Pain racks his body with each step but it doesn't deter Izuku for a second. He pushes himself further, harder, faster, sprinting as fast as he possibly can to the warp gate. Heat and blue wisps cloud the edges of his vision and he thinks maybe he'll collapse any moment now, but he hasn't yet, so he has to keep going.
The man—the horrible man—with stitches along his cheekbones and beneath his chilling blue eyes, grins at him from across the clearing and Izuku groans, pitifully, as his arms ache from the splints. He doesn't stop running, though. He can't.
"Checkmate," the villain purrs, as the orb explodes from his hand and a boy emerges from the burst of light. Katsuki.
Izuku's heart lunges into his throat because he's right there, he's so close, just a little further—
Katsuki's eyes are wide and confused. He tries to keep on as cool of a face as possible but it's vividly clear that he has no idea what's happening aside from the fact that he's in grave danger. Something glints through his eyes that Izuku doesn't know if he's ever seen before. No, maybe—yes, he has. All those months ago, when he'd just met All Might and he tried to save his friend from the slime monster… Katsuki has looked like this before.
He looks scared.
The villain curls his fingers around Katsuki's neck and pulls him backwards, the purple energy lapsing over them as they start to fade away. Izuku grits his teeth and pushes himself harder. Every muscle in his body screams at him but he doesn't listen, he can't, there's no time.
Immediately, Katsuki's eyes lock onto his. There's a heavy silence between them, of fear, of horror, something too discordant for them to piece together. They—They have shit communication and Izuku knows that they have a lot of unspoken emotions to work through, years of horrible relationship building since they were just little kids, but—Izuku cares for him. So much. And he can't bear to lose him, knowing he could have done something.
Katsuki trembles and he tries to rear away from the portal, to get out, but he's paralyzed and weak still from the orb he'd been encapsulated in. "Stay back, Deku," he murmurs, quiet and broken.
But he—he refuses. Izuku grunts and throws himself at the warp gate in one last effort, heaving all his weight and even trying to will some of One for All into the force of his leap, but his quirk is exhausted and so is his body. Katsuki is swallowed in a purple haze and by the time Izuku connects with the ground he's already disappeared.
He yanks himself back onto his feet instantly, shaken and frozen. The portal is gone, and so are all of the villains, and so is Kacchan. His Kacchan.
And everything bursts from him as he just unravels. Izuku can't stand it. He realizes, now, alone and weak and too slow, that he cares more deeply and passionately for Katsuki than anything else in the world. He'd forsake UA, his quirk, his life, to know he was safe and okay.
Izuku sobs, and his cries are consumed by the walls of blue flames that wrap around him.
None of them have the courage to move. It's ironic, really, because they're all here to be heroes and save their friend, but—but that monster. He just slaughtered a pro hero without a second thought, and it's slowly dawning on Izuku that they don't stand any chance.
… But that doesn't matter, not really, assuming the plan pulls through. Supposedly, with Iida and Todoroki by his side, they can save Katsuki without having to deal with the villains at all. Yaoyorozu was a big help too, and Kirishima—although too injured to join—at least rallied their spirits enough to come here, but now it was just down to them three. And Izuku doesn't doubt Iida or Todoroki for a second.
So, really, the whole thing hinges on something he's been grappling with for a long time, that he needs to know, undoubtedly, right now. Katsuki's trust.
A voice erupts past the silence, suddenly, hacking and coughing. "Agh—dammit—"
Izuku stills. Kacchan.
"My apologies, Bakugou," the villain says. He's different than the one that kidnapped Katsuki in the first place, but just as unnerving and scary.
There are more strange noises from behind the wall they're pressed against, and then familiar voices materialize, sputtering and bickering. Izuku chances a glance and yes, of course, the rest of the villains are here, too.
The leader, he presumes, begins some drawn out lecture aimed at—Shigaraki, the hand-guy, who seems to be the leader's subordinate. Their backs are to the wall, so Izuku figures it's safe enough, for now, to peer over it some more and start formulating a plan. His mind is already working at a million miles a minute.
He needs—he needs to save him. Fear is no excuse. What kind of hero is he if he can't even save the one person he cares about?
Izuku clenches his fists and nearly launches himself over the wall, but Iida is suddenly on him, pinning him against it so he can't move. Iida looks mortified, drenched in sweat and trembling, staring dreadfully at Izuku. When he looks to his right, Todoroki subtly shakes his head at him.
Not yet. Not now.
He huffs in resignation and nearly tries to push Iida away, but then—
"Ah," the villain hums, "there you are."
Iida's breath hitches and a wave of cold washes over Izuku. That's not possible, how did he find them-?
But the ground begins to shake beneath their feet and the air roars fiercely and he knows that maybe it'll be okay now. A blur of red and blue and yellow rushes down from the heavens and collides into the villain, all brute force. The hero sneers at the monster.
"Give me back my student, All for One!" he bellows, and terror snaps through Izuku like whiplash, because holy shit. This is—this is what All Might was warning him about, the one thing they're destined to defeat with One for All. It's all come down to this.
Chaos explodes across the arena, All for One calling upon all of his quirks at once as he taunts an already weary All Might. He orders his lackeys to collect Katsuki and flee, but Katsuki just grins eagerly and cracks his knuckles and says something way too arrogant for Izuku's liking. They need to get him out of there. He's way too outnumbered, and All Might is currently preoccupied with fending off All for One.
Izuku blanches and he can only watch as the fight unfolds. All Might is stuck in a constant struggle with his opponent, and Katsuki is skillfully trying to dance around the other six villains. It seems like he's palpably aware of the fact that he's got a disadvantage, and he's staying on the defensive. Good. At least he's not being an idiot.
All for One sends All Might careening into a faraway skyscraper and Izuku feels all the air in his lungs leak out in a sudden, painful exhale.
"Midoriya!" Iida hisses, and thank god they can barely hear him over the explosions and crashes. "We need to act now."
He swallows the hard knot in his throat and nods. "Right."
