The first thing Izuku notices entering his apartment is a stunning lack of noise. The second thing he notices is a stunning lack of Eijirou.
It's not unusual for Izuku to come home so late. Really, anything before 10 PM is considered early by his standards. Paperwork, cleanup, a last minute call for backup—if it can happen, it probably will happen, and there's not a single day Izuku works where he doesn't expect to dedicate at least a couple more hours of his time to his agency. It's just something that comes with the job, and nobody else better understands that than Izuku—except maybe Eijirou.
And it's not unusual for Eijirou to stay up waiting for Izuku to come home. Which he really doesn't have to do—Izuku's told him that more than once already. But of course he still does, because Eijirou is Eijirou.
On the nights Izuku gets home past midnight, he'll find Eijirou dead asleep on the couch with the television still on and his laptop wedged between him and the cushions. Naturally, Izuku takes it upon himself to tidy up the living room, then, and carry his partner back to their shared bed, tucking him in with the utmost care. When Izuku's fortunate enough to get off work on time, the sound and motion of Eijirou rushing to meet Izuku at the door drowns out the hum of whatever show is airing in the background. And on the rare evening Izuku is miraculously sent home before Eijirou, he doesn't waste his time: he unclips his cape, slips on the apron his mother gifted him as a house warming present, and gets to cooking. Because if he has anything to do with it, a hot meal after a long shift is what Eijirou deserves at the very least.
But it's half past ten tonight, and Izuku clearly remembers Eijirou saying he was working from home when Izuku was getting dressed for his patrol that morning. That doesn't mean Eijirou couldn't have been called in by his agency at any point, but Izuku doesn't recall noting any mentions of Red Riot while skimming the local news during his commute home.
Izuku closes the door behind him and stands still for a moment.
No sudden stabbing sensation. Okay, good, that's a good thing. In hindsight, Danger Detection would have set off before he even stepped inside the apartment complex, but the persevering silence is still enough to concern him.
"Eijirou?" Izuku calls, "I'm home!"
"Kitchen," Eijirou calls back, and that alone is enough to quell whatever worries were stirring in Izuku's head. Smiling wide at the sound of his partner's voice, Izuku kicks off his shoes and drops his duffel bag at the door.
Izuku is once again very, very unassured when he sees what's waiting for him in the kitchen.
The table is set beautifully. A lovely cream tablecloth—another housewarming gift from Izuku's mother—is draped over the table, complimenting the deep wooden color of the place mats. At each place mat sits a pretty blue ceramic bowl, already plated with food, neatly topped off with a pair of chopsticks. An unopened bottle of umeshu accompanies a bouquet of full, red roses as the centerpiece to the meal, tying together the entire layout.
And at the very end of the table, positioned like he's the sole head of the household, is Eijirou, hands crossed over his mouth. He doesn't look completely fresh out of the shower, but his hair looks damp, tied back into a low bun. Shaggy bangs frame a tense face; he's entirely unreadable.
Izuku wets his lips. "Hi."
"Hi," Eijirou echoes, just as strained as everything else about him.
"Is... everything alright?"
"Mhm. Perfect, peachy keen." And that might be what Eijirou says, but Izuku can't really take his word for it when Eijirou's response to Izuku sitting at the table is to turn his head away.
"Are you sure?" Izuku tries again. "Nothing happened today?"
"Nope. Day was perfect. Even went shopping for dinner." The way he says it is all so short and blunt and not at all like himself, so Izuku can't help but respond the same way.
"I can... see that."
"I made katsudon. Your favorite."
Izuku nods. "You make it the best."
"After your mom," Eijirou says, completely taking Izuku off guard.
Was that what this was all about? Did Izuku somehow insinuate Eijirou's cooking was inferior to his mother's? Izuku looks between Eijirou and the plate in front of him. Why would it even matter if he did?
"I think," Izuku starts, careful, as if walking some invisible tightrope—that's how it feels, anyway, not knowing where he stands right now, "both your katsudons are equally good?"
Something about that makes Eijirou's resolve break. He drops his head into his hands, rubbing his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. "God, Izuku, you really don't know, do you?"
"Am I supposed to know?" He squeaks.
Eijirou shakes his head. "I don't know why I'd expect you to." Is he... is he laughing?
Izuku's head swims with the question of what in the hell is happening right now. He's going through every moment of the last week, analyzing every conversation he's had with Eijirou. In the point five seconds it takes for Izuku's brain to run through all the possible scenarios where he could have somehow upset Eijirou, he comes up short—so he resorts to asking himself.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"I don't know," finally, finally, he looks Izuku in the eyes, "you tell me." Lifting an elbow, Eijirou reveals a magazine he's apparently had tucked under his arm this entire time and slides it across the table.
