Actions

Work Header

Fight like a girl

Chapter Text

On Friday morning, he turns around to tell Deku off for breathing too loudly, but she’s looking out the window, her chin propped up on one scarred fist. Her gaze is glassy, and there’s a deep red flush riding her cheeks. 

 

“Oi, Deku-“ 

 

“What, Kacchan?” 

 

“You sick or something?” 

 

“Sick? No!” she yelps, because she’s a horrible liar. “We have a test today, and there’s too much to do, I don’t have time to be sick! I’m already behind everyone else, and I can’t-“ and then she clamps down on her mouth with both hands, as if to physically stop herself from babbling any more. 

 

“Everyone shut up,” Eraserhead intones. Katsuki turns around in his seat, mutinous, and ignores her for the rest of the class. 

 

~~~ 

 

For the rest of the day, whenever he happens to glance over at Deku, she seems to be aggressively cheerful and energetic, as if to convince everyone that she’s “fine! Totally fine!” 

 

But in afternoon training, he’s sitting on a bench, waiting to be paired up for sparring, when he feels a soft weight fall against his left shoulder. 

 

“The fuck-?”

 

And Deku is asleep, against him. 

 

Her hair tickles his nose. Her shampoo smells like tart green apples, and like the forests up in the mountains, early in the morning, when the sun’s just coming up. And some kind of wildflower, something pale and sweet that he can’t remember the name of, but that his mother  liked to gather handfuls of, when they went camping. Deku hasn’t fallen asleep against him since they were little, in nursery maybe, their mats overlapping during nap time, her small hand reaching for his. 

 

Fuck. 

 

“Oi,” he says, poking Uraraka, whose sitting on his other side. “Take this idiot to Recovery Girl, will you?” 

 

Uraraka leans over to coo at Deku and take a picture of her sleeping face, which is just - so fucking weird. 

 

“I’ll do it because Deku-chan is adorable, and she’s going to be my bride one day,” Uraraka says. She says this at least once a day just to piss him off. “But why are you getting me to do it? You hate asking for help.”  

 

And he says, through gritted teeth, “If I try to take Deku, she’ll punch my dick.”

 

“Fair enough,” Uraraka says, and then, “Deku-chan? Deku-chan, it’s time to wake up.” 

 

“Wha-?” Deku says, dazed. Then she gapes at Katsuki, and scuttles backwards. “Ka-Kacchan!” 

 

Uraraka grabs both of Deku’s hands and hoists her up from the bench. “Deku-chan, I told you that you were too sick to train today. Come on, let’s go to Recovery Girl!” 

 

“I’m fine,” Deku tries to protest, as Uraraka marches her out of the gym. “I swear, Ochaco-chan, I just fell asleep for a moment…” 

 

“Bakugou,” Aizawa says crisply, and Katsuki stalks over to the training mats, where Shitty Half and Half is already waiting. 

 

Half and Half’s face, usually bland as tofu, seems to have acquired a hint of an expression. “Is Midoriya okay?” he asks, his gaze drifting toward the door, as if he’s ready to trail behind her like a goddamn puppy.  

 

“None of your fucking business,” Bakugou says, sinking into an opening stance, before he launches into the satisfying business of trying to beat the crap out of Half and Half.  

 

~~~ 

 

Aizawa signs Katsuki’s permission slip to go off-campus, and he finds what he needs at the grocery store a few blocks away. Rice and water they have already, but he needs umeboshi and green onion, and then he adds ginger and lemon to his list for good measure. When he gets back to the dorms, he commandeers the kitchen and glares at anyone who tries to approach. 

 

“Oi, Round Face,” he says, catching sight of Uraraka in the common room. “Where’s Deku?”

 

“I know you know my name, Bakugou,” she says, not looking up from her textbook. “And I’m not telling you anything unless you use it.” 

 

“The fuck, shitty Rou-“

 

“Bakugou-chan,” Frog Face says, blinking at him. “Are you making rice porridge for Deku-chan?” 

 

Uraraka’s head pops up. 

 

“Whatever!” he screams back. “I just felt like making it, okay!?” 

 

“Deku-chan should be resting in her room,” Frog Face continues, peaceably. “Recovery Girl gave her some medicine, and we walked her back to the dorms after.” 

 

He mutters something at her. 

 

”What was that, Bakugou?” Uraraka asks, cupping her hand around her ear, because she’s a total shitface. “Was that a thank you?” 

 

“It was a fuck you, Round Face!” 

 

Uraraka just wrinkles her nose at him, because she’s missing that part of her brain that processes fear. “Deku-chan deserves way better,” she says, before turning back to her book. 

 

~~~

 

He keeps the tray of food and dishes evenly balanced as he journeys over to the girl’s wing of the fourth floor, and and he calls out, “Oi, Shitty Deku, I’m coming in.” 

 

Her room is dim and warm, a single lamp sending out light that catches on the gleaming white teeth of the All Might figures lined up on her desk and side tables. She’s curled up under her blue and white comforter, but she sits up a little, a cold compress sliding off her head, as she says, “Kacchan?” 

 

“In the flesh,” he says, pulling over the desk chair so that he can sit beside her bed. “Eat this, nerd,”  and he plunks down the tray on top of her legs. 

 

Her mouth pulls down on one side. “‘M not hungry,” she mumbles, but he opens up the lid of the earthenware pot, and her eyes flutter a little. “It smells just like Auntie Mitsuki’s,” and she sounds surprised. 

 

“Course it does, Shitty Deku.”

 

Her eyes dart over to him, and she tugs at her bottom lip. “It’s not poisoned, is it…?”

 

“The - what the fuck!? Of course it isn’t!!” 

 

“You never know,” she says, poking at it with a spoon.  

 

“Are you saying my cooking is that bad, you shitty nerd!?”

 

She takes a cautious spoonful, and her eyes light up. “It’s good!”

 

“Course it is,” he grumbles, ladling porridge into the bowl and topping it with green onions and umeboshi before handing it to her. “I’m the best.” 

 

“And modest too,” she mutters. “Thanks for the food.” 

 

He pours her a cup of steaming hot ginger lemon tea, and squints at the orange bottle of pills on her nightstand. “When’s the last time you took those?” 

 

She wrinkles her nose. “When I was in Recovery Girl’s Office, so, um… 1:30?”

 

He shakes out a couple of pills and thrusts them at her, and she grumbles but washes them down with tea, before letting out a sigh. “It feels good,” she says, touching her throat. “Um… thanks, Kacchan.” 

 

“Tch.” His face feels hot. Maybe she gave him something. “Stop being so weird and stubborn about being sick.” 

 

She flashes a glare at him, her scarred hands curling into fists. “I can’t afford to be weak,” she says, suddenly sharp. “If you screw up, everyone will say it’s fine, he’s having an off day. If I screw up, then everyone will say - that’s normal. That’s expected, of a female hero.” 

 

“Who’s saying that? I’ll punch them.”

 

“Kacchan, has it ever occurred to you that you can’t change people’s minds by punching them?”

 

“That’s dumb. You change people’s minds by punching them all the time.” 

 

“That’s different!” 

 

“Different how?”

 

This devolves into an argument that goes nowhere, until Bakugou threatens to dump the rest of the rice porridge on her. He tidies up the dishes and queues up a two-hour All Might video compilation on her laptop, and he’s just about to leave when she says, “Kacchan? Would you-“ 

 

Then she shakes her head. “Never mind.” 

 

He hits pause. 

 

“I’m going to boil more water for tea,” he says. “If you watch any more of that without me, I’ll know.”

 

The flush has stolen back onto her cheeks again. He takes her cold compress while he’s at it, making a note to wet it down with cool water. When he gets back, she’s tucked more firmly under her comforter, only her hair and eyes peeking out. 

 

“Hey,” she says, muffled. 

 

He settles himself back on the chair, and hits play. 

 

At some point, he finds himself drifting off, and he almost slides off the chair with a jerk. 

 

“Oh my god,” Deku says, sounding only half-awake, “Kacchan, just-” 

 

And  then she grabs his arms. Even sick, she’s startlingly strong as she heaves him into the bed.

 

“The fuck, shitty Deku-!?“

 

She squishes up against the wall, dragging him next to her and throwing the blanket over him. “Stop being a stubborn piss baby, Kacchan,” she says, mouthy in the way that she only gets when she’s been interrupted in the middle of a deep sleep. “I have a cold, not leprosy.” 

 

“That’s not the fucking problem here!”

 

Her hip digs into his side, and he just can’t get comfortable. He’s wide awake, twitching, alert, sparks stinging at his palms, an explosion itching to get out. 

 

Deku, being the worst, seems to have slid right back into sleep. Her nose is touching the side of his throat, and her breath fans hot against his collarbones with every exhalation. 

 

“What. The fuck,” Katsuki says to the ceiling. In the background, All Might booms with laughter. 

 

And that’s when he feels the tears. 

 

They slide warm against his throat and his collarbone, and soak into his t-shirt. He’s used to Deku basically crying every day and over everything, but it’s been so long since she’s cried on him. 

 

“Deku?” he asks, cautious, and she gives the tiniest sniffle. 

 

“How can I ever become the greatest hero like this?” she whispers, her lips moving against his skin. “Even after everything, all this time, I’m still relying on Kacchan.” 

 

Back in junior high, he’d thought, in his more generous moments, that maybe he’d let Deku work at his agency one day, when he was a top hero. She was always mumbling and writing in her stupid notebooks - maybe she could be a data analyst or something, help with all the boring paperwork. That way, he could still see that bright smile directed at him, filled with nothing but sunshine and admiration. 

 

Give up being a hero, Katsuki had snarled, too many times, when maybe he had meant, Just let me protect you. 

 

But there’s no going back to that time, before UA, before All Might, before One for All. No way to take back the things that a younger, dumber him had thought and said and done. 

 

He could only change what he did now. 

 

“Even heroes rely on each other, sometimes,” he mumbles. “All Might had that shitty salaryman sidekick for awhile.”

 

He can feel the indignation pour off Deku as she pushes him. “You know his name is Sir Nighteye, and that All Might’s incident resolution rate went up thirty-eight percent the year they teamed up-!” 

 

“Oh my god, shitty nerd, give it a rest-

 

She does, eventually, falling back asleep, her face mashed against his shoulder.  Bakugou stares up at the ceiling, and thinks about his school record, how it’ll be tarnished if he’s caught sneaking back to the boys’ wing after curfew. He can’t bring himself to care.  

 

~~~

 

The next morning, he wakes up in hell. 

 

That’s the only explanation he can think of for why he’s pressed up against Deku - spooning, is the godforsaken word that springs to mind. Her ass is nestled right against his crotch, where he is painfully hard. He’s cupping her right breast through her stupid yellow All Might pyjama top, and is now cursed with the agonizing knowledge that her breasts are warm and full and fit perfectly into his hands.   

 

Deku is muttering faintly in her sleep, and then her back arches subtly, her hips pressing against him. His thumb shifts with the moment, brushing over one of her nipples, and her muttering resolves into two damningly clear syllables: “Kacchan.”

 

Fuck.”

 

She opens her eyes and yelps, in an entirely different tone, “Kacchan!?”

 

She shoves him off the bed and he lands on his tailbone, hard, his superior combat skills and reflexes somehow yanked offline by - whatever fuckery is going on right now. She scoots back on the bed, snaps her arms across her chest, and sputters, “Wha - why - Kacchan!!!”

 

At any other time, he’d sneer at her, except he’s just as off balance and all he can do is sputter, “You’re the one who -  and then you - fucking Deku!”

 

There’s a knock at the door. They freeze. 

 

“Deku-chan!” Uraraka sings out, her voice muffled through the door. “I heard weird noises. Are you okay?”

 

“Um, it’s fine, Ochaco-chan!” Deku calls out, her voice higher than usual. “I just - I was reading in bed, and I accidentally knocked some books onto the floor! I’m okay!”

 

Uraraka tuts. “Silly Deku! Are you feeling better today?”

 

“Loads better, thank you! And um, thanks for bringing me to Recovery Girl yesterday! I’m still a bit tired though, so I’m going to go back to sleep for now.” 

 

“Okay!” Uraraka says, cheerily.  “Don’t miss breakfast, okay?”

 

“I won’t! Thanks, Ochaco-chan!” 

 

They both listen, hard, for Uraraka’s footsteps to fade away, and Deku deflates a bit in relief, before she remembers that Katsuki is, oh yeah, still fucking trapped in hell. 

 

“You!” she says, looking furious, like Auntie Inko that one time in nursery when she caught him literally pulling Deku’s pigtails. It wasn’t his fault that he thought the tiny red cherries in her hair ties were candy. “Get out!”

 

“I’m not fucking walking through the halls with a-“ And even though he’s known Deku since they were literally both in diapers and there are embarrassing bathtub photos of them, it’s not like he’s just going to say it in front of her, so instead he gestures at the lower half of his body, “-like this!” 

 

“Like wha - oh.” Deku’s voice goes, very small as her eyes drop to where he is sporting a very angry, very obvious erection through his black sweatpants. Her eyes shoot back up to his face, and she’s -  she’s blushing, rosy against her dark freckles. 

 

Fuck, that’s some cute. 

 

He immediately wants to pour bleach onto his brain.

 

“Well,” she says, her voice rocketing up even higher than before, “you can-“ and she makes a shooing gesture towards her bathroom, “and, um, voila! Problem solved!”

 

“There is no way in goddamn hell I am going to go into your bathroom and just-“ he makes the jack off gesture, “while you’re sitting there like a pervert!” 

 

“I’m not some kind of Mineta!” she says, indignant. “I’ll - put headphones on, or something!” 

 

“What the fuck’s a Mineta?”

 

“Kacchan, you don’t remember the kid who got expelled for - okay, never mind! Not important! What’s important is that you need to get out of my room, and since you’re not leaving with - that-“ and she gestures, the blush deepening even further, “then just - deal with it!” 

 

“It doesn’t exactly work like that, Deku,” he says, through gritted teeth. 

 

Because there’s no way his body’s calming down, not when she’s looking like that. She’s still on the mussed bed, the sheets warm from both of their bodies. She’s pink-faced and wild-haired, expression indignant, arms crossed in a way that only emphasizes her breasts instead of covering them. Her legs are exposed in those yellow All Might pyjama shorts that he didn’t realise were so short, exposing the smooth muscles of her thighs, her calves. His hands already miss the feel of her. 

 

God, that’s fucking lame. 

 

“So!?” she says, sounding a bit hysterical. “What do we do?”

 

… It’s witchcraft. It’s mindfuckery. He’s sick, caught whatever she has, or he accidentally took some of her cold medicine. These are the only possible explanations for what pops out of his mouth next: 

 

“I’ll do it if you do it.” 

 

She tilts her head at him, confused. 

 

“God, you’re such a dumbass.” Impatient, he makes the jack off gesture again, and she squeaks.

 

There’s a knock at the door that makes Deku jump. 

 

“Deku-chan,” Frog Face says, “Ochaco-chan said you still weren’t feeling well today. Would you like me to bring you some breakfast from the cafeteria?”

 

“Oh,” Deku says, her voice wavering, “that’s really sweet of you, Tsuyu-chan, but I’ll - I’ll be down in a bit!”

 

“Okay! Just text me if you change your mind.”

 

“Thanks, Tsuyu-chan!” 

 

Deku lets out a long breath as Frog Face leaves, and the second close call just sort of underscores… everything. 

 

He cocks an eyebrow at her. 

 

She scowls, and then he sees it happen. Her face folds into those familiar lines of sheer determination, that expression that she gets when she’s about to do something dumb and reckless - throw her notebook at a sludge villain, explode a ceiling, punch a giant robot. What the fuck even are their lives.  

 

“Okay,” she says. 

