Osha-kun’s hair floated in a swirling pattern mimicking the boisterous laugh he put on.
“You fell for our trap! Time to die, Hero!”
Izuku jumped in front of him, fists up. “No, not if I beat you first!”
Haru-kun stomped, planted his feet and let out a roaring gust of wind. Izuku couldn’t even keep his eyes open.
Charging into the fray, Katsuki swung his right arm, the explosion letting out a crackle. The sound shocked his friend, causing him to gasp, cutting off the wind attack.
“You’re the one who fell for the decoy! Surrender, Villains!”
Standing in front of Izuku to shield him, Katsuki held his palms upfront. He made as if to explode the two Villains, throwing his hands and screaming, “Bang! Boom! You’re dead! Bam!”
Haru-kun was laughing and catching his breath.
“It’s not fair when you join the fight, Katsuki -kun!” Osha-kun cried.
Izuku’s eyes were reddened as he attempted to get his curls out of his face. “Your wind blowing’s so much stronger now, Haru-kun! And your hair looked really cool and flashy, Osha-kun!”
Ignoring the praise, Osha-kun turned to him and said, “You come up with any special moves yet, Katsuki-kun? Maybe I'll have one before you!”
Not wanting Izuku to feel left out when they just won the game, Katsuki yelled, “Tsk, even Izuku could take you! You won’t distract him with your hair I bet!”
“What’s he gonna do? Tackle me?”
“Yeah, look at him! He’s small but scrappy! He can totally take you down.”
He must have annoyed the hair-transforming boy too much, his top going ragged and spiky as he huffed and marched out of the playground.
"No fair, Katsuki-kun.” Haru-kun said. “Just because Izuku-kun’s your favorite.”
He went inside, too, jogging to follow their blue-haired friend.
“That was kind of mean, Kacchan.”
“I was just telling the truth! I’ve seen you practise. You can probably pin me down, too! I mean, if you’re lucky!”
“Thanks, Kacchan.” Izuku said. “But you don’t have to defend me all the time, you know?"
“Of course I do. I’m your Hero, remember?”
Katsuki was bouncing on his feet, keeping mobile, as he observed Izuku. He was crouched down maintaining his center of gravity, most likely looking for a way to kick Katsuki’s legs from under him. He had to keep his posture and his distance so that the greenhead would have no opening to take him down to the floor. With his explosions, close combat was not a problem. But in a Quirkless fight, his hands and arms were easy targets.
He threw a couple of jabs. Closing in and quickly backstepping away. His speed seemed to be superior. He’s always been really mobile and athletic. No matter how strong Izuku’s gotten, he’s always been fast and strong, too.
He swung with his right arm but the punch was too wide and Izuku was able to quickly dodge. He was still maintaining his defense stance. Annoying. Katsuki threw three quick punches with his left and backstepped again. Izuku took a step forward, lunging at him and threw a right hook which he easily avoided.
But what is this? Why do I feel uneasy?
Izuku was mostly weaving and bobbing, almost stationary. Katsuki kept circling him, bouncing in and out and throwing punches left and right.
I’m faster than him. He can’t catch me!
Suddenly, Izuku was right in front of him, head below his guard, his left punch catching Katsuki’s guard with a solid hit. His arm stung but the shock was worse. How is he here already? I didn’t see him closing in. While he was busy thinking about what just happened, he stopped moving and left his chest open. Quickly, he backtracked, trying to put some space between them.
“Bakugо̄, you’re going the wrong way!” he heard Todoroki shout. Their fight had attracted everyone’s attention and had pretty much stopped what anyone else was doing. Katsuki saw Yagi-sensei move closer to them as well by the time he’d worn his gloves and headgear, and started pacing in the mat.
For some reason, he was backing into the padded walls. How? I was circling him. I wasn’t — Did he start punching to direct me here?
Katsuki threw a hook, but Izuku just took it, angling his body to catch it with his back. Without any pause, Izuku railed with combination punches, hitting Katsuki’s sides. Left, right, left again. Until finally, Katsuki felt his feet leave the floor as he’s hit with an uppercut, right in the stomach.
His breath catches in his throat and he hits the mat with his knees.
“Is he dead???”
