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and breathe

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The arm is the only part of the body visible. Blood runs rivlets under it, spreading from the slab of concrete that crushed the body that said arm was attached to a minute previous. Pale, the shredded, squashed flesh hanging off near the shoulder hides the gore facing the concrete. The nails are painted a sparkly cherry red. One pink plastic ring sits on the middle finger.

A charitable conclusion is that the person crushed under rubble was a small adult. That charitable conclusion would be wrong. Izuku’s stomach sinks and so does he, stumbling from the air to the asphalt.

He drops to his knees at the sight. Nausea churns his stomach, the rolling, sloshing bile rising in his throat. Izuku tries to choke it back, failure clawing its way around his vision in a dark haze, narrowing only on the arm.

Izuku’s job was in this sector of the street. Meant to evacuate everyone as quickly as possible, he’d grabbed civilians left and right with Black Whip, One For All thrumming under his skin, pushed to its limits, bones aching. Setting them down in the safe zone before darting back and checking-

Evacuation is familiar. Routine. Earthquake quirk or no-

Izuku should’ve seen her sooner, should’ve grabbed her and hauled her into the air.

Except he’d been too slow. Saw her seconds before the building fell.

His hands tremble.

The earth rolls under his knees, knocking him sideways.

There are still-

There are still people alive, so he Floats up, fighting the stones that are his soles, Black

Whip lashing at his wrists before Izuku grits his teeth.

No time-

One for All sparks like a lightning storm, bottled in a too-tiny boy-vessel; his bones singing a sharp tune, creaking and cracking under the pressure of power. Static slides off his skin and he dives forward, pain pushing each metre he flies forward.

Two civilians, five civilians, ten, fifteen, twenty-five and he’s back at the safe zone, throwing himself out as quickly as he can, earth splitting under heel as he pushes forward and up. He catches Uraraka in his peripheral, wires splaying from her like a mechanical Black Whip. She nods, a small smile on her face.

Izuku can’t feel his face. He has no idea what it does in return. One for All shoots harder still, something burning under skin, a hot flash of pain he swallows down and ignores, reaching out to snag the ledge of a building and flinging himself to the other side.

His hands still tremble.

There are no screams, no shouts for help. Sero swings under him, Iida running by in the opposite direction.

The explosions in the distance are quieting. His heartbeat in his ears is louder, a constant quick drumbeat he can almost feel in his throat.

“Villain apprehended. Continue evacuations.” The crackling of his headset startles Izuku sideways and off the side of the roof he’d been perched on.

A second of freefall.

Gravity spreads around him like water and he bobs upwards, Float bubbling in his chest. Izuku pants, shaking hand touching his chest before he summons the heavy presence of One for All, ozone sharp and sweet in the air.

He encounters only two civilians. Izuku tries to offer a smile, but his plastic features refuse to respond, words dying half to his teeth. Scanning the street, there’s no other panicked lonely little girls. Just classmates ushering civilians down the street and out of the buildings.

Izuku’s eyes burn and he realizes he hasn’t blinked since-


He can’t remember, but his eyes stick, a dry grit scraping across them. Izuku presses his eyelids harder, till his cheeks wince.

Uraraka is at the safe point this time, helping secure someone to a stretcher. She says something, fuzzy and distorted like a broken television.

Izuku stares back, the people he brought scampering towards the waiting area.

Uraraka frowns.

“Sorry,” Izuku chokes out, “Didn’t hear that.”

“I asked if you got hurt,” she says again, “ don’t look too good.”

Izuku’s mind floats to the left of himself, a third person point of view, disconnected from the fake reassurances that tip out of his mouth.

His hands still tremble.

Uraraka scowls, ready to scold him.

“Uravity, we need you!” She whirls around, finger wagging at him.

“Get some help from the medics, okay!?” Uraraka calls, jogging off.

Izuku blinks and he’s back at the apartment complex.

The arm is still there.


He blinks again and he’s still at the safe point.

“I don’t need a check-up, for fuck’s sake!”

“Dude, c’mon, it isn’t that bad!”

Kacchan and Kaminari, back from the frontlines.

“Oh hey, Deku!” Kaminari calls. Izuku manages to puppet his hand in a mockery of a wave. Kaminari doesn’t notice, trotting towards the tents.

Kacchan though. Kacchan stops, head tilting. He twists, heading towards Izuku.

“Oi, shitty nerd! The hell’s up with you?” Kacchan is covered in dust, a mean cut curving up his arm, the red blood stark against the pale dust.

