Bakugou Katsuki wasn’t the type to ever give up. That being said, there was a threshold of stubbornness that even he couldn’t exceed, a level of concession he had to accept even as an eleven-year-old hothead with big dreams and a bigger attitude. He had held out for the other half of his quirk to come in for years, but ever since he was five years old, he had only displayed his mother’s quirk. Glycerin sweat.
A quirk that kept his skin moisturized, made him smell like sugar when he exercised, and did fuck all else.
So eventually, young Katsuki had given up on the idea that he had the secret powerful quirk that everyone had expected him to develop years ago. But that didn’t mean he would ever give up on being a hero. Sure, it had never been done before, but there was no one more determined to succeed than Katsuki. And Katsuki had his best friend Izukkun, and together they had vowed to prove the world wrong about what it took to be a hero. They would go beyond making their bullies look stupid for underestimating them, and make the whole world look at quirkless people differently. Together they would become the top two heroes in Japan, and they would do it without having to rely on any special powers.
And sure, maybe Izuku seemed less and less certain over time that they would succeed, and moped about his lack of a quirk in a way that pissed Katsuki off-- if Izuku wanted to get upset over his quirklessness so bad, Katsuki thought he should just get angry and do something productive about it instead of being uselessly and pathetically sad-- but Izuku wanted to be a hero about as badly as Katsuki despite it, and Katsuki knew that even if it was just a dream for Izuku, Katsuki was strong enough to actualize his destiny. When Izukkun saw that Katsuki could do it, he would surely stop being such a crybaby and follow his lead. He knew that Izuku would be a much cooler friend and partner in heroism once he stopped being so annoying and weak.
Maybe becoming a quirkless hero wouldn’t be so hard when there was someone like him by his side.
Or at least, that’s what he had thought, until Izuku’s quirk finally manifested that year. Where Katsuki’s own useless quirk had been discovered when he woke up covered in ants on a camping trip, Izuku’s big reveal had saved the whole school when his unassuming green-haired best friend instinctively absorbed all the heat from the room and put out a large fire that would have otherwise spread throughout the halls.
Heat absorption. The perfect combination of two powers no one ever thought could combine, while Katsuki’s own parents’ powers would have melded perfectly together, if only they had. Katsuki felt like the universe was playing a joke on him, and he sure as hell wasn’t laughing.
Katsuki watched as Izuku quickly gained popularity for his powerful quirk, watched as people started to actually believe Izuku when he said he was going to UA, watched as Izuku started to believe it himself. He had never truly believed it before, no matter how hard he tried, Katsuki could tell. And although Izuku still wanted to hang out with Katsuki, he started to look at him a little differently every day. Katsuki couldn’t stand the pitying glances when they talked about their future as heroes, or the way that Izuku would tell Katsuki’s bullies-- they were just Katsuki’s bullies now-- to leave him alone. He couldn’t stand that it worked. It was different from when they would stand up for each other as two quirkless friends. They weren’t fighting side by side anymore; Katsuki was having his battles fought for him, like he was some sort of hapless weakling, and he hated it.
So Katsuki told him to piss off, and he watched himself drive a wedge between them, separating them more and more every day. When Izuku finally got the hint and stopped following him around and trying to talk to him, it was the first time Katsuki felt like he could breathe since Izuku manifested his quirk. It was also the most alone he’d ever felt.
But still, Katsuki would never give up. If he didn’t need a quirk to become a hero, he didn’t need his best friend either.
Katsuki slowed his run to a jog when he began to approach a bench, and he let himself collapse onto it, if only for a short break on his way home from school. If he lingered anywhere too long while outside and drenched in his glycerin sweat, he’d end up covered in ants. Which wasn’t something he minded, since they never bit him, only drank his sugary sweat in a way that he used to find disgusting but got used to over time. But he was sure his mother wouldn’t appreciate him bringing bugs into the house again, and as much as he loved a good screaming match, he already got out all his pent-up aggression for the day with that run.
So as soon as the first ants began to crawl their way up the bench, Katsuki stood and tore off a small bite of his energy bar to throw to the ants before he left. He’d learned years ago that that particular strategy didn’t exactly help distract the ants away from him-- hell, if anything, Katsuki thinks all the ants in the goddamn Shizuoka Prefecture must have some kind of hivemind where they tell each other about how generous Bakugou is, because now the ants are starting to follow him even when he’s not sweating. But it was a habit that stuck even after it backfired. And fuck it, he liked ants. They were his “thing” now. Not that he told anyone about it, apart from Izuku, when they were still friends.