“Sorry!” Izuku cried. “You were going so fast I thought I had to get you before you landed a big one on me!”
Katsuki gets on a kneeling position, using his arm to support him. He’s not hurt but he’s rattled. Izuku’s worried face is making his blood boil.
“We’re sparring. Why the fuck are you apologizing for hitting me?”
“I — no, I just — ”
Back on his feet, he takes a fighting stance again. “We’re not done yet. You better not let up!”
Izuku nods and they separate back in their zones. His arms are low and his stance is open. The little bastard’s smiling.
“Yeah? You think you got me good?” he yells.
Izuku shrugs. “I think I did. Had you knelt down on the floor in front of me, didn’t I?”
Katsuki sees red. He yells and charges, hits Izuku straight in the nose and another to his jaw. His head whips, his hair flapping with the movement. He puts his arms up and out to guard against the punches, but Katsuki’s already swinging for him again.
He misses. Barely catches Izuku’s hair as he ducks under the punch. He lunges in again, catching the back of Katsuki’s right knee and lifting, causing him to lose his balance and fall to the floor in a quick takedown.
Things happened really quickly.
Izuku bends and folds his right arm with both hands and pulls, just as his right leg squeezes on Katsuki’s shoulder, adding pressure, left leg lodged under his throat to stop him moving his head. He tries to get out of the arm and leg lock with his left arm, but then Izuku is rolling them, cranking his right arm and getting his feet under Katsuki and catching him in a scissor choke.
He taps Izuku’s feet in surrender.
Izuku releases him and gets on his feet.
“Are you okay?” he holds his hand out.
Katsuki slaps his hand away. Jumps from the toes of his feet back into standing position.
“Again!” he shouts.
The next fight is even quicker. They’re both almost not defending, just taking punches and kicks as they come and giving back just as good. With the first fight, they both measured the opponent’s speed and strength. The ground fight was a miscalculation on Katsuki’s part caused by his quickness to anger. He shouldn’t have allowed Izuku to get him on the ground like that.
“Hey! Where did you just go? Eyes on me!” Izuku yells as he kicks at Katsuki’s side.
He snarls as he kicks off the ground, knee making contact with Izuku’s hands, forming a guard just in time to avoid getting hit in the face. The other boy smiles before attacking back, throwing punches at his head, followed by a swift kick which he avoids and catches with his arm, locking the leg against his shoulder. With a kick, he sweeps Izuku and he goes down facing the floor. Not wanting a repeat of earlier, Katsuki twists Izuku’s right arm behind his back and locks his legs, kneeling on top of him.
Like this, they’re so intimately close he can feel every time the smaller boy wriggles and tries to free his other arm from under him or buck and rise to throw him off. He cranks the shoulder back harder, uses his elbow and chest to push down on Izuku’s neck as he squirms underneath. Their heads close together, Katsuki's sure Izuku feels his breath on his face as he says, “Yeah. I’m looking right at you.”
“I yield. I yield.” Izuku says, unable to tap with either hand.
“Woah, I was sure Midoriya was better on the ground, but it’s hard when your face is pressed up against the mat like that, huh?” Red Hair called out.
Elbow Joints joined in. “But that hold Midoriya did was fantastic. I thought Bakugо̄’s shoulder was gonna pop off!”
“That was quick!” Izuku said, rotating his arm, holding on to the shoulder. “I can really feel that.”
“Let’s go!” he roared.
Taking initiative, he launches at Izuku with a right hook, nailing him in the jaw, followed by a one-two shot to the body. They trade blows until Izuku clinches in and tries to throw him. Getting out of the hold, he kicks at Izuku’s legs and bodies him down into the mat.
Katsuki straddles his chest and wails punches over and over at his head, but Izuku manages to throw him off, gets horizontally on top of him and pins Katsuki's head and chest with both legs. Izuku pulls his extended right arm out in a lock against his chest and arms.
“Fuck! Fuck, dammit!” Katsuki curses.
“Do you yield?”
Katsuki tried to hook his leg and catch him with a kick but Izuku wriggles and adjusts the choke and lock, causing his feet to only hit air. He’s getting tired and it’s not easy to breathe in his position. His right arm’s been cranked twice now and he’s starting to really feel it in the shoulder joint.
