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The alley is dark, smells like grime. They’re propped up against a wall that’s covered with moss. A sliver of moonlight arcs across Izuku’s face, illuminating the dust of freckles on his cheeks, and it’s moments like these, Katsuki realises, that are getting harder to swallow. Images that paint before his eyes, in the two decades he’s come to learn Midoriya Izuku—forest green hair, eyes of the same shade. Those stupid freckles. Years and years of childhood, middle school, high school, and now, living together, working in the same agency. They’ve compounded into this immovable rock, lodged in Katsuki’s throat, unsaid words falling through the spaces between muscle and stone. 

 

“Y’know, Kacchan, sometimes it amazes me how far we’ve come.”

 

“Shut up, nerd. You sure always know how to ruin the moment,” Katsuki grumbles, though there isn’t any heat to his words. Izuku lets out a burst of laughter and there it is again, that fever-like sensation that crackles on Katsuki’s skin. He hates the physicality of it, how hard it feels around the edges, when his chest is only soft, soft, soft.

 

Izuku elbows at Katsuki’s side, teasing. “Oh, you know what I mean. From being at each other’s throats to actual functioning housemates and colleagues. We should totally drink to that.”

 

“You’re actually the fucking worst when you’re drunk, so no thanks,” Katsuki retorts though he is honestly thinking about it. Some hot sake sounds really nice. It’d help wash away the action of the week, dull it down to a languid atmosphere. 

 

“To be honest though, it didn’t come easy. After you apologised, I mean.”

 

Katsuki stills, heart skipping a beat, as he remembers Deku from yesteryear. Bruised and battered, face caked with scars and dirt, obscured by that stupid disguise, the one he still has nightmares about. Months of constant worrying, on Katsuki’s end, as the other’s absence dragged on. Fragmented thoughts and feelings, finally piecing together, when Katsuki realised the gravity of his own anger, where it’d stemmed from. The apology that came after, the forgiveness Katsuki knew he didn’t deserve but Izuku accorded to him anyway, because that’s what Izuku had been, still is—a light that never stops giving.

 

“I admired you so much, Kacchan. It was hard for me to reconcile with your apology because I never understood that you hurt me. I hadn’t come to terms with that hurt yet.”

 

Katsuki remembers those words he’d spewed out, each one like a double-edged knife, twisting around his chest. It’s his pain to carry now, the guilt, the bleeding. This much, he’ll promise to hold, for every second Izuku chooses to be alive around him. With him.

 

“It took time, Kacchan. Just like how you took the time to process your feelings, I took years to realise what you’d done to me. And man, you truly were a dick,” Izuku says, half-wistful, half-teasing.

 

“But coming to terms with what we’d done and felt were the only ways to get us here. And look at us now! Best friends and all,” the green haired-man prods, a genuine smile playing around his lips. Katsuki has to clench his fists, nails digging into palms, a feeble attempt to keep his sentiments from spilling out. The guilt, the anger, the affection, everything.

 

“We’re not best friends, shitty Deku,” he retorts, throat clamming up. He feels his cheeks heat up and god, Katsuki wants to fight already, convert these energies into something tangible. Izuku just laughs and laughs. “Tell that to yourself, Kacchan!”

 

There’s a sudden crackle over the receiver and they brace themselves, moving into battle stance.

 

“Deku! Dynamight! Villain spotted, eight o’clock!”

 

Streaks of jade-tinged lightning whiz around Izuku’s legs as he soars up into the air, and the motion sends a gust of wind fluttering through Katsuki’s hair. Years and years of childhood, middle school, high school, and yet, it’s still a sight to take in—Izuku, glowing in the night, streetlights haloing around the crown of his head. Where he’d trailed behind Katsuki’s footsteps before, Izuku is now ahead, charging forward, forward, forward.

 

“First one to reach the villain wins,” Izuku challenges, a glint in his eyes. Katsuki can’t help the smirk tugging his lips upward. “As if I’ll lose to you, shitty nerd!”

 

Behind, ahead, and now them, side by side.





It's moments like these, Katsuki realises, that are getting harder to swallow.

