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“Wah, it feels like I haven’t been out in forever,” Kaminari groans as he flops down on the couch, bare feet pressing into Jirou’s thigh as he whines, stretching.

“I know, bro,” Kirishima whimpers, falling to his knees on the floor next to him. His hair’s down for once and Kaminari reaches over to pull it into a tight ponytail, Jirou passing over a hair tie. “When was the last time we even left the school grounds?”

“January,” Sero answer’s simply, a matching look of sadness on his face, and they all groan in collective unison.

“It’s February now, dude! That’s a whole month,” Kaminari sobs, and Kirishima becomes equally inconsolable next to him, and Jirou simply sighs.

Ashido bounding into the room with a frowning Katsuki in tow seems to brighten them up, and they all lean forward like eager puppies waiting for a treat.

“What’s the verdict, Chief?”

“Tell us, we can take it.”

“If it’s ‘no’, don’t tell me! I can’t take it!”

“Please tell me it’s a, ‘yes’.”

“It’s got to be a, ‘yes.’”

“I’ve changed my mind, don’t tell me!”

“Shut the fuck up, losers!” Katsuki’s voice has them all leaning back, chastised, heads bowed. If they had tails, they would be sagging between their legs. Silence reigns in the common room before Ashido shifts, releasing her hold in Katsuki to step closer to the scolded group.

“He said, ‘yes’!” Ashido breaks, and it’s silent for a best before they all soar up as one collective wave, cheering, and Katsuki looks tired but mildly fond under the mask of irritation, sharing a look with Jirou like they’re sharing some secret. But then they’re both dragged into the screaming, bouncing mass, and their irritation is lost to the other.

Watching them from where he had settled to do his homework at one of he tables, Izuku suddenly feels like he understands every time Katsuki yells about them sharing only one brain cell.

He keeps the thought to himself.

“Holy fuck, if you assholes don’t get off of me, how the fuck are we supposed to go anywhere?”

The speed with which the group shudders apart is startling, everyone scrambling to grab their personal effects and bolt to the door like hell was on their heels, tugging on their shoes and then turning to face Katsuki. Like dogs waiting to be taken on a walk.

Izuku hides his snort in his math problems, fighting down a smile.

“We’re off, Midoriya!”

“See you later!”

“So long!”

“Farewell!”

“Auf Wiedersehen!“

“Good-fucking-bye—this isn’t the ‘Sound of Music’! Get. Out. The. Fucking. Door!”

It slams behind them, and Izuku waits a beat before letting his laughter fill the room, jolting so hard his stomach cramps and his eyes water. Kacchan really is such a mom. Shaking his head and turning back to his homework, he can’t help the smile that remains on his face, or the giggles that work their way out every time he thinks of the visual of Katsuki chucking each one of his beloved friends out of the door by the backs of their shirts.

Like puppies getting grabbed by their scruff.

The dog visuals send Izuku into another fit of helpless laughter and he waves away Todoroki’s concern when he comes down the stairs, looking vaguely alarmed at seeing Izuku just about wetting himself while absolutely alone in the room.

“I just thought of something funny, sorry,” he snorts, wiping at his eyes even as he shakes from the remainders of his mirth, smile never leaving.

“Oh, well. Are you almost done with that?”

Izuku blinks. “Oh, the homework? Yeah, yeah, I’m almost done. Did you need some help?”

“Not with that, no. But I could use your help with something else.” He pulls out a chair, sitting down with the same smooth regality that seems so natural to the Todoroki family. He wonders vaguely is grace can be a genetic trait, passed down to off spring. It’s an odd visual. “I can wait for you to be finished, though. It’s not pressing.”

“Oh, okay! It won’t take long,” he assures, and Todoroki simply nods, tugging out his phone to play with while he waits. The cat noises coming from it are a bit distracting, but they’re in their third year now—Izuku considers himself a seasoned pro at tuning out the obsessive amount of cat video Todoroki watches. Their friendship would’ve never survived otherwise.

He really won’t be surprised if Shouto ends up buying a mansion purely to fill to the brim with cats. Half of all cat videos will be from him when the time comes. The thought has him smiling wider unconsciously, and he works quickly through the last set of problems, before turning his attention to Todoroki’s predicament.

Which is how he finds himself playing seven straight hours of Mario Kart with Todoroki because he promised Sero they would play, but Todoroki’s never quite gotten used to the controls. And Izuku, as the seasoned veteran he is from having to play against Katsuki more times than he ever wants to think about—considering how many times he’s lost—is happy to teach him. And play himself. Without the nine levels of subtextual competition than exist whenever he and Katsuki face off in any form.

That’s where he is when the door opens, and he and Todoroki pause the game to turn and take in the Bakusquad as they stumble inside, looking ragged, dirty, and tired and—is that blood?

“Oh my—god, what—are you guys okay? What happened?”

Todoroki reaches for the remote and switches over to the news calmly as Izuku vaults over the couch to hurry to his classmates. Aizawa comes in after the six, taking in Todoroki and Izuku as the news chatters on the television.

