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The You that Never Was

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They met when Inko was twenty.

Really, he was a straight catch, with a lean figure, sparkling eyes, and hair the color of shorn wheat. He walked with his head held high, his usual sweater neat and tidy, with nary a scuff on his clothes, shoes, or...anywhere, really.

His name was Haruto. Last name? That wasn’t so important, not in the grand scheme of things. The kanji reflected the softness and clarity of his voice, and the smooth way he enunciated every syllable, spoke every word as though it had weight and it mattered. He spoke slowly, carefully, and always made sure to stare in your eyes when he talked to you.

He was an art major. Theater, in specific. Of course he was, what else could he be? He read the greats with ease, wowed the crowds, and walked on stage as though he was born to be there, without an ounce of fear.

When Inko was twenty-one, she fell in love.

When they were twenty-four, he went where she could never follow, and she was left pregnant, low on money, and married to a man willing to keep a shared secret.

When she was twenty-five, her son was born with sparkling eyes and tufts of hair the color of shorn wheat.

As a final request to the man with the calming voice and the confident smile, she named him “Katsuki”.

When Katsuki was two, the man she’d married was gone.

When Katsuki was three, they moved in a small apartment in a quieter part of town with little more than the clothes on their back and a few meager pieces of furniture.

They were alone, but they had each other.

...

When he turned four, Katsuki lost one of the things that tied him and the man she loved together the most.

His smile.

Chapter Text

                Chapter 1: A Night in Musutafu

 

There was another man in the threshold of their apartment.

 

No, date. He, like the others, was a date .

 

No matter how many times he said the phrase over and over in his mind, it still felt foreign, weird . It was like something that wouldn’t slot into place properly, sparking when he put too many volts through it.

 

And just like those times, the situation caught fire if he didn’t take the necessary precautions first.

 

(Though what he wouldn’t give to have a fire extinguisher around for days like these. Just to douse the flame and make it go away.)

 

This time, Katsuki Midoriya was nothing if not prepared.

 

He did everything his Mom asked without complaint: all of his spare parts and circuit boards were picked up off the floor, put in baggies and carted to their usual spaces in the bunny and wolf-shaped bins in either corner of the living room, neatly placed so they wouldn’t break or get any pieces chipped off. His other components were boxed and placed nearby, in a cat-shaped bin that was a bit larger than the other two to compensate for things he had to put in it. The tables were cleaned of any spare soot or oils, and any hints of that afternoon's...experiments vanished without a trace.

 

Experiment was, perhaps, a strong word, but he didn’t know what else to call it. He didn’t have a lab or anything, but he tested things, and like with all science experiments, he sometimes ran into a few snags.

 

That thankfully didn’t set any of the furniture on fire.

 

(He didn't know what he did wrong. He was careful, right? He was so sure that it would work, too…)

 

Katsuki watched the intruder from his usual perch on the back of the couch. Legs dangled off the side, hands bunched in the fabric, twisting this way and that as he tried to fight off a scowl.

 

He wasn’t smiling, not by any stretch of the imagination. But...a tight line, flat against his lips that was just hard enough to where he wouldn’t be puckering his lips like a fish trying to kiss someone, that was okay, right? It wasn’t intimidating, at least.

 

After all, this guy looked like he was at least decent this time.

 

Well, fine. Decent was relative: he was pudgy, his features were more a collection of assets than a face, and his clothes had certainly seen better days. Mom always dressed in pretty clothes when these men came; would it have hurt him to wear something that didn’t have an obvious bull dog sauce stain on it, like he dropped a hunk of tonkatsu on his shirt before coming here? The whiskers under his nose were uneven, too, and he was sweating a lot.

 

He wasn’t giving Katsuki the usual look , though. He wasn’t glaring at him with that ultra-flimsy, fake smile on his face, or staring at his Mom like he wanted to eat her.

 

The guy was even carrying a bunch of pink carnations when he came in.