 

Currently, Izuku is in Shizuoka visiting Inko and the new shiba inu they’ve adopted, whose name Katsuki cannot recall for his life. The apartment is disturbingly quiet, no sounds of mindless humming or pen scrawling across paper to distract him from the noise in his head. He’d rather be off patrolling in the streets, battling villains and saving people, but they’d both promised Best Jeanist to call the day off. Katsuki is stubborn to a fault, and even so, years in this line of work have helped him learn the importance of rest, something he’s still trying to drill into stupid, overworking Izuku’s head. So Katsuki puts on his headphones, plays the album that Denki recommended, and channels his energy into cleaning the house.

 

For all of his loud, boisterous nature, Katsuki’s an extremely clean and organised person. On the flipside, Izuku is selectively organised—All Might merchandise line his shelves and display cases in an almost freakish, precise manner, journals categorised by dates and hero names neatly tucked into his dividers. And yet, in the same space, there’s an unwashed mug on the table, and articles of clothing strewn about the unmade sheets and floor. Katsuki grumbles under his breath as he takes the mug to the sink, “Stupid Deku, I’m gonna kill him when he gets home.” 

 

When he returns to pick up the clothes, Katsuki finds Izuku’s sweater draped over the chair. His favourite sweater, the oversized, viridian green one, with U.A.’s logo stitched onto the front. The idiot has probably forgotten to bring it with him to Shizuoka. Katsuki hovers his fingers over the sweater. An image of Izuku donned in this exact piece appears in his head, hands and thighs obscured by endless green. The fever-like sensation returns, rasping under his skin.

 

He doesn’t know why his hands keep shaking.

 

Slowly, hesitantly, Katsuki runs his fingers over the fabric. Soft and warm to the touch, but for some reason, it makes his chest ache. He brings up the sweater to his nose and inhales deeply, letting Izuku’s scent fill up his lungs—an amalgamation of sweat, skin, and something lightly floral, much like how the rest of his room smells except here, amassed within threads of cotton, it’s a million times more intense. But then Katsuki turns his face and finds the framed photo of Izuku and Shouto on the table—a cold, harsh reminder. So he drops the sweater and leaves it on the chair, picking up the rest of the clothing to the laundry basket, heart rattling violently around his chest.

 

It aches so much more than he’d like to admit.





Amidst clashing schedules and everyone being scattered across different regions in the country, it’s a miracle that they’ve managed to gather the entire class A into this dimly lit izakaya in downtown Shibuya. Katsuki could’ve never imagined just how much these people ended up meaning to him, such that he’d allowed both Eijiro and Denki to drag him along, egged on by Izuku, of course. Katsuki wears his trademark sulky expression, swirling his highball around as old friends fill into the private room. Eijiro instantly takes the seat next to him, throwing an arm around his neck and pulling him close, the crimson shade of his hair stark against the brown-washed walls of the bar. Denki, who’s standing behind them, smashes their heads together, and Mina, being the absolute busybody that she is, cheekily snaps a photo. “For the mems,” she quips.

 

“The mems and the memes,” Eijiro muses, flashing his million-watt smile for the camera. Katsuki waves them off to no avail, a half-hearted attempt at hiding his fondness. “Fuck off, guys.”

 

“Miss you too, bro,” Denki coos, blowing a kiss then making his escape before Katsuki could punch him in the face. 

 

They’ve all grown older now, been through too much, together and apart. It’s evident in their appearances, marred by old scars and new wrinkles, a testimony of the years that have passed them by. Still, there’s something about coming together like this that revives their youthfulness of yesteryear —Denki is still stupidly punny, Eijiro still loud and boisterous. Hanta deceptively savage, and Mina always on the ready for the newest gossip, fingers perpetually clasped around her phone. At the other end of the table, Toru and Mezo are debating on what’s the best flavour of cake, animated versus deadpan. Rich, rich chocolate is the only way to go, Katsuki thinks privately to himself, but Rikido begs to differ, insisting on Kyoho grape.

