was trying to be comforting and coming up short.

“That’s all there is to fixate on. That, and thirteen years apart where he managed to grow and be happy and make something of himself.”

Katsuki didn’t want to admit that Deku was probably better off without him, but he couldn’t ignore that he’d had an incredibly impressive life thus far. He remembered Haruna asking him if he wanted Deku to be happy, even if it was without him. He was starting to wonder if he could make Deku happy, if he could fit into his life at all. Maybe he shouldn’t even try.

“I think you’re being too hard on yourself. You regret it, right? That should count for something. And you’re not the guy you used to be. The fact that you’re sitting here freaking out is proof of that.”

Katsuki wanted to say that he wasn’t freaking out, but he wasn’t keen on lying, so instead he popped the top on another beer and let Kirishima keep going.

“And you’re not not kind. You’re like… a bodyguard, or a big, scary dog with a heart of gold.”

Katsuki made a face at the poor analogy and the cliché phrasing.

“You’re a protector! You ride hard for your friends—even the friends you won’t admit are friends. You’re prickly, but you’re not as angry as you used to be. I don’t think you realize how far an apology can go.”

“When’s the last time you heard me apologize to anyone?” Katsuki asked, draining his second beer.

“Probably second year, under the threat of expulsion. That’s not important though. What’s important is that you want to change things.”

“I guess.”

“You want to see him again, right?”

Katsuki was silent for a long moment, stubbornly holding on to his feelings. He took a sip from his third beer before answering.

“Yeah, I do,” he said, feeling uncharacteristically soft.

“You get all fuzzy when you said that?” Kirishima smiled over the top of his beer.

“Stop,” Katsuki said, a warning, thankful for the slight beer blush he had because it hid the crush blush.

“You did! Bakugo and his first crush. You love to see it.”

Katsuki rolled his eyes and reached for the remote, turning on the power and opening the Wamazon Watch app. He sipped his beer again and Kirishima made a noise like he was choking.

“Why is Heart & Soul in your watchlist?”

Katsuki cursed under his breath.

“It’s Deku’s favorite movie. His assistant told me. Don’t say a fucking word.”

Kirishima didn’t say anything, but his booming laugh permeated the apartment and grated on Katsuki’s nerves.

“Get out,” Katsuki grumbled, thoroughly done.

“I haven’t even finished my beer yet!”

“Not my problem.”

“Fine, I’ll leave you to obsess over your crush’s favorite movie in peace. Happy note taking.” He laughed. Katsuki scowled and kicked him in the ass on his way out the door.

“What kind of thank you is that?” Kirishima yelled from the other side of Katsuki’s closed door. He was right, though. He didn’t feel much better than he did earlier, but he was on his way.

“Thanks,” Katsuki said, just loud enough so that he could hear it on the other side. He could hear Kirishima laughing all the way to the elevator.

He ended the night watching that stupid movie again. It was terrible—poorly written and poorly acted, but if Haruna told him about it, it had to be for a reason. He could imagine Deku curled up in a blanket, watching this movie in some dark apartment. He could imagine himself sitting next to him, curled up with him. Maybe moments like that were the quiet moments he talked about in his interview. He’d never thought about doing anything like that. He never imagined it was something he wanted, but he realized the second he saw him again that he wanted that with Deku.

And he wanted to talk to smolmight. His frustration with the Deku situation—or non-situation, as it were—was only compounded by the fact that he couldn’t say a word of it to smolmight because he was ignoring him.

He stared at his phone, just as the hero was about to save her soulmate from a burning building.

kingexplosionmurder: have you ever seen heart & soul?

kingexplosionmurder: its awful but its also not. idk. i just miss talking to you.

kingexplosionmurder: i like to think that if you were trapped in a burning building id know who you were immediately even tho I don’t know what you look like.

kingexplosionmurder: that was stupid. ignore that last message… especially if you havent seen the movie cause then I just sound like a whack job.

kingexplosionmurder: i guess im trying to say im sorry. clearly i fucked something up here. I keep fucking things up and i never know im doing it until its too late.

kingexplosionmurder: IM SORRY

kingexplosionmurder: i never say sorry so you better save that message and appreciate it.