 

It was in a vase on the kitchen table before Mom even had to ask.

 

“Miss Inko? Are you ready to go?”

 

...He was impatient, though. If she was ready, she would have told him already, idiot. She was still in her bedroom, with the door cracked just enough to listen in, but not enough to where a weirdo could storm in. Not that Katsuki would have let them if they tried; once was enough, and this guy was impatient, but not... that .

 

“Not just yet!” See? “Just wait a few minutes, okay, Takeshi?”

 

“That’s fine,” Weird Face laughed awkwardly, almost too awkward against the lopsided smile he was wearing. “Do what you have to.”

 

“Sorry for taking so long! I’ll be ready as soon as I can!”

 

“You don’t apologize. It’s my fault for coming early, after all.”

 

No kidding.

 

Katsuki shook his head and kicked his legs against the back of the couch. He could feel the droop of his lips, the tightening of what must have been some sort of scowl.

 

He kicked again, this time with a louder, harder thump against the plush fabric.

 

Stop frowning, idiot. Mom was looking forward to this today. The least he could do was try to seem approachable. Or at least try not to get too annoyed with the guy.

 

Easier said and done, but…

 

Mom deserved that much.

 

“You don’t have to worry about her.”

 

Weird Face was talking; it took a moment to realize that he was talking to Katsuki, and not to himself. Or to a wall.

 

His eyes were hooded and unreadable.

 

Katsuki met his gaze head-on.

 

“‘M not worried,” he said.

 

Weird Face took a step forward, laughing drily. “I get it. You’re the man of the house, and here I am--some old loser coming out of the blue to take your Mom away. If I were you, I’d be protective, too. You’re a good kid--I can respect that.”

 

Katsuki’s jaw clenched.

 

“But she’s gonna be in good hands. I’ll get her home, safe and sound, so don’t worry about it!”

 

“I said I ain’t worried.”

 

Oh, that might have been a little harder than he’d intended. Well, whatever. It was Weird Face’s fault for prying when he only needed to say what he needed once.

 

He didn’t yell, though. His eyes got dark, and his expression soured, but he lifted his hands in what seemed like a placating gesture, even giving Katsuki a (fake) lopsided half-smile. “Whoa, my bad for assuming. If you say you aren’t worried, then you aren’t worried.”

 

Neither said anything. Katsuki stared him down from his perch, watching him shift his weight from one foot to the next.

 

His eyes stayed on him, but they shifted slightly, like they wanted to look anywhere but straight ahead.

 

Well, good. Katsuki didn't want to look at him either, even if he kept doing it.

 

Their eyes were locked, neither backing down.

 

Weird Face would turn away eventually.

 

They always did, after all.

 


 

In all the years she had spent as a mother, Inko Midoriya knew two important truths:

 

One: If she heard her son screaming, it was time to drop whatever she was doing and see what was going on.

 

Two: Katsuki’s silences were often more worrying than his fits.

 

Sometimes, this was limited to the little things, like sneaking into cookie jars to arrange them so his favorites were always on the top of the stack, or trying to steal away with some unfinished dinner while she was distracted.

 

Others, though…

 

Gods have mercy.

 

If Inko ever had to see the sight of her then eight-year-old son sniffling while quietly cleaning his own vomit off the living room floor ever again, it would be too soon.

 

When strangers came by, though? Or in this case (and many, many others), a date ? Well, then it was even worse. Like, ‘crank those rules up to 100 and hover like a hawk until everything went back to normal’ worse.

 

Sometimes it was because he threw too hard of a glare when her back was turned, or made a comment that between mother and son was a matter of course, but certainly not something strangers would be accustomed to (“Katsu-chan, even if they quoted the proverb incorrectly, most grownups don’t like it when you tell them that, okay? Wait until they get to know you better before you do things like that.”). The amount of times she had to reassure livid or disgruntled adults that “no, he really did not intend to upset you, he’s just bad at dealing with people,” was bordering on absurd.

