Every person is made of infinite people. They live in our pasts, our futures, our subconsciousness. If anyone cared to trace them back to where they were born--most people don’t, most people hate to acknowledge that they don’t live alone in their bodies--they’d find these people’s seeds planted in their souls and their roots, all unique and sprawling and undying, crawling next to their veins, enfolding their bones and hugging their hearts.
Humans don’t live forever, but the they do.
The people look different. Some have devil’s horns tucked below their locks, their knuckles split, teeth yellowed and eyes bloodshot. Others wear long, flowy white dresses, with blooming dandelions braided into their hair. A couple would pull them out, one by one, carefully balance the fragile stem between their forefinger and thumb, and blow, delicately, watching the little fuzzy seeds take hold in the wind and scatter.
These people are born, and reborn, over and over again. They’re some sort of unknown, internal reincarnations of each other that, instead of dying to create new people, split apart like bacteria, bulbs growing from the bottom-most root and slowly unfurrow in a sort of metaphysical, asexual reproduction.
Katsuki’s first person is tiny. He has a small, messy, blonde floccule of hair smashed against the crown of his head. His legs are so short and stubby they’re rendered virtually unusable, leaving him to helplessly fall onto his face whenever he tries to totter around. He cries a lot. Little tears sprout from his inner eyes at their slightest convenience, leaving him with a wet, blubbering tincture at almost all times. He sleeps a lot, right in the back of his skull behind his brain and swaddled in a cocoon of bone and cerebrospinal fluid.
He doesn’t do much but sleep, but when he is awake he only answers to the name Kacchan. That’s fine; Katsuki doesn’t really need him. He’s already made a friend--his first friend!--who’s mom is friends with his mom and whenever Mrs. Midoriya comes around she’ll leave Izuku--that’s his friend’s name--with him, the two of them together on the floor of Katsuki’s living room under the distracted supervision of his father while she and his mom talk and laugh in boisterous voices at the kitchen table.
Katsuki’s a good host. He shares his little rattle with Izuku whenever he comes over and doesn’t get mad whenever he hogs the blocks. Slowly, their pudgy, ineffectual baby bodies morph into limber little toddler limbs. Their toys get cast away in favor of the great outdoors. Katsuki grows, and a burgeoning desire to do anything and everything ignites within him. Kacchan spends his time stradling the highest branch of the big beech tree that sits as the centerpiece of the neighborhood park. He peers through the thick, leafy canopy and up at the sun. It was harsh; solar rays assaulting his unprotected eyes and making him squint. It hurts to look at, but he was allured in a masochistic, entranced sort of way.
He kind of wants to touch it.
Izuku dodders around still, his head slightly too large for the rest of him. He moves like a bobble head. Katsuki doesn’t mind; Izuku’s always been a little bit strange, with his obsession with anyone and everything around him. He doesn’t climb up the tree with him, not through lack of desire, but a lack of coordination. His arms--like sticks in both appearance and frailty--wildly shake whenever he works up the courage to try and pull himself up onto the first branch, and his grip eventually slackens, leaving him to feebly tumble back to the ground.
Katsuki’s his friend, so he doesn’t laugh like the rest of the kids even if it’s stupid that ‘Zuku can’t make it up the tree. He just needs to try harder. His mom always tells him that incompetence isn’t an excuse for failure, that when he doesn’t succeed that he just needs to try harder. Guts make the world turn, after all.
They enter primary school together, in the same class. Izuku’s mom and Katsuki’s dad walk them up to the school building together on the first day. Mrs. Midoriya squashed a blushing Izuku between her arms, little tears leaking onto his shirt.
Katsuki’s father rests a hand on his shoulder, and squeezes. It says more than words ever could. Make us proud. Reach for the sky and when you get there, go for space.
The stars won’t be enough for Katsuki, he needs the planets; only the Milky Way and then some can satisfy his ambitions. Katsuki straightens his shoulders, adjusts his backpack straps, and walks into the building.
The other boy, freed from the confines of his mother’s hug, eagerly scampers in minutes later. Katsuki is already seated at his desk, and ignores Izuku when he tries to come sit by him.
