swag the madlad | angst god | matching with hanode

swag the madlad | angst god | matching with hanode

10-11-2022

23:45

plaintiffs against Ochako seemed to grow. He’d wondered more than once if his own charges were just beating a dead horse, until Katsuki reminded him that the point wasn’t to bring her down—it was to build himself back up.

His resolve had only solidified after Ochako’s first guilty verdict—in which she was held responsible for the distribution of classified information. Half an hour after the verdict had passed, Ochako’s lawyer had reached out to his. “She’s asking for a meeting,” Fujiwara said—

over the phone, sounding skeptical. “Tomorrow at ten.” “What does she want?” Izuku asked. His phone was face-up on his kitchen counter, on speaker while he cooked. “Doesn’t fucking matter!” Katsuki barked—making the curry while Izuku fried pork. “We’re not fucking going.”

“You’re not actually invited,” Fujiwara drawled. “Now way in *fuck* am I gonna let him deal with that bitch alone—“ “Regardless, neither of you are obligated to be there, especially since her lawyer doesn’t even know what she wants to talk about,” Fujiwara said as though—

Katsuki hadn’t interrupted. “Chances are that she’ll ask you to settle the civil suits out of court. Personally, I think it’s worth hearing. She’d still be tried for criminal charges, and you might be able to cut down the amount of agonizing trial time." "There's no way—

we're letting that bitch off easy—“ “It’s not about letting *her* off easy,” Fujiwara interrupted, cutting Kacchan’s rant off at the knees. “It’s about letting Midoriya off easy. Besides, it depends on what she’s offering. *And,* if she tries to—

pressure Midoriya into lightening the charges or dropping them completely, we can use that as character evidence against her.” By that point, the trials had already been running him into the ground. Between the utter ruin these families were in and the complete betrayal that—

had caused it, every moment he spent in the courthouse was painful and disheartening. “I think it’s a waste of time,” Katsuki said, turning to face him. “But if you wanna hear her out, I’m gonna be there. She’s done enough damage, I don’t give a shit what anyone says, you're—

not doing this shit alone.” If all of this turmoil had taught him anything, it was that matter what life threw at him, Kacchan would be there for him. It made him want to smile and cry, all at once. "I'll hear her out," he said. "But I want to figure out minimum settlements."

Katsuki gave him a mischievous, approving smile. "That way she can't try to low-ball me. If she wants to settle, she'll settle my way." "Look at you, taking your spine out of the closet for *yourself* for once," Katsuki snickered. Izuku kicked him in the shin.

That night, Katsuki had actually gone home for the evening—something that had only been happening about once a week lately. Apparently, he wanted to look intimidating and he couldn’t do that using Izuku’s nerdy t-shirts and too-tight jeans. The next morning,—

he showed up at Izuku’s door with his favorite complicated coffee order and a box full of luxuriously complex pastries. “You didn’t have to do this,” Izuku told him, even as he set his greedy sights on a beautiful mille-feuille. “Your day’s gonna be shitty,” he shrugged,—

placing the box on the counter. “I figured you could start it off right so that you’re not miserable all day. I even had them give your salted caramel mocha some extra whipped cream.” Izuku's heart turned over in his chest. Katsuki was letting him ignore his meal plan,—

even though he wasn't working out enough to justify it. Just for something as frivolous as comfort. "Thanks, Kacchan," he said, cradling the coffee cup like it was precious. "You're the best." Katsuki scoffed. "Obviously. Now go get dressed, loser. We're gonna be late."

He had to admit—he was glad that he walked into that meeting with caffeine in hand and Katsuki at his side, both of them sporting suits and ties. It was the first time he'd been this close to Ochako since the day he'd come home from his mission. At least, the closest he'd been—

outside of a court room. Here, she looked tired and upset, and he had to push down the part of himself that felt bad for her. It helped that Katsuki had positioned himself in front of him, a shield against his ex-wife and a container for his pity. "Why is he here?" she asked—

Gesturing at Katsuki with a hint of a sneer in her tone. It raised Izuku's defenses off the bat, jaw clenching as his grip tightened on his coffee cup. “He’s here because he knows what I’m like,” Izuku said, tone colder than he’d intended. “And he knows what I want. He’ll—

make sure that I don’t set myself on fire to keep you warm. He’s been my moral support through all of this. Why are *you* here?” “Now now,” Fujiwara said, cutting in. “Have a seat, both of you. Gentlemen, this is Uravity’s—sorry, *Uraraka’s* defense attorney,” he said,—

emphasizing Ochako’s lost hero name as he introduced them. Her lawyer was a squirrelly looking man who seemed shrewd but harmless. Izuku shook his hand. Katsuki didn't. Instead, he stared at the offered appendage like it was personally insulting to him. Izuku bit back a laugh.

Ochako’s lawyer dropped his hand a moment later, clearing his throat uncomfortably. “Thank you both for coming. Ms. Uraraka wishes to—“ “Just a moment, if you don't mind,” Fujiwara interrupted. He pulled papers from his briefcase, sliding them across the table a moment later.—

“If all parties could please sign these waivers before we get started, that would be excellent.” Ochako’s lawyer snatched the offending document off the table scanning it quickly. “Authorization to record?” he asked, eyebrows raised. “What for?” “For our records,”—

Fujiwara explained, calm smile fixed on his face. “You understand. We’d like to ensure that all details of the meeting are captured accurately.” “I’m not going to consent to being recorded,” Ochako said firmly. “You could misconstrue what I say here. And if there’s any—

private information, I don’t want to risk it being released—“ Katsuki snarled. “Oh, *now* you’re worried about leaking private information?" Fujiwara held up a hand to silence him. This was his job, after all. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ease your concerns,”—

he said, voice as sweet as a pit viper. “First, if you’re planning to behave in a civilized manner, being misconstrued shouldn’t be an issue. Second, there’s a clause in the waiver detailing how the recordings will be stored and disposed of. I’d also provide a copy to—

your lawyer before we even leave the room. Finally, no meeting will take place unless you agree to the recording. This is one of the most contentious divorces I’ve ever seen, and I have a duty to protect my client. Now, would you like to continue? Or shall we leave?” he asked,—

smile staying even as he offered her the pen. "Mr. Midoriya is within his rights to leave at any time," Ochako's lawyer advised. "If you want to negotiate, you're beholden to his restrictions regarding the parameters of the meeting." Her face twisted like she'd—

tasted something sour, but she snatched the pen from Fujiwara’s outstretched hand. Izuku and Katsuki both signed a moment later—the former suppressing a satisfied smirk and the latter wearing it with feral pride. They lawyers went last, then Fujiwara placed his phone—

on the table to record. He had them each state their names for the record before they began—and Izuku noted the reluctance in Ochako’s voice as she complied. “Now,” Fujiwara said, smiling placidly. “Why did you call this meeting, Ms. Uraraka?” All eyes turned to her.

Even her own lawyer looked curious. She raised her eyes to meet Izuku’s. There were dark circles under her eyes. “We’re both adults,” she said, stiff in her seat. “I think we’ve done each other enough harm, and I’d like to get this over with quickly. I think we can—

resolve all of our issues out of court.” Katsuki scoffed, but Izuku silenced him—placing a hand on his knee under the table. “I’m willing to negotiate the civil matters, but the criminal charges are out of my hands—and frankly, I don’t want to see you walk away from them.”

"Izuku, please,” she implored him. “Let’s get this over with here. Without the drawn-out trials and over-the-top retribution—" “People are *dead* because of what you did, Ochako,” he snapped. “I’m willing to settle for the personal theft and property damage complaints, but—

you can’t sweet talk your way out of malicious negligence. I’m being *generous.*” “You’re being high and mighty,” she snapped back. “You’ve already thrown me under the bus and made me look like a controlling, careless bitch. I’ve already lost everything! If you *ever* loved me—"

“Hold on,” Katsuki interrupted. He didn’t sound angry, he sounded incredulous. “Are you asking him to *drop* the charges? Completely? Just walk away from all the shit you pulled?” Izuku tightened his grip on the blonde’s knee, but Kacchan paid him no mind.

