On the night of Izuku’s 22nd birthday, Katsuki makes a wish.
Deku is more than vaguely drunk, stumbling through little groups of their friends with an empty cup, talking non-stop in a happy stream of consciousness babble. He’s describing what he loves about every single one of them in excruciating detail. Icyhot is shaking his hand and vaguely smiling throughout, Shitty Hair is laughing his ass off, Round Face is just as drunk and egging him on.
On the balcony, it really just feels like he’s in a bubble, safe from any of that kind of attention, until Deku’s eyes lock on him.
Fast as lightning, he’s saving Deku from stumbling over the edge of the railing in his haste to get to Katsuki faster-than-possible, like the wasted moron he is. Arms full of flailing hero partner, Katsuki is spitting, “Hold on two seconds, for fuck’s sake ,” and wrangling Deku upright at the same time.
Their noses bump together, and he’s jerking backward, but only an inch.
“Do you know… how important you are, Kacchan?”
“Tch, no,” he huffs, reflexively. “Tell me all about it.”
Upset by this weird turn of events, Deku’s dreamy smile turns into a petulant frown. “No. Wanna tell you… when I’m sober. Yeah.”
“Feeling pretty fucking excluded, Deku.”
“No, no,” sighs the too-warm bundle of muscle that is wasted-Deku, wrapping his arms around not-wasted Katsuki, who doesn’t stop him and will blame the very small amount of alcohol anyway. “I’ll tell you in the morning.”
Somewhere down the hall, Katsuki hears an echoing sound he hasn’t heard since he was small. It’s magnified and pushed to the limits of how far it will go by the sheer emptiness of the hospital, in the hushed silence of the ward reserved for high profile heroes.
It’s the sound of a scream, over and over and over.
He stops breathing to hear it better even while he starts running towards it, the steady beat of his heart getting louder and louder. The echo makes it harder to locate Deku exactly, and when he calls out, there isn’t an answering “Kacchan!”. The crying just gets louder, with the urgent silencing of other voices floating down towards him from the larger room --- down the hall, towards the windowless containment room he and Deku had passed through on their way in.
“Deku!” he shouts again, kicking the double doors in, realizing that he’s shoeless when it hurts some.
Inside, there’s a circle of people all wearing scrubs huddling around a coffee table, all staring at the same spot on a shitty couch meant for visitors. In the circle, curled into a very tight little ball, is Izuku Midoriya.
He’s all wild strange eyes, his breathing wet and stifled. He sees Katsuki and uncurls, just a little, like a fern in dark places.
Izuku’s mouth works, making the shapes of “Kac-chan” completely silently before he’s scrambling, falling off the visitor couch and clawing his way there, to stand in awe up at Katsuki from afar.
It is Deku , he thinks, and he’s not wrong. It’s just Deku as a seven year old kid, covered in snot and tears.
“You’re Kacchan,” the little Izuku breathes. “The Kacchan from the future?”
“ What the fuck .”
“ You really are! ” tiny Deku shrieks, radioactive with joy. “Kacchan is so big! He’s huge! Like All Might!” He holds both little hands to his chest, pushing his heart back in the way he used to do when Katsuki was the same height and he got too excited or scared to say more, because their teacher was frightened of his monologues. It makes Katsuki automatically hold out his hand for Deku to grab onto, so that he could squeeze each finger and talk instead of holding his breath.
The relief is immediate on little Deku’s face, and he launches into a lengthy description to the floor of how tall he thinks Katsuki is, how old he might be, how far in the future they are, wonders if Katsuki remembers him ok, wonders where his mom is.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, one of the loser-tier nurses who had made Deku cry got the courage up to approach them, wringing his hands and trying not to look down. The rest of them seem to scatter to the four winds, clearly having nothing to do with any of this aside from gawking at Deku.
“Ground Zero, sir... would you like to go back to your room?”
“It’s just that, this is the waiting room and you’re...”
“So you just dragged Deku out here to show off to the rest of the staff? That it?” Katsuki growls, knowing full well he’s wearing a goddamn nightgown. “Thought it was cute, and you’d take a bunch of pics for the news?”
