“Mama! When can I go to school?” Izuku bounced from foot to foot, his little rabbit ears bobbing with his movements. “It gets boring in the house all day. I want to go out and make some friends!”
His mother, Inko, wiped her hands on her apron, stepping away from the dishes she had just finished washing. She patted down her son’s ears, brushing her palm over his curly green head. Izuku stood up on tiptoes to lean into her touch.
“Well, hopefully, you’ll be able to join everybody at school right on time next year if you have better control at hiding your ears and tail.”
He tugged at her long skirt. “But why do I have to hide them? Why do you and dad always hide them? Doesn’t it feel better to keep them out?”
She kneeled down in front of him and answered patiently, “Izuku, I’ve tried to tell you before, but most people aren’t like us. Weres like us need to hide.”
“But why can’t I just make some Were friends then?” His big, lonely, green eyes sparkled up at her and Inko’s heart fell to pieces as she swooped her baby boy up into her arms.
“Most Weres don’t reveal themselves to other Were species, darling. It’s safer this way. To protect ourselves from humans and predator Weres.”
“What would be worse, Mama?” Izuku struggled from her hold to better peer up at her curiously. “A human or a predator?”
“Definitely the predator,” Izuku’s eyes lit up with excitement, but Inko’s chest tightened at even having to think about all the terrible things that could befall her one and only child. “Humans tend to have some semblance of sympathy for animals and they have a weakness for anything cute, which you most certainly are!” She booped him on the nose and he giggled. “But a predator Were would feel nothing upon seeing you all shrunken down into my little ball of fluff. Nothing but the pure instinct to catch and feast!”
Inko let out a play growl and shaped her hands into pretend claws. Izuku laughed and escaped her grasp, racing out of reach. She stood up to chase him, intent on tickling him until he was breathless. She almost had him when her hands folded around his clothes and empty air. The little form of her boy morphed into that of a small bunny.
The tiny thing bounded around the room, binking in its excitement. Inko sighed to herself and rubbed at her temples. “Izuku, I told you, you shouldn’t shift!” She went to the windows and drew the curtains closed.
She turned back into the room. The floor was devoid of her child. Without the natural light of day, it was too dark to see inside their small apartment.
She stepped further into the room, letting her own ears spring forth. With her heightened senses, she caught the sound of scuffling on the hardwood. Inko followed it to the back of the room, getting on her knees to look under the couch.
Izuku’s twitching nose was the first thing that greeted her. Then she took in the rest of his trembling body. “Oh, no, baby. It’s okay. Mommy just gets worried, you know? You don’t have to be scared.”
Izuku cautiously hopped out and into her waiting hands. She lifted him into her lap to stroke the space between his ears. “Shhhhh shhhh. It’s okay. You’re okay. You just can’t shift at the drop of a hat like that. It could be dangerous. Maybe we should wait the extra year for school... until you’re ready?”
The way he pushed out from under her hand and stared up at her told Inko all she needed to know concerning his opinion on that particular subject.
“I know. I know. You’re lonely and you want friends. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea to let you out of the house more, I guess? We could have some practice runs. Maybe take you to the park?”
Izuku’s little front paws had him bouncing up and down in her lap, he was so excited.
“Okay, okay! But you have to shift back and we’ll need to do something about your ears.”
Two weeks later, Inko found herself tying a knitted snow cap with floppy rabbit ears around her boy’s head.
“How does that feel? Too tight? Too warm?”
“Just right!” He beamed at her.
She smiled back at him. “And your tail?”
He shifted on his feet uncomfortably. “I don’t like it so smushed down, but it’s okay.”
“There really isn’t much we can do about that, now is there?” She put her face in her hand, contemplative. She smiled at him. “You do look awfully cute in that hat though. Are you ready to go to the park and make some friends?”
Izuku nodded excitedly. “Yes!”
She grabbed his hand. “Then let’s go!”
Inko watched Izuku from a park bench as he happily bounded up to a group of boys about his age. Everything looked to be going okay. Izuku was still smiling after all. But she still eyed him nervously from afar, afraid to look away.
