Katsuki gritted his teeth as he smiled next to the beaming mother and child crouching beside him, sparks popping over his palms while the two of them held up bunny ears to the camera.
It wasn’t that he… hated taking pictures with fans, he just wished they wouldn’t ask him for pictures when he was clearly on his way back from being in the hot springs. His hair was wet and pushed back from his forehead. The cruel, judgemental voices in his head told him for the umpteenth time that his fans would be disappointed looking at a photo of the Number 1 Hero with such… ugly scars on full display. Most of them asked for photos with his mask on.
It was clear they liked looking at the unmarked version of him, the version that hadn’t failed and almost died.
Katsuki didn’t like being out in public and out of his costume, especially where people could stare at his scars. He loved going to hot springs, but they were terrible when you had as many marks and scars as he and Izuku did. Izuku had actually talked to a guy in the bath earlier, after he’d asked about the one on his upper left arm. Izuku was better than Katsuki was at putting on a good face about it.
He hated talking about his scars - the jagged ones that ripped across his back, the gross ones near his hands from a mechanical failure in his gauntlets, and especially not his newest ones. The ones had that almost blinded him, that made him angry and ashamed because he’d fucking failed to defeat the villain who gave it to him. He would have died if Izuku and Kirishima hadn’t rallied around him.
Katsuki shook himself from his thoughts, hoping his face hadn’t gone to its usual glare. He must have been getting better at his poker face, because no one looked freaked out or insulted that the No.1 was giving them a death glare.
He sighed inwardly as the mom asked if he would mind if her pup sat on his knee while he made a mini explosion for their last picture. He forced a smile and nodded, resting a hand on the little girl’s back as she settled on his leg. She laughed in delight at the small pop of fire and light from his hand, her mother grinning alongside her partner as they took the photos.
Katsuki froze when the pup’s hand rested on his cheek, his smile faltering. He turned to look at her, trying his best not to let his instinctive, angry reaction at people touching his scars bleed through into his scent.
“I watched the fight, Mr. Zero,” she said, her little face serious. Her moms went quiet and turned toward each other, giving them space. Katsuki dropped his eyes a little, knowing his expression wasn’t the kid-friendly smile he had worked hard to cultivate.
“Which one, little one?” Her hand brushed over his brow bone & he couldn’t help the flinch as his right eye registered the movement a second later. Everything was still coming back; things were still blurry and slower in the scarred side of his face. He hated the constant reminder of his weakness.
“This one,” she said, her fingers resting lightly on the scars. “We were really scared.” Her face was just as serious, but she didn’t sound accusatory or like she wanted comforting, just.. matter of fact. “We cheered when you got back up.”
Katsuki cleared his throat, hating that his smile was slightly watery when he finally looked back at her. “I was scared, too,” he admitted, meeting her bright blue eyes.
“Scared is okay,” she said, patting his cheek. Her little feet swung back and forth as she sat on his leg. “But you kept going. That’s my favourite thing about Ground Zero. You always get back up.”
Katsuki’s smile was stronger now. He snorted and brushed a hand through her hair, laughing at her indignant growl. He didn’t break her happy illusion with the words that swam inside of his head, insistent and vicious.
‘Someday I won’t get back up.’
He waved at the pup and her moms as they went off toward the hot springs, the little girl holding her parents’ hands and skipping between them.
Katsuki slouched and made his way back to his and Izuku’s room, his mood decidedly worse than it had been. He wished Izuku had been there, so he could have faded into the background like he always did with fans. But Izuku had felt queasy earlier in the main baths and had gone back to their rooms to relax, and he'd been left to do his best at not making his fans cry or hate him.
Katsuki could only just smell his mate’s scent on him from the soft, reassuring touch Izuku had laid on his throat before he got out of the spring. It was enough to calm his racing thoughts, at least until he got back to their room.
Katsuki knew he wasn’t in the mood for social niceties, so it was a good thing he didn’t see many other people the farther away he went from the public baths. He was glad they were in a more secluded section of the hotel. It had been a joint present from their friends and his and Izuku’s agency, a poorly disguised get-better trip they’d insisted was, in fact, for their Anniversary.
