"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Izuku's messy head shot up, shoulders hunching and a jolt spasming through his fingers. He wanted to say something, anything, but the tang of metal was thick and nauseating in his mouth and his head spun with enough force to prevent such action. Dark green eyes found the one who'd spoken up: it was the new girl, the one who'd transferred to Aldera Middle in her third year. It had been a full week since start of term and comments as well as snickers about how her previous school had been an alternative, special one had instantly rippled through the class.
"What?" It was the boy who'd kicked Izuku to the ground a few moments before. His teeth bared themselves into a smile. "Run back inside, weirdo!"
"Yeah," his friend laughed, "everyone knows you have mental issues, otherwise you wouldn't have gone to that hippie school."
The three standing boys laughed, the sounds blending into a single sound which had Izuku flinching away because he knew that sound, knew what they'd do, knew too much and he couldn't do anything because everything hurt but he had to-
"H-hey," he tried, but the words were muffled and stained red. The three bullies didn't hear, or if they did there was no reaction, but the new girl -Bakugou, he was fairly certain- physically placed herself between him and the three other boys.
His head swam, trying to process what was happening.
"I don' care if you're a girl, freak," called the plump one, red wings unfurling behind him, "imma beat the shit outa you."
"Yeah," laughed his lankier, sharp-eyed friend, "just like you and all your weed-smoking commie friends deserve."
Bakugou produced an odd sound which Izuku figured was a sniff of either hurt or indignation on behalf of her old classmates, but then it grew into rough, rolling laughter which shook her shoulders and took on an almost gleeful edge. Since he was sprawled on the ground behind her he couldn't read her expression, but the way her fingers were cramping and smoke started rising from the palms her hands didn't bode well.
"You say that as though it's a bad thing," was her ringing answer, and then threw her right arm back and claimed the first punch: a magnificent right hook exploding against the plump boy's face with far too much sound, light and heat. He screamed, throwing himself back and curling into a ball on the ground, but not before Izuku caught a proper glimpse of burned, bleeding flesh.
There was a pause, and then the two other boys hurled themselves at her with war cries tearing at their vocal chords. There was a collision which blinded him, and he closed his eyes as blood splattered across his face, laying down flat in the ground. He could feel and theses the thick, warm blood coating his tongue, the gravel beneath the palms of his hands and digging through his uniform, the chilly March breeze nipping at his bruised cheek which started pounding as adrenaline wore off. The rustle of young leaves and rumble of distant traffic was drowned out by the drumming in his ears and the explosions, grunts and sliding steps of the fight he could no longer see.
"Bitch," one spat, followed by a strangled sound which morphed into a broken sob.
"You're all fuckers who don't deserve the brain capacity to judge others in the first place," Bakugou snarled, then paused so abruptly Izuku assumed she was fighting again, and then the air shattered and ground trembled and heat wafted across his face: the greatest explosion yet rocked his world, loud enough to almost hide her roar of: "Shannaro!"
And then, there was silence.
Up until his ears recovered, that was, and the sound of hastily scattering students could be heard (there must've been a crowd, then), the rustle of baby leaves once again hymned in the background and an angrily honking car announced that the traffic was still existent.
He opened his eyes again, feeling disconnected and odd, wrong. The sky was still blue and the clouds still looked awkwardly torn between disintegrating into slivers of mist and stacking closer together into cotton tufts.
And then a face appeared above him, sudden and scowling. It was Bakugou, the new girl, the right side of her face sticky red which made her eerily bright lime eyes look like spotlights. Her pale hair -a shade too close to pink to be properly ash blonde- was pulled back into its usual messy braid, her bangs jutting out in all directions as though she were a hedgehog.
"You good, Izuku-kun?"
He blinked once, twice, then resolved to say something to make a good impression- "Were people really druggies at your school?"
It was her turn to blink and Izuku really, really wanted to sink into the ground and wished osmosis was a possibility. The feeling was heavy and curdling in his chest. But instead of blasting him, her chapped lips stretched into a grin which made her eyes crinkle shut. A chuckle laced her words: "Not more than here."
Then she reached out and before he could react, fisted the collar of his shirt and hoisted him onto his feet with ease.
"Um," he started, opened his mouth only to find words to be missing and reality still off and weird, "sure."
"Don't look like it," she objected resolutely, clicking her tongue with a vaguely terrifying expression. "Why'd they mess you up, anyway? Let's go to the nurse."
She grabbed him by the wrist and stalked off in the general direction of the nurse's office, and that was how Izuku found himself trailing after a pretty, volatile girl and almost tripping over his own shoes.