“Get washed up; get some rest,” Aizawa instructs, and the six stumble past, not even bothering to say their greetings or bid them good night.

“Sensei,” Izuku begins cautiously, looking over at the television before his gaze flits back to his teacher, “what happened?”

The man sighs. “Some villain activity—a small group, but they derailed the overpass train during a high traffic time. They took advantage, and your classmates had to intervene. There were a lot of school kids on at the time. It would’ve been bad.”

“Did—did anyone—what was the casualty count?”

“No casualties, but there were injuries. This group were the only ones on the scene for the majority of it, and it was a lot of kids on the scene. The pros were all where they had projected the group to be when they had been tracking its activity, but turns out the villains switched plans when the train derailed. Support took a long time to show up.” Aizawa sounds tired, expression pinched. Izuku doesn’t know what he can say to make that expression go away. He doesn’t think there’s anything that can be said. He’s certain they’ve all collectively taken too many years off of Aizawa’s lifespan.

“Are they okay? The—I mean—Ashido and them?”

“They’re fine. They’ll probably take tomorrow off. Make sure they eat.” With that, Aizawa turns to leave, rubbing at his temples as he goes. The news anchor’s voice is the only thing that fills the silence.

“He held up a train,” Todoroki intones calmly, and Izuku whirls to see the news coverage footage of Katsuki—so small against the side of the train car, explosions bright and potent, flashing like the collapsing of neutron stars while Kirishima directs people out of that train car and to its more stable brethren. Sero’s swinging and putting up a line of tape on the ground to keep people out and Ashido’s directing crowds, and Jirou’s keeping the villains back from the crowd with carefully placed sound waves, and Kaminari’s using a piece of the train railing to direct his blasts, joining Jirou in their game of keep away.

And Kacchan’s singlehandedly holding up a train.

The footage switches and they’re on the ground, the train car suspended by tape just a bit above the ground, and Katsuki seems to be shouting orders as they move, and there’s a gaggle of kids behind him, ages ranging from what seems like eleven to three years old, and he’s got one propped on his hip as he aims an AP Shot at one of the villains, Kirishima landing beside him and shielding young eyes from the carnage.

“U.A. students managed to keep the new villain group ‘Diabolical’ in place and suppress them until pro-heroes were able to arrive and secure the scene. The damage to the area was minimal and there were no casualties, however there are eight people critically injured and receiving treatment at—”

“That’s a terrible name,” Todoroki mutters, and Izuku snorts, feet dragging just a bit as he approaches the couch and takes a seat, suddenly feeling so tired. He’s sure Recovery Girl already took care of them—they’re clearly fine enough to be conscious despite the healing. Everything’s fine.

The visual of Kacchan, so small against the side of the train, straining to hold it up and keep it from crashing and crushing the people inside and on the ground—his heart clenches in fear even though he knows he’s fine, he just saw him walk in. Katsuki’s okay.

He’ll see him tomorrow. He has to sleep. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

Todoroki switches back to the game, and Izuku picks up his controller and swallows down the anxiety, reminding himself:

Everything’s fine. Kacchan is fine. He’s sleeping. He’s healed. He’s okay. They’re all okay. Nothing happened.

“You think they’re upset they didn’t get to do what they actually set out to do?”

“I think we’ll be hearing about it for a few days,” Izuku answers back, and Todoroki hums, pressing play.

“That’s annoying.”

The next day, only Kirishima, Ashido, and Jirou show up for classes, although it doesn’t seem like they’re all there. Izuku can understand. There’s something about it being a lot of kids versus adults that takes a greater emotional toll.

He wonders how Aizawa’s managed to show up every day to teach them despite the weight of knowing their class is a beacon for villain activity and having lost one of them before.

Izuku’s fairly certain he wouldn’t be able to keep doing that.

At lunch, the trio ask them for their notes, and Izuku has no qualms promising his notes for the day to them once classes let out. They eat lunch together, and they seem tired but okay—mostly just emotionally drained. It’s normal, it’s fine.

Selfishly, Izuku worries about how Katsuki’s doing.

He remembers the footage, fighting with a crowd of kids behind him and one on his hip, knowing if anything hits him or gets past him, it’s not just him or property that’s getting destroyed. It’s a child. The child sniveling against his neck, the child huddled against his back—too terrified to actually get away like they should and everyone’s too busy to make sure they back up entirely.

He shakes his head and sips at his soup. Katsuki’s fine. He’s just sleeping. He held up a train, for goodness sake. He’s not alone. He has Sero and Kaminari there with him. He’s fine. It’s fine.

After class, standing in Katsuki’s doorway, Izuku has to rethink that.

Because it is not fine.

It is very not fine.

“Who’re you?”

Oh my god, it is so terribly, horribly, no good, very bad, extremely not fine, and Izuku’s going to cry—and Katsuki’s on the other side of the room, behind the bed he somehow managed to push away from the wall far enough to use as a barrier, wielding his lamp menacingly, red eyes just barely visible over the edge of the bed, blond head of hair a puffy cloud over the barrier.

