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I can't believe no one has written any "self-insert as Bakugou" fanfics yet what a bunch of cowards

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Being reincarnated is like realizing you’ve been driving your usual route home without remembering the last several miles. It isn’t until I’m almost three that I start to feel odd about the way I see the world. Like it’s… different. Which is strange, because as a two-year-old child I have only rarely been outside of my house and certainly shouldn’t have any frame of reference for comparison, and yet… sometimes when I look at Tou-san I want to call him Daddy and sometimes when I hear my Mother raise her voice, I go quiet and still and find myself surprised when… something fails to happen, although nothing has ever followed Kaa-san’s frequent outbursts other than Tou-san’s gentle laughter and some aggressive snuggling.

The feeling grows as I do, niggling at my thoughts as I occasionally fumble my words when sounds I’ve never made try to force their way in between syllables. R’s and L’s and Th’s where there should be nothing but clean and precise Japanese. It creeps into my dreams when my mind borrows faces I’ve never seen to populate its storylines. It eats at me as I go through potty-training and keep accidentally making a mess because I forget that that part sticks out now it never stuck out before what-

I’m three years old when the feeling surpasses simple dysphoria and hits a new level of okay what the actual fuck? Kaa-san’s old friend from college had gotten in touch and it turns out the other woman has a son my age – and as this sort of situation demands, the two of us are thrown together for a “playdate” so that our mothers can catch up over tea.

The names – Auntie Inko, Midoriya Izuku-chan – send alarm bells ringing through my mind, but it’s the hair that stops me in my tracks. So far in my short life, I’d rarely seen anyone other than my parents up close, and those two… Well, Kaa-san’s red eyes were a bit odd, but not unheard of, and her pale hair makes them seem… more normal, somehow. And Tou-san’s hair and eyes were a natural, easy-to-swallow brown. But Izuku… Izuku and his Mom have green hair. Like, it’s the same color as their damn eyes, and it’s natural, based on the eyebrows and arm hair I can see growing on the two of them. My brain stalls as this attempts to compute, and I end up just staring at Izuku blankly in silence after our parents leave us to get acquainted.

The smaller boy looks more and more nervous as my silence continues, but I can’t seem to get over his hair color. Not because it’s green, no. Something about that feels less alarming than the fact that I think green is not a natural hair color.

Because even at three years old, I realize that this thought is not based on any sort of inexperience or naivety. It is a different feeling than I’ve never seen hair that color or I didn’t know hair could be green. It is a distinct, wholly-formed fact that I believe hair cannot naturally be green, and the fact that I can’t understand where it comes from has me more than a little freaked out.

The sudden feeling of hands on my shoulders startles me so much that I lash out without thinking, shoving the green-haired boy off balance (shaky at best when one is three years old) and causing him to land on his butt in the grass, staring up at me with shocked and watery green eyes. I suck in a shaky, gasping breath, only now realizing I had stopped breathing, and feel tremors running through my body. Panic attack? I think, and then quickly shove the thought away as my whole being screams about how I shouldn’t know that-

Nope, okay. Focus. There’s a small child crying in front of you. My stomach twists in half-remembered feelings of tenderness as the image of several different children (and I realize I’ve seen them before, in a dream…) staring beseechingly up at me are briefly overlaid on the one in front of me. Ellie... Sam… I shake off the strange sadness and focus on the urge to comfort, kneeling down and wincing as the other boy flinches at the motion.

“Ah, umm…” I clench my jaw, feeling frustration rise at my stuttering. I hated feeling awkward more than anything. “I didn’t mean to scare you.” I manage, not quite an apology, especially with how my cheeks are puffed out poutingly to cover my embarrassment (although the warmth in them tells me I’m failing). I glare at the ground and feel my hands clench into fists as my discomfort rises. “Didn’t mean to push you either.” I mumble.

“I-It’s okay!” The slightly shaky quality of the voice draws my gaze from the ground with a painful twinge of that same half-remembered care (Ellie… Sam…) “It… it was an accident. Um.” And a new look overtakes his face, eyes widening impossibly more and his whole face melting into something soft and concerned that made me want to run away. “Are you okay, Ka- Kact- Katz- Kacchan?”

The name sends a jolt of alarm up my spine, and I stand up so suddenly Izuku flinches back again (I ignore the guilt this action brings up).

“I’m fine.” I grunt. “Let’s play swings.” And with that incredibly smooth diversion, I successfully distract the other boy and we pass our playdate in an uncharacteristically (for me) subdued manner until our mothers return to the yard to collect us and send Izuku home. It’s as Auntie Inko leans down and tells Izuku to “say goodbye to Katsuki-chan, Izuku.” That I finally manage to muster up some of my usual energy in an effort to keep my mother from noticing anything off.

“G-Goodbye Kacchan.” Izuku stutters, turning red as both Auntie Inko and Kaa-san “awwww” at the childish nickname. My cheeks warm as well, but I channel the embarrassment into annoyance as is my habit, and glare at Kaa-san for her teasing. This just manages to make her coo louder, to my chagrin.

“Bye, Zuku.” I look away from the greenette, scuffing my toe on the ground. I feel like I should add something – I’m not usually so quiet. “Next time we’ll play All Might and Supervillains.” It’s not an invitation so much as an order, but social graces are not my strong suit (never had been – no, stop.)

“Yeah!” The cheerful cry is enough to draw my attention to the other boy, and I regret it as soon as I lay eyes on him. His smile is blindingly bright, showing all his little milk teeth as his freckled cheeks dimple slightly from the force of it. He looks like I’ve just caught the moon for him, and I feel that strange deja-vu mixed with a healthy dose of panic flood my veins with embarrassed adrenaline, and in a brilliant attempt to cover up my discomfort, I pull a face and stick my tongue out, before pivoting on my heel and running into the house and away from the consequences of my actions.

I can vaguely hear Kaa-san apologizing for her “adorable little brat” before I crawl into the space under my bed and bury my face in my hands, slowly counting out each breath and desperately trying not to think about how I learned to cope with anxiety when I shouldn’t even have it.

When Kaa-san finally calls me down for dinner that night, she decides to wait a bit before inviting Inko and Izuku over again. “Maybe playdates are a bit much for you right now, huh, Katsuki?” And although the hair-ruffle she follows with is infuriatingly patronizing, I can’t argue. I had a lot to think about before I would be ready to face Izuku again.

 

 

After several more playdates and three months of thinking, I’ve come to terms with a few facts about myself:

  1. My name is Bakugou Katsuki, and I am the only son of Bakugou Mitsuki and Masaru. I take after my mother in both looks and temperament, but my father is the one who can get me to open up when I’m in a Mood. Despite knowing that I am their son, and dealing with the obvious physical evidence of this fact every time I have to use the bathroom, I can’t help but think that this seems… wrong, somehow. I look so much like my mother, and my eyes follow her graceful movements, her soft, manicured hands, the gentle swell of her breasts…
  2. I’m three years old, I have white-blond hair so fine gravity doesn’t seem to affect it, and red eyes that make me look like I’m glaring constantly. My parents are the only adults who ever call me cute, other than Auntie Inko. And yet sometimes I forget this and tilt my head, or widen my eyes in a way that I expect to get me what I want, only to have it backfire in my face as I only manage to look conniving. My fluffy white hair sometimes alarms me when I catch sight of it out of the corner of my eye, when I have the feeling that soft brown locks should be brushing my cheeks instead. I have the idea that I should be soft and cute and gentle-looking, and there’s a strange disconnect that comes over me when people treat me so differently than I would expect based on this unfounded belief in my own cuteness.
  3. I have anxiety, which tends to rise up when the feelings of wrongness get stronger. It can happen at unexpected times, like when I first saw a hero fight on TV and could only think that can’t be real that can’t be real that can’t be real. It can also come on slowly, pushed down until it all bursts out the minute I’m alone. The second kind is the worst, but it’s the one I prefer, as it allows me to hide while I wait out the panic. When the disconnect gets really bad, sometimes I don’t panic at all, instead slipping sideways into a strangely distant feeling that my mind helpfully labels as dissociation. This usually happens when I spend too much time with Izuku, or I start to think about All Might, and his Quirk One for All and how I know so much about both of them that I shouldn’t know I shouldn’t know-
  4. My best friend is named Midoriya Izuku. He’s also three years old and he has green hair and green eyes and he calls me “Kacchan” because he can’t say my name without lisping and he loves All Might more than anyone I know. He’s also quirkless, although he doesn’t know that yet, and he’s going to be the greatest hero in our generation, and I’m supposed to be his rival and his inspiration and his tormentor all in one, but even as my mind screams I shouldn’t know this I shouldn’t know this an even bigger part of me screams I can’t I can’t I’m not him I’m not him and sometimes it all gets to be too much and I have to cut my time with Izuku short so that I can find a quiet place to sit down and hyperventilate. He’s still my best friend though. Our Mothers wouldn’t settle for anything less.
  5. I’m going to get my quirk soon, and it’s going to be amazing.

Chapter Text

About three weeks after turning four, a spider lands on my shoulder.  In a knee-jerk reaction based on a lifetime of being creeped out by anything with more than four legs, my hand comes up to smack it before I consider how I might regret it - how careful I’ve been with my hands since my fourth birthday has passed. Unfortunately for the poor spider, my precautions prove well-founded as my quirk decides to take this chance to activate. It’s not a huge explosion, considering I’m only a kid, but the first time using a quirk is always a bit dramatic, as it’s been building up for a while (or at least that’s what Kaa-san says). It’s enough to blow a smoldering hole in my favorite All Might tee shirt and reduce the spider to nothing but a memory. Thank god my skin is apparently at least partially resistant to my own explosions, as I am not missing any pieces afterwards, but it still leaves a mark like a bad sunburn where my hand had been.

Kaa-san screams and drops the pan she was washing when I decide to break the news by running into the kitchen clapping wildly to generate small explosions between my palms. Nitroglycerin, I know (in that eerie way I’m starting to get used to) is an explosive substance set off by concussive force – a contact explosive, and in its pure form one of the most powerful high explosives in existence. It has a high freezing temperature of only about 10 Celsius, 55 Fahrenheit, and can also be rendered inert by the addition of ethanol or acetone, in a pinch. The fact that I sweat out such an insanely unstable substance is bound to make life more complicated, especially when I factor in its historical use as a vasodilator for treating chest pain and lowering blood pressure. It had been easy to tell my quirk was coming soon when I had gotten a head rush any time I stood up too quickly, showing that my blood pressure was unnaturally low. It isn’t a substance meant to be introduced to the body regularly, so I’ll need to keep an eye out for any medical problems, but…

But this is amazing. I can’t stop myself from grinning as I feel the miniature shockwaves sent out from every tiny explosion I produce. Nitroglycerin was not a naturally occurring substance. It had to be carefully derived from glycerin using only specific nitrate acid solutions, and even then, it’s dangerous and difficult to ship and store safely. For my sweat glands to just casually produce it breaks so many laws of science and physics and logic that I kind of want to scream but at the same time the part of me that yells why did I even bother getting a physics degree?! Is also begging me to test, play, experiment. And oh how I can’t resist that siren’s call.

 

For the next few months, I forget about the ominous knowledge that sometimes rises up from my mind where there should be none. I forget about how green hair shouldn’t exist and how nitroglycerin is too unstable a substance for me to be able to control my explosions as well as I can. (Because why the hell should my opinion have any effect on whether or not an unstable explosive substance is going to go off? Chemistry is not supposed to rely on willpower.) I forget about heroes and villains and stories and protagonists, and all I can focus on is the both new and familiar need to learn.

I design all sorts of tests for my quirk, dutifully taking the pills my doctor had prescribed me to counteract my quirk’s effects on my blood pressure. I start with simple variables, temperature, force, speed. Little calculations of momentum and carefully hidden graphs showing the distance a toy car will roll along my carefully marked-out track if I launch it with varying methods of producing explosive force. Out of a deeply-ingrained habit of lab safety, and a genre-savvy understanding that eyes are always the weak point, I beg Tou-san until he buys me a pair of All-Might safety goggles. I test out all the different methods of rendering my nitroglycerin inert that the quirk doctor recommended (which he totally just googled while my mother was looking over the rest of the paperwork) and, after finding that ethanol seemed to be the most effective, followed by freezing, I set out to find ways to reconstitute the desensitized solutions.

I’m so absorbed in my new project that it’s a surprise to hear about anything else. Not that people never talk about anything other than my new quirk (I receive plenty of praise, but that would be a bit extreme, even for this illogical world) but I just tend to get tunnel-vision when I am interested in something. Other subjects roll over me without registering, greetings and small talk go in one ear and out the other, and very little manages to tear my attention away for longer than it takes to eat and sleep.

It’s the strange, pitying tone to the teacher’s voice that pulls my head up from where I’d been exploding blades of grass in an instinctively angry glare. A knee-jerk reaction from Kaa-san’s teasing patronization. But it’s not me the teacher is speaking to, instead he seems to be making an announcement to the class while staring directly at Izuku. He talks about how everyone is different and how we should treat our classmates kindly and play gently with those who might not be as strong or fast as we are with our quirks… Oh.

“Izuku-kun has been diagnosed as Quirkless.” The teacher says to the group of impressionable kindergarteners as if he is announcing that the green-haired boy will be dying from cancer before the week is out. “So make sure to take care of him during playtime and share your toys, okay?” The kids chorus a confused “Yes, teacher.” Before going back to what they were doing, but everyone is now shooting Izuku sideways looks, clearly trying to see whatever it was their teacher saw that made him so different. Izuku, for his part, looks like his entire world has just ended. He stares glassy-eyed into the distance like an empty puppet, and the image only seems to further the other children’s conclusions that he is Different and Weird. I should feel bad for him, but I hate pity and I refuse to direct it at anyone else, so all I feel is vaguely annoyed that he’s making this worse for himself than it already is

 “Hey, Deku.” I call out, standing up from my little experiment for the first time that day. The green-haired boy jerks to attention at the sound of my nickname for him. I’d pretended to misread his name the first time he showed me he could write it last month, and had continued using it as retaliation to his insistence on calling me “Kacchan” even though he can pronounce my name correctly now. If nothing else, having unique names for each other mean we can always get the other’s attention. “Why are you acting like you’ve lost something? You’ve been quirkless this whole time. Nothing’s changed.”

My comforting shoulder-bump ends up being more of a shove and Izuku ends up face-down in the dirt. Oops. His comically splayed-out limbs pull a snicker out of me despite my best intentions, but the sound of laughter from behind me kills the mirth in my chest. That laughter sounds mean, sounds mocking… and compared to mine from an outside perspective, it would be awful hard to tell the difference.

The part of me that knows too much and understands too little feels like an old wound that’s just been reopened. An aching, throbbing guilt rises up and memories of being a child, older than I am now, and the effects of callous words and actions swirl in my mind. These are not my memories, I don’t know these people, but I remember how it feels to hurt someone else at the encouragement of the crowd, to go too far with jokes and teasing, to look into hurt and angry eyes and know I put that there-

But then Izuku looks up, and even though he’s got tears running down his cheeks, his eyes aren’t angry, and the hurt there comes from somewhere else, not me. “Kacchan’s right, nothing’s changed. I… I can still be a hero… right?” There’s so much hope, so fragile and breakable, floating up from green depths and placing itself firmly in my hands. Hands that are constantly coated in one of the least stable and most explosive substances in the world at the moment. I am the worst person for this. I think, and something stabs into my chest saying this is important don’t mess this up but the pressure is just too much and I turn away, wanting to run, and desperately holding myself in place.

“Tch.” I scoff, throat too tight with anxiety to speak any more gently. “Who ever said you could be a hero, Deku?” I wrinkle my nose at my own voice, how squeaky and awkward it sounds to my ears, an obvious cover-up. “If you want to do that, you’re going to have to learn not to cry over dumb things like this. You think All Might would cry during playtime?”

Somehow, despite all sane reason saying that he should not, this conversation leads Izuku to cling even tighter and follow me around even more carefully than he did previously. I regret trying so hard not to mess the situation up when the teachers start to refer to us as “Katsuki and Izuku” even when speaking about us individually, as if we are one single person. I just want to be alone, most of the time, and figure out how my quirk works without Izuku’s unintentionally anxiety-inducing interrogations hovering over me like a Sword of Damocles.

Still, I do my best to play nice. For our mothers if nothing else. And because I seem to be the only person in the school who still wants to (and I use the word want extremely loosely) play with the damn freckled broccoli sprout. There’s a rumor being spread around by the other kids that hanging out with someone Quirkless will make you lose your quirk, and they’ve all begun running away screaming and giggling any time he tries to approach them. Thoughtlessly cruel, the way children always are, but I feel less forgiving towards them than I usually would towards naïve kids. That part of me that knows these kids doesn’t seem them as people, not really – only knows them as a concept, fill-ins for the more important characters to interact with during flashbacks. I call them Extras, especially the ones who bully Izuku, and I know that in another world Bakugou Katsuki called them Extras too, and he wasn’t wrong. I just happen to know that the real main character isn’t me, it’s the green haired boy trotting along in my shadow, watching me with the kind of awe and longing that one usually reserves for the relics of saints.

 

I’m not a very good friend, despite my best efforts. I prefer to be alone, and having people follow me around is irritating. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch, having people around and worrying about how everything I’m doing is being interpreted. It’s easier with the kids who flock to me at recess since I got my quirk, singing my praises and trying to show off their own. They’re easy to read and easier to impress, and the compliments are a balm on my anxious nerves. But adults are different, always watching me like they’re waiting for me to slip up. The weight of their unspoken expectations makes me restless, and I learn to dread school, but not as much as I dread spending time with Izuku.

I don’t hate him, not really. It’s just… he is so hard to be around. The boy isn’t as transparent as the other kids. Every compliment is paired with a sharp glint in green eyes, as if he’s memorizing everything I did for… for who knows what reasons. I have no idea what that kid could be thinking most of the time. It feels a bit like being dissected, without the pain of actually being cut. Just opened up painlessly, baring the most private vulnerable parts of myself to the world without my permission or compassion, only the scalpel-cool gaze of this weird fucking toddler.

Some part of me finds the feeling familiar. Calls it intelligence, critical thinking, analytical skills… but the rest of me, both the present me and the strange feelings I got, feels uncomfortable under that level of observation.

I do my best to power through it. If I can’t let my guard down, I can do my best to bond with Izuku in spite of it. Maybe I can’t find it in myself to want to be vulnerable around him; I can’t change that about myself. Feral cats stay feral. But sometimes you can still befriend them. Right?

He’s trying so hard. I think, watching the green haired boy struggle to keep up with me. He isn’t the most athletic kid, whereas I can’t seem to find enough time in the day to spend all the energy my tiny body produces. The more time I spend with the smaller boy the more we seem preternaturally incompatible as people. And yet I try, because I know, even though I shouldn’t, that Izuku is going to be a great hero one day. The best. And…

And I would sooner die than be nothing but “the foil to the greatest hero.” I think bitterly. What a backhanded fucking compliment.

“Kacchan, wait up!” Izuku calls, and my feet speed up before I even decide to react. The cry of despair that rises up behind me brings laughter bubbling up from my chest, chasing away the strange thoughts I was beginning to get used to.

“You go faster, Deku!” I call back tauntingly, swerving between trees and jumping over low bushes in a merry game of chase. Even as I taunt him, I make sure to stay within sight and slow down occasionally to let him close some distance. After all, I’m not a very good friend, but I still am one.

Chapter Text

By the age of seven, I’m pretty sure God just loves me more than he loves other people, based on the absolutely unfair advantages I seem to have over pretty much everyone else I’ve encountered so far. I'm fairly sure I'm stronger, smarter, and prettier than like, 90% of the people I've met, and I haven't even come within a stone's throw of puberty yet. But what else can I expect? I've apparently been reborn into a world I'd only ever known about as a story in my past life. 

And hadn’t that been a difficult fact to accept. I was Bakugou Katsuki, seven-year-old hellion and #2 All Might fanboy (Izuku was a terrifying opponent in this arena if no other), but I had once been… someone else. It isn’t as obvious as having memories of another life, at least not in a way that I can watch them like some sort of movie, or recall any events or names outside of the strange characters and happenings that sometimes invade my dreams. Nevertheless, I can’t think of any other explanation for the strange sense of wrongness that things sometimes give me, or how I recognize so many things even though I’m seeing them for the first time, or how I know things I shouldn’t, like how to cook American pancakes when neither of my parents have ever made them in their lives. I don’t know what my name used to be, or if I was tall or short or thin or fat or whatever, but I can figure some things out about who I used to be based on some of my more irritating reactions to things. 

One of said realizations happens in the already unfortunate situation that is me having a playdate at Deku’s house. We’ve been friends for years now, and I really should be used to him, and to be fair I have gotten better about spending long periods of time in his company without having to force a pillow or something over his face just to get a break from his strange, invasive muttering, but it’s still difficult. I’m still not a great friend, and Izuku is still, well, a kind of unlikeable little creep. But he means well and he tries hard and with how no one else in our school even talks to him unless they’re trying to get close to me… Well, I would be a monster if I completely ignored him.

So I accept these playdates as semi-obligatory community service, and attend them with as charitable a mood as I can muster (which is admittedly poor). And Auntie Inko is a breath of calm and wholesome fresh air in my lungs even as I’m drowning between waves of Izuku’s intense scrutiny. She has such an unassuming, un-invasive manner, it’s amazing that Izuku can look so much like her while being so completely different. Well, until they start crying. They definitely have that trait in common.

It really makes me wonder what Izuku’s father is like, though. Or was like. I’m not actually clear on the situation over in the Midoriya household, but Auntie Inko doesn’t seem to work, and they can afford the limited edition All Might merch that Izuku loves to show off to me (especially since I hadn’t managed to get it, something about “being a spoiled brat” and needing to “build character”. Whatever. Izuku rubbing it in my face didn’t help, although I had the sinking feeling that he actually thought he was being nice by sharing with me. What an oblivious moron), so I think he might still be in the picture, or Auntie Inko was just very sneaky with her prenup. Either way, I can’t come right out and ask, so unless one of them lets something slip, Izuku’s other parent is going to have to remain a mystery.

Auntie Inko, on the other hand, is ever-present and almost disturbingly open. She dotes on me as “Izuku’s best friend Kacchan!” and teaches me how to cook simple dishes when I offer to help in the kitchen in a desperate attempt to catch a break from Izuku’s chatter. These little lessons are so different from my time spent with Kaa-san, whose temper matches my own and results in the two of us escalating every conversation or interaction into some sort of argument or competition, much to my poor Tou-san’s chagrin. Auntie-Inko is much more docile, with big doe eyes and a soft voice that makes it easy to relax in her presence. I feel less restless when she’s talking, like the itch under my skin is soothed by the sound. I don’t even fight when she pulls me in for a hug and wraps her small arms around me, pressing me gently into her body. She’s always so warm and soft, like a living pillow, it makes me feel… odd.

Kaa-san doesn’t make me feel like this, although occasionally I would get a strange feeling when I see her dress up to go out with Tou-san, or when she decides to do her nails and hair for “self-care.” I can’t help looking at her perfectly-winged eyeliner and her flowy skirts and feeling… odd.

But it’s Auntie Inko that finally breaks the fragile wall I’ve built around this particular problem. Knowing the terms for my mother’s makeup and understanding why she’s even more volatile than usual once a month is one thing, but it’s Auntie Inko’s softness that stirs something in me every time I see her, and it finally comes to a head when Izuku lights up at the sound of his mother’s humming from the kitchen and takes off, calling out “Kaa-san! Kaa-san!” and begging her to “Sing for me and Kacchan, please? The song about the birds!”

She laughingly complies, dancing a little bit as she continues to put the clean dishes away, and the light on her hair makes a golden halo around the green locks and my heart aches. It hurts, it hurts, like someone stole my favorite All Might hoodie right from between my hands, and just like if someone had actually been stupid enough to take my shit, this feeling makes me angry. I want to punch Izuku for asking his mother to sing, for dragging me over here every week even though I don’t even like him, for beaming up at her and only adding to the maternal, feminine aura around the scene. I’m grinding my teeth so hard my jaw hurts, and I can’t stay here.

I’m outside before I really realize I’ve decided to leave, walking down the driveway with my shoes untied and my jacket on inside-out. My jaw is still clenched achingly tight, but at least I can’t hear Auntie Inko singing anymore. That was… bad.

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the strange feelings I get from my past life, hoping that understanding them will stop them from… well, from driving me out of the house in a poorly-thought-out retreat. But it’s hard when I’m already so pent-up, full of this energy and the urge to run, climb, experiment and improve myself, and when every emotion, whether positive or negative, always seems to translate into anger. It’s exhausting, and I get the feeling that it wasn’t like this, before. That although I had the same bad habits, anxiety, and insecurities as I do now… I didn’t used to get so angry. In fact, based on the lack of the usual familiarity most feelings are accompanied by, I have the sense that I hardly used to get angry at all.

It almost explains why I seem to have no idea how to handle it, if whoever-I-was didn’t have a temper to fight against, and I seem to have gotten both lifetimes’ worth at once.

“Kacchan?” A hesitant voice calls from behind me, and my hands curl into fists without conscious thought. Goddamn it. I silently urge him to turn around and go back inside, but my prayers go unanswered when something touches my shoulder unexpectedly. I jerk away, a small explosion going off from my raised hand in instinctive self-defense as I jump back. Izuku looks startled, even though this happens every time he touches me when I’m not prepared (and sometimes when I am prepared. Cut me some slack, I’m not a hugger, okay?). He blinks wide green eyes at me as I force my jaw to unclench so I can speak.

“I’m going home.” I say, voice tight and shaking. “I’m bored.” It’s an excuse I’ve used before, when the other boy got to be a bit too much for me. He always deflates at the news, but a muttered “see you tomorrow” is enough to have him springing back up with a smile. This time, though, he doesn’t even seem to hear me, wide eyes staying glued to my face and mouth slightly open in surprise.

“Kacchan…” He says hesitantly, and I have time to wonder if my usual explosive reaction really startled him that much in the pause that follows, but then… “Are you crying?”

Like hell I am.

My hands meet my cheeks with a slap as they jerk up to check, and I realize the dork is right. There are tears on my face. What the fuck? The anger swells up and pushes at my diaphragm, shame and embarrassment at my tears, resentment at Izuku for seeing them and for looking worried about me. As if he had hurt me! As if he could hurt me, that little dweeb! He’d cry before I ever did. He’s the crybaby, not me!

But this, also, feels unfortunately familiar. As if whoever-I-was had a habit of crying when angry, and had felt this mix of self-loathing and fury before. I decide then and there that there’s nothing I hate more than this. Nothing worse than being seen as weak when I’m furious. God, no wonder whoever-I-was never got angry, if this is what happens when I do. I must have had iron self control in my past life.

“Kacchan…” Izuku tries, hand raised between us as if he wants to comfort me, and that’s the last straw. When this fucking crybaby thinks I need his help just because of a few tears, I’m out. This is bullshit. So I’m crying, so fucking what? Guys can cry. Men can cry. It doesn’t make me weak or emotional or whatever and no one gets to patronize me for it, especially not Izuku Midoriya.

“Fuck off.” I say, the first time I’ve used the word out loud. It feels good, sharp consonants bitten off to make the edges jagged. It helps me feel slightly more in control of the situation, seeing the shocked look on Izuku’s face when I spit it at him. “I said I’m bored and I’m going home. That’s all.” And before he could get over being scandalized by my bad language, I slip out the front gate and take off down the street toward my house, tears streaming down my flushed cheeks from furiously glaring eyes.

 

 

Unfortunately, going home doesn’t stop the realization from looming, and it doesn’t stop me from having to go to school the next morning, where Izuku is waiting for me, wringing his fingers and muttering nervously to himself about how he thinks I’m going to react. I smack him in the back of the head with my bookbag as I walk past, muttering a “shut up, nerd” as usual, and heading to my shoe locker without stopping.

Since this is my usual behavior, none of the other students seem to think anything of it, greeting me with overly-friendly smiles and waves. I ignore them, grunting occasionally at the more persistent greetings and growling at the kid who slings an arm over my shoulders until he hastily backs off. All as usual.

“Kacchan.” Izuku says, decidedly not as usual. He sounds determined, which is odd for the usually spineless loser. I turn slowly, enjoying the way he seems to pale as I take my time doing it. So I’ve got a sense for drama, what of it? I must have been an actress in my past life.

Actor. I correct, scowling even harder at my traitorous brain. Izuku starts to tremble in fear. Good. He should be afraid, ignoring my very obvious decision to not talk about what happened yesterday.

“I’m sorry.” He says, at least smart enough to keep his voice low so the simpering idiots in our class can’t hear. “I’m… not really sure what happened, but I know I upset you, and I didn’t mean to and – “

“Shut the fuck up, Deku.” I say, savoring the curse word on my tongue. Izuku’s reaction is just as hilarious the second time, as he almost falls over in shock at the profanity. “The hell are you apologizing for? As if you could do anything to upset me.” I scoff. “Get over yourself.” And with a well-timed slam of my shoe locker door, I make my exit towards the classroom. Definitely used to be an actor. The best. Probably some sort of movie star. I hear Izuku jogging to catch up with me, taking his usual spot to the side and slightly behind me, but he doesn’t say anything and he’s not muttering so I let him be, musing on my previous profession and what it might have been.

When we get to the classroom and I move to take my seat, Izuku steps into my way, just slightly, and I pause.

“What?” I growl. If he tries to apologize again…

“Thanks.” And now I’m the one who feels like falling over in surprise, although I hide it well enough except for losing my scowl for a second before forcing it to return. What? “I mean. Uh.” Izuku’s hands flap around uselessly whenever he struggles with his words. It’s another annoying habit of his. “I must have made a mistake, thinking you were upset, and I just wanted to thank you for correcting me and um…” his voice trails off in a mutter but I think I hear for not being mad at me which almost makes me laugh because hello? At what point in the last 24 hours have I seemed not mad to you? Seriously, this oblivious moron…

“Tch. Stop with the muttering, Deku.” I finally groan, when the green boy has become completely unintelligible. “And leave me alone until at least lunch.” I order, shoving him toward his desk. The beaming smile I get in return is probably because he’s willfully misinterpreting my words as an invitation again, but that’s at least the usual level of bullshit I’ve come to expect from him, so I let it slide. I’m too tired for this.

 

 

I throw myself into my experimenting after that with even more vigor than usual. Not that anyone can really tell, considering my default setting is “Extra as Hell,” but my parents and Izuku seem to at least sense that I am less willing to be interrupted than normal, and leave me alone. At first, I had only been able to trigger explosions by actually striking the palms of my hands with something, but I knew that there was some way for me to trigger larger explosions without even needing to use both hands. (The unsettling feeling of having seen something in a cartoon that I now had to take as a fact of reality left me compulsively writing out physics formulas for three hours, but I got over it. Mostly.)

It takes two weeks of useless theorizing before I finally get desperate enough to test a hunch I have. Each time Izuku’s startled me, I’ve managed to set off a small explosion in self-defense. It hasn’t ever been very big, even smaller than my usual, but it had notably been produced from the palm of my hand without needing contact to set it off. So, the key here is something I’m doing subconsciously, and if I haven’t been able to deduce what it is from my experiments, then I’ll have to work from the bottom up, so to speak.

“Alright, Deku.” I say seriously, both hands on the smaller boy’s shoulders. He trembles slightly under my palms. Wise of him. “Listen carefully. Under no circumstances, ever, will you be allowed to repeat this action outside of this experiment. If you ever attempt to hug me, I will not hesitate to feed you your own shoes. Understand?” It’s a weird threat, but it does the trick. Izuku nods furiously, looking a mixture of confused and excited. “I know you’re a creepy little shit, and that’s finally going to work in your favor, so I’m telling you, just this once, I won’t beat your face in for not holding yourself back. Got it?”

“Uh… kind of?” Izuku says hesitantly. “I… You’re saying I can hug you?” He bites his lip. “Like, a real hug? If I want?” I don’t like that starry-eyed look he’s getting, so I shove him away from me with a sneer of disgust. Ugh.