Their plan works seamlessly—all the parts that Izuku can account for, anyways. He and Iida propel past the wall with the combined power of their quirks and Todoroki send a massive slab of ice to glide up through the air and act as a ramp for them, before grabbing a hold of Iida so he isn't left behind. In seconds they're soaring through the sky and all eyes are on them. All Might shouts something and when Izuku looks down, he sees him shoving All for One out of the way. Just a few feet away, he can see Katsuki staring up at them in shock.
This is it.
Izuku stretches out his hand, still wrapped in green electricity, and cries out as loud as his lungs can manage, "Come on!"
Please, he thinks. Forget about all the stupid bickering, the arguments. Trust me.
They're getting farther and farther away every passing second and they don't have much time left. Katsuki is still frozen and Shigaraki is lunging for him. But then—then flames encircle him and Katsuki is rocketing through the air from the mere propulsion, alone. He's closer, closer—
Izuku grabs his hand. He's—he got him. They did it.
Katsuki barks out an unfiltered laugh, high on adrenaline. "You idiots!"
A few villains try to give chase but the pro heroes are able to hold them off until the scene is out of sight and the teenagers are alone in the night sky. Todoroki sends a level ramp of ice from his fingertips to ease their descent, and Izuku and Iida are able to take the brunt of the fall as Katsuki guides their direction with measured explosions. The four stagger to a stop and withdraw from their conjoined grasps on one another as soon as they're on solid ground.
There's a teetering silence as they stop to catch their breaths, delirious glee on all their faces from the fact that they just did that, and that their plan went off without a hitch.
Izuku looks down and sees that Katsuki hasn't let go of his hand. When he glances up, the blond is stumbling forward into his arms, and he presses a hand against Izuku's chest. He startles because the only physical contact with Katsuki he's really used to is punches, not held hands and tender touches, but it's… nice.
With a trembling sigh Katsuki collapses from exhaustion and Izuku stumbles backwards as his weight falls into him. He chuckles uneasily but doesn't let go. Katsuki looks so peaceful, here, slumped in his arms.
Iida catches notice, though, and starts peeling Katsuki away. "Midoriya, you need to be careful to not strain your arms. I'll take Bakugou."
"Um," Izuku gulps down a greedy breath. "Right. Yeah. We should—"
"We aren't far from the city," Todoroki says, as Iida hefts the unconscious Katsuki over his shoulder. "Come on, we should get him to a hospital. And probably alert everyone to what's happening back there."
It's hard for Izuku to ignore the strange emptiness in his heart knowing he probably won't ever have such an—intimate?—exchange with Katsuki like that, again. He doesn't really understand it. But the warmth in his heart knowing his friend is safe is more than enough to alleviate the unsettling feeling, so he disregards it.
"No matter how much I tried, you kept coming back! Always one step behind me!"
He launches at Izuku again and a pillar of smoke and flames follow. Izuku yelps and leaps out of the way, rolling hard against the asphalt.
"Now you're even worse. Stop running! Get up and fight!"
He pounces forward and shoves his palms out, snapping with orange light. Izuku whirls backwards and kicks him in the chin.
"Why!? Tell me!"
Katsuki loses his footing and falls unceremoniously to the ground. The dust begins to settle.
One for All recedes back into Izuku and the green lightning dissipates. He wipes the blood dribbling down the corner of his lips and jogs forward. "Hey, are you okay-?"
Katsuki slaps his hand away. "Don't you dare worry about me!"
Izuku falls silent and takes a step back. He watches his friend keenly.
"Attack me!" Katsuki orders, his voice raw and miserable. He pushes himself onto his feet but he clearly doesn't have the fight left in him anymore. "Why won't you fight back? You're supposed to be better than me, aren't you?! You're his fucking sidekick! And I'm just the one that destroyed All Might!"
And—oh. Izuku falters, processes, waits. Katsuki trembles uncontrollably and he's screaming, yes, but he sounds close to tears and Izuku can't take it. Why would he-?
"If I had been stronger, if I hadn't been kidnapped by villains—then it never would've happened." His voice dies down a bit and he wipes his eyes, hidden by his slouch and messy hair. "All Might knows it's my fault, he just hasn't said anything. Everyone has to know, though. I can't get it out of my head! It's like it's constantly playing on loop!"
Red eyes peer up at Izuku, utterly destroyed. They're clouded in moisture.
"So what the hell am I supposed to do?!"
He's already clenching his fists again and embers are already crackling around his knuckles. Katsuki wants to fight. Katsuki wants to do anything except deal with this.
But Izuku—he won't let him.
"It's not your fault, Kacchan," he says, in a soft and low tone. He needs to be the balm to Katsuki's scalding thoughts right now. "I get what you're going through. I feel just as guilty, but that doesn't mean—you don't need to be alone. I can help you."
He smiles and outstretches a hand. Waits for Katsuki to accept it this time.
Katsuki snarls. "You think you're better than me, Deku? Think again. I'm gonna prove to you how much stronger I am."
… What? Izuku blinks. "Is that—you really believe that? Kacchan, if that's true, why would I still be here? I had nothing at first. And there are some things about you that I just—I hate. You're so mean sometimes. But I also know how amazing you are. All Might is my hero, sure, but you? You're actually here, in my life."
Katsuki balks and mulls his words over in his head. For a moment there is no anger in his eyes, just frustration. Exhaustion. "The hell is that supposed to mean?"
"We—" Izuku laughs wetly, "—have the worst relationship in the world, I think. I don't even know what to call us. I care a lot about you, Kacchan, and I know you must care about me too, right? We're in the same boat, here. It doesn't matter who inherited what. You and I can be amazing, if we just—put aside our differences. I want to be your friend, Katsuki. Your real friend."
By this point Katsuki seems considerably calmer. Izuku sizes him up and decides to approach him, still holding out his hand like an olive branch. The tension between them is thick and suffocating but Izuku doesn't let it get to him. Just watches Katsuki as he stares at his hand in deep concentration.
He takes it, hesitantly; refuses to meet Izuku's gaze.
"I…" Katsuki shuts his eyes. "I do care, you stupid nerd. Sometimes you're just—such a Deku."
Izuku can't help but smile. There is no venom behind his words.
"Maybe we could start training together," he suggests, and Katsuki eyes him passively. He has yet to relinquish his hold on Izuku's hand, still. "Under less—insane circumstances, and stuff."
