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Love Don't Lie

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Katsuki was four years old when he realised Deku was his soulmate.

The concept of soulmates had existed for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until quirks manifested that they became a reality. No one really understood how it worked or what criteria qualified someone to be “perfect for you”.

Some called it fate, while others claimed it was simply more proof that humans had evolved for the better. No one could deny that relationships between soulmates were much stronger and healthier. Divorce between soulmates was practically non-existent and infidelity even less so.

The reason for this was simple. Soulmates were incapable of lying to each other. In fact, that was the only difference between your soulmate and any other random person. There was no string of fate, no magical mental link or sensing if your soulmate was in danger; just complete, involuntary honesty with one another.

The whole thing sounded useless and boring to Katsuki. Why the hell would he care if he couldn’t lie to someone? He was brutally honest most of the time anyway.

Sure, he’d accepted that one day he’d meet his soulmate. Just as he’d accepted he’d likely get married eventually and have brats of his own. It was all a vague concept of his future, so far off that it didn’t even feel real. He hadn’t given it much thought.

After all, he wasn’t supposed to meet his soulmate for over a decade yet. Most people met their soulmate in adulthood, although there were some lucky enough to meet their soulmate in high school. It was unheard of to meet your soulmate as a child.

Katsuki would’ve been proud at having found his soulmate so young, once again proving that he was superior to everyone else, if it had been anyone else. Because it couldn’t be Deku. He was quirkless. Quirkless people didn’t have soulmates. They just didn’t.

But there was no other explanation for why his voice box had suddenly seized up in his throat.

“Kacchan, are you okay?” Deku had asked him, his hand outstretched to Katsuki in the river.

A frown furrowed his brow as he flashed Katsuki a look of such concern that it made the blond sick. How dare Deku look down on him? He was the strongest in all their class, probably the strongest in the entire school. There was no way a silly fall would be able to hurt him. He didn’t even have a scratch on him.

Did Deku seriously think he was so weak as to need help from a quirkless twerp like him? Katsuki would’ve laughed if his stomach hadn’t immediately filled with dread at what happened next.

“I’m f–” The word fine caught in his throat. He tried again and again, but the word just wouldn’t come out. He wasn’t even lying. He was fine… right? Okay, so falling had been pretty scary. His heart was still pounding rapidly in his chest. And yeah, his butt hurt from where he’d landed on the stony lining of the river. But it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Katsuki was gonna be a pro hero. This was nothing. So why?

Deku’s frown deepened at Katsuki’s silence. “Kacchan? You didn’t hit your head, did you?”

No,” Katsuki hissed in annoyance, relieved to find his voice worked again. He slapped Deku’s hand away roughly, refusing to look at the nerd as he scrambled to his feet.

What the hell was he even supposed to say? There was no way he was going to ask Deku about this, especially not in front of his two lackeys. He’d die of shame if they found out. He just wanted to go home. He was wet and cold and his clothes stuck to him uncomfortably. His throat also ached from trying to force his vocal cords to comply.

“I’m going home,” he growled gruffly, refusing to look back as his lackeys yelled protests.

It was only when he realised Deku was following behind him that he whipped around with a scowl.

“Go away, Deku! I want to go home alone.”

Deku fidgeted under his glare, but refused to back down. “B-But Kacchan, Mum says it’s dangerous for us to walk the neighbourhood alone. She told me we should always stick together when there’s not an adult around.”

“I don’t care what Auntie Inko says. If you don’t stop following me I’ll b–” Blow your face off, is what he wanted to say but once again he couldn’t finish his sentence. He growled, giving up on the words as his hands sparked in frustration.

“Just don’t follow me!” He snapped before making a run for his house. Even if Deku tried to follow, Katsuki was much faster and would lose him soon enough.

They hadn’t ventured very far, but Katsuki was still surprised by how quickly he made it back to his house. He couldn’t remember ever running that fast before, his desperation to get away from Deku pushing him to new limits.

He wanted to be pleased with his new speed, but the achievement was dulled by the anxiety building in his chest. He numbly kicked his muddy shoes off at the genkan, making a beeline for his room before a booming voice stopped him.

“Why the hell are you dripping water through my house, brat?”

Katsuki’s usual annoyance at his mother’s ranting was overshadowed by his relief to find someone who could provide him with answers. He rushed to the kitchen, clinging to her pant leg in a way he hadn’t since he could walk on his own.

“Mum, what does it feel like when you try to lie to Dad?” He demanded, looking up at her with pleading eyes. He didn’t care if he was acting like a baby, he wanted his mum to comfort him. He wanted her to tell him everything was gonna be okay and that it wasn’t true.

His mother’s eyebrows rose to her hairline at his behaviour. “Where the hell is this coming from? You’ve never been interested in soulmate stuff before.”

Katsuki shifted nervously under her curious gaze. He didn’t want to tell her about Deku. He didn’t want to tell anyone about Deku. It had to be a mistake. It was a mistake and he was going to prove it.

He just needed his mother to confirm that what he’d felt today wasn’t what it felt like to lie to your soulmate. Maybe he’d just caught a cold from being soaked in the river and it irritated his throat. Yeah that made way more sense than his soulmate being quirkless. Katsuki felt himself relax a little at the reasonable explanation.

“No reason, just curious,” he huffed, crossing his arms and trying to look nonchalant.

She rolled her eyes at him and smirked. “Sure kid, you know there’s nothing wrong with being interested in learning about soulmates. It’s only natural to be curious, although you’re a little young to be worrying about that stuff.”

He huffed impatiently. “Are you gonna tell me or not?”  

“Alright, alright. But I dunno if my answer will be as interesting as you think. I haven’t tried to lie to your father since we found out we were soulmates. I barely remember what it felt like. Hmmm let’s see… I suppose it was like the words got stuck in my throat. I knew what I was trying to say, but my voice refused to make a sound. Apparently it can get kinda painful if you try to force the words out for too long, but I never got that far. I realised pretty quickly what was happening and the rest is history, ya know?”

She had a fond smile on her face as she thought of his father, but Katsuki only felt panic. This couldn’t be real. It had to be a mistake.

His mother’s smile fell as she noticed his expression. “Is that not what you wanted to hear? Don’t look so worried, you’re not gonna get hurt unless you try to lie to your soulmate and why would anyone wanna do that anyway?”

Katsuki wanted to scoff. Why would he want to tell Deku the truth? Lying was way better than admitting that some quirkless weakling was his soulmate. That reminded him of another important factor that made this whole thing even more ridiculous.

“You said quirkless people don’t have soulmates,” he accused, trying to understand why she would lie to him about something like that.

She tilted her head in confusion. “They don’t, only people with the quirk gene have soulmates.”

“But Deku–” He cut himself off, not wanting to explain how he’d known Deku had a soulmate.

Her eyes softened. “I see what this is about. You’re worried about your little friend. Just because Izuku doesn’t have a soulmate doesn’t mean he can’t find love, Katsuki. He’ll just be doing it the old-fashioned way like the world used to. Izuku is a sweetheart, I’m sure he’ll have no trouble meeting some nice quirkless person to spend his life with.”

The thought of Deku finding someone else filled him with an uncomfortable feeling he didn’t recognise and he quickly brushed it off before it could take root. It wasn’t any of his business what Deku did. Even if they were soulmates it didn’t mean Katsuki had to do anything about it.

Besides, if what his mother said was true then Deku couldn’t be his soulmate. It was just some ridiculous mistake. Katsuki would never recognise Deku as his soulmate. Even if Deku figured it out himself he’d just deny it… wait, he literally couldn’t. He couldn’t lie to him. Shit.

Fine, he’d just have to make sure Deku never asked. He’d make the nerd’s life so goddamn miserable that by the time Deku figured it out, he’d want nothing to do with him. Yeah, he could do that. He’d already started teasing Deku about being quirkless. He’d just have to step it up a notch. Or twenty.

********

Izuku was four years old when he found out he would never have a soulmate.

Granted it wasn’t the first thing he’d thought of when the doctor had told him he was quirkless. He’d had much bigger concerns, primarily his dreams of being a pro hero going up in flames. He’d lost track of how long he’d been crying since they got home.

It wasn’t until his mother had gently patted his hair and said, “Don’t worry Izuku, you don’t need a soulmate to be happy. You can still fall in love with another quirkless person”, that Izuku had even thought about soulmates.

Is that why his mother thought he was crying? Didn’t she understand that becoming a hero meant everything to him? Far more than having a soulmate ever did! Of course, he was a little disappointed that he didn’t have a soulmate like everyone else. But not having a quirk upset him infinitely more than not having some “destined person” or whatever.

He looked up at his mother with pleading eyes. “Mum, do you think I can still be a hero like All Might? Even without a quirk?”

Her face fell and she pulled him into a tight hug. “Oh sweetie... I’m sorry, Izuku. I’m so sorry.”

Izuku felt his heart shatter all over again. No. That’s not what he’d wanted to hear. He’d wanted her to tell him that he could still become a hero, just like she’d told him he could still fall in love. He’d gladly trade falling in love for being a hero. Nothing else mattered to him. It was his only dream.

He decided, in that moment, that he didn’t care what anyone else said. He would be a hero. He’d be the first quirkless hero the world had ever seen!

But despite his newfound determination, the people around him started to treat him differently after they found out he was quirkless. The adults looked at him with pity and the other kids began to avoid him and whisper behind his back.

Izuku was relieved when Kacchan didn’t avoid him, but his relief was short-lived when Kacchan started bullying him and gave him the hurtful nickname of Deku. Still, Izuku continued to follow after Kacchan.

Sure he was mean and called him names, but at least Kacchan still talked to him. The other kids wouldn’t even make eye contact with him. As if afraid his quirklessness would infect them if they did. Being Kacchan’s friend was worth it.

Or it had been until that day at the river. Izuku wasn’t sure what happened or what he’d done wrong, but Kacchan had looked at him with such a terrified expression before running off. Izuku couldn’t stop thinking about the look on Kacchan’s face.

He’d been relieved to see him at school again the next day, running up to greet him excitedly. Izuku had been shocked when, instead of greeting him in return, Kacchan scowled at him and shoved him to the ground.

Kacchan’s hands sparked threateningly as he loomed over him. “Stay the hell away from me, Deku!”

After that day Kacchan’s tormenting took a turn for the worse. He’d never hit Izuku before and he’d certainly never used his quirk against him. But any time he’d try to follow Kacchan, the blonde would lash out at him, pummelling him with a mixture of hurtful words and physical blows. He wasn’t sure which hurt more honestly.

Despite the constant abuse, there was still a part of him that longed to follow Kacchan. It was like there was a tugging in his chest that drew him towards the other boy. But no matter how much he tried, Kacchan wouldn’t accept him.

He longed for the days before he’d found out he was quirkless. When Kacchan and Izuku would make pillow forts and talk about heroes. Things were so much simpler then. Izuku wished he could salvage what they had.

Eventually though Izuku stopped trying, accepting that their friendship was clearly over. He’d made peace with the fact that he just wasn’t meant to have friends. That was fine. He needed to focus on his hero analysis anyway. If he was going to be the first quirkless hero, he was going to have to work much harder than anyone else.

He filled notebook after notebook over the years, studying every quirk he came across in the hopes it would help him achieve his dream. Of course, he had an entire notebook filled with analysis on Kacchan’s quirk.

Just because he’d stopped following him, didn’t mean he’d stopped watching him. How could he? Kacchan was amazing. He shone like a star in Izuku’s eyes. There was no denying that Kacchan would be an amazing hero. Maybe even better than All Might! He wanted to watch Katsuki’s rise to hero fame, even if it was just from afar. 

By the time Izuku was in his last year of middle school, he’d filled almost thirteen notebooks. It was almost time for him to put his years of research to the test. He’d handed in his high school preference form that morning. There was no turning back now.

He knew the chances of him getting into UA were slim, but if he could get into the same school as All Might, the same school as Kacchan, maybe he could finally prove his worth. Not just to Kacchan, but to everyone around him who looked at him like he was useless.

He should’ve expected Kacchan’s reaction when he found out Izuku’s plan to join UA. He watched in horror as his latest notebook burst into flames between Kacchan’s hands, before it was tossed haphazardly out the window. Kacchan’s threats were nothing new, but it was his parting words that hit him the hardest.

“You wanna be a hero so bad? I’ve got a time-saving idea for you. If you think you’ll have a quirk in the next life… go take a swan dive off the roof!” 

The tears welled up in his eyes before he could help it. But Kacchan didn’t even look back as he left the classroom, not that it would make much difference. He’d seen Izuku cry more times than he could count. Heck, he’d been the reason Izuku had cried for more than half of them.

As Izuku fished his notebook out of the school’s koi pond, he briefly wondered if maybe he should jump. Maybe Kacchan was right. Maybe his efforts really were hopeless. If he couldn’t be a hero, then what else was there? He’d never wanted anything else.

No, he couldn’t give up. Not before he’d even tried.

Later, in the grips of the sludge monster, Izuku would draw upon this determination as he fought for his life. He didn’t want to die. He was going to become a hero. He was going to try.

Unfortunately, his hopes were crushed once more at the words of his idol on that rooftop.

“Without power, can one become a hero? No, I think not.”

Izuku’s heart sank at the confirmation of all his worst fears.

“It’s not wrong to dream. However… you need to be realistic, kid.”

Kacchan was right. Izuku would never be a hero, after all.

********

“Haven’t you known him since you were kids?” Lackey one asked.

“Yeah you went too far this time,” Lackey two added.

These two idiots didn’t know what they were talking about. There was no such thing as going too far where Deku was concerned. If he gave the nerd even a sliver of hope, the idiot would think it was okay to bring up soulmate crap. Katsuki had to make sure the nerd stayed quiet.

He had to know about their bond by now. It’d been over ten years since Katsuki had found out. No matter how goody two shoes Deku was, he’d had to have tried to lie to him at least once. Deku stuttered too much for him to know when he’d realised, but Katsuki was sure the nerd knew. Why else would he keep chasing after Katsuki even after years of torment?

“It’s his fault for messing with me. Seeing him so full of stupid dreams like when we were kids… just pisses me off,” Katsuki growled.

The nerd was probably doing it on purpose, thinking Katsuki might pay attention to him if he just pissed him off enough. Well he wouldn’t give Deku the satisfaction. There was no way the nerd would get into UA, even if he tried.

He was finally going to be free of that nerd. He’d never have to see his stupid face again and could forget about this soulmate mess once and for all. Katsuki didn’t need a soulmate anyway. He was going to be number one pro hero, he didn’t need anything else.

He didn’t even notice the sludge villain until it was too late. His lackeys ran tail the moment they realised the danger. Katsuki choked on the foul-tasting liquid as it filled his nose and mouth. His hands exploded against the mass, but the villain refused to release him.

As if he’d let this mudman take his body for himself. He was going to be a pro hero! He wouldn’t be defeated before he’d even had a chance to take the UA entrance exam.

But nothing he did was doing any damage, he couldn’t get himself free. He was suffocating. His lungs ached and the sludge burned his sinuses as it trailed down his throat.

No one was coming to help him. The pro heroes and civilians were just watching. Were they just going to stand there and watch him die?

No. He couldn’t die like this. He… He was going to become a hero. He was going to be the best. It couldn’t end like this. He turned pleading eyes to the watching crowd, hoping that someone, anyone, would do something.

A flash of green in the crowd caught his attention and dread filled his stomach as he recognised Deku running towards him. No. Anyone but him.

What did the nerd think he was doing? He was just going to get himself killed! Over what? A soulmate who had treated him like shit for his entire life? There’s no way the idiot was that stupid. He wanted to scream at him to go away but his mouth was still filled with thick sludge.

“KACCHAN!”

Deku gritted his teeth in determination as he tossed his backpack towards the villain. The contents spilled out, a book hitting the villain in the eye and Katsuki gasped for breath as the sludge villain temporarily reeled back.

He growled an accusation between rasping coughs. “You! Why?

Why couldn’t it have been anyone else? Why did he have to get saved by Deku of all people?

“My legs just started moving. Why? I dunno! You… you looked like you needed saving!”

Before Katsuki could growl out a reply, All Might was suddenly there and the villain was being defeated. He was rushed to an ambulance to be looked over while Deku was berated by heroes for how reckless he’d acted.

Frustratingly those same heroes showered Katsuki in praise for how strong his quirk was. What fucking bullshit. He hadn’t done anything worthy of praise. He’d been weak. He’d needed to be saved. By his fucking quirkless soulmate, of all people.

He’d hunted Deku down the moment the pros got off his back.

“Hey Deku! I never asked you to save me! A–” As if you could!

“I–” I could’ve beaten him myself.

“How dare a quirkless failure like you pity me? Trying to win me over? Don’t you dare mock me! Stupid nerd!”

He turned away before Deku could reply. He didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t want to give Deku a chance to point out that he’d tried to lie to him. It was fucking embarrasing enough that he’d tried to lie again after all these years.

He’d gotten so good at skirting the truth without outright lying. He’d realised that demands weren’t lies, even if he didn’t actually want them followed. He’d never have been able to tell him to jump off the roof otherwise. It’s not like he actually wanted Deku to die. He just wanted the nerd to give up on being a hero.

There was no way someone quirkless could be a hero. Why didn’t Deku get that? He was just going to get himself killed. It pissed Katsuki off that he even cared. He didn’t give a shit about soulmates and he certainly didn’t give a shit about Deku.

But still he couldn’t forget the fear that had filled him when he thought Deku was going to die saving him. It must be the stupid bond forcing him to worry about the idiot. Deku was on a self-destructive path and no matter what Katsuki did, he couldn’t persuade Deku to give it up.

The sludge incident was just more proof that Deku was going to get himself killed one day. If All Might hadn’t shown up, they’d have both died. Now wouldn’t that have been poetic? Two soulmates dying together. It was like one of those ridiculous romantic tragedies they forced him to read in school.

Well fuck that. Katsuki wasn’t going to die at the hands of some low rate villain and he certainly wasn’t dying with some quirkless nobody. He was going to get stronger. There was no way he’d let himself get bested again. He’d become strong enough to protect himself.

And if stupid Deku couldn’t get it through his thick head to stay out of danger, then Katsuki would just have to save him too. He still didn’t accept the bond and he never would. But like hell he’d let his soulmate get himself killed over some stupid dream.

Not that Deku would want his help after how he’d treated him all this time. He supposed he could let up on some of the bullying. He’d consider it payback for the nerd saving his life today. He could risk showing Deku some mercy.

The nerd hadn’t shown any signs of mentioning the bond in all these years and it didn’t seem like that was gonna change anytime soon. It’s not like a year of leaving him alone would erase over a decade of bullying.

Besides, even if Deku did get his hopes up, once Katsuki got into UA he wouldn’t have to see that nerd ever again. 

Chapter Text

The day of the UA entrance exam was finally here. 

Katsuki had been preparing for this moment his entire life. It was his first step towards becoming Japan’s number one pro hero— his future hinged on this exam. If he was anyone else he might’ve been nervous, but Katsuki Bakugo didn’t get nervous. He naturally excelled at everything he tried. He was sure he’d be better than any of the shitty extras that would be there today. He was going to make this exam his bitch. He’d been sporting a confident grin all morning. Not even the cold weather could ruin his mood.

Yet as he stepped through the gates of UA, the familiar sight of green curls ahead made him scowl. Of fucking course he’d be here. The nerd had been muttering about UA all year. Katsuki had tried his best to ignore Deku during their last year of middle school. He’d barely spoken a word to him since the sludge incident, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t noticed the change in the nerd’s behaviour. 

Instead of knocking some sense into him, the confrontation with the villain seemed to spark new life into Deku’s ridiculous dreams. He’d started working out, Katsuki had noticed the nerd using a grip strengthener under his desk during classes. His bentos were healthier and Deku often showed up to school looking exhausted. 

At first he’d wondered if maybe Deku was falling behind in classes and staying up late to study. But that didn’t seem to be the case. Despite almost falling asleep during classes, Deku’s grades were still top of the class right behind Katsuki.

It was pointless. No matter how hard Deku trained, there was no way he’d pass this exam without a quirk. It pissed Katsuki off to watch the nerd run himself into the ground over an impossible goal. Katsuki had wanted to yell at him for it, but he didn’t. He’d made a promise to himself that he wouldn’t torment Deku anymore and he’d stuck to it, but that didn’t mean he was gonna suddenly act all nice to the bastard either.

“Move aside, Deku!” Katsuki growled, his breath visible in the frosty air.

“Kacchan!” Deku startled, whipping around to face him with arms raised over his face. Katsuki’s scowl deepened at the reaction. It’s not like he could blame Deku for reacting defensively after everything Katsuki had done to him over the years. 

The fact that Deku still flinched at the sound of his voice, after almost a year without violence, made Katsuki’s stomach churn with guilt. He pointedly ignored the feeling along with Deku as he pushed past the nerd’s anxiety-riddled face.

“M-Morning. Let’s both do our best…” He trailed off when Katsuki didn’t bother looking back.

The last thing he needed today was a distraction, and unfortunately for him, Deku was full of them.

An extra on the path ahead stared at him curiously before turning to his friend. “Hey, isn’t that Bakugo from the sludge incident?”

“Sure is.” 

Katsuki grit his teeth to hold back the threats burning his tongue. Getting into a fight on exam day would automatically disqualify him. Those fucking extras weren’t worth it. He hated that people still recognised him as “that boy from the sludge incident”. It wasn’t the legacy he wanted, and saying that it was the most humiliating day of his life was more than an understatement. Getting captured by a villain was one thing, but not being able to break free on his own and needing to be saved was another. The fact that it was by Deku, his quirkless soulmate, just added salt to the wound. 

All Might may have been the one to defeat the villain, but Katsuki knew he’d be dead if Deku hadn’t stepped in when he did. It was like the universe was mocking him, making sure he could never forget exactly who his soulmate was.   

Katsuki huffed in annoyance when Deku decided to sit beside him in the lecture hall. 

Of course the bastard would pick that seat out of the hundreds of others available. Why couldn’t the idiot take a goddamn hint? Katsuki was never going to accept him as his soulmate. He should’ve given up a long time ago. 