Just this once.” I reiterate, holding a finger up threateningly until the other boy nods his understanding. I slowly lower it, eyeing him warily. He’s practically vibrating in place, and I can already tell I’m going to regret this. “Okay, go ahe-”

I don’t even get to finish my fucking sentence before I have a mouthful of dirty green hair. It tastes like shit, and his tiny little noodle arms are somehow a lot stronger than they should be, since they almost manage to lift me right off my feet (I ignore the part of me that points out I only weigh about 25 kilograms soaking wet). I can feel his breath as he lets out a sigh against my chest and nuzzles his face into my shirt and okay that’s enough of that-

The explosion is big enough to startle us both, and Izuku jumps back with a squeak of fear and stuttered “b-but you said…”

“I know what I said.” I grit my teeth, paying careful attention to the little pops going off in my palms, the tension in my wrists… “Calm down, nerd. I won’t kill you this time.” This time? He mutters to himself, but I ignore him, squinting down at my palms. The feeling is strange, but kind of familiar at the same time. I’m so close to figuring this out…

“Are you… testing your quirk?” Izuku ventures. I roll my eyes at him, but the sparks increase, so I can’t really complain when the annoyance is actually helping me with my research.

“Obviously.” I settle for. One by one, I try tensing the different muscles and tendons in my wrists and hands in different ways, attempting to set off the reaction in earnest again. I can feel something twitch with every spark, but I can’t quite…

“I love you, Kacchan.” A voice sounds close to my ear, significantly within the Do Not Come Closer on Pain of Death radius I keep around me at all times. A shudder of disgust races up my spine and my whole body locks in place in startled alarm at the creepy invasive nerd goddamn why does he not understand personal space –

Oh. So that’s what it looks like. I blink down at the tendon standing out against the inside of my wrist as the explosion sends star-bursts across my eyes. Wrist flexor, palmaris longus – absent in around one-fifth of the population back… whenever. Made redundant by evolution, occasionally used in tendon transplants in other parts of the body. The half-remembered knowledge is as unsettling as ever, but I can appreciate its uses more and more as time passes. I must have had one before, as well, because I know exactly how to flex my wrist while touching the pads of my pinky and thumb together to make it flex and stand out against my wrist-

Bang. I wince at the pressure of the blast against my curled fingers. No explosions with close hands, then. I’ll have to learn to flex that tendon without curling my fingers too much… But that’s doable. Practically easy, compared to how much effort it took to just figure out that I had an extra tendon and that, ironically, it seemed to have a use in this new life of mine. A rather essential one.

I’m grinning maniacally as I look back up at Izuku, whose beaming smile slowly slips into a nervous little thing as he laughs sheepishly.

“Uh… haha. Sorry about that Kacchan, but I thought it would help….” He yelps as I set off two small explosions, one after the other, in my hands. Oh, hell yeah. My grin grows, and Izuku starts to look a little pale. Guess who’s double-wielding, assholes?

“What have I told you about personal space, Deku?” I taunt. The green boy takes a step back, putting his weight on the balls of his feet in preparation to run. I let him.

“Of course I respect your personal space, Kacchan, but since you asked me to hug you and it didn’t seem like you’d managed to figure out the problem, I thought that I could help you if I just-” A small pop pop bang from my hands has him changing tactics abruptly. “-but obviously I was wrong and I should never have invaded your space like that it was really entirely my fault I’m sorry-”

“Deku.” I interrupt.

“…Yes, Kacchan?” He looks resigned.

“Run.”

“Yes, Kacchan.”

I give him a head start, as a reward for not acting like a scared little pansy at the threat of a beat down. And if I only rub his hair in the dirt a bit before letting him go after I’ve caught him, keeping my newfound ability to cause independent explosions in check while I handle him, well. The nerd did help me figure out my problem. It’s only appropriate to show my gratitude.

He’s still a creep though.

Chapter Text

Izuku is being weird. Well, weirder than usual. I don’t know when it started, since I had been keeping myself busy with practicing my quirk ever since… well, for the last few months. But I do know that it has something to do with why his dumb ass hair is looking even more like a rat’s nest than usual.

Normally I wouldn’t care enough to notice the nerd’s hair, but since our current seating chart has me directly behind him, I’ve gotten into the habit of zoning out while staring at the back of Izuku’s head. It’s relaxing, okay? With the color and the length, it’s easy to pretend that it’s just a slightly overgrown lawn in a field where I’m all alone and free to relax and let my mind wander.

Except now it’s starting to inch past the collar of his shirt, and with the extra length it no longer looks like grass, but is starting to form proper ringlets at the ends, curling into itself where it grows past his ears. It’s irritating.

The most irritating part is that I don’t know why it’s gotten so long. Auntie Inko is usually really good about making sure Izuku takes care of himself and looks presentable. There’s no sense of familiarity or realization telling me that the geek is meant to be growing his hair out at some point, so I can only assume that this is some sort of… phase, that whoever I was never knew about, but why is Izuku going through a rebellious phase at eight years old? I don’t even think the kid knows about rebelliousness.

Maybe Auntie Inko is sick and just hasn’t been able to cut his hair yet? But she seemed fine the last few times I’ve come to visit. Better than fine, really. She’s been oddly insistent on spending time with me one-on-one, offering to teach me how to make spicy katsudon and curry, and how to sew and fix the holes in my clothes that my quirk sometimes causes. It’s… nice. And I definitely would have noticed if Auntie was sick. So, what’s going on?

Izuku must be able to feel my glare on the back of his head, but it’s not like I don’t glare at him pretty much all the time anyway, so he just looks back at me for a moment and smiles before going back to scribbling away in his creepy notebook. I know that’s where he writes all his notes on heroes and quirks, in the hope that it will help him be a hero one day, and it’s probably a sign of his intelligence that he writes in them so religiously, but seeing him scribbling down notes and muttering as he follows me around all day still makes me feel like a lab rat in all the worst ways.

Wait. I narrow my eyes even further, which is impressive considering how narrow they already are. Izuku has been writing in that notebook of his during the day recently, hasn’t he? It used to be only in the evenings, while we watched the hero news at Auntie’s house, or sometimes during my quirk practice, when he saw me do something new with my explosions. Sure, the nerd would occasionally have a thought or idea that he just had to write down before he forgot it, but he didn’t used to write constantly.

I’m cursing myself now for not paying attention to the people around me for the last few months. How long has he been doing this? What triggered it? And what the hell is he writing in that notebook of his??

For the next several days, I try to get a peak at the nerd’s notebook to no avail. He’s surprisingly good at sliding it away just fast enough for me to miss it and directing the conversation onto something important enough that I can’t ignore it to bring the topic back to his notes. It’s incredibly aggravating, but this brat always is, so I should have expected that. As the weekend approaches and Izuku invites me over to hang out as usual (I agree without even a token protest at this point, for the sole reason that I actually genuinely enjoy spending time with Auntie Inko), I consider the possibility that I might have to spend more time in Izuku’s presence than usual if I want to find a chance to snatch his notebook without him noticing…

Yeah, right. I scoff to myself, shoving my hands in my pockets and continuing to ignore whatever dumb thing Izuku is geeking out about beside me. If I don’t manage to get my hands on it in the next couple weeks, I’ll just tell the idiot that real friends don’t keep secrets and he’ll be jumping all over me to show me what he’s written. Fucking easy.

With that plan in mind, it’s easy to set Izuku’s weirdness aside for the sake of enjoying my weekly visit with Auntie Inko. The pretext of me coming over to hang out with Izuku is flimsy at best, but I do make sure to spend a couple hours watching reruns of All Might’s fights with him or occasionally talking about support gear or hero costume designs, just to make Auntie happy that her creepy son has at least one friend. She’s an angel, okay? It’s not her fault her son is so lame.

After my obligatory Deku-sitting is over, I usually join Auntie in the kitchen to help prepare lunch. Today, however, she’s in front of the hall mirror, fiddling with her hair. I approach for a closer look.

She usually has it half-up in a bun, with the lower layers loose, and it’s odd to see it all down for once. She holds it up with a green-black four-pronged hair comb that blends in very well with her hair color, but at the moment she only has a brush and a small length of pink ribbon in hand. I squint up at her.

“What are you doing, Auntie?”

“Oh! Katsuki.” She smiles at me, and I don’t smile back, but I also don’t scowl like I usually do when people look at me like a kid. “I was just thinking of doing something different with my hair. It’s been a while since I braided it.” Despite my wishes, my eyes can’t help but wander to her long, soft-looking hair. It falls perfectly straight, sliding over her shoulders in smooth sheets and ending just above her shoulder blades. It looks soft, and slippery, the kind of hair that can be difficult to work with because it doesn’t have the kind of texture that allows for more complex up-do’s-

I jolt slightly when I realize that my hand had been inching toward my own blond, coarse hair, and quickly return it to my side, but Auntie Inko is watching me with Izuku’s stupid eyes now, looking at me like she’s dissecting me and seeing what makes me tick. I hate it. Normally I can’t see how much Auntie and Izuku have in common, but right now it’s obvious.

“I don’t think I can do it myself.” Auntie says abruptly, and I glare at the ground in silence. “It’s been a while, so I’m out of practice. Would you mind giving me a hand? Braiding hair can be good practice for hero work, you know. It helps build finger dexterity.” I wish I didn’t know things, wish I didn’t understand what I looked like from the perspective of an adult. I wish I didn’t know when I was being manipulated or looked down on or patronized. I wish I didn’t know.

“Okay.” I agree, because I know anyways, and I miss this thing I’ve never had but still remember, and maybe because a part of me loves Auntie Inko and wants to please her, but I tell myself it’s just because explaining why I don’t want to help would be more trouble than just agreeing and getting it over with.

She sits on the floor while I sit on the couch so I can reach her hair, and I brush it carefully while she explains a basic three-part braid. My fingers itch to create something more complex, but it would be strange to do a waterfall braid when I’ve never even touched long hair before in this life. My clumsy child’s fingers force me to go slowly and start over twice, but like everything I do, I make sure to do this well. In the end, Auntie Inko has a basic braid, perfectly straight and without a hair out of place, tied off with a slightly-lopsided pink bow. (Sue me, tying a bow is hard while trying not to drop the whole damn braid! Auntie needs to buy some proper hair elastics.)

Auntie thanks me and praises my skills, and Izuku echoes her with several amazed compliments when she shows him my handiwork, but I’m lost in thought until the end of lunch, when Inko invites me to help her in the garden.

I’d forgotten. I know but I had still forgotten how soft hair could be. Kaa-san has hair like me, and Tou-san’s hair is cut short and mostly neglected (like much of Tou-san’s daily routine). Auntie Inko uses conditioner, and fancy oils, and her hair is long and fine and feels like silk between my fingers…

I liked braiding it, I decide, halfway through repotting a basil plant. Maybe I’ll ask if she’ll let me practice another braid on her next week.

It takes me until I’m once again staring at Izuku’s dumb head on Monday morning for the penny to drop. At first, it’s the usual thoughts of fucking nerd keeps muttering and dumb ass teacher always playing favorites and god I’m bored before I notice that Izuku keeps brushing his hair out of his eyes. I hardly notice the first time, but after the fifth time he’s gotten his hair in his eyes that morning, I can feel my eye twitching in frustration.

It’s when he gets sauce in his hair from his sandwich at lunch that I finally snap.

“What the hell, Deku!” I growl, and he flinches into his food, getting even more shit in his hair. “If you can’t keep your hair out of your fucking face, get a haircut!”

“Ah, s-sorry, Kacchan.” He said, brushing his hair out of his face, smearing sauce across his cheek like a moron. “I’m still not used to it, I guess.”

“Obviously, stupid.” I scoff. “If it gets in your way like that, you need to do something about it. You already look like a mess, you don’t need any more help with that.” He takes the napkin I shove at him and wipes his cheek when I gesture aggressively toward it. He’s smiling, which just serves to piss me off more. It’s always a sure sign he’s not actually listening to what I’m saying and is just putting words into my mouth in his weird fantasy world. “Dekuuuu…” I warn.

“A-ah!” He snaps out of it. “Right, um. Well, I want to grow it out, so… Um. Maybe you could help me pull it back?” And he pulls a hair tie out of his pocket and looks at me hopefully.

I stare at him. Because, just, really? Seriously? He just happens to have a hair tie? Then why hasn’t he been fucking using it all morning? And why does he need my help to put it up? It’s not like it’s that complicated, and he’s not actually unintelligent for an… eight-year-old. Okay, yeah, he might not be able to pull his own hair back, but he’s still way too prepared for this. What…

My eyes narrow and Izuku starts to sweat, his eyes just a little too steady on mine, giving away the fact that he’s acting. If he were behaving normally, he would have looked away in embarrassment by now from holding eye contact so long.

“Deku.” I say, suspicions rising. He’s been growing his hair out for a while, and just as it gets long, Auntie Inko decides to teach me how to braid hair? Right. I might be a self-absorbed asshole but I’m not actually eight years old. “Just what is in that notebook of yours?”

The nerd goes ghost white. Gotcha. Ignoring his spluttering and evading, I’m already standing up and heading around the table to find out for myself. I’m actually a little impressed when the nerd has the balls to take his bag and run, even when I’ve made it clear that I am done waiting for answers. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to pound him into the dirt when I catch him, though. He’s obviously done something I won’t like if he’s this desperate to hide it from me.

Despite all the practice he gets running from me, Izuku still isn’t as fast as I am (seriously, what’s with this kid’s abysmal physique? Genetics are really unfair) and I catch him halfway to the gymnasium building. (Presumably to hide the notebook among all the poorly-organized equipment. Not a bad strategy, actually, but pointless when he can’t outrun me. Conditioning is important, kids.)

It’s a matter of minutes to wrestle his bag away from him and pin him down to keep him from running off and hiding from my questions. (The nerd is still smaller than me, even though we’re both the same age, and all I have to do is pin his arms underneath his torso and sit on him.) I toss his bag to the side after pulling out the notebook I’m looking for, and open it to the first page to peruse it from the comfort of my new Deku-throne.

Immediately, the first page has me regretting every decision I’ve ever made, in either life. There, written at the top, are the words “Kacchan Behavior and Analysis.” Granted, it’s written in Deku’s shitty eight-year-old handwriting, and behavior is misspelled, but it’s still disturbing enough that I almost shut the notebook right there.

But this is exactly the sort of shit I should have expected, so I grit my teeth and continue.

The first several entries are really obvious. Kacchan has blond hair and red eyes. Kacchan likes spicy food. Kacchan can do a handstand for 20 seconds  30 seconds  a minute   a long time.

Then, a few pages in, questions start popping up between notes on my favorite color and what kind of weather I like: What does Kacchan dream about when he wakes up so suddenly at sleepovers? Why will Kacchan play with my hair but won’t let me hug him? What does Kacchan mean when he says people are Extras if they don’t have a name? Everyone has a name…

And then, the format changes from random observation and questions and abruptly switches over to a much more organized-looking format about 15 pages in. At the top of this new section, underlined and circled, is the question: What made Kacchan cry?

“I didn’t cry.” I growl instinctively, only to punch Izuku in the leg when he starts to protest. “Shut up, nerd. I’m reading.”

This new section includes dates and timestamps, and seems to be a nearly complete log of everything I’ve done for the last four and a half months. Starting from the week after I didn’t cry, Izuku has written down every detail of my life from my sleep cycles to who I talked to. Every detail is examined, every snarl analyzed, and every silence dissected. After seven weeks’ worth of – “being a fucking creep, Deku.” “So mean, Kacchan!” – Izuku seems to have started writing out his own thoughts on the problem.

…Still no idea what’s wrong with Kacchan. He seems normal – he fights with the same people as always, has his bowel movements at about the same time every day (“What the fuCK DEKU.”) but there are moments where he gets… sad? Angry, but in a quiet way. Like he’s thinking about something and it’s making him angry?

From this point on, the entries and observations are much more pointed. I’d be impressed by Izuku’s obvious development if I wasn’t so fucking horrified.

…Today Kacchan didn’t even talk back to our substitute teacher. Was it because she seemed so gentle and nice? But Kacchan seemed even angrier than usual, and yet he stayed quiet…

…At recess some of Kacchan’s friends said the girls had cooties and kept running away from them. The girls chased them all off the jungle gym and then kicked Kacchan off because it was “girls only”. He’s usually king of the jungle gym, but he didn’t even argue! …

… I told Kacchan his shirt was cute today and he didn’t even punch me…

…Today Kacchan was reading and… …Kacchan got chocolates from a girl today… …A baby on the train started crying when Kacchan glared at him… …Kacchan said… …Kacchan is… …Kacchan was…

…Kacchan always looks so sad when Kaa-san smiles at him…

That actually manages to startle me out of my angry skimming. My brow furrows. Do I?

… He comes over on the weekends just to see her, so I thought he liked her, so why does he always look like he wants to cry when she talks to him?...

That stings, and I complain about Izuku “spying on Auntie and me from the living room, weren’t you, you creep?” to distract myself. His mortified wiggling is amusing enough for me to keep reading. A couple entries down a phrase catches my eye.

I talked to Auntie about Kacchan today…

God dammit, Deku.

… She said that sometimes people say that girls and boys should play with different toys, or like different things, but that’s not always true. Boys can like playing with dolls and girls can like sports, but sometimes people don’t think they should and they can make people feel bad for liking certain things. She asked me what kinds of things I think Kacchan likes, and I told her that I’ve been writing down everything he says he likes so that I can be a good friend and remember. But she said that there are probably things Kacchan likes that he hasn’t said he likes… but if he likes something, why wouldn’t he say so?...

A few more entries observing me, each one more analytical and better at reading me.

Kacchan looks out the windows a lot in the spring time, and he walks home slower when the trees are flowering. Does Kacchan like flowers?... …Kacchan hates talking to the girly girls in class, but he doesn’t mind the tom-boys? But he likes Kaa-san, and she’s girly… …Kacchan gets upset when babies and animals like me, or don’t like him. Does Kacchan like babies? Or just hate being disliked?... …Kacchan sometimes hums when he’s focusing on something, but he gets upset when he notices himself doing it. Is he embarrassed?...

One entry simply reads: I asked Kaa-san not to cut my hair anymore. I stare at that entry for a few minutes, reading back through the last several entries in the hope that I can figure out where the decision came from. His notes are very stream-of-consciousness, and it’s hard to pinpoint any exact conclusion, but nestled in a paragraph about how I’d reacted to Auntie Inko spending more time teaching me to sew, I see the sentence: Kacchan likes soft things, but he doesn’t want to be seen as soft.

Huh. I blink down at the notebook, feeling odd. That’s… pretty damn close to the truth, actually. I press my lips together, letting out a slow breath through my nose. If I had to put it into words, and I’d been avoiding thinking about this for months, thanks a lot Izuku, I would say that while I… longed for the things that felt familiar to me, that I can only assume were integral to whoever-I-was, I don’t really… wish that I was still… them. Whoever I was had a sweet voice, long soft hair, was loved by babies and animals, always had flowers in her pockets -their pockets. Oh, forget it.

I was a woman in my past life. I… don’t like to think about that, so I’m going to ignore it as much as possible, because I don’t feel like a woman right now. I feel… I don’t know. Like me. My body doesn’t bother me since those first couple years where being a fucking baby was weirder than any genitals could ever be. And now… well, I had pretty much won the genetic lottery in this world. I’m stronger, faster, smarter, and better looking than pretty much everyone I’m going to meet as far as I know. And… I have the feeling that, the same way I look at soft things and wish they suited me, wish that I was soft and sweet and gentle, Whoever-I-Was used to look at people like me, people who were intimidating and sharp and obviously powerful, and wished she could be like that.

So I guess I’m doomed to be unhappy in every life, huh? Never satisfied, grass is always greener and all that. My chest aches, but I’m not going to cry. Not here, not about something like this that doesn’t matter.

“Kacchan?” the muffled word has me blinking not tears back and taking a shaky breath. “I think class is starting…”

I close the notebook, not bothering to read the rest of Izuku’s stalkerish nonsense, and toss it in the dirt. Standing up and brushing myself off, I wait for Izuku to get shakily to his feet (his legs are probably asleep from my weight. Ha.) before I catch him by the collar and spin him around so his back is to me. His yelp is followed by a wondering “Kacchan…?” as I run my fingers roughly through his hair and yank it mercilessly into place, twisting the front into a quick two-strand braid since it’s too short to reach the ponytail otherwise.

“Give me the damn hair tie, Deku.” I order, and he quickly hands it over. I tie it off and step back to examine my work as Izuku’s hands come up to feel it in awe. I nod in satisfaction. “There. Better.”

Izuku’s scrambling to put his things back in his bag and brush the dirt off of them, but I’m already halfway back to class and not interested in hearing his whining, so I tune him out and let my eyes wander over the little white clover flowers blooming in patches among the grass.

 

By the time the two of us reach middle school, Izuku’s hair is past his shoulders and forms perfect loose green ringlets starting just past his collarbones. With his big round eyes and soft cheeks, the boy gets mistaken for a girl hilariously often, and he always turns bright red when it happens. I can never decide who’s more of a dumbass – Izuku, for not just cutting his hair already and instead stubbornly insisting on keeping it long and having me braid it almost every day, or the guys who keep confessing to him, thinking he’s a girl despite his obviously male school uniform. Maybe I’ll just call it a tie.

The third confession of our first year of middle school brings along a new set of problems, however. The third year that approached Izuku had, upon being told Izuku was male, simply said “that’s fine. I don’t mind, and two guys can still do it, you know?” Which lead to this situation.

“Kacchan, what did that senpai mean by do it?” Izuku blinks big green eyes at me and I roll my eyes and open my mouth… Only to shut it with a snap, as I realize that I had been a woman in my past life. I frown down at my body, feeling oddly betrayed, before looking back up and meeting Izuku’s still-confused gaze. And… Oh damn, I still haven’t found out what the hell is up with Izuku’s mysterious Dad. Does he even have a male role model he can ask about this? I pinch the bridge of my nose, ignoring Izuku asking me if I'm okay, and worrying that we were going to miss our train home. Right. This is fine. I knew this was going to happen eventually. Puberty was a bitch in any life, right? No one could escape a little bit of trauma.

“Alright, come on, Deku.” I say, grabbing his hand and pulling him along behind me toward our usual train. “You’re coming over to my house today.”

“Um, okay?” He frowns. “Why, though? You don’t usually like it when I come to your house.” Because you always snoop around all my shit, I think but don’t say. He knows what he does anyway, the little shit.

“Because apparently it’s time for us to Suffer.” I say, by way of explanation. Izuku begins to provide a lot more resistance to my dragging. Cute, I think mockingly, continuing to drag him along. Wimp.

“What? I don’t want that.” He protests. I roll my eyes.

“Oh shut up. Aren’t you always going on about bonding and all that shit? Nothing brings people closer than shared trauma.”

“Kacchan, no.”

“Kacchan, yes. Now shut up and come on – best to get it over with.”

 

Mitsuki was surprised to see her idiot son’s shoes when she got home from work. Usually the brat was over at Inko’s with her son until dinner rolled around. Spotting Izuku’s red sneakers neatly arranged next to her garbage brat’s loafers, she felt a grin split her face. My cute little godson is here!

“Izuku-kuuun!” She sang as she skipped into the living room, only to stop and take in the strange scene there. Her darling husband Masaru was sitting in the armchair looking uncomfortable and exhausted. Izuku was so red he looked like a Christmas ornament with his face buried in one of her nice throw pillows, and Katsuki was looking down at his crotch as if he thought his penis was going to rise up and bite him.

“What, did you catch them watching porn or something?”

Chapter Text

The problem with knowing things about the world I'm living in is that they only feel familiar if they happen as they had when Whoever-I-Was first followed the story. Seeing as this is my actual life, and nothing around me looks like it’s part of a 2D animated world, sometimes it can be difficult to recognize things, or people, or events at first. And if something happens differently than Whoever-I-Was remembers it, then there is not going to be any deja-vu or helpful knowledge popping up at convenient times to get me out of tight situations. Really, all my previous knowledge seems useful for is random foreign baking recipes and the occasional existential crisis over debunk physics theories.

In the spring of my final year of middle school, both Izuku and I fill out the forms our teacher had given us with only one “intended life path”; U.A. and then professional heroism. Despite turning in identical responses, the teacher asks Izuku to stay back without even looking in my direction. I shoot the idiot a dirty look, but after three years of the teachers at this damn school not listening to my bitching about their treatment of my (admittedly useless but not stupid) friend, I've given up on them ever getting a clue. They’ll get what they deserve when they see us owning the Sports Festival next year, and I’ll send them a postcard or something to rub it in their faces.

It’s almost like, without me bullying him, the teachers feel the need to step up and fill that hole. "Damn plot.” I mutter, heading home first followed by a couple of Extras, as I always am whenever Izuku leaves me alone for more than two seconds. It's as we're passing the arcade that I stop to tell them to leave me the hell alone, only to freeze in my tracks at the look of fear on the Extras' faces. I remember this scene…A sense of knowing and terror fills me, and I manage to choke out a “run” before slime rises up to cover my nose and mouth.

I don’t know how I died, last time. I haven’t come across any experiences that have felt familiar in that particular way yet. I have a hunch that it’s related to why I don’t like feeling restrained and I get a sinking sense that I died feeling helpless, but as far as the actual method, I’m in the dark.

In an odd moment of detached compassion, as my body struggles independent of my will, quirk going off without any precision or control, I hope that Whoever I Was did not die like this. I hope she didn’t suffocate. I hope she didn’t have an audience. I hope it was fast.

Kacchan!” The broken cry manages to carry over the sound of my explosions and bystanders yelling.

He’s here, the part of me that knows relaxes, He’ll save me. I meet tear-filled green eyes and realize I’d been praying for him to appear, pinning all my hopes on this idiot running towards me, through fires set by my quirk, swinging his backpack as a weapon because he’s Quirkless, defenseless.

He looks like a moron. He’s so uncoordinated it’s not even funny, and there are tears and snot on his face as he tries to smile at me. But still, I know that now that Deku’s here, I’m saved. I know I’ll be okay. I know how this scene goes.

And then the Slime Fucker pulls away from my face to reach for Izuku.

I know how this scene ends. I know Izuku already met this villain earlier today and was okay. I know this all ends well. I know. But the slime in my lungs doesn’t feel like a story. The look of fear in Izuku’s eyes as the slime heads towards his throat doesn’t look like he’s going to be okay. And, and, and…

I died helpless once. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

“Deku!” I scream in terror, and my next explosion sends pain shooting up my arms even as a blur of red blue and blond crashes into the scene with all the force of a hurricane. I hardly hear my favorite hero’s signature phrase, too busy blasting the hell out of any part of the villain I can touch, nothing in my mind but the image of Izuku suffocating under that same slime.

With a superpowered punch that sets off all my leftover sweat in a way that really doesn’t feel good (Note to self, avoid collateral damage from allies’ concussive attacks), All Might defeats the villain. I collapse to my knees the moment he lets me go, coughing up sludge and stomach bile onto the concrete. It’s in my ears. I’ll never feel clean again.

Deku disappears while I’m still being fussed over by no-name heroes. It makes me sick to be mother-henned by the people who sat back to watch me die a few minutes ago, but I’m too shaken by what happened to muster up my usual anger. Eventually, my parents arrive, Kaa-san shoving an actual pro hero physically out of her way to commence her own worried scolding of me while my father frets and hovers as if unsure if he should touch me.

I hate being hugged, and after that experience it’s the last thing I want, but I make an exception, knowing I must have worried them. Besides, it’s nice to be close to them, to hear them breathing, to know they’re alive. We’re alive. I’m still alive…

I’ve died once before. I’m not ready for it to happen again.

 

Izuku’s hardly around for the next ten months, but I expect that. I would have been much more worried if this had not happened. But it did, the Plot prevailed despite any changes I might have made, and Izuku is off training with the number one hero in the world while I practice by myself with nothing more than some stretches Whoever I Was happens to know and a gym membership I abuse regularly. My quirk experiments continue, and the more I learn the more I despair at the fact that Quirks in general seem to completely ignore even the existence of anything like science.

Still, despite not having the greatest hero ever training me (goddamn that was unfair) I still have the advantage of having been practicing since I was four. Izuku hadn’t really gotten much better since he was a scrawny kid following me around. He’s fast, but his endurance is pretty shit, and he has the muscle mass of a malnourished chihuahua. Meanwhile, I’d started a daily flexibility regimen practically as soon as I got my quirk, working from what seemed to be a background in gymnastics that Whoever-I-Was had had. It’s just enough for me to follow that niggling sense of familiarity and work out the right way to stretch each of my body parts to make sure they remain limber as I build up my muscles.

That’s where the gym membership comes in. Every year for my birthday I ask my parents to renew my membership and my monthly meetings with a personal trainer, and three to four times a week I go through whichever routine my trainer has assigned me that day. Making sure to stay on top of my class grades-wise, practice my cooking and sewing and drawing (Kaa-san and Tou-san taught me figure drawing, adapted from their experience as fashion designers), and improve my control with my quirk, doesn’t leave me a lot of time to miss Izuku following me around and making me uncomfortable.

I’ve gotten used to his creepy presence, to an extent. I’d still much rather be alone than have him following me around, but it no longer itches as much as it used to. I think having read his creepy notes actually helped, in a way. Since I’ve already seen them, he doesn’t bother to hide them from me anymore, and being able to keep track of what all his creepy muttering is actually about goes a long way towards putting me at ease.

I still put my foot down at his notes on my dietary habits and how they affect my “digestive processes”. For fuck’s sake. “But Kacchan, constipation is a serious problem!” He argues. What a moron. I make sure to scorch his stupid notebook cover for that one.

Anyway, despite enjoying my ten-month break from my friend’s creepy habits, I still find myself instinctively calling out to him when I spot him walking ahead of me on the grounds of UA.

“Yo, Deku.” I snort as he jumps almost a foot in the air. “What the hell have you been up to?” I eye his shoulders. They’ve definitely broadened out quite a bit in the last few months. “Finally getting serious, huh?”

“I, uh. I’ve just. I mean. I… training!” He’s a mess. I should have probably expected the panicked spluttering, considering he’s essentially been ignoring me for the past ten months, which he’s never done before. Maybe he expects me to be angry? That would be a bit out of character, considering all I ever do is tell him to leave me alone. Then again, he does seem to have some sort of fantasy version of me in his head, so that version of me probably missed him or some shit.

“Whatever.” I decide this isn’t worth the trouble. “I’ll save a seat for you.” I add, already continuing on my way to the testing room. I tune out whatever sputtered response Izuku gives and focus on getting myself prepared for the test ahead.

When Izuku finally joins me just before the test starts, he still looks nervous as hell. I ignore him, hardly even registering his muttering until Iida Tenya, younger brother of Ingenium, future classmate, Izuku’s friend, class Rep- stands up and tells him off for it. I blink at him in wonder, amazed that he has the balls to complain about Izuku causing disruptions when he’s so fucking loud in general, but Izuku actually shuts up for a bit afterward, so I decide that I don’t have any complaints.

We’re all bused to different locations for the practical portion of the test, and I don’t see either Izuku or that Iida kid in my section. Probably for the best. I need to just focus on my own performance for the moment.

This is what I’ve been working towards since I was four, or maybe earlier. From the moment I understood who I was in this universe, I’d been walking this path without a second thought, using every advantage I can find to make myself faster better stronger. It’s a bit odd, looking up at the massive gates and waiting for the signal to start, to realize that I have never even considered not following this path. I could have been anything. I think, and then the gates open, and I am launching myself forward with explosions strong enough to allow me to fly, taking out robots almost as fast as I can find them, blood singing in my veins and the usual bustle anger noise in my head silenced in the face of adrenaline-fueled clarity.

Ah, I realize. This is what I’ve been looking for.

I love the feeling of control, of success and accomplishment when I twist my body, flexibility and balance allowing me to line up a perfect shot, muscle control holding me steady in the face of my quirk’s recoil, reflexes sending me rolling out of the way of another student’s misaimed quirk with hardly half a thought. I can’t get enough of the sense of I can do anything that comes with each flip, jump, kick, dodge, and the growing trail of precisely-disabled robots I’m leaving in my wake.

