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In the beginning, it was an accident — something Izuku’s frantic mind conjured up on the fly, when the pressure on his lungs became too much for him to handle, and his knees began to buckle. He stumbled forward in the gravel and ducked behind the slide as he noticed the ground becoming closer. It was a quick decision, but it wasn’t quick enough.

“We know you’re down there, Midoriya!” One of the kids shouted, close enough to make him wince. Izuku panted and pulled his knees up to his chest, squeezing his eyes shut as he tucked his forehead between his legs; there was no where for him to run, now.

The claw-like fingers that dug into his shirt as he was forcibly yanked out from his hiding place prompted him to release a breathless shriek, and he soon found himself atop the slide. He was surrounded, the other five kids looking down at him with expressions ranging from disdain to unrestrained glee. It was the latter that frightened him the most.

“C-Cut it out, you guys—” He tried hesitantly.

“Oh, you want us to stop?” The boy in the center asked, his lips stretched out in a grin that never quite met his pale, grey eyes. “That’s funny.”

The sun shone down upon his head, casting sinister shadows on his face to go with the cruel smile he sported. The boy leaned in further.

“Maybe you could use your quirk on us,” He taunted. Izuku clenched his jaw, his eyes beginning to water. “Huh, Midoriya?”

“I— You know my quirk hasn’t… m-manifested yet, and—”

“Oh my god,” one of the other kids groaned. Izuku’s gaze snapped over to him just in time to see him rolling his eyes behind his thick, round glasses. “Give it up, Midoriya. It’s been two months since the last kid in class got their quirk. You’re the only person who hasn’t gotten theirs. You’re quirkless. Accept it.”

“A-Am not!” Izuku clenched his fists, anger bubbling to the surface.

“Then show us,” the grey-eyed boy piped up again. “C’mon, Midoriya. Show us your quirk. Give us one reason not to wail on you right now.”

And in that moment, something happened. It was as though a cog had suddenly clicked into place. Izuku felt movement inside of him where there previously had been none, and he was sure his heart skipped a beat. The words left his tongue and touched the air before he, himself, could even understand them.

“Kacchan will be mad at you.” He stated, his tone firm and steady, if only for a moment.

The surrounding children gave him some odd looks.

“‘Kacchan’? Who the hell is that?”

Yes, Izuku. Who is that? He thought to himself, somewhat bitterly. The conscious part of his mind was quickly entering a state of panic, and yet somehow, some where, the words kept coming — conjured from the aether.

“K-Kacchan’s my best friend!” He shouted back. “He’s really strong! Stronger than all of you!”

The boy with the glasses raised an eyebrow. “Well, where is he, then?”

“He’s—” Izuku hesitated, swallowing the lump in his throat. “He’s at his house right now, but— but you’ll regret it if you do anything to me. Kacchan will make you pay for it!”

For a moment, it was silent. The bullies exchanged amused and bewildered looks with one another before proceeding to erupt into bouts of unrestrained laughter.

Izuku felt his anxiety about the situation growing exponentially. Still, he stuck to his guns, yelling Kacchan this, Kacchan that.

Kacchan will not be happy about this.

Kacchan will make you sorry.

Kacchan, Kacchan, Kacchan.

But the kicks and punches still came, hitting him from all sides for what felt like an eternity. Izuku kept on shouting, even as the bruises bloomed all across his skin. Izuku kept shouting, until the name ‘Kacchan’ engraved itself into his mind, and every word he cried rang true inside his soul.


 

During the days that followed, Izuku felt the idea of ‘Kacchan’ rooting itself within his brain, and rapidly growing into a full-blown obsession. Journals intended for schoolwork began to flood with drawings of boys with spiky blonde hair and sharp, red eyes. Various pieces of information about him were scrawled in the margins of his assignments, and, if he were to be honest, he knew it was strange.

Izuku was aware of imaginary friends as a concept, but prior to Kacchan, he couldn’t say he’d ever had one. And yet, though he couldn’t explain why, whenever he thought about him, he got this warm, pleasant feeling deep inside, as if some unknown force from within was actively nurturing his obsession, encouraging him to let it grow. So he did.

Katsuki “Kacchan” Bakugou was an idea inside Izuku Midoriya’s mind that he contemplated into tangibility. A six-year-old boy who stood a few inches taller than Izuku and always seemed to wear the same cocksure smile — a sort of confidence that resonated in every step he took.

Kacchan was everything Izuku needed him to be. Strong and confident where Izuku was weak and insecure. Fearless and aggressive where Izuku was anxious and and submissive. He was the sort of person who could walk into a room and instantly take up ownership of it — a natural leader with an explosive personality, and a quirk to match.

The visage of Kacchan saturated Izuku’s brain and the pages of his notebooks. Rarely did a minute pass by whilst Izuku was idle that he did not think about him, and so, perhaps he should’ve seen it coming when it happened — when the other kids began to take notice of it.

“Midoriya.” The sound of his name made Izuku jolt in his seat, and he looked up to find the grey-eyed boy standing beside his desk, his gaze burning into him.

“U-Uhm,” Izuku started, clutching his closed journal tight to his chest. “Yes? What—”

“—What the are you up to?” He cut in.

Izuku blinked, then narrowed his eyes in confusion. “‘Up to’?” He cocked his head to the side. “I’m not sure what you’re—”

“—Yeah, you are.” The boy interjected once more, placing his palms flat on the desk as he leaned toward him. “You’ve been writing in that stupid journal non-stop for the past week. What gives?”

Izuku blinked a few times, processing. The question seemed to activate something in him. It was some distant portion of his mind that he couldn’t quite pin down, but the odd, defensive feeling that overtook him was jarring, and the resulting glare on his face made the grey-eyed boy’s eyebrows raise. Izuku opened his mouth, and—

“That’s none of your business.” He hissed, and the words came as a surprise, even to himself. For a moment, the other boy simply stared at him, his gaze wide and searching as his body went tense. Izuku looked off and away, only glancing back at him every now and then. After a moment of silence, the boy’s hand suddenly shot out toward him, and Izuku just barely managed to lurch away before he could grab his journal. He stumbled out of his chair, grabbed his backpack, and hastily made his way out of the classroom.

He’d take a different route home that day, he decided.

 


 

Izuku could feel the tension rising with each passing day. Felt the way the grey-eyed boy’s gaze shot through him from across the room the day after the incident, and the way the other kids’ seemed to follow. The weight of their eyes on him grew heavier every second.

He found solace in the evenings, when he was free to draw and write about Kacchan in peace. The day of the encounter, some strange, inexplicable impulse had possessed Izuku to tear out twelve pages of blank notebook paper and line them up on the floor the moment he got home. He sat there for hours, as dozens of crayons became scattered across the hardwood.

He did his best to keep all the pages matched up as his drawing progressed, gradually taping each piece up on his wall until the visage of Kacchan became clear. It took a week, but once he had finished, he could rest easily knowing that Kacchan, in all his full-color glory, now hung from his wall, his confident gaze watching over him, and silently promising to keep him safe.

He’d gotten used to his new route home, as well. The path was winding at the start, and it was time consuming to have to take so many odd turns, but it was worth it, so long as it served its purpose. So long as it kept Izuku from being followed.

And strictly speaking, his plan had worked. On his way home from class, Izuku was not followed.

He just hadn’t anticipated his bullies meeting him at his house.

A few days after Izuku had completed his ultimate Kacchan, as he referred to it in his mind, he rounded the final corner on his path, only to come face-to-face with the grey-eyed boy. The other four meandered about a few feet back, and the shift in the atmosphere was palpable. Within a second, all eyes were on him.

In his panic, Izuku made a choice. Not trusting that he’d be able to break past the other kids, he instead chose to turn around and sprint back the way he’d come. It only took a few seconds of running for him to realize that this probably hadn’t been the best plan; if he could’ve just made it inside his home, it would’ve been over. Now, he was running at full speed, his backpack making his movements awkward, with five other kids rapidly encroaching on him.

“Get back here, Midoriya!” They called after him, shouting insults with voices that grew closer every time. Izuku panted heavily, blood rushing in his ears. He kicked over a trash can, hoping to slow them down if only a little bit, as he darted into an alley.

But in his desperation to get away, he’d lost sight of where he was going.

Izuku crashed into a chain-link fence at full speed, grunting at the impact. A glance over his shoulder showed that the bullies were, indeed, set back by the trash can he’d knocked over, though it didn’t take long for them to get their bearings and round the corner as well. Izuku made a high-pitched noise of distress as he looked back and forth between the fence and his pursuers, and with no other choice left, he started to climb.

He’d never scaled a chain-link fence before, but the adrenaline helped him move relatively quickly.

It was nowhere near quick enough.

He learned that, when he felt a pair of hands grasping his ankles, and yet another grabbing his backpack. His arms were forced to let go of the fence as the backpack was ripped from his shoulders, and he cried out in pain as his bony spine hit the concrete.

It took him a couple of seconds to get up after that, but he was relieved to note that he hadn’t hit his head.

As Izuku stood up, he looked over and found the grey-eyed boy rifling through his bag, and for a moment, he was confused. It was only after he pulled his hands out and revealed one of his Kacchan journals that everything clicked for Izuku.

“Number three?” The bully snorted, looking at the cover. “You have three of these?” The other kids laughed.

“Give it back!” Izuku shouted, lunging at the boy. Two of the others grabbed him by his arms and held him back, while two more continued to ransack his backpack. A couple more journals were withdrawn.

“Lemme see,” The grey-eyed boy said, sneering as he examined the other two journals — number two and number four. “Oh my god, four. Seriously, Midoriya? four? Is there an fifth, or—”

“I said, give them back!” He yelled, struggling against the steel grip that held him to no avail. The other kids seemed to collectively roll their eyes.

“Yeah, right.” The main boy scoffed. “Let’s see what you’ve got in here, huh?” Izuku’s eyes widened as the grey-eyed boy opened the notebook.

“Stop—!”

“What the hell is this?” He narrowed his eyes. “ ‘Kacchan’?”

“Wasn’t that the name of his so-called ‘best friend’?” One of the kids restraining him, the boy with the glasses, chimed in.

“Oh, yeah! I remember.”

Izuku watched, angry tears welling up in his eyes as the boy started flipping through the pages, an ominous grin steadily growing across his face as he did. Izuku wasn’t certain about what exactly was written in number three, but he panicked at the possibilities of what it could’ve been, swallowing down the metallic taste that coated his tongue.

“This is so creepy. If this ‘Kacchan’ guy’s actually real, I almost feel bad for him. Maybe we should show this to him.”  The grey-eyed boy looked up at him quizzically. Izuku glared intensely, tears threatening to spill, but he didn’t say anything.

“But he’s not real, is he?” The bully stated, tilting his head. “You just made him up.”

“Just give that back, you—!”

“That makes sense, though.” He continued, laughing. “For a dumb, quirkless kid like you, I mean. Of course your best friend’s imaginary.” He sneered, stepping closer. “Of course your only friend is imaginary.”