Their Anniversary was next month, but at least the fuckers had tried to be subtle.
Katsuki knew that it was because he was still too 'fresh' from the incident to go back to the field. They wanted him to recover mentally before they would test his physical fitness to return to active duty.
Katsuki hated dealing with his emotions. He’d only ever done it in regards to Izuku, and their relationship when they'd finally gotten together. Everything to do with Katsuki and his failures was buried deep, and stayed there. Fuck letting some blank-faced extra ask him questions about his childhood or his aggression, or how he felt in regards to his failure that had cost civilian lives and almost cost him his own.
He blew out a sigh, waving his hands by his thighs as inconspicuously as possible to cool them. That was another thing. Since he’d been injured, his quirk kept activating when he got agitated. He’d always run hot headed in the field and his daily life, and had maintained full control over his power. To have the most stable thing in his life turn into another weakness was just… fucking unbearable.
Katsuki finally saw their room number at the end of the hall and gladly swiped his key card, tapping his foot until the little light under the handle went green. He ducked inside and shut the door, wincing when it slammed behind him.
He looked around the room, confused when he saw it was dark and empty. The wide futon was untouched, their suitcases neatly lined up together against one wall. The bathroom light wasn’t on, either.
“In here,” Izuku called out. Katsuki noted the slightly open balcony door and started toward it. He slid the door further open, stepping out to join his mate and closing it behind them.
Katsuki had seen the view when they checked in earlier that day, but at night it was even more beautiful. The balcony looked out over the side of the mountain at a wide vista: a glittering city in the distance and a tiny, old village at the base of the mountain. Evergreens surrounded the lodge, a light dusting of snow covering everything on the mountain. The air had a distinct chill now that he wasn’t neck deep in hot water while he stared at the landscape.
This view was even better, however, because it had his naked mate in it.
Izuku was resting in their private tub, filled with water from the springs that ran across the mountain. His back was to Katsuki as he stared out through the glass of the balcony wall, his green hair wild and tangled. The moon was high and nearly full. Katsuki admired the way light fell over Izuku, gleaming in his scars and off the prominent curve of muscle.
“Come here,” Izuku said finally, turning his head over his shoulder. He didn’t look very ‘queasy’ at all.
Katsuki smirked down at Izuku, leaning back and crossing his arms. “Shouldn’t you be in bed if you’re not feeling well?”
Izuku’s eyes narrowed before he turned back around without answering. Izuku had learned the best way to win fights with Katsuki was to just not engage. It was the most infuriating thing Izuku had ever figured out, because it always worked. An Izuku that could keep himself from muttering and swearing under his breath in a disagreement was a dangerous one.
And an attractive one.
Not that Katsuki didn’t find Izuku’s muttering attractive. Just.. sometimes it was fucking hot to have your blabbermouth mate give you the stink eye and ignore you when you were being a shit-stirrer.
He was probably fucking weird for finding that hot, but whatever.
Katsuki shed his robe and climbed down into the tub to join Izuku. His mate didn’t turn around when Katsuki walked up behind him, leaning down to rest his chin on Izuku’s shoulder, arms wrapping around his belly.
He ran his nose up Izuku’s neck to his scent gland, his mind slowing to a pleasant crawl at their combined scents. “Mmm.”
Izuku’s hand rubbed at his cheek, his other hand resting over Katsuki’s on his waist. He inhaled slightly, his head turning a little at the strange scent laying on Katsuki’s face.
“Took a picture,” he mumbled, putting his face into Izuku’s shoulder. The scent wasn’t working as much calming magic as before, his mind turning back to the conversation he’d had with the little fan.
“That was nice of you,” Izuku said, his hand easing through Katsuki’s hair. He’d moved more slowly around Katsuki since the incident, far too attentive to the way he flinched and reacted late to everything around him.
Katsuki ground his teeth together, knowing his frustration was bleeding into his scent.
“You don’t sound happy about that,” Izuku went on, his fingers stroking over Katsuki’s temple.
He turned his face to press a kiss to Izuku’s throat, breathing in more of Izuku’s fresh scent to ease his mind. “They asked about the scar.”
