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Hindsight's a Bitch

Chapter Text

Midoriya Inko’s warm voice carried itself through the bedroom door, disrupting the stupor of the green haired boy as he slumped over his desk, revising his study notes for the umpteenth time. With final exams scheduled across the next week, the boy had spent more of his weekend studying than not, yet he still felt pangs of uncertainty that wouldn’t go away.

“Izuku, are you hungry? I made katsudon.”

“Ah… Right, I’m coming, Mom!”

After taking a moment to rub the tiredness out of his eyes, Izuku flipped his notebook shut and shakily made his way from his bedroom to take his usual seat at the dining table of their small apartment. Izuku took a moment to massage the residual numbness earned from sitting all day out of his legs as Inko approached the table carrying two steaming bowls of breaded pork and rice.

As Inko set the bowls down and took her own place at the table, she asked “How’s your revision? You’ve barely left your room all weekend. Do you think you’re ready for your exams?”

“I think so… I mean, I’ll pass, but I need to study a lot longer if I’m going to hold my spot and get the results I need. There’s a lot of smart people in my class and… There’s just… a lot riding on this.”

Izuku was met with a knowing look before turning his attention to his meal. He deigned not to elaborate any further – he knew it would only lead to a depressing conversation that had been held enough times already. With the hand he had been dealt in life, he had to work much harder than other people for a chance at a decent future. Even while fighting for the top spot in his graduating class, there were never any guarantees. He and Inko had come to terms with this a long time ago.

The next few moments were spent in silence, broken only by the white noise of the TV and the evening commute outside. Looking up, Izuku noticed a conflicted expression on his mother’s aging face, as if she were struggling to find the courage to continue the conversation. He was somewhat surprised when she seemed to disregard the thought and redirect the conversation entirely.

“I’m really proud of you, Izuku.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“I mean it. You’re really cool.”

A small tinge of pink crept onto Izuku’s face before he returned to his dinner. He was thankful for his mother, compassionate and patient, who always did her best to shower him praise when he needed it. Nevertheless, it was hard to acknowledge her encouragement when it was for things that he only did out of necessity. For Midoriya Izuku, less-than-stellar grades were a death sentence.

The last remains of sunlight spilled through the window and onto the apartment floor as dusk turned to night, slowly being replaced by moonlight and the exterior lighting of their apartment complex. Bowls now empty, the two greenettes found themselves lost in idle conversation for a time, sharing neighbourhood gossip, work stories and anything else that came to mind. The compulsion to return to his room and dive back into his notes had been growing over the course of dinner, and eventually Izuku could not justify staying any longer. As he made to rise from his chair, Inko spoke again.

“Oh, um… Mitsuki called this morning.”
Whatever intentions Izuku had at that moment were forgotten with those words. “Auntie called?”

“Yes, well… Since you and Katsuki both have your exams next week, she thought it might be nice to get together and celebrate the weekend after! I was going to see her and Masaru for tea anyway, but it could be a good excuse for you to catch up before graduation.”

Izuku’s dinner suddenly felt like lead in his stomach. He had not been expecting this.

“I… Do I have to? It’s not like I don’t want to see Auntie and Uncle, but…”

Truthfully, Izuku always found himself shying out of prolonged exposure to his Aunt and Uncle’s company. While he liked them, he found avoidance best protected him from topics of conversation he would rather not be part of. Specifically, Izuku didn’t know what he would say if the discourse ever turned towards himself and his frayed relationship with their own explosive son.

“I know you haven’t been friends in a long time. But… you haven’t seen him in three years. Maybe things will be better now that he’s had time to mature at Yuuei?”

Izuku had never confessed to his mother the full extent of what had happened between himself and his childhood friend. He couldn’t tell her about the decade of abuse he’d experienced by his hand, though he wouldn’t be surprised if she knew anyway. With all the singed uniforms and bruises he had had to explain away over the years, it only made sense that she’d catch on. Even so, he knew telling the truth would hurt his mother too. He and Kacchan had been together since diapers, and his mother and Mitsuki had been friends for just as long. He refused to ruin that with his own problems.

The thought of seeing Bakugou Katsuki again was equally unappealing. Despite their practically non-existent relationship, thinking about Kacchan still filled him with bitter feelings about the way their lives had diverged. It wasn’t particularly surprising; Izuku understood more than anyone just how amazing his childhood friend was, and how inferior he was in comparison.

Kacchan had done what everyone had always expected him to do. He scored first on the Yuuei entrance exam, won his first and third-year Sports Festivals (a certain heterochromatic eyed boy had taken first place his second year), and made his debut as the hero ‘Ground Zero’. To his knowledge, he was among the top of his class academically as well. He was even something of a local celebrity in Musutafu after his kidnapping during the incident leading up to All Might’s retirement. Izuku would reluctantly admit that all of this was to be expected of his childhood friend.

Izuku’s life was far less exciting. In the aftermath of a villain encounter in his third year of junior high, Izuku had been forced to realise the futility of his lifelong dream. His idol had vacated the dimly lit underpass completely oblivious to the annihilation of a young boy’s reason for being. Despite all his struggles, the boy had since come to accept the unkind truth of this world. One could not be a Hero without a Quirk, and Izuku was as Quirkless as they came.

Ever since, Izuku had made every attempt to distance himself from his own broken dreams. He had stripped his room bare of Hero merchandise, save for a few of his most treasured or expensive pieces. He stopped talking about Heroes and Quirks, and he avoided Hero-related media as much as he could. He even abandoned his Hero analysis hobby, all thirteen of his notebooks now shelved inconspicuously on his bookcase under a light layer of undisturbed dust. At one point, Izuku still aspired to attend Yuuei as a General Course student, yet continued bullying mixed with his own resentment had ultimately deterred him from applying at any schools with a Hero program in the end. Instead, Izuku enrolled at the local no-name high school alongside most of his junior high peers.

Later on, Izuku would wonder if doing so was the worst decision he’d ever made. Although he had tried his best to fly under the radar in high school, his reputation as the Quirkless Deku with deluded fantasies of being a hero had persisted, as did the daily torment that came with it. Worse still, the knowledge that he had given up on those delusions had seemed to make him an even bigger mockery than before. After three years, he wasn’t sure his classmates even knew his real name.

“Of course, You don’t have to go – we can always go out ourselves. That new family restaurant opened down the street, we could go there! Or we could stay and celebrate here? Or… we could have a picnic at Dagobah beach? Ever since it was cleaned up, apparently it’s really pretty! I wonder who cleaned it…”

Inko’s jabbering was interrupted as a chair screeched against the floorboards and Izuku stood abruptly, desperately seeking an escape from the conversation. He didn’t have time to celebrate, not that there was anything worth celebrating to begin with.

“I – I should really…“ Izuku turned for the comfort of his bedroom before being brought to a grinding halt.

“I really worry about you sometimes, you know?” Izuku turned and gaped at his mother, words failing him.

“What?”

“You work so hard at everything you do, but you never reward yourself for it. Please, baby? Please think about it. I just want… I just want to see you smile again, Izuku.”

Izuku stilled. It occurred to him that he couldn’t remember the moment when his smiles, described as being bright enough to light a dark room, had become fake. Not only that, but the only person who remembered those smiles had seen through them from the beginning.

Izuku’s head hung low as looked at the ground and mumbled “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Izuku.”

“Right. Yeah, I’ll… think about it. I’m going to go study a bit more before bed. Thanks for the food.”

“A-Alright. I’ll leave breakfast out for you in the morning. Goodnight. Good luck tomorrow.”

“Goodnight.”

Chapter Text

Izuku did not want to be here.

He’d thought long and hard about it over the week, as per his mother’s request. With exams now over and his future left in the hands of a higher power, Izuku’s thoughts had turned completely towards this next hurdle. He had ultimately decided to be cordial, if only for the benefit of his mother.

Yet as he now stood in front of the Bakugou’s front door against a chilly Saturday sunset, he was certain that he would rather be anywhere else.

It wasn’t too late to just turn around and walk home, he supposed. He could make up some excuse; not feeling well, having other plans. Hell, he could just make a run for it and pray that nobody followed him. This whole get-together might even be more enjoyable if he wasn’t there, he thought.

“Izuku, can you get the bell?” Inko huffed, her face hidden behind a precarious tower of tupperware containers. Each was filled to the brim with dishes Inko had been slaving over since the early hours of the morning. He, in contrast, had woken up after noon and spent the day pretending this whole situation was just a bad dream.

“Baby? I don’t have any hands.”

“Sorry. Yeah, I’ve got it.”

Against his better judgment, Izuku took a step forward and lifted a hand to the doorbell. As his finger connected to the buzzer, vivid memories of grief and explosions rose to the forefront of his mind. With each second that he waited, Izuku felt himself spiralling further into a full-blown panic.

‘Why did I think this was a good idea? This is going to be a disaster. I’ve been avoiding them for years – I can’t just show up out of nowhere! And they’ll wonder why! And he’s here too and I thought I’d never have to see him again! I don’t want to see him - fuck, I need to get out of here! I need to –‘

Izuku was pulled out of his head as the door was flung open and he was pressed into a bone-crushing hug. It took him a few seconds to register the sudden presence of his Aunt Mitsuki, alarming himself to the mix of irritation and mild amusement on her perpetually youthful face. One of the benefits of her Quirk, he supposed.

“Hey, brat. Decided to stop hiding from us have you?” Mitsuki ruffled his hair with the strength of a gorilla, turning the inwardly panicking boy into a stuttering mess.

“Eeh? I… uh, um. It’s uh, good to see you, Auntie!” he squeaked. The door had barely opened and Izuku was already feeling humiliated.

“Oh, quit it. I’m just kidding! Come in boy, it’s freezing out here. Oh, Inko, let me take some of those. Lazy kids, probably made you carry the whole lot here by yourself, right? Katsuki’s been sitting on his ass in his room upstairs all day while we got everything ready, too.”

Izuku sighed deeply as he watched the two giggling mothers enter the house. It was too late to leave now. Although hearing his current problem was out of the immediate picture was relieving, it was only a matter of time before he would have to face the music. His gut twisted with the thought – he just hoped they’d make it through dinner before everything went to hell. With a groan, he followed.

Taking a seat in front of the TV, he took a moment to admire the decorations that were sparsely adorned throughout the living room. A bright banner was hung on the wall behind the TV, praising his hard work and offering congratulations for his upcoming graduation. While he appreciated the thought, he couldn’t quell the discomfort he felt – his own reluctance to accept praise aside, he figured his ‘achievements’ would be overshadowed tonight.

It didn’t take long before his mother and Aunt entered the living room, each with a glass in hand.

“Where’s Uncle Masaru, Auntie?”

“Hm? He’s shopping. Asshole didn’t buy enough wine. Go upstairs, brat. No reason to stick around down here.”

Izuku elected to ignore the three unopened bottles of red resting on the kitchen counter. He was facing a much bigger problem right now.

“T-that’s okay. I don’t mind staying and helping with prep and stuff.”

“Too late for that. I can heat up what I need to on my own. I need my gal time with your Mom, too.”

“Oh. Well, Katsuki probably wouldn’t want anyone barging into his bedroom, right? I wouldn’t want to disturb him so I’ll just –”

Mitsuki’s eyes narrowed. “That boy was supposed to come down an hour ago, I couldn’t give a damn what he wants. Go upstairs, we’ll call you down when Masaru gets home.”

Realising his protests would get him nowhere, Izuku got up and made for the stairs. He kicked himself internally for believing he could avoid this, the worst-case scenario. In all his plans, he thought he’d come in, play nice with his Aunt and Uncle throughout dinner and speak to the other teen as little as possible. He knew the other would be more than cooperative with that. Now, he could only hope Katsuki would tolerate Izuku long enough for him to be able to go back downstairs.

Half a minute later, Izuku stood in front of Katsuki’s bedroom door. He hadn’t spoken to his estranged childhood friend since his third year of middle school, and their last encounter made one thing perfectly clear – Katsuki despised him. He wasn’t sure what his old friend thought about this whole situation, but he hoped it didn’t involve him leaving burnt to a crisp.

After taking a second to steel himself, he knocked. After another few, it opened.