“This doesn’t concern you, Bakugou,” she sighed. “It never has. You constantly enable him and goad him to go overboard. If you’re going to be here, shut up and let us handle this maturely.” “It *does* concern me,” he drawled. He *still* didn’t look angry. Now, he looked amused.

“I’ve been there to fix what you broke, remember? You tried to ruin him for something *you* did. Not only that, you stole his shit—things that he can’t replace—and sold it for less than an eight of their value. You haven’t even apologized. Instead, you manipulated his friends—

into destroying shit that mattered to him. When it didn’t work the way you wanted you tried to convince the public that he was unhinged—to the point where it was dangerous for him to perform his duties as a hero. You wanna talk about maturity? Why don’t you take a look in the f—”

“Kacchan,” Izuku cut him off. Katsuki fell silent. He turned to Ochako. “I did love you. I loved the you I thought I knew, at least. But the you that you *are?* That you’ve decided to be? I pity you. You’re going to end up miserable and alone because you—

ruined everything you had by trying to warp it to fit your expectations. I tried to be mature and civil. I wanted quiet divorce and to recoup some of my losses. You’re the one who took it public and tried to ruin me. You’re the one who threw classified information in—

the recycling instead of disposing of it properly because you didn’t want to make the extra effort. So no, I won’t be dropping the charges—criminal or otherwise.” “Izuku—“ “Midoriya,” he interrupted her. “You’re a stranger to me, now. And when this is all over, I’m—

going to do everything in my power to never think of you again.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a folded slip of paper. “This is the minimum settlement I’m willing to accept. It has itemized damages, in case you’re confused about the number. I’m not going to—

go lower. Either pay the settlement, or take your chances in court.” Katsuki’s hand found his under the table, squeezing it tight. It was amazing how much that simple gesture conveyed. Pride, comfort, and support—all conveyed in his burning grip. The anger left him shaky.

Katsuki kept him steady. Izuku didn't know if he'd have been able to do this if he wasn't here to back him up. Story of his life, to be honest. “You’re being unreasonable,” she told him. "And you're gonna lose. They only sided with you when the attacks happened. They—

agreed with me until then. Grow up.” Izuku gave her a tight smile. “They agreed with you because you lied to them. They know the truth now,” he said. He stood from the table, straightening his jacket. “I’m sure your lawyer will agree, the settlements I’m willing to make are—

a way better deal than you’ll get if a judge rules in my favor. I don’t want to destroy you, I just want to rebuild my own life. If you really want to handle this maturely, take the deal.” "Can you handle the rest, Fujiwara?" Katsuki asked, deep voice smug and satisfied.

"Of course," he agreed. "Sorry for wasting your time, gentlemen. I'll contact you with anything pertinent." "Kick-ass," Katsuki grinned, clapping Izuku on the back. "We got shit-loads of agency paperwork to deal with," he said. "If you need us, you know where to find us."

Izuku had let himself get steered out of the conference room—Katsuki's hand gripping his shoulder. When it was done—when he'd said what he needed to say—he'd felt drained. Shocked, really, that he'd let himself be so bitter, even if it was civil. He was grateful that Katsuki—

was there to steer him, because he was busy replaying the whole thing over again in his head, dazed that he'd found so much strength in his own spine. He wasn't a pushover, but he was forgiving. But he didn't forgive her—not even close. He was broken out of his trance—

when Katsuki shut the car door, climbing into the driver's seat and grinning at him—wide and wild. "You kicked ASS in there!" he declared. A helpless smile tugged the corner of his own lips. "I did, didn't I?" "Fuck yeah! Wanna celebrate?" he asked, ruffling Izuku's hair.

His smile was so *fond* that it made Izuku feel like he was in free-fall. His stomach swooped and his heart was racing—and he wasn't sure if it was because Kacchan was...well *Kacchan,* or the adrenaline of the confrontation. "Sure," he chuckled. It came out as a crazed giggle.—

"What did you have in mind?" What had followed made Izuku feel spoiled rotten. Katsuki had taken him to get crêpes, and they'd eaten them on the rooftop of their agency—doing paperwork in the early afternoon sun. He'd ordered noodles from Izuku's favorite restaurant for lunch.

Then, they'd spent the entire evening watching movies—pandering to Izuku's obsession with pre-quirk media while eating homemade Katsudon. It felt over the top, but Izuku hadn't been stupid enough to complain. He'd let himself forget about Ochako, instead choosing to revel in—

all the strange and aggressive TLC that Kacchan was heaping on him. Katsuki had been proud of him before. He'd even said it out loud once or twice. But something about this felt different. It was a giddy sort of elation and vindication that was confusing but contagious.

It wasn't all positive, though. Like he'd said—the past few weeks had been exhausting—a tumultuous roller coaster. Sure, the light at the end of the tunnel in his sights. But there was so much left to be done. It took two days for Ochako to reject the settlement.

That meant they'd be going to trial. That *also* meant that he'd be subjected to the tedious and invasive process of evidence collection, as would his friends. Shoto and Tsu had willingly provided their phone logs to Fujiwara—one in person and the other through a secure courier.

Tsu was still respectfully keeping her distance. Iida's phone, however, had to be subpoenaed. According to Fujiwara, he’d fought the subpoena as hard as he could—and it became clear why once they had access to his texts. He was in love with her. That became abundantly clear,—

and it made him a little sick. It made him wonder if Tenya had been rooting for them to fail the entire time—even as he stood at Izuku’s side as a groomsman. It made him wonder if he’d been rubbing it in Iida’s face, hurting him more and more with each passing day.

He felt hurt. He felt *guilty.* He felt strangely vindicated too, and that was probably the worst part. He couldn’t help but feel like they *deserved* each other—and wasn’t that horrible? She manipulated him too. But he bought into it, and chose to hurt him when—

the opportunity arose. The moment she told him they were having problems, he’d jumped on the idea that Izuku was neglecting her. As a result, the texts she’d sent him were pretty damning—made worse by the fact that he fed into her complaints and her plans without any resistance.

In fact, he encouraged them. So, when it came to the subpoena he fought it tooth and nail, because he knew what his messages held. He wanted to protect her—knowing that as her preferred confidant, the information they’d find would be a gigantic nail in her coffin.

It all made his heart hurt. He wondered if, had Iida asked her out first, any of this would have happened. Would she have treated him the same way when he was so eager to please her? Could this have been prevented by Tenya just telling him how he felt? One night, he’d cracked—

spilling all of the tumultuous feelings he was holding into Katsuki’s reluctant ears. “His inability to get his shit together isn’t your responsibility, Deku,” Katsuki told him, sighing as he let Izuku cry into his shoulder. “And she would have just destroyed him—

in a different way. Shitty people aren’t shitty on a case-by-case basis.” It didn’t stop him from spiraling. He didn’t want Tenya in his life, but he felt bad for making him provide evidence against someone he cared for.

Even if he was in the wrong, he could imagine how difficult it was for him—and he couldn’t help but wonder if he was in the wrong. Wasn’t it bad enough that he was essentially absorbing Team Idaten? His turmoil was eased a few days later. While Katsuki was on patrol, Izuku was—

working with HR to handle hiring and patrol placement for their new sidekicks. He was on his way back from a meeting when he found a visitor outside his office. He hadn’t seen Tensei in years, but the man was waiting patiently by his door. He looked up as Izuku approached,—

and Izuku’s fight-or-flight response kicked into high gear. He had no idea what to expect—but given the nastiness of his interactions with the man’s younger brother, he wasn’t optimistic. He’d never been so glad to be wrong.

“Deku,” Tensei greeted him—familiar kind smile on his face. It was tinged with sadness. “It’s good to see you.” Izuku returned his smile hesitantly. “Tensei,” he replied. “How are you?” He asked, letting them both into his office. “I’ve been better,” he admitted. “Then again,—

so have you. I’m sorry for all the…well. All the bullshit you’ve been through over the past few months.” “It’s been difficult,” Izuku replied. “But I’ve had support.” Tensei grimaced. “That’s actually why I’m here,” he admitted. “I wanted to apologize.”

