Chapter 2 - Have to Explode
Katsuki Bakugou was an anomaly.
“Explosion: A pair of otherwise harmless quirks uniting in powerful harmony. The user can manifest sparks at will, which ignite nitroglycerin-infused sweat produced in the palms to create explosions. Powerful in combat scenarios, due to the raw power and unpredictability of its manifestation; however, like most body-localized quirks, it lacks range and is easily countered by attacking the combat style rather than the quirk. Rescue applications thus far unknown, but the quirk’s strength suggests potential.”
Partly anomalous in that he had an unusually powerful quirk by sheer chance, coupled with enough ambition to fully utilize it; partly so in the way in which he approached life with a certainty nonpareil; but mostly, for Izuku, in his seemingly uncanny aptitude for being unnervingly present as far back as she could remember.
Some of that was just a fact of life; she had moved houses a couple of times, but her mother and Katsuki’s parents were friends and tried to coordinate their moves as best they could. But for some reason, they also seemed convinced beyond belief that Izuku and Katsuki were friends as children and therefore must always stay that way, regardless of how much things change.
At least she'd accepted one thing.
In any case, it became evident within about five seconds that her original high school plan was a clear mistake.
“Are you kidding! I already aced the mock exam - I’m practically made for it!”
She knew that normally no student without a quirk would be able to get into a hero school, let alone graduate. But would trying really hurt anyone? Besides, worst case scenario: this kind of research and analysis would be invaluable in the hands of a hero who knew how to use it. Sidekick, maybe; secretary, most likely. As much as the idea of glamour and heroism appealed to her, there was something comforting about the idea of being just outside the spotlight.
“I’m the best student in the class already! I doubt any of these other losers could even come close.”
“Well, I believe Izuku here was also thinking of applying…”
Twenty-eight stunned faces, and one burning glare, all suddenly turned to face her.
Never satisfied with just the last word, Katsuki took the first as well.
“Are you kidding? Deku?” he roared, his voice booming around the classroom. “I know you’re a special case and all, but there’s only so far studying can get you.” Pulling his legs off the desk in front of him, he leaned forward towards her, resting his chin on one hand and mockingly tapping his forehead with the other. “You’ve gotta have a hero’s quirk to get into a hero’s school, you know!”
Try to ignore the stares.
“Well, I mean…” Play it off. “Sure, it’s not been done before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?” Hopefully that’s enough to deflect suspicion.
Oh. Too late for hoping, right.
“Listen,” Katsuki snarled, all pretenses gone now. “If you were any other kid in this class, I’d think you were trying to steal my thunder.”
A spark. Pressing forward. Where’s the teacher?
“But this?” He paused for a moment, savoring the room’s utter silence. “A Quirkless bookworm, trying to get into UA? Trying to upstage me?”
No more smile.
“I, uh…” don’t let him get mad don’t let him get mad don’t let him get mad-- “I really, truly, wasn’t trying to show off, or, or say I was better or anything like that.”
Confusion; doubt, maybe. An improvement.
“I just.” Don’t let on more than you need to. “Getting into UA has kind of been a dream of mine…… ever since I was little. So I thought it would at least be worth it to try--”
“Listen,” Katsuki said, loudly clapping Izuku’s back as he sat down on top of her desk. “Don’t try to get yourself killed this young. Stick to something more fitting of a book boy like yourself. Who knows, maybe one day when I’m out fighting villains and saving the world, you can wave to me from your office.” He flashed her a faint smirk, then trudged to his seat and put his legs back up on his desk.
Not mad. Friendly. Maybe. Hard to say.
Izuku’s third memory. Age 4. The night she came home from the doctor’s office.
She wasn’t sure how she felt yet, but she was shaking, and her eyes were floodgates that might burst at any moment. She guessed that this was sadness, but something didn’t seem quite right about that description. It was the best she had, though.
There was only one thing for it. Pull up the video on her computer. At this point, its existence was so integral to her that she didn’t even think as she tapped at the keyboard.
When her mother walked in and saw her staring at the screen with tears pouring down her face, her expression fixed in place as she gazed blankly at the Symbol of Peace’s first and most famous rescue, she instantly knew something was wrong.
“I’m so sorry,” she sighed before falling to her knees and wrapping her arms around her grief-stricken daughter. Izuku, on the other hand, remained motionless, fixated on the events unfolding on the screen as she had seen them more times than she could count.