Emerald eyes met ruby as Izuku met the face of Bakugou Katsuki; his friend, enemy, bully. While he was taller and more defined, his ash blond hair was as Izuku remembered – spiky and untamed. The trademark scowl he had always associated with the other teen was also present. And directed at him.

 

* * *

 

“What the fuck do you want, Deku?”

Izuku couldn’t say he was surprised at the pointed glare that met him beyond the opened door, though he still found himself flustered on instinct. Quickly composing himself, he replied. “Uh… Hi.”

Katsuki didn’t answer, responding only with an even more intense glare. Getting the message, Izuku shrugged. “Auntie sent me up. Didn’t want me downstairs, I guess. Can I come in? You can just pretend I’m not here.”

The blond made to complain before stopping himself and pinching the bridge of his nose. Izuku expected to be told to leave in colourful language, but was surprised to see the other boy move to allow him inside. Katsuki probably figured it would keep his mother off his back for a little longer.

“Whatever. Don’t touch anything.” Izuku huffed in confirmation as he found a seat on the carpet and began untangling a set of earphones he retrieved from his pocket. Crimson eyes rolled at the boy from the bed before returning to the book they had been engrossed in prior.

The two sat in complete silence. Izuku made no attempt to break it, content to make himself as small as possible and lose himself to his music until he could retreat back downstairs for dinner. He had no desire to speak to the other boy anyway, so this was a win for both of them.

“Oi. Nerd.” Izuku flinched at the unexpected sound. He was surprised – he would never have expected the blond to be the one to initiate any kind of conversation with him. Warily, he met the other boy’s eyes and hummed as an invitation to continue.

“Your exams. Did you… uh, do good?” Izuku heard Katsuki swear under his breath. Izuku looked up at Katsuki with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Huh? Yeah, I guess.” He could tell the blond was waiting for some sort of elaboration, but Izuku had no intention of providing any. He wasn’t sure why he was talking in the first place, but he wasn’t going to give the other boy a reason to lash out if he could help it. He reasoned it would be best to keep silent until his Uncle returned.

He almost flinched a second time when Katsuki spoke again.

“My folks haven’t seen you in a while.” Izuku narrowed his eyes at that.

“Mm. Been busy with school.”

“How’s that? School?” His lip curled downward before he could stop himself. ‘What a stupid question. You should know the answer better than anyone.’

Izuku bit down the urge to sass him in response. Older or not, Izuku knew Katsuki would always be quick to anger, and irritation was already clearly showing on his face. “Fine. Doesn’t matter.” He hoped the blond was exhausting whatever conversation topics he had in mind. He had no interest in whatever game the blond was playing. He turned back to his phone again.

“Nearly broke my arms from Quirk overuse during the exams. Probably wasn’t as bad as when I got my shit kicked in by All Might in my first year, but still. Written exams were piss easy, though. Auntie said you’re top of the grade, so that part’s probably the same for you, huh? Thank fuck it’s finally–”

“What do you want, Katsuki?” The words had slipped out before he realised it. He’d messed up. The blond was stunned into silence for a moment before all sense of civility seemed to go out the window. With his typical anger, he spat back at the shorter teen. In the moment, Izuku found he couldn’t help himself either.

“Hah? I’m just fucking talking! What crawled up your ass and died?”

“Exactly. Why are you talking to me?”

“I can do whatever I want, shitnerd.”

“No. You can’t.”

“Huh?”

“I’m only here because our Moms are friends. I didn’t come here to talk to you and I sure as hell didn’t come here to hear you brag about Yuuei. Leave me alone.”

“What the fuck? Brag? Last time I try and be civil with you, fucker. If you’re gonna sulk all night, be my fucking guest, but don’t put your shit on me.”

The tension in the room with palpable. Izuku was right – there was no way this was ever going to end peacefully. The two teens’ heated glares subdued the other into a stifling silence. It was inevitable that Katsuki would be the one to break it.

“What’s got you so shitty, anyway?”

“Are you seriously asking me that?”

“Fucking obviously. You’ve looked constipated ever since you walked in here.”

There was a pause. Then Izuku began to shake, cry laughing with an intensity that did nothing to conceal the venom that laced his words as he spoke again.

“What the fuck do you think, Katsuki? I’m sitting here with the guy who tormented me for over a decade and now I’m supposed to congratulate him for doing something I’ve dreamt about my entire life! Meanwhile, Quirkless fucking Deku still gets pushed into lockers every day, thumbtacks stuffed in his shoes, beaten up, money stolen! What do I have to celebrate?”

Izuku wasn’t sure what he expected to hear in response. He had hoped for a modicum of sympathy from the blond – for him to acknowledge his feelings, recognise his pain. More than anything, he hoped that his childhood friend could provide him with the closure he so desperately needed.

Wiping tears out of his eyes, Izuku looked at Katsuki and was shocked to see unadulterated disgust plastered on his face.

“God, you’re pathetic.”

His breath hitched. “W-What?”

“It’s been three fucking years, Deku! You were meant to get over this shit years ago! What the hell have you been doing this whole time? Are you so fucking bitter about not being a Hero that you’ve got nothing better to do than take a shit on my success?”

The hollowness Izuku felt was quickly replaced with rage as all reason slipped away. There was no way their quickly loudening voices would go unheard by those downstairs, but both teens were too riled up in each other’s faces to notice or care.

“Get over it? Being a Hero was all I had! You took everything from me! My life is a fucking nightmare because of you!”

“Fuck you, asshole! We don’t even go to the same school, how the fuck is any of that my fault? It’s not my fault you were too chicken shit to apply to Yuuei, and it’s definitely not my fault you’re too god damn useless you can’t defend yourself against a couple of shitty extras at a third-rate school! Seriously, how did you think you could ever get into Yuuei when all you ever did was cower away at every little thing? Did you think you could get in with those shitty notebooks alone?”

“Not your fault? You humiliated me for wanting to go to Yuuei! You’re seriously going to tell me with a straight face that you have nothing to do with how my life turned out? You’ve given me scars! You told me to kill myself!”

“It’s not my problem your Quirkless ass couldn’t accept reality! Besides, you made the choice not to apply, not me! Get your head out of your ass.”

The lamp hit the wall behind him before the blond had a chance to react. Izuku charged next, knocking him first into the bookshelf and then to the ground in a sloppy pin. His screams were incoherent as he wailed against the other’s face and chest.

His assault didn’t last long, his poor attempt at pinning the Hero being quickly reversed. Izuku heard a crunch as pain blossomed in his nose, blood and tears trickling down onto the carpet. He struggled against the blond, but was unable to escape from his grip.

Izuku covered his face with his arms as Katsuki raised his fist to strike again.

The door to Katsuki’s bedroom was ripped open and the two mothers rushed inside. Without delay, Mitsuki pulled her own son off of the greenette as he struggled and swore, while Inko propped Izuku up against her chest, staring at Katsuki with a haunted expression.

Nobody spoke for a long time. The silence in the room was broken only by Katsuki’s heavy breathing and Izuku’s sobs.

Chapter Text

“The hell do you mean, the Villain got away?”

The Ground Zero Hero Agency had been tasked with the ambush and capture of a serial arsonist that had recently emerged within the agency’s territory. The Villain had a body count in the double digits and his attacks were only increasing in frequency. Although there had been no casualties in the most recent attack, the Villain’s escape was a huge blow to both morale and the reputation of the agency.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Boss. We were told his Quirk was Smoke Breath, turns out we were off the mark.”

“Shit.” Katsuki pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. If nothing else, he promised retribution to the imbecile who’d provided his team with an incorrect profile. “So? What’s his Quirk then?”

“Smoke Shifting,” Katsuki tensed when he noticed Kouta’s naturally indifferent expression falter into something akin to regret. “We… No, I let my guard down. I thought everything was handled once Cellophane was able to tie up and gag him, but then… poof. He escaped through one of the vents before we could cuff him.”

The older male was enraged almost instantly. “Why the fuck didn’t you pursue him?”

The blond was met with an incredulous look. “The building was on fire. I was more useful containing that threat and helping with the evacuations.”

“Fumigator is an A-Rank Villain!” Katsuki kicked his desk hard, muttering a long string of curses. “Never let your guard down! Fuck, Bath Bomb, how many times do I need to teach you? You cost us the entire operation!”

“Hang on, Bakubro,” Two pairs of eyes turned to the third occupant in the room. Red Riot stood in the corner, evidently forgotten by the other two early on in the exchange. “Sure, he messed up. But he’s still in training, that’s why he’s here in the first place, right?”

While he’d never admit it, Katsuki had always held a soft spot for third-year Yuuei student Intern Kouta Izumi. They had a brief yet meaningful history, but Katsuki was mostly glad to have an Intern competent enough to entrust with high-stakes missions. Nevertheless, both knew full well the implications of this blunder, and for once Katsuki’s overwhelming anger felt justified.

“Fuck that, Shitty Hair! I’ve been mentoring this idiot since his first Sports Festival! What the fuck have I been wasting my time here for if he’s forgetting things he should’ve learned in his first year?”

“Dude, that’s so not manly –”

“No, he’s right.” Kouta’s voice cracked as he spoke. “More people are going to die because of me.”

The silence was tense for a moment. As Katsuki’s second in command, the blond often needed Eijirou to build his Interns and Sidekicks back up after these kinds of lectures. So, a hardened fist came down on Kouta’s head, and Kouta looked up at the hearty smile that hadn’t faded from his superior’s face.

“If that’s what you think, then you should learn from this. But don’t forget that people also lived because of you, bro.”

Katsuki levelled Eijirou with the fiercest scowl he could muster. Objectively, he knew the Water-Quirked Intern had made the right call after the fact, but that did little to appease the rage boiling in his chest. Eventually he relented, meeting his unperturbed friend with only his usual glare.

“Tch.” He rapped his knuckles against his desk. “What about you assholes?”

“Earphone Jack and I also assisted with the evacuations. Cellophane pursued with the Police and some Pros from other agencies, but you know how that turned out.”

“This is going to be a PR nightmare.” After massaging his temple for a few seconds, he rounded on the Intern again. “Izumi, you’re dismissed. Finish your reports before you leave today.”

A subdued “Yes, Sir” was the last thing Katsuki heard from the boy before he made to leave. When the door shut behind him, Katsuki faceplanted his desk and let out his feelings in a long, pained groan. He let off a few small explosions for good measure.

“That just about sums it up.”

“Fuck you, Shitty Hair.”

“Drinks?”

“Yeah.”


“You know, you really should take it easy on Kouta.” The two red-eyed Heroes sat together in a crowded bar, multiple beers in and in pleasant moods. When Eijirou suddenly shifted the conversation away from Denki and Kyouka’s recent engagement, Katsuki was caught off guard.

“Why?”

“You know he respects you like crazy, right? You literally inspired his Hero name.”

“What, so I should give him special treatment? Fuck that.”

“Not the point.” Eijirou hesitated for a long moment before continuing. “Honestly, you need to tone it down in general. The media’s gonna be hounding you for this.”

“You know I don’t give a damn what people think about me, Kirishima.”

Eijirou scoffed. “Yeah, no shit, Eleven.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Everyone calls you that! Dude, you’ve been stuck in the same spot for years now! You never thought about why you can’t break into the Top 10? Even Todoroki –”

“Ugh. Can we not talk about the Half and Half bastard right now?”
“Fine. But you’re never going to be number one at this rate.” Katsuki huffed in indignation, but said nothing. “Right now, kids think if they stand in front of the mirror and say Ground Zero three times, you’ll appear. That old guy hit you with his cane last week because you were being too loud during a rescue!” Eijirou’s rowdy laughter filled the bar while Katsuki stewed in a mix of irritation and shame.

“Shut up, I get it. I scare children and old people hate me. Can we drop it?”

“Sorry. But seriously, Katsuki. If you acted a bit nicer in public –”

“I’m not nice, Kirishima. I can’t do nice.” He paused. “I tried that already.” Katsuki gripped the bottle of beer he was currently drinking from tightly, sore memories bubbling to the surface.

“Huh? When?”

“Third year. I was… trying to do somethin’.”

Katsuki saw the figurative light bulb turn on in his friend’s mind. “Oh. Deku, right?”