It's a visibly cheap thing, can't be more than twenty pages long. With a flimsy cover and unapologetically obnoxious text, the quality of the print lives up to the reputation of its title: Pop Hero Weekly. Known as one of the more sensationalist hero tabloids out there, there's not a story PHW won't cover. The writers at PMW really seem to love picking on Dynamight especially, and Izuku can't say Katsuki's eccentric personality doesn't at least contribute to that.
Izuku, on the other hand, has been fortunate enough to dodge the attention of tabloids like PMW. Maybe it's because he's so generally well liked, or maybe it's because the potential threat of a lawsuit from the number one hero scares away even the scummiest of journalists. Whatever the reason may be, he's tried not to count his luck—better not to worry when there's other things to dote over.
That luck runs out with this week's publication, though.
The front page reads, "CAUGHT! PRO HEROES DEKU AND URAVITY SPOTTED ON ROMANTIC OUTING! ALL THE DETAILS INSIDE!" There's a couple other stories listed in the side margin, ranging from the supposed controversy surrounding Alien Queen's recent makeup collaboration to Rubberbound's sibling quarrel with fellow sidekick Lightning Rod, but Izuku's too fixated on the spread of him and Ochako to give the other headlines any attention.
They're holding hands in the image. She's pointing off to something out of frame, eagerly tugging him behind her. They're both wearing masks, but from the crinkle in her eyes and the impressive height of his eyebrows, it's easy to read their expressions. The background looks intentionally blurred, probably to bring some sense of dramatics to the scene, but he doesn't need the picture to remind him where he had been that day. He remembers it all in crystal clear detail, from the frenzied energy of Shibuya to the rush of emotions that coursed through him with the knowledge of what he had set out to do that day.
Out of context, they really do look like a couple. The matching denim jackets, the excitement in Ochako's body language, the way they're clung onto each other in the throes of the busy crowd around them—none of it helps either of their cases. Any average person idly skimming through the impulse buys at their grocer's checkout might just believe it.
Looking down at the magazine himself, Izuku recognizes it as the day he bought Eijirou's engagement ring.
Izuku lifts his gaze back up to meet Eijirou's. The smile he's been trying to suppress this entire time finally breaks out over his features, revealing sharp teeth and a cheeky grin; the gold band on his ring finger glints when he starts shaking with laughter. "So when were you gonna tell me you've been cheating on me with Ochako?"
Izuku gapes at his fiance. It takes more than a second for him to stop lagging. "Eijirou!" He doesn't know whether he wants to kiss or shove Eijirou, so he takes it out on the magazine instead, scrunching it up in his hands and waving it around between them. "You can't just—you actually scared me!"
"I'm sorry, 'm sorry!" Eijirou laughs. He makes the decision for Izuku himself, plucking the magazine out from his grasp and tossing it aside to envelope Izuku's hands with his own. "C'mere, lemme make it up to you."
"Nooooo," he whines, but he doesn't make much of an effort when Eijirou tugs him closer. Izuku hooks his ankles around the legs of his chair, scooting it along with him. "I should be mad at you. Like, really, really mad at you."
"But y'can't be mad at me," Eijirou coos, kissing Izuku's gloved hands.
He makes a half hearted attempt at a grumble. "Yes I can."
"Okay," Eijirou offers, "you can't stay mad at me."
Izuku hates that he's right. Granted, he can't bring himself to stay mad at most people, but Eijirou's the opposite of the exception to that rule. He can't even try and pretend to be angry, not when Eijirou's purposefully amping up the charm.
"That's only because I missed you so much," Izuku mumbles, as if he had been gone for more than just a day.
"And I missed you," Eijirou says with a gentle tug. "Now will you please come over here so I can kiss you for real?"
Izuku lets Eijirou pull him into his arms, abandoning his own chair for Eijirou's lap. And just like he does every other time, Izuku meets him halfway into the kiss, just as eager to embrace his partner as Eijirou is.
It's neither dizzying nor electrifying, but the warmth that fills his chest is uncompared. Even now, all these years after the first time he kissed him, Eijirou still leaves Izuku feeling pleasantly fuzzy every time they part. They smile at each other, letting the moment stretch out as Izuku idly caresses the line of Eijirou's jaw with his thumb, until Izuku ticks up with a thought from earlier.
"Oh! Uhm, can I ask what's with the setup?" Izuku gestures to the table. "I'm not forgetting anything, am I?" It definitely wouldn't be the first time an important date crept up on him.
Eijirou chuckles, absentmindedly rubbing a hand up and down Izuku's side. "Nah, I just felt like doing something nice. Had to do groceries anyway, the fridge was looking pretty sad."
"I don't know why we don't just get our food delivered by now," Izuku muses. They already get takeout during half the week, they might as well start ordering their groceries to their door.
Eijirou only shrugs. "I like going in person."