“...N-no, of course not,” the man stammers, looking quickly at little Deku, who has stopped chattering and curled around the majority of Katsuki’s leg, almost hidden. The pause paints this guy as guilty, and Katsuki feels the fury boiling over, by-passing years of PR pleas and many bad social media tags.
“ Fuck you,” he says, jabbing his finger into the collar of the man’s tunic. It starts smoldering on contact, the fabric half-melting. “He’s like seven or some shit right now, he’s not a Pro Hero. I can fucking arrest you for selling kid pics, you know that?”
The blood drops from the guy’s face and he holds up his hands. “That’s... that’s not...”
“Excuse me,” a sharp voice from down the hall interrupts, snapping Katsuki’s attention from flaming this guy alive. “How about we get Ground Zero and Deku cleared?”
Creati, in all her off-duty glory with suit and tie, picks up Deku huddling behind him in one swoop, making little Deku yelp and Katsuki echo it. She then pushes them all toward the hero ward, leaving the man whom Katsuki was about to frisk for child-pics alone to shit his pants.
“And that’s it,” Momo concludes, closing her tablet, soft hands folding it up to wallet sized before it disappears entirely.
“Yes.” she agrees delicately, enunciating, underscoring the importance of this moment. “Shit.”
After getting some respectable clothes on Katsuki is still furious, but ready to hear Momo’s explanation of events: it will at least be facts based and low in bullshit. Deku has completely forgotten all of his manners after Katsuki’s outburst at the hospital staff. Together they’d climbed back onto Katsuki’s hospital bed, with Deku slotted firmly against his hip, snuggling into the heat of his arm. The fact that he can’t look Katsuki in the eye, but is still ballsy enough to do something like this, tells him that the hero worship is pretty fucking strong in this one.
The flutter of pride disappears swiftly enough, though.
“I’m sorry,” a tiny voice says. “I know I’m not supposed to be here.”
“Oh Izuku-kun, no,” Momo begins, setting forward in her chair as though to comfort him, but stopping when she realizes that little Deku is still huddling under Katsuki’s arm. “We’re very pleased to have you here!”
“But the other me is... the other me is a hero, right?”
There’s a two second uncomfortable silence between Katsuki realizing that he’d been, maybe, a little wrong about why Deku’s eyes were so avoidant and getting fed up with it. “WHAT ‘other you’?” he lifts his arm, uncovering the little boy sinking into the fabric of his shirt now. “That’s FUTURE you, Deku.”
There’s a lot of inaudible mumbling into his shirt, and very small hands making kana into the small of his back, where Deku has begun to migrate. Momo is frozen, looking at Katsuki for guidance, as though he’s going to explain this any better now at 22 than he could at 7.
“... it’s a Quirk thing, right?” he says instead. “It can’t last more than a week, and we caught... well, you caught the guy, princess. Worst case scenario is we beat his ass to get Deku back to normal.”
“That is not a legal scenario, Katsuki.”
“It’s still a scenario that could happen.”
“ Please .” she sighs. “I will arrange the paperwork for yourself and Izuku-kun... well, Deku, to take a week off. You’re correct in assuming the median timeline, although of course we’ll be running tests in the meantime.”
“Why do I need a week off?”
She gives him her best dead-stare, clearly borrowing from Half and Half, but the fire underneath is playful and knowing rather than resolutely stupid.
Deku doesn’t know how to really talk to him anymore.
Somewhere along the way, Katsuki realizes that he’s gotten a little spoiled. He’s used to an Izuku who will tell him all the gross and unnecessary things he saw out in the field over dinner. He’s also used to an Izuku who even, in extreme situations, will tell him to fuck off (in a nice way) and get his act together because they’re supposed to be saving people here , not scaring the shit out of them all over again.
This Izuku sits across from him at the ramen shop on their street, separating each ingredient out carefully with baby chopsticks, and doesn’t look him in the eye. Predictably, he eats the egg first, then the meat, and only tiny bits of vegetable. Katsuki has no idea what to tell him.