At least next year it’d be harder for Deku to follow him around while they were at different schools.

A booming voice interrupted the excited chatter of students and the lecture hall fell silent as they all turned their attention to a blonde man on the stage. Deku’s face lit up into an excited smile that Katsuki hadn’t seen in years. The realisation made his heart ache with an emotion that he refused to acknowledge. 

Deku held both hands in front of his mouth like a damn fangirl as he gasped, “It’s the voice hero, Present Mic. Wow! I listen to his radio show every week. It’s inspiring. Guess all the teachers at UA are pro heroes.”

“Shut up,” Katsuki growled. The persistent ache in his chest could only be described as a symptom of Deku’s excitement, and fuck did it annoy him. 

Present Mic explained that they’d be separated into assigned testing locations for the exam.

Katsuki found himself asking Deku, “That’s so kids from the same middle school can’t help each other out, yeah?”

He hadn’t meant to talk to the nerd, but he knew if anyone would know the answer, it’d be Deku. Despite the fact that they’d hardly spoken in almost a year, it had felt natural to ask.

“And why consecutive ID numbers are assigned to different locations,” Deku confirmed.

“Tch. I’ll crush ‘em all. But you get to live another day,” Katsuki said with feigned annoyance.

It was a relief to hear he didn’t have to share a testing location with Deku. Just because he’d spent most of his life trying to squash Deku’s dreams, it didn’t mean that Katsuki wanted to witness the moment they were actually crushed forever. 

Deku would be a mess and just imagining it made Katsuki’s stomach twist. Katsuki bet it’d be months before Deku stopped moping over it. Not that I’ll be around to see it, he reminded himself firmly. After this, the nerd’s life wouldn’t be any of his concern, soulmate or not.

He also knew he wouldn’t be at his best if Deku was around. The exam was infamously dangerous, and Katsuki couldn't trust that he wouldn't instinctively protect the idiot if he got in harm's way. No matter how much he tried to deny it, he couldn’t just sit back and watch Deku get hurt. 

He could still remember how it felt to watch helplessly as Deku risked his life to distract the sludge villain. Katsuki hadn’t been able to do anything in that moment, and yet all his instincts had screamed at him to protect his soulmate. Which he realised was incredibly hypocritical, considering he’d spent most of his childhood beating Deku up. Katsuki just considered it a side effect of being soulmates. 

It’s not like he actually cared about the nerd.

He’d only been half-listening to Present Mic’s instructions, having already read the handout, when an annoying bastard wearing glasses drew his attention back to the lecture.

“May I ask a question!? There appear to be no fewer than four varieties of faux villains on this handout! Such a blatant error, if it is one, is highly unbecoming for UA, Japan’s top academy! We’re all here today in the hopes of being moulded into model heroes!”

Katsuki rolled his eyes as soon as the guy started his speech. Geez, and people complained that he was too loud. This asshole was almost as loud as Present Mic. He was also an idiot if he thought UA would make a simple mistake like that. If he’d waited for Present Mic to finish talking, he likely would’ve explained what the fourth villain’s purpose was. 

Just as Katsuki was getting ready to doze off during this asshole's lecture, the guy turned in their direction and pointed an accusing finger at them— specifically, Deku.

“And you, with the curly hair! You’ve been muttering this whole time, it’s distracting! If this is some sort of game to you, then please leave immediately!”

Katsuki felt his hackles rise at the allegation. 

Sure, Deku may be doomed to fail the exam, but he sure as hell didn’t consider this a game. Deku had been working his ass off the past year in preparation for this exam. He doubted this glasses bastard had even half the drive that Deku did. 

Katsuki clenched his fist as the urge to punch the bastard’s face in rose to dangerous levels. He bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from saying something. It’s not my business, he reminded himself firmly. 

Beside him, Deku paled in mortification and hastily covered his mouth. The nerd could at least stand up for himself, for fuck’s sake.

“Sorry,” Deku squeaked, shrinking in his seat. 

At least he didn’t start crying. Katsuki wasn’t sure he could’ve held back if Deku started sobbing. Only he was allowed to make the nerd cry.

Katsuki watched Deku from the corner of his eye. The nerd’s deflated posture eventually straightened with determination.

Of course he wouldn’t give up so easily. Katsuki said far worse things for years and he still hadn’t lost hope. For a moment, Katsuki was proud of his soulmate’s resilience. 

That pride only lasted until Present Mic wished them all luck and he remembered Deku’s dreams of being a hero were about to be dashed once and for all. He’d always assumed he’d be pleased when it finally happened, but all he felt was pity.

********

“How wonderful that two of our students have made it into UA!”

Izuku could feel Kacchan’s rage radiating off him in hot waves, like a volcano ready to erupt. He wondered if Kacchan was literally heating up the space around them, considering the properties of his quirk, or if his temper was just that tangible. That heat brought with it impending doom, Izuku was sure of it, and that theory proved correct when they left the staff room. 

Kacchan turned and grabbed a fistful of Izuku’s shirt. Izuku squeaked in spite of his mental preparation for this moment. His back was slammed against the brick wall.

“What dirty tricks did you use to do it, you quirkless twerp! Huh?” 

Izuku clenched his eyes shut reflexively. It’d been a while since Kacchan had threatened him like this, but it was easy to fall back into the familiar cowering position. Even with All Might’s power flowing through him, he still felt helpless against the blond’s rage— not that he had any control of One for All yet. Kacchan was still leagues above him. 

When Izuku remained silent, Kacchan snapped, “Don’t even fucking think about lying to me, you little fucker. Don’t even fucking try. You know that shit’s pointless and you’ll just piss me off!”

Kacchan shook him roughly as if trying to shake the words from his mouth. Izuku felt something inside him snap. 

He didn’t have to stand here and take Kacchan’s abuse anymore. All Might had chosen him. He wasn’t useless. He wasn’t weak. He earned his place in UA, just like everyone else. Izuku grabbed the arm that Kacchan shook him with and the blond froze. Izuku straightened and held Kacchan’s gaze, refusing to cower like he used to. Katsuki’s glare wavered into confusion.

“S-Someone told me that I could be a hero! Kacchan, I earned this. That’s why… I’m- I’m gonna be a hero no matter what!”

Kacchan flinched away as the words left Izuku’s mouth, staring at him in disbelief. Izuku clenched his jaw, refusing to back down as he stared right back. Kacchan studied him carefully, as if the person in front of him was someone he didn’t recognise. 

Kacchan was the first to break their staring contest, stepping away from Izuku with a growl.   

“You can chase this ridiculous dream all you want, but it changes nothing between us. I don’t accept you and I ne–” Kacchan cut himself off abruptly. There was a flicker of panic in Kacchan’s eyes before they hardened into his usual glare. If he hadn’t known him for years, Izuku would’ve missed it.

“Kacchan?” Izuku’s expression softened into a worried gaze.

“Just stay the hell out of my way, Deku!” Kacchan shouted, hastily turning his back on him and stalking away.

Deku watched him go with a mixture of relief and concern. He’d never seen Kacchan so unsettled. He knew Kacchan wouldn’t be pleased by the news, but a tiny naïve part of him had hoped Kacchan might be proud of him. He knew it was silly. 

Kacchan hadn’t been his friend since they were four. But at one point, their dream of being heroes had united them. Going to UA together had been a dream of Izuku’s since before he could remember and he could swear it had been Katsuki’s too, once. Even after everything Kacchan had put him through, Izuku still wanted to share this experience with him. He wanted to watch Kacchan grow into an amazing hero, right by his side. 

If he was lucky, maybe they’d even be in the same class, just as they had always been.

********

Of course, Deku was in the same class as him. 

Katsuki’s life was just some cosmic joke at this point. He’d never be rid of the bastard. He bet Fate was smirking down at him like the bitch she was. 

Katsuki glared daggers at the nerd as he interacted with Glasses. Katsuki would’ve told the bastard to fuck off after the way he’d talked to Deku at the exam. But, of course, Deku was too fucking nice for that. Some round-cheeked chick walked in the doorway, interrupting Deku’s talk with Glasses. She grinned at the nerd and greeted him as if they knew each other, which, by the way, was impossible because Katsuki knew the nerd didn’t have any friends. They must’ve met at the exam, he deduced.

He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Katsuki felt his frown deepen as he watched the nerd turn red. What the fuck was this bitch saying to make Deku look so flustered? Didn’t she realise that the nerd already had a fucking soulmate? Not that Katsuki would ever acknowledge the fact aloud. Nor did he plan on ever doing anything about it. Still, it didn’t change the fact that Deku wasn’t her soulmate, so there was no reason to be so friendly.

The bitch should just lie to him and give up already. It was pretty common practise to slip a harmless lie into your introductions during high school, just to test if someone was your soulmate. Katsuki thought it was pretty stupid, but he supposed for all these extras finding your soulmate was something they looked forward to. Maybe Katsuki would’ve felt the same way if he hadn’t found Deku so young. 

Then again, becoming a pro hero was a much bigger priority of his, so probably not.

Thankfully an adult arrived, breaking up Deku and Round Cheek’s conversation. It turned out to be their homeroom teacher, Shota Aizawa, otherwise known as the haggard looking guy crawling out of a bright yellow sleeping bag like some kind of bizarre sleep-deprived butterfly. Katsuki had never heard of him, but he had to be some big shot hero to be teaching class A of the hero course. 

He bet Deku knew exactly who this guy was, probably had pages filled with notes about him in one of his shitty notebooks. Like hell he’d ask the nerd anything, though— he’d figure it out for himself. The nerd wasn’t the only one who could do research.

Aizawa instructed all of them to change into their gym uniforms and head to the grounds. Once everyone was assembled, he explained that they were going to be doing the standard gym tests. Katsuki thought that sounded lame as fuck, until Aizawa invited him to demonstrate and instructed him to use his quirk. He distinctly told Katsuki to give it his all and he was more than happy to comply. He stretched his arm in preparation before blasting the ball into the sky with all his might. His resulting score was over 700 metres, over ten times further than his quirkless throws in middle school. He smirked in satisfaction. Fuck yeah, now this was more like it! He couldn’t wait to show off what he could do. He’d leave all these extras in his dust.

Even better, Aizawa announced that the person with the lowest overall score would be expelled. 

He’d be rid of Deku on the very first day. After all, the nerd was bound to come last in a classroom full of potential heroes. He wasn’t sure how the nerd had even made it through in the first place. The bastard had said someone had told him he could be a hero, but that didn’t explain anything. Did he pass the exam through sheer willpower alone? He wouldn’t put it past the damn nerd. But that could only get him so far. This class was the real deal. Deku wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Thanks to their respective quirks, all of their classmates had excelled at one or more of the events. Katsuki had even been beaten in several events, much to his chagrin. But that was just because they had quirks better suited to certain events. There was no way he was gonna beat Glasses and his fucking leg engines in running. Still, Katsuku was kicking ass overall.

Deku, however, was doing relatively poorly in all of the events. It was no surprise. Deku was quirkless. There was no way he could compete with the others. Sure he’d improved since middle school, thanks to his year of training, but that wouldn’t be enough to bridge the gap between him and his classmates. There was only one more event and Deku was on track to have the lowest score.

“Midoriya isn’t doing very well…” Glasses commented, sounding concerned.

Katsuki scoffed, “Well duh. He’s a quirkless runt!”

Glasses gave him an incredulous look. “Quirkless!? So you haven’t heard about his feats during the entrance exam!?”

Katsuki raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”

What the fuck was this bastard going on about? Even if Deku had managed to somehow get enough points to pass the entrance exam, what could Deku have possibly done to leave an impression on this elitist asshole? He turned his eyes back just in time to watch Deku throw his ball. It flew about 46 metres. It was further than he’d been able to throw in middle school, but still not enough to save him. Aizawa’s scarf suddenly whipped out to grab Deku and drag him towards the teacher. Katsuki couldn’t hear their conversation, but he had a pretty good idea of what was happening. He felt a little bad for the nerd but it was inevitable, he didn’t belong here.

Glasses rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Seems like he received some special instruction.”

“Yeah. Instruction to leave the school,” Katsuki added.

To his surprise, Deku walked back into the circle. Was Aizawa seriously letting the nerd try again? No matter how hard he threw the ball, he’d never be able to get enough points to be safe. He should just give up already. Why did the nerd never know when to give up?

He watched as Deku muttered to himself, unable to hear the familiar sound but recognising the twitching of his lips. Then he watched as Deku reeled back and he heard the nerd cry out as he threw the ball. At the last moment, before the ball left his hand, Katsuki could’ve sworn he saw a spark of red light. 

A thundering sound accompanied the launch of the ball into the air. He didn’t need to see the machine to know it had flown almost as far as Katsuki’s ball. 

He felt his jaw drop. 

What… the fuck?

Quirks never manifest past age four. But it really happened. He couldn’t deny what he’d seen with his own eyes. 

Deku has a quirk. Katsuki couldn’t breathe. All he could do was stare in disbelief at Deku, who was clutching his fist to his chest, fresh tears glistening in his eyes. Deku had said he “earned” this. What the hell did that mean? 

Did… did Deku have a quirk this whole time? Did Deku lie to him!? But that was impossible. You couldn’t lie to your soulmate.

Wait—

Of course, Deku had a quirk

Quirkless people didn’t have soulmates. Katsuki had stopped trying years ago to figure out how fate could fuck up so badly as to give him a quirkless soulmate. He’d brushed it off as some weird mistake in the universe. But no, this made much more sense. He wracked his brain to remember if Deku had ever actually said the words “I’m quirkless” to Katsuki. Now that he thought about it, he’d only ever heard it from his mother and the teacher’s at school. Deku himself had never directly told Katsuki that he was quirkless. Deku had acted so pathetic that Katsuki had never even doubted it for a second. Why would he?

It was so outlandish that he would never have suspected it in his wildest dreams. Even when he’d discovered Deku was his soulmate he’d never considered he might not actually be quirkless. Because that was insane. Why would Deku decide to hide his quirk from everyone like this? Why would he hide it from Katsuki? How the hell did he even pull this off? He’d had everyone convinced. What kind of sick game was this bastard playing at?

He’d convinced Katsuki that his soulmate was quirkless for over a decade. Katsuki had agonised over his soulmate being quirkless for years! He’d started treating Deku like shit because of a lie. He’d been so horrified at the thought that his soulmate was someone so useless, so weak, that it had disillusioned him from the concept of soulmates altogether. Now he had to discover that this bastard had been hiding his true strength the whole fucking time! So much for not being able to lie to your soulmate! Deku, the sneaky bastard, had found a loophole. He’d been lying to Katsuki their entire childhood without even needing to say a word.

Katsuki’s hands exploded in fury as he advanced towards his deceitful soulmate. “What the hell!? Explain yourself, Deku!

Deku screamed, eyes wide with fear as Katsuki ran towards him.

But just before he could reach him, straps of cloth synched tight around him. His explosions extinguished in his hands, all the heat from his manifested fury— vanished. 

He struggled uselessly against the restraints. When he glanced back to the source of the material, he found that it was Aizawa’s scarf that he’d used on Deku earlier. 

Aizawa explained that the scarf was a capture weapon, but Katsuki had stopped listening. He felt numb. All the anger inside him chilled into betrayal. He didn’t have the energy to feel angry when Aizawa announced that he’d been lying about expelling someone.

Of course Katsuki wouldn’t be rid of Deku that easily. He’d always assumed that Deku followed him all these years because they were soulmates, but maybe the bastard just wanted to torment him. Deku had been mocking him since they were kids. 

Was this all some kind of experiment? That fucking nerd was always scheming, muttering under his breath. Was he just testing to see how long he could get away with lying to his soulmate? Knowing Deku, that bastard had probably figured out they were soulmates even before Katsuki did. He hadn’t realised they were soulmates until after Deku started the quirkless lie. He probably wanted to see if he could beat fate, to be the first person ever to find a loophole in the soulmate system.

Well, fucking congratulations Deku, he sure fooled him. 

Katsuki couldn’t believe he’d actually been feeling guilty about bullying Deku in middle school. What did this even mean for them now? Katsuki’s main complaint with Deku being his soulmate had been that he was quirkless. If that wasn’t the case then had he pushed Deku away for nothing? If they’d been normal, if they had met in highschool or as adults like everyone else, maybe Katsuki would’ve been open to their bond. Hell, maybe even when they were four if Deku had been honest from the beginning.

But Deku had played him for a fool. He couldn’t let himself get caught up in ‘what ifs’. Deku was the one who ruined their relationship before it had even begun. He’d killed any hope for them the moment he decided to play quirkless. 

It didn’t matter that the nerd had a quirk now. Katsuki would never forgive him for messing with him like this.

Chapter Text

It was the last class of his second day of school and Izuku was about to have his first lesson with All Might as his teacher. Izuku didn’t even try to contain his delight as his idol stepped through their classroom door, announcing his arrival dramatically.

He’d gotten so used to seeing All Might in his skeletal form over the past ten months. It was almost jarring to see him in his muscular form. It was also the first time he’d seen All Might in his hero costume in person— and it was his silver age costume no less! Izuku absorbed all the details of the costume greedily, wishing he had brought his camera.

All Might announced that today’s lesson would cover battle training and Izuku’s heart raced with nerves. He was nowhere near ready to challenge an opponent with his quirk. He still couldn’t use One for All without breaking his body and that was a huge disadvantage in battle.

His anxiety was quickly replaced with elation as All Might instructed them to don their costumes. Izuku couldn’t wait to wear his hero costume. He didn’t care that it wasn’t showy or decked out with cool gadgets. His costume symbolised his mother’s love and her support for his dreams— he couldn’t imagine wearing anything else.

Izuku was the last to join his classmates at Ground Beta, buzzing with anticipation. This would be his first real look at his classmates’ costumes, and the experience did not disappoint.

They were all so unique! Each costume likely had hidden functions that assisted with the student’s particular quirks, and the day would come when he’d be able to see each and every one of them in action. He wished he had the time to study them all in detail, or better yet, maybe he’d get the chance to ask some of his classmates after class.

He couldn’t help but admire Kacchan’s costume in particular. The whole outfit screamed Kacchan. Just by looking at it, Izuku could tell the blond had put a lot of thought into the design. His belt was lined with bombs, which would come in handy if he ever ran out of sweat or overused his quirk. His knee pads were made of thick, pointed metal— much sturdier looking than Izuku’s own plastic knee-pads. He bet Kacchan had specifically requested them for offensive purposes.

Kacchan’s eyes were surrounded by a black mask that covered the top half of his face and nicely complimented the red of his irises. Large spiked head pieces shaped like explosions poked out of his hair on either side of his head. They looked incredibly sharp and Izuku predicted they could be detached and used as weapons.

The most eye-catching part of the whole costume were the giant grenade-shaped gauntlets on each hand. Izuku wondered if they were merely decorative or if they had a purpose. Knowing Kacchan, he doubted they were just for show. 

Before Kacchan could catch him staring, Izuku forced his eyes back to the front of the class just as All Might began to outline today’s training exercise. They were to be randomly separated into groups of two, each team being assigned the role of either heroes or villains, for two-on-two indoor battles.

As soon as this was announced, several of his classmates hounded All Might with questions. The hero seemed overwhelmed by the onslaught, referring to a folded slip of paper from his pocket as he continued his explanation. Was that a cheat sheet? Izuku couldn’t help but smile at his mentor’s preparation. He really was trying his best to be a good teacher. Izuku admired his dedication.

The lots for the teams were drawn and Izuku found himself paired up with Uraraka in team A. He was relieved to be paired with someone who he’d come to consider a friend. He had a pretty good grasp of how her quirk worked and was confident they’d have fairly good teamwork. Maybe this battle wouldn’t be so bad after all.

His optimism only lasted a moment 

All Might announced that team A, the hero team, would be facing team D: Kacchan and Iida, the villain team.  Izuku overheard Mineta make a snide comment about Kacchan being “perfect for the role of villain” and felt the urge to correct him. Kacchan’s personality may be prickly, but he was as heroic as they come! Unfortunately he knew Kacchan wouldn’t appreciate him butting in, so he remained silent. 

Well, shit. There was no way he’d be able to beat Kacchan through conventional means. Iida was also a formidable foe. The hero team was already at a disadvantage in this fight. Things really didn’t look good for them.

He glanced nervously at Kacchan only to find the blond grinning maniacally in his direction. Izuku felt a chill run down his spine at the bloodthirsty expression. Kacchan hadn’t said a word to him since his outburst yesterday, but Izuku could tell he was beyond furious. 

Izuku couldn’t exactly blame him. Kacchan probably thought Izuku had purposely hid his quirk from him. Which, yeah, he had, but only because he’d known Kacchan wouldn’t believe him without proof and he didn’t have a good enough grasp on One for All to demonstrate it all willy-nilly.

The class left to observe the teams from a safe distance. 

Iida and Kacchan, being the villain team, were allowed to enter the building first. They had five minutes to prepare before the hero team was allowed to enter. 

Uraraka studied the piece of paper in her hands. “We better memorise the building’s blueprints while we’ve got time. Although there’s no punishment for failure this time, like with Aizawa-sensei, so I’m not too worried. You look super concerned though— are you okay?”

Izuku blushed and hurried to school his expression into something less nervous. The last thing he wanted was to make Uraraka worried too. They both needed to be as optimistic as possible if they had any chance of winning.

“Well, I mean, we’re up against Kacchan… and Iida too. We’d just better be on guard.”

Uraraka’s eyes softened with sympathy. “Oh, yeah. Bakugo’s the one who bullies you, right?”

Izuku’s instinct was to correct her. Kacchan hadn’t really bullied him in over a year, but he knew it would sound like a small consolation compared to a decade of torment. He couldn’t really explain why he wanted to defend Kacchan after so many years of needless abuse. He’d just never been able to muster any resentment towards Kacchan, no matter what he said or did. A part of him had just been glad to have Kacchan’s attention. 

Somehow, being ignored by Kacchan hurt worse than anything else he’d endured.

“He may be a jerk, but he’s amazing. His goals, his confidence, his strength, his quirk. He’s stronger than me in every way.”

Izuku pulled his face guard over his face and looked up at the building in determination.

