“Life is a competition not with others, but with ourselves. We should seek each day to live stronger, better, truer lives; each day to master some weakness of yesterday; each day to repair a mistake; each day to surpass ourselves. “
- David B. Haight
They’ve taken to calling it the “Sludge Incident”.
In all honesty, it’s probably where it actually started. With desperate clawing at the mass, with gasps and breaths too hasty and too fast, with a backpack thrown at the monster that wanted to choke the living shit out of him.
If he were to get real poetic, he’d say that there was always something in it. That this whole rivalry begun at young age, but that’s probably not the point – back then, Midoriya Izuku was nothing more than a pebble. Wasn’t worth a second glance. There wasn’t an equal level of power there, there was nothing to compete with.
But he wasn’t. Poetic, that is.
Katsuki simply hated him.
(That’s not really what it was, at all.
Wasn’t that the whole point? Wasn’t Katsuki simply terrified of a hero instinct he so desperately craved, one that came to easy to someone too weak to do anything about it?)
His weak whimpers, cries for help and puppy eyes; his never-ending patience and annoying, too loud pleads to be friends. He didn’t want to be friends with him and he wasn’t – it wasn’t his fault the nerd didn’t get the memo.
Or at least, that’s how he justified himself.
“You should give up,” he’s said back then, “better yet, I have a better option for you—“
“Maybe take a leap of faith from the roof and pray you’ll get a quirk in your next life!”
(Words always hurt more than actions, huh?)
It didn’t begin in their childhood, but—
But perhaps, it was something in it that made the Sludge Incident mean more than it ever should.
Your stories aren’t made up from you alone, that is the sad realization he comes up with one night, when the air is too hot and too suffocating to fall asleep.
You’re not the main character in the book. No one is the main character in the book, not if they don’t make themselves to be. Be it a realization or maybe just really cold, hard facts – after the Sludge Incident, there wasn’t just Bakugou Katsuki.
It was Bakugou Katsuki, the Sludge Monster and the crazy, quirkless middle-schooler who threw himself into the fray without a second thought. Whether he wanted it or not, his story wasn’t his alone anymore.
He could hate it. And he could despise it.
And he did.
He fucking did, alright?
In a world ridden with extra characters where you have to fight and fight, struggle against people who want so desperately to keep themselves afloat, Katsuki is one of the people who climb on top of the mountain and attempt to reach the sky, because simply making a mark in history wouldn’t suffice.
He wants the glory and he wants to be remembered.
He wants the books to know that he made it work, all by himself, all with his own effort and no one else’s.
After all, is it still a success if they have to mention other people in it? Does he have to write someone up and thank them? Does he have to give up the rightful pride he has for himself to be able to call himself a hero, is that what it is?
Load of crap, that is.
Load of bullshit made up by others who couldn’t get up to the top by themselves just to justify hanging in the background.
He’s not like them, is what he comes up in the middle of the night.
A hero that wins.
A hero that saves.
He’s been made pretty much aware of the fact that those two can and should coexist, but Katsuki’s brain was always wired differently. Words too big and meanings too literal – if he could, he’d burn poetry a long time ago, because they don’t make much sense to him.
He’s academically smart; he’s strategically clever; he’s one of the top of the class students and he has no real trouble getting there. He’s got thousands of phrases stored in his mind and somehow, at the end of the day, all it comes down is a simple “fuck.”
Fuck Round Face. Fuck Shitty Hair. Fuck the Nerd, and Dunce Face and Raccoon Eyes, and everyone else he comes to know.
Fuck the way the passerby look at his half buttoned up shirt, like they know, like they understand while he knows they don’t – they couldn’t possibly ever even comprehend the tight fit the collar has on him if he doesn’t at least let it be half open.
Fuck Aizawa and his all too sharp gaze when Katsuki doesn’t catch what he says on the first try. Fuck the way Present Mic makes an effort to speak slower and gesture more, because he knows – he realizes with a steady mortification that it’s for his sake, even though they insist it’s because of goddamn Koda.
One day, they got an assignment from Midnight. Analyzing a poem, of all things.
It goes like that:
“A fox knows,
on this sunny desolate field,
that it is all alone.”
And then it’s like:
“Therefore, it also knows:
it is a part of the field
and the whole of it as well;
it could be wind or withered grass,
and then a beam of light
on this fox-colored desolate field;
it is a shadowy existence, as if all or nothing.”
It ends with a: “Before it knows it / the daytime moon rises above the desolate field.”
The poem’s author, someone called Shinjiro Kurahara, was apparently known for his poetry being at once elegant and stark, simple and possessed of a comforting depth. That’s what Midnight says, at least. And Katsuki can tell you all about technicalities, about hidden meanings of power and danger lingering in the text itself. Of Kurahara’s talent and the way the words flow with mysterious light.