God damn shitty Izukkun… he still managed to get in Katsuki’s head, even after all this time. He wishes he hadn’t spent so much time with the brat when they were little, maybe then he wouldn’t be following him around even in his thoughts.
Katsuki shook his head to clear it and sped his walk back up to a run as he continued on his way home. Suddenly, he found himself with more pent-up aggression to run off. He supposed it was better that way-- gave him more opportunity to train for UA. At least Izuku was useful for something. Now that it was his last year of middle school, he had to train harder than ever to be ready for UA’s bullshit practical exam.
Lost in thought, Katsuki didn’t realize that he’d stepped in a giant puddle of mud pooling around a manhole until he found, mid-stride, that his shoe was stuck. Momentum still carrying him forward, Katsuki stumbled forward and barely managed to catch himself before falling face-first in the mud. Except now both of his hands were stuck. “What the fuck?” he murmured to himself as he gave a couple of futile tugs away from the substance that was keeping him stuck to the ground . “What kind of mud is this…”
His question didn’t go long unanswered as the sludge beneath him began to grow and coalesce into a humanoid form. As it grew, it took Katsuki with him, pulling him upright but still attached to its surface. Great. It was some guy with an annoying quirk.
“Hey asshole!” Katsuki shouted as he continued trying to jerk his arms and legs away. “I don’t know if your playing at some sort of lame prank or if you’re just an entire fucking dumbass. Actually, I don’t give a shit about what your deal is, just let go of me!”
Katsuki felt a cruel chuckle vibrate through the sludge around his arms as the stranger began to suck Katsuki even further into the mud instead of letting him go, and a chill ran up Katsuki’s spine followed by a surge of anger and adrenaline as he realized this was far more likely a criminal than some lowlife prankster.
“You’re a little slow, kid. Luckily, I just need your body, not your brain.”
Katsuki’s mind ran through his options; he had the boots, gauntlet, and darts he’d engineered in his backpack, but with his arms and one leg constrained, there was no way he could get to them, and even if he could he wasn’t sure if they’d work against someone with this type of quirk. He had one free leg, and he kept it as far from the sludge as he could to avoid being fully consumed, but he couldn’t think of anything he could do with one leg. He certainly couldn’t kick it, that would just trap his other foot…
As he frantically tried to figure a way out of his mess, the villain was beginning to cover Katsuki’s mouth with sludge, trying to pry it open. Katsuki clenched his jaw as tight as he could, figuring this must be how the villain planned to “take his body.” Seeming to realize that Katsuki had caught on, the villain moved the sludge onto his nose, blocking any passage of air so that he’d have to open his mouth. Katsuki needed to think fast, before he had to take a breath.
Leaning backwards, Katsuki put all his strength into reaching the concrete with his free foot. Once he was touching the ground, he pulled himself out of the shoe that was stuck in the sludge villain so that both his feet were free. Halfway there...
But there was no way to free his arms, and he was getting lightheaded, his mouth opening to take a breath against his will. In that split second, mud was already pouring down his throat, choking him and rendering the breath he’d tried to take utterly useless. He was already about to pass out, his rage the only thing keeping him awake. No way in hell a shitty mud villain was gonna kill him, when he wasn't even able to land a punch. But he just kept sinking further and further… into the sludge, out of consciousness… He couldn’t die, not like this! Every idiot who doubted him would think they were right! He couldn’t die this weak...
Suddenly, the sludge villain froze. Katsuki turned his head to look behind him as far as he could manage, and his eyes widened at the familiar figure he saw approaching from the shadows cast by the underpass.
“Have no fear, you’re safe,” the powerful voice rang out in an echo. “Now that I’m here.”
Katsuki was just barely holding onto his last threads of consciousness when an explosion of a punch from the number one hero freed him from the grasp of the sludge villain, before everything went black.
Consciousness began to trickle back into Katsuki slowly, then hit him like a freight train as he realized someone was standing above him. He leapt to his feet and into a battle stance before his arms fell limply to his sides at the sight before him. It was All Might. And he was saying… something, definitely. And Katsuki should definitely be paying attention. Katsuki blinked and everything began to fade back into focus.
“...you for your help, I hope you don’t mind I poured the water out to restrain the criminal!” All Might was saying with an animated swoosh of Katsuki’s water bottle, now filled with sludge. “When I was going through your bag I noticed some very interesting devices! You could certainly make for a very good hero support engineer! Now I’d best be off to bring this evildoer to the proper authorities.”
“No, I’m going to be a hero actually-- hey, wait up assho-- All Might!” Katsuki grabbed onto the t-shirt of the hero who was already hurriedly making his way out from under the underpass, not seeming to hear a word Katsuki was saying.