Izuku continued to struggle, furious tears now streaming down his face as the grey-eyed boy grew closer to him. He flinched when the bully carelessly dropped the notebook, its spine hitting the concrete and causing it to fall open on one of many sketches of Kacchan. Izuku stared at the page with a sort of desperation, and when the bully took notice of the direction of his gaze, he scoffed.

“What was it you said back then? That ‘Kacchan’ would make us ‘pay’?”

Izuku clenched his teeth.

“Hate to break it to you, Midoriya, but ‘Kacchan’ isn’t even real.” He laughed, raising his fist. Izuku saw it happen, as though in slow motion. “Your stupid imaginary friend can’t help you.”

Izuku’s eyes squeezed shut, as he felt the telltale disturbance in the air that always proceeded the first punch. He kept his eyes closed, his chin lowered and his teeth gritted as he awaited the inevitable.

But it never came.

Suddenly, from his right side, there came a strong gust of wind, accompanied by a whirring noise that seemed to mute the voices around him. The hands that were holding him abruptly let go, and he took the opportunity to lurch away, moving toward the wall.

As his eyes blinked open, his jaw dropped at the sight before him — all five other kids, scrambling to get up from the ground.

They’d been knocked off their feet.

Izuku pushed back his hair as the wind whipped through it, holding it away from his face as he stared, dumbstruck, at the others. It was bizarre, because although the air current was undeniably strong, Izuku felt that he, himself, was in no danger of falling; it was as though the wind had been hitting him from all sides with equal strength, thus keeping him steady. It was as though he were the center of... something.

Whatever that may be.

The grey-eyed boy glared as he attempted to stand, but just as he found his footing, a crack of thunder broke through the air, and the vibrations knocked him down again. Izuku’s heart was beating a mile a minute. He wasn’t sure how long it would last, but he wasn’t planning on sticking around long enough to find out.

Taking a hesitant step forward, he found that the feeling of wind from all sides seemed to follow him. It was strange, to say the least, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it. He was too busy scrambling to grab his belongings — the three journals and his backpack — so he could vacate the scene as fast as possible.

Izuku ran through a world of white noise. A minute after clearing the alleyway, he felt his pocket of stability in the storm beginning to waver, and by the time he got home, the wind affected him just the same as anything else. As soon as he saw the apartment building, he dashed toward the door as quickly as the storm would allow, thunder rattling his ribcage as the lightning flashed above him, like fractures in the sky.

Izuku slammed the front door behind him, and within a second, his mother was calling out to him.

“Izuku?!” She shouted, clearly distressed as she emerged from the kitchen. A look of relief crossed her face upon seeing him, but it didn’t stop her lecture. “Where were you?! I was worried sick!” She told him, kneeling down to pull him into a tight hug. With his head over her shoulder, Izuku did his best to wipe the tears from his eyes before she could see them.

“I’m sorry, mom!” He told her.

“I’ve told you a hundred times to come home as soon as class ends! What were you doing?” She asked, squeezing him tighter against her. “Did you get caught in the storm?”

Izuku said nothing, but a small sob slipped out, and evidently, that was all the answer his mother needed.

“Sweetie,” She said, her voice soothing, if slightly choked up. She rubbed his back in soft, circular motions and told him, “It’s okay. You’re home, now. It’s okay…”

 


 

Izuku watched the weather report with his mother, glancing out the window every once in a while at the heavy rain. They said that the storm was expected to last deep into the night, and when darkness fell, they were proven right.

Izuku went to bed a little while after the sunset, feeling warm and cozy in his pajamas, even as the storm raged on outside.

The weatherman said that this was a long time coming. That the thunder, the rain, and the strong winds fell in line with a forecast from five days prior. Everything was as they anticipated, and everything would most likely continue as such for the rest of the night, and all they could do was patiently wait for the storm to run its course.

For a while, that was enough for Izuku. It was no big deal; they’d seen the storm coming. The fact that it happened to hit at that precise moment was nothing more than a coincidence.

Izuku lay awake for a while that night, staring at the ceiling. Lightning illuminated his room, and his gaze was drawn to his drawing of Kacchan for the briefest of moments, before he turned to stare idly out the window.

The moon was obscured by clouds, though when lightning struck, Izuku found that it was faintly visible. As the storm persisted, the raindrops that poured down his window made it seem as though it were melting. Thunder shook his bedroom, and it was only then that things seemed to click into place.

Back in the alleyway, the first gust of wind had come from his right side. He remembered being held there, his back to the chain-link fence. Izuku placed himself in the memory and did his best to recall his surroundings. Then, it hit him.

The wind had come from his right side — the same side where the sturdy, brick wall of a six story building had been. The wind had come from his right side.

Izuku turned over onto his side and watched the blue light flicker in his room at uneven intervals. Another crack of thunder made his bed frame vibrate. He’d never liked thunderstorms, and this one was in particular had been quite unforgiving.

Blearily, Izuku’s gaze once more wandered over to his drawing of Kacchan, hanging innocuously beneath the flickering light. It occurred to him that he’d never felt safer.

Chapter Text

By the time Izuku turned seven, the kids at school didn’t bother him anymore, and though he couldn’t say he knew for certain why that was, the fact that it seemed to coincide with his apparent ‘acceptance’ of his own quirklessness did not go unnoticed. It was as though, all that time, the bullying hadn’t really been about his quirklessness so much as it had been about his unwillingness to just accept it and fall in line. The moment he seemed to do so, things went quiet.

So quiet.

It occurred to Izuku, as he was leaving school one day — that he couldn’t remember the last time one of his classmates had spoken to him for any reason other than obligation. But for a while, that was fine — relieving, even.

For a couple of months, it was enough for Izuku just to not have to worry about being followed home, though as time went by and his peers continued to practically feign ignorance of his very existence... well, it started to get to him.

To be clear, that isn’t to say that he would prefer things to go back to the way they were before. Izuku still flinched when his own mother tapped him on the shoulder unexpectedly, and he couldn’t see that instinct fading anytime soon. No, Izuku didn’t want things to go back to the way they’d been before — not by a long shot, but there was almost something worse about the situation he found himself in.

Izuku had been ignored before, but it’d always been a targeted attack, so to speak. It’d been intentional. Now, it seemed almost incidental. The way Izuku saw it, his classmates weren’t actively avoiding interaction with him; they’d never considered it an option in the first place.

It was an unfortunate situation, to say the least, but with no clear solution, Izuku felt obliged to simply deal with it. So, he went to school, sat still in class, ate his lunch in the bathroom, and when he got home, he spent his downtime working on his Kacchan journals, relishing the tangible feeling of warmth that seem to flood his being as he did. For a couple of months, it was alright. But while thinking about Kacchan did make him feel happy, it was still no replacement for actual social interaction.

So, he tried taking matters into his own hands. Left with no other options, Izuku steeled his resolve and approached a group of kids at recess one day.

“Ah— Uhm,” Izuku hesitated, swallowing. He took a deep breath and tried again, “Can I play with you guys?”

The other kids didn’t seem to notice him.

Too quiet, I guess, Izuku thought.

He cleared his throat.

“Hey,” he tried again, his volume treading the line between loud enough and too loud. Izuku felt his face heating up in embarrassment as the other kids finally turned to look at him. He carefully regulated his voice, speaking slightly softer. “Can I play with you guys, too?”

“Hmm.” One of the boys in the group narrowed his eyes, making a show of considering it, though it was fairly clear that he wanted to say no. Izuku felt sweat forming on his palms. He wiped his hands on his pants as discretely as he could manage.

“Sure!” A girl with pigtails said cheerfully. It took Izuku by surprise, and he tensed up, his gaze darting around the group of kids. They seemed to exchange looks of varying degrees of uncertainty. Then, “He can be the captive,” The same girl grinned.

Izuku wasn’t sure what that meant, but when the other kids seemed to accept it, he smiled softly, the tension melting from his shoulders.

“We’re playing Heroes Versus Villains,” One of the other girls told him.

Izuku perked up a bit more. “A-ah, I see!” He said. “How do you play?”

“Well, for you, it’s easy.” She explained, pointing at one of the towers on the playground. “You sit up there and wait for the heroes.”

Izuku nodded, his eyes following her finger. “And then what?” He asked.

The girl gave him an odd look. “And then nothing. That’s it.”

Izuku felt his stomach sink a bit, though with so many eyes locked on him, he did his best not to let it reflect on his face. There was a part of him that wanted to protest — wanted to demand that they place him on one of the teams, because he’s a human, not a goalpost, goddamnit.

But there was another part, one that Izuku felt far more familiar with, that was afraid that speaking up might cause them to reconsider their decision to let him be part of the game at all. Afraid that protesting would be as good as forfeiting, and this truly was the best he could get.

That latter won out that day.

And Izuku sat quietly at the highpoint of the playground, fiddling with his shoelaces, and waiting for something that never came.

 


 

Izuku spent a few days rearranging his thoughts, attempting to frame what had happened as a shaky success rather than a failure. It was that mindset which gave him the courage to try again.

Beside the playground there was a small, cracked, concrete clearing and every day, the same group of boys played basketball around an old, rusty hoop. Izuku approached the area slowly and quietly, as though one wrong move on his part could cause the whole court to simply disappear. He stood still and watched for a moment, attempting to calm his heartbeat before speaking.

Izuku knew from his experience the other day that it was crucial for him to speak up, so he cleared his throat and carefully articulated his words.

“Hello, can I play with you guys?” He called out, and the other kids stopped in their tracks, necks craning over toward him. Izuku tensed up, smiling sheepishly and and giving a small, awkward wave. The boys stared at him for what felt like an eternity.

Finally, the one holding the ball released it, allowing it fall to the ground as he started to approach him.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He called back, stopping about five feet in front of him.

Izuku was taken aback, his eyes widening a bit. He could feel his confidence falling fast, so he spoke quickly in an attempt to salvage it before it was gone.

“W-Why not?” He stammered.

“You’re too short.” The kid fired back immediately, and Izuku deflated.

His eyes flitted around the group, the weight of their collective gaze making him wish he could just evaporate, but when his eyes fell upon one boy in particular, something occurred to him.

While Izuku was pretty short for his age, he wasn’t the shortest boy in his class. That title went to another boy, one by the name of Shun Suzuki. The sight of said boy on the court brought a spark to life within Izuku’s mind, and before he knew it, he was shouting at the boy who’d just turned him down.

“Then why are you letting Suzuki play?” He demanded, his fists clenching.

The boy turned around again, glaring at him, standing still for only a second before striding over to him.

“Because Shun has a jumping quirk, obviously.” He scoffed.

Izuku released a sudden puff of air, and his confidence was gone just as quickly. In its absence there was only him, and the reality of how small he felt.

“A-ah,” Izuku said quietly.

“Yeah.” The other snorted, rolling his eyes. “Ah.”

The boy turned his back to him again and started to walk away. This time, he didn’t look back.