He almost spat his drink in surprise. Instead, beer went down the wrong pipe, sending Katsuki into a coughing fit lasting well over a minute. “H-How do you –”

“Dude, you were so antsy about it. None of us had seen anything like it.” Eijirou smirked as he thought back on the memory of Katsuki pacing back and forth in the common area one night while he, Mina, Denki and Hanta watched with interest. “You were going on about some party and ‘Shitty fucking Deku’, who you’d never mentioned before then, mind, and then you came back to the dorms the day after with a black eye.”

“Tch. How’d you know it was, uh, that?”

Eijirou shrugged. “I’m your best friend, man. If you were off trying to court the media or something, I’d have known about it. Don’t know what else it could have been.”

“Bit full of yourself, aren’t you?”

“It was hilarious.” he said, ignoring him. “What happened, anyway?”

“None of your business.” Katsuki replied quickly. Eijirou only hummed. The two returned to idle conversation before a few more drinks brought Katsuki deeper into a stupor.

Katsuki didn’t know how his friend would take it if he were to tell him about that night. It had been one of many realisations for him, and while he wouldn’t take back the things he’d said, he strongly regretted letting his anger take over him at the time. That was to say nothing about the rift the two boys had created between their mothers. In the aftermath, neither parent had felt comfortable with the other, and they had long since fallen out of touch. Katsuki would leave all of this in the past.

Katsuki did wonder what had happened to Deku, though. Where he was, what he was doing. Images of a freckled face with green eyes sparkling with life would often disrupt the mundane moments of Katsuki’s life, though he couldn’t help but compare them to the Deku he’d met ten years ago. That Deku’s eyes held no shine in them, with eyebags dark enough to rival Eraserhead’s. That Deku was thin and frail. That Deku was tired. Katsuki had later learned of the alarming statistics surrounding Quirkless people, and wondered whether at that time the green haired boy had already given up.

“– kubro! Dude, hey!” Katsuki was pulled out of his daze when a calloused hand waved in front of his face. “You were spacing out. That’s probably our cue to leave.”

“’M not tired.” he slurred, shaking his head. Eijirou raised an eyebrow as the blond started leaning precariously on his stool.

“Yeah, I know. I am though. Come stay with me and Mina tonight?”

“Oh! ’kay.” Katsuki stumbled as he hopped off the stool. “Lemme hold you so you don’ trip.”

Katsuki was ignorant of Eijirou’s amused grin as he ‘led’ the redhead out into the dark. The latter hailed a taxi and pushed the other inside, taking the seat next to him. Katsuki had leaned against him in seconds.

“You’re not drunk, Shitty Hair.”

“No, but you are.”

“Huh? No ‘m not. How do you drink so much?"

“You’re just a lightweight, dude.” Katsuki pouted and began blearily watching the streetlamps pass by as the vehicle picked up speed. The comfortable silence was broken as the pair closed in on their destination.

“Hey, Eiji?”

“Yeah?”

“D’you think he still hates me?”

Eijirou tensed when he noticed the rare vulnerability in the blond’s voice. “Who?”

“Deku.”

“I don’t… Why do you think he hates you?”

He shrugged. “I don’ want to talk about it. He does though.” The dejected expression on Katsuki’s drunken face was unmistakable. Eijirou took a moment before he answered, thinking about the best way to handle this.

“If he’s that important to you,” Katsuki immediately started shaking his head in denial, but it lacked any real commitment. “why don’t you reach out? You never know.”

“Dunno where he is. Could be fuckin’ dead for all I know. Probably is, considering.”

“Considering what?” There was a long pause as Katsuki contemplated whether or not to answer. He tested the words on his tongue and spoke.

“’Cos he’s Quirkless.”

And Eijirou, who had known his best friend, who admired the strong and detested the weak, who changed so much from the volatile, spiteful boy he was when they first met, for half his life, understood.

Chapter Text

Katsuki woke the next morning to energetic voices and an unrelenting force pushing against his chest. In addition to a pounding headache, the bright morning light and filtered through the windows, causing his eyes to burn. Groaning loudly, Katsuki closed his eyes and shielded his upturned ear with one of the cushions from the couch he’d slept on the night before. This did nothing to prevent the small hands from continuing to push against the blond’s chest.

“Get up, Uncle Kat!”

Katsuki cracked his eyes open and saw wide, red eyes staring back at him. A four-year-old boy with curly black hair, jagged teeth and small sharp horns protruding from his head huffed at him impatiently, “I wanna watch cartoons!”

“Whatever,” Katsuki moaned, closing his eyes again. “Just let me sleep.”

“Nuh-uh, Mama says you have to get up!” The kid synced his voice with each unrelenting push, “Come on! You’re hogging the couch!”

“I swear to God, brat, I’ll blow you sky high.”

“My name is Akio!” Akio pouted, hands on his hips. Reluctantly, and with grumbled protests, Katsuki propped himself up into a sitting position and started to rub the crust out of his eyes. Akio wasted no time flopping down beside him with the remote and turning on the TV. The blond flinched in pain as the abrupt change in volume assaulted his eardrums.

“Here, you big baby.” Katsuki startled, his head snapping to his left to face the owner of the voice. Ashido Mina stood at his side, a glass of water and what he presumed to be pain relievers held out towards him. Her pursed lips signalling disapproval were betrayed by the amused glint in her eyes. He accepted the offering with a grunt, downing the pills instantly.

Katsuki took a brief moment to stretch and stand up before asking, “Where’s Shitty Hair?”

“In the shower.” She hummed thoughtfully, unsure of whether to say what was on her mind, “He said yesterday’s operation was a bust?”

“Ugh,” Katsuki growled. “Fuckheads in Intelligence got his Quirk wrong and then Bath Bomb let the target get away.”

“Ouch. Poor Kouta.”

“Poor Kouta? Poor me, you mean. He’s not the one that’s gotta deal with the media today.” Katsuki had half-joked to Eijirou about whether he could get away with putting his Intern in the hotseat instead, earning himself a hardened chop to the head, along with an offer to accompany the blond in case things got too heated.

“Still, I’m sure he feels awful about it.”

Katsuki sighed deeply before speaking, “It’s not all on him, I suppose. I’m at fault too for putting him in that role, even if I thought he could handle it.” Residual anger started to boil in him again at the admission. Mina seemed to notice this, merely nodding and then hastily changed the topic.

“I, uh, need a favour.”

Katsuki scowled at her suspiciously. “What?”

“Well… Kyouka invited me and some of the other girls out tonight, but Eiji’s got a late patrol so there’s nobody to watch Aki.” He didn’t like where she was going with this. She fumbled with the words for a second as she went on. “I don’t really want to find a babysitter, so I was hoping…”

“No,” Katsuki said instantly. “No way.”

Mina levelled him with the widest puppy dog eyes she could muster. “Please, Katsuki? You know how rarely I get to go out these days.”

He bit back the rejection that had settled on his tongue. He did know Mina seldom left the house after having Akio, deciding to enter a temporary retirement for the first few years of her son’s life.  He also knew her social life had degraded even further once Akio developed his Quirk a month ago – the near constant burning and itchiness making it difficult for her to entrust him to anyone else. Akio had inherited his mother’s Quirk with hardening properties, but his own body had yet to build a tolerance to his own acid.

To hers and Eijirou’s relief, the Quirk Counselling sessions Akio had attended in the weeks since had proved invaluable, and Akio was making great strides in both tolerating and using his Quirk. Still, Katsuki had his reservations about spending the night alone with a kid with a volatile Quirk.

“Shit, I don’t know, Mina…” Katsuki’s voice dropped to a whisper as he glanced at Akio. He was absorbed in his show, ignorant of their conversation happening just beside him. “The fuck am I supposed to do if he has another episode?”

“He won’t! He’s been doing so much better lately, even his counsellor said so.” Seeing the unconvinced look on the blond’s face, she changed tactics. “Look, if he does, all you need to do is run him a bath and scrub him, and then put on that skin ointment he prescribed. If that doesn’t work then I swear I’ll come home! Please Katsuki, I’m begging you!”

Katsuki scratched the back in his head, face twisted as he thought about all the things that could go wrong. He sighed, “Fine. But you owe me big time, got it?”

Mina’s face lit up instantly, “Woohoo! Hear that, Eiji?” Katsuki turned to see Eijirou exiting the bathroom, dressed in casual clothes and his hair styled in it’s typical spiky fashion.

Eijirou grinned brightly, fist pumping the air. “You’re so manly, Bakubro!”

“Manly!” Akio mimicked, raising a tight fist into the air as well.

“Whatever,” Katsuki grumbled, barely concealing a small smile. “That all?”

Mina blinked at the blond’s implied generosity, but hopped onto the opportunity, nonetheless. “Well, he has his counselling appointment from four ‘til five today. I can drop him off on my way to Kyouka’s, but it’d make it easier on me if you picked him up.”

Katsuki quickly recounted his schedule in his mind. After mentally noting some adjustments, he said, “Works for me.”

“Thanks, Katsuki,” Mina said fondly. “This means a lot.”

Katsuki huffed, “Don’t get used to it.”


 

Katsuki watched tiredly as Eijirou slumped into the agency’s break room, dropping into the first chair he could reach and sighing exasperatedly. No words were shared for a full minute as Eijirou grabbed the fresh pot of coffee and empty mug from in front of Katsuki, taking the moment to savour the quiet. Katsuki had fully expected a verbal lashing from his friend, and was surprised when none came. The press conference had, unsurprisingly, been a catastrophe, but was worsened further by the blond’s most recent bout of uncontainable rage.

 

“You had an entire team of Heroes deployed for this mission, did you not?” One reported had said. “How do you expect to justify letting the Villain get away when he was outnumbered eight to one? That’s to say nothing about the property damage caused by both sides that will inevitably come out of the taxpayers –”

“Hah? You think I give a shit about goddamn property? People are dying here, and you vultures are worried about the taxpayer? I’ll tell you what really matters – we know his Quirk now, and once we learn his identity from the Quirk registry, I’m gonna find him and I’m gonna kick his ass myself!”

“Ground Zero, are you saying you led this whole operation without knowing the Villain’s Quirk?”

 

“I fucked up. Sorry.” Katsuki said after a long moment. He took a long swig of coffee, grimacing at the cheap taste.

Eijirou bit his lip, “It’s – it’s fine. I think. It’s not like we weren’t going to say anything, you just… worded it badly.”

“Yeah. I’m good at that, wording things in the worst way possible.”

“Don’t I know it. You’re hopeless.” Both men chuckled at the confession. “Can’t wait to hear your wedding vows, man.”

“Ugh, don’t go there, Shitty Hair. The old hag’s still on my case about finding someone.” He made a deranged face, “Always going on about how ‘Maybe my son wouldn’t be such an ungrateful brat if he stopped blowing shit up and settled down’, shit like that.”

“She’s probably right.” Eijirou only grinned at the levelled glare turned his way, before adding, “You haven’t dated anyone since Camie, right? That was what, eight years ago? You seriously haven’t been with anyone else?”

“Nope.”

“Why?”

“Turns out I’m gay as fuck.”

Eijirou snickered, “No shit. Doesn’t answer the question though.”

The blond shrugged, taking another swig of coffee. “Does it matter? I’m happy enough with what I’ve got.”

Eijirou’s expression turned from cheerful to something more solemn. “You don’t mean that.”

“Yeah? And how the fuck would you know?”

Eijirou noticed the defensive expression on his friend’s face. “Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re kind of a walking disaster, Bakubro.” Katsuki scowled and made to argue, but the pointed look he received from the other kept him quiet.

“You know it’s okay to want for more than you have, right? If I didn’t want more out of life than just being Red Riot, I wouldn’t have Mina, or Aki, or you. I think you tell yourself that being a Hero is the only thing that matters because you don’t think you deserve to have what the rest of us do. Which is complete bullshit, by the way.”

Both sat in silence for a moment as they allowed the words to sink in. Katsuki’s face shifted between emotions before resting on melancholy. He tried to swallow the lump in his throat. “What if I don’t deserve those things?”

Eijirou’s eyes narrowed, “Who told you that?”

A pause. Then, “Me.”

“Then you’re a bigger idiot than Denki,” said Eijirou resolutely. A weak smile briefly broke onto Katsuki’s face. Eijirou was relieved to find that it was genuine.