Katsuki looks him up and down. "If by insane circumstances you mean an asshole that refuses to fight back?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of an asshole that needs to keep his temper in check."
Izuku grins and they're—uh, really close all of the sudden. Were they always standing so close to one another? He can feel Katsuki's hot breath on his face and see the sweat beading down his forehead. There's a tiny seam of blood sliced through his eyebrow and Izuku has this stupid urge to just—thumb it away, or—
Their lips crash together and it catches him completely off guard. A tidal wave of emotions surge up his body and it's way too much to unpack right now, so he just focuses on the fact that Katsuki is kissing him back, and he feels really good against him. Katsuki wastes no time in riding his hands up Izuku's shirt, gliding gentle, calloused fingers over his back and pulling him close into something Izuku can only equate to the desperateness of a hormonal teenager.
Carefully, Izuku runs his hands up Katsuki's neck and into his hair, and holy fuck, it's so soft and fluffy. Katsuki presses himself harder into Izuku and he lets him, just melts into this, because wow is he a dumbass. He realizes now that he doesn't just care about Katsuki, he needs Katsuki, like a lifeline.
It nearly stretches on further when Katsuki starts trying to pull off Izuku's shirt, but then he nudges his arm wrong and Izuku whimpers a bit as pain trickles down the limb. It's enough to snap Katsuki out of whatever sort of trance he's fallen into.
The blond gasps and stumbles backwards, shoving Izuku away. He looks mortified. He turns to run away.
Izuku takes a moment to recover. "Wha—Kacchan, wait—"
But he's already gone.
By the end of the year they're on awful terms. Well, better terms, technically, seeing as Katsuki is no longer nearly as hostile towards him. Still hostile overall, yes. But he seems to have embraced some sort of respect for Izuku.
It's still much worse, in his opinion, because now they don't talk at all, and that's exactly the opposite of what Izuku wanted. He wants—well, he wants a lot of things. He wants to be a lot more than what they are now and he wants to do a lot more things than what they do now, but he'd settle for at least being acquaintances. He'd even accept their bitter rivalry from before.
But this? Those long stares, pregnant with so much emotion that neither of them have the courage to confess? Those empty silences, deliberate choices to distance themselves as much as possible? It's horrible for Izuku. Because now he knows how much he wants Katsuki. Now he knows it's much more than caring for a childhood friend.
And then they're second years, officially in class 2-A, and Aizawa and All Might decide to hold a beginning-of-the-year, orientation-banquet sort of thing. It's really just an excuse for them to round up all of the parents (and students) in one place to discuss the more improved security system they've implemented, and explain the current construction projects that have been underway recently.
Part of this construction project involves more engaging rooms that help the students concentrate on the strengths of their quirks while training, plus a couple more hang-out common room areas, and an extra kitchen.
Which also means they've cut down on the amount of dorms available. All Might insists this will be good for team-bonding.
"Roommates?" Izuku echoes, as soon as he announces it. They're all gathered in the dining hall, but this is a private 2-A meeting. The other teachers are supposedly discussing this individually with the other classes.
Ashido squeals with excitement. "This could actually be pretty fun!"
Tsuyu groans quietly to herself and says, "I just hope I get a good one."
All Might smiles at them. Izuku tries to ignore the way his eyes seem so much more sunken, and how tight and weary his lips seem to be pulled against his face. He tries to speak with the same vigor as before, but he sounds considerably more subdued, nowadays. "Do not worry! We have deliberately picked out these pairings for optimal dynamics. Even if you aren't… too pleased with your roommate at first, we hope you'll understand our choice."
Aizawa proceeds to rattle off the list, leaving the room in a reeling state of delight, confusion, indifference, and the rare case of irritation. "And there will be no room for discussion. These decisions are final. Enjoy your last night at home and be prepared for rigorous training tomorrow morning."
Izuku is left somewhere in the spectrum of confusion, probably paired up alongside some worry, and he figures Katsuki is downright mad. Because of course they're roommates. Izuku is just struggling to comprehend why, because—well, they don't really have the best track record together. And All Might and Aizawa must know that.
He figures it's for the same reason they were paired up for that exam last year, against All Might, and hopes that they know what they're doing.
The other duos of students take the time to chat, likely about living arrangements and how, uh, interesting this year is going to be. When Izuku glances across the dining hall to where Katsuki had been sitting, he realizes that he's already gone home.
The next few weeks are painful. They don't interact at all—just stick to their side of the room. The most Katsuki has spoken to him was grumbling about not picking up his dirty clothes one time. He never realized how much of a neat-freak Katsuki could be, but now that they're living together, Izuku is vaguely amused to see how immaculate his side of the room is. He even makes his bed every morning, before class starts.
It isn't all that bad. Izuku is particularly busy with class and training, so he really only uses his dorm to sleep. Studying and relaxing is reserved for the common room, where he can hang out with the rest of the class and not be isolated with Katsuki.
About four weeks into the school year they hold a low-key party, keeping in mind their midnight curfew. Aizawa has given them plenty of lectures over how he isn't afraid to move that to a nine-o'-clock curfew if they stay up past twelve, so they're cautious enough.
Izuku heads back to his dorm at about eleven-thirty, pretty exhausted from his afternoon training and fairly certain that he's slightly tipsy, because of course Kaminari spiked the punch. He's careful to not make much noise when he enters the room, because Katsuki had seemed disgruntled at the idea of the party and hadn't shown up—plus, he always falls asleep by like, eight.
He creeps into the room and flops down on his bed, almost immediately passing out. There are a few minutes where he's stuck just—staring at the dark ceiling, though, trying to force himself to sleep.
And then the lamp flicks on from behind him.
The teenager grouses and curls up into his blankets. He isn't in the mood to deal with Katsuki and tension and… feelings right now. Especially when he's inebriated.
This manages to stir him, because he frankly cannot remember the last time Katsuki ever used his real name. Izuku blinks and rolls to his other side so he's looking over at his roommate. Katsuki is sitting up on the edge of his bed, watching him with an unreadable expression. Izuku waits for him to say something.
There's a long pause and Izuku briefly wonders if maybe this is a dream, and decides to try and drift off again. The warm buzz in his head insists this is a good idea, but then Katsuki speaks again.