 


 

The rejection was demoralizing, to say the least — it took a week for him to fully get over it. When his head finally cleared up again, Izuku started to wonder if approaching kids at recess simply wasn’t the way to go.

That’s right, he thought. Everyone looks up to the teacher. Maybe if I just participate more in class, start trying to answer more questions… maybe if the teacher thinks highly of me, the others will start to like me, too!

So Izuku came to class one Tuesday morning prepared to make an impact. He had studied the material he knew would be covered that day, with the hope that he’d be able to answer any questions the teacher threw out.

And it worked, in a sense. He was able to answer every question — he just never got a chance to.

The first few times Izuku raised his hand and got overlooked, he thought that maybe he just wasn’t raising it high enough. He was all the way at the back of  the classroom, after all. He lifted his shoulder to raise his hand higher, and when that didn’t work, he tried waving a little bit, as well.

But he was never called on.

Izuku kept trying to raise his hand, though as time passed by and he continued to be ignored, he found himself holding it lower and lower. Each time the teacher called a name that was not his felt like a punch to the gut.

After a while, he simply stopped, and put his head down on the desk. He wasn’t certain if he’d have the mental fortitude to answer any other questions that day, anyway. He was far too focused on holding back the sob that was desperately trying to escape his throat.

 


 

Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.

Izuku both heard and felt the sound from where he sat, cross legged at the top of the playground tower.

He’d decided to join the kids playing Heroes Versus Villains, again. There was a tiny part inside of him that held out hope that maybe they’d actually let him be a player rather than a goalpost this time, but as he sat at the top of the tower, he felt foolish to have ever entertained the idea.

Every time one of the kids tapped the base of the tower, the structure vibrated, and Izuku stared at his knees, watching his body shake. The game was set up so that, if the kids on the hero team managed to tap the base of the tower fifteen times in three minutes, they’d win. If the villains kept them from doing that, the win was theirs.

Izuku didn’t need to be there; he knew that quite well. He was neither playing nor facilitating the game, and he knew the other kids understood just as well as he did.

Izuku did not need to be there.

 


 

That night, Izuku excused himself from the dinner table to go to bed early. It was still light outside, so when he climbed into his bed, he tucked his head beneath the covers to keep the day from leaking in.

He remained still for a few seconds, though, soon enough, he felt his body curl in on itself as his eyes squeezed shut. A sob racked his frame, and Izuku pressed his face into his pillow in an attempt to keep himself quiet. He didn’t want his mother worrying about something she had no power to fix. She’d had enough of that when his quirk failed to manifest.

So Izuku tried to keep the noise down, tried to keep himself contained, but the tears kept falling, and with them came the frustrated sobs of a boy who’d been lonely just a little too long.

“Why don’t they like me?” He cried, choking on the words. “Why— why doesn’t anyone like me?”

He pressed his face further into his pillow when he felt a gut-wrenching sob rising from the pit of his stomach.

“What’s wrong with me?” The words came out broken and gargled, and Izuku could already feel the tear-induced headache beginning to set in.

Then, out of nowhere, a sensation of heat enveloped him from behind, wrapping around him tightly and coaxing him to come out of his fetal position, before he’d even realized it.

He felt the facets of reality blurring around him as he teetered on the edge of sleep. The headache ceased as quickly as it came, replaced instead by a feeling of total contentment, accompanied by a whisper in his ear, so quiet and muffled that, come morning, Izuku couldn’t say for certain that it was ever there at all.

“They’re idiots.” It said, muted and formless. “I like you. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

Izuku sighed, his eyelids fluttering as his mind succumbed to the weight of his own exhaustion. As he drifted off to sleep, the voice seemed to come through more clearly.

“I like you, Izuku.” It told him. “I like you, and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Izuku fell asleep with a smile on his face.

 


 

Izuku turned eight while Kacchan held his hand, and told him through touch that he’d never feel alone again.

By then, he’d lost count of how many journals he’d filled with facts about Kacchan, and as time went by, they only seemed to grow more specific. A journal for Kacchan’s eyes; a journal for his fingers. Endless sketches yielding dozens of pencils, all sharpened down to the point of unusability.

He refined the drawing on his wall every chance he got — added colors to the shadows and shine in his eyes. Kacchan was real in the only ways that mattered to Izuku, and when he thought about him, he felt a euphoric sort of rumble in his heart that gave him all the more reason to move forward.

And he could really, feel him, too. It was something strange and nebulous, at first, though it grew more and more refined each day. He felt its progression as the sensation honed itself, until the feeling of indiscriminate heat given form could grace his skin in manners both soft and firm, and Izuku found himself becoming addicted to the way his hands fit so neatly within Kacchan’s. It gave him strength, in the darkest of times — gave him room to relax and reflect, safe beneath the knowledge that he wasn’t in this alone.

In some distant, removed sort of way, Izuku knew that he was getting too comfortable. His obsession was becoming too obvious, as though his thoughts of Kacchan were somehow magnifying his own presence in the eyes of his peers. Beneath the quiet atmosphere of the classroom, he’d often catch himself muttering questions reserved for Kacchan, and though he almost never received what could be called a verbal response, it seemed as though there was something, some far out portion of his brain, or perhaps something looming just outside of reality, that was answering him nonetheless. Izuku noticed the odd looks some of the other students had been throwing him, but it was all he could do just to clamp his mouth shut when he caught himself getting lost again. The way Izuku saw it, everything else was outside of his control. Not communicating with Kacchan just didn’t seem like an option.

Nowadays, Izuku actually preferred to sit by himself at lunch and recess. He tried to maintain a substantial distance between him and the other kids to act as a buffer which would reduce the chances of him being disturbed. There was nothing sneaky about it; Izuku was not hiding, but after well over a year of being treated as though he didn’t even exist, one couldn’t exactly blame him for not thinking it necessary.

The only purpose of the distance was to keep others from coming across him accidentally, while Izuku did what he loved most: lose himself in thoughts of his imaginary friend. It was a highly immersive activity, and so it made sense when Izuku didn’t really take notice of his company until said company was demanding his attention.

“Midoriya.” One of them said, sounding distant, muted — as though they were underwater.

Everything was background noise. Izuku didn’t look up.

“Hey, Midoriya!” He tried again, and finally, Izuku looked up, blinking blearily at the other boy in confusion. It took a moment, but when his mind came back to earth, he recognized him as one of the kids who sat adjacent to him in his math class.

And he knew his name, but some odd instinct inside of him seemed quite eager to refer to him as ‘bowl-cut’ instead.

“Yes?” He finally replied.

Bowl-cut clenched his fists.

“You need to cut it out with the damn muttering in class.” He stated, glaring down at him. Izuku blinked a few more times, then cocked his head.

“The... what?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know,” bowl-cut scoffed. “It’s distracting, it’s annoying, and it needs to stop.”

And then Izuku experienced some feeling that would’ve been bizarre and unsettling had it not been so common for him lately. Inside his mind, there seemed to be several thoughts floating around at once, each one weighing heavily on his tongue in spite of the dissonance.

There was a part of him that wanted to diffuse the situation. Wanted to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t do it on purpose. I’ll try to be more mindful,’ and leave it at that. Had the conversation been about pretty much anything else, that one most likely would’ve won out.

But then there was something else. Something a bit deeper in his head, rising to the surface, its dominance increasing exponentially as the cogs turned inside his mind.

Because what did bowl-cut want?

He wants me to stop muttering, Izuku thought.

But at the root of it, what was he really asking of him?

He wants me to stop muttering, but… He blinked a few times. But I don’t think I can do that, unless I—

Izuku narrowed his eyes.

—Unless I stopped talking to Kacchan.

The foreign thought reached critical mass, and at that point, its vocalization was simply a force of nature.

“No.” Izuku stated, low and cold.

The boy seemed taken aback, and for several seconds, he remained speechless. In his silence, Izuku’s gaze drifted toward the kids surrounding him. There were two— no, three others, all wearing dumbfounded expressions, not unlike bowl-cut’s. The only difference was that as the seconds ticked by, their faces remained static, while bowl-cut’s slowly morphed into anger.

“No?” He lurched forward a bit, causing Izuku to flinch back, his heart rate picking up when the boy began to shout. “The hell’s that about?!”

Izuku gripped his journal to his chest like a lifeline, opening and closing his mouth a few times as he struggled to find the words that would make this situation okay.

Then he felt the warmth of Kacchan’s arms wrapping around his back, and—

“If it really bothers you so much, you can ask sensei to move you.” He said, speaking slowly.

“Why should I have to?!” Bowl-cut yelled back. “Why can’t you just stop? It’s disrupting class, idiot!”

“Funny how you’re the first person who’s had a problem with it.” Izuku intoned, speaking through gritted teeth.

Bowl-cut flushed red with anger.

“What’s so goddamn important that you just can’t stop muttering about it?!”

Izuku remained silent, glancing away for the briefest of moments, on which he would later reflect back. In retrospect, Izuku realized that it really is true, what they say — that sometimes, even the smallest of actions can completely alter the end result of a given situation. In his moment of negligence, the boy was able to reach out and snatch his journal, roughly forcing it from his hands. Izuku yelped when the heat Kacchan’s embrace disappeared just as abruptly.

He stood up in a panic, reaching out for his journal, and it was only then that the other three kids decided they were done being mere spectators; they shoved him back, crowding around bowl-cut to shut him out while they all attempted to catch a glimpse at the notebook.

Izuku made small, high-pitched noises of distress as he tried to reach through the gaps between their bodies, hands grasping at anything he could find while he craned his neck to try and see over their shoulders.

“What— what even is this?” Bowl-cut asked, his voice hushed and full of bewilderment as he looked through the notebook. Izuku crammed his head under one of the other boys’ arms to get a better view, but unfortunately, that also gave said boy the perfect opening to put him in a headlock. Izuku shoved and scratched at his arm, but the hold did not let up.

“Give that back, you jerk, that’s mine!” Izuku yelled, furious tears stinging his eyes.

“The hell? Is this—” Bowl-cut squinted, flipping through the pages. “Is this just drawings of feet?”

“Give it back right now!”

“Christ, this is weird.” The boy stated, wrinkling his nose in disgust before glancing down at Izuku. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Izuku felt a painful throb in his chest, but—

“—You’re the one taking other people’s things!” he retorted. “I said, give it back!”

The boy stared at him for a moment, regarding him with a rather unimpressed look on his face.

Then, he slowly reached up with his free hand, grabbed a couple of pages between his fingers, and abruptly ripped them out.

 

And it was a noise Izuku would never forget.

 

Not the tearing of pages.

The screaming.

Suddenly, Izuku’s head flooded with the sound of awful, wretched wails of pain that echoed off the walls of his skull, along with the sudden, splitting headache that prompted him to shriek, as well.

With a strength he didn’t know he had, he jerked his head out of the headlock and fell to his knees, gripping the sides of his head as his eyes squeezed shut.

It took almost an entire minute for the screaming to stop, and yet another thirty seconds before the pain fully dissipated, and Izuku had recovered enough to open his eyes.