“Oi, why d’you look like Deku?”

He’s definitely going to cry, oh my god.

“Kacchan?” he croaks, and Katsuki’s head pops up a little higher, red gaze assessing before it drops back down, and Izuku wants to whine because—was he on his toes? Was that what that was? Oh my god. “Oh my god,” he whines to himself, slapping a hand over his mouth and slowly edging into the room. “Kacchan—Kacchan, it’s me, Izuku. I need you to come out from behind the bed. Something’s happened.”

“How do I,” he pauses, and Izuku watches the blonde puff shift, “uh, know you’re not lying?”

How does he—how does—this is the worst, the worst. He can’t believe this is happening.

“Kacchan, how old are you?”

The puff shifts again, red gaze popping over, assessing. “‘m four.”

Fuck, four. Four. Life hates him, hates them, hates all of them. Shit. “Okay, okay—um, remember—uh—remember when we had that sleepover when we were three, and, and, we cut up auntie’s, uh, support gear,” he cringes, “to try and make All Might’s suit? And we got yelled at, and she told my mom, and she made us go with her to buy new ones as our punishment?”

He can practically see the shudder go through Katsuki at the memory.

Shopping with Mitsuki was never a good time. Although, admittedly, shopping with Inko wasn’t exactly any better.

“I ‘member,” Katsuki mumbles, and his voice is low and quiet, and those red eyes pop up again, and Izuku’s chest aches. The lamp clatters, and he winces when he’s pretty sure the bulb shatters. He’ll have to fix that before Katsuki gets back to normal. “Deku?”

“Yeah, Kacchan?”

“Where are we?”

Izuku is dying. He’s dying. He’s deceased—dead on arrival, do not resuscitate, rest in peace, dead. Because Katsuki’s eyes are shining and he actually looks a little scared, and, fuck, if that doesn’t do something to his heart.

“We’re in—we’re in your room, Kacchan.”

Katsuki shakes his head and scrambles back when Izuku steps forward and he freezes, looking at the little puff of blond and those wide red eyes. He raises his hands placatingly, watching Katsuki’s assessing gaze continue to fixate on him. No longer armed with the lamp, he looks helpless, small.

Izuku thinks of the footage of Katsuki up against that train.

He drops to his knees, keeping his hands up. “It’s just me, Kacchan. No one else. Just Deku and Kacchan, same as always.”

Kacchan was always the skeptical one out of the two of them, the least trusting. He was always the one that looked at people older and bigger than him and frowned, demanding they go away, biting the hands that reached out for him.

He reaches out now and waits. Waits and hopes.

Katsuki’s slow and careful. He goes around the edge of the bed, looking wary, picking up the lamp again, ignoring the shattered bulb as he steps around broken glass, and in his small hands, it looks like a giant club—and an ineffective weapon—and Izuku realizes belatedly that Katsuki doesn’t have his quirk yet. This is—this is Kacchan before his quirk—before that heat suffused his life—and that was a different Kacchan, one that Izuku finds in the smallest, rarest moments when all of Katsuki’s defenses are down and he’s just unabashedly—

Himself.

And it’s with a jolt in his heart that he realizes that he’s, he’s not the same in the same way that his Katsuki isn’t the same as this tiny version. He might very well end up stabbed right now with the broken end of a lamp or end up hit in the head, or, even worse, end up with Katsuki hiding back in that corner because he moved wrong.

But he and Kacchan—they’ve always been close. Even after he got his quirk, even when things went south, Izuku would’ve gone to Katsuki and put his life in his hands without a second thought. Because Kacchan was Kacchan, even when he was an asshole, and Izuku knew the same person that beat up his bullies and was his hero was always there even when it didn’t seem like it.

And when Katsuki’s standing in front of him, lamp shaking slightly in small hands, he knows, knows before Katsuki’s flinging himself at him, knows before the lamp is dropped, knows before small arms wrap tight around his neck, knows before Katsuki has a chance to move—he knows Katsuki’ll come to him. Because no matter how he changes, no matter how he looks, he’s still Deku, still the Deku that was always there even when Katsuki didn’t want him to be, still the Deku that will throw himself into danger to help him even though he’s useless Deku, weak Deku, the Deku that always needs help. And Katsuki knows that.

His arms come up and wrap around the blonde gently, brushing away the lamp from where it landed on his thigh as he levers himself up onto his feet. And Katsuki clings to him, legs vice-like around his waist, and he’s so small, so painfully small—

He needs to do something, he needs to—

“You’re gonna call a grown-up, aren’t you,” Katsuki mumbles against his shoulder, and Izuku can hear the pout in his voice, and his heart wells up with something—something. He doesn’t know what it is, but it’s aching and sweet and makes his eyes burn and his throat seize.

Because he was always the one begging to call an adult, that’s right. But Kacchan didn’t like adults, didn’t like strangers, and he would go and solve things on his own, and Izuku remembers thinking Katsuki was the coolest person alive.

He still thinks that.