What comes out, though—
“This work is fucking stupid, that’s what it is.”
His work isn’t great. It’s words flowing in the air. Sentences running on senseless.
“What does that all even mean? A fox running through a field? Who reads that crap?”
Poems are works of art. They cross and silver-tongue a reader. You think you know what they mean and then someone comes along and says it means something entirely different. Katsuki deals with hard, cold facts and logical formulas for maths problems, not—not this.
He doesn’t get what Kurahara even wants to say. He knows and can read a fucking novella on this, but he doesn’t understand the root of it.
He tells her as such.
He pretends to not see the look Midnight gives him in response. Given, his actual reply was something along the lines of “Kurahara’s an incoherent twat”, but they really should stop expecting him to actually understand the crap between the lines of one ridiculous thought to another.
You’d think that people can take a hint after you repeatedly tell them to piss off, but nooo. No, it’s not that simple. In their book, you take any “no” and turn it into “yes” and then you watch the world burn, simply because you want those potato chips and it’s just happens that you’re ready to recklessly throw anyone at the wall to get them.
No. Katsuki is not salty about that, but—
“Oh, hey, Kacchan, do you wanna watch a movie with us?”
“Yeah! Remember? You promised you would give it a chance yesterday!”
“You told me you’d do my nails, too!”
Kaminari, the Dunce Face; Kirishima, the Shitty Hair; Mina, the Raccoon Eyes – in that order are a deadly combo. He can deal with one at the time, but united they’re a force to be reckoned with. So yes, he’s not salty but he may be a bit irked that they don’t stop pestering him.
Oh, how the days of middle school were peaceful. People felt intimidated by him, and here? He’s caught Plain Face, Sero, comment on him being all bark and no bite too many times for him to think that he could scare them off now.
(It’s not like he wakes up in cold sweat with words repeating themselves over and over again, banging at his mind, ringing out and never stopping. It’s not like he’s trying to wash away the sweat and calm down, because his shirt is too tight—
He is. And maybe that’s part of the problem.)
“I’m not staying up late,” he declares shortly, eager to get into bed, stuff his face with a pillow and sleep for hours.
The world is not merciful, though.
“It’s okay, we know you’re an old man inside, Bakugou!” Raccoon Eyes comments, voice so cheerful that he wants to cringe away and punch something, “If you do my nails now, it will give us enough time to watch a movie and you can still go to bed early. See?”
“Aren’t we thoughtful?” Dunce Face asks, weirdly proud of their idea.
He’s really, really surrounded with persistent bastards, huh?
An image of hair too dark, too green and a smile too bright, too innocent flashes in his mind and he scowls, angrily biting into a muffin he managed to scavenge from their dorm fridge (who knew that Sato could make so much it could last for weeks, at least?).
They’re not him. They’re not kids, either and Katsuki is not the same person he was back then.
So why is there this uneasy feeling behind his ribs? What is this feeling, anyways? It’s like—
“You’re a nuisance, is what you are,” he answers immediately.
“If I don’t like it, I’m going back to my room,” he cuts Shitty Hair, Kirishima, off, “And that’s that.”
Somewhere along the way, the four of them stuck to him. Somewhere there, in the back of his mind, Katsuki starts to think that he even likes them, that they’re actually close enough for him to call them friends. And that—
Hell. Isn’t that fucking terrifying?
You go through your life not needing anyone. You don’t require your mother’s support or your father’s doting words, because you’re able to push through on your own. Friends were an obstacle that he’s learned to avoid. Lackeys, minions, subjects – he’s had those in middle school and they did shit.
Afraid to take him on.
Afraid to stand up to themselves.
And then, they all ran away when he needed them. Cowards, the bunch of them.
So yeah. It is terrifying. Katsuki would be a fool to ignore the liability that comes with forming close connections. People die all the time. They get murdered, die on accidents, get sick, leave. If all that comes down to it is them abandoning him one way or another, what’s the point of them sticking around?
He gets it, though. He gets it now, because he’s been forced to see it – the strength that comes from someone having your back, cheering you on, challenging you. He gets it, but at the same time, he doesn’t actually understand it.
It’s like poetry all over again, except people are not books and he’s not a fucking historian or professor who spends his whole life trying to find out whether the author wanted the blue curtains to mean shit or not.
“Hey, Kacchan! You coming or not?”
“Yeah! Come on, it will be fun.”
“After all, we went through all the trouble to plan it so you could still go to bed early!”
“Can’t bail on us now, man.”
They’ve stuck to him, he realizes all too late.