In those thirty seconds, there was mostly silence, apart from the ringing in his ears and the sound of his own groaning. Izuku didn’t even think to wonder why at the time, but when he opened his eyes, he got an answer, nonetheless.

His journal was on the ground, along with the torn pages. The first thing he did upon seeing this was reach out for them. With both in hand, he gingerly tucked the pages inside the notebook.

Glancing up, he noted that the kid who’d been holding him in a headlock was now standing beside him, bug-eyed, and looking quite obviously conflicted as he glanced back and forth between Izuku and something in front of them.

Izuku followed his gaze to its source, and his breath caught in his throat.

In front of him, two of the other boys were kneeling on the ground. They were stationed at either side of bowl-cut, who was—

Izuku swallowed the lump in his throat, his eyes going wide.

Who was holding his nose in pain, the lower half of his face thoroughly bloodied, and his uniform shirt stained crimson. Izuku wasn’t sure that he’d ever seen so much blood before.

After a moment, one of the boys ran off, presumably to find a teacher, and Izuku stood up, his muscles tense.

Bowl-cut’s eyes met his, Izuku took a step forward, and a small, helpless noise escaped his throat when he watched the other boy flinch back in response.

Izuku decided to remain still.

And he would like to say that in that moment, the reality of the situation came crashing down on him, but it didn’t. It couldn’t.

Something hit him, but it wasn’t reality. Izuku lost track of that a long time ago.

 


 

They sent him to the principal’s office, made him sit through a lecture. Called his mother and explained the situation, then asked her to pick him up. The works.

Izuku sat quietly in the waiting area, his hands still clutching his journal as he stared at the floor. His thoughts were rushing, but none of them felt clear. For all intents and purposes, he was a blank slate.

His mother arrived around thirty minutes later, breathing heavily in exertion as she entered the room. Izuku could already see the look of shock and bewilderment on her face before he even looked up.

“Izuku, what happened?!” She asked, her tone frantic. Something about the sound of her voice caused a dam to break, and suddenly, Izuku was sobbing.

His mother ran over, kneeling in front of him and pulling him into a tight hug. Izuku sniffled, his face buried in her shoulder.

“Izuku, sweetie, it’s okay,” She said, smoothing his hair down soothingly. For a moment, they just stayed like that. Izuku cried into his mother’s shoulder, his fingers stretching out the material at the back of her sweater with the force of his grip. After a while, with a softer voice, she asked again. “Sweetie, what happened?”

Izuku tensed, and she responded by rubbing his back in firm, circular motions. A choked up noise came from within his throat, and he buried his face in the material of her sweater again.

The words were muffled, but Izuku knew from the way her arms held him tighter that she’d heard him when he said: “I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

“That boy is staring at you.” Kacchan informed him one day, prompting Izuku to look up from his journal. He met eyes with a boy sitting a few tables away from him in the lunchroom, and hastily averted his gaze.

“A-ah,” Izuku mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

“Should I do something to him?”

“Wh-what?” He stuttered, glancing to his right. For whatever reason, the sound of Kacchan’s voice almost always seemed to come from his right. “N-no, that’s— that’s not necessary, Kacchan.”

His friend hummed. There was a distinct note of uncertainty in his tone, though he quieted down nonetheless — at least for a while.

“He’s still doing it.” Kacchan stated a few minutes later. Izuku slumped down in his seat as he raised his journal up. He slowly peered over it in an attempt to avoid drawing attention to himself via sudden movements, but it was a pointless endeavor; the moment he made eye contact with that same boy, Izuku’s body visibly jolted and his head jerked away. When Kacchan spoke next, his tone was exasperated. “I’m supposed to protect you, right?”

“W-Well, yes, but—”

“—I don’t like the way he’s looking at you.” Kacchan interjected.

“Kacchan, I— I know, but...” Izuku hesitated, reigning in his composure. “You can’t just attack everyone who looks at me wrong.” He sighed. “We’ve talked about this.”

For a moment, all was quiet within Izuku’s mind. Then, “Fine.” Kacchan eventually acquiesced. “But if he tries anything, I’m not holding back.”

“Of course,” Izuku rolled his eyes, but relaxed all the same.

It had been six months since Kacchan had acquired a definite voice, and interactions such as these had been common, to say the least.

When he thought about it, Izuku figured that it made sense — that it was probably a byproduct of Kacchan’s origin. In a time of high stress, Kacchan had been created as Izuku’s protector. That was his primary drive, so of course the defensive behavior was to be expected. It didn’t make it any less irritating to deal with on a day to day basis, but if nothing else, Izuku could at least say he’d gotten better at diffusing the situation when it came up.

Occasionally Kacchan would throw him a curveball of sorts — say something Izuku hadn’t expected. It seemed to happen more and more often as time went by, and Kacchan’s personality gradually bloomed with each word off his tongue. As frustrating as those situations could be, Izuku couldn’t help the feeling of awe he got every time it happened. His imaginary friend was truly something else — in more ways than one.

Izuku was nine years old.

He knew this was not normal.

There was a period of time, even after Kacchan’s voice manifested, in which he continued attempting to rationalize it. Kacchan was his imaginary friend, so it all made sense, right? He was his imaginary friend, so of course thinking about him made Izuku feel warm and safe.

Of course he could feel his touch.

Of course he could hear his voice.

That’s what an imaginary friend was, wasn’t it?

That line of thought didn’t continue much longer, and in its absence came no new understanding. On some vague level, he could comprehend the notion that other children couldn’t feel and hear their imaginary friends, at least not in a literal sense. But these were ideas with strange, ominous implications that Izuku lacked the capacity to understand, and the path they seemed to lead him down provided no new insight. All Izuku knew was that Kacchan was unique. He knew he was different, he just didn’t know why.

He found out soon enough.

 


 

Somewhere along the line, speaking with Kacchan had become second nature to Izuku. Like breathing, it was something he did without truly thinking about it, and it felt almost as necessary, too.

He knew when to reign it in and keep himself quiet, but that didn’t mean there were no slip ups. It required conscious effort, and of course, it wasn’t something he could be expected to do all the time. He needed time to relax, and for Izuku, that meant that the moment he got home, almost everything else became secondary to his interactions with Kacchan.

“This is bland,” Kacchan complained one night, as Izuku ate dinner across from his mother. His brow furrowed as he glanced to his left. “Can’t you eat something more interesting? Something spicy?”

Izuku sighed, setting down his utensils. “Kacchan wants to know if there’s anything spicier he can eat.” He informed his mother.

The woman looked up, her expression quizzical and vaguely tense. She opened and closed her mouth a few times.

...Kacchan does?” She eventually asked.

“Mhm,” Izuku hummed, swallowing down a mouthful of food before continuing. “He’s being pretty fussy over it.” He told her, smiling slightly when he sensed the other’s blatant displeasure at being called ‘fussy.’

His mother blinked a few times. “Izuku, sweetie…” She hesitated, “I thought you didn’t like spicy food?”

“W-well, I don’t,” Izuku affirmed, looking away sheepishly. “But… well, Kacchan does, so…”

His mother stared at him silently for a few more seconds, then wordlessly stood up and made her way into the kitchen. After a moment, she emerged with a bottle of hot sauce in hand. Izuku thanked her as she gave it to him, and promptly began drizzling it over his food.

“More.” Kacchan said. Izuku’s nose wrinkled, but he kept pouring. When he moved to set the bottle down, Kacchan spoke up again. “More.” He demanded.

Izuku’s eyes widened. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m always fucking serious.”

“Okay, okay.” Izuku conceded, pouring a bit more sauce over his bowl. After a few seconds, he muttered, “No swearing at the dinner table, Kacchan.”  

He set the bottle off to the side and grabbed his chopsticks hesitantly. By that point, Izuku was fairly certain his bowl contained more sauce than it did food, and as he stared down at the noxious concoction, he found absolutely nothing about it to be appetizing. With shaky hands, he raised a bite to his mouth, and as he chewed, the spices overwhelmed his senses and made his eyes water, but Kacchan seemed absolutely thrilled.

“Hell yes.” He groaned happily.

Izuku swallowed with a grimace.

“You’re crazy, Kacchan.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He brushed him off. “Just keep eating.”

Izuku groaned, but continued nonetheless. By the end of the meal, he was sniffling, and there were tear streaks down his face.

At the time, he didn’t think much of the concerned glances his mother had been throwing him. At the time, he didn't ever register then as concern.

 


 

A few days later, his mother knocked on his door in the evening. He heard her voice coming through, muffled by the door. “Izuku, sweetie? Are you awake?”

“I’m awake!” He called back.

“Can I come in?” She asked.

“Mhm!” Izuku replied, sitting up and tucking his journal beneath his pillow. His mother opened the door a moment later, closing it quietly behind her before approaching his bed. She sat on the mattress and looked around for a moment before her eyes settled on the large drawing of Kacchan he kept on his wall.

“Wow,” She said. “You’ve been working on it, huh?”

Izuku hummed.

“It’s really impressive.” She complimented, patting his knee with a smile. “My boy’s an artist.”

Izuku blushed at the praise. “I don’t know if I’d say that, but… thank you.”

“Of course.”

A moment of silence fell upon the room. Izuku felt a sort of tension in his mind that he’d come to realize was indicative of Kacchan’s senses being on high alert. He wasn’t sure why, but—

“—Actually, I wanted to talk to you about him.” His mother then said, turning fully toward him. “About Kacchan.” Her eyes were heavy with concern.

“What about him?” Izuku asked.

“I just have…” She looked up for a moment. “I have a couple of questions about him.”

He blinked a few times, looking up at her in bewilderment. “Okay,” he slowly replied.

She sighed. “Sweetie, when you say that Kacchan is telling you something...” She hesitated, chewing her lip. “What do you mean, exactly?”

Izuku tilted his head in mild confusion. “I’m not sure what you’re asking,” he admitted.

“It’s— well,” his mother paused, pursing her lips. “Is it… is he just in your imagination, or can you really hear him, too?”

“Oh,” Izuku said. He paused for a moment; there was a lingering sense of uncertainty in the pit of his stomach as he contemplated how he ought to respond.

On the one hand, for quite some time, he had been sensing that what he’d been experiencing was not normal, though he wasn’t entirely sure how. There was something exciting about it, something that made him feel special, unique, chosen. But there was something else there, too, a sort formless foreboding that loomed above him, in what seemed to be a culmination of his ignorance on the matter.

Izuku didn’t want his mother to worry, and so he made a choice that seemed to make sense at the time, with what little information he had. He thought that maybe as long as he acted as though he had no concerns, she would react the same. So Izuku smiled.

“I can hear him,” he told her, and she seemed taken aback. Izuku hesitated slightly, waving his hands. “I—I mean, I don’t think anyone else can, but I can hear him for sure!”

“What…” She trailed off for a moment, then tried again. “What kinds of things does he say to you?”