In an instant, Katsuki was flying.
It takes a brief and confused airborne tussle with All Might, who had finally noticed Katsuki’s presence again, and a lot of clinging and screaming on Katsuki’s part before they finally made it safely onto solid ground. Or, rather, solid rooftop. By that point, Katsuki sure as hell wasn’t going to let All Might go without getting one thing cleared up that came to mind every time he imagined meeting his favorite hero.
“All Might, can you stop for one second!?”
All Might, for the first time, froze, seemingly shocked to be yelled at in such a way. It didn’t last long, and he was already walking towards the edge of the roof to blast away again. “I really have no time, my boy, you’ll have to knock on th--”
“I NEED TO KNOW--!” Katsuki starts in a shout before cutting himself off with clenched fists, looking down at his shoes. Well, his one shoe. He desperately wanted to know if All Might thought he could really be a hero without a functional quirk, but if he phrased it like a question he’d never forgive himself for sounding so pathetic. “I want you to know, before you go. I’m not gonna be a support engineer. I’m gonna be the first quirkless hero.”
When he looked up again, the air around All Might was shrouded with smoke. “What the hell..? Is this part of your quirk?”
“Ah, shit…” Katsuki widened his eyes as All Might’s voice sounded from the fog, almost labored, exhausted. Words Katsuki would never use to describe All Might. “I suppose nothing can be done about this now… I hope you can keep a secret.”
“A secret? Do you have some sort of second quAT THE FUCK!?” Bakugou shouted. The fog had cleared, and All Might was… well, he was something, but he wasn’t All Might anymore. It was as if someone had stuck a pin in him and let all the air out. This guy was a shrimp, and he was bleeding from the mouth. He tried to connect “this guy” and “All Might” as the same person in his head, but it just wasn’t clicking. He didn’t look like he was all right, let alone All Might.
“To answer your question… It’s not a part of my quirk.” All Might raised his shirt and the injury spread across his torso almost made Katsuki flinch. All Might went on to explain his injury, the limitations it caused him, everything.
“Now that you know, it makes this part a little easier… You’ve seen what this job can do to a hero with a powerful quirk. Maybe you could beat some quirk users in a fight. Maybe you already have. But some villains are just too powerful to take on without any powers of your own. You just can’t be a hero without a quirk. I haven’t seen your gadgets in use, but from the look of what you’ve got there, you should really look into a career as a support engineer instead. It would save you a lot of unnecessary heartache.”
Katsuki, for once in his life, was speechless. The wild rage that overcame him was too great for him to speak through, and he knew that if he tried he’d make a fool of himself. There was nothing he could say to that, not now. Even if he had something to say, All Might was back to no longer giving him the time of day, he was already leaving.
A beam of light exploding across the city pulled him from the storm of emotions welling up inside of him. Another villain attack already, and after what he just heard about All Might, the number one hero wouldn’t be there to stop it. Without even thinking about what he was doing, Katsuki ran down the stairs and out of the building to follow the commotion, passing a distressed-looking All Might along the way.
He realized what he was doing only once he’d almost reached the site of the attack; he was going to prove himself by taking on this villain, and in the haze of fury that fueled his body forwards, he didn’t even care about just how stupid that idea was. Behind the crowd of fearful citizens that had gathered to watch the fight, Katsuki stopped only to pull his gauntlet and boots out of his backpack. He slipped them on, hardly feeling the sting of the shoeless foot he’d run across town on through his adrenaline, and pushed his way through the crowd.
It was the same villain from before. Katsuki guessed that's why All Might had looked so distraught when he passed him by; he must have dropped the water bottle when he was trying to get away from Katsuki. Of course, he hadn't been giving himself grief for denying someone's life goal or anything. The site of the battle was freezing cold in stark contrast to the rest of the city. Frost was forming on the ground, and whoever was in the sludge villain’s grasp was glowing bright gold in the center of the frost. Whatever his quirk was doing seemed to have no effect at all on the villain. Katsuki ran forward despite the glowing kid’s quirk making him cold and weak, more severely so than if he'd just stepped into a cold room. It was as if all the heat was being sapped from his body, and the glowing kid seemed to become even brighter. It was hard to tell, but the kid seemed to face him, and when he saw him, he dropped his quirk. Katsuki felt the warmth return to his body, and he could finally see the kid trapped in the villain’s body.
The heroes calling out for Katsuki to stop hadn’t given him pause, but the curly green tufts of hair poking out from the sludge villain almost did. Izukkun… why does it always have to be you, damn it!?