“I was pretty horrible, you know,” Katsuki said suddenly.

“Yeah, I know. I’ve met you,” Eijirou deadpanned.

Katsuki barked out a laugh before shaking his head. Avoiding the eyes of the other Hero, he said, “Nah, this was… bad. I was practically a Villain. You’d hate me if you knew.”

Eijirou thought back to his realisation the night previous. It was obvious to him that Katsuki had been a bully to this Deku person in the past, but he could only guess as to the extent of it. He hoped that his best friend hadn’t gone too far, but having known the Katsuki of ten years ago, he had little confidence. Still, Eijirou knew better than anyone else how much his Katsuki had changed since they met, and it was clear to him that the man regretted his actions with all his heart.

“I could never hate you.”

“You can’t promise that.”

“I can,” Eijirou interjected. “I do. You have no idea. Whoever that person was, whoever you used to be… You aren’t that person anymore. You’ve changed so much since we started at Yuuei. It’d be different if you hadn’t, but there’s no way I could ever hate the person sitting in front of me.”

Katsuki looked at the redhead dubiously, but was startled to find nothing but acceptance in the other’s eyes. His own began to blur, and he hastily rubbed the dampness out of his eyes.

“You don’t have to tell me now, or at all,” Eijirou said seriously. “But if you do, just know I’ve got your back, bro.” Katsuki nodded, the small smile Eijirou saw now present on his face once again.

“Thanks, Eijirou,” he replied, scratching the back of his neck. “I want to tell you, it’s just… I just can’t yet.”

“Don’t sweat it. Can I ask you one question, though?” Katsuki nodded in assent.

“Are you punishing yourself for what happened with Deku?”

Katsuki’s red rimmed eyes widened. “I don’t know.” Was he punishing himself for not being able to make things up to his childhood friend? His refusal to want for anything but to be a Hero, was it all centred around Deku? “Being a Hero, being strong… That was everything to me back then. It’s why things went to shit between us. I think being those things now is how I take responsibility for that.”

Eijirou opened his mouth to speak, only for Katsuki to shake his head and stand abruptly, “What the fuck does this have to do with the media?” He quickly downed the last of his now lukewarm coffee before dropping it into the sink and making for the door. “I got shit to do. Later, Shitty Hair.”

As the door shut behind the exiting blond, Eijirou was left to ponder his friend’s latest confession.

Chapter Text

“He’s been doing so much better lately my ass,” Katsuki cursed under his breath as he scrubbed mercilessly at the teary Akio’s arms. The kid had looked slightly upset when Katsuki found him sitting in the waiting room that evening, but in a bout of stupidity had thought nothing of it. He had started to excrete acid halfway between the office and home, and by the time they arrived back at Eijirou and Mina’s apartment he had burnt a large number of sizable holes in his shirt. Katsuki had also sustained some mild burns to his skin and clothes after hoisting the boy into his arms and making a mad dash for home.

Katsuki watched the once clear water of the bathtub become increasingly more clouded as the secreted fluid seeped out and mingled with the hot water. For the second time, the blond pulled the plug, letting the tub drain completely before turning on the faucet once again. “Hey brat, you better tell me if this isn’t working. Racoon Eyes didn’t give me much to work with other than this and your ointment.”

Akio’s continued sniffling had Katsuki fearing the worst, but let out a small relieved breath when he  heard a soft “It’s working” leave the boy’s mouth. Katsuki nodded, repositioning the loofah to begin scrubbing at the boy’s glistening back. He stopped to slap away the boy’s hand a few moments later when he noticed him scratching at one of his palms.

“Don’t do that. You’ll make it worse.”

“But it hurts!” Akio whimpered. Katsuki gripped the boy’s arm just in time to stop him from rubbing his teary eyes with his forearm. Rather than risk the boy burning his face, he picked up a clean towel from the rack and wiped his eyes for him. He also dried one of his hands and pulled his phone out of his pocket to text Eijirou and Mina about the development.

“Is it hurting less than before?” Akio shrugged noncommittally, reigniting Katsuki’s concerns. “Do you want your Mom to come home?”

“No!” The blond frowned at his sudden exclamation. “Mama was really happy to go out. I don’t want her to be sad because I’m not good with my Quirk yet.”

Katsuki bit his lip, “Fine. But you can’t scratch, got it? Put your hands in the water and leave them there.” Akio’s lip trembled, but he nodded in confirmation. Katsuki returned to scrubbing at the boy’s back. “Good.”

After a few more minutes of scrubbing, Katsuki had pulled the plug and refilled the bath a third time. Akio’s sniffling slowly began to subside, but his occasional clenching of his hands indicated the itching was still present. Akio reached out gratefully when the blond moved to examine his hands, sighing in relief at the contact of the loofah against his sensitive skin.

“Uncle Kat?” Katsuki grunted, signalling the boy to continue. “Did it hurt like this when you got your Quirk?”

Katsuki took a moment to think before responding. The truth was that beyond some mild skin sensitivity on his palms, adjusting to his Quirk had been a comparatively uncomplicated process. However, Katsuki figured Akio needed someone to relate to right now, and thus decided to embellish his answer somewhat. He eventually replied, “My hands would hurt if I used my Quirk too much or made my explosions too big. And my hands were really soft, so I burned myself a lot.”

Akio’s pained expression gave way to a small, relieved smile. Curious, he said, “Your hands aren’t soft now though.”

“’Cos I used my Quirk a lot. My old hag’s Quirk gives her really soft skin, not too different from me, actually. But I practiced every day,” Katsuki ceased his scrubbing again, letting off a few small explosions to demonstrate his point, “and now my hands are a lot rougher and it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

Akio perked up, “Then, if I keep practicing, I won’t burn myself anymore?“

Katsuki smirked, “No shit. You’re not special, brat.” Instantly regretting his choice of words, he added, “Look, you’re not the only one who goes through this kind of thing. Just about everyone does to some degree.” He kept talking, noticing that it was serving as a decent enough distraction from the problem at hand, “But their bodies adapt over time and then they can start figuring out all the bomb-ass shit their Quirks can do.”

The last point seemed to grab Akio’s attention, “Micchan said that too!” He finished cheekily, “He didn’t swear though.”

“Yeah? And what’d that extra have to say about your dumbass Quirk?”

Akio threw Katsuki one of his signature pouts, “It’s not dumb! Micchan said it could be even stronger than Mama’s! He said one day I might be able to make walls for people to hide behind, or melt rubble and stuff in case someone gets stuck. Oh! He said I might even be able to wear it like armor to block attacks!”

“Hah? You’re gonna be a Hero, are ya?”

Akio nodded furiously, “Yeah! Mama and Papa really like being Heroes so I wanna be one too! I’m gonna be a super manly Hero like Papa! Micchan said I’d be a good one, too!” Katsuki snickered, unsure if the kid saw the irony in calling himself a ‘manly Hero’. He continued scrubbing, noticing the water was becoming cloudy much slower than before.

Katsuki let his thoughts roam to the man in question. ‘Micchan’ was the affectionate nickname given to Akio’s Quirk counsellor of the past four weeks, held in high regard by both himself and his parents. Katsuki didn’t know his real name – he’d never asked, and both Eijirou and Mina had adopted the moniker the few times he’d been referred to as anything other than ‘Aki’s counsellor’.

He’d expected to meet him today, in fact, but felt no need to linger when he found Akio already finished and waiting for his arrival.

“Speaking of, I ought to kick that nerd’s ass for leaving you alone like that.”

Akio hesitated before responding, “I, um… Micchan was really weird today for some reason. Usually he lets me stay in his office and talks with me until Mama or Papa pick me up, but he made me wait outside today. I don’t know what I did wrong.”

“Well, that explains how we ended up in this goddamn situation,” Katsuki said, shaking his head. “It probably wasn’t your fault, though.”

“How do you know?”

“If a grown-ass man is getting upset at a four-year-old, he’s got no business working with children,” he said simply. He continued when he heard a soft giggle escape the boy’s lips, “What happened to make you think that?”

Akio shrugged, “Mama talked to him when she dropped me off and he got really weird after that.” He looked at Katsuki, who merely raised a curious eyebrow in response. “I asked him what they talked about and he said she told him you were picking me up today, but I don’t know why that would make him like that.”

“That’s… odd.”

“Do you know why, Uncle Kat?” Akio asked, nodding vigorously.

“No idea,” he answered truthfully. “I don’t even know the guy.”

Akio hummed, “Papa’s told him all about you, though. Maybe he’s your fan!”

“Fan? He knows I’m a Hero?”

“Yeah! Micchan’s really smart, so he figured out Mama and Papa are Heroes. Papa tells him stories from work now sometimes and you come up a lot.” Katsuki made a mental note to ‘remind’ his best friend not to share any more sensitive information with civilians before Akio added with a cheeky giggle, “He calls them Bakugou’s shitfits!”

Katsuki pinched the boy’s cheek, scowling, “You really are a brat.” Akio’s giggles erupted into roaring laughter, causing a smile to tug at even the Hero’s lips. Katsuki pulled the plug for what he deemed to be the last time, confirmed when Akio stood and grabbed a fresh towel. “Does it still hurt?”

“Mm… It itches a little, but it doesn’t burn anymore.”

Katsuki nodded, thrusting a small bottle of ointment into the boy’s hands. Checking his phone, he noticed they’d been in the bathroom for over an hour.

He stood up, “You can put that on by yourself, right?” Akio nodded. “Good. What do you want for dinner?”

“Hambagu!” he cheered, discomfort completely forgotten. “No vegetables!”

“I thought you said you were gonna be a Hero? What kind of Hero doesn’t eat their vegetables?”

“But I don’t like them!”

Convincing a small child that wasn’t even his to eat his vegetables was not something Katsuki was willing to put up with today. “Tch. Just this once.” Katsuki gave the boy a sadistic grin, “I’m making it spicy as hell, though.”

“Bleh.”


 

“Honey, I’m home!” Eijirou burst through the front door just before midnight, heavily bruised and cut up and holding the tattered remnants of his costume. Still, the redhead grinned brightly.

“I’m not your honey, you shitty bastard,” Katsuki replied from the couch. The romantic comedy he had most definitely not been enjoying was quickly muted when the blond took in his best friend’s injuries, “What the hell happened to you?”

Eijirou chuckled loudly as he dropped into the couch beside him and adjusted to lie down. His legs rested on Katsuki’s lap, to the other’s vocal protest. “Followed a guy on a whim. Must’ve done a pretty bad job of it, since he led me down an alley and attacked me with all these whips that shot out of his back.”

“The clothes I get, but aren’t you supposed to be unbreakable or some shit? You look like you got put through a meat grinder.”

“What can I say?” Eijirou said. “The dude was a beast. Real manly.”

Katsuki snorted, “You’re probably the only person who’d call a criminal ‘manly’.”

“I call ‘em as I see ‘em. Speaking of, thanks for looking after Aki, bro.” He lifted his head to glance around the living room. Yawning, he asked, “He asleep?”

“Has been for hours. Little shit kept trying to scratch at his palms all night, though.”

“Yeah, he does that.” Eijirou added nonchalantly, “You’re good with him. Surprisingly.”

“Course I am. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

Eijirou grinned brightly, “It means you’re an asshole who shouldn’t be allowed within 20 feet of children.”

“Eat shit. I’m a fucking delight.” Eijirou’s only response was an amused hum which gradually shifted to a chuckle, and then again to boisterous laughter. Once it died down, Katsuki said offhandedly, “I thought I’d get to meet your precious Micchan today.”

“You’d love him, Bakubro. The guy knows everything about Quirks. He’s been studying them since he was a kid, apparently.” Something caught Eijirou’s attention as he said, “Wait, you haven’t met him yet?”

“No, how would I have?”

“Well, what about today? Er, yesterday,” the redhead said, glancing at the clock which has just turned twelve.

“Didn’t get a chance. He kicked Akio out of his office after their appointment and had him wait for me outside.”

“Huh. That’s never happened before. He was probably busy.”

“Doubt it. The kid thinks he was acting weird ever since he found out I was gonna be there. Sorry, bro. I don’t think your dear Micchan likes Ground Zero very much.”