Katsuki’s here to succeed, not make friends. He doesn’t need them to reach the top and the top is all that matters.
Weeks pass; Izuku stops trying to talk to him before class. They leave school together, but Katsuki’s mind is elsewhere.
He turns in all his schoolwork on time. They’re always returned with perfect marks. He hears the adults talk, sometimes. What a prodigy, he once heard a teacher mutter. What a gifted child, one of his mom’s friends had said whilst visiting. His mom’s always pleased whenever he garners those comments. His dad would proudly pat his head. This is success, Katsuki thought. He likes it when his parents act like that. It feels like he’s making them happy.
Katsuki exudes confidence. He must. For every achievement Izuku has, Katsuki does it better. He gets a rush every time, he is good enough. Anything less than perfection is unacceptable; its failure.
Katsuki doesn’t fail.
When he’s five, his quirk comes in. It’s dramatic and loud and destructive and when he ran in the house to tell his mom she grinned. “Finally,” she said. “You had us waiting long enough.”
Both of his parents are ecstatic, their son has a quirk! And a loud, flashy, powerful one at that. It’s everything they could’ve asked for.
Izuku...doesn’t. Not yet, at least. That’s fine, his will come in eventually. He’s always been a bit slower than Katsuki anyway.
Izuku kind of reminds him of Kacchan, actually. A bit too blubbery and a bit too short and a bit too disappointing. Katsuki’s not disappointing, he knows it every time he can feel the burn in his palms after sneaking away to practice his explosions. He’s going to be someone someday.
He doesn’t know exactly when this started, but there is a little bulb growing on one of the roots occupying his chest.
It’s large and red and veiny. It’s a little bit revolting to look at, but it pulses as it grows.
It goes from a little leafy nub, to a protruding, semi-circle-like wart, to an angry, pear-shaped boil. There’s a person in there. Some version of Katsuki he isn’t sure he wants to meet.
Slowly, it begins to bloom, but not like any sort of flower Katsuki’s ever seen. It hatches, like an egg, covered in pus and blood and all sorts of other things he doesn’t want to think about. It’s disgusting.
His name is Bakugou. He is Kacchan reborn. They have the same tuft of hair, but Bakugou’s is longer, less soft. He’s all grown up and towers over Katsuki.
Bakugou is sharp where Kacchan is not. He’s like some kind of fortress, impenetrable. He smirks a lot more than both Kacchan and Katsuki.
They wait. Nothing happens.
The years pass, the two of them don’t talk about it, but Izuku’s lack of quirk is like a heartbeat thrumming under every one of their conversations. It’s desperate and irregular and begging. Katsuki finds things like that pathetic.
So, instead of obsessing over his own quirk, Izuku turns to everyone else's--including Katsuki’s. He carries around this stupid notebook, all worn and waterlogged from extended usage, and takes notes about all of them like they’re lab rats in his big experiments. Katsuki hates it.
He doesn’t do one big thing to make Katsuki snap, rather he commits little grievances that sap at his patience and empathy until there's nothing left. It’s like he doesn’t live alone in his skin anymore, there’s always Izuku, dissecting him, like some sort of project; like his success can be quantified and analyzed instead of admired. He’s put his whole body into quirk training, into studying, into reaching the top, and Izuku makes him feel like none of it matters, because he’s under the microscope either way. It makes Bakugou rattle around in his skull in the way an angry prisoner would pound on their cell bars. His mind becomes a hellscape.
Bakugou stalks around like a tiger on the hunt. He’s snappish, angry, easy to annoy and slow to calm. Kacchan has taken to curling up in the corner to muffle his sniffles. Whenever Bakugou walks past him, he huddles into a little ball, afraid of being struck. He’s a tyrant, and he’s Katsuki.
One afternoon, after school and he finished all his homework, Izuku came over for the night. Mrs. Midoriya was out of town visiting family, which left the two of them huddled under the blankets in Katsuki’s room. He hated sleepovers--they made him feel exposed, like the other person could see all his weaknesses in his sleep.
The night ends with Katsuki yelling for Izuku to get out of his face, out of his life. He ignores the way Izuku’s big eyes expand even more and flood with unshed tears. He calls him Deku.