“Yeah, Kacchan, I am. This isn’t something we can fix alone. This is a quirk accident, okay? You’re not—gosh, um, actually, just hold on, I just need to—”

His phone’s in his bag, he realizes, which he left down in his room, and he groans at the realization, fixing Katsuki in his arms so that he can hold him against his hip, only now realizing that he’s positively drowning in the shirt he’s wearing—Katsuki’s shirt. From when he was undoubtedly sleeping before whatever happened to turn him into this took place.

“Right, okay, Kacchan, we’re going to go down to my room, okay? Do you want to see it? I think it’s really cool!”

“Thought you were calling a demon,” Katsuki grumbles, lifting his head to squint at him with sharp eyes that never changed no matter how old he got.

“A grown-up—”

“Same thing.”

“I am, I am,” and it’s nearly painful how awkward he sounds. “But I have to go to my room for that, and I think you should come with me.”

He can see it on Katsuki’s face, the way he wants to refuse. You don’t go to a secondary location with a stranger, he knows that. He and Katsuki were reminded that constantly because their parents were convinced they would end up dead every time they went to play together. He knows. Katsuki knows.

But Katsuki nods, and Izuku beams.

And, honestly, grabbing his phone to call someone is the last thing Izuku’s thinking about when he gets to his room because the second he sets Katsuki down to fish his phone out of his bag, Katsuki is staring at everything. The wide smile that splits his face is heart stopping and exists only in his memories, and Izuku—he might be crying, just a little bit.

He can’t help lifting his phone in trembling fingers to record at least even a little bit of that expression, an expression he hasn’t seen in so long, a smile that the memory of would keep him warm when only glares greeted him during the days, an expression he longs to see return to that face.

“Deku, your room is so cool!”

And Katsuki is tiny, painfully so, and he’s tripping over his shirt as he runs on impossibly little legs, drags himself up onto his bed with more strength than Izuku thought he possessed, legs kicking as he heaves himself up and up—just so that he can gaze at the room from a higher vantage point.

“‘Zuku, you have so much All Might! And your bed—Izu, this is so cool!”

Izuku never wants to live again. He wants to stay in whatever weird death dream charade this is because Kacchan—Kacchan’s absolutely precious.

And he can’t help himself from saying, “You want a gift?” Because he wants that smile to stay there forever.

Kacchan’s eyes light up, and, god, he forgot how much Katsuki adored presents when he was young, back when gifts weren’t seen as handouts and he could make a clumsy flower crown and Katsuki would wear it with pride even though it’d be falling apart and he’d laugh and say, “stupid Deku, you can’t make these right at all,” but he’d yell at anyone that made fun of it.

He had forgotten.

“Where is it? What is it? Deku!”

It’s not hard to reach into his closet and tug it out, brandish it out in front of him. Katsuki’s eyes are wide as saucers, and Izuku hastily wipes away his tears before they can fall, shoving his phone in his pocket.

“Is that—that’s the—Izuku!”

Gosh, he missed hearing his name.

“Now you’ll be just like All Might,” he whispers, hushed and conspiratorially, like he’s sharing a secret, and Katsuki blinks wide eyes before shaking his head.

“I’m gonna be better than All Might!”

He smiles, indulgent and warm, slipping the hoodie over Katsuki’s shoulders and letting him slip his arms into the sleeves, zipping it up for him. “Yeah, you are,” he whispers softly, looking down at shiny red eyes. And if he thought Kacchan was swimming in his shirt before, he’s positively drowning in the hoodie, but he’s never looked happier as Izuku rolls up the sleeves for him so that he can see his hands, letting a belt be tied tight around his waist so that he doesn’t trip over the heavy fabric. He pulls the hood up over puffy blonde hair, and Katsuki looks up at the hem like he can see the All Might hairs standing.

He can’t, but the visual is so cute, Izuku snaps a picture.

Kacchan’s going to murder him when they get this fixed.

He grabs one of the comics he remembers them loving as kids and holds it out to Katsuki, chest aching as he takes it and crawls to the corner of the bed, mollified for now with comics and a sweater and comfort. He knows it won’t last—Katsuki’s moods were volatile even when he was young—but for now he looks content, predicament forgotten, and Izuku thanks whatever deities are listening for that as he reaches for his phone and properly dials Aizawa.

“Sensei,” he starts, watching Katsuki’s head bow with the comic in his lap, looking so small that Izuku’s scared he’ll disappear, “we have a problem.”

To say the least, Aizawa is not amused.

To say even more, neither is Katsuki.

Honestly, Izuku forgot how much better Katsuki had gotten with authority since he was younger, but seeing him standing in front of the common room couch, poised to run—even going so far as to pull off the socks that had been barely clinging to his feet to begin with—Izuku is suddenly reminded why it was exactly that their parents thought they were going to die every time they walked out the door. Because come hell or high water, Bakugou Katsuki would sooner lose a limb than ask an adult for help—

Well, unless Izuku made him.

“I should’ve known this was going to happen.”

“In his defense, I don’t think he knew. I mean, it was a delayed reaction. He was fine when you brought him back.”

Aizawa levels him with a look that tells him how little he believes that, and Izuku swallows. Katsuki takes a step away from them both.