"I'm really—bad at this."
Izuku frowns and sits up a bit, his voice slurred in sleep and alcohol. "Wha'd'ya mean?"
Katsuki waves his hands around unsurely. He looks almost annoyed, but like he's deliberately trying to avoid letting his aggression surface. "I… I get really scared, I guess."
And this is enough to prompt Izuku to sit up fully against the headboard of his bed, and really look at Katsuki. He doesn't know if he's ever seen him this—calm, and authentic. He fears he won't remember this once he's sober and not sleep-deprived.
"Scared of what?"
"You," he says, bluntly. He seems to immediately regret this, as he shakes his head and recoils at his own words. "I mean—what happened, back at Ground Beta. I don't really… like dealing with emotions, and you—somehow you're able to make me deal with them. It's really fucking annoying. But also scary."
Izuku considers this. "You wanna talk?"
"I don't know," Katsuki says. "I want—I—I liked it. What… happened. But it's scary, for me. It felt good, I guess, to just let out all my emotions. But I'm not used to that. It's a lot."
"I liked it, too," Izuku tells him with a small smile. He rubs his forehead and blinks slowly. "You're a really good kisser, Kacchan."
He doesn't miss the way his face flushes beet red.
"We could… try it again?" Izuku inches closer to the edge of the bed, a teasing look in his eyes. "Maybe this time you don't run away."
But something shifts in Katsuki. He frowns. "No. You're drunk and I'm not about to do that to you."
"No m'not," Izuku says, just to spite him. He narrows his eyes.
Katsuki stares pointedly at him, then scoffs and lays back down, reaching for the lamp on the bedside table. "You're a terrible fuckin' liar, Deku."
Izuku sticks out his tongue and slouches against his pillow, letting his eyes droop shut. "So we're okay now?"
There's a pause. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You aren't allowed t'ignore me anymore, Kacchan. From now on we're friends. Friends who kiss a lot, maybe."
Katsuki turns off the light and pulls his blankets over himself, gazing at Izuku's silhouette from across the room, curled up in his own bed. Izuku can't see it because he's just about passed out at this point, but Katsuki's cheeks are red again.
Things are better. Katsuki is still stand-offish, but now sometimes he'll sit with everyone else at lunch, sometimes he'll invite Izuku to spar with him. Sometimes he'll even just lurk around in the common rooms with everyone else; not necessarily participating in the conversation, but present, sipping at some herbal tea.
Izuku likes this Katsuki. He seems to have gotten over his absurd stubbornness and actually seems to strive for human interaction a little more, now. Normal interaction, that doesn't involve mindless yelling and fighting.
He's still fiercely competitive, and he still has his moments. But he's more real. Less of the big scary guy at the top of their class, and more of the really loud fellow teenager that happens to be really good at blowing things up. Izuku comes to terms with how maybe he doesn't just want to be horny with him; he wants to hold his hand and go on dates and snuggle. This Katsuki is approachable.
To Izuku's dismay, however, they are not the type of friends who kiss a lot. In fact, they don't do much more than stare at each other for extended periods of time when they think the other isn't looking. He doesn't know about Katsuki, but Izuku can always tell when he's staring at him. His gaze is just as fiery and loud as his quirk.
Izuku's kind of glad for it, though. It's nice to know that Katsuki is gentlemanly enough to say no to a flirtatious, drunk teenager; to keep his distance and wait for Izuku to sort out his feelings when he's not tipsy and needy.
He really wants Katsuki. But he's also too scared to act upon it. Because maybe he's reading too deeply into it and Katsuki just isn't interested. Maybe Katsuki just isn't ready for a relationship. They haven't had a talk as deep as their last one, which was a few months ago, now, so the last Izuku heard, Katsuki was blatantly terrified of his own emotions. The last thing he wants is to overwhelm him with something he isn't prepared to handle yet, let alone make things awkward when he's inevitably rejected.
And so he bides his time.
It proves to be quite a feat.
One night, Izuku is up late in bed trying to decipher his calculus homework, and Katsuki wanders into their dorm, looking a little drowsy and wearing nothing but a baggy white shirt and blue All Might boxers. Izuku sees him and thinks he might choke.
Katsuki scratches his neck and eyes him oddly. "What're you lookin' at?"
"N-Nothing!" Izuku squeaks, and he bows his head down to stare exceedingly close at his papers. "Just calc homework."
Katsuki rolls his eyes. "Stupid Deku, it's like, ten-o'-clock."
Izuku would say something to the same effect, because normally Katsuki would already be asleep due to his strict sleep schedule, but he knows he's been restless lately. Midterms are rapidly approaching and Katsuki gets anxious over exams.
"Don't look at me!" he says, chewing the end of his pen. "Blame our cruddy math teacher. None of this makes any sense."
He concentrates really hard on the words on the worksheet because he can feel Katsuki staring at him and ugh. His eyes are too pretty. They're like fireworks.
But then Katsuki clicks his tongue and approaches the side of his bed and says, "Scoot over," and Izuku thinks he's going to die, right here. He imagines the news headlines: local teen too smitten with his crush to survive sitting next to him for more than five seconds. He's pathetic.
Tentatively, he does, and Katsuki squeezes onto the side—they're considerably small beds, after all. Izuku is suddenly very aware of the fact that he is currently shirtless and wearing nothing but gym shorts, and their shoulders are now touching. Katsuki's shirt feels soft against his skin.
But the blond doesn't seem to notice the panic rising in Izuku's face. He grabs his pen and seizes the paper and skims over the questions. He takes a moment to process the information before going on a long explanation to Izuku on how to solve the problems. They spend a good thirty minutes on completing it, and he gradually eases up. Maybe this is fine. They're just roommates working on math homework together. That's all. Perfectly normal.
Izuku grins and eyes him in amusement. "I didn't know you were—"
"Such a nerd?" Katsuki finishes, clearly expecting him to say that. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Math just comes easy to me, for whatever reason."
"Well, it does suit your combat style," Izuku says. "You're more clever than you let on, Kacchan. You're always calculating your next move, one step ahead of your opponent."
He shrugs, blasé. "I guess."