 

With children, it was even worse.

 

In those moments, Inko thanked the Gods for Bakugou Izuku and his steadfast friendship. Without it…

 

Well.

 

Katsuki was not a bad child, though; far from it. He had a serious difficulty relating to others and was not the most sociable of children, but his heart was always in the right place. Even when he glowered at potential dates, crossed his arms and exposed the innocent lies all men told to impress a woman, and loudly protected the family cat from overzealous newcomers who tried to grab her without warning, he was not malicious.

 

Rough, sure. Blunt, definitely. Stubborn? Inko had seen brick walls easier to budge.

 

But cruel? Mean-spirited? Hardly.

 

Maybe Takeshi would see that.

 

Well, possibly. She was not a pessimist, by any means, but even her suspension of disbelief had its limits.

 

...Look, if the Inko of nine years ago was told that her precious Katsuki would enrage multiple grown men to the point of considering manslaughter, she wouldn't have believed it. But this was the world she lived in, and sometimes a mother had to come to terms with that and make decisions accordingly.

 

It didn't make it any easier to see those looks levelled at her son.

 

This is going to be better. I have to think positive!

 

If she didn't, then Katsuki would notice, and the last thing she needed was her own nine year old son watching out for her as though he was the parent.

 

He was too young to be worrying about things like that.

 

Far, far too young.

 

Clothes situated and bracelet snapped around her wrist, she swallowed and stepped out of the bedroom and into the entranceway.

 

Now the question remained: was the silence the result of a truce or a stand-off?

 

“Sorry for taking so long. I’m ready--”

 

...stand-off. This was definitely a stand-off.

 

Takeshi was handling him about as well as expected. That is, he and Katsuki were on opposite ends of the apartment, and stared at each other with rigid bodies and heated eyes that could melt steel. The added height from Katsuki’s usual perch on the couch added a degree of intimidation that a nine-year-old wouldn’t normally have, and Takeshi actually lost height in the exchange, slouching forward slightly with twitching hands sitting near his knees.

 

If it wasn't such a common sight, it might have been ridiculous enough to call funny .

 

Inko cleared her throat.

 

“Katsu-chan, do you have everything ready to go to Auntie Mitsuki’s tonight?”

 

Both of the competitors turned towards her. Katsuki’s shoulders slumped, and Takeshi’s stance relaxed. Her son didn’t hesitate to kick the back of the couch once, just for good measure.

 

Neither said anything.

 

“Katsu-chan?”

 

A pause stretched between them before Katsuki hopped off. He trotted towards her, but didn’t initiate the hug; she reached for his head and gently pulled him to her leg.

 

His tiny arms wrapped around her after two seconds.

 

“Uh-huh. My bag’s by the door, Mom,” he said.

 

“Well, why don’t you say goodbye to Fireball before we go? She’ll be really sad if she doesn’t hear from her favorite little scientist before he leaves.”

 

Katsuki gripped her tighter.

 

Pause.

 

Release.

 

“‘Kay.”

 

He turned around, and jogged towards his room, before stopping at the door. He threw a glare Takeshi’s way before going inside.

 

Inko sighed.

 

Takeshi’s shoulders relaxed for the first time since he came inside the apartment.

 

“Seems like a handful,” he said. “Is he always like that?”

 

“Not always, no. He’s just shy around strangers.”

 

“Oh, of course, of course.”

 

He seemed to be taking it in stride; this was a good sign. Some barely even made it past this part.

 

“Thank you for being patient with him,” she said. “He’s really a sweet boy once you get to know him. He’s just…it takes a while for him to open up.”

 

Takeshi laughed; it was a little slippery, like his hair, but not particularly unpleasant. “I’ll say. Wouldn't be surprised if the kid had a rock quirk or something.”

 

Inko stiffened. Oh no.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing like that.”

 

Please drop it. Please drop it. She didn't want to talk about this now.

 

Not with Katsuki only a few feet away.