Everything seems clear in a way that it hasn’t since the sludge villain attack, and even though that was not an experience I ever want to repeat, I feel a thrill at how quickly and easily answers come to me in the face of every obstacle I face. Weak points on robots seem so obvious they might as well be marked with a big X. Angles and forces and trajectories are calculated almost subconsciously and without struggle. How to use my quirk to deflect a glancing blow that comes my way too fast to dodge, how to use my surroundings to control my opponents’ movements, how to isolate my target without drawing attention from competitors…

When the signal announces the end of the test, I almost don’t want to stop. It’s only the knowledge that getting labelled some sort of berserker is not likely to get me accepted to UA that keeps me from continuing my game. I’m sweaty and out of breath, and I can’t stop grinning. I’ve never felt better. That was fucking amazing.

They bus all the applicants back to the main campus, and a lot of the Extras are glaring at me for looking so pleased with myself, but I just widen my grin until it shows all my teeth and they quickly look away. Sore losers.

 Once we arrive back at campus and the other applicants start to disperse, I look around for anyone in clusters, listening for the familiar pitch of voices lowered in gossip… there.

“…someone destroyed the zero pointer in section A.”

“Seriously?? But that thing was huge!”

“Well, they didn’t come out of it untouched either. I hear they broke every bone in their body. Maybe more.”

Idiots. I think, but then revise that thought when I remember that science is a joke here. Drama queens. “Yo, Extras. Where’s the kid who took out the zero pointer now?”

They jump at the sound of my voice, looking shocked to have been caught gossiping out in the open in the middle of campus. I roll my eyes.

“U-Um… He’d probably be in the infirmary…?” One of them finally manages. At my unimpressed look, he quickly gives me directions, and I leave without thanking them. Not like I’ll be seeing them around again. I’m not even sure the Extras actually exist when they aren’t around to further the Plot.

Recovery Girl only lets me into the infirmary after I tell her “I live down the street from him and I’ve known him forever. Auntie would kill me if I didn’t make sure he got home okay.” I decide I like her professionalism.

The nerd looks absolutely fine where he’s sitting on the infirmary bed when I walk in. Well, he looks fine in that he doesn’t look like he turned three of his limbs into ground beef less than an hour ago, but he does look absolutely exhausted. Like, I didn’t know dark circles could get that dark. He looks dead inside.

“Oi, dumbass. I’m here to take you home.” I declare loudly, just to watch the way he jumps and flails his arms around in surprise. Classic. “Get your stuff and let’s get going. Auntie will be worried if you miss dinner.”

K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K-Kacchan!” He squeals, and I decide to save us both some time and just grab his stuff myself. I toss his bag over my shoulder along with mine and gesture towards the door sarcastically.

“Ladies first.” I smirk. The betrayed look he throws me is worth it, and the fact that he stops sputtering to complain about how - you know I don’t like being mistaken for a girl, Kacchan! - is a nice bonus. I nod to Recovery Girl on our way out where she’s watching us with that gross nostalgic fondness thing that old people get.

We only make it about halfway to the train station when Izuku starts to flag. He doesn’t complain, which is the only reason I don’t force him to keep walking, and I consider offering him a piggyback before remembering how creepy he gets whenever I allow too much physical contact. (The last time I’d let him hug me he’d started muttering about how my smell had changed with puberty. The boy’s lucky I didn’t break his fucking nose.) So I settle for the next best option and find a nearby park bench to sit on so he can rest for a few minutes.

It’s as I’m enjoying the silence and taking the chance to try to calculate my score from the practical exam in my head (had that robot in the open square been a two-pointer or a three pointer...?) that Izuku proves himself, once again, to be the dumbest piece of shit I’ve ever met in either life.

“I have a quirk.” He blurts. I blink at him, once, slowly. He stares back at me as if he thinks I’m going to run away.

“You… have a quirk.” I echo. I’m not sure what my face is doing, but all I can think is is this idiot for real? So he must have interpreted that as disbelief.

“It’s true!” He says, leaning forward, and I instinctively put a hand on his face to push him out of my bubble. “I activated it… recently, and used it in the practical test!” His voice is slightly muffled by my hand, but this is practically routine for us, so I can still understand him.

“You activated it recently.” I close my eyes, resisting the urge to pinch the bridge of my nose. “Should you really be telling me this, Deku?” I ask pointedly. Telling me about your super-secret new quirk that you got from All fucking Might? You’ve had it for one day, don’t go spilling the beans already!

“W-What do you mean?” He leans back, and I let my hand fall to my lap. He’s no longer making eye contact. So obvious. “I’m just a late bloomer.”

“Right. A late bloomer.” I say, “Like all those other late-bloomers with extra toe joints we’ve heard of. Uh huh.”

“Th-The toe joint must have been a separate mutation. Maybe my doctor made a mistake.” He’s really panicking now. I give in to the urge to massage my forehead.

“Listen, Deku. Quirks don’t just come out of nowhere. Especially not bullshit super strength break-all-your-limbs quirks.” Seriously, this moron.

“Exactly!” He jumps at the opening. As he always does, analytical little creep. “My body wasn’t strong enough to handle it, that’s why it never showed up until I started training.”

“Right. Training.” I deadpan. “Training conveniently tailored to preparing your body for a bullshit super strength quirk that you would have no way of knowing how to put together.”

“I… I googled…” He tried, but at my unimpressed look he deflated, staring at his knees. “No, I probably should not be telling you this.” He admits quietly. I nod. Damn right you shouldn’t.

“Right. So, you have a super strength quirk, huh?” I say, leaning back and looking up at the trees behind us. “Like your great uncle what’s-his-face. Nice. I remember him. Always lifting cars to show off. Too bad he moved to Zimbabwe when we were kids and you’ve all fallen out of touch, or he would have been able to give you advice on how to use such an unstable quirk.” I watch a leaf fall from the tree and follow its path with my eyes, waiting. He should only take a few seconds to catch on, and…

“R-Right. My great uncle with the super strength quirk. Yeah.” He sounds more sure of himself as he repeats. “Yeah.” And then, quietly: “Thanks, Kacchan.”

Well, that’s enough of that. Helping the idiot keep the Number One Hero’s secret is one thing. Having him think I care enough to help him is another. I stand up, deciding Izuku can rest when he’s dead, and lead the way to the train station, not bothering to slow down when Izuku whines about being tired, since he’s not even carrying his own bag anyway, the wimp.

And if I stay to make sure he makes it all the way into his house before I leave to walk the rest of the way to my own, well. Auntie really would be upset if I let her stupid son pass out on the lawn.

Chapter Text

Apparently blowing his limbs to bits is enough of a milestone that Izuku gets a break from his training regimen (how much do you want to bet he’s been thinking of it as a singular goal and not an ongoing process? Idiot’s lucky school starts in a week and the teachers won’t let him slack off like usual), because the green-haired menace is back to following me around the very next day.

At first it’s almost nice. Seeing him waiting outside my door when I set out for my morning jog sends something a bit like nostalgia through me, and I wonder if I’m starting to grow fond of the little shit.

Then I realize that’s actually just deja-vu from all the times I’ve found him lurking around here at strange hours of the day waiting for me to come out so he could ambush me, and I immediately turn around to go back inside.

“Wait, Kacchan! So mean!” The familiar cry carries easily through the door. The nerd knows the exact pitch he needs for me to hear him no matter where I go in my house. The look on my face must say everything, since my asshole mother takes one look at me and breaks down laughing while Tou-san just smiles serenely from his place on the couch.

“Why don’t you two go to that café you like so much down by the mall?” Tou-san suggests, his gentle face not at all fitting the evil intent of that suggestion. He knows I can’t resist their spicy latte, but getting Tou-san to fund my coffee addiction would mean I would have to take Izuku along. “You two can use some time to catch up, you’ve both been busy these last few months.” He looks at me significantly, and I huff. Unlike Kaa-san, who I can fight tooth and nail on anything, it’s useless to go against Tou-san when he decides something is important enough for him to intervene.

“Fine.” I mutter. “But I want the extra large one.”

“Of course.” Tou-san smiles indulgently, pulling out the money and handing it over while smiling at my scowl (“It’s not a pout, Old Man!”) like the insane man he is. No wonder he married my banshee of a mother. He’s such a weirdo.

I ignore Izuku’s spluttering as I stomp out the front door and grab him by the collar to drag him along behind me, intent on getting to my destination and getting my coffee with as little annoyance as possible.

“Kacchaaaaaannn you’ll ruin my shirt!“ Izuku whines, and I let go of his collar with a grumble. Kaa-san would beat my ass if I messed up one of the nerd’s few nice shirts. He’s a walking fashion disaster, and half of her nagging me is trying to get me to intervene. Not happening. But I also don’t need to make the situation any more dire.

“Just hurry up nerd, we’re getting coffee.” I instruct, and to his credit the green-haired moron actually listens for once, giving up on making small talk and just keeping up with my quick pace. I can feel his eyes on me, probably analyzing the diameter of my nostril flare or some shit, but I ignore it and him as best I can. Which is pretty damn well. I’ve had a lot of practice at this point.

He even waits until I’ve gotten settled down and taken the first long sip of my extra-large spicy chile latte before he looks at me over his small hot chocolate (lame) and judges that I won’t run away until I finish my drink (and he’s right, damn him) to start talking again.

“Kacchan.” He begins.

“Deku.” I respond, mockingly polite.

He’s visibly nervous, starting and stopping several sentences without ever fully forming the first word. He fidgets in his seat and takes sip of his hot chocolate to buy time, and I wonder why he’s so eager to have this conversation if he isn’t even prepared for it. Finally, he straightens his shoulders and I set my latte down to give him my full attention. (Mostly because I’ve finished my latte, but whatever. The nerd’s going to think I care either way. Might as well be the bigger man today. Like usual.)

“Kacchan, I…” He manages, and I refrain from mocking him for only being able to say my name so far. “You… There’s so much…” His gaze looks kind of far away, like he’s thinking about all the shit I’m not supposed to know about since I’m not the Main Character. Jokes on him though, I’m something even better: me. “That is to say… It’s been a while, and I’m sorry that I, that I haven’t been around much…” (“Don’t be, it was great.”) “…anyway, what I’m saying is, Kacchan…” And the green idiot looks up at me, staring deeply into my bored gaze as if looking for something there. I try to make sure he can’t find anything but disinterest, and he slumps slightly, something that’s not quite a smile on his face as he finishes: “What I’m saying is, would you braid my hair, Kacchan?”

I squint at him, where he’s playing with the stupid-looking ponytail he’d worn his hair in both today and at the test yesterday. What was wrong with the ponytail? Sure, it didn’t look as good as my braids would, but that’s to be expected. I’m amazing at what I do. Is he seriously becoming high maintenance about his hair of all things? Ridiculous.

But remembering my Mother’s constant complaints about Izuku not caring about his appearance (and definitely not remembering how soft the moron’s hair is), I figure that helping the idiot out will at least work toward getting the Old Hag off my back.

After I agree, Izuku scoots his chair over and turns it around so that I can get to his hair easily while he continues to sip on his hot chocolate. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to indulge in this hobby, so I take my time playing with it a bit, and do one of the more complicated lace braids I know to bring it all up into a bun. Izuku has some bobby pins on him (making it obvious he planned this) and I finish it off by snatching the nerd’s pencil from his grasp where he’s working on what looks like a disturbingly accurate drawing of me in my current attire and sticking it through the bun like a chopstick. Perfect.

From then on, it’s like the last ten months never even happened. Izuku slots himself back into my life like a knife through the ribs, and I comfort myself with the knowledge that once we both start high school at UA, the nerd will make some actual friends and stop following me around all the time.

Luckily, it’s not just me that the idiot had been ignoring for the last ten months, so it’s not too hard to convince him to spend some time with Auntie Inko over our break from school. Sometimes I’ll join them, since Auntie Inko is the one thing I’ve really missed about Izuku’s constant presence, but usually I take whatever reprieve I get for a chance to get out of the house and away from everyone for a while.

I’m running an errand for Kaa-san, picking up some things she needs for dinner tonight, when my phone starts to play the theme song from that dumb All Might cartoon Izuku had been obsessed with when we were kids. I answer it without looking, knowing from the ringtone who’s calling.

“What do you want, Deku?” I ask. “I’m busy right now.”

“K-Kacchan.” The nerd’s voice sounds off, and I frown at some tortilla chips. Is he crying? “Kacchan, I got in. I got into UA.” There’s a muffled sort of cough, and it takes me a second to connect it to that choking gargle thing Izuku tends to do when he tries to talk even though he’s being stupidly emotional. I groan, grabbing some of my favorite flaming hot corn twists as a reward for myself, since apparently my acceptance letter will be there when I get home.

“Yeah, duh.” I roll my eyes as I head for the register, absently making sure I have everything on my Mom’s list. Kaa-san would kill me if I ruined dinner. “I told you we’d go to UA years ago. Did you think I was joking, bitch? If you want sap go cry on Auntie or something.” With that said, I hang up, focusing on setting my groceries out on the conveyor belt in the most efficient order for them to be bagged.

 

Izuku blinked down at the phone in his hand when Kacchan hung up on him. He had been the first person Izuku had told, his hand going for his phone without really thinking as soon as the hologram of All Might had flickered out. It had been instinctive, to want to tell him, to let him know that Izuku had done it. That against all the odds, he had managed to not only get into UA, but get into the Hero Course alongside his best friend.

Yeah, duh. Kacchan had said. He had sounded just as annoyed as he always did when talking to Izuku. As if this wasn’t the life-changing revelation it was. As if Izuku hadn’t gone from a hopeless, quirkless nobody to a student at the number one hero school in Japan in a matter of months.

I told you. He’d said, and that was true. He had been the only person to ever listen to Izuku say “I want to be a hero” and take him seriously. Kacchan had not always been kind, had often been cruel and discouraging when he was telling Izuku to work harder or be better if he wanted to be a hero, but even at his cruelest, Kacchan had never once implied that Izuku would not one day be exactly where he was right now. He had always talked as if the two of them getting into UA was a certainty, not a dream. And it was easy to see how he could be so confident, when he was top of the class and worked so hard on training his powerful quirk, but Izuku…

Izuku was quirkless. Weak, friendless, less than. With a slight build, his strengths lay in his intellect and not his physique. In every way, it seemed obvious that Izuku would have to struggle in every aspect of becoming a hero. Even to Izuku, this moment, right here, had never really seemed like a possibility until All Might had echoed the words Kacchan had been saying to him all these years. “You can be a hero.”

But even then, Kacchan had said it first, and stronger. Not “you can” but “you will.” Not “if you work hard, you can get there” but “you need to work hard because one day you’ll be there and you’ll need it.” And Izuku had never understood, never been able to really accept his friend’s casual belief in him, when everyone else in the world, including Izuku, could see all the reasons he had to fail…

But now, with a single phone call, he had been reminded. Reminded of why he had admired Kacchan for so long despite his terrible temperament. Why he could safely say that while All Might was his favorite hero, Kacchan was his hero. The one who saw him lost in the hopelessness of his quirkless diagnosis and pulled him out into the light.

Because Kacchan was a lot of things – rude, violent, short-tempered, difficult to get close to – but he was always decisive, and since that first day all those years ago, despite all the complaining he does about Izuku slowing him down or annoying him, he’s never let go of Izuku’s hand after deciding to take it. Instead just dragging him along behind him, never once doubting his ability to keep up.

Izuku smiled, setting down his phone and picking up his letter. Heart fuller than he can ever remember it being, he turned and opened the door to his room, peeking his head out to see a head of straight green hair fluttering around in the kitchen.

“Kaa-san!”

Chapter Text

I leave for class early to make sure I have time to find all my classrooms and figure out my way around the school before all the Extras start crawling around like roaches. Unfortunately, Izuku knows me well enough to predict what I’m going to do in situations like this, so he’s waiting for me when I step out of my front door before the sun has even started to rise. The idiot’s tie looks like something a clown would wear. Coupled with his huge red boots and green hair, he could be a somewhat boring circus performer.

I at least manage to school his locks into a professional-looking French braid while we’re on the train, so he’s not a complete disaster for his first day of classes. Nerd’s lucky our morning commute is so boring, or I’d leave him to sort out that green rat’s nest on his own.

Campus is quiet when we arrive. The door to classroom 1-A is ridiculously large, but all the desks in the room are the same damn size. Was the door not designed for the students, or are there desks in different sizes stored somewhere that can be brought out if needed? Does Hagrid teach here or something?

The lunchroom is not as large as I had expected. It’s smaller than our middle school’s cafeteria, and all the chairs and tables are set up in neat rows. (once again, all the standard size. Why is that door so fucking big?) It’s a stark reminder that despite UA’s absolutely ridiculous budget (seriously, who builds hundreds of robots just for a bunch of adolescents to destroy them every year? That’s like, Tony Stark levels of rich obliviousness), it’s actually a fairly small high school. There are only two hero classes, 20 students in each, and if the other areas have similar numbers, with general education being the largest with, say, 4 or 5 classes… that’s only about 200 students in first year. That’s 600 students total, except the drop out and expulsion rate is somewhere around 50% by third year, so probably closer to 450 students in all three years.

Considering the population density of Musutafu, and my vague memories of being in a high school where my graduating class had contained more than 450 people, UA seemed surprisingly small compared to my expectations. But maybe that was a good thing. The staff would need to have time to really get to know and work closely with their students if they were going to produce the best heroes in the country.

Still, with such a low number of alumni being turned out, where the hell do they get their funding? Bake sales? Now there’s a thought.

I finish exploring by returning to the classroom to get a good seat. By the time I get back to it, there are a couple other early-risers who have shown up. One of them is that kid who scolded Izuku during the entrance exam, Iida, and the other has hair that’s split red and white down the center part. Todoroki Shouto my brain whispers, and then: Daddy issues.

Well, never let it be said that all of my foreknowledge is helpful foreknowledge. Sometimes I wonder if Whoever-I-Was had really been paying attention when watching this story I’m now living.

I settle in to a desk by the window, and Izuku happily sits behind me, chattering away about all the different rooms we’d seen. I’ve just gotten comfortable when a sudden wave of deja-vu hits me and robot boy comes up to me like he’s about to impart the holy gospel to me and save my damned soul.

“You should not have your shoes on the desk!” He says in a voice that sounds like he’s straining to handle the massive stick up his ass. “It is disrespectful to both your classmates and the seniors who have used this desk in the past, not to mention the craftsmen who produced it…” I zone out as he continues to explain the many reasons I should feel ashamed of myself. He has a point about my shoes being dirty, though, so I lean down and pull them off, revealing All Might ankle socks, and set my shoes on the floor, my clean socked feet going right back onto the desk.

Iida seems unsure what to do with this. I’ve technically followed his advice, and my socks are clean, so I go back to ignoring him and he luckily turns his attention to the nerd after he recognizes him from the entrance exam and decides to apologize for misjudging him. Nah, you were pretty accurate in your judgement. I think. He really is a disruptive menace.

A girl with soft-looking pink cheeks and shoulder-length brown hair bounces up to Izuku while Iida is still in the middle of freaking him out by being the first person besides his mother to ever really apologize to him. She’s the kind of cheerful and friendly that always makes me itch, and I scowl at the trio over my shoulder while Izuku turns bright red at being smiled at by a member of the opposite sex. What a dweeb.

Luckily, our teacher chooses that moment to enter the classroom. Unluckily, he’s also a complete fucking weirdo and decides to do it by rolling into the room in a bright yellow sleeping bag, looking like a sleep-deprived and very hungover caterpillar. He sucks down a juice box and quiets the class as if this is all routine, which, honestly, if he does this regularly, that would explain why they need such a wide door. A grown man needs to fit through it horizontally. Maybe the height was just added to keep it proportional?

Before I can decide whether to keep this hypothesis or scrap it, our sensei has introduced himself as Aizawa, Eraserhead, Underground Hero, will fight the Nomu in USJ and barely survive, and ordered us all to change into our gym uniforms and head to the field.

The sense of knowing anticipation that has been prickling at my scalp all day intensifies, and I wonder what Whoever I Was had thought of this first day of classes when she watched it as a story. Did she find it as ridiculous and illogical as I did, or had she given in to suspension of disbelief and ignored the details?

I avoid the other students exchanging small talk in the locker room in favor of changing quickly and getting out to the field first. The only one who beats me out is Todoroki, and he has the advantage of not having a surprisingly heavy nerd hanging off him like a limpet in the face of prospective social interactions, so I still count it as my win.

The others join us in a slow trickle, and already I can see cliques forming among them, although I know from not-experience that the social circles will continue to evolve and shift around for the next few days before really settling. Hopefully Izuku will move to sit next to Loud Mouth and Soft Cheeks on the opposite side of the room, so I don’t have to listen to them get each other off with simpering compliments all day.

Aizawa explains the quirk assessment, and I watch in amusement as Izuku pales, only to pale even further when the pink girl’s enthusiasm prompts our teacher to decide that the person with the lowest scores at the end of the day will be expelled. There’s that 50% drop out and expulsion rate I’ve heard horror stories about. Izuku sure didn’t do his homework about this school for someone who’s always claimed to want to be a hero. But then again, he didn’t really start training seriously until ten months ago either, so I’m not surprised.

Once the quirk assessment gets underway, I focus on figuring out how to get the best scores I can. The other students are all going to go all out in order to avoid being the loser who gets expelled, so if I want to come out on top, I’m going to need to push myself a bit. It’s not quite the rush that I got from the entrance exam, but the competition and the freedom to use my quirk still gets my heart pumping a little faster in excitement. I wonder what this feeling is called, I muse, it’s not quite bloodlust, since I don’t want to hurt anyone, just let loose… What would Izuku call it? Fierce? Nah, too weak…

I keep low to the ground and focus on using my explosions to add horizontal force to increase my speed for the 500-meter dash, instead of wasting energy on a vertical force to keep myself in the air. With the combination of my feet pushing off the earth and my explosions propelling me, I’m sure I manage to beat whatever record the other Bakugou would have gotten. Dumbass didn’t even think about the actual physics of his techniques, just getting through on brute force. I pause to think about this as I take a break and drink some water, watching the next group line up to run. Although considering how little this universe seems to care about the laws of physics in general, I can’t really blame him.

Unsurprisingly, as students are waiting their turn for each part of the Quirk Assessment, the topics of quirks comes up. The yellow-haired kid (Kaminari Denki, short circuits from quirk overuse) suggests everyone introduce themselves and share their quirks. Although some are reluctant, most agree. Izuku agrees for both of us.

Some of the quirks are almost understandable. Kaminari’s is just the ability to let off a large electrical discharge, which, if his biology is weird enough, could be perfectly plausible. How the boy isn’t concerned about the obvious brain damage he’s probably inflicting on himself when he literally fries his own brain with his quirk, I don’t know, but the quirk itself doesn’t make me want to punch anyone. He should really just stop using it for massive discharges and instead get like, a portable rail gun of some kind and wreck everyone’s shit with a simple electrical current and some metallic projectiles. But I digress.

“That’s awesome, man!” The red one, Kirishima Eijirou my brain whispers creepily, tells Kaminari with a slap on the back. “Super flashy and cool-looking! My quirk is strong but it’s not very cool to look at.” He demonstrates by hardening the skin on one of his forearms into some sort of jagged crystalline structure and babbling about how it can’t be broken. Like, sounds fake but okay, Shark Teeth. At least it isn’t as bad as Tokoyami’s quirk.

Seriously. That guy has a bird head, but he still has teeth. Does that mean he has a human skull inside a fake bird’s head, like some sort of demented camouflage? How does his neck hold that up? Also, what the actual fuck is up with his quirk apparently being sentient? That’s… no. No. I don’t need this right now.

And he’s not even the worst. There’s a guy here with like, four arms, and he can apparently grow any body part on the end of them? He even talks with a mouth he grows on his weird tentacle stub, instead of whatever he’s hiding under that mask of his (I do not even remotely want to know). How does that work? Where does he get the correct type of cells to create different body parts? Does he use his own stem cells? Is he limited to recreating his own body parts or could he create organs to match another blood type for a transplant? This kid could be a walking talking cure for cancer and instead all anybody encourages him to do is learn how to punch petty criminals in the face.

Speaking of cancer, apparently our teacher has some sort of laser vision that cancels out quirks when he’s looking at you with it activated. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but any form of radiation that alters my cellular makeup that drastically is pretty much guaranteed to be carcinogenic. There’s no way he can remote-control my fucking sweat glands and not cause serious problems. In thirty years, all his past students are going to sue the hell out of UA, and I am going to be right there with them. In the meantime, I am going to make sure not to give him any reason to use his quirk on me. Yikes.

“Oh, my turn!” Soft Cheeks chimes in, cutting off some poor schmuck with purple spheres for hair. “I’m Uraraka Ochako and my quirk is Anti-Gravity!”

Her quirk is what ?

I don’t hear any of the other introductions, too busy gaping in actual open-mouthed shock at the girl who has just casually declared the most horrifying quirk I have ever heard of as if it’s a fun party trick. How could they let someone with a quirk like that into a hero school?!

“Kacchan?” Izuku asks hesitantly. He doesn’t touch me, and I actually snap out of my shock enough to turn to him, which really goes to show how much both of us have grown over the years. “Are you alright? We’re moving on to the ball toss, but you didn’t seem to hear Aizawa-sensei at all…”

“That Urara-girl is a fucking monster.” I blurt, and Izuku blinks at me in confusion.

“Who… Uraraka-san?” Green eyebrows rise in disbelief. “What are you talking about, Kacchan?”

Her quirk!” I hiss. “It’s anti-gravity!” The other boy’s brows furrow in confusion.

“Yeah, I know.” He says slowly, as if he thought I was having some sort of stroke and might be a bit mentally addled. “She used it on me on the day of the Entrance Exam and-”

“SHE WHAT!” Before I even realize what I’m doing, I’ve already grabbed Izuku by the shoulder and started patting him down. He yelps at the rough treatment, but I hardly even notice. “Holy fuck Deku you should have told me that as soon as it happened, I’ll kill that fucking bitch for using such a dangerous quirk on someone holy shit what was she thinking how are you even alive-

“K-KACCHAN!” Izuku’s voice usually only squeaks like that when he’s asking for an autograph from a hero or on the rare occasions that I say something that could be generously interpreted as a compliment. It’s enough to set off my Creepy Deku Senses and make me pause. The blush and starry-eyed gaze that the green-haired boy is sporting have me jumping away as if burned. He looks like he regrets speaking up for a moment before his expression settles into something more concerned. “Kacchan, what are you talking about? She used her quirk to help me, it wasn’t dangerous at all.”

Is this kid for real? I think, before remembering; Right, oblivious moron. Better explain then.

“Deku.” I speak slowly, as if talking to an idiot, because I am. “The Earth rotates at a speed of over 1500 kilometers per hour. Without gravity to hold you into place and cancel out the lateral component of your inertia, you would just… continue in a straight line – at 1500 plus kilometers per hour, into space. If that girl can cancel gravity, she can just launch anything she touches into the sun.” I don’t know how to explain this any more clearly, so I just reiterate: “She’s a monster.

“S-She’s not!” Izuku defends, although he looks a little paler after my explanation. Good, you should be, idiot. Letting some bitch cancel one of the four fundamental forces on you. “When she used her quirk on me, I became weightless and started to float, but I didn’t go flying anywhere or anything like that! Maybe her quirk cancels the… the inertia you have, or something… But it doesn’t send people into the sun!” Despite seeming shaky on the details, the nerd is pretty firm on that point, at least. I feel my shoulders relax slightly, only to tense up as horror gives way to a different kind of despair.

Cancelling inertia would just have the same effect but in reverse…  I mentally groan. God, why do quirks sometimes make perfect sense and other times entirely destroy the laws of physics for fun? What’s next? Is there someone out there with a quirk that can just change Planck’s Constant? Is one of these students hiding a perpetual motion machine under their uniform?

“Kacchan, it’s your turn.” Izuku’s voice snaps me out of my musing.

“I know, Nerd.” I definitely did not know. “I’m just preparing.” Preparing for what? Oh, the ball toss. Right, I have to do this again for the official score, not just the example or whatever. Easy. I line up my toss to maximize the horizontal distance before the vertical force loses its fight against gravity, and let rip. A bit under a kilometer, and my palm hardly even stings.

The next person up is Daddy Issues, who launches his ball using a column of ice. Actual solid ice that he then proceeds to melt into liquid water. What the hell? Where did he get all that water? The other students are all gathered around oohing and aahing over his quirk, which he stoically calls “half-cold half-hot”, and that… that doesn’t make any sense. If his quirk is just half-cold and half-hot, he shouldn’t be able to produce pillars of ice. At best he should be able to frost things over, maybe lower their temperature to the point that they shatter. Even if you are generous and say he’s taken the water from the air around him and solidified it, there’s just not enough water vapor contained in the air to produce such a large volume of ice.

He could be pulling oxygen and hydrogen out of the air separately, but there still wouldn’t be enough, and then the sudden lack of oxygen around us would create enough of a vacuum effect that we would feel the air displacement, not to mention suddenly being unable to breathe until oxygen from the air further away had re-dispersed into this area… Did he teleport the water from somewhere? Did he just produce more matter out of nothing? Does conservation of mass mean nothing to you, you IcyHot Prick?!

“Next up, Yaoyorozu Momo.” Aizawa calls as if standing there reading names off a sheet of paper is using up the last dredges of energy keeping him alive. A girl with a frankly enormous ponytail steps up to the plate, looking determined. God, that hair is ridiculous. I think. And then I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from screaming in rage when she unzips her sports jersey and pulls a fucking canon out of her stomach.

“Kacchan, you’re really acting odd today.” Izuku says. I’m not sure what he’s talking about, really. I’m almost always considering just how terrible a person Whoever-I-Was must have been to have deserved this hell I now suffer. It just doesn’t always show on my face so clearly. “I know our classmates have some incredible quirks, but you don’t need to be intimidated. You’re amazing, Kacchan.” God, he looks so earnest. I might puke.

“I’m not intimidated, I’m pissed off.” I correct. Izuku doesn’t look convinced, but he’s never been great at reading my moods. “My quirk lets me turn my glycerin-based sweat into nitroglycerin through a chemical reaction that can only occur because of specialized glands on both of my palms. My quirk does not allow me to cancel one of the fundamental forces of the universe or produce matter from nothing.”

“I do not produce matter from nothing.” Ponytail Girl corrects primly. (Yaomomo, Rich Girl, good grades.) “My quirk allows me to convert fat to other matter on an atomic level, so I must eat an appropriate amount to replenish my lipids after using it.”

“You… you convert fats to… whatever other element you want?” I deadpan. She nods (“As long as I understand its structure, yes.”) “And what does your quirk do with all those extra protons and electrons, huh? Does it just leave the neutrons where they are, and fuck the isotopes? Are you full of unstable isotopes at any odd moment?”

“Of course not, they just get… recycled.” She’s talking through her ass. This universe is bullshit.

“I think it is a very useful and versatile quirk!” Iida chimes in. “Very appropriate for a rescue hero, or perhaps a specialized first responder!” Ponytail Girl looks like she’s trying to hide how pleased she is with the compliment. Noob. “I can sympathize with the limitations of a quirk that forces you to consume fuel.” He continues, robotically sympathetic. “My own quirk relies on a steady supply of orange juice to fuel my engines.” And he revs his fucking calf-engines as if to punctuate that utter nonsense.

“How fascinating!” Izuku says, asking for more details on Iida and his garbage legs. I stare ahead with dead eyes, watching the three of them nerd out as if all of this makes some sort of demented sense to them. Is it me? Am I just missing something here? I turn my eyes to stare at the sky, only to see Uraraka’s fucking ball passing by in the distance, still orbiting in the lower atmosphere.

“This must be what a world without god looks like.” I realize.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Kacchan?”

Chapter Text

In a way, Izuku manages to snap me out of my panic over quirks. Unfortunately, he does this by very loudly and very graphically shattering his pointer finger in front of the class. It’s the sound that draws my attention, and everyone else’s – a wet sound combined with several simultaneous cracks. There’s blood coming from small lacerations on the purple, crinkled digit, and my stomach turns unpleasantly. What kind of quirk causes a finger to literally burst like that? I’m glad his limbs had already been healed up by the time I picked him up from Recovery Girl’s office last time.

Oh fuck. I realize. He’s going to keep doing this, isn’t he?

“Oh my god.” One of the female students whispers in horror. I think it’s the pink one, but it could have been the invisible girl next to her. At least I’m not the only person freaking out about this quirk. Aizawa’s manic grin doesn’t seem like an appropriate response to a student’s self-mutilation, and I make a mental note in my “future lawsuit against Aizawa” file. How on earth does this guy qualify as adult supervision?