Izuku’s hand paused briefly before it went on, rubbing the base of his neck and petting the curve of his skull. “What did you say?”
Katsuki shrugged, his arms lifting around Izuku before he let his shoulders drop. “Told her I was scared.”
Izuku must have smiled, because his scent grew warmer, filled with affection. “You know it’s fine to feel scared, right?”
Katsuki snorted, lifting his head from Izuku’s shoulder. He let his mate go and sat back in the tub, shifting until he was braced against the smooth stone wall. “Kid said the same thing.” He pushed a hand through his hair, grimacing as his fingers ran over his scar. “She said her favourite thing about Ground Zero was that I always got back up.”
He swished a hand through the water, staring at the mini whirlpool until the current died and the water went flat again. Izuku turned and walked toward him, leaning forward with his hands on Katsuki’s knees. He stared harder at the water, avoiding Izuku’s stare.
“I didn’t… God. What am I gonna say to that? ’One day I’m not going to get back up’? What kind of hero says that shit to a kid who loves them?” Katsuki smashed a hand into the water, glaring at his broken reflection.
Izuku slid forward, straddling his hips and bracing his hands on Katsuki’s shoulders. He sighed and tipped his head back, letting Izuku look at him. He hated being weak the most, feeling out of control and worried, scared because of stupid thoughts and his own failures.
“All Might said it to me.” Katsuki flinched. He had his own hang ups about All Might, another of his failures.
“Kacchan, every hero is going to fail. We’re all going to die, too. It’s not… weak to admit that.” Izuku’s hands swept up the back of Katsuki’s neck, sliding forward to curl around his jaw. Katsuki’s eyes were wet. Must have gotten some of the bath water in them from his outburst.
“Kacchan. I know you’re afraid.” Katsuki scoffed and his mouth pulled down into a scowl. Izuku knew him too well to take that as a dismissal, of course. “I was scared, too, you know.”
Katsuki’s hands wound around Izuku’s waist. He knew. He fucking knew Izuku had been scared.
He still remembered seeing his mate bending over him through the haze of blood in his right eye, carefully pulling the remains of his mask free of the jagged, open wound in his face. Izuku leaned forward and kissed his scar. Katsuki flinched as he saw him draw close, his eye blinking and trying to focus the blurred image. He grimaced as Izuku laid more kisses on his face, over his cheek and back down to his mouth.
He breathed out an embarrassingly shaky breath when Izuku tilted back from their kiss. “I’m sorry,” Katsuki said, his voice broken.
The thoughts came fast and hard, snapping about weakness and failure. Shouldn’t cry. Shouldn’t talk about it. Shouldn’t have failed.
“Katsuki, I know you won’t accept me saying ‘it’s alright’. No one’s saying you have to accept that what happened wasn’t your fault. But I want you to know that I don’t blame you. No one else does, either. Part of being a Hero is falling and getting back up, willing to try harder, fail harder. You’re the best Hero I know,” he added, his own smile watery.
Katsuki hugged Izuku, putting his face into his mate’s chest. Izuku’s hands squeezed his shoulders, saying nothing about the hot water dripping down his front.
Izuku rubbed Katsuki’s head until he got himself pulled back together - well, a puffy-eyed, half-hearted excuse of being ‘back together’. Izuku didn’t comment on it, just leaned in to kiss Katsuki again, his scent warm and inviting.
“Can we have sex, please?” Katsuki asked, desperate to feel something apart from this awful, yawning feeling inside of him.
Izuku’s eyes were dark when he nodded. He shifted his hips forward, leaning back and letting Katsuki stare at the long, scarred line of his body. “Yes,” he said, his voice raspy in the way that always made Katsuki shiver in anticipation. “I want you to fuck me. Hard.”
Katsuki lunged forward, lifting Izuku’s thighs around his waist. Izuku’s mouth dug sharp little indents into his throat as he waded toward the other side of the tub. He was grateful as fuck to have a mate that knew when action was more healing than words.