 

~~~ 

 

Well.

 

Fuck. 

 

He watches, mesmerized, as Deku slides one hand into her yellow pyjamas shorts. He can see her fingers moving beneath the bright cloth, and his whole mouth goes suddenly, completely dry. She bites her bottom lip, hard, and her eyes fall half-shut, before she locks eyes with him - 

 

“Close your eyes!” she snaps, half order, half panic. 

 

“Fucking bossy,” he mutters, tearing his eyes away from her, and - god, this is weird. This is the worst fucking idea that he’s ever had in the history of ever, he thinks, delirious, as he slides a hand into his boxers and finally taks a hold of his cock. It springs into his hand, god damn eager. It’s just Deku, he wants to say, sourly, as if he could lecture his own dick, but Deku lets out a soft little sigh that he doesn’t think he was meant to hear, making his dick twitch against his fingers. 

 

He closes his eyes, but he can still hear her. Not just those tiny noises that she’s making, high in the back of her throat, but the wet sound of her fingers moving inside of herself. It’s completely obscene, and it’s making white hot molten waves of something cascade through his whole body. 

 

“Gimme some lotion or something,” he says, strained, and she throws a bottle at his chest, hard. His eyes fly open and the insult he was going to yell dies in his throat. 

 

 She’s slumped agains the wall, sinking lower now, legs spread, fingers moving urgently inside of her. The rosiness in her face has deepened and darkened, and she looks dazed, almost drunk. He remembers when they were eleven at one of his parents’ BBQs, sneaking away with one of his Dad’s Sapporos. She drank half of it and threw up in the rhubarb bushes, and Mom had grounded him for like two weeks.

 

Mom would probably ground him for the next ten years if she knew what was happening right now. 

 

“K-Kacchan,” she says, her voice more breath than words. She sounds - needy. She sounds like she needs him.

 

Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. 

 

“Yeah?” he says, barely recognizing his own voice, deepened to a rasp. He tries to jerk himself faster, harder, just to get this over with, just - 

 

“Wh-why-“ She must hit something sweet, because she mewls and curls up a little, and fuck. Fuck, that’s hot, he wants to make her make that noise, wants to- “Why’d you come see me? Yesterday?” 

 

Yesterday seems like a distant haze, compared to this moment, the sounds of their flesh, the air stifling and warm. He tries to lie but it’s so hard to think when she’s looking at him like that, and so the truth tumbles out clumsily instead: “I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

 

She lets out a tangled cry. Her whole body seizes up and trembles - and then she melts, limbs spreading like honey on toast. She drags her hand out of her shorts with a wince, her fingers glistening, and - 

 

He thinks he blasts across the room. Later, he won’t be able to remember. 

 

All he knows next is that he lands on her bed and grabs her wrist, and he - god, he licks her fingers, fingers that have been inside of her. She makes a shocked-sweet noise, and she smells and tastes - incredible, complicated, addictive. 

 

After that, it seems - natural, necessary, vital, to kiss her, hard and fast. She gasps and he slides his tongue in. Her free hand digs into his scalp, sharp and painful and good. Her mouth tastes like the morning, like the leftover burn of ginger and lemon and honey, and he can’t believe he’s wasted this much fucking time not kissing her. 

 

Kacchan,” she sighs, right into his mouth. He grips her thighs and gropes inward, until his fingers are sliding - inside her underwear, holy fuck, inside of her, where she is warm and slick and wet and - god, he almost comes right there.  

 

She gasps, head knocking back into the wall, exposing the line of her throat, so he licks at her pulse which is rabbit-fast, and keeps working his fingers inside of her. She’s squirming against him, clenching around him, taking him in, and he wonders, light-headed, that if it feels this incredible now, with just his fingers, what would it feel like with his di- 

 

Her thighs clamp around his hand, “Kacchan-!” and it’s a chain reaction, his body looped into hers. He gets now why people compare it to fireworks, like heat and light and sparks shooting through his whole body, and he hears his own voice, as if from far away, saying, rough and bitten off, “Deku,” as he co - 

 

Everything whites out, for a bit. 

 

~~~

 

When he wakes up again, Deku is spooning him. 

 

She’s snoring and cuddled against him, her breasts pressed into his back, one of her legs thrown over his hip. His skin feels tacky with sweat, and he has the uncomfortable feeling of having fallen asleep with his boxers full of jizz. 

 

He extricates himself and pads into the bathroom, except that he’s surrounded by the warm, humid scent of Deku, like mists rising through a forest on an early morning, like he can taste the golden hearts of the wildflowers on his tongue. He grits his teeth and turns the shower into an icy blast. 

 

When he comes out, dressed in his t-shirt and sweatpants again, his ruined boxers stuffed into one his pockets, she’s still asleep. Morning light falls across her face, and she looks incredibly peaceful, dark eyelashes casting shadows across her cheeks, the scattering of her freckles as familiar as the sun. Her lips are parted, pink. 

 

He has the strangest urge to climb back into bed with her, All Might comforter and all. 

 

She turns over, and even though she’s still asleep, she says, just like before, “Kacchan.”

 

His knees hit the floor, and he’s kneeling next to her bed. 

 

What the are fuck are you doing? Get out of here while you can, before you become some kind of lame ass loser. 

 

He doesn’t move. 

 

“Deku,” he says. 

 

And she smiles in her sleep. 

Chapter Text

Izuku wakes up alone, in a bed that smells like sweat and sex and burnt caramel, feeling like a popsicle that’s been melted in the sun. 

 

She buries her face in her heart-shaped All Might pillow, and screams. 

 

~~~

 

The problem, Izuku thinks, as she showers that morning, was that as long as she could remember, people had been saying that she was in love with Kacchan. 

 

She had trailed after him all through their childhood, and people clucked over her in pity and said that she should move onto someone else, instead of being so stuck on him. As a child, she didn’t have the vocabulary to say that it wasn’t like that - it wasn’t that she wanted to hold his hand or get marshmallows from him on White Day or chase him around the playground for a kiss. It was a gut-boiling mix of envy and admiration, a greedy yearning for all of that strength and tenacity to be her own. It wasn’t that she loved Kacchan so much as she wanted to be him. 

 

And when it got out that she was applying to UA, her whole class laughed, Bakugou jeered, and she had sunk to her desk in mortification. 

 

“I don’t have a crush on Kacchan!” she had shouted. “I just want to be a hero!”

 

But no one seemed to be able to tell the difference. 

 

Her mother had just cried. 

 

And after the incident with the sludge villain, the news reports painted her as a deranged schoolgirl with a crush, well-intentioned but quirkless, and deeply, deeply dumb. 

 

All Might had been the first one to look at her, and see her as a hero.

 

She wipes the steam from the mirror, and grabs the porcelain sink. “Okay, Deku!” she says loudly to her reflection. “You don’t have the time or headspace or energy for this. You still have a lot of catching up to do if you want to be the greatest hero! Go out there and make All Might proud!” 

 

She makes her best All Might vinegar river face, and lets out a booming “HA HA HA HA HA!” 

 

The sink breaks. 

 

She sighs, and adds visiting Cementoss to her to do list for the day, already bracing for the mournful look that will cross their face. It’s her third sink this year, and it’s only June.  

 

Because there was a thing with female heroes, she reflects, as she changes into her mint green track pants and a t-shirt that says HENLEY. It was really, really hard not to be seen as just as a sidekick or an accessory to a male hero, to avoid being reduced to an object of love or lust. Ryukyu could never go a year on the billboard chart without being asked about her love life; in contrast, Izuku couldn’t remember the last time anyone speculated if Wash was dating. 

 

So UA was Izuku’s fresh start, her chance to be seen as an actual hero, not just a dumb girl chasing after an unattainable boy. Love, or anything adjacent to it, was put firmly to one side. 

 

~~~

 

“Deku-chan!” Ochaco cheers, when she finally shows up to breakfast. “She lives!” 

 

“Midoriya-san!” Iida says, brandishing a glass of orange juice at her. “Have some Vitamin C to replenish your fluids!”

 

“Th-thanks, Iida-kun.” 

 

“I’m glad to see that you’re doing better,” Tsuyu croaks. “You sounded a little out of it, earlier this morning.”

 

“Ah, well,” she scratches the back of her head, “it’s, um, been a while since I’ve been sick. I might’ve tried to push it too hard yesterday…” She digs into her rice porridge made by Lunch Rush, and tries not to think about how it tastes different from what Kacchan had made her - was it only yesterday? 

 

“I hate to say it,” Ochaco says, “but Bakugou is - sometimes - right.”  

 

Izuku freezes. “Uh?” 

 

“Bakugou-chan asked that we accompany you to Recovery Girl,” Tsuyu explains. “He said something about how you wouldn’t go, if he tried to bring you.” 

 

“He said you’d punch him in the dick,” Ochaco says around a mouthful of tamagoyaki, “which makes me wish he had tried to take you.”

 

Izuku chokes a little. 

 

“I would pay good money to see that,” Ochaco adds wistfully. 

 

“Uraraka-san!” Iida says, scandalized. “It is not proper to wish bodily harm upon a fellow classmate!” 

 

Ochaco just waves a hand, dismissive. “It’s just Bakugou. Wishing people bodily harm is practically his way of saying hello. This morning, Shinsou-kun asked Bakugou if knew how you were doing and I thought Bakugou was literally going to eviscerate him.” 

 

“Ahhhhhh,” Izuku says, clutching at her face, “I should check on Shinsou-kun-“  

 

“He is fine, Deku-chan,” Tsuyu says, peaceably. “Shinsou-chan made Bakugou-chan walk into a water fountain outside, and then Aizawa-sensei gave them both detention.” 

 

“Oh no,” Izuku moans into her hands. 

 

“Oh yes,” Ochaco says, offering up her phone. “Here, the pictures are already on the group chat-“

 

~~~

 

It should, in theory, be easy to avoid Kacchan. 

 

He’s a creature of habit, going to bed at 8:30 p.m. and waking up at 5:00 a.m. for a morning run and workout, even on the weekends. On Saturdays, he does laundry after breakfast and then studies in his room and then spars with Kirishima and oh god, this, this was why her junior high classmates thought she was some kind of Bakugou stalker. 

 

Ochaco appoints herself Izuku’s guardian angel that day, to make sure she doesn’t rush into anything while she’s still recovering, and her friends help her get caught up on yesterday’s assignments. The library’s fairly empty, everybody mostly outside enjoying the June weather. 

 

But then Kacchan comes striding into the library, his face like a thundercloud.

 

Izuku jumps up, yelping, “I - I have to go the washroom! I don’t know when I’ll be back!”

 

Ochaco blinks. “What does that mea-“ 

 

She flees. 

 

~

 

Izuku spends about ten minutes wandering around outside, just muttering to herself and tearing at her hair while pacing in circles, trying to work through the ramifications of having to actually talk to Kacchan about- 

 

“Oi.”

 

She shrieks, and Shinsou winces a little. 

 

“S-sorry, Shinsou-kun!”

 

“It’s okay, Midoriya,” he says, and then, as if offering her candy, “Cat?”

 

“Oh my gosh,” she breathes, completely forgetting about everything else, ever, because there is the softest, tiniest grey kitten resting in Shinsou’s arms. “Can I pet her? Who does she belong to?”

 

“Of course,” he says, handing the kitten over, who mewls a little and tries to cling at his arms with her tiny dewclaws. “Aizawa-sensei’s fostering her for a few weeks. Her name is Ash.” 

 

Ash is velvety and grey and golden-eyed, sleepy and content as a princess. Izuku brings the kitten up very carefully to her face, giggling when she feels the tickly brush of whiskers on her cheek. She’s startled when the kitten puts out its little pink tongue. 

 

“She’s licking my freckles!” Izuku realises, delighted, and when she looks up, Shinsou has the oddest expression on his face. “Shinsou-kun? Are you okay?”

 

“What?” he says, still sounding a bit off. “Uh. Yeah. Can I-” He clears his throat. “Would you like a picture?”

 

“Yes, please!!” 

 

Shinsou takes a few pictures of her and Ash, promising to text them to her, and eventually, she has to hand back Ash with a sigh. The kitten settles herself back in Shinsou’s arms as if that’s her favourite place to be.

 

“Thanks for that, Shinsou-kun,” she says.  “I really needed kitten therapy.”

 

“Still feeling sick?”

 

“Ah, I’m feeling a lot better, than you! But, um, Kacchan-” she flounders for words, so she flails her hands instead, “he’s being a little - so then I - but then - and so-“ 

 

Shinsou seems unruffled by her babbling. “And so, kitten therapy?

 

Yes!” 

 

He sends her a sideways glance. “Want me to deal with him?” A pause. "Permanently?" 

 

She sighs. “Thanks, Shinsou-kun, but it’s probably something I have to figure out for myself.” She tilts her head at him. “Did you really make him walk into a water fountain this morning?”

 

Shinsou studiously scratches Ash under her chin, and she stretches and purrs ecstatically. “I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of that statement.”

 

“Ochaco-chan said there were pictures.”

 

“I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of that statement either,” he says, very mild, and she wonders how she could have ever thought he was scary. 

 

“Shinsou-kun, you’re a really good friend,” she says, and he immediately turns on his heel and walks away. 

 

She floats back into the library filled with good, warm kitten energy, to find her friends scrabbling back into their seats.

 

“… You guys?” 

 

No one will meet her eyes, so she crosses her arms and says, “Iida-kun?”

 

“We were spying on you and Shinsou-san!” he blurts out, because he’s always the first to break. In a real interrogation, she’s sure he’ll hold up, but for now, any hint of wrongdoing is enough to destroy him. “I protested, but Uraraka-san insisted that we had to be vigilant when it comes to you, and I felt a distinct conflict in my values between respecting your privacy and your honour-" 

 

“My honour!?” she yelps, before she notices that her phone is vibrating back on the table where she abandoned it. 

 

Ochaco says, “Oh, you don’t need to look at that silly old thing-“

 

When she snatches up her phone, she finds a picture clearly taken from a library window and then posted to the group chat. She sees herself cooing down at the kitten and Shinsou staring at her, wide-eyed, his face looking very flushed. 

 

“On the plus side,” Ochaco chirps, “Bakugou saw the picture and started yelling, so he got thrown out of the library! You don’t need to worry about avoiding him anymore!” 

 

“I’m not - avoiding Kacchan…”

 

Tsuyu, Ochaco, and Iida all look at her. 

 

She buries her face in her hands, feeling like her face is on fire.

 

~~~

 

Deku manages to elude him all day Sunday. She’s like a fucking ghost, up and vanishing no matter where he goes. He doesn’t see her at mealtimes, and he quietly, furiously wonders if she’s eating anything decent or if she's skipping meals, if she’s resting like she should be or pushing herself like a moron, if there are still those dark circles under her eyes that make her look like Stupid Grimace. 

 

He’s pretty sure that Uraraka knows that all this is running through his mind - whenever he looks at her, she seems to be fucking laughing at him.

 

The next time he sees Deku is in class on Monday, but she avoids his gaze. As soon as it’s break time, he turns around in his seat to talk to her, but she’s already up and bouncing from her seat. Uraraka ensconces her in a loving embrace and gives Katsuki a shiteating grin and a finger behind Deku's back. 

 

It’s all fucking annoying.

 

Even at their worst - even in junior high, even after the stupid sludge villain - Katsuki had been the one to ignore her, to turn his head away. Even if he wasn’t looking at her, he was always aware of her quiet muttering just a few rows behind him. 

 

He’s used to her gaze on his back - he’s lived his whole life with it. It’s just something that he’s used to, so it’s annoying when it’s different, when her eyes slide away from him, when he’s the one left looking at her back. 

 

~~~

 

He gets his chance during combat training. 

 

“All right, everyone,” Aizawa drones, “split up into partners and spar for twenty minutes. Don’t kill each other.” 

 

Katsuki heads towards Deku, but she’s already turning and yelping, “Todoroki-kun! Spar with me?”

 

“Sure,” Shitty Half and Half says, and stupid Pikachu has already claimed Kirishima, so Katsuki is left gnashing his teeth until Uraraka saunters over. 

 

“Wanna fight, Kacchan?” 

 

“Don’t fucking call me that,” he says, already heading towards the training mats. He loses at rock-paper-scissors so they fight quirkless. 

 

And normally, he likes a slug fest with Uraraka. She’s sneaky as fuck and never pulls a punch. Except now she seems to have added psychological warfare to her arsenal because she won’t stop talking at him. 

 

“So,” she calls out, “how’d it go with the rice porridge?” 

 

He slips and has to re-chamber a kick. Fucking slippery mats. 

 

“Fine,” he growls, trying to go for a palm strike, but she dances easily out of range. 

 

“Really?” she calls out. “Because Deku-chan doesn’t look too happy about it.” 

 

His glance shifts to Deku - she’s trading blows with Half and Half, ferocious and laughing- 

 

Fuck!” 

 

“Wow,” Ochaco says, as he tries to recover from a direct gut punch. “It went that bad, huh?” 

 

… The way that Deku’s scent had filled the room, the way she squeezed around his fingers, wet and hot, as if she wanted to crush him and to keep him there, the way she mewled Kacchan, high and sweet from the back of her throat. 

 

Yeah. That bad. 

 

He goes for a high kick and then switches directions at the last minute, so that Uraraka awkwardly ducks out of the way and loses her footing. Maybe if he just keeps throwing punches, she’ll be too winded to natter at him. 

 

It works, mostly, until the fight ends. Bakugou wins, because he is the fucking best, and Ochaco grumpily shakes his hand - but then she doesn’t let go. Her grip has gotten stronger since they last time they sparred, and her eyes have a frightening intensity. 

 

“Whatever you’re doing,” she says, her stare drilling right into his soul, “it’s making Deku-chan sad and anxious. So knock it off.” 

 

“Fuck off,” he growls, but it’s half-hearted. 

 

What he was doing? What the fuck was she doing to him?

 

There’s whooping and hollering from the other side of the gym, and they turn to see that about half the class has gravitated towards Deku’s fight with Half and Half. Uraraka drags Katsuki over to watch, and - fuck. 

 

Deku is on fire. 

 

He blasts over but stupid Half and Half is already blowing plumes of dry ice over the flames, putting her out. When she emerges, her shirt is half burned off, but she’s just laughing, scratching the back of her head. There’s a bruise blooming on her left cheek and she’s covered in soot. 

 

Stupid rat bastard Half Half (who can’t control his fire better than a fucking five-year-old) seems chagrined, staring at his feet as he mutters, “Sorry, Midoriya.” 

 

“That’s okay, Todoroki-kun!” she chirps and what the fuck had Uraraka been saying, Deku sad and anxious? Deku looked fine. The last time Katsuki had accidentally burned one of her sleeves off, she had yelled at him until he bought her a new fucking Edgeshot hoodie, and Half and Half got away with a That’s okay. Where was the justice in the world? 

 

“Do you want my-“ and Half and Half starts to unzip his gym shirt and fuck that noise.

 

Deku waves her hands in front of her, her face suddenly red. “No no no no no! That’s okay, Todoroki-run! I can always ask Yaomomo to-“ 

 

And there’s a devil that rides Katsuki’s mouth, a devil that hates the way that Half and Half can make her look like that, can make her blush and trip into stuttering. The devil in control of his mouth sneers, “Why bother? It’s not like stupid Deku has anything worth covering.”

 

Deku’s eyes latch onto his and narrow. 

 

And it is - 

 

Honestly pretty fucking great. 

 

She hasn’t met his eyes since Saturday, hasn’t looked at him at all, and he hasn’t realized how that has become a hunger as well. 

 

Look at me. Look only at me. I’m the only one in front of you. 

 

Aizawa wakes up with a start, and raps out, “Switch partners,” before settling back inside of his yellow sleeping bag. 

 

“Kacchan,” Deku says, “fight me.” 

 

He bares his teeth in a feral grin. “Prepare to be crushed, nerd.” 

 

They head over to a new area of training mats, and she keeps her eyes locked on his as she shrugs out of her half-ruined shirt. 

 

All the air gets punched out of him. 

 

Ever since UA, he’s become uncomfortably aware that Deku does, indeed, have breasts. In fact, he blames her breasts for a number of negative moments in his life, including the first time he saw her in her hero costume after her internship with Old Yeller. Her green bodysuit had clung to her chest in a way that he was horribly, agonizingly aware of, and he had converted the resulting awkwardness into spluttering rage. In hindsight, it’s amazing that he wasn’t expelled after that first disastrous combat training class. 

 

She’s sinking into an opening stance, eyes hooded. Deku is short and compact and muscled, with strong arms and thighs, and her black sports bra is, overall, modest and utilitarian.  The tops of her breasts are dusted with dark freckles and he has a flash memory of cupping those breasts through her pajama top. 

 

They don’t bother doing rock-paper-scissors for quirks or no quirks; there’s already green lightning dancing around her body, small sparks stinging at his palms. This is going to be a fucking bloodbath. 

 