 

There’s also Yuga who’s flaunting his latest magazine shoot to Fumikage, Koji, and Tsuyu, territory that Katsuki personally does not want to delve in, thanks. Mashirao and Kyouka are challenging each other to drinks, and Denki insists on joining their battle but Eijiro simply drags him back to his seat because three shots in and the blonde’s a goner, he knows. As always, Katsuki’s eyes land on Izuku, who’s deeply engrossed in conversation with Ochako, Momo, and Tenya. His housemate adorns that stupid viridian sweater tonight, the one Katsuki had run his fingers over and sniffed. The memory of that day shudders through his skin, as he chances a look at Izuku, warm fluorescents playing around his hair, mellowing out its colours into a lighter shade of green. Katsuki chugs his whiskey clean.

 

Then the door swings open and Momo gasps, getting up from her stool. “Todoroki-san!”

 

Katsuki notices first, the way Izuku reflexively whips his head around, a brilliant smile bracketing the curve of his mouth. He’s always had a sparkle in his eyes, but the light appears incandescent now, specks of gold dancing in emerald irises. Shouto doesn’t let up as well, eyes fixated on Izuku only, despite their circle of classmates who’re now causing a ruckus at his arrival. It’s as though the world around them has blurred into watercolours, spilled haphazardly over a blank canvas, abstruse around the edges. Reduced to a focal point, where it’s just Shouto and Izuku, only, and Katsuki has blended with the rest of the colours, has lost all his lines and edges. He feels like an outsider.

 

“Get a room!” Mina yells, and the spell is broken, Izuku now doubled over with laughter, Shouto’s hands curled around his shoulders. Fingers pressing into Izuku’s sweater, the same one Katsuki had dropped, when he saw their picture on his table and remembered.

 

Izuku is still smiling that brilliant smile, and its image burns in the back of Katsuki’s eyelids. He could never make Izuku smile like that. It’s just one of the things he’s lost his right to deserve.

 

Shouto takes the seat beside Izuku of course, red-white hair brushing the side of Izuku’s neck. Like this, they make their home in a dimly lit izakaya in downtown Shibuya, out of twined fingers and tangled legs beneath the table, hands draped around each other’s waists. Everyone’s talking over each other now, eager to learn about Shouto’s latest adventure in Hong Kong, squeezing every bit of information out of him even though it’s clear he’d rather stay quiet and get lost in Izuku’s touch.

 

Katsuki knows that feeling all too well.

 

Izuku and Shouto had gotten together in their second year, back when Katsuki had only begun mending his friendship with the green haired-boy. Shy smiles, fingers entangled, and most of all, the devastating shade of pink painted over Izuku’s cheeks, a rosy backdrop to those stupid, stupid freckles. Years and years of childhood, middle school, high school, and Katsuki has always remembered Izuku in love, Shouto in love.

 

To most people, it’s sort of a wonder that they haven’t moved in together yet, but Katsuki knows their story. Shouto had wanted to work with his father and Hawks, now big names on the international stage, which meant he had to be away a lot for overseas missions. Meanwhile, Izuku decided to stay in Tokyo, and renting an apartment together with Katsuki had been the most cost-friendly option for them, since they both worked for Best Jeanist. Despite the distance, Katsuki means it when he says he’s always remembered Izuku in love, still knows Izuku in love—he and Shouto exist upon compromise, their own version of a middle ground, be it phone calls when it’s morning for Izuku and night for the other, or making sure to align their leaves and off days for dates. The kind of love that transcends life.

 

Izuku’s cheeks are seared with a light flush, and Katsuki watches as Shouto leans in, pressing a kiss onto the pinkness. Someone yells at them, for the thousandth time of the night, to get a room.

 

(The kind of love that transcends life, that Katsuki knows he can never deserve.)





Katsuki can’t pinpoint the exact day it happened. Or maybe this feeling has existed all along, a dormant force breathing under his skin, hidden beneath layers of denial. And he’d taken years to unravel this emotion, digging bruised fingers through its intricacies, that when Katsuki saw the first light, he’d completely lost sight of the root, where it’d been buried. It could’ve been the first time they met, just a pair of three year olds playing in the garden, Izuku looking up at Katsuki with stars in his eyes, when Katsuki first learned that admiration and kindness could coexist, even if he’d spent years after trying to condemn that coexistence. Or it could’ve been years later, when Izuku had told him after graduation that he’d wanted to continue working with him, together as pro heroes. The beautiful smile etched across Izuku’s face when he said that, rows of gleaming, pearly whites, and Katsuki had been struck with the realisation that this is it, we’re really doing this for life.