They’re there, and they care, and they make an actual effort to get to know him despite Katsuki putting so much distance between them. They’re with him when he needs it the most, and leave him alone when he needs space. They’re so obnoxiously caring that it makes him psychically sick.
“Yes, I’m going, just shut the hell up already.”
They all cheer, like the bunch of idiots they are and Katsuki, he just—
He just breathes.
Whatever, he thinks, it’s their decision, not mine.
(And even so, the persistent feeling in his chest lingers.)
The Nerd, the Quirkless Loser, the Pebble on the Road.
‘Jump off the roof and—‘
Extra Character, a Nobody, a Good For Nothing Bastard.
‘—and pray you’ll get a quirk in your next life.’
Once upon a time, Katsuki told him to take a leap of faith. He’s told him that like he’d tell someone a science fact. Like he knew for sure. He didn’t stutter, or hesitate, or any of that, really. He went and told him that, because that’s just the type of person Bakugou Katsuki from middle school was.
Is he still the same?
He’s not really good person to begin with, but you don’t need to be a good person to be a hero. He’s not really nice, but you don’t need to sweet talk your way into the industry. Does it excuse any of the shit he pulled?
A perfect student, a clean record, and a terrible temperament. All that and more make up for who he is and who he was, and still Katsuki’s stuck in the loop of whether he could change something or if it’s all the same, no matter what.
Apologies mean shit.
Talking about the past means nothing, it only makes you feel worse.
He’s went through his life as a main character and now he’s just learning that all main characters need some kind of support and he’s just—
He’s fighting against that.
He’s struggling and fighting to stay afloat the boat he’s build himself. Actually, scratch that. He’s on a whole fucking ship. A battleship, even, with tremulous firepower.
But what’s a captain without a crew? What’s a commander without their soldiers?
The only way down is to sink. And Katsuki refuses to be a lost cause, even if he’s stubborn and too hot-headed for most people to handle. He’s not a plaything or a subject to be ruled over, but he’s seen how Aizawa looks at him when he goes on solo, when he tries to fight a battle with half the ship.
‘You won’t even be able to get to the docks,’ the looks seems to tell him, ‘if you insist on this pointless suicide.’
And you know, Katsuki kind of hates Aizawa. He kind of hates UA for a lot of things too. The way they handle things, the way they handle him and the rest of the kids, but he’s not gonna play the fool in their little game of tag. He won’t participate in a battle without a clear victory, and so when Aizawa looks at him like he knows him—
He feels inferior. He feels like he’s been on shoved off a mountain.
He’s grateful to the man, obviously. All the times he’s stood up and protected them (not like he needs protecting), it’s something you can’t ignore, but—
If Aizawa thinks Katsuki’s pride will be his undoing—no. If UA thinks so, then Katsuki has something to show. Something to achieve. He wants them to look at him and he wants them to remember him. Wants them to stare and wonder how he got there being the way he is.
The papers are shuffled on the desk and pen in Aizawa’s hand is clicking, impatient. It’s not like Katsuki doesn’t get why the man is shocked, but all the same, the clicking is just annoying. It takes all of Katsuki’s will to not snap the pen in half.
“What? Got a problem with that, Sensei?”
“What about Best Jeanist?” Aizawa leans forwards, eyes characteristically tired but watchful all the same. The stare alone could give people creeps, “You interned with him before. He seemed pleased with your performance. Most of all, he’s a high ranking hero.”
“So is Endeavor, but you don’t see me running to him, do you?” Katsuki shifts on his feet to cross his arms, “Miruko sent me a request. Best Jeanist is on a break, anyways, and I don’t want to be around his sidekicks anymore. They’re irritating as hell.”
“Language,” Aizawa comments, absent-mindedly sorting through the papers.
Katsuki rolls his eyes.
“Miruko sent you a request? She doesn’t take anyone on, from what I know. Never did.”
“Well, she did. Maybe there wasn’t anyone worthy before,” he shrugs, “Are you gonna keep questioning me or will you sign it so I can go?”
“Are you in a hurry?”
“Didn’t you assign us this fifteen pages essay on the ethics of being a hero, Sensei?”
Aizawa smirks, as if that fact amused him, before he presses his pen to the paper, taking a moment to read through it again, as if to make sure. Then, he shuffles the application to the side and leans against the chair, staring at him. Assessing.
For whatever reason, Aizawa was always doing that. Reading them, searching for something. The guy looks stern and hard-boiled as fuck, but he’s also a big softie when it comes to their class. He guesses it’s because this year’s been tough and chaotic all around, but there’s always a shadow in his look.
Like he sometimes looks at them, and sees someone else.
Like there’s somebody’s dead body behind their smiling faces.