“But… that’s why I don’t wanna lose to him!”

********

Katsuki had been thinking long and hard since yesterday morning, trying to understand why Deku would want to hide his quirk. More specifically, why Deku would hide it from him. The only reason he could come up with was that Deku didn’t want Katsuki as his soulmate. Which didn’t make any fucking sense. Katsuki was strong, smart, and excelled at everything he tried. Anyone would be lucky to have him as their soulmate.

Maybe he’d understand if Deku had made the decision after Katsuki had been bullying him for years. Of course you wouldn’t want someone who tormented you as your soulmate. That had been the whole point behind bullying him in the first place.

But Deku had pretended to be quirkless before Katsuki had ever treated him badly. Katsuki was pretty sure he’d been fucking pleasant to Deku before he’d found out the boy was quirkless. In fact, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say that Deku had been his best friend.

They’d known each other since they were in diapers. Their mothers were old friends, so naturally they’d pushed their kids into playdates the first chance they could. Katsuki and Deku had spent hours together almost daily as toddlers, playing together, and bonding over their mutual love of heroes. It wasn’t until Katsuki had gotten his quirk that he’d started to consider himself superior to everyone, including Deku. Him being quirkless had just confirmed his suspicions.

But he’d been wrong. Deku wasn’t weak at all. 

Deku’s quirk was strong, maybe even as strong as Katsuki’s, although the damage to his body made it reckless to use. Then again, Deku hadn’t shown up to school with any serious injuries growing up so, unless he’d had access to someone with a healing quirk like Recovery Girl, that meant he must be able to use it at lower levels without hurting himself. In theory, it was possible he’d be able to use it at full power eventually without causing any injuries to himself. If that was the case, he might even become stronger than Katsuki one day.

Realisation hit Katsuki like a physical blow. That was why Deku didn’t accept him. He must’ve realised that he would surpass Katsuki and decided his soulmate was too weak for him, just like Katsuki had when he thought Deku was quirkless. He’d been looking down on Katsuki all this time! Deku had been underestimating him their whole lives. He’d deemed Katsuki unworthy of being his soulmate from the very beginning.

Well, Katsuki would show him! He was going to face Deku’s quirk head on and prove to the bastard that he was still stronger. Deku would realise what a terrible mistake he’d made and regret ever doubting Katsuki. He’d make Deku wish that he hadn’t ruined everything between them. By the end of this fight Deku would be begging for forgiveness and Katsuki would have the satisfaction of rejecting him this time.

“I’m going to crush that bastard to dust,” Katsuki promised aloud.

“I’ll ask you not to charge straight at Midoriya.”

He’d almost forgotten Glasses was there. Thinking about revenge could do that to a person— it was a distracting thing to have on his mind in the middle of a training exercise.

“I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, just stay out of my way!”

He ignored Glasses’ shouts of protest and left to patrol their surroundings. The five minutes were almost up and he planned to ambush Deku as soon as the bastard entered the building. He stalked the hallways, listening for any sign of entry. 

He paused when he heard the hushed whispers of Deku and Round Cheeks nearby. Gotcha.

He took cover behind a corner, waiting for Deku to approach down the hallway. The moment he heard footsteps close enough, he leapt out from hiding and aimed an explosion in their direction. Deku just barely dodged in time, pushing Round Cheeks out of the way with him.

They landed on the ground, Deku leaning over Round Cheeks to shield her from harm. The sight only served to piss Katsuki off, as if he wasn’t already livid

What the fuck was so special about Round Cheeks, huh? Her quirk wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as Katsuki’s. She shouldn’t be worth Deku’s attention.

The nerd stood to face Katsuki, crouching into a defensive stance in front of Round-cheeks. Half of his hood had been blown away in the explosion, exposing green curls and a freckled cheek. Good. The bunny mask was fucking stupid anyway. He couldn’t see Deku’s expressions properly with it on and he wanted to savour the moment Deku realised he’d fucked up.

“Nice dodging, Deku.” The compliment left his lips before he could stop it.

“I knew it! Kacchan was sure to come straight at me.”

You fucking bet, Asshole. Prepare to get crushed.

“I’ll mess you up just enough not to be disqualified!”

But his punch was intercepted as Deku grabbed his arm and used his own momentum to flip Katsuki over his shoulder. He gasped, and that air was promptly struck out of his lungs on impact. The shock of it left him painfully breathless as he stared up at Deku in shock. The whole thing happened in a matter of seconds. There was no way Deku had enough time to dodge that attack, let alone turn his attack against him. Did he just read my moves?

“Kacchan, you almost always lead with that right hook. I’ve seen it enough to know.”

The ‘often firsthand’ went unsaid, but Katsuki still felt the guilt creep in at the reminder.

Deku’s eyes hardened and he cringed as if remembering something unpleasant. “You see, I’ve analysed heroes I think are awesome in that notebook of mine. The one you blew up and chucked out the window! I’m not gonna be your worthless punching bag Deku forever.”

You’re the one who made me think you were worthless in the first place, Bastard!

“Kacchan, I’m… I’m the Deku who always does his best!”

What the fuck was this bastard sprouting on about? He was acting like this wasn’t his plan all along. As if he hadn’t deliberately tricked Katsuki into believing he was quirkless just to mess with him. Deku was trying to play the victim here and Katsuki wasn’t fucking standing for it.

“This pisses me off!”

The transceiver in his ear sparked to life as Glasses said, “Hey Bakugo, update me on the situation. What’s happening?”

“Shut up and keep watch! I’m ready to wreck someone!”

“Don’t let your emotions get t–” 

Katsuki shut off the transceiver in frustration.

How dare that glasses bastard try to talk to him about his emotions? He had no idea what Katsuki was going through. Glasses’ soulmate hadn’t been lying to him for years. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how Katsuki was feeling— no one could. 

Don’t let his emotions get to him? What a joke!

He blasted himself towards Deku, but the nerd’s attention shifted to Round Cheeks.

“Run ahead, Uraraka!”

“Worry about yourself!” Katsuki growled, trying to regain Deku’s attention.

He swung a kick towards Deku’s head, but the nerd’s arms came up to block the attack. A flash of white caught his eye and he realised that Deku had hooked the capture tape around his leg. If Deku managed to wrap that around him, it was game over.

“Damn you!” he yelled as he blasted an explosion towards Deku’s face.

Of course, the nerd managed to dodge his attack— again. This bastard wasn’t even using his quirk and he was still managing to make a fool out of Katsuki. It was like they were back at square one: Deku, pretending he didn’t have a quirk. Pretending he could be better than Katsuki—  

Well, Katsuki thought, fuck that

Katsuki was just getting started. He’d force Deku to use his quirk against him and prove that he was stronger.

Abruptly, Deku turned tail and ran around a corner in the hallway. 

That little fucker!

“Get back here, Deku!”

He chased Deku down. As if Katsuki would let him escape, not when he had a chance to prove Deku wrong.

“Hey! Must’ve been fun, yeah? Tricking me this whole time, right? Hiding that flashy quirk of yours!” he shouted, blood boiling.

Dammit, when did Deku get so fast? Before he knew it, he’d lost sight of the sneaky fucker. He stalked the hallways in pursuit. Deku could run, but he couldn’t hide. Katsuki would find him, sooner or later.

Wherever he was, Katsuki knew Deku could hear him. “Well, bring it on! I’ll still beat you!”

He shook his gauntlet, testing the weight. It sloshed with the copious amounts of sweat it had been collecting since their fight began. Good, that would be plenty to demonstrate his gauntlet’s power.

He turned down a corner and grinned as he spotted green ahead. His vision was turning red in his fury, tinting Deku’s costume an almost yellow shade. Katsuki’s patience was non-existent, he’d had enough of waiting for Deku to use his quirk on his own. 

“Why not use it?” Deku yelped at the sound of his voice. Katsuki sneered as their eyes met, “Are you mocking me, Deku?”

Deku’s expression hardened into a glare. “I’m not afraid of you anymore!”

Anymore

The word was a slap to the face. So Deku had been afraid of him at one point. He should be pleased. That was what he’d been aiming for all those years, wasn’t it? 

But instead he just felt sick.

Katsuki forced himself to focus on the task at hand, holding up his gauntlet in Deku’s direction.

“Guessing you know this from all your stalking, but the sweat glands on my palms secrete something like nitroglycerin. That’s how I make my explosions. Assuming they honoured my design requests, this gauntlet’s been storing that fluid.”

His hand reached for the pin but All Might’s voice shouted from the PA system, making him pause.

“Bakugo. Stop it now, Kid. Are you trying to kill him?”

Katsuki clenched his teeth in annoyance. Did no one trust him? He wasn’t an idiot and he wasn’t a fucking villain. Katsuki was smart enough to know his quirk’s limits.

“He won’t die if it’s not a direct hit!”

He tilted his gauntlet just to the left of Deku before he pulled the trigger. 

The resulting explosion was bigger than anything he’d ever made before. The recoil strained his arm, but he managed to stand his ground. The wall crumbled at the impact, leaving behind a large hole in the side of the building.

He waited patiently for the smoke to clear, readying himself for an attack from Deku in response. There was no way Deku still thought he was weak after that display. He bet the nerd was rethinking all his life choices right about now.

But Deku was still on the ground when he finally caught sight of him. His costume was all torn up, but he didn’t seem to be too injured.

Deku gaped up at him. “They gave you that?” 

Katsuki stomped towards him with a vicious grin on his face. The nerd looked terrified and the act was starting to piss Katsuki off.

“Use your quirk, Deku! I wanna beat you at your strongest.”

Deku didn’t make any moves to obey him.

Katsuki slammed his fist against the wall in frustration. “What’s wrong, Deku? That explosion barely hurt you. Get up and fight me!

Deku held his hand to his ear and asked, “What’s happening, Uraraka?”

Katsuki’s eye twitched. How dare this bastard ignore him?

“Ooooh ignoring me, huh?” He raised his other gauntlet towards Deku. This outta get his attention.

But All Might’s voice interrupted them again, “Bakugo. Use that move again and I will forcibly end the match. You will lose.”

All Might went on to lecture him about the negative effects of using massive attacks indoors and Katsuki realised his mistake. Dammit, he’d messed up. How hadn’t he considered that earlier? He was supposed to be smarter than this! His mind was just too clouded with trying to impress Deku.

“Argh. Come on, man!”

Whatever, he’d just beat Deku with his own strength then. He didn’t need fancy support weapons to prove to Deku that he was stronger.

He blasted towards Deku, who moved his arms up to shield himself from the attack. Not this time, Asshole. Katsuki maneuvered his blast at the last second, propelling himself over Deku’s head and shooting an explosion into his unguarded back.

Before Deku had a chance to recover, Katsuki reeled his arm back for a second attack. The nerd would likely be expecting another right hook, but Katsuki had something different in mind. Just before his fist made contact, he grabbed Deku’s arm and pulled the nerd off-balance. He dragged the nerd towards him, using several explosions to twist them into a spiral, before roughly slamming Deku into the ground.

Deku gasped for breath on the floor. Katsuki might’ve felt sorry for him if he didn’t know Deku was holding back. Why wouldn’t he just use his damn quirk already?

As Katsuki advanced on him, Deku scrambled to his feet and attempted to make another run for it. Katsuki stalked after him, easily keeping pace with Deku’s stumbling.

“Why won’t you use your quirk! Are you still mocking me? You always have, ever since we were kids! I know you’ve been looking down on me!”

“You’re wrong,” Deku insisted and Katsuki faltered. 

Deku couldn’t lie, so it must be true. But if Deku wasn’t mocking or looking down on him, then why had he hidden his quirk? Why had he misled Katsuki all these years if not to mess with him?

Deku pulled himself from the ground, regarding Katsuki with determination. “It’s because you’re so awesome that I wanna beat you. I don’t wanna lose to you, idiot! I wanna win!”

What the hell was he saying? He thought Katsuki was awesome? Then why? Why would he deceive him? Why had Deku let Katsuki believe he was quirkless all this time if it wasn’t some horrible prank?

Deku glared at him as if Katsuki was the one being unreasonable and it pissed him off. “Stop looking at me like that, you damned nerd!”

Katsuki was sick of hearing the bastard talk. Nothing that came out of his mouth made any sense and he just wanted him to shut up.

They launched towards each other in the same moment, simultaneously reeling back their fists.

All Might’s voice sounded through the speakers, “Both of you, stop th–”

“Now Uraraka!” Deku’s shout interrupted him.

It was too late for Katsuki to wonder what the fuck the nerd was up to, as his explosion hit Deku in the next moment. There was a cacophonous boom as the ceiling above them exploded. Katsuki stared up at the crater in shock, before turning to Deku in confusion. His left arm had taken the brunt of Katsuki’s explosion, the skin singed and raw. But his right arm seemed even worse off, the skin a deep purple and steadily dripping blood. Said arm was pointed towards the ceiling and Katsuki realised what had occurred.

Instead of attacking him, Deku had turned his arm up in the last moment to hit the ceiling. Why hadn’t Deku followed through? Did he think Katsuki was too weak to handle his quirk? He’d said he thought Katsuki was awesome. So why wouldn’t he fight him?

“I knew it! You’ve been mocking me from the start!” Katsuki accused him.

“I didn’t wanna use it. Because I can’t, really. The blowback messes me up too much. It’s just like Aizawa said. But it was all I could think of.”

Katsuki didn’t have time to process what Deku meant before All Might’s voice provided the answer.

“The hero team wins!”

Katsuki’s blood ran cold as he realised Deku had tricked him. He’d beaten Katsuki without even using his quirk against him. He’d read Katsuki like a book, predicting his moves and even leading him exactly where he needed to be to win the match. Even in a full on fight, he had totally lost to Deku.

“The losing team is nearly unscathed, while the winners are down for the count!”

At All Might’s words, he turned to see that Deku had indeed passed out on the ground. Was the blowback of his quirk really that bad? How had he made it all these years without seriously injuring himself if that was the case?

Katsuki watched numbly as Deku was loaded onto a stretcher by a couple transport robots and taken to the nurse’s office. A small part of him wanted to follow them, to make sure Deku was okay, but a bigger part of him was too shocked to move. He wasn’t even sure why he wanted to make sure Deku was okay. The bastard had made a fool of him yet again. He shouldn’t give a shit if he was okay.

A firm hand on his shoulder snapped Katsuki back to reality.

“Let’s head back, Young Bakugo. Time for your grading. Whether you win or lose, you can always come out ahead by learning from the experience.”

What bullshit. He hadn’t learned anything that really mattered. He hadn’t learned why Deku had hidden his quirk from him. He hadn’t learned when or why Deku had deemed him unworthy of being his soulmate. He hadn’t learned why, if Deku truly thought Katsuki was awesome, he had decided to turn his back on their relationship from the very beginning.

All he’d learnt was that Deku would rather pretend to be quirkless than be Katsuki’s soulmate.

********

When Izuku returned to class, his arm in a sling, he’d been immediately crowded by his classmates. They bombarded him with compliments and questions, he’d found it kind of overwhelming. He tried his best to answer all their questions, but his heart wasn’t really in it.

He couldn’t stop worrying about Kacchan. The blond hadn’t said a word to him since he’d returned. He wouldn’t even look at him. Izuku desperately wanted to sort things out between them. He needed to tell Kacchan that he hadn’t been lying about not having a quirk all this time. He wanted Katsuki to know he hadn’t been looking down on him. He needed to explain.

As soon as class ended, Katsuki stomped out of the classroom. Izuku wanted to follow, but he was stopped by Uraraka on his way out.

“Midoriya, your arm! Did you get it healed?” Her eyes were wide with worry, grabbing her own arm in sympathy.

“Ah, not quite. I’m pretty worn out so—”

Blond hair flashed further down the hallway and disappeared towards the school entrance.

“Um, Uraraka, sorry but I have to go!” he said, and didn’t bother waiting for a reply before bolting towards the school entrance. Luckily, Kacchan was still making his way towards the school gates.

“Kacchan!”

The blond froze. He turned, slowly, until his glare was settled on Izuku.  

Izuku’s heart raced, every word he wanted to say hammering in rapid succession against his ribcage. It was too reckless to even consider— he wasn’t sure why he was doing this. He hadn’t even told his mother about his secret. But somehow, it felt like the right thing to do. The thought of lying to Kacchan felt wrong.

He took a deep breath to steady himself, locking eyes with the blond before he spoke:

“I got my quirk from someone else.”

Chapter Text

“I got my quirk from someone else.”

His anger evaporated in an instant and confusion took its place. What the hell was the nerd saying? Quirks were inherited. Did he mean he got his quirk from someone other than his parents? Was he adopted or something? No, Deku wouldn’t have phrased something so simple like that.

Deku didn’t wait for a reply— not that Katsuki had any idea what he would even say. “I can’t say from who but… this is like a conversation right out of a comic book. On top of that, I can’t even use it properly yet. This borrowed power is still pretty useless to me. That’s why I tried to beat you without it, but I couldn’t. I had to rely on it. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m gonna make it my own someday and overcome you with my own power!”

Deku froze, looking wide-eyed as if shocked by his own words. He probably hadn’t meant to say that much, Katsuki guessed. If what Deku said was true, and it must be considering he couldn’t lie, then this was huge. It contradicted everything society believed about the transfer of quirks.

If Deku wasn’t his soulmate, there was no way Katsuki would’ve believed him— the situation was beyond belief. You couldn’t just give quirks to other people. It didn’t work like that. You were either born with a quirk or you weren’t. It was as simple as that. Or, at least, that’s what Katsuki had always believed. 

Now he didn’t know what to believe.

Fuck, this changed everything. Everything he’d assumed since he learnt Deku had a quirk was wrong. Deku hadn’t tricked him, he really had been quirkless. It was never some convoluted scheme to outwit fate and reject their bond. Deku hadn’t ruined their relationship— Katsuki had.

Yet, even after everything, Deku still trusted him with such a huge secret. Did the nerd think being soulmates outweighed all the abuse Katsuki had put him through? Would Deku just forgive anything his soulmate did to him? Katsuki felt a little sick at the thought.

“Kacchan?” Deku was pale and he wrung his hands nervously.  

He realised he’d been silently staring at Deku for a while. Katsuki was still trying to process everything he’d heard. He didn’t even know where to begin. It wouldn’t do any good to ask who had given him such a dangerous power. Deku had already said he couldn’t say who, even to his own soulmate apparently.

Instead he asked in an unusually calm voice, “Why are you telling me this?”

Deku rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “I’m not really sure myself. It just felt like the right thing to do, I guess.”

Katsuki opened his mouth to say something along the lines of, “Well obviously, trying to hide shit from your soulmate is pointless,” but he never was able to say it.

“Young Bakugooo!” Katsuki grimaced at the sound of All Might approaching. The pro hero placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “I wanted to tell you that self-respect is important! Without a doubt you’ve got the makings of a pro! From now on you just have to–”

“Get off me, All Might!” Katsuki roughly shrugged his hand off. His feelings of inadequacy from losing to Deku and watching that icy bastard resurfaced along with his anger. The last thing he wanted was a fucking pep talk from the number one hero.

“I don’t need you to tell me that! I’m gonna be a hero who surpasses even you!” Katsuki snapped, storming back towards the gates.

He still had a dozen questions for Deku, but he couldn’t exactly ask them in front of All Might. He’d have to wait ‘til the next time they were alone.

He paused, turning back to lock eyes with Deku. “I won’t tell anyone what you told me.”

There, at least now Deku could be sure Katsuki would keep his secret. The nerd was prone to overthinking and he likely would’ve worked himself into a panic otherwise. 

Not that I care, Katsuki reminded himself firmly. Soulmate or not, quirkless or not, he didn’t have time to worry about Deku. Katsuki was going to become number one hero. He had far bigger priorities than romance.

He deliberately twisted his expression into his usual scowl, “This doesn’t mean I’ll be going easy on you! From here on, I’m gonna beat everyone! Enjoy your win, because it won’t be happening again.”

********

“What exactly did you tell Young Bakugo?” All Might asked as soon as Kacchan was out of earshot.

Izuku bowed his head in shame, unable to look his idol in the eye. “I told him I got my quirk from someone else… but I didn’t tell him who from, I swear!”

All Might frowned in disappointment. “You told him?”

“I’m sorry, All Might! I haven’t even told my mum, but I just had to tell him something. I was just going to tell him that I hadn’t tricked him, but before I knew it the words were out of my mouth. I’m so, so sorry!” Izuku pressed his lips together in regret.

All Might sighed, but it didn’t sound angry. “I suppose I’m also at fault for not being clear enough about the responsibility that comes with this power. You cannot tell anyone about One for All. If the world was to learn about this power, there’s no doubt that all manner of scum would come and try to steal it away. This secret is all that prevents our society from falling into chaos. Keeping this secret is for your own protection as well. Do you understand?”

Dread filled his stomach as he realised how foolish it had been to tell Kacchan. He wasn’t even Izuku’s friend anymore. There was no guarantee he would keep this information to himself. But still, he couldn’t help but trust Kacchan when he said he wouldn’t tell anyone. He couldn’t explain why he was so sure, but Deku truly believed that Kacchan would keep his secret.

“Yes All Might! I’ll never tell anyone else, I promise!” Deku bowed deeply.

“Very well, I’ll forgive you this time. I myself have told a few select people I can trust, so I can’t be too harsh on you. But Young Bakugo is your responsibility now. It’s up to you to make sure he doesn’t tell anyone else. Are you confident he will keep your secret?”

Deku didn’t even hesitate. “I’m sure. Kacchan may be loud and brash, but he’s not a liar. If he says he won’t tell anyone, then I believe him.”

All Might regarded him for a few moments, before finally nodding. “Well I hope for both our sakes, that your faith in him isn’t misplaced.”

********

Two days had passed and Katsuki still hadn’t had a chance to talk to the nerd alone. 

He’d tried to seek him out at lunch the day before, but just as he’d spotted him at a table with Glasses and Round Cheeks the emergency alarm had sounded and everything had turned to chaos. Eventually Glasses had managed to calm the stampede by telling everyone the intruders were just reporters, but by the time the crowd dispersed, lunch was practically over. 