“Dammit! Agghhh, you shit!”
“Do you yield?” Izuku demanded again, his legs squeezing .
There’s really no point, the lock is perfect, but Katsuki tries to escape anyway. His breathing is getting heavier and his sweat is dripping into his eye, stinging. Fuck this! His arms have no business getting used against him like this when he should be able to just blast an opponent away. In any other training he’s been on, close range fighting is almost always his advantage. He’s devastating up close and he maneuvers easily.
His frustration mounts as Izuku squeezes more delicately, adding pressure to his neck and shoulders, and he throws his other hand up and thinks of blasting the annoying little shit away.
Katsuki feels Yagi-sensei tap him on the leg and he stops resisting. Izuku lets go immediately.
“Are you alright, Bakugо̄-shо̄nen?”
“I’m fine. Why does everyone keep worrying about me?" He scoffs. “Wasn’t even choked out or anything.”
“Bakugо̄-shо̄nen, Midoriya-shо̄nen, take your protective gear off and wipe yourselves down. Everyone, gather around! Let's talk about what we saw in this impromptu sparring demonstration.”
When they were settled — Katsuki having to call facilities to properly dispose of his sweat-soaked gloves — Yagi-sensei started a debriefing for the class.
“You will go over this with Ectoplasm during your hand-to-hand combat training but since we’re here now, we might as well. What you just witnessed is hard sparring. For beginners, this is not advised. Even for practised and trained individuals, it may be a bad idea depending on the situation. I let it happen only because I have an idea of what these two young men are capable of and because I could stop them when needed.” The Hero started. “When used correctly, sparring is a wonderful learning environment. You spar to learn and to develop your skills, technique and reflexes along with your partner. It’s a close simulation used to prepare you for a real fight, but it is not a fight. It’s not about winning or losing.”
“Bakugо̄-shо̄nen, what did you learn during your session?” He asked.
That Izuku can physically overpower me. That I hate losing in general but I hate losing to him especially.
I don't like this and I don't know him and I don't know how to act around him and everything's fucked and—
“I’m used to fighting with my Quirk. None of those attacks would work on me in a real-world scenario.” Katsuki answered.
"Class? What did you think of Bakugō-shōnen's performance earlier?"
Ponytail had her hand up in the air again. "Sensei, I thought he attacked too recklessly for someone who didn't know how the enemy fought. But I also admired his quickness and initiative."
"A good thing to bring up, Yaoyorozu-shōjo. In practise, you can choose to hang back and fight defensively or you can take the role of the aggressor. It's good to experiment with both." Yagi-sensei shared. "So that in a real fight, you'll have a feel for what to prioritise. Observation, counter attacking, or putting on the pressure by taking initiative— all will depend on your fighting style."
"Bakugō and I have sparred many times before and usually he's the one doing the taunting. I'm not sure how Midoriya lured him near the walls or goaded him to make attacks that led to easy takedown opportunities," Half and Half said.
"That's another thing, isn't it? The mental game. Some enemies will just know how to get under your skin. There's where your training will meet with your resolve." Their teacher replied. “Bakugō-shōnen, choose whether you want to develop techniques to bolster your weaknesses or if you want to double-down on your strengths going forward.”
Turning to Izuku, “How about you, Midoriya-shо̄nen?”
“ Hai! First, my partner was really amazing!” Izuku said, smiling widely. “I’m very good in close range, but if we were using Quirks and there were explosions going around, I’d have limited long or medium-range moves to counter or suppress his attacks..."
"Midoriya's attacks were great. But it looked like he took more hits than he should've. In a slug fest, that's not very sustainable..." said Face Mask.
Four-Eye added, "Midoriya-kun was faster than I expected. He's a good gap-closer. But that might put him at a disadvantage if he's fighting against enemies with offensive touch-activated Quirks."
"Thank you, Shōji-shōnen and Iida-shōnen. His basics are quite good but he fights almost… too passionately. He was very engaged, wasn't he?" Yagi-sensei said with a chuckle, as though that's something funny. "Your Quirk is new to you. You haven't lived with it and honed it like your peers have. Now, it's time to synergise, Midoriya-shōnen."