“Hmm,” Izuku looked up in thought. His heart was beating wildly, though he wasn’t sure why. “I guess it kind of depends. He talks to me about whatever I wanna talk about, but usually when he talks first, it’s to warn me about danger.”

“Danger?”

“Yep!” Izuku smiled, then faltered for a second. “Or, I guess, what he thinks is dangerous. I think he gets kinda paranoid sometimes.”

Suddenly, as though the tension in the atmosphere had finally caused something to snap, Kacchan piped up. “Izuku, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to talk about this.”

Izuku paused, then rolled his eyes.

“It’s fine,” He muttered, glancing to his right before redirecting his gaze back to his mother. “See, even right now he’s saying that talking about this isn’t a good idea.” He scoffed. “It’s just my mom, Kacchan!”

“I-I see,” she replied, soft and slightly choked up. Izuku only got a brief glimpse of her face, of the distinct shine in his mother’s eyes, before she was pulling him into her arms.

“Mom?”

“It’s… it’s okay, Izuku.” She said. “It’s going to be okay.”

He wasn’t sure what she meant, but he wrapped his arms around her, regardless.

“Of course it is,” he said softly. “You and Kacchan keep me safe.”

Izuku didn’t miss the barely stifled sob his mother released then, but the significance of it eluded him.

 


 

Around a week later, his mother pulled him out of class to go see a doctor. Izuku assured her that he didn’t feel sick, but she simply replied with that it was, ‘not that kind of doctor, sweetie.’ And that was the most he could get out of her.

They rode the train and traversed the blocks that remained in silence. It was lunchtime, so there were a lot of people out and about, and the sound of car horns blaring was practically ever-present.

Izuku tried his best to keep pace with his mother, but eventually the flow of the crowd separated them slightly, and his mother wound up on one side of the street while he was still stumbling toward the crosswalk. She waved her hands at him, and he waved back, and thinking he ought to just wait for the worst of the crowd to dissipate, he started shuffling toward the side of a building.

After a minute, things started to clear up, and Izuku made his way toward the curb. He glanced both ways and began jogging across the street, and he was about halfway through when it happened.

“Izuku—!” His mother called out sharply.

At the same time, Kacchan suddenly shouted, “Watch out!”

“Huh?” Izuku blinked, confused and jarred by the two voices yelling at him at once. As he froze in place, he turned his head and looked on in shock as his mind slowly made sense of the information his eyes were feeding it — the image of a car rapidly encroaching on him. He would’ve been panicking. He would’ve screamed and leaped out of the way, but everything happened so quickly, he had no time to process the situation, even on the most basic level. One moment he was crossing the street, the next he was about to die, and then—

 

Then—

 

—he was in the air.

A series of small explosions erupted beneath him in quick succession as Kacchan’s arms wrapped around him. He was thrust into the air in an instant, suspended, waving his arms instinctively as he watched the car come to a screeching halt beneath him, the force of the breaks leaving it parked a few feet in front of where he’d been standing. Izuku’s mind caught up with the situation then, and his heart began racing in an instant.

“Jesus Christ,” Kacchan hissed into his ear. Izuku watched, entranced, as a few more small explosions were released, propelling his body toward to the other side of the street. “Be a bit more fucking careful, would you?!”

“I—” He faltered, swallowing, “S-sorry, Kacchan,” He mumbled shakily.

“Fuck, don’t be, just—” Izuku’s arms wrapped around his back as he came to hover above the sidewalk. “Fuck. Fuck.” Kacchan muttered, and with that, he was carefully set down on his feet.

Izuku brushed off his shirt despite there being nothing on it. “Thank you,” he said under his breath.

A second later, his mother came running toward him, yanking him into her arms. “Izuku!” She cried out, squeezing the breath from his body. It was uncomfortable, but he still hugged her back.

They never made it to the doctor that day.

 


 

A couple of days later, his mother informed him that she’d scheduled him a new doctor’s appointment. Izuku asked if it was the same one as before. She told him that this was a completely different kind of doctor, and at the time, left things at that.

Dr. Suzuhara was an unusually tall woman with straight, black hair which she kept tied back in a low ponytail, and who appeared to be in her mid-fifties. As Izuku sat beside his mother in the woman’s office, he absently massaged his hand. On the way to the appointment, his mother had held onto it with a bone-crushing grip that Izuku implicitly understood as non negotiable. He gritted his teeth and beared it, but it still left him feeling sore later on.

Izuku watched as the doctor turned her computer screen toward them, displaying an x-ray of Izuku’s foot that seemed to be focused in on his pinky toe. The doctor pointed at the image, briskly explaining to Izuku’s mother with terms Izuku failed to understand, except—

“So because of that, we can say with almost total certainty that he does, indeed, have a quirk,” She concluded. The words hung in the air for several seconds afterward.

Izuku blinked owlishly, his eyes flitting back and forth between the doctor and his mother, before settling on the latter.

“So Izuku isn’t quirkless?” She asked, gaping.

“Yes, that seems to be the case.” The doctor nodded.

Izuku felt his heart rate pick up, and something warm inside of him tentatively bubbled to the surface.

“I… have a quirk?” Izuku asked shyly.

“You do,” The doctor replied, smiling at him. “Now we just need to figure out what it is.” She leaned forward across the desk, hunching slightly, like she was trying to communicate with him on his level, so to speak. “Your mother said that last week she saw you getting thrown into the air right before that car could hit you. I’d be very interested in hearing your side of the story.”

Izuku beamed. “That was Kacchan!” He stated, excitement rising exponentially. I have a quirk. I have a quirk. Oh my gosh, I have a—

“‘Kacchan’?” The woman tilted her head quizzically.

“His imaginary friend,” his mother chimed in.

“Mhm!” Izuku nodded enthusiastically, bouncing slightly in his seat. “Kacchan makes explosions with his quirk and he can use them for flying, and all sorts of other things! He pulled me up into the air right before that car could hit me. He’s so cool.” He rattled on. “Kacchan’s amazing!”

Distantly, Izuku heard the sound of the boy in question snorting in mild amusement at the praise.

“Wow,” the doctor laced her fingers together, leaning in a bit further. “Does Kacchan do things like this often?”

“Kacchan protects me all the time!” Izuku replied, looking up thoughtfully. “That was the first time he’s picked me up, though. Kacchan gets stronger every day!” He gushed.

“Well, now, that’s very interesting.” The doctor mused, leaning back in her chair again. She smiled at Izuku, then turned her attention toward his mother again. “I suspect his quirk is tied to this imaginary friend of his. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but this beginning to sound like what we would refer to as a cognitive projection type quirk.”

“Cognitive projection?” His mother said, her brow furrowing.

“It’s a rare subcategory of emitter-type quirks.” Dr. Suzuhara stated, turning her screen back toward herself. She continued to explain while rapidly typing on her keyboard. “Cognitive projection quirks, in essence, allow the user to fuse their mental energy with that of the physical world, which allows them to more or less influence or manipulate reality.” She paused, looking back at Izuku. “Unlike most emitter quirks, cognitive projection quirks tend to be passively-active, however.” The doctor then leaned back in her office chair and crossed her arms.

“I’ve worked in this field for almost twenty years, but I’ve only seen this type of quirk twice.” She went on. “The first one was around twelve years ago; a man in his early thirties who’d witnessed the collapse of over a dozen buildings, beginning with the dentist’s office from when he was a child and ending with his workplace.” She quirked an eyebrow. “Or I guess I should say, his former workplace.” The doctor sighed.

“It turns out, he was inadvertently compromising the structural integrity of buildings he associated with things he didn’t like.” She continued. “The energy created by his thoughts caused the materials supporting the building to decay at an accelerated rate, eventually leading to its collapse.”

“Goodness,” Izuku’s mother gasped. “Was everyone okay?”

“From what I recall, there’d been a few injuries, but no fatalities.” She replied. “His quirk worked fairly slowly, and the effects were usually concentrated in particular parts of the buildings. It took about a month for the building to actually cave in on itself, and most of the injuries occurred before that. By the time it collapsed, everyone already knew about the structural issues, so no one was inside at the time.” Dr. Suzuhara paused, pursing her lips. “At least, that’s what happened the last time. Truthfully, even the man himself wasn’t sure about some of the other times, and he didn’t seem very interested in finding out.”

“I certainly can’t blame him for that,” his mother replied, her eyes rife with sympathy.

“I feel the same way,” The doctor nodded, then sighed. “The other case was about seven years ago.” She began, drumming her fingers against the desk. “A young couple brought their little girl in here. Apparently, she’d been complaining about a monster under her bed for months, but they said they checked every night, and there never seemed to be anything there. Things went on that way for around six months, until one night, the monster jumped out and attacked the girl’s father.”

“That’s awful.”

“Yeah,” she nodded. “He barely made it out alive, and had the scars to prove it.”

For a moment, it was quiet. Eventually, Izuku’s mother piped up again.

“So you’re telling me Izuku can’t control his quirk?” She asked, her brow furrowed.

The doctor hesitated slightly. “Well, every case is a bit different, so I can’t say for certain.” She sighed. “These types of quirks are difficult to diagnose because, even though they’re technically bodily functions, they don’t produce the kind of outcome you can empirically measure.” She narrowed her eyes, glancing up in thought. “The man from twelve years ago seemed to have a strange electromagnetic field surrounding him, but that was about all we could find, and it seemed to be unique to him. The little girl had nothing of the sort.” She went on. “We can certainly run some tests, but it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. As I mentioned before, it’s a very rare type of quirk.”

“I see,” Izuku’s mother said, with a sigh of resignation.

For most of the appointment, Izuku had been tuned out of the conversation, and during the brief periods in which he did pay attention, he found himself only vaguely comprehending the jist of what was being discussed.

Under typical circumstances, he would’ve been eager to hear every word, even the ones he didn’t understand, and asking questions faster than they could reasonably be answered in a ravenous search for knowledge.

But the moment he learned he had a quirk, things seemed to phase out as the adrenaline rushed throughout his body. He bounced in his seat in barely restrained excitement, and it was all he could do just to hold onto the chair cushion to keep himself from blasting straight into the ceiling.

 


  

A glowing, blue moon hangs in the sky above, breathing cool light over the architecture of a silent playground. It’s a calm night in this tiny pocket of a universe, where the astral bodies seem close enough to touch, swaying gently above Izuku’s head as though the stars had been suspended on strings.

And somehow, without even thinking about it, Izuku knows that in this world, this is all there is. In this world, this is all that is, except...

At the far end of the playground there sits a boy with stark blonde hair and sharp red eyes that Izuku knew to be there the moment the dream had begun. He sits on a swing, rocking back and forth absently, and when Izuku meets his eyes, the boy does not speak; he simply holds the contact. A small smile tugs at his lips like a challenge. He does it to see if Izuku can still understand him, even without words, and it serves both as a test as well as a reminder for Izuku — a sort of reassurance.

It wasn’t always like this, it says. You couldn’t always hear me the way you do, now.

We used to speak through emotions and needs. Your formless desires and desperation, and the vague sensation of life against your skin.

