People are not created equal.
It was something Katsuki had learned at the tender age of four. And it started when he received his quirk and Izuku never did. Being young didn’t stop him from being observant.
It didn’t pass his notice that the adults had continued praising him, calling him a future hero, calling his quirk amazing. Yet, in comparison, they started giving suggestions — “Maybe a doctor would be better, Izuku-kun!” “Or how about a scientist!” — to the younger boy that always played heroes with him.
He learned of the word pitiful then and that it was used to describe Izuku. Or Deku, as he became known by Katsuki soon after. Because he was amazing and Deku wasn’t. Or so the adults said. Over and over again, he heard about how pitiful and useless Izuku was that he became Deku so easily.
Because the adults said so. And the children listen.
Elementary school wasn’t any better for Deku. Word quickly spread about the quirkless nerd and soon all the students treated him exactly like the adults. Like some anomaly with no place in society.
It bothered Katsuki in a way he couldn’t explain with words. Each word, jab, and shove he watched Deku receive made that feeling heavier in his chest. He started to question what the adults were saying.
Why was Deku pitiful? Why couldn’t he be a hero? Why was Deku any different from anyone else? Why should he treat Deku like he wasn’t in the same league? He’d seen Deku stand up after getting knocked down, seen the idiot put up his fists and defend someone who had bullied him not even five minutes before.
So how was Deku pitiful and not worthy of being a hero when he was the epitome of everything a hero stood for?
It wasn’t until halfway through their second year that he got some semblance of an answer.
“Did you see what happened?”
“Yeah, a bunch of older kids, right?”
“He’s so pitiful!”
There was that word again. Pitiful. Katsuki hadn’t been listening, had been focusing on gathering his things to leave for the day, but that word broke his concentration instantly. Who else could they possibly be talking about other than Deku?
The bell had already rung but none of the students had left the classroom. Instead, they were all starting to gather in the back corner of the room, trying to squeeze in as much as possible to see. Deku’s seat, behind and diagonal to Katsuki’s, was already empty.
“Oh, look! There he goes!” a girl squealed in laughter, pointing out the window.
Katsuki spared a glance out of the window and, sure enough, there was Deku. There was no way the blond could miss that mess of hair even from this distance. Two other students were chasing him as the idiot ran straight off of campus, bag discarded in the dirt.
“Serves him right! Get out of you, you quirkless los—”
Katsuki slammed one of his school books shut with an explosion. The group jumped away from the window, startled at the outburst.
“Katsuki-kun?” one of the girls squeaked in confusion and, really, he had no explanation either.
Just that dark, heavy feeling in his chest that left him instantly angry.
So he glared at them as he shoved the remainder of his stuff into his bag. It was only when they were all unable to meet his gaze that he left the classroom heading directly to the front of the school.
Deku’s school things were scattered all in front of the gate of the school. It took him a bit of time to gather everything up, especially since he had to fight with a few rushing students to stop them from stepping on anything else.
Once he thought he had everything, he slung the big yellow backpack over onto his back and headed out.
As if following some magnetic force, he didn’t stop until he made it to the playground of their neighborhood. Dropping both bags at the first steps, he climbed up to the tallest slide. Sure enough, the closer he got, the louder Deku’s sobs seemed to get.
“Oi, Deku,” he called down the covered slide. All the noises ceased immediately as if that’d convince Katsuki to leave.
The blond gave a harassed sigh, flopping down next to the entrance. “Idiot, I already know you’re there, c’mere.”
It took a moment; but, eventually, with squealing sneakers that attempted to find purchase on the plastic surface, Deku emerged. His hair was tousled, face blotchy and red. It was clear he’d been crying ever since he left the school grounds.
Katsuki made a point to ignore the feeling weighing even heavier in his chest.
“Crybaby,” he scoffed instead, reaching up to ruffle those curls. “What’s your issue? Those guys hurt you or somethin’?”
And, of course, the idiot had to immediately break down into even more tears. They gushed out of his eyes and down his face in a torrent of wet and gross. He even tried to blubber out an answer but Katsuki merely rolled his eyes.