For reasons, that unsettles him and so Katsuki tries to avoid it all together. Some skeletons should stay in the closet, anyways and it’s not his business to question his own teacher.
“There. You can go,” Aizawa waves his hand at him, dismissive, “Looking forwards to your essay, Bakugou.”
The ‘fuck you’ is on the tip of his tongue, but he bites it and makes his way out of the teacher’s lounge. The lack of the paper in his hand, and the name ‘Miruko’ somehow makes his steps a little lighter.
(Like hell will he tell that to Kaminari, though. The poetic bitch recites Hemmingway during breaks.)
Miruko’s agency is not actually an agency. That is a little fact Katsuki gets to find out when he’s in front of the building where she rents out an office floor. For what, exactly? He has no bloody idea, but for some reason, she’s one of the only heroes in the top ten that doesn’t work with anyone and isn’t known for playing teams.
He kind of expected her to understand him more because of that, but—
“Oh, you’re the exploding kid from the festival, right?” is how she greets him, sharp grin matching his own and a carrot in another hand, “Bakugou Katsuki, the first at the entrance exam of UA’s prestigious walls.”
“Good to know everyone’s aware of that,” is what he ends up saying.
Miruko, or less known as Usagiyama Rumi, is a twenty six year old woman who acts like the world owes her something. Whatever it is – justice, sense of accomplishment, pride – he doesn’t know. What he does realize, right at the start, is that she’s a lot different than the media portray.
Overall public’s opinion was ‘near Midnight level of sexiness’ and Mineta’s own description bordered on ‘well, she has nice boobs and thighs that could crush a watermelon’ and that literally told him nothing. It all focused on Miruko’s appearance. Nothing about her way of fighting besides few battles caught on the video.
That, and he won’t admit it, but Deku was obsessed with her a year or so ago. It was impossible to not catch some things as the dude rambled and rambled on about one thing.
Even so. Even so—
“Yeah, you fought this girl during the tournament, right?” she asks when they stroll into the city for a regular patrol to ease him into things, despite Katsuki insisting that he’s fine and ready to go into a battle right away, “The pink one that floats.”
“Uraraka,” he supplies through gritted teeth.
Why won’t she just let him go and fight? Why does she insist to ask those pointless questions? Why—
“Uraraka, huh?” she tests out the name, shrugging, “You know, it kind of impressed me.”
“Me beating her ass? Lady, I literally kicked Half-and-Half’s ass as well, and—“
“Mhm? Oh, no. I mean, you taking her seriously.”
He stops at that. He can’t really help it. Miruko pauses as well, turning to glance at him.
“Why, huh?” she laughs, as if the question itself was kind of stupid. And maybe it was. Katsuki is intelligent, obviously, but even he’s got trouble reading someone who speaks in riddles. He just didn’t realize that Miruko would do that, “Well, pal, for one. She’s a girl. Old guys like the ones in the stands back there don’t take liking to those like her.”
She fixes her hair, as if thoughtful. Then, she continues, “And you’re Bakugou Katsuki. Your reputation isn’t the best, even if you’re skilled.”
“That’s load of bullshit.”
“Is it?” she doesn’t even twitch at the language and Katsuki pauses, taking her in as if he saw her for the first time, “It’s not and you know it. That’s why you’re standing here with me and not Jeanist’s lackeys. You thought I’m the same as you.”
He snorts. She blinks slowly at him, the grins, “Maybe in a way I am. But I’m going to show you why. C’mon,” she turns around, not even looking to see if he’s following, “we don’t have the whole day.”
He’s half tempted to say that yeah, they actually do have the whole day, that’s why both of them are there. He holds back only because Miruko makes it clear she doesn’t want to hear any complaints or mouthy comments from him. In a way, he saves himself trouble of fighting with her.
Even so, Miruko still has this air around her that he’s trying to decipher. It’s not that of all others high ranking heroes. She doesn’t even boast much about her title, save for the few remarks she’s made when he mentioned her status.
In fact, she takes pride in her name, but she doesn’t necessarily brag about it.
“Oi, where are we going?” he looks around as they walk, “Hey, lady, if—“
“It’s Miruko, when we’re on a patrol,” she calls out to him, raising her hand to the air, “and we’re going where I say we’re going. Now, hush. You could do well with some silence, kiddo.”
He rolls his eyes. Because obviously, the woman would take any chance to roast him. She’s lucky he’s in a good mood, otherwise he’d be at her throat about being annoying just like he did with Best Jeanist. Honestly, with that man it was all talk about the proper etiquette and jeans and, well. Nothing more that spoke to him.
You’re supposed to learn something from heroes, is what UA tells them each day.