 

Or it could be now, as Katsuki smells the scent of freshly baked cookies wafting from the kitchenette. Izuku walks out with a tray, their snacks for tonight’s movie. One of the rules they’d set up together when they first moved in was that Izuku is not allowed to step anywhere near the kitchen, unless to bake. Katsuki takes charge of all the cooking. He doesn’t want another accident to happen, like the time Izuku had tried making kushikatsu in the U.A. pantry with Ochako and they’d burned the entire place down. For some reason, though, this accident-prone behaviour doesn’t extend to his baking ventures, and Katsuki can even admit, privately to himself, that Izuku does make a mean cookie.

 

Another rule, initiated by Izuku, is that they spend one day of the week, just the two of them, doing wholesome activities that best friends do. Izuku’s words, not Katsuki’s. Tonight, the choice of said activity is watching a movie.

 

(Moments upon moments, stacking one after another, and this feeling grows too big in Katsuki’s chest. He’s running out of space for it.)

 

“I put in extra chocolate chips for you, Kacchan,” Izuku muses, pulling up the new documentary film on Star And Stripe. Katsuki would roll his eyes at his housemate’s very nerdy choice of movie if he wasn’t, too, a closet hero nerd himself. He grunts in response, sinking his teeth into a cookie, still warm in his hands. Izuku sits idly beside him, languid and relaxed, dunking his cookie into a glass of milk, as he always does.

 

They exchange small talk about the week as the starting credits roll out, trading questions about patrol, missions, the villains they’ve come across and battled. At some point, Izuku lightly taunts Katsuki about the upcoming Hero Billboard Chart and it just feels so natural and cosy, somehow. There’s never a day Katsuki doesn’t feel amazed that they’ve landed up here, capable of conversations and laughter, Izuku now fearless and unabashed in his teasing. He thinks of the conversation they’d had in that dark alley, when Izuku had mentioned the need for processing his own feelings, before the apology and healing could settle. Even so, there’s still a crevice somewhere in Katsuki’s chest, unmended, as he drifts within years’ worth of residual guilt.

 

He quickly drops the thought, focusing on the movie. It’s infuriatingly endearing, the way Izuku mumbles his thoughts and opinions in rapid fire throughout the film, and then apologising for speaking too much before Katsuki could ask him to shut up. The green haired-man is still sprawled out so loosely over the couch next to Katsuki, and he can feel the warmth emanating from Izuku’s body, crackling on his skin like sparks in the proximity between them. Faced towards the screen, flickers of red, white, and blue illuminate the planes of Izuku’s face, and as always, it takes everything out of Katsuki not to stare.

 

Then, halfway through the movie, Izuku’s head drops onto Katsuki’s shoulder. The latter stills, heart ricocheting violently around his chest. He feels forest green curls brushing the side of his neck, Izuku’s cheek pressed against his clavicle, and all the goosebumps raise on his skin. For some long moments, the sounds from the film fade out into white noise and all Katsuki can register is the sound of Izuku’s breathing, interspersed with light snores, rhythmically matched with his heaving, sleeping frame. The documentary had gotten rather boring towards the end, recapping Star And Stripe’s previous ventures, things the both of them are already well acquainted with. That might explain why Izuku has fallen asleep.

 

Katsuki tries to get a grip, he really does. He lets his eyes wander across the room but they land on the plate of finished cookies, the glass of milk that’s still half-full, rimmed with crumbs, and his heart feels like it’s going to burst. 

 

Cautiously, selfishly, he drops his head on top of Izuku’s, ripples ebbing and flowing through his chest as the other man snuggles into Katsuki’s collar. Selfish because this means nothing more to Izuku, than Eijiro platonically cuddling Katsuki in his bed, or Mina pressing a friendly, playful kiss to Katsuki’s forehead. Selfish because, for Katsuki, it feels like this runs deeper. It feels like this has always run deeper.

 

They stay like this until the next morning.