“Deku!” I scold, stomping towards him. A few little pops go off in my palms involuntarily, which I think is a perfectly reasonable response to my best friend exploding his finger in front of me but apparently Aizawa doesn’t agree, since he immediately turns his cancer eyes on me and sends his illogically floating scarf to wrap around my limbs. I stiffen as they tighten, holding my arms in place, and I know if it weren’t for the other man’s quirk nullifying my own, I would instinctively let off an explosion in panic. It’s like being hugged, but a thousand times worse, because at least with hugs I can talk myself out of panicking by reminding myself that it’s just a hug, I’m not really restrained. This is real. This is dangerous.

All the hair on my body is standing straight up, I notice absently. I can feel the goosebumps all the way up my arms to the back of my neck. I’m holding my breath and flexing all of my muscles as the scarves settle into place, and frantically wondering what my body is trying to do before the scarves stop moving and then I start moving and all I know is both of my thumbs and wrists are suddenly filled with a hot pain and I’ve somehow pulled my arms up under the scarves around my body and I’m struggling, fighting, I can’t give up I have to get home to Sam have to get away- “Bakugou” – what did I do wrong how did this happen to me how why me why me – “Bakugou calm down!” – Have to fight have to get away get away get back – Kacchan!”  

It’s not that the nerd’s voice snaps me out of it so much as it mixes with the flashback and the teary eyes of a small child that I’ve only ever seen in dreams, the same child’s face that has always driven me to be kinder to Izuku where I could be crueler, to wait when I could leave him behind. His voice digs into the part of me that is desperate to return – return where? Home? Another life? Whatever it is, Izuku’s voice mixes with it and directs my desperation toward a new target, although it doesn’t lessen the feeling of run run run get away that’s flooding my system.

The scarves fall slack around my feet the minute I stop thrashing, and I grab them instinctively and pull, catching Aizawa by surprise if the slight eyebrow raise he gives me is any indication. He follows the momentum into a smooth roll and easily retakes his weapon from my hands (ow ow ow what the fuck why do my hands hurt so much?) but I have already let go and moved to grab the back of Izuku’s shirt, ignoring how much the motion hurts and how I can barely get my fingers to wrap around the fabric. I bare all of my teeth at our teacher in my fiercest snarl and manage to grind out the word “nurse” before I’m stomping off with Izuku in tow, struggling to keep to something that could be considered a walk when all I want to do is run run run.

“I-I’m sorry, Aizawa-sensei, I think Kacchan wants us to see the nurse!” Izuku calls, not fighting my grip so much as forcing me to slow down until Aizawa grumbles out a “you’re excused.” As if getting in trouble with Professor Pink Eye is what matters here. Seriously.

Recovery Girl greet us with the sort of disappointed but not surprised look that you would expect from the nurse at a school for heroes in training. The woman must have the patience of a saint. Or be a total sadist on the inside. Honestly some old lady getting off on a bunch of children ruining their bodies in a desperate bid for recognition would hardly even register on my radar of Fucked Up at this point. It’d be somewhere in between “letting the invisible student run around naked” and “not doing anything about the kid whose quirk literally explodes his limbs” on my current Bullshit Scale.

“The idiot needs his finger healed.” I say instead of a proper greeting, shoving Izuku forward in a clumsy motion, since I can’t really seem to uncurl my fingers from his shirt. They just sort of… fall open. That’s probably bad.

“A-ah, Recovery Girl Sensei!” Izuku yelps. “It’s just my finger this time. There was this ball toss, and Aizawa erased my quirk, but then I… Oh!” He turns back to look at me, specifically my hands. “Kacchan hurt his hands too.” He tattles. Snitches get stitches, Deku.

“I’m fine.” I lie shamelessly. Two pair of eyes look between me and my hands with the sort of deadpan disbelief that you would expect to see from someone watching a politician denying sexual relations with his secretary. I follow their gazes down.

“Oh, come on.” I protest, flailing my swollen and slightly-misaligned hands toward Izuku. “That doesn’t look nearly as bad as his actual mutilated finger!”

Recovery Girl acknowledges my very fair point with a tilt of her head, and focuses on fixing Izuku up with her quirk first. (Adding “Kisses children’s injuries” into the “probably a creepy sadist with a thing for kids” theory.) Watching her massage his finger so that the bones were aligned correctly before kissing him is enough to make me want to hurl. Izuku is sweaty and pale by the end of it, close to hurling himself, if I had to guess, but the nerd doesn’t make a sound. Holy shit. What does Auntie Inko feed this kid?

 “Alright, now let’s take a look at those hands of yours.” Recovery Girl turns to me. I hide my hands behind my back instinctively, only to reluctantly hold them out for inspection at the unamused look she shoots me. She huffs as she takes them and turns them this way and that, looking at the strange bruising beginning to show up around my knuckles and the swelling in my wrists and around my thumbs. A niggling of worry has me gnawing my lower lip. My quirk relies on my hands. If I fucked them up somehow…

“Want to tell me how you dislocated both your thumbs, pulled multiple tendons in each of your wrists, and hyperextended five of your remaining knuckle joints?” I keep my mouth shut, reading a poster about the food pyramid (complete bullshit, why does she even have that in here?) as an excuse to look away. Izuku, as usual, doesn’t take the hint to keep his damn mouth shut.

“He dislocated them trying to get out of Aizawa-sensei’s capture gear.” He explains, looking nervous. “I don’t really know how he managed to do it, but he got his arms under the scarves and close to his ribs, and he struggled a bit before Aizawa let him go…”

“I took a deep breath and tensed my muscles before he tightened the scarves.” I answer his question automatically, only realizing it's true as I say it, “Relaxed and breathed out to give myself some slack, then pulled my arms up before he had time to tighten the scarves some more. He must have reacted faster than I could move, though, since I had to dislocate my thumbs to get my hands free…” I look down at my hands, feeling oddly embarrassed about my actions. Ugh, I hate explaining myself. “I didn’t mean to fuck up my knuckles. That must have happened when I was pushing against those damn scarves…”

Recovery Girl looks like she’s craving something alcoholic. “I’m not going to ask why Aizawa felt the need to use his capture gear on you. I’m not even going to ask why you wanted to get out. What I want to know is why you felt like it was worth dislocating your fingers.”

My first reaction is to get defensive, to get angry at being talked to like a child, like I’ve done something stupid and I need to have it explained to me. But she doesn’t ask it like it’s a rhetorical question. She’s looking at me patiently, waiting for an explanation. So I swallow down my knee-jerk rage and try to find the words that never seem to come when I need them.

“I… panicked.” I admit, and then scowl, because that’s not exactly right. I had lost myself for a second, had forgotten where I was and who I was with. “I panicked, and wanted to get out, but then there was the nerd, and he needed to get his finger looked at, and it all just mixed together and… yeah.” I’m glaring at the food pyramid again by the time I finish that entirely useless explanation. Recovery Girl doesn’t say anything for a moment, and then she suddenly pops both of my thumbs back into place, which makes me yell a few words that are most definitely not appropriate for school, as Izuku frantically reminds me.

Recovery Girl doesn’t even blink at my language, which earns her a bit more of my respect (not that much though, since she still has a pretty high chance of being some sort of sadistic freak), just makes sure the rest of my joints are also set in their correct places before giving me a peck on the hand, and a rush of exhaustion follows the sensation of my inflamed tendons and ligaments returning to their previous whole and healthy states.

“Thanks.” I mutter, rubbing my wrists as the phantom pains slowly fade. What a weird quirk.

“I’ll talk to Aizawa about using his capture gear on his students, but before I let you two return to class, I need you to answer me honestly, Bakugou-kun.” Recovery Girl’s tone has me reluctantly turning to face her as she continues. “You say you panicked, but if we are going to allow you to continue to attend this school and attend hero training, we can’t have you going berserk any time you’re attacked. With your quirk you could seriously injure yourself or one of your classmates. Do you understand?”

“Kacchan wouldn’t-” Izuku tries to protest, but I cut him off with a glare.

“She’s right, Deku.” I snap. Take a deep breath. “If they’re going to let me stay here they need to know if I’m a danger to myself or others.” I meet Recovery Girl’s eyes. “This is the first time I’ve panicked like that. My trigger is probably being restrained, which I’ve never liked, but before…” I can’t hold Recovery Girl’s eyes for the next part, hoping she’ll take it as discomfort with recounting the events and not with the slight omission of truth. “Did you hear about what happened with the Sludge Villain last spring?”

“Ah.” Recovery Girl sounds like she’s just realized something. “Yes, the staff was briefly told you were the student involved… Then, you’ve been having trouble coping?”

“Not usually.” I deny. “Today is the first time since the incident itself I’ve panicked like that, but… Well, I’m not going to let it happen again, but you should at least know what caused it today.”

Recovery Girl eventually lets Izuku and I return to class, but only after shoving a bunch of pamphlets about UA’s free counseling services into Izuku’s hands (after unsuccessfully trying to get me to take them) and ordering us to tell her if anything even remotely sets me off again (her blatant use of Izuku to spy on me has me torn between fury and admiration). By the time we get back to class, Izuku has worked himself into a panic over the possibility that he’s going to be expelled. I’m honestly too exhausted to care. Maybe if I get expelled, I can have a peaceful career as a male model for sports wear or something. I’m sure my parents would be delighted to have me try on a million outfits for them.

After Aizawa announces that no one is going to be expelled (logical ruse my ass, this guy is just making shit up as he goes, I swear), the rest of the week passes as first weeks tend to: in fits and starts, and many, many introductions. We meet our other teachers, all pro heroes, all freaks, and even the cafeteria is run by some hero called Lunch Rush. (Is his quirk something to do with food or is his hero name just a reference to his current position? Didn’t most heroes choose a name while still in school and stick with it throughout their career? Can you even change your hero name? This fucking school.)

Our Modern Hero Art History class (which, what the hell even is this class? It’s like modern art history, which is useless enough, but it’s only art related to heroes. Great. This world is obsessed with heroes enough as it is, do we really need to make it worse?) is taught by the pro hero Midnight, who strolls into class dressed like a dominatrix and uses a whip to point at things on the board as if it’s a perfectly normal item for a teacher to have. Do Title IX laws not exist here? I should have studied more than just quirk regulations in my free time.

Outside of her generally over-sexed image, Midnight-sensei is actually pretty cool. She’s not super uptight about rules and regulations, and as long as I keep up with the subject, she doesn’t mind if I sometimes work on other things during her class. Unfortunately, not all of the students are able to get past the hurdle of her hero costume and persona.

“God, what a view.” Minoru Mineta, the kid with purple balls for hair, moans grossly from where he sits to my right. He’s staring at Midnight-sensei’s butt while she leans over to pick up a piece of chalk she’s dropped, and I feel my eye twitch. This is not the first time he’s made some gross little remark during this class, but it is the first time he’s said it loudly enough for more than one student to hear. Uraraka gives him a disgusted look from where she’s sitting in front of him (way too close to me for my comfort. I make sure to keep my bag between us in case she reaches over here and I need a shield). He sticks his nose in the air.

“What? I’m just appreciating.” He defends. “If she didn’t want the attention, she wouldn’t dress like that.”

“Just because she puts forwards a sexual image doesn’t mean she shouldn’t also be treated like a person.” I snap. This kid has been getting on my nerves all day, and the part of me that used to be a woman is spitting mad in the back of my mind. “She owns her sexuality, it doesn’t own her. If you can’t stop objectifying her long enough to notice that she makes sure to keep her actual behavior professional around us students, then that’s your problem, not hers.” I huff, turning my head back to my notes and away from the startled-looking Grape Shit. His dumb comments are bringing up all sorts of not-memories of schools and dress codes and girls being blamed for boys harassing them and rape victims being told they were asking for it and… ugh. Maybe this stupid quirk-obsessed society is better than the one Whoever-I-Was lived in.

It takes me a few seconds to notice how quiet it is and look up. Most of the class is looking between me and Midnight-sensei and Grape Shit in anticipation. I blink and look at Midnight-sensei in question. Her face is hard to read, maybe because I’m so used to seeing her putting up a front, but I think she might be surprised. Maybe she thought I agreed with the twerp? I mean, she’s pretty and all, but I’m not really attracted to in-your-face sexuality, so if anything, I just think she’s annoying. I raise an eyebrow at her, hoping she can read all of this in my face, and she settles back into her usual sadistic smirk in response.

“Oh, sweetie.” She purrs. “You’re my favorite type. A real Tsundere, aren’t you?” She licks her lips at me, just about the least professional behavior she’s exhibited so far during class, and I despair for about the 5th time in the last three days of class over UA’s decision to hire pro heroes to teach instead of, you know, qualified education professionals.

“I'll kill you.” I say in response, but it comes out sounding a lot more like please kill me. Her grin is delighted, and she spends the rest of our class teasing me and very deliberately ignoring Mineta, so I guess you could call it favoritism. Or sadism. It’s probably sadism.

The second weirdest class experience I have during my first week at UA is in English class, of all places. I’ve always been top of my class in English, since it was the native language where Whoever-I-Was grew up (I’m guessing America, based on the foods I sometimes find myself unconsciously cooking). While I don’t know all the words off the top of my head (I speak, read, and write almost exclusively Japanese, and all my thoughts are in Japanese), I still retain an American accent from subconscious memory.

Most people don’t even notice that my accent is American, and just notice that I’m really good at English and leave it at that. Even my English teachers typically aren’t good enough to distinguish between different English-speaking accents from around the world. Hell, half of them were making simple grammar and pronunciation mistakes practically every-other-day, and I was much more concerned with resisting the urge to correct them than the possibility that someone might notice my accent and find it odd.

And then I meet Present Mic, who, despite not being a native English Speaker, is apparently really really into English-speaking radio programs, and immediately pegs my accent as “Midwestern American, Wow!” I blink at him in surprise, but I know he's right. I’ve never even heard of the “Midwest” before this moment, but images of wide-open skies and huge fields of grass and grazing cows and horses and long highways are bombarding me fast enough to make my head spin. What the hell? Was I a hick in my past life?

“Uhhhh.” I say articulately. Luckily Present Mic is not the type of hero who lets awkward silences linger. Or form in the first place. He’s already ranting about how useful an accent like mine can be and asking a million questions about where I picked it up, which Izuku is excitedly answering while flipping through his notebook in order to find whatever progress chart he has on my language abilities. Because of course he does. I try not to give in to the urge to sink into my seat, annoyed at myself for wanting to cower. As much as I’ve influenced Izuku over the years, it seems I haven’t been able to escape some of his pansyhood rubbing off on me as well.

“Well then, Little Listener!” (“Don’t call me that.”) “Would you be willing to read this passage to the class, since your accent is so good? I think it would help them to hear how it sounds when you say it.”

And that is how I become the unofficial TA for Present Mic’s English class. It starts off as just the occasional task here or there, read this poem out loud, lead this group of students in conversation while Present Mic helps the other group, write from a slightly more challenging essay prompt since my classmates are not at the same level… Until I look around and realiz that I'm helping grade papers while my classmates study for a quiz I don’t even need to take.

When I ask Present Mic about it, he just laughs and says UA lets their teachers decide what to teach and how to grade their students, so if he wants me to work as a pseudo-TA, then he can just give me a grade based on how well I do in that job, while grading the rest of the class normally. I make a little note about this ridiculously easy-to-abuse policy in my “lawsuit for UA” file (I’d gone ahead and bought a neat little manila folder for it after the fourth day of class revealed the existence of student-designed hero suits, but that’s a rant for another time) and accept my fate.

And then, of course, there's Hero Basics with All Might.

Part of me is delighted to be in the presence of my favorite hero. It's like meeting Superman in real life (who Whoever-I-Was apparently loved because she was also from the Midwest, that hick). The rest of me is absolutely exasperated with the man who gave Izuku a quirk that shatters his bones and then set up a battle trial “with no holds barred!” What is he actually thinking? Is he thinking? It’s our first week, no one here knows how to hold back, and Izuku least of all! He’s going to reduce one of these kids to a smear on the sidewalk by accident, and he’s going to lose a limb doing it.

“And our first pair of Heroes is… team A! You will have five minutes to look over the map of the building and prepare your strategy. Meanwhile, our first Villain team will be… Team D! You will have ten minutes to get your base set up and hide the nuke. Does everyone understand their roles?”

I look over at Knockoff Sonic and tilt my head, leading the way onto the training ground so we can start setting up and plan our strategy as Villains. All we have to do is keep the heroes from either capturing us or touching the “nuke” that we’ll be guarding, and we have the homefield advantage as long as we don’t waste time.

“So, who are our opponents, then?” I ask Garbage Legs as he power-walks beside me. “I assume you were paying attention like a good little student?”

“Of course I was!” He says, not seeming to notice my slight mockery. “I believe Team A consists of Midoriya-san and Uraraka-san. We’ll need to watch out for Midoriya-san’s quirk and…” He looks back, seeming to only now notice that I had stopped walking several strides earlier. “Bakugou-san?”

“Izuku and who?”

 

 

Izuku was struggling a bit with his strategy for the battle trial. Uraraka was a great teammate for him, both because they were friends (ohmygod he still can’t believe he’s really friends with a girl!) and because… well…

“I think I know how we can win.” He admitted quietly, feeling guilty at the thought of taking advantage of his friend’s weaknesses. He hadn’t thought of it that way when he took all those notes, but now that he was facing Kacchan in a match, he realized that he knew exactly what it would take to beat him. And the easiest way to do that… “But you’ll need to trust me.”

“Of course, I trust you!” Uraraka chimed without any hesitation. Izuku’s face burned red, and he was sufficiently flustered enough that he stuttered out his plan in a rush, seeing Uraraka’s eyes widen as he filled in the details. In the end, even though she looked like she thought he was crazy, she didn’t argue, just looked him in the eyes and asked one question.

“Are you sure, Deku-kun?” The sound of his childhood nickname in such a feminine voice would normally be enough to fluster him (especially since she kept calling him that ever since he explained it was a nickname and she had declared it “adorable”), but the seriousness in her tone kept him level-headed. He nodded once.

“I’m sure.”

 

This battle trial could not be going worse.

On top of my first opponent being Izuku of all people (that creepy freak has been dissecting my weaknesses for like a decade now, he’s probably got a hundred weird fantasies for exactly this situation that he’s dying to act out), I also have to worry about that absolute heathen cancelling out one of my fundamental forces and accidentally launching me into space. So far, she’s managed not to murder anyone with her quirk, so I assume it also involves some form of controlled levitation in order to cancel net forces on an object in a certain reference frame. Still, that is an entirely separate action from cancelling gravity, and if she slips up and only uses one part of her quirk, it’s bye bye earth, hello unforgiving void of space.

So even before the battle trial starts, I’m stressed the fuck out. This is only exacerbated by Legs McGee apparently being a method actor, and insisting on using a “villainous” speaking voice to talk over all of our plans. I’m tempted to knock him out and finish this exercise on my own, but the cameras in the corner of every room remind me that people are watching, and mutiny is not usually seen as a heroic act, even by villains.

We settle on a simple plan based around our quirks. We hide the nuke on the top floor, in the center of the largest room we can find, since I know for a fact Izuku’s quirk can bust through walls (and floors, but not much I can do about that), and I station myself directly in front of the nuke to puppy-guard it with my close-range quirk, while Iida circles the perimeter of the room and uses his speed to keep people from getting close to me or the nuke.

(I may have also chosen the largest room so that the distance between Garbage Legs and me would be just a bit too large for small talk.)

After All Might’s voice announces that the Hero Team may now enter the premises, my heart rate kicks up a notch and that addictive battle-calm settles over my vision again. I can hear the slight breeze rattle against the window panes of the cheaply-made building, the not-silence of another human breathing in the same general area as me, the quiet rush of my blood pumping through my veins. It’s quiet for the first few minutes, but I know Izuku just as much as he knows me, even if I haven’t been taking notes this whole time. The nerd is going to try an ambush, and he’s going to do absolutely everything in his power to make sure I don’t see it coming, which means…

“They’ll come through the front door.” I murmur quietly into my headset, “Don’t say anything to give us away. Pretend to keep watching the windows. That’s what he’ll expect. I’ll keep an eye on the walls.” Iida, miracle of miracles, only nods once, silently, to show he understood. We continue to keep watch, each of us keeping the door only in our peripheral vision. That’s fine. It’s the peripheral vision that picks up motion most easily anyway.

There.

Twin blurs of green and pink in the corner of my eye. My palms are up and I’m readying a blast before I even register which one it is coming for me. I see green intercept a blur of white and blue near the door, and my stomach drops down to my feet. Because that means the pink blur is heading for me, and that means…

“Goddammit Deku!” I yell, blasting pinky back before she can get close enough to touch me. It’s difficult to get enough force to hold her at bay without knocking the floor out or something. “That’s fucking dirty!” A series of small explosions keeps that Gravity Witch on the run, but she’s not stopping, dodging left and right and trying to get around my guard. That stupid smile is nowhere to be seen, a frown of concentration taking its place on her face. “Why won’t you die, dammit!” I yell, sending her skidding across the floor with an explosion and a well-timed kick.

“Die?” I hear Iida splutter, only to cough when Izuku takes advantage of the moment to get a good kick in to his stomach. Serves him right for getting distracted.

“I won’t give up!” Gravity Witch says with a grin. “I trust Deku-kun’s plan, and he’s right when he says I can do this. All I need is one touch, after all.” And she holds up a hand. Does that count as brandishing a weapon at me? “Either to you or that nuke, and we win.”

Okay, fuck this. It’s literally the first class of the year. This exercise is not worth getting accidentally launched into the sun for, if she touches me and I’ve given her a concussion or something. Iida lets out a cry of despair that announces Izuku successfully tangling his legs in the capture tape the Hero Team had been given, and now I’m standing between two pairs of huge, piercing eyes, and their goal. Izuku and that monster look at each other and nod in determination, before turning to me with identical grins.

“Surrender now, Villain!” They cry, as if we’re all kids playing Heroes vs. Villains on the playground. Yeah, fuck this. I’m not dying for a playground game. This time, when they come running for me, I step back, giving up ground on my close-range perimeter in order to give myself room to turn around.

“You asked for this, Deku!” I yell, turning my back on them and ignoring all my instincts screaming at me not to let either of these people near me. I raise my left arm, with the grenade-style bracer around my wrist that has been storing all my spare sweat since the beginning of this exercise. With a feral grin I slap my palm flat against the side of my fake nuke and pull the pin.

The following explosion is large enough to send both Izuku and his Terrifying Girlfriend tumbling ass over teakettle and into the opposite wall. I guess without using his quirk to redirect the force, my gauntlets are actually enough to send him flying. Good to know. The nuke is reduced to several significant chunks of scrap, most of which have been forcefully embedded into the walls on the side of the room opposite from where the Hero Team landed (I at least had enough foresight to avoid injuring my classmates, unlike Gravity Witch and her demon quirk). The specially designed grips on my boots had kept me in place, and the arm bracers had managed to keep the recoil from seriously damaging my tendons, but my back still ached from the pressure of the blast. I’d have to talk to the support department and give them some feedback on my costume. I shake my head, ignoring the ringing in my ears from years of practice, and turn to grin at Izuku and her triumphantly.

“Steal my forces now, bitch.”

 

Chapter Text

Over the next few weeks of class, things settle into patterns. I wake up early for a jog (this body still seems to produce a ridiculous amount of energy, despite no longer being a small child. Maybe I’m hyperactive) before taking a quick shower and getting ready for school. Bitch at Mom about bitching at me over breakfast, kiss my Dad goodbye, and head out the door at least thirty minutes before I really need to, since I prefer to be early.

Inevitably, Izuku is waiting for me with that stupid grin on his face and his hair in loose, messy ringlets around his shoulders. I braid it on the train, typically something simple but sometimes I let myself play around with more intricate styles. Izuku’s got his Mom’s hair, and it’s really soft, but his curls give it enough texture that it can handle more complicated up-do’s. Tou-san and Kaa-san must have passed on their fashion-obsessed genes to me, because sometimes I just can’t resist showing off my excellent taste. The nerd should be grateful.

Once our train arrives, we head to the classroom, where typically only Iida or Todoroki have arrived before us. I sit down without greeting them; Iida because he’s loud and annoying, and Todoroki because he seems to find niceties as useless as I do. Izuku, of course, greets them both cheerfully, and chats with Iida until the rest of the students start showing up in the last ten minutes before class begins.

Despite making new friends, Izuku continues to sit behind me, although Iida is blessedly willing to draw the nerd into conversation during breaks so that I can slip away and get some breathing room. If he didn’t insist on getting on my ass about not wearing the school uniform correctly (seriously, have you seen that thing? Hideous. My parents would disown me if I didn’t style it a bit), I might actually appreciate him for the breaks from Izuku’s chatter alone.

Unfortunately, he continues to be a pain. Which is exactly why I vote for that bullshit 3D Printer girl instead of him when he insists on having an election to decide our class representative. She ends up tying with Izuku with three votes each, which sends the nerd into a panic as he insists that she should be representative and he can be vice-rep, while she just states calmly that they can be co-representatives, it doesn’t matter. I’m starting to like her more, despite her nonsense quirk. Maybe she’s just proof that string theory exists or something. Whatever.

The thing that has me squinting in confusion is the single vote next to my name. I didn’t vote for myself, which means…. I turn my suspicious gaze to Izuku, who notices and manages to deduce the reason for my glare with just a few moments of spluttering confusion and looking around. When his eyes land on the board, he seems to realize, and he turns back to me in confusion.

“You didn’t vote for yourself, Kacchan?” He asks. My glare turns into a frown at that, since it seems the nerd wasn’t the one to vote for me if he assumed I voted for myself. The slightly hopeful look on his face has me shutting him down instinctively.

“I voted for Cheat Code.” I say, pointing at the massive ponytail making its way around the class to hand out papers for our lazy teacher. Izuku deflates a little before perking back up and beginning to mutter.

“But if you didn’t vote for yourself, and I voted for myself, who voted for Kacchan? No one in the class has expressed…”

“It was me!” A jovial voice chimes in from just behind Izuku’s shoulder. The nerd yelps but thankfully stops his muttering. I glance over my shoulder to see absolutely ridiculous red hair spiked up, with two smaller tufts in the front styled into little… what are those supposed to be? Horns? Ears? Whatever they are, they look stupid. I can feel my eye start to twitch just from looking at this dude.

“Hah?” I scoff. “And who the hell are you?” I vaguely remember him introducing himself while everyone was talking about quirks, but I had forgotten most of what was talked about after Gravity Witch dropped the bomb about her quirk. Hardening quirk, good friend, always smiling… My knowing whispers, and I’m starting to think this guy might not be so bad, when it adds: red crocs.

Oh, fuck no. First the hair, and then crocs? No way am I associating with this guy.

Good friend! The knowing insists, but I mentally flip it off and turn my back to the red-haired eyesore behind me. Foreknowledge can fuck right off for all I care, I have standards.

“I’m Kirishima Eijirou!” The red idiot bounces up beside my desk as if I had not just obviously dismissed him. My eyebrow twitches. “We haven’t really had the chance to talk, since you tend to disappear during breaks – how do you do that, by the way? It’s super cool that you manage to just, like, sneak away without anyone noticing. Midoriya’s always all ‘Ah, he’s gone again!’ even though he usually sticks to you like glue.” He shakes his head like a dog, as if that ridiculous tangent was a bit of water stuck in his ear that he could get out with a bit of effort. “Anyway, I saw your battle trial in All Might’s class and I thought it was super manly of you to think of a way out of that situation when your back was to the wall. Like, super villainous to blow up the nuke and all, but since you were supposed to be a villain and it was part of a class exercise that was also cool? I don’t know, man, it was just really cool of you to not give up even if it meant you lost too. Real tough. I just thought I could see that attitude coming in handy as class rep.” He tosses a thumbs up in there, and when I just stare blankly at him instead of responding, his whole body (even that stupid hair) seems to deflate like a sad balloon. “B-but I guess you already know how cool you are, huh? Haha, sorry, this was probably embarrassing…”

“Kacchan.” I flinch at the tone of Izuku’s voice. He sounds way too much like Auntie Inko when he’s not squealing like a stuck pig. Ugh, fine.

“It’s fine, whatever.” I grumble, glaring at the blackboard so I don’t give Eyesore a filthy look. “Thanks for the vote I guess.”

Izuku picks up my slack, babbling about the results of the battle trial and Eyesore’s own teamwork with Tape Elbows as the Villain Team. I go back to ignoring them both, only briefly tuning in after the panic at lunch when Izuku decides that something Garbage Legs had done during the evacuation meant he deserved Izuku’s spot as co-representative with Cheat Code. I hadn’t even been in the cafeteria during the panic, instead enjoying my break far away from either Izuku or my new hanger-on while I had the chance.

Unfortunately, the election is not the last I see of that hideous mop of hair. I have a sneaking suspicion that Izuku said something encouraging to the redhead (probably something about that fantasy in his head where I secretly care under my thick layer of Leave Me Alone, but joke’s on him; there are no other layers), but I can’t prove this and no matter how hard I project my usual aura of I do not want to be around you, Shark Teeth doesn’t seem to even notice, just cheerfully snagging the seat next to me at lunch, or teaming up with me during sparring practice or for stretches in gym class without even listening to my protests.

Izuku’s beaming smile from his spot in the middle of his little Nerd Herd has me grinding my teeth. I have no proof that he’s responsible for this, but it’s so obvious when he keeps shooting those smug looks over at me… And since when have I needed proof of Izuku’s wrongdoing in order to exact revenge? Exactly.

“Kachaaaaan!” The dork whines from where I’ve pinned him to the dirt. He’s a lot harder to wrangle than he was just a year ago, what with all the weight he’s put on, almost all of it muscle. Still, I’ve done this often enough that it’s practically muscle memory to trap his limbs and use his own weight against him. It’s probably muscle memory for the nerd to give up at this point as well, since he could definitely give me a lot more trouble even without his quirk, but instead he wriggles pathetically and whines at me, just like old times. It’s almost nostalgic.

Digging out that creepy notebook of his is even more nostalgic. Well, that’s not exactly the right word. It’s closer to PTSD than nostalgia, this feeling, but I push it aside in favor of pulling out the pen I had stashed in my pocket for exactly this purpose. Izuku hears the click and starts to wriggle more insistently, repeating “Kacchan?” in a nervous voice. I don’t say anything, just flip from hero profile to hero profile and get down to work.

“Kacchan, what are you doing? Are you writing in my notebook? Kacchan!” The nerd almost manages to buck me off, and the jolt causes my pen to slip and send a crooked line through the monocle I’ve drawn over Kamui Wood’s left eye. Oh well. “Kacchan, stop, that’s private!”

“Oh, private, is it?” I echo, taking great joy in giving Mount Lady a handlebar mustache. “Private like my personal life is private, or who I decide to be friends with is private?” I add a few nose hairs just for flair. “Tell me, Izuku, since when have you ever cared about things like privacy?” And just to punctuate that point, I finish my work and drop the notebook down in front of Izuku’s nose, open to the page detailing all of my measurements, including height, weight (morning and night, what the hell?), waist, shoulders, even the circumference of my head. I can tell I’ve made my point by the way the nerd has stopped fighting me, just letting his forehead rest against the ground in defeat.

I huff, standing up and brushing myself off, tossing the pen over my shoulder as I turn to walk away.

“Keep your nose out of my business, nerd. You’re going to be a hero, you need to learn to meddle where you’re needed, or you’re going to waste all your energy on useless shit and fail where it matters.” The slight sniffle behind me doesn’t make me feel guilty. The idiot needs to learn this lesson sooner or later, and I have a feeling it’s going to take beating it into his head a few times before he really gets it. Or maybe he never will. But a little suffering is the least he’s asking for after trying to manipulate my life again. Besides, he’ll get over it once he stops crying over his ruined notebook and realizes the pen I dropped is an erasable one. If he can’t even notice such an obvious hint, then he deserves the continued despair and the notebook graffiti, and no one will convince me otherwise.