~~~

 

They always scrapped as kids.

 

Half the time, out of uniform, he forgot that she was a girl. Her hair was short and wild, she wore t-shirts and shorts and bright red kicks, got dirt on her face, picked up bugs without a qualm. She owned more All Might merch than anyone Katsuki knew. 

 

True, she cried over things that didn’t matter (stray puppies that she couldn’t adopt, the sad parts of Disney movies, sounds that might be ghosts, really good cake). But paradoxically, she never seemed to cry over the things that really should have mattered (her father’s absence, scraping her knees bloody, breaking all the bones in her arm during that stupid match with Half and Half, that one time she fucking half-fell off a mountain when their families went camping together and Katsuki launched himself after her). 

 

If she ever suspected that he was going easy on her in a scrap, she’d hit twice as hard and be three times as annoying. 

 

Fighting, like this, is complex enough to be fascinating, simple enough to be satisfying. When they are fighting, there’s never ambiguity - the goals are always so clear, the win condition obvious: be the last one standing. 

 

But there have been so many times where Bakugou has won but it’s felt like a loss. When Deku bagged the sludge villain in the face, when Shitty Half and Half burst into flame for her - 

 

“Where’s your head at, Kacchan?” she snaps out, ragged, aiming a kick at his head that he barely manages to dodge.

 

“Nowhere, Shitty Deku,” he says, automatically, and he goes in for a leg sweep, but she leaps out of the way, twists on herself, back arching beautifully, and blasts him in the face with a gale wind that makes him fly backwards.

 

And that was another shitty thing - during the internship, he’d been saddled with Best Jeanist where mostly he sat around like a doll with his hair plastered down, while Deku came back from her internship with Old Yeller blindingly fast and moving like Katsuki. 

 

Every time he blinked, she leaped ahead of him. 

 

He knows the exact moment he loses: Deku seizes his wrists and pins him down with her thighs. 

 

“Yield!” 

 

There’s a fierce, wild grin lighting up her face as she looks down at him. A drop of sweat slides from her face and lands on his, like warm rain. Her callouses are rough on his wrists, and he has a delirious moment where he wonders what her scarred fingers would feel like on his dick. Her chest heaves, and his own breathing seems harsh, laboured, his mouth open and panting like a dog in high summer. 

 

The grin starts to slip off her face, a strange intensity taking its place. One of her thumbs curls in, a ragged nail scrapes against his pulse, and he arches up with a hiss, realizing that he’s - 

 

“Sorry!” she yelps, scrambling off of him. Her entire face has gone beet red, and she crosses her arms over her chest, self-conscious. “Good, um, good match! Yaomomo, can you please make me a new-“ 

 

He gets up gradually, trying to adjust his gym uniform so that the tent he’s pitching is a little less fucking obvious. He feels like he’s been blasted in the face with his own fire. 

 

Aizawa calls him over, afterwards, when everyone else is changing. “Is this going to be a problem?” he asks. 

 

“Fu-“ Katsuki snaps back the swear with a growl. “Is what?”

 

Aizawa just raises one eyebrow, very slowly, looking deeply unimpressed. 

 

It’s enough to make Katsuki break eye contact and mutter, bitten off, “I’m working on it.” 

 

He has the horrible realization that the ensuing silence is not because Aizawa has gotten bored and has wandered off, like a cat, but because Aizawa is struggling to put something, God forbid, delicately. 

 

“Up to a reasonable extent, there are no strict rules against fraternization at UA,” Aizawa says, finally. “At Shiketsu, it’s different, but at UA we’ve always been of the opinion that the strong bonds that students form at this stage are an asset in their future work as heroes.” 

 

Katsuki bites down on the automatic Hahn?

 

“Midoriya wants to be a hero more than anything,” Aizawa says, more bluntly. “I don’t believe she would let anything interfere with that.”

 

And everything in Katsuki roars up at that - he’s not some interference, he’s not some fucking distraction, he’s more important than that, he means more than that to her, he’s -

 

And then Aizawa puts one hand on his shoulder. It’s awkward and a little robotic, like he read somewhere in a handbook that occasional, mild breaches of teacher-student protocol in order to express empathy would enhance the learning experience of his students. 

 

“You want the same thing too, don’t you? To be the strongest hero?” 

 

“I’m going to be No. 1,” he says, automatically, because - he is. It’s not a matter of if, just when.

 

Aizawa’s eyes are cool and grey and assessing. “And when you imagine yourself as No. 1, who you do you see standing beside you?” 

 

Well, that’s a stupid question, of course, it’s always - 

 

Oh. 

 

Fuck. 

 

Fuck. Shit. Fuck fuck fuck-

 

“Go get changed,” Aizawa says. “You can always-“ he makes a face as if he’s just bitten into a lemon, “-talk to me, if you need to. Or Recovery Girl.” 

 

“Why would I need to talk to that-“

 

Aizawa coughs. “For… health reasons.” And then, mercifully: “You’re dismissed.”  

 

~~~ 

 

All the girls corner Izuku in the change room. 

 

Sooooooo?” Mina says, bouncing up and down, because she’s the thirstiest and least shameless. 

 

“Um,” Izuku says, eyes darting around the room for escape routes. 

 

“So are you and Bakugou-“ and Mina makes a hand gesture that is so horrifying that Izuku immediately wishes she could Smash herself to wipe out her short-term memory.  

 

No!” Izuku yelps. “There is none of that going on!” 

 

Jirou slides her a look, concerned. “No judgement, if you are. I mean, a little bit of judgement, because Bakugou is human garbage. If you just wanted a bed pal, about half the class would jump up and volunteer-“ 

 

“There is no way that is true!” Izuku yells hysterically. 

 

About four people say, in chorus, “It’s true!” Even Yaomomo says it, although she does look a little bit contrite.  

 

“Even you, Yaomomo?” Izuku wails, feeling betrayed. 

 

Yaomomo has the grace to look embarrassed, politely covering her mouth with the tips of her fingers. “Well, not me personally, but I’m sure that To-“ and then she coughs. “Midoriya-san, please pretend that you didn’t hear that.” 

 

“You’re a hot piece of ass, Deku!” Mina cheers. 

 

“That is not a compliment!” 

 

“It’s the best compliment!” 

 

“I’m going to be a hero! I don’t need to be hot, or a - a piece of ass, or - anybody’s bed pal!” 

 

“Hey, Deku-chan,” Ochaco says, coming closer. Her face is full of concern, and her hand drifts up to Deku’s forehead. Her palm is cool, and she’s careful not to activate her quirk. “You seem a little feverish again. Do you need-”

 

“I’m fine, I’m not some weak-“ little girl, she is going to say, but she clamps her mouth shut, realizing all of a sudden how much she sounds like Kacchan. She tries to smile, and covers Ochaco’s fingers with her own. “I’m fine, Ochaco-chan. Thanks for worrying about me.”

 

Ochaco’s face turns a little pinker than usual. “Also, do you need me to castrate Bakugou?”

 

~~~ 

 

Izuku buries herself in homework, cramming her head full of English and Classical Japanese and Calculus and Modern Hero Art History so that she’ll stop thinking about how it felt to straddle Kacchan, the way her legs and hips had settled on top of him so naturally, the way the tendons in his wrist had moved as she gripped him, the hot and startled look on his face when she took off her shirt - god, she is going to be embarrassed by that until she dies, and maybe even afterward - the way he’d moved beneath her, arched into her, the way she could feel his hardness - 

 

“Shit,” she whispers. 

 

She puts on a yellow headband to skim her hair back from her face, and climbs into her oldest, baggiest pair of red and blue basketball shorts, and an All Might hoodie that fairly drowns her. The cuffs are ragged and worn, worried at and loved hard over the years. She looks back at her reflection, approvingly - she looks like a bag lady crossed with an All Might fanboy, and not remotely attractive at all. 

 

“Good job, Deku!” she says, giving her reflection another thumbs up, before she heads to dinner, feeling securely armoured up. 

 

She inhales her katsudon for dinner, safely ensconced at a table with Iida and Ochaco and Tsuyu. She’s far away from where Bakugou is scowling down at a heaping bowl of mapo tofu, while Kirishima cheerfully babbles at him. 

 

“Deku-chan looks so cute tonight,” Ochaco coos at her, “like you’re a fifth grader playing dress up, or something.”

 

“No!” Izuku barks. “I am not - cute! That is not the point!”

 

“Then what is the look you are going for?” Tsuyu asks, curious. 

 

Unfuckable. “Nothing specific, just-“ Her face screws up. “Do you ever think of how being a hero would be different, if you were a boy? Or, Iida-kun, if you were a girl?”

 

“I think everything would be the same for Iida-kun,” Ochaco says, loyally. “She would be just as buff and a good leader and like everyone’s big sister.”

 

“Thank you, Uraraka-san!” Iida says, looking touched. “I think you would also be as excellent a hero as you are now, someone that people are comforted by during a disaster.” 

 

“I wonder if I would have more characteristics of male frogs, like spikes or rougher skin?” Tsuyu asks, curious, her finger on her chin. “But Deku-chan, what brought on this line of thought?”

 

“Well, all my life, I’ve - I feel like no one before Al - I mean, before UA, really took me seriously when I said I wanted to be a hero. And I wonder if I was a boy, would it be different? Would people laugh less, or be less pitying, or less..." Cruel. Less cruel. "I don’t know, when people look at me, would they see me as a rival, a real rival, not someone weak who needs to be protected, or someone who’s not even worth fighting-“ 

 

“Deku-chan.” Ochaco scoots in closer, looking concerned. “Deku-chan, you’re anything but weak. Nobody thinks that. You literally destroyed a robot to save me, the first time we met!” 

 

She feels tears swimming into her eyes, and she scrubs at them with the cuff of her sweatshirt. “Th-that’s so nice, Ochaco-chan!” 

 

“It’s the truth,” Ochaco insists, and she throws an arm around Deku’s shoulder. “Right, Iida-kun? Tsuyu-chan?” 

 

“Of course, Midoriya-san!” Iida blusters. “You are an inspiration and a rival to myself, Todoroki-san, Shinsou-san, and countless others!” 

 

 “Th-thanks, Iida-kun,” she says, choking. “I’m so sorry, I feel like I’m just all over the place today…” 

 

And Tsuyu looks very concerned, too. “I am curious - where is this coming from, Deku-chan? Has anyone been saying unkind things to you?” 

 

Besides Kacchan, seem to be the implied message, because that was just everyday Kacchan asshole behaviour. 

 

“No, no one has said anything specific, I’ve just… I don’t know, maybe it’s being sick, and feeling really he-helpless, and vulnerable. It’s just made me doubt a lot of things that I thought I had already settled in my heart.” 

 

“Well,” Ochaco declares, “if you ever have any more doubts about it, then come to us again, and we’ll set you straight!”

 

Izuku looks around the table at her friends, who seem to see such good things in her, even when she can’t see them herself.  

 

“Thanks, guys,” she says, watery and sincere. “I’m really grateful for you.” 

 

~~~ 

 

Katsuki has the terrible fucking luck to glance over at Deku just as she’s making some kind of sappy speech - there’s tears on her face but she’s smiling at Uraraka and Robot Four Eyes and Frog Face, and it’s like there’s some - soft kind of radiance flung around her, like streetlights seen through frosted windows, halos sparking with rainbow light. 

 

What the fuck is wrong with him? 

 

After dinner, he finds Deku in one of the training parks behind Heights Alliance, a lightly wooded area where she goes sometimes to study or practise katas. She’s standing underneath a lamp, her head tilted up, thinking, and she draws a headband off of her head, stuffing it into the pocket of her hoodie so her hair springs free, curly and wild.

 

He’d given Deku that hoodie on her eleventh birthday. Deku had burst into tears, hugged him, and put it on right away, even though it was a sweltering day. He remembers that hug, how it smelled like chalky pink peppermints and chocolate frosting. 

 

It’s annoying, how he can’t pull on a single thread of his own life that doesn’t lead back to Deku. 

 

So he says, “Oi, fuckface.” 

 

She turns to face him smoothly, as if she’s been expecting him. 

 

“Kacchan,” she says, calm and subdued. “We should talk.” 

 

~~~

 

There was one thought that kept rolling around in Izuku’s head, gaining speed and momentum with every pass: 

 

Was she becoming what everyone said she always was? Just some kind of Kacchan fangirl? 

 

Because the thing was that Kacchan had held her hand on school field trips, and beat up anyone else who tried. He threw marshmallows at her on White Day “because that stupid old hag made me!!” She did she chase him around the playground, but for stealing her All Might action figures, not for a kiss. 

 

She isn’t surprised  when Kacchan finds her outside the dorms - or rather, when she lets him find her. He’s in a black tank top and his hands are thrust into the pockets of his dark grey sweats, and he's wearing slippers that make him look an old man. Kacchan would probably vomit with rage if he knew how often he reminded her of Uncle Masaru. 

 

She turns on her heels to face him, and feels her nails bite into her palms as she curls her hands into fists. “The other day... I don’t know what I was thinking. I panicked. I shouldn’t have asked you to- do that. I apologize.” 

 

“... Fucking Deku.” 

 

“What!” Her head snaps up, indignant. “How rude! I’m trying to apologize!” 

 

“Well, I’ve been trying to apologize to you this whole time!” he yells back, already at the end of a very short fuse. “But you kept fucking avoiding me!” 

 

“Because I thought you were going to be all-“ she flails her arms, not finding the words, “-about it!” 

 

“What the fuck does that mean?” 

 

This!” she shouts, gesturing between them, “no matter what we do, somehow we always end up fighting!” 

 

“What’s wrong with fighting, hahn?” 

 

“Nothing! But it’s different when it’s with words, not like sparring!” 

 

And then the whole awkward afternoon sparring session floods back in vivid sensory detail: the unfamiliar hunger that had sharpened his features, how he’d looked up at her, searing and full of intent. 

 

Kacchan shuts his mouth with a click. 

 

“It’s never-“ and he clears his throat. “I’m not... some kind of pervert.” 

 

“I know that,” she says, automatic, suddenly feeling exhausted. Kacchan would never have the problem she’s having, being so distracted by someone else while trying to become a hero. “I thought... after that fight with All Might back in first year…” 

 

That fight that All Might broke up, where they had whaled on each other. She felt like some wall had been broken between them. Since then, they’d been able to  really fight and push each other to become better, and it had felt - clean, and good, like things had really changed for the better, their feelings out in the open. 

 

But then he had gone and changed things again, with rice porridge and lemon ginger tea. She had dragged him into her bed and come apart on his fingers, sweetly shattered by him, and everything was thrown into chaos again.  

 

And she says, quietly, “I thought you finally saw me, that’s all.” 

 

As someone worthy of fighting with, of striving with, the way that she did with any of her other friends - without animosity, with respect. 

 

She thinks of the way that she’d mewled in his arms, melted and flowed, unthinking and flooded with heat, as if she were any other girl. The worst part of it was that she had liked it. Liked the way the thoughts usually tumbling around her brain went quiet for once, her whole body suffused, lit up, with pleasure. 

 

How could she ever become the strongest hero, if he could undo her so easily? 

 

It was humiliating. 

 

“See you?” He sounds strange. “Of course I see you. I’m fucking looking at you right now.” 

 

“No, Kacchan… that’s not what I mean.” 

