“Why am I even here? ” he growls, knowing exactly why he’s there. Bakugou Katsuki is stuck in detention at the nurse’s centre, furiously scrubbing bedpans and giving the stink-eye to the grey-haired woman filing paperwork at her desk.
Three weeks ago he’d been showing his classmates the real meaning of power when Aizawa suddenly intervened, cutting his quirk and landing him with this utterly bogus punishment.
“You nearly decapitated a fellow student,” she says bluntly, taking a sip of her tea. “And you’re not the first one to get shunted into my office because Nezu thinks I can put out a dumpster fire.”
Five weeks left.
She should have seen it. Glorious. One for the record books. The whole “no student fighting” rule be damned, Bakugou Katsuki exists to prepare all those other weaklings for the tests of the real world. And he'll teach them what being a real hero is all about.
“Not my fault he should’ve ducked,” he grumbles, wiping his brow. “And I’m not exactly learning anything about ‘compassion ’ by scrubbing shitbins, now am I?”
She doesn’t answer. But she does glance over at her vibrating phone on the desk. “We’re about to have a visitor," she says after a few moments thumbing the screen. "Finish your job, clean up, and I’ll let you tie a sprain bandage.”
He swears under his breath, biting his cheek and scrubbing with renewed fury.
Most of the time, she sits up at her desk; head hardly ever in his direction, yet somehow still able to watch him like a hawk. She’ll notice the second he puts down a broom or stops scrubbing. She’ll ask if he’s tired. She’s taunting him, and today is no different.
Three weeks he’s been here. Every day, after class. Three weeks in a wing of the school legally mandated when the curriculum involves fighting giant robots just to attend. He’s mopped floors, disinfected everything he’s set eyes upon, taken inventory of medical supplies, and on occasion, she’s sat him down to learn basic first aid.
Normally things are slow, but... accidents happen.
“It doesn’t look broken, but I wanted to be sure, dear.” Ms. Shuzenji clicks her tongue as she pores over the X-rays pinned to the screen. “Bakugou, get a compression bandage, 3-inch." He's half-turned on his heel towards the supply room when she adds, "This one you’re going to tie by yourself.”
Ochaco Uraraka sits tense on the seat; knees locked, jaw clenched. Not from pain. Maybe a little - she's still holding her arm pretty tenderly. It's because she doesn’t trust him. And, honestly, she really shouldn’t. He kneels in front of her.
“So how did this happen?” he asks. He doesn’t actually care. It’s something he’s supposed to say to fill the air and calm the patient, like "Hey, how's it going?" or "Nice weather" or some other dumbass pleasantry.
“Oh!” She smiles, embarrassed. “Just an accident. I, erm, was lifting some steel piping in the training city, and I released a bit too early.”
She shrinks away from him, pressing her back into the cold plastic of the chair. He can feel Recovery Girl glaring at him, mentally adding more hours to his captivity by the second. Maybe a little late to ask 'how's the weather' when he can see the pathetic tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. He tries to relax the bandage in his hands.
“Over and under,” he mumbles quietly to himself, following the steps he's learned. “-Over and under.”
“Ow!” She tries to pull her wrist away. “You’re pulling it too tight!” Dammit, he’s not done yet.
“Sit still!” He wrenches the arm back. “It’s your own fault you’re here!”
Uraraka screams in pain.
Some days Recovery Girl lets him go home early, if his mouth stays shut. If he keeps his head down and scrubs, pretending like he's learned his lesson. On the quiet days when there's nothing to get in his way, he almost feels like he can get one over her, cutting a deal and donating a bag of blood. Today is not that day. He sees the quiet anger in her eyes as she pushes him aside, reassuring her patient and unraveling his handiwork.
He’s going to get another week of punishment for this one.
When Recovery Girl is busy, he’ll occasionally sneak glances at the wall of assorted frames and plaques behind her desk. Masters, doctorate, Board of Quirk Surgeons. Even a few military decorations from a long time ago. Photos from her youth sprinkle between them; smiling beside champions of the past. All Might, Crimson Riot, Gran Torino, Nana, all carefully cut and matted behind glass, from newspaper clippings to signed polaroids.