Izuku frowned. “For what?” He asked, sitting. “For not speaking up sooner, for a start,” he replied with a heavy sigh. “I was disturbed by the stance Tenya chose to take and tried to talk him down instead of speaking up. I’ve known how he felt about Ochako for a while, and—

he was handling it well for a long time. But I suggested that the reason he was so quick to demonize you was because of his feelings, and I only managed to make him defensive which hurt you even more.” “That’s not your fault,” Izuku said. “Tenya has always staked his pride on—

his moral high ground—he’s just never felt the need to throw that superiority in your face. You had no way to know he’d react like that.” “I could have, if I’d paid more attention,” Tensei argued. “I barely recognize him. Not to mention, he’s driven everything my family built—

into the ground. I never thought I’d be this disappointed in him.” Izuku winced, pushing the stack of paper in front of him to the side. “I’m sorry about Team Idaten, Tensei. I hope you know that I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way.” Tensei shook his head.

“Bad leadership breeds bad results,” he sighed. “Unfortunately, I failed to teach Tenya that leadership is more than just the organizational aspect. It’s how you represent the people who work for you. He represented Idaten poorly and suffered the consequences. That’s not on you.”

“But—“ “Izuku,” he interrupted. His smile was sad, but genuine. “Idaten can rebuild in the future if necessary. You’re only guilty of standing up for yourself and your partner. That’s a good thing. I’m glad that Idaten’s sidekicks found a place to go where they—

feel they’ll be taken care of.” He felt a weird surge of sadness and pride. Tensei trusted him to take care of the people who had been his legacy—sidekicks who’d left Idaten who had been hired when Tensei was leading them. His approval meant a lot—more than Izuku realized.

“They will be taken care of,” Izuku promised. “And if they ever regain confidence in Idaten, I’ll ease their transition if they want to go back.” "Don't forget to take care of yourself too," Tensei reminded him. "You're a strong hero, but everybody needs time to be vulnerable."

"I've been trying," he promised. "And when I fail, I've got Kacchan to push me in the right direction." "You're lucky to have him," Tensei observed. "Hold onto that. It's rare to have someone who'll be on your side no matter how bad things get. Don't let it go."

He'd left after that instruction, and Izuku was surprised to find himself feeling better. It wasn't perfect—not by a long shot—but he was doing the best he could with what he had. And he had Katsuki. People had gone through much worse without an amazing support system like him.

Tensei was right. He was *so lucky* to have Katsuki. He looked over at the shelf behind his desk, smile stretching his cheeks as his heart warmed. He was lucky to have all of his friends. Friends who were packing their free time attempting to find his collection.

That was the third 'big thing' that had happened in the past three weeks. It wasn't a tidal wave—it was a small, inconsistent drip. But the fact that there was any water at *all* made him want to cry with gratitude. Evidently, Katsuki had sent his collection spreadsheet to—

their friends. At least, to the friends who’d expressed interest in helping. Earlier that week, Denki had come by with the Titan Star lunchbox, along with some other long-forgotten yet well-preserved Titan Star memorabilia. Two pins, and a branded light-up wristband that—

fans would light up while she fought—as though she was at a concert instead of a fight. In the footage, the crowd would look like a galaxy full of stars where she would shine the brightest. Hanta showed up a couple days later, bearing one of his silver age action figures.

Apparently, he’d reached out to the buyer who’d already sold it to someone else—then tracked that person down too. Eijirou, with his unfortunate amount of free time, had managed to get back a replica of Power Loader’s glove that the hero had signed.

It wasn’t everything, but it was a start. More importantly, it was an *effort* that the people who loved him had put in. The circumstances weren’t great, but the support was more than he could have ever asked for. He was truly blessed. Now, he was back on patrol, and—

it felt like coming home. After a natural disaster, where the foundation had been cracked in two, sure, but home nonetheless. The essence of his personality—the very foundation of his dreams—was woven into the fabric of his hero costume. He'd been nervous to step back into—

the spotlight. After all, the last time he’d tried to go back to work, a girl had almost died, a villain had filed an excessive force complaint, the police threw shade at him while he did his job, and the media had tried to paint him as reckless for—

pushing civilians out of the way of a reckless car chase. Hardly inspiring, in terms of confidence. But as he patrolled, he was met with enthusiasm. Excitement, even. It was like the week after he'd cracked the Top Ten—where everybody wanted a piece of him. Now that he'd—

proven that he'd done nothing wrong, they were eager to get behind him again. He was relieved that they would let him do his job. But—and he hated it—he couldn't forget how quickly they'd turned on him. He'd give them his all, but each civilian who came up to him and—

told him that they believed in him...it felt tainted now. Did they feel the same way a few weeks ago, before the commission had made their statement? He walked into the shop that he usually bought steam buns from on his route. At the beginning of this, the owner had—

treated him like he was a nuisance—and at the time, he’d assumed it was because her family was ill. He knew better now. She’d seen Ochako’s tweets and assumed the worst of him. Now, she smiled sweetly at him—a hint of remorse in her eyes—and tried to give him his lunch for free.

He declined, categorically opposed to heroes taking handouts from businesses. Not only that, but he still felt…betrayed. It was an ugly, stupid feeling—she was only operating off the information she had. He’d been buying lunch from her for years. He knew about her family life.

She'd still assumed the worst of him. Despite knowing him for years, she'd assumed that he'd broken Ochako's heart over a minor spat. Just like everybody else. It hurt more than he cared to admit. He ran into the cop who'd helped a villain file an excessive force complaint.

She didn't make eye contact. She pretended like he wasn't there, even as civilians around them made an uproar—clamoring for his attention. Someone asked him to sign a tabloid that had announced his innocence after his press conference. Another person said he *knew* that—

a hero like Deku couldn't have been that callous. He was pretty sure it was the same person who had yelled out of the window that first day—telling him he was worse than a preschooler for being so attached to toys. He was grateful that people were on his side. Truly, he was.

He just needed time to settle back in. For the wound to scab over then scar—for the pain to fade. "Deku," the dispatcher called over comms. "Dynamight is on channel five, he wants to check in with you." "Thanks, triple click to get me back," he instructed before switching over.

"I can't believe you dumped me with the fucking paperwork," Katsuki groused as soon as he heard the line open. "For *HR* of all fucking things! I don't fuck with HR, Deku!" Izuku chuckled at his frazzled partner. "I've been doing it for three weeks, you can do it for a day!"

"You could have left me any other fucking stack of bullshit, and I would have sucked it up," he barked. "But authorizing patrol routes based on *interpersonal relations* is fucking awful and I don't know jack shit about it!" "First of all, you definitely would have—

bitched at me regardless,” he laughed. “I’m pretty sure you drunkenly declared that paperwork was your arch nemesis last year.” “It is!” “And second,” he said, checking his watch. “If you’re stir crazy, we could swap places. I’ve been out for a few hours, I’ve shown my face.—

If you need to tap out, I can tap in.” There was silence on the line. “You were over the fucking moon about patrol this morning,” Katsuki growled. “Did something happen already?” "No,” he said hesitantly. “I mean…it’s the stuff that happened months ago, and I’m still…well.”

“You’re pissed that people treated you like crap,” Katsuki offered. “It’s stupid, right?” “Don’t be a fucking idiot!” He screeched. Izuku winced, dialing down the volume in his earpiece. “They’re lucky you still want to be a hero at all. Those fucks don’t deserve you. You’re—

allowed to need time to feel confident, dumbass.” Part of him wondered if Kacchan was pandering to him. The other part knew he was being stupid—on principle, Kacchan didn’t pander. No matter how much he liked you, he told you exactly what you needed to hear.

It just so happened that this time, what he needed to hear was what he wanted to hear. “Everyone’s acting like they believed in me all along,” he muttered. “And I’m not supposed to care what they think as long as I protect them. And I’ll still do my job—I love my job.”