Now that I have to avoid not only one idiot, but two, whenever I want some time alone, I find myself taking more and more complicating paths through the school during breaks and whenever I can slip away before or after classes. The upside of this is that I get to see a lot more of the school, from the general education department (where all the doors are normally sized - is this discrimination?) to the staff room (where Midnight-sensei saw me walking by and dragged me in to coo over me to the other female teachers, which was both uncomfortable and oddly enlightening. Apparently, sexism in the hero industry is a serious issue. Like, woah). The downside to this is that I end up seeing a lot more of the school than I really wanted to.

For instance, over the first three weeks of classes alone, I have seen Izuku and All Might have hushed, incredibly suspicious-looking conversations in shadowy corners of UA no less than 10 times. The first, I just turned around and left, since it was a bit odd for me to have been wandering the halls behind the lunch room in the first place. The second time, I had to shake my head in exasperation; if they thought that tree they were standing behind did any good in hiding All Might’s massive form from the sight of the rest of the school, they were both idiots.

The third, fourth, and fifth times, I began to get frustrated. The sixth time I turned a corner to find my childhood friend and my favorite hero having an obviously secret conversation in plain sight, I almost screamed. Does the Plot not understand that I already know? I don’t need all these hints, universe!

The seventh time, I didn’t bother turning around, and just continued walking until the two of them noticed me and jumped apart guiltily.

“A-Ah, Kacchan! I was, we were just-” Izuku stutters.

“Homework!” All Might yelps, or, with his voice, more like booms.

“Right! I had a question about my homework!” Izuku agrees, nodding frantically. I stare at them both with my most unimpressed look (which is Exceptionally Unimpressed, I’ll have you know).

“Right.” I say slowly. “The homework. For our Hero Basics class. Where we are never assigned homework. That homework.”

I let them off after watching them sweat nervously for a few moments, muttering something about needing to talk to Aizawa, but after catching them in the same compromising position for an eighth, ninth, and tenth time later that same week, I decide I need to intervene. There is no way even the absolute dumbasses populating this universe could miss such an obvious connection.

I decide the easiest way to corner them both is to just wait for the universe to cause me to stumble upon them again, and lo and behold it delivers within a couple of days. The two of them have their heads bent together, looking at Izuku’s notebook and chatting happily in the side-alley next to the kitchen where trucks drop off supplies for Lunch Rush’s cafeteria each week. It’s just isolated enough that I can justify confronting them here. Plus, seeing them jump in fright when I call out Izuku’s name is hilarious.

“Look.” I say to Izuku, glancing at All Might out of the corner of my eye to show that he’s also included in this scolding. “I know you guys are trying (and that actually makes this worse), but you need to get better at making up excuses. I doubt anyone would be suspicious of you two talking, but your excuses are so obvious that they’ll probably assume you guys have some sort of creepy illicit relationship going on. Especially if you keep inventing “Extra Credit Assignments” that don’t exist. Like, seriously. I’m amazed Aizawa hasn’t called the cops yet. He totally thinks you’re a predator, All Might.”

I watch Izuku scramble for an explanation while All Might’s soul leaves his body with a whispered “predator…?” I roll my eyes.

“Listen, Deku. I don’t give a shit if he’s your forbidden lover or your estranged great uncle. Just learn to keep a secret before you get arrested. I’m not bailing you out if you do.” Having said my piece, I turn to leave Izuku to comfort All Might, who seems to have been permanently scarred by my revelation.

“Wait.” Izuku mutters behind me, voice rising in realization. “Estranged great uncle… Kacchan, you-”

“Fuck off, Deku.” I interrupt, flipping him the bird. As usual, this does nothing to dissuade him. I can still feel his wondering stare on my back until I turn the corner out of sight.

 

The day of our field trip dawns bright and sunny, and I wake up in a cold sweat from a dream where everyone I touched turned to dust in my hands. The vague sense of knowing is clambering for attention like an alarm in my brain. There are villains, mostly just blurs – Extras, hardly even people – but a few stand out in my mind. One with blue hair and hands all over his body, one who seems to be made of so much black smoke, with glowing yellow eyes, and one… One that’s a monster.

The League of Villains, my mind hisses, hurt Aizawa, hurt Izuku, hurt Tsuyu, hurt Thirteen, hurt All Might, hurt Tokoyami, hurt Shouji, hurt Bakugou hurt me took me run run run get away.

I count my breaths, using every tool I know to deal with the anxiety spiking in my chest. It hasn’t been this bad since Aizawa used his scarf on me that one time. Was the field trip today really going to be that bad?

Bad bad bad men. Bad things, bad creatures. Nomu. Nomu, All for One, One for All, forest, kidnapping, blue fire, black portal.

I groan, resisting the urge to press the heels of my palms against my eyes. That’s a habit leftover from Whoever-I-Was, but if I give in to it after sweating all night, I’d be more likely to blow my eyes up than relieve the headache I can feel building. There are so many things I know that I shouldn’t, things I can picture in my head as easy as breathing – recipes and hairdos and creative uses for my quirk. I can see Izuku’s future in my mind’s eye, standing tall and strong as the greatest hero. I can see my own face, snarling and furious, in so many places. I can see villains and friends and mountains and rivers and none of it is any help if I don’t know what it is.

My life doesn’t look like a cartoon. I can’t always recognize people from the faces in my dreams. Most of the time this doesn’t even really feel like remembering something. More like knowing it as fact. I know that I need to breath and I need to eat, and I know that Izuku will one day fight a serial killer in an alley and another day a kid is going to punch him in the crotch. Sometimes I know that I am supposed to be different, supposed to care less and want more, but most days I forget everything except the day-to-day routine of class and classmates and schoolwork.

Dangerous. The knowing whispers, and I wonder if maybe Whoever-I-Was is still there, sending me little messages and memories, or if these are really just my own thoughts. Careful. Careful. Run run run.

Yeah, fuck that. I stand up, using my homemade soap to neutralize the sweat from the night before and then rinsing off the desensitized sweat with a hot shower. I stick to stretches this morning instead of a jog, hoping the yoga will help me relax. It doesn’t.

I don’t fight with Kaa-san at breakfast, giving both of my parents a kiss on the cheek before I leave. Izuku’s happy babbling about what he thinks the field trip today will be about is ignored in favor of tying his hair up in a secure, functional braided ponytail. The last thing I need is his hair getting in his way and changing something from the original events for the worse.

Dangerous, dangerous, run run run.

The bus ride out to the USJ is like a dream. It feels like I’m listening to everything through cotton. I watch myself raise a hand and flip off the blonde with the lightning bolt in his hair as if it’s someone else controlling me. I don’t remember any of the jokes or banter that must have happened to make everyone laugh so much. I can’t feel my own legs as they carry me from the bus to the building and stand me in front of a hero in a space suit. Thirteen, hurt, hurt by the portal and their own quirk.

When the first villain steps through the portal, sound comes rushing back like my ears have popped after going through a tunnel. I gasp silently as I fill my lung deeply for the first time since I left bed this morning. My arms and legs are tingling, my heart is picking up speed, and my eyes are on the swirling mass of darkness in the center, waiting for one of the big players, on the main characters, to step through and show themselves.

Ah, I realize. I’m not nervous at all. The bastards responsible for this. The assholes who came here to kill my teachers and classmates, who targeted a bunch of children for the sake of their fucked-up propaganda, step out of the portal as if they’re entering a tea room for lunch. A thrill runs up my spine. Yeah, I’m not nervous. I think again, lips pulling back to bare my teeth. I’m furious.

Run. My mind whispers. Hurry, hurry.

Sorry, I tell - it, her, myself, whatever - but heroes don’t run, they fight.

Chapter Text

This hand-covered creep has the audacity to complain about All Might being late to his own murder. He pitches his voice into a childish sort of drawl as he speaks, whining when he doesn’t get his way only to go eerily still as he gleefully wonders “will he come if we kill some kids?” It’s obvious that he’s a fucking man child but his thoughts are perfectly cognizant as he pretends to consider whether he should kill children (of course not you fucking idiot) as if the army of low-level thugs that have been taking this opportunity to spread out across the various sections of the USJ training facility were not hired exclusively for that purpose.

I’m going to kill him, I realize. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day I am going to be the one to put this dusty motherfucker in the goddamn ground. And I’m going to like it.

When Aizawa launches himself into the crowd of villains, and Kaminari attempts to get a signal through to outside, I’m already turning to order Iida to run a message back to UA. Before I can convince him to stop arguing and get going, we need backup, dammit – a black mist is spreading out between us and our escape route. Shit. That was fast.

“We’ve come to kill All Might.” The portal fucker announces politely. He then apologizes for “doing his job” as if he’s not one of the masterminds behind this clusterfuck. I’m too busy trying to comprehend this guy’s fucking audacity to stop Eyesore from launching himself forward with a battle cry. There’s a split second where I think he’s going to get killed, where the black mist wraps around him and I’m sure he’s going to get teleported to some point like, a thousand feet underwater or the center of a volcano or something, but then the mist is reaching out and grabbing more and more students and I’m shoving anyone I can reach away in the hope that it will miss them and then-

I land in the top of a tree.

I hit a few branches which are definitely going to bruise later before I manage to catch one and slow my descent. Before I can do much more than figure out which way is up, the leaves around me are sharpening into blades. Someone’s quirk, I think with a wince as one of them catches my shoulder. I shouldn’t have let Kaa-san talk me into showing so much skin in my hero costume. Yeah, fuck this.

It’s a quick job to blow the tree and all of its annoying leaves to bits. Using my quirk to soften my landing, I find myself in a crowd of villains, many of them with camouflage quirks uniquely suited to a forested environment, based on the massive headache that I get while trying to get a visual on how many there actually are. Others, like the one with the leaf-sharpening quirk, probably also have quirks to match the area I’ve been tossed into.

There’s a second as I look around at the dozens of real-life, full-grown, not-stuck-in-the-awkward-stage-of-puberty villains and I think how am I going to get out of this? But then I remember I’m Bakugou fucking Katsuki and I have the power of not only plot armor but existing solely to make the OP main character feel weak. Like wow what a head trip no wonder original Bakugou was such a dick.

Okay, so, I’m probably invulnerable or some shit but that doesn’t mean everyone is. Which means I need to figure out how to get out of here and keep as many of these actual literal children safe as possible. Seriously, these are grown men and women and whatever that one over there is – and they’re going after kids like they’re full-grown heroes!

Like, just look at Mineta and Kaminari. They flirt with the female teachers like they don’t understand that they look like actual infants to them. They talk about the girls in class as if they’re a whole other species. Make perverted jokes but occasionally give away little hints that show they don’t actually understand the things they’re joking about. These are babies. These are just kids.

Yaoyorozu still hasn’t seen enough of the world to know how privileged she is. Todoroki thinks that costume looks cool. Tokoyami quotes philosophers and MCR lyrics and has no idea how much he’s going to cringe over that fact in a few years.

And I’ve only known them for a few weeks (and reluctantly at that) but it’s fucking obvious that these are good kids. Some of the best. Gravity Witch wants to help her parents and can’t see that they’re working themselves to the bone because they want her to have the freedom to make her life decisions without keeping them in mind. But she does it anyway because she’s considerate and loving and kind. Robot Legs admires his brother so much that he doesn’t see the problems with nepotism and grandfathering in hero candidates in this industry, and focuses only on becoming someone others can admire just as much. It’s naïve, it’s problematic, but it’s sweet.

Even fucking Mineta, who really needs to get a goddamn clue, is here because he looked around and realized that if he wanted people to like him, he was going to have to be admirable, and he’s taking steps to reach that goal. It’s sort of gross still, but when the other options like assault or quirk misuse never even occurred to him… when he says things like “this is the only way” and dismisses more villainous options without thinking about it. Sure, he needs to realize that his behaviors are the exact opposite of the admirable image he’s aiming for, but when you get down to it, he subconsciously knows what’s wrong and right, and is aiming for the better option.

These are kids. Good kids. Bright, innocent, naïve little idiots who have not been around long enough to learn how fucked up the world really is. Kids who haven’t seen enough of humanity to know how the hero industry can be exploited and misused. Kids who have hope for a future that can only exist if that hope continues to burn bright in them long enough to spread to others. And these second-rate villains want to snuff that out.

On a scale of one to Uraraka’s Quirk, this is Beyond Fucked Up. I won’t stand for it.

It feels better than the entrance exam did, pushing myself to take villains out efficiently and without lethal force, trying to keep track of multiple opponents (many of which I can’t see god what a migraine) while staying a step ahead in the fight. I have to keep my quirk focused on helping with my maneuverability, just to make sure I don’t take a knife to the kidneys while I’m blowing some dude’s face in. It’s smarter to just use my explosions to keep myself moving, dodging around trees and making turns too sharp for someone without my quirk to copy. With my hands occupied with that, I only have my legs to fight with, but that’s fine.

The steel-lined boots of my hero costume are meant to help me deal with the recoil of my quirk, but the extra weight and the sharpened grips are meant to be able to dig into any surface, and the UA support department definitely makes good on its promises. These babies can keep a grip on concrete under some serious concussive force. They do a pretty graphic number on any exposed flesh the villains make the mistake of showing me too.

Still, I try to stick to using the grips and my explosions to form a sharp pivot around which I can add extra force to a classic roundhouse kick. The steel in my boots keeps my toes safe from the force. The villains aren’t so lucky.

I’m not sure how long it takes to subdue the last of the villains around the area – it’s difficult to tell when they’re all really taken care of, since so many of them are using hiding and ambush tactics. Eventually, though, my headache passes and I’ve used the capture tape that is included with student hero costumes to bind their hands and feet where they fell. It’s as I’m making a sweep of the area, paranoia telling me there’s still someone hiding even though my quirk-induced headache is gone, that I spot a blond head peeking out from behind an outcropping of rock a way a way. I squint.

“… ‘S that you, Sparkles?” I call. The blond head jumps, before the other student sheepishly makes his way out from his hiding place. His sparkly cape is torn, and he has dirt in his neatly-coiffed hair, but other than that he looks untouched. Aoyama, my knowing whispers, laser quirk, makes him nauseous, speaks French.

French, huh? I ponder. I hardly notice as he makes his way over to me, giving a wide berth to the many unconscious bodies I’ve left around.

“B-Bakugou-san!” He says in a poor imitation of his usual pomp and circumstance. “Excellent work taking care of these villains! I was just, um, waiting to intervene when you needed my help, but since you obviously had it handled… But if you hadn’t, I would have stepped in right away!” Oh, he’s worried about having hid. I realize.

“You were right to hide before they saw you.” I interrupt him, kicking one of the unconscious villains in the thigh with a scowl. “These assholes don’t care whether you’re a kid or a Pro Hero, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill. Scumbags.”

It takes a couple seconds for my rage to settle enough to realize that Sparkles isn’t making any noise. This wouldn’t normally be odd, but as far as I can tell from the last few weeks of trying and failing to ignore my irritating classmates, this kid can’t stop talking so long as anyone is giving him even the slightest bit of attention. And often times even if they aren’t, he’ll chime in to other people’s conversations in order to get their attention.

Looking more carefully, I can see that he looks a little green around the mouth, and his knees are shaking. But the most worrying thing is that I can’t see his eyes. They’re trained on the ground as if it’s the most interesting thing in the world. This kid…

“Look, I’m not…” I huff, shoving my hands in the pockets of my costume’s shorts. “The villains who organized this attack, they want to hurt UA and All Might. Those are some big names in the hero industry. It’s pretty safe to assume that what these guys want the most is negative publicity for heroes in general. If you want to help thwart their plans, the best thing to do is to stay safe. You’re… We’re just kids. We might not feel like it, but to the rest of the world, high school first years are really young. One of us getting hurt, or dying, could be just as bad for the reputation of UA and heroes in general as these guys actually managing to beat All Might.”

“Y-You don’t think they can really beat All Might, do you?” Aoyama asks nervously, finally looking up. I almost wish he hadn’t. His eyes are red and watery, pupils blown wide in panic. He looks even younger like this, and I want to punch someone. Preferably Whoever-I-Was for having all these dumb soft feelings for kids and babies or whatever.

“Don’t be fucking stupid.” I say, instead of doing anything disgusting like patting him on the head or something. “Maybe if All Might was alone, and surprised, sure – they probably have some sort of plan for fighting him after all – but with back up and knowing what he’s heading into? No way. All Might will take care of this as soon as he gets here. So, our job is just to do our best to find our classmates and stay safe until help comes. Got it?” I wasn’t going to wait around for Aoyama to cry some more before doing exactly that, so I’ve already started walking, pulling the other blond with me and angling him so that my body will block the unconscious villains from his immediate sight.

If Whoever-I-Was remembers right, most of the students should be able to handle themselves in the battles they end up in, so I prioritize getting Aoyama to safety before I figure out my next step. I only know basic first aid, but I’m pretty sure the shaking that I can still feel through my (relatively gentle, give me a break) grip on his arm is a sign of shock.

We pass through the mountain zone on the way back towards the entrance (I have hazy not-memories of a safe zone near the entrance where students had gathered the injured… Thirteen? Aizawa? Near the end of the fighting.) and almost get electrocuted when we come across Earworms, Pikachu, and Cheat Code fighting their own share of Discount Baddies.

It takes a bit of convincing (read: another speech about the importance of prioritizing student safety and an embarrassing pep talk about the capability of our classmates to handle themselves) before the other three students agree to join us on our way to the safe zone, but I feel better knowing that they’re heading away from more potential fighting. Four kids accounted for, fifteen to go.

Thankfully my stupid foreknowledge doesn’t decide to let me down again this time, and Gravity Witch, Arms Galore, whoever that guy who eats sugar is, and Tape Arms are all gathered around the fallen form of Thirteen, attempting to perform first aid around their teacher’s strange anatomy. Arms Galore surprises me by taking Aayoma aside and talking quietly with him, getting a few nods and muttered responses from the mostly-silent blond. When he wraps his (many) arms around the other student in a hug after getting another nod, I turn my back on the two. Looks like Arms has some experience with shock victims. Good. One less thing to worry about. Kaminari has been sat down next to where Gravity Witch is focusing intensely on patching up Thirteen, and Cheat Code is working on creating as many bandages and medical supplies as she can, it looks like. Jirou is talking with Tape arms and the others.

I have eight kids with me, which leaves eleven unaccounted for. Garbage Legs has escaped to warn the teachers, as Gravity Witch confirms for Jirou and Cheat Code, and the pillars of ice in the landslide zone suggest that Todoroki is also doing fine.

It’s as I’m trying to get a read on how our classmates our doing from the elevated vantage point of the entrance that I see two green dots and a purple dot making their way towards the central conflict through the water of the lake.

I don’t even realize the dots are students before my feet are moving. I throw myself off the edge before anyone (even me) can react, and it’s only as I’m falling toward the crowd of villains that Aizawa had been fighting that I realize those dots are Izuku, Tsuyu, and Mineta. The image of Izuku’s arm being broken, of Tsuyu’s head being dissolved, of blood arcing through the air from the Nomu crushing Aizawa’s head against the ground – a hundred random images flash through my mind and I don’t know which are not-memories and which are just my panicked imagination, so I just move faster.

I don’t have time to go through the villain hoards so I go over, using that stupid explosive-propulsion method I know from alternative-Bakugou, but also using the occasional villain as a springboard in order to speed up and to minimize the amount of attention I’m drawing (explosions from among the villain hoard fighting are less conspicuous than explosions from the sky above). My mind is running a mile a minute, considering and discarding plans as too dangerous, wouldn’t work, leaves the kids exposed, can’t afford the sacrifice, too dangerous, too dangerous, too dangerous –

I still haven’t settled on a plan by the time I launch myself off of the last villain in the crowd and into the open air between the Extras and the stage where the main action is playing out. Everything feels slow and oddly weightless as my body arcs through the air, and I see the portal waiting to the side near where that monster Nomu many quirks danger - is pinning Aizawa to the ground. Handyman is Naruto-running across the stretch of land between his allies and the shore, where Izuku, Tsuyu, and Mineta stand frozen. He starts to raise his hand when he’s still several meters away, just as my feet touch down on dry land, and all of the plans running through my head are gone, my thoughts are silent, my mind is empty.

They’re just kids, something in the emptiness sobs. Sam, Ellie!

I don’t know how I close the space between us. I don’t know whether I thought to use my quirk or if I just booked it as fast as my two legs could carry me. Either way, the crazy bastard’s hand is only a few scant feet away from making contact with Tsuyu’s face when I realize that I’m about to rugby-tackle a man who only needs physical contact to turn me to dust. Out of all of the plans that had run through my head on my flight over, exactly none of them had included engaging the guy with the disintegration quirk in a full-contact sport. For fairly obvious reasons.

Despite the fact that this is unarguably the stupidest thing I could have chosen to do, my body doesn’t hesitate. My mind stays empty aside from the distant, unhurried realization that I’m going to die for this. I angle myself to hit below his center of mass, using my shoulder as a pivot point to fully take the asshole off his feet, hoping he’ll land on his head with the full force of both of our momentums behind him. I see Izuku’s hands reach towards us in my peripheral vision, and I think idiot, you’re too far away, and the fondness in that thought sends my rage at this villain to new heights.

I realize I’m crying a moment before impact.

He’s faster than I give him credit for, reacting to my unexpected interference with no hesitation or visible surprise. Just twisting even as I tackle him so that both of us are sent in a painful, uneven roll across the shoreline. At some point we must have hit the water (or I’m bleeding to death from the knee down on both legs) because my feet feel wet when we slow to a stop.

There’s a moment of stillness as everyone comes to terms with how we’ve landed. I’m on top with a grip on Handyman’s shirt just in front of his sternum and above his right shoulder. Most of the hands have been knocked off in our sprawl, including the one over his face. Despite his disadvantageous position, he’s sporting a manic, crack-lipped grin. His left hand is pinned beneath his body from how we rolled, but his right is over my carotid artery, all five fingers pressed down hard enough to bruise. There’s a single heartbeat, half a breath, where the entire world seems to wait for something, and then the arrogant bastard’s smile twists into something bitter and he starts to say “You really are cool, Eraserhe-”

I dig my thumbs into his eyes.

His monologue is cut off by a pair of screams; his own, in agony, as his free hand moves to claw at my wrist and his whole body twists to try to buck me off, and mine, which rises up and rushes out of me without consent (just like these stupid tears), full of rage and stress and a determination to not lose to this bastard in any arena, not even this one. I don’t have time to finish hooking my thumbs into the soft flesh before what feels like a small freight train hits me in the side and launches me into a pile of debris ten meters away. I have the petty thought that throwing me off like that probably did more damage to his stupid eyes than I could have done myself, before the Nomu appears above me where I’m lying winded in the dirt, and rears back its arm to finish the job.

Maybe this won’t be the first time physics decides to actually work in this god-forsaken universe, I think unenthusiastically to myself as the fist comes towards me, Maybe I’m wrong and the momentum in that thing isn’t enough to reduce me to a smear on the ground. If I’m lucky, maybe Kaa-san and Tou-san will get to have a closed-casket funeral, and they won’t have to settle for burying an empty coffin.

I never get to find out, since between the fist coming down and when it would have landed, Izuku decides that he’s going to save me from my impending doom with a quirk he still can’t control. Despite the fact that the Nomu is literally designed to defeat All Might, you know, the guy whose exact quirk you have except a weaker, uncontrolled version?!

So Izuku breaks his limbs uselessly at the Nomu (or, well, a limb, but still), which does exactly no damage to it, but does manage to distract it long enough for me to roll out of the way of its incoming fist. I stagger upright (ow ow ow definitely broke at least one rib) and manage one uneven step towards Izuku before the entrance doors fly open with a familiar burst of displaced wind.

I am here.”

Chapter Text

Toshinori has seen a lot of things in his life. Considering his career and his… unique position as the eighth carrier of One for All and the Symbol of Peace, he has probably seen more than most. So he can safely say that when he arrives at the USJ after coming across young Iida searching for help, he is prepared for any kind of villain or quirk that might be thrown at him. Portal quirk and disintegration quirk working in dangerous tandem? Reminds him of the teleporter and the laser-cutter quirk that had teamed up to rob banks in the Midwestern US when he was 26. Mobs of low-level villains keeping his students spread out and on the defense? A classic tactic. Twelve-foot abomination designed to withstand his quirk (or what they know of his quirk)? He’s seen it a hundred times. Never works.

He manages to blitz in and remove Aizawa and the small group of students with him from the center of the action (Tsuyu and Mineta have not sustained any visible injuries, but the same cannot be said for Bakugou and Young Midoriya), depositing them next to their classmates where a handful seem to have set up a make-shift first aid station (he’d need to remember to praise them for their quick thinking when all of this was over. Positive reinforcement was supposed to be good for kids, right?)

He listens to his protégé’s babbled warnings about the creature designed to kill him (it certainly sounded strong, but all of the previous attempts had been strong as well, to anyone other than All Might), and was about to recite some sort of reassuring platitude and excuse himself to have a chat with the people who had dared to target his students, when one statement among many caught his attention, not because of its contents, but because of the tone it was spoken in. Not hurried, not frantic, not even a little pressed. The speaker sounded totally relaxed, and at the same time, unbelievably annoyed.

“It’s honestly amazing you even qualify as a responsible adult most of the time.” Bakugou Katsuki deadpans from where he’s slumped against a displaced chunk of concrete, cradling his side in a way that suggests cracked or even broken ribs.

Toshinori can’t help but blink at him in slight bewilderment. He had just scooped him and his classmates out of immediate danger, hadn’t he? He had, right? What was not responsible about that? He was very responsible! The most responsible! Hell, he had a whole angsty thing going on over how much his responsibilities as the Symbol of Peace weighed on him and everything!

“Like, did you even check to see if there was anyone behind those doors before you blew them open? I doubt it. You could have sent one of your students flying – hell, you did send Mineta flying, just from the wind force. You’re lucky Frog Girl was babysitting him or he might have gotten injured.” The blond continues to scold him almost casually, as if they aren’t in the middle of a crisis situation that he really needs to go handle. The little spitfire wags a finger at him like a misbehaving dog and says something about how responsible fathers don’t give their children toys that break their bones, whatever that means, but Toshinori – No, All Might doesn’t have time for this. He has villains to subdue.

“Relax, Young Bakugou,” He says soothingly, not entirely sure what he’s reassuring. “Rest and get your ribs and hands looked at, and I will keep you and your classmates safe now.”

“My hands?” He asks, as All Might takes off towards the cluster of villains at the center of the field. He barely hears “Oh, that’s not my blood,” over the sound of air being displaced.

Well that’s alarming. He decides to ignore that for now. And maybe forever. Yes, forever sounds good.

It becomes infinitely harder to ignore when he arrives among the villains to find the blue-haired one screaming barely-comprehensible death threats at that “damn blond shitstain” and rambling about “Nomu, Nomu kill it, KILL HIM NOMU.” All Might has a bad feeling that he knows exactly what blond shitstain the villain is talking about. And if Bakugou is responsible for the damage to the blue-haired villain’s eyes…

The blond boy is young Midoriya’s best friend. His successor speaks so highly of the other boy, always brightening up when he has the chance to praise the other’s abilities and heroic attributes. It makes All Might want to believe that there is something truly good in the boy that inspires such admiration. He would not be the first hero All Might has encountered that is rough around the edges, brash and impulsive but determined to do good. The problem with that theory is… Well, despite his seemingly volatile temper, Bakugou shows no signs of being impulsive.

His behavior in class spars and even his social interactions lean towards quiet (angry) observation and analysis, until Izuku comes in and shakes him up like a bottle of soda and he explodes. Still, even that explosion follows clear rules and limitations that only Bakugou seems to understand completely. Every move the boy makes feels pre-meditated, even the kind ones, as if he can’t help but overanalyze every action before he makes it. Or as if he’s living his life from one step back, like a pilot at the controls of his own body. It isn’t sinister, but it is unsettling, and it leaves room for the possibility that Bakugou Katsuki is not a brash young hero like All Might has seen so often before, but a terribly deliberate one.

And that makes his actions here reason for concern. As both a hero and a teacher, All Might can’t ignore the possibility that Bakugou has crossed a line today. It’s one thing for a student to claw someone’s eyes in panicked self-defense. It’s another entirely for them to attack with the intention of maiming their opponent permanently. And Bakugou does not seem to be experiencing any shock at the injuries he’s inflicted on his opponent, despite not having a record of violence. If this is the first time he’s seriously hurt someone, he should not be this calm. If anything, he seems like he wants to go over there right now and finish the job.

 All Might contemplates the dangers of a hero student who seems to feel so little at causing such a gruesome injury even as he intercepts the monster (a Nomu, he’d called it?) as it attempts to go after said student on the blue-haired villain’s orders.

“I’m afraid I have to protest.” He says with a smile that is all teeth, pushing aside his concerns about Bakugou to deal with later, when he is a teacher again. Right now, he is a hero. “After all, it’s me you came to see, is it not, villains?

“He’s right, Tomura.” The portal-quirk user says in a strangely polite tone. Almost like a butler. “All Might is our main objective. You can get your revenge after he has been neutralized.”

“You can try.” All Might growls, feels that familiar spark of protective fury rise in his chest, and fires up One for All.

 

I know Izuku is going to go running back in there the minute All Might gets in a pinch (the mental image of the Nomu’s hand digging in to his injured side is enough to make me nauseous, but it’s still stupid to go running into danger like some sort of Shounen protagonist – oh wait). I know that originally, Bakugou was supposed to subdue the portal user while IcyHot Pain Relief and Eyesore helped out with the Nomu situation… But I had not been transported to the same location as Eyesore, unlike Bakugou had in the story. Things are already different. I can’t trust everything to always be the same. Especially when people’s lives could be on the line.

So, after Cheat Code helps me wrap my ribs in some bandages she’d produced from nothing (“From lipids. Lipids.” “Bullshit.”), I wait until most people are distracted with some other job and start making my way closer to the fighting. It’s surprisingly easy to do, but people tend to get tunnel vision under pressure. It’s an unfortunate side effect of adrenaline, especially if you aren’t used to it, but one that I gladly take advantage of at the moment.

There are still a number of low-level villains running around, although they seem just as startled by what is going on as the UA students are (had they not been debriefed about the mission properly? Did they not know about the Nomu? Or are they just that afraid of All Might?), and they don’t have any sort of organization or team structure, so it’s easy to pick them off one by one as they come across me. I aim for stealth, since no one ever expects me to be quiet, and manage to avoid giving away my position despite the handful of villains I’m forced to confront.

All I have to guide me is the strangely vivid image of the Nomu’s hand in All Might’s wounded side. I wonder if this is a message from Whoever-I-Was, or if it just happens to be the only thing that stuck in her memory clearly enough to last into another life. Figuring out how this stupid foreknowledge works would really help me decide how to act on it, but there’s nothing I can do about what I don’t know. I have to use what I have, and what I have is the knowledge that Portal Fucker is going to intervene when All Might goes to suplex the Nomu, and that’s my chance to take him out.

Hands McGee seems to be furiously disintegrating anything he can reach (and based on the way he kind of flails around until he hits something, he still can’t see. Ha), while Portal Fucker talks to him and keeps an eye on All Might’s fight at the same time.

Crouching among a few seemingly-concussed villains (and knocking out one that starts to stir nearby), I wait for the prickle of deja-vu that will tell me to act.

It comes along with the sound of Deku’s stupidly loud footsteps making their way through the field of semi-conscious villains behind me. Of course he still comes running down to the rescue despite All Might’s reassurances. And of course he has no idea how to walk silently, stupid fourteen-year-old danger magnet. And if my mental image of Deku rushing in right after the Nomu hits All Might’s injury is correct, then…

There. All Might moves to grab the Nomu in an appropriate hold to suplex him, and I use an explosion to launch myself into the swirl of mist that makes up the Portal Villain’s “body”. It feels like everything slows down, no sound except for the muffled pounding of my heart and the faint echo of my explosions making it through to my mind, and all I can see is the metal neck brace that identifies the villain’s physical body to me. It’s surprisingly easy to pin him down, which I guess explains how a barely-trained fourteen-year-old managed to do it in two realities now, but that doesn’t stop me from sending a firm punch into the metal neck brace in the hopes that the resulting explosion will dent it enough to cripple his ability to use his quirk.

Three things quickly become apparent as the ringing sound of an explosion on metal rings out from under my fist. The first is that I only half-succeeded in my attempt to prevent a portal from being opened. The Nomu has successfully fallen into a portal under the ground, but my interruption seems to have thrown off the Portal Fucker’s aim, and All Might avoided the attack on his wounded side and is now attempting to wrestle the Nomu back out of the portal, presumably to suplex him again.