“This your first time at the park?” Inko startled and turned to the bench’s new occupant. “Relax! My kid’s out there with yours. You can take a breather and enjoy a friendly conversation with a fellow park mom.” The woman was maybe a little older than Inko, blonde. She was fiercely beautiful and had an air about her that made a person snap to attention at a word.
“O-oh, sorry. Yes, this is our first time here.”
“Which one is yours? The one with the rabbit ears?”
Inko swallowed and nodded.
“Thought so. Haven’t seen him before either. It’s a cute hat. Did you make it for him?”
The woman sighed. “It’s a shame, but most boys around his age probably aren’t gonna think it’s so cute. My son would set fire to the drapes if I tried to put that cap on his head.”
“I- Sorry? Is it bad for him to wear something like that?”
“Oh, no. It’s not like that. I just know how kids can be and I don’t really wanna see yours getting ganged up on for something as simple as a cutesy hat.”
As if on cue, Izuku ran back to the bench, tear tracks trailing down his face. Inko stood up and let him run into her arms.
Damn! She hadn’t meant to get so distracted. What happened while she wasn’t looking? The hat was still on, thank God.
“Izuku, sweetie. What’s wrong, baby? Are you alright?”
Izuku struggled to get out the words. “O-One of the boys over there!” He pointed to the children, huddled together and looking over at them. They sheepishly kicked up dirt. “One of them bit me!”
“ What? !” Both Inko and the other park mom exclaimed.
The blonde mom stood up and pointed at her feet. “KATSUKI! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE RIGHT THIS INSTANT!”
A little blond boy with eyes as red as his mother’s clicked his tongue and started making his way over.
“ Explain ,” her voice was so commanding, Inko felt the need to suppress a shiver.
“I didn’t bite him! ” The boy, Katsuki, his mother had called him, screamed. “I bit his hat!”
His mom gave him a small slap upside the head. Inko flinched, but the boy merely looked annoyed.
“Whatcha do that for, old hag?!”
“You watch your mouth, brat! You can’t just go around biting people or their clothes,” she quickly amended the admonishment when he opened his mouth to argue further. “You scared him. Now apologize.”
Katsuki clicked his tongue again and turned his glare at Inko and her son. She instinctively tugged Izuku closer, but whispered into his ear, “He’s going to say he’s sorry. Be polite and face him, okay?”
Izuku sniffled, but turned to the pouting boy.
“Well?” The other mom scooted her son forward.
“M’sorry,” he grumbled out, clearly unapologetic.
Izuku didn’t seem to mind. He brushed away his tears and smiled at him. “Okay!” Inko sighed, relieved at her boy’s swift to forgive nature.
The other mom pinched her son’s ear and hollered down at him, “That was the most piss poor attempt at an apology that I’ve ever seen. You are so lucky he accepted it. Oh!” She stopped her tirade and looked at Inko. “I forgot to introduce myself earlier. My name is Bakugou Mitsuki.” Inko took her hand. “And this brat is my little fireball, Katsuki. We live just up the street.”
Inko bowed her head a little. “I’m Midoriya Inko and this is Izuku. We live up the street, but in the other direction.”
“Oh, cool. That means we’ll be seeing more of each other. And I’ll probably have to be breaking up more fights between our kids. It’s always nice to have another mom friend in the neighborhood.”
Inko’s heartbeat picked up speed. Her cheeks heated and she felt a small swell of happiness rise up. It had been so long since she had a friend to confide in. The last friends she had made had been in college, but, after getting pregnant, it just wasn’t going to be safe for Izuku if they kept in touch.
She grinned up at Mitsuki gratefully. “Thank you, we’ll be in your care!”
Mitsuki flushed and waved her hand in front of her dismissively. “Hey, quit that! No need to be so formal. You’re gonna make me all flustered.”
“Can I go back to playing with everyone else now?”
Mitsuki clicked her tongue and Inko suppressed a laugh at how similar her expression was to her son’s.
“You may, but you’re gonna take Izuku with you and you’re gonna behave, understand me?”