Just then, the front door opened once more, and Mina sauntered in, a rosy tint hidden behind her already pink skin. “Honey, I’m – babe, you look like shit.”

“Like put through a meat grinder shit?” Eijirou laughed, sitting up properly again. He reached out to pull his stumbling wife into his lap as she approached. They kissed gently as she settled.

“Totally. What’re we talking about?”

“Your damn Quirk counsellor,” Katsuki started. “Sounds like he’s avoiding me.” Katsuki filled her in on what he’d just told Eijirou. Mina nodded lazily in understanding.

“Ooh yeah, I can see that. He totally clammed up when I told him Katsuki was coming to pick up Aki.”

“Really?” Eijirou asked. “Strange. We’ve talked about him loads of times and he never said anything. Honestly, I didn’t get the impression he thought anything at all about you, Bakubro.”

Katsuki’s lips curled downwards. “Like I give a shit.”

“It’s funny,” the redhead said contemplatively, “because despite that, he knows a lot about your Quirk.” At the odd look he received from the blond, he added, “I read through some of his notes the first time we met.”

“I thought you said he knew a lot about them?”

“Yeah, but your Explosion was especially detailed. Even I didn’t know some of the stuff in there.”

Intrigued by the drama, Mina piped up. “Ooh, now I’m curious! What’d you do to the poor boy, Katsuki?”

“Yeah, it’s almost like he –“ Eijirou’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “oh shit,” he glanced at Katsuki, who frowned, “it couldn’t be…”

“The fuck are you mumbling about, Shitty Hair?”

“Nothing,” he replied quickly. However, if Eijirou was right about his suspicions, the truth might just be ‘everything’. He decided to sit on this possible realisation for the time being.

“Ooh, I have an idea!” Both men turned their heads to face Mina, who looked as though she’d solved the secret to the universe. Katsuki figured she was just drunk. “Let’s get Katsuki to pick up Aki next week too, and then Katsuki can tell us what he finds out!”

“If he knows I’m coming he’s just going to hide again, genius.”

“So we won’t tell him! Just show up again next Friday and boom! Besides, if you do that then I can go out with the girls again next week!”

“Hah? You think I’m gonna do this shit again?”

“Come on, it’ll be so good! And Micchan’s so nice!” Mina snapped her neck to look at her husband, “What do you think, Eiji?”

Eijirou took a long second to respond, sneaking another glance at the fuming blond. An impossibly wide grin tainted with mischief broke onto his face as he said with vigour, “I think it’s a great idea.”

Chapter Text

Izuku met the nervous boy with a warm smile, “It’s nice to meet you, Aruku.” Izuku gave a polite nod to the strict looking woman wearing an expensive suit sitting stiffly beside her son, “You as well, Ms. Nabari.”

This would be Izuku’s first meeting with a new client. His clientele typically encompassed those with Quirks his colleagues didn’t care to handle, or else any surplus of children that existed because the other counsellors were too busy to take them on. However, the client in this case was neither, so Izuku was optimistic that things were starting to turn around.

Izuku sat on a small desk chair, facing two obviously wealthy individuals. One was a well-dressed executive looking woman who was obviously slightly younger than him despite the scowl lines etched on her face. The other was a small boy dressed conservatively who held himself with a subdued aura atypical of most four year olds.

The mother responded curtly, “Good afternoon. I would appreciate it if we could get straight to business. Aruku has a piano lesson after this and I do not intend for him to be late.” A long time ago, the intimidating aura exuded from the woman would have unnerved him, but Izuku had become long since desensitised to such pressure.

Maintaining his courtesy, Izuku replied, “Of course. In that case, I’ll try to summarise the finer points I need to disclose, and then we can start on the fun stuff.” The latter end of the sentence was directed at the boy who became marginally less anxious than before. “This appointment will be shorter than the rest. Today I just wanted to introduce myself and make sure Aruku’s Quirk isn’t going to present any problems at home. It’ll also help me prepare anything I need for next time.”

The mother did not seem impressed. Izuku recognised the type; prideful parents who cared less about the safety of their children and more about the value of their child’s Quirk. If that was the case, experience told him that this meeting could go very bad very fast. He would have to play his cards right if he wanted this to continue.

“At my encouragement, parents typically observe the first few meetings so I can explain the most critical details to them personally. Depending on the Quirk, counselling may be required for as little as two sessions, but may go for months if it’s particularly volatile.” The mother sat cross-legged, fingers tapping her thigh impatiently. Izuku ignored it, directing his attention to the child instead. While he needed the woman’s approval, he had no intention of feeding her ego. He just hoped doing his job the best he knew how would be enough.

“Aruku, what I’m here to do is help you learn what your Quirk does and how you can use it safely. I’ll also need to teach you a few rules you need to know so you don’t get in trouble for using your Quirk illegally. Sound good?” The boy shifted in his seat with poorly hidden excitement, nodding in a way that somehow caused the woman’s already pursed lips to thin further.

“Alright then, what’ve you got for me?”

Izuku loved Quirks of all types. Perhaps he was simply fascinated with that which he couldn’t possess for himself, or maybe he respected the ways people used their Quirks to the benefit of society. He wasn’t sure it mattered to him, honestly. He’d dropped his Quirk analysis hobby after his life had been uprooted over a decade ago, but had returned to it in full force when he eventually learned to separate his love of Quirks from his complicated feelings towards Heroics.

Izuku had once craved the idea of being a Hero. It hadn’t mattered to him that he was Quirkless, but eventually he realised that he belonged to an ever-shrinking minority who shared that belief, and despite his best efforts, fighting a 200 year-old society that prized strong Quirks above all else on his own was simply impossible. He didn’t hate Heroes – the topic simply made him uncomfortable.

Still, Izuku loved Quirks of all types, and was therefore not disappointed at all when the boy in front of him nervously removed his expensive shoes and began to walk barefoot across the room, glowing footprints appearing and slowly fading from the carpet. Izuku watched in fascination as he took each step, mentally cataloguing and writing down each and everyone one of his thoughts.

He spoke after a moment, “That’s really cool, Aruku. What do you call it?”

The child grinned sheepishly, answering, “Light Step!”

“I like it!” Izuku nodded encouragingly, “Do you remember what the doctor said about it when you got it?” The boy took his time putting his shoes back on and sitting down before he responded.

“She said,” he pulled a face, seemingly trying to recount the words. “My feet have… um…” he looked at his mother who simply clicked her tongue and spoke for him.

“The soles of his feet secrete a chemical that makes surfaces light up on contact.” Izuku accepted the information gratefully, but bristled at the irritated tone with which it was delivered. “So?”

Izuku blinked at her in confusion, unable to process what she was asking. “So what?”

“What can he do with it?”

The question only confirmed the greenettes suspicions. Unfortunately for him, he had no choice but to be honest. Still, he made sure to sugar-coat his answer as best he could given the child in question was currently in the room and hanging onto every word.

“It’s possible that he could store the chemical for later use, but other than the obvious, not a lot. Of course, this is just my opinion at a glance, so I should be able to tell you more after some tests.” He hated seeing the dejected look on the child’s face, so he added to the boy, “I think your Quirk will be a lot of fun to use, though.”

The three sat in silence for a few moments, eventually broken by a snarled “What, that’s it?”

Irritation began to seep through his measured expression as he replied, “Yes?”

“How is he supposed to do anything with a Quirk like that?”

Izuku cleared his throat in an attempt to salvage what was quickly becoming a lost cause. He had a feeling the conversation was about to take a turn down a road he’d already had with many other clients. “I don’t mean to be rude, Miss, but there’s nothing wrong with having a low-utility Quirk.”

Izuku realised a moment too late that talking back was probably a bad idea. The thought was confirmed when he looked at the woman. He knew exactly what was coming next when he saw the sadistic look on the other’s face. Sighing in reluctant acceptance, he waited for the verbal lashing he’d had in this very room a dozen times before.

“You would say that, wouldn’t you, Quirkless?” Izuku tensed at the word that had been spewed at him as an insult. He’d been subjected to the slur for his entire life, but he found it hurt in new ways whenever it tainted the career he had worked so hard to achieve. With a disgusted snarl, she continued, “I decided I’d give you the benefit of the doubt despite what it said in your file, but I shouldn’t have bothered.” Standing promptly, the woman grasped her son’s wrist and pulled him towards her, his head darting between the two adults with a confused expression on his face.

“Ms. Nabari –“

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” she spat dramatically. Izuku only looked away, resisting the temptation to interrupt her tirade by cussing her out. “Expecting a Quirkless reject to be able to talk about things he could never understand.”

“That’s enough!” Izuku suddenly stood too, sending the woman a heated glare that caused her to flinch, “If you would rather one of my colleagues take your son’s case, that’s fine. Not that they would tell you anything different. But I will not be insulted by someone who doesn’t know the first thing about me.”

The woman snapped back in indignation, “Excuse me? Who do you think you are to speak to me like that? Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?”

Raising his voice, he replied, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Kindly get out of my office.”

With an enraged scowl, the pretentious mother and her still confused son fled the room. Izuku quickly turned away, the loud slamming of the door the only signal that he was alone. He paced the empty office manically as his anger boiled over, leading to him kicking the side of his desk and letting out a long string of pained profanity. Izuku barely had a moment to process what had just happened in the past few minutes before he heard a timid knock and a creak as the door opened once more.

Expecting it to be one of his colleagues arriving to chew him out for yelling at a client, he started, “Yeah, I fucking know, okay? You don’t need to tell me!” He startled at the high pitched squeal he heard in response.

“Midori? Are you okay?”

“Micchan?” It was just about time for his next appointment, he realised.

Izuku looked up and balked at the distressed face of Ashido Mina, who had her hands clamped over a bewildered Akio’s ears. A quick glance past the two showed that they were not the only ones to have heard the dispute that had just occurred in the room. Instantly, his anger was drowned in abject horror at the knowledge he’d just yelled at two clients in the span of about five minutes.

He clamped a hand to his mouth, eyes wide. “I am so sorry! I shouldn’t have said that. Oh my God…”

Mina released her hands from Akio’s ears to raise them in a placating gesture, “Don’t worry about it! I’m not mad!”

“But I swore in front of Akio!“

“Big deal. He’s heard worse,” she answered humorously. Mina gulped before saying, “I heard what that woman said to you.”

“Oh,” Izuku said dejectedly. “Um, if you don’t want me to work with Akio anymore I can give his case to Kuroi. He has less experience than I do but his Quirk is actually not too different to yours and Akio’s so he would still be able to help you.” Izuku missed Mina’s heartbroken expression forming as he continued rambling, “But I will say that it has been an honour to work with Akio in the past weeks and I wish him the best of luck in –“

“Stop that, Midoriya. You’re being ridiculous.” Izuku tensed at Mina’s interruption.

“Huh? But I don’t –“

“I don’t care that you don’t have a Quirk. Neither does Eijirou. We both knew that from the beginning, anyway.”

Izuku felt slightly better, simply nodding. Mina took the chance to add on a thick layer of guilt, “But if you don’t want to see Aki anymore, we understand.”

“Of course I do! It’s just –“

“Great!” Mina put her hands on her son’s shoulders, pushing him towards the greenette. Rather than looking sad as Izuku would have expected, Akio wore a playful smirk that suggested he knew exactly what his mother was doing. “I’ll be off then!” Mina turned to leave.

“Wait!” Izuku had a hundred thoughts coursing through his mind, but one in particular stood out. “What about after?”

Her smile was laced with mischief. “What do you mean?”

“Are you… picking him up?”

“No, Eijirou is.” Her smile widened. “Why are you asking?”

“N-no reason!” Midoriya may as well have pushed her out the door with the force he used to lead her. He knew Mina was the curious type, and the last thing he wanted was for her to clue into the fact that he had been avoiding Akio’s ‘Uncle Kat’. “Have a good night, Ashido!” he squeaked.

“Bye Mama!” Mina barely managed to wave goodbye before Izuku had shut the door in her face.

Izuku turned to Akio, pushing down the panic in his chest, “Let’s get started, shall we?”