The second thing that is apparent is that even though All Might has not been wounded, Izuku still feels compelled to join the action – presumably because of my own involvement, but I’d bet good money that it’s just his usual Main Character Bullshit acting up again. I tune out his dramatic dialogue with All Might in favor of the third and final revelation.

That being that despite being blinded and furious, Hands McGee is not deaf, and can pretty easily recognize the sound of my characteristic explosions, especially from less than three meters away. To exactly no one’s surprise at this point, he doesn’t hesitate to go for the kill, and I have exactly enough time to hear Izuku scream in rage (what a weird sound honestly, that kid never gets angry) and think I fucked up, before a pale, deadly hand is blocking my view of everything else on the battlefield.

I wish I knew how to read palms, is the last idiotic thing I think before I die. If I had time to slap myself I would. Luckily for me, a wall of ice explodes into the scant centimeters between my death and me and manages to do the slapping for me. I’m knocked onto my side by the force of the sudden ice growth, and as my grip on the Portal Villain slips, I make a split-second decision and toss his physical body into the open palm that is already well on its way to dissolving the ice that Half and Half threw at it.

The Portal Fucker’s pained yelp is music to my ears, even if it only lasts a moment before Hands McGee lifts a finger and stops his quirk from damaging the other’s body further. That moment is all I need to roll (very painfully fuck my ribs) away and join ranks with IcyHot Pain Relief, Clifford the Big Red Eyesore, and… Tailboy?

I have no idea why the fuck Tailboy is here, and there’s no foreknowledge or sense of familiarity to back up his presence, so I just chalk it up to butterfly effect and ignore him for the moment. (It’s not that hard. The dude’s plain as hell, if you ignore the huge fleshy tail growing out of his lower back.) There are more pressing issues right now

First of all, Hands McGee has already disintegrated the ice around his arms, and that Portal Bitch is now free to aid him again. Secondly, the Nomu is already on its feet and fighting All Might after a second, successful body slam, as if it had never even happened. And thirdly, the minor villains that had been hazily laying around in semi-consciousness are beginning to recover from Aizawa whooping all their asses, and regroup. And they seem pretty damned eager to get their pound of flesh from the easiest-available source: our little group of students.

Thank heavens for small mercies, because Portal 3 over there decides to focus on helping the Nomu kill All Might instead of murdering random schoolchildren (how considerate of him). So now all we have to worry about is the slowly-growing hoard of vengeful but low-level villains, and the psycho with the hand fetish who seems determined to melt my face off, if the way he’s raving about how killing me would be as good as ruining All Might is any indication. Geez, some people are such sore losers.

“I can hold off the leader with my ice.” Daddy Issues chimes in, and I eye his sweat-soaked red and white hair in doubt. He’s obviously been using his quirk a lot. “I’m the only one of us here with a long-range quirk, and he needs contact to cause injury.” I hate it when idiots make sense.

“Fine. Eyesore, Tailboy – focus on keeping the Extras off IcyHot’s back. If Handyman over there gets through your glaciers, I’ll need a big explosion to throw him back, so I need to build up some more sweat. Think you can throw ice and be a space heater at the same time?” I ask.

“I… will try.” IcyHot says, and I decide that’s the best I’m going to get out of him, with all his baggage around his fire quirk to consider. (Not that I should know about that, but hey, the plot is already broken.)

So, I have the unenviable job of sitting back and watching inexperienced children hold off hoards of murderous adults with superpowers while I impatiently attempt to build up enough sweat to keep the most lethal threat off our backs in case of a last resort. I’m as close to snuggling IcyHot’s left side as I can get without hindering his movements as he throws wall after wall of ice at the furious villain in front of us. (I try to ignore how he’s steadily gain ground. Iida escaped. Backup will be here soon. It has to.)

I’m so focused on Handyman and my own damp palms that I don’t even notice the small group of Extras that had snuck around while Eyesore and Tailboy were distracted with a few others. I spot a shadow moving out of the corner of my eye and turn just fast enough to block the blow from reaching Todoroki. I can’t waste the sweat I’ve managed to build up on my palms, or risk it being set off by the blow, so I’m forced to take the strike directly to my torso. In an effort to protect my squishy, vulnerable organs, I angle my body to the side and take the blow on the unbroken half of my ribcage. This does less than I had hoped it would to prevent my previous injuries from being jostled.

I make a mental note to threaten my classmates with severe bodily harm if they ever tell anyone about the sound I made after taking that blow. My steel-lined boot makes a satisfying thud as it connects with the 2nd-rate villain’s inner thigh. I was going for a pressure point, but any blow that close to the crotch is enough to get him to back off for long enough that I can try to get back on my feet and figure out how the hell to fight without setting off my quirk.

It turns out I don’t even need to. A blur of white and tan lands between me and the three villains that had caught me off guard, and I realize Tailboy has come to my rescue.

Are you serious? I despair silently, settling back to nurse my now-symmetrical rib injuries. This is so lame. I’ll never live it down.

And then Tailboy punches the guy who hit me in the throat.

Oh. I think, watching with wide eyes as the taller blond dispatches his three opponents with only a handful of well-placed jabs. He’s obviously had a significant amount of martial arts training, and the way he balances on his tail to dodge one of the Extra’s quirk (some sort of extendable arm thing. Super weird looking) must require some ridiculous core strength, not to mention the muscle control and balance… And that high kick. Oh no, I think. My face feels like it’s burning. Oh no, he’s kind of hot.

“Bakugou!” Todoroki barks and I snap to attention just in time to see Handyman bust through the latest layer of ice, only a few feet from where we’re all standing. Todoroki looks like he’s about to faint, and that last layer of ice was a lot thinner than the ones earlier. The bi-colored brat manages one desperate layer to buy us a couple precious seconds, and sinks to his knees. Good work, kiddo.

“On it.” I call back, moving as fast as I can without jostling my hands where they’re cupped carefully at my sides to hold the sweat I’ve managed to gather. “Get back,” is all the warning I have time to give.

Handyman breaks down the ice wall in front of him and lunges forward gleefully at the sound of my voice. I crouch down, waiting as he steps forward in that strangely slow way things move when adrenaline flood your system. It’s almost peaceful for a second, and I think to myself this is going to hurt, but my hands don’t shake as I wait past the point where I could have blown my opponent back without being touched. Because blowing him back would only keep him away for a few moments longer, really. And with Todoroki out, I couldn’t rely on my faulty foreknowledge to guarantee help would come before any of the three kids behind me could be injured or worse by this monster.

I don’t care if physics is a joke here. I think hotly. No one can outwit good old projectile motion. And just as his hands settle on my shoulders where I tucked myself into a ball to protect my neck, I clap my own hands together where they’re positioned just in front of his knees, a 45-degree angle from his center of mass and the ground.

The pain in my hands wars against the pain in my shoulders and the other various parts of my body that protest being thrown across the uneven ground like a ragdoll for the second time today. There are spots filling my vision and I lash out when someone touches me only to blink away the sunspots and realize any blob that green and fretful could only be Izuku. How he managed to get over here to catch me when he seems to have two broken legs is something I’d rather be furious about later. I try not to think about the pain in both my wrists or the muffled quality of Izuku’s voice, and focus on not throwing up as I try to get a sense of what’s happening around us.

That was the biggest explosion I’ve ever set off, and it was an excellent reminder of why I am so careful to wash my hands with desensitizing solution regularly and set off smaller explosions to clear off sweat as it builds up. Since I’d been crouched down at the same level as the explosion itself, I had been sent flying horizontally along the ground, back past where IcyHot, Eyesore, and Tailboy seem to have been thrown off their feet along with the last of the smalltime villains they were fighting. Oops. Handyman, since his grip on my shoulders was immediately turned to dust, had had nothing to hold him in place when the blast detonated just below and in front of him. The force lifted him off his feet and across the battlefield toward the water. I’d say he got a solid 40 meters distance, and he definitely didn’t land on his feet. That’s got to hurt. I think viciously.

There’s a moment of tension as the low-level villains look between me and Izuku and the three others, as if trying to decide who the weakest prey would be, which is broken by the incredibly intimidating sight of All Might launching the Nomu into the stratosphere.

Like, seriously. Team Rocket’s blasting off again. Just straight through the roof and out of sight.

Everyone, villains and heroes alike, takes a few moments to gape in absolute shock at All Might’s still-raised fist, even as Portal Prick retreats to speak hurriedly with Handyman. There are wisps of steam coming off of All Might by this point, and based on Izuku’s frantic stare, the hero is probably at his limit. Well, too bad, so am I. I think grouchily. Let the main character do some fucking work for once. This story sucks. Who wrote this?

When Portal 3 opens a little portal to let Handyman get one last grab at All Might’s neck, a gunshot rings out and the hand retreats into the portal with a snazzy new bullet-wound. Several more shots and the sound of villains frantically scrambling to get away as a wave of heroes (our teachers, they came to save us) descends on them like a swarm of angry locusts.

Cementoss blocks All Might from sight and I give up on keeping track of everything that’s happening with my head still spinning like someone’s put it in a dryer. It’s easier to just zone out and wait for someone to tell me what to do, now that there are actual responsible adults to take care of all these fucking kids. Maybe quirk bullshit won’t apply here and I can just quietly bleed out from my shoulder wounds and finally take a goddamned break.

Izuku’s frantic calls for teachers are less muffled than they had been a few minutes ago, which is a good sign. And either I’m getting used to the pain or I’m starting to go into shock, since I can’t really feel my injuries anymore. I can’t bring myself to care either way, just relieved to not feel the open handprints on my skin anymore.

“Just hold on Kacchan. Recovery Girl is on her way.” Izuku says, and I would roll my eyes if it didn’t feel like the most exhausting thing in the world right now. The idiot has three broken limbs, at least, and he’s acting like I’m the one who needs to see the nurse.

“Blow your nose, Deku.” I manage, wrinkling my own. “That’s gross.”

“You got snot all over that villain earlier Kacchan.” He retorts, looking relieved that I’m responding. What a sap. “Don’t think I didn’t see.”

“That’s a lie.” I say. “You hallucinated.”

“Did not.”

“Besides, there’s much more important things to talk about right now.” I continue. Izuku settles down and leans forward in concern.

“What is it, Kacchan?” He asks quietly. I meet his eyes solemnly.

“Is Snipe’s quirk good aim or is it just ‘having a gun’?” I demand. Izuku chokes. “If it’s good aim, is it only with guns or can he use anything? How would he have even discovered it if it was only with guns? Do you think he cheats at darts? I bet he cheats at darts.”

“Kacchan what-”

“Do you think he’s ever been banned from a carnival for using his quirk to cheat at those balloon dart games? Is he allowed in any carnivals? Does he play beer pong? That would be fucking vicious.” My eyes are heavy, but I can’t stop thinking about this stupid quirk. It’s the only thing I seem to be able to focus on.

“Kacchan, you’re speaking English.” Izuku says, looking worried. “Can you hear me? How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Trois.” I sing-song in French, giggling a bit hysterically. I feel slap-happy. Izuku looks pained. “Ça va Izuku c’est une simple blessure du corps.”

“Oh dear.” Recovery Girl’s voice surprises me. Either she got here crazy fast or I’m losing bits of time sitting here. “Help me roll him over so we can get any debris out of those wounds and get them sealed up.” She sounds professional. For a second, I think she’s talking to Izuku and I want to scold her for asking him for help when all his limbs are broken, but then much larger hands are rolling me over and I recognize Vlad King by the sleeves of his costume.

“He made it down to the artery.” She says quietly. “Luckily not all the way through, or he wouldn’t have made it a minute. But this…”

“Tell me what I need to do.” Vlad King sounds so determined. Like a real hero, I think with a giggle. His hands push down a bit harder on my back in response.

Vlad King, teacher of class 1-B, considers us rivals to his own class but still cares about us all. Has a dog! Dog dog doggy dog dog. My shoulders hurt again, but that’s okay. The kids are safe. All safe. Except for Izuku with his broken limbs, but some things are more powerful than gods or man. Like my best friend’s stupidity.

“Alright, they’re clean. I’m going to heal him, but he won’t have enough energy to do more than just seal his wounds up. Even that is going to knock him out.” Recovery Girl warns. Vlad King makes some sort of response about taking me to the ambulance. I groan into the dirt where I’m lying.

Oh, come on, I think hazily as Recovery Girl’s perverted kiss settled between my shoulder blades. Not a fade-to-black ending. I hate that fucking trope…

 

Chapter Text

It's the third time I’ve woken up since the USJ when I’m finally coherent enough to do more than just eat, chug some water, and accept another gross kiss from Recovery Girl before passing out again. It’s dark out, and I’m not sure if it’s still the same day, but based on how stiff my whole body feels, I have a feeling it might actually be the following evening. Damn.

“Oh good, you’re awake.” Recovery Girl says, as she spots me sitting up creakily in bed from her office. “I’ll let your parents know they can come pick you up.” She disappears for a few minutes, presumably to call my parents. Fuck, Kaa-san is going to skin me for getting scars that are visible in all of the tank tops she likes to buy me.

Before I can really contemplate that future scolding, Recovery Girl is taking a seat next to me with a clip board in hand. She guides me through the usual tests, blood pressure, response time, lucidity, and finally has me try to stand. I’m a little shaky on my feet (probably from blood loss and missing my usual dose of blood pressure medication, if I really have been out for over 24 hours), but my legs are working fine, and my balance is good. Recovery Girl makes a little note on her chart while I come to terms with the fact that I am wearing a backless hospital gown and not the hero costume I last remember wearing.

God, I hope she wasn’t the one to change my clothes. I squint suspiciously at Recovery Girl’s back. Creepy kid-kissing old woman.

“You’ll need to come to see me after class every day so that we can go over some exercises to help you regain mobility in your shoulders.” She says, looking up and not even batting an eyelash at catching me glaring at her. Yikes. “Your wounds healed well, but since we weren’t able to fix them in a single session, we couldn’t avoid scar tissue building up. As a result, you’ve lost a lot of flexibility in that area. If you work diligently, however, I believe you’ll be able to regain the same level of flexibility you had before over time.”

Are you kidding me? I think in despair. I spent years. Years stretching daily to make sure my body was flexible enough to utilize my quirk’s mobility to the fullest, and now I have to start again? Fuck.

I sit in my hospital bed and stew over that infuriating fact until my parents arrive in a flurry of concerned yelling and clinging limbs. I spend a few minutes reassuring them that I’m fine (well, protesting their hugs and whining about how they’re overreacting, but for us that’s pretty much the same thing), before they finally calm down enough to step away and listen to Recovery Girl go over my status with them.

It’s only when they finally give me some breathing room that I spot the green head that had come in behind them.

“What are you doing here?” I ask in disbelief. Izuku looks like he hasn’t slept since the USJ, although his wounds are healed at least. Still. “Aren’t medical visits family only or something? And shouldn’t you be resting, dumbass?”

“I just… wanted to see for myself that you were okay.” Izuku says quietly. “It was… It was really bad, Kacchan. Your whole back, and the ground, it was all red…” I’m not used to seeing his giant eyes so dull. Even the ground was red? Damn. I knew it was going to be bad, but that’s bad. Metal as fuck, but still bad.

“Well, come over and check for yourself then.” I say, gesturing to the back of the hospital gown I still haven’t had the chance to escape. At least one good thing can come of it. “I’m good as new. See? Just a couple badass scars to remember it all by.” Izuku hovers nervously next to me, staring at my back as if seeing it still covered in blood. I roll my eyes. “Oi, nerd, snap out of it. I’m fine.” I grab his hand and (with some difficulty, I really am going to have to regain all of that hard-won flexibility, aren’t I? Shit.) place it against the new skin on my shoulders. “No pain, no blood. You can feel it, right? It’s dry. I’m okay. Calm down.”

“You’re okay.” The nerd parrots, not moving his hand but pressing it a little more firmly to my shoulder and watching my face, as if to check whether I was lying when I said there was no pain. I return his stare blandly. “You’re okay.” He repeats, a bit more surely. His eyes lower to take in the scars, and this time he actually seems to see them. “They look like wings.” He murmurs.

“Hah?” I protest, trying to twist around and look at my own back. “The fuck they do! They’re supposed to be badass like, claw-marks. That bitch was holding on to me like the handlebars of his first bicycle!”

“They do look like wings!” My horrible mother chimes in, looking over Izuku’s shoulder. “But like, tiny little baby wings, just over your shoulder blades. And they’re kind of crooked.”

“Oi, fuck you, my wings are fine!” I protest instinctively, only to scowl even harder when Izuku fails to stifle his stupid giggle. “I mean, my scars are fine. Fuck. Fuck you.”

“You’re right honey.” Tou-san joins in, and I almost gasp at the betrayal. “Like a baby bird.” And he ruffles my hair. I wish I was a bird, so I could peck his dumb fucking hand. I settle for flipping him one. “Our angry little nestling, with such fine down.” He laughs. My mother fluffs my hair up, and it stays wherever she puts it since I haven’t showered since… well, I probably smell like some very unpleasant things at the moment, and my hair has plenty of texture for styling, without any gel needed.

“Fuck off.” Is all I say, but I don’t push them away. They need to be close to me right now, just like they did after the sludge villain incident. And… I guess I want to be close to them, too.

Remembering Izuku, I glance over at where the other boy is watching us with a fond sort of gaze from a polite distance. I raise an eyebrow at him.

“What are you doing all the way over there? I know you’ve probably been crying non-stop since I passed out.” I make sure he sees me roll my eyes long-sufferingly before I open up the arm that’s not busy wrestling my mother away from my hair (“but Katsuki you’d look so cute with some pigtails right now”). “Well, come on then.”

“Kacchan…” He mumbles, and sure enough he’s already tearing up before he even makes it the two steps to join us. He throws himself into my side, and I’m grateful to Recovery Girl’s quirk for the fact that my ribs are no longer broken because Jesus this kid has a strong grip. All Might has created a monster, I think.

“I thought you were going to die.” Izuku whispers creepily into my armpit. I choke mid-argument with my mother, and both parental units quiet down as well, looking oddly solemn. Did they also think I was going to kick the bucket? Bitch, don’t you know I’m one of the main characters in this shit? It’s called plot immunity!

“Thank you for that vote of confidence.” I deadpan, letting go of my mother in favor of dragging Izuku forward into the noogie to end all noogies. He squeals in protest. “As if something as mundane as blood loss would kill me. Don’t you know who I fucking am, nerd? I’m going to be the best damn hero this country’s ever known, and when I die it is going to be spectacular and hilarious, and involve at least three different national governments.” I let go once his hair is well and truly ruined, and he whimpers slightly as he rubs his aching scalp. Serves him right. “If you ever imply that my death would be anything less than record-setting again, this friendship is over. Got that? Over.

“Yes, Kacchan.” He agrees, and the slight smile on his and my parents’ faces tells me that hearing him parroting that habitual phrase from our childhood (So I was a bossy brat, what’s it matter? I still am, and I’m awesome) makes things feel like they’re going back to normal. Fucking weirdo, needs to be bullied in order to feel secure. Creep seriously needs a therapist.

Huh. I realize, sinking into my thoughts as my parents finish talking to Recovery Girl about monitoring my recovery and I change into some actual fucking clothes in order to head home. Come to think of it, a bunch of kids going through something as traumatizing as a villain attack someplace where they should feel safest really does necessitate at least one mandatory therapy session, even if it’s as a group…

I poke around in the corner of my mind where not-memories usually float up and remind me of random shit like how to sew buttons and what temperature white tea should be brewed at but the only images I get of counseling all involve Whoever-I-Was sitting in a therapists office hugging a throw pillow, and nothing about UA or the students here at all. So, either there was nothing about counseling shown, or Whoever-I-Was forgot it.

Once we’ve dropped Izuku off at his Mom’s and I’ve taken a much-needed shower and wished my parents goodnight, I settle into my room for the night. I should sleep, I’m exhausted, but I’ve been out for so long from Recovery Girl’s quirk that my body just needs a break from being horizontal for a bit. I’m sure I’ll be able to get back to sleep in a couple hours. In the meantime, I open up the bottom drawer of my desk, and pull out the pamphlets Izuku had stuffed there after that first day of school that feels so long ago.

UA Counseling Services, the first reads. For when heroes need help.

“This is going to suck,” I conclude, looking at the pile of obnoxiously colorful and stupidly optimistic-sounding handouts. But it’s not like anyone else around here is willing to step up to bat for these dumb fucking children. I crack my knuckles and pull out my laptop. “Right. Well, Plus Ultra I guess.”

 

Monday morning comes around with Izuku not even bothering to wait out front for me anymore. He’s sitting at the breakfast table chatting with Tou-san when I come down from getting ready. I raise an eyebrow, but Tou-san just smiles happily and says something about how “you should spend time with your friends while you can, Katsuki,” so I have to let it go. There’s no fighting my old man. Even Mom doesn’t bother unless it’s about something really big.

So Izuku joins us for breakfast and my parents are still being clingy about me almost-but-not-really-because-I’m-totally-a-main-character dying, so I kiss them both on the cheek today (which Izuku is obviously itching to write in his creepy fucking journal, but if I catch sight of any of this in there I am going to fucking burn it-), and we head off to class.

I leave Izuku’s hair mostly down and just do a waterfall braid to keep the front out of his face. It’s the opposite of a battle hairdo, really. After all the stress the last few days have brought, Izuku can wear a nice, impractical hairstyle for once. Bite me.

It’s surprisingly difficult to convince Izuku to continue on to class alone while I make a detour. I tend to take every opportunity I can to get a few minutes to myself, so this isn’t out of the ordinary for me, but I guess after all that happened in front of him, he’s clinging a bit harder to me than usual. It makes sense. He watched as he thought his oldest friend bled to death in front of him during a villain attack on his school, so he’s afraid to let me out of his sight in case something happens.

Well that’s not gonna fucking fly.

“Dekuuuu…” I warn softly. He gulps, but doesn’t let go of his grip on my sleeve. I’m getting flashbacks to our early years of friendship, before he learned not to be an overbearing creep and became semi-tolerable. “If you like your nostrils where they are, you better back the fuck up before I relocate them to your throat.

“W-Why my nostrils?” He yelps, but lets go of me, so who’s the real winner here?

“Just go to class, Deku. I’ll be there soon, just gotta stop by Recovery Girl’s office. And no, I do not need company.” I glare at him until his shoulders slump in defeat. Good. You should feel defeated, trying to invade my space like that. I’ll kick your tiny green ass.

Once he trudges sadly off like an idiot, I make my way toward the administrative wing, which is, admittedly, where Recovery Girl’s office is, that’s just not my main objective today.

“Good morning Master Splinter.” I greet, kicking open the door to Nezu’s office. He’s sitting at his desk with his hands folded primly, a steaming cup of tea beside him as he nods politely at me.

“Bakugou-kun.” He says, and my eye twitches. Well-played, Mighty Mouse. “I was expecting to see you sometime soon, although I did not anticipate you coming quite so early. What can I help you with?”

“I just want to make sure of something before heading back to that circus of a classroom.” I say, taking the seat across from him without asking. “You see, I’m not entirely sure I can trust UA with the well-being of my classmates in the fullest sense of the word.”

“Their wellbeing, Bakugou-kun?” Nezu asks, sipping his tea calmly. “What do you mean? Out of all the students, you were the most badly hurt in the attack on USJ, and yet you speak as if this is about your classmates.”

“Oh, our physical well-being is at least relatively safe.” I agree. With a small effort, I heft a thick manila folder labelled “UA Lawsuit Notes” onto the desk between us. “It’s their emotional well-being that I’m concerned about.”

Nezu’s eyes sharpen at the sight of my folder and the title written on it, and he smiles in a sort of manic delight. A chill runs down my spine.

“Oh? And have you decided to take Recovery Girl’s advice and see one of our school counselors yourself, Bakugou-kun?” He asks pointedly. I maintain eye contact, not a muscle in my face giving away my thoughts. I’ve been practicing this deadpan since I was (re)born; this mouse can’t break me.

“Just because I’m a hypocrite doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” There’s a beat as our staring contest continues, and I valiantly resist wondering how the fuck he got that scar over his eye as a lab rat. Did he fight his way out or something? Fuck, no, concentrate!

“Touché.” Nezu says, clapping happily. I almost choke at the sudden break in tension. “And what exactly are you wanting to verify? Our counseling services are always available to students, along with a number of other student resources you should have been informed of.”

“Should have been…” I echo, and I can’t keep the disbelief off my face. “Are you fucking… Do you mean at orientation? The orientation Aizawa didn’t send us to?!

“Oh dear.” Nezu hums, sipping his tea thoughtfully. “It sounds like we might need to add some caveats to our policy of allowing the professors to have free reign over what and how they teach.”

“Considering they’re pro heroes and not actually certified teachers, yeah I fucking think so! Actually, fuck, I’m writing this down,” I mutter, pulling out a pen and adding this under section C of my folder: Problematic Policies. “Fucking. Can’t believe this shit. No wonder all these kids are so fucked up. Goddamn. Just look at fucking IcyHot he needs like a whole fucking team of therapists and what does he get? Fucking Deku and the weirdest pep talk of the century. Goddamn.”

“Bakugou-kun?” Nezu interrupts me, and I finish jotting down my note to expand on this latest bullshit later. “I take it there was more to this visit than just wanting me to ensure your classmates receive the information they missed during orientation? Or will that assuage your worries?” He says this like he thinks very little short of divine intervention would assuage my worries. But joke’s on him because he’s fucking right.

“Yeah, no.” I scoff. “Unless you want this shit,” I give my trusty folder a little pat, “To hit the fan a lot sooner than I was planning to move forward with it, than I’m going to need something a little more proactive than just letting the traumatized children know that their school has counselors. Hell, the few of them with more than three braincells have probably already made that assumption and we both know that literally none of them have made a move to use those services.”

“And what do you suggest?” The furry little genius challenges me. “From our experience, making counselling services mandatory has the opposite of the intended effect. Students need to be in a place where they are willing to receive help in order for us to give it, so we let them come to us.”

“And have you ever had a situation like the attack on USJ before?” I retort. Nezu gives me the point with a small tilt of his head, but doesn’t say anything more. I snort. “Yeah, people need to be willing to receive help to make any progress, but they don’t have to get to that stage before the first session. Sometimes it takes several sessions of no fucking progress before they’re going to realize they can actually get help from these people. Because until they actually experience it, therapy just sounds like something that happens to other people. These are kids. Future heroes or whatever the fuck everyone sees them as, but still pubescent fucking brats. They… We’re fifteen. We don’t know when we need help yet.”

“You certainly seem to.” Nezu points out. I sit on my hands to keep from flipping him off.

“I’m fucking amazing.” I say instead. “And it is unfair to hold my classmates to my standard. They’re still dumbasses, with maybe some potential, but that potential isn’t going to go anywhere if you let them all develop PTSD in their first year of high school.”

“Alright, so you want us to make counselling mandatory for the students involved in the incident at USJ.” Nezu concedes. I cut him off.

“No.” I’m already opening my bag, pulling out my notes from the night before. God, Izuku is really rubbing off on me. “I want you to bring in specialized counsellors for all UA students to talk to in the aftermath, because a breach of security like this has probably shaken up all of the students who thought that they were attending the safest school in the country, only to have a class of first years attacked on their home terf. Even if they weren’t directly involved, Secondary Trauma Stress is very real and can lead to long-term problems.” I slap the relevant articles onto the desk in between us as they come up. “And I want you to talk to the students directly involved as a group, so that they don’t feel personally cornered or called out, and bring in counsellors to lead them through the process of discussing what happened, and to emphasize that you highly recommend they meet with the specialized counsellors one-on-one, without forcing them.”

“And if they don’t see the counsellors despite our recommendation?” Nezu asks. He’s too quick, already having flipped through the articles I’ve laid out in the time it took me to finish making my point. Creepy rat. “Will you still hold it against us?”

“Well, you’d go a long way toward covering your ass legally if you at least remind them about the services.” I deadpan. “But to answer your question, no. If after all that, they still don’t take advantage of the counselling offered to them…” I crack my knuckles. “Well, can only hope that they’ll accept the support of their friends, right?”

 

Aizawa is tired. This is not unusual, considering his habitual insomnia and grueling work schedule, but after the events of USJ and the energy he’s been expending just to allow Chiyo-san to slowly heal his injuries, he can truly say he is more exhausted than he has been since… Well, probably like a year ago at least.

Given this state of even-worse-than-usual exhaustion, he decides to wait until after the bell has rung to enter his classroom, not interested in dealing with unnecessary questions and concerns from his students before class. Opening the door and walking calmly over to his desk, he surveys the mixed reactions in front of him.

The students who notice him enter look like they’ve seen a ghost, which is as amusing as their reactions to his teasing always are. The way the rest of them jump when he drops his papers onto his desk with a thud and announces that they are meant to be in their seats warms his heart. It’s so nice to be feared, he thinks fondly as they scramble to take their places, and ignores their questions of whether he is really alright. He gives a cursory glance around the room to make sure no one is absent before he starts in on his announcements… Wait, there’s an empty seat.

He squints at the place in front of Midoriya for a moment. Trepidation rises up at the sight of one of his most punctual students missing. Where is Bakugou…?

Click, smack. “Sensei, Principal Nezu cancelled this afternoon’s- What the fuck are you doing here?” Bakugou gapes at Aizawa from where he just kicked open the door, seemingly holding a large stack of flyers for something. Heaven help me, Aizawa thinks miserably.

“I am teaching my class. Which you are late to. Care to explain, Bakugou-san?” Aizawa says, threateningly calm. Bakugou just continues to gape at him.

“Do I care to…? Fine, yes, here is my note from principal Nezu, who cancelled this afternoon’s Hero Fundamentals class to have us gather in auditorium two. Now, I reiterate, what the fuck are you doing here and why do you not have a substitute?

“I am perfectly capable of teaching a few classes.” Aizawa scoffs, accepting the note with a cursory glance. What is Nezu up to? “This much is nothing for a Pro Hero. Now sit down and-”

“Bullshit!” Bakugou blurts, and Aizawa actually coughs in surprise at being cut off so inappropriately. “Even heroes need rest days, now get out of here and call us a fucking substitute!”

Right, ignoring this now. Aizawa thinks with an eye roll, even as a few of the other students tentatively call out their agreement. It definitely isn’t heartwarming to see them so concerned about his health. He turns toward his class. “Despite what happened at the USJ still being fresh in your memories, you need to prepare yourselves for one of the most important events of your hero careers.” He suppresses a grin as the tension rises amongst the students, mutters of “more villains…?” and “our careers?” being heard around the room. He lets it rise to a peak before he pierces it. “Next week we will be holding the UA Sports Festival.”

The noise that breaks out at that is hilarious and gratifying. Never let it be said that he did not have a flare for drama.

“Are you serious?” The quiet question catches his attention. It’s rare to hear Bakugou speak in anything less than a bellow. “Do you honestly think that the Sports Festival is more important than your health?”

“I am fine.” Aizawa says reflexively, although it’s not exactly the truest thing he could have said. “And the Sports Festival is your chance as students to put your names out and get noticed-”

“I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT GETTING MY NAME OUT.” Bakugou roars, and his vehemence is actually enough to silence the excited chatter in the room, and Aizawa is taken aback enough that he pauses as his student continues. “If you think for one God-damned second that I am going to sit here and listen to you talk about my networking opportunities like they’re more important than your fucking BODY, WELL FUCK YOU.” And he slams his pile of flyers on Aizawa’s desk and storms back out the door. Never even made it to his seat.

“If you leave this classroom, you’re expelled.” He says calmly, watching Bakugou freeze with his hand on the door and slowly turn to face him. The look on the kid’s face is complicated. Like something between disbelief and indignation. He waits for the protests and yelling, placid face ready to ignore any threats or negotiations thrown his way. He’s heard them all.

“Okay.” Bakugou says, instead, and then walks right out the door.

“Oh fuck.” One of his other students (he’s pretty sure it was Ashido-san) mutters in the resulting silence. Aizawa turns to the rest of the class and continues his discussion of the Sports Festival and everything it entails, collecting the homework that he had assigned before the disastrous field trip last week (and even with the extra days off, several of them still don’t have it ready), but the class remains slightly shell-shocked (or, in Midoriya’s case, so pale you'd think the world was ending), looking at him occasionally as if expecting him to tell them he was joking.