Once school ended for the day, Deku had rushed off to the staff room in search of All Might, probably to pester the hero with questions he’d been harbouring for years. Katsuki felt sorry for the hero, having to deal with fanboys at his workplace. Katsuki may be a fan of All Might, but he respected the guy enough not to bother him in his free time.

It wasn’t until the bus ride to their rescue training exercise that realisation had hit him.

He’d been half-listening to his classmates chattering, not really interested but having nothing else to focus on in the small space.

Frog Face’s words hit him like a truck. “Your quirk resembles All Might’s.”

Katsuki’s attention snapped to watch Deku’s flustered response. “R-R-R-Really? Nah. I mean, I–”

Before Deku could spontaneously combust, some spiky red-haired guy came to his rescue. “Hold up, Tsuyu. All Might doesn’t get hurt though…”

Katsuki stopped listening. He already knew the truth. So it was All Might! Katsuki almost couldn’t believe it, but all the signs were staring him in the face. Deku’s quirk was exactly like All Might’s, the idiot had even screamed “Detroit Smash” when he’d punched the ceiling the other day. He’d initially brushed it off as the antics of a fanatic fanboy, but what if it was more than that?

Deku’s reaction to Frog Face’s statement was proof enough. The stuttering idiot had broadcast the truth to the one person in possession of Deku’s secret: Katsuki. Even if Deku wasn’t Katsuki’s soulmate, his terrible lying skills would’ve made up for it. The idiot couldn’t lie for shit. He was lucky his secret was so far-fetched that no one would ever guess it anyway.

But All Might was the strongest hero in Japan, maybe even the whole world! Why the fuck would he have given his quirk to some quirkless nobody? It didn’t make any sense. What did he see in Deku that he hadn’t seen in Katsuki? They met All Might at the same time. Had the hero dismissed him as so weak that he’d really choose Deku over him?

The sound of his name brought his attention back to his classmates’ conversation.

“But Bakugo’s so unhinged. He’d never be popular.”

Katsuki jumped to his feet in fury. “What’d you say, Frog Face?”

“See?” Frog Face pointed as if Katsuki had proven her point.

Some blonde asshole spoke up before Katsuki could. “We’ve only barely started socialising and already you’ve made it abundantly clear to us the unpleasantness of your steamed turd of a personality.”

Katsuki shook with unbridled rage, wanting nothing more than to climb over the seat and fry this asshole. “Yeah, okay, Mr Vocabulary. How about I pound your face in?”

“What a vulgar conversation,” Ponytail covered her mouth in distaste.

“I think it’s fun.” Round Cheeks chuckled.

Before Katsuki could snap at them to mind their own fucking business, the bus was stopping and Aizawa announced their arrival. He forced himself to reign in his anger. He wasn’t about to let these assholes distract him from his training. He meant what he’d told Deku the other day. He was sick of being left behind. He’d show all these assholes not to underestimate him.

All Might and Deku temporarily forgotten, Katsuki turned his focus onto the lesson ahead.

********

When Izuku had imagined how their rescue training exercise would pan out, he would never have imagined villains showing up through a portal and announcing they were here to kill All Might. He barely had any time to process what was happening before the whole class was being scattered around USJ through portals.

He’d landed in the flood area with Asui– Ah, Tsu-chan– and Mineta. After a bit of frantic strategy and teamwork, the trio had managed to defeat the villains in their area and escaped towards where Aizawa was fighting the head villain. They’d watched in terror as a monstrous creature, introduced by the main villain as a bioengineered weapon called Nomu, overwhelmed their teacher and broke his arm.

“This is bad, Midoriya. Time for a change of plans, yeah?” Mineta yelped. Tsuyu croaked in agreement.

The warp villain suddenly appeared, addressing the head villain as Tomura Shigaraki. The warp villain, Kurogiri, informed him that one of the students had escaped to get help. Furious, Shigaraki admitted that they wouldn’t stand a chance against dozens of pro heroes and announced they were leaving.

Mineta wailed in relief at the news, but Izuku remained sceptical. It seemed too easy. Didn’t they say they wanted to kill All Might? What are they thinking?

“But before that, let’s leave a few dead kids to wound the Symbol of Peace’s pride.”

Time seemed to slow down as Shigaraki reached towards Tsuyu’s face. Izuku had seen how Aizawa’s elbow crumbled under the villain’s touch. There was no way Tsuyu would survive if those fingers touched her face.

But it all happened too fast, Izuku didn’t have a chance to move before Shigaraki’s hand clasped around Tsuyu’s face. They all froze, waiting for the worst.

When nothing happened, Shigaraki said, “You really are pretty cool, Eraser Head.”

Izuku’s head whipped around to see his bloodied teacher, staring at Shigaraki’s back. Before he had a chance to feel relieved, the Nomu was slamming Aizawa’s face into the ground.

Oh no, no, no, no. He didn’t have time to waste. He needed to save Tsuyu before Shigaraki’s quirk had a chance to reactivate.

He reeled his fist back. “Get off her!”

“Nomu,” Shigaraki said calmly, just before Izuku’s fist made impact.

But it wasn’t Shigaraki that he’d hit. The Nomu had rushed in front of him to take the impact of the punch. Izuku had stared in shock at his undamaged arm when it didn’t throb with pain as he’d expected. He would’ve been elated at having used his quirk without hurting himself, if he hadn’t realised his punch was ineffective.

So this was how they were going to kill All Might. This monster was able to withstand One for All at 100% without even a scratch.

“Fear not! I am here!” His mentor’s voice boomed through the building and Izuku was filled with a mixture of relief and dread.

All Might scooped up the three students and Aizawa, moving them out of harm’s way. “Everyone to the entrance. Take Aizawa. He’s unconscious, so hurry!”

Izuku ignored All Might’s instructions, needing to warn him first. “It’s no use All Might! That brain villain’s too strong, One for– I mean, my attack wasn’t strong enough to break my own arm but he didn’t even flinch. Up against that, you–”

“Young Midoriya,” All Might interrupted him, “Fear not!”

All Might charged at the Nomu but, as Izuku had feared, his attack had no effect.  

He listened as Shigaraki explained to All Might that the Nomu had shock absorption. In other words: his punches wouldn’t work. Izuku watched as All Might attempted to suplex the Nomu into the ground, only for Kurogiri to use a portal to prevent him from doing so. From the other end of the portal, the Nomu clawed a hand into All Might’s weak spot. All Might coughed blood and Izuku knew he couldn’t just watch anymore. I’m the only one who knows his secret.

“Tsu-chan!”

“You finally got it right. What is it, Midoriya?”

“Take Aizawa-sensei for me.”

“Sure, but what are you–”

He didn’t wait for her to finish before he was rushing towards All Might. There were still so many things he needed All Might to teach him. He couldn’t let him die here!

ALL MIGHT!” Izuku cried out to his mentor. He didn’t notice Kurogiri appearing right in front of him until it was too late to stop. He prepared himself for impact with the portal villain, but a blur of movement next to him took him by surprise.

“Get the hell outta here, Deku!” Kacchan screamed over his explosion as he tackled Kurogiri to the ground. Deku watched in shock as two more classmates appeared. Todoroki, who froze half of the Nomu, and Kirishima, who swung a hardened arm at Shigaraki from behind. Unfortunately, Shigaraki managed to dodge the attack.

Tears of gratitude filled his eyes as he eyed his classmates. “Kacchan! Everyone!”

********

Katsuki’s heart was still racing at the close call. He fucking knew that idiot would rush head first into danger the moment the villains had arrived. He’d just barely made it in time before that portal bastard got to him. Who knows where Deku might’ve ended up if he’d gotten his misty fucking hands on his soulmate.

Despite yelling at him to leave, Deku remained where he was, tearing up like the fucking crybaby he was. This fucking idiot, why wouldn’t he just listen to him? He couldn’t even use his quirk properly, he’d just get in the way!

The misty fuck squirmed underneath him and Katsuki sparked his fingers against the metal neck-brace threateningly. “Don’t move! If I decide you’re doing anything fishy, I’ll blow you straight to kingdom come!”

“That’s not very hero-like, dude,” the boy he’d dubbed Shitty Hair warned him.

He fought the urge to roll his eyes. This idiot seemed to think they were friends now just because they’d fought a bunch of villains together. Katsuki supposed he wasn’t the worst partner he could’ve ended up with.

The main villain bastard was rambling about something, but Katsuki kept his focus on the warp guy. He couldn’t get distracted. The warp was their only way of escape. He wouldn’t let him get away.

KACCHAN!” Deku’s voice cried out for him and he looked up instinctually. 

Katsuki watched in horror as the Nomu’s attack rushed towards him. He had no time to dodge, no time to even think about how to avoid the attack. Just as the blast was about to make impact, Katsuki found himself tossed haphazardly to the side by a blurred figure. He landed with surprising grace next to his soulmate.

“Kacchan? You dodged that? Wow!” Deku gaped from beside him.

He clenched his teeth in annoyance. “I didn’t. Shut up.”

All Might stood in the place Katsuki had once been. He had saved him. Again.

Dammit, he thought he’d gotten stronger since the sludge incident. As it turned out, he’d still needed saving. No wonder All Might chose Deku instead. He wasn’t even strong enough to keep hold of a fucking villain and, thanks to him, now the villains would be able to escape. Fuck!

Hand Fucker was sprouting on about how the world was corrupt, blah, blah, blah. Katsuki had heard enough. He was going to turn that stupid hand on his face to dust.

“Kids, get out of here!” All Might instructed them. Katsuki growled in annoyance.

“Things wouldn’t have gone so well if I hadn’t just stepped in,” Icy Hot argued.

Katsuki hated to agree with him, but he had a damn point. If they hadn’t stepped in, All Might and Deku would’ve been toast.

“All Might, you’re bleeding and I think your time’s u–” Deku hastily covered his mouth, but Katsuki had already heard. Time’s up? What the hell did that mean?

Despite their concerns, All Might assured them not to worry. They then watched in awe as the hero pummelled the brain monster over and over, faster than their eyes could follow. Blow after blow hit the monster’s stomach until it was launched right out of the skylight.

“Like straight out of the comics. He just smashed his way past the absorption. The ultimate bruiser…” Shitty Hair marvelled.

“And against that power, the regeneration wasn’t able to keep up with that rush of attacks,” Katsuki added, just as awestruck. So this is the top… the world of pros!

All Might turned to Hand Fucker with a raised fist. “Yep, I’m slowing down. In my heyday, five of those punches would’ve been enough. But that was over three hundred hits just now.”

He seemed pretty distressed, going on and on about having been lied to about All Might becoming weaker. Of course that was a lie! He was the number one pro hero. There was nothing that could slow All Might down. These villains were stupid if they thought they ever stood a chance against him.

Yet his idiot soulmate took a step towards All Might, as if the Pro needed help.

Before Katsuki could snap at him to stay the hell back, Shitty Hair beat him to it. “Midoriya, we oughta hang back for now. Rush in and they might take you hostage or something.”

“Right… we’re not ready for this level yet,” Icy Hot agreed.

Shitty Hair and Icy Hot turned their backs on the fight, making their way towards the entrance.

“All Might’ll take care of the big bads. Let’s go see if we can help the others,” Shitty Hair suggested.

Katsuki refused to follow until Deku did. His soulmate wouldn’t stop staring at All Might with a look of concern on his face. 

He had a bad feeling about this.

“Midoriya?” Icy Hot asked.

“Bakugo?” Shitty Hair added.

Deku started muttering under his breath. If Katsuki hadn’t grown up around his constant muttering, he wouldn’t have understood a word.

“I’m the only one who knows. Thinking about it, the mist guy’s probably the more dangerous one. All Might’s probably at his limit, if the mist guy manages to suck him in…”

Apprehension filled Katsuki the longer he listened to Deku’s rambling. He knew the nerd was going to rush in the moment before the bastard actually did it. He jumped the same moment Deku did, but the nerd was faster.

Shit, he must’ve used his quirk. That meant his legs were probably broken, that idiot. What the hell was his plan? He couldn’t fight with two broken legs and, from the way his fist was raised, a soon-to-be-broken arm.

“Get away from All Might!” Deku shouted.

Katsuki watched in panic as Hand Fucker reached towards Deku’s face. Not on my fucking watch!

He used an explosion to speed himself up, closing the distance between them, before blasting Hand Fucker away with another explosion. The villain hissed, snatching his burned hand back in pain. Katsuki didn’t have a chance to enjoy the surprise on the villain’s face, too preoccupied with catching Deku before he hit the ground. Deku winced as his broken legs jostled against Katsuki’s arms.

He gently placed Deku on the ground. He kept his arms around his waist, holding most of Deku’s weight so as not to put any on Deku’s broken legs. He pulled Deku’s back against his chest, kneeling on the ground behind him.

“Kacchan? What are you doing here?” He stared up at him with wide eyes.

“Shut up! I wasn’t going to let you jump in there alone! You absolute fucking idiot, do you have a death wish?” Kastuki growled at him.

Despite his harsh words, his hold on Deku was gentle as he cradled him. He wasn’t sure he could let go of him right now, even if someone asked him to. The weight of his soulmate in his arms and the heartbeat against his palm gave him comfort. It was proof he’d made it in time. Deku was safe.

The doors to the entrance burst open and suddenly USJ was filling with pro heroes.

“Ah they’re here, game over. Guess we gotta try again another time, Kurogiri,” Hand Fucker sighed and started making his way into the portal. Bullets rained down towards the portal, but Hand Fucker didn’t seem worried in the slightest.

“I may have failed here, Symbol of Peace. But next time we meet, you’re dead.”

Katsuki wanted to chase after them and apprehend the fog bastard, but he couldn’t will himself to let go of Deku. His moment of hesitation was all it took for the bastards to get away. Dammit! I let him escape again.

“I… couldn’t do anything,” Deku groaned in defeat.

“That’s not true,” All Might’s voice spoke up from inside a giant cloud of mist. Or maybe dust? Or smoke? Katsuki couldn’t tell. He could barely see All Might’s shadow through the haze.

“If you hadn’t given me those few seconds… I’d be dead. You saved me, again.”

The mist finally cleared enough to get a better look at All Might and Katsuki gaped at the sight of him. All Might’s face was sunken in almost skeletal and his right arm looked deflated. Was this seriously All Might? What had happened to him?

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Deku sobbed, but he didn’t seem surprised to see his idol in such a state.

“Midoriya! Bakugo! Are you guys okay?” Shitty Hair cried out, running towards them. 

Shit, it’d be bad if other people saw All Might like this, right? He was pretty sure this had to be a side effect of giving his quirk to Deku or something. Either way he had to stop Shitty Hair before he could see anything he shouldn’t.

“Stay back, idi–” Katsuki shouted.

At the same moment, Deku cried. “Kirishima, wai–”  

Both of their cries were cut off by a wall of cement erupting from the ground in front of Shitty Hair.

A square-looking hero showed up seemingly out of nowhere, walking towards them calmly.

From over the wall, the hero called out, “We need to make sure all you students are saved, so head over to the gate. I’ll tend to the wounded.” 

“Makes sense. Roger that!” Shitty Hair called back. Good thing that idiot was gullible.  

“Thanks. That was close, Cementoss,” All Might slumped to the ground, his form becoming even more skeletal by the second.

“What are we going to do about this one?” Cementoss asked, gesturing towards Katsuki.

“Kacchan won’t tell anyone, I promise!” Deku piped up before Katsuki could even say anything.

“Is that true, Bakugo? Are you willing to keep this form of mine a secret?” All Might regarded him with uncertainty.

Katsuki didn’t even have to think about it. This wasn’t just All Might’s secret, it was his soulmate’s too. Katsuki might not be the best soulmate– understatement of the fucking century, he knew– but even he wasn’t going to betray his soulmate like that. 

“Like I fucking told Deku. I’m not gonna tell anyone. But I think I deserve to know the truth. All of it.

Chapter Text

Recovery Girl frowned in disapproval at the two bedbound fools. “The situation being what it was, I suppose I can’t scold you two this time.”

Katsuki huffed from Deku’s bedside. “Fuck that! If you let him off easy, Deku’ll just think it’s fine to break himself anytime there’s a fucking villain attack.”

“Kacchan–” Deku began to protest but Katsuki cut him off.

“Shut up, you know I’m fucking right.”

Deku pouted, his puffed up cheeks making him look ugly definitely not cute.

Recovery Girl chuckled. “Your friend is right, young man. You won’t be able to save anyone if you destroy yourself before you even graduate.”

She turned to All Might, who was lying in the bed beside Deku’s watching them with an amused smile. “And you, All Might—” her voice was firm and All Might startled like a scolded child, “—you’re a bad influence on the boy. You keep pushing yourself too hard as well. Just because your efforts pay off doesn’t mean they don’t have consequences. How long do you think you’ll be able to maintain your muscular form now?”

All Might sighed. “I’ll be lucky if I still get an hour a day.”

Recovery Girl shook her head. “Well I hope this teaches both of you a valuable lesson about respecting your limits.”

There was a loud knock before a guy in a trenchcoat opened the infirmary door. “Pardon me.”

Katsuki tried not to growl in annoyance. Great, another person he’d have to wait to leave before All Might could tell him anything.

“Long time, no see, All Might,” the man greeted All Might with a wave.

“Tsukauchi! I didn’t know you were here,” All Might grinned, but it looked more like a grimace in his skeleton form. Huh, so there was another person who knew about All Might’s weird body.

Deku sat up quickly and Katsuki fought the urge to push him back down. Did the idiot not understand what rest meant? The old lady hadn’t even used her quirk on him yet— she’d just dressed his wounds.

“All Might, is this okay? You’re…” Deku trailed off, gesturing to All Might’s decrepit state.

Katsuki rolled his eyes. Obviously the guy already knew or he wouldn’t have addressed him as All Might in the first place. It was improbable that anyone would recognize that sack of bones as All Might, anyway. Stupid nerd, he thought, always worrying before thinking things through.

“Yeah, it’s fine— This is my favourite detective on the force, good old Noamasa Tsukaichi!” All Might announced. 

The detective chuckled awkwardly. “Thanks for the bizarre intro, All Might. Not to rush you, but I’d like to ask about those villains.”

Katsuki stopped listening. He’d already given the police his statement while Deku and All Might were being tended to by Granny.

“Oi Granny, come fix Deku’s legs already. The idiot doesn’t know how to sit still, maybe some forced sleep will teach him.”

“B-But Kacchan, I don’t want to go to sleep yet! All Might hasn’t told you about,” he glanced nervously at the detective and lowered his voice, “my quirk yet.”

“Don’t worry, my boy! Tsukaichi knows all about One for All.”

“One for All?” Katsuki frowned at the unfamiliar phrase.

“That’s the true name for my quirk. There’s quite a lot to tell you, Young Bakugo. Are you sure you’re ready to hear it?”

Katsuki crossed his arms. “Of course, I am! And since you said that in front of her, I suppose Granny also knows the truth. Who else knows about this deal between you and Deku?”

“Just Tsukaichi, Recovery Girl, the principal and an old friend of my mentor. Among the students, only you.”

“And you chose Deku to keep such a big secret? You realise the idiot can’t keep a secret for shit, right? Even if it wasn’t me, he’s still a terrible liar. He almost blew his goddamn cover in the bus today in front of Frog-face.”

“K-Kacchan!” Deku spluttered, covering his face in embarrassment.  

All Might flashed Deku a fond smile. “Yes, I suppose I underestimated Young Midoriya’s sincerity. But he’s assured me he won’t tell anyone else and now you can help make sure no one else connects the dots.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Easier said than done, this idiot is too obvious. Even if he hadn’t told me I bet I woulda figured it out eventually.”

All Might chuckled. “I’ve no doubt about that, Young Bakugo. You’re one of the brightest students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. You’ll make a fine hero one day.”

“Whatever,” Katsuki grit his teeth against the involuntary blush at the praise from his idol, “Just get on with it already. You chose him after the sludge incident, right? Why Deku of all people?”

“Even powerless, he was more of a hero than anyone that day. I could tell you were strong. You were already on your way, so I decided to give him a chance to walk that path too.”

Katsuki bit his tongue to keep from arguing. All Might was wrong. He wasn’t strong. Katsuki was weak. That day had proven how pitiful Katsuki was. Even now, he’d done nothing but lose since the school year began. He’d lost to Deku. Half-and-Half Bastard was stronger than him. He’d even let that damn warp villain get away. 

Katsuki wasn’t strong at all. He was a failure.

All Might kept talking, oblivious to Katsuki’s inner turmoil. “I was also born quirkless.”

All Might was quirkless? The number one pro hero used to be quirkless? How was that even possible? Quirkless people were useless. They were nobodies. At least… that was what he’d always believed. What he had to believe. Because… Because if he was wrong, then that meant he’d tormented his soulmate for nothing.

He hastily cut off that train of thought, focussing his attention back on All Might.

“But my mentor gave me the chance to be a hero. I saw that same spark of potential inside of Young Midoriya. He has proven to be a fine successor and I don’t regret my decision in the slightest.”

“All Might…” Deku’s eyes sparkled with the threat of tears at his mentor’s praise.

“Yeah, yeah, enough of that sappy crap. None of that explains how you managed to give your quirk to Deku. Transferring quirks shouldn’t be possible.”

“Yes, normally quirks can only be transferred through bloodlines. But my quirk, our quirk, One for All is a rare exception. Young Midoriya, I haven’t explained the true origin of our quirk to you yet. I apologise for not telling you sooner, but now seems like as good a time as any.”

Deku perked up at this, eyes wide and intrigued like when he used to run off and watch hero fights. Yeah Katsuki had followed the nerd a few times in middle school, so what? He just wanted to know where that idiot was going. How could he not be curious when the nerd was running off all starry-eyed like that?

Katsuki forced himself to pay attention. He couldn’t let thoughts of the nerd keep distracting him, this shit was important.

All Might told them a tale from long ago when quirks first appeared. It was a tale of two brothers, one with the power to steal quirks and one who appeared to be quirkless. The older brother could bestow these stolen quirks onto others, though the burden was often too much to bear. Many who received a quirk would turn into mindless puppets unable to even speak, just like the Nomu. The older brother, known as All for One, used his quirk to create an army of loyal followers. Pitying his quirkless younger brother, he forced a power stock-piling quirk onto him.