 

Over the next hour, Izuku put Akio through his usual routine. It had been over a month since the acid-Quirked boy had passed his mandatory Quirk counselling tests, and as such the sessions since were wholly dedicated to improving his tolerance and control. With the full hour allotted for training rather than the 20 minutes they’d had previously, Akio was making leaps and bounds in the use of his Quirk.

Izuku asked him simple routine questions about how his Quirk had developed since the last session, learning that he hadn’t ‘leaked’ at all since the day of their last appointment. This is itself was a great achievement, but Izuku was even more proud to be told Akio had been successful in practicing his Quirk at home.

“Look, Micchan!” Izuku watched with interest as the boy secreted a somewhat thick layer of acid from his hands and forearms that instantly hardened into a glove-like shell. “I can wear it now!”

“That’s great, Akio! How long do you think you can hold it? Is it itchy anywhere?”

He shook his head happily, “Not yet! But… when I tried last night it started to after a minute.”

“That’s still a big improvement! You couldn’t do this at all last week!” The cheerful grin he received in response almost made Izuku completely forget the anger he had felt nearly an hour ago. “Let’s see what we can do with it before we need to take it off.”

For a full minute, Izuku poked and prodded at the hardened crust Akio had donned his ‘Acid Armor’, disposing of his acid-resistant gloves when Akio began to itch. They repeated the process twice more with breaks in-between, Izuku learning more and more each time. He learned whenever Akio coated his arms, he couldn’t move his joints without the crust cracking or breaking. On the second attempt, drops of fluid dripped onto the acid-resistant mat they tested over, while on the third, none dripped at all.

As their latest session came to an end, Izuku sat with Akio on the floor as he applied ointment to the child’s arms. Izuku stood up when he was finished and fished his clipboard from the desk. “Alright Akio, let’s go over what we figured out today.” The boy sat giving Izuku his full attention, as he always did during this part of the session.

“You’re getting much better at controlling your Quirk, and the bath and ointment strategies seems to be working for you.” Izuku waited for him to nod in confirmation before continuing, “As for your Quirk, you may not have noticed, but you’re controlling the speed your acid hardens at when you secrete it as well as its eventual actual hardness. It’s still weak right now, but given your mother’s Quirk, you should also be able to increase or decrease the strength of the acid itself.”

“So I can make it really hard, like Papa? And make it burn like Mama?”

“Exactly,” Izuku replied. Suddenly, he had a realisation. “Akio, can we try your glove again one more time?”

“Okay.” Akio lifted his arms in front of him in preparation to use his Quirk.

“Alright, but this time I want you to try and limit how hard it gets. Set, but not hard like rock, got it?”

Akio stared blankly as he thought about it. He said, “Like jelly?”

“More… bendy. Like plastic. Think you can do that?”

“Ahuh!” True to his words, Akio secreted a layer of acid which, while drippy, quickly hardened into something much more malleable than before. “I did it, Micchan!”

“Can you move your fingers or wrist at all?” Izuku nodded when Akio managed to bend his fingers halfway to a clenched fist. “This is great, Akio. I’m making this your homework for next week, okay? Practice a lot so you can close your fist, and then come show me.”

“Okay...”

Izuku noticed a confused look on the acid-user’s face, “Something the matter, Akio?”

“Well… Papa’s Quirk makes him hard, so why am I making mine soft?”

Izuku tapped his chin in thought before answering, “Well, your father’s Quirk is very simple. It’s strong of course, but there’s a lot more you can do considering most of your Quirk comes from your mother.” Akio opened his mouth as he begun to understand, but Izuku helped him along anyway, “You’re going to be a Hero, right?” Akio nodded enthusiastically, “That means you need to learn how to use your Quirk in as many ways you can so you can help lots of people with it.”

Grinning with sharp teeth on full display, Akio beamed. “Okay, Micchan!”


 

“Kirishima’s late.”

Akio’s session had ended a half hour ago, and while he had no issues waiting around for his father to arrive, he was also eager to leave to have dinner with his mother. Izuku’s co-workers had started to filter out of the building by this point, and Izuku couldn’t wait to do the same. He mindlessly paced across the room, wondering what could have caused Eijirou to be so late as well as why he couldn’t have so much as sent a text as an explanation.

“Papa’s at work.” Akio replied inattentively, his eyes glued to game he was playing on Izuku’s phone.

“Huh. Must have gotten caught up at work, then.” Izuku fell silent when Akio didn’t reply, unsure of whether he’d even heard him.

After another five minutes, Kirishima had still not arrived. Akio looked up from his screen and asked suddenly, “Why did the lady get mad at you for being Quirkless?”

Izuku almost choked on the water he’d been drinking. “W-what do you mean?”

“She was really mean! I don’t get it, because you’re so smart.”

“Uh, um…” The greenette didn’t think it appropriate to teach someone else’s child about Quirkless discrimination at such a young age. “Some people are just like that, I guess.”

Akio hummed, “How come you don’t have a Quirk, anyway?”

It wasn’t really an insensitive question, despite the bluntness of it. While Quirklessness in Izuku’s generation was already a rarity, the same in Akio’s may just be unheard of. Even though statistically one-in-ten people were Quirkless, many neglected to realise that the bulk of that number comprised those over the age of 65. The chances had been one-in-twenty when Izuku was growing up, but as the oldest generation began to die, Quirkless people came closer and closer to extinction.

Izuku wasn’t offended, so he shrugged, “I was born without one.”

“Wow. That can happen?”

“It happens less and less over time. Quirks didn’t exist until a bit over two hundred years ago, but humans evolved and now just about everyone has one. I’ve never met a Quirkless person who was my age or younger, myself.”

“Is that why the lady was mean to you? Because you don’t have a Quirk?”

Izuku sighed, wishing he’d just drop the subject. “It’s really complicated, Akio. You should ask your Mom if you really want to know.”

The boy pouted, “Okay.”

At that moment, the heavy thudding of boots on carpet sounded from outside and a loud, angry voice made itself known to the entire building. Izuku was too stunned to recognise the voice with which he was very familiar. If he did, he’d have likely jumped out the window already.

“It’s fine, lady. I’m just late, okay?”

Akio jumped off the couch and stretched, bounding for the door which swung open in front of him. Izuku watched in stunned silence as the decidedly not redhead breathed heavily, doubled over with his hands on his knees. “Shit… sorry I’m late… Fuck, I got… held up at work.” The blond man regained his composure, straightening up to look Izuku in the eye. “I’m here to pick up Aki –“

Emerald eyes met ruby. “o.”

Katsuki’s hands exploded.

Izuku dropped his clipboard.

“You’re not Kirishima,” Izuku said stupidly. The blond haired, red eyed man simply stared from the open doorway, mouth hanging wide open.

The tension was palpable. Neither man moved nor spoke, and the small boy between them simply watched the interaction in interest. For all of Izuku’s mental preparation in the unlikely event this happened, it meant little in the moment where the greenette stood in front of the man who meant so much, yet so little to him at the same time. All he could do was stare at Bakugou Katsuki.

After what felt like an hour later, the silence was broken.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Deku?”

Chapter Text

“What the fuck are you doing here, Deku?”

When Katsuki laid eyes on familiar green curls and vibrant emerald eyes, he felt the air be sucked out of his lungs and his blood turn to ice. Katsuki had often wondered what had happened to the relic of his past standing in front of him, but never in a million years did he believe he would ever see it for himself. Yet, as his brain screamed for the blond to say something – anything, Katsuki could only take in the sudden appearance of his old… Friend. Enemy. Victim. Stranger. Somehow, the two were so many things, and yet they weren’t anything at all.

Midoriya Izuku had barely aged in the last ten years. From the blond’s limited recollection, the round cheeks and boyish features ever-present in the other man’s youth had largely disappeared, leaving his face an admittedly attractive balance between cute and handsome. Freckles were still lightly dusted on the greenettes cheeks, and his hair was as thick and forest-like as ever. He’d filled out somewhat since they last met, muscle barely visible under the clothes covering his frame, which Katsuki noticed was only barely shorter than he was.

However, Izuku’s eyes were even duller than he remembered. Even more sunken than they had been during their brief reunion just over a decade ago. The thought made Katsuki’s chest hurt, despite having not seen the man in so long. He wondered what series of events had brought the man to this point. He wasn’t sure, but Katsuki thought he could see a small scar hidden behind the greenette’s unruly mop of hair.

Izuku worked his mouth like a fish, various sounds escaping from his lips as the greenette struggled to form a coherent sentence. Katsuki couldn’t say he wasn’t doing the same – he was completely overwhelmed. Eventually, Izuku spluttered, “I work here.”

Katsuki bit back a choked laugh. “What the fuck?”

“You… didn’t know?”

Katsuki shook his head slowly, his legs unconsciously carrying him into the office and towards the Izuku who remained stock still, features hardening. “I’m gonna kill that Shitty bastard.”

“Kirishima?” Katsuki nodded. “Right.”

“Fucker only ever called you Micchan. I didn’t even think…

The two men had seemingly forgotten the child standing between them as they startled when he piped up, “Micchan, you know Uncle Kat?”

Izuku and Katsuki froze. With a shaky nod, Izuku answered. “He was my…” Katsuki wasn’t sure his relationship with Izuku was something that could ever truly be defined, but he realised that Izuku’s answer would effectively decide where he now stood in the eyes of the green-eyed man. He waited with bated breath as Izuku thought over his next words, finally finishing with, “Classmate.”

The answer hurt more than he’d expected. It wasn’t that he’d hoped for Izuku to say anything remotely positive about their relationship – in fact, he wasn’t surprised to hear such an indifferent answer. What hurt was that to Katsuki, the answer lacked any ulterior feeling. There was no anger, hatred or fear laced into the man’s voice. It was as if his old something felt absolutely nothing at all towards him.

An outsider would have viewed that a good thing. They could start again with a clean slate. But to Katsuki, Izuku wiping the slate clean meant wiping Katsuki clean – it was as though he was no longer welcome in the life Izuku had created for himself.

Izuku quickly gathered his belongings and quickly made for the exit, “Well, goodbye then.”

Katsuki understood the finality intended behind his parting words. He had a feeling that if he didn’t say something now, he may never have another chance. Just as Izuku was about to cross the threshold out of the office, Katsuki called out, “Wait!”

Reluctantly, the greenette stopped and turned around. “What?” Katsuki could see the other man itching to get away, but he couldn’t let him. Not yet.

“Can we… talk?”

“No,” Izuku answered immediately.

“Please.” Apparently the plea in Katsuki’s tone struck something in Izuku, as he saw the greenette relent somewhat. “Five minutes. After that… you won’t ever have to see me again.”

The look he received in response was cold, but not cruel. “Good joke.” Izuku scratched the back of his head as he sighed, “Make it quick. I’m already late for dinner at my Mom’s because of you.”

Katsuki nodded, quickly ushering Akio into the waiting room and instructing him to wait. When he returned, Izuku had leaned up against his desk and was staring out the window. Katsuki closed the door and sat on the armrest of the couch, facing him.

He had no idea where to start. Talking to Izuku was an impulsive decision, spurred on solely by the coincidence of re-meeting a person he never thought he’d see again. “Uh… How’s Au- Inko doing?” Katsuki corrected himself quickly. He’d lost the right to use such an affectionate title a long time ago. Izuku’s expression only grew colder in response.

“She’s fine. Can you get to the point?”

Katsuki nodded, attempting to swallow the lump in his throat. “Deku, I –“

“Don’t call me that.”

“Huh?” Izuku didn’t repeat himself. Katsuki shouldn’t have been as surprised as he was. He knew intimately what the childhood nickname meant to the man, particularly since he was the one who invented it. Beyond habit, he had no reason to fight the demand, so he relented.

“What do I call you then?”

“I don’t care. Just not that.”

Katsuki cleared his throat which had become incredibly dry all of a sudden. “I-Izuku then.” Midoriya felt wrong on his tongue, too unfamiliar. He knew he didn’t deserve to have that level of familiarity with the man before him, but Izuku didn’t object to it.

In fact, Katsuki noticed Izuku wear a strange expression. A conflict between apathy and nostalgia warred on his face. Eventually, Katsuki realised it may have been the first time he’d used the man’s real name since they were Akio’s age. He doubted either of them remembered those days anymore, but the thought of what they once were compared to now made his heart hurt. Is this how it felt for Izuku back then? When Katsuki was so fixated with power and victory he couldn’t recognise a friend from an enemy when he was staring him in the face?