"Bec- because I'm, because I don't, I'm-" a sense of shame, old and familiar but no less taunting, seeped in like cold mist, "I'm quirkless but I'm still going to become a great hero, the number one just like All Might and I'll always smile and- yeah."
For a moment, the grip on his wrist tightened, nails digging into his skin even through the cloth of his uniform. For a split-second, the rhythm of her running steps wavered, was disrupted, and her head moved oddly as though she just managed to restrain herself from whipping around and facing him.
But then she only went faster and her rough, warm laugh filled the air like a tropical sunbeam. "Sounds like you've got a plan!"
Izuku's heart did a very odd thing at that, swelling until it was pressing against his ribcage and trying to escape much like a balloon, he was weightless and would explode and he'd float and his ribs would fracture-
He stepped on his own shoelace and face planted, almost dragging Bakugou down with him.
"It hasn't even been a week," Mitsuki whispered sternly under her breath as she passed Sakura on her way into the principal's office. The girl in question had been waiting just outside, leaning against the wall with arms crossed and lips firmly downturned into one of her infamous sneers. Worry twanged inside like an elastic pulled taut, but all it did was add more kerosene to the constantly growing lake inside, always ready to explode. Worry at the deepening lines resting heavily upon the crimson-eyed woman's brow, worry because of the tautness in her shoulders, the uneven nails which all pointed toward stress.
(Once, so long ago it was almost only the phantom of a shadow, worry had made her cry and freeze, but now it only knew one outlet, had only one form, and if she cried she wanted her years to burn holes into the face of whoever caused it.)
"Well they deserved it," she countered, following her mother into the room and sinking into the chair next to her. The principal was (unsurprisingly) a man in his fifties with graying hair and deep creases winging from his eyes and framing his mouth. At her old school it had also been a man looking as though he was nearing his sixtieth birthday, but he'd been more wrinkled with longer hair and warmer eyes which were probably imaging the hibiscuses in his garden and an old love from 1968: his quirk was slow aging.
This principal might as well have ironed his suit onto himself and smelled of cigarettes.
"I apologize for my daughter's behavior," Mitsuki started, bowing her head and hands safely clasped in her lap. "I-"
"Apology accepted," he said in a crusty voice, "though I hope such things will not happen on school grounds again."
"Of course not," Sakura smiled, hard and small and twisted and knowing they were hoping for one of their students to get into U.A, "never on school grounds."
"Sakura-chan," Mitsuki berated, not understanding, "never at all."
"That would be the ideal scenario," intoned the principal with the patronizing curl of the lips and Sakura hated him hated him hated him- "but you cannot expect too much from a fourteen year old girl who has such a powerful quirk."
As though the fact that she was a girl made her unable to handle it. As though she hadn't wielded even more raw power in a past life wherein she'd been more than qualified to rip people's sternums out and proceed to behead them with it.
"I assure you she is capable of controlling it," Mitsuki ground out, "more than capable, in fact."
"Naturally," he indulged with another smile. "You may leave now."
And Sakura almost snapped because why the fuck should her mother (not quite but almost) have to drive all the way from her work for this?
(She cannot get expelled again, cannot put Mitsuki and Masaru through that, and despite reasons and excuses her logic and intellect sprout -love, care, schooling, ambition, dreams- it boils down to the fact that she can't do anything about it. And she hates it.)
Izuku was rooted to the ground as he watched the three bullies bolt at the mere sight of her. Apparently Bakugou had been waiting at the edge of the street all along, waiting for him.
"How did you know?" Izuku asked, gesturing in their approximate direction.
"Their kind is ridiculously predictable," she snorted, taking a step closer to him from where she'd shielded herself from the wind by standing close to the wall. Her cheeks were suffused with winter roses, the ordinary and sweet flush out of place on her otherwise hard, jaggedly smiling face. Her canines were entirely too canine.
"Walnut-brained bullies who can't get over the fact that their dicks are tictacs. Where do you live? I'll come with you to make sure you don't get killed by a stray leaflet."
Izuku was very certain he didn't want her to know that. He was also acutely aware of how this was the first time ever he was talking to a girl and that, possibly, she wanted to be a friend. He hadn't had many of those, not since kindergarten, and that gray speck which had started wriggling and spreading inside since starting junior high felt very related to that fact. He didn't like that gray shadow.
Which was why he proceeded to give his exact postal address to the intimidatingly sharp-eyed, sharp-grinned girl in the short skirt and heavy army boots in front of him.
"You're one of those who live in those gray apartments? Huh," she shook her head, as though storing that away, and then motioned for him to lead the way. "Never been there before, in any apartment at all actually. I live in a hut in the tree."