Wordlessly, Izuku begins walking toward the swingset, never taking his eyes off the other, even as he moved to sit on the swing beside him.

Look at us, now.

The moment he sits down, it’s as though the words overflow from his tongue, rushing like a river current. “I’ve got a quirk after all, Kacchan.” Izuku gushes. “I can’t believe it.”

The crystalline red of his eyes gleams beneath the moonlight as the boy stares at him with a smirk. Izuku looks down as a slight blush dusts his cheeks over being studied so intensely.

Then he hears Kacchan reply with a simple, “I can,” and quickly shifts his gaze back up to other boy.

“Really?” Izuku asks, tilting his head. “Did you know?” His eyes flit over Kacchan’s form, and for the first time ever, Izuku fully takes him in.

Under the blue moonlight, his wild, blonde hair seems to match and merge with his skin, and his eyes glow a glittering, incandescent crimson. His facial features read as a prelude to a sharp, angular face, softened only momentarily by his youth. His limbs are long, proportionate to his taller stature, and he’s encapsulated in that same, smooth veil of heat that Izuku has become so very familiar with.

There’s something ethereal about him — a sort of idealized existence that almost feels wrong to look at, and yet Izuku can’t bring himself to stop.

If he were to see Kacchan suspended amongst the stars in the sky, Izuku would need to be convinced he was not one of them.

When his eyes return to Kacchan’s face, he finds him sporting a smug smile, and flushes at the realization that he knew exactly what had been going through his head just then, down to the tiniest detail.

Kacchan doesn’t say anything about it. He doesn’t need to.

“I’ve always known.” He eventually answers. “I was just waiting for you to notice it, too. Took you long enough,” he snorts, then reaches over to ruffle Izuku’s already unruly hair. Izuku releases a noise of protest, but makes no move to actually stop him.

He just lets it happen, because he knows, just like Kacchan knows, exactly what is being said through this action.

As Kacchan’s hand retreats, Izuku raises his head to look at him again, only to find himself caught beneath a calculating gaze. His hands feel as soft as they look, he muses idly, and as the other boy monopolizes his line of sight, Izuku briefly wonders if the swings have always been so close together. He quickly dismisses it as inconsequential.

Izuku already knows he won’t be able to see Kacchan in this way when he wakes up. With utmost certainty, he knows this to be true, and yet with the same certainty, or perhaps even greater, he also knows that this fact is irrelevant.

Here, in this moment, Katsuki Bakugou is an existence that outweighs the universe in the eyes of Izuku Midoriya, and when he stares at him so intensely, it’s as if the already heavy weight of his presence is infinitely magnified. He’s there like the air he breathes, and the gravity that keeps him grounded. He experiences him through every sense he has, and a few more he never realized he had until now.

It’s an odd experience, one that somehow manages to feel mundane as well as deeply profound, and Izuku isn’t sure how to describe what it feels like beyond the simple, yet ambiguous statement of, ‘Kacchan is here.’

But even as these unnameable emotions course through his being, he can hear the message Kacchan is communicating clear as day. He hears it in the way he looks at him and the ghost of his fingers in his hair. He hears it in the force of his presence.

Look how far we’ve come.

Chapter Text

“What’s it like up there?” Izuku asked, his mind brimming with quiet curiosity.

It was morning at the time, and Izuku had been lying in bed on his side, facing out. He liked it best that way; Kacchan could wrap his arms around him from behind, and so long as he didn’t look over his shoulder, he could almost fool himself into thinking that he’d see him if he did.

“Up where?” Kacchan grunted, warm breath hitting his ear.

“In my head,” he clarified, playing along, as though Kacchan didn’t already know exactly what he was referring to.

His friend made a small noise. A sort of low, numbly exasperated sound that manifested itself in the form of a single word: “Christ.”

“What?” Izuku replied indignantly.

“We’re doing this again, I guess.”

“Kacchan,” He groaned, rolling his eyes, treating the response as if it were ridiculous, even though, deep down, he knew that it wasn’t.

It’d been around seven months since Izuku had learned that, not only did he have a quirk, his quirk was essentially responsible for Kacchan’s existence, and ever since, he’d been on a ravenous pursuit for knowledge.

Sometimes, that just meant he’d spend hours on end researching the nature of cognitive projection quirks, reading reports and frequenting forums related to the matter. More often than not, however, it took the form of an interrogation of sorts. Rarely did a day go by in which Izuku didn’t question Kacchan about some fundamental aspect of his nature.

Izuku knew that Kacchan had every right to be irritated, but the questions just kept popping into his mind with little to no preamble, and though there was something to be said for him resisting the urge to voice them, those questions still had a way of winding up in Kacchan’s mind, whether he wanted them to or not.

And so the conversations happened, almost deterministically. Izuku tried his best to word things carefully, so as not to annoy his friend, and though his efforts typically yielded only limited success, deep down, he knew that Kacchan appreciated the gesture.

“Please?” He added softly. “I really, really wanna know...”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kacchan mumbled dismissively. He paused for few seconds, then sighed. “Look, the fuck do you want me to say?” He asked, exasperated. “That’s like if I asked you what it’s ‘like’ to just be conscious on Earth.”

“Well, I mean…” Izuku hesitated, chewing his lip as he mentally debated the best angle to go at this from. Finally, after a long moment of silence, he spoke up again. “Okay, how about this: what can you see?”

“I see whatever you see, plus all the shit happening around you.” He replied. In a vaguely disgruntled tone he then added, “You’ve already asked me that.”

“Just… Just bear with me,” Izuku responded sheepishly. Kacchan groaned in his ear, and the sound combined with the sensation of heated breath on his skin sent a shiver down his spine that he didn’t have time to think about. Izuku shook himself mentally, getting his mind back on track. “So you see both at the same time?”

“Pretty much.” Kacchan answered, with a faint hint of smugness in his tone. Izuku willed himself not to dwell on it.

“That must be weird.” He commented.

Kacchan scoffed. “I wouldn’t know.”

“Kacchan,” He chided softed, prompting the other to groan again.

“I see what you see and I sense all the shit happening around you. I have better senses than you do.” After a brief pause, he corrected himself. “I mean, it’d probably be more accurate to say that I have more senses than you do.”

“More senses?!” His eyes widened. “What do you mean? Can you describe them?”

Kacchan’s response was immediate. “Can you describe the color red?”

“What? I mean…” He hesitated. “I-I mean, not really, but—”

“—Well, why the fuck would this be any easier?”

“I just—” Izuku stopped himself, taking a deep breath to try subdue his racing thoughts. “Isn’t there some way you can tell me at least a little bit more?”

Kacchan released a long sigh of resignation.

“I— Okay, I just—” He stumbled, and for what felt like an eternity, he was quiet.

Finally, “I experience the world more directly than you do.”

Izuku blinked, staring at the wall across from him, attempting to process the information. “What does that mean?”

“I mean, it’s—” Kacchan cut himself off suddenly and sighed again, rolling away from Izuku. The way the mattress shifted seemed to indicate that he’d turned onto his back, and though he wouldn’t say so out loud, Izuku found himself missing his warmth almost instantly.

After a couple of seconds, the bed shifted again, and Izuku felt himself being pulled back and maneuvered him so that he was lying with his back to Kacchan’s front, and to anyone else, it would’ve seemed as though he were floating.

Kacchan took a deep breath and released it, and the rise and fall of his chest caused Izuku to move through space accordingly. Soon after, Izuku felt the heat of Kacchan’s arms surrounding him just before he started to speak again. “Look, this kinda shit? It’s not exactly easy to explain. I can try, I guess, but I can’t promise you’re gonna get it.”

“That’s alright,” Izuku responded, a soft smile forming on his lips.

“Okay.” Kacchan grunted, before falling silent again, for what might’ve been a minute. Eventually, he took a deep breath, and began. “So, you know how some animals have different senses? Like, sharks can sense electric fields and shit?”

Izuku blinked. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“And you know how some of them have the same senses, but better?”

“You mean like how dogs have better hearing than people?”

“Exactly,” Kacchan affirmed. “Dogs can hear shit you can’t. Fucking mantis shrimp can see more colors than basically anything else, for some dumbass reason.” He scoffed. “Anyway, what I’m gettin’ at here is that there’s, like, a shitload of things that happen in the world without you realizing it, because your senses just aren’t good enough to pick up on it.”

Izuku nodded slightly. “I think I’m following you.”

“Then let me ask you a question.”

“Of course.”

“What is reality?”

Izuku blinked a few times.

“What?”

“You heard me.” Kacchan grunted. “There are things your senses can’t pick up, sometimes because they just aren’t strong enough, sometimes because they were never made to pick up that particular kind of information in the first place. So with that in mind, I’m gonna ask you again,” he paused. “What is reality?”

Izuku stared up at the ceiling, speechless.

“I— It’s, I mean—”

“Take your time.” Kacchan interjected, though he tone was fairly calm. Izuku sighed, closing his eyes as he contemplated the question.

Eventually, he opened his eyes again. “I… I don’t know,” he muttered, mildly embarrassed.  

Much to his surprise, Kacchan’s immediate reply was, “Exactly.”

Izuku stifled a high pitched noise, and cleared his throat. “So…” He trailed off, prompting Kacchan to go on.

“When you sense the world, what you’re getting is basically just, like... a very heavily edited version of reality.” He explained. “Your senses pick up certain pieces of information because your brain thinks they’re important, or some shit, but it’s not, y’know, everything. Shit goes under your radar all the fuckin’ time. Some of that is shit that science-fuckers know about, like electric fields, or types of light you can’t see, but—”

His voice abruptly cut out, and Izuku felt him tensing up beneath him.

He was just about to ask what was wrong when Kacchan continued, his voice quiet, slow and deliberate — as though he were walking on a tightrope of an emotional state.

“But there’s…”

He started, stopped, and tried again.

“There’s a lot of shit they don’t know about, too.” He told him, his voice carefully leveled. After another pause, he added, in this almost haunted tone under his breath, “I can attest to that.”

The words hung in the air for a few moments, settling in the cracks and crevices of Izuku’s mind. He waited silently, his breaths coming in shallow, until eventually he felt Kacchan relax a bit beneath him, and he knew that it was alright for him to speak.

Izuku closed his eyes and shifted onto his stomach, burying his face in the crook of Kacchan’s neck. When he spoke, it was barely a whisper.

“You know what it’s really like.” He said, as a statement of fact rather than a question. He felt Kacchan swallow. “You see the world for what it really is.”

“Not…” He trailed off for moment. Izuku felt the arms around his back adjusting to pull him closer. “Not anymore,” Kacchan spoke, the words muffled by Izuku’s hair.

“I used to, though.” He mumbled. “Y’know, when everything first started. I used to see…” he paused, taking a shuddering breath before continuing. “I guess in some ways I still do, but…” Kacchan reached up, lacing his fingers through Izuku’s hair and playing with it idly.

