Bakugou stood at the front of the classroom, tense on his feet. He watched classmate after classmate take their seat, his eyes jittery, pupils fluttering, so uncannily unfitting. It was the expression of prey set on the face of a predator. His classmates noticed. And they noticed the uncharacteristic glower on Midoriya’s brow. Midoriya stood beside Bakugou. He was taller, not physically, but in presence. It was in his firm footing and his sharp glare and his simmering aggression. Both of them were clearly nervous, but Midoriya coped with aggression, and Bakugou with apprehension. All of Class 1-A had noticed the swap in behaviors by now. At that moment, one by one, they had their suspicions confirmed.
Uraraka had not been the only one to see the papers. Every media mention of Class 1-A found its way down the grapevine, one way or another. Mentions from friends, links from relatives, tags on U.A. fansites, an uninvited heckling from Monoma. Everyone had read the article. Everyone knew the two U.A. students were Bakugou and Midoriya. Everyone knew the villain had possessed a bodyswap quirk. Everyone had come to the same conclusion.
It was Midoriya who insisted on making a single class announcement to state it once and only once, clearly. To save himself the pain of being called Bakugou by one classmate after another. He told his plan to Aizawa that morning. He refused to let Bakugou turn it down.
Hands shoved deep in his pockets, back hunched and eyes venomous, Midoriya waited out the quieting chatter of students walking through the door. Hot air followed them to their seats, fragrant with budding flowers and the sticky, honey-sweet smell of dew. Summer had rolled in hot and wet. Sweat trickled down Midoriya’s neck. When Aizawa did not speak, the class suffocated under silence.
“Kacchan and I,” Midoriya started, slowly, carefully, tense and pained in his enunciation, “were the ones who fought the body-swap villain, you all know that right? Kacchan and me.” Midoriya thrust a hand out, fist tightened, index finger pointing to Bakugou. “Him, Bakugou,” then his arm curled in, thumb inward, “and me, Deku. I’m Deku. He’s Bakugou. Not the other way around. Don’t get any wrong ideas. Don’t mix us up. Don’t say anything about it, got it? You don’t need to know anything else.”
Midoriya’s eyes scanned the room, far too sharp on his gentle face. His teeth clenched, brain swamped in a shiver of frustration.
“We did get swapped,” Bakugou cut in. Midoriya shot him a glare that withered his confidence, and he continued quieter. “Meaning that, we also got swapped back. But the quirk is—his quirk isn’t…it’s not really body swap. It mixes. We got mixed. What we think and feel is still, um, well I’m not like I was before. I’m still Bakugou, though. I remember everything I’ve ever done as Bakugou—which—even all the bad things. And that—is I guess that’s most things. I remember all the bad things I did which now that I know and I’m thinking of them I think I should say something about it since I know I’ve hurt you with what I’ve done and if you’ll let me I want to a—”
“We’re getting it fixed. We’re getting it figured out, okay? We’re just like this for now. Drop it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. And don’t call me Bakugou or I’ll ki—” Midoriya stopped dead. His eyes flashed with something like fear before he reeled down. He cleared his throat, loosened his shoulders, mouth twisting between a grin and a grimace. “Just… we’re not swapped, alright? Nothing’s different. It’ll get fixed. I’m still me. That’s all.”
Midoriya stepped forward, eyes set to his seat. He ignored the attempted eye contact from Todoroki, from Tsuyu, even Iida whose hands jittered by habit while trying to flag Midoriya down. Midoriya kept his head low and his fists clenched. He spared only a single glance for Uraraka, the only completely calm face in the crowd. She offered a small smile, a sad one.
“A-actually, that’s not all,” Bakugou spoke up again. Midoriya froze. Bakugou twisted his fingers together. “I wanted to say that um, I’ve realized, being like this, it’s like—um—I can’t even figure out why I ever. Ever since the fight with the villain it’s like I’m able to finally see what I was like from the other side and I don’t even know what was going on in my head to think the kind of person I was was ever okay and the terrible way I’ve treated you all and I’m sorry so if you could ever even consider it I know I haven’t made it up to you yet or Midoriya most of all but if you could ever think about forgiv–”
Midoriya turned so quickly that his body snapped. It seemed to carry with it an electric shock that rooted Bakugou in place. Bakugou’s mouth shut, wide eyes pinned to Midoriya. He seemed to shrink on himself, nodding in defeat, and walked toward his seat. His head hung down.
Midoriya took his seat as well. He felt Uraraka’s questioning eyes from beside him, so he turned, and he muttered simply, “Leave it, and don’t pity him. Don’t think about it. Don’t let him beg. Bakugou doesn’t deserve anyone’s forgiveness.”