Once he was close enough for the sludge villain to take notice, the villain almost restrained him with a makeshift liquid appendage he lassoed in Katsuki’s direction. But with one leap in the enhanced boots he'd engineered, he cleared the slime and raised his gauntlet to level it towards the villain’s eye. When he was first captured by the villain, Katsuki had figured his darts wouldn’t work on his liquid body. But maybe, just maybe, his eyes were solid enough to be a weak point.
With his other hand, he flipped his gauntlet’s switch, and a poison dart found its home in the slime monster’s eye.
And then Katsuki fell.
He groaned as the wind was knocked out of him. His boots were a new invention, not field tested, and he hadn’t gotten the landing part down. Luckily, the strike he landed on the villain distracted him from Katsuki’s vulnerability, but the pain was not enough to incapacitate him; his massive liquid body was still able to hold onto Izuku, but the boy had managed to tear his head free enough to breathe.
“Kacchan, get out of here! You’re gonna get yourself killed!” Izuku shouted fearfully when he could finally speak.
Fury welled up inside Katsuki. He thinks he can use his nickname while he degrades him like that, treats him like he’s weak and needs to be protected when Izuku is the one in danger?
Katsuki pulled himself to his feet with a grim set to his jaw and raised his gauntlet to the villain again.
Toshinori rushed to the scene of the battle as fast as he could manage in his deflated form. To his horror, it was just as he had thought; the spiky-haired quirkless kid had come here to fight the sludge villain. Had he felt responsible for Toshinori’s own negligence in dropping the bottle? Had his words of discouragement pushed the boy to do something reckless? Or was he simply trying to save a life? Whatever the case, the boy had put himself in harm's way, and it was Toshinori’s fault.
A quirkless boy, fighting a villain that none of the pro heroes in town would attempt to square up against. And crazier still, he was even holding his own.
But there was only so much the child could do on his own, and Toshinori had no right to call himself a hero if he let a quirkless teenager fight a villain right in front of him. Toshinori latched onto whatever fleeting remnants of his quirk he could scrounge up and forced his way into the fray, taking the sludge villain out with a smash that shook the nearby buildings with a mighty whirlwind of force.
When everything calmed down, Toshinori searched for the boy, and found him speaking with the villain's victim. Or at least, the victim was speaking, while the other boy was brooding. He certainly had more in him than Toshinori could have ever expected, but still, he didn’t know the child’s intentions. Although something in him told him that this rowdy teen had the potential to wield One For All and do incredible things with it, Toshinori couldn’t give his power to someone who might only be out for petty vengeance or to prove a point. He had to get a better idea of just who he was. But still… he was worth monitoring, and worth inspiring. Even without One For All, Toshinori was beginning to think that someone with this kid’s pure determination might just be able to become a hero even without a quirk. It was apparent not just in his fighting, but in the muscle he’d clearly worked hard to build, the inventions Toshinori had seen him use that he must have been developing for months if not years, the way he stood up to the number one hero and told him that he was going to be the world’s first quirkless hero. Without even knowing that he could gain a quirk, he had announced that he was here...
“My boy, what’s your name?” He asked as he finally approached the blond boy.
“Bakugou Katsuki,” he replied, seeming shocked that Toshinori still wanted anything to do with him, but not even his surprise could wipe away the residual anger that never seemed to fully vacate Bakugou’s expression. It was as ever-present as All Might’s grin, and Toshinori didn’t quite know what to make of it. The green-haired boy next to him was staring up at Toshinori in pure awe, glancing rapidly between him and Bakugou.
“Young Bakugou," Toshinori began, "I see now that I may have been wrong about the advice I gave you. I believe you do have what it takes to be a hero. With your skill and strength of will, if you have the right purpose in your heart… after what you’ve shown me today, I can’t see why you couldn’t be a hero. Now, it won’t be easy, and you’ll have to fight harder than everyone else just to even the playing field. But if anyone could do it… you seem like the sort.”
Bakugou stared at him for a moment, expression fluctuating between every possible emotion Toshinori could ever imagine combined with anger, and finally landed on a dispassionate huff that was given away by the burning red of his cheeks. “Obviously,” he said simply, and walked away. He was clearly trying to seem unhurried and coolheaded with his hands shoved into his pockets-- whether the act was for All Might or for his green-haired friend who was now looking back at Bakugou as if he'd pissed on his ancestors' graves by blowing off All Might, Toshinori didn't know-- but there was a jittery stiffness to his walk that indicated his emotional reaction to Toshinori’s words.
Toshinori gave a weary smile. He could tell he was in for a wild ride with this one.