Failure was not new to Katsuki.
From his birth he'd been screwed over, ignored and taunted- three things he'd never expected and refused to accept.
That was possibly the worst part of the whole ordeal. Failure itself could, for some losers like Deku, be tolerated. The occasional slip up only built strength for them to succeed later on, which was probably the healthiest way of coping. Katsuki, however, stood by being amazing, perfect and unmarred by bad luck- a recipe for disaster, really, when he'd been born at the bottom of the barrel, worse than quirkless in some ways. And instead of rolling over and accepting it, letting himself acclimatise to his pisspoor existence, his brain would not concede, no matter how painful fighting could be.
Okay. Perhaps he was being a tad melodramatic, which Katsuki despised obviously, but not all men were born equal (as shitty Deku would say) and someone had to complain about it.
He'd been four when everything went wrong. His hopes and dreams crushed like pathetic little sand castles, which would have been washed away by the tide anyway. Like fate was mocking him. Katsuki had loved heroes from the moment his best friend had brought the newest All Might lunchbox into their nursery, and he'd thrown a tantrum until his father had bought him one of his own. Several YouTube videos of fights later, the young boy had learned three things: that the city’s infrastructure should be falling apart, that All Might was the best hero ever because he always won and that Katsuki had to become a hero greater than him.
Every night for months he sat in front of the family computer, hands clasped in front of him like some goddamn nerd, watching every clip he could find. From interviews to brutal battles, the blond child had absorbed every single word spoken, every single action taken. He was a smart kid and could recite the quotes better than even Deku, impressing all of the other children at nursery with his knowledge. They practically worshipped him, thanks to his smarts and confidence, plus the fact that he could do just about everything perfectly. He was sure to have an amazing quirk, they said.
When his fourth birthday rolled around, Katsuki was anticipating the arrival of said quirk. He got his hopes up, and that was on him.
One day, at his preschool, he'd arrived a little late and found everyone crowding around Deku. It was strange, of course, since the other boy was unpopular- though he did have the soul honour of being named the blond’s best friend, on account of being the only one similarly invested in heroes. The other kids liked them, sure, but they couldn't hold a candle to the two boys’ admiration.
“Deku! What's going on!?” He had shoved through the crowd of students, ignoring the mumbles of the teachers. In the middle Deku was stood in a little ring of frost, a tiny flame licking at the end of his right forefinger.
“Kacchan!” The fire had immediately dissipated as the other boy turned to him, eyes shining bright with newfound pride. “My quirk appeared yesterday! Isn't it cool? The doctor said it was Ther- erm, Thermofluctuation, I think? Maybe one day it'll be strong enough for me to become a great hero like All Might!”
Katsuki had been pulled into a tight hug, though his arms still hung loosely at his sides. Deku's quirk… It had appeared before even his? That loser? He was in a state of shock over it all even as everyone else celebrated and praised his friend, ruffling his curls and high fiving him.
“Well done, Izuku! I'm sure you'll become an amazing hero!” The teachers had cheered alike, for once leaving the blond outside of the limelight.
Deku, with that innocent smile that everyone quickly came to adore, only beamed back. “As long as I can help people with this quirk then I'll be happy!”
That selfless attitude did nothing to mar his reputation, as he quickly became the new favourite of their class. His grades were not far behind Katsuki's own and he already had a promising quirk- plus he was naturally kind to everyone. It didn't take long for him to become the most popular child there, even with his inadequacy at everything else. The blond hadn't minded so much at first, because this was Deku they were momentarily praising and he was sure that, once his quirk appeared, he'd be back to his top spot. Besides, the other child never once gloated about all the new praise, keeping his pride intact for the moment.
Until that fateful day, near the end of the school year. Katsuki was the only child left without a quirk in his class, the only one who hadn't had a ‘quirk party’ to celebrate the milestone. He hadn't worried because why would he? He'd complained plenty about how late it was but surely that just meant it promised to be powerful. Especially since, aside from Deku, his classmates all had pitiful quirks.
“Brat,” His mother had called, as she so often did. He barely looked up from his action figures when he nodded, more invested in his All Might's fight against Gang Orca. “We're going to the doctor's office after school, so don't stick around gabbing with Izuku for twenty minutes, alright?”
Katsuki bobbed his head again, smashing his figure’s fist against the other one’s face.