When Katsuki’s mom comes in to check out the ruckus, Deku looks at Katsuki, and says nothing. He doesn’t understand why.
That’s their last sleepover together.
The years fade. Katsuki grows; so does Deku. It doesn’t change much. Life is reduced to colors, with no lines, no shape, no dimension. He has memories, but none that truly matter. It’s as if he’s sleeping; eyes shut, resting in a comatose state where his senses are muddled and his emotions wither. In that time, Bakugou reigns. He’s a tyrant. Kacchan spends most of his time cowering in the corner, crying. He’s bruised and bloody and woeful and Katsuki often finds himself wondering if he should’ve done more to keep him safe.
Katsuki only awakens when Deku is standing right in front of him, wide-eyed and betrayed. He doesn’t know where he is, or see any colors, or feel anything. He’s not even sure if he’s in control of his body.
There are words frozen on the tip of his tongue. He is stuck, he is defenseless. He is a bystander to his own mind. He is being demolished from inside out, his brain torn apart by an angry storm of rage and repression and jealousy. He is the cause.
Katsuki is his own prisoner; he is both slave and master. His fingertips rest on the trigger of the barrel pressing into his skull. He is a dichotomy. He is powerless to his actions and in control of himself at the same time.
He watches helplessly as he chooses to open his mouth and tell Deku to take a swan dive off the school roof.
There’s only a blurry clarity, after that. He doesn’t know what he does right after; doesn’t remember Deku’s face. All he sees is Bakugou looming over Kacchan. The boy curls into a little ball. He’s rocking back and forth, trying to sooth himself. Tears are rolling down his face. He reminds Katsuki of Deku, all blubbery and afraid and weak.
Bakugou looks like a lion, with a murderous stare and sharp canines that may as well be dripping blood. He is overly large, and growing still. He looks like a monster going in for the kill, and Kacchan is the poor gazelle that got in his way.
Katsuki watches as the first punch lands. And the second. And the third. He loses count after that. He can’t move, but he’s unrestrained. His limbs won’t listen but his mind will, and his mind is silent. He doesn’t try to intervene.
Another punch. Another cry. He tries to close his eyes and ignore it but he can’t. He can’t do anything. There’s blood on the ground. Katsuki’s standing still and there's blood on the ground.
Another punch, another cry. Another punch, another cry. Another punch, ano-
Kacchan is unmoving, not even a twitch. Red is dripping from Bakugou’s firsts, from his teeth, from his eyes. Katsuki can only see red, red, red. The red of Deku’s stupid fucking sneakers. The red that adorns All Might’s costume. The red of the blisters that covered Katsuki’s hands after quirk training. It washes out his vision, until he is blind to anything else.
Kacchan does not move. He is colorless, but he’s covered in red. It’s a dichotomy but it makes perfect sense, slotting right in next to the mess that’s Katsuki’s brain and sharp, pointed teeth that seem to take up Bakugou’s whole face every time he smiles.
Red, red, red. It’s everywhere. Katsuki can’t escape it. It’s crawling around his brain, staining his skull’s ceiling and dripping down until Katsuki’s floating atop the ocean.
He feels nothing. He doesn’t feel anything for a long time.
It’s not like before when there were only colors. This time, it’s like there’s just flashes. He’s still Katsuki but without Kacchan. He can feel Bakugou rearing around inside him. All he knows now is success. He has to succeed, he has to go beyond.
He takes the UA entry exam. He already knew what the results would be when he opened his letter. He very pointedly doesn’t think about Deku when he sees All Might, or even Kacchan, oh so little and wide-eyed, staring at an All Might poster in the supermarket.
He shows his acceptance to his mother and father at dinner. His mom smiles, His dad pats him on the shoulder. He feels nothing.
He meets his new class. He feels nothing. He sees Deku, all strong now, and feels like someone just slapped him in the face.
How dare he care now. How dare he believe he’s worked hard enough to stand toe to toe with Katsuki when he spent their entire childhood sitting on his ass. The fire in his stomach burns until there's nothing but pain and ash and blood on his tongue.