“Sure, sure.” Katsuki didn’t wait for Izuku as he sprinted out of his mom’s grasp and headed for the group of boys. Izuku scurried after.
Katsuki eyed up the newcomer warily. There was something off about him. About the way he bounded over to his little pack and introduced himself without reservations. The other two boys with him had looked at Katsuki questioningly, silently asking permission if they were allowing the newcomer entry.
“Hah? What did you say your name was?” Katsuki hadn’t bothered to listen the first time.
“I said my name is Midoriya Izuku. I’m four years old. How old are you? Would you like to be friends?”
Katsuki took a step back, overwhelmed with how quickly this other boy could spew words from his mouth.
Izuku was unperturbed by his trepidation, stepping closer to him. He peered up into his face with big, curious, green eyes. “What’s your name?”
A waft of something delicious floated up and delighted Katsuki’s senses. His wolf traits itched to spring forth. He clenched his jaw and kept them hidden. “Bakugou Katsuki.”
“Ah! So, Kacchan!”
One of his cronies snorted. The other simply restated in disbelief, “Kacchan...?”
Katsuki growled and pushed Izuku back. “What the hell is with that pansyass nickname, huh? And why the hell are you wearing such a dumb hat? You’re weird!”
Izuku, to his credit, didn’t even react to any of the cruel remarks. Instead, he pulled the ears of his hat down bashfully. “Oh this? My mom made it for me!”
“That’s pretty skillful...” One of Katsuki’s minions muttered.
“Still not really something I would ever wear...” The other remarked.
Katsuki had just about enough of Izuku’s jovial demeanor. He was being threatening, goddammit! Was this whelp just making fun of him? He wasn’t some bristling lapdog!
He released another growl and took one of the ears from Izuku’s hands. The other boy flinched. It felt firmer than Katsuki thought it would be.
That tantalizing scent from before lapped at his nose and drew him in. He felt his pulse quicken and he couldn’t help when his teeth clamped down.
Izuku gasped. A small hint of blood filled Katsuki’s mouth. He quickly licked his canines as he pulled back, wiping them clean. The sweet taste of prey lingered in his mouth.
Izuku looked shell shocked, practically on the verge of tears. Katsuki watched the rabbit sprint back over to his mother and his own legs itched to give chase.
Not here. You aren’t allowed to shift here.
His mother called him over and made him apologize. He tried to catch her eye during the exchange, but she seemed to be enamored with making friends with the rabbit’s mother. His mom hardly had any actual friends of her own, being too aggressive and loud for most other parents to stand.
He looked at the rabbit, face pressed against his mother’s skirt, sniveling and quivering. His eyes focused on the subtle twitch of his ears behind the hat. He rejoiced in the supple flavor of fear scent rolling off him in waves. Katsuki licked his lips remembering the taste.
There was no way in hell he was gonna tell his mother that they were in the company of two very wary rabbits. It was her fault for being so distracted by a possible pack mate to the point that she didn’t even realize she was trying to induct a prey animal.
Besides, this boy was Katsuki’s prey and Katsuki’s alone. Like hell he was sharing.
“I didn’t bite him! I bit his hat!” Katsuki watched relief sweep over the mother rabbit. He hated playing dumb, but, if it gave everyone else here peace of mind enough to let him hunt uninhibited, then so be it.
The rabbit forgave him easy enough, his little prey brain too naive and trusting. Katsuki didn’t have to look behind him when he took off to know that Izuku was following him.
They made it back to the other boys, perfectly out of earshot of their mothers. Katsuki quickly turned on his heel, getting into the rabbit’s face. “Did you know? Your name can be read in another way.”
“You can read kanji, Kacchan?” One of the other boy’s eyes sparkled in admiration. Katsuki made no comment on the continued use of his new nickname, since he planned on giving Izuku one of his own.
He picked up a stick and drew the characters out in the sand. “Izuku can also be read Deku .”
The rabbit’s eyes sparkled. “Wow! What does that mean?”
“It means useless. Someone who can’t do anything.” He grinned ferally at him.