"That's a joke, Izuku-kun." Bakugou looked entirely too satisfied, eyes crinkling into a smile when he passed her. "I live in a house with a normal mother who is a Pro Hero usually on patrols and a kind father who works in rescuing. No pets, though turtles are definitely underrated."
"That's nice," he settled for, "I have a mother and-" fudge he couldn't show her his room or else she'd know he was a fanboy- "that's about it."
"Cool," she answered, walking next to him with audible steps due to her slight heels. No questions about his father. No judging. "You have music at home? And tea? It's pretty cold out here and I'm excellent at conversations."
"Yes, of course," he swore, nodding, "we have sencha, black tea, chamomile, apple and a few more. And we have both a radio and a box you can plug your phone into."
"Then we're all set," she said and he could hear the grin warming her words, not the off and bestial grin but the one which felt like deserts and rainforests. "You wouldn't believe how happy I am today is over."
"I get you." And he meant it, still bruised and knowing Inko would bite the inside of her cheek at the sight to push back the tears in an ultimately futile endeavor. He let out a breathy, sighing laugh. "I really do."
Even though he was half a step in front of her, he was aware of her keen gaze. He stuffed his hands in his pockets in search for warmth, shoulders hunching. Silence weighed down on them as they crossed the street, left the busy center of town and headed through the small park where two young kids occupied the swings with joyous shrieks Izuku figured he'd probably once been able to produce as well.
"You know," Bakugou started as they reached the other side, the apartment blocks rising from the ground a few minutes away. "The world doesn't believe you can do shit when it comes to your dream, they all think you're useless and a failure. Unnecessary."
Somebody had just taken ahold of his intestines and brutally twisted them around until his insides were a mess of ripped organs and blood. Lips parted but no words would leave, he wanted to turn back time and reject the girl who'd chased away the bullies a second time that day, yearned to squash the golden feeling of hope which had dared to peek into his life before it would be able to take root to ensure he wouldn't know how it felt to have it forcefully ripped back out again. "Ah."
"They'll laugh and spit in your face."
As though they didn't already.
"And grind you into the dust like a bug."
"I get it," he piped up, words trebling and high-pitched, fragile in the air. "You don't- I get it already. But I- I won't give up, I know I can do it, you'll see. U.A accepts students without quirks as well now!"
She laughed and the sound of it was like raw heat scorching against his skin, and he didn't want her over for tea anymore- "And that's why you'll be one of the best Pro Heroes out there."
His world flipped back over, hope was back and internal war raged as to if that was a good or naive and stupid thing. Skepticism swept through him, directed against her. "You mean that?"
"Sure do, otherwise I wouldn't have said it," she snorted, "it's because you don't give up and believe me, I know your type. You've just got that feel to you, even though it's almost smothered by all the layers of insecurity, jittery nerves and bruises. So when the world is a bitch, give her the finger and change it all."
"Is that- should I say thank you? Because I feel like you insulted me just now."
"I did? Well, truth hurts, sweetheart- Oi! Where the fuck do you think you're looking, huh, you old goat? Tch." The second part of her statement was clearly directed at the man they'd just passed, who'd leered at Bakugou's butt which Izuku did not want to think about even if it was nice and that was wrong he shouldn't have thought that but it was true-
They reached the stairs up to his apartment, which they scaled in silence.
Once reaching his door down the corridor on the correct floor he struggled and fumbled when trying to fish up his keys from the depths of his bag. Finally he managed to find them and unlock the door, letting himself and Bakugou into his home and shutting the door behind them.
"Neat," she judged, taking in her surroundings as she kicked her boots off, one landing perfectly in line with the other shoes but the other one, though initially standing somewhat next to its sibling, slowly fell to the side. She didn't correct it, throwing her pea coat onto the hanger so that it covered his mother's entirely. "Your mom here? Should probably say hi."
She spoke in a very casual manner, peeking into the kitchen with open curiosity.
"Um, no, she won't come home from work until six," he informed her, carefully hanging his own jacket where it usually was, placed his shoes next to Bakugou's boots which he corrected so that they stood neatly next to each other in line -which only made the first one fall as though taunting him- and then slipped his slippers on before joining her in the entrance to the kitchen. "Tea?"
"Fuck yeah," she cheered, skiing inside on her socks which slid easily across the lacquered floor. "Oh! Found the box, I'll put on some music."
"Okay," he agreed even as panic struck at the thought of the complaints his mother would receive from the neighbors at whatever metal she'd blast. There were a few moments of silence, but then some odd sound filled the room: oriental and old which made him think of snake charmers and psychedelic hippies.
