Katsuki is starting to hate the sound of her name.
“Bakugou- are you even listening to me?” Raccoon Eyes crowds too close, ignoring the way Katsuki coils tense. “How am I supposed to apologize to you if you’re not listening to me?”
She stares at the bus, at Four-Eyes that she mentally slots to Class Rep when she notes the band around his arm, a nagging sort of memory of a vote ghosting past before she dismisses it entirely as he tries to make them file into a line.
“It’s a fucking bus,” she growls, barely resisting the urge to slam her shoulder into him as she pushes past.
“Bakugou-san,” a finger pushing up, glasses flashing, “you are ignoring the importance of-“
“I don’t care.”
“He does have a point,” Katsuki hears somewhere behind her as she passes by the surprisingly spacy seats in the middle and hauls herself up in the first seat after the door, folding her arms up on the railing in front of her and after a few minutes her skin crawls as Punk drops down beside her.
“You should thank me,” the other girl has the audacity to drawl when she notices Katsuki’s foul mood. “Iida made Ashido stay in line but she was looking real eager to join you.”
Katsuki bares her teeth but doesn’t respond, slumping deeper into her arms and glaring mulishly down at nothing as the last person files in and Aizawa-sensei droops down into one of the last seats near the front.
The trip to USJ is surprisingly long – not quite that she finds herself dozing off but long enough that she gets why they took the bus when they had perfectly workable legs and a teacher who enjoyed driving them to the ground.
Katsuki entertains the picture of Aizawa-sensei on a small pink scooter at the front of the pack, class heaving and struggling to keep up…
Snorts quietly to herself, slanting a look to the side when Deku stammers out loudly, arms waving in front of him.
“They’re nothing alike!” he denies frantically. “All Might is… All Might! And I keep… I keep breaking my bones.” He practically wilts on himself as Froggy tilts her head, finger at her lip. “It’s – we’re really nothing alike.” Red faced, nervous, incredibly bad liar.
But what is he lying about? Her brow creases momentarily before she decides that she doesn’t care and turns her gaze to the nearing stadium-like building, anticipation curling low in her gut.
One moment she’s rearing back to slam her foot into the brimstone-smelling Villain and the next she’s in a roll, coming up with her hands slamming into the face of a low-ranking cockroach, skin fizzling as she burns off a hard explosion that sends him careening back with half the skin on his face missing, unconscious before he hit the ground.
She spits a wad of saliva at his crotch, categorizing the situation with coiled fists as Shitty Hair drops an unconscious one down beside her, eyebrows creased. “We better finish this off quick,” he says in an undertone, skin mottling strangely, almost like some sort of living rock, as he spies about the gathering of Villains watching them with wariness. “And then help the rest.”
Katsuki bares her teeth.
“You do that.” She lets sweat bead thick in her palms, feels the acrid sweetness of her quirk stinging her nose. “I’m taking out the Fog Bastard.”
She is surprised when – instead of fighting her on it he gives her words some consideration.
“You’re right,” Shitty Hair says breathing out, mouth stretching into a grin as he pushes his fist against his palm. “Let’s put our faith in our classmates and get this over with!”
She scoffs, anger and anticipation alike in her chest as she fixates on the closest enemy.
Katsuki thinks that, for just a moment, there’s a strange hollowness to the form of All Might – visible through the smoke before a wall rises sharp and tall between them and she twitches away from Shitty Hair who had reached out to put a hand on her shoulder.
She turns away.
It’s none of her business anyway.
The USJ incident leaves Aizawa-sensei with arms wrapped up and a scar by his eye and there’s a significant increase in security that means full-body scanning and new student IDs.
“It’s hard to digest it, you know?” Raccoon Eyes says from where she’s perched across her, completely ignoring the foul glare Katsuki has levelled upon her, bento precariously balanced on a knee. “I mean – what was the point of it? In the end All Might won because he’s… you know… All Might.”
Katsuki shoves a grape into her mouth, biting down hard and with relish, firmly ignoring her.