They lapse into a silence and Izuku is too scared to break it. Part of him thinks he should gather up his notes and papers and tell Katsuki he's going to go to sleep, but part of him wants to just fall asleep here, against his shoulder.
Eventually Katsuki clears his throat and slips off the bed, trotting over to his own. "'Night."
Izuku exhales slowly and starts collecting his disarray of papers. "… G'night."
As he dozes off to sleep, he sees Katsuki still staring up at the ceiling without a hint of fatigue in his eyes.
The exams are brutal but both of them get by, of course. Everyone manages to pass, but there are some close calls and Izuku can tell that those students are beating themselves up. Uraraka nearly got thrown out of the sparring arena in the first test, and in a later one, Kirishima almost got a fake hostage 'killed.' But everyone passed, and that's all that matters. Kaminari suggests they go out to celebrate, but they're all too tired.
Izuku treads into his dorm just as Katsuki is sitting down in bed. As he does so, he hisses and grunts. "Shit."
The green-haired teen wavers by the door. "Uh. Everything okay?"
Katsuki shakes his head dismissively and peels up his black tank to reveal a nasty gash. He's mostly stripped from his hero costume, save for the shirt and some 'plus ultra' boxers. Izuku's still fully clothed in his gear. His eyes bulge as Katsuki starts prodding unconcernedly at the wound.
"Woah!" Izuku says, speeding over to his side. "That looks pretty bad. Wanna go to Recovery Girl?"
But, of course, Katsuki is stubborn. He squeezes the section of his hip and a bit of blood squelches out. He grits his teeth. "No. It's fine."
"Kacchan, you're clearly in pain."
"I don't—" he starts in a seething tone, but then his voice breaks off and he sighs. "I don't wanna make a big deal out of it."
Izuku draws his brows together. "Okay, but that's just going to get infected. It's an open wound."
"It's nothing, Deku. Drop it."
But Izuku just frowns at him and pads over to the closet, before bringing back a first-aid kit. He props it up on the bedside table and starts rifling around in it. "At least let me give you stitches, then."
"Since when do you know how to do stitches?"
"My mom. She wants me to take care of myself, unlike some people."
Katsuki scowls. "Geez, alright. Just hurry up."
He works as fast as he can, but he's nervous because he doesn't want to hurt him. The wound isn't too large though, so he's done within ten minutes. The entire time is filled with silence, as Izuku fixates on the stitches and he feels Katsuki's gaze burn into the side of his head. When he's done, Izuku risks a look up at Katsuki, which is a terrible idea because he freezes up immediately.
Something clouds his red eyes. Izuku studies it. Lust, maybe. Longing. It makes his heart leap and his head thrum with excitement.
It's hard to find his words. "… Are you—"
Katsuki suddenly grabs his arm and pulls Izuku against him, their lips meeting like magnets that have been kept apart for far too long. Izuku hums into his mouth and lets his eyes flutter shut, as Katsuki starts to lean back against his pillow. He pulls him along with him, and Izuku finds himself clambering up the side of the bed and straddling Katsuki's hips, cupping his face with both hands. Something flitters through his mind reminding him that Katsuki is still injured.
Izuku pulls away and frowns pitifully. He glances to the stitched-up wound. "Is it-?"
Katsuki yanks him back down by the collar of his suit and works at Izuku's bottom lip, weaving his hands through his thick green curls. Izuku glides a hand along Katsuki's jaw line and around to caress the back of his head, kissing him hastily before pulling away and starting to work down his neck till he's at his collarbone. He nips him there and leaves a hickey, and Katsuki sighs heavily.
He starts fingering the hems of his tank top, hesitantly, as though waiting for permission. Katsuki produces a soft, needy noise from the back of his throat and sits up, meeting Izuku in another kiss, so he takes that as a yes. Katsuki reciprocates, feeling for the zipper of his costume as they both shed off their clothing. Once his shirt's off, Izuku starts pressing his lips along his shoulders and down his arms, before shifting to leave more at his naval. Katsuki lets out a soft whine, tilting his head back against his pillow, and it's music to Izuku's ears.
At this point they're both just in their boxers, because Izuku's costume is essentially a jumpsuit. He toys at the hem of Katsuki's and pants out between kisses, "Is this okay?"
"Yes—fuck." Katsuki cards gentle fingers through Izuku's hair and groans, rolling his hips. Izuku runs his tongue over his left hip bone and Katsuki shudders; he pulls down Katsuki's boxers.
They lose themselves in bliss.
The morning is after is likely the most ideal morning to be held after. Aizawa and the rest of the staff have granted everybody a day off, as a reward for all their hard work in the midterms. So Izuku blinks open his eyes at a lazy 10:48 a.m., curled against a warm, toned body. There's a hand combing soothingly through his hair.
Katsuki seems slightly tense as soon as he realizes Izuku's awake. His hand stops in his hair and he swallows thickly. "… Morning."
And he can't really tell if this is some sort of game or not, but Izuku fails to feign his vibrant smile. "Hey," he whispers. He realizes they're both still down to just their boxers, and Katsuki's blankets are half-off of them. This seems sensible, as the ceiling fan is spinning rather slowly and Katsuki's body is surprisingly warm.
"How—are you feeling?" The blond seems strangely on edge. He phrases the question like some weird way of wondering if Izuku even remembers the night before; like he's scared, that maybe he took advantage of Izuku unknowingly.
So he pulls himself a little closer to Katsuki's body and dips his head into his shoulder. "Sleepy. Last night was, uh—really good. I liked it."
Katsuki locks his jaw. "Me too."
But something's still wrong. "Hey," Izuku says, a small frown on his lips. He sits up to get a good look at him. "What's up?"
He fidgets a little and pulls away, slightly; sits up against the headboard and crosses his arms. "Nothing," he bites lowly, defensively. He flinches at the confusion painted across Izuku's face and amends, "I just—I've never done this before. Don't really know how this goes."
Izuku smiles and shrugs. "Well, however we want it to go, I guess. That was—my first time, too."
"I thought you and Round Face went out last year?"
He shakes his head, chuckling nervously. "No. I mean—we did, for like, two weeks. But all we did was hold hands. She kissed my cheek once. It was really awkward, so we cut it off."