"This is um, like The Beatles meeting India."
"It literally is," she beamed, turning bright bright eyes to him and pinning him down beneath the sheer alertness of them and excitement at his guess which had been meant as a joke or casual conversation. He wasn't much good with either. "Within You Without You is such an underrated song, together with Helter Skelter and I'm Only Sleeping. You like them? Let's just keep on listening to old music, that new shit is overrated anyway."
All those names were unfamiliar and made him laugh somewhat nervously. "Sounds okay."
"Of course it does," she stated after a moment, giving him an odd look. Her confidence was overwhelming, like a wall rising up from a turbulent sea and not giving a damn about how that was not even supposed to be possible. Izuku subtly opted for calming chamomile as tea, pouring the boiling water into the kettle and letting the herbs soak.
When turning his attention back to her, he was met by the odd sight of her preforming an odd, absurdly relaxed dance which looked like a crossbreed between Egyptian stereotypes and Indian bellydancing. Something tingled inside, tickling and steadily growing until it bubbled up in his throat and tumbled from his lips: he laughed.
It was wondrous and it almost made him cry because it had been far too long.
"I learned to dance at my old school," she chuckled, a bashful tint adorning it. "You know, the one where everybody is apparently a communist druggie."
He cleared his throat, trying to sober, "and were they? I mean, what was it like?"
"Most schools around here have some people into drugs," she shrugged, "it was no different there. But, nah, not communist. That left-wing and right-wing squabble is old news and irrelevant. And boring, because obviously both communism and capitalism is shit. The real question is on the other axis, the authority versus anarchism one. Hitler versus, um, hippie dreams. We were hippie dreams."
The image of her dancing clouded his vision again, making him muffle what was possibly a giggle. "You were a hippie?"
"Not really. Slightly anarchist, probably, but it's more along the lines of me hating..." She gestured all around her, and he doubted she was referring to the small, neatly organized kitchen. "The system, the world. I'm angry at it because it's fucked up."
"I want to be a hero to give people hope," Izuku heard himself share, "to make people believe in a better future in which everybody has a place and there's justice."
"There's a serious lack of justice right now," Bakugou's teeth flashed when she grinned: the ugly, sneering one. "At the moment the world system is rigged and all wrong."
"Not all wrong," he argued, "crime has decreased ever since All Might made his appearance and became the Symbol of Peace."
Bakugou threw her pale head back and laughed. "I'm not talking about crime."
He poured two cups, spilled a little, handed one to the self-invited guest who he was having increasingly mixed feelings about (cool, awesome, terrifying, weird, unhinged, crazy, destructive), cleaned the stray droplets of the sink and then almost burned his lips and tongue when instantly trying to sip of the tea to distract himself from the tension settling around them. She, on the other hand, drank with greedy gulps before sighing, shoulders visibly sagging when she relaxed. He guessed her quirk made her more heat-resistant than the average person.
A horrible sound suddenly filled the rooms and ricocheted off the walls.
"Oh! Now it's Helter Skelter!"
The song terrified him.
He thought of the two of them as friends for a total of two days before getting over the rawness of her existence, of her way of speaking and acting. Then he labeled her an acquaintance who he, for a change, was on good terms with. He got used to the sheer energy and force packed within her, or perhaps numbed to it, which allowed for a sense of trepidation to mingle with the handful of other confusing feelings he harbored: she was inherently violent, aggressive and harsh (among other things because there was always a part of him which adored her, was breathless, was awed).
Three weeks into school, on March 28, it was the worst day yet.
A broken body sunk to the gritty ground of the dark, piss and beer scented alleyway which was marred with cracks and graffiti. Five people -he wasn't certain what they'd done but she'd gone from passing by to assault in a single second- were sprawled around her with blood and other fluids leaking onto the ground and part of Izuku shuddered both at the sight of their oddly bent limbs and the fact that those wounds would end up getting severe infections from being pressed against the dirty underground. And Bakugou Call Me Sakura Already knew that without a doubt.
Izuku swallowed thickly as she disappeared into the shadows. He should probably call an ambulance, but the sight of her eerily blank, dead face lingered in his mind. He'd never seen anything like it, especially not after a fight (and, unfortunately, he'd started seeing plenty of those: either that or her breaking the law anyway by threatening with sizzling fingers). But now she'd worn that face, had worn no face at all.
Then he turned left into the tunnel away from his school, only to freeze in his tracks when the hairs on the back of his neck tingled and a low, hissing groan could be heard, followed by a terrifyingly wet sound of something moving behind him. Something which had come from the sewers.