Raccoon Eyes slants a considering look her way. “You’re going to have to talk to me eventually,” she points out. “Whether during lesson or out in the field – there’s no way you can ignore me forever.”
Try me, Katsuki thinks fiercely.
“I thought we had a thing going,” Raccoon Eyes sighs, mock-mournfully. “Building rapport, learning the ins and outs of each other, becoming buds. You were fine with me and what kind of person would I be if I didn’t want my explosive friend to get along with my other two idiot friends, hm?”
We’re not friends, Katsuki thinks and her jaw aches as she strains not to express it verbally. I don’t have friends.
I don’t need friends.
There’s a blinking address when she gets off from school two days later which makes her hesitate – thumb tracing over the unsaved number with a faint crease in her brow.
XXX-XXXXX-XX: Or are you too high-and-mighty to spend some time with me?
The mocking text stares at her for a full minute before she snorts and shoves the phone down her pocket after deleting it.
It’s a strange place – a bit off but still central enough that she’s drawn up against a wall near a sign that makes people veer around her and it both, one hand absently tracing around the shell of one of her headphones, tracking people with a frown as she waits for the familiar stretch of purple scars only-
He’s covered them up, of course, and Katsuki raises a brow at the thick purple scarf, the shade near exact the colour of his scars, wrapped about enough times to challenge Aizawa-sensei’s capture weapon, a cap shoved low and a slouchy sort of appearance that echoes closer to Katsuki’s own style.
It begged the question as to why he felt like he needed to cover up and it raised questions about why he’d called Katsuki out if it wasn’t to fight.
And why the fuck she’d agreed to it.
Dabi drags his eyes up from her shoes to her eyes, a considering hmm where’d he’d paused in front of her, looming with his considerable height even with his back curved, one hand reaching out to brush against the mottled yellow bruise on her cheek as her jaw clenches at the contact.
“Seems they didn’t get you too bad,” Dabi muses, beckoning her along, as if she was some kind of dog-
But, Katsuki realises, as she takes a step forward to follow, there’s no real anger just a flare of annoyance because Dabi was a fucking asshole who did as he wanted and she knew that.
“Where are we going?” she bites out, finding herself a step closer to Dabi than was reasonable to avoid a tall, broad and muscular man with bandana storming past. “And why the fuck are you looking like that? Trying to copy my style now?” She slouches back out of his personal bubble.
“Patience, Baku-chan.” She twitches. “Now, I have an important question for you.” He comes to a halt, hand disappearing down his pocket, and she can just see the way the corner of his mouth hitches up over the edge of his scarf. “Vanilla or chocolate?”
Katsuki stares down at the ice cream in her hand, at the white swirls with a sprinkle of colourful marshmallows that tilt precariously.
Beside her Dabi has abandoned his cap and tugged down the scarf, tongue dragging with a long curve around his vanilla ice cream before disappearing into his mouth with a flick against the tip of it.
She takes a hesitant bite, nose crinkling before she relaxes with a small huff.
“Please tell me you didn’t call me out for ice cream,” Katsuki says as she bites through the shell of the cone, fingers already sticky where the force of her first bite had blown the bottom of it, dripping awkwardly from her fingers despite her best effort.
“Would you prefer it if I called you out to beat you to an inch of your life?” Dabi wonders and Katsuki’s brow furrows at the look in his eyes – a strange sort of thing that she can’t quite place.
“I would blow you the fuck up first,” she promises him and Dabi snorts, shoulders easing as he tilts his head up to the sky.
“How long has it been since we first met?”
Katsuki stares at him, takes another bite of her ice cream, eyes drifting to her feet.
She’d been twelve when they first met and in just a month she would be turning sixteen and thirty alike in merged lives.
It’s meetings that comes and goes depending on her expulsions from schools, moving twice during the years of their acquaintance, Dabi eventually turning up to bother her one way or the other.
He was a strange constant in her life, one of the few, reliable in a way that should have been concerning.
“Four years,” she offers after a brief moment. “Why? Feeling nostalgic?”