He kissed Izuku’s throat as he sunk his fingers into his mate’s folds, softly stroking his cock with his other hand until Izuku was whining and grinding down against him. Katsuki wrapped a hand around himself, rutting into Izuku’s slit until his mate reached down and gripped his cock, jerking his hips forward to push Katsuki inside of him.
“Now,” Izuku hissed, his green eyes nearly black with arousal. Katsuki growled, a fierce grin splitting his face, sharp teeth bared.
Katsuki snapped his hips into Izuku, reaching up and covering his mouth at the explicit groan that left him. He bit into Izuku’s shoulder to stifle his own enthusiastic moan, rocking his hips into his mate and shivering at the nails that ran over the back of his shoulders. The water splashed around Katsuki’s thighs with the force of their movements, Izuku’s feet dipping in an out of the bath. They probably shouldn’t be doing this out here, where other people on their balconies might hear them, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
He reached down and gripped Izuku’s ass, pulling his mate harder against him, slipping in and out of his cunt and panting at the tightness in his groin.
Usually they took their time, worked each other up and growled curses and encouragement to one another. It didn’t seem like either of the had the patience for that right now. Izuku’s stomach flexed in time with Katsuki’s thrusts, lifting his hips and shoving back against his cock, biting his lips and breathing heavily through his nose. He could smell how satisfied Izuku was, his scent bursting like a forest in spring.
Katsuki rolled his head onto one shoulder, eyes closing as a spark of heat flared along his length. God, it was fucking amazing when Izuku activated his quirk during sex. His muscles grew tighter and stronger, his reactions faster.
Katsuki growled in his throat, chest heaving for breath. Izuku pulled one of his hands from Katsuki’s shoulders to bite into the meat of it, his cries pouring from around the makeshift gag. They were close to the end, bodies snapping into one another, filling the negative spaces between them with heat and bitten off sounds.
Izuku squeezed down around him, his fingers digging hard into Katsuki’s shoulder. His back arched in a ridiculous curve and Katsuki snarled, yanking Izuku back up toward him. He buried himself deep inside his mate’s cunt, hissing when his knot swelled and caught.
They sagged together, hands scrabbling to hold on each other while they caught their breaths with little whines and gasps. Izuku shivered against him, his body clenching tight around his knot. Katsuki ground his hips against Izuku’s, gritting his teeth and throwing his head back as Izuku jerked and squeezed around him with a second, smaller orgasm. Izuku moaned when the spasms eased, lifting his head for another kiss.
There were less teeth in their kisses now. Fewer frantic, heightened emotions making them desperate for one another. Katsuki squeezed his arms around Izuku’s waist and rubbed his hand along his mate's back, palms warm from his quirk.
The water didn’t feel hot anymore, just mild and comfortable. They’d probably start feeling things normally again soon. They would go cool off in the shower together, drink some water and lay in the futon to recover in each other's arms. They could relax and talk more about the things Katsuki was struggling to accept. Katsuki didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to think. But he knew he wouldn’t truly start to heal until he bared his soul - or whatever it was that his dumb nerd wanted him to do.
He broke their kiss, opening his eyes before Izuku did to stare at his mate’s face. He was full of scars, too, layered on top of one another in places, thick and jagged. Katsuki tightened his hands around Izuku’s back, breathing deep to ease his racing thoughts.
He didn’t have to talk about it to a stranger. Someone who might misunderstand what he meant, might see his anger or his tears as a sign he wasn’t healing, wasn’t coping with what he’d endured. He’d rather talk about it with Izuku, curled up in their bed in the dark, where he knew he could lose himself in the scent of his mate and be scared and angry and- and weak. He knew lots of people who let themselves be weak. Vulnerable. It didn’t always have to be a negative.
Being weak had brought the two of them together, after all.
“Love you,” Izuku muttered, rubbing his cheek over Katsuki’s throat. Katsuki kissed Izuku’s hair, tipping his head back so he could do the same to his forehead, the little scars on the side of his jaw, and back to his waiting lips.
Katsuki couldn’t find the words to say it back, but Izuku knew anyway. His hands moved slowly across Katsuki’s face, over his scars and back into his hair, lifting his head for another gentle kiss.