He says nothing, just collecting the homework as usual and getting them started on the next exercises. As he goes to set the collected papers on his desk, he glances down at the flyers Bakugou had been carrying.

A Guide to Student Resources at UA…? He wonders, frowning thoughtfully as he begins grading. Why would Bakugou be carrying those?

 

Aizawa’s loudest problem child returns with as much drama as he left, about twenty-five minutes later. He, once again, kicks open the door to the classroom, which Aizawa finds excessive, but which might be related to the fact that the boy’s hands are busy juggling a seeming mountain of blankets and… Is that Hizashi’s office chair?

His homeroom class watches on in stunned fascination as his least nurturing student manhandles him into a large plush rolly-chair, propping him up with pillows and blankets as if he’s a newborn baby that can’t yet sit up on his own. Aizawa regrets the fact that he has been ordered not to use his quirk outside of a life-or-death situation, since his usual method of scaring his students into submission with floating hair and glowing red eyes isn’t available to him right now. He settles for projecting the most menacing aura of you will pay for this that he can, but Bakugou seems unaffected. Precocious brat, Aizawa thinks.

Once he’s gotten Aizawa settled into the chair to his liking, he presents him with three painkillers and orders from Recovery Girl to take them without protest “or else he’ll be seeing the end of my cane!” Aizawa reluctantly takes them, knowing better than to cross his older colleague. The final thing that Bakugou places on the desk in front of him is a thermos with a straw.

“It’s soup.” He explains, and Aizawa blinks down at the thermos in bewilderment. “Lunch Rush made it. Said it’s full of vitamins and other shit you’ll need to recover your energy.” And with that, he once again turns on his heel and heads back out the door.

“And where are you going now?” Aizawa demands. How can one student be this exasperating? He thought Midoriya was going to give him the most headaches this year, what with breaking his bones whenever he uses his quirk. But apparently his childhood friend couldn’t let him be the only one to make Aizawa regret accepting this teaching contract.

“The principal's office.” Bakugou says, raising an eyebrow. “I assume that’s where you go when you get expelled?” This fucking kid.

“Sit down, Bakugou.” Aizawa grinds out. “And if you directly disobey an order from your superior again, you really will be expelled.”

“Yes, sir.” He says, but the self-satisfied grin on his face as he goes to take his seat is almost enough for Aizawa to change his mind and go through with the expulsion. If he didn’t think Midoriya’s heart would actually give out, maybe he would.

I’m going to demand a raise, he thinks, and takes a sip from the thermos in front of him. It’s delicious. I don’t get paid enough for this shit.

Chapter Text

Izuku offers to let me copy his notes about the Sports Festival, as if I ever bother taking notes in Aizawa’s dumbass homeroom anyway, and when the bell rings for the end of homeroom I make sure to remind everyone to “take a packet, Extras, you’ll need it for afternoon assembly!” Which, despite the various protests at being called “Extras” that rises up in response, they obey. Izuku quietly reads “Student resources…” to himself, and the look he gives me tells me he is very aware that I have not seriously considered speaking to one of the school counselors myself, despite his and Recovery Girl’s suggestions. (In my defense, what am I supposed to tell them? “Yeah most of my problems stem from the poor combination of suffering from PTSD since before my birth and the natural explosive rage that seems to be this body’s only possible reaction to any kind of hormone imbalance like whoo boy this puberty thing is Not Fun.”)

I ignore him with the ease of long practice and make my way out the door toward our next class. Or at least, I try. The Extras are all crowded around the entrance to the classroom, blocking my path and ruining my dramatic exit. Fuck.

“What the hell?” I demand, shoving Bird Face out of the way and ducking under Octo-Arm’s massive biceps to get a clear view of the doorway. There are even more Extras gathered outside of the door looking in, as if this is some sort of zoo exhibit. What the hell? There were not this many people in this class last time I checked.

“Who the fuck are you guys?” I step out into the little circle of no-man’s-land between the two groups of morons, squinting at the newcomers and searching for a hint of recognition. I get something about just like Kirishima! From the guy with the weird eyeliner, so I decide immediately that I am going to steer clear of him forever. “What are you doing loitering around here? Do you not understand how doorways work? They are meant to be passed through. You’re in my way.” All things considered; I think I handled that fairly diplomatically. I even took the time to explain their mistakes to them so they can maybe grow and become more than just two-dimensional filler characters.

“So, this is the infamous 1-A.” An irritatingly bored voice chimes in. “Tell me, are all of you this arrogant, or are you just special?” The speaker steps forward slightly, and I’m irritated to realize he’s taller than me. He’s got lavender hair like some sort of bitchy troll doll, and the bags under his eyes look like they’ve been painted on with eyeshadow.

“Only the good ones.” I retort, and the instinct to flip longer hair over my shoulder in a show of dominance is repressed in favor of simply tossing my head arrogantly. Whoever this guy is, he’s testing my patience.

Shinsou Hitoshi, my brain whispers. And…

“Oh,” I realize, “You’re that brainwashing guy.”

The chatter of the crowd immediately stops, and a few students inch unsubtly away from Eyebags. It’s one of those rare moments where I regret my habit of speaking without thinking about other people’s reactions. Shit, I didn’t mean to out him like that. The way he’s glaring at me could strip paint, so I seriously doubt that “I didn’t mean to” is going to be good enough for him.

“And you’re the kid who deepthroated that Slime Villain last fall.” He responds venomously. I can’t quite hide a wince. Wow. This kid’s fucking brutal.

“Shit. Sorry, I didn’t- fuck.” I can feel myself getting angry at my own stuttering. I hate feeling awkward. “I meant you’re that kid who got brainwashed in that hypnotist show right?” I cover, badly, but maybe at least the really stupid ones will fall for it? “That was so lame. God what a loser.

“Hey, I like hypnotists!” Some dumbass with a Lego piece for a face chimes in indignantly. I decide that’s good enough for trying to rectify my mistakes. This feels out of character anyway. I’d rather stick with being angry and kicking ass, thanks.

“Whatever. Here,” I say, shoving my pamphlet into Eyebag’s hands on whim. “You probably need this more than me.”

“Student resources…? I got one of these at orientation.” Almost all of the venom has drained out of Eyebag’s voice, replaced with straight confusion. I groan.

“Right. I forgot that some teachers actually do their job.” I say, deliberately loudly enough for Aizawa to hear where he’s watching this all go down from his desk. Fucking asshole. “Whatever. You should still look at it again. Those dark circles look psychological.” And with that I decide I’ve had enough of socializing and make my exit through several of the more annoying-looking Extras, who squeal and scatter at the first pop-pop-pop of my quirk.

 

At the time we would normally go to our Hero Fundamentals course with All Might, we instead head to the main auditorium in the east building, with Aizawa reluctantly leading the way. It’s the first time I’ve set foot in the auditorium since Present Mic explained the rules of the entrance exam to us… was that seriously less than two months ago? It looks much bigger with only our measly class filling the first two rows of center seats.

“It really feels different coming here as students, huh?” Izuku is saying behind me. “Like a whole new space.”

“Yeah!” Gravity Witch chimes in, eerily cheerful as usual, and from too close for my comfort. I walk faster to put some distance between us. “It’s amazing how long ago it feels!”

Garbage Legs chimes in with some boring comment about school facilities and I manage to put Sparkles and Octo-Arms between me and the Nerd Herd before we take our seats. Thank god. Frog Girl gives me an odd look when I practically throw myself into the chair next to her, but she doesn’t say anything, surprisingly. Normally my glares are not enough to make her keep her huge mouth shut.

“Hello students!” Nezu claps cheerily from where he’s standing on what looks like several overturned crates next to All Might’s inflated form. He’s comically small in comparison. “You may be wondering why I called you here today on such short notice. As you are aware, the events at USJ were an unprecedented lapse in UA security, and we are working with experts to increase our defenses in time for the Sports Festival to continue on as usual.” I can feel my eyebrow twitching at the mention of that damned Sports Festival. Is that all anyone at this school cared about? “However, what is most valuable to UA is not our security system or the pro heroes who teach here, but you, our precious students. And so today we have called those of you who were present for the events of USJ together in order to touch base and debrief about your experiences.” At this point, the mouse stops his utter bullshit and turns unsubtly to look at All Might.

The giant man is frantically flipping through notecards that look like fortune cookie papers in his giant mammoth hands.

“On behalf of the heroes and first responders to the USJ incident,” He begins abruptly after a slightly-too-long pause. “I want to thank all of you for your bravery and resilience during this difficult time. It is thanks to your actions and your determination in the face of a situation you should not have encountered for several more years that we did not have any losses on our side, and no permanent injuries.” I can see why he’s the number one hero at least. Even reading bullshit off a notecard he radiates sincerity. Disgusting.

“However, even experienced heroes need support and help after particularly trying experiences.” At this, several of my classmates turn to stare at Aizawa curiously, and I grin at him, viciously smug. If his face wasn’t entirely covered by bandages, I imagine he’d probably be scowling at me right now.

“Even I, the Number One Hero, have people whom I talk to after difficult or harrowing rescues. It is thanks to the emotional support and accountability that these few individuals offer that I am still here before you today as the Number One. If I had tried to continue alone, I would have burned out and retired long ago.” I wonder how true that is. All Might does not really seem like the type of person to rely on others. From what little I know about him; he’s got some sort of serious injury that keeps him from working more than a few hours a day and causes him to be emaciated and cough up blood. If he really had a proper support system, there’s no way they would let him continue like that. Hell, Izuku is one of the few people who might be considered the Big Guy’s “inner circle” and that green idiot isn’t about to try to tell his idol he needs to quit hero work for his own good. He’d be way too blinded by his admiration to ever attempt to stand up to the guy. Hell… I can’t think of anyone who isn’t blinded by admiration for All Might. Even his enemies seem to think he’s some sort of paragon of Goodness that needs to be defeated.

“It is for that reason that UA has called in specialized counselors to be available to all members of the student body in the upcoming weeks, and who will be leading us in a discussion of the events of USJ today. It may be difficult to speak of your experiences, and I understand that you may wish to keep your peace, but please remember: the longer you do not speak about what happened, the harder it becomes to say. And speaking freely of your experiences is an essential and often ignored aspect of recovery and emotional wellness!” The clenched fist is a bit much, in my opinion, but he’s really trying his best to sell these pre-packaged one-liners about mental health to a bunch of self-destructive teenagers. I guess if anyone could do it, our Modern Messiah All Might probably could. “I turn the stage over to the experts now, and I expect all of you to consider what they have to say as seriously as you would any lesson from me or your other teachers here. Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra!” My classmates echo in eerily indoctrinated enthusiasm. I sigh. The frazzled-looking counselors step forward, skirting around All Might’s bulk with awed stares, and launch into a slightly-disorganized discussion of the potential effects of traumatic situations. Their clear efforts to encourage audience participation and student discussion of the events of the USJ are met with a somewhat awkward silence on our side, and I lean back slightly in my chair in anticipation of a long, frustrating assembly.

 

Hitoshi spent the rest of his morning doing damage-control with his classmates over that 1-A asshole’s thoughtless remark. Most of them let it drop after a little while, writing it off as “hero course strangeness”, but several of them were still eyeing him distrustfully, and it grated. He’d managed to keep his quirk mostly under wraps so far, waiting to take the Sports Festival by surprise. But now some random hero course student knew his quirk, which meant that his classmates probably all knew his quirk as well. Did they know the trigger? Did the hero course get information on all the students’ quirks, or was it just the “villainous” ones they were warned about? God, this was so typical. He should have known it would leak. Why did he think UA would be different than every other school he’d been to?

Nothing pulled him out of his 1-A induced funk until the principal came on the intercom near the end of the day to make a school-wide announcement. Considering the last school-wide announcement had been to inform the students that there had been a villain attack on a UA facility and that the school would be going into lock-down, there was a notable tension in the student body when the intercom buzzed to life without warning as they were beginning to pack their bags.

“Good afternoon students, it is I, your mysteriously anthropomorphic and adorable principal!” Principal Nezu’s voice filled the halls easily. Hitoshi’s shoulders relaxed slightly at the ridiculous introduction. It was nothing like the uncharacteristic seriousness that the USJ announcement had contained. “This announcement is to inform students of all departments and in all years that specialized counselors have been brought in and will be available for any student to speak with between 7am and 5pm Monday through Friday over the next month. If you feel the need to speak with one of our counselors about recent events at UA or any other problem, simply speak with your teacher and they will write you a pass to come to the offices for this purpose. We highly encourage you to take advantage of this resource in order to keep yourselves healthy and performing to the best of your abilities. Have a good day, Plus Ultra!”

“Plus Ultra!” Hitoshi echoed absentmindedly along with his class, while frowning down at his bookbag. He reached down to pick up his homeroom notes, only to brush against the packet that 1-A asshole had handed him this morning. Student Resources at UA. His hand hovered over it for a moment before stuffing it into his bag with the rest of his books. It’s probably nothing.  

 

It was definitely not nothing.

Hitoshi hadn’t meant to pay attention to 1-A. God knows they get enough of it from all their adoring fans. But still, after meeting the explosive blond of the class for the first time, it was a bit difficult not to notice him as he went about his day. The boy was loud. And bright. And not just the explosions that he regularly let off from his hands. Hitoshi was absolutely sure that he did not eat lunch in the main cafeteria with most of his peers, because there is no way he would have missed the virulent blond before this point.

Which made it all the more surprising to sit down to eat his lunch with a couple of his quieter classmates only to hear a gratingly familiar voice echoing across the cafeteria’s linoleum floors.

“Mind your own business, Deku!” Blasty Boy snarled at the freckly green-haired kid that seemed ready to vibrate out of his skin with excitement over something. “I can eat wherever I want.” The group of students following him were buzzing, and Hitoshi barely withheld a groan when they sat down at the table across from his.

He tried to tune them out, he really did, but when the word “counselors” popped up in the other group’s conversation, he couldn’t help but perk up a bit, remembering the resource packet from yesterday.

“… not sure about going to see them.” A red head with sharp teeth was saying to the group. “I just feel kind of awkward missing class or training time for something like that. I mean, nothing bad even really happened to me, you know?”

“Ah, that’s true.” Freckles took a bite of his lunch thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s better to work toward bettering ourselves instead of thinking too much about what happened…” Are they talking about the USJ? Hitoshi frowned at his own food, wondering.

“You’re going to go see them.” Blasty said with finality, and Hitoshi choked on his bite as discreetly as he could. What the hell was up with this guy? He risked a glance up at the group only to find Blasty frowning at the freckly green kid like a disappointed mother. Freckles stared back with an intensity that reminded Hitoshi of religious fanatics, before nodding once, perfectly calm.

“Okay, Kacchan.” He seemed to have decided this was perfectly normal. Was Hitoshi missing something here? He was pretty sure this was weird as hell. “I’ll go see the counselors after school.”

Hitoshi swallowed his food with some difficulty and reached for his water to help it down. Okay, that was Highkey Creepy. What kind of relationship did those two have?

“Izuku, bro!” Red head broke the silence as if his words had just burst out of his chest. “That’s so manly! Trusting your friend to know what you need like that. Maybe you’re right. Mental strength is just as important as physical strength, right? I’ll go talk to them too!”

“Me three!” A bubbly-looking girl with pink cheeks said, throwing a fist into the air.

“I will also make a time to discuss how best to handle these events with one of the school’s professionals.” A blue-haired boy built like a grown man said, emphasizing his words with oddly stiff hand gestures. The neighboring table dissolved into a series of weirdly emotional pep talks about mental health, and Hitoshi quickly finished his meal and escaped before he had to listen to any more uncanny interactions.

What the hell is wrong with 1-A?

 

Throughout the next week, Hitoshi came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with 1-A outside of the usual hero student headstrong bullshit. No, the pervasive strangeness that followed the class everywhere they went was in fact due to a single, obnoxious source.

Bakugou Katsuki.

He had learned the explosive blond’s name after coming across a conversation between him and another blond with a black lightning bolt in his hair that looked like a shake-down to Hitoshi at first. He stopped to observe for a moment, wondering if the angry blond was trying to steal the other’s lunch money or something, only to hear “… don’t you fucking imitate Aizawa’s destructive behaviors!”

What?

“Yo, Bakugou,” A tall kid with spindly limbs and strangely bulky elbows interjected from the sidelines, holding his hands up placatingly. “He’s just posturing dude, it’s normal.”

“Fuck normal it’s TOXIC is what it is!” Bakugou snarled, still holding the other blond by the collar of his uniform. The pink girl was standing next to Elbows cheering on the violence.

“Hell yeah, normalize self care and mental health services!” She pumped a fist up over her head as if this was sporting event. Lightning Bolt stopped struggling in Bakugou’s grip and turned wide eyes to Pinky.

“Oh, shit man,” He said in a tone of realization. “I didn’t mean to imply that.” He looked so distressed Hitoshi actually felt a bit bad for him.

“We know you didn’t.” Elbows reassured him. Pinky, once she noticed her friend’s guilty face, also calmed down and spluttered “Yeah, Yeah, Kaminari, we know you didn’t mean it like that!” But the slightly shorter blond remained slumped sadly against the wall. Bakugou clicked his tongue and let go of him.

“Just remember what All Might said about heroes accepting help.” He said, stepping back. Kaminari (Hitoshi was not sure if that was his first name or his family name, but it was all he had so far) perked up at that cryptic reminder, and seemed to gather his determination.

“Yeah, that’s right! Even heroes need support, especially the ones at the top! I’ll go make an appointment with the counselors right now!”

“Yeah, heroes set examples!” Pinky cheered, and Elbows shrugged and joined her. They all turned to, Hitoshi assumed, drag Bakugou into their newest resolution, only to find that he had already disappeared into the crowd during their conversation.

And from then on, he saw him everywhere.

He watched Bakugou argue avidly with the weird French-speaking kid from 1-A about “beauty sleep” and how “concealer can’t fool me I am a makeup PRO,” only for the conversation to devolve into a discussion of their favorite beauty youtubers.

He saw the weirdest staring contest of his life between Bakugou and the kid with a Bird Head in the hallway just outside the library when he was trying to pick up a book he would need for his upcoming essay (he had to keep his grades up if he wanted to have any hope of transferring after the Sports Festival). The two 1-A students stared silently into each other’s eyes until Bird Head suddenly nodded regally, and Bakugou looked satisfied and walked away. Hitoshi was bewildered.

He saw three more arguments about heroes setting examples and support systems, one of which was with a pair of students from 1-B who seemed to have made some sort of comment about the number of 1-A students advocating for counseling lately.

There was an incredibly amusing confrontation between Bakugou and the short kid with the purple spheres for hair, who seemed to believe that Bakugou was going to devour his soul if the look of absolute terror on his face was any indication. Hitoshi actually stopped and waited to see how this one would play out, curious about the first 1-A student to show real fear of the angry loud blond.

Then Bakugou huffed something about it being “even more important to talk about when you feel like you did something wrong.” And stomped off, yelling over his shoulder, “-AND I KNOW ABOUT YOU GROPING TSUYU SO YOU BETTER TALK TO A FUCKING COUNSELOR ABOUT THAT TOO BEFORE YOU HAVE TO SEE AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT KIND OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, GOT IT?”

Does… Does this qualify as being supportive? Hitoshi wondered. If it does, it really shouldn’t.

When the next day at lunch brought Bakugou striding into the cafeteria once again, Hitoshi was not the only one watching the other boy out of the corner of his eye. At least half of the cafeteria was staring. And the rest quieted down to pay attention the moment it became apparent that Bakugou was not heading toward the friends he had eaten with the other day, but instead toward the only student in 1-A even more popular with the rumor mill than he was: Todoroki Shouto.

The dual-colored son of the Number Two Hero (and god damn how it grated to know he got into UA on his daddy’s recommendation) glared at Bakugou as he approached. If they weren’t in the hero course Hitoshi would say they looked like a pair of rival gang bosses meeting, based on the furious scowls and violent body language alone.

“Holy shit.” One of Hitoshi’s usually-quiet lunchmates whispered reverently. He couldn’t disagree. This was going to be a fucking disaster. He was on the edge of his seat.

Bakugou did not seem deterred by Todoroki’s glare of death in the slightest, walking up to the other boy with his usual stomping, arrogant strides (that kid should really just start wearing heels, he obviously wanted people to hear him coming). When he neared the table where Todoroki was eating (empty aside from one petrified-looking Support Class student), Bakugou reached into his pocket. Hitoshi had a moment of horror where he imagined the angry hero student pulling out a weapon of some kind and attacking the other, only for the scowling blond to slap a slightly crumpled piece of paper down in front of his classmate’s lunch tray. He didn’t even wait for a response, just turned on his heel and walked right back out of the lunchroom, the same scowl still in place.

The Chimera of class 1-A looked at the paper in front of him suspiciously, and Hitoshi and the rest of the lunchroom were openly staring. There was no way he hadn’t noticed by this point. Todoroki unfolded the note and took a moment to read it. His scowl transformed into a frown and then his face went oddly blank, before he stared after where Bakugou had left intensely. Hitoshi would give anything to see what was in that damned note. When Todoroki folded it up and put it in his wallet, that was the final straw.

Hitoshi stood up, taking his lunch tray with him absently and making his way over to a table he had studiously avoided until this point in the year. It was the table where his noisiest 1-C classmates gathered, occasionally gaining or losing a member but always revolving around Suzuki Rei, a girl with a simple quirk that allowed her to make her voice into the sound of a bell chiming. She was also the biggest gossip in 1-C, and potentially the entire school, and so he avoided her like the plague. Until now. The table quieted down and stared at him as he approached, and Suzuki’s bell-like laughter cut off as she noticed him.

“Shinsou-san?” She asked, eyes sharpening as she looked him up and down. I already regret this, he sighed. “What brings you here?” She tilted her head curiously, and he took that as an invitation to step forward and set his tray down at an empty seat on the other side of the table from her.

“Bakugou Katsuki.” He said after a moment of hesitation. He had avoided interacting with his classmates as much as he could this year, but after getting outed by Bakugou and then all the chaos of the last few days, he couldn’t stand it anymore. “What do you know about him?”

The sharp look in her eyes was replaced by an unholy glee. She pushed her empty lunch tray aside to lean forward and make a frankly uncomfortable amount of eye contact. Hitoshi wished he could have just brainwashed her into telling him this.

“Bakugou? Oh, yeah.” Something that could loosely be called a smile spread across her face. “Let me tell you everything I know about 1-A’s Mom Friend Cryptid.”

Chapter Text

 

I don’t sleep much leading up to the Sports Festival. Every time I close my eyes images of people I know play out behind my eyelids like a fever dream. Classmates I vaguely recognize from the halls of UA desperately trying to keep their balance as they cross a man-made ravine on swaying ropes. Frost and sparks flying in a closed space while mostly-untrained children dodge desperately, nothing but their flimsy gym uniforms offering the barest illusion of protection. Izuku, flying through the air on a piece of scrap metal, hurtling toward the hard ground from a height well over what it would take to break his neck. Izuku, reaching his hands into Todoroki’s flames to try to snatch victory from around the taller boy’s neck. Izuku, with his arms mangled beyond repair, smiling like a psychopath until his opponent agrees to use his untrained fire quirk against his classmate in a school festival.

To resist strangling the main character, I channel all my energy into my ongoing campaign against Nezu and his shitty counseling services. Might as well get something done during the night if I’m not going to get any sleep anyway. And the more I research laws and regulations regarding education – specifically hero schools – in Japan, the more I want to gut-punch a bureaucrat.

The worst part is that none of it is technically illegal. As long as the people using their quirks on the students are licensed heroes, the law has no problem with it. But if a student were to use their quirk for self-defense, they would be tried as an adult without question for their “advanced use” of an ability that the law states would only be masterable through experience and maturity. In other words, those with exceptional quirks can be tried as adults no matter their actual maturity, whereas an unruly or uncontrollable quirk could be twisted to disqualify someone from rights or positions that require one to be considered an independent and consenting adult.

And someone with a quirk that destroys with a touch would be legally and socially treated as a man-child at best, and a societal burden at worst. I grimace at the vague twinge of sympathy for Bad Touch McGee, but it’s true that many of the villains I see on television seem to have inherently immutable quirks. Even the slime villain-

I click over to another tab and start a search on general human rights, ignoring the slight shaking in my hands. Sleep deprivation a method of torture for a reason; it has a profound effect on people both mentally and physically. It’s a good thing I don’t need to be in top condition to be head and shoulders above most of my classmates, or I’d be fucked.

As it is, almost no one notices a difference in my behavior in the days leading up to the festival. Izuku does, obviously – he always knows when I’m wearing concealer somehow – but I manage to throw him off the trail a bit by just going all-in with foundation and my signature black eyeliner instead of only covering up my dark circles. If I normally only do my makeup in tandem with my hero costume, I can just say that it’s part of my look as a hero in and out of uniform and Izuku won’t question it. He’s surprisingly delicate about subjects like that.

“Wow, Aoyoma! That’s amazing!” Kirishima’s voice is starting to become less jarring, despite still being as loud as always. I guess I’m getting used to my more excitable classmates. “Did you do that yourself?”

A glance tells me that Kirishima and Mina are gawking at Aoyoma’s nails. Painted a surprisingly modest gray to compliment his uniform. Aoyoma on the other hand is unsurprisingly not modest about his “master nail art technique”, and offers to do their nails “as a once-in-a-lifetime chance!” Mina takes him up on it without hesitation, choosing a vivacious pink that manages to look subtle against her skin tone. It’s so rare to find myself approving of one of my classmate’s fashion choices that I actually turn to watch, amused at the fact that Aoyoma apparently keeps a UV gel kit in his backpack.

It’s a relaxing way to pass a free study period, and before I know it my eyes are beginning to droop. Aoyoma finishes Mina’s nails and turns to Kirishima with a blinding grin while I admire the smooth sheen that he managed to get on such a thick gel color.

“Et pour toi?” Aoyoma sing-songs. It takes me a few seconds to notice something seems off, in my half-asleep state. I blink a few times to clear my eyes and turn to look at Kirishima, who is looking between Aoyoma and Mina’s nails uncomfortably, grinding his teeth in what seems like a stand-in for biting a lower lip with teeth that would pierce it unhesitatingly. Aoyoma’s grin is stiff on his face, but his eyes give away his panic; he hadn’t considered that one of our most socially confident classmates might feel awkward getting a manicure from our most flamboyant member. A vague niggling at the back of my mind is saying something about insecurity, self-consciousness, and the mental image of Eyesore with black hair, smiling with his lips closed to hide his weird-ass teeth makes my lip curl.

“Black matte stiletto.” I interrupt the increasingly awkward silence, holding out a hand lazily. “If you think you can manage without fucking them up too much.” I’m not about to be seen with some cheap-looking manicure when I could get a professional one from one of Mom’s clients for free any day.

Off-Brand Prince Charming manages to do a half-decent job, although close inspection would show that it was done by an amateur. I finish examining them and notice Aoyoma watching me with badly hidden anxiety. I roll my eyes.

“Calm down, they’re fine.” I say, and then make a point to show off the way they make my hands look dangerous as hell by picking up a pencil and spinning it between my fingers. Fuck yeah. “Besides, I could make anything you did work.” The statement is meant to be arrogant, mildly antagonizing, to get that slightly-sparkly look out of Aoyoma’s eyes, but it backfires when Eyesore suddenly straightens up and clenches his fists passionately. Fuck what did I do to set him off?

“Bakugou’s right – a real man doesn’t follow society, he leads it!” He abruptly bows to Aoyoma, a bit too deep to be anything but awkward for the poor blond. “Aoyoma-san! Please paint my nails for me!” There’s a beat of bewildered silence before Aoyoma pulls himself together.

“Bien sûr, mon ami – what color would you like?”

“Red, to match my hair and costume!”

And the class settles back into its usual routine of exuberant nonsense with little fanfare. I pass the time playing with my pen and trying to keep my eyes open. It’s a little easier with my new manicure to admire. Not bad, Twinkle Toes.

The bell for lunch rings and I watch Kirishima pull Aoyoma along to his usual lunch table, babbling questions about “how did you learn to do nails, Aoyoma-san?” and “Is that your natural hair color? I have to dye mine!” It’s a pretty vivid reminder that these are still just kids – one interaction is all it takes to spark a lifelong friendship.

“Kacchan?” Izuku appears by my elbow, startling as always. He’s lucky I’ve gotten used to it and don’t instinctively try to blow his face off anymore. It still wakes me up from my half-trance with a jolt of adrenaline, though. “Are you coming to lunch?” He looks after Kirishima and Aoyoma with that eerily calculating glint in his eyes. At least I’m not the only one it’s directed at.

“No way.” I try to wave a hand dismissively, but it’s more of a tired flop. “I’m gonna take a nap while I can finally get some peace and quiet.” I wait for the usual but Kaaachan only to feel considering eyes on the side of my face. I turn to meet Izuku’s contemplative look with a glare. What?

“Okay, get some rest Kacchan.” He says abruptly, and then high-tails it out of the classroom before I can explode at his stupid statement. Don’t tell me what to do – you’re not Auntie Inko!

Damn nerd. Always keeping track of my habits way too closely. Probably has some sort of monitor in my room to track exactly how much I sleep at night.

Whatever. I’m too tired for this shit. I stand up from my desk with a yawn and head off to find somewhere my classmates won’t bother me.

 

 

“You’re amazing Aoyoma!” Mina waved her hands around as she talked, showing off her bright pink nails with glee. “You even got Bakugou into it – I never thought I’d see the day!”

“That was surprising.” Yaomomo agreed. “Bakugou always seemed too… practical for a manicure like that.”

“You mean how he hates your guts because he thinks your quirk doesn’t make sense?”

“He does not hate my-!”

“You’re right, he hates Uraraka’s guts.”

“Hey, leave me out of this!”

Izuku couldn’t keep the little smile off his face as he listened to his classmates – his friends! He had friends other than Kacchan! – banter. They teased each other often, but it was always in good fun. Not at all like his old middle school classmates.

“Bakugou doesn’t hate Uraraka – he’s afraid of her.” Izuku murmured absently, only for the attention of the whole table to focus on him abruptly. He straightened up with a surprised little yelp. “W-what?”

Afraid of me?” Uraraka repeated in disbelief. “Did you see what he did during our first hero training? He looked me in the eyes while he detonated that fake nuke. I felt my soul leave my body, Deku-kun!”

Hearing Kacchan’s nickname for him coming from someone else was always a bit weird, but he couldn’t help but love the little thrill of belonging he felt knowing that people were using a friendly nickname for him. “It’s true!” He defended. “Kacchan is afraid of a lot of things, it just doesn’t stop him from doing them. That’s why he’s so amazing!” He blushed a bit when he realized his voice had gotten loud enough for a few students at the surrounding tables to glance over. He lowered it. “You just need to know what to look for and it’s obvious.”

“Say, Midoriya…” Kaminari chimed in after a moment of contemplation. “You know Bakugou pretty well, right?”

"Yes?" Izuku frowned at him uncertainly. “We’ve been friends since we were babies.”

“Then can you tell us what’s, you know-” Kaminari made a vague gesture that could have been anything from help I’m choking to I’m a mime trapped in a box, -up with him?”

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, unsettled by the way everyone seemed to be leaning forward a bit in their seats. What is going on? “Or - what do you want to know, exactly?” There was a significant pause, and Izuku could imagine Kacchan’s exasperated eye roll vividly. They don’t even know what they’re asking, he’d complain.

“Why is he so violent?” Tsuyu broke the silence. Several others laughed and chimed their agreement, but Izuku frowned.

“He’s not violent.” He defended. “His quirk is really strong, so if he wasn’t super careful not to hurt anybody, people could get seriously injured. Kacchan studied really hard to be able to use his quirk to subdue villains, and he’s here to learn how to get better at it. He can’t help that his quirk makes his fighting style kind of… aggressive.” Izuku winced at how lame that sounded, but pushed on. “He even makes his own desensitizing solution and keeps it with him!”

Where?” Kirishima asked in disbelief. “Does he hide it in his hair or something?” Izuku blinked at him in confusion.