“You’re not a fucking robot,” Katsuki grumbled. There was an aggravated click, and Izuku had a feeling that he was probably being a little aggressive with the stapler. “You’re allowed to be sad or whatever. If you need to get back into this shit little by little,—

that’s fine. That’s why you have a fucking *partner.”* He ducked into an alley as his eyes stung and his heart melted in his chest. He was sad that they’d turned their backs on him, and stressed about making a misstep, just in case it happened again. But, he was so excited to—

come back to work, and so *happy* to be back in uniform. Most importantly, he was so *grateful* for Kacchan’s support. For his willingness to be wherever Izuku needed him. “I’ll be fine for the rest of my patrol,” he promised, voice tight with emotion. “But if you need to—

escape the evil grip of paperwork, I’m fine with switching.” He could practically hear Katsuki’s eye-roll. “Whatever, I’m fine. Just tell me if you change your mind, loser. And get your ass back here as soon as you’re done, I have shit to show you.” “Okay,” he sniffed.

“And stop crying, you goddamn baby!” “You’re being nice to me, I can’t help it!” he yelled back. He finished out the rest of his patrol pretty easily, barely breaking a sweat even when he had to stop a bus with a broken brake with his bare hands. People applauded him, and—

he put on his show smile as cameras flashed. He knew it was weaker than normal when he a few civilians throwing him guilty glances. He wanted to heal. He wanted to move forward. So, when he caught their eyes, he gave them reassuring smiles—promising that he forgave them.

Sure, he might be hurt, but he had faith that they'd think twice before jumping to conclusions again. He had to, otherwise his dream—the one that he'd fought for with blood, sweat, and tears—would make him miserable. And it was worth it, to see the relief in their eyes.

He didn't want them to hurt either. What was the point of guilt as long as they’d learned? Honestly, it just made it easier to see who had doubted him and who hadn’t—and that, quite frankly, was distracting as fuck. Besides, he had full confidence—

(and a healthy amount of trepidation) that if he took the high ground, Katsuki would take the low. It was his *favorite* ground to stand on, after all. He could hold enough grudge for both of them. The man had already blacklisted HeroStar and Battle National—

the tabloids that had smeared him—from any official press conferences or interviews. He’d said out loud that he planned to cause at least minor discomfort to every civilian he saved in the next year. He might still be hurt, and it might still be uncomfortable, but—

he didn’t want it to be. Sometimes he wished it wasn’t, but forgiveness was in his nature even if forgetting wasn’t. At the end of his patrol, he felt better. Not perfect, and not as thrilled as the first time he’d ever patrolled as a hero—but better.

He’d gotten through it without incident, and he’d held his head high. He couldn’t ask for better than that, given the circumstances. There was a package for him at reception when he got back to the agency—addressed from an name he didn’t recognize.

“Have you already scanned this for threats?” he asked. She had an X-Ray quirk that had caught *multiple* explosive devices and razor blades in food items over the years. You know, from families of villains, and the like. The receptionist smiled at him, wide and excited.

“I have,” she giggled. “I think you’re gonna like it!” Eyebrows raised, he opened it then and there—eager to see what had her so thrilled. His stomach swooped when he took out the contents of the little parcel. Ten individually packed hero trading cards in top-loaders.

*His* top-loaders that he’d marked with manufacturing information for the insurance company. Somebody *anonymous* had decided to return his merch to him. The ten cards he had in his hand were worth about ¥500K. He was crying again. He thumbed through them quickly, and—

his stomach twisted when he realized *the card* wasn’t there—the one he’d gotten with Kacchan all those years ago. But it was something. It was something so thoughtful and kind, and he couldn’t believe he’d gotten them back. This person had paid for them. Returning them,—

especially after they’d belonged to another hero, was a sacrifice. One that he appreciated to his very core. “Thank you for screening these,” he sniffled, crying *again.* “If any more come, can you send them straight to my assistant’s desk?” She could help him keep track of—

the thank you notes that he’d need to send. “Of course, sir.” Cradling the cards in his hands, he scurried to his office to put them away. He couldn’t believe he was holding them, especially since they hadn’t been sold on WeBay. He’d checked. If he had to guess,—

Ochako probably hadn’t wanted to put in the effort of pricing each individual card. He’d assumed that she’d thrown them away all together. By some twist of fate, it looked like they’d ended up in a donation bin instead of a landfill—maybe even in a shoebox—

because they weren’t damaged beyond the wear and tear from when he was a kid. He sat at his desk, laying them out on the surface. “What’s that?” Katsuki’s gruff baritone called, startling him out of his trance. The blonde trudged toward his desk, leaning over to look.

“Holy shit,” he said, gently picking up the closest one. “They’re yours?” Izuku nodded dumbly. “They were delivered to the front desk,” he replied, tone tremulous. “Well damn,” Katuski said. There was something in his tone that made Izuku look up. There was—

a satisfied smirk on his face. While ‘delighted surprise’ wasn’t something he could see Kacchan expressing, it did seem like it would probably be more fitting than the ‘cat that got the cream’ look he was currently sporting. The look softened when he looked back up at Izuku.

“Looks like these idiots are finally giving you what you deserve. Some basic fucking decency.” His heart fluttered. “I honestly can’t believe it,” he said, looking back down at them. “I thought I’d have to buy them back.” “Well, it’s ten out of a thousand or something,”—

he drawled, flopping into the seat across the desk. “Maybe you’ll have to buy the rest and really get to lean into your martyrdom.” Izuku gave him a dry look. “Optimistic. And thank you for the character analysis.” “You’re welcome,” he replied with a shit-eating grin.

Izuku rolled his eyes, giving his cards one last loving glance before locking them securely in his desk drawer. “You said you had something to show me?” he asked. “Yeah,” Katsuki smirked. “Shower and change into civvies. I’ll wait.”

As he said it, he kicked his feet up on Izuku’s desk. Izuku didn’t mind. If putting his feet on his desk and coffee table made Katuski feel happy (or superior), he’d hardly hold it against him. He deserved his petty delights. “Alright,” he said. “It shouldn’t be long.”

“Longer if you keep talking,” he replied. Heart full, Izuku flipped him off. By the time he got back to their office in street clothes, Katsuki had devolved to trying to balance his chair on one leg. Unable to help himself, he reached out with black whip to jolt his chair,—

laughing loud and long as Kacchan yelped and tried to steady himself. “You absolute fuckstick,” Katsuki snarled, clutching his chest. “Here I am doing *nice shit* and you try to fucking murder me—“ “You’ve had your entire body thrown into a building multiple times,”—

Izuku snickered. “I hardly think a chair tumble will kill you. Besides, I’m just reminding you to keep all four on the floor! We learned that in preschool, Kacchan.” “Fuck you and your dumbass safety rhymes, I do what I want!” he barked as he righted himself. He snagged Izuku—

who was still laughing—in a headlock a moment later. “Let’s go, Green Bean Bitch,” he sneered, dragging him out of the office by his neck. Within minutes, Katsuki had shoved him into the company town car upside down, barking at the driver to ‘drive or fucking die.’

“That’s not very plus ultra,” he wheezed as he righted himself. “And where are you taking me?” “You’ll see,” he said, smirk reappearing on his dumb, perfect face. It filled Izuku with a healthy amount of trepidation. The drive was fifteen minutes long, and—

it was filled with questions that Katsuki refused to answer—smirk growing wider with each one until he was sporting a shit-eating grin. He seemed very satisfied with himself. When the car stopped, they’d pulled up outside of a house. A big house.

Izuku turned to Katsuki, eyebrows raised. “You trust me?” Katsuki asked. What a stupid question. “Of course I do,” he scoffed. Katsuki’s smile went warm around the edges. “Then come on, dork,” he said, getting out of the car. Izuku followed, eyeballing the exterior.