“Alright. I’ll talk to Nezu and we’ll see about transporting Bakugou somewhere safer to keep an eye on him. We’ll get ahold of the quirk profiles of the villains they fought, see who matches the description, get this taken care of.”

“I’m really sorry about this, Aizawa-sensei. Thank you.”

Aizawa nods, a soft acknowledgement to the apology as he rocks up onto his feet, groaning softly as his muscles stretch. “Now, if he’ll just come with me—”

“No.”

They both freeze, and Izuku closes his eyes with a small prayer for his sanity to not abandon him completely.

“I’m sorry?” Aizawa looks miserable.

“I’m staying with Deku.”

“Kacchan, I don’t think—”

“No!”

And he stomped his foot, fuck, he stomped his foot. Izuku was going to die, he was going to die a happy death right here, right now. Death by cuteness—what a way to go.

And Katsuki—Katsuki was livid.

What was going on? What happened to, “it’s just Deku and Kacchan, same as always?” What happened to that? He didn’t agree to trust any other extra. He agreed to Izuku and only Izuku. He doesn’t know this man. He doesn’t know this place. And now they want to take him somewhere else?

“Kacchan, it’s really for the best—”

For the best? What was for the best? Leaving him was for the best? Handing him over to a stranger was for the best? Was Deku—did Deku not like him anymore? Had Izuku outgrown him? Did he not like him now that he was younger? He’s sure his older self is even more amazing than he is right now—his older self has a quirk, after all—but Katsuki’s sure he’s also plenty cool right now! And Izuku gave him a gift—he—he gave him a gift, so—so—

“No.”

He’s scared. He knows he’s scared. He doesn’t want to admit he’s scared, but—but all he has is Deku right now. All he knows is Deku. And this Deku doesn’t look the exact same, but he knows, he knows that this Izuku is still his Izuku. He can’t just toss him to the side like that.

His eyes burn.

He can’t just—

Abandon him.

He can’t—

Aizawa sighs, and Izuku looks up from Katsuki’s slightly trembling form, face shielded by the All Might hood and puffy blonde hair, startled. “Midoriya,” and his tone is exhausted, but no less concerned than it always is when it comes to them, “are you okay with watching Bakugou while I get this sorted?”

“Why wouldn’t he be okay with it,” Katsuki yells, and Izuku nearly jumps. The pitch is off, higher, not deepened by puberty or roughened with practiced anger, but the tone is the same, the gnashing of the teeth is the same, the growl is the same. But the hunch of those shoulders is different, the way it broke off into a high cry is different, the tremor of the voice is different. And Izuku can’t see his face, can’t see what he’s feeling, but he’s so small, wrapped up in All Might and flushed cheeks, and Izuku winces.

“Sensei, he’s four.”

“I don’t know when this started.”

“None of it got bad until after he got his quirk, it’s fine, he wouldn’t, and I can take him; I’m fine, honestly, I’m perfectly okay—”

“Kid,” those dark eyes are calm and reassuring despite their bloodshot hue and Izuku breathes, “I’m just making sure this isn’t going to damage you.”

His chest aches.

“Thank you, but—we’re better now, and this Kacchan—this Kacchan can’t hurt me. I promise.”

Hurt.

Hurt?

Hurt who?

Hurt Deku?

Him?

He?

Did he?

Did he?

After his quirk, did he?

Did he hurt Izuku?

Katsuki’s stomach hurts. His chest hurts. His head hurts.

Oh.

No wonder.

“Why wouldn’t he,” he had asked. Now he knew.

God, crying is embarrassing, he thinks, wiping at his eyes with shaking hands, burrowing into the collar of a hoodie gifted to him from someone he hurt—oh god. He hurt Deku. He hurt Izuku. He—of course he did, of course he did. That’s what he did. That’s what he does. He hurts. He hurts the bullies that pick on Deku, and then he hurts Deku in turn. He hurts the people who hang around them. He calls them all names. He calls them all stupid.

He’s stupid. He’s a terrible person.

He’s so bad a stupid grown-up extra has to ask Izuku if he’s okay to take care of him when Izuku towers over him like a house.

God, and the tears won’t stop, they won’t stop.

The hiccup startles him, has him looking over at the small boy standing off to the side, bare toes curling as the heels of his hands wipe angrily at his face, and—oh. Oh no. Katsuki’s crying. Kacchan’s crying. Oh god, oh god, what does he do? What’s he supposed to do?

“Kacchan?”

And when those wet crimson orbs peek up at him, Izuku’s really done for because he looks so sad. He looks so utterly destroyed, and Izuku’s heart breaks, and then he’s crying, too, and he doesn’t even know why. All he knows is that Kacchan’s hurting, so he’s hurting, and he’s so small and innocent, untouched by what the future brings, vulnerable, and Izuku just wants to protect him.