 

He darts in close, and seizes one of her wrists. 

 

“I’m always looking at you,” he says, hoarse. 

 

And then he kisses her. 

 

~~~

 

This doesn’t solve anything, really. 

 

Nothing that Deku says makes any fucking sense, but her eyes are lowered and her voice is shrinking away, and he wants - that’s it, he just wants. Wants to crush her close, wants to taste her, to swallow every gasp that falls from her mouth, to drag her down and feel her fall on top of him, the delicious strength of her thighs, her hips. 

 

She kisses him back, and it’s the sun-hot shock of live wires touching, and he’s been hungry for this too - for proof that she wasn’t untouched by what happened between them. 

 

Then she pushes him away. 

 

“Someone’s coming!” she hisses, and she grabs his hand. 

 

And then they’re running away, out of the pool of incriminating lamplight, into the dark wooded area behind the dorms. Her chest rises and falls, and even in the gloom, he can see the brightness of her eyes, the wetness on her lips.

 

“Cementoss,” she mumbles, more to herself than to him, “they'll be heading back to the teachers’ residence, so they'll go around the south side of the building and then-“ 

 

He tugs at her, and she stumbles right into him, and - fuck, she feels so good, her whole body pressed against him, even through that maddening All Might hoodie. 

 

“Kacchan,” she says, her voice very low, “I’m going to be a hero - I’m not going to love anyone.” 

 

“Me neither,” he says, and he dips his head down to kiss her again. 

 

~~~

 

It is like fighting, a very distant part of him thinks, one movement flowing into the next. Her mouth opens beneath his with a sigh, her fingers curl around his neck, and she’s pressed flush against his chest, clearly not wearing a bra. But at the end of a fight, there’s a clear winner and loser, and with this, he can’t tell who’s winning, who’s losing, what’s at stake. 

 

She slips one of her thighs in between his, and it gets a little harder to think, after that. 

 

“Fucking All Might,” he mutters, wrestling with the hem of her hoodie, and Deku laughs, breathless, tugging it off her head. She drops it to the ground, and she’s wearing a grey t-shirt underneath, soft with age, that just says BABY DOLL. 

 

“Unbelievable,” he says, and then he buries his face in her chest, mouthing at her breasts through her shirt. She gasps and wriggles against him, and someday, he wants her naked in the sunlight, so he can kiss every freckle scattered star-like across her breasts. 

 

He works a free hand down into her underwear, and the angle’s more awkward than last time, but he goes almost cross-eyed when he feels how wet she is, warm and plush around his fingers. She whimpers into his mouth, and the sound goes straight to his cock. 

 

He tries to go slow this time,  slower than in her bedroom, when he couldn’t think at all, when he just needed. He wants to remember this, wants to savour it, to draw it out, to make it so good for her that she’ll - 

 

What? So that she’ll do what exactly?  

 

“Hey,” Izuku whispers, “hey, come back-“ and he realises that he’s gone still. She reaches up to touch his face and draw him in. It feels so - intimate, her palm resting against the hot skin of his cheek, his throat, where no one’s ever touched him before with any kind of tenderness. “You’re a million miles away.” 

 

“You make it hard to think,” he growls, meaning it to sting like an accusation, but some kind of look blooms on her face, her mouth parting in surprise. He curls his fingers into her to drown that look out, and the sound that she makes is high and startled and satisfying. 

 

He rubs himself against her thigh as he thrusts his fingers into her, slick and aching, in and out, and he can feel it building up like some kind of jungle storm, all heat and humidity, lush electricity.  The way she moans into his mouth every time he hits a sweet spot inside of her is gonna keep him going for months. For one blindingly white-hot moment, her whole body seizes up around his fingers, greedy and possessing, possessive, and then she slumps against him, panting, leaving her sweat on his skin. 

 

“Are you - do you want…?” Deku sounds breathless and lightheaded and fuck if that doesn’t make his dick twitch, thinking of how she sounds like that because of him. 

 

“I’ll be fine,” he says. He’ll stagger back to his room and his fingers will still smell of her and it’ll only take two, three strokes until he comes, he’s sure of it. 

 

“Um,” she says. She kneels down to scoop up the fallen hoodie. “Here. To, um…” and she gestures at him, cheeks flaming. 

 

He takes the hoodie and stuffs it over his head, and - fuck, it smells like her, like sweat and sunshine and tart green apples, bright and juicy in his mouth. It’s long enough to cover his stupid boner and he’ll just murder anyone who he runs into on his way back to the dorms. 

 

“I’ll - I’ll head back first and give you some time, to, um… I’ll give you some time.” 

 

Fuck, she’s so cute. She’s the best and worst thing that he’s ever done. 

 

“Deku?”

 

She tilts her head at him. Her hair is even crazier than usual, and he picks a stray leaf out of it. “Yeah?” she asks, obviously wary. 

 

He reaches out, and her face feels very vulnerable between the palms of his hands. His thumb slips a little lower, so he can feel the thrum of her pulse in her throat. He kisses her, once, twice, exploring her mouth, as if he could leave some imprint of himself inside of her. 

 

He wants her to remember this. He wants to make it impossible for her to put this away, put it to the side, ignore it, as she chases more important things. 

 

He wants her to come back. 

 

“Kacchan?” she asks, when they finally break apart.  

 

Look at me. Look only at me.  

 

“Nothing,” he says, roughly. “It’s nothing.” 

Chapter Text

They fuck around on the regular, after that. 

 

Deku doesn’t really bring up her objections again. They seemed to have reached some sort of tacit agreement that talking about things leads to disaster, and that neither of them will let this - it - them - interfere with their respective goals. They still argue in class and spar during training, minus straddling, and push each other to become better. 

 

He eats lunch with Kirishima, Pikachu, Pepto Bismol, and Tape Dispenser, because he’s already used to tuning out their dumbass chatter. Deku keeps hanging out with Robot Four Eyes, Uraraka, Frog Face, Shitty Half and Half, and Stupid Grimace, who she smiles at way too fucking much.

 

Tintin visits UA when he gets his quirk back. He announces it to everyone, stupid face beaming, and then he throws Deku up in the air like she's a puff of dandelion seeds, only to catch her in a hug. His laughter rings out, loud and annoying, as he twirls her around. 

 

Stupid Deku’s laughing too, her face flushed and eyes starry as she says, like some kind of stupid fangirl, “I’m so happy for you, Mirio-senpai!! And you did such a good job, Eri-chan!” 

 

Tiny Eri blushes too, looking up at Deku with this adoring look on her face that irritates him for some reason, even though most of the time he likes Eri just fine because she always calls him “Mr. Ground Zero.” 

 

That little Horn Hat Bastard, though - the last time he visited, wearing his obnoxious bright red shoes, he hugged Deku around the middle and then blew a raspberry at Katsuki. The only consolation is that the little bastard had given Shitty Half and Half the same treatment.  

 

Pepto Bismol sighs, propping up her chin on her hands. “Don’t they make such a cute little family?”

 

“Hahn?” 

 

“Deku-chan, Mirio-senpai, and Eri-chan! Just look at them!” 

 

And there is something oddly… parental… about the way that Deku and Tintin beam down at Eri, Deku bending down with her hands on her knees, while Eri tips chatters at them, obviously excited. 

 

“Mirio-senpai is so manly!” Kirishima says, fried rice flying from his mouth as he gives his patented Red Riot thumbs up. “You should’ve seen him and Deku right before the raid at Shie Hassakai. They were so determined, so in sync-!” 

 

“Yeah fucking yeah,” Katsuki says grumpily, shoving more mapo tofu into his mouth. The Szechuan peppercorns tingling and burning all the way down his throat tell him that he’s alive. 

 

Pikachu looks like he’s thinking, which probably hurts, for him. “Aren’t Mirio and Amajiki together?” 

 

“Oh yeah, totally,” Kirishima says, nodding furiously. “But you know, Mirio-senpai and Deku-chan still have such a special friendship, a bond forged in the heat of battle-“ 

 

“No one fucking cares!” Katsuki says in what he thinks is a breezy, nonchalant tone, but everyone at the table falls abruptly silent.  

 

“Okay,” Tape Dispenser says, clapping his hands together, “what do you think the final exam will be like this year?”

 

The conversation shifts after that, and Katsuki spends the rest of lunchtime shoveling mapo tofu into his mouth so that no more stupid, treacherous words burst out. 

 

So now there’s Tintin added to the fucking list of people who want something from Deku, her time or her energy or her smiles or for her to save them. And that list seems to grow longer every day. 

 

~~~

 

After class is done for the day, he texts her the number of an empty classroom. As soon as she steps in through the door, he’s on her - kissing her hard and fast, canines cutting into her lip, knocking her head against the door. 

 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” she says, laughing a little, clamping a hand over his mouth. “What’s the rush? We haven’t even locked the door yet.”

 

“Fuck it,” he says, but he reaches over and flips the lock, and goes back to attacking her with his mouth. 

 

“Kacchan, what brought this on-“

 

Nothing,” he snarls, sucking a bruising kiss into into that one spot on the side of her neck, gratified by the whine in the back of her throat, the way her hips buck against his. She’s such a contradiction, the shift and flex of firm muscle and the pure strength of her, next to the softness of her mouth and her heart and her eyes. He starts tugging down her underwear and the black bike shorts that she always wears beneath her uniform skirt,  his fingers fumbling, impatient. His knees hit the floor and then he surges up so he can bury his face between her thighs. 

 

Kacchan,” she moans, her fingers sinking into his hair, as he starts to fuck her with his tongue, plunging in deep, his face getting covered with her. He hitches up one of her thighs so it rests on his shoulder, angling her open, and he gets his fingers in her too, and she’s, fuck, thrusting down on him, onto his face, unsteady and eager. He growls into her, and hopes she feels it vibrate through her whole body. 

 

He grips his cock with his free hand, but more of his attention is on her, tasting her, making her look at him, feel him, feel what he’s doing to her. It used to be enough before, to just quickly jerk off by himself whenever he was horny and irritated or just needed to sleep, but now it pales in comparison to everything that he gets to do to her. 

 

He could live like this, licking into her, while she sighs his name. 

 

When she comes, it’s an earthquake, her thighs trembling around her face, and he licks her through the aftershocks until one orgasm ripples into two. She slides to the floor and hiccups, “Kacchan,” and he feels smug and triumphant at how her voice wavers, how she seems knocked off-balance - as off-balance as she always makes him feel.

 

Then that familiar look of determination flashes across her face, maddeningly hot, and she bats his hand away so she can grip his cock, and - fuck, the callouses on her hands feel better than he imagined what feels like a lifetime ago. She jerks him rough and fast, and there’s a caveman part of him that wants to come right across her tits, but it’s too late, he’s already choking out, “Deku,” and slumping over, his jizz pulsing onto her scarred fingers. 

 

“Kacchan,” she says, softer now, and she presses her forehead against his for a moment, like a cat, before she gets up. He tucks himself back into his boxers, feeling like an idiot now that some sense is trickling back to him. He finds himself sitting on the floor, leaning back against the closed door, half-dreading that someone might have heard them, half-hoping that they did. 

 

She drops a Kleenex box on his lap, and then she sits down next to him, her legs stretched out. There’s a large purple-green bruise on the inside of one knee where she took a bad fall the other day in combat training, and a bright blue brace wrapped around her left wrist. She lives hard, falls down, keeps running, and half the time he feels like he’ll never catch up to her. 

 

She bumps her shoulder with his. “Everything okay?” and her green eyes are so stupidly kind.

 

“Everything’s fucking great,” he snaps back, but his voice is hoarse, now, his throat dry from licking her out. She flushes, and fishes around in her yellow backpack - dropped on the floor as soon as she came in - until she comes up with a juicebox. She holds it out to him, expectantly. 

 

“What-“

 

“It’s chrysanthemum tea,” she says, “since you seem…” The red flush spreads slowly across her face, rising up from her throat. “… Thirsty.”

 

“I hate that flavour,” he says, but he snatches the juicebox from her and stabs in the straw. The tea is sweet and cold and gritty, like brown sugar and beach sand and golden petals, like summer condensed down to a drink. 

 

She's rubbing her cheek against his shoulder, absently, and he wonders if she even notices she’s doing it. It’s getting late in the day, the light outside turning gold and red, filtering through the blinds. 

 

“This is nice,” she says, out of nowhere. And then, uncertainly, “isn’t it?” 

 

There’s no one else here to take her attention away. It’s just the two of them, sitting in warm silence and slowing breaths, their bodies flushed and thrumming from each other. 

 

It’s fucking perfection. 

 

“It’s something,” he says, instead. 

 

He turns and kisses her, and it’s like when he finally executes a move he’s spent all night practising, like the tumblers on a lock falling open, like Aizawa’s annoying and cryptic euphemisms suddenly making sense. It’s as if his whole life has been leading him here, to this exact moment. 

 

And that’s when he realises that he’s absolutely fucked. 

 

~~~ 

 

This thing between her and Kacchan - it works, sort of. 

 

As usual, she employs her handy friend visualization. She takes all that stolen time, all those hot, fervent moments, and locks them away in a metal shipping container, with about fifty padlocks firmly keeping them shut. 

 

Sure, there are some dangerous moments that threaten her neat boundaries, like that one time she was worrying her pen between her teeth in class and when she looked up, Kacchan was staring at her, his eyes hot and heavy-lidded.  

 

But for the most part, things function just fine. She can concentrate on classes and training and fighting with Kacchan and being a hero, and still have… this. Whatever it is.

 

And then her birthday ruins everything. 

 

~~~

 

Three days before her birthday, they’re in his room. She’s draped over him, content and naked, sweat cooling on her skin, and he’s carding his fingers through her hair. This part is nice, too, the afterglowy part, where her mind stops swirling, all of her limbs spreading like warm, golden syrup, when his default irritation mellows out into something like tolerance. 

 

They’re talking about the training camp, speculating where it’ll be held this year and he’s saying something, something about climbing a mountain, and then the dumb, sleepy part of her brain says, “Besides training camp, I don’t think I’ve been hiking since we were kids.” 

 

His hands go still for a moment, and then resume carding through her hair. “We could go hiking. On Saturday.” 

 

And that makes her pause - the way it’s phrased, not as a demand, almost a question. 

 

“Saturday’s my birthday.”

 

He lets out an irritated sigh and ah, there he is, there’s Kacchan. “I fucking know that, nerd.” 

 

“So you want to take me on a hike… for my birthday?” She doesn’t want know what to to make of it, honestly puzzled, and then it clicks in her mind - it must be a sex thing. “Are you going to bring lube and condoms?”

 

And the great thing is, even with all the stuff that they’ve done together, he still goes bright red, shoving her out of the bed while saying, “Oh my god, shitty nerd!” It doesn’t even really hurt when she hits the floor because she’s laughing too hard.

 

The truth is, they haven’t done - that, yet. They’ve done almost everything else but it feels like that is - some kind of point of no return. What they’ve done so far is just messing around, stress and hormones that need a release. It’s like how she was the only one who could accept Kacchan’s feelings about Kamino Ward, about ending All Might - she can’t imagine anyone else who Kacchan would show this side of himself to, without exploding. 

 

“Well, maybe Kirishima,” she amends, sitting up. Kirishima admires Kacchan in a simple, uncomplicated way, has an easy patience with his bullshit, and definitely appreciates his muscles. It’s so good for her soul to witness their beautiful, homoerotic friendship. 

 

“Hahn?” he says, glaring down at her from the bed, where he’s wrapped himself up in his All Might bed sheet like an angry burrito. 

 

“Nothing!” she sings at first, and then, figuring that it will really piss him off, she asks, earnestly, “But don’t you think Kirishima would make a good boyfriend? He’s so cheerful and earnest and chivalrous, and he always worries if you’ve had enough to eat, and he has a really nice chest-“ 

 

“Shut up about Idiot Hair!” he yells, tackling her to the ground. And even though Kacchan’s on top of her and she’s naked underneath him, she can’t stop laughing, because this? Feels like winning. 

 

~~~ 

 

Saturday comes and she laces up her hiking boot in near-darkness, yawning the whole time. She meets up with Kacchan in the common room and says drowsily, “Happy birthday to me.” 

 

“I told you to sleep early, nerd.”  

 

“Not everyone can fall asleep at 8:30, Kacchan,” she says, still yawning her head off as they make their way to the bus stop just outside of UA. She almost walks into a pillar and sidesteps at the last moment to avoid it. 

 

“Fucking Deku,” he says, exasperated, and he grabs her hand. “You’re going to give yourself a god damn concussion before we even start on this thing.” 

 

And then things get weird because he’s - holding her hand. It’s like being a little kid again, in the hallways or on field trips, and it reminds her of the way she used to tug at the back of his uniform, chirping Kacchan, Kacchan. 

 

She must fall asleep again on the bus, because she wakes up with her head on Kacchan’s shoulder.  He’s looking down at her with a scowl on his face. Not his eat my dust, shitty nerd scowl, but a thoughtful scowl. 

 

When they get off the bus, they’re greeted by- 

 

“SURPRISE!!!” 

 

“You guys!” she exclaims, shocked and pleased. All of class 2-A is gathered at the muster point at the foot of the hiking trail, with a gigantic green banner that says, “HAPPY 17th BIRTHDAY, DEKU-CHAN!” There’s a very well-drawn All Might flexing both arms in the corner, which must be Shinsou’s work. 