It was a big house. Not unreasonably big, but bigger than his current house. “I toured it yesterday,” Katsuki said. For probably the tenth time that day, his heart went warm and soft. Having Katsuki in his corner was a gift. The house hunting had been stressing him out,—

in large part because he was constantly reminded of *why* he was moving as he searched. Katsuki punched in the code for the lockbox and let them into the front door. The entryway was a closed foyer that led into the living room. It was a *big* living room, and it attached to—

a sizable dining room, too. “You’ve enjoyed having people around,” Katsuki observed as Izuku took in the size of the space. “There’s more entertaining space or whatever. And more wall space means more display space. And you can take you nerdy-ass quirk theory books—

out of the attic, set up bookshelves and shit.” Izuku nodded dumbly, still gazing around the space. That all made sense. It would be nice to have the space to fit Eijirou and Hanta’s roughhousing. Or Eijrou and *Katsuki’s* roughhousing. Both of those things took a lot of space.

He’d need singe-proof furniture. Katsuki threw an arm around his shoulder and guided him forward. It turns out, there were three stories. Katsuki spoke in a near stream of consciousness as he walked him through. “This could be your home office since you—

never fucking stop working. This could be a home gym for days off. The last owner had a spa room, and that shit would be great for your broken-ass bones,” he prattled as Izuku followed along, eyes wide with awe. Then, he led Izuku downstairs to the basement.

It was a nice-ass basement. “You could get the Mecha Maniac to lock this space down, and you could literally hide it from anyone who isn’t authorized,” Katsuki explained. “We could install shelving along the perimeter, and stands in the middle. Then there could be secure space—

in the back for your analysis shit. We’d have to get the commission to sign of on it, but I think it would work if you upped the security.” He had even looked for a space for him to rebuild his collection. He’d thought of everything. His eyes were sore from crying today, yet—

the tears kept coming, delighted and touched by what he’d seen so far. “Kacchan—“ “I’m not done yet,” he interrupted. “C’mon.” He dragged Izuku upstairs this time—pulling him to the end of the hall. He pushed the door open, revealing the master suite.

It wasn’t unreasonably large but once again, it was significantly larger than his current bedroom. The en suite bathroom was luxurious—featuring a deep jacuzzi tub and a frankly grandiose rain-shower with a fancy-ass control panel. “It’s beautiful,” he observed quietly.

The floors were hardwood, but he could see them lined with softer rugs. The closet was huge—probably bigger than he needed. He could see the space whole, though. “What about the other rooms.” “Guest space,” Katsuki shrugged. “God knows we’d all sleep safer if those idiots—

crashed here after drinking. And one could be designated for Auntie. At the end of the hall so she doesn’t hear you jacking off in the morning—*oof!*” he grunted as Izuku shoved him. “Don’t be gross!” he protested. “Don’t tell me what to do,” he replied calmly,—

already steering him out of the master. He pushed open the room next door with his foot. Izuku looked around, frowning. It was a mini-master, complete with its own bathroom. “Would this be another guest bedroom? Are all the upstairs bedrooms like this?” he asked, peering around.

It seemed a bit gratuitous. “No,” Katsuki said. “This one’s the only one with an en suite. The rest share a bathroom at the other end.” “I guess it could be a fancy guest room,” Izuku murmured. He didn’t notice Katsuki going still beside him, too focused on examining the space.

“Hear me out,” Kacchan said after a moment of silence. Izuku’s eyes snapped to his. He sounded nervous. “My lease is up in two months, and I can afford to break it,” he said, eyes flicking from Izuku’s to the rest of the room and back again. Izuku’s eyes widened.

“This place is a bit over your budget but I could pay rent, which would help you cover mortgage. You can use that extra cash to buy back your collection as needed. So what do you think?”

Izuku blinked at him, heart racing. “Kacchan?” he uttered, voice thin with shock. The blonde gave him a smile that was so anxious that it looked like a grimace. “Wanna be roommates, nerd?”

- - - tbc when my goal is met! this time I mean it (probably)—the next part is the last part <3

“Morning, Kacchan,” Izuku mumbled, dragging himself into the kitchen. He blinked at Katsuki’s bare back sleepily, slowly processing his bare torso clad only in an apron. It was…quite a sight. A symphony of shifting muscle and faded scars. “Nerd,” Katsuki replied—

without turning around. “Coffee’s in the pot.” “Thanks,” he said, already gravitating toward the caffeine. He and Katsuki had been living together for six months, and they fit together like puzzle pieces. His divorce had felt like that moment when you stumble while running—

sure that you’re going to hit the ground and wondering if you’ll hit too hard to get back up. Moving in with Katsuki felt like catching himself before the impact, and living with him felt like finding his stride again. Now, he’d hit the runners’ high and every day—

felt like he was flying. Maybe it was because he was surrounded by love and support, starting and ending with Kacchan. "What're you making?" he asked, peering around Katsuki's shoulder after he'd poured himself a mug. "Food," Katsuki grunted. "Make yourself useful and—

get the plates out, loser." Izuku smiled and did what he was told. "We have to be in early today," Izuku reminded him, voice still rough with sleep. It was the only reason he'd woken up—the ungodly number of meetings they had today. He really just wanted to sleep.

Hitoshi and Eri had been over until the small hours of the morning. They'd almost crashed in the upstairs guest rooms, but Eri had to be back on campus for classes so Hitoshi had taken her home. That had been at around one in the morning, and Izuku was *wiped.*

"I told you to kick them out early," Katsuki said, not turning to face him. That was true. Katsuki wasn't as stringent about his bedtime these days, but he was still ineffably responsible—going to bed with enough time to get his beauty rest.

It was *possible* that living in close quarters with Kacchan again had...kicked up some old feelings again. He couldn't really help feeling them, either. Between the constant care and support, and the heart-stopping awe he felt when Katsuki walked around without his shirt on,—

there was no way he wouldn't feel *something.* Well, he always kinda felt something. That hadn't changed—he would always have a little crush on Kacchan. It was just a bit more intense due to the constant contact. Besides, it wasn't like anything would ever come of it.

He thought back to that day—almost a *year* ago—when Uraraka had ruined his sense of security and made him question whether or not he'd ever find a love that was good to him. On her way out, she'd suggested that Katsuki wanted him. Which was, quite frankly, *ridiculous.*

She'd been trying to control the situation, he knew that. She'd been laying groundwork so that any kindness Katsuki showed would seem like it had an ulterior motive. Thankfully, Izuku knew him better. Unfortunately, it also meant that he knew better than to hope—

that Kacchan would ever want him. He didn't mind that much, though. Katsuki was in his life more than ever, and it was the best Izuku had ever felt. The eye-candy was just a fun bonus. "You seen this shit?" Katsuki asked, interrupting Izuku's questionable train of thought.

The blonde slid his phone to Izuku before forking eggs, toast and roasted veggies onto the plates. Izuku's stomach gurgled at the sight of it, but he picked up Katsuki's phone, eyes scanning the article on the screen. Ah. *Ingenium Found 'Not Guilty,' License Still Suspended'

He wasn't sure if he had enough coffee to get into this right now, but he settled in anyway—picking up his plate and migrating to the table before scrolling through the article with narrowed eyes. Uraraka had been found guilty. Of *many* different charges. As it turned out,—

the reason she'd declined Izuku's settlement was because she didn't have the funds to pay it outright. She figured that through the courts she'd have at least a 50/50 chance of being acquitted. It hadn't worked out in her favor, especially due to all the other infractions—

she'd been found guilty of, and the amount of reparations she had to pay. She'd be serving jail time, too. It would be in a cushy prison meant for white collar criminals and rogue heroes—somewhere away from the general prison population so that—

she couldn't face retaliation for the hero work she'd done. It was still prison, though. Iida's case was different. He actually hadn't intended to press charges against him at all. That had been Mina's doing. She understood why Izuku hadn't done it but—

once his text transcripts had been shown in court, she'd gone on a warpath—demanding culpability. By that point, his license had already been suspended due to his role in improperly disposing of classified information. She hadn't thought it was enough, so—

she'd pursued her own damages for both herself and Eijirou. A handful of other heroes had followed suit. It had been ugly. He hoped she'd be okay, given the verdict. "We should have them over for dinner tonight," Izuku said. "To keep their mind off the verdict."

"I don't know if she'll be that pissed about it," Katsuki replied. "I think she mostly wanted to send a message to the shithead. That his shitty, skewed moral high horse isn't shit. I mean, you see how they're painting him?" Izuku nodded.