Deku shrunk down, his ears dipping down a smidge. Katsuki’s friends snickered behind his back.
“That’s... kind of mean, Kacchan.”
“Well, what do you plan on doing about it? Gonna run and cry to your mom again?”
Deku puffed up and made a determined face. “No! I’ll stay and play with you guys! I won’t get upset like that again!”
“Good. Cause we’re playing tag now.” Katsuki pushed him down. “And you’re it. Run! ” The other boys scattered at his command.
Deku got up and immediately gave chase to Katsuki, probably determined to prove himself by tagging the boys’ leader.
As if you could ever catch me.
Katsuki led him outside of the playground and into the wooded area just beyond. He slipped under a fence and heard Deku struggle with getting under unscathed. Katsuki ducked behind a tree, crouching down and watching as Deku sprinted right by his hiding spot.
Now it was his turn to chase!
He stalked the rabbit through the wooded area stealthily, careful not to overturn stones or sticks. He watched Deku come to a sudden stop, his hat snagging on a low hanging branch. He tried to wiggle free from it, but kept his hands firmly on the hat to keep it on top of his head. Eventually, he stopped struggling, attempting to catch his breath. Katsuki watched the rise and fall of his chest in fascination.
Purposely, he stepped on a twig underfoot and the sound echoed through the trees. Deku froze, his eyes darting around nervously, nose twitching.
“K-Kacchan?” Katsuki liked the way the nickname sounded laced with fear.
He growled, his anticipation growing. He wouldn’t let his ears out. Not quite yet.
Izuku trembled like a leaf, backing up against the tree he was trapped by, holding the hat to his head for dear life. He closed his eyes tightly, his lip wobbling.
Katsuki heard a few stuttered sobs escape his prey as he closed in.
He stepped out. “What are you doing getting stuck, huh, Deku?”
“Kacchan?” Red rimmed, bright green eyes caught Katsuki in their headlights and Katsuki froze.
Something was wrong.
Prey Weres were beneath him.
That was nature.
Katsuki wasn’t doing anything wrong.
He should theoretically be able to end this hunt right now.
A part of him scolded him, held him back.
I want more still.
Katsuki was perturbed by his wolf side’s piqued interest, but he abided by his instincts. He took a step forward and Deku bared his blunt teeth. “Don’t!”
Katsuki felt himself bristle.
How dare a mere prey Were threaten him?
“ Relax ,” Katsuki used the tone his mom used when she wanted absolute attention and submission. The alpha voice.
It worked instantly. Deku slumped against the tree, muscles lax and neck bared. Tears still flowed down his freckled face, but Katsuki could deal with that after he freed him.
He cautiously closed the space between them until he could reach the branch and untangle it from a few of the stitches on one of the ears. The sweet scent of rabbit fur called to him again, flooding his mouth with saliva. He briefly wondered how soft Deku’s ears were underneath the hat, but he kept himself on a tight leash. He had already given in to enough of his Were urges for one day.
When Deku was free, his legs buckled and he crumbled to his knees on the ground. Katsuki caught him, bringing him down gently. Deku clung to him and cried, snot dripping from his nose.
“Gross!” Katsuki reached into his back pocket for his hankie. “Geez, wipe your nose. You’re such a crybaby. No wonder your name is Deku.”
Deku blew his nose. Katsuki waved for him to keep the hankie when he tried to hand it back. Katsuki stood up and pulled Deku back to his feet by the hand. “Let’s go back before our moms start freaking out.”
“Kacchan?” Katsuki didn’t stop walking, but he peeked over his shoulder. Deku smiled shyly at their entwined hands before turning the delighted expression up at him. “Tag!”
Katsuki felt his face heat up, his eye twitching in rage. “You didn’t tag me, asshole! That’s not how tag works! You got stuck and I had to bail you out! You didn’t win and you definitely didn’t beat me, so don’t forget it!”
Deku’s smile didn’t falter. “Okay, I won’t! You saved me, just like a hero!”
Katsuki clicked his tongue and faced away from him. His inner wolf preened at the praise. The conflicting feeling made him feel sour.