“It gets, I guess, fainter every day.” He stated, and the struggle behind his words was palpable. “It’s getting closer to how you perceive it. I can feel it all the time, I—” His voice cut out. Izuku held his breath, cleared his head, and waited.

For several minutes, he simply focused on the feeling of Kacchan’s chest rising and falling with his breathing, until finally, he felt the other’s arms wrap around his back once more, and he started to speak again.

“I can’t— I don’t even understand some of the things I used to see.” He said quietly. “I don’t understand them, but all the memories, they’re... they’re still there.”

Izuku’s fingers dug into the fabric of a shirt he couldn’t see, and he remained silent when Kacchan’s arms gripped him just the slightest bit tighter.

There was one clear question on his mind — what was undeniably the next logical step in the conversation. It sat there tempting his lips and weighing heavily upon his tongue, and yet it never quite managed to spill over.

Because there was something else there, something even more obvious, and its presence had a grip on his mind so strong it took precedence over everything else.

Kacchan didn’t want to answer that question.

Therefore, Izuku didn’t want to ask.

 


 

Given that Kacchan’s very existence was essentially centralized in his mind, avoiding conversations about nearly anything Izuku thought about which directly concerned him was an arguably impossible task.

Still, he did his best to redirect his thoughts in the days following that particular conversation. He busied himself with schoolwork and journaling, and whenever he felt the subject of the talk creeping into his mind, he forced himself to shut it down as quickly as possible.

The obvious problem with this strategy was that Kacchan was, of course, aware of it, and so although it was fairly successful in terms of keeping questions about reality and existence at bay, it created a near tangible level of tension between them which eventually — inevitably — caused the whole thing to come crashing down.

“For fuckssake, Izuku,” Kacchan groaned. “Cut the shit already, would you?”

Izuku had been working on homework at the time, and the sudden confrontation caused him to white-knuckle his pencil out of nervousness.

“Wh-what do you—”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about.” He clipped. “I’m fucking fine, okay? Your shitty-ass metaphysical questions aren’t gonna hurt me, for chrissake.”

Izuku felt sweat beginning to gather on his hands as he mentally scrambled for a way to diffuse the situation. “W-Well, I know that, but—”

“—But you don’t.” Kacchan firmly interjected, loud enough to make Izuku jolt. “Stop fuckin’ lying, already; I can practically smell it.”

Izuku gaped.

He tried to find the words to defend himself.

“I’m— I—”

But he didn’t know what to say.

How could he possibly argue?

Kacchan was inside his head, watching neurons firing as he struggled to string words together. Not only did he know what he was going to say next, but also what he meant, at the most fundamental level. What could he possibly say that would help Kacchan see where he was coming from, when a full understanding of Izuku’s perspective was already implied by his very existence?

Izuku was at a loss.

Feeling flustered over Kacchan’s presence in his head wasn’t a rare occurrence, but this was another story. Izuku didn’t know how to describe what he was feeling. It was a sort of hopeless exposure that left him feeling empty and tired.

He didn’t know what to say.

He wanted to go to sleep.

After a few more aborted attempts at verbal communication, Izuku fell silent, pulling his knees up into his chair and tucking his head between them. At that, Kacchan offered a sigh.

“Listen,” He started, and this time, his tone was soft. “Just stop policing your own damn thoughts, okay?”

“But you—”

“I’m not gonna bring it up.” He stated. Izuku froze, his mouth wide open, waiting until Kacchan continued. “But it’s not because I’m uncomfortable with it —  it’s because you are.”

Izuku was still confused, but chose to remain silent

“Look,” He exhaled. “I know there’s nothing I can say right now that’s gonna get the fact that I’m fucking fine through your skull, so for now? We just won’t talk about it.” He said simply. “You being uncomfortable because you’re worried about making me uncomfortable is still you being uncomfortable, even if the reason is bullshit.”

He blinked a few times, attempting to process Kacchan’s rationale.

“I get it, okay?” He said, with an exasperated groan. “There’s a difference between wanting to do something and actually allowing yourself to do it.” Slowly, Izuku lowered his legs, the tension gradually easing from his body. “So from now on, within reason, if you don’t say it, it ain’t real. Got it?”

 


 

In light of their recent conversation, Izuku ultimately decided that Kacchan was right. Wondering about the answer to a question and actually wanting to ask said question were two separate things, and so long as Kacchan could differentiate between the two, there was no need for him to police his own thoughts. For the most part, Izuku could think freely about whatever he wanted and rest easy knowing that his thoughts would remain inside his own mind, so long as that was what he truly wanted. It was a sort of understanding that served as relief for Izuku, or at least, initially it was.

What he didn’t anticipate were the effects his unanswered questions would have on himself, as they stewed within the confines of his overactive imagination.

He found himself thinking more and more about the disturbed tone of Kacchan’s voice as he told him that there were parts of reality which simmered beneath the surface, unbeknownst to him, and with those thoughts came a buzzing undercurrent of paranoia that reverberated throughout his being.

Because before Kacchan came along, Izuku never had to come up with his own monsters to be afraid of. The kids at school fulfilled that role just fine. Izuku didn’t worry about things lingering on the outskirts of reality because the world he experienced was scary enough as it was.

But the kids at school didn’t bother him anymore, and though the sense of alienation from them still lingered from time to time, it had lessened substantially once the others caught wind of Izuku having a quirk. His fear of his classmates had, for all intents and purposes, disappeared, and in its absence, Izuku was left to contemplate a series of grand ‘what ifs’ that led him to increasingly unsettling places in the days that followed.

And like all things of this sort, it was only natural that it reach its climax at night.

 


 

Izuku knew something was off when the sound of cicadas buzzing continued far into the night, and in the darkness of his bedroom, it seemed as though the shadows themselves were screaming.

He was on his back at the time, staring up at the popcorn ceiling as the tension radiated from within, to the point where his breaths came out shallow and stilted. He thought about ducking under the covers, and had he anticipated what was in store for him, he would’ve done so from the very beginning. But as seconds ticked by and his anxiety steadily mounted, there was this increasingly potent instinct inside him that urged him not to move — told him that sudden movements would be the breaking point that sent his world barrelling into chaos.

His room was dark, and cold, and the air around him felt strange, as though the empty space itself were undergoing some sort of phase shift.

His skin tingled against the open air, and every breath he took brought tiny pinpricks to his lungs that seemed more violent as time went by, as though the universe itself were trying to warn him with increasing urgency: This space is not for you.

Whenever Izuku shut his eyes, images of strange entities seemed to flicker inside his mind, there and gone again before he could truly look at them. The more he tried to force the thoughts out, the more persistent they became — flashing inside his head in rapid succession, and though he truly didn’t want to see them for any longer than he had to, there was something almost worse about the short-lived images. An intense feeling of fear encompassed him, and yet what it was he was afraid of was not something he could put a face to, much less a name.

It was as if the entities were lingering just outside of his reality, meandering around in a higher dimension, beyond Izuku’s understanding. Every image he received was nothing more than a brief glimpse of one of the entities’ three-dimensional cross sections, before they shifted once more.

There was a sense that every snapshot was a piece of something greater, but Izuku lacked the capacity to even begin to comprehend it, though the same could not be said for the entities as they observed him.

This space is not for you.

There was a sense that he was being watched.

This space does not want you.

His thoughts were racing, flitting through his mind so fast he couldn’t fully process them, but there was a common theme in many of them — a sense that all of it was just a little too potent — just a little too real.

And though the thought would not occur to Izuku in such a coherent manner until much later, its essence still seemed to resonate throughout him, even then:

Everyone is afraid of the dark, and yet darkness is the universe’s natural state. People often feel anxiety when confronted with vast expanses of empty space, and yet most of the universe is exactly that.

Maybe it was never about the darkness or the emptiness so much as it was about the fact that, deep down, we always knew that nothing was simply our mind’s answer to a something we couldn’t understand.

 

Izuku held his breath at the sound of the floorboards creaking, keeping his eyes trained on the ceiling as strange noises began to emanate from all directions, bleeding from the walls of his room.

He trembled as the noises gave way to something else — a strange sort of whispering that flooded his ears like water. Muted voices saying words he couldn’t decipher. This on its own was enough to make Izuku shake violently in fear, but it was a sudden gust of cold air that finally made him crack.

Gripping the covers and tearing them up over his head, Izuku squeezed his eyes shut as he twisted onto his side. The blankets around his body. His arms around his knees as he curled into a ball, and it hit him that the whispers were not muffled, but rather louder now, and each word sounded clearer than the last. It built and built and built until finally he began to hear it, began to hear the things they said. In the darkness of his room, beneath the crushing weight of a hostile atmosphere, he heard—

“Izuku!”

Sudden and urgent.

At the same time, he felt a warm hand gripping his knee, and from his throat there came a strangled scream of terror that shattered the air around him, returned the space back to its facade of normalcy, but it was too late to go back — he heaved a deep breath and began sobbing hysterically, his hands pressing against his ears hard enough to bruise as he buried his head between his knees, desperately trying to get away, trying to make himself smaller as though he could somehow retreat into himself.

He cried almost violently, shaking as though the volume of his fear had exceeded the size of his body and was now bursting its way out. In the midst of it all, he felt a warm hand wrap around his wrist, yanking his hand away from his face just before a desperate voice began to speak reverently into his ear.

“Hey, hey, it’s me!” Izuku’s mind barely registered the words. “Izuku, hey! It’s okay! It’s just me, goddamnit! Listen!”

Izuku took a shuddering breath, his heart hammering inside his chest. He looked into the darkness with wide, terrified eyes, and finally, after several seconds, the significance of the voice managed to penetrate the fog over his mind.

“K-Kacchan?!” He cried out.

“Yes! Listen to me!” He shouted. “You need to calm down!”

Izuku shook his head rapidly, ducking his head between his knees again.

“I can’t I can’t I can’t—” He sobbed. “I can’t do it, Kacchan. Oh god, I’m so— so— Kacchan, I can’t— help me, I’m—!”

“Shh, I know,” he told him, wrapping warm arms around Izuku’s body and pulling him into a tight embrace. “I’m here. Nothing’s gonna hurt you. You’re safe,” he said.

For awhile, they just stayed like that. Izuku’s body racked with tremors as he lay there, wrapped in Kacchan’s arms despite still being in fetal position.

When eventually the sobs began to subside, he felt large, warm hands gently pressing on his knees, coaxing him to lower his legs so that Kacchan could pull him in closer. Izuku sniffled against his chest.

“I’m scared, Kacchan.”

“It’s okay.” He said. “It’s okay, Izuku, it’s not real—”

“—But it is real!” Izuku cried out, his voice shrill as his fingers dug into Kacchan’s back. “The doctor— she said that I—”

“Hey, hey! Listen.” Kacchan said, speaking firmly. “None of that shit can hurt you, okay? Not while I’m around.”

“But—”

“No fucking buts.” He interjected. In a softer tone, he went on, “I’m gonna protect you from anything you need protection from, okay? That includes yourself.”

