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Out of Sunflowers

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The day he meets Izuku, Katsuki is a hero engrossed in chasing down the evil villain Tsubasa to punish him for his crimes. Katsuki came to the park wanting to climb something, but the matcha-colored metal of the jungle-gym ends up being too hot to grab in the summer sun. He's usually strong against heat, but even his palms stung when he touched it. He had been disappointed and angry at the stupid summer weather and had almost gone home, but then he found Tsubasa digging up sand and mounding it into piles he was calling castles. Katsuki ran at him and Tsubasa had fled, and they've been playing Heroes since then. Katsuki is about to win, though – He's got Tsubasa cornered under the bars of the jungle-gym and a stick raised over his head. Tsubasa keeps flinching whenever the nubby red chicken-wings on his back touch steel, and Katsuki is ready to strike the finishing blow for justice when unexpected movement stirs in the corner of his eye. He looks away from Tsubasa's fat, sweaty face.

A boy that Katsuki has never seen before has appeared at the edge of the park.

The boy is just stepping off of the sidewalk and crossing the asphalt borderline of the playground, holding his mom's hand with his shoulders sloped low. He's taking shy, slow, little steps across the blacktop at a pace that'll take him forever to even get to the swings. He's wearing a plain shirt and plain shorts and big red shoes that look like they're too big for him.

Everything looks too big for him. Or he's looks too small for everything else.

Katsuki watches him walk a little longer and realizes they're actually probably the same size. But there's something about his whole self that makes him look runty, something shrinking about the way he takes up space. He's looking around cautiously like he's never seen a park before, like he's never even been outside. A growing impression is telling him that this boy can't do anything if there isn't someone bigger to help him along, and all of a sudden Katsuki forgets all about his heroic duty of murdering Tsubasa. He drops his stick and starts trudging over the gravel, heading towards newcomer without a word.

The other boy notices Katsuki eventually, but it takes him a long time of peering around like a scared little animal peeking out of its hole. He seizes his mother's long dress with both hands, tugging the sunflowers-on-white print up to his chest and clinging to it like a security blanket. Katsuki waves at him and tries to catch his eye, and the boy shrinks back behind his mother's legs, further cocooning into the folds of the fabric.

He's weird. For every step Katsuki takes, he tangles himself in cloth a little more, and it dawns on him that the boy must be trying to hide from him. That's stupid though; he's already seen him and he doesn't want to do anything bad. He just wants to meet him, learn his name and maybe play with him, and the idea that the other boy doesn't want to be seen just makes Katsuki want to look at him more.

By the time he's crossed the playground, the boy is hiding deeply in furrows of cloth. He's almost hidden, but Katsuki spots the springy bounce of a few rogue curls. He walks a half-circle around the mom to find the front of him, and then the only thing that Katsuki can see are huge, green eyes.

The eyes are striking and gigantic, like a forbidden forest in a fairy tale - wide emerald halos encircling pinpoints of focused black. Katsuki stares at them and they stare back, glistening and verdant and big. He's never seen eyes like that before in his entire life, and Katsuki immediately decides that this boy is going to be on his hero squad.

Then the spectacle is robbed from him as the boy turns and hides his face in the dress. For a moment, Katsuki feels cheated somehow.

He wants him to come out, wants to see the rest of him, and he's about to untangle the boy himself, leaning forward to grasp the center of a sunflower. He stops mid-reach, though, because grabbing the skirt of a lady he doesn't even know would probably get him in trouble. He drops his arm back to his side and tries to think of how to get him to quit hiding, until the mom solves the problem for him. She begins gathering the sheltering fabric into her hands and gently taking it away until all that's left is him - green eyes and red shoes and smallness all exposed to Katsuki with nowhere left for him to hide. The boy looks up at her with desperation on his face, but she only smiles and kneels, dropping her hands to his shoulders to orient him forward. He has no choice but to face Katsuki himself.