There’s another frame, too. Closer to eye-level when one sits, he guesses it's right in her sight line when she's at her desk. Strange. It's not her family, or anyone famous he might recognize in those 13 names, each one engraved in simple brass with a small photo attached of a smiling, youthful face. This one is simple and understated, but its position, so central on her wall of accomplishments belies its curious importance.
“Who are those losers?” he asks, wringing antiseptic water out his mop. “The rest of your brown-nosers?”
Recovery girl pauses, and he waits for the inevitable biting retort. That's their thing. He makes his displeasure known, and she punishes him for it.
This time seems different, though. What would normally erupt as a quick jab in his direction, or a hearty laugh is little more than a disgruntled sigh. It's odd. It feels wrong, catching her off-guard. She lets him steep in discomfort as she takes a long moment to wipe her glasses with a little cloth from her labcoat pocket before she answers. She’s not angry, though her words hit him all the same.
“Those are the students who have died while under my care.”
His eyes flit back to the frame, and those smiling faces beaming back at him, so full of confidence and hope. No wonder he didn't recognize them. They're all dead.
She continues, her voice a measure of deliberate calm. “You lose them. Promising young ones, like yourself." And she sits down at her desk, fingers tracing close, but never touching that simple black frame.
He laughs uncomfortably. “I’m gonna add Deku to that list!”
“Can you?” She calls his bluff. That acidic bite returns. “Son, you’ve never killed anyone before. I don’t think you’ve even seen real death.”
He shrinks; tries to hide it. But she knows.
“It changes you, you know.”
Four weeks left and Kirishima needs stitches. He’s pushed himself too far and his hardening failed during training. A large cut now angles down his back as he sits shirtless and bleeding on the hospital bed. Not a big deal, according to Ms Shuzenji. The wound is large, but superficial. It's a simple job anyone with basic training could complete.
Bakugou finishes the intake form on his clipboard.
“She’ll sew you up in a minute,” he grumbles.
"Will it leave a cool scar?"
"Nah," he shakes his head. "Didn't bang yourself up enough for that. Didn't get that far into the dermis."
"Dermis?" Kirishima laughs. “You know, you’re turning into a real nursey-nurse!”
Bakugou Katsuki bites back the desire to punch Eijirou in his stupid face.
“You remind me of my grandson sometimes.” Recovery Girl swirls the dregs of her tea in its pink mug. Her office sparkles in the afternoon sunlight, in no small part from his endless slave labour. Even the stack of paperwork on her desk is lighter than usual, now that she has a semi-permanent extra set of hands for menial tasks. She can get down past the most important things to the backlog of gritwork. She's poised at her computer, filing reports and budgetary concerns as he scrubs the waiting area for the umpteenth time.
She shakes her head. “Stubborn. Entitled. One time the little shit broke his arm and I had to leave it without painkillers after it set for three days to show him that he can’t just go around getting mangled and expect someone else to always take care of the damage." She types something else onto the screen. "World doesn’t work like that.”
“You can't do that!” he spits, throwing his mop to the floor.
“That’s like- that’s not in your hypocritical oath! ”
She bursts out laughing, nearly tipping over the back of her chair.
“You have to help him! It’s your one job!”
Recovery girl wipes tears from her eyes, sitting up in her seat and straightening her lab coat. “I help those who want, need and deserve to be helped.” She sits back after a final adjustment, smiling. He hates it. Hates her. How can she get all weepy over those dead kids just sitting to her left in a frame and refuse to help her own family? What kind of sense did that make?
“Which, fortunately," she continues unperturbed, "is most people. Some just take a little convincing...”
He splashes the mop a little to hard back into its bucket, hitting his cheek with flecks of dirty water. "I'm tired of it! Batshit crazy-" One look from her silences him. Somehow a woman who barely comes up to his waist can terrify without rhyme or reason. He especially hates that. Her monopoly on his precious fear.