He has classmates, but Katsuki doesn’t bother with most of them. The truly interesting ones half-ass everything they do and everyone else is mediocre.
There’s this group of idiots standing around him after
The kid with the dumb hair’s eyes are shining. He might even go as far as to say that he was close to bursting into tears. “You’re so manly dude!”
Katsuki huffs. “Of fucking course I am.”
Impossibly, the kid’s eyes shine brighter.
Still, the months pass. Things change. One time, at a lunch where he was coerced (see: forced) into sitting down with the rest of the class, next to the pink bitch. She talks with her mouth open and far too loud. He tells her as such and Shitty Hair just gives him this piercing look. Katsuki wasn’t aware that the preppy extra could even get angry. “We have names too, you know. We fought for a spot in the class, same as you, so you could at least put in the effort to learn them.”
Katsuki scoffs, and walks away.
Months pass. Silence. Bakugou prowls and Katsuki pretends he’s alone in his mind.
He was kidnapped. Someone got the jump on him, like he was just some weak extra.
There are too many emotions, too many people. Officers float in and out of the station lobby. Someone hands him a styrofoam cup filled with some sort of lukewarm green tea, and his hands shake so hard that the liquid spills all over his knees. No one stops to help him clean up. Katsuki lets the drink dry into his pants.
A quiet moment. The precinct fades away. He’s in his mind. It’s red. It’s a mess. Bakugou presides over everything in a sort of dumb-stunned silence. Katsuki can’t move.
I don’t wanna be like them. Bakugou doesn’t answer, and there’s only silence.
Silence. There’s always silence. It’s heavy and berating and he doesn’t know why he expected it to be any different.
The ground shakes. Katsuki looks down.
One of the branches that leads to his soul starts twitching. A tiny, little bulb, all orange and green, emerges, and begins to form.
He doesn’t know what to do with that, so he closes his eyes, and pretends that he doesn’t feel Shigaraki hand enclosing around his neck.
Months pass. Nothing changes, and then everything does.
Shitty Hair and his group of morons morph from strangers to annoyances to something else completely. Shitty Hair goes from Extra to Dumb Hair to Kirishima. Katsuki doesn’t quite know what to do about that. It makes Bakugou snarl and his heart achingly long for Kacchan.
He hasn’t thought about Kacchan in a while, but his mind is still red, and Bakugou still drips with blood.
More importantly, Deku grows a spine. He’s bigger now, almost as big as Katsuki. He wonders if it had always been that way, and if he was just too blind to see it.
They were fighting, but Katsuki doesn’t know what. The whole world has gone numb. It happens a lot. All he knows is that something Deku said punctured through the reddish slog filling his mind.
“You’re just the same person you were in middle school! It’s no wonder Shigaraki thought you’d join the league!” Deku looks horrified about what he said. Katsuki is struck speechless.
There’s only silence. It haunts him.
Kirishima finds him. He doesn’t wait for permission and sits down. He does stuff like that a lot. Katsuki doesn’t stop him.
“I don’t think you used to be a very good person.” He doesn’t wait for any confirmation. “Maybe you were a bully, or a dickhead, or h\Hell, even a villain. I think you made life a lot harder for Midoriya. I don’t think I’d like that you very much.” He pauses. “But I don’t think you like him very much either.”
Katsuki doesn’t say anything, but that’s enough for Kirishima.
“But I don’t think that’s you anymore.” His eyes snap up to meet Kirishima’s. The boy is scratching his head sheepishly. “Or at least, not to me.” He swallows. “Have you ever wondered what kind of person you are? I have. I still do. I want to be brave, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop being the same scared wimp I was in middle school.” A wistful look takes over Kirishima’s face. He looks like a hero, like he belongs on one of those posters Katsuki used to look at when he was in primary school, like someone Katsuki would like to be. “And...and maybe that’s okay. That kid didn’t stop existing when I changed, he’s still there, “ he taps on his forehead, “up in here. But now, instead of being afraid, I think I’m brave too.”