Midoriya was trying, and the class had become uncomfortably aware of how much it pained him. He spoke slowly, and he replied slowly, though the expressions that flashed across his face always betrayed him. His classmates knew Bakugou too well by this part of the year. They could guess at the type of comments that Midoriya bit back, no matter how hard Midoriya tried to recreate his old demeanor. His optimism was spoken with dead eyes. His graceful losing was an implosion every time. Aizawa had to erase him three separate times when the restraints on his quirk had vanished.
Bakugou was trying too hard. He made no attempts at imitating his old self, not like Midoriya. He lost every competition. His every conversation twisted into a vague and uncomfortable apology, until Midoriya silenced him. He no longer used his quirk.
The class endured, no matter how much it felt like they’d lost two of their own.
They’d been told not to comment on it, but it couldn’t always be helped.
Bakugou had been pulled out of class. He’d been pulled out quietly, after a disastrous training session. He’d been stressed that morning, still unskilled at handling Midoriya’s anxiety, and had shut down during the exercise. Midoriya pretended not to notice him leave. He kept his pencil in his grasp, and played with the fringe of the bandage around his finger, an injury from a rash use of one-for-all, because he was still unskilled at handling Bakugou’s aggression.
The class remained quiet. And when the door shut behind Bakugou, Tsuyu leaned forward in her seat. She tapped Kirishima, who turned to face her, and she simply stated, “Poor Bakugou.”
The pencil in Midoriya’s hand snapped.
The class froze.
Midoriya did not explode though. He turned slowly, and lifted his eyes, and they were unfathomably pained. His teeth were gritted, his jaw tight, and through his forced composure he responded. “Why?”
And it was an honest question, tainted with disbelief, honest betrayal. He shook his head. “Why is it him you pity…? Why are you so willing to be sad for him?” He stared down at his hand, wrapped in medical tape. “Why am I the bad guy…?”
“No one said that,” Uraraka replied, tense but gentle.
“Didn’t need to say it. I can feel it. Every time I shut Kacchan up, every time he starts sniveling for forgiveness… You still want to forgive him. You’re guilted into it. And I’m the bad guy.” Midoriya looked up again. His eyes were wet. “Why don’t you realize this is his fault? This feeling that’s driving me insane, it’s Kacchan’s anger that’s doing this to me. It’s his cruelty making me like this. And yeah, he’s hurting, but he’s only hurt because of the things he did wrong. It’s his own mistakes. Not me. Not mine. He just stole the part of me that lets him see how rotten he’s always been.”
“’Poor Bakugou’, because what? Because he finally regrets tormenting me all these years? He’s finally realized that—when he told me to kill myself so I could be born with a real quirk—that that’s bad? Poor Bakugou, he finally regrets being a horrible person?”
No one answered him. Midoriya continued.
“I never helped that, did I? I’m angry at myself too. I admired him for so long and just sat back and took it. I never fought back because I always sort of agreed with him. And that was because he said those sort of things to me for as long as I can even remember. Called me worthless and weak, told me over and over I could never amount to anything. Since I was a kid. Since I was four. He ruined my confidence. He shoved that anxiety into me. Not good enough. Always in the wrong. Always should apologize for doing anything. And now that he’s got it, it’s ‘Poor Bakugou’…?”
Iida opened his mouth. No words came out. Not immediately.
“…You’re angry, Midoriya. And anger clouds the way we think. This isn’t what you would say.”
Midoriya seemed to flinch, just a bit, just for a second. He let out a small bitter laugh, and he let his head hang. “…Yeah, it’s not what I’d say… And yeah, of course I’m angry. I’m angry all the time because of this. But this is different. This isn’t just my personality being messed up. This is me finally realizing that for all these years I’ve had a reason to be angry.”
“This isn’t helping you, or him, or anyone…”
“I don’t want to help him. I don’t want to—” Midoriya clenched his fists. He pulled them up to his face, taut fingers uncurling. “He doesn’t deserve help. He’s getting what he deserves, exactly what he deserves. He finally feels bad for everything he’s done, and he stole my guilt—that he beat into me—so that he can finally understand that. And I’m finally angry. I let him torment me for ten years and I never retaliated, not once, because I was kind, maybe, but also because I was soft. And I’m not either of those things anymore. I’m angry. I’m livid instead. That was ten years of anger I never got to feel. Ten years of frustration I only funneled back on myself. And now he’s ruined who I even am…. He finally did it, he finally snuffed me out. He finally beat me into not being me anymore. Nothing’s working, they can’t put us back. This is forever. This is us now. And it’s him—” Midoriya’s voice cracked. His words choked off. “And it’s him you want to pity…?”
No one answered him.
Midoriya curled in, fists clenched and jaw tight, so that the anger could burn out inside him, like it always did these days.
Three minutes later, the classroom door slid open, and Bakugou appeared, and he glanced around the room.
His heartrate picked up. Adrenaline beat sharp and sudden through his veins, dread swamping his brain, anxiety twisting in his gut.
He looked to everyone in the room. Not a single pair of eyes would look at him back.