 

Ochaco jumps over and lifts her up in a hug, and Izuku laughs as her feet leave the ground. “You didn’t think we’d let Bakugou steal you for your whole birthday, do you?” Ochaco asks. “Are you surprised??”  

 

And Izuku laughs, hugging Ochaco back just as hard - she always smells so good, flowery and powdery, like mochi. “I’m so surprised! I had no idea!!” 

 

Ochaco puts her down, and then it’s Todoroki’s turn to give her a quick hug.  “Happy birthday, Midoriya,” he says, sounding so shy that it makes her heart flip over. 

 

“Thank you, Todoroki-kun!” 

 

“Everyone!” Iida announces. He’s in a blue and white windbreaker and grey knee high compression socks paired with sensible hiking boots. “After we have finished greeting Midoriya-san happy birthday, we will commence with our hike! Then we will break for lunch!”

 

“Satou-san was kind enough to make a cake,” Yaomomo adds, more measured but still warm, “and anyone who has gifts for Midoriya-san can give them to her during our lunch break.” 

 

“Thanks, class reps!” Izuku says, saluting them, feeling silly with happiness, overflowing with gratitude, and so loved. She turns around to where Kacchan is still behind her - it’s weird that he hasn't said anything yet. 

 

“Did you plan this with everyone?” she asks, eager, and he only manages to get out, “I-“ before Ochaco grabs her hand. 

 

“Come on, Deku-chan!” Ochaco cheers. “You’re the birthday girl, so you have to lead the pack!” 

 

She throws a look back at Kacchan, a sort of apology. He has an expression on his face that she doesn’t think she’s ever seen before, that she can’t even begin to parse, but Ochaco is slipping a pink kitten headband into her hair, “for your birthday hat!” and it’s too late to turn back.  

 

~~~

 

The stupid box feels like a million tons in Katsuki’s pocket. 

 

“Everything okay?” Kirishima asks, falling into step beside him. 

 

Katsuki grunts something in reply and tries to speed ahead, but Kirishima, who is loyal as a goddamn golden retriever, doesn’t give up. He just lengthens his stride, leans his head close, and whispers, “Were you going to confess to her today?”

 

 Katsuki slips on some scrabbly shale. “The fuck!?”

 

“I can see it already!” Kirishima says, his eyes starry. “You and her at the top of the mountain, looking out at the whole world together, and you gaze deeply into her eyes, and say, Izuku, I've always-“ 

 

There’s a very loud snort right in front of them, and he turns to see Uraraka,  arms crossed. “Not on my watch.” 

 

He bares his teeth at her in a snarl. “You planned this whole shitty thing, didn’t you, Round Face?”

 

“Well, duh,” she says, looking unimpressed. “A soon as Deku said she was turning in early to go ‘hiking with Kacchan,’ all of my Spidey senses tingled. Like I was going to leave you with alone with my bride in an isolated location, you depraved maniac!” 

 

Katsuki sputters in rage but Kirishima protests, “Aww, Ochaco-chan, that’s not fair! Bakugou’s a romantic! I bet he got her a meaningful gift and everything!” 

 

“Oh yeah?” she challenges. 

 

“It’s nothing,” Katsuki snaps. 

 

And they weren't anything, not really. He found them at the mall, and got then engraved in fifteen minutes while he played a game on his phone. It’s a completely pragmatic gift, nothing romantic about it at all.

 

“What did you get her?” Katsuki asks, trying to change the subject. 

 

“Something All Might,” Uraraka and Kirishima chorus, and they laugh and high-five each other. Morons. 

 

They settle into hiking after that, thank fuck, but Kirishima and Uraraka’s comments still boil in his brain. Bakugou’s a romantic? Where the fuck does Kirishima get this shit? 

 

It was maddening. With any of the other things he wanted, the path to getting them had always been clear. Work hard, then work harder, learn from the failures, eliminate weaknesses, get smarter, get faster, push harder, do it better next time. 

 

But the path this time isn’t just unclear - he doesn’t know if there even is a fucking path. He doesn’t know how to tell Deku that he wants to touch her even when other people are looking, maybe especially when other people are looking. The other day, a chunk of her hair had slipped out of her bobby pins during training. He’d tucked it behind her ear and she’d looked spooked, then ran off to pair up with Twinkly Fuck. Last week, some fucker from 2-D had confessed to her and the group chat had blown up with creep shots of her gently rejecting him. 

 

He wonders if it’s like being a little kid again, greedy, writing his name on everything to show that it was his, that it belonged to him. Any day, Deku could decide that this whole stupid thing between them wasn’t worth it. She could go off with any of the loser extras who looked at her with hearts in their eyes, or even with someone halfway-decent like Kirishima, who she had said would “make a good boyfriend.” Katsuki gnashes his teeth at the memory. 

 

And anyway, it wasn’t like he was going to declare his forever love or any stupid shit like that. He was just going to say what had been running through his mind for the past three days: When I imagine being a hero someday, I always see you there at my side. 

 

~~~ 

 

“Oh my god, Ochaco-chan!” Izuku shrieks. “I can’t wear this! There’s not enough of it!” 

 

“But Deku-chan will hurt my feelings if she doesn’t wear my gift the next time we all go to the beach,” Ochaco trills, because she excelled at the emotional manipulation part of their interrogation training. 

 

“I’ll wear a t-shirt over it,” Deku mumbles, stuffing the All Might bikini back into its box, “and shorts. And maybe a jacket. And a snowsuit.” 

 

“Who’s next?” Ochaco calls out.  

 

They’re about halfway up the mountain, in a grassy clearing that Iida and Yaomomo decided was a good place to stop for lunch. Satou shyly presented a massive roll up green tea chiffon cake which they stuck with candles that Todoroki carefully lit with his quirk, and Ochaco had prevailed upon Lunch Rush for a picnic lunch of tonkatsu sandwiches, salads, chips, and drinks, which Shouji easily carried on his back.

 

Todoroki turns to her with two gifts - one of them is wrapped carefully in green and silver striped wrapping paper, the other in pink and gold. “The first gift is from me,” he says, seeming embarrassed, “and the second one is from my sister.” 

 

“That’s so nice of Fuyumi,” Izuku says, touched. “Tell her hi for me the next time you see her, okay?”

 

“Sure.”

 

She unwraps Todoroki’s gift first, to find a beautiful set of three navy blue notebooks whose covers feel like heavy cloth, a polished wooden case with three silvery-grey pencils, freshly sharpened, as well as a stainless steel metal sharpener. “Thank you so much, Todoroki-kun! I’ll use these right away!” 

 

When she opens Fuyumi’s gift, her breath is taken away - it’s a beautiful hair ornament with a white camellia blossom in the centre, and delicate golden chains trailing from it. It’s such a pretty thing in its nest of pale green tissue paper, the gold catching the light coming through the forest leaves. 

 

“It’s too much, Todoroki-kun-”

 

“Fuyumi insisted.” He clears his throat, looking flushed. “She said that perhaps - perhaps you could wear it to a summer festival, sometime.” 

 

“That’s so thoughtful of her! I’ll write her a thank you note as as soon as we get back!” 

 

She feels overwhelmed by all the gifts that her classmates shower her with: Iida gives her a manual that he and Tensei compiled, of various Ingenium-inspired leg exercises; Aoyama gets her a maplewood cheeseboard with a swirling design of gold and green glitter; Tokoyami gives her home-made cinnamon apple chips that she promises to share with Eri; and Kirishima gives her a set of mesh All Might tank tops for working out. She can’t stop babbling thank yous and hugging people, and Ochaco takes one million pictures of her crying in happiness. It’s absurd and lovely and she doesn’t know what on earth she did to deserve such amazing people in her life. 

 

Jirou takes out a Bluetooth speaker and starts up an impromptu dance party. And at 1:20 on the dot, when Izuku officially turns seventeen, she sneaks away to phone her mom. She has to get pretty far away from the main group for the sound of the bass to finally die away, and her mom picks up on the first ring. 

 

“Izuku!” Mom cries, and as happy as Izuku is at this moment, there’s also a part of her that wishes she was home right now, so she could wrap up her mom in a hug. “Happy birthday!” 

 

“Thank you, Mom! And thank you…” Izuku's voice gets softer as she says what she says every year, “Thank you for giving birth to me, and raising me. Thank you for my existence.” 

 

“Thank you for taking care of yourself,” Mom says, just as serious. “I know you want to save everyone, but - thank you for trying to keep yourself safe, too. Even just for me.” 

 

Izuku has to laugh a little, at that, and she feels some tears from earlier still clinging to her eyelashes. “I’m getting better, Mom, really. I have lots of good friends and teachers who make me remember to be smart about things, like All Might and Aizawa-sensei and Ka-“ She coughs. “I have lots of people.” 

 

Kacchan had actually yelled at her just the other day for trying to block a blow with her still-healing wrist, and she’d been so surprised that she’d accidentally dropped her guard and he got in a good sideswipe instead. 

 

“And how is Katsuki-kun?”

 

“He’s, um, fine.” 

 

Deku thanks God every day that she and Kacchan had never gotten matched up for a one-on-one during the Sports Festival in the first year. Mom would have Talked to Auntie Mitsuki, and then Auntie Mitsuki would have slaughtered Kacchan.

 

“Just fine?” her mother presses. 

 

“He’s good!” she yelps. “He, uh, he won our last sparring match! But I’ll win the next one! I’m working hard, I promise!” 

 

Her mother laughs a little. “I never worry about you working hard, Izuku. I worry about…” Her voice trails off. “Your life outside of being a hero, I suppose.”

 

“… But there is nothing outside of being a hero.” Not for Izuku, anyway. 

 

“Isn’t there?” Mom asks. She’s very gentle, but it’s like a puzzle with the pieces of it just out of reach. “You turned seventeen today. Isn’t there anything else that you want out of life?”

 

The smell of burnt caramel, the way the sun brought out the gold in his skin, how his face looked when he slept with all the angles smoothed out- 

 

But no. That kind of thing is for other people, who can afford tenderness.

 

She adds another chain and padlock to the shipping container in her mind.  

 

“I want to be the strongest hero,” she says, stubbornly, and it feels like an echo of what she’d told Kacchan ages ago, in the darkness behind the dorms. “I’m not going to let anything or anyone get in the way of that.” 

 

And Mom says, “It sounds a little lonely, when you say it like that.” 

 

~~~

 

I want to be the strongest hero. I’m not going to let anything or anyone get in the way of that. 

 

“I’ve got to go Mom,” Deku is saying, “I’m heading back soon. But thank you again!” A pause. “I love you too!” 

 

Katsuki falters. 

 

He snaps a twig and Deku twists, reaction time sharp, but her shoulders relax when she realises it’s him. “No, Mom, just Kacchan.” Another pause, a furious blush. “No, I will not tell him that! Bye!” And she hangs up and shoves her phone in the pocket of her jean shorts. 

 

“What did Auntie Inko say?’ 

 

“Nothing,” Deku says, trying to be snotty, but her cheeks are pink. “Is break time over now? Are we going to keep hiking?”

 

“No,” he says, not taking his eyes off of her. “Twinkles and Pikachu got into a dance battle, so they’ll be awhile.” 

 

She sighs. “Kacchan, you know that at this point it’s really obvious that your nicknames mean you’re fond of them, right?” 

 

“Fuck that noise,” he says, and she tips her head back and laughs. Her laughter is the fizz and crackle of ice in green melon soda, and he needs to taste it, so he takes her face between his palms when she’s in the middle of saying, “Kacchan, wha-“ and he kisses her. 

 

Because that’s what he does now. When he has a good day he wants to share, when he has a bad day he wants to forget, when he wants her to shut up in the middle of a monologue, when he wants to coax her out of thoughtful silence and into sound. He kisses her. 

 

She’s startled at first, but then her mouth flowers open beneath his, and he presses in, crowds her close until her back is flush against a tree. He grips her thighs and yanks them high so she can wrap her legs around him, and the heels of her hiking boots dig into the small of his back, satisfying. 

 

“Everyone’s going to notice we’re gone,” she says, a little breathless. He sneaks a hand beneath her t-shirt so he can palm at her breasts, and she hisses, catching her bottom lip between her teeth. 

 

“Don’t talk about those extras,” he says. 

 

She huffs a laugh as she arches into his hand, and says, “They’re your friends too.”

 

Katsuki thinks of Uraraka with her arm casually slung around Deku’s waist, of Shitty Half and Half with his face five inches too close to Deku’s, and says, “Pretty sure they’re fucking not.” 

 

That seems to make Deku thoughtful. She reaches out, and the pad of one of her scarred thumbs traces the line of his jaw, over and over, and it makes his insides pool hot and liquid, a volcano slowly rising. 

 

“Thanks,” she murmurs, lifting her eyes up to his. “For not blowing up, when everyone showed up. I know this isn’t what you planned, but,” and a small smile flickers across that rosy mouth of hers, secret and pleased, “this makes me happy, too.” 

 

And that smile is dangerous, more than the League of Villains, more than All for One, because that smile makes him want a hundred, a thousand, unsayable things. So he closes his eyes instead and goes back to kissing her, ferocious and unforgiving, as if that can blur out the way that she looks when she smiles like that. 

 

He can hear birdsong high above him, sharp and fragmented, the rustle of leaves, laughter and music in the distance, but the soundscape condenses to the hitch of her breath, the tiny noises escaping her mouth like jewels. Then she breaks off from him and blurts out, “Did you bring lube and condoms?” and that demolishes every thought in his head. 

 

“You were serious about that?”

 

She scowls, eyes darting to the side, crossing her arms over her chest. “Well, if you’re going to be like that-“

 

“I did,” he says, fast, too fast, digging them out of the pocket of his shorts, not because he was certain that they were going to fuck at the top of the mountain, but- 

 

“Good,” she says, still not meeting his eyes. “You can - if it helps -“ She clears her throat. “You can think of it like a birthday present, to me.”

 

Well, fuck. 

 

Later on, he has no coherent memory of how he got out of his own clothes, but he’ll remember to his dying day the way that Deku looked shedding her shorts and that green plaid shirt until she was naked in the forest, shafts of sunlight falling on her pale skin. 

 

He has trouble putting the condom on, fingers clumsy as he tries to pinch the tip, but that could be because she’s leaning against the tree, her fingers sinking into herself, and he can hear every small sigh that escapes her lips, and the wet sound of her fingers, slick and obscene. 

 

“Fucking distracting,” he manages to get out, once he’s got the goddamn condom on. 

 

“Do something about it,” she says, luxuriant, mouthy, the way she only gets around him. He squeezes the lube from the little packet all over his fingers and thrusts them right into her, no gentleness, no finesse, too far gone for that, and the sound that she makes is incredible.

 

“Just, ah, put it in me,” she pants into his ear, and then she yelps as he curls his fingers up inside of her. 

 

“What if I want to take my time with you,” he mumbles into her hair, because he loves the way she feels when she’s tense as a tripwire, thrumming and fluttering around his fingers and tongue, when tears escape from the corner of her eyes, when she punches him and wails for him to let her come already.  

 

“Then I’ll find someone else to stick their dick in me,” she says through gritted teeth, and it might be a joke or a threat or something in between, but his vision flares red and he’s snarling, and she-  

 

Fuck.

 

He sinks into her and loses all words, except hot, tight, wet, good. It feels impossible, that any part of his body should be able to fit inside of her at all, that there’s any space for him inside of her. But he buries himself in her and she squeezes him like a fist around his heart, and every movement pulls him in deeper, into plush muscles and slick, naked warmth. “M-move,” she says, harsh, giving him another agonizing, incredible squeeze. 

 

“Can’t,” he says, strained, copper flooding his mouth from where he must’ve bit his own tongue. If he moves in her, he’s going to come like a shot. “Need-“

 

She makes a furious noise, the verbal equivalent of a key smash crossed with about five swear words, then she moves herself up and over and starts fucking herself on him, shallowly, rising and dropping down on his cock, and he swears, his grip on her slippery, delirious. He hefts her up and that just takes him deeper inside of her, and when he finally starts to thrust into her, she lets out a startled moan, gratitude and pleasure and relief swelling up in her voice. He buries his face in the crook of her neck, where she smells of tart green apples, always green apples, and good clean sweat as if she’s come from a fight, and those pale wild flowers scattered throughout the forest. He draws back for a moment to look at her face, that pink mouth fallen open, panting, her eyes tightly shut. 

 

And he hears himself say, “L-Look at me,” hating how he stutters, but needing some proof that she wants him, that she’s not imagining some other fucker in his place. 

 

Her eyes fly open and that’s - fuck, somehow that changes everything, looking into her eyes while he’s buried deep in her. It’s like everything he’s trying to hide gets stripped away. 

 

“Tell me you like me the best,” he tries to demand, but it comes out in a plea instead, as he thrusts into her, over and over. 

 

“Of course I like you the best,” she says, breathless. “I love you, Kacchan.” 

 

~~~

 

She feels him freeze. 

 

Oh no oh no oh no oh no on oh no oh OH NO-

 

She shoves him away with a wince, and he lands hard on the ground, looking stunned, and - oh god, her clothes are just strewn everywhere, shorts underwear shirt boots he pulled out the hair ties and the bobby pins when he kissed her - 

 

“Deku-“ 

 

“I didn’t mean it!” she yells back, as Full Cowling arcs over her body. “Just - forget I said anything!” 