Where Iida wanted to represent a strong moral authority—someone to be looked up to, who represented a pillar of integrity—he'd been inadvertently painted as a weak-minded man, so blinded by love that he'd hurt the people around him in his mission to get into her good graces.

People didn't blame him, but they didn't respect him either. They *pitied* him, and that had to feel like a cheese grater scraping away at his ego. "Public perception piggy-backed off of my case," Izuku murmured, still scrolling. "We leaned pretty hard into the idea—

that Uraraka manipulated our friends, and doubled down on that with Iida. I know it's not our case, but—" "You wanted him to be found guilty," Kacchan finished for him. Sometimes, Izuku thought the man knew him too well. "Hey, I get it. The sanctimonious jackass will—

find a way to twist it." He screwed his face up in an exaggerated imitation of Iida's stern scowl. "I was found innocent because I can do no wrong! I swallowed a rule book as a child and I shit gold bricks of justice!" he declared, pitching his voice low and robotic—

to mock their former class president. Izuku chuckled, not bothering to hide his amusement. He'd done a lot of healing over the past few months, and he didn't feel bad about laughing at any of this anymore. Sure, there was still that edge of hurt when he remembered—

where he'd started, but he wasn't responsible for how other people behaved. Uraraka and Iida had made their choices, and they'd chosen to cause harm for their own gain. He was allowed to feel vindicated—even amused—now that those choices had backfired.

Even if it wasn't exactly noble to think that way. "Yeah, well," Izuku shrugged, sliding Katsuki's phone back to him. "He can say whatever he wants. Doesn't change the truth, though. And the Commission won't reinstate him just because he was found not guilty. He seriously—

fucked up, even if he was manipulated into it." Thankfully, Idaten hadn't been disbanded completely. Until the youngest Iida was reinstated, Tensei had agreed to step up and take the reins of Team Idaten, especially since the staff was smaller and more manageable.

And if Iida wasn't reinstated after a year, Tensei had requested that SmashBang transition Idaten's sidekicks into their agency over an 18-month period. That way, the sidekicks affected by Iida's decision making wouldn't be completely shafted by the dissolution of his agency.

They'd been working hard to support him as he transitioned back into leadership. He might not owe Iida anything, but that didn't mean he wanted the sidekicks and staff to suffer—nor did he want Tensei to buckle under the strain. Besides, Katsuki liked Tensei.

That was an honor bestowed on very few people, so Izuku felt a duty to protect him. Katsuki got up, sauntering into the kitchen and shuffling back out with the coffee pot in hand. Izuku pushed his mug forward—smiling gratefully as the blonde refilled it for him.

"We should just keep the stupid machine on the table," he groused. "You drink so much coffee, it's a goddamn waste of time to walk back and forth for more." Izuku held back his fond smile. He didn't *have* to refill Izuku's mug but he'd done it anyway,—

despite how annoying he found the task. "Thank you, Kacchan," he said, hiding his smile behind the rim of his cup. "You're the best." "Damn right I am, dork," he huffed. "Hurry up and eat, you're the one who was bitching about being early."

"I wasn't *bitching,* I was just letting you know!" he protested. Their morning routines were just another way that they fit together—another example of how closely they were partnered. Where one stopped, the other started and they were never in each other's way.

While Izuku showered, Katsuki washed and put away the dishes. While Katsuki showered, Izuku packed their lunches and poured coffee into travel mugs. While Izuku got dressed, Katsuki brushed his teeth and vice versa. While Katsuki put his shoes on, Izuku would grab their jackets.

While Izuku put his shoes on, Katsuki would grab the keys. "Take your scarf, it's cold as shit," Katsuki grumbled as he stepped out the door. Izuku grabbed his scarf and Katuski's too, passing it to his partner before shutting the door behind them.

It was a dance, simple and balanced. They barely had to think as they moved—in sync without trying. Then again, they'd always filled each others' empty spaces. A few months into living with Katsuki, Izuku realized that he finally felt at home in his own life.

It was a feeling he'd been chasing his whole life, and it had snuck up on him once he'd found it. They walked into their agency side by side, chatting about Eijirou's return to active duty and how he was planning to postpone it. His wedding to Mina was in two months, and—

they wanted to have a long, adventurous honeymoon. He was fully healed and he'd almost certainly be cleared within the week, but the behemoth red head wanted (and deserved) a break that wasn't forced on him due to injury. Besides, with the extra downtime,—

Mina could rest assured that their wedding planning could be carried off with Eijirou keeping an eye on it. She was a shoo-in for the Top Ten this year so she'd been pulling extra patrols wherever she could, rallying by keeping herself in the public eye.

While she was on her honeymoon, she'd undoubtedly lose some ground so she was pretty fixed on boosting herself as much as possible before the wedding. In Izuku's opinion, she didn't have much to worry about. A month after trials had started, her merchandising team had—

created a new Pinky-branded toy: The Slapper. They were an age-old amusement; a stretchy, sticky hand-shaped toy in Mina's colors, meant to poke fun at the acidic slap she'd landed on Uraraka. They'd sold out of their pre-ordered stock within two days.

"I still don't think the idiot should take that much time off duty," Katsuki said, holding both of their coffee mugs while Izuku collected their memos from his assistant. "I get wanting to take it easy, but the fucker's gonna get out of practice. It would be shitty if he—

went back on patrol in three months just to get deleted by some D-list villain as soon as he stepped back on the street." "Morbid, Kacchan," Izuku scolded. "Ei wouldn't let himself get that out of practice. He's still training, right? It just won't be as intensive. Besides,—

it's nice that he's supporting Mina like this. He knows she's trying to stay spotlit right now, so she doesn't have as much time for everything else." "That doesn't mean he shouldn't do *some* work, goddamn!" "He wants some time to just...relax! Are you saying that if—

I decided to take a sabbatical, you wouldn't pick up the slack? Partners cover each others' bases, Kacchan." The tips of Katsuki's ears had gone pink, likely from the cold. Maybe this year, Izuku could convince him to wear earmuffs. Kacchan hated the cold, and it wasn't like—

earmuffs would impede his hearing. At least not if Hatsume designed them. He'd find a way to bring it up without scratching Katsuki's stubborn pride later. Leafing through the memos, Izuku sighed. It would be a long, packed day filled with the boring part of hero work.

The nitty gritty stuff that he wished he could hand to someone else. "Can you let Hana know that we're going to need the new sidekicks in today's meeting," he asked his assistant with a smile too tired for this early in the day. "Of course, sir," he replied. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, we also need the team members who worked on last year's agency promo book," he said, already moving toward their office with Katsuki in tow. "That should be Takeda, Nakamura and Ayasaki." "Got it," he called.

"And for fucks sake, make sure Deku remembers to eat lunch before his 1 o'clock," Katsuki barked before kicking the door shut behind them. "Don't think I didn't notice that you didn't eat your lunch yesterday, you absolute twatwaffle," he sneered, pushing past Izuku to—

put his coffee on his desk. "And don't think I won't literally call in to dispatch to make sure you ate it. You're a fucking disaster, Deku." Izuku's answering smile was warm and amused. "Thank you for taking care of me, Kacchan. I promise I'll remember to eat lunch."

"Yeah, right," he scoffed. "I'll remind you after our 10am." "If you must," Izuku said, rolling his eyes. His heart felt warm under his care, though—even if it did come in the form of persistent nagging. He hoped he never stopped feeling as loved as he did in this moment.

- - - tbc! I realized this was a good pause point. no goal to continue, but tips are appreciated (and will go toward the update for house of cards later!)

- - - Katsuki did indeed remind him to eat after their 10am, aggressively positioning his bento on his desk so that he wouldn't be able to miss it. Then, he'd gone on patrol, leaving Izuku with the remaining meetings. Alas, that had been their early agreement.

That Izuku would handle most of the interpersonal matters, and Katsuki would be in charge of filling out incident reports. Today was almost entirely interpersonal. Today, he'd be conducting the first six-month performance reviews for the sidekicks who'd come from Team Idaten.