Katsuki’s throat is dry. He feels like he hasn’t drank water in years. When he speaks, it comes out in a croak. “You’re brave.” He pauses, feeling the weight of Kirishima’s stare and his rapiding flushing cheeks press on him. “To me, at least.”
He smiles. “Not to everyone.”
Not to everyone.
Life washes away into red. The bulb is wiggling around, ready to burst.
Slowly the leaves part and dissolve. A man remains.
He’s tall and blonde and muscular. He has weary skin and crimson eyes but a boyish face. He’s frowning, it’s nothing compared to the scowl that’s permanently attached to Bakugou.
He kind of looks like Kacchan...but not. He looks over at Katsuki, and his lips quirk upwards into a grim smile. He nods.
Katsuki knows what he has to do. He springs up, ignoring Kirishima, and sprints to the door.
He throws it open, and so much more. He can see Izuku, five years old, and wide eyed, laughing with Kacchan as he runs past. There’s them on the first day of school, Izuku clinging to his mom in front of the doors. Kacchan walks ahead, alone.
There's a thousand memories, with a thousand Izuku’s and infinite Katsuki’s. The two of them blur as he runs, metamorphosing from Izuku and Kacchan to Deku and Bakugou.
Bakugou looms over Deku. His words are like battering rams, slamming into Deku over and over again. The boy turns black blue and red, until the colors all blur together in a rainbow of cool-toned bruises.
Suddenly, there’s green. And pink. And yellow. And this bi-colored split between white and red.
There is the color of cheap cherry hair dye. It waves at him. It’s brave. Katsuki thinks it’s the closest he’s ever seen to truly good. It whispers in his ear, “not to everyone.”
Not to everyone.
What is a hero? Is it a champion? A warrior? A social worker, an empath? Is it society’s superstar or their destroyer?
Are heroes good people? Do they have to be? Katsuki’s not a good person, hasn’t been for a long time. Maybe he never was. Maybe he never will be. But…
But he sees that stupid hair dye, both too bright and too dull and too smiley and too afraid and also the bravest thing he’s ever seen, and he wants to be. He wants to be the person people know not because he’s angry, or an asshole, but because he’s dependable, and good.
He wants to be a good person. Is it too late? With Bakugou ruling his mind and the blood of Kacchan dried on the floor.
He stops in front of a door, and doesn’t knock. He throws it open.
Dek-- Izuku looks up, startled. His eyes are wide. He looks young. He is young. Katsuki’s young. They’re all young, kids really, playing heroes in a scary world.
He wonders--is Izuku a good person? Are any of them?
Katsuki must look insane, over-blown pupils and mussed hair. He thinks he might be going just a bit crazy.
Izuku opens his mouth--probably to apologize for earlier, but earlier seemed like an eternity ago, all he knows is the present standing in Izuku’s doorway--but Katsuki doesn’t let him speak.
He made a choice all those years ago to raise his hand to Izuku. He made a choice to barrage and beat him. He made a choice that day, back in middle school, to tell him to end his life.
Katsuki makes a choice now, in the present, as both the same person as his childhood and a completely different one, to open his mouth and say, “I’m sorry.”
There is silence. Katsuki’s spent his whole life in silence, but this time all the colors, usually muted and washing past his eyes, are bright and vibrant. Everything is hyper defined and dynamic in a way he’s never experienced before.
Not-Kacchan stands taller than Katsuki’s ever seen him. He looks regal in a way that Bakugou could never achieve. He looks like a hero, a long blade cradled in his palm and a grim frown resting on his face. He’s like an angel looming over a cowering demon, prepared to banish him back to the depths of Hell.
He holds the sword against Bakugou's throat. His eyes narrow. Katsuki sucks in a breath. He tries to close his eyes, but he’s stuck, frozen.
There's a metallic slashing sound, followed by a wet gurgling noise. Iron fills the air, and red once again bleeds into his vision. Katsuki’s swimming in it.
Izuku’s staring at him. He swallows. He has big eyes, Katsuki thinks. Maybe there’s someone living up in his brain too. “Kacchan,” he says slowly. “I don’t accept your apology.”
Covered in red, Bakugou’s heart sputters, and continues to beat. Not-Kacchan drops his sword and cries.
They both survive.