 

The woods become a blur, or maybe that’s just because she’s crying. 

 

He doesn’t follow her. 

 

She finds an empty clearing and pulls on her clothes with shaking hands. She’s halfway through buttoning up the plaid shirt when she realises it’s not hers - it’s Kacchan’s, patterned in red and black and it smells like him, burnt caramel and nitroglycerin, and she wants to fling it off the side of the mountain, but she can’t find her t-shirt anywhere, and she can’t just walk around in her bra. It takes her three tries to button up his stupid shirt, and she doesn’t know whether to blame that on the way that her fingers are trembling or how she can’t stop crying. 

 

She pulls out her phone and just stares at it. Ochaco and Todoroki would straight up massacre Bakugou. Somehow, she can’t imagine Iida handling a situation like this without combusting. 

 

She makes the call. 

 

“Yaomomo?” she asks, her voice wobbling. “I got lost in the woods. Can you come and get me?”

 

~~~ 

 

Yaomomo is a goddess and had at first proposed a search party to comb the forest in a grid pattern, but Izuku had squashed that down and stuttered, “It’s - kind of embarrassing. Getting, um, lost, I mean. Is it okay if it’s just you? Or even you and Jirou would be okay, I guess.” 

 

When they break through the tree line, Izuku jumps up, and the tears she had managed to shove down just break through the surface again, a rising tide, and it’s the worst. Yaomomo pats her back and makes her a box of Kleenex, which she has to use about half of before she can get her breath back enough to speak. Jirou gives her a Badtz Maru bandage from her first aid supplies, because there’s apparently a cut on her cheek that she hadn’t even noticed - she must’ve gotten it whipping past a tree branch with Full Cowling. 

 

“Is everything all right, Midoriya-san?” Yaomomo asks, her beautiful face gentle and concerned. 

 

“Do I need to murder Bakugou?” Jirou asks, very serious. “Because we can throw him off the side of the mountain, and Koda can call a pack of crows to devour his body. No one ever needs to know.”

 

She hiccups a teary laugh. “No, it’s - it’s not Kacchan. I’m just an idiot, that’s all.” 

 

Jirou and Yaomomo share a Look. 

 

“Midoriya-san,” Yaomomo says, slowly, “you can tell us anything, you know. We-“ 

 

“I accidentally confessed to Kacchan!” 

 

Gahhhhhhh. For one moment, she thought that maybe saying it out loud would make it sound… not as terrible.

 

Instead, it’s about a million times worse.  

 

“Hey, Midoriya,” Jirou says, kindly, sitting down next to her. Izuku hadn’t even realized that she had sunk into a crouch and covered her head with her hands. “It’ll be okay. I’m sure a lot of rookie heroes have done a lot worse things than Bakugou.”

 

“Kyouka, that’s not comforting!” Yaomomo admonishes. She kneels down next to them, and gently pries Izuku’s hands away from her head. “This is… clearly very upsetting for you. It seems like you’re experiencing some very difficult emotions right now. Is there anything that we can do to help? Anything that would make you feel better right now?”

 

Izuku sniffs. “The pack of crows is sounding better and better.” 

 

See?

 

“Is there anything that we can do to help, short of murder?” Yaomomo rephrases, unruffled. 

 

Izuku ends up asking Yaomomo to make her a new green plaid shirt, just like her old one, and Yaomomo carefully folds up Kacchan’s red shirt and puts it in her backpack. 

 

“Whatever you want to do, Midoriya-san,” Yaomomo says, “we’ll stand behind you. Whether you want to go back to UA right now, or keep climbing, or if you want us to ask Bakugou-san to leave, until you’re feeling better-“ 

 

“No, that’s - that’s okay. I feel a lot better now.” And she does. The crying seems to have cleared her head, and Jirou and Yaomomo are each so kind, in their different ways. “Let’s go back. Everyone must be worried.” 

 

~~~ 

 

The class cheers when she returns, and she scratches the back of her head, embarrassed, making sure to loudly say, “I feel so silly, getting lost! Sorry for holding everyone up!” before she bows to her classmates.  

 

“Deku-chan is the birthday girl today,” Ochaco declares, staunchly loyal. “Everything she does is perfection!” 

 

“Hear, hear!” Iida says. 

 

From the corner of her eye, she catches a glimpse of Kacchan, turning away. His face is totally blank. He doesn’t look like himself at all. 

 

“All right, everyone!” Yaomomo calls out. “Let’s pack up, and keep going! We still have a few hours to go!” 

 

Jirou and Yaomomo stick particularly close to her for the rest of the hike, as well as Ochaco and Iida and Todoroki. Ochaco lends her a spare hair tie and brushes her hair up into a ponytail. When she flexes her injured wrist with a wince, Todoroki makes her a little bracer of ice to help bring down the swelling. 

 

And she doesn’t look at Kacchan for the rest of the hike. 

 

~~~ 

 

Katsuki blasts ahead of everyone, and he’s the first on top of the mountain. He can see the whole world spread out beneath him, a forest lit up in green and gold, an endless sky. 

 

This is his favourite part about hiking: the absolute silence, as if he’s the only person who exists. He gets to stand at the very top of the known world all by himself, with no one else chattering at him or crying at him or cluttering up the view. 

 

But there’s a tiny, stupid, nagging voice inside of him that won’t shut up. It talks like his dad, speaking so quietly and patiently that he can’t help but hear every word. 

 

And that voice says, It sounds a little lonely, when you say it like that. 

Chapter Text

Then.

 

“If you keep doing this, I’ll - I’ll never forgive you, Kacchan!”

 

The cicadas are screaming, shrill and merciless, and the sun’s beating down hard. There’s sweat stinging at her eyes and her fists tremble, badly, as she holds them up.

 

The blank expression on Kacchan’s face folds into a smirk, and he drawls, “Even though you’re quirkless, you’re pretending to be a hero, Deku?”

 

It happens quick, then slow. Smoke and flame blossom from Kacchan’s fists, familiar and frightening. Haneda unfurls his red wings, and Shiroki’s fingers spread out like crooked branches. Behind her, the boy is crying quietly, his breath hitching.

 

Izuku slams her eyes shut as the first wave of heat washes over her face.

 

And then… nothing.

 

She opens her eyes to see Kacchan’s fist hovering an inch away from her nose, the fire vanishing with a wisp of smoke.

 

“You know what?” Kacchan says, turning to Haneda and Shiroki. “I’m bored. Stupid Deku isn’t even worth the effort.”

 

Haneda and Shiroki tuck away their quirks, confused but obedient, and trot after Kacchan. And Izuku stands there frozen, for a long time, her fists still trembling, before she realizes she should check on the crying boy.

 

“Are you okay!?” she asks, “are you hurt-?”

 

He shoves her.

 

She doesn’t expect it. She lands hard, and there’s the raw scrape and sting of hot gravel on her knees and palms.

 

“I didn’t ask you to butt in!” he shouts. “I don’t need some girl to save me!”

 

He runs out of the park, and for the first time in her life, she’s too surprised to cry.

 

The next day, Kacchan asks her “what stupid thing she did, to hurt herself like that.”

 

“Nothing,” she says, shoving him away with bandaged hands, and his eyes narrow into a glare.

 

She finds out that he goes back and beats up the boy anyway. And it’s like nothing that she does even matters.

 

~~~

 

Now.

 

When she gets back to the dorms, she changes into her oldest, rattiest, comfiest pair of All Might pajamas, sits on her bed, and bursts into tears.

 

Because Ochaco, Tsuyu, and Iida are benevolent witches, they show up at her door armed with the rest of her birthday cake, what looks like all the candy from the vending machines, and a boxset of a deeply dumb rugby anime, where the male rivals spend more time looking into each other’s eyes instead of the girl they’re supposed to be fighting over. Iida muses out loud over the anime’s adherence to league rules until Ochaco floats him to the ceiling.

 

Around dinnertime, Izuku fidgets with the hem of her pajama top, and says, “You guys can go ahead without me. I’m pretty full of snacks, so…”

 

“How about we bring dinner back for you?” Ochaco offers. “That way you don’t have to look at Bakugou’s stupid face.”

 

“Oh, that’s not - you don’t-“

 

“It’s okay, Deku-chan,” Ochaco says. “You don’t have to defend him anymore. Anyway, we’ve already instituted a class-wide shunning! That’ll show him!”

 

“Why-”

 

Ochaco gives her a Look and then says, very slowly, “Deku-chan. He broke up with you. On your birthday.”

 

WHAT!?

 

~~~

 

These are the facts that emerge:

 

(1) Everyone thought she and Kacchan were secretly dating for months, and that

 

(2) in the middle of her birthday hike, they went off together for a private conversation where he broke up with her, and that he is, therefore

 

(3) a steaming meatsack bone bag of hot human garbage, who

 

(4) does not deserve to interact with any decent human being, except for

 

(5) Kirishima, because Kirishima would probably die if he had to shun Kacchan.

 

The only correct point on this list is (5).

 

“I didn’t initially condone taking such drastic group action against Bakugou-san,” Iida says, pushing up his glasses. “But his actions seemed… particularly insensitive, even for him.”

 

“That’s very sweet of you, Iiida-kun,” Izuku says, “but completely unnecessary, because we were not secretly dating!”

 

“Oh?” Tsuyu asks, one finger on her chin. “Was it not supposed to be a secret? Because that would explain a lot, actually.”

 

“We were not dating at all, secretly or otherwise!”

 

Ochaco squints at her, skeptical. “Are you sure? Because in the past few months, he’s been staring at you, all the time. Like, more than usual, which is saying a lot for Bakugou.”

 

“It’s not staring. He just - looks, like a normal human being!”

 

“There was that one time when you were sparring,” Tsuyu says, “where you seemed very intimate-”

 

“It was a takedown! It was a totally legitimate takedown for fighting purposes only!”

 

Ochaco’s still frowning as she says, “You seem to spend a lot more time together than before, and it doesn’t always end in a bloodbath-“

 

“It’s just to talk about my quirk! Kacchan helps me test things out with it, sometimes-”

 

“He was holding your hand.”

 

That one stops Izuku cold. “What?”

 

“When you got off the bus,” Tsuyu explains. “This morning, when we were there to surprise you. You got off the bus together, and he was holding your hand.”

 

… Huh.

 

“It’s just habit,” Izuku says. “Left over from when we were little kids. You know.”

 

“So if you weren’t dating and he didn’t break up with you,” Ochaco says, “then what happened during the hike? Why were you so upset?”

 

 I love you, Kacchan.

 

Izuku swallows.

 

“That’s private,” she says, finally. “But it wasn’t - about dating, or anything like that. I just- I said something I shouldn’t have. I messed up.”  She hugs her All Might pillow close to her chest. “Kacchan didn’t do anything bad, not really. So you should probably tell everyone to stop shunning him.”

 

Iida’s been the quietest in this interrogation so far, and he looks very serious as he asks, “Is that what you want, Midoriya-san?”

 

“Yes,” she says, soft. “That’s all I want.”

 

~~~

 

Out of all the extras in their class, Kirishima usually annoys Katsuki the least. They have their usual Sunday afternoon spar, which Katsuki works through with more savagery than usual, and in total silence.

 

In the locker room afterwards, Kirishima puts a hand on his bare shoulder and asks him, hesitant, “Hey bro. How are you doing?”

 

Katsuki grunts. “Fucking aces.”

 

“That’s good,” Kirishima says, bracing. “But actually, I meant - how are you feeling about Deku-chan?”

 

Katsuki incinerates the t-shirt he’s holding.

 

He drops the smouldering wreck, and stomps on it until the flames go out, and then it’s just this sad pile of rags and smoke and cinders. What was with the fucking quality of t-shirts these days, that they’d face a little fire and totally crumple up and die? What weakass shit was that? When he was a kid, clothes seemed to last forever. Like that hoodie he got Deku -

 

“Nothing,” Katsuki barks, yanking a spare shirt from his gym bag. “I’m feeling absolutely nothing.”

 

Kirishima’s face is so sympathetic that Katsuki wants to punch it. Kirishima’s either an idiot or fearless or both, because he pushes on, and says, “…Can I say something without being murdered?”

 

“You do that all the time anyway. Haven’t been able to stop you yet.”

 

“I know your usual thing is to tear after Deku and demand a rematch,” Kirishima says, hands spreading out, conciliatory. “But this time - maybe - this one time, you could think about – giving her some time and space. Wait for her to come to you, if she wants to talk.”

 

The Deku in his mind doesn’t want to talk. She’s a blur of pale skin and green lighting, arcing away through the forest, uncatchable, uncaught. He’s kissed every scar and freckle on her body, drawn his name out of her like a magician pulling a silk scarf from his sleeve, and none of that was ever enough to keep her.

 

“Whatever,” Katsuki says. “She can do whatever the fuck she wants. It’s got nothing to do with me.”

 

~~~

 

Kacchan doesn’t hunt her down.

 

He was often after her one way or another - yelling at her about her quirk, interrupting her in the middle of a mumblelogue, thrusting his phone at her so that she would talk to his mom. One time he stole her favourite All Might pen and made her chase him all the way to the infirmary room, until she realized that it was all a scam to get her to see Recovery Girl for some weird burst blood vessels in her arm that she had been hoping would just sort of go away on their own.

 

The longest time that he’s ignored her was after the incident with the sludge villain, and even then, they had sat beside each other and talked at the beginning of UA’s entrance exam.

 

But he doesn’t confront her about the disastrous hike, and that’s how Izuku knows that after years of chasing after him, trying to catch up, that this is how they’re going to end. 

 

~~~

 

In class on Monday, they stare at each other for one long, wordless moment. His eyes are bloodshot, and when he yanks his chair out from his desk, his movements are raw and jerky.

 

Because Aizawa-sensei is a sadist and possesses a sixth sense for when she and Kacchan are at their very worst, he puts them together on a three-man team with Tokoyami for that afternoon’s combat training.

 

They’re supposed to be heroes seeking to neutralize a villain team, made of up of Yaomomo, Todoroki, and Sero, who are holding a group of civilians hostage at city centre. Once Izuku suits up, she joins Kacchan and Tokoyami outside the entrance of the training city.

 

“I’ll take Shitty Half and Half,” Kacchan says, not looking at her, “you take Tape Dispenser, and you, Bird Guy, you can deal with Everything Girl.”

 

“Don’t we need more of a plan than tha-“

 

He sneers at her, and it’s such an unsettling throwback to the old Kacchan. “What? Do you need to draw some diagrams on how to run away like a fucking coward?” 

 

Tokoyami and Dark Shadow look back and forth between them, and Izuku gets the strong impression that they wish they could slowly back away.

 

Aizawa’s whistle pieces the air, and they’re off.

 

~~~

 

They technically win.

 

Except that Izuku would like to put about a million asterisks after that “technically,” because technically, Kacchan had also shoved her out of the way of some falling debris from one of Yaomomo’s cannonballs going scattershot.

 

And technically that rock had crushed his back and spine, and technically if Recovery Girl wasn’t a miracle worker he would be dead or paraplegic or -

 

“Deku-chan?”

 

Her head snaps up, and she scrubs angry tears out of her eyes to see that Ochaco has entered the infirmary. Ochaco’s still in her hero uniform, cheeks covered in cement dust, her hair wild as if got caught in a tailwind.

 

“How’d it go?” Izuku asks, trying to inject some cheer in her voice, and Ochaco grins and flexes an arm.

 

“I made Kaminari cry in fear, but then again, that’s just Tuesday.” Ochaco jerks her chin at Kacchan. “How’s Sleeping Beauty?”

 

“Recovery Girl said that the healing took a lot out of him, and not to expect him to wake up for a few hours. I told Auntie Mitsuki what happened, and she was really nice about it, but I could tell that she was worried. I should probably call her again and-”

 

Ochaco takes one of Deku’s hands in her own, careful not to float her, and says, “Deku-chan… it’s not your fault, you know. What happened back there.”

 

“I know that!” Izuku says, flaring up. “It’s stupid Kacchan’s fault! Taking damage for me! That’s just presumptuous, chauvinist, male hero bullshit! If I was a boy, then-”

 

Ochaco scoots a little closer. “I don’t think it matters to Bakugou whether you’re a boy or a girl. It’s more important that you’re Deku-chan.”

 

“… What does that even mean?”

 

Her friend sighs heavily, and mutters something to herself that sounds like, “… gonna owe me mochi for a million years.” Then she straightens up and says, “Just ask him about it when he wakes up, okay?”

 

~~~

 

Kacchan looks smaller when he’s asleep.

 

Awake, he bristles and lunges and fills up entire rooms, crams the whole sky with explosions. Asleep, he’s still and golden and strangely defenceless. Recovery Girl had left the smaller bruises and cuts to heal on their own, saving her healing for the damage deep in his spine. There’s a nick in his nose and a butterfly suture above his left temple, and there were a few rough scrapes on the side of his neck, now covered in a large bandage.

 

He’s wearing a pair of dog tags that he must’ve tucked inside of his uniform, before. The first tag has Aizawa-sensei’s name and emergency contact info. But the second one - it doesn’t look like either his hero name or his civilian name. Rather -

 

Her breath catches in her throat.

 

She lifts up the second tag, and the metal is still warm from his skin.

 

And there it is, her hero name in katakana: Deku.