Recovery Girl gets up and pushes gently past him to the counter where the electric kettle resides. She selects two mugs from the cabinet, filling them both with hot tea and handing one to Bakugou.
He stands there, puzzled. She blows the steam and takes a sip.
“I want you to throw it on the ground.”
“It’s full of tea.”
“Sure it is. Throw it on the ground.”
He does. The mug smashes into several pieces and hot liquid splatters at their feet.
“Pick up those pieces.”
He’s furious. “You just told me to break it!”
“Did I stutter in my old age, sonny?”
Bakugou leans down and picks out the major ceramic shards, ignoring the tiny fragments, clutching them in his palms.
“Now,” she says, “Put them on the table and go get the mop.”
“YOU TOLD ME TO DO THIS!”
“I did.” She smiles. “And you’re the one who made a mess. Now clean it up, and make sure all the sharp bits go in the garbage can.”
Once done to her satisfaction, she stands beside him over her desk and the remaining ceramic fragments.
“Now, how about you try pouring some hot tea into your mug.”
“It’s obviously going to leak all over the floor, you old bag!”
Her eyes twinkle. “Exactly. Doesn’t work like it used to, does it?” She gazes up at him expectantly. “Now, put it back together.”
He’s incredulous. “I- I can’t.”
“I know," she shrugs, "neither can I.”
She sighs and sweeps the sharp fragments gently into her palms and tosses them into the bin. “When you smash something recklessly, you make a mess. Even if you clean it up, you can’t always make things the way they were before. Even if you salvage the pieces, you’re always missing a few broken bits. And if you try to use it when it’s broken, it’s not gonna work, now, is it?”
His stomach sinks.
“Now, if you know you can’t magically put something back together, maybe next time you’ll be a bit more careful about going ahead and breaking it, hmm?”
Bakugou Katsuki spends the rest of the afternoon picking his jaw up off the floor.
Four days left. He’s almost there and can almost taste the finish line. Doesn't even matter that it's pouring rain outside, he'll dance in it when he's finally free. He's half-dreaming of the many things he'll do in his free time when Recovery Girl jolts into sudden action, hurrying toward the surgical suite. The difference in her gait is night and day. Her voice is curt as her fingers glide over switches and extra lighting flares into brightness overhead. Something’s happened.
“Wash your hands past the elbow, Katsuki. One of your friends is hurt, and Aizawa says it’s bad. There’s an ambulance on the way, but it won't be here soon enough to do the whole job. We're to apply triage until support arrives."
He looks at her, nodding, the incredulity fading from his expression.
She places a hand on his wrist. "In the meantime, scrub in, kid. You’ve just been promoted.”
Warm water and iodine rush over his arms, flushing down the sink. Was it villains? She didn’t say. He looks at her granite expression, calm and impossible to read. One thing was for sure, he thinks. “I bet it’s Deku.”
She snaps on a latex glove. “You bet right.”
The door slams open and Izuku Midoriya is wheeled in on a stretcher, the depth of his injuries instantly apparent. Shit. Deep purple bruises mark pulverized bones inside his arms and legs. Fingers grip the stretcher with the last of his strength as his chest heaves for breath. He's still conscious? After all that? Idiot must have lost control. Midoriya hasn’t done something like this for months.
But the gashes, the ones all over, those weren’t him.
Fuck, they should have let him fight! Why didn't anyone tell him something was going on? Bakugou could have easily taken out whoever did this! He’s a better fighter than this idiot mug laying in front of him!
Recovery girl wastes no time. “He’s already lost a lot of blood. Get him on the table.”
Aizawa briefly helps Bakugou lift Midoriya’s limp body onto the operating table, and then he’s gone, out the door to make sure the rest of his students are safe. The villains could come back at any moment, but beyond that, no news. Bakugou wants to run after him. Urgently. Desperately. But he feels her steely gaze upon him; knows he’s where he needs to be.