As far as she knew, she had failed her hero.
Clutching the charred, damp remains of her notebook, Izuku ran from the school grounds as quickly as she could. Duck through the alley, down the hill towards the underpass through the bridge; technically, this wasn’t an emergency, but she had been embarrassed enough today without strangers making it worse.
Had Katsuki forgotten? Or was he just playing it up to keep her safe? They didn’t talk much outside of school these days, so it was difficult to say for sure.
The book had been a little much, though - as much as he claimed to be “making sure you don’t get your hopes up too high”, she nearly panicked when he threw his stolen goods out the window. Fortunately, she had acted fast, and the pages were still mostly intact when she fished it out of the fountain. Some marginal notes lost to the aether, but those can be remade; some of the later pages burnt away in his grasp, but she still had the news articles bookmarked; it wouldn’t be hard to recreate. Wiping the notebook gently across the front of her uniform, she did another quick check, then tucked it gently into her bag before lying down in the grass by the side of the road.
Malicious. Maybe. He tried. Maybe. He--
Blinking vigorously, she shook her head to clear those thoughts.
Izuku’s second memory. Earlier that day.
She didn’t like how cold and mechanical this place was. At school and at home, the walls were filled with life, and the people always stopped to say hello. She wasn’t used to having this many people refuse to acknowledge her, in this weird place where every surface shined a sickly white light.
Even now, kicking her legs back and forth in the chair outside the room where her mother was talking to one of the doctors who had examined her, there was not a single thing which threatened to catch her attention, so she turned around in her chair and pressed her ear to the wall, trying desperately to catch snippets of their conversation.
“…and you’re sure it’s not just a mutation? Those happen.”
“…would explain a dissimilarity but not a failure to manifest…”
“…far past the typical age for…”
“…better to know now then be crushed later.”
It didn’t all make sense to her, but she knew it was something bad.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but your son--”
“…your daughter just isn’t going to develop a quirk.”
In the car ride home, she listened to her mother try desperately to explain what had happened. She didn’t have the heart to tell her that she had already heard.
“Mom? Do you…… do you think I can still be a hero?”
Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
She didn’t remember the rest of the car ride, or her frantic dash into the house and upstairs to her bedroom.
For some reason, the last couple years of school had been exhausting. Ordinarily, after a day like this, Izuku would want nothing more than to run home, curl up within the safety of her bed, and escape for a moment. But today felt like a special moment for some reason, and she wasn’t about to squander the advantage.
Sitting up and crossing her arms over her chest, she thought again about Katsuki, about UA High, about her future, and she resolved herself.
“I, Izuku Midoriya…” She didn’t know where the words were coming from, but she was too swept up in the moment to care. “…promise to seek out my own future, and never give up! No matter what!”
The decisiveness of her exclamation filled her with resolve, but it still felt somewhat out of place in the uncertainty of the moment. She still didn’t know what would happen after this year, she still didn’t know how to feel about the one kid in class who still paid her any mind - and yet, bolstered by a newfound courage, she picked herself up and headed into the underpass on her way home.
After a few moments, she became acutely aware that she also didn’t know the consequences of not checking local news before walking so close to a drainage grate.
Her first memory.
Only hints of details. A field, a path - some other children?
A flash of blond hair.
Understanding feelings is difficult; putting them to words is harder. Still, these words feel natural enough.
“I don’t think I’m like you. I don’t think I’m a boy. I think I’m a girl.”
Waiting for a response with bated breath.
“Cool,” comes the reply from the boy with blond hair, and he smiles and lets off a flash of light and heat that still dazzles her. She’s a late bloomer, her mother tells her, and seeing a quirk like this is almost magical.
The conversation turns, as it often does. This time it’s in a direction that favours her interests.
“Do you think,” she says, not knowing what to expect even from herself, “that we can be as strong as All Might one day?”
“You can feel free,” he says without a care, “but I’m gonna be stronger.”
She hadn’t felt tense and uncomfortable a single time that whole conversation.
By the time she saw the man made of slime, he was already enveloping her.
She tried to struggle and break free; she tried to call for help; failing everything, she began to panic, but even that was cut short by her breath suddenly being cut off.
A voice in the distance was all she heard as she lost consciousness.