But his brother was not quirkless after all. As it turned out, he had a totally useless quirk, the power to pass his quirk onto others. Once combined with the stock-piling quirk, One for All was born. Despising his brother’s evil ways, the younger brother swore to stop his sibling. But All for One was too powerful and, after stealing an immortality quirk, managed to live on for several generations. The younger brother passed on his quirk in the hopes that one day One for All could be used to defeat his brother. It wasn’t until the eighth holder, All Might, that All for One was finally defeated.

Katsuki listened carefully to All Might’s story, trying to process all the information. It was a lot to take in. The fact that a villain of that calibre had existed and there was no mention of it in any history books was insanity to Katsuki. How could the government keep something like that a secret? It made him wonder what else the government had hidden from the world. Even more reason not to trust politicians, he supposed.

All Might brought his hand up to his bandaged chest. “All for One is the reason I look like this. I’ve already told Young Midoriya, but five years ago I was gravely wounded in battle. That fight was against All for One. My respiratory system was almost destroyed and my stomach was entirely removed. Because of this, my physique has wasted away. 

“Since then I could only do hero work for a few hours a day… even less now after today’s fight. I’ll likely only be able to maintain my muscle form for an hour at most. I keep my true form a secret because I must maintain my position as the Symbol of Peace. The villains today seemed to be informed of my weakened state, but thankfully they underestimated my abilities. Young Bakugo, do you understand why it is crucial that you keep everything I’ve told you today a secret?”

Katsuki clicked his tongue in annoyance. “I already told Deku I wouldn’t tell anyone. Isn’t that proof enough?”

All Might should know he couldn’t lie to Deku. There was no way the nerd hadn’t told his idol that they were soulmates yet, considering how many secrets they’d already shared.

“Young Bakugo, while I want to trust you, you must understand why I cannot simply take you at your word. If the world were to discover the truth, it would be sheer chaos.”

Seriously? Deku hadn’t told him?

He turned to Deku with a raised eyebrow, but the nerd just bit his lip nervously at his questioning stare. Fine, if the nerd wanted to keep their bond a secret from All Might then he’d play along. It’s not like he wasn’t used to keeping it a secret anyway. He hadn’t told anyone since he’d found out.    

“Fine, then I swear on my future hero career. If I tell anyone, feel free to get the principal to expel me. Is that proof enough for you?”

Deku gawked at him, his voice cracking with emotion. “Kacchan…”

Katsuki’s heart did a weird flip at the reaction, but he did his best to ignore it.

All Might held his hand out to him. “Very well. We have a deal, Young Bakugo.”

Katsuki shook his skinny hand firmly. It was still unnerving to know that this frail man in front of him was the hero he’d grown up admiring.

The detective cleared his throat. “On that note, All Might, could we continue our earlier discussion on today’s villain attack? I understand this conversation was important, but I need to get back to my investigation.”

All Might looked sheepish. “Of course, I’m sorry! I got a little carried away. Boys, if you have any questions please hold them for a later date. I’m sure you both need your rest, especially you Young Midoriya.”

“Ah yes! Thank you, All Might,” Deku attempted to bow, wincing when the movement jostled his broken legs.

Katsuki growled in annoyance, shoving Deku back into the pillows. “Idiot, stay still! You don’t wanna mess your legs up more than you already have!”

Deku nodded, a smile spreading across his face. “Right! Thanks, Kacchan.”

Katsuki’s heart did another, more violent flip at the sight. He forced his scowl to remain on his face.

“Yeah, yeah, nerd. Don’t thank me for stating the obvious.”

“No, Kacchan, seriously thank you. For keeping my secret and for saving me today. You didn’t have to do that. I really appreciate it.”

Katsuki’s heart was doing fucking cartwheels now and he wished it would settle down. He grit his teeth, hoping that the heat in his face could be misconstrued as anger.

“I w-” I was just paying you back for the sludge incident.

Katsuki grit his teeth and tried again.

“You saved me from the sludge monster, so… yeah.”

Close enough, hopefully the nerd didn’t call him out on the attempted lie.

Deku nodded in understanding. “Of course, I know how you hate owing people. I guess we’re even now. But I can’t promise not to try to save you again in the future.”

Katsuki scoffed. “Just focus on trying to use that quirk without breaking bones first, idiot.”

Deku nodded enthusiastically. “Just watch, Kacchan! I’m gonna make this quirk my own, just like I promised. Then I can save you whenever I want!”

Katsuki needed the nerd to shut up before his heart decided to jump out of his damn chest.

“Granny, hurry the fuck up and kiss this idiot already!”

********

Izuku wasn’t sure how long he’d slept as he blinked to awareness. Recovery Girl’s quirk always knocked him right out and his injuries had drained quite a bit of stamina this time. The infirmary was quiet and All Might’s bed was empty. So was Recovery Girl’s desk. He wondered if they’d both gone home for the day. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been left in the infirmary to heal overnight. The school had likely informed his mother. But her shift wasn’t finished ‘til 8pm. At least he could assume it wasn’t that late if she wasn’t here to pick him up yet.

A shadow out of the corner of his eye had him turning to his left. He startled when he realised the chair beside his bed was still occupied.

“Kacchan?” he found himself asking. Kacchan stirred in the seat, blinking blearily up at him.

Izuku hadn’t meant to wake him, but he’d been so surprised to see him he couldn’t help it.

Izuku tilted his head to the side in confusion. “What are you still doing here?”

Not that he wasn’t happy to see the blond, but it was unusual for Kacchan to be so… attentive.

Kacchan scowled but the effect was dulled due to his drowsiness. “Granny had to go tend to Aizawa and Thirteen, so I said I’d stay here until your Mum came in case the villains came back.” 

Kacchan sat up in his chair, blinking the grogginess out of his eyes as he looked over Izuku. “Shit, didn’t mean to fall asleep. What time is it?”

Izuku gaped at him, unable to find words. 

Kacchan had waited for him? Why would he do that? Did Recovery Girl ask him to do that? It didn’t seem like something she’d do. It made more sense to ask a teacher to stay and watch him than to ask a student. But Kacchan wouldn’t just volunteer to watch him, the last time he’d checked Kacchan still hated his guts.

Upon receiving no response, Kacchan pulled his phone out to answer his own question. “It’s just past eight, she should be here soon.”

Izuku felt like he should pinch himself, this felt like a bizarre dream. Why would Kacchan suddenly care about his well-being? Was this about One for All, did he feel like he had to protect Izuku now that he knew he had All Might’s quirk? He’d always looked up to the hero, just like Izuku had, it would make sense if he wanted to preserve his idol’s quirk. Yeah, that was probably it.

He felt bad for wasting Kacchan’s time. If Izuku wasn’t so weak, he wouldn’t need Kacchan to look after him. He needed to get stronger so he wasn’t a burden anymore.

“Thank you for staying with me, Kacchan. But I should be okay on my own now. You should go home, your parents are probably worried about you.”

Kacchan frowned, looking him over sceptically. “I’m not leaving until your Mum gets here, idiot. Besides, I already told my parents I was staying late at school to watch over your sorry ass. They’re not worried. Hell, Mum even sounded pleased with me, if that’s even possible.”  

“I’m sure my mum will also be happy to see you.” Izuku rubbed his neck awkwardly. “She asks about you sometimes, but I never really know what to say.” 

He’d never told his Mum about Kacchan’s bullying. He hadn’t wanted to get him in trouble. His Mum would’ve definitely told Kacchan’s Mum and that would’ve just made everything worse. Besides, a little part of him had wanted to protect Kacchan from his mother’s judgement. Izuku couldn’t muster any anger towards Kacchan, but he knew his mother wouldn’t hesitate to blame him. The thought of his mother hating Kacchan made him feel sick.

Kacchan seemed to read his mind.

“Does she know about…” he gestured vaguely between them and cringed before adding, “us?

Izuku waved his arms in protest. “No! No, of course not, I swear!”

Kacchan leant back in the chair, a little more relaxed. “Good. I didn’t tell my parents either.”

The response confused Deku. Of course Kacchan wouldn’t tell his parents about his bullying habits. Deku was about to ask him why he’d even consider that, but Katsuki spoke up first.

“Why haven’t you told All Might? I figured there wouldn’t be any secrets between you two.”

“Ah… well it’s not really something I like to talk about. Plus it’s embarrassing. I don’t want All Might to look at me any differently, or you for that matter. I don’t think he’d be very pleased with you if he found out.” 

Kacchan’s scowl deepened as Izuku spoke, but it didn’t seem like it was in anger, more like… pain?

“Yeah, I can’t imagine he would be.” Kacchan spat out through clenched teeth.

Izuku frowned at him in concern. Kacchan had never seemed bothered by his past behaviour before. Was he feeling guilty now that he knew Izuku was All Might’s successor? Kacchan knew that he didn’t hold a grudge right?

“You know, Kacchan–”

His mother’s voice erupted from the infirmary doorway. “Oh Izuku! I’m so sorry you had to wait! I couldn’t get anyone to take my shift. But I was told Katsuki was taking good care of you. My, Katsuki dear, you’ve grown so much! Thank you so much for looking after my Izuku!”

Kacchan’s scowl shifted into a rare smile as he turned to Izuku’s mother. “It was no trouble, Auntie Inko. I’d better be heading home. Mum asked me to tell you she misses you and that you two should catch up soon.”

Kacchan didn’t look back at him or say goodbye as he rushed towards the door. Izuku felt a little sad to see him leave. They hadn’t spent time together in years and it was just his luck that he’d slept through most of it.

********

School was cancelled the day after the villain attack. Katsuki wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or relieved. He hated missing classes, especially now that he’d started high school. But he also didn’t know how he’d face Deku after yesterday. He couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d said.

It’s not something I like to talk about… it’s embarrassing… I don’t think he’d be very pleased with you.

Sure, on some level, Katsuki had known he’d irrevocably fucked things up between them. But hearing Deku say it so plainly had hurt. Which didn’t make any sense. Katsuki didn’t even want their bond. He’d never needed a soulmate before and that hadn’t changed.

He had far more important things to worry about. All Might had dropped the biggest bombshell of his life– Okay, second biggest, he amended as his brain produced the memory of damp clothes and a sore throat– but for some reason all he could think about was Deku.

About how peaceful Deku had looked while he was sleeping. About how soft Deku’s hair looked and how hard it had been not to reach out and touch it. About how worried he’d been when Deku jumped into danger. About how vehemently Deku had denied telling his mother about their bond.  

No! No, of course not, I swear!

Sure, Katsuki hadn’t told his parents either, but did Deku really have to sound so against the idea?

Well it’s not like he could blame him. Who would want to hear that their son’s childhood bully was his soulmate? Even worse, that he’d known they were soulmates while he’d done it. Yeah, there was no way to spin that in Katsuki’s favour. And he doubted she’d take ‘I thought he was quirkless’ as an excuse.

He couldn’t even justify it to himself anymore. Katsuki had once been so sure he was doing the right thing in pushing Deku away. After all, Deku was quirkless. How could Katsuki accept a quirkless person as his soulmate?

But now, he felt like he’d made a terrible mistake. Being quirkless didn’t make you less of a person. Hell, even All Might had once been quirkless. If his childhood hero had started out as a quirkless person, then all of Katsuki’s past prejudices seemed ridiculous in hindsight.

Even if Deku hadn’t gotten a quirk, even if he’d stayed quirkless, Katsuki should’ve just accepted it. At the very least, he shouldn’t have tormented him the way he did. He’d ruined any chance of them having a normal relationship. Even if Deku could find it in himself to forgive Katsuki, they’d probably never be anything more than friends.

Did… Did he want more than that? 

He’d never thought he did. The thought of having a romantic relationship had always disgusted him, especially after finding out who his soulmate was. Just the thought of being lovey-dovey towards Deku had made him feel sick.

Even now it felt weird to think about. But not exactly bad, just weird. Odd. Unusual. New.

Fuck, did he like Deku? It had barely been more than a year since he’d stopped bullying him. Could feelings really flip that fast?

A tiny, traitorous part of him whispered that this wasn’t new at all. That he’d always felt strangely attached to Deku. That he’d rarely gone more than a day without thinking of the nerd. Even when he was bullying him, it felt good to have Deku’s undivided attention, regardless of the negative context.

Katsuki found it ironic that in anyone else’s case, having a crush on your soulmate would be normal. When had his life ever been normal? He’d found his soulmate at fucking four years old. What kind of bullshit was that, huh? Who the hell expects a four year old to make wise choices when it comes to that kind of shit? Even if Katsuki hadn’t decided to tear any positive feelings Deku had for him to shreds, there’s no way they could’ve had a normal relationship. Four years old was just too young to find the love of your life.

Fuck. This couldn’t be happening. Katsuki didn’t have time for this. He needed to focus on his hero training. He’d already fallen behind as it is. He had to prove to everyone that he wasn’t weak, that his shortcomings were just flukes. He was the strongest and he would prove that.

He pushed his newfound revelation to the back of his mind as he attended school the next day. Nothing had changed. His goal was still the same as it had always been. He was going to focus on his school work. He was going to get stronger, enough to defeat anyone who stood in his way. He was going to graduate at the top of his class. He was going to be the number one pro hero. Everything else came second. He could sort out his messy feelings later.

The next day, Aizawa, teaching the class despite being bandaged up from head to toe like a mummy, delivered Katsuki the perfect opportunity to prove himself.

“Your battle is far from over, students. The UA sports festival is fast approaching.”

Chapter Text

The sports festival was a fucking disaster.

At the beginning of the festival he’d stood on that stage and declared his victory to the entire school, the crowd, and (likely) the majority of Japan. As he spoke, he’d deliberately avoided Deku’s gaze in the crowd, afraid the words might catch in his throat. He didn’t want to know if he was lying.

Despite his declaration, the losses just kept coming. Even his wins had felt like failures.

First, Deku had managed to beat everyone in the first round without even using his quirk— Katsuki’s frustration at this loss was almost overshadowed by pride for his soulmate’s ingenuity.

Then he’d lost again to fucking Icy Hot in the Cavalry Battle.

The one-on-one battles only worsened his mood despite his complete domination of the events. With every win, the frustration surged all the more. Nothing was going the way he wanted.

His win against Round Cheeks had been met with boos from the crowd and Aizawa’s defence had done little to ease the weight of the crowd’s hatred from his shoulders. It was annoying because, before the crowd had spoiled his mood, he’d actually enjoyed the fight. Round Cheeks was surprisingly strong and he’d found himself impressed by her resilience.

Later when he’d confronted Deku, the nerd claimed he hadn’t helped her come up with her strategy. The knowledge gave him a newfound respect for Round Cheeks, as well as temporarily soothed the jealousy raging inside him. He knew the two were friends, but it would’ve sucked to know his own soulmate had conspired against him.

His fight against Shitty Hair had been pretty satisfying. The redhead had come at him with everything he’d had and Katsuki could respect his determination, just as he’d respected Round Cheeks’. The crowd had cheered this time and Katsuki felt his mood lighten somewhat.

It didn’t last long. 

His fight with Bird Face felt cheap in comparison to his previous matches. He’d just gotten lucky. He’d only won because of the shadow’s weakness to light. It hardly felt like a win at all. If he was going to fight Bird Face, he’d rather do it at their prime.

But his fight with Icy Hot had been the biggest loss of all.

He couldn’t even try to hide his resentment as he glared down the one who’d harmed his soulmate.

After Deku and Icy Hot’s match, Katsuki had rushed to the infirmary. Unfortunately, Glasses, Round Cheeks, Frog Face and Grape Pervert had beaten him there. Not wanting them to see him and ask questions, he’d hidden behind the door as Granny told them Deku needed surgery. Surgery!

That fucking idiot! Katsuki had told him to stop breaking his bones every time he used his quirk. If he couldn’t learn to use it safely, then he shouldn’t use it at all. Katsuki swore to give that idiot a piece of his mind once the festival was over.

But first he was going to destroy Icy Hot for letting it happen.

Katsuki had come at him with everything he had, but no matter what he did, Icy Hot refused to take him seriously. The frosty bastard wouldn’t use his flames against him. It was infuriating. He didn’t want to beat the bastard if he wasn’t going to give it his all. He wanted to defeat him at his best.

Why would he take Deku seriously and not Katsuki? Did he think Katsuki wasn’t worth using his flames? Did he think Katsuki was weak? Weaker than Deku? Did that mean Deku also thought he was weak? Did everyone think he was weak? What more did he have to do to prove himself?

The last straw was when he’d heard Deku’s shout from the stands. “Don’t lose! Come on!”

So even Deku was rooting against him now? His own soulmate wanted him to lose! What was so fucking special about this Icy Hot bastard? He wouldn’t even use his fire! He was a half-assed punk who wasn’t even trying! Why was Deku trying so damn hard to help him anyway? They weren’t even friends. He was just some asshole in his class with daddy issues. Why did the nerd always have to butt in and save everyone all the time?

When Icy Hot had finally released his flames, Katsuki had grinned maniacally. Finally, now when he beat the bastard there’d be no denying that he was the best. Deku would see that he’d chosen wrong. That Katsuki had always been the right choice— the only choice.

Katsuki unleashed his new move, Howitzer Impact, spiralling towards the candy-cane bastard. But as the dust cleared, Katsuki saw Icy Hot’s unconscious body on a pile of rubble. Present Mic’s voice over the speakers confirmed his fears. Icy Hot had snuffed out his flames without even fighting back.

He’d lost the match on purpose.

Filled with rage, he’d grabbed the limp boy by his collar and tried to shake him awake. He didn’t want to win like this! He screamed at him to stop messing around. His win didn’t mean anything if it ended like this. There was no way he could accept this so-called victory.

Then the air had turned sweet and the world had gone dark.

When he first woke up, the fury had hit him all at once and he’d lunged for Icy Hot lying in the hospital bed next to him, determined to make him explain why he’d thrown the match.

Before he’d even made it out of bed, he’d choked on the sickly sweet taste of Midnight’s gas again.

Consciousness came to him slower the second time. His head was foggy and his limbs felt oddly heavy. He tried lifting a hand to rub at his blurry eyes, only for his wrists to catch against something hard and metallic. He pulled harder, quickly realising both his hands and feet were encased. The loud rattling of chains accompanied his jerky movements. 

Desperately blinking the grogginess out of his eyes, he looked down to find himself bound and chained to a block of cement. He tried to yell, but his jaw caught against something solid that pinched into his skin— a muzzle. Panic immediately seized him and he thrashed around in the restraints. No matter how hard he tugged or tried to use his quirk, he couldn’t get himself free.

He tried to study his surroundings for clues of what happened. The room was empty and dark. Was he underground? Why was he tied up? Had villains attacked the school again? Did they take him while he was unconscious?

His head whipped towards the doorway as a figure entered the room. Relief filled him as he recognised Midnight. Thank fuck, if a teacher was here it meant that whoever had captured him had been apprehended. He waited impatiently for her to let him out of the chains, but she just crossed her arms and eyed him calmly.

He tugged at the chains and tried to yell at her to hurry the fuck up, but the words came out as an incomprehensible growl.

“You brought this on yourself, Kid. If you’re gonna be a hero you can’t go around attacking other classmates outside of sanctioned school matches. Now be a good boy and behave for the award ceremony, yeah?”

She grinned at him predatorily and his blood went cold. There weren’t any villains. The school had done this to him. He wasn’t getting out of this, they were going to keep him restrained for as long as they saw fit.  

His heart pounded loudly in his ears and his fingertips went cold and numb. The familiar taste of toxic sludge filled his mouth and he found it hard to breathe. His vision went blurry with unshed tears and he hastily blinked to clear them. 

It’s not real, he told himself firmly. The sludge villain is gone, it isn’t real.

But his body wouldn’t listen, his throat seized up in his panic. He was choking on thin air.

Two more figures entered the room, but Katsuki hardly registered them. His mind was going fuzzy, the chains around his hands suddenly turned to thick sludge.

The last thing he heard before his senses were entirely encompassed by heavy liquid was Midnight’s voice.

“Ignore him, he’s just throwing a tantrum. Todoroki, Tokoyami, take your places on the podiums.”

********

All concerns about Iida and his brother were gone the moment Izuku saw Kacchan on that podium.

“What the…” Jirou hissed and several of their classmates gasped.

“He’s been going wild since the second he woke up,” Kirishima said apprehensively.

Dread seeped into Izuku’s stomach the longer he watched Kacchan’s thrashing figure. His head whipped violently back and forth as he tugged against his restraints. A close-up of the podium projected Kacchan’s muzzled face on several large screens around the arena. His expression was twisted in what many might consider anger, but Izuku knew better. He’d seen that look in Kacchan’s eyes before, could recognise the distress for what it truly was. He’d seen that exact look on Kacchan’s face just a year before. 

His eyes were pleading for help.

Once again, his body moved before he could think.

“Midoriya?” his classmates called after him in confusion, but he didn’t look back.

A small fence separated him from Midnight and the podiums— it was a relief that the first year students had been gathered to watch the ceremony from up close rather than the stands. He hurdled the fence, arms effectively useless in their casts. It was a miracle that his leg had been fully healed by Recovery Girl, not that the injury would’ve stopped him anyway. Pain was the last thing on his mind.

He heard shouts of protest from security, but paid them no mind. He knew they were too far away to catch him before he could make it to the podiums.

Midnight’s speech cut off in surprise when she noticed him. “Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing, Kid?”

He ignored her as well. Nothing mattered in that moment except getting to Kacchan.

“Kacchan!” he yelled as soon as he reached the bottom of the first place podium. The blond’s struggles continued as if he hadn’t heard him. 

The podium was too high for him to climb up, even without two broken arms. Izuku eyed his surroundings frantically, the steps for the podiums needed to be wheeled over, but there was no way he could grab it before security caught him— not that he could grab anything right now with his arms as they were anyway.  

Life would be a whole lot easier if he could use his quirk without breaking his legs. 

Before he could figure out another way onto the podium, two security guards were upon him. They reached to grab his arms, but hesitated at the casts. They exchanged an unsure glance towards Midnight, clearly unsure what the protocol was for restraining an injured student. 