Apathy eventually won out and the greenette crossed his arms coolly, staring at the blond. “Well?”

Katsuki wanted to apologise. To take responsibility for the things he’d done in the past, many of which were inexcusable for someone aiming to become a Hero. He knew Izuku blamed him for things beyond what he was prepared to apologise for – things that frankly had nothing to do with him, but even so, Katsuki hoped to provide them both with some small amount of closure before they went their separate ways once again. He wasn’t a kid anymore. This time, he could do it.

Katsuki took a deep breath, bracing himself. He looked the other man in the eye and began, “I’m… fuck, how do I even say this?” Already, Katsuki was alarmed to see the other hadn’t reacted at all to his rare showing of vulnerability. “Look, D- Izuku… I realised a lot of shit at Yuuei. About myself. And about how I treated you. I won’t even try to explain myself. I was cruel to you for years and you didn’t deserve any of it. I can’t apologise enough. I know nothing I say is gonna magically stop you from fucking hating me for it, but I just needed you to know that I’m sorry.”

Izuku barely reacted when Katsuki finished his speech. “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

“You don’t have to say shit. I just needed you to hear it.”

“It’s not that. It’s just… it’s a bit late, now.” Katsuki noticed the shift in demeanour when Izuku added, “I don’t even remember half of the things you did when we were young.” He could tell the shorter man was lying, but decided not to call him out on it.

In the back of his mind, he realised Izuku hadn’t even accepted the apology he’d been guilt-ridden over for so long, his frosty attitude completely brushing over it as though it meant nothing to him. Maybe it was too late, Katsuki thought.

“I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. I was going to, back when we…”

Izuku quirked a brow, “Fought?”

“Yeah.”

“How does an apology turn into my nose getting broken?” Izuku said sardonically.

Katsuki bit back a growl, intent on making sure the conversation ended peacefully this time. He rejected the temptation to call him out on his own actions that night, knowing it would only deepen the divide between them further. The blond wasn’t sure how to proceed, and was therefore relieved when the man in question did it for him. “I don’t hate you, for the record.”

“Hah? Why not? God knows I fucking deserve it.”

Izuku shrugged. “I did, for a long time. Still do, sometimes. But it’s better if I don’t.”

“What does that mean?” he asked curiously.

Izuku huffed, “You’re not getting my inner monologue, Bakugou.” Katsuki shivered at the sound of his last name. He tried to interject, but was silenced when he heard, “Not again.”

Katsuki had no idea what he meant by that, years of miscommunication ensuring neither had the full story explaining the toxic relationship they now both had. Evidently, Izuku refused to share his side of things, and Katsuki wasn’t sure what he could do to change his mind.

Izuku looked at the clock and stood abruptly, belongings in hand. “I’m done here. Tell Kirishima I’ll email him today’s notes.” Katsuki searched for some way to convince the other to stay longer, but came up short. Rapid-fire proclamations of “Wait!” and “Stop!” refused to leave his mouth as his estranged childhood friend left the room.

“Don’t come here again.” The door closed with a soft click.

Katsuki felt sick. The atmosphere in the otherwise empty office room made the blond tense, his insides churning with some inexplicable emotion.

He’d apologised. That’s what he intended to do. Shouldn’t it have been enough?

Why wasn’t it enough?


 

Eijirou and Mina were already home by the time Katsuki returned to the apartment with Akio that evening. Eijirou didn’t have a patrol that night, and while Mina initially intended to go out, the events of the day had turned her off the idea.

So, the couple sat around the kitchen table waiting for the other pair to arrive while a mild curry simmered on the stove. They chatted happily about their day; Eijirou had taken almost the entire day to train Kouta in hand-to-hand combat after getting his results from his final exams, and Mina had regaled him with stories about ‘that one tablecloth she couldn’t get the mystery stain out of’. Eijirou laughed loudly when she admitted she’d given up and just decided to melt the damn thing.

Curiously, it was Akio alone who crossed the threshold first.

“Hey, bud,” Eijirou said, craning his neck to watch out for their expected guest. “Where’s Uncle Kat?”

Akio didn’t get a chance to reply before there was a familiar bang from outside. Mina moved for the window and stuck her head out, breaking into hysterics when she caught sight of her quarry.

“Babe, he just blew up the mailbox.”

“Oh come on!” Eijirou gave her an incredulous look. Internally, he wondered if his suspicions from the week prior had just been confirmed. He didn’t know what else could be causing his best friend to fly into such a rage at this particular moment. If he was right, then they were all in for a show.

“He’s real mad this time, Mama.”

“Aki, can you go to your room for a bit?” she asked nervously, watching the blond enter the building from below. “We’re just gonna talk to Katsuki and then we’ll call you out for dinner.”

“Okay. But I gotta show you my Quirk after dinner though!”

“Sounds good, bud.” said Eijirou, eyes darting back and forth from his son to the door. Akio left just in time for it to slam open with a resounding crash, revealing an especially rabid-looking blond.

“Kirishima, where the fuck are you?”

Eijirou grinned with false bravado, “Hey dude, something wrong?” Katsuki seethed in his direction as he stormed up to him at the kitchen table.

“Is something wrong?” the barbarian snarled, hands beginning to crackle. “Did you fucking know about this?”

“Know about what?” the redhead asked not-innocently. Eijirou fought desperately to keep a straight face as he responded, the corners of his lips threatening to tug upward into a shit-eating grin. Eijirou thought he had been doing the right thing at the time, but the expression on the blond’s face left him unsure he wouldn’t be waking up tomorrow in a hospital bed. Perhaps he was exaggerating, but judging by his friend’s mood, it was likely something hadn’t gone quite right.

Mina stood by the window on her phone, excitedly texting the developments to the other Yuuei girls in real time. Knowing it would spur him on further, she prompted him, “What’s this about, Katsuki?”

Midoriya Izuku!

The response gained the attention of the pink-skinned woman. At first, this setup was supposed to be nothing more than a light-hearted attempt to satiate her curiosity with the added benefit of forcing her friend to confront one of his past mistakes, whatever it was. However, those feelings were quickly erased upon hearing the genuine hurt laced in the blond’s tone. “Micchan? What about him?”

“Why is Deku your brat’s Quirk counsellor?”

Eijirou’s eyes widened at the confirmation. He instantly clapped a hand over his mouth when he let slip a hushed, “Holy shit, I was right.” To Eijirou’s dismay, Katsuki heard him loud and clear.

“Deku?” Mina repeated, moving away from the window to sit with her husband. Katsuki sat with them, glaring a hole through the table. “Why is that name familiar?” Eijirou quickly reminded her of that day in third-year. Her eyes shone with curiosity.

“Wait, so Deku and Midoriya are the same person?” Katsuki nodded shortly, not meeting her eyes. Her curious expression became confused, “Am I missing something?”

The blond lifted his head to meet her with a blank stare. “What?”

“Like, I get that it might be awkward to see him again after so long, but you’re acting super weird about it.”

Katsuki snapped his head to look at Eijirou, his jagged smile faltering instantly. “You didn’t tell her?”

He shook his head quickly, “No way, man. It was private.” Mina looked put out at the thought of being kept out of the loop, but didn’t press. Instead, she got up to check on the curry.

The blond’s fierce expression subsided and was replaced with something forlorn. He half-whispered, “Fuck, Kirishima. You knew this whole time and you never told me?”

“I swear, man! I didn’t suspect a thing until last week!”

“Then why the hell didn’t you tell me a week ago?”

Eijirou paused. “I wasn’t sure. If it was him, I mean.” Katsuki stared. “Midoriya’s our age, Quirkless and seems to have beef with you, so I just… wondered.”

“Couldn’t have just asked me if I knew the guy?” Eijirou’s embarrassed expression confirmed his idiocy to the blond. “Wouldn’t be having this problem at all if you hadn’t stuck to call the nerd ‘Micchan’ like a fucking toddler.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.

“So?” Mina asked, enthusiasm back in full force as she dropped a bottle of hot sauce in front of the blond. “Who’s Midoriya to you?” Eijirou also listened intently, having little knowledge about the green-haired man despite knowing so much about the impact he had on Katsuki’s life.

Katsuki sighed, “Deku – Izuku is… I’ve known him since diapers. We were friends once, until… things went to shit between us. I made his life hell for a long time.”

Mina looked at him, unimpressed. “But you talked to him today, right? How’d it go?”

“Who the fuck knows,” he bit out. He continued when he saw the scrutinising faces of his two friends. “I wanted to make it right. I apologised and fucking everything.”

“Right,” Eijirou nodded. “And then what?”

“And then nothing. Fucker waved it off like it meant nothing and walked out.” He interrupted Mina before she could say what he suspected she was about to with a glare, “I know he knew I meant it.” Katsuki took a minute to fill them in on the more specific details of their conversation and his thoughts. The three sat contemplatively for a minute to stew in the latest development.

“Poor guy,” said Mina sadly. “He really can’t catch a break, can he?”

“Did something happen to him?” Eijirou enquired to her. Katsuki listened in as well.

“Ugh, it makes me mad just to think about it.” Mina scratched at her arms in agitation, “Some stuck-up woman made a big scene in the office. Basically called him incompetent at his job just because he’s Quirkless. You should’ve seen him after, he was so depressed.”

Katsuki visibly flinched, which did not go unnoticed by the others. Eijirou connected the dots quickly, already suspecting such a reality, and thus was not as perturbed. Mina did the same a moment later, but shock and horror dawned on her face.

“Sweetie, oh you didn’t.”

Katsuki’s silence was practically a confession in itself. He nodded.

“We’re talking about this,” she growled.

He scoffed, “The fuck we are!”

“Babe, he shouldn’t have to –“

“I’m not saying this for no reason, Eiji!” Mina wagged a pink finger directly in front of Katsuki’s angry face. “You said you wanted to make things right, didn’t you?”

Katsuki won against his pride, nodding reluctantly. With Izuku’s sudden reappearance in his life, he finally had a chance to make up for his past deeds. Katsuki just didn’t realise how far he was willing to go to do so. Nevertheless, Katsuki had no idea how to begin to approach what was easily his biggest regret.

“I don’t know how,” he admitted.

“Then it’s time to own up to your shit so we can help you, Bakugou Katsuki.”

Chapter Text

Katsuki, Eijirou and Mina sat around the dining room table later that night, deciding it best to have such a dirty conversation after Akio had been put to bed. Afterwards, the three Heroes sat stony-faced while nursing steaming hot mugs of tea. Before Katsuki could breach the subject, Mina spoke.

“Nothing but the truth, Katsuki.”

He rolled his eyes, “Think I’d fucking lie at this point?”

“No, I just… We won’t think any less of you. So don’t hold anything back.”

“I couldn’t give a shit what you think, anyway.” Mina didn’t answer, sensing the lie. “Fine. Deku, yeah?” Eijirou and Mina listened intently as Katsuki began to monologue.

“I was… nothing but a bully, as a kid. Had these asshole extras following me around and everything. I hurt Deku. Others too, but especially Deku – ah, Izuku. Deku’s just some dumb nickname I gave him that stuck. Means ‘useless’. See what I mean?”

Nobody answered the obviously rhetorical question, heavy gazes simply locked onto Katsuki. He took a moment to sip his tea before continuing.

“We were friends once, like I said. Our Moms, too. But then I got my Quirk and he didn’t, and all the damn praise I got went to my head and…” Crescents marked his palms as he clenched his fists. “He wanted to be a Hero, you know? More than anything. He was always helping, even if it was just little things. Tried to help me, even. But I had my head so far up my own ass that I mistook his help as him looking down on me. Thinking I was weak. I would beat him up, put him in his place. Others joined in after a while. I don’t think the teachers even cared. Some enjoyed it. It was disgusting, looking back.”

Katsuki took a breath and looked his friends in the eye. Even if he knew he could count on their acceptance, confessing to such a dark part of his past filled him with a fear that they would want nothing to do with him afterward. Stealing a glance showed Mina to be glaring at something behind him with tears pricked in her eyes, and Eijirou to be listening stoically, his hands obviously clenched under the table. Katsuki bit the skin of his thumb nervously as he recounted the worst of his deeds.

