When Izuku walked out of the home they shared 6 years ago, Katsuki hadn’t known it was for good.
They’d had a fight, yes, but it hadn’t been any different from the many fights they’d had over the years. Katsuki is a stubborn man—the only person he knows more stubborn than him is Izuku—and they disagreed on a great many things. It hadn’t even been a particularly vicious fight. Izuku hadn’t been shouting, hadn’t been exasperated, frustrated or raging. Katsuki remembers he’d gone quiet.
Katsuki had thought the argument was over. He hadn’t understood that Izuku’s patience for him had a limit, after all. That love he’d known since they were children could ever end, and forever had an expiration.
Izuku had been after him to move apartments for months, a year even; the place they’d been living in for the past 4 years was convenient to their agencies but was too small, too cramped, too prone for the elevator and the heater to break down. Katsuki had been putting it off.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to move—summer was on full blast and the aircon was down again—but moving meant taking time off to look at listings, dealing with realtors and Izuku’s point-by-point analysis of which place was better in which category, when he could be out there in the streets continuing his climb to #1.
“You said we’d go this Sunday, Kacchan. You promised.”
And he had promised. Just like he’d done several times before. He’d meant it every time, too.
When they were 17 years old, fierce and full of fire, it would never have occurred to Katsuki that their path to being The Best Hero could diverge so much.
For Katsuki, it had always been about being #1. Publicly acknowledged and categorical.
But Izuku was fueled by a dream rather than ambition; his only benchmark was himself and Katsuki beside him. If he was the best hero he could possibly be, then it didn’t matter that he wasn’t at the top. Izuku didn’t grab all the shifts he could to make sure he logged more hours than hero Shouto did, didn’t volunteer for any and all Special Task Forces to make sure his name was in the papers. He simply saved as many people as he could.
It had been yet another source of dissatisfaction; a point of contention. Too many plans cancelled, too many things put on hold. Things that Katsuki didn’t think were important—like finding a bigger apartment—but had really been lines drawn in the sand.
“Do you even want to be with me anymore?” Izuku had asked then, the day he left. Katsuki had thought the question so absurd, it didn’t deserve a response. But all Izuku heard was his silence.
A bigger apartment. Less time at work. Commitment. An acknowledgement that they had a future together. They weren’t such unreasonable things. Katsuki knew Izuku had been looking at rings. Izuku had wanted more for them, more than what they had. Katsuki hadn’t understood until he was already out the door, outside Japan, and out of his life.
Katsuki found that the apartment that had been too small for two people was far, far too big for him alone. It had been easy to be angry at Izuku during daylight hours, to mutter and glare at offending extras in place of someone who’s not there, to take all the hurt and rage and disbelief and channel it to doing even more heroic deeds. But at night, during the quiet hours of the remains of the day, the walls rang empty with laughter that wasn’t there anymore, echoing the emptiness he felt inside him that no amount of daytime raging could dispel.
And so—irony of ironies—Katsuki himself moved out. He stayed in hotel rooms and spare bedrooms, and a series of walls, floors, and ceilings that housed his bed and his clothes but were never again his home.
When Katsuki had reached #1, he moved into this place, chosen with the memory of Izuku’s voice babbling beside him, listing everything he wanted from their new home. Izuku had been an ocean away, and Katsuki had no real expectation that he would ever live here with him. He chose it for him anyway, because after 3 long years of being alone when he had always walked with the sun by his side, Katsuki was finally prepared to accept he fucked up.
“Your house looks amazing, Kacchan.” Izuku cranes his neck around from where he sits at the kitchen island, the coffee and breakfast Katsuki made set before him.
They had been too distracted last night for Izuku to have taken in much of the place—what with the awkwardness, tears, and the first touch of their lips in 6 years. The rest of the evening had been spent in the bedroom where, once again, Izuku had been interested in things other than the furnishings.
“Eat first. You can look around later.”
“It’s so much bigger than my apartment,” Izuku says between chopsticks of scrambled eggs.
“I got enough shelf space for your hero merch,” he says, casually, like this isn’t something he’s prepared to fight tooth and nail for.
Izuku stills, meets his eyes across the table.
Katsuki can hear blood roaring in his ears. He’s pushing; he knows he is. But he could no more stop himself than the sun rising. Today, it’s Katsuki who’s drawing lines in the sand, boxing Izuku in.