 

She flips over the dog tag with trembling hands, and reads the text inscribed neatly on the back:

 

Name: Midoriya Izuku

Blood Type: O

Next of Kin: Midoriya Inko

 

She doesn’t understand.

 

“They were your birthday present.”

 

She shrieks and Kacchan winces, clapping a hand over his ears. Then he says, grumpily, “I figured you could switch out the first tag with contact info for whatever agency you were with.”

 

“That’s a good idea.” Her voice is at least two octaves higher than usual.

 

“Course it is,” he says, with a snort. “I’m not an idiot.”

 

And at that, she crosses her arms. “Really? Because there’s a falling building that would probably argue otherwise.”

 

“That doesn’t even begin to make sense, Stupid Deku.”

 

“Why’d you do it?” she presses on. “Why’d you push me out of the way? I’m perfectly capable of handling myself in a combat situation. I’m not some weakest link that you need to prote-”

 

And he gives her a vile, slit-eyed glare. “The fuck you talking about, nerd? We needed your stupid Blackwhip capture thing to subdue Tape Dispenser.  He kept swinging out of my range, and Bird Guy’s too.”

 

Oh, that’s a… surprisingly good point.

 

“Did we win?” he asks, already moving on.

 

“Yes,” she says automatically, and then, “wait, wait, hold on a minute. So you didn’t do it out of some stupid, misguided chivalry?”

 

Hahn?

 

“You didn’t try to save me because you think I’m weak?’

 

“Where the fuck do you get this stuff? I made a tactical decision, dumbass. How about you? What did you do after I went down?”

 

She gnaws at her bottom lip. “I got Tokoyami to fly you back and I continued with the mission.”

 

“Yeah? And what’s your big brain genius explanation for that?”

 

“Because I wanted to win! And I knew you’d be furious if we lost!”

 

And the irony of the whole situation crashes down on her, their usual situations reversed: Kacchan winning by saving, and herself, saving by winning. Even in the midst of her tears and the horrible shock of Kacchan going down, she had thought, I want to win. I want to win for him. I want this to be worth it.

 

He’s staring at her, and for once he doesn’t seem angry. He just seems exhausted, and very lost.

 

“I can never understand what you fucking want,” he says.

 

“I want to be the greatest hero,” she says, and the words are like cut glass in her throat. “I don’t want anything else but that. “

 

“Why not?” he asks, and okay, there’s the usual Kacchan, shooting right past resentment into seething rage. “I want to be a hero, and I want to be with you! How fucking hard is that to admit?”

 

And now it’s out there in the open, awful and searing like her confession in the forest.

 

“Don’t say that,” she says, her voice wavering. “That’s - it’s serious. You can’t just say things like that, things that you can’t take back.”

 

“I’m not taking it back. For one goddamn second in your life, will you just be honest with me!”

 

“I’ve always been honest with you,” she says, because she - has. No one else makes her lose her temper like Kacchan, no one else inspires her with that same desire to want to beat him. The problem, sometimes, is that she’s too honest with him. If she could’ve just lied everyone once in a while - been less of herself - been less vulnerable, less raw, less earnest, less everything - maybe she could’ve emerged from this train wreck in one piece.

 

Meanwhile, he’s always made his animosity towards her perfectly clear.

 

And yet -

 

She doesn’t look at him, because that doesn’t feel - safe. Rather, she looks at the dog tags, her eyes tracing the glint of metal.

 

“Ochaco-chan said something weird. She said that - it didn’t really matter to you, whether I was a boy or a girl. All that mattered is that I’m… me.”

 

He snorts. “Fucking Round Face. Course she gets it.”

 

“Kacchan,” she asks, dreading the answer, “are you in love with me?”

 

Yes,” he says, sounding deeply pissed off. “For fucking forever. Goddammit, you’re slow.”

 

She would like to say that suddenly all the pieces fall into place, that every shitty thing he’s ever done magically ceases to matter, that the mess of their intertwined lives is suddenly filled with clarity and light. 

 

But the truth is that she just feels confused. And somewhat offended. Her heart is a pulpy, beat up mess dead centre in her chest, weighing her down like ten-ton shoes. At the end of the day, Kacchan is still himself, she is still herself, and the things they want are still the same and completely different.

 

“… For the record,” she says, finally, “this is the absolute worst confession I’ve ever received.”

 

“Oh yeah? It sure as hell beats yours. One minute we’re-” and Kacchan goes crimson as cuts himself off, then picks right back up, “-and then you’re fucking gone!”

 

“I freaked out, okay!” she finds herself yelling. “In case you haven’t noticed, we do not have the best history! I thought you were going to - vomit blood, or explode a tree, or punch the mountain-”  

 

“Why the fuck would I do any of those things!?” 

 

“When have you ever accepted my feelings!?”

 

Kacchan’s mouth opens and closes soundlessly, and it would be funny, if it wasn’t so awful and sad.

 

Her breath catches on a sob. “For so long, you hated that I admired you. How was I to know that this would be any different?”

 

He mutters something.

 

“What?”

 

“I didn’t hate it,” he says, and his voice sounds strained, a tendon stretched close to snapping. “I just - I never understood it, that’s all. How I could be so shitty to you and you’d still…”

 

“Look up to you?”

 

“Look at me at all.”

 

And she finds herself saying what he said to her, what feels like a lifetime ago: “I’m always looking at you.”

 

A strange silence pools around them, not just the silence of a late afternoon, but the silence that spreads in the wake of an accident, the ringing quiet after an explosion.

 

“You said you want to be a hero,” Kacchan says, not quite looking at her. “That you don’t have time to waste on anything else. If you’d asked me a few months ago,” and he snorts again, “I would’ve said the exact same shit.”

 

“… And now?”

 

“It’s not wasted time,” he says. “Not for me.”

 

… It feels hard to breathe. There are steel bands seizing around her ribs and her chest, and she wonders if she cracked or bruised something that she needs in order to breathe through the echo of his words, through all of her logical thoughts flying up, scattering in the air.

 

“And,” he adds, stabbing a finger at her direction, “it hasn’t made me any worse at being a hero.”

 

“Well,” she says, searching for the staunch stubbornness that’s kept her going through everything, “good for you. It’s different for me.”

 

“Because you’re overthinking things, nerd.”

 

“No, it’s different because if a male hero is romantically linked someone, that’s fine, that’s - whatever. But if a female hero’s linked with someone, that’s it - it becomes her identity. She becomes defined by it. I’m not just going to be someone’s girlfriend or someone’s wife or someone’s-”

 

“Of course you’re not going to be some shitty side piece!” Kacchan looks so mad, and she wonders if he even knows what he’s mad about. “You’re fucking Deku!”

 

That is, weirdly, the sweetest thing that Kacchan has ever said to her. He reaches out to snag her wrist in his hand, and he says, fiercely, “I’m gonna be a hero, you’re gonna be a hero, and fuck anyone who talks nasty about it.”

 

She hiccups into laughter, and it’s so close to tears that she can’t wind them apart. “It’s that simple, huh?”

 

“Course it is,” he says. There’s no bravado in that statement, no arrogance, just a pure, molten core of absolute truth. To Kacchan, it really is that simple.

 

She’s been fighting all her life, one way or another. Fighting to be taken seriously, to catch up, to be heard, to matter, and all of that takes strength and energy, grit and perseverance, blood and sweat.

 

But surrendering takes effort, too. Surrendering means letting herself be seen in all her naked, awkward yearning, like blood rushing up to the surface of the skin. She wonders, for one surreal moment, if everything she said about wanting to be a hero has just been an excuse. Just another way of protecting herself.

 

And in her mind, she can see the chains slowly slipping away, crumbling into rust. The padlocks opening silently, one by one.

 

“Deku?” Kacchan says. “Fucking say something, will you-”

 

Her body moves before her mind. She finds herself wrapping her arms around Kacchan, mindful of his injuries, and she can feel his chest move against hers as he lets out a startled breath. “Wha-?”

 

“Kacchan,” she says, softly. Her lips brush the shell of his ear, and it’s only because she’s so close that she can sense the slight shiver that runs through his body, at that light contact.  “Will you go out with me?”

 

“Fucking Deku.” His voice is rough, like gravel and river stones and the sun-warmed sides of a mountain, but his hand is very gentle as he reaches up to cradle the back of her head. “Course I will.”

 

~~~

 

They go to dinner together, and Katsuki feels fucking euphoric. If he didn’t know exactly how Recovery Girl’s healing works, he would’ve accused her of slipping something into his IV.

 

Just before they enter the dining hall, Deku shoots a look at their linked hands, and the expression on her face is so bashful that he wants to drag her off to his room, except she threatened to throat punch him a dozen times in a row if he didn’t at least try to eat something.

 

“Are you sure?” she asks, giving their hands a little shake. “Everyone will know.”

 

“That’s the fucking point, Deku.”

 

Her brow furrows. “But what does that-”

 

“Doesn’t mean anything. Let’s eat, I’m starving.” 

 

Deku’s brow remains furrowed. She isn’t dense, not really - she just has these huge emotional blind spots when it come to herself, probably a lot of which, he thinks, guiltily, are his fault. But he knows that if it ever came down to a Battle Royale, more than half the people that he knows would happily try to murder him for the chance to hold Deku’s hand.

 

They get to his usual table and she makes him sit, shoving him down by the shoulders. “You stay here,” she orders, “and I’ll get food for the both of us.”

 

He opens his mouth to argue but gets distracted by watching her hips in her green uniform skirt as she bounces away with a cheerful, determined air.

 

When he looks back at his table, the vultures have descended.

 

“So,” Uraraka says, her arms crossed, a terrifying smile lighting up her features, “I see that you’ve finally corrupted my lovely bride.”

 

“Fuck that noise, Deku isn’t yo-”

 

“I’m so proud of you, bro!” Kirishima sobs, grabbing Katsuki in a hug, which he manages to wriggle out of by blasting Kirishima in the face. Because he’s an idiot, Kirishima doesn’t at all look deterred by this, which basically sums up their entire friendship. “Did you confess your feelings to her? Was it everything that you dreamed?”

 

He’s saved from answering this horrifying question by Ashido complaining, “Come on, why did you have to be such a big damn hero? Couldn’t you have just let Deku get squashed? She’s a tank - she can handle it!”

 

“His tender heart would’ve cracked clean in half,” Tape Dispenser says, his hand outstretched to Ashido. “Pay up!”

 

Ashido grumbles and takes out a cheetah print Hello Kitty wallet, then slaps a wad of bills into Tape Dispenser’s hand.

 

“What’s the deal with that fucking money!?” Katsuki asks, trying to climb over the table to get at it, but Tape Dispenser protects his ill-gotten gains by wrapping them in a mini sarcophagus of tape.

 

“I’ll have you know that I earned this money by being a prophet,” Tape Dispenser says, sounding offended. “I guessed ‘Bakugou injures himself in an attempt to save Deku and feelings happen’.”

 

“I was close,” Ashido grumbles, “but I had it the other way around.”

 

“I thought Todoroki was going to confess before Bakugou,” Pikachu pipes up. “If Deku was injured, I bet he would’ve dropped everything, and carried Deku out of the training city in his arms, just like in a movie-”

 

“I had ‘Ochaco kneecaps Bakugou in the middle of confession,’” Stupid Grimace says, deadpan.

 

“Don’t rule it out just yet,” Uraraka says, cracking her knuckles.

 

“Hey guys,” Deku chirps, her tray filled with katsudon and a steaming bowl of tantanmen. She places it in front of Katsuki and it’s so spicy that he can feel his eyes watering already. Fuck, he loves her. “What are you talking about?”

 

“How any other human on the planet would be better for you than Bakugou,” Uraraka says, because she’s a fucking monster.

 

“Agreed,” everyone else says.

 

“Guys!” Deku says, hands on her hips. “That’s really mean! I know you all know that Kacchan can be really kind and-”

 

She gives a little squeak when he grabs the front of her shirt and pulls her in for a kiss. He kisses her with intent, slow and meaningful, and she looks a little dazed when he lets go. He makes eye contact with every single fucker at the table, and asks, “Anybody got a problem with that?”

 

Pikachu starts to raise his hand, but Tape Dispenser slaps it down.

 

“Bakugou Katsuki,” Deku says, suddenly crisp, and he barely has time to let out a, “Hahn?” before Deku drags him out of the dining hall by his collar.

 

“Well, it was nice knowing Bakugou,” he hears Ashido say.

 

Uraraka says, “No, it wasn’t.”

 

And Deku doesn’t say anything until they’re outside of the dorms.

 

“What?” he snaps, suddenly unsure of himself. “You gonna take back everything again, or-”

 

She shoves him and his back meets rough, unyielding brick. Her eyes are blazing and that’s the only warning he gets before she presses her whole body against his and shoves her tongue into his mouth. When she draws away, what feels like five or six hours later, her eyes are still heavily lidded, her mouth kissing close.

 

“Kacchan,” she says. Her voice is low and clear, her eyes thrillingly hard. “Kiss me because you want to kiss me, not because you’re trying to prove a point to someone else.”

 

“What do you call this, then?” he says, and even he can hear how breathless he sounds. Fuck, he’ll find the energy to be embarrassed about it later, when he’s done being painfully hard at Deku bossing him around.

 

 “A way to show you that I’m not taking back anything,” she says, before reaching up to kiss him again.

 

And it feels like an impossible victory.

 

~~~

 

School lets out for summer vacation. He luxuriates in the lack of classes, lets his back heal up, and eats a mountain of his dad’s glass noodle salad with green papayas and hot chiles. He fends off his mom’s annoying questions about Deku, and Deku texts him a selfie of her and a surprised-looking Auntie Inko, with Deku grinning at the camera and flashing a victory sign. He sends it to his mom so she’ll get off his back, and saves the picture on his phone.

 

On the last day of July, a week after the last day of classes, the doorbell rings and he tries to amble towards the door instead of ripping it open.

 

“Hi Kacchan!” Deku chirps.

 

Deku is wearing a dress. It’s white and sleeveless and ruffly and it bares her shoulders, so he can see the freckles coaxed out by the summer sun, the strength of her arms, the dog tags gleaming around her throat. There’s little yellow barrettes clipping her hair back, and she’s so fucking cute that he feels like dying inside.

 

“Kacchan?” Deku asks, still in the doorway, peering up at him. “Are you doing okay? Is your back hurting you?”

 

“I’m fine,” he wheezes. “Just - get in here.”

 

She slips off her sandals and then asks, looking hopeful, “Can I give you a hug?”

 

 “Don’t have to ask, dumbass,” he mutters, but he’s already slinging his arms around her, pulling her close. She always smells so good, that tart green apple smell mixing with the scents of sunshine and new cut grass, and she sinks against him with a little sigh, her cheek resting on his shoulder.

 

“It’s weird not seeing you everyday,” she says, muffled, into his shoulder.

 

“Come over whenever you want,” he mumbles into her hair. There’s no one around to make fun of him for being a weakass bitchbaby, so he lets himself have this, and her arms squeeze around him just a little tighter.

 

Predictably, she goes into fangirl mode the moment she enters his room. “Oh my god!” she shrieks, zooming over to a small framed card that hangs next to his computer. “The limited edition All Might holofoil with the official HCPS errata! How did you get this!?”

 

 Bakugou scratches the back of his head and says, “… My old man won it in an Ebay war with some nerd from Australia. Got it for me for my last birthday.” 

 

“Uncle Masarau is the best!” Deku exclaims, starry-eyed. “Oh my god, is that a Silver Age All Might and Sir Nighteye Invicta Watch? I just saw a video about it last week, I-”

 

He doesn’t quite know how Deku gushing over his All Might collectibles becomes Deku straddling him on his bed while he pushes down her white sundress until it pools around her waist, but he’s not exactly complaining.

 

“This is different,” he rasps, sliding a finger under the strap of her bra. Instead of her usual plain black sports bras, it’s mint green and silky and has a tiny little bow right in the centre, and it makes him wants to kiss that perfect spot where the metal of her dog tags nestles against her skin.

 

She squirms a little. “Is it weird? Ochaco-chan said-”

 

“Deku,” he says, “don’t fucking talk about Round Face right now. You know saying her name three times summons her.”

 

Deku has the audacity to giggle into his mouth as she rolls her hips into his, and it’s so different from all the hurried, stolen moments that they’ve shared before. Not that they hadn’t been hot, his hand clamped over her mouth to stifle all her incredible noises, but there’s an entire day stretched out in front of them, a whole summer unfolding, golden, where he can take his time tasting her skin.

 

“Kacchan,” she mumbles against his mouth, wriggling  in his lap a little, and he says, distracted, “Yeah?” 

 

She tugs his shirt off, and her tongue darts out to touch her bottom lip, as she rests her hands on his bare chest. “Like what you see?” he asks, but then the swagger gets knocked out of him when she unzips his shorts.

 

“Always,” she says, almost prim, then bounces up from the bed.

 

“Deku-”

 

She rummages around his bedside table. “Do you still have the lube and condoms?”

 

He lunges over to his closet, trying to dig through his hiking gear to see where he put the stuff from her birthday, and when he finally turns back to her, triumphant, the bottle and condoms in his hands, Deku’s underwear slips to the floor to join her dress in a pale, ruffly pile. She’s completely naked, comfortable and casual in his bedroom, every one of her scars on display, and for one moment, he’s so blindsided by wanting her that he’s struck dumb, as if he’s blinking away sunspots dancing in his eyes.  