 

Not when he could potentially see his reaction.

 

Usually she was able to get through this awkward conversation before they even made it through the front door--rather, before the first date, but Takeshi had been so persistent . He’d asked for a date without really knowing much about her, and he’d kept asking her out in front of patients and her co-workers…

 

It would have been rude to say “no.”

 

But now she was wishing that she had been, at least a little.

 

“Now you’ve got me curious,” he teased. “So what is it then? Electricity? Telepathy? Some Zero Gravity quirk?”

 

“Well…”

 

Drop it. Just drop it. Drop it, please.

 

Inko bit her lip.

 

“Well, his hair is pretty crazy; maybe it’s something to do with fire…”

 

When had her hands balled into fists?

 

“He is kind of cold, though, so is it ic--”

 

“None of them!”

 

He stopped. Tilted his head quizzically; his smile was still there.

 

“None of them?” He asked.

 

She sucked in a breath.

 

“None of them,” she said. “Katsuki’s...he’s Quirkless. And I would appreciate it if you did not bring this up where he could hear you.”

 

All the mirth drained from his face.

 

He turned away.

 

“Oh. I’m sorry, Miss Inko.”

 

She kept her gaze steady.

 

“You don’t need to apologize for something I’m not ashamed of.”

 

A few feet away, Katsuki’s bedroom door clicked shut.

 


 

[Today: 17:12] Inko: Mitsu, thank you for looking after him tonight.

[Today: 17:13] Me: nbd, he practically lives here anyway

[Today: 17:15] Inko: Is it just you tonight, or is Masaru going to be there?

[Today: 17:16] Me: masaru is still out for work

[Today: 17:17] Inko: Okay.

[Today: 17:36] Inko: We’re on our way.

[Today: 17:36] Me: he bringing the cat

[Today: 17:37] Inko: No.

[Today: 17:39] Me: ok b safe

 

“Izuku! Get your butt down here, the brat will be here soon!”

 

Mitsuki Bakugou put her phone down on the kitchen counter, looked at her watch, and waited.

 

Three…

 

Two…

 

One--

 

Boom .

 

Please tell her that wasn’t a door exploding. No, really, please tell her that wasn’t a door exploding . How many doors was that now? Two? Three?

 

Wait. The door slammed against the wall, and then it tapped it again. The unmistakable splinter of cracking and crumbling wood was nowhere to be seen.

 

False alarm. Crisis averted.

 

Heavy, pattering steps echoed from upstairs.

 

“Kacchan?! He’s here?”

 

If Izuku wasn’t her own son, she would have sworn he was part dog. Or rabbit. Or something overexcitable with floppy ears and a tail that could swish back and forth whenever something excited him. She wasn’t even looking, but the creak of the wood told her that he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, and the slaps against wood were clearly his hands hitting the banister with each jump.

 

With this much energy, it was hard to believe that the kid was already nine, especially when standing next to his more reserved, surly brat of a friend.

 

The kid still played with action figures in the bath for fuck’s sake.

 

Almost here, kiddo.” She still didn’t look up, but Mitsuki kept herself close to the staircase. You know. Just in case. “And what did I tell you about using explosions in the house?”

 

The bouncing stopped.

 

“...Oh. Sorry.”

 

“If I find out that you broke your bedroom door again, you know what’ll happen, right?”

 

Of course she knew he didn't do it, but squirming built character; and with a kid as timid as her Izuku, he could stand to grow a bit of a pair. Not that she knew what she was even supposed to do -- “something bad” was enough to scare children into compliance, she learned.

 

And, as she thought it would, it worked like a charm.

 

“Izuku?”

 

Mitsuki heard his gulp from where she was standing.

 

“D-don’t worry, Mom! I didn't break it! I promise!”

 

She chuckled.

 

“I’ll hold you to that, kid.”

 

“Okay, I--” one quick step. Two. Three.

 

His steps faltered, a slip of a socked foot against the wood, and a loud surprised cry.