He'd be going over highlights and room for improvement with them, as well as talking to them about career goals and giving them actionable steps on how to achieve them. Apparently at Idaten, that wasn't done—at least not since Tensei had stepped down.

Under the younger Iida, if something went wrong, you got written up on a three-strikes protocol, but you didn't get a chance to meet with leadership to go over strengths and wins. Under Tenya, discovering and building your strengths was your own responsibility—

not something for management to acknowledge or help you enhance. When he'd found out, he'd been perplexed. Iida had taken the same Agency Management course as him in their third year. Had he just...decided that performance review and mentoring wasn't a worthwhile endeavor?

Ridiculous and frankly, disappointing. He was going through his notes—copying the major points into the official review paperwork—when someone knocked on his office door. "Come in," he called, glancing at the clock. He had half an hour before he had any meetings.

He was pleasantly surprised when the door cracked open and Momo peeked around the corner. "I hope I'm not interrupting? Your assistant mentioned that you were slammed today, but he said you had a few minutes of free time right now."

"I do," he smiled. She let herself in, shutting the door behind her. She was dressed casually and was carrying a paper bag. "It's good to see you!" "You too," she smiled. "Sorry I haven't been around much, you know how it is."

"I do," he replied. She pulled out a chair and sat across from him, placing the bag on the desk and sliding it toward him. "What's this?" "For you," she said cryptically, smile widening. Eyebrows raised, he opened the bag.

Part of him knew what it was already. His friends had been going above and beyond, after all. His stomach swooped and carefully, he lifted out a mercifully well-preserved All Might plush. He recognized it as soon as he saw it. It wasn't mint condition. He hadn't known—

what that meant when he'd gotten it. There was a popped seam on the shoulder from when he and Kacchan had fought over it. His vision blurred with tears. Auntie Mitsuki had given it to him for his sixth birthday. He'd slept with it until he was eleven.

It hadn't been on display in his merch room. It wasn't high value, but was worth the world in sentiment. He'd kept it in his room, in his nightstand. He'd been *sure* he'd never see it again. With no serial numbers and no intrinsic value, he'd been sure that—

it was destined for a donation bin. "It was," Momo said, snapping him out of his trance. She was smiling widely. "I've been spending my down time looking through thrift stores near my agency. I managed to track that one down! I know it's not one of the high value ones, but—"

"It's even better," Izuku replied earnestly, tears spilling down his cheeks. He clutched it to his chest. "I never—I thought," he broke off with a pathetic sniffle. He ran his finger over a snag in the material that had happened when he and Kacchan had been playing—

the hair-spikes on Kacchan's action figure catching on one of Plush Might's threads. "Thank you so much, Momo." "Of course," she replied, smiling. There was still something in her eyes that he couldn't discern. It felt like she knew something that he didn't.

He didn't linger on it for long—lovingly inspecting familiar worn fabric. Where only six months ago, he'd been sure that his collection would be gone forever and his career would never recover—now his agency was flourishing and growing, and his friends had tracked down—

almost half of his collection in their free time. Even Tsu, who didn't understand his collecting at all, had tracked down the pin set that he'd been about to complete before shit had hit the fan. It wasn't complete—it probably never would be. But so many people cared about him—

and they were striving to stitch the pieces of his heart back together. He didn't expect it of them—in fact, knowing how much time it must have taken to track each piece down, he almost wished they wouldn't. On the other hand, it made him feel *so* loved.

"I'm gonna head out," Momo said, standing. "I have patrol soon." He looked up at her, pouting. "Are you sure?" "I am," she replied. "You're busy today, remember? I'll see you soon though, I'm sure." Carefully, he set the plush down on his desk away from anything that could—

snag or stain it. Then, he stood—skirting the desk to hug his friend. "Come for dinner later this week? You still haven't seen the new place." She smiled. "Sounds perfect," she replied, pulling back to make her exit. "Oh, and I ran into Katsuki earlier," she said,—

pausing at the door. "He said 'Tell that shitnerd to eat his goddamn lunch.' I would *highly* advise you do so in order to avoid his wrath. It seemed like a sticking point." "He did threaten me a few times, so thanks for the reminder," he chuckled.

With a little wave, she disappeared around the door frame, the latch clicking quietly in her wake. Tears pricked at his eyes in the silence left behind—overwhelmed with the knowledge that he had friends that cared so much about him. Instead of sleeping in for an extra hour,—

Momo Yaoyoruzu went out of her way before her patrol to bring him a fragment of his heart in a paper bag. He had no idea what he'd done to deserve friends like these, but he was *so glad* he had them. He sat back down, turning on his laptop and opening his spreadsheet.

He marked the plush as 'found, making a note to send Momo a thank you gift. Then, because he knew Kacchan would slaughter him if he didn't, he opened his bento, snapped a photo and sent it to his explosive partner, then started to eat. His phone chimed a few minutes later.

From: Kacchan >> good nerd >> btw hag wants to know if they can come over for dinner >> also I have some errands to run after patrol so i'll meet u at home He sulked as he put his phone away. On the one hand, it was nice to hear Kacchan call their place *home.* On the other,—

he'd been hoping to spar with him before going back. It had become sort of a ritual. On days where their duties were separated—*especially* if one of them was on desk duty—they'd make up the extra time by beating the shit out of each other. You know. Bonding.

There was another knock on the door, signaling the start of his second block of meetings. He looked mournfully at his half-eaten bento. Briefly, he wondered if a partial lunch counted as a meal. Well. What Kacchan didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

- - - Izuku let himself into their house, pushing the door open with his hip. His All Might plush was perched in the crook of one arm, the other arm laden with groceries. He'd agreed to have Auntie Mitsuki and Uncle Masaru over, so Katsuki had sent him a long-ass grocery list.

As he sauntered toward the kitchen, he couldn't help the happiness that surged in him. He *loved* coming home nowadays. Even in only six months, it felt lived-in and comfortable—and it felt like it was theirs. The couches in the living room were comfortable and—

just stylish enough to appease the entire Bakugou family—casual enough to lounge on without worrying that every stray movement would ruin the fabric, but nice enough that they weren't an eyesore. According to Kacchan, the cross section of that Venn diagram was tiny.

Picking couches had been a near-Herculean task. They hadn't *fought* about it or anything, but they had taken a *long* time going back and forth until they'd found a decent compromise. The rugs had taken even longer. Not to mention the dinnerware and dining room furniture.

They'd done it together, though. They'd compromised with each other until they'd curated this *perfect* space that was a blend of both their styles and interests. One of many reasons that living with Kacchan was already miles better than his actual marriage had been.

They'd built a home. There were posters on the walls, along with family photos—all the things that made them happy on proud display. He didn't have to hide himself in his own home. He hadn't even noticed he'd been doing it before.

He'd hadn't noticed that he'd been hiding pieces of himself in cupboards and closets until he started living in a space where he could let himself loose. He perched the plush on the TV stand, smiling at it softly before taking the groceries to the kitchen.

Kacchan would be home soon, and the least Izuku could do was prep the ingredients since he was gonna cook. Katsuki would be excited to see the plush, too. It was a shared memory and he'd been pissed when he'd seen it on the spreadsheet and realized it was gone.

He'd just finished chopping veggies when Katsuki got home, slamming the front door behind him. Izuku paused, deciding whether that was a normal slam or an angry slam. It had a little more vigor behind it than usual. "I'm home, nerd!" "I heard you, Kacchan," he replied.

"Could be a burglar," Katsuki snickered, making his appearance after he'd taken off his shoes and jacket. Izuku raised an eyebrow. "A burglar wouldn't have made it to the door before being incapacitated," he drawled before refocusing on the onion he was cutting.

And that was the truth, too. Hatsume had upgraded his security. Anyone with unfamiliar biometrics would trapped in a gel-like substance that hardened on contact with biological material, then tased if they attempted to escape. She'd been inspired by electric fly traps.

Katsuki joined him in the kitchen, plucking the knife out of his hands and hip-checking him out of the way. It was for the best—Kacchan had faster knife skills. "Thanks, dork," he said, still snickering at the idea of someone burgling their place.