“During your own training sessions, pay attention to your areas of strengths and weaknesses.” He called out to the class. “What can you exploit during a fight? Where can an enemy get the better of you? The best fighters change and adapt. You can only do that with enough clarity and self-awareness. Understood?”
“Alright. That’s it for our first day. Remember your diet and training plan. And start your training logs right away. But don’t forget to rest and get plenty of sleep. Class dismissed.”
“Thank you very much!”
The class started to clear out. Ponytail and Earlobes were leading the girls to get their uniforms from the lockers before the boys took over the room again.
"Kacchan." Izuku said, appearing at his side.
"What do you want?"
"I'm going to see Recovery Girl. Do you want to come with me?"
"For this? Fuck no."
He felt Izuku grasp at the hem of his shirt, pulling him up short.
"We traded blows and I shoulderlocked you twice. Come on, just have her look you over." Izuku said. "It's close by anyway. We can go on the way back to the classroom."
Katsuki couldn't say why he was so angry and annoyed. Izuku looked concerned but the words triggered a response from him that had him tasting bile in his throat.
"You're openly just mocking me, aren't you?" He tugged Izuku's arm off him. "You get one win off me and you think I'm so weak, huh?"
"What? No —"
"Well, you better cherish that. I promise, I won't lose to you again." He marched out of the gym and was headed back to the elevators to get to the classroom when he hears a bang and sees a streak of green lightning pass him.
Izuku's suddenly in front of him. That was him. That was him using his Quirk.
"I don't know why you're so mad at me but don't you dare put words in my mouth! I don't think you're weak! I'll never think that about you. I'm not mocking you or looking down on you. Or whatever stupid things you're thinking of right now!"
Is he—? Oh, fuck off, he is, isn't he?
"Are you seriously crying right now? What the fuck?"
"We drifted apart. And it's mostly my fault. I get it! I get that you don't care about us anymore but you can't just tell me not to worry about you or care if you're hurt, I can't do that!"
What the hell—
"I'm not hurt!" He yelled. "You're not so good to fucking break me, you dumb piece of shit! And what's that? You care about me? Really?"
He can't even laugh. It's hilarious and he can't even fucking muster a single damn smile.
"You care so much you just up and fucking left?"
Izuku seemed struck. "Is that— Before I left, I sent you a letter telling you everything. Did you get it?"
"Well, did you read it?"
"Damn it, maybe you should have! I told you—" The greenhead was breathing deeply, trying to calm down. Good for him because Katsuki's not climbing down any time soon.
"Kacchan, I had to go. It wasn't a hard choice— no, it was, in some ways. Leaving mom. She had her work and her patients and she wanted to stay. And it's good she got a break from me and was able to pursue grad school like she always wanted to."
Izuku stared up at him. "Leaving you. Without a goodbye. After the last time… But it was an easy choice. Yagi-sensei was the only person able and willing to give me what I couldn't even try to do on my own back here."
He wiped at his cheeks, eyes red. "But look what happened. My Quirk finally manifested. Weren't we waiting, all those years before? We're both in Yūei, as future Heroes, like we always said we'd be! Why does it seem like you're mad at me for that?"
"Maybe it's because I am! I don’t know why. I don’t know exactly.” He paced. “I don’t know how to feel about you. About everything— you being back. The fact that you were gone in the first place! This new Quirk. The shit I said to you in the beach—”
“I don’t know where we stand. I don’t know how to act around you. You’re my best friend and you should know me better than anyone and I should be the same for you, but you don’t and I don’t because everything’s changed! Everything's fucked!”
His voice kept rising and he couldn’t help it. Their reunion was just so mixed up. It felt too late. Or maybe way too early? Like it should have happened some other way. Just, not like this. Whatever this was.
His breath was coming short and fast and he knew these signs. Could feel the itch in his palms, the urge to just blow up. He held onto the mental and breathing exercises he's been taught but he's slipping, so close to drowning.
“I feel like I don’t know you and it’s freaking me out! I think you fucking ruined us!"
"Would you have preferred me weak and helpless?"
"I would have preferred you here with me." He spat. "Don't follow me. I swear I'll fucking blow you to hell if you do."
Katsuki, drowning in a roaring, choking anger that's threatening to topple every speck of his control, walks away from his heart. Left it shattered, alone, behind him.