On the way home, they’d passed the statue dedicated to All Might the city had put up two years ago, on the first anniversary.
Lost in a memory, Katsuki hadn’t been quick enough to stop little Deku from reading the inscription, a dedication to the man who had protected all of them for so long. With the two little dates in the past for Katsuki, and one date in the future for this Izuku.
The screaming had been non-stop until Katsuki had picked him up, covering Deku’s ears with both his hands, covering his eyes by pressing his face into his t-shirt. Only then, when Deku couldn’t hear himself and was lost completely in the dark, could he stop screaming.
It feels like hours later that they’re here, and he’s just grateful that they can eat instead of talk.
“All Might holds up the whole world,” Deku says into his bowl, clenching his tiny fists, leaving indents in the soft skin that Katsuki can’t see.
“You don’t need to tell me,” he says. “I know.”
When they get back to Izuku’s apartment, the one that sits right above Katsuki’s and is always open whenever they’re both home from hero work, it’s like entering a museum of someone famous. At least for little Deku, who toes off his borrowed sandals at the door and unconsciously bows at the entrance, where a picture of All Might, his mother, Katsuki’s mother and father, and the two of them in their graduation clothes sits in a little alcove.
With the lights on, it’s clear that the place was abandoned mid-week. There’s Deku’s rumpled up old blanket on the couch with a stale bowl of popcorn and his hand weights, the tv still running on mute with the subtitles on. One of the latest notebooks, with crinkled and slightly wavy-wet pages, lies open to the day Deku last had off.
Katsuki smiles a little, recognizing Shitty Hair’s still shitty hair in the drawing. He’d been watching the news when Kirishima had hit regional headlines taking down a high profile villain at a shopping mall, and was over-analyzing the fight to the bolts.
“These are yours,” he tells little Deku, who is staring open mouthed at his own work. “... cool huh?”
“He’s so good,” little Deku says quietly. “... I like his drawings.”
“They’re yours ,” Katsuki reminds him. Deku carefully gathers up the notebook, smoothing down the wavy parts and hugging it to his chest. Without ceremony he takes the blanket too, wrapping it over and around his head like a cowl, disappearing almost completely except for the hands and socked feet.
There’s very little in the way of decent food at Deku’s house at the best of times, and he’s not going to let them both starve, even if sulking is more on the menu than anything else. He tried asking, but after Deku looked at his own more recent drawings, all of the curiosity and attention was absorbed into the pages, hunger and Katsuki momentarily forgotten.
Whatever. This isn’t new. This is all old to him.
As he’s chopping green onions for the curry that he’s making out of nearly-nothing, he watches the tiny expressions crawling across Deku’s face. The shapes of words, written or just imagined, move over his lips. Katsuki knows that this is the beginning of Deku making himself understand why this is happening, even if he’d rather avoid it with all of his very little power.
Little Deku is in the middle of adding his own drawing to the many when Katsuki returns to him, kneeling next to the coffee table with curry, rice, and suspicious peppers from the fridge. He looks so much more relaxed in this moment, deep in concentration on making something into reality, that Katsuki knows he doesn’t realize he is here, or that dinner is made, or that Katsuki made him dinner.
“Show me,” he commands, automatically.
“ No! ” Deku shouts, just as instant, even though he looks shocked that he actually said it. His squishy hands clutch the notebook and pencil to his chest, body and blanket snailing up against the sound of his voice.
“ Come on ,” Katsuki drawls, sing-song, “You can’t not show me. Do you even know how important I am?”
With an exhale that’s so shaky, so audible in the quiet room, the little boy drowning in Katsuki’s stolen quilt holds out the drawing for him to see. It’s not in color the way he remembers so many of Deku’s better early drawings to be, so he follows the lines, drawing back to gain distance from the shapes.
They’re a child’s best attempt at real hands. Fingers bent in strange ways, bones too numerous, but the feeling of strength they’re meant to represent is obvious.