The thing is – most of them are corrupt as fuck, or too soft. They either do their job or just boast about it. And maybe, just maybe, Katsuki is beginning to see where the whole admiration of All Might starts to flaw his own way of thinking, too.
If you admire someone too much, you soon forget how to function when they stop being so great. If you love someone’s strength, it’s very easy to overlook how flawed they are. Once you feel too much admiration for them you cannot surpass them.
“You don’t look like a woman of few words,” is what slips out as he thinks about it.
She doesn’t even glance at him this time, “That’s true. I’m not. I make bold statements to no one in peculiar all the time. I ramble. I rant. But I also know when to shut up. Seems like you could use that lesson.”
“Don’t want it.”
“Too bad you’re getting it, either way,” she shrugs and puts her hands on her hips as she turns to him, “Lesson number two: if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say it.”
He almost dreads asking, “What’s lesson number one?”
She grins, sharp and gets ready, almost as if she wanted to pounce, “Never let my pieces of wisdom distract you from anything,” and she fucking jumps on the sides of the nearest building, easily climbing up on the roof.
His eye twitches, and his hands sweat.
He gets a feeling it’s going to be way worse than Best Jeanist’s internship.
That woman is a rabbit in any sense of the word. She eats stereotypical carrots during her breaks, she jumps in place always ready for action, and her sight never stays on one thing for too long, always wanting to know all escape routes.
In a way, it’s irritating, but—
He also gets this – as they walk, men throw her looks. As they stop for lunch, the local drunkards in front of the shops whistle. When they pass by the newspaper’s he can overhear someone comment on her body more than once. Even when they return the same way, Miruko swiftly avoids someone’s hand near her back with a precision of someone who’s done it countless of times before.
He snarls and scowls, and tries to ignore that but Miruko’s grin is unwavering. Wherever she’s trying to take him is either far or he’s missing a point she’s trying to make. And so when she flicks her ears, listening to yet another conversation about her assets, he finally snaps.
“The fuck are we even going, Rabbit Wonder?”
“Already here, kiddo,” he gets ready to retort that it’s just some stupid grocery shop and it has literally nothing to do with their previous conversation, but she cuts him off with a humorless, “I know you glorify some of the well known heroes. I know you wonder why I’m the only woman hero in the top rankings. Well, those things collide.”
He doesn’t want to know what she means. He can point out multiple things wrong with her statement, because obviously, he doesn’t glorify anyone, like, at all. Yet, he catches her eyes and the way she holds her body steady and for a moment, he’s reminded of Midnight.
Oh, he thinks.
He narrows his eyes as Miruko adds, “Back when I was a kid, there weren’t many women in the business like me. The only one I remember and the one that got forgotten as soon as she died, was a hero named Nana. Kind soul in a body of someone who got lucky in life.”
“I don’t need a sob story.”
“I know that,” she rolls her eyes, “I’m telling you that the hero society you think so highly of isn’t so great after all. You think I never teamed up with anybody because of my own choice? You think I like it that when I turn each corner a man is there to drool over me? Bakugou,” she smirks, “man, do I have some news for you.”
“You said only weaklings team up,” he reminds her, drily, but he can’t help the sense of dread that bubbles beneath his skin at her faraway look, “and that you’ll beat any villain that comes your way because you’re not dependent on anyone else.”
“I did,” she nods, “but you should also notice that the second a girl shows some weakness, everything turns to shit for her.”
“Oi, Rabbit Wonder—“
“The reality, Bakugou, is that no matter what happens I have to be top shape to fight. I don’t have the luxury of taking sick days, because everyone automatically assumes I’m weak. I don’t get to show off like you, kid. I’m an adult who fought her way out with claws, and just like the hero Nana, I will die as easily forgotten.”
He looks away. He doesn’t feel comfortable with the conversation at all. Something, and he doesn’t know if it’s her eyes or the eyes of everyone around her, pisses him off, but he grips at his hands and wills himself to not react.
Because she’s right. People like her don’t stay in the textbooks. They don’t, because they’re not like All Might or Endeavor. They’re average, at best, and so—
“You care what they say?”
“I’m not stupid enough to think that I can ignore that. Heroes are slaves to the society, because it’s society that created them,” she sighs, as if tired and fixes her hair, almost absent-mindedly, “I don’t team up with anyone because they either make a move on me or they straight out refuse to be affiliated with me. Because I’m a woman, and to be a woman in their eyes, is to be weak and vulnerable.”
She takes a deep breath, “So yeah, I think we are the same, in a way. But whatever you got made up in your head about me needs to get erased and replaced. I’m not choosing to risk my life without a backup because I think that’s weak – I’m choosing to risk my life like that because I know what happens when I entrust my life to someone who only cares about my body.”