kingexplosionmurder: that was rude. fuck. sorry again.

kingexplosionmurder: and sorry for blowing up your phone. im a little drunk and a lot fucked in the head right now.

kingexplosionmurder: i saw my soulmate again.

kingexplosionmurder: and i think i blew my only chance and now i cant stop thinking about him

kingexplosionmurder: and youre really the only person im comfortable talking to about it because you remind me of him so much. did you know hes kinda famous? he fucking invented this stupid dating site and i didn’t even know it because im the worst soulmate in existence.

kingexplosionmurder: he’s the fucking second most eligible bachelor in japan for fucks sake and I didnt know it because ive been hiding from him for over a decade!!!

smolmight: hey

Katsuki just about spat his beer across the room. He wasn’t expecting a reply. He wasn’t expecting to vomit all his feelings out in a string of thirteen messages and actually have them be seen by another person. He didn’t think smolmight was reading it. He thought he was screaming into the void of the internet.

kingexplosionmurder: !!!!

smolmight: sorry ive been avoiding you.

smolmight: I kinda found out who you are and freaked out.

kingexplosionmurder: how?

smolmight: id rather not say. it was a fluke.

kingexplosionmurder: oh. well that makes my last few messages even more embarrassing. guess ill die.

smolmight: lol I wont tell anyone.

kingexplosionmurder: thanks. are you done ghosting me?

smolmight: yeah. are you still freaking out?

kingexplosionmurder: absolutely.

smolmight: wanna talk about it?

kingexplosionmurder: fuck yeah

Chapter Text

kingexplosionmurder: so i think it’s been established that im a ducking idiot

smolmight: quack

kingexplosionmurder: duck

kingexplosionmurder: fuck

It felt right to be talking to kingexplosionmurder again, even if there was an alarm ringing in Izuku’s head, screaming things like SoulMate! And childhood trauma! And oh no, he’s cute! Izuku felt lucky to be experiencing this side of Kacchan, even if he was doing so in a secretive, underhanded way. He contemplated admitting who he was for a long time, but seeing Kacchan’s inner turmoil about his SoulMate, about him, made him clam up in a way that was probably selfish. He decided it was better not to add to Kaccha’s stress by revealing his identity.

smolmight: i don’t think youre an idiot but go on

kingexplosionmurder: i don’t deserve him. and he didn’t deserve the shit i did to him.

smolmight: dont you think he should decide what he deserves?

Izuku felt a bit dirty, subtlety directing Kacchan toward him, trying to encourage him to make the first move. It wasn’t entirely right, but Izuku knew he would never have the wherewithal to approach Kacchan first. He hadn’t entirely decided if he wanted to yet, either. He was still on the fence. He hadn’t given himself much time to consider everything Shinso shared with him. It was still difficult to imagine himself worthy of that kind of unconditional love.

He was literally conditioned to expect nothing from life from the tender age of four. The world saw what he had to give, and they told him it wasn’t much. That feeling only snowballed from there, growing into a giant tumbling mess of self-deprecation, self-loathing, and when he found himself to be Markless… it felt like the final nail in the coffin, a death knell he couldn’t block out if he tried. The world saw him, and they told him he was nothing, to expect nothing, and to prepare himself for a long, lonely existence.

It was hard to break himself out of that way of thinking. It wasn’t until he met Haruna that he found something truly worthwhile in his life. It was easy to dedicate his time an energy to SoulMeet because he had nothing else to distract him. Sometimes, in his quiet, thoughtful moments of weakness over the last few weeks, he found himself wondering if Kacchan would see him as worth pursuing if he wasn’t a mega successful CEO.

Would Kacchan have even thought twice about him if he was a grocery store clerk, or a repairman?

On some level, he knew Kacchan had been thinking about him. He was grateful for their tenuous SoulMeet connection for that. Still, he wondered if Kacchan would have sought him out eventually if they hadn’t run into each other by chance.

kingexplosionmurder: he’s too nice. too kind.

smolmight: what’s wrong with being kind?

kingexplosionmurder: im not nice or kind or generous.

smolmight: youre plenty kind. youre just not obvious about it.

kingexplosionmurder: don’t blow smoke up my ass I’m not looking for a pity party.

smolmight: im not!