“Do you?” Izuku finally says. He cocks his head. His lips are too sweet to twist in a smirk but his green eyes light up with teasing. “I got a lot of merch, you know.”
Katsuki feels himself relax, his shoulders unbunch. “Bring ‘em all.”
“You just want your hands on my limited edition stuff,” he continues to tease, but the green eyes are soft with understanding—you’ve made a space for me, a place where we can make a home: thank you. A scarred hand reaches out across the table to entwine with his. Katsuki squeezes back.
People who think it’s only Izuku who can read Katsuki are full of crap—his monumental fuck up aside, he can read his nerd just fine. “That and other things.”
Katsuki sits back and enjoys the sound of warm laughter ringing across his apartment.
Katsuki has always known what Izuku was up to. Izuku may have blocked him, refused all contact from him, but it had been a one-way barricade.
The Japanese media followed the overseas exploits of its famous son, the pro hero Deku, and Katsuki had access to newsreels and camera phone clips that routinely popped up on the internet. He heard about it when Deku threw it down with big name villains, when he got injured, when he celebrated career milestones.
For the rest of it, Izuku still talked with their mutual friends. Pictures of him going about his daily life got shared in group chats, or—more pointedly—sent directly to him by well-meaning, scheming, nosy people. He knew about the stray neighborhood cat that Izuku liked to feed; that his apartment had a garden rooftop where Izuku sometimes went to gaze up at the night sky; that he still wore that soft, green sweater that Katsuki got for him years and years ago, a perfect match to the green of his eyes when he was happy.
He never asked about him—he never had to. They talked about him in his presence, chatted about his life as if Katsuki still gave a damn, and he would tell them to go away, shut up, quit their yapping—but never quite until after they’re done.
He’d known Izuku was seeing other people. Uraraka, for one, had made sure he heard about it, and gave him a disappointed look when he didn’t react, didn’t blow anything or anyone up. Izuku. Fucking. Left. Him. If he thought he could find anyone better than Katsuki, he’s free to look.
3 years after Izuku walked out of their home, Katsuki still hadn’t understood that it was for good. When he saw him on TV, smiling, talking about being happy with someone else…. It did something to Katsuki.
However way their relationship ended, whatever else he had done or hadn’t done that cost him his best friend, his partner, his rival, his lover, Katsuki had truly loved Izuku in a way no other person has even come close. Katsuki had expended untold time and effort making his Deku happy, as best he could.
To see him smile for someone else….
The resulting crisis of self was on the level of Kamino aftermath. He’s known Izuku all his life, has loved him—unwilling, unacknowledged, unprocessed or not—for most of it. Hopes, dreams, ambition, secrets they’d keep to the grave, past and future, all tied together by green eyes, freckles, and a smile that lit up only for Katsuki.
How can you be happy with someone else.
How could you give up on us.
Why am I not enough for you anymore.
Months later, it had been Todoroki who told him about Izuku’s engagement. He’d been at the agency, working long hours as he always did, because he had nowhere else to be, had no one begging for his time, no one to disappoint or fail to make happy. Katsuki had looked up from the report he was reading and saw trouble in Todoroki’s impassive face.
“Midoriya’s getting married.” Three simple words that could change a man’s life. “I’ll cover your shift tomorrow. Let’s get you drunk.”
Katsuki still doesn’t remember much of that night. But he couldn’t stay drunk forever, and it had taken 2 more years before he got Izuku back in his home, in his arms again.
“Let’s go get rings,” he murmurs against Izuku’s temple, nuzzling the soft green curls there, “I know a place.”
Izuku turns in his loose hold and smiles up at him. “You’d rather spend our day-off out shopping than here where there’s a convenient bed?”
He doesn’t return the smile. “The bed would still be here later.”
He leaves unspoken the nervous, anxious, desperately needy thought: you might not be. Katsuki aims to tie Izuku to him with as many knots as he possibly could; chaining him, binding them together with as many symbols as it would take to tell the world, to tell Izuku, that he is claimed.
Izuku borrows a shirt from Katsuki’s closet—Katsuki remembers they used to do that a lot, back then, wear each other’s clothes—and they go to a small, tastefully discreet, incredibly pricey jewelry store.
Katsuki knows the owner from a Ground Zero-thwarted robbery a couple of years back. The man had a quirk that allowed him to manipulate metals and its alloys. It wasn’t powerful enough to be an offensive weapon, but it adapted well to jewelry making, allowing him to custom craft pieces that were small works of art.