"So you can find stuff like this?" Izuku huffs, swiping up the now thoroughly mutilated magazine from where Eijirou threw it on the table. He almost feels a little bad about manhandling it—the picture the editors chose for the front cover was kind of nice, but it's a lot less nice when his own face is crumpled to all hell. Somehow, though, Ochako's profile managed to survive the attack.
"Not usually, but it was a plus this time around." Eijirou doesn't miss the way Izuku scrunches his nose up at that. "Oh, c'mon! You gotta admit it's funny."
"It's... sort of funny."
"It's really funny."
"It's a little bit funny." He actually thinks it's incredibly funny, but he's not going to let Eijirou win that easily. "I just can't believe they'd write something like this."
"It's not the first time they have," Eijirou says. "They're, like, totally obsessed with Fumikage’s love life."
"Well that's because he's so cryptic about it! You know how he is." Izuku bows his head, striking a pose with the magazine still in hand. "The heart has depths of darkness beyond fathom, to ask me to put words to its fickle and greedy inclinations is folly. I have already surrendered myself to the inevitability of its capricious infatuations, and I can no more give you an honest answer than I could predict the occult nature of its grim affections."
Eijirou blinks. "I forget how good you are at impressions, sometimes."
"I had to practice a lot for that one. But—when you act all cool and mysterious like that, you don't really give people much of an option but to speculate, do you?"
"Mm..." Eijirou hums, "sure, but I don't think we've been that much clearer in comparison."
Izuku scoffs. "We've been clear!"
"Babe, if we were clear, then people wouldn't keep calling you my roommate."
Izuku flushes from his ears to his shoulders. So maybe they weren't super clear about things—but he can't understand why people haven't caught on by now. From the moment they went steady, it was like Izuku couldn't put a plug on all the things he had to say about Eijirou. During each and every on-the-scene report, personal interview and press conference, Deku always finds a way to talk about Red Riot: how confident he is in the future of Red Riot's career, how grateful he is to live with and work alongside one of his best friends, how incredible a hero and man Red Riot is. There's never a shortage of praises sung by Deku in Red Riot's name, and that only accounts for the professional side of their careers. The number of pictures on @DekuOfficial's account that feature Eijirou would be embarrassing if, vice versa, @RealRedRiot wasn't on equal footing in that regard.
None of it had been intentional at first, but once he noticed it, he assumed everybody else would, too; Izuku figured he had done just about everything to make it clear that his relationship with Eijirou was more than platonic. Everything, except saying, "I'm Deku, this is Red Riot, and we're engaged."
He sighs, playing with the worn corner of the magazine. "You would still hope they'd at least get the right person."
"They're not going to until we tell 'em."
"I know," Izuku says, "it's just... hard."
The curve of Eijirou's smile softens; it's sweeter, more sympathetic. "What's so hard about it?"
"I don't know—everything? We're so open about everything else in our lives, and I don't have trouble talking about you. It feels impossible not to, sometimes," Izuku says. "But there's something so difficult about saying it outright."
"Does it bother you? Being that explicit?"
"No!" A hand shoots up to cup Eijirou's cheek. "No, that isn't what it is at all! It's just—"
"Hey, hey," a second hand joins Izuku's, cradling him the same way, "'m not upset about it. I don't even really mind that much."
Izuku's eyebrows knit together. "You don't?"
"Nah," Eijirou says. "If I did, I would've already said something, anyway. Honestly, it's kind of exciting? There's something really cool about being able to keep the number one hero all to myself." That familiar boyishness returns to his smile, and Izuku can't help but snort.
"Cooler than Fumikage's love ballads?"
"So much cooler." Eijirou laughs, but then his expression turns into something a little more worried. "Uhm, please never do that again, by the way. It was kinda freaky how spot on you were."
"I worked so hard on it though! You know my voice doesn't naturally go that low."
"Which is exactly why I'm begging to never hear Fumikage's voice come out of your mouth again." Eijirou pinches Izuku's leg, eliciting a much more on brand sound from his partner. "Anyway, I'm okay with our relationship being a secret. I just don't know if that's what you want."
Izuku still doesn't know how he managed to propose to the most kind hearted, considerate man on this earth and his biggest bully all at the same time. "It's never been what I wanted. I... I want to be able to say, this is my fiance, and I love him more than anything else. And it sounds so simple when I say it like that. But... it isn't." Izuku slumps forward, resting his head on Eijirou's shoulder. "I really, really want to tell people, Ei. I just don't know how to do it the right way."
"What if we didn't tell people, then?"
"That's the entire reason we're having this conversation."
"Not what I was trying to say. I mean—what if we announced it a different way?" Izuku perks up, listening a little more intently. "Like, we're already all over each other's feeds. So, why don't we just post a picture, and then let the people figure it out from there? No caption, no nothing, just a picture."
"Of us, right? Like... kissing?"