To trust is to put yourself in a position where everyone can hurt you. To entrust something to someone is as simple as asking someone to harm you. Katsuki knows this – he’s always known the liability that comes from having companions who cannot catch up to him, but Miruko, she—
She almost looks wistful as she says that. Like she wants to trust and she wants to have that backup.
But she can’t, because she knows better. She’s not in a position where having backup is any safer than being without one.
So Katsuki snorts, and rolls his shoulders, and tells her, “Well, Uraraka’s getting ready to beat anyone who so much as dares to look at her so-called friends the wrong way, so,” he sees Miruko’s ears perk up at that, “I don’t think you’ll be missing out on those sidekicks.”
“Uh huh, do I sense the great Bakugou Katsuki complimenting his classmates?”
“Like hell, I’d never do that, Rabbit Wonder, but—“ he shrugs, a grin coming up onto his face, “I do admit it would be interesting to see you beat Raccoon Eyes’ ass into the ground. She’s bragging too much about being independent.”
Miruko snorts, then her breath catches and then—
She just bursts into laughter.
He doesn’t know when Raccoon Eyes became Ashido, but it must have been around the time Kirishima, Kaminari and Sero deserved to be called their names in his mind as well, and so he didn’t pay much attention to it.
That is, until—
“What the hell are you doing here at this hour?”
She startles, and she startles so bad that she nearly falls on her butt, barely holding onto the cup she took from the cupboard. It somehow slips safely onto the counter, but the notion of him scaring her is enough to make her glare like he made her break something.
“What?” He moves past her to get his own cup, “Cat got your tongue?”
“That’s mean, Bakugou,” she says, pouting, “You’re awake, too, you know?”
He does. Know, that is. It was well past two AM when he woke up in his bed, sweat rolling down his face and palms, and with sheets crumbled in his hands. It took him half an hour to get his breathing right and even longer to finally kick the covers and get out of the suffocating room. It’s half past three now and he wonders when coming down here will soon become an unhealthy habit.
He also wonders why she’s down there. At the same hour he is, with expression exhausted and her skin pale, as if she’s seen a ghost.
He sighs, shoulders slumping. She immediately takes notice of that, kind of hugging herself and her stupid-looking cup to her equally stupid-looking banana pajamas. Her black eyes trail after him when he turns on the kettle and turns around to catch her gaze as he waits.
She doesn’t say anything. If nothing before was enough to set some red flags in his mind, then her silence definitely made him see some.
“Can’t sleep, Raccoon Eyes?”
She finally looks away. It’s only him and her in the kitchenette. The sound of the kettle, the small light above them and darkness in the big living room surrounding them.
She looks too small.
“Hey, Bakugou?” She starts, but it looks like she doesn’t even know what to say yet and she’s only fishing for some distraction, “how do you do it?”
“How are you never scared?”
Oh, so that’s it.
He narrows his eyes at her, but she can’t see it with her own gaze trailing invisible patterns in the next room, so he brings them up to stare at the ceiling. Something heavy sits at the bottom of his stomach as he muses over the question.
Are you a fool who’s terrified of dying? Or are you a fool too afraid of surviving?
Both answers are wrong and right at the same time. There’s no bravery without the fear. There are no acts of heroism without terrorism. There wouldn’t be a need for them if they’d live in a pretty utopia.
“Because I’m too angry to get scared.”
She twitches, as if she didn’t even expect him to answer. Still, there was only silence from her in reply.
“And I never understood the concept of being scared. Like, what the fuck does that even mean? Being terrified enough to shit your pants,” she cracks a smile at him, albeit it’s weak and crooked, “and letting people walk over you. I know how much I’m worth, how much I’m capable,” too dangerous, too explosive, too—“And so I never felt the need to wonder about that.”
“I see,” she murmurs, a little disappointed.
She looks like a kicked puppy. Like a puppy that had a bad dream and got kicked out of its owner’s bedroom. Her eyes are wide and sad, and her lips are pressed together. It’s like she’s holding back tears or trying to not feel so ashamed of being weak in front of someone who was always strong.
He glances at her because of that, his narrowed eyes softening his glare as he crosses his arms.
“Maybe the closest thing I have to what you’re feeling is when the Sludge Incident happened.”
She snaps her head towards him. He looks at the kettle.
Feeling vulnerable sucked.
“Whatever that thing was made of, it kind of went into me. It felt violating, nauseating and suffocating at once. I tried to claw it off, tried to explode it, but you couldn’t really do much about liquid quirks like that one with mine. The other heroes stood by because they had no shitty idea how to help me,” his fingers play with the loose collar of his shirt and her eyes catch onto that movement, some realization sliding onto her face, “and in that moment, I knew I couldn’t depend on them at all.”