"Hey, look—your knife work is getting better! At least its all in even pieces," he teased. Izuku kicked him in the ankle, pouting. "Mean," Izuku huffed. At least he knew the extra strength in the door-slam wasn't negative. Kacchan seemed to be in a pretty good mood.

"You like me that way," Katsuki said, smirking. Yeah, he did. "No, I don't," he lied, turning his nose up. "I was gonna offer to help, but now I'm not gonna." "Good, now nothing will end up burnt!" Izuku scowled, even as his heart clenched. He was so lucky. He got to—

spend every day with Kacchan and he was so happy—even when Kacchan was being a butthead. It felt like puzzle pieces locking in place. They fit each other's empty spaces, and Izuku wanted to live the rest of his life in the presence of Kacchan's mean wit and playful banter.

"The only time I burnt dinner in the last six months is when *you* accidentally blew up the sink and I had to help stop the bathroom from being flooded!" He'd left the roasted carrots in the oven a *touch* too long as he tried to stop their house from turning into Atlantis.

"You could have *turned the fucking oven off,* Deku," he laughed. His stomach twisted. The laugh was mean and mocking, but in that special way that let him know that Kacchan was happy. God, they were both *happy.* It was such a relief. "You *blew up the bathroom!*"

"Whatever, nerd. Make yourself useful and clean up before the old people get here—or I'll never hear the end of it from Ma." Izuku stared around the room, frowning. Kacchan was such a neat-freak that the place was always pristine. "What needs cleaning?" he asked sincerely.

Katsuki rolled his eyes. "Just run a vacuum over the rug and straighten the couch cushions. Set the table. Put the shit on the side tables in neat stacks." No matter how many times Kacchan's parents visited, Izuku never understood how nit-picky he would get before they arrived.

He'd learn, though. He'd never needed things perfectly spick-and-span but if it mattered to Kacchan, he'd figure out how to cater to his dedication to neatness. He hoped so, at least. If it made Kacchan feel as at home and comfortable as he did, it was worth the effort to learn.

"Get the door?" Katsuki called from the kitchen, still hard at work when his parents rang their biometric doorbell. Izuku complied easily, opening the door for Mitsuki and Masaru and getting strangled as thanks. Mitsuki threw her arms around Izuku's neck, squeezing him in—

what was meant to be a hug but came off more like a python strangling its victim. "It's so good to see you, sweetheart," she cooed as Izuku's face slowly turned purple from lack of oxygen. "Katsuki is so greedy, he's keeps you all to himself—you should visit us without him."

"Sweetheart, you're strangling him," Masaru said, slipping his shoes off. She loosened her grip, but barely. "Why you wanted to live with that hellion, I'll never know," she sighed. "Is he treating you well, Izu?" "BACK THE FUCK OFF, HAG!" Katsuki bellowed from the kitchen.

"YOU BETTER BE TREATING THIS PRECIOUS BOY WELL, BRAT!" she screamed back. Finally, she released him and let him lead them to the living room as he gasped for air. "He's treating me fine, Auntie," he wheezed. "Probably too well, considering how much trouble I give him."

"He deserves it," she insisted. "Taking good care of you is payment for being a complete garbage goblin his entire life." He barked out a startled laugh, slapping his hand over his mouth a moment later so that Kacchan wouldn't hear him laugh at 'garbage goblin.'

"This is why we don't invite you over," Katsuki groused, stomping out of the kitchen to give his parents a reluctant hug. "You love us, don't lie," Mitsuki snickered. "We keep you humble, brat." Izuku watched fondly as they bickered—Katsuki's parents making themselves at home.

Their space was comfortable and welcoming—not just for them, but for their friends and family, too. They blended in without a second thought, and that made him unfathomably happy. His mother had always been on edge when he'd lived with Ochako, no matter how much he'd assured—

her she could make herself comfortable. "Can I get you anything to drink?" he asked them. "Don't be ridiculous, kiddo. Katsuki can get it for us, you come catch up with us!" she said, smile soft and adoring. Katsuki scowled at her, but stomped away to get her her a glass of—

white wine, and a Sapporo for his dad. As annoyed as he pretended to be, Kacchan couldn't hide how glad he was to have them there. He'd had made his mom's favorites for dinner—a Thai curry and some random side dishes. The evening was *fun.* Time spent with Kacchan's parents—

was always fun. At this point, they were as much his family as Katsuki's, and he was so glad to have them around more often. If he didn't think Kacchan would explode, he'd have them over every week. "How has it been since you took on all those new sidekicks?" Mitsuki asked.

After dinner, Katsuki had kicked them to the couches to chat while he tidied up. Izuku had tried to help, and he'd gotten whipped in the face with a dish towel. "It's been challenging," he admitted. "Especially with managing more than one district. But we've been—

handling it okay. We've had a lot of support." "That's good," Masaru smiled. "We were worried that it might be too big a workload for the two of you alone." "Tensei has been working with us as he reshapes Idaten," he explained. "And we've taken on a lot of Idaten's staff, too."

"They're basically staying in the same fuckin' roles, just under our agency," Katsuki said, rejoining them. He flopped into the seat next to Izuku, kicking his feet up on the coffee table and throwing his arm over the back of the sofa. "It's true, they already know—

everything about the area and how it needs to run," Izuku agreed. "We just need to administrate them." "And what about your collection?" Mitsuki asked. "Any luck?" "I've had lots friends and a handful of fans find and return some of it," Izuku said, smiling softly. "I've—

gotten about half of it back, which is more than I could have hoped for, honestly." "Well, I'm glad," Masaru offered. "Half is a little surprising though. I'd have thought Katsuki would have found most of it by himself by now. It's all he ever does in his free time."

Katsuki went stiff beside him, even as Mitsuki nodded. "He keeps having shit delivered to *our* place," she sighed. "Checking over each thing to make sure its actually yours." Izuku turned to stare at the side of Katsuki's face. Katsuki, for his part, stared straight ahead,—

poker face in place. Katsuki had maybe found *three* of his collection pieces and returned them to him. Something was up. "Stop exaggerating, assholes," he huffed. Masaru raised his eyebrows and caught Mitsuki's eyes. Izuku watched their silent conversation, fascinated.

"That's right," Masaru piped up with a nervous smile. "The security system, right son? You didn't want to accept deliveries here because delivery people aren't authorized?" "That carpet you have upstairs sat in our living room fore three weeks," Mitsuki agreed.

Unfortunately for both of them, Izuku had known them since he was four. He knew when they were being evasive. More importantly, he knew when *Kacchan* was being evasive. For starters, Katsuki—who had the shittiest poker face ever—would clench his jaw when he was under pressure.

Usually, he'd get away with it because when he clenched his jaw, all Izuku could focus on was how razor-sharp his jawline was. Kacchan was a work of art, it was a shame he didn't model more. But right now it was different. It wasn't vague evasiveness, it was situation specific.

Despite the *burning* curiosity, he smiled. "Probably for the best," he said. "The last thing I want is to be sued for electrocuting a delivery person." The tension cracked, both parents chuckling as Katsuki relaxed beside him. His jaw was still clenched, though.

Izuku could see the tension in Katsuki's shoulders as they walked his parents to the door later that night. It hadn't gone away since Masaru's slip-up. He wondered if he should bring it up at all, but his curiosity was *eating* at him. They washed and dried the dishes—

moving in quiet harmony. Izuku wasn't sure how to bring it up, especially since Kacchan seemed to be relaxing. He didn't want to break that comfort. "How did the reviews go?" Katsuki asked abruptly. "I just realized I didn't—" "Are you kidding?" Izuku interrupted.

Katsuki fell silent, looking at him with wide eyes. "We can talk about that if you really want to, but are you really gonna pretend I didn't hear what your parents said?" Katsuki sighed, clenching his jaw again as he closed his eyes in frustration.

"Seriously, they were exaggerating. Besides, most of the shit I send to them is crap for the house, like the armchair." "You inspected and *armchair* before bringing it home?" Izuku asked, incredulous. Fascinatingly, Kacchan's face went pink.


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