“Mooom!”

 

Mistuki’s head shot up just in time to see her nine year old son, already halfway down the staircase, start to tumble downwards, head first.

 

“Shit!”

 

Years of practice helped her feet move without hesitation; long strides, few steps, and she was already close enough to reach out her arms and clutch his shirt and jerk him back up.

 

...that was way too easy. Izuku was so light ; was he eating enough? Even in her uncomfortable half-crouched position, she held him with one hand easily. Maybe she needed to fatten him up a little, or at least increase his calorie intake.

 

First things first: check Izuku. See if he’s okay.

 

“Mom, I’m okay! Can...can you put me down now?”

 

He was squirming in her grip, but he wasn’t crying. No bruises, no bumps, and no blood.

 

He seemed okay.

 

“You know what? I think I’m gonna carry you until that brat gets here. Since you can’t seem to walk properly.”

 

She was already tugging him into her arms, cradling him under one arm. His arms wrapped around her neck and squeezed, the big baby.

 

Still, he looked mortified .

 

“Mooom, you can't! What if Kacchan sees me?!”

 

Mitsuki smirked. “Tough luck for you then, kiddo.”

 

“Moooooom!!”

 


 

The ride to Auntie’s place was silent, save for the droning of the radio.

 

Weird Face drove the car with his hands drumming on the wheel in a staccato (or what he thought was a staccato -- he’d seen classmates who could barely hold their recorder properly with better musical sense) in hopes to keep time with some rock song that he didn't recognize.

 

Mom kept glancing at him as he sat in the backseat.

 

Katsuki clutched his bag a little tighter.

 

“Katsu-chan,” Mom’s voice was like rock candy: heavy and far too sweet.

 

His fault. It was his fault again.

 

“I’ll text you when I’m on my way back to come get you.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Don’t worry kiddo,” Weird Face cut in, “I won’t keep your Mom too long.”

 

Who asked you?! And don't get too familiar; You might never even come by again. I don't want you to come by again.

 

“I keep tellin’ you, I ain’t worried!” Katsuki’s hands were tight, almost trembling against the strap of his bag, and it took everything he had not to lean forward, just to wipe that stupid look from Weird Face’s....dumb face. “I know Mom can take care of herself.”

 

She took care of herself -- of them -- so far, right? Why did these guys all think she was some simpering weakling?

 

If she could hang around with someone like (him) Auntie Mitsuki without getting too mad or leaving, that had to say something about her, right? And she always tried to smile, and could be really cool when creepy old ladies whispered things that he couldn’t hear to her when they were out.

 

It was annoying, seeing people assume things about her.

 

Super annoying.

 

“...han?”

 

Katsuki looked up.

 

When did the car stop moving? Weird Face was staring forward, but Mom was turned towards him, seatbelt off, and smiling. Her hair was falling out of the shiny All Might clip and over her face, but it didn’t look sloppy or messy.

 

She always looked pretty.

 

He blinked.

 

“Huh?”

 

She laughed. “We’re here, sweetheart. Do you want me to give you hugs and kisses before you go inside?”

 

Yes.

 

Katsuki shook his head, but his mother was already leaning forward. “I don’t need it. ‘M okay--”

 

Her hugs were warm, and the kisses to the side of his head were sweet and insistent. He knew better than to think she would ever not do this, even with Weird Face right there. Even when she talked to her dates, he always came first.

 

“Have a good night, sweetie. Do you want me to walk you to the door?”

 

Katsuki’s hand was already on the handle, shoving the door open, probably a little harder than necessary.

 

Whatever.

 

“Nuh-uh. I got it, Mom. Night.”

 

He clutched his bag and hopped out, slamming the door behind him. She watched him trot around the car, careful to avoid Weird Face’s proximity before pounding his little fist on Auntie Mitsuki’s door.

 

The car started to drive away, but suddenly stopped, only moving again once the front door suddenly swung open.