There was a pause in their lightning quick correspondence. The ellipses icon kept popping up and disappearing, and Izuku knew that meant he was either choosing his words very carefully, or trying to change the topic.

kingexplosionmurder: have you ever met another Markless person?

Izuku balked at the conversation change. It felt too close to admitting his identity. Kingexplosionmurder has never asked about his Marklessness, not since he copped to it in their first string of texts. Izuku treads carefully, opting for short and concise.

smolmight: can’t say i have. it’s rare, and even rarer to talk about it.

kingexplosionmurder: he’s Markless. at least that’s what he says. I don’t know how I could have a mark for him and he doesn’t have one for me but that’s what im working with right now.

When Izuku doesn’t respond right away, Kacchan sends another message.

kingexplosionmurder: whats it like?

Izuku considered what to say for a long time. If he was going to reveal himself, now would be the time. He wasn’t ready for that though. He wasn’t ready for anything to be real. As much as he didn’t want to admit it to himself, Izuku saw this as some kind of trial run. He wanted to know Kacchan with no string attached, with no added weight from the fact that their souls were inexplicably tied together. Izuku found himself responding with unbridled honesty because, even if Kacchan didn’t know it was him, he wanted to be truthful. He wanted him to see him, even if was just with words.

smolmight: it’s lonely. i try really hard not to love people and it never really works. it’s hard to not want to be loved.

kingexplosionmurder: do you think he feels like that?

Izuku hardly had to think about it, but he couldn’t exactly say definitely without it sounding slightly suspicious.

smolmight: probably.

kingexplosionmurder: do you think

Izuku waited for him to finish his thought. After about five minutes of silence, he figured Kacchan had clammed up.

smolmight: ??

kingexplosionmurder: too sappy. im not saying that shit.

smolmight: do i think he could love you?

kingexplosionmurder: shut up

Izuku knew he was right on the money, but he decides to push it further. He was struggling with this as well, and talking it out could help.

smolmight: are you worried that your soulmark would make him feel like he had to love you?

Somewhere in the back of Izuku’s mind he felt a bit trapped by his new Mark. It felt like he had to pursue something with Kacchan because his body was literally giving him a sign. That was probably his biggest obstacle in coming to terms with his new normal. His relationship with Kacchan was so fraught, he didn’t know if he wanted this, or if he felt obligated to it. He spent a fair amount of time after Shinso left thinking about the fact that he probably would’ve pursued him wholeheartedly if his Mark hadn’t appeared, and that gave him pause.

kingexplosionmurder: kind of.

kingexplosionmurder: probably.

kingexplosionmurder: yes actually. 100%

smolmight: you won’t know until you talk to him

kingexplosionmurder: ????

kingexplosionmurder: that is the most unhelpful shit ever

smolmight: i know but it’s really all i can say… and again that he should get to decide what he wants. how will he know youre even an option if you keep hiding?

kingexplosionmurder: fuck you

smolmight: i think you mean “you’re so right thank you for your wise guidance”

kingexplosionmurder: just because it’s true doesn’t mean you should say it.

smolmight: :)

They’ve come to a natural stopping point in the conversation, but something Kacchan said earlier niggled at the back of his mind. He was pushing it by even talking to Kacchan about his problems like this, but he couldn’t help himself. Kacchan said during his borderline mental break that smolmight reminded him of his SoulMate. It was borderline incriminating to ask, but Izuku was too curious for his own good. He wanted to know what Kacchan saw him his online persona that translated.

smolmight: you said that i reminded you of your SM. what’s that about?

There was a long pause again, and it made Izuku’s stomach dip with dread. Had he been found out? Was Kacchan suspicious? Or was it just too personal to respond to? Izuku heaved a relieved sigh when Kacchan responded.

kingexplosionmurder: idk honestly. just something about talking to you. when you say things it makes me think he could be talking. idk.

Izuku would have to take it. He felt like there might be a swarm of bees buzzing around in his stomach. He felt closer to Kacchan somehow, even with the weight of this secret between them.

He knows it’s me. He doesn’t, but he feels it.