“I don’t know what you’re saying, Deku,” he said instead of his usual yelling. He reached inside his pocket to pull out a small pack of tissues. “Here,” he said, shoving it into his hands.
Deku blew his nose and attempted to mop up all the leaking fluids from his face. It took a few minutes before the sobs lessened into sniffles and quiet hiccups. The tears had even settled into a slow trickle instead of a torrent waterfall.
“You gonna tell me what’s got you so upset now?” Katsuki asked once he seemed to have calmed down.
Deku looked down, nervously twisting a tissue in his hands.
“Do you think my Dad left because I’m quirkless?”
On any other day, he would have thought the question was out of place. But, for some reason, it felt as if Katsuki had been waiting for those words.
Midoriya Hisashi had left some two years back when they were still in preschool. At the time, Katsuki hadn’t thought it was a big deal. His parents had mentioned something about Deku’s father going overseas for work and he didn’t question it.
But then the man never came back. Or called, as far as he knew. Deku’s birthday came and went twice now without the man showing his face.
“Is that what those guys told you?” he asked, flexing his fingers slowly to stay calm.
“Y-yeah,” he sniffed, rubbing at his nose with the tissue.
“You should know better than to listen to idiots like them. Your Ma told you he left for work, right?”
“B-but what if she just said that?” Deku asked, bright green eyes sparkling with tears. Katsuki clenched his jaw, that feeling in his chest growing stronger by the second. “What if h-he’s disappointed in me? Even M-Mom isn’t happy. She cries and apologizes all the time because I’m quirkless. And then those older kids said—”
“SCREW WHAT THEY SAID!” Katsuki suddenly exploded, shooting to his feet. His hands sparked and Deku nearly fell backward down the slide in surprise. But at least it had stopped the newly formed tears from falling. “So what if you’re quirkless? You gonna let every jerk tell you what you can’t do?”
Deku blinked at him, stunned.
“Are you just gonna sit and cry in the dirt, complaining that it isn’t fair? What if All Might had been quirkless? Would you still have wanted him to try? Think about it!” Katsuki insisted angrily.
Because, honestly, he was sick of it. Of people beating Deku down before he could get the chance to stand up. So what if people weren’t created equal?
“All you gotta do is work harder than them! Get stronger than them! Heroes don’t cry, they win! Got that?” he snapped, poking Deku in the chest. “And your dad is a jerk so who cares what he thinks?!” he added as an afterthought.
“Don’t but me! Have I ever been wrong?” Katsuki glowered, hands fisted on his hips.
“No,” Deku shook his head quickly. Then, finally, when he looked back up at Katsuki, his eyes were shining with admiration instead of tears. “Kacchan is amazing.”
“Exactly. So, listen to what I’m saying and prove all the idiots wrong, okay?”
“Okay!” Deku shot up onto his feet in determination. “I will, Kacchan!”
“Good,” Katsuki said with a satisfied nod. “Now let’s go home. It’s getting late.”
The two descended the playset and grabbed their backpacks, both in better spirits than before. That horrible feeling in Katsuki’s chest had finally disappeared as he pulled Deku to the water fountain. He made sure the idiot’s face was properly cleared of red splotches and snot before they left the playground for good.
Deku even had a slight skip in his step.
At least until the boy suddenly froze in his tracks. Katsuki stopped alongside the trembling boy and spotted a group of bigger kids further down the sidewalk. The older boys spotted them about the same time and grinned, smacking their meaty fists into their opposing hands in glee.
“Tsk, is that them?” he asked, disgusted, as he stared them down.
“Y-yeah,” Deku whispered, reaching out to Katsuki’s sleeve. “Let’s go around, Kacchan.”
“No way. This is our way home, Deku. Stay here,” he said firmly as he shrugged off Deku’s hand and marched forward.
“Kacchan, no! They’re biggerer!”
“So what? I’m meaner."
It was the first (and only) fight he’d ever gotten into. Deku hid behind a tree but that was okay. Katsuki would protect him until he became strong enough to win by himself. After the older boys ran away, the blond merely wiped the tears from his eyes, refusing to let them fall and said:
“The strongest heroes always win in the end.”