After school was over he only stopped to talk to Deku for five minutes, arguing over who would win in a fight between All Might and Endeavour. They both said All Might, obviously, but they couldn't decide whether it would take him one minute or two. Possibly even thirty seconds. The discussion was ended by his mother, dragging him into the car, screeching about ‘I told you so’, etcetera. The journey was filled with foreign tension, that young Katsuki could barely distinguish. He realised that they were going to the doctors and he was not sick, but Mitsuki had a tight, nervous grip on the steering wheel nevertheless- very unlike his rough mother. The waiting room carried a similar sense of suspense, until they were finally called into the office.
The doctor was a strange, bug-eyed man, with a fat mustache dangling over his mouth and a coat that smelt of tobacco. He did not seem like a pediatrician, but as he took Katsuki's x-rays and checked the child's temperature he showed no signs of malpractice.
“He's almost five, you say?” He'd asked, twiddling the greasy mustache. It was thick and ugly on his knobbled face, and the blond did not like looking at it, averting his eyes to the floor.
“Yeah, and all the other brats in his class have presented- he's the only one left.” His mother replied, before tilting his chin back up with her right hand so that he was forced to look at the man.
“Hmm,” The doctor glanced lazily back at the charts in front of him. “Remind me of your husband's and your quirks.”
“Nothing special. I sweat glycerin, like moisturiser, and he can make small sparks in his palms. With the brat’s personality we figured he'd inherit Masauru’s quirk, but there’ve been no signs so far.”
After a moment of silent thought, the man's eyes lit up with recognition. “Ah, I see, alright.” He smiled creepily back at the mother and son, shuffling the papers in his hands. “I thought your son might be quirkless at first, but the x-rays proved otherwise. No, but now I see he has something very similar to your quirk, Mrs Bakugou. You both smell very sweet thanks to it, but you probably didn't notice it had shown up since you're so used to the scent, as is your husband. And Katsuki would usually smell like it anyway, as you wash the clothes he wears everyday- plus it’s not fully developed yet, so he's not producing much.”
Katsuki and his mother had been silent for a moment, regarding the doctors words. It made sense, sure, but-
“I can't become a hero with that quirk.” He had mumbled, tugging at the hem of his dark shirt. The two adults widened their eyes at him, and then laughed.
“Hah, I suppose not. It's not exactly useless, but it's certainly not fit for combat, you'd have better chances with a simple mutation quirk.” The doctor chuckled a little more and reached forwards to pat his head, though Katsuki shook him off angrily.
“Plus, hah,” His mother hid her smile behind her hand, the other pinching at the blond's cheek. “It's a bit of a girly quirk, don't you think? The ability to have perfect, young-looking skin? Ahah, you could become a little model.” The child swatted his mother away, earning a swift knock to the head in response. Growling, he tried not to let his eyes water.
School had been Hell from then on. He hated pity so he hadn't told anyone about his unfortunate quirk, how embarrassing and pathetic it all was- those words just shouldn't describe him, ever. Katsuki was irritable and nastier than usual, getting into schoolyard fights to prove his worth, winning every time with the knowledge that it meant nothing for his future. He was still doomed.
It culminated when he took on three second graders. They were all bigger than him and had dandy little quirks- one had claw nails, another had laser eyes and the third had spiked shins that ripped through his trousers. They were barely threatening due to their age, but had cornered Katsuki on his way out of the playground. In all fairness, it probably wouldn't have ended in violence if he'd simply accepted that they were stronger and had given up his lunch money, or even just run away- he was still fast, after all. Instead he'd punched the guy with laser eyes in the face and snatched his bag… Only to have his back raked across by the clawed boy’s painful nails, ripping through his cotton jumper.
He got a couple of punches in, but he'd been beaten bloody by the end of it, and a teacher sent him to the infirmary, told him to stay there and ‘wait for the nurse with a friend’.
That's when Katsuki realised his only friend left was Deku. Everyone else had abandoned him when his quirk took too long to appear. Even so, he didn't call on Deku- the smarmy bastard would just taunt his weakness, he had thought, so he sat for twenty minutes alone until the nurse came to fix him up.
Hours later, the principal called his parents in for a meeting, though only his father could attend.