Midnight sighed. “Listen, Kid. If you don’t return to the audience on your own, they’re gonna have to haul you away. Don’t make them ruin Recovery Girl’s hard work.”

Izuku turned pleading eyes towards Midnight. “Wait! I have to make sure Kacchan’s okay. Can’t you see he needs help?”

Midnight rolled her eyes. “If he’d behaved himself in the first place, none of this would’ve been necessary. He needs to face the consequences of his actions.”

Izuku stared at her in disbelief. Could she seriously not see Kacchan was in distress?

The security guards began to escort him away from the podium, obviously trying their best not to tug his arms too harshly. Izuku tried to catch Kacchan’s eye as they pulled him away, but his head was thrashing around too quickly. From what he could catch of Kacchan’s gaze, it was hazy and unseeing. Kacchan didn’t seem to be aware of the commotion at all. It was as if his mind was somewhere else. 

Izuku realised with horror that Kacchan’s breathing was short and laboured.

“He’s suffocating!” Izuku cried, easily tearing himself from the guards’ hesitant grasps. 

Imagine the egg not breaking, he chanted the mantra in his mind as he jumped for the podium. 

His leg muscles strained painfully, but they didn’t break. He didn’t have time to celebrate the victory. 

Kacchan needed him. 

He reached for the muzzle, only to remember his hands were still useless. He briefly considered smashing the casts apart on the cement, but decided against it as his brain conjured the mental image of a furious Recovery Girl. Frantic, he tugged at the straps with his teeth instead. 

“The muzzle doesn’t restrict his breathing. He’s just being dramatic,” Midnight huffed in annoyance.

Rage like he’d never felt before surfaced inside him.

“He’s having a panic attack! You know what he went through last year. Everyone does. Why would you think this was a good idea?”

Midnight had the audacity to look annoyed. “Bakugo isn’t so weak as to-”

Izuku cut her off, voice laced with fury. “He’s not weak, he’s traumatised!”

Midnight blinked at him in shock and it was only then did Izuku realise the crowd had fallen silent.

Suddenly the silence was broken as a voice boomed from the roof of the arena. “I AM HERE WITH THE MEDALS!”

All Might landed in front of Midnight in his muscular form, clad in his silver age costume. Izuku felt relief fill him at the sight of his mentor.

“All Might! Please take this muzzle off Kacchan, he can’t breathe!”

All Might looked up at them in surprise, before rushing to comply. He tugged the muzzle from Kacchan’s face with an audible ‘pop’ and the teen spluttered for breath. Izuku reached out, wanting to rub Kacchan’s back as he shuddered through the coughing fit, but once again his casts prevented him. Izuku bit back a groan of annoyance.

Every instinct inside him said he needed to comfort Kacchan. He wanted to cradle Kacchan against his chest like the blond had cradled him at USJ. He wanted to run his fingers soothingly through Kacchan’s sweat-soaked hair. He wanted to cup Kacchan’s cheeks between his palms and coax him out of his dazed stupor with gentle reassurances. 

But he couldn’t do any of those things. Not just because of his arms, but because he knew Kacchan would never let him. The knowledge made his chest ache painfully.

Instead all he could do was watch helplessly as All Might soothed Kacchan instead.

Kacchan’s breathing eventually evened out and he slumped forward as the tension left his body.

“All Might?” the blond croaked, blinking in confusion at his surroundings. “Deku?”

Izuku startled, anxiety creeping over him. Kacchan was sure to be pissed when he found out Izuku had tried to save him. Again.

He went to rub the back of his neck nervously, only for his arm to catch in the sling. “H-Hi, Kacchan.”

Kacchan eyed him incredulously before facing All Might again. “What happened?”

All Might turned to Midnight with a frown. “Yes, Midnight, care to explain why a student was chained and gagged to a podium?”

Midnight spluttered. “H-He was being extremely aggressive and displaying violent behaviour. We needed to restrain him for the safety of the other students!”

“Kacchan wouldn’t do that! He wouldn’t hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. Did you even try talking him down before you chained him up?” Izuku accused her, his earlier anger resurfacing.

Kacchan’s eyes widened in surprise and Izuku tried not to fidget under his intense stare.

“Midnight, even if Young Bakugo’s behaviour was aggressive there’s no justification for shackling a child like this. Especially considering Bakugo’s past experience with being restrained. I must insist you release him this instant,” All Might’s voice was grave. It was odd to see the hero unsmiling.

Midnight looked like she wanted to protest but then thought better of it. She didn’t meet any of their eyes as she unlocked Kacchan’s chains and stood silently to the side as All Might took over the proceedings.

The crowd remained uncomfortably silent throughout the rest of the award ceremony. Kacchan didn’t say a word, even when All Might looped the gold medal around his neck. As soon as All Might let go, he’d ripped it from his neck and shoved it angrily into his pocket, refusing to wear it for more than a second.

Izuku stood beside Kacchan the entire time, unsure of what to say, but unable to bring himself to leave his side. Kacchan didn’t say a word to him. He didn’t say a word to anyone.

********

The school had given everyone two days off after the sports festival, for which Katsuki was grateful. He had needed the break to move on from the experience. 

Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.

Katsuki’s mistreatment at the awards ceremony was the latest topic of debate all over Japan. Once again, Katsuki’s face was plastered all over newspapers and magazines. He couldn’t turn on his goddamn television without hearing some dumbass news reporter sharing their take. It was a goddamn nightmare.

Most of the arguments seemed sympathetic to Katsuki’s situation. Many people argued that an R-rated hero shouldn’t have been allowed to teach minors in the first place. The fact that she had a known fondness for bondage didn’t exactly help her case. 

Katsuki might’ve felt bad for ruining Midnight’s teaching career if she hadn’t chained and gagged him to a fucking cement block. As far as Katsuki was concerned, she deserved whatever she got.

He was also pissed that he’d needed to be rescued— again. The fact that it’d happened so publicly only made it worse. The majority of Japan had been watching, for fuck’s sake. The sludge incident had been bad enough, but this— this he would never live down. Everyone would only ever know him as a victim. His victory at the sports festival meant nothing, not even to him. Everyone just saw him as weak and pathetic.  

To add insult to injury, his parents had forced him to see his psychologist again the day after the incident. He’d been seeing her every few months or so ever since the sludge incident occurred. He hated every minute of it. Everything the woman said came across as condescending, even though he knew she (probably) meant well. Katsuki didn’t believe talking about stuff actually helped anything, but at the very least, it made his parents feel better so he kept going for their sake.

His mother had been furious after the events of the award ceremony. He’d just barely managed to talk her down from suing the school. Katsuki didn’t want this mess dragged out any longer than it had to. He just wanted to forget about everything that’d happened and move on.

Well almost everything.

He’d watched the clip of Deku running to his rescue about a dozen times now. The first few times had been on accident. The clip just happened to be on the news or he’d stumbled upon it on the internet. 

The other times though, he’d actively sought it out. 

He couldn’t describe the satisfaction he felt seeing Deku rush to his aid. It was impossible to deny how much he liked seeing the concerned expression on Deku’s face as he cried out his name. It made his heart ache in the best way.

It didn’t mean Deku liked him back. Katsuki knew that. The idiot would’ve rushed out to save anyone— that’s just the kind of person he was— but that didn’t mean Katsuki couldn’t appreciate it. There was something comforting about the knowledge that Deku was there for him. That he’d sensed something was wrong, even when no one else had.

Everyone in that stadium had seemed willing to sit back and watch. Even the teachers had been fine with it until Deku had intervened. Who knows when or if anyone would’ve come to his defence if Deku hadn’t.

Katsuki really didn’t deserve a soulmate as caring as Deku. Especially not after how he’d treated him all these years. He knew there was nothing he could say or do to make up for the shit he’d said and done during their childhood. 

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t try.

********

Izuku was one of the last students to arrive, having had to stop by the infirmary to heal his arms on his way to class. Almost the entire class surrounded Kacchan’s desk, he could barely catch a glimpse of blond hair through the crowd. He weaved through the mass of bodies to get to his desk, finally getting an unobstructed view of the blonde as he sat down. Izuku could tell they’d been interrogating him for a while now simply by how frustrated the blond looked.

Kacchan turned and they locked eyes. Izuku smiled nervously at him but didn’t greet him. They hadn’t spoken since the incident but Izuku was sure Kacchan had to have seen the videos by now, they were all over the internet. It was only a matter of time before Kacchan cussed him out for ‘looking down on him’ or something similarly ridiculous.

The blond frowned and opened his mouth to say something and Izuku’s stomach clenched in dread. He’d hoped Kacchan would at least wait until they were alone before yelling at him. He didn’t want the whole class to see their argument.

Fortunately, before he could say anything, Mina clung to Kacchan’s arm and drew his attention back to the crowd. “Was it scary? You looked pretty shaken up!”

He shook her off roughly and scowled. “Get off me, I’m fucking fine!”

Glasses clapped a hand onto Kacchan’s other shoulder. “There’s no shame in suffering from trauma, Bakugo! Mental health is just as crucial as physical health. We must be just as aware of the dangers hero work has on our minds as we are of the strain to our bodies. If you ever need to talk to a professional, my family has an excellent psychiatrist.”

Kacchan brushed his hand off and crossed his arms. “I’ve already got someone for that shit.”

Kirishima suddenly bowed low, causing everyone to startle around him. “I shouldn’t have just stood there. I knew what they were doing was wrong, but I wanted to trust that the teacher’s knew what they were doing. That was wrong of me. I should’ve run to help you just like Midoriya did. It was completely unmanly and I don’t deserve to call myself your bro!”

Kacchan’s eyebrows raised in surprise at the display and his scowl eased— if only slightly. “Get up, Shitty Hair. I don’t want to hear any fucking apologies. I’m not mad, so don’t stress your thick head about it.”

Izuku was shocked. He didn’t realise how close Kirishima and Kacchan had become. Kacchan’s tone was almost fond. It was hidden under a thick layer of annoyance, but Izuku had known him long enough to tell. 

A spark of jealousy stung his chest. He tried his best to ignore it. Kacchan and Izuku hadn’t been friends for over a decade. He shouldn’t feel threatened that Kacchan was making more friends. He had no claim to the role of Kacchan’s best friend anymore.

I was likely never his best friend in the first place, Izuku corrected bitterly.

Hagakure’s sleeve waved in the air. “Do you think they’ll fire Midnight?” 

“I heard she’s been suspended from teaching until further notice,” Momo said.

“Noooo! This is a travesty against all the men in this school. You’ve deprived us all of Midnight’s voluptuous form. How will you pay for your crimes, Bakugo?” Mineta cried, slamming his fist against Kacchan’s desk. 

He seemed to realise his mistake immediately as Kacchan snapped to his feet, his hands sparking to life. Mineta squeaked in fear and everyone took a healthy step back, content to leave him to his fate.

“Everyone to your seats!” Aizawa’s voice interrupted from the doorway and everyone scrambled to comply. Kacchan clicked his tongue in annoyance, settling back into his chair.

“First of all, let me clear up a few things. There are many rumours going around about Midnight and I know many of you are curious to know what the truth is. There are few things as irrational as gossip, so allow me to set the record straight. 

“Yes, Midnight has been suspended from teaching. She has not been removed from the staff here at UA, nor is she facing any charges. However, she has been instructed to take a mandatory course in Managing and Understanding Challenging Behaviour in Students. She has also been instructed to reflect on and limit her degenerate behaviour in front of minors before she will be allowed to teach again.”

Mineta glared daggers at Kacchan, but the blond either didn’t notice or simply didn’t care.  

“Now that that’s settled, let us continue with our lesson. Today we’ve got Hero Informatics class and a special one at that.”

Izuku perked up, excited to hear what the lesson could be.

“You’ll be coming up with your hero aliases,” Aizawa informed them.

The class roared with cheers, Mina even jumped out of her seat in joy. Izuku was filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. He hadn’t had a chance to think about his hero name yet and honestly wasn’t sure what he’d choose. He’d always wanted to pick an homage to All Might, but now that he needed to keep their connection a secret he thought it’d be best if he didn’t.

Before they began picking their hero names, Aizawa informed them about the results of the Pro Hero draft picks from the sports festival. Izuku couldn’t help being disappointed that he didn’t get any offers, but he couldn’t exactly blame them. Who would want an intern who broke himself anytime he used his quirk? Izuku had a long way to go before he could catch up to the others.

He was amazed by how many offers Kacchan and Todoroki got. Of course, he wasn’t surprised. Kacchan was amazing. Even the debacle at the awards ceremony couldn’t overshadow Kacchan’s clear potential.

“Oi.” The familiar growl cut through his thoughts and Izuku clamped his hands over his mouth, worried that he’d been mumbling out loud again.

Kacchan stared at him for several moments, a concentrated frown on his face, before he finally spoke.

“Meet me after school today. We need to talk… Izuku.”

Kacchan whipped back around as soon as the name left his lips, his ears tinged a bright red. 

Holy shit. Kacchan hadn’t called him by his real name since they were little kids.

This is it, Izuku realised with horror, he really is going to kill me.

Chapter Text

Finally, Aizawa announced it was time to pick their hero names.

“Don’t take this task lightly. When you give yourself a name, you get a more concrete idea of what you want for yourself in the future and can strive to achieve that goal. Names are capable of reflecting one’s true character, like with All Might.”

Present Mic burst through the classroom doors with a manic grin on his face. “That’s why I’m here to make sure you all choose awesome hero names that you can be proud of! Just like Eraserhead over here, don’t you think his name is super cool? The person who came up with it must’ve been a genius, right?”

Aizawa shot the blonde an exasperated look before rolling his eyes. “Present Mic will be making sure your hero names are sensible. I’m no good at that.”

Their homeroom teacher then proceeded to crawl into his yellow sleeping bag, situating himself in the corner of the room, before immediately falling asleep. Present Mic smirked at Aizawa’s sleeping face before turning back to the students.

He handed each front row student a small stack of mini whiteboards and markers, waiting patiently as the students passed them around the room. Katsuki refused to look back at his soulmate as he handed him the whiteboard, still feeling embarrassed at saying his first name earlier. 

He pushed the thought out of his mind, forcing himself to focus on the task at hand. Choosing a hero name proved harder than Katsuki expected. He wanted something that would strike fear into his enemies’ hearts. For several long minutes he stared at the blank whiteboard in front of him. Finally he settled on a name, scrawling it on his whiteboard just as Present Mic announced their fifteen minutes were up.

“Alright little listeners, show me what you got! Who wants to go first?”

Katsuki was impressed to note Aizawa didn’t so much as flinch at the blonde hero’s shouting. He envied his teacher’s ability to drown out the ruckus, wishing he could join him in blissful ignorance as his classmates presented their hero names. He couldn’t be bothered to learn their real names, let alone their hero ones. It’s not like he gave a shit what any of these extras called themselves.

There was only one name he was interested in hearing, but like usual the nerd was overthinking things and had yet to write anything down. He could hear him muttering under his breath about All Might and the gap between the two of them. 

His mind drifted back to find fuzzy memories of the two as toddlers coming up with their future hero names together. All of their choices had been homages to All Might. He hoped the nerd had enough sense not to choose one of those now, considering the secret they were all harbouring.

He had originally planned on presenting his hero name last, but Katsuki got tired of waiting for the nerd. He stalked to the front of the classroom, trying not to look as nervous as he felt. My hero name is way better than any of these extras, he reassured himself as he slammed his whiteboard on Aizawa’s desk. He mustered his best menacing scowl as he announced, “King Explosion Murder!”

The name didn’t get the reaction he’d been hoping for. He’d at least expected Shitty Hair to call it ‘manly’ or something. Instead he was met with silence before Present Mic made a loud annoying buzzer sound with his mouth.

“No way! Try again!”

“What the hell?” Katsuki shouted in indignation. 

How the hell did goddamn Frenchy’s name pass and not mine? At least mine wasn’t a fucking sentence!

“You can’t have ‘murder’ in your hero name. People will think you’re a villain!” Present Mic explained.

Katsuki growled in annoyance, muttering angrily under his breath as he stomped back to his desk. How the hell was he supposed to strike fear into his enemies’ hearts now? He knew anything he came up with would be shot down for sounding too “villainous”. But he didn’t want to settle for some lame ass generic name like Tail and Big Lips had. He’d rather die than be known as fucking “Explosion Man”.

The sound of the chair behind him scraping across the floor caught his attention, putting his brainstorming on hold. Finally. Katsuki was eager to see what Deku had picked.

Fuck, he meant Izuku. Dammit, that name was gonna take time to get used to. But Katsuki was committed to treating his soulmate better from now on and the first step was to stop calling him by that insulting nickname.

Honestly, ‘Deku’ had stopped meaning ‘useless’ in Katsuki’s mind a long time ago. It just felt like the boy’s name at this point, just like he’d gotten used to being called Kacchan. But that didn’t mean Deku— Shit, Izuku— felt the same way. Izuku had always made his hatred for that name clear, which is why Katsuki had made a point to keep using it. 

But he didn’t want to push his soulmate away anymore. He had years of shitty behaviour to make up for, which meant kissing that nickname goodbye. Even if he felt a little sad to see it go. 

He watched as Izuku turned his whiteboard to face the classroom and Katsuki could practically hear the universe laughing at him. 

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!

The word “Deku” taunted him from between his soulmate’s bandaged hands.

One of the extras called out in surprise. “Huh? You sure about that, Midoriya?”

Izuku— Or Deku? Was that name okay now? Katsuki supposed he wouldn’t pick it if it wasn’t— turned his eyes towards Round Face and flashed her a wobbly smile. 

“Yeah. I always hated it, but then someone helped me see it in a new light. It took me by surprise, but it made me happy. I’m no longer the useless Deku who can’t do anything right. I’m the Deku who gives it his all!”

A painful mixture of jealousy and guilt stabbed at Katsuki’s insides at Deku’s words. He watched with bubbling fury as Round Cheeks blushed. It didn’t take a fucking genius to realise she was the one Deku was referring to.

Katsuki didn’t have any right to feel upset, he knew that. Of course Deku had hated the nickname. He’d always known how much the nickname hurt. It was exactly why he’d continued to use it after all these years. 

Well that had sure fucked him over now, huh? Just when he’d been ready to ditch the nickname and try to patch things up between them, someone else had barged in and stolen the nickname from him.

It hurt to know that fucking Round Cheeks was the reason Deku had finally warmed up to the name. It didn’t matter that Katsuki had given him the name in the first place. Deku would always think of Round Cheeks when he thought of his hero name.

It was no longer a name for Katsuki alone. Now everyone would call him Deku, not just their classmates but the whole of Japan. Katsuki couldn’t explain why the thought made him feel possessive. He supposed it was for the same reason he didn’t want anyone but Deku calling him “Kacchan”.

His thoughts were interrupted by Present Mic’s booming voice. “Bakugo, you’re the only one left! Have you figured out a new hero name yet?”

Katsuki glared down at his blank whiteboard. He hadn’t managed to settle on anything before Deku presented and there was no way he’d be able to come up with something now. His mind was all over the place, he couldn’t focus on anything other than the feeling of betrayal stabbing at his gut.

He didn’t want to pick a hero name while he felt this way. This was the name he’d be stuck with for the rest of his life. If he was going to be number one pro hero— and he was goddammitthen it needed to be perfect. He refused to rush it.

“Shut up! I’ll pick one later!” Katsuki snapped, throwing his marker down and crossing his arms firmly.

Present Mic shrugged and began collecting up the whiteboards and markers. “Suit yourself, just remember to run it by one of your teachers first!”

********

Izuku was the first to the door when the end of school bell rang. He’d been hoping to slip out and race home before Kacchan could catch up to him. The blonde hadn’t mentioned their after school meeting since he’d suggested it, but Izuku knew better than to assume he’d forgotten.

Actually, Kacchan had been oddly quiet since their hero names were chosen. Izuku wondered if maybe it was because he was the only one in class who hadn’t picked a hero name. But Kacchan wasn’t usually the type to let something like that upset him. Whatever the reason, his uncharacteristic silence only served as further proof that Izuku needed to avoid Kacchan’s wrath at all costs.  

He opened the classroom door, stunned to find his mentor bowing deeply outside the door.

“I am here in a bizarre pose!” All Might announced in an oddly anxious voice.

Izuku glanced nervously at the classmates behind him. “All Might! What are you doing here?” 

“Hey look it’s All Might!” Kirishima waved at their teacher excitedly.

“Come with me for a moment. I have something I need to discuss with you,” All Might gestured for him to follow. 

Curious, Izuku followed his mentor down the hallway. He didn’t make it all that far before he was interrupted by Kacchan’s voice sounding behind them. “Where the hell do you think you’re going, nerd?” 

“K-Kacchan!” Izuku startled, whipping around to see the blonde pursuing them.

“Young Bakugo, you’ll have to excuse us. I have something important to share with Young Midoriya.”

“Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of me too. I’m part of this secret now, whether you like it or not. I’m not letting this nerd shoulder the burden all by himself. Besides, he and I have some business of our own to take care of when you’re done with him, ain’t that right Deku?”

Izuku rubbed the back of his neck. “R-Right. How could I forget?”

I’m so dead, Izuku cried internally.

“Well then, is that okay with you, Young Midoriya?” All Might asked him with a raised eyebrow.

Izuku forced a smile on his face. He knew there was no changing Kacchan’s mind. “If that’s what Kacchan wants, then I won’t stop him. He already knows everything anyway.”

“Very well. This way, boys.”

All Might led them to his office and closed the door behind them. He gestured for them to sit on a small couch, settling himself on the seat opposite them.

Kacchan crossed his arms, slouching back against the couch impatiently. “Get on with it. What’s this all about?”

“Kacchan, you shouldn’t talk to All Might like that!” Izuku scolded him. Kacchan rolled his eyes, but didn’t push any further. 

They both looked expectantly at All Might. Their mentor was fidgeting, looking even more anxious than he had outside the classroom. Izuku had never seen his mentor like this. What could possibly have the number one hero so rattled?

“Well, Young Midoriya. To get straight to the point. You’ve had an internship offer from a hero.”