There’s still a crevice somewhere in Katsuki’s chest, unmended, as he drifts within years’ worth of residual guilt. He’s transformed the meaning of keeping Izuku at arm’s length multiple times now—maintaining the facade of his own strengths over the other’s weaknesses (and how wrong had Katsuki been about that one), taking care of Izuku because that idiot has been the kind to sacrifice his life without thinking, and, now, just, grappling with the simple, precious existence of Izuku by his side. But it’s as though no matter how much Katsuki tries to make amends—and at this point he’s completely given up on expecting anything in return—the crevice remains open. There’s still a hollow inside, somewhere, and Katsuki thinks it might be irreparable forever. That, he’ll never, ever deserve Izuku on his own terms.

 

Izuku is still the same idiot who’d sacrifice his life without thinking, who forgets to take care of himself. Katsuki returns to their apartment, grocery bag dangling from his hands, and finds Izuku sprawled over the desk, sheets of reports and admin work scattered underneath his arms. It’s supposed to be his off day.

 

“Did you have lunch?” asks Katsuki, sighing aloud as he watches the way Izuku freezes up, eyes widening just a little. “Ah- of course, Kacchan!”

 

Katsuki narrows his eyes. “Oh, really? So what did you have?” 

 

“I ordered in some sushi from, y’know, the restaurant down the block that we really like.”

 

“They close on Tuesdays. You’re such a shitty liar, Deku.”

 

Izuku gulps and Katsuki tracks the hollow of his throat bobbing up and down. He glances at the clock on the wall, notices that it’s past eight, which means Izuku probably hasn’t eaten for at least ten hours. Not to mention the amount of paperwork on his desk means that he’s been spending his off day doing anything and everything that begets the opposite of rest.

 

“You’re really so fucking horrible at taking care of yourself. Should I call up Icy Hot so that he can finally talk some sense into you?” taunts Katsuki, trademark scowl framing his face. Izuku clasps his palms together, rubbing them in a pleading motion. “Ah, Kacchan, please don’t worry Shouto! He’s busy enough with work as it is. I’m sorry! I’ll go grab something to eat now.”

 

Katsuki sighs again, the softness of Izuku’s voice fracturing his resolve to stay mad. “Wait. Stay here. I’ll whip up something real quick, since you’re probably just gonna run to the konbini and grab something with the nutritional value equivalent to zero. While I’m at it, you better stop working. Fuck it, Izuku, it’s your off day .”

 

Izuku raises his hands in surrender. “Alright, Kacchan, I’ll just- lay in bed or something. I’m sorry again, Kacchan. Thanks for cooking when you’re already so tired from work.”

 

Katsuki grunts, turning towards the kitchen, “Someone has to be the better man around here.” He hears Izuku sing-song, you’re the best, Kacchan!

 

Katsuki lays out the ingredients for katsudon, heats up leftover miso soup from the fridge. Dips the cutlets—egg wash, panko, egg wash, panko; works with the practised ease of having cooked for two for many years. Dinner is done within thirty minutes and the look on Izuku’s face is always worth Katsuki’s efforts. He smiles up at him like he’s a god for putting food on the table, and there’s a light blush creeping on Katsuki’s cheeks despite himself.

 

“Mmm, katsudon, my favourite. And you say we aren’t best friends, Kacchan!” 

 

“Shut up, nerd. Eat up or I’ll strangle you,” grumbles Katsuki, pointedly looking elsewhere so Izuku won’t catch the redness on his face, the one he feels more than sees. Even so, he sounds too fond, even to himself.

 

This all should be platonic, like Denki dropping by their apartment with gyoza and draft beers, or Rikido baking a strawberry shortcake for Katsuki’s birthday last year. But as Katsuki watches Izuku dig in the food with relish, he can’t help thinking of the way his old hag prepared meals for the family, the way his father cracked one of those selective smiles at her when he thought Katsuki wasn’t looking. Chest squeezing over and over, Katsuki thinks that maybe this is punishment—being present in something that could never mean more than what it is on the surface, living a future with Izuku that’ll never come.





Katsuki blasts himself up on the roof, gazing down at the snaking roads and alleyways, clusters of people ambling along narrow paths, cars micro flashes of colour whizzing on the highway. Behind, the Tokyo cityscape is a looming backdrop, skyscrapers cutting into the clouds. He’s on low alert—it isn’t the busiest time of the day, and crime rates have dropped significantly since the villain league incident years ago. Ambling along the edge, Katsuki drinks in the sight of the city view, lets the breeze ruffle his hair, waits for instructions from HQ.