“Come on, say hello,” she whispers to him (though Katsuki can still hear it) and puts pressure against his back until he has to come forward against his will. He takes that single forced step, but no more. Instead he stands there hopelessly, looking down and gently quivering. Katsuki waits but the boy doesn't say anything – All he does is watch pebbles on the asphalt and ball the hem of his shirt in his hands. Fine, then. Katsuki will be the one to start. He's the one that came all the way over to meet him, anyway.

“Hi, I'm Bakugou Katsuki. Let's get along.”

He says his lines and performs his excepted bow, then looks up, waiting even more. He's already sick of waiting for this boy, but he's not ready to give up on making him his sidekick, either. It's just a few more seconds. All the boy has to do is say his name back and say he wants to get along too, and then they can finally go.

But instead of doing it right, the boy kind of hunches up and goes red and throws his arms over his face.

“What're you doing?” Katsuki asks, because he really doesn't understand what's going on, but it comes out kind of sharp and angry-sounding. He doesn't get a reply, just more shaking and hiding behind forearms. This isn't how people are supposed to meet each other for the first time at all, but Katsuki doesn't know what he did wrong.

He takes a hold of a wrist to pull on, but the boy squeaks. He twists away from him, tucking his face deeper into the crook of his elbow and leaving Katsuki empty-handed. Katsuki feels the little bite of his own fingernails digging into his palms, matching with the sharp, prickling feeling that's sparking his chest. Why won't this boy just look at him? Why can't he just tell Katsuki his name?

“Izuku, you-” the mom starts, but Katsuki shouts over her and grabs a jutting elbow with both hands.

“Quit it, stupid, I wanna play with you!”

The boy freezes at that, motionless and soundless. “Re-” he starts, but hiccups and swallows instead. For a panicked moment, Katsuki thinks he's hiding his face because he's crying. His mom will never let them play together after Katsuki made him cry in front of her, and all of it will be for nothing.

“Really?” the boy finishes. Katsuki has to know, so he pushes down until the boy's arm sags away from his face. His eyes are hidden by the black drape of his tangly, wild hair, but his cheeks don't look wet. He doesn't seem like he's crying very much, at least. Katsuki puffs out the breath he'd been holding and shoves his hands into the pockets of his shorts, trying for harmless.

“Yeah," he replies. "I only wanna play. What's your name?” He drags a leaf against the ground with the tip of his shoe, anxious to move and hoping for an answer.

“Midoriya Izuku,” the boy mumbles. First he thinks 'Finally,' and then he thinks 'Midoriya, like midori, like green, like his eyeballs.' But he doesn't say that out loud.

“Sorry I called you stupid,” he says instead, since there's a grown-up watching.

“It's okay... Sorry I got scared. I wanna play with you, too.” Izuku lifts his head and his eyes finally meet Katsuki's again - brilliant viridian looking back at him at last. Katsuki sucks in a fast breath and decides that this is good enough. They're done with being introduced. The gaze lasts less than a second before Izuku looks at the ground and just sort of stands there, tangling his fingers into the hem of his shirt.

Katsuki refuses to let him start that again.

“Okay, we're playing then,” he confirms. He grabs for Izuku's fingers, pulling them free and taking them for himself. Izuku's palm is a little bit clammy, but he knits their fingers together anyway, ready to guide his new friend back to the jungle-gym. He hopes Tsubasa is still cowering at the base so he can show off the villain that he captured.

He can feel how stiff Izuku is though his palm and the place where their arms brush, but he's fought hard to get them this far and he wants to start having some fun with his prize. He starts walking, ready to lead. But when their arms are extended as long as they will go and the only way to keep walking would be to let go of Izuku's hand, the other boy still hasn't take the first step. Instead, Izuku is looking away, towards his mom in a visual plea for reassurance. She's settling into a bench and waving kindly, and there isn't a single thing about it that is more interesting than Izuku being his sidekick and Katsuki being his hero. Katsuki impatiently tugs on the hand he's holding to get Izuku's attention back, and the big green eyes fix on him again.

“Come on,” he insists. “We're playing Heroes.”

And Izuku follows him after that.