The red fills his vision, the cherry color of the girl’s nails, the blood spread on the ground, her hair seconds before-


Kacchan sounds distant and foggy, like Izuku’s head is stuffed with cotton.

“Mm?” He manages, lips pressed tight together. His chest burns, sweat slicking down his back, by the sides of his face, cold and clammy. The drumbeat in his ears pounds harder, vision blacking at the edges.

“Dammit, Deku, come on!”

Absently, he’s aware he’s being shoved somewhere. An alley, shaded and cool. He can’t catch his breath as it escapes from him rabbit-quick, his heart racing harder and harder; his rib cage squeezing his lungs to nothing-

“Hey,” Kacchan says, and a hand is pressed to his cheek. The glove Kacchan wears is rough and dirty, some of the grime smearing onto Izuku’s face.

“Hey,” Kacchan says again, softer, “Look at me, Deku.”

He tries, but Kacchan is a blonde and black blur. Izuku must make some- some sort of noise. Something that erupts from his collapsing chest, because Kacchan’s hand slides from his cheek to the back of his head, fingers tangling in the curls and pressing him closer.

Chest to chest, Kacchan presses his forehead down against Izuku’s own.

“Close your eyes,” Kacchan murmurs against him and Izuku does, dark enveloping the shaky colors around them. His hand is trapped between their chests, pressed to Katsuki’s own.

“Breathe in,” Kacchan says, and Izuku can feel the other’s chest move against his hand. It’s a deep one, Izuku can tell, and he gives a stuttering try.

Kacchan releases a soft breath and it blows gently across the tip of Izuku’s nose.

“Breathe out,” Kacchan says again, and Izuku does, releasing it in a quick burst. Kacchan’s fingers run through Izuku’s hair, rubbing his scalp.

“Breathe in,” he says again and Izuku does, pattern matching to the movement of Kacchan’s chest until the words are a meaningless mumble, fading to just the shared huffs of their breathing intermingling.

Izuku comes to himself in parts; the smooth fabric of his jumpsuit, the weight of his respirator, the stiffness of his gloves all anchoring him in the present.

His hands don’t tremble.

Kacchan stops deep breathing and leans back.

Izuku stops himself from following, missing the warm, solid presence.

He opens his eyes.

Kacchan stands before him, stoic.

“Sorry,” Izuku says, glancing down.

Kacchan grunts.

“What happened?”

Izuku’s chest tightens, stomach rolling at the question.The sudden grip on his hair reminds Izuku that Kacchan never actually took his hand away.

Kacchan stares him down, eyes narrowed and serious.

“Don’t,” he says.

And Izuku-


He breathes in.

He breathes out.

“A girl died,” Izuku whispers, “I was...seconds away. If I’d been faster-”

“Shut up,” Katsuki barks and Izuku flinches, eyes wide.

Kacchan sneers, “If that fuckhead hadn’t been destroying the city with his merry band of assholes, she wouldn’t be dead,”


“But what?” The hand in his hair tightens.

“But I could’ve-”

“You didn’t.”

Izuku’s mouth snaps shut, tears welling at the corner of his eyes.

Kacchan sighs, grip relaxing, “You did what you could, so shut the hell up.”


He is shoved against Kacchan’s chest by the hand in his hair, the other’s chin digging into the top of his head. Izuku freezes, prey-still.

It isn’t quite a hug.

But Izuku’s arms come up and wrap around the other anyway, sobbing. Kacchan smells like sweat and nitroglycerin and blood, musty dust blanketing the mix. Izuku clutches tight and Kacchan’s other hand comes to wrap around him. The other’s chin lifts slightly, before a cheek is pressed down instead.

“K-kacchan-” Izuku tries to say through snot and salt.

“I told you to shut the hell up,” Kacchan says, soft against his scalp.

“Okay,” he sniffs, burying his head against Kacchan’s chest, breathing in and out as best he can through the sobs. A hand traces something on his shoulder. Kacchan’s chest constant with it’s ins and outs and Izuku realizes the other is breathing deep again.

He follows, like this his head is on the other’s chest and he can hear Kacchan’s heartbeat, a steady, sturdy beat.

in - thump - thump - out - thump - thump - in - thump - thump - out

Izuku’s eyes flutter shut and he loses himself in the beat, in the fingers on his shoulder, on the cheek pressed to his head.

“Thanks,” he whispers.

“Told you to shut up,” Kacchan grumbles, but doesn’t move, hand gripping Izuku’s waist tighter.