Izuku’s heart leapt in his chest. That hadn’t been what he’d expected to hear at all!

“Huh? What? Really?” He gasped, clutching his bandaged fists to his chest.

Kacchan straightened up next to him, flashing All Might an incredulous look. “Who the hell would be crazy enough to draft Deku after watching him mutilate himself at the sports festival?”

Izuku pouted. “Kacchan—”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear your stupid excuses. I told you not to use your quirk until you could do so without breaking your bones!”

“How else was I supposed to compete, Kacchan? Everyone’s had years to train their quirks. If I want to keep up, I need to work much harder than anyone else.”

“You think breaking your body is the solution? Recover Girl had to give you surgery, Deku!”

Izuku couldn’t understand why Kacchan was acting so concerned. The blonde had been nothing but cruel to him for years, but ever since he’d found out Izuku had a quirk he’d been weirdly protective. Did having a quirk suddenly make Izuku worth caring about? The thought hurt.

All Might cleared his throat, drawing the boys’ attention back to their mentor.

“As I was saying, the hero’s name is Gran Torino. He was once an instructor at UA, just for a year. He was also my homeroom teacher. He’s the old friend of my mentor that I mentioned when Young Bakugo asked me who knows about One for All. It’s likely why he decided to reach out to you.”

Izuku’s concerns about Kacchan’s motives disappeared as his earlier excitement took hold. “Wow, such an amazing hero wants me to intern for him?”

All Might suddenly hunched in on himself, cupping his chin. “Was it because I wrote about you in my letter to him? Did he think my guidance was inadequate? But to go so far as to use his old hero name to make the offer… it’s scary, too scary.”

Izuku briefly wondered if this was how he looked to outsiders when he was muttering. It was disconcerting. He could understand now why everyone told him it was creepy. Before he could ask his mentor what was wrong, he watched in horror as All Might started shaking.

He was literally shaking in his boots.

Kacchan and Izuku shared an uncertain look as they watched their mentor slap his thighs and demand they stop shaking. Kacchan seemed to be thinking the same thing as he was.

Just how terrifying was this guy to make All Might afraid?

“A-Anyway, it is my duty to train you. But since he went to all this trouble, I guess I can let him take a c-c-crack at it.” All Might’s shaky hand passed Izuku a folded up piece of paper. Izuku stared at it with a growing sense of unease.

Before he could voice his concerns, Kacchan spoke up, “You can’t seriously expect Deku to train with this guy? He can barely use his quirk without injuring himself and he seems super dangerous from the way you’re acting!”  

He hadn’t said anything that Izuku himself hadn’t already been thinking, but the fact that it was Kacchan who had said it made indignation rise within him.

“I’ll do it!” Izuku declared, clutching the paper tight to his chest.

Kacchan gaped at him. “Deku—”

Izuku cut him off, his voice firm. “It’s my decision, Kacchan.”

The blonde pressed his lips together in a displeased line, but didn’t push the issue further.

“Well I wish you luck, young Midoriya! Don’t forget to pick up your hero costume— it’s been repaired.”

With that, All Might ushered them out of his office, still looking a bit unsteady. Izuku stared at the closed door of his mentor’s office, his mind running wild with theories about this mysterious Gran Torino. He had to be someone super powerful to make All Might act that way.

Kacchan’s voice startled Izuku out of his thoughts. “Tch. Come on, let’s go pick up your damn costume. You’re gonna need it for what I have planned anyway.”

Oh no.

********

Deku had been oddly quiet since they left All Might’s office. He wasn’t even muttering. Katsuki guessed he was worried about his upcoming internship. He wasn’t sure why the nerd had agreed to it in the first place. The whole thing sounded suspicious and dangerous. But the nerd was nothing if not stubborn. There was no talking him out of something once he’d made up his mind. Katsuki knew that better than anyone.

After collecting the nerd’s costume case, he led them towards the training facilities.

It was only once they’d reached their destination that Deku finally spoke up. “K-Kacchan, I don’t think we’re allowed to use the training rooms without a teacher’s permission.”

“You think I don’t know that, idiot? I filled out the form this morning. We’ve got training room B booked until 5pm, so hurry the fuck up and get dressed,” Katsuki huffed. Deku looked like he wanted to argue but decided against it, heading with a defeated sigh towards the changing rooms.

So much for treating him nicer, Katsuki chastised himself as Deku changed. But anger was familiar. It was comfortable. It wouldn’t make sense if he started acting like a doting soulmate overnight. It’d feel weird and forced, and he couldn’t imagine the reaction he’d get from Deku with such a 180 turn. Their relationship was too damaged to be fixed with a few kind words anyway.

It also didn’t help that he was still annoyed about Round Cheek’s role in Deku choosing his hero name. He knew it was petty, but it felt like Deku’d chosen the girl over him. It was ridiculous considering he’d actively spent the last decade of his life making sure Deku thought Katsuki wasn’t an option.

That’s why he’d decided to do this in the first place. To make it up to him through actions since words were too damn hard.

When Deku returned in his hero costume— thankfully with that stupid hood down— he looked even more apprehensive than he did before.

Katsuki rolled his eyes, gesturing for Deku to join him on the training mat. “Stop overthinking, nerd. There’s no point in this if you’re distracted.”

Deku stayed where he was, eyeing Katsuki warily before raising his hands in a placating gesture. “K-Kacchan, you don’t have to do this, okay? I know you’re mad that I interfered at the awards ceremony, but fighting isn’t the answer.”

Katsuki’s face twisted in confusion. “Wait, what? Who said anything about fighting?”

Now Deku looked confused. “You mean you’re not mad? Then why are we here?”

“Of course I’m not mad, idiot!” Katsuki snapped.

Okay, so yelling probably isn’t the best way to convince him you’re not angry...

Katsuki pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a deep breath before attempting to calm his tone. “Look, I asked you here so I could help you train. I wanted to… ugh, thank you for what you did at the awards ceremony. I’m seriously not mad, okay?”

Deku gaped at him, eyes wide. “R-Really? You wanted to thank me?” 

“I said I did, didn’t I?” Katsuki growled.

The nerd knew he couldn’t lie, was he just trying to make him say it again? 

Deku’s face fell and he suddenly looked uncertain. “This isn’t some kind of trick, is it?”

Katsuki felt the beginnings of guilt creep up inside him, so he did what he did best and squashed it with anger. “You know damn well I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true, bastard! Don’t make this harder than it already is. Do you want to train or not?”

Deku twisted his hands together nervously. “I-I do. Honestly I would really like that. But I don’t understand why Kacchan is doing this. Until now, you haven’t wanted anything to do with me. Is this just because I have a quirk now?”

Katsuki’s heart sank at the accusation. Fuck, of course Deku would think that. He hadn’t shown any interest in his soulmate before. It made sense that he’d think it was only because he was no longer quirkless. 

Katsuki had made it abundantly clear what he thought of quirkless people, specifically targeting that prejudice towards Deku— but that was in the past. Being quirkless didn’t make someone any less valuable. Katsuki knew that now. He was certain he’d still pursue Deku even if he became quirkless again. 

Katsuki took a steadying breath, begging himself to find the right words. “That’s not it. I’m not doing this because you have a quirk now. That has nothing to do with it. I’m doing this because… because I regret being such an asshole to you all this time. Look, I don’t expect you to forgive me, but at least let me try to make up for it, okay?

Deku stared at him in disbelief for several long torturous moments, before bursting into tears. 

Fuck, I can’t even apologise right.

“Shit, don’t cry, okay? I didn’t say all that to make you upset.”

Katsuki rushed over but paused in front of his soulmate, unsure of what to do next. Deku probably wouldn’t appreciate a hug and he definitely wouldn’t appreciate Katsuki wiping away his tears like he wanted to. So instead he just hovered in front of Deku, his hands shoved safely inside his pockets. 

Deku wiped at his own tears and hiccuped a laugh. “I’m not upset, Kacchan. I’m happy. I didn’t think you’d ever actually apologise. I mean, I hoped you would, but I didn’t think it would really happen.”

Ouch. Katsuki knew he’d been a horrible soulmate, but to know that Deku truly believed he’d never apologise... Well, he clearly had a lot of work to do. 

Katsuki deflated. This hadn’t gone the way he’d planned at all. “Do you still feel like training? We can just go home if you want.” 

“No, no! I want to, I really do. Please train me, Kacchan!”

A bright smile spread across Deku’s face that made Katsuki’s insides twist. 

Fuck, how did I never notice how cute the nerd was?

Katsuki pushed the thought aside, forcing himself to focus. “Well come on then, we’ve wasted enough time as it is.”

Deku tilted his head to the side like a confused puppy. “But Kacchan isn’t dressed. Are you planning on training in your school uniform?”

“Of course not. I’m just teaching today. You’re not ready to spar with me yet. I’d kick your ass.” Katsuki smirked and Izuku pouted, but he noticed the other boy didn’t deny it.

Deku eyed all the expensive training equipment nervously. “Are you sure it’s okay to train here, Kacchan? I don’t think it’s a good idea to use One for All indoors. I don’t have good enough control to minimise property damage yet.”

Katsuki smirked. “Don’t worry, you won’t be using your quirk today.”

“But Kacchan, how can I master my quirk if I don’t train with it?”

“Your quirk is way too volatile. You shouldn’t rely on it so much. Even those with strong quirks need to know how to fight without them. That’s why I’m going to show you some self-defence moves today. That way you can stand in the same ring as our classmates without fucking up your bones all the time.”

“Oh, I guess that makes sense. Kacchan’s so smart,” Deku beamed.

Damn nerd, always flattering me. Does he do it on purpose?

“Yeah, yeah. Now show me your stance.”

“Okay!” Deku held his fists up and faced Katsuki with a focused look on his face.  

Deku’s stance wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t perfect either. Instead of telling his soulmate how to adjust his stance— which he easily could have done— Katsuki decided to indulge himself a little. He reached out for Deku’s wrist and positioned it a bit higher, pushed Deku’s elbow in a little straighter, trailed his fingers over Deku’s bicep in a totally necessary path to adjust his shoulders.

He hesitated before placing his hand on the small of Deku’s back to straighten his posture. Deku jolted at the touch, but didn’t complain. It was the most they’d touched in years. He didn’t want the moment to end. But Katsuki knew he was already pushing his luck, so he reluctantly let his hand fall.

He deliberately stood behind Deku to hide his flushed face. “Alright, make sure your feet are parallel to your shoulders… Good. Now show me how you throw a punch.”

They spent the next two hours going through basic hand-to-hand combat moves. Katsuki corrected Deku's execution with words rather than trying to touch him again, despite the urge striking him several times throughout their session.

He had to keep reminding himself that nothing had changed between them. Katsuki may have realised his feelings, but Deku’s hadn’t changed. Just because they were soulmates didn’t mean that Deku felt the same way or even forgave him. He was lucky Deku even wanted to be around him after everything he’d done.

By the time 5pm rolled around, Deku was flushed and his curls were damp with sweat. The nerd ran a hand through his hair and Katsuki’s hand twitched with the urge to join it. Deku’s hair always looked so soft. How long had it been since he’d touched those curls? Would Deku ever let him touch them again?

“How did I do, Kacchan?” Deku asked him with expectant eyes, startling Katsuki out of his thoughts. He wrenched his gaze away, hoping Deku hadn’t noticed him staring.

Katsuki pretended to consider the question. “Hm... Not bad, nerd. Though you’ve still got a long way to go.”

He was actually pretty impressed with the progress Deku had made in such a short time. He was a quick learner and had gotten a good grasp on most of the moves after only a few tries. 

Deku had approached the training session with the same determination he approached everything he did. If Deku continued to improve at this rate, he would catch up to their classmates in no time. Hell, he might even catch up to Katsuki if he wasn’t careful.

He couldn’t help a fond smile from slipping onto his face at the thought.

Before he could twist his expression back into a scowl, Deku caught his eye and grinned back. “Kacchan’s in a good mood today. Is it cause you won the sports festival? Kacchan’s always been amazing, so it’s no wonder you won. Just like you said you would!”

Katsuki’s mood soured at the mention of his false-win. “Tch. As if I’d acknowledge a shitty win like that. Icy Hot threw the match, so it’s meaningless.”

Deku’s face fell, clearly regretting saying anything. “Well, you’ll just have to beat him at full power next time! Then you’ll prove to everyone that you deserve that medal, including yourself. But I still think you were amazing anyway. That new move at the end when you came rocketing down from the sky was so cool! Did it take you long to perfect it? What do you call it? Did it make you dizzy? How long did you—”

“Alright, alright, take a damn breath, nerd. Go get changed and I’ll tell you all about it on the way home,” Katsuki rolled his eyes, pretending to be annoyed instead of endeared by his soulmate’s rambling.

Deku’s mouth dropped open in shock. “You want to walk home together?”

Katsuki shrugged, forcing nonchalance. “Why not? We live in the same damn neighbourhood.”

Deku jumped up and down in excitement. “Wow, we haven’t walked home together since we were kids! Kacchan really is trying to be nice now. I could get used to this!”

Katsuki felt his face grow hot again and he quickly turned his back on the other boy. “Don’t make me regret it, nerd! Hurry up before I change my mind.”

For probably the thousandth time, he thanked the gods that he’d discovered demands didn’t count as lies.

Chapter Text

Izuku froze in shock when he caught sight of a familiar figure waiting outside his house the next morning.

“Kacchan!” Izuku yelped, eyeing the other boy warily. “W-what are you doing here?”

He hastily went through everything he could’ve possibly done to piss Kacchan off so early in the morning. There wasn’t anything in particular that came to mind. But Izuku knew better than anyone that even the slightest comment could set Kacchan off. As surprisingly amicable as they’d been yesterday, he was sure it was only a matter of time before Kacchan’s mood soured again.

He fiddled nervously with the straps of his backpack as he waited for the inevitable confrontation. To his surprise, Kacchan didn’t immediately start yelling. In fact, Katsuki was oddly quiet as he studied Izuku’s tense posture with a furrowed brow. Izuku swore he saw disappointment flicker across his face before it twisted into his usual scowl.

“We’re walking to school together.” It was phrased as a demand rather than a request.

Of all the things he’d expected to hear, that wasn’t one of them. As much as he’d enjoyed walking home together yesterday, he hadn’t expected it to become a regular thing. Hearing Kacchan apologise yesterday had been a dream come true. But that was exactly why he couldn’t let himself get comfortable. It was a dream. This situation was too unrealistic for Izuku to so easily believe.

Kacchan had been so needlessly cruel for so many years. Izuku had long since given up holding out for an apology. He’d made his peace with the fact that his friendship with Kacchan was over. He couldn’t understand what had changed to make Kacchan act this way now. To be fair, he didn’t understand what he’d done to ruin their relationship in the first place. Well other than the fact that he was quirkless. But Katsuki had insisted his change of heart wasn’t because Izuku had a quirk now. Still he couldn’t think of any other reason for Kacchan’s sudden change in attitude.

“Are you coming or not? We’re gonna be late, nerd.” Katsuki’s voice snapped him out of his reverie.

Izuku realised he’d just been staring at Kacchan this whole time. He was grateful that he hadn’t started mumbling. He didn’t want to know how Kacchan would respond to him questioning his motives.

Kacchan was clearly growing impatient, but he didn’t storm off or grab Izuku by his shirt collar and yell in his face like he would’ve in the past. Instead he just shoved his hands in his pants pockets and watched him expectantly. 

Izuku forced his suspicions aside. It didn’t really matter what Kacchan’s reasons were, he supposed. He could simply enjoy Kacchan being friendly to him while it lasted. 

“Sorry Kacchan, let’s go!” Izuku grinned, beginning the walk to the train station.

Katsuki’s tension gradually lessened as they finally started walking. It still felt weird to walk beside Kacchan rather than behind him. The blonde used to yell at him if he tried to do so in middle school, but yesterday the blond had snapped at him to hurry up when he’d attempted to walk behind him like usual. Izuku would have to relearn the parameters of their relationship, it seemed.

Katsuki seemed content to just walk in silence, but Izuku’s anxiety grew the longer it went on. He was never the type to find comfort in silence. Perhaps his mumbling was a direct result of this anxiety, feeling the need to break the silence even when he was alone. Despite his discomfort, he managed to make it all the way to the train station without saying a word.

As they squeezed their way onto the crowded train car, Izuku suddenly found himself pressed tightly to Kacchan’s chest. He tensed, expecting Kacchan to shove him off into the other passengers. When nothing happened, he glanced nervously up to study the blond’s face. As expected, Kacchan’s face was tinged red and his teeth were clenched. He was probably holding in his anger so as not to make a scene. Kacchan was pointedly not looking at Izuku, his eyes trained towards the window.

Izuku allowed himself to relax, realising he was safe from Kacchan’s ire for now. It was surprisingly comfortable being so close to Kacchan like this. He could feel the warmth of Kacchan’s skin through his shirt and couldn’t help leaning a little into it. Kacchan had always run hot because of his quirk. The warmth made Izuku a little sleepy. He was tempted to lay his cheek upon Kacchan’s chest and let the gentle sway of the train lull him to sleep.

Startled by the bizarre urge, he quickly forced the thought out of his mind. That would definitely grant him an explosion to the face. Just because Kacchan was being nice didn’t mean he should push his luck. It would be dangerous to let himself get carried away by Kacchan’s complacent attitude.

He was snapped out of his thoughts by a shout further down the train car.

“Hey, aren’t you the kid that won the UA sport’s festival? Oh and you’re the kid that jumped up on the podium during the reward’s ceremony! You two have some powerful quirks, I bet you’ll be great Pro Heroes one day!”

Izuku blushed at the stranger’s praise, still not used to people recognising him. He bowed his head slightly in the man’s direction and murmured a quick thank you. Kacchan just clicked his tongue in irritation and didn’t otherwise acknowledge the comment. 

Now that the silence had been broken, Izuku found himself unable to hold back anymore. “S-So, have you decided which agency you’re gonna choose for your internship yet? I bet it must be hard to choose after getting so many offers! It’s to be expected since you won the sports festival. Kacchan really is amazing, I’m not surprised the Pros could recognise your talents. Even civilians can see how powerful you are-”

“For fuck’s sake, Deku. How do you expect me to answer when I can’t get a word in?”

Kacchan’s face had turned even redder. Izuku’s rambling must’ve annoyed him.

He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Sorry, Kacchan. I guess I got carried away. Um, so have you chosen an agency then?”

Katsuki shrugged as if the choice was obvious. “I’m gonna go to Endeavour’s.” 

“Oh.” Izuku couldn’t help but frown at the Pro Hero’s name. After hearing Todoroki’s story, he couldn’t help but feel resentment towards the No.2 Pro Hero.

Katsuki rolled his eyes. “You have the worst poker face of all time, Deku. You might as well’ve said you want the man dead.”

“T-That’s not true! I don’t want Endeavour to die,” Izuku spluttered.

Katsuki smirked and leant down to whisper in Izuku’s ear. “Nah, you just wanna Detroit Smash him in his child-abusing face.”

Izuku gaped at him. “W-What? How did you know about that? Did Todoroki tell you too?”

Katsuki scoffed. “As if that Half-and-Half Bastard would tell me anything. I overheard you two at the sports’ festival.”

Ah, that made more sense. Izuku supposed they should’ve been more careful about having a private conversation in public. In Izuku’s defence, he hadn’t known what Todoroki wanted to talk to him about when he had pulled Izuku aside.

“You shouldn’t eavesdrop, Kacchan, it’s rude,” Izuku scolded.

“I wasn-” Katsuki cut himself off abruptly with a frustrated growl. “Fine. I was. But can you blame me? He asked to talk to you alone.”

Izuku wasn’t sure what Kacchan’s tone was implying or why he looked so angry when he said it. He was about to ask when Kacchan suddenly leant down to whisper in his ear again.

“And I was right to be suspicious! That Icy Hot asshole almost found out about you and All Might. You’re goddamn lucky he missed the mark with that secret lovechild theory. If you were smart you would’ve just ran with it, but no. You decide to admit to him that there is a connection between you and All Might. I’m surprised you didn’t just blurt out the whole truth while you were at it. You know you can lie to other people, right? For fuck’s sake, Deku. Sometimes you act like the whole goddamn world is your soulmate.”

Katsuki spat out the word ‘soulmate’ like it was something bitter in his mouth. Izuku was pretty sure this was the first time Kacchan had ever acknowledged the existence of soulmates in all their years of friendship. 

Honestly, sometimes Izuku forgot soulmates even existed. As a quirkless person, he’d only ever thought about the subject with curiosity or mild disappointment.

He wondered why the subject made Kacchan so mad. Was it because he thought Izuku was too honest? Like he was wasting the fact that he could lie to literally anyone? No, that didn’t make any sense. People with quirks could lie to basically everyone except one person. That didn’t make lying something to treasure. In fact, not being able to lie seemed far more special in contrast.

Kacchan was eyeing him with an odd expression, as if he expected Izuku’s reply to be important. It made him nervous. He felt like he was missing something. He often felt that way when people spoke about soulmates— as if he was an outsider eavesdropping on a conversation in a language he couldn’t understand. 

He didn’t know why it was so jarring to realise that Kacchan thought about soulmates. He must have one, after all. For some reason, the thought left a painful ache in his chest.

“Why would you choose Endeavour’s agency then if you know how horrible he is?” Izuku forced the conversation back to its original topic.

Katsuki threw Izuku a frustrated look, clearly seeing through his deflection, but didn’t call him out on it. Instead he just sighed heavily and his anger deflated. “Just because the man’s a bastard doesn’t mean he isn’t still No. 2 Pro Hero. All Might’s agency isn’t offering any traineeships, so I figured I’d pick the next best one.”

Izuku nodded. Picking the highest-ranking hero certainly seemed like something Kacchan would do, even if Izuku wasn’t sure he’d consider Endeavour a real hero anymore. Should someone who abused their own children really be considered a hero? He supposed you could never really know what a person was like outside their job. It’d be hard to account for that kind of thing in the approval process for heroics courses.

It was a flaw he hadn’t really considered before now. It kind of brought the entire hero system into question if a man like that could be a Pro Hero, let alone the second highest ranked one. Izuku knew he was prone to overthinking, so he decided to ponder this philosophical conundrum at a later date. 

