It all begins with two tiny boys growing up a few houses down from each other, running gleefully about playing and pretending to be heroes. Best friends give each other nicknames, but when kids quirks start to reveal themselves and one boy doesn’t get one but the other does, the timid quirkless boy gets nicknamed with a word that means useless, the timid boy just compliments his friend on his advanced kanji reading skills. Loving and affectionate to the end.
Ever loyal, Deku continues to follow after his Kacchan with glowing admiration and tries to keep their friendship going. He sticks around, and offers him a hand when others can only think to shout from afar. Goodness goes bone deep and Katsuki knows Izuku is made of it, and it feels like a slight from the universe on both of them that it’s wasted on a wimpy kid without a quirk who’ll never get to make use of it. Katsuki envies him and reviles him in turn for it. Despite the guilt that builds up under his skin from it all, he can’t bring himself to sever their connection.
Izuku is a smart boy, when it becomes clear he mustn’t hold his breath waiting for a quirk he knows his inherent strength is in observation and analysis. He has spent his whole life watching already, if he can just start to break down what he sees into something usable he can do something with it all. Some boys would have turned to sports and weights and polished their bodies to be as strong as someone who is only human can be, but Izuku spent every moment taking notes and building on theory, sharpening his mind to a dangerous point.
Even Kacchan can see the knife edge wit under that curly mop, and when Deku gives to a tendency to mumble the workings of his mind aloud, it grates on every last nerve. Every irritating mumble is another press on the button that reminds Katsuki that goodness goes soul deep, and won’t rest even when it’s shoved into too-soft freckled skin. Skin with no callouses and no extra power underneath, skin that will bruise and bleed in an instant, with no way to protect itself. Every mumble is a voice whispering in his ear that the kid is going to kill himself trying to work the goodness out of himself into the world at large.
Katsuki couldn’t hate Izuku if he tried, he’s terrified of him and even more scared for him. Too cool to care so much for someone so useless and weak, it comes out as bullying, and as he gets stronger the contrast between himself and his childhood friend becomes more apparent and more horrifying. Unable to bear the burden of such feelings, he lashes out, and unable to parse what he could possibly do for someone in such an impossible situation, he tries to create distance, tries to create boundaries. He’s going to hurt them both this way but it sits heavy and ugly under his ribs and he has to do something with it and this is what it comes out as. It comes out as heat and flame and pain and too much force and aggression, and really, what else would come out of a boy with a quirk like his? A boy with an ugly ego like his? It burns white hot and it doesn’t even feel ironic that his quirk has come to suit him so well.
Izuku knows better than anyone how impossible his situation is. Nobody knows better how tight he’s caught between the rock of reality and the hard place formed by his unshakable desire to be a force of true good in this world. He knows best how far short he falls, and nobody is more frustrated than he. He takes the abuse from Kacchan and almost feels like he deserves it for not knowing his place, but he can’t accept it either. He can’t let well enough alone and he can’t condemn himself for hoping, so they grow apart, but never too far. Izuku knows Bakugo Katsuki is bound for greatness, and Izuku may not know it, but he has to be there for it. He has to see him win, and if he can, he wants to be by his side. The desire to stand next to him burns painfully in his chest, and he’s used to being hurt, so he just swallows it and lets it sit heavy and hideous beneath his ribs. Sometimes it looks like jealousy, and sometimes it looks like hate, other times it looks like pity and condemnation and so many other things he can’t bring himself to express.
Then comes the fateful day that he is taken under the wing of his biggest hero, and he has a chance now. He works himself to exhaustion without a second thought, works himself to the bone to be worthy of the chance to do something good, to be something great. He works and works and reaches out for a place at the school he knows Kacchan is bound for, and a whole world opens in front of him.
She swoops into his life and saves him twice, even though he’s just a plain-looking boy with curly hair and freckles. Granted, the second time she saves him, he’s just saved her, and from a much bigger danger than tripping, so they’re even really.
He’s so timid that he’s a perfectly non-threatening new friend to make in a brand-new scary high school hero program. Deku is a no-brainer for a new friend. He will protect her, and he is too sweet to need to worry about protecting herself from. His friend, Katsuki though, she’ll have to watch out for him. Everyone would, really, but he’s so funny and his skin is perfect, and god what awful taste but a girl can’t help what she’s attracted to! Ochako Uraraka finds herself laughing at Bakugo’s antics constantly, even when the other girls are offended or concerned, he’s just entertaining!
This is how it really begins, comfort and familiarity are a dangerous breeding ground for fluffy feelings, and while those brew everyone knows that the quickest way to a girl’s heart is to make her laugh. Marilyn Monroe said it best when she said “If you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything.” Uraraka never stood a chance. By the time the sports festival takes place, she’s already neck deep in a crush on Izuku Midoriya, while she simultaneously entertains the tiniest odd flame for the boy whose hands are basically pain and flame waiting to happen, and by the time Katsuki Bakugo beats her he’s half in love with her too some-crazy-how.
When her anxiety and grief from the loss subsides, she has this respect for Bakugo she can’t put words to, but she does her intern week at Battle Hero Gunhead’s agency because it hurt, but her battle with Bakugo set her free and she needs to grow. She returns to class more powerful and confident than ever before, and she wants to be strong and intrepid like Deku, but Bakugo is the one who treated her like a real opponent and gave everything to trying to beat her, and having him not let his guard down? That put steel in her spine, that gave her the guts she was missing just chasing after Deku.
Deku would save her literally whenever she wanted or needed him to, no question, but Ochako Uraraka has never been the type of girl to want to be rescued. She applied to UA’s hero program for a reason, and wanting to be saved by someone else was not it. The knowledge that this boy would put his life on the line for her in a second never fails to put a smile on her face and warmth in her chest.
Bakugo treats her like a peer and a challenge, and as a cute, curvy girl with pink cheeks and a sweet smile, this is new and thrilling. Even Present Mic commentated like she needed someone to protect her. Uraraka knows now that she is a force to be reckoned with, and her appreciation for Bakugo becomes a deep vested interest before she can even think about what a bad idea this is.
She watches them both, unable to help herself, and begins to notice how forced the distance between them is. She begins to see the way they hold one another close in their own small secret ways, and as in love as she doesn’t know she is yet, she can see the bridge here is not burnt, just in need of repair. Lucky for them, she comes from a family who works in construction.