He splays his fingers apart, touches his fingertip to the one in the drawing.
“Nice,” he says, knowing in his bones that they are his hands.
The eyes deep within the depths of the quilt are watching him. Silence so great it reaches out, freezing his hand over the mirror hand on the page. He feels an uncertain temptation that he hasn’t felt in years. A destructive power that would seal his possession of this image forever, the only person to see it, knowing who it was made for. What it means to Izuku.
“It’s ok Kacchan,” says the little creature hiding in his blanket. “You can blow it up if you want to.”
Reality freezes over, pressing all of his attention down into the page. Katsuki looks up to see Deku, but only sees the reflection of green light under the hood. His heart pushes up into his throat, pushing sweat and indecision downward into his palm -- it’s instinct, to both fight and comply, to prove Deku wrong, to prove that he can do whatever he likes without permission.
His hand lifts off the page, bringing pencil and smudges with it, tiny sparks as he curls his fingers together.
Saying it makes him believe. Saying it pulls him into the present, reminds him of the steaming curry he’s made in someone else’s apartment, reminds him that he’s 22 and having a day off.
Reminds him that he’s not here with a ghost.
“ Fuck! ”
His shout is gunshot-loud, punctuated by a contained explosion in his own fist as it slams into his own knee. Deku jumps, contained until the moment he bounces out of his hood and green curls float out of it, releasing his wide eyes and expression that is waiting, waiting, expectant. This is all old to Katsuki. He’s seen it all before.
It’s all so old that he’d forgotten.
Carefully, the notebook is bundled and closed, the new drawing tucked away. Katsuki smoothes over the cover, crawling those centimeters closer to Deku, pressing it into shaking little hands.
“Here,” he says, “It belongs to you.”
Later, after the moon had pulled its weight over the edge of the horizon and filled Deku’s apartment with silvery light, Katsuki waits for return texts from each of his friends out on patrol.
Shitty Hair -- Kirishima and Glasses, had taken Deku’s vacant shift for the week along with the territory he and Katsuki shared. The perimeter of the city is being thoroughly cared for by Creati as well as all the other extras the Iida family business employs, so it’s not like the protection is scarce for his people. His and Deku’s people.
It’s not like he’d ever planned to share a spot with shitty Deku after school was finally over. They’d been set to live their own separate lives at graduation, filled to the brim with plans. When they saw each other next, it would be with new memories, new tricks, and new secrets.
Present and accounted for, Kirishima confirms. It’s a quiet night man. Rest easy!
Say hello to Midoriya for me?
Katsuki sits with the phone open for a long time, saying nothing at all. The wind from the open balcony door whistles through his hair, fingers of a warm summer night full of fire and car exhaust, the sounds of people murmuring in their thousands below. Still, he feels a chill. He opens and closes his hands, ignition curling smoke from his palms. Once, twice.
He turns, and Deku is there.
The moon reflection blurs out the outline of boy-creature, making Katsuki squint into the dark mid-distance. The molten shape, hunched behind the frame of the bedroom door, manifests itself to its full height. In the night air, Katsuki feels stranded, deep in the woods that are burning, suddenly far, far away from the Deku that was supposed to be protecting him.
“Hello,” he says to this one. He watches as the dark curls shiver, shake, move closer to the light, and stop before being revealed.
He catches the end-parts of words, music, pushed in through on the wind. Along with it is Deku’s whisper, the half of a question he was never brave enough to ask Katsuki somewhere else in time.
“... can I?”
“Can you?” he wonders. He doesn’t know all of this Deku anymore.
The rest of the shape moves a foot forward into the light, revealing black and white pieces of boy, fabric, pages of the notebook rustling in the breeze that pushes him towards Katsuki. Bit by bit, he seems to float, eventually following the path the tiles made all the way to the couch. This close, he is real again, warm and frightened, silently furious, and forever looking toward the future.
He lowers the book towards Katsuki, offering it without being asked. Because it’s the only way, Katsuki shines his phone light over the page, discovering small illustrations, math. This is why Deku spent a few hours alone after dinner, touching all of the things that would someday be his, mapping out the shape of future-Deku’s life.