Sakura couldn't breathe. Tears pricked in the corners of her eyes and her lungs expanded and inflated uselessly as though trying to pump nonexistent air into her system, and it struck her how unfair it all was, how wrong it was of these lungs to try so hard to keep this body which was hers but not really going. The crowd in front of her which screamed and stared was made up of familiar faces, there was Naruto and Sasuke and Kakashi and Tenten, staring back at her from a world away and fuck it all now she was hallucinating and she hated it-
Because this was it, and on her-
It was all so fitting and clearly this was how the world worked, how irony kept on calling the tune and made her die on her birthday but it wasn't her birthday- this was Haruno's birthday but that person was dead and she didn't want to die she wanted to live but Naruto was right in front of her and oh goodness Ino-
"I'll kill you," was what she wanted to say but all which happened was the sludge villain's slimy hands first popping and then properly exploding and it did not just take her quirk, the bastard did not just do that she'd fucking annihilate the asshole he'd be so dead.
The faces in the crowd grimaced, twisted, Ino disappeared and Mitsuki's worried, frustrated expression replaced her, the crowd was her parents who weren't her parents over and over again, calling for their daughter even if she was only partially theirs, even if she'd been trouble from the start with too sharp eyes and eager fists and bad influences, they wanted her and fuck fuck fuck that villain how dare he keep her from trying to comfort them and cheer them up with her cheesecake and presence and how on earth could she allow this to happen because she still had a whole world to blast!
She broke free for long enough to take a few more gulps of air, barely hearing the Pros telling her to keep calm and hold on until somebody more suited to the task could arrive. Her body felt terrifyingly numb, as though her legs and feet were no longer part of her body. All which remained was her overheating chest and heart which thrummed with rage and power and her whirring mind. All she could do was fight against it, that much she knew: she wasn't brainless no matter what people thought when they saw a temperamental girl with a pretty face and slender curves, no matter her language because she was really damn close to being a proper genius.
So she would definitely fight it, fight everything and everybody in her way.
Because she was Bakugou fucking Sakura, ex-ninja and current hero hopeful with so. Much. To. Prove.
Her head was swimming. Shadows seeped into her vision, were pushed back, the pins and needles spread further up her body which was too moist, had far too much pressing up against her, grew weaker when her air supply once again started running out. Terror started setting in, accelerating her heart rate further which was not good, not good at all there had to be a way to stop this-
And then Midoriya was there, a hazy figure running toward her with such a desperate look tearing at his face it made her regain focus for another moment, lungs working furiously on the illusion of air, nothing made sense but there he was and the crowd was so far away, so shapeless, a faceless blob of people merged together. She blinked and there were books and pens all around her, Midoriya must have thrown his bag, and then he was right in front of her which surely couldn't be teleportation, everything was mottled and odd, he was clawing at the slime creeping up her face but it didn't help. Then he was gone again and Sakura wanted to roar for so many reasons and none.
Then All Might appeared and it was over within seconds.
Gasping for precious gulps of oxygen, reality once again took shape. The crowd was dispersing, in part to allow for space and in part because the audience had gotten their fill of hero work for the day. The realization that to some, she'd essentially been part of a reality show for entertainment filled her with a dead, calm sort of contempt. She'd been the damsel in distress. Then she realized she was sweating all over and that there were fires being put out all around her: that must have happened when that villain took control over her quirk (hers!). She'd have to be careful not to touch anybody, unless she wanted to slather a layer of nitroglycerin all over them. She didn't even entertain the idea of blowing up the perpetrator: she wanted nothing to do with it ever again, she didn't even want to be aware of his existence, wanted him gone.
Wanted to go home and tell Mitsuki and Masaru how much she loved them and apologize for how distant she'd been that morning, wanted to tell them she'd never be odd on March 28 again, wanted to promise all those things she would probably not be able to keep in the end even though she'd try because she actually cared.
It started raining. She should probably say something to Midoriya, who was being helped up by a disapproving Pro Hero. (He deserved so much more from the world, why was it gems like him were always being ill treated, she had to help him and be there but at the same tim she had her own plans, her own life, so many problems she shouldn't force onto him.) People reached her, strangers asking how she felt, telling her how brave and strong she was all the while others were scolding Midoriya in the background. He seemed to be okay, though shaken and wide-eyed: she should get his number.
"Fine," she shrugged, cold, with crawling skin and sweaty even though the rain made that less of a threat, wanting to take an eternal shower and scrub away the touch of it, the feel of it, the memory. And then she'd probably fight with some classmates in a couple of days about how she'd handled it. "All good, wanna take a shower though. That thing was disgusting as hell."