"Sure, but it doesn't have to be. It can be anything you want, as long as it gets the point across."
He considers it for a moment. His hand's slid down from Eijirou's cheek by now, perched on his opposite shoulder where it's joined by Eijirou's own hand. Izuku's still suited up—and not to mention totally grimy from a day's work while he sits in Eijirou's lap, who's perfectly clean and smells wonderfully of cologne—but he knows he's wearing his ring underneath his glove. For a second, he can imagine how it'd look, pristine: his hand entwined with Eijirou's, matching scars and matching bands, simple and yet everything they've ever needed to say.
"Okay," he says, breaking his own thoughtful silence. "Okay, I think we can do that."
"Yeah." Izuku sits up, more confident now, mustering up the wobbliest, most determined smile he can. "And we can do it tomorrow. I don't want to wait any longer than I already have. If— uhm, that's okay with you."
Eijirou lights up. "No complaints from me. Just lemme know what we're doing, I wanna be ready."
"You say that like we're having a photo shoot."
"Why don't we! It's not every day you tell the world you're getting hitched."
"How about Sunday, then? I think Tsuyu has the day off, if I ask now I'm sure they can help us take our pictures before our shifts that afternoon."
"Sounds perfect." Something in Eijirou's demeanor visibly shifts. "But... isn't it a little ballsy to invite the wife of the woman you're cheating on me with? I mean, I don't have a problem with it, but Tsuyu—"
"Oh my god," Izuku groans. "I got so swept up in the excitement of being your fiance I actually forgot I was supposed to be cheating on you."
"It's fine! Just, like, marry me, and I'll consider it forgiven."
He shakes his head, entirely and utterly endeared. "You're horrible."
"Hey! Who's the one who made a romantic dinner for two, and who's the one that got caught cheating?"
"Okay, fine." Izuku straightens up. "I'll make sure Ochako and I don't get caught on our next date, and I'll marry you. Does that work?"
"Let me pick the honeymoon spot and it's a deal."
"Deal." The moment they shake hands on it, he opens his mouth again, "I still want to choose the hotel, though."
"Augh!" Eijirou throws his arms up and slumps backwards, head nodding off the backrest of the chair. "Cheating me on my deal, too! When does it eeeeeenddd…."
Looking down between them, Izuku realizes he never let go of the magazine; he keeps it firmly clutched in his lap, as if it'd fly away on its own pages and break news to the rest of the world if he didn't keep keep it pinned down.
"Ochako's going to get such a kick out of this." He says it more to himself than anyone else, since his fiance's still acting utterly wounded, but Eijirou almost immediately springs back. "What?"
He chuckles, scratching the side of his face. "Something tells me that she might already know about it."
"Did you tell her?"
"Try more like the entire group chat."
A sudden sense of understanding dawns upon Izuku. So that's why his phone wouldn't stop buzzing all day.
"What did they say?" He's already checking all the compartments of his utility belt, blindly sticking his fingers into each one until he feels an aluminum case.
"A lot." Eijirou thinks about it. "Yeah, a lot sums it up."
Whipping out his phone, Izuku hurriedly sifts through his apps. When he finds the one he's looking for, he's met with a blaring red 99+ messages notification. The group chat goes as far back as Class 1-A itself, and although it's not nearly as active as it was when they were teenagers, it's nice to catch up with all his old classmates in one group— and it looks like he has a lot to catch up on tonight, in particular. He spends a good minute scrolling back through the conversation and he's sure he's nowhere near the beginning when he sees someone sent a picture of a house with a banner that says, "WELCOME HOME CHEATER'' in big, spray painted letters. Izuku can't help but audibly sputter.
"Okay," he says, putting his phone face down on the table, "I'll respond to all of that later."
Eijirou breathes a laugh. "Understandable." A beat, and then, "hey—"
"Wait, just to be clear," Izuku stops him, suddenly, "they don't actually think—"
"What? No, babe," Eijirou nearly wheezes. "They're very much aware you're not actually having a secret affair with Ochako."
"Okay, I mean, I figured, but—I just wanted to make sure, that's all." He settles down as fast as he riled himself up, more than relieved to accept that answer. "Uhm, you were saying?"
"I was saying that I love you too," Eijirou gives him this impossibly fond, lovestruck expression, like he's looking at the man who single handedly keeps his world spinning. "More than anything else."
"Oh." You would think that by this point in their relationship, Izuku would be above tearing up over something as simple as an I love you; and he is, granted, but it doesn't stop his heart from stuttering in his chest. "Ei...." It's all he can come up with before he's surging forward, kissing Eijirou for the second time that night.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he realizes the food's probably gone cold by now. That's okay, though. They have an infinite number of days ahead of them: enough to share a properly hot, home cooked meal, and enough for the next tabloid to come around and write another story, this time about Red Riot and Deku's "surprising” new relationship.