Katsuki had called ahead, and the owner met them himself. “May I congratulate you both on this wonderful occasion,” his pleasure at their impending nuptials appearing to be genuine, despite that he probably attended to couples like them several times a day. “Do you have an idea of what it is you want?”
A funny look crosses Izuku’s face. “Umm, I was looking at things before—I mean, back when we were—” Izuku looks up at Katsuki, a soft, embarrassed blush tinting his freckled cheeks. “Back then,” he finishes.
“Oh.” Green eyes widen. “Well, alright then.”
Six years. Katsuki had delayed them this trip to the jewelry store for six long, unnecessary years. He tries not to be bitter—they’re here now, his nerd in his shirt looking excited—focusing on the warmth and feel of Izuku’s lower back beneath his palm, his thumb brushing up and down the corded muscles evident even through his borrowed shirt.
Izuku describes what he wants, sure of Katsuki’s tastes. He has no strong preference in any case. Something simple. Something expensive. Something to mark Izuku as his.
They end up with two rings each. The first, a band of platinum in subdued matte, half of which is inlaid with crushed stones—emeralds for Izuku, rubies for Katsuki. Katsuki’s eyes are closer to the deep reds of wine, but Izuku’s do take after the stone, and he appreciates the sentiment. The second ring was a thinner band of the same metal with words inscribed on the inside. Worn together, designed as a set, they form a trinity of bands with their colors in the middle.
They order a chain for it, something to wear the rings on when they need their hands and knuckles free; fragile enough to break should someone pull it across their necks, ensuring it can never be used as a weapon against them. Realistically, the rings would spend more time on its chain, hidden beneath their uniforms, than on their fingers.
Katsuki tunes out, letting Izuku deal with the details of the what and how. He reaches out to brush calloused fingertips against Izuku’s ear, distracting him. He waits until the green eyes are fixed on him, a gentle question in the arch of his eyebrow.
“What do you say we get earrings?” he touches Izuku’s ear again, thumbing the lobe. It’s something prominent, something they don’t need to hide.
“Earrings?” Izuku says, sounding more amused than surprised. “You’re 31, Kacchan. It’s too late for your wild days, and too early for a mid-life crisis.”
Katsuki’s smile is lazy and full of promise. “I betcha I can still rock an earring when I’m 50.”
Izuku’s laugh washes over him. “I suppose this is just a stud? One each?” His smile tells Katsuki that he agrees to whatever this is that has come over his childhood friend-now-fiance. “To match the rings?”
“No.” Katsuki shakes his head. “Wear the red one.” He wants Izuku branded. In his colors. And Katsuki wouldn’t mind wearing his.
He turns to the shop owner. “When can we wear the rings?”
The man blinks at suddenly being included in the conversation but recovers fast. “Normally, an order like this, I would say come back in a week. But for Ground Zero and Deku,” the shop owner smiles at them beatifically, “you can wear it tonight. I will work on it personally. The earrings, I can have it prepared for you now.
“And if I may say, this really has been such a pleasant surprise. When you called earlier to say you will look at rings, I would never have thought it would be with hero Deku. I have followed your career overseas,” he says to Deku with a little nod. “I’ve always heard you two are rivals,” he continues, some of his surprise showing, “but I am very grateful for your service to the community,” the man blushes, “and I’m a big fan of you both.”
Katsuki leaves it for Izuku to accept the man’s sentiment—Deku had always been better at this one thing than Ground Zero—limiting himself to just a nod in acknowledgement. Their relationship was an open secret in their circle and, to a certain extent, the broader hero community, but it had never been something they bandied about in public.
It says something about the state of society that young heros advanced through the ranks faster if they were attractive, single and unattached. It’s easy enough to achieve the first—their bodies are all sculpted from hours of training and gym time, and their skin glowed with good health. As for being single and unattached, that’s what PR firms are for.
Katsuki had always been a private person, and he had absolutely forbidden Izuku to talk about them to the press. Izuku had agreed at the time, hadn’t seemed to mind. But then he went on a talk show and admitted he loved someone who wasn’t Katsuki, so maybe it was just him who hadn’t wanted it.
Izuku had loved no one else but Katsuki for five years, and the world hadn’t known.