“You’re such a brat,” Dabi scoffs but there’s… something about his tone that makes Katsuki’s shoulders tense, wary and not quite understanding. “Messy too,” he says, observing as she flicks the last bit of the cone into her mouth, biting down just as he reaches for her hand, ignoring the way she curls up with tension as he raises her palm up, thumb pressing flat against the inside of her wrist.
And then her eyes goes wide for he bends down, tongue flattening against her palm, dragging up and over her finger, curving to get drop of white on her knuckle–
Katsuki snatches her hand back from his grip, red spreading across her cheeks as she draws back from him, a sly sort of look in his eyes that makes something strange knot up in her chest as he drops his hand, not looking particularly bothered at all with what he’d done.
“You need to learn caution, Baku-chan,” Dabi drawls, unwrapping his scarf and threading it around her neck, too close as he leans forward to get it around her, his breath a strange mix of sulphur and sweetness. “No one never knows what kind of people are out there, looking to use you.” His strange turquoise fixes upon her with a warning that sends a shiver up her back.
And then he’s ruffling her hair and she watches him leave, a wet thu-thump thu-thump in her chest, hand grasping at the fabric around her neck.
“The fuck!?” Katsuki bursts out in the remaining silence.
The Sport Festival approaches and between normal classes, Hero Training and preparations for it she ends up cleaning up the last of Dagobah Beach, a strange feeling settling in her chest as she stares out at it, feet bare, water dripping from her hair and down her body.
Somewhere about seagulls cries out and she drops down, sand immediately gluing itself to her boxers, and she knows she’s going to regret it later when she attempts to wrestle herself back into her shorts but she can’t get herself to care.
She breathes out, in. Feels the way her ribs expands as her lungs fills with air and the itch of a cigarette brings her mind to turquoise eyes and she feels her cheeks colouring, glaring down at her toes, burying them into the sand with a frustrated exhalation.
Sometimes Katsuki dreams of an apple orchard, feels the dirt on her palm, beneath her knees, a hand ghosting up her spine and a mouth tilting to meet her own beneath the warm sun.
She wakes up with screams choked down and tears on her face.
“I’m going to be the Best,” she tells the world with relish, tasting the absolute faith of the six-year-old boy that had been, ignoring the way her class groans behind her, ignores the way eyes narrow upon her back.
There’s a heady feeling, a warmth and weight of a promise made almost eight years ago when she woke up in a hospital bed in a body not her own.
The Sports Festival leaves her with a strange feeling inside her chest, gaze fixated on Deku who is staring up with wide startled eyes, as if unable to believe the way his name rises with exited cries in the stands around them at the end of the first task.
Katsuki gnashes her teeth together and beside her Half-n-Half crosses his arms, just shy of catching his breath, sweat dripping down one side if his face.
It’s not unlike the way Dabi doesn’t sweat when his quirk is in use on some level and she realises she’s been staring when the other turns towards her, eyebrow rising coolly, and one of his eyes are-
“I’m going to win this,” she snarls at him with a temper that flares hot and hard. “So don’t get in my fucking way.”
“So far neither of us are in the lead,” the other says flatly, completely unmoved, and the reaction makes her cheeks colour before she catches herself – something strange twisting up in her chest as she turns away and marshes into the arena.
Fucking Deku she’s going to fucking kill him-
Round Cheeks gives as good as she gets and Katsuki finds herself out of breath, panting and staring down at the other girl who had, finally, fainted – unable to move where she lies sprawled out, muscles and quirks strained to their max.
She’s aware of the way civilians and pro-Heroes alike are judging her in the stands and her face twists up before she breathes out and sets her face in a scowl.
What did gender have to do with competence? Nothing. Round Cheeks did good. Better than most would have against her. Other than Dabi and Deku there were few who stuck around to go head-on with her once explosions starting going off in her palms.
No one would have said anything had Round Cheeks been a boy.
She shoves her hands into the pockets of her training uniform and turns on her heel as she marches out.