“You can’t just… kiss him better?” he tries, weakly.
She starts cutting Deku’s raked clothing with surgical scissors. “You’re an idiot, son. Hand me the bottle of disinfectant, the way I taught you.”
There he is. Midoriya. Laying naked and still beneath searing lights. She’s got him under with anesthesia and she's trying to stop the major arterial flow. He’s so pale.
She’s working as fast as she can, and he's following her every instruction. There’s a lot of blood and Bakugou’s mouth is dry. He grabs the items she requests and hands them to her. Scissor clamps. Stint. Needle. IV fluids. His stomach is weak and his head feels heavy. He didn’t know there was this much blood… in a person… to lose.
“If you’re going to faint, do it away from the table," she barks. "We have a very narrow window here.”
“You’re not scared?” His voice is hoarse. It surprises even him.
She shakes her head, frowning under her surgical mask. “That’s a luxury I can’t afford. If you’re strong enough to stand around, make yourself useful and help me cauterize these wounds. Put your hand on here. No. Here. Pressure until I say so.”
Time is strange in this room. Seconds are hours, but minutes fly by without notice. Bakugou Katsuki is running back and forth, reading dials and grabbing another bag of blood from the cooler. He’s holding her tools, adjusting the light so she can see. He’s covered in blood. They both are.
By the skill of her hands, each gaping wound is carefully stitched in place, stemming the flow of blood and filling Bakugou with an intense, fleeting, powerfully reckless hope. Is this what real strength is? The power to bring someone back from the brink of death instead of sending them? He'll never say it out loud, but in this moment, he is humbled in her presence.
An alarm blares.
“He’s crashing. Blood pressure 85 over 56.”
Deku’s heart is failing. He’s going into shock. Recovery girl is working faster than ever, filling a syringe with adrenaline and jamming it mercilessly into Katsuki’s childhood friend. She’s shouting instructions at him that vaguely register. Hand over palm. Use your full weight. On her count, and pump. One. Two. Three. Four.
The defibrillator sends a powerful shock through Midoriya's chest. And in seconds, he's back to his station, leaning his weight into manual CPR. One. Two. Three. Four.
"Still 83 over 55."
God damn it. It’s not working.
“No!" he growls. "You don’t get it!” His arms ache with the sustained effort, alarms still blaring in his ears. “You’re a mug! We’re all mugs! You can break, Deku!”
Fear floods through him. It could be real this time. Deku could be-
This is a different kind of fight. Less violent, and yet more serious than Bakugou has ever witnessed. These are the stakes she fights at every day. Life and death, by the skill of her own hand.
“Fight, damnit! Fight! You’re not getting on that list! Not unless I put you there! I mean- shit. No. JUST KEEP FIGHTING!”
Being a hero. It wasn’t just about fighting, or killing or beating bad guys. It was about saving lives. The lives you care about.
The real doctors arrive at some point. They shuffle him out of the room and in the fuzzy state of adrenaline and exhaustion, Katsuki can’t stand to be useless, to just do nothing. He cleans his hands once more and circles the front room, doing triage on the other injured students. Some of them need bandages, some just need pain medication. Nothing serious. Nothing like Deku.
He does what he can for most of them, grabbing supplies, applying compresses and filling out form after form after form. It’s not a punishment anymore. He doesn’t even think about it. He just does.
Deku’s awake, hours later, in near-darkness. The sun has set, and Recovery Girl’s gone to get herself some dinner. She offered to bring something back to the nurse's office, but Bakugou isn’t hungry. He stays in the waiting room, legs over the most comfortable set of chairs he can find.
He’s new to this whole “caring” bullshit. It scares him. He won’t admit it.
It’ll take some sorting out.
He can hear Midoriya stirring in the other room, and Bakugou ventures over to take a look. There, his childhood friend lays, pale and still but awake in the calm silence of the hospital.
“Oh… Kacchan,” Deku smiles, weakly, addled by his meds. “You missed one hell of a fight.”
“No,” he says. “I was there for it.”