They leave the jewelry store with their left earlobes—they both wear their hero comms in their right ear—red and duly pierced.
“We’ve got time to kill. Where d’you wanna go?” Katsuki asks.
Izuku looks around, orienting himself. “How do you feel about ducks?” he responds with a grin.
Instead of a Chinese restaurant, as Katsuki half expected, they stop for a quick meal at a ramen stand, then head for the park. They select a bench by the pond where ducks—already fat with the largesse of people—waddle up for food and attention. The nearby convenience store does a smashing business selling bird seed for the fowl population.
They are fat and they bicker. Izuku keeps laughing, clearly enamoured. Katsuki remembers how Izuku had wanted to get a pet, but their old apartment was too small and didn’t allow for it. It was one of the reasons Izuku had wanted to move. Yet another thing to regret not giving him when he deserves so much more.
“Tell me about him.” Katsuki hadn’t been aware he was going to say the words until they were already out of his lips. And now that he has, he recognizes he is dying to know.
Did he treat you better than I did?
Did he let you get a cat?
Will you one day want to go back to him?
Izuku looks at him, remnants of a laugh at the ducks’ antics still on his face. He sobers quickly. “What do you want to know?”
Were you happier with him?
Katsuki shrugs. It’s hard enough that he had asked in the first place. He doesn’t really want to know. He just... needs to know desperately.
“I...I met him at a hospital. He’s a trauma surgeon, and he patched me up after a bad fight with a villain. Asked for my number. And we... we hit it off.”
Katsuki frowns. He knows all that. People gravitate towards Izuku. The initial meeting is immaterial: they could have met any number of ways, and the end would have been the same. He’d have been stupid in the head not to love Izuku.
“Ahh, I guess you want to know how it ended,” Izuku murmurs, back to reading Katsuki’s expressions, as if he has a Rosetta Stone keyed in for one Bakugou Katsuki.
“No one cheated or anything—it wasn’t like that. We were...we were good together. But he couldn’t stand the idea that my work could get me killed. I was pretty badly banged up when he first saw me. And then I got into a couple more bad fights while we were together. Nothing as bad as that first one, but you know how things are—sometimes you take the hits.” He shrugs. “He said every time he gets paged, he’d think it was somehow me. He always worried it was me in the ambulance.”
Izuku trails off.
It’s an occupational hazard. Pro heros, much like police officers and military personnel, don’t have a high rate of success in their relationships, especially not with civilians. If it isn’t the demanding hours and time away, it’s the constant possibility of death or injury. It takes its toll on many relationships. It took its toll on theirs, once upon a time.
Katsuki has many faults, had failed Izuku in so many ways, but there is one thing he would never ask him to do, not when he’s overcome so much to get here.
“You didn’t want to give up being a hero for him,” Katsuki says, saying what Izuku couldn’t.
Izuku threw more oats to the ducks. “He’s a good man. Just...not for me.”
Katsuki nods. He can live with that.
Then he almost laughs at himself, the hypocrisy of his thoughts—even if he couldn’t live with the idea of Izuku having been with someone else, he knows fucking well that he would. The impossible is easy when the alternative is unacceptable. “Fucking stupid to let you go.”
“Hey,” Izuku nudges him with his shoulder. “You let me go.”
Katsuki holds his gaze. The topic has made the green eyes too somber for his liking. “Like I said: stupid.”
Izuku’s mouth opens in surprise, then widens into a grin. “Stop calling the man I love names.” He leans in for a lingering peck on Katsuki’s cheek, high, close to his cheekbone. Katsuki turns his face to the touch.
He’d forgotten this kind of casual intimacy; he had 6 years to be alone. It feels good to have it again, and unbelievably easy to slide back into.
He doesn’t care that they’re outside—curious people and ducks for an audience. They’d be lucky if they can keep the wedding a secret. None of it seems important anymore. Katsuki can’t even remember why it was important before.
“And you? Anyone I should know about?” Izuku asks.
Katsuki looks at him. “You ask the stupidest questions sometimes.”
Izuku asks if Katsuki wants him to stay over again tonight, then laughs at the look on his face, sparing Katsuki the need to tell him, yet again, to stop asking stupid questions.
They go to Izuku’s apartment. Some of Izuku’s stuff was still in boxes the last time Katsuki was here; they’re still in boxes now. Izuku is embarrassed—he’s been back in Japan over a year—but Katsuki shrugs: it just makes moving Izuku to his place that much easier.