“Katsuki keeps getting into fights, distracting his classmates and just today he wasted the nurse’s time. I understand that your son is upset because his quirk hasn't quite appeared, but that's no reason to attack other children.” Principal Akano was a stern woman with large grey eyes and a constant pantsuit, and seemed to always be frowning.
“What?” His father glanced at the blond's sheepish expression, before sighing and patting his child's head. “I'm sorry that our Katsuki is acting out, though you must understand that he has presented his quirk. It's glycerin sweat, like his mother's though the doctor thinks it's a little different, and he's just upset that he can't become a hero anymore.” The child glared at his father for speaking about him like he was being childish, but stayed silent all the same, nails biting into his palms as he ground his teeth.
Akano raised an eyebrow, perhaps in mirth though her mouth remained a steady line, and turned to her computer. “I'll update the files then, Mr Bakugou, and I hope that Katsuki will one day be thankful that he learnt reality before his expectations could be set too high.” She pressed especially hard against the enter key before looking back at them. “However, we cannot tolerate violence in our school. Your son has been excused so far due to his exceptional grades, but I will not forgive him starting another fight. He might only be five but he should know better; if it happens again he will be suspended.”
His father nodded tensely, eyes darting down to the blond. No doubt his mother would be livid at him for getting into trouble, nevermind the fact that he was far more beaten up than the other boys and that the weight of his defeat hurt more than her scorns ever could. Still, Katsuki knew he would be grounded until he was thirty if he got into anymore trouble with the school, so, as he sat silently in Akano’s office, he vowed to not start any more fights on school property.
Easier said than done when the news of his quirk birthed merciless teasing and bullying, from teachers and students alike. He refused to do anything in response, even as two of his old friends pushed him into the pond at breaktimes, but he still shouted spite at them all. Katsuki could not stand up for himself physically, when he was five because of the rules and when he was older because of his quirk, but verbally he hit back with everything he had- he refused to be a pushover.
His parents barely blinked an eye whenever he came home with a black eye, assuming he'd had it coming, or sometimes his mother would yell at him for getting into yet another fight. Despite the fact that, more often than not, Katsuki came back from lunch break covered in scuff marks and with scratched arms, the teachers never offered him a word of concern. The only person who seemed to care at all was Deku.
That was the worst part, really, because if anything the blond should have hated him the most of all. The boy who came out of nowhere and had snatched his popularity, and still had the gall to call himself his best friend. The boy who had the powerful quirk, which was only increasing in effectiveness, whilst Katsuki was stuck with his own pathetic ability. The boy who pitifully stood up for him in the park, because otherwise he'd get yet another beating, and got himself punched in the process.
It was annoying as Hell. Deku was the person he most wanted to hate, but the only one who didn't hate him, who still stood by him- even if he couldn't forget that old nickname. Throughout the years, he stayed stubbornly caring and resolute, nursing Katsuki's wounds when he couldn't do it himself, and forgiving him every time the blond’s anger made him lash out.
No matter how much he teased him when his grades improved rapidly and Deku's stayed the same, too occupied by training to study, the other boy never gave up on their friendship to utilise all the other companions he could have had thanks to his quirk and smile.
“I'm going to go to UA.” Deku said when they were ten, eyes shining with determination as the two sat on his rug, surrounded by hero magazines.
“Great.” Katsuki replied, carefully cutting out another caption to stick into his scrapbook.
The other boy nudged him. “What do you want to be when we're older? You're really smart! Maybe you could keep doing your piano performances? Or design support items-”
“Hell no.” He interrupted, snipping especially hard and relishing in the sound of the scissors. “People in the support industry are only known for the heroes they help; I want to be known for my achievements alone.”
“Lots of people know David Shield though.”
“As what, Deku?”
“As All Might’s-” The boy's eyes widened in realisation. “Oh… I see.”
He rolled his eyes. “You're so dumb, Deku.” Katsuki cut out another photo, this one from the most recent UA sports festival. “I'm gonna do something that'll make me more famous than anyone, even All Might. I could cure cancer… In the long run I'd save more lives than any one hero ever could.”
The other boy smiled brightly, fire literally dancing across his freckled cheeks, and the blond felt his room get suddenly cold. Damn quirk of his, so fucking annoying. “Whatever you do, Kacchan, I know you'll be the best!”
Katsuki smirked, closing his scrapbook. The nerd was right, he would be the best, no matter what.