Katsuki bites his bottom lip and stares down in his lap, and that? Plus his bed head hair and the drowsiness in his eyes and just—his whole face and body and everything? Izuku could melt.
"So, we—uh. What are we?" As Katsuki asks this, he tentatively lifts his gaze up to meet Izuku's, and he looks like a lost puppy. He'd normally bury that tenderness behind yelling and fury but here he's just so… intimate. Raw.
Izuku's smile dwindles a little. "Um. Well I was hoping, uh. We could continue this?"
"But what is this?" Katsuki aggressively gesticulates—in which he just waves his hands around in a small, confused motion.
And. Oh. Izuku realizes the miscommunication here. "Ah. Would you—I thought maybe I could take you out on a date, tonight."
Katsuki relaxes; clearly the answer he'd been hoping for. His eyes are still big and wide and vulnerable, like this is the first time someone's ever shown that they want him—the real him. Izuku wishes he could hug him forever and never let go. "… Yeah, that'd be fun, I guess."
Izuku's heart flutters and he smiles privately at him. "I think so, too."
They fall out of sync. It's not intentional, and certainly not something either of them wants. It catches them both off guard and as soon as they realize it it's terrifying. It's only been two days and everything's already crumbling; clearly there's got to be some rot already in the roots of this, right? How else could they fuck it up so badly?
This is how it goes: Izuku fucks up. And, that isn't to say he doesn't normally fuck up, because he definitely does, he is the king of fucking things up, but this time? This time, Izuku really fucks up. He'd argue otherwise, but, well.
He's getting groceries—at the gas station, because he's broke and Katsuki only wanted ramen and some cream soda. And he's in the back of the store, perusing the shelf of beverages and sodas, a little lethargic from training that morning and slightly spaced out, when a horrible shriek splits across the room.
Izuku jumps and nearly drops the boxes of ramen he's cradling in his arms, but he's got enough balance to wobble onto his feet. And then he looks to the source of the noise and his heart plunges.
A villain strides in, with literal knives for hands as he holds some middle aged woman at the throat and locks onto the cashier. A robbery. Izuku's breath hitches and he ducks behind the shelf to try and get a better look at the situation.
The knife-hands must be some sort of quirk. Mushy tendons curl around his wrists and fuse into hardened steel and it's—yeah, it's kind of gross, but Izuku can't focus on that right now. The robber is muttering in a harsh tone, and the woman he's still holding hostage is paralyzed while the cashier trembles from behind the counter. Izuku wishes he could just tell the guy, give him whatever he wants, please, but he can't risk outing himself. Not when his temporary invisibility could save some lives pretty soon.
Hastily, Izuku pulls out his phone and starts punching in keys to Katsuki. Robbery at w—
Then the villain lolls his head over and meets direct eye contact with Izuku, because what the hell, sure, and simpers lazily. "Yo, pipsqueak. Come on out."
Izuku gulps and begrudgingly abides, approaching the scene slowly. He glances out the window and his confidence deflates at the sight of a dark, abandoned street outside. No witnesses. Slipping his phone into his pocket, he attempts to press the send button, and decides he'll just have to pray that Katsuki will understand.
The villain sizes him up and he realizes, annoyingly, that Izuku doesn't really look like a hero at all. He looks like a scrawny, sleep-deprived teenager in sweatpants and a hoodie.
"Isn't it past your curfew, or somethin'?"
Izuku bristles and it's hard to tame the lashes of green electricity that lick his forearms. The robber's gaze flickers to it, and he seems to curse mentally at himself.
"Ah. A hero. Pretty pathetic looking excuse for one, if you ask me," the man remarks. He then lifts his free knife-hand, the other still carefully pressed to the throat of the frozen woman, and points it to Izuku's face. The metal fades to flesh and melts into something like clay, warping and rippling until it reforms into a pistol, strange and attached to his wrist but very real. "Don't try anything funny, you hear me?"
Izuku chews the inside of his cheek and nods slowly. The villain wavers for a moment, like he's unsure if he should turn his back on him to continue his robbery. Izuku exhales slowly.
"I promise I won't do anything, if you promise you won't hurt anybody."
His phone buzzes in his pocket. The villain erupts into a rage.
"Who the hell is that?!"
He sucks in a level breath. "Nobody. My mom."
"Nobody knows." Please be Kacchan.
"How do I know you ain't lying?"
"Give it to me," the villain says, sudden and ferocious. "Give it to me or I slit her fucking throat."
Ice crawls over Izuku and he falters, just briefly, before lowering an arm to reach into his pocket. It's best to comply with demands. This guy is clearly unstable, and upsetting him will only escalate the situation. Izuku just has to remember his training. Remember how to handle hostage situations. The civilians are what matter.
He withdraws the device and chances a fleeting glance at the screen. Fuck. It's Katsuki. 'oh shit. ok. i'll b there asap.'
The villain sneers at him, before his gun-hand unravels and suddenly it's a normal hand again. He snatches the phone from Izuku and stares at it for a moment. There's a brief moment where everything is completely silent, except for the civilians' stammering breaths, and Izuku feels so unbearably cold and scared. No. Stop. Doesn't matter. Take control of this situation, somehow—
His phone is slammed against the ground and the robber stomps on it, completely shattering the thing. Izuku locks up as malice flares across the man's face and he lifts his arm, a pistol taking shape again.
"You little shit."
And then—and then a lot happens, so fast that Izuku doesn't have time to react. The gun fires, shooting pain sears up Izuku's side, and he falls; flames burst through the windows, ravenous and explosive and seething hot. He's thrown into a shelf and falls instantly into nothing.
He lapses in and out of consciousness, several times, over the course of what he later finds out to be several days.
The first time there are several voices, swarmed around him but distant and murky. They speak in low tones filled with thick, uneasy emotion that makes something bitter and pained furl up in his heart. He's already asleep again before he realizes it.
The second time is slightly more coherent. This time there aren't voices beside him and around him; they're cut off—outside of the room. But they're angry and shouting. They sound familiar.
"—the hell was I supposed to do? He needed my help."
"That's not your responsibility, Bakugou. You should have told us. You know the consequences."