 

“Hi,” she says, giving him a little wave.

 

Well, fuck.

 

He staggers out of his shorts and boxers, and it takes him three tries to get the rubber on, all while Deku props up some pillow on the bed, makes herself comfortable, and starts stroking her own breasts. What an asshole.

 

He falls on top of her and tugs her hands away so he can lick at her breasts, graceless, sloppy, tonguing at the dark freckles, the rose-brown nipples. She’s laughing and sighing and saying his name, squirming under his tongue, and then she -

 

Flips him over.

 

He doesn’t even quite know it happens - one minute, his face is buried in her chest, and the next moment he’s pinned down by his wrists with a naked Deku perched on top of him, her dog tags swinging in the air between them.

 

“This feels familiar,” she whispers with a little laugh, and then she reaches down and nudges his cock into her, and all the air gets punched out of him.

 

As much as he likes doing stuff to her, and he likes that a whole fucking lot, there’s something to be said for Deku holding him down and just taking what she wants from him - fucking herself on his cock, moaning the whole time, clearly enjoying herself, enjoying him.

 

“Come on,” she coos, and there’s a fierce grin lighting up her face as she rides him harder, her hands gripping tighter around his wrists, and it is fucking criminal, how good it feels, her whole body squeezing around his dick, pleasure sparking and blooming behind his eyelids, shaking through every vein in his body. “Come on, Kacchan, don’t you want to come for me?”

 

“Fucking - Deku,” he pants. “Let me-” and he tries to jerk up, tries to fuck up into her, but she just laughs, throwing back her head, and it reveals the pale slash of a scar on the underside of her chin, and he reaches up so he can tongue at it. “Fuck, that’s hot,” he mumbles into her skin.

 

“What?”

 

“Your scars.”

 

“You can be really nice when you want to be, Kacchan,” she says, pulling herself up, almost pulling off of his cock. “You just never want to be.”

 

He opens his mouth to argue, but then she sinks down again, luxurious, and he knocks his head back into the pillow with a curse, gnashing his teeth, because she’s going to drive him fucking insane. He can feel sweat dripping down his temples, his chest, and there’s sweat pooling between her breasts, the hollow of her throat, making her skin gleam.

 

“You like this, being held down by me,” she says, impish. His cock jumps inside of her, the goddamn traitor, which just makes her laugh again, the sound ringing with pure delight. “What else would you like, Kacchan?”

 

“You could tie me up sometime,” he manages to choke out. “Slap me around a little.”

 

Because it’s no secret he gets off on the way she beats up bastards who are five times her size. That was part of what made everything really fucking hot, knowing that she could pretty much annihilate him at any point.

 

Her eyes go deep, swallowed by up the darkness of her pupils, and she drifts closer until her breasts press hot and flushed against his bare chest. “You know, Kacchan,” she says, “I thought about this a lot.”

 

“This?”

 

“This,” she says, squeezing him again, and he whines, feeling like a goddamn puppy. “After the sparring match - you know the one.”

 

“I don’t,” he lies, as if he hadn’t jerked off to that for weeks afterwards.

 

“Kacchan’s a bad liar,” she breathes, and she slides off his dick, as if punishing him for the fib. He almost whines again, but she lets go of his wrists too, and scoots up until her thighs are around his face, and - fuck. He grabs her hips, and thrusts his tongue into that wet, waiting warmth. Her laughter turns to gasps, to moans, to his name chanted over and over as she sinks into his mouth, her hands grasping the headboard. “Ka-Kacchan,” she says, unsteady, “I want - I want-”

 

“Yeah,” he says, “fuck yeah-“  He sneaks a couple of fingers inside of her, and she lets out this sweet, keening sound as she comes that makes him grateful for his entire life.

~~~

 

Afterwards, she lies next to him, naked and gleaming and gorgeous, ruining any chance of him ever sleeping in this bed again without getting an instant hard on. He buries his face in her hair and mumbles something and he feels her go very still.

 

“Do you really mean that?” she asks, and there’s nothing joking in her voice anymore.

 

“Yeah,” he says. “I do,” and the moment stretches out, infinite. 

 

“… Me too,” she whispers, finally. And even though she’s said it once before, back in the forest, on her birthday, it makes him feel raw all over again, to hear it and know it and feel the words curl up under his skin, glowing like embers. “Me too, Kacchan.”

 

~~~

 

 “I’ve gotta go,” she mumbles into his mouth as they kiss in the doorway. They’d spent most of the afternoon rolling around naked, except for one interval where Deku had thrown on one of his skull t-shirts and suggested it would be a Good Idea for them play Smash Bros because, “We haven’t played forever!”

 

She’d been fucking distracting, all bare legs and the way her tits bounced when she jumped up in excitement, especially when she screamed, “Yeah!! Come here, you tasty bitch!” as a Pokeball dropped from the sky. After her Link crushed his Wario for the third time in the row, he’d tackled her to the floor and ended up with his face buried between her thighs again, so over all, yeah, it’s been a pretty fucking excellent day.

 

“Just tell Auntie Inko you’ll be home late,” he murmurs, his hands tightening on the curve of her hips. She turns her head away so he licks at the side of her neck instead and she makes one of those sweet noises that he wants to store in a bottle and keep on a bookshelf, to look at until the end of his life.

 

“You know how much she worries, with all the stuff that’s been going on, and-”

 

“Then tell her you’re with me.”

 

Deku laughs a little. She has her arms looped loosely around his neck, and she reaches up to tug at his hair. “Somehow, I don’t think she’d find that comforting.”

 

“I can be comforting,” he says, bending down to kiss her again, when-

 

HA! I KNEW IT!”

 

“THE FUCK!?” 

 

Mom appears in the hallway, her arms full of groceries, and she jabs a triumphant finger towards them. “I knew you were dating Izuku-chan!” his mom crows. “You’ve been so much less shitty than usual!”

 

“What the fuck does that mean?” Katsuki yells, as Deku shoves him away.

 

“Dear,” his dad pipes up, “look, you’re embarrassing them.”

 

“Hi Auntie Mitsuki, Uncle Masaru,” Deku says, covering her face with her hands. “I’m, um, just on my way home to have dinner with my mom-”

 

“Nonsense,” his mom booms. “Stay for dinner! I’ll call Inko and tell her to come over right away. We’ll make yakiniku to celebrate! Darling,” she says, turning to her husband, “you and Izuku-chan can go to the grocery store to get some more meat. The brat can help me make side dishes.”

 

“Make them yourself, hag!”

 

“Oi, why are you being such a shitty brat!” his mom roars back. “How are you going to be a good boyfriend for Izuku-chan if you won’t even help your beloved mother!?”

 

“Shut your mouth, I’m going to be the fucking best boyfriend-“

 

Deku tugs on the hem of his shirt. Her face is tomato red as she says, “I can just - go, Kacchan. It’s okay, really.”

 

Don’t go. “You should stay,” he says, resigning himself to this dumpster fire. “This hag’s gonna spill the beans to your mom in two hot seconds, anyway. It’s probably better if she just comes over.” Might as well get all the embarrassment over with in one absolute shitshow rather than two.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yeah,” he says, his fingers tangling with hers. “It’s - whatever, Deku. It’s fine.”

 

“Holy shit,” his mother whispers, and he looks up to see that she’s recording the whole thing on her phone.

 

Katsuki feels his palms sparking as Deku literally flings his dad over her shoulder and runs for the door.

 

~~~

 

The hag gives him a mountain of vegetables to chop, and he hates being grateful to her for anything, but wielding a cleaver to shred napa cabbage into thin, even slices does help him vent some of his rage. Unfortunately, his mother doesn’t let prepping food stop her from giving him some version of the Talk. 

 

“I don’t care if you’re my blood or not,” his mom says, pointing a giant chef’s knife straight as his face, “if you try anything that that girl is not ready for, I will fucking murder you.”

 

He mutters something as he moves onto the daikon and his mother gets in his face and goes, “Hahn? That didn’t sound like a Yes, ma’am!”

 

“I said, if I do anything shitty like that to Deku, you can fucking rip me from limb to limb!”

 

His mother looks surprised, for a moment. She puts down her knife and places a hand on his shoulder, which just makes him twitch.

 

“You’re a good kid, Katsuki,” she says. And then, because she’s totally batshit, “If you need tips on oral sex, ask your dad.”

 

“YOU ARE THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING WORST-“

 

His mother’s life is spared only because he can hear the front door opening, Deku laughing as his dad says, “-and then he said- what do you think he said?”

 

“I don’t know, tell me, tell me!”

 

There’s my lion!” And then they’re both cracking up like loons.

 

Katsuki glares at Deku, who easily hefts what looks like two steers’ worth of meat onto the kitchen table. “You sure took your time.”

 

“We were catching up,” Izuku says, beaming at him. His dad ducks his head down, looking shy and pleased, and if Katsuki ever finds out that he himself looks at Deku that way, he’ll chop off one of his own legs.  

 

Auntie Inko comes over with a cloth bag full of her ancient blue ice shaver, clanking cans of condensed milk, and about a hundred bottles of different brightly-coloured syrups. His mom gets Auntie Inko in a bear hug, and they cry as if it’s been fifty years since they’ve seen each other.

 

“Inko-chan!” his mom roars, and next to him, he can feel Deku brace herself. “You’ll never guess - our crazy kids are going out!”

 

Auntie Inko freezes.

 

She turns very slowly to Deku and asks, in her gentle way, “Is that true? Izuku?”

 

Deku squares her shoulders, and slips one of her hands into his. “Yes,” she says. “It’s still very new, and I wasn’t sure how to tell you yet, but - yes, Kacchan and I are dating.”

 

“Ah,” Auntie Inko says. “I’m happy for you. For both of you,” she adds, including Katsuki as well.

 

“What about you, Mom?” Deku’s hand tightens on his, and there’s a light blush riding the tops of her cheeks. “Is there anything that you want to tell me about you and All Might?”

 

What?” And then Auntie Inko blushes like she’s the one who’s in high school. “Izuku, what - what an impertinent question!”

 

“Iiiinkooooo,” his mother cackles, scenting blood in the water. “Come here, you little minx-” And then she gets Auntie Inko in a headlock and drags her out to the backyard, where his dad has already started grilling.

 

They eat out in the backyard, at the wooden table that his dad drags out in the summertime. Even though there’s only five of them, it’s still noisy and a chaotic, but the food is good and Deku looks happy, squished between her mom and Katsuki. Deku tells highly, highly edited versions of what they’re up to at school, which neatly avoids anything naked.

 

“… And Aizawa-sensei was there the whole time to supervise,” Deku reassures her mom. “So, it wasn’t really that dangerous! At all!”

 

Katsuki loses at rock-paper-scissors with Deku, so he furiously shaves ice for everyone for dessert. He pours blue raspberry syrup and condensed syrup over his small, fluffy mountain of shaved ice, and that first mouthful conjures all the summers of his childhood: sunburn after the beach, running with sparklers in his hands, catching fireflies at dusk, and Deku, of course, always Deku.

 

Afterwards, he and Deku carry everything back inside, and his dad steals Deku to help him fix their ancient karaoke machine. His mother “supervises” by yelling useless instructions in the background.

 

So Katsuki’s on dish duty with Auntie Inko and even though his mother is objectively the worst, it’s Auntie Inko’s whose been making him twitchy all throughout dinner, with that gentle, thoughtful expression on her face whenever she glanced over at at him.

 

“Katsuki-kun,” she says, and he nearly drops a soapy dish.

 

“Yeah? I mean, yes?”

 

Auntie Inko takes her time drying a white platter before she finally looks up at him.

 

“I know that Izuku’s always admired you,” she says, and her voice is quiet and measured. “She’s adored you since you were both so young. I don’t wish to offend you, but Katsuki-kun - I have no idea how you feel about her.”

 

And it makes his chest hurt, like that one time that Kirishima slugged him straight in the solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him. 

 

“You don’t have to tell me,” Auntie Inko says, putting one hand up. “Maybe you don’t know yet, or you don’t have the words. But just know, Katsuki-kun… I’ll be watching. I think you know already that Izuku is a very kind person who will give a lot of chances to people who have hurt her before, because she wants to believe that everyone can be saved.”

 

Auntie Inko’s eyes bore straight into his soul as she says, “I am not that kind.”

 

And then she goes back to drying dishes, as if everything’s fucking normal. She puts away three glasses before he finally finds his voice.

 

“Deku is better than me,” he blurts out.

 

Auntie Inko turns to him, eyebrows raised.

 

“She is,” he says, raggedly. “She’s better, and kinder, and stronger, and I - she forces me to be better. A better hero, a better… person. She should probably be with someone else, someone - good, like her,” and he swallows, thinking of Todoroki or Uraraka, or anyone else really. “But I’m trying. I’ll keep trying. I won’t give up, trying to be better for her.”

 

Auntie Inko has that same trick as Deku, of destroying people with the clear, earnest light in her green eyes.

 

And she says, “That’s a very good goal, Katsuki-kun. Thank you.”

 

~~~

 

When they get back to the living room, his mom is cackling, waving around an old camcorder.  “Look what I found!” She hooks it up and there on the widescreen is a video of -

 

“OH HELL NO!” he roars, trying to rip the camcorder from the wall, but Mom catches him in a headlock so he is forced to watch the ancient, grainy footage of Katsuki and Deku, around four years old, happily colouring with crayons at a coffee table in the Midoriya apartment.

 

“Hey Katsuki,” his mom’s voice croons, off camera. “Say what you said again.”

 

“No,” he says, stubborn, scowling at his drawing, and adding a giant orange scrawl to what is clearly a boss-ass Charmander.

 

“Katsuki-kun,” Auntie Inko’s voice chimes in, “who’s going to be your bride one day?”

 

“Deku!” four-year-old him shouts, and Katsuki wishes he could go back in time and throttle his younger self.

 

“No, I’m not,” four-year-old Deku says. “I’m going to be a hero.” Her hair’s in pigtails and she’s absorbed in carefully shading in All Might’s blue and red cape. She doesn’t look up as she adds, “But Kacchan can be my bride, if he wants.”

 

The camera zooms in on his tiny, angry face going completely red, his mouth clearly opening for a monster temper tantrum to emerge, and it cuts off on his mom shrieking like a banshee with laughter. Present day Deku seems to be choking on her own spit, sunk so far down into the couch that she’s almost disappeared.

 

“DESTROY THIS!” he yells at his mom, lunging for the camcorder again.

 

Mom shouts, “NO! This is going to pay for my retirement home in Bali, after you break into the Top 10 and I can sell shit of your early life to creepy fans!”

 

His dad, well used to sorting out the epic shitshow that is the Bakugou household, suggests a compromise of locking the camcorder and offending video into a vault that only he knows the code to.

 

Auntie Inko has been quietly working away at fixing the karaoke machine while this has all been going down, and she sits up with a broad smile as she says, “It’s working now!” So Mom lets him and Deku off the hook from the sheer fucking embarrassment of her company, with a promise that all their clothes will stay on. He flips her the bird.

 

They go outside to the backyard, where the sunset has faded and the sky is deep blue, the first stars just coming out. He starts up a bonfire, and they drag a couple of plastic lawn chairs close together, watching the sparks shoot into the sky. It gets cold, so he brings Deku one of his black hoodies and she looks fucking adorable curled up in it, the hem of her white sundress peeking out, her legs curled up beneath her, one of her hand snagged in his. Her hand is familiar and calloused, strong and kind and capable. A hero’s hand.

 

“Sorry for the hag,” he mutters. “She’s fucking unbearable.”

 

“No, it’s nice! She’s really energetic…”

 

“She lives to embarrass me.” And then he adds, “What did you and my old man talk about? When you went to the store?’

 

A grin flares to life on Deku’s face, like a match lit in the darkness. “He was telling me stories from just before he and your mom were first going out, and how confusing she was. He couldn’t understand why she kept cornering him and yelling insults close to his face while wearing shirts with really low necklines.”

 

“What a moron.”

 

“Which one?”

 

“Both of them!”

 

Deku laughs again. “But he said that once he understood that it was her way of showing love, suddenly a lot of things made more sense.”

 

“What a dumbass,” Katsuki scoffs. “Why couldn’t she just act like a normal person?”

 

Deku’s eyes twinkle a little. “Wouldn’t that be bit boring, though?”

 

“Would’ve saved them a world of troub-”

 

“Izuku!” Auntie Inko calls out, from inside the house. “We’re heading home now!”

 

Deku stands up with a sigh. They trail inside the house and when she reaches down to take off the hoodie, he says, gruffly, “Whatever. Just keep it for now.”

 

She’s smiling up at him again, that little smile like she knows something he doesn’t, but instead of making him blow up, like it would’ve before, it just makes him eager to coax the secret out of her the next time he can get her alone. “Okay, Kacchan.”

 

His mother glances over at them, and smirks. “You gonna retire your dream of being a pro hero, Katsuki? Become Izuku-chan’s trophy husband instead?”

 

Before he can singe the smirk off his mother’s face, Deku just laughs, swinging their linked hands.

 

“No,” she says, her voice brimming with joy. She looks right at Katsuki, and her smile is bright and deep, blinding as a supernova. “We’re going to be heroes, together.” 

 

~~~