Izuku fell asleep that night feeling hopeful. He decided to stop thinking about all the bad bits of their complicated existence with each other. For now, it was enough that Kacchan knew him, at least a little bit. It was enough that Kacchan wanted him, and he found that he wanted him to. Maybe it was selfish, maybe Izuku was moving too fast, allowing himself to lean into something superficial, but there was a part of him that was drawn to Kacchan. He always had been, even before the Mark. Who’s to say his borderline obsession with Kacchan wasn’t his Mark pushing him in that direction? Who’s to say Kacchan’s Mark wasn’t telling him to keep up with smolmight because, even if he didn’t know, his soul did?

Shinso talked about a soul-deep connection, an undeniable urge to make yourself amenable to another person, to give them everything they deserved. Izuku couldn’t say he understood that feeling yet—everything was too new, too frightening, too overwhelming—but he felt like he was starting to.

He felt like, if he could just open himself to Kacchan, everything might fall into place. It wouldn’t be easy, but neither of them seemed averse to putting in the work. He was willing to try. For now, that felt like something—it felt like enough.

Chapter Text

Yaomomo called the night before, and invited Izuku to lunch. It was an impromptu we’re having two soul-sucking demon children soon, so come hang with us before they ambush us invitation, and Izuku was happy to accept. He was content with filling his mind with something other than SoulMeet and smolmight and kingexplosionmurder. He told Kacchan that smolmight was going to be out of town for work, and somehow, in this day and age of constant wi-fi and 7G service, he would be out of touch for a few weeks. He couldn’t handle more underhanded conversations with Kacchan. He loved talking to him, getting to know him, probing into his constantly hidden mind, but he didn’t want to do that as anyone other than Midoriya Izuku.

As odd as that seemed to him, as a person who’d rather hide himself away than be his nerdy, awkward self, he felt he owed it to himself to get to know Kacchan again as Kacchan and Deku. Not as kingexplosionmurder and smolmight. That would be taking the easy way out. He wasn’t sure what he should do to force himself into Kacchan’s life again. He had a little over a week before the SoulMeet shoot, so he figured that casual run-in would be enough of a start.

Ugh, he thought. That train of thought is exactly why he felt he needed this small reprieve. This day of hanging with his friends, who were expecting children, and therefore had much more important things to share than his new SoulMark. Hopefully.

He thought that’d be the case, but when he got there, Shoto hadn’t seemed to expect him.

“Izuku,” he said, eyes wide, even for Shoto’s impassive face. “What are you doing here?”

“Yaomomo invited me for lunch. You didn’t know?”

“No.” His eyes tightened just so, before his expression smoothed out once again. Izuku was familiar with that look. It was a look he gave when he was… annoyed, or hurt, but he didn’t know why. Izuku found that Shoto often wasn’t sure why he felt the things he felt. He had a build up—a blockage—of emotions he wasn’t a comfortable addressing. It hurt to know he was still struggling with that, but it also wasn’t Izuku’s business anymore. Not in the capacity it used to be, at least.

“Come in,” he said, in that chilly, yet still polite way of speaking he had taken up with Izuku in the last year or so.

“Midoriya! Thank you for coming! We’ve missed you.” Yaomomo hugged him tight, but Izuku couldn’t help but stare into Shoto’s eyes over her shoulder. He looked vaguely upset.

Eventually, after a long, awkward, slightly chilly lunch, in which Shoto stared daggers at him for no apparent reason, Momo stood up from the table.

“I'll be right back,” she said, with no excuse for why she was making her escape, thought the heavy tension in the air would’ve been reason enough in Izuku’s opinion. When she leaves, that tension grows thicker.

“Um,” Izuku said, half in his head, and half speaking to Shoto. “Is everything alright?”

“I just didn’t expect to see you today.”

“Do you want me to leave? I thought—“ Izuku sighs, looking off toward the picture window in their beautiful mansion home in the picturesque outskirts of the city.

“It’s fine. I just… I don’t know. What’s new with you?”

“Well, I’ve got the SoulMeet shoot soon.”

“You nervous? Or will you leave it to Haruna?” Shoto smirks, and it almost feels like old times—before he married Momo and subsequently impregnated her. Izuku had no problem with that, but it seemed like Shoto did, putting up walls to keep him out ever since.