“Stupid Deku, why’re you crying?” Katsuki chokes out around a sob, voice tremulous, and Izuku reaches out his hand, and Katsuki flinches back before meeting his gaze, and his steps are shaky and fast as he runs up to him, and having him in his arms is like coming home. Katsuki’s hands are small and clumsy from youth, but they wipe at his cheeks with the same gruff assuredness that Izuku remembers from their childhood, sniffling back tears of his own and laughing even as his eyes continue to water. “Silly Deku...”

“Well, Kacchan was sad, so,” he trails off as Katsuki puts a hand over his mouth, other hand continuing its mission of stoppering Izuku’s waterworks.

“I wasn’t sad! Who said I was sad? I’ll hit ‘em!”

The nostalgia makes him sob just a little harder, and he brushes Katsuki’s hands away just so that he can hug him close properly, All Might hood falling out of the way, and soft blonde hair tickles his cheek, and it’s everything he missed from the past and everything he’s been trying to build towards in the present, and he meets Aizawa’s gaze, and he can tell the man doesn’t believe he’s going to be walking out of this unscathed—neither of them will—but the man heaves a sigh and nods his head, gives his blessing as he turns away.

“I’ll keep you updated. It shouldn’t be more than a few hours.”

Izuku croaks his understanding before he gets brought back to the feeling of Katsuki repeatedly thumping his back with small hands like it’s supposed to make him feel better.

Izuku questions his sanity a little when it does.

He makes them porridge for dinner because he doesn’t know what else to cook, and Katsuki simply pushes it around until Izuku’s finished his bowl and has stared at him for long enough to gather that Katsuki has no intention of eating.

He doesn’t deserve to eat, Katsuki thinks. Monsters shouldn’t eat. They should disappear. His stomach hurts, and every time Izuku smiles at him, it gets worse because he can’t believe it—he can’t wrap his head around it. Deku, his Deku, his Izuku—why would he ever? Why would he ever hurt his best friend to that point? Why would he—why would he—

Izuku sleeps next to him on his mattress in his All Might themed bedroom and strokes his back as Katsuki’s breath hitches around quiet sobs and small hands clutch tightly at his shirt, face buried in his chest.

He can’t say he knows why Katsuki’s crying, can’t say he knows why he didn’t eat, but he knows he can be there for him. He can hold him close as he shakes around the sobs until they taper off and sleep seizes him. He can be there for Kacchan—because, no matter what, he’s still the Deku that never leaves.

He keeps Katsuki hidden the next day while he’s in class, sets him up with snacks and comics and water in his bedroom.

Katsuki refuses to touch the snacks.

He tells Katsuki he’ll be back at three, but it’s half past that time, and Katsuki’s scared. He’s terrified. Izuku’s room is great, it’s everything he wants his room to be like, but Izuku’s late, and—

What if—what if maybe—

Had Deku left him? Could he have—was Deku not coming back? Could it be—was Izuku too scared of him? Had he messed up so badly that Izuku wasn’t going to to come back, was going to leave him alone and send that long haired man in to grab him and take him away? Was he going to leave him there until they could find a solution, alone and locked away? Was he—

Before he can really process it, Katsuki is already at the stairs, dressed in the same All Might hoodie, socks in his hand, eyes teary and face damp, ready to set out on a search and hit Deku’s stupidly huge ass for thinking he could get rid of him when he’s all he has. But Izuku’s at the bottom of the steps, chest heaving, cheeks flushed, harsh breaths escaping him, and he looks up with wide green eyes and—

Katsuki freezes.

“Kacchan,” he pants, heart thudding a near painful tattoo into his chest, and Katsuki blinks at him, lingering tears leaking from his eyes and streaking down his cheeks, before his damp cheeks are bunching up and he’s laughing, loud and unashamedly around hiccuping breaths, high pitched giggles filled with childlike glee.

“Did you run?”

“I,” he swallows, rakes his fingers through his hair and breathes harshly through his nose. “I thought you would run off.”

“You were late.” And Katsuki’s small little toes curl in self-consciousness, head ducking, and Izuku knows the same way he knows with older Katsuki—he was worried. He was scared.

“I know.” He steps closer, heading to the steps. “I had to talk to Aizawa-sensei. Forgive me?”

Katsuki glares off to the side, falsified anger and embarrassment coloring his cheeks as he wipes brusquely at his eyes like he hadn’t been crying, and he’s so bashful and small, and Izuku is a complete pushover. He’s starting to see even clearer how easy of a target he is with Katsuki because Kacchan could treat him like a king or like scum and Izuku would still find himself at his side no matter what.

Gosh, he was getting more of an existential realization out of this than he ever wanted. Those were feelings he was not ready to analyze right now even though his mind was very much already breaking it down.

“Be better,” Katsuki finally sniffs, and Izuku grins. “Why’d you talk to that extra?”

“Turns out it wasn’t any of the villains you faced,” Izuku speaks, smiling when Katsuki toes closer, stepping down the steps on careful legs until he’s just a step above where Izuku’s crouched on the floor, looking down at him with piercing red eyes. “Good news is that news coverage of the fight gave them some civilians you had contact with. Bad news is that it was a lot of young people, so their quirk control might not be great.”