Teaming up is a weakness.
I don’t need anyone.
Who cares if they’re with me or not, I can do it myself.
“Fucking whatever, I thought, but yeah. It’s the only time I remember not being angry enough. The only time I felt useless. Never again, obviously,” he takes the kettle off and pours the water into the cups, not minding the way she shifts in her place, “I know better now. I’m better and a shit like that wouldn’t get even one hit in—“
“That—“ she starts, gulping down, “That’s horrible, Bakugou.”
It stops him. Freezes him inside out. Her voice isn’t pitying, it’s just fucking sad. Whatever happened to her, whatever her nightmare was about – something about his own story touched her as well. And he doesn’t really know to deal with that.
“Whatever. It’s in the past now.”
She smiles now, genuine. Her dark eyes no longer look like she’s about to cry.
“Hey, can you add three sugar cubes in mine?” she asks when she sees him reaching for it, “I like it sweet.”
He rolls his eyes.
“Do you want to fucking die from sugar overdose?”
“I want to die doing things I love,” she says seriously, “so thanks in advance.”
Katsuki sighs and throws them in, stirring. Whatever, he thinks, it’s gonna be her fault she can’t fall asleep. And he leaves it at that, because he’s already tired and mentally exhausted, with memories once again trying to overwhelm him. His fingers twist into his collar.
And then, she slides next to him and takes her cup as he starts grabbing his own.
And she doesn’t say anything, she just stands near him, silent. It’s miracle in itself because she’s never quiet and she’s never considerate enough to shut up, but in that moment, she is and—
Ashido smiles, gentle and strong.
“You’re a cool guy, you know, Bakugou?”
“Shut the hell up, and drink your fucking tea before I pour it on your stupid hair.”
Maybe they’ll be okay.
Everything in life passes. That’s the meaning behind the poem Midnight assigned them again. It passes and it leaves you behind. It turns to dust as quickly as the old sepia photos yellow at the edges. If nothing is permanent, then everything is worthless.
Katsuki doesn’t get that – poetry fucking sucks, and that’s final.
“If everything is worthless,” it’s Deku that starts to say, hand timidly raised above his head, “then doesn’t that mean it’s because we don’t give anything value?”
Midnight stops with her whip in the air. It’s clear she was about to explain the whole point behind the useless lines on paper again, but whatever was in Deku’s eyes again – it made her stop. Her own body, usually striking with confidence, is leaned against the black board as she tilts her head at him.
Deku flushes, but he keeps going. Mainly, because he’s in too deep to back out now. Idiot.
‘Maybe take a leap of faith—‘
He shakes his head just in time to hear him speak, “The author of the poem was depressed, I think it was written somewhere in the textbook. The plants who wither away and die, the people who turned their back on them, the never-stopping river. It’s—how should I say it?” he scratches his neck, sheepish when he realizes everyone is looking at him, “The focus in the poem is on one of their qualities. They don’t mention that after the plant dies, another takes place. They don’t mention that people who left them made place for other, better people. A depressed person,” he wavers in a way that makes Midnight’s eyes sharpen, “they only focus on the negative. That’s why I think saying everything is worthless in this case is kind of wrong. It’s not because it’s reality – it’s just the author’s point of view.”
See? That’s what he meant.
Katsuki doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get depression and he doesn’t get fear and he doesn’t get poetry. He doesn’t relate to it. Even if he knows the meaning behind the words, he still can’t explain it the way Deku does.
Then again, he muses chin resting on his hand, does he have to?
If you don’t need empathy to be a hero (Endeavor); if you don’t need teammates to do your job (Miruko), then does he need to understand it? It’s not a requirement.
No, a thought pops into his head as he watches Deku mumble his way out of his explanation, it’s not, but it doesn’t mean a good hero shouldn’t have that, right?
He hates Deku. Plain and simple. Except, that’s not the truth. Not anymore. Not even by a long shot. Whether it’s because of the whole All Might fiasco, or because Deku doesn’t know how to keep his distance with people who hate his guts – something in the middle happened that made even Katsuki reconsider.
He can’t ever be friends with him. He has a feeling he doesn’t have to be, if they survived years on whatever toxic relationship they had. Deku has his own stupid group of people who give a shit about him and Katsuki reluctantly learns how to do the same for the group of rascals that worm their way under his skin like nobody else ever did.
But even so, the bitter resentment, the “you’ve been looking down on me the whole time, weren’t you?” and Deku’s wet screams. All of that and more makes Katsuki look deeper, like with another goddamn poem.