“Shoto,” he said, starting something he’d never be able to take bad. “Why are you so mad at me?”

“I’m not,” he said, flippant. He looks away, and Izuku knew just enough about him to know he was lying. The set of his mouth was disingenuous. Izuku has been here before. He’d been in a stalemate with Shoto—when he was upset but unwilling to fight him on it. It was decidedly harder to broach the subject when they were so estranged, but Izuku knew from experience that shock factor was the best way to shake him out of his surly bullshit.

“I got a SoulMark.”

Shoto did a literal spit take, choking on the last bits of his lunch.

“What?”

“Yeah. After the party a few weeks ago… it’s Kacchan’s Mark.”

Shoto’s face went flat, placid, blank—even more so than usual. He reiterated.

“What?”

“Yeah. I’m normal now. I’ve got a Mark like everyone else. I’ve got a chance.”

“Don’t—don’t joke about that.”

“I’m not. He’s my SoulMate. I haven’t told him yet, but he knows. ‘Cause…. you know.”

“That’s…” he said, his eyes wide and somehow venomous. “That’s fucking bullshit, Izuku.”

Izuku started at the sheer anger in his words. He feels and urge to stand up, like he’s been directly insulted—like his SoulMate has been directly insulted.

“Why? How?” Izuku asked, incredulous.

“Because!” Shoto said, managing to sound at least five years old. Petty, indignant, raging for no reason other than he felt like it. He got to his feet, like he couldn’t defend his position in a seat. Well, maybe Izuku felt like raging too.

“Shoto.” Izuku had to refrain from saying something mean. Something like use your big boy words. They used to get in fights like this when they were dating, and Izuku never pulled any punches. He couldn’t act like that anymore. They couldn’t end arguments with kisses or cuddles or sex anymore, so he had to tread lightly.

“It was supposed to be us. You and me. Not Bakugo or Shinso or any of the other guys you’ve been seeing.”

“You’re married. You have children on the way! We haven’t dated in years,” Izuku said with the kind of pulse-pounding incredulity the situation at hand required.

“Only because you told me to. You told me I’d be happier and I’m not,” Shoto said in his signature surly growl. It was asinine. Izuku took a moment to look around the house he shared with his wife—the expensive furnishings, the homey, warm light, the half-put together pram in the corner of the room. This was a life. This was the furthest thing possible from Izuku’s empty, barely lived in apartment.

“Why not? Why aren’t you happy? You have a soul-deep bond with a beautiful person. You have everything I ever wanted!”

Shoto had the nerve to scoff at that, and all Izuku could do was grit his teeth. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to visit Momo and Shoto and have lunch and catch up. He was supposed to be happy that Izuku finally got a Mark—finally got to be like everyone else in some way. He might still be down a Quirk, but at least got to have this one thing.

“All I ever wanted was you. I didn’t need a Mark on my body to tell me that. You did. And now you’re just… blindly going to Bakugo because you got some bullshit sign out of nowhere.”

“I know you love Momo. You know you love her. Marks don’t lie.”

“That’s not relevant!”

“It’s the most relevant thing in the world. It’s all anyone really cares about! We can’t go back. And besides, I have a Mark now. Everything is how it’s supposed to be.”

“You always said you didn’t need a Mark to be happy. What happened to that guy?”

“He got his heart broken! He got tired of being left out!” Izuku was crying now. Angry tears leaked from his traitorous eyes and he couldn’t stop them. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and took a shuddering breath.

“Why can’t you just be happy for me?”

“Because you’re making a mistake. I would know.”

“What could you possibly know about any of this?”

“Just because someone is your SoulMate doesn’t mean they’re meant to be your partner. I know that better than anyone. Momo knows it too.”

And then there’s Yaomomo, standing in the doorway. There wasn’t any doubt that she’d heard everything. Izuku was suddenly disgusted with himself. He was disgusted with Shoto. How could he have ever done anything to hurt Yaomomo like that?

“Yaomomo, I’m so sorry,” he said, utterly horrified with the way his visit turned out. He should just leave. He turned to do just that when her voice stopped him.