It’s not Right.
Humiliation burns sick and heavy through her gut – chained and muzzled like a dog, her temper and feelings disregarded and panic so thick inside of her that only mounting anger overcomes it and she clings to it desperately with thousands of eyes upon her, future colleagues and civilians alike looking down at her as she struggles against the metal clasped around her wrists and mouth.
Laughter, sighs of exasperation, side-eyes and judgement.
She fights against nausea, against the burn of her eyes and a desperate wretched sort of horror, feeling terribly small in too big world as metal bites into her flesh, the medal heavy on her chest where All Might had forced it over her head.
She tears away from Midnight, ignores the strange fuzziness of the world around her as she pushes into the boy’s bathroom and locks the door shut behind her before collapsing down on her knees and heaving into the toiled, shaking and pressing her hands flat against her ears as she squeezes her eyes shut.
Craves silence and darkness as she shivers and her hands trembles and sickly sweetness stings her nose, palms slick with sweat.
She remains there for a long time, until the world has once again settled around her and all she’s left with is tired apathy and a strange sense of loss.
RACCOON EYES: Are you OK?
Bakugou stares at the message, curled up beside her bed, back against the bedside table, ignoring the way handles presses uncomfortably into her back.
RACCOON EYES: I tried to find you afterwards but you kinda disappeared.
RACCOON EYES: Not that I blame you.
Three dots stare back at her for a long time.
RACCOON EYES: Want to head to the cat café with me on Monday?
XXX-XXXXX-XX: Congratulations to a shitty win.
The phone explodes in her hand and she throws it against the door with a wordless snarl.
His parents make her favourite food and Katsuki draws her knees up to her chest where she sits at the end of the couch, tense and uncomfortable and scowling at the pictures on the television screen, headphones firmly in place.
She hasn’t taken them off since arriving home after the Sports Festival.
Mitsuki had attempted to gently cuff her earlier that day and she’s flinched back to violently she’d smacked her head into the wall and she’d done a sloppy work of wrapping it up, aware of their eyes upon her, aware of the way they see the trembles in her fingers, the way she’s coiled so tight that she doesn’t know what to do with herself.
She buries her face into her knees, elbows drawn tight over her face, humiliation so thick inside of her that she hadn’t been able to sleep, wretched and absolutely exhausted.
The sneers, the jeers, the laughter of hundreds at the sight of her-
Masaru gently settles a blanket over her shoulder, a tense look exchanged with his wife when his son only curls tighter upon himself.
“I’m coming with you to school today,” his mother says Monday morning and Katsuki pauses, oatmeal half-way raised to her mouth as she looks up.
Takes in the sharp, crisp business suit and the way Mitsuki is clearly gearing up for war in the clack of her sharp heels.
“You don’t have to take the train – we’re taking the car. I’ll even come pick you up after, if you want.” It’s an offer made breezily, an underlying tension in the way red eyes focus upon her – a slight scowl on the woman’s face. “I’m just going to have a quick chat with your Principal.”
Mitsuki smoothers down the crisp white blouse and Katsuki really doesn’t envy Nedzu one bit.
“… I’m meeting Ashido after school,” she says after a moment, the name strange in her mouth and an unfamiliar warmth in her chest as the watches the woman shove two bars down her purse along with a bottle of water. “We’re heading to a cat café,” she tacks on when both his parents pauses to look at her in surprise.
“Sounds wonderful,” Masaru says with a gentle smile and Katsuki ducks her head, shoving a good helping of oatmeal mixed with applesauce into her mouth.
His mother escorts her all the way to the classroom, a click-clack of sharp heels as they head down the empty corridor, and her classmates looks up in surprise when the woman pushes the door open, halting Aizawa-sensei mid-word as she gently pushes her inside, a cursory glance darting over the some-eighteen heads already gathered inside before fixating on their teacher who slowly straightens up from his cursory slump.
Mitsuki glances back down at Katsuki who blinks and stiffens in slight surprise when lips presses a kiss to her forehead, hand rising to rub absently at it with a frown.