In between packing essentials and enough clothes to last Izuku a week, they somehow found time to make good use of the bed.
“Why don’t you call for a class dinner tonight?” Katsuki is sprawled out, Izuku tucked against him, his hand lazily tracing a line up and down Izuku’s bare back.
Izuku angles up his face to look at him. “Tonight? We just had a party last night.”
“So?” Katsuki’s pushing again. Pushing with all his might.
“You want to call the class for dinner tonight, when we just saw each other last night?’
He tugs at a green curl, making the teasing grin slide away into abused indignation. “Anyone who don’t want to come don’t have to,” he says with a shrug.
Izuku pushes himself up. He runs crooked knuckles against a jawline that makes fashion editors weep, love for Katsuki in every touch. “And I suppose we’ll get the rings first before we head to dinner?”
Katsuki hands him his phone to text their nosy, but ultimately well-meaning, friends. “Make sure you pick a place that’s near the jewelry store.”
He kisses Izuku, chasing his cheeky laughter away.
Not everyone can come to dinner—not that Katsuki had expected them to—but enough have the time and are curious enough at the invitation that they can book a closed-off section at a popular izakaya.
They end up running late. The rings hadn’t been ready yet when they arrived, and they were asked by a shop assistant to wait at a tastefully opulent lounge, plying them with a rich, earthy-smelling tea, the name of which Yaoyaorozu probably knew by scent alone.
By the time they get to the izakaya, their table is already full. Expectant faces turn at their arrival; Izuku had been cheerful but cryptic in their group chat. That they arrive together doesn’t elicit looks of surprise—they’ve been hanging out, going on ‘mini-dates’ for a year now.
Predictably enough, it’s Uraraka who narrows her eyes and zooms in on their still-puffy earlobes. “Wait, did you two get your ears pierced?”
There are surprised looks and a disappointed near-whine from Kirishima—’Bakubro, I asked you; you said earrings are lame!’
Izuku puts up his hands in surrender, laughing—and elicits a shriek from Uraraka. She grabs his hand and looks at the ring. Accusing brown eyes lift up to look into laughing green, then shifts to placid red.
Katsuki, almost lazily, picks up a glass of cold tea and sips. The ring on his finger is clear to everyone. Their table erupts into chaos, prompting a server to peek in and try to shush nearly a dozen well-known pro heroes, before giving up and sliding the door shut behind her.
“I can’t believe it!”
“Good work, you two!”
“Yeah, it’s about time.”
“I’m so happy for you both!”
Izuku is beaming; Katsuki feels satisfaction warming him from the inside out, shimmering on his skin. Izuku’s hand reaches for his, and somehow, without looking, he knows to take it.
Katsuki meets Todoroki’s mismatched eyes from across the table. Todoroki gives him a small turning of his lips that passes for a pleased smile. Nosy, well-meaning bastard.
Some time after the cheers have been drunk, and the well-wishes have died down, Kaminari looks up from his phone, a worried look on his face. “Uh, Kacchan?”
Katsuki’s flare of irritation at the use of the name is more reflex than anything. Izuku is leaning against him, his warmth thick against his side, and Katsuki is feeling too mellow to blast anyone—even Kaminari.
“You two are on the news.” Kaminari holds up his phone.
It’s a shot taken from the park earlier. The two of them sitting close on a bench, Izuku’s fingers grazing the top of his thigh. Izuku has leaned in, kissing Katsuki’s cheek, Katsuki himself turning into the kiss.
It’s not a damning picture, but it’s pretty close. Their PR teams could probably still explain it away as two friends maybe celebrating good news. Maybe they were just whispering. They can make one up, he’s sure. It could be done, could still be swept away, filed under ‘things we do not confirm or talk about to the press’.
He looks beside him and sees worry in Izuku’s eyes, unsure of Katsuki’s reaction.
He remembers a younger Izuku, happy and in love with Katsuki, telling the man with the mic and camera that, no, he doesn’t have anyone special and is focused only on his hero work.
“What did I tell you about stupid questions?” he cuts him off.
“Not to ask them?”
“Not to even think them.”
He’s rewarded with a smile so bright, he hurts.
Katsuki takes the smile and keeps it in the same place where he stores a thousand others like it.
Maybe tomorrow, they can get a cat.