“In our last year of junior high, I found out he wanted to apply to Yuuei. I was so fucking pissed.” As he found the words to continue, Katsuki imagined a world where Izuku had made it. A world where he manifested a Quirk just in time for the entrance exams, or done it without one to spite them all. Katsuki thought Izuku would’ve liked his classmates. He wondered if the two sitting in front of him would have been his friends. If he would have… No, not him, considering how he was back then.

“I thought he was taking away from my legacy, whatever the fuck that means. I went after him after school that day. Blew up one of these notebooks he would write in to analyse Heroes. Threw it out the window and into a koi pond, I think. I told him…” Katsuki thought he’d never have to repeat these words. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he confessed. “I told him, ‘If you’re so desperate to be a Hero, pray for a Quirk in your next life and jump off the roof.’ He stopped trying after that.”

Katsuki let silence engulf the room while his friends processed the information. Eijirou had his head in his hands, elbows propped on the table. Katsuki couldn’t tell whether he was crying or not. Mina, on the other hand, was quietly sobbing with sadness, horror and rage contorted on her face. He couldn’t look her in the eye, but he wasn’t sure she could either. After a while, he finished his story.

“Then I went to Yuuei and he went… somewhere. That night in third year was the first time I’d seen him since. He’d been avoiding me the entire time, turns out. I tried to apologise, I really did. But he started unloading all his issues on me like everything bad that had ever happened to him was my fault, and I got overwhelmed and lashed out.” Katsuki sighed, “He gave me a black eye. I broke his nose. Now we’re here.”

Katsuki expected either stifling silence or an outcry of rage. Instead, the blond raised his head to see flowing tears, incessant fidgeting, muttering and rapidly fluctuating emotions from both occupants of the room. He knew it wasn’t his place to speak, so he waited quietly while nursing the tea that no longer held any warmth. Neither Eijirou nor Mina deigned to speak for a long time.

Eventually, the stalemate was broken by the pink-skinned woman.

“Alright. Okay… Okay.” Mina fidgeted with her blouse, seemingly struggling to keep calm and inert.  Katsuki felt the same, feeling an overwhelming urge to move. He wouldn’t say no to a spontaneous request to spar from the redhead, though that seemed unlikely given the man in question was also going through his own motions. “I’m… going to go hug Aki and get into bed so I can process this.”

Katsuki nodded quickly, taking the opportunity to make his escape. The pair stood in unison. “I’ll leave. Thanks for the curry.”

“Couch,” Mina said tiredly. “Take… You can take the couch.”

“No, I– I need to go. I’ll steal Pikachu’s patrol or something.”

The blond started to leave when he heard a soft “Katsuki.” from the girl. His face paled, but turned regardless.

“What now?”

He was shocked to the core when Mina hugged him. “I’m angry. I’m so angry. But I love you, okay?” Katsuki nodded timidly. With that she let go, immediately powerwalking for her son’s bedroom. She was gone in a second.

Eijirou took the resulting silence to speak up from where he remained in his chair. “That was worse than I thought.”

“I warned you.”

Eijirou nodded, his face alarmingly white. “None of that– that was absolutely not okay. You know that, right?”

“Of fucking course I do.” Katsuki bit out with vitriol. “What kind of Hero tells someone struggling to– to do that.

“Yeah,” Eijirou said simply, a faraway look in his eye.

“Changed your mind, have you?” Katsuki couldn’t hide his vulnerability in that moment. Even though his best friend had promised he’d stay by his side, his fears since beginning this conversation had never subsided. He couldn’t deny how right Eijirou would be to wash his hands of him.

“No,” Eijirou eventually said. Katsuki looked at his friend dubiously, searching for any hint of a lie. “I promise. We’ll fix this.”

“We?”

“Mina too. She’s… upset. Me too, to be honest. I know I said I’d have your back…” Eijirou flinched when Katsuki met him with a hurt expression, “And I do! It’s just… it’s really hard to look at you right now, dude.”

Katsuki couldn’t blame him for that. “I know. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not the one you need to apologise to.”

Katsuki glared defensively, “Weren’t you listening? I fucking tried. It’s too late. He doesn’t want shit to do with me anymore.” He paused, “Wouldn’t it be better if I just left him the fuck alone?”

Eijirou scoffed at the obviously not-rhetorical question. “Come on, man. I’ve never seen you half-ass anything in my life. Don’t start now.”

“I’m not half-assing anything! He should just be able to live his damn life and forget about me. It’d be for the fucking best.”

Katsuki was surprised when Eijirou put up little resistance. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I know I am.”

Eijirou hummed. “Do you remember what I said last week? In the break room?”

Katsuki’s eyes narrowed, seeking the memory. His mouth opened slightly when the words hit him.

“You know it’s okay to want for more than you have, right? If I didn’t want more out of life than just being Red Riot, I wouldn’t have Mina, or Aki, or you. I think you tell yourself that being a Hero is the only thing that matters because you don’t think you deserve to have what the rest of us do.”

“What’s your point?” Katsuki asked grittily.

“My point,” Eijirou said with a pointed stare, “is that you’re allowed to want Midoriya’s forgiveness.”

“And he’s allowed to not want to talk to me ever again.”

“Fair,” the redhead admitted. “But also, fuck what Midoriya wants.”

“H-hah?” Katsuki spat, eyes almost bugging out of his head. Of all the things he thought his friend might say, something with so little consideration for another’s feelings wasn’t among them. “Never pegged you as the selfish type, Shitty Hair.”

Eijirou shrugged, tired smile tugging at his lips. “I’m not. You are though.”

“Calling me names now, fuckass?”

“You know I’m not.”

“The hell I do,” Katsuki said, though he did know what the redhead was trying to convey.

“Midoriya only knows you as the person from his childhood. You deserve to show him you’re not that person anymore, at least.” His smile grew larger, more penetrative, “That, and you’re Bakugou fucking Katsuki! Since when do you give a damn about other people’s feelings?”

Katsuki blushed, embarrassed he’d lost himself in his self-deprecation. “Tch. Guess you’re right.”

“Take a day to figure out what you want. Do you want to make things right? Or… do you want to let him go? Mina and I have your back either way, bro. Whatever you decide, you can count on us.”

Katsuki nodded, blaming his current state of vulnerability for the short hug he initiated with his best friend. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Eijirou grinned brightly. “Now get the fuck out of my house before I punch you.”


 

“What? I’m not giving you my patrol, Bakugou! I need the exposure!”

Katsuki stormed into the agency later that night with a fire in his step. He’d taken a nap at his barebones apartment for a few hours to calm down, but woke up no less agitated than he was before. He paid no attention to the snoring receptionist and exhausted Sidekicks as he marched around the building in search of his elusive target. Denki was located halfway through changing into his costume in the men’s locker room, and so Katsuki wasted no time making his demand.

“What fucking exposure? It’s one in the damn morning!”

“I don’t care! Kyo’s already pissed at me because I ate all her caramels even though I didn’t, so if I go home now she’s just gonna kick me out again!”

“Again?”

Denki coughed, “The, um. Condom may have slipped off last time.”

Katsuki pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why the fuck would you tell me that?”

“You asked!”

“Have some common sense, Shitty Pikachu! Give me your patrol!”

“No!”

“Asshole, I will make you caramels if you get out of my fucking face and go home right now.”

Denki looked contemplative. “Tempting… I want one of your day patrols, too.”

“Whatever.”

Denki cheered. “Why do you want it so bad, though?

“Maybe I just want you to spend some quality time with your fiancée.”

“Nah, it’s not that.”

“Fuck you,” Katsuki growled. “It’s none of your business.”

Katsuki immediately turned away to start pulling his costume out of his locker, signalling the end of the conversation. Denki relented, changing as well, “Tell Hitoshi I said hey if you run into him.”

“Who?”

The yellow-eyed blond sighed, “Shinsou Hitoshi. Puppeteer?

Who?

“Dude, he was in our–“ Denki started incredulously. “You know what? Never mind. I’ll just text him.”

Katsuki nodded shortly, “Like I’d talk to that Zombie fuck anyway.”

“Aw, is someone still mad he brainwashed them into going to class in his underwear?”

“No,” Katsuki lied through his teeth. He very much was, especially considering Aizawa forced him to stay like that until lunch. It was humiliating.

“So, do you still wear All Might boxers, or–” Denki’s quip was interrupted by the slamming of Katsuki’s locker, the ash blond somehow already fully set in his costume.

“Bye.” Katsuki left without another word.


 

Katsuki had been patrolling for at least four hours before he caught the smallest whiff of trouble. A shriek from the other side of the road caught his attention, red eyes closing in on a tall, hooded man sprinting off with what was clearly a woman’s purse. The man was slow despite his long legs, and so Katsuki had pinned him against an alley less than a minute later. He hadn’t even needed to use his Quirk, much to his chagrin. He was made even angrier after the sixth attempt of the man trying to escape the blond’s grip.

“Keep struggling and I’ll blow your fucking hands off.” Relenting, the man ceased trying to escape, instead electing to lean against the alley wall and remove his hood, revealing long and greasy dark hair.

“Aw, come on Ground Zero!” the man pleaded, evidently changing tactics. “Gimme a break, one Aldera alumni to another?”

“Hah? Who the fuck are you?“

“Nakayubi Sei!” he chirped. “We were buddies!”

Katsuki quirked a brow at the man, “Never seen you before in my life.”

“Rude. You should at least remember your old classmate’s names, Bakugou.” The man sneered, “But you always did care more about Quirks than that kind of thing, huh?” Before he could respond, the man raised his open palms, his exposed digits extending to an unnatural length in demonstration. As if proving the stranger’s point, Katsuki’s eyes widened in recognition.

“Fingers,” Katsuki spat. “Course you’d wind up as a fucking pickpocket.”

“Ironic, huh?” he said fiendishly. “Life can get pretty rocky when all your Quirk has going for you is giving you sticky fingers.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it.”

Fingers shrugged, ignoring him. “It could be worse, I guess.” Katsuki’s eyes narrowed behind his mask as he continued with false cheer, “Could be Quirkless. Like that one kid, remember?” Katsuki said nothing, knowing exactly who he was referring to. “Did you hear he killed himself?”

Katsuki scoffed, but didn’t correct him. “Who the fuck told you that?”

“Just a rumour,” he shrugged again. “Wouldn’t surprise me if it was true though, poor guy was a shell of himself by the end of high school.” As an afterthought, he added, “I feel kinda bad now.”

“That’s what happens when you bully a kid for over ten years, asshole.”

“You’d know all about that though, wouldn’t you Bakugou?” Sei sniggered, “I mean, we were just kids who didn’t know any better, don’t beat yourself up over it too much.” Katsuki glare intimidated the pickpocket who raised his hand in a placating gesture. “If it makes you feel any better, at least we weren’t the ones to crush his dreams in the end.”

Katsuki scrutinised the man, “What are you saying?”

Sei looked delighted at the opportunity to gossip, despite his predicament. He and Mina would get along, Katsuki thought. Or they would have if the man in front of him didn’t have such a punchable face. “Oh man, wait till you hear this! It was All Might!

The blond was taken aback, not completely comprehending the words. “What was All Might?”

“Okay, so get this. All the Aldera kids wanted to know what was up with him, rile him up a bit, you know? So we asked him what made him give up on all the Hero shit, and it took a bit of prodding but yeah, turns out it was All Might! Dude straight up told him it was a waste of time!”

Katsuki found it hard to believe that his teacher and idol could crush the dreams of such a young boy like that. All Might, in his experience, was such a gentle and genuine person. Even after his untimely retirement, the man had been a reliable source of encouragement for him. Katsuki’s idol had held no contempt for him for the event, even when he was partially to blame by being kidnapped by the League and sparking the fight between All Might and All For One. Surely he had his reasons, right? Katsuki wanted to ask, but All Might had moved to the USA years ago for his deteriorating health.

“God, can you imagine? I’d have called it quits too, if it were me.” Sei said “So, about letting me–“

“Shut the fuck up and put your hands behind your back.” The thief was cuffed in an instant, Katsuki still stuck in his head. He snapped himself out of it with a tired sigh, “I’ve had enough fucking reunions today.”