Katsuki scoffs, toeing at Izuku’s knee with tiny little feet, sleeves flopping as he brings his arms up to cross them. “Stupid extras.”

Izuku laughs, catching the foot in his hand and delighting in the playful snarl Katsuki lets out, grinning brightly, and Katsuki’s eyes are shining and playful, and—

“Oh my god!”

Izuku flinches, and Katsuki jolts, foot coming back down quickly to catch his balance.

“Is that a tiny Bakugou?”

“Holy shit, what happened to Bakubro?”

“Dude, he’s so cute, what?”

“He’s so small!”

“Midoriya, what happened?”

“Bro, did you shrink?”

Izuku doesn’t hesitate to reach over and drag Katsuki’s hood up, but that just increases the coos surrounding them, and he’s more than a little surprised when Katsuki’s hand latches onto his pant leg when he straightens to face their classmates to try and shield Katsuki from their gazes.

“Dude, what’s going on,” Kaminari pokes, trying to look around Izuku’s form to peek at Katsuki, and the blonde presses against Izuku’s leg and snarls.

He doesn’t like having so many people around. He’s not a people person. He’s especially not one now with a hazily familiar Deku and a ton of people who seem to know him, but he doesn’t know them, and they’re getting way too comfortable in his space, and he’s not about that, not about that at all, and he doesn’t want to be looking up at them, he doesn’t, so—

“Oi, Deku. Up.”

Everything seems to freeze, and Izuku’s head slowly turns stiltedly to look down at the glaring blonde at his leg. He stares back resolutely, cheeks flushed high in red, and Izuku slowly bends down to scoop him up, holding him against his hip, and Katsuki’s arms cross over his chest as he judges the people around them from his higher post.

“It’s good you’re big, Deku.”

Kaminari guffaws.

“Midoriya, what happened?” Yaoyorozu pries as Izuku carefully maneuvers around everyone to head away from the stairs and over to the common room couches, the class shuffling after them.

“We don’t know. We know it’s a quirk accident, but we don’t know the source. Aizawa-sensei’s looking into it.”

“And Bakugou got, what? De-aged?”

“Yeah,” he mumbles, and Katsuki uncrosses his arm to yank on his hair when he tries to sit, eyes narrowed petulantly when Izuku glares at him.

He remains standing.

He’s a complete pushover. It’s official. He’s never living it down.

“He’s so small and cute,” Kirishima coos, stepping forward, hands already reaching out and red eyes wide in adoration. “Can I hold him?”

Katsuki jerks in alarm, and Izuku’s going to have to revise his earlier mental statement as he feels One for All tingle around his body, eyes narrowing and brows pulling into a fierce frown, arm crushing Katsuki to him protectively. “Absolutely not,” he states—no, growls—and he can’t believe he was ever going to let Aizawa take Katsuki with him when Kacchan’s arms link tightly around his neck and his hair tickles his throat, and he’s so defenseless like this, small and quirkless, and like hell he’s letting Kirishima anywhere near him. “You’re all keeping a meter away from him, is that clear?”

Owlish looks grace him in response and he bares his teeth, hoists Kacchan up higher on his hip, tries not to think about the way those tiny little fingers curling up in the fabric or his uniform shirt have his chest spasming and brain frying with this sudden need to protect this tiny, helpless Kacchan in the way only he can—because he’s all Katsuki has right now. Just him, no one else.

“Is. That. Clear?”

He’ll keep Katsuki safe, no matter what it takes.

Suffice to say, everyone maintains a distance of quite a few meters away from the both of them, and Izuku can’t say he’s very sorry. He has other problems to deal with, anyway, like the fact that Katsuki’s been de-aged, or, even more so, Katsuki’s apparent lack of appetite.

“Sensei, he can’t go on much longer like this. I can’t get him to eat, and he’s—he’s crying so much and I don’t know why—maybe it’s a side effect of the quirk or something, but—”

“Kid’s cry, Midoriya.”

“But not Kacchan! Kacchan doesn’t even cry when he’s in pain. He only cries when he’s so emotionally wrung out that he usually just destroys stuff, but he’s just crying right now, and he’s not drinking water; and it’s not good for him, but I don’t know what’s causing it, and any longer and I don’t know what’s going to happen—”

“It was a newly presented quirk,” Aizawa cuts him off, shuffling the papers on his desk. “That’s why it took so long. During the battle, one of the kids he was guarding had his quirk activate. We had to get through the profiles of the already presented ones before we started looking into those who hadn’t yet presented. We’re already getting in contact with the parents. It shouldn’t be more than one more day to get the kid here and cancel it out.”

Oh.

“Oh.” Steam run out, Izuku slumps back into his seat, rubbing his hands over his face as his lungs shake. “One more day. Okay. Thank you.” He doesn’t know if those words of gratitude are for Aizawa or for whatever deities are listening because four days of no food was starting to show on Kacchan’s body, and that coupled with the crying, and Izuku had been about ready to jab an IV drip into his arm if only to make sure he wouldn’t turn into dust on him.