“You can’t,” he says to the little ghost. “You can’t stay here.”
Deku starts to tremble, pointing at the math equations, the sure kana where he didn’t yet know the kanji to describe his intricate ideas. “I... I can. And I will!”
“ You can’t .”
“I can do anything! I became a hero! I... I can stay here, if I really try!”
Rumbling anger boils up in him then, fierce and irrational, the denial of the truth pushing him into the place where he remembers everything. Katsuki tosses his phone away, rising up on his hands and knees, then to his full height, looking down on Deku from far, far above. Like he always did.
“What can you even do? Can you stop time? Convince your body to stay like it is? You can’t do SHIT!”
Reflective green eyes stare up at him, furious and terrible. Tears build up in them, like a raging storm that holds itself hostage above Katsuki’s head, always watching. Deku’s tiny body really shakes, stifled breaths carefully spaced so that the power within doesn’t burst out all at once.
“I will,” says the idea of Deku, one who doesn’t know all of Katsuki yet, and only knows how to be hungry. “... I’ll do anything.”
Outside, the sky opens, letting loose the rain no one thought would actually come. It drowns out all the other noise in the apartment, the sounds of other people, the soft tv, and renders them completely alone.
Katsuki wishes a lot of different things. Mostly, he wishes that he knew why Deku was always like this, and why he never had the courage to ask him before this moment. A little bit more distantly, he wishes that his heart wasn’t beating so loud now that it’s the only sound, aside from the rain. He sinks down to one knee, then the other, and spreads both hands.
It’s instant, as soon as his feet will move: notebook cast aside, lightning-quick and all-in, Deku dives into Katsuki’s arms. Forming paragraphs faster than Katsuki can really follow them, the highlights of Deku’s thoughts wrap around him just like the boy. It’s a jumble of discoveries, about becoming a hero, about pictures of their friends, about how Katsuki came when he was in trouble, when he needed him. About Kacchan, Kacchan, Kacchan who is everything Izuku thought Kacchan would be when they both grew up, and more, and how Izuku knew because he’d read the whole notebook, and because of right now.
“You can’t stay,” Katsuki says again, “Because I’m tellin’ you not to.”
“Please don’t make me go back there,” Deku whispers, like he can’t breathe. He’s leaking now, a puddle forming on Katsuki’s shoulder where his face is pressed. “Please, please don’t. It hurts so bad... I’d rather die.”
“Bullshit, Deku,” he murmurs, panicking a little, petting down the dark curls. “You don’t wanna die.”
That scary un-silence falls over them again, and he knows very well that Deku is speaking to him with his hands, little kana swirls that he can’t quite make out moving over his back. “ Scared ,” he hears just over the rain. “What can I do, without All Might… and when Kacchan hates me? When the most important person to me hates me, and, and...”
“Listen. You’re never gonna give up. Even when I tell you to a million times and tell you… that I hated you. You never gave up and that’s how we got here, and how you meet All Might. You’re my hero partner. And we’re...”
Katsuki swallows. “You’re my best friend. Again. You’re my most important person.”
Little Deku rattles in a long, long breath, squeezing Katsuki very tight. “... me, and Kacchan?”
“Yeah, you and me.”
Sunrise filters through, summer heat slowly baking the room. Katsuki breathes in, inhaling the aftermath of the rain over the city and the smell of baking bread. There’s a heavy weight at his side, pulling him into the bend of the couch, pinning him by his legs.
“Nerd,” he whines, automatic, reaching out into sunshine that’s too bright. A hand catches his, pulling it back down.
“Shh,” says his partner, his voice whole and sleepy. “It’s fine. I am here.”
He opens his eyes anyway, and finds a fully-grown Izuku there, just like he promised. His heart beats wildly, loud enough for anyone who is snuggled right up against him to hear, no doubt. “You just waited your whole life to say that shit to me, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Deku agrees, squeezing their joined hands. “I really did.”
That’s all that Katsuki needs to hear.