 

All of a sudden, his receiver is blaring and Katsuki’s heart skips a beat because it is Izuku’s ringtone, the one connected to his direct line. And Izuku never, ever calls him at work. 

 

“Izuku?” 

 

Katsuki hears sobbing, full-out sobbing, and his childhood friend is still a crybaby sometimes, but right now Izuku sounds absolutely wrecked, the shrill tone of his voice piercing right through Katsuki’s chest, reaching him deep in his gut. He curls his fingers tighter around the receiver, erratic heartbeat reverberating throughout his veins as he conjures the current image of Izuku, tears tracking down freckled cheeks. Hears Izuku’s sharp intakes of breath, like he’s asphyxiated, gasping for air.

 

“Deku. Izuku. Calm down,” Katsuki commands, trying to keep his voice as steady as possible. He hears Izuku inhaling deeply once more, before sputtering again, breaking into another sob. 

 

“Izuku, please. You’re scaring the hell out of me. Breathe. Tell me, are you alone right now?”

 

“I-I’m. Kacchan, god.

 

“Are you alone?” Katsuki repeats, already making his way down the stairs, three steps at a time.

 

“I am, I’m- on my way to the hospital.”

 

“The hospital?! Izuku, are you okay?” Katsuki’s heart is bursting out of his chest now, seismic currents rippling through his body, crackles on his skin like mini explosions, and he actually feels like he’s going to blow up. Then Izuku says, “It’s not me, Kacchan. It’s Shouto. He was in Okinawa, got heavily injured, and- oh god. Kacchan, I can’t do this.”

 

“Stay with me, Izuku. I’ll-I’ll be there. I’ll be right there.”

 

Katsuki refuses to crack under the pressure. He stays on the line with Izuku, the ache in his chest amplifying each time he hears the other man sob. Sends a message to HQ for an emergency patrol replacement, throttles himself at full speed towards the hospital. Shouto had already been flown there by helicopter an hour ago, explains Izuku shakily. 

 

Katsuki doesn’t like hospitals, doesn’t like the smell of antiseptic, the metallic scent of blood. Doesn’t like the glaring bright lights, and how they sharpen the edges of his vision. Remembers opening his eyes, wrapped up in bandages, and the first thing he could think about was Deku, no- Izuku. The fear that had gripped him, when Izuku disappeared for months after. He tucks away those memories now, keeps them in the back of his mind, where they usually haunt him, on sleepless nights, from. Thrashes through hallways and corridors until he finds the green-haired man, hands in his face. Katsuki can still see the tear tracks on Izuku’s cheeks, wishes he could reach a hand out to wipe away the moisture. The desire shudders through his skin. 

 

Endeavor and Fuyumi Todoroki are there too, looking equally distraught. Katsuki weighs his options and decides to get updates from Shouto’s father, who appears just a touch calmer than the rest of them. 

 

“Endeavor. Is Icy H- is Todoroki okay?”

 

“He’s made it through the critical stages,” the flaming hero pauses to collect his breath, “but he’ll be out of commission for a bit.”

 

Katsuki’s heart sinks. He can already imagine how Izuku reacted to all of this. 

 

“How long are we looking at?”

 

“A two-week hospitalisation. But he’ll be alright, Bakugou. Thanks for coming down.”

 

Gingerly, carefully, Katsuki takes the seat beside Izuku as they wait for the doctor to greenlight their visitation. He notices the quiver to Izuku’s bottom lip, his shaky fingers clawing over and over the expanse of his lap. Katsuki recognises that feeling, the desire to scrub out all the disquiet until it seeps out of your skin. He wants to fold a hand over Izuku’s trembling fingers, wants to make it stop, but even now he still feels like he has no place to.

 

“It was one of those villain league fanatics,” Izuku breaks the silence without looking up, “A sneak attack and all. No one saw it coming. I-I’m so tired, Kacchan. Sometimes, it feels like all of that is over and then sometimes, everything comes back.”