“Get him to drink some water, at least. Let him sleep for as long as possible. It’ll be over soon. You’ve done a good job.”

He’s done a good job.

When he returns to his room and sees Katsuki tucked in the upper corner of the bed against the wall, he doesn’t really feel like he has. When he changes his clothes, quickly and perfunctorily, Katsuki’s eyes blink open slowly, and they’re puffy and swollen—have been since this whole thing started—but they brighten when they see him and he pops up to sit, swaying from—from what? A headache? Dehydration? Hunger? Izuku doesn’t know.

“Kacchan,” he starts, pads over and sits on the edge of the bed, looking at his tired face in concern, “Kacchan, please at least drink some water. Please? Do it for me?”

Katsuki shakes his head stubbornly, looking away, eyes fixing dazedly on one of the posters.

“Why? Why not, Kacchan? Please, just let me help you. I just want to help. This isn’t good for you. You need to eat and drink water—you can’t just waste away—”

“I hurt you.”

His breath catches and he looks over to see Katsuki looking down at his little hands, and he can see the glimmer of welling tears in the corners of his eyes, and his heart squeezes.

“I—after I get my quirk, I hurt you.”

His chest aches.

“Kacchan—”

His heart squeezes tighter.

“So—so—if I hurt you, then—then—I should—I should hurt, too.”

It hurts.

“Then—then you’ll stay—you’ll—you’ll stay.”

His heart shatters.

“You’ll stay.”

“Oh. Oh, Kacchan, no, no—oh, no, no, no—god, gosh, Kacchan.”

“You’ll stay, right? You—you won’t leave, right?” And Katsuki’s breaths are hitching around sobs again, and Izuku grabs him and holds him tight, his own tears flowing silent. Is this—is this—

At some point, he’s sure he wanted this. At some point during the time when their relationship was bad, he’s sure he thought of this. But he never thinks he wanted to see it. Because young or old—he knows the pain’s the same. Katsuki hasn’t changed, not really, and he knows—knows like he knew Katsuki would trust him, knows like he knew Katsuki would protect him, knows like he’s known Katsuki for years—that Katsuki, his Katsuki, older Katsuki, thinks the same thing, and he breaks.

“I don’t want you to hurt, Kacchan. I don’t want you to hurt at all. I want you to be happy. I want you to be okay. I want us to be okay. I want you to eat and laugh and drink water and have a good time. You don’t have to hurt yourself, Kacchan—Kacchan—I’m not going anywhere.”

Katsuki sobs, broken and weak against his shoulder, small body shaking, and Izuku buries his face in the puffy mess he calls his hair, letting the strands soak in his own tears.

He gets Katsuki to eat, just a little bit, and drink some water. He gets him to sleep through the night with no more tears shed, undoes the belt around his waist and slips some briefs up his legs. He wakes up in the morning and stays perfectly still and monitors his phone, waits for the texts from Aizawa.

He knows before his phone goes off that the quirk’s been cancelled, feels the weight on his chest increase bit by bit until he’s got Kacchan, fully grown, lying on his chest, blinking blearily up at his surroundings with swollen, puffy eyes, chapped lips pursing a little.

Their eyes meet, and Izuku swallows.

“Do you—”

Katsuki gets up, slow and languid, and he looks down at the hoodie he’s dressed in and his borrowed briefs and the one solitary sock that managed to somehow just barely cling to his foot throughout the night.

“Sorry—sorry, I can just take that, um—”

He reaches for the jacket and freezes as Katsuki shifts away, shoulders hunching protectively under the fabric, red eyes narrowing. “The fuck do you think you’re doing? This is my gift. You can’t take back a gift.”

Izuku blinks.

Oh.

Oh.

So he does remember.

It still looks big on him, somehow, arms not quite filled out, hem still dipping down long, landing around the middle of his thighs, covering the borrowed briefs. The torso has enough extra fabric to roll and bunch several times, and Izuku’s heart races just a little at the sight.

He still looks small.

Katsuki huffs and looks away, and his hair is mussed with sleep, his eyes puffy from crying, body weak from a lack of food and water, and Izuku still thinks he looks amazing. “Kacchan,” he calls, shifting closer when Katsuki sways a little, reaching out and catching his arm. His skin is warm through the fabric, and the sleeves still eat at his hands.

“What, nerd?”

“You’ll,” he takes a deep breath, reaches out and hooks his fingers around Katsuki’s sweater covered ones, looking at that and only that, heart pounding, “you’ll stay, right?”

It’s silent, and his heart’s lodged in his throat, and he thinks he maybe wants to return to that beautiful dream of a small Kacchan that laughed and rubbed away his tears and chastised him for being silly and accepted his gifts and—

Katsuki’s hand is warm and the fabric of the hoodie soft as it wipes at his cheeks. “Fucking stupid as shit Deku,” Katsuki mutters, and the fingers in his hand curl right back around his, and he thinks this is not such a bad dream either. And maybe it’s the influence of the hunger or the lack of sleep or the emotional drainage, but Katsuki smiles.

And Izuku thinks it’s the greatest thing he’s ever seen.