“Midoriya, please wait a second.”

Her voice was surprisingly calm. He turned to look at her. She was gently turning a distraught Shoto to face her. Her hands rested on his face to pull him to her.

“It’s okay. I’ll talk to him. Just go cool down.”

Shoto sighed and gave a small nod. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to her and she smiled tightly as he walked outside. When the door closed behind him, Yaomomo turned her attention on Izuku.

“Midoriya, please come sit.”

Izuku obeyed, but only because he’s so frazzled by his and Shoto’s fight that he couldn’t be bothered to do anything else. Yaomomo was so calm, almost regal, as she sat down on the plush sofa.

“I think all of this has more to do with the stress of losing you as a friend than anything else. He just… misses you. You haven’t been here in a while.”

“We’re still friends,” Izuku said, a little sniffly.

“Shoto has never been good at asking for things. You know that. He wants.... Well, he wants things to be as they were, but I’m sure he’d settle for more time together. You’ve both been so busy.”

“I didn’t even know you knew about us,” he said, suddenly mortified.

“He told me the second we realized we were SoulMates. I’ve never had a problem with it. If we’re being honest, I don’t think Shoto and I were meant to be involved romantically. Our parents pressured us into the match.”

“You’re pregnant.”

“I want kids. Shoto does too.” She shrugged, as if Izuku should be able to fill in the rest.

“Look. We love each other and we want each other to be happy. You’ve always made him happy. There’s no love lost between him and Bakugo, but I know some part of him is happy for you, too, no matter how that turns out.”

“You’re… a very good person, Yaomomo. I feel like you should punch me in the face.”

“Oh, honey.” She patted his leg like he was some delusional hero fanboy. “Just because you’ve started working out recently doesn’t mean you could take me.”

Izuku laughed a self-deprecating titter. She was probably right, and he appreciated her attempt at humor. She’s too good for any man, he decides as she starts to pet his hair affectionately. He gives her an inquisitive look.

“My maternal instincts are taking over. I’m not apologizing.”

Izuku laughs and lets himself put his head on her shoulder. She was going to be a good mom. She was already great at diffusing tantrums and comforting people. Izuku was reminded of his own mother—her quiet, easy strength.

“You and Shoto have a bond I’ve only dreamed of having. You two just… see each other. You know each other in a way only SoulMates can. I never thought I’d have anything like that,” he said, unconsciously nuzzling further into her neck. She pats his back reassuringly. “I don’t want to pass that up. And… I’ve always felt something for Kacchan. I really want to see this through.”

“We support you. Just don’t leave Shoto hanging in the balance, and I’ll work on him as best I can. He feels… abandoned, I guess—like you two never got full closure, or something. You know how he is.”

Izuku nodded self-consciously, untucking his head from Momo’s neck. He should probably go. He felt drained and slightly unwelcome in their happy home. He also felt clear-headed in a way he hadn’t before. He told Momo he wanted to see this thing—whatever it was—with Kacchan through, and he meant it. He didn’t want to hide behind smolmight to connect with him anymore. Even if Kacchan rejected him, he wanted to put himself out there. He owed it to himself to give himself a chance.

 

Izuku was generally a responsible person, but after the day—that argument—he had, he wanted to take off his responsible cap, and replace it with his drunken idiot cap. So he phoned Haruna.

“What’s wrong?” She barked. Haruna wasn’t really one for hellos.

“Why do you assume something’s wrong?”

“Because you only call me if you’re crying or if something’s on fire,” she deadpans. Izuku could hear shuffling papers and typing keyboards. She must’ve been at the office.

“That was only two times.”

“Get to the point, Birdy. I don’t have time for a verbal sparring match today. Somebody has to keep this company afloat.”

Izuku huffs a loud, dramatic sigh, and gets on with his day. Why beat around the bush with Haruna? She’s blunt to a fault, and he could learn something from her.

“Put simply, I would like to get rip-roaring drunk, and I don’t think that’s something I should do alone or in my apartment.”

“Again, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, exactly. It’s just been a long 28 years,” he said, world weary.

“Jesus Christ, you’re dramatic. Fine, I’m working until seven. I’ll pick you up at 8.”