“Well it makes sense that Endeavour’s agency would want you. They focus primarily on heroes with fire quirks and your quirk certainly fits their profile. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot, despite the questionable leadership.”

“Of course I will. Besides, you should be worrying about yourself. I’ve never even heard of this Gran Torino bastard. All we know about him is that he’s scary enough to turn All Might into a stuttering mess like you. Someone like that is bound to be dangerous. You better be prepared, nerd.”

It still took Izuku by surprise to hear Kacchan concerned for him. It made him feel warm and fuzzy in his chest and he couldn’t hold back a fond smile.

“Don’t worry, Kacchan. I’ll be careful.”

********

Deku was a fucking liar.

Of course Katsuki knew that Deku couldn’t technically lie to him, but that was fucking semantics. It was only the third day of their internships and already the nerd had broken his promise.

It all started in the middle of their patrol with Endeavour – and two of his sidekicks that Katsuki hadn’t bothered to remember the names of – searching for the Hero Killer. Katsuki had been buzzing with excitement at the prospect of taking on such a high profile villain, despite knowing the Pros would likely do their best to keep him out of harm’s way.

He could tell the sidekicks had been wary of letting trainees accompany them in the first place. But they couldn’t exactly argue with their boss. Endeavour was adamant about dragging his son along wherever he went, constantly spouting “watch me”, much to Icy Hot’s annoyance. Katsuki didn’t give a shit if Endeavour spent their whole internship ignoring him for Icy Hot, as long as he got to participate in some real hero work.

Icy Hot’s phone chimed at the exact same moment that Katsuki’s buzzed in his pocket. He glanced curiously at Icy Hot as the boy pulled out his phone without any regard for his father’s protests. Usually Katsuki would’ve ignored the notification. He took hero work very seriously and it would be highly unprofessional to pull out his phone in the middle of a patrol. But the concerned frown on Icy Hot’s face caused anxiety to stir in his stomach. He quickly pulled out his phone to confirm his growing suspicions.

For a brief moment, Katsuki’s heart fluttered in elation to see that Deku had texted him. But the moment was short lived as he opened the message to find it was a group text addressed to their entire class. The message simply broadcast Deku’s location with no goddamn context.

Fear for his soulmate’s safety gripped his heart as Katsuki quickly checked to see how far away the location was. To his relief, it wasn’t that far from where they currently were. If he ran, he could probably make it there in minutes. He whipped around to run, not caring about the consequences for bailing during his internship.

“Where the hell are you two going!?” Endeavour demanded. He hadn’t even realised that Icy Hot was following him.

“Once you’re finished, send any pros you can to back us up at an alley at 4-2-10 Ekou Street. I think our friend is in trouble. I’m sure you can handle this in no time, right?” Icy Hot said it like a challenge. Katsuki gained a little bit of respect for him.

Part of him wanted to yell at Icy Hot to fuck off and let him handle it by himself. Deku was his soulmate and he didn’t need fucking Half-and-Half butting in. But he held his tongue. If Deku was in serious danger, then it wouldn’t hurt to have the extra help. As much as Kastuki loathed to admit it, Icy Hot was strong. He wasn’t about to let something as stupid as jealousy get in the way of protecting his soulmate.

What was Deku even doing in Hosu City? He was pretty sure Deku had said that his internship was in Kofu. That was an hour train ride out of Tokyo. There was no reason for him to be here unless he was on patrol as well. But the crime rate had been low ever since the Hero Killer’s last attack. The only reason to patrol here would be for the same reason as Endeavour: to catch the Hero Killer.

Fuck. He knew the nerd had been researching the Hero Killer’s movements ever since Glasses’ brother was attacked. But… there was no way he’d be that stupid, right? Oh, who was he kidding? Of course his idiot soulmate would be that reckless.

At the prospect of his soulmate facing a literal murderer, Katsuki used a few explosions to speed himself up. Icy Hot was still several paces behind him as he reached their destination. He turned into the alley and saw two figures collapsed on the ground, a Pro Hero that Katsuki didn’t recognise and Glasses in his hero costume with the helmet off. But he barely registered them as his eyes trained on a blur of green.

His heart leapt into his throat as the Hero Killer’s sword swung back towards his soulmate, so fast that Katsuki didn’t have any hope of intervening in time. He froze in shock as he watched Deku miraculously avoid the swipe of the long blade with a smooth jump. Green lightning surrounded him as he twisted in the air to swing a punch down upon the Hero Killer’s head.

Deku moved so fast that Katsuki almost couldn’t track his movements. He was sure Deku hadn’t been able to move like that before their internship. The jump actually reminded him of his own technique. Had Deku learnt those moves just from watching him? Pride welled up in his chest as he appreciated his soulmate’s progress. Just how much had Deku improved in only three days?

Deku landed in a crouch after the punch, looking up at the Hero Killer with determination. But his expression turned to one of panic as his body suddenly locked up and his limbs began to tremble. The Hero Killer rose to his feet, seemingly unphased by the punch he’d just taken.

The Hero Killer calmly walked towards Deku with a grin on his face. “You lack power, but you tracked my movements and exploited my blind spot. You planned to take me down. That was how you moved. So many fools out there are nothing but talk. But you… you are worth keeping alive. Unlike these others.”

Katsuki snapped out of his stupor, chastising himself when he realised he’d just been standing there gawking like an idiot. He’d been so caught off-guard by Deku’s moves that he’d forgotten the urgency of the situation.

He sprung into action, aiming an explosion towards the Hero Killer. “Not so fast, asshole!”  

Despite the surprise attack, the villain easily managed to dodge the explosion. Damn, this fucker was slippery. 

Katsuki couldn’t help feeling relieved when he noticed Icy Hot rushing into the alley, taking up a defensive stance beside him.

“One after another, so many interruptions,” the Hero Killer growled in annoyance as he turned towards them. “Two-on-One, huh? At least you’re not naïve.”

“Bakugo, Todoroki— You came too?” Glasses gaped from his prone position on the ground.

“Of course we fucking came! You can thank Deku for having the brains to share his location.”

“It took me a few seconds to figure it out, but once I saw Bakugo’s reaction I knew I must be right. It’s not Midoriya’s style to send a meaningless message. I realised it must mean, ‘I’m in trouble. Help!’”

Just how fucking often did Deku text Icy Hot? Nope. Focus. He could worry about that shit later.  

Icy Hot sent a wave of ice that coated the alley floor. The Hero Killer jumped to avoid it, but the ice succeeded in scooping up the wounded.

Icy Hot kept talking as he rushed forward, sending a blast of fire towards the Hero Killer. “Don’t worry, in just a few minutes the Pros’ll be here.”

The wounded slid precariously over the shifting ice like a make-shift slide until they landed safely behind Katsuki. He felt some of his anxiety ease knowing that his soulmate was out of immediate danger. He owed Icy Hot one. He could admit he wouldn’t’ve been able to retrieve the victims so quickly on his own.

Icy Hot returned to Katsuki’s side, his left hand still engulfed in flame. “You’re just as the reports describe. But you’re not killing these guys today, Hero Killer.”

A feral grin split across Katsuki’s face as he realised he could let loose a proper explosion now without worrying about unwanted casualties. He did just that, releasing a much bigger explosion that would be significantly harder to dodge than the last one.

He heard the Hero Killer grunt in pain and eagerly waited for the fiery inferno to clear so he could access the damage. To his annoyance, the Hero Killer was still standing. His scarves were singed and his bare upper arms were red with burns, but the bandages wrapping the majority of his arms had taken the brunt of the damage.

Katsuki growled in annoyance. His explosions would be more effective at a closer range. He pointed his hands behind him, preparing to launch himself forward.

Deku’s voice made him pause. “Kacchan, wait! You shouldn’t get too close. You can’t let him draw blood. I’m pretty sure he paralyses his victims by ingesting their blood. That’s how he got all of us.”

“That explains all the blades. We’ll need to keep our distance then,” Icy Hot noted.

Goddammit, Katsuki hadn’t even seen Deku get cut earlier. That meant even the slightest nick would be enough. He realised with frustration that he would be at a disadvantage in this fight. The alley was too narrow to effectively utilise his explosions without damaging the nearby buildings and close combat was too risky.

The Hero Killer slung a knife towards Icy Hot that he couldn’t quite dodge in time before it sliced his left cheek. Luckily Katsuki managed to avoid the one that followed a second later. Not only was this fucker fast, but his aim was incredible. Katsuki had only managed to dodge because he’d thrown the other knife first.

“You’ve got some good friends, Ingenium,” the Hero Killer chuckled humourlessly.

He dove towards Icy Hot, his long tongue flicking towards the blood trickling down his cheek.

“Not on my watch, fucker,” Katsuki growled as he shot an explosion into the villain’s side, knocking him away before he could get a taste.

The bastard effortlessly rolled to his feet, dashing towards Katsuki with his sword drawn in retaliation. Kastuki ducked the swing, noticing the knife in his other hand a second before it arched towards him. He blasted an explosion to the side, launching himself out of the knife’s range just before it could land. He used the explosion to regain some distance between them, while Icy Hot used a combination of fire and ice attacks to keep the Hero Killer at bay.

Deku was right. Close combat was a bad idea. They couldn’t afford to let their guards down for even a second when he was up close. Every move this fucker made set him up for multiple attacks. It didn’t seem to matter that he was outnumbered, his speed and skill was far above their own.

“Why? All of you, just stop it. I’ve inherited my brother’s name. I have to do this, he’s mine to-”

“Oh give me a fucking break! I don’t give a shit about your shitty little revenge plot. If you wanna go get yourself killed, then be my guest. But don’t drag Deku into your bullshit!” Katsuki snapped.

“Kacchan!” Izuku gasped in indignation.

Katsuki turned to scowl at his soulmate. “Shut up, nerd! I don’t want to hear you defend this idiot. He almost got you killed.”

He saw panic flash across Deku’s face before a voice spoke up from behind him. “Turning your back on an opponent that’s faster than you. What a foolish mistake.”

In the next instant he felt the sting of a knife bury into his side. He felt his limbs seize up as paralysis overtook him.

“KACCHAN!” Deku screamed.

Green lightning exploded from his body before he became a blur. The next instant the knife was ripped out of him as Deku pulled the Hero Killer away. He heard Deku drag him along the nearby building so hard that chunks of concrete crumbled off and fell to the ground.

“For some reason, I can move again just fine!” Deku announced.

“So it has a time limit?” Icy Hot appeared beside him.

He had two knives protruding from his left arm. Despite all that exposed blood, he seemed to have escaped being paralysed. It must’ve happened while his back was turned. Katsuki felt like an idiot for letting himself get distracted. He had let his emotions get the best of him. The Hero Killer was right, it was a foolish mistake.

“No. He was the last one to get hit. I was the first and I still can’t move.” The Pro Hero on the ground informed them. It was the first time he’d said anything since Katsuki had arrived.

He heard Deku cry out in pain and hit the ground.

“Deku!” Katsuki hissed, frustrated that he couldn’t run to his soulmate’s aid.

“Midoriya, get back!” Icy Hot shouted as he sent out a wave of ice.

Deku appeared beside him, coughing harshly. The fall must’ve winded him. His left eye was blacked and half swollen shut. He ignored his own injuries to fuss over Katsuki.

“Are you okay, Kacchan? That wound looks pretty deep.”  

“We can worry about that later. The bastard’s quirk got me, I can’t fucking move. How the hell did you break out of this shit?”

“I’m not sure. He tasted our blood and paralysed us, but I was the first to break free somehow.”

“I can think of three possible explanations. Either the effect is weaker the more people he uses it on. Or it’s about how much blood he gets. Or it’s effectiveness depends on blood type,” Icy Hot mused.

“Blood type? I’m B,” the Pro said.

“And I’m A,” Glasses added.

“Blood type. Hah, yeah that’s right,” the Hero Killer confirmed.

“Who fucking cares? It’s not like knowing that helps us at all,” Katsuki growled in frustration.

“Kacchan’s right. That information doesn’t do us any good. We can’t afford to let him paralyse anyone, even if some of us could break free sooner.”

“We need to hurry up and get out of here. He’s quick enough to react to both my ice and fire. I’m not seeing any openings. Until the Pros get here, our best hope is to keep him at bay and keep dodging.”

Where the fuck were the Pros anyway? They needed to hurry the fuck up.

“Todoroki, you have too much exposed blood. I’ll draw his attention while you provide support from the rear.”

As the only one not bleeding or paralysed, he knew Deku was the only one who could attack. Still, Katsuki hated this plan. But he didn’t have any better ideas.

Deku rushed towards the Hero Killer. Katsuki hated that he couldn’t even see what was going on. He could only listen to the sounds of combat behind him. Icy Hot continued to launch a slew of ice and fire attacks. He hoped the bastard had enough control to avoid Deku in the onslaught.

“Stop this. I can’t take it,” Glasses begged them, tears in his eyes.

Before Katsuki could yell at him, Icy Hot beat him to it. He blocked out Icy Hot’s pep talk, too focussed on listening to the sounds of his soulmate’s fight.

Deku cried out in pain and there was a thud as he hit the ground. “Sorry guys, he got me!”

Deku was likely paralysed again. That meant he’d be coming for Icy Hot next. Sure enough, the Hero Killer’s voice appeared beside him where Icy Hot stood.

“Ice and fire. Has anyone ever told you that relying too heavily on quirks makes you sloppy?” He clicked his tongue in distaste.

He heard a sword swing through the air in Icy Hot’s direction. Katsuki was surprised to see Glasses pull himself to his feet.

“Recipro Burst!”

He heard the sword snap under the weight of Glasses’ heavy kick.

“Iida!” Deku cried in relief.

“It wore off. This guy’s quirk isn’t that great after all,” Icy Hot mused.

“This had nothing to do with any of you, so I’m sorry.”

“Not this again,” Deku said at the same time that Katsuki snapped, “It’s a bit fucking late for that!”

“That’s why, I swear I won’t let anyone lose any more blood here,” Glasses insisted.

“It’s no use pretending. A person’s nature can’t be changed so easily.”

The Hero Killer went on to rant about fake heroes and how corrupt society was. Katsuki tuned him out. He didn’t give a shit about this fucker’s shitty philosophy. It didn’t fucking excuse murdering people.

Glasses began a self-deprecating monologue about how the Hero Killer was right and he didn’t deserve to be called a hero. Katsuki wanted to yell at him to stop wasting time chatting and take the bastard down already. But he realised this was what Glasses needed to hype himself up for the fight. He was having some sort of epiphany, it seemed. Katsuki rolled his eyes.

He wished his paralysis would hurry up and break already so he could see what was going on for himself. He kept trying to move his limbs without any success. His blood type was A like Glasses’, so he doubted he’d be able to free himself anytime soon. He realised he couldn’t even feel his body anymore. It was like he’d gone numb. Was that another side effect of the paralysis?

He tried his best to follow what was going on behind him through the sounds alone, but the fight sounded like it was getting farther and farther away. Where the hell were they going? If they left the alley then the Pros wouldn’t be able to find them. 

Katsuki attempted to yell at them to get the hell back here, but he had trouble forming the words. It didn’t feel the same as when he tried to lie. This was like the words were just out of reach but he couldn’t focus long enough to catch them. His vision was going blurry and he recognised the now-familiar pull of unconsciousness as the world faded around him. 

********

Later, in a hospital room in Hosu City, the heroes in training looked back on the events of that day and agreed that they were lucky to be alive. They relayed the final events of the battle, including the flying Nomu’s attempt at kidnapping Midoriya and the Hero Killer’s rescue, to Bakugo when he finally awoke.

Despite being the most injured, Bakugo spent a long time chewing Iida and Midoriya out for their recklessness. Iida hung his head in shame, accepting all responsibility for the incident. Midoriya was a bit more stubborn, insisting that he’d done the right thing and didn’t regret his actions. Shoto agreed with both Bakugo and Midoriya on several points, but knew better than to get in the middle of the argument.

After listening to their banter for a while, Shoto said, “You two must be quite good friends. You’re always running to each other’s rescue.” 

He was a little jealous. He’d never had a childhood friend. In fact, he’d never had a friend at all until Midoriya.

Midoriya looked at Shoto in surprise before his expression turned sad. His eyes dropped to his hands as he twisted his fingers together anxiously. “Ah, well-” 

“Of course we are!” Bakugo cut him off impatiently. “He’s stuck with me whether he likes it or not.”

Midoriya’s head snapped up to stare at Bakugo in shock. 

“Kacchan…” He trailed off, voice full of emotion. Shoto wondered if Midoriya was going to cry.

Bakugo crossed his arms and looked away, deliberately avoiding Midoriya’s gaze, a blush burning his cheeks. 

Initially Shoto had disliked Bakugo, his temperament reminding him of his father’s. But after spending several days together during their internship and watching the way he’d dropped everything to run to Midoriya’s rescue, he’d come to see him in a new light. 

Sure, he was foul-mouthed and had an incredibly short fuse. But Bakugo was nothing like his father. His father had never cared about anybody but himself. It was obvious that Bakugo cared deeply for Midoriya, though he had a rough way of showing it. 

They were interrupted by the arrival of the Chief of Police and Iida and Midoriya’s mentors, who took their turns reprimanding them. Thankfully, neither Endeavour nor any of his sidekicks showed up to berate them. His father was likely busy arranging the Hero Killer’s arrest.

Unsurprisingly, Bakugo didn’t take too kindly to being scolded and Shoto felt the same. He joined the blond in arguing their case by pointing out that if they hadn’t acted Native, Iida and Midoriya would likely have died. Bakugo eyed him with approval at the outburst. Midoriya waved his arms in front of them frantically, attempting to diffuse the situation. 

To their surprise, the Chief of Police agreed with them. He informed them that their actions were commendable, but since they still broke the law they couldn’t be rewarded for them. He offered them a compromise. They would avoid punishment, but the glory of catching the Hero Killer would go to Endeavour. Shoto loathed the thought of contributing to his father’s good reputation, but he supposed he had no choice. 

They all bowed (even Bakugo to his surprise) and thanked the Chief for his generosity. He bowed in return and thanked them for their bravery. The police, along with Iida and Midoriya’s mentors, promptly left after that. There was a tense silence as they all processed how close they’d come to serious legal repercussions. They’d gotten off easy.

Midoriya announced he was going to make a phone call and left the room shortly after. Bakugo watched him leave with a frown, looking as if he wanted to follow but couldn’t because he was bed bound. 

While Midoriya was away, the doctor came back to report their diagnosis. He informed Shoto that there wouldn’t be any permanent nerve damage to his left arm, but he should refrain from using his fire side until the wounds healed. 

Shoto had no qualms about following those instructions, looking forward to seeing his father’s reaction when he told him the news. The doctor informed him it’d be several weeks before the wounds healed fully. 

Shoto was no stranger to getting injured, but he realised he’d come to rely on the convenience of Recover Girl’s quirk. It had been a while since he’d needed to wait for his injuries to heal naturally. He wondered if they’d be allowed to ask her to heal them when they returned to school.

The doctor moved on to Bakugo, informing him that the surgery was successful. Luckily the stab wound hadn’t severed any major organs or arteries. He’d lost quite a lot of blood before he arrived at the hospital, but they’d managed to give a blood transfusion in time. He was prescribed bed rest for the rest of the week, which meant he wouldn’t be able to participate in the rest of his internship. Naturally, Bakugo was pissed about this. The doctor, seemingly used to unruly patients, simply ignored Bakugo’s complaints and moved on to Iida.

Bakugo soon got quiet as he heard the severity of Iida’s condition. The doctor explained that both Iida’s arms were injured, but his left had gotten the worst of it. The knife had severed his brachial plexus nerve, which would result in permanent damage unless he received a nerve transplant. To Shoto’s surprise, Iida decided to forgo the surgery. He didn’t understand why until Midoriya returned.

“Until I succeed in becoming a true hero, my left hand will serve as a reminder.”

Midoriya looked thoughtfully at the scars on his own hand from the sports’ festival. “I feel the same way. Let’s get stronger together.” 

As Shoto glanced between their injured hands, a terrible thought occurred to him.

He stared at his uninjured hands in shame. “I’m sorry.” 

Midoriya titled his head in confusion. “What for?”

“Whenever I’m involved, it feels like people’s hands get messed up. Maybe it’s a curse?” 

The room fell silent as all three boy’s stared at him incredulously. 

Midoriya suddenly burst out laughing. “What on earth are you talking about?” 

Bakugo scoffed, shaking his head. “Are you an idiot?” 

“Looks like even Todoroki knows how to joke,” Iida chuckled. 

Shoto furrowed his brow in confusion. This wasn’t the reaction he’d been expecting. “No, I’m not joking. Just call me ‘The Hand Crusher.’”

Perhaps he should consider changing his Hero Name. 

“The Hand Crusher!” Midoriya cackled, gripping his stomach and teetering on his crutches. His eyes watered and his face flushed under the full-bodied laughter.

Shoto found himself admiring the way Midoriya’s curls bounced against his cheeks as he tossed his head back and forth. Shoto was struck by the thought that Midoriya had a wonderful laugh. 

“Midoriya, I’ve decided I hate cold soba.” Shoto found himself saying. He couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed when the lie easily left his mouth. Ah, what a shame. 

Midoriya paused laughing to throw him a confused look. “What? I thought it was your favourite.”

Shoto scrambled for an excuse. “Oh. That was a joke. I thought I’d try my hand at one after Iida’s comment. Was it not funny?” 

He unconsciously avoided Midoriya’s eyes in embarrassment, catching Bakugo’s glare from across the room. He raised an eyebrow in question, but Bakugo didn’t explain why he was angry. 

He just clicked his tongue and looked toward Midoriya. “Stop fucking dawdling and get back in bed already, nerd. You’re supposed to be resting your leg!”

Midoriya flashed Bakugo an exasperated smile. “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. Sorry, Kacchan.” 

Bakugo huffed, his own lips twitching in the suggestion of a smile, before his usual scowl overtook it. 

Understanding washed over Shoto as he looked between the pair. Oh, so that’s how it is.