"I don't fucking care. He almost died."
"You don't need to—"
A warm, vaguely unpleasant buzz trickles over his prone form and he's gone again.
The third is painful. His head is throbbing and something feels like it's chafing at his left side, inside his muscles, and it hurts so bad—
He gasps, blinking his eyes open and he thinks he's crying, but then he can't see, it's way too bright and he can't see—a hand grabs him. Another. They ease him back down and a voice shushes him.
"Hey, hey, stop. Breathe…"
He does. The pain ebbs away into warmth and he drifts.
He wakes up one final time. This one is gradual and exhausting and he hates it, wants to go back to sleep, but his muscles are groaning at him and something in the back of his mind is too. It sounds urgent. It makes worry pool in his stomach. Is he supposed to be somewhere? Doing something? What even—
When he opens his eyes the room is particularly dim, but it still makes him cringe. He reels for a moment, a ringing drifting through his ears as his temples ache. He sucks in a breath of air, his left side burns in protest, and he grinds his teeth together.
The urgency persists. The confusion does, too. He grunts and peels his eyes open again, squinting through his lashes as his eyes try to adjust. Why does it—is he concussed? What'd he get concussed for?
To his right, there's a soothing warmth rolling off some foreign object leaned a bit on his pillow. He looks and sees spiky blond hair and oh, that foreign object is Katsuki, hunched over the bed uncomfortably and drooling on his pillow. He looks strained and upset, despite being asleep.
Izuku grimaces and moves his arm up to card it through Katsuki's hair. "Hey," he murmurs, startled at how dry his throat suddenly feels, "you up?"
There's a low, sleepy grumble, and then red eyes bat open slowly, before blinking rapidly. Katsuki sits up in one abrupt motion, wiping the spit off his cheek and staring at Izuku like he's a ghost.
"Shit, uh—hey." It's such a bizarre thing to think, but it's almost like he's cowering away. Uneasy, now that Izuku's conscious.
He frowns and parrots back, "Hey…? What happened?"
"There was a robbery," Katsuki says. "You were shot."
Izuku blanches. "Oh my god, that's right, is everyone-?"
"They're all fine. Villain's in custody." Katsuki says this in a cold, empty voice. His gaze is downcast and he just looks—sad. It makes something in Izuku ache.
He feigns a little smile, even though his whole body is absolutely drained and he barely has the strength to do just that. "So, what's the problem then? I'm fine, Kacchan, really."
"I got suspended. Two weeks."
Oh. "… Oh."
"That's not—" Katsuki sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. There are circles under his eyes, dark and heavy. "I don't care about that. I can train on my own time. I just… I saw your text, and I got freaked out, and I thought if I—if I went to Aizawa or All Might that it'd take too long, so I just rushed over and didn't think and—"
Izuku knits his brows and purses his lips. "Did you… hurt somebody? On accident?"
"I hurt you. I sent an explosion through the window and it was just supposed to knock everyone off their feet, but then it hit you too fucking hard and you knocked your head and… I—" He swallows a knot stuck in his throat. "I don't think I can do this, Izuku."
"What do you mean?"
Katsuki leans back in his chair and stares up at the ceiling. Scuffs his shoe on the ground. "I've had a lot of time to think, here. It's kind of shitty, being stuck with your own thoughts, but guess I probably needed it. And everything just—keeps cycling back. Same old shit. I feel like all I've done is fucked you over. I haven't been there for you. And now?" His voice breaks off and he tries again, softer. "Now you're stuck in a goddamn hospital bed 'cause of me."
Something hard settles in Izuku's chest. It doesn't sit right. "Kacchan—"
"No," he says, bluntly. "I think I need to go. I need to get my things and head home, anyways. I'll… see you around, Deku."
And then he's gone, and Izuku is alone.
It's getting late. Izuku's aching body begs for him to rest, to go to sleep and ease the pain, but his mind is abuzz with too much to just sit still. So instead he sits at the edge of the bed and gazes through the window, for hours, waiting to see his dorm's lights turn on so he knows that Katsuki is there to collect his belongings.
There are a lot of emotions swirling around inside him, their momentum cresting higher and higher, and Izuku feels like he's going to drown in it all. He kind of just wishes none of this ever happened, that he and Katsuki were still just distant rivals that barely spoke. Because this—this is so much worse. He doesn't think he can take it, and it's only been a few hours.
He nearly dozes off, draped on the edge of the mattress, when something glimmers outside and oh fuck, that's his dorm's light. Something jolts inside Izuku and he's immediately on his feet, taking off his hospital gown and hastily pulling on some sweatpants and rushing out the door. If Recovery Girl calls after him, he doesn't hear her.
Izuku is at the door within a few minutes. He can see the light still glowing through the crack beneath the door, and he can hear Katsuki rustling around inside. He pauses; thinks this through.
There are a lot of ways this could go, and unfortunately not many of them are too good, not with their track record. Although, Katsuki has mellowed out a lot in the last year, and he clearly isn't angry with anybody but himself. He's just got—all these pent up emotions, all this fear and self-loathing and regret. Izuku wants so badly to just tell him no, you're stupid, I care about you. He wants—
Izuku is snapped abruptly from his thoughts to dazed, mildly bewildered red eyes staring at him. Katsuki's already packed up, carrying a suitcase and duffle bag with him. He never really owned many belongings. Too minimalistic.
Katsuki scoffs and shakes his head, but it's a silent, melancholy gesture. "Christ. Should've known you'd come."
"I need you to listen to me," Izuku says, firm.
A scowl stretches across the blond's face. "No, you clearly didn't get the message back there. I can't do this. I can't handle—worrying about someone else, feeling for them, just—it's so—scary. I hate it."
And this nasty, raw feeling claws its way up from a dark cavity within Izuku's heart. He shudders and tears prick his eyes. "I hate you."
Katsuki rears back and any frustration or contempt he bears slips away at that single statement. Time feels like it's come to a stop and Izuku is suddenly choking on the empty, dried up air. A deep rooted pain twists in his gut and makes him want to just run away forever and forget any of this happened.
"No," Izuku murmurs, and now he's shaking, fuck. He buries his face in his hands. "No, no, Kacchan, no, that's not what I meant, I'm sorry."