For a moment, it was silent, apart from the sound of Izuku quietly sniffling against Kacchan’s chest.

“I mean, if I’ve gotta kick your mind’s ass, I fuckin’ will.”

“My— what—”

“—I know it fuckin’ has one.” Kacchan cut in. “I’ve just gotta find it. You think I can’t do it? Watch me. C’mere—” he suddenly dug both his hands into Izuku’s hair and began to roughly feel around, grumbling various expletives under his breath as his did. “I’m gonna find it, just you wait—”

“Wha— Kacchan!” He protested. Kacchan did not let up. “My brain doesn’t have a butt!”

“Yeah, says your fucking brain.” Kacchan snorted, beginning to ruffle his hair even more aggressively. “Wake the fuck up Izuku, your brain’s just tryin’ to save its ass because it knows the moment I find it, I’m gonna fuck it up!”

“Kacchan!” He giggled slightly, the tension starting to ease from his frame. “C’mon, I’ve got a headache...”

“Fine!” Kacchan hissed, before abruptly letting go. “Just this once, I’m gonna let your shitty brain off with a warning, but he’s on thin fucking ice, you hear me?”

“I hear you,” he replied, smiling softly into the darkness.

“Good.” Kacchan said. “Now, tell that asshole to go to sleep.”

 


 

A few months later, Izuku had a dream that never ended.

Kacchan had been plucking pieces of sticks and leaves out of his hair. “Fucking twigs—” he grumbled.

Izuku wasn't sure when the dream began.

At some point, he knew that Kacchan must’ve led him to the meadow they were currently in. Knew that they’d been rough housing, judging by the grass and mud on Kacchan’s clothes and the leaves and twigs caught in his own hair. And somewhere along the line, he must’ve dozed off. He closed his eyes under the night sky, and when he opened them again, it was dawn.

He was lying on his side, with Kacchan mirroring his position. The boy swore under his breath as he worked the pieces of plant matter out of his hair, “Might as well be a damn tree—” and Izuku smiled. Despite his fussing, Kacchan was clearly being quite meticulous. It reminded him of the apes he’d seen at the zoo, once — the way they groomed each other so attentively.

“You think you’re funny, huh?” Kacchan suddenly stilled. Izuku’s eyes met with burning red ones, and the grin on Kacchan’s face read as some ambiguous challenge.

“If I don’t say it out loud, it’s not real, Kacchan.” He smiled innocently.

“Fuckin’ technicalities.” He scoffed. “I’m gonna let that one slide, but only because it’s your birthday.” He settled back in the grass, leaning on one elbow, with his palm pressed into his cheek. A flash of light caught Izuku’s eye and prompted him to look down, and he became mesmerized at the sight of tiny explosions crackling to life in Kacchan’s hand.

“So cool...” he murmured.

Kacchan smirked, letting off a few larger explosions. It was only then that Izuku registered the proximity to the grass.

“W-wait,” he said, sitting up slightly. Kacchan raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that dangerous? You could start a forest fire…”

“It’s your dream world, dumbass. Nothing’s flammable unless you want it to be.” He snorted, aiming an explosion at the ground just to prove his point. Izuku watched as it hit the grass and simply dissipated into the wind, almost as if it had bounced off of it. The sound of Kacchan mumbling drew Izuku’s attention back, and when he looked at him again he saw that the boy was grabbing a handful of grass. “Doesn’t even feel like grass, for fuckssake. S’like… It’s like…” He paused, narrowing his eyes. “Is this your hair?” He asked, incredulous.

Izuku’s eyes widened. “W-what?” He sputtered.

“Oh my god, it is,” Kacchan said, grinning wide with amusement. He reached down and started running his fingers through it. “Look, it even gets all tangled like your hair!” He laughed.

“It’s comfy,” Izuku stated defensively, plopping his head down into the ‘grass’ pointedly.

“So, does that mean we’re just lying on a planet-sized version of your head, right now?” Kacchan went on. “That’s fucking wild.”

Izuku groaned, planting his face into the ground.

“That sun looks suspiciously spikey. Wonder who you’re orbiting.” Kacchan remarked, prompting Izuku to jolt upright and look to the sky. “You tryin’ to tell me something, Izuku?” He teased.

Izuku blinked, looking around frantically until he spotted the sun, about halfway up the horizon, and— “It looks completely normal, Kacchan!” He shouted, reaching out to swat the blonde’s shoulder.

Kacchan burst into a fit of laughter. “You still fell for it, though.” He pointed out, in between giggles. “You’re eleven years old now, but you’re still as gullible as ever, huh, Izuku?”

He lay down again, pouting as he shoved his face into the ‘grass.’ “That’s mean.” He said, his voice muffled

He could practically hear the smile on Kacchan’s face. “You know I don’t mean it,” he said, and yeah.

Izuku did know.

But he wasn’t feeling particularly charitable that day. It was his birthday, after all; he ought to be cut some slack.

Kacchan poked him in the shoulder. “Hey. Look at me.” He demanded flatly. Izuku did not move. “C’mon, forgive me already.” Izuku remained quiet.

For a moment, there was silence. Kacchan didn’t move, and neither did Izuku.

Then, suddenly, Kacchan’s finger jabbed his waist and Izuku released a shriek of surprise. He tried to roll over, but the pokes just kept coming.

“I said, fucking forgive me!” He shouted over Izuku’s laughter, as his fingertips attacked his sides. Izuku finally managed to roll onto his back so he could at least try to block the attacks, but Kacchan just got on top of him, and took his defensively raised arms as an invitation to go for his armpits.

“Quit it!” Izuku shouted, gasping in between bouts of laughter.

“Not until you say you forgive me, loser!”

Izuku had already forgiven him. They both knew that. But—

“Never!” Izuku yelled back, grabbing Kacchan’s shirt and rolling them so that he was on top. The look of surprise on Kacchan’s face lasted only a second before he was returning the favor — twisting out of Izuku’s grasp and flipping him onto his back again, his fingers jabbing any place he could.

Izuku tried to grab his shirt again, but Kacchan saw it coming, and responded by grabbing his wrists. “That’s not gonna work again!”

“Oh yeah?” Izuku said, just before he kicked his legs up and wrapped his feet around Kacchan’s back, using the momentum to flip their positions once more. “I think you forgot I have legs, Kacchan!” He laughed, his hands pressed into Kacchan’s shoulders as he did his best to cage him in between his knees.

There was a mischievous glint in Kacchan’s eyes that Izuku had no time to think about, because just a second after it appeared, Kacchan released what could only be described as a battle cry as he proceeded to kick his legs into the air, using the force of it to fling himself up onto his feet. It happened so fast, it was all Izuku could do to wrap his arms and legs around his torso just to keep himself from falling.

No sooner after Kacchan had hoisted himself off the ground did he fall to his knees again, pressing his palms into the space around where Izuku’s head soon landed. “I think you forgot I have legs, too.” Kacchan gave a wide, triumphant grin. Izuku narrowed his eyes and stuck his tongue out at him, reluctantly accepting that he’d been beaten, at least for the time being.

He breathed heavily, his heart beating rapidly. It was tiring, but he was still smiling. Kacchan sat with his knees on either side of him, and from where Izuku lay, the placement of his head against the the violet, morning sky made it look as though he truly were the sun.

“First I’m a star, now I’m the sun?” Kacchan grinned smugly.

Izuku blinked. “The sun is a star, Kacchan.”

“That’s not the point and you know it,” He said, a knowing look on his face. Izuku glanced off to the side, his cheeks heating up beneath Kacchan’s gaze. After a moment, the blonde piped up again. “So you forgive me, right?” He asked, though the low intonation made it sound almost like a threat. Izuku looked up at him again.

“Fine,” he eventually responded, rolling his eyes. “But only because I know that someday you’re gonna explode, and I feel kinda bad.”

“Again with the star shit, huh?” Kacchan quirked an eyebrow. “Wonder what you’re trying to imply, comparing me to something like that.”

“It’s because you’re pointy.” Izuku hastily replied, turning his head away quickly.

Kacchan scoffed. “Uh-huh, sure.”

“Watch out,” Izuku said. “You know what they say about falling stars. If you’re not careful, I might start pushing you down just so I can make wishes on you.”

Kacchan’s jaw dropped, and his eyebrows shot up to his browline. His face read as shock, but Izuku could tell he was impressed. He blushed slightly, reaching up to scratch his head sheepishly. “Damn, and you think I’m mean,” He muttered.

Izuku giggled, closing his eyes and stretching his arms out above himself. “It really is comfortable though,” he said with a yawn. “The grass. Or I guess, ah... hair.”

“Hah?” Kacchan responded, then started to laugh. “Damn Izuku, you haven’t noticed? That grass— hair… whatever that was, it stopped bein’ it a while ago.”

“What?” Izuku asked, confusion showing in his eyes as they blinked open, only to be blinded by the morning light. He shut his eyes quickly and felt around, confirming that he was back in his bed.

He wasn’t sure how to react. The dreams didn’t usually end that abruptly, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t disappointed. He would’ve liked to have gotten to look at Kacchan just a little bit longer.

“Well, open your eyes, birthday boy.” Kacchan suddenly said.

“Hmm?” Izuku slowly opened his eyes, squinting to adjust to the light, and when the glare cleared from his vision, he found—

 

—he found Kacchan, exactly where he’d been just seconds before.

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat, and for a moment, he just stared.

“I’m— am I still dreaming?”

“Nah,” Kacchan shook his head, leaning forward with a grin. “You’re awake.”

“I’m awake,” Izuku repeated back to himself, gaping as he looked upon him in wonder. After a moment, Kacchan climbed off of him and fell onto his side, and Izuku turned onto his in order to keep his gaze locked on him.

“Damn, having a visible form is tiring,” Kacchan grumbled, closing his eyes as he allowed his head to fall onto the pillow, beside Izuku’s. After a moment, a smirk began spreading onto his face. “Take a picture; it’ll last longer. Literally.”

Izuku jolted out of his reverie, his cheeks burning as red as the eyes he was now staring into. He opened his mouth and closed it a few times, trying in vain to avert his eyes. But every time he took his eyes off of him, it felt as though some unknown magnetism would simply pull them back again.

Unable to look away, Izuku resolved to simply scoot closer, burying his face in Kacchan’s neck to hide the redness of his cheeks. A moment later, he managed to squeak out, “I think we both know that the odds of being able to take a picture of you are, ahh... questionable, at best.”

Kacchan sighed, and for the first time while awake, Izuku actually saw his arms wrapping around his back, holding him in a strong grip. “Yeah, guess I’ll have to give you that one.”

Izuku bit his lip and pressed himself a bit closer, trying to reign himself in. When all else failed, he resorted to counting his own heartbeats in a desperate attempt to keep his mind in check.

But there were two things that hovered at the back of the mind, even as he did his best to concentrate on the task at hand. One: His heart was beating far more quickly than it should’ve been, and two: Kacchan, without a shadow of a doubt, knew why.