If you want to defeat someone, Miruko said one day, you have to learn about them. You have to study the shit out of them and only then, you can make some difference.
The point isn’t to befriend him. The point isn’t to love him or admire him. The point, probably, is to look his way and be able to fight by his side. Whatever clichés the other idiots could think of happening during that time – well, that’s not Katsuki’s problem. What’s important – is Katsuki’s own climb to the top.
‘I’ll surpass you,’ he’s told him.
‘I’m going to become the greatest hero,’ a cheeky grin, jittery moves letting up.
“Oi, Bakugou-kun, are you even paying attention to what’s said?” Midnight snaps her whip at him and leans on his desk to glare at him, “Your last assignment went poorly—“
“Huh? I nailed that shit, you—“
“Show some respect to your elders!”
“I just fucking did—!”
Whatever, he thinks, if we don’t have to be friends, I might as well make sure he doesn’t get killed somewhere along the way with his dumb ideas. Shitty, worthless Deku.
He drops the insults somewhere in the middle. They stop feeling right.
It’s not like he’s being polite; it’s not like he’s suddenly all buddy-buddy with him, but as he looks at him, they start to feel like ash on his tongue. Briefly, he wonders if that’s just him or if being mean as a defense stops feeling convenient.
Back there, way before the Sludge Incident, he’s reached out his hand to him. And Katsuki slapped it away and waved the illusion of friendship away with smoke so fierce it burned his own eyes.
Don’t help me, he’d say.
Don’t you dare stick by my side, when I know you can die just as easily.
The thing with kids was that they were often led to believe that the world is open for them to take; that there isn’t a thing you cannot achieve. As a child, Katsuki grew up knowing he’s one of the lucky ones with powerful quirks; and just the same, as a child, Izuku grew up knowing that he’s never going to have the same advantage as him.
You’re too weak. Too much of a crybaby.
You can take everything from someone, ranging from their own pair of boots to their will to live. Had Katsuki been taught otherwise, maybe instead of discouraging Izuku, he’d take his hand and protect him instead. Maybe he wouldn’t feel the need to kick him down and make him cry. There were so many possibilities and all of the outcomes make him feel shittier.
One day, you will be the only one standing in the middle of dead bodies. One day, I will be the one to see someone’s dead body behind a smiling face.
The green-haired terror, the problem child of class A, the hero Deku – the reclaimed names that Katsuki would spit on before. From a nameless loser to Midoriya; from that to Izuku – it’s not a road Katsuki will admit to taking. He won’t be able to ever explain the thought process that occurred during that, just like he will never be able to tell anyone how the misplaced hatred was actually the desire to—
To what, exactly? Katsuki wishes he’d knew that.
“Does anyone have an answer to question number 7?”
“Dude, I don’t even have an answer to the first one,” Kaminari whines, head dropping onto his textbook. Katsuki’s sure that if the whole class didn’t sit all around each other, he’d also throw the whole book across the room, just to make a point, “How are you on the seventh one?”
Izuku – it never gets easier calling him that in his head – sheepishly laughs, scratching the back of his neck, “I just think poetry is really interesting. I mean—“
Uraraka lightly nudges him, “Please, you can save the whole lecture about it for later.”
Iida on her right nods along, “Yes, that would be appreciated.”
He flushes even harder, probably thinking the worst until Todoroki whispers to him that, “no, it’s not because of you, but we won’t get any work done with that trivia, so it would be great if you’d tell us that at later date,” that has Izuku looking way less stressed.
Kaminari is still moaning about his own sheet of work in front of him as he tries to desperately read something from the textbook, but as always, he looks more defeated than anything else. By the time someone finally saves him from the terrible fate of dissolving into a goo at mere mention of doing the homework himself, Izuku is still stuck.
Wholly unimpressed, Katsuki looks back to the list of questions, quickly tracking the seventh one.
Poetry, he’d muse later, poetry fucking sucks, that’s what.
“They wanted to protect them,” he speaks up loud enough for him to hear, “It wasn’t about hatred at all. The whole thing speaks about anger that was so unbearable, and a worry so fucking big, that the person just shut down and decided to protect them in an only way they knew how. By leaving them behind,” and then, he adds, “Dumbass.”
The poem itself is meaningless jumbo that would probably make a sane man rip his hair out, but Izuku stares at him as if Katsuki explained the whole thing. Whatever. Midnight better be glad that he’s actually put an effort in this analysis.
Annoying, he thinks, as Izuku starts to scribble on his paper, but then he leans his chin on his hand and continues his work himself, that he’s still treating me like we’re equals.
‘Before it knows it,
the daytime moon rises above the desolate field.’
Maybe this time, they could be.