Katsuki is looking at him blankly, and his eyes look distant. It makes Izuku want to cry. So he sucks in a shuddering breath and carefully guides Katsuki inside the dorm, shutting the door and sitting him down on his bed, beside himself. There's so much—agony, dismay, sadness hidden behind the mask Katsuki wears.
Izuku squeezes his hand and wills away the trembling that racks his body. "I don't hate you. I didn't mean that, I just—I hate how you think, sometimes. I hate how stubborn you can be. I hate how angry and mean you can get. I hate that you think you're the only one to blame even if you aren't at fault. I hate that you think you're just—inadequate, and horrible." He cups the blond's face and gives a watery smile. "But I don't hate you, not at all. Katsuki, I love you, so much. You have to believe me."
There's a pause. Katsuki soaks in Izuku's words.
"… Stupid nerd," he finally responds, eloquently, and withdraws from Izuku's hands. Katsuki wipes his eyes and drops his luggage on the ground; sniffs. "You know, sometimes I hate how reckless you are. How, uh. How good you are. Because, yeah, sometimes I don't think I deserve it at all, and don't you dare give me that fucking look, because it's true. I've fucked up a lot. I'm still—new at this shit. Relationships and emotions and… yeah. But I—"
A heavy, long silence drapes over them, and they just stare at one another. Izuku feels a warmth, a softness, fill his chest and bloom in his mind like a glorious, elegant garden. He sees the way Katsuki struggles to get the words out of his mouth, because he's probably never gotten those words out of his mouth, so he just smiles and nods.
"I know. I love you too."
He leans in and presses his lips to Katsuki's, tender and hesitant, because he wants him, craves him, but he won't do anything he doesn't want. But then Katsuki opens up his lips and glides his tongue over Izuku's teeth, grabs his arms and drags his nails over his biceps, and fuck. Izuku moans into his mouth and deepens the kiss and pulls him closer, a newfound sensation of lust surging across his body.
Katsuki starts to stand up and make his way to the door to lock it, and Izuku follows after him, gripping the collar of his shirt and sucking wet hickeys down his neck. Katsuki lifts his chin up and lets him, as he fumbles blindly at the door handle, before Izuku slams him against the wall and brackets his head with both hands.
They stop for a moment to look at each other, and Katsuki gasps, his face red and his eyes blown wide. "Tough guy, huh?"
Green electricity ripples down Izuku's arms, on either side of Katsuki, and he simply smirks darkly in reply before he starts to pull off the taller boy's shirt. Katsuki feels Izuku's abs and groin as he does so, because he's still only got sweatpants on; he'd been in too much of a rush to get to the dorm that he didn't grab a shirt.
Izuku is forceful and needy as he nibbles along Katsuki's soft skin and starts to slip his hand down his shorts, because there is no stronger feeling driving his thoughts than the need to show Katsuki how much he loves him, how much he cares for him, how he'll do anything for him. Katsuki runs his hands through his hair, massaging his scalp, and starts nipping at his ear.
He presses him harder against the wall and feels a rush of warmth roll over him when Katsuki pulls himself up to hook his legs around his waist. Izuku leaves sloppy kisses along his chin and down his collarbone as he starts to move his hips and pull down Katsuki's shorts. He wonders, coyly, if it's some sort of turn on for him, how strong Izuku is.
"I love you," Izuku whispers, a gentle but poignant reminder. "So much. I love you, Kacchan…"
Katsuki sighs into his neck and lets out a quiet whine. "You—You too. Love you too." He swallows thickly and presses his lips by his earlobe. "So much."
Pure, unadulterated mirth swells up inside Izuku and he giggles, brandishing a wide smile, as he peppers Katsuki's body with more kisses. He can feel Katsuki smile against the side of his face and hear the low hum in the back of his throat, and—fuck, okay, Izuku's definitely hard as hell now. Katsuki doesn't seem to mind. He just sucks a hickey at his shoulder and presses his pelvis further into Izuku's.
Izuku manages to wriggle down Katsuki's shorts and boxers all the way, and Katsuki starts toying with the waistband of Izuku's sweatpants, eliciting a chill of pleasure to race up the curly-haired boy's spine.
He wants this, so badly, and it's so much better than their first time. Because this time they aren't driven by animalistic needs or tentative crushes. It's love in its rawest, most intimate form. Izuku doesn't just want to make Katsuki feel good. He wants to show him how he feels, how it's okay for Katsuki to feel too.
And he knows Katsuki feels the same, because that's the only explanation for his private smiles and passionate kisses and quiet moans. That's the only explanation for how he mutters, "love you, Izuku, need you," between heavy breaths; for the mutual ecstasy that mingles between them like the sweat dripping down their bodies and the saliva strung between their lips.
It's their third year, already. Izuku doesn't know where the time has gone but, rest assured, he has spent it all living the best possible life he's been able to lead. He'll be a pro hero in no time, he's proven himself time and time again to All Might and the rest of the world. He's happy. He's at peace.
He's in love, too.
Katsuki grumbles in vague annoyance, asking through a slurred and sleepy voice, "What're you lookin' at, stupid?"
Izuku smiles and curls up closer to his boyfriend, pulling the blankets over them to shield them from the morning's cold. Katsuki's body is like a radiator, and an easy warmth spreads across Izuku as he burrows his face into his chest and hugs him closely.
Katsuki wraps his arms around him, hardly awake but still just as doting. He grunts and shoves his face into his green curls, calmly stroking a hand over Izuku's back.
They've found their rhythm again. No more pent up frustrations, no more stress and self-doubt and fear that one isn't good enough for the other, that one of them should ever take the blame for the other's problems. They're in a balance, now. A joint exchange of love and care that they can both rely on.
Katsuki feels like he can breathe, now. He never really was able to before, but here, with Izuku at his side, he can. They both can. They can relish in one another's presence and forget all their worries, even if it's just for a little while, and be themselves. Katsuki is still learning, of course, and so is Izuku. But they're in sync. They're okay.
Izuku smiles and traces delicate circles on Katsuki's arm. "Nothing."
"… Love you, too."
In fact, here, right now, Izuku thinks he's more than okay.