 

Katsuki’s heart plummets to the base of his stomach. It aches how he understands every bit of it, has memorised the shape of that particular brand of pain.

 

“He’s alive. He’ll be okay.”

 

“I know. And I-” Izuku pauses to clutch at his chest, as if the ache has taken a physical form, “I’m so grateful. God, I am.”

 

It aches how Katsuki understands every bit of it, the words that are left unsaid. I’m so grateful, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. That doesn’t stop it from hurting all the damn time.

 

The doors fly open and Endeavor rushes into the ward, Fuyumi staying behind to have a word with the doctor. Izuku stays in his seat for some moments longer, too, and Katsuki watches him wipe away the tears from his eyes with the backs of his hands, a look of resolution washing over his face. Schooling his lips into a smile, letting it falter for just a few seconds, and then tugging the corners upward again into something more permanent. Because someone has to be strong, and Izuku is always that someone.

 

Shouto is covered in so much bandage that it’s hard to tell he’s Shouto, save for the loose, crimson fringe peeking out from underneath the gauze wrapped around his head. He’s sleeping, and love is spelled in the way Izuku takes to his side, breath hitched in his throat, gentle hands closing around his fingers, as though he’s sending a prayer up to the heavens, as though he’s keeping their lifelines in his grasp. Love is spelled in Izuku’s watering eyes, irises glossy under hospital fluorescents, washing over with sadness and pain and gratitude all at once. Love is spelled in the way he brings up Shouto’s fingers to his lips, pressing a kiss onto bruised knuckles, holding a secret where teeth meet carpals and phalanxes, like there’s just them two in the world. Love is spelled in the way Izuku does not drop his smile for even a second, despite it all.

 

(Love is spelled in the way Bakugou Katsuki understands every bit of it, the words that are left unsaid—you can feel happy for a person, and that doesn’t stop it from hurting. That doesn’t stop it from hurting all the damn time.)





For the first time, Izuku takes two weeks off work. Katsuki does patrol with the new intern from U.A. and thinks that the green haired-man makes a better mentor than Katsuki will ever be. He comes home to an empty apartment, cooks dinner for one, makes his food extra spicy while he can, because Izuku has a low threshold for spice. Picks up the stray articles of clothing strewn over his housemate’s room, wills himself not to bring them up to his nose to inhale the scent, imagines Izuku dropping his things in his haste to get to the hospital.

 

Sometimes, in the mornings, Katsuki catches Izuku in the kitchenette baking cookies and roll cakes and shortbread. Just in case Shouto feels up to eating today, he explains. Izuku feeds Katsuki the batter, saves a piece or two for him in the fridge. If only I can cook as well as you do, Kacchan. Some homemade soba noodles would surely cheer Shouto up.

 

On his off day, Katsuki makes soba noodles from scratch, kneading and rolling and folding the dough. He brings it to the hospital and goes with Eijiro, who’s come down to Tokyo just to visit. Shouto finishes the food, and Katsuki doesn’t miss the glimmer in Izuku’s eyes.

 

It’s about a month later when things have begun settling into normalcy that Shouto asks to meet Katsuki at a cafe in Shinjuku. Please don’t tell Izuku, he mentions.

 

Katsuki thinks it’s strange. He saunters into the cafe, hands shoved into his pockets. The space is decked out in light wood and rattan fixtures, sunlight-dappled, and Katsuki breathes in the scent of coffee. Shouto’s already sitting by the window, looking significantly better than the first day Katsuki had seen him in the hospital. He orders a black for Katsuki.

 

“Bakugou,” Shouto greets, “thanks for coming down today.”

 

Katsuki shrugs. Unease simmers under his skin, apprehension spiking his heartbeat. He still doesn’t know why he’s sitting here in front of Shouto without Izuku’s knowledge. He can’t read the other’s intentions. Rays of sunlight filter through the floor-to-ceiling window, dappling his vision, and Katsuki squints, taking a sip of his coffee. It’s a little acidic, but still good.

 

“Are you gonna tell me what’s up?” he asks, scowling a little. Then Shouto peels his eyes away from the trees outside the window and gives Katsuki a long look. His gaze burns right through Katsuki.

 

“Bakugou, I want to propose to Izuku.”

 

The world stops spinning.