“He usually just carries it in his bag, but his costume has it built in. You really haven’t noticed?” Heads shook around the table. Izuku despaired inwardly. Kacchan, you need to open up more! “The collar of his costume is metal, and it has holes all along the front, right? The solution is inside, pressurized – he can trigger it to spray in an emergency and desensitize his sweat to avoid civilian casualties or a villain with a fire quirk using it against him.”

“That’s… very practical of him.” Iida said thoughtfully. “It is good to see that side of his personality contributing to his studies!”

“Yeah, yeah, so he’s a nerd.” Kaminari dismissed. “I want some real gossip!”

“Like what?” Izuku floundered.

“Like – like why Koda isn’t scared of him!” Mina burst out excitedly. “You’ve got to admit that’s weird, right? Koda flinches every time Present Mic-sensei talks but Bakugou could throw you out a window and Koda wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. He’s one of the only people in class I’ve seen Koda actually speak to!”

“Kacchan has never thrown me out a window!”

“It was just an example!” Mina waves her hand dismissively. “But I’m totally right. It’s weird that Koda doesn’t flinch when Bakugou gets all… Bakugou around him. Did you guys know Koda growing up too or something?”

“No, we met on the first day.” Izuku answered instinctively. He gulped as all eyes on the table focused on him with the realization that he was actually going to answer them. “Kacchan asked Koda for a favor on the first day of class and they… became friends, I guess? They talk about animals sometimes during free period, so I think they’re friends. It’s hard to tell with Kacchan, sometimes.” He blinked. “Also, flinching when Present Mic-sensei raises his voice is a perfectly rational reaction to a quirk that creates force proportionate to the decibels produced.”

“Yeah yeah, you’re a nerd too, we get it.” Mina nodded. “But what’s this about a favor? And Bakugou talks to Koda about animals during free period? Like, how they can be used to fight villains or something?”

“Uhhhh,” Izuku hedged, Kacchan’s going to kill me. “Not exactly? Kacchan loves animals. But they don’t really like him. So Koda talked to the animals around UA and told them that Kacchan just wanted to be their friend, so Kacchan is really grateful and tries extra hard not to startle Koda during exercises and stuff, and they chat about how the animals around campus are doing and if they need to put food out for the strays and stuff.”

“No way.” Kaminari burst. “Bakugou likes animals? Like, fuzzy little bunnies and shit?”

“Especially fuzzy little bunnies.” Izuku said, dead serious. Kaminari choked on his lunch.

“Nuh uh, I call bullshit.” Mina scoffed. “That boy would bite a bat’s head off Ozzy Osbourne-style.”

“He would never!” Izuku gasped, scandalized.

“Well, the bat in that case was already dead and if it was just to intimidate… maybe as part of a strategy in a battle?” Uraraka pondered. The betrayal must have shown on Izuku’s face because she held up her hands apologetically and hastily backtracked, “I don’t think he would ever hurt a living animal or anything!”

“You guys seriously don’t believe me, do you?” Izuku frowned. He got several sheepish or apologetic looks, but Mina, Kaminari and Tsuyu just shrugged and shook their heads.

“I don’t think you would lie to us, but it is difficult to believe without proof.” Tsuyu explained. Izuku appreciated her straight-forwardness but sometimes it could sting.

“You just want proof?” Izuku asked. He resisted the urge to shrink when the stares redoubled. “Kacchan probably doesn’t realize I know where he goes to avoid me, since he thinks I wouldn’t leave him alone if I did, so he should be in his usual spot. We can see it from the corner of the roof.”

“Izuku, bro…” Kirishima shot him a pitying look, but Izuku pushed on.

“If we finish eating before lunch is over, I can take you up and show you.” He decided. He wondered if he had made a mistake when the conversation was replaced with the somewhat repulsive sound of eight high school students eating as quickly as they could without choking. He rushed to finish his own meal before they dragged him away.

The school roof was a popular lunch spot for students whose quirks or mutations made them more comfortable outdoors – Izuku waved to a Gen Ed student whose quirk allowed them to photosynthesize as he passed. The student languidly waved back from their spot lounging in a patch of sun with only a mildly curious glance at Izuku’s entourage. Postprandial somnolence, Izuku thought absently, I wonder what he does to avoid falling asleep in the sun and producing too much energy...

“Just over here…” Izuku murmured, heading toward the northeast corner of the roof. He leaned against the railing and searched the grounds below. It should be… “There! You guys see those three trees that were planted too close together by the gymnasium? Thanks to those and the bushes along the path down there, the hill behind it isn’t visible to someone passing by. Kacchan likes to go there to nap.” He pointed proudly and looked over to see if his friends were looking in the right direction.

“I want to ask how you found this out but I feel like I’m probably better off not knowing.” Mina shrugged. Izuku flushed slightly in embarrassment. Am I being creepy again? “Three trees, you said? Where, over there?”

“No, by the blue trash can.” Izuku corrected, pushing down his discomfort. His friends huddled around, squinting down at the grounds as if examining a particularly challenging textbook.

“I see him!” Kaminari said, and soon the others were joining in with their own exclamations of excitement and surprise. These only lasted a moment however, before Kaminari followed up with, “Is that… a deer?”

Izuku tilted his head, looking down at the animal that Kacchan was resting peacefully against in his hiding spot. It looked a bit like a dog from this distance, but its neck was too long… It didn’t have antlers but it was hard to tell. Maybe a small doe?

“It’s a fawn.” Yaomomo chimed in, and Izuku looked back to see her holding a pair of binoculars with her name on the side. Did she make those?

“Now we really look like stalkers.” Uraraka said cheerfully. Izuku let out a high-pitched noise of shame and she laughed.

“A fawn?” Mina squealed. “Oh, let me see, let me see!” Yaomomo passed the binoculars over and they cooed over the sight together. Kaminari seemed to have frozen with his mouth half-open, staring down at his sleeping classmate as if he was looking at proof that aliens had come to earth.

“We sometimes see deer around during class, but they don’t really approach the students.” Tsuyu said thoughtfully. “Kouta really must have spoken to all the local animals on Bakugou’s behalf.”

“This is a little surreal.” Kirishima admitted. “I’m not really sure how to feel.”

“Well, none of you believed me, but here it is. You’ve seen your proof.” Izuku shifted uncomfortably. “Now you can stop thinking Kacchan’s scary or mean or whatever – he’s just… gruff.” There were several beats of silence as his classmates stared at him in disbelief, but he stood his ground.

“What the fuck.” Kaminari said finally, like a prayer. “He’s actually a fairy tale princess under a curse.”

 

By the time the Sports Festival actually arrives, I’m half-convinced the sleep deprivation has caused me to lose my mind. I’d finally given in and popped a couple of melatonin the night before to power through the nightmares, but even with a solid 10 hours of sleep in my system, I feel like I’m trapped in a surrealist flash mob as I watch Two-Face declare war and flaunt his friendlessness in front of a goddamn Shounen protagonist like he doesn’t realize this is just waving a red flag in front of a raging bull. It looks exactly like it did on the television screen in another life, in another universe, and when I blink, I can almost imagine everyone as two-dimensional caricatures of themselves. The same expressions of nervousness or discomfort, the same nervous laughter, everything’s the same until…

Until it continues on. Izuku stutters out a response to the challenge that basically amounts to “let’s both do our best!” and looks like he might faint at the cold look IcyHot gives him. Kirishima says something to the frigid boy about sportsmanship or whatever, but I can’t get over the sense that something is missing from the scene. It feels a bit like reaching out to touch something familiar only to find it is entirely the wrong texture. You’re convinced it’s wrong but there’s no way to explain why you think it should be a different way when it is the way it is.

Izuku manages to handle IcyHot’s aggressive staring for about 3 minutes before he makes his way over to hide behind me. The ponytail holder he holds out to me is a flimsy excuse and I make sure he knows it when I roll my eyes before taking it from him and kicking out the chair next to me so he can take a seat.

“What are you doing, Izuku?” Frog Face asks curiously, while I dig in my bag for a boar’s hair brush. Izuku still uses fucking 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner so I don’t even know why I bother, but if I'm going to waste my precious time on something you can bet your ass I'm going to do it well.

“Kacchan helps me with my hair, since I can’t reach the back well.” Izuku replies cheerily. Froggy makes a weird little ribbit-y hum like this is something very puzzling, and I get started on attacking the green rat’s nest in front of me. You can’t tell just looking at it, but the underlayer of his hair is always in a dozen knots.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Tsuyu continues as I pick at a particularly stubborn tangle with my conveniently pointed manicure. Thanks Sparkle Spanx. “Where did you learn to braid your hair like that, Izuku?”

“Hm?” Izuku hums mildly, shoulders loose as I run my fingers through the newly-detangled section of hair to get any last tangles out. “What?”

“Oh yeah!” Uraraka chimes in. “You’ve done some really complicated ones! I was going to ask if you could do that crown braid on me sometime, but I’m not sure my hair is long enough.”

“I could do it.” I answer absentmindedly, running the boar’s hair brush down the back of Izuku’s hair in long, even strokes to distribute the oils along the length of his hair. Oh hell yeah, look at that shit. I’m amazing.

“You…” Uraraka echoes, sounding odd, and I stiffen as I realize which of my classmates I was speaking to.

“Oh yeah!” Izuku interrupts, and I don’t know if I want to throttle him or thank him. “Kacchan braids my hair for me on the train every morning, since I’m no good at it. It keeps it out of my face during class, and he likes to do different kinds sometimes depending on what our schedule is for the day?” He tries to turn his head to look at me, probably to verify that this observation is correct and not just speculation (it is, but I’m not about to tell him that), but I tighten my grip on the five-strand braid in my hands and yank until he yelps at the sting in his scalp and stops moving.

“If you keep fucking wiggling, I’m going to throw this shit in a ponytail and then cut it off.” I threaten mildly. Izuku huffs but stays still.

“That’s a good point though.” Kaminari chimes in, looking at me weirdly but not saying anything. I glare back and he turns his eyes to Izuku with a stiff, somewhat terrified smile. Good. “If it’s too long for you to manage yourself, why don’t you cut it?”

“Because Kacchan likes – eep.” Another yank has Izuku shutting his no-good gossiping mouth, and he quickly changes tactics. “I mean, I like having Kacchan braid my hair?” He tried. “And uh, if I cut it, he wouldn’t braid it anymore?”

You idiot. I think in despair, closing my eyes and resisting the urge to pinch the bridge of my nose. I open my eyes and tie off the end of the braid, foregoing loosening it for extra volume in favor of keeping it tight and sleek for the Sports Festival. No one says anything as I finish up. 

“Deku-kun…” Uraraka finally whispers, voice full of pity. Izuku’s head tilts to the side like a confused puppy, and it’s painfully obvious he has no idea what’s going on. Mina, Uraraka, and Yaomomo are all looking at him with a mixture of pity and glee that feels familiar in a way that Whoever I Was felt whenever she saw teenage girls whispering in packs.

“How pure.” Yaomomo whispers, looking like she might tear up. I give in to the despair and drop my face into my palm with a sigh, even as Izuku looks between our classmates in increasing distress.

“W-What?”

“Don’t worry Deku-kun, we’ll support you.” Uraraka says strongly, taking both of his hands in hers. I can see his ears turn red from behind him, and I’m sure his whole face is matching. She’s as oblivious as he is, I think in despair, those two are going to take years to get together, I can see it now. “Even a hero can have a maiden’s heart. In fact, I have a magazine that I think you should check out…”

Izuku looks back at me for help as he’s dragged away to sit with the girls in the corner of the waiting room, but I just meet his eyes and think you brought this on yourself, and his look of betrayal tells me he got the message. I hide a mean little smirk behind a yawn and turn away.

I have a speech to prepare for, after all.

Chapter Text

“HELLOOOOOO LISTENERS!” Present Mic’s voice echoed in the stadium from the announcer’s box high above the stands. Toshinori sat in a private box near the top of the stands to avoid being seen in his natural state. He appreciated the large screen projecting close-ups of the stage around the top of the auditorium – it felt a bit like a concert, but there was no way he would have been able to see the first-years from this distance otherwise.

“It’s that highly-anticipated battle of baby titans – a battle royal where our fledgling heroes can show off the skills and experiences they’ve gained each year. And here comes the class with perhaps the most experience of all the first-years. Having faced overwhelming odds and overcome their enemies thanks to their quick minds and courageous hearts, it’s Hero Course, class 1-A!

Toshinori could just barely spot a forest-green head of hair among the class trickling out onto the stadium floor. He couldn’t help but smile at the hesitant way his students looked around themselves at all the cheering fans – many of whom had come out specifically to see this class, instead of heading to the typically more popular second or third-year tournaments. It was a nice reminder that despite being so capable, these students were still just first-years; they’d yet to experience an actual patrol, or a press conference, or be recognized in public for their work as heroes. I wonder how they’ll handle the attention after this tournament, he pondered with a chuckle.

“And although this class has yet to have its trial-by-fire, they aren’t backing down! The talented and hard-working Hero Course, class 1-B!” The members of 1-B spent less time looking around in awe and seemed to be talking quietly to each other as they entered the stadium. They stood slightly apart from class 1-A, and All Might wondered if Vlad King had been stoking the flames of rivalry between his class and Aizawa’s again. The man never ceased his complaints about the way students were divided between class 1-A and 1-B, and Aizawa’s stoic responses only seemed to incite him more.

“Next up we have the General Studies classes C, D, and E!” Present Mic’s voice rose and fell dramatically as he announced each class, giving a sense of dynamism to a simple introduction. He really is very good, Toshinori thought admiringly.  “Support Course, classes F, G, and H are here too! And Business Course classes I, J, and K! All the UA first years!” The audience applauded politely, but thanks to the size of the crowd it still shook the floor of the booth Toshinori sat in. It filled him with nostalgia from his own days as a student.

As Present Mic announced Midnight as the chief umpire of the first-year matches, All Might found his mind wandering back to Young Midoriya and his request for the boy to make an impression on the audience during this tournament. Anxiety made his throat tickle, and he resisted the urge to cough, not wanting to get blood on his suit before going on live TV. Will he be able to do it?

“Representing the students is Bakugou Katsuki from class 1-A!” Midnight announced with a flourish, and All Might’s attention snapped back to the present. Young Bakugou? He thought, a strange feeling rising in his chest. He had… mixed feelings about his successor’s childhood friend. He blamed it on the aftermath of the USJ incident, and his realisation that Bakugou was responsible for the damage to the villain's eyes.

It was self-defense, or perhaps it was motivated by the desire to defend a classmate, as the villain had been aiming for young Asui, so he had looked at Bakugou expecting the boy to be showing signs of shock, or denial, or even just fear. Instead, the look in the boy’s red eyes just said that he wished he could go over there and finish the job. Toshinori hadn’t been able to forget that look since.

Perhaps it was good to remember that this boy had placed first on the entrance exam – scoring highly enough on both the written and practical portions that his final score landed among the top ten highest on record. The boy was gifted, driven, and highly skilled. Perhaps his reaction to what happened at the USJ was just a manifestation of that passion in a situation he was not prepared for.

“The UA sports festival is a pretty big deal, from what I hear.” Young Bakugou started off dryly. There were chuckles from the audience, a polite laugh or two. “Our teachers tell us that this is our chance to make an impression – our hero debut, if you will, where we can try to catch the eye of agencies and sponsors who might offer us internships, or remember us when it’s time to submit applications later on. It’s our chance to make you see us, so I’d like to speak to those of you in the audience today looking for talent. For power, or skill, or style.” He paused to send a sweeping glance over the crowds, and Toshinori was absently impressed by the student’s public speaking skills. The whole stadium stayed quiet for that pause.

“1-A is not the only class to watch here today.” He said, and Toshinori was pleasantly surprised by the gesture. It seemed… uncharacteristically modest of Young Bakugou. You’re judging him too harshly, he scolded himself. But then… “I know the representation at this school is skewed and the system is biased towards those with front-liner quirks (and don’t think I haven’t noticed that the school prioritizes producing flashy, high-earning alumni over well-rounded but lower-paid alumni, Nezu – I’m onto you), but that shouldn't keep you all from looking for all kinds of potential here today." Toshinori smothered a shocked cough at the slight against the principal, but Bakugou bulldozed on.

"You have the chance to pick up the slack where our teachers cannot, to reach out not just to the students who already shine but to those who need your guidance to flourish." On the large screens, Toshinori could see Young Bakugou’s expression in perfect detail. His face was relaxed, almost sarcastic, but his eyes were fever-bright. It sent a strange chill down his spine. "Education should not be about survival of the fittest, but about lifting up those who began at a disadvantage and have not had the privilege and resources that the more ‘promising’ students have had.” The boy's words echoed against the stadium walls, and the next several seconds were filled with a shocked silence.

It felt like the crowd held its breath as Bakugou lifted one hand in a limp fist pump. “So, who’s ready to exploit high school students for fun and profit?" He drawled, "I know I am. Plus Ultra, amirite?”

As Midnight attempted to transition into her explanation of the first challenge, Bakugou strolled off stage with his hands in his pockets, looking as bored as ever, and Toshinori could’t help the niggling worry in the back of his mind. Young Midoriya saw so much good in his friend, but that violence, and the fearless renouncement of major heroic institutions…

I hope you’re right, Young Midoriya, Toshinori though with a sigh, pulling out his phone to send an email, Because if your faith is misplaced, I’m afraid your friend may end up fighting against the very system you wish so much to uphold.

 

Nezu took a moment to check his phone while the third-year representative recited the school pledge enthusiastically. Six text messages and one email from All Might. How old fashioned, he chuckled. He skimmed the texts and emails and couldn’t stop a grin from spreading across his face. He clapped delightedly just a bit before the audience started applauding the student representative, so only his fellow proctor noticed.

“What’s up, Nezu?” Snipe asked mildly. The laugh that bubbled up from Nezu’s throat had him straightening up nervously.

“We’re going to have to start putting restrictions on what our student representatives can say on stage!” He chortled, “How wonderful!”

His good mood carried him through the next round of announcements before the first challenge.

 

If Hizashi didn’t insist on enforcing Bakugou’s “stay in the chair and rest” rule, Aizawa would already be down there getting ready to chew Bakugou out for accusing the principal of accepting bribes on live television. That kid was going to get the school shut down before he graduated – and what did he think would happen then? If he discredited UA, his studies here would be worthless, as would all of his classmates, and then their dreams of becoming heroes would be ruined.

“Bakugou-kun is in your homeroom, right?” Hizashi asked conversationally, taking this chance to get a drink and rest his voice while Midnight ran the show. “How is he, as a student?”

“A pain in the neck.” Aizawa said immediately. Hizashi laughed, but he insisted. “No, seriously. The kid is brilliant but he has no respect for authority and never pays attention in class.”

“Really?” Hizashi shot his friend a surprised look. “I got the impression he was a rather serious student.”

“That’s the thing.” Aizawa could feel the frustration he’d been repressing rising up at the chance to vent to his oldest friend. “He is a serious student – you can tell he takes the time to really study the texts and resources we hand out, and he’s never missed a problem on anything that can be found in the textbook, but during class he hardly ever takes notes, and he just lets his attention wander. I would think he had an attention problem if I hadn’t seen him easily focusing on studying his textbook during free period.” He huffed. “It’s not like he’s the only one who spaces out during lectures – half the class does. But it’s frustrating to see him do it because I know he could be top of his class if he would just focus. The only questions he misses are the ones that contain lecture-only information.”

“Lecture-only, huh?” Hizashi echoes softly, looking down at the crowd of students reacting comically to the reveal of an enormous obstacle course that the staff had prepared earlier this week. “But he always seems to remember my lectures, whether he writes them down or not…”

 

The day after he had the displeasure of meeting Bakugou Katsuki, Hitoshi opened his shoe locker to find a printout of a web MD article about the health risks of chronic insomnia. He stared at it for a moment before taking his shoes and shutting the locker without touching the article.

The next day there were two articles, and a lavender-scented sleep mask.

The day after that, a list of foods that help promote melatonin production.

The day before the sport’s festival Shinsou saw a group of his classmates clustered around his locker and felt a mixture of dread and resignation wash over his body. They stepped aside, falling silent when they saw him, and he approached his shoe locker to find a whole-ass teddy bear taped to his name plate. It was periwinkle, the same color as his hair, and he felt a tick develop in his eye at the little envelope taped to its hands.

Get some fucking sleep the note inside read, and it looked like it had been written by someone who was trying to tear a hole in the paper from the force of their pencil. Is this… harassment? He wondered. But the sound of his classmates whispering asinine theories about a secret admirer had him grinding his teeth and crushing the note in his fist. Bakugou Katsuki, he vowed silently, is a dead man stomping.

Hearing his new nemesis’ name called as their student representative felt like being told that Bill Gates would be speaking on behalf of the lower-middle class. He waited for the arrogance he had seen outside that classroom to rear its head, for some declaration of superiority or trite Plus Ultra propaganda and… he was surprised.

Not pleasantly, but still surprised. Who knew Bakugou Katsuki had a grudge against the principal? And what a way to air your grievances.

As the other boy walked off the stage, their eyes met for a brief second, and Hitoshi blinked in surprise at the considering look he received. You’re a threat, that look said, and I’m watching you. It was a look he was used to getting from his classmates and teachers as soon as they learned of his quirk, and he wasn’t sure why it stung to see it now, on the face of someone he had already accepted as actively malicious.

I’ll show you, he thought, glaring back viciously. I’ll show you all what kind of threat I am.

 

The first challenge is a fucking mess. I have a vivid touch-memory of Whoever I was being crushed in the center of a Black Friday mob in a desperate attempt to buy some video game console, and I’m distracted enough by the fact that my past life was both a Hick and a Nerd that I almost get caught in the crush of bodies through the narrow opening. But then I remember that I can literally fly and all it takes is a few small explosions to get the people around me to give me enough room to take off and move ahead.

People die from being trampled in crowds like this, I look down at the students jostling for position below me. Does UA rely on Recovery Girl to fix all the debilitating injuries their school activities cause? What did they do before her? She’s pretty old too. How long before she retires?

I don’t even stop to fight the robots, since this is a race and I can fucking fly. I land behind them and run on my own two feet until I reach the man-made ravine with its maze of pillars and ropes to cross. IcyHot is already across and the icy path he made to cross is already melting. That quirk is such bullshit, I fume. How the fuck can he control the texture of his ice enough to run on it when everyone else would slip? That’s NOT Half-Hot Half-Cold.

I cross the canyon in three nitroglycerin-powered leaps. It’s times like this I wish I was able to convert my glycerin sweat into nitroglycerin in places other than my palms. Without my costume, my wrists don’t have the reinforcement they need to handle my stronger moves. I’m limited. Unlike fucking Two Face over there, I think sourly. Who can just casually warm himself up to overcome his only goddamn limitation in a pinch.

Todoroki looks back at me as he reaches the minefield and very clearly makes the decision to just ice his way across it in order to keep me from overtaking him. It’s such an obvious fuck you that I can’t help but snort. He really is unflinchingly bitchy. I can respect that.

Still, I kick a rock onto a nearby mine and watch inquisitively as it detonates. Non-lethal explosives, I note. My bare hands are more dangerous than this entire trap. A little shiver of something that I would call excitement and my mother would probably call reckless hellion energy runs up my spine as several students catch up and start making their way carefully through the mine field. Just for fun, I wait until a few of them are right at the start before I bolt forward with a whoop, bracing my legs the way I do for an explosion-assisted jump.

There are several shouts of protest as the mines under my feet go off. The jolt makes my ankles twinge, but three bunny-hopes later I’ve caught up with the tail of IcyHot’s ice trail and I can switch over to skating along the surface using small explosions to propel me forward. Goddamn I love being resistant to minor concussive force.

Todoroki looks at me like I’m something stuck to the bottom of his shoe when I catch up to him. I wink at him, feeling playful the way I only ever feel when they put us on the field and let us run lose, and he almost slips on his own ice in shock.

“Fancy meeting you here.” I tease. He starts raising the ice in places in an attempt to trip me. Who taught this kid manners?

The sound of an explosion significantly larger than the others has us both glancing over our shoulders (and Todoroki predictably raises another block of ice in front of my ankles the minute I look away, the asshole) to see a green blur flying out of a cloud of pink smoke near the beginning of the mine field. He leaves a trail of lingering smoke for the first portion of his arc and a distant part of my brain perks up and sings projectile motion is naturally parabolic! Like some nerdy teacher’s pet.

The rest of me is busy calculating the arc of that parabola to figure out where the hell Izuku is going to land, because the large chunk of sheet metal he is gripping desperately is not going to do anything to soften his landing, and the slow forward tilt means he’s going to land on his head unless he pulls the same maneuver Whoever I Was remembers being thrilled by when it was just a story.

I take to the air again to push ahead, prompting Freezer Burn to speed up to keep from falling behind. When we get close to the expected impact point, I tilt my head back and grin ferally when I meet determined green eyes.

“Better you than Red, White, and Rude here!” I yell, and touch down next to IcyHot as Izuku barrels down on us. The look in our classmate’s mismatched eyes pulls a laugh from deep in my belly but it’s drowned out by Izuku’s barbarian yawp as he uses our shoulders as a spring board and slams the scrap metal into the ground in front of us. I use a quick explosion to make sure the scrap metal is sent flying away from any nearby children, but otherwise just continue laughing as Todoroki redoubles his efforts to catch up with Izuku. The next closest competitor is significantly behind us, and I don’t care as much about winning this leg of the competition as I do about getting to the final round where I’ll have a chance to really let off some steam.

 Third place doesn’t sting at all, although second really seems to be making Todoroki steam (literally, he’s got steam rolling off his right side as he defrosts) judging by the glare he’s giving Izuku. Izuku, who… seems to be having a sort of religious epiphany some thirteen feet away from the rest of us as he stares up at the cheering crowd in awe.

I avoid both of them and take this opportunity to examine the crowd. I’ve been wondering what kind of people come to an event like this. What does the modern-day equivalent of someone watching an ancient Roman gladiator battle look like? Mostly like families chattering excitedly. The ones who can afford the best seats tend to interact with those around them, as if making sure other people have noticed their position of privilege. Meanwhile, those in the nosebleed seats are more insular, leaning in towards their friends or family members and not looking around to socialize much at all.

Scattered among the better seats, the heroes and hero-scouts are easy to spot by the way they observe the children in the arena with an expression caught between greed and faint distaste. It must be hard to balance a sense of physical and moral superiority with your desire to see children beat the tar out of each other, I muse.

“Deku-kun! That was amazing!” Gravity Witch’s voice is uncomfortably close to me, and I turn to glare at Izuku for having (possibly unconsciously, but intent has never factored into my irritation before, so why start now?) wandered closer to me while I was people-watching. He doesn’t notice, too distracted by the greatest challenge of his young life so far: accepting a compliment from a female.

Idiots, I despair, watching Gravity Witch hype Izuku up while he silently combusts. God their children are going to be so fucking dumb. Is it too much to hope all the damage his quirk does to his body might render him sterile and spare us from our fate?

I’m pondering non-invasive methods of sterilizing my childhood friend when Midnight takes the stage again to the sound of Present Mic’s excited babbling. Her Cat-o-nine-tails makes a distinct crack when she snaps it that has us all falling silent on Pavlovian reflex. I sigh.

She lists off all the winners, and I’m impressed to note that Lilac Insomnia over there is pretty well in the middle of the pack. He’s also glaring at me from across the room, and probably has been for some time if the fury in his eyes is any indication. I maintain eye contact and casually stick my pinky in my ear to pick some earwax and flick it away carelessly. The combination of offense and disgust on Eyebags’ face is almost enough to make me smile. But that would be giving away the game, so instead I just pretend to look around and start listening to Midnight prattle on about the second challenge.

“-can form teams of two to four people as they wish.” Midnight is saying. “It’s basically the same as a regular cavalry battle, but the one thing that’s different is based on the results of the last game, each person has been assigned a point value.” I press my lips together to hold my laughter in at Izuku’s reaction to the reveal that he’s worth 10 million points. He looks like he’s just been diagnosed as quirkless all over again. What a drama queen. “In other words, if you take down the first-place player’s team you can stand at the top no matter what place you’re in!”

I have to cover my mouth and turn away, coughing to cover up my snorts when Izuku lets out a little “meep” after everyone’s eyes zero-in on him at that announcement. He’s so obvious.

“Now then, I will explain the rules of the cavalry battle. The time limit is fifteen minutes. Each team is worth the total of its members’ points, and the riders will wear a headband with that number on their foreheads. Teams will try to grab each other’s headbands until time runs out, and try to keep as many points as they can. Stolen headbands must be worn from the neck up. So the more you steal, the harder it’ll be to manage them. And the most important thing is, even if your headband gets stolen, or if your team falls, you’re not out!”

What, seriously? I blink, as she continues.

“- you’ll get a red card for attacks that are trying to make people fall on purpose! You’ll be removed immediately! Now, you have fifteen minutes to build your teams!” A timer appears on the jumbo screen, but I’m too busy pondering the obvious loophole here to pay it much mind. If that was allowed, surely people would take advantage of it, right? Maybe it’s implied? But if they don’t actually say it in the rules, then it’s not against the rules… Hmm. Maybe it’s a hero thing? Like they think they can’t exploit loopholes or it’d be dishonorable? Amateurs.

I look around and take in the crowd of students eyeing each other up, searching at about knee-level until I spot a familiar head of disturbingly bouncy purple orbs.

“Hey, you.” I call, reaching out to grab the little grape-haired cretin by the back of his shirt. “Join my team.” There’s a sudden hush among the nearby students as the pint-sized pervert stares at me silently and I wait impatiently for his response. “Well?” I prompt.

“Will you kill me if I refuse?” He asks nervously. I blink at him slowly, and set him back down on his feet. He looks ready to bolt. I resist the urge to groan.

“If I didn’t think consent was important, I wouldn’t get on your case about how you treat women, now would I?” I cross my arms and lean my weight on one foot, waiting for him to process this. He looks… thoughtful. If you can call a mixture of realization and discomfort thoughtful.

“Then… no. I refuse.” He says, sounding like he’s steeling himself for a blow. I blink at him, genuinely surprised to be turned down, but I guess it was bound to happen eventually. Honestly 15 years is a pretty long fucking time to go without rejection. Before I can fully formulate a response, Sticky Balls Boy has decided that discretion is the better part of valor and ducked into the crowd to get away from me.

“Huh.” I say, taking in this new development and the new flavor of anger that rejection triggers. Why have more than one emotion when you can just get really good at the one? I think dryly, idly jealous of Whoever I Was for her lack of temper.

“Bakugou!” I turn to see obnoxious red hair staring down at me, wondering why it thinks I would deign to speak with it. “Be on my team! You’ll want to be the rider, right? So, you’ll need a strong horse who can weather your worst explosions.” He pats his chest with a fist and gives me a toothy grin. His red fingernails gleam. I quietly mourn the fact that my own nails are chipped to hell from using my quirk during the first challenge.

“Hard pass.” I say, when I realize he’s waiting for a response. “Go work with Deku or something.”

“I don’t think even my quirk could handle those punches of his…” Eyesore laughs bashfully. I scoff at the implication that a nitroglycerin explosion to the skull would be less dangerous than a super-powered punch. Excuse you, other-Bakugou could kick Izuku’s ass even after he got better with his quirk, so you’d be fine.

Then again, that was with like 5% of his power, and at this point, Izuku’s quirk might as well be called All-or-Nothing… So maybe Eyesore had a point.

“Come on, Bakugou!” Mina chimes in, “It’ll be fun – we can be team manicure!” I ignore that, idly scanning the crowd around me.

“Hey, you.” I call. “Elbows.” Tape Arms points at himself and blinks uncertainly, as if I might be talking to the other person with a very obvious elbow-related quirk. I roll my eyes. “Get over here.” I order, “And tell me how adhesive that tape is.”

“Hell yeah, Sero, come join the Bakusquad!” Mina cheers, and I silently vow to never interact with these people again once this festival is over.

“I will allow you two to join this team if you never call it that again.” I bargain. Mina grins as if this was her plan all along, which is bullshit. Kirishima cheers obnoxiously from behind me. Sero just meanders closer, still looking confused.

“Why me?” He asks, and I feel my face split into an expression that is more a baring of teeth than a smile.

“You,” I tell him gleefully, “Are going to help me show UA that neglecting potential loopholes out of faith in their students’ heroic virtue is a bad idea.”