“You must be Aizawa-san,” Mitsuki says briskly as she straightens out. “I’m looking forward to our talk later this afternoon.”
Aizawa looks rather like he does anything but look forward to it and Katsuki shoves her hands low in her pockets as she ambles down the line and collapsed into her seat with a scowl.
“A pleasure,” the man says and Mitsuki gives him a firm onceover before nodding sharply, door clicking shut behind her as she leaves.
Katsuki ignores the curious eyes, dragging her headphones up and over her head as she sinks into her seat and focuses on the movement of Aizawa’s lips as he picks the lesson back up, making no mention of her tardiness as he drones on about the lesson for the day.
Raccoon Eyes is clearly brimming with curiosity when she bounces up on the roof but there’s also something careful in her eyes – in the way she pauses to regard Katsuki, as if making a mental judgement on just how much she’d be able to push.
“So, that was your Mom, huh?” she says, folding down after shrugging off her backpack which drops to the ground beside her.
She keeps her mouth clear in Katsuki’s vision even as she digs through her backpack in search of her bento box.
“What about it?” she asks, voice strangely muffled with the headphones over her ears, making it hard to judge just how loud she was talking but not quite caring.
She wishes she could turn off the world completely. Wishes she’d never have heard the jeers of the crowd gazing down upon her-
Katsuki blinks as an octopus sausage with a lopsided grin and ill-matched eyes drops into her bento box, raising her head to gaze at the other.
“You like them, right?” Raccoon Eyes says with a raised brow. “It’s my first try so be kind to it!” She points dramatically with her chopsticks and Katsuki draws tight before remembering herself and snorts as she gazes back down at the happily grinning thing.
“You look a lot like your Mom, you know?” Raccoon Eyes says with her mouthful. “Same hair, same eyes. I don’t really look anything like my parents – quirk kicked in, made me pink and, well, this.” She flicks one yellow antenna on her head, mouth chomping down on piece of vegetable omelette the second she’d finished talking. Chews. Swallows. “Kinda nifty though – my Hero name is going to be Alien Queen.” Her eyes glitters when she says it. “You know what you’re going to call yourself yet?” she asks, popping a greasy fried shrimp into her mouth and twisting the tail off, dropping it aside.
Katsuki frowns, biting down on an eggroll.
Hero name? The boy had idealised names like King Explosion Murder and she’d snorted quietly to herself when reading through those carefully saved drawings kept at her bedside table.
Her Hero uniform is kinda inspired by those drawings – the black muscle shirt with the orange X, the idealized grenade cannons foregone for optimal movement while keeping the heavy boots over thick heavy-duty pants.
But the name…
She chews thoughtfully, nudging back one headphone just enough to follow along Raccoon Eyes chatter as she thinks.
BAKUGOU: I need to decide on a fucking Hero name.
XXX-XXXXX-XX: What kind of number is this.
XXX-XXXXX-XX: Did you blow up your phone?
XXX-XXXXX-XX: You explode. Make it something explode-y.
Three hours passes before three dots once again appear on the screen and a ding rings through the room with a faint buzz in the hands of the sleeping teen, screen lightening up the room in blue.
XXX-XXXXX-XX: I’m partial to Ground Zero if you’re taking suggestions.
The prospect of doing an Internship gnaws.
3, 556 – that’s how many invitations she’d gotten and the more she stares at the number the more ugly the feeling inside of her chest grows.
How many of these had looked upon her and laughed? How many of them saw a pet project that needed to be put in line? How many-
She doesn’t know. She doesn’t like it. Katsuki is fucking angry.
She rips the top of the list off and burns the rest to ash in her palm, letting the wind sweep it with until she’s left with the sting of achy sweetness in her nose and a list of some ten names.
The best of the best, the Heroes at the top of the line, people who were supposed to be good.
One of you, Katsuki thinks just a tad desperately and with a frail sort of hope that doesn’t belong in a world that lets her down over and over again.