I own nothing.
And it's time for the end to this short story! I wanted to mix it up - we've already got that amazing fight scene... Horikoshi really did this justice, if you think back. It was the first time we got their big confrontation, with actual emotion behind it. It's hard to one-up it.
I suggest listening to Loneliness - the same track that plays during their emotional scene. It really helps, at least, in my opinion.
Midoriya hated the nights that he couldn't sleep.
The way his blanket would stick to his skin, sticky and glistening with sweat, and the way he'd toss and turn hopelessly, trying to find some glimmer of comfort, caused him endless frustration. Mostly, he hated the sensation of sweat. However, it also reminded him of the time before U.A. and all the struggles that had dominated his social life. It took him back to a place that was dark, and hopeless.
He tried to forget about it as much as he could - really, he'd done everything he could to suppress it. He'd tried meditation, he'd tried psychotherapy, he'd tried simply ignoring it, but the more he tried, the more he found himself drawn back to the old reality of how his life had been. And that frustrated him even further than the sensation of being sweaty.
Each time, he'd grumble and curse lightly to himself, kick the blankets off his body (which made him feel just marginally better) and he'd fill up a bottle of water, in anticipation for a light - or possibly heavy - session at the gym. He'd always do his best to avoid staying awake too late. Most times, he ended up simply doing a few quick power-lifts in effort to wear himself down a bit, and quiet his hyperactive imagination. Once in awhile, he settled for running on a treadmill, knowing Aizawa would kill him if he was caught outside of the dorms during curfew.
Still, at the end of the day, he kept coming back to the same problem, with the same feeble solution: and while hate was a strong word, he certainly loathed the moments he found himself separated from the waiting grasp of rest.
That's how he found himself staring out the window, longing for the cool caress of the autumn air. The tiniest part of his brain debated slipping outside - consequences be damned. He knew there were obviously steep repercussions for being caught past curfew... but he also was a touch sleep-deprived, and for once, he didn't particularly care about them. All he wanted was a subtle bit of breeze, and perhaps something to clear his mind.
He glanced at his clock, then back outside. Instinctively, he gnawed gently on his bottom lip, debating the pro and con of sneaking out.
"Better not let Iida see me..." Midoriya mumbled to himself, sighing as he tossed on a pair of clean shorts and a simple shirt. Common Sense, like many times recently in his life, had lost this time.
Gently, he closed his door, and lightly tread down the hallway, being mindful of any stirring from any room he passed by. Thankfully - or regrettably - there was no noise from any room, and he made his way to the Common Area, before giving one last gaze to his surroundings. Then, he slipped outside, and felt immediately better.
There had always been the option of opening a window - but this was so much more rewarding.
He felt the tension he'd been carrying begin to relax, his muscles releasing as the trickle of a breeze swam past his legs, barely jostling his loose fitting shorts. He took a deep breath in, holding for a second, before releasing. Filled with energy, he trekked forward, letting some leaves crackle under each footstep.
Truthfully, there had been a lot on his mind as of late.
Sure, he always had the lingering thoughts about All Might, and the destiny he'd inherited. The weight of All Might's words, legacy, and power laid on his shoulders, and his shoulders alone.
But, no, that wasn't it - this time. Since his conversation with Kirishima, he'd been deep in thought about the red-head's words, and how they applied to his circumstances. Since Kirishima had spoken, the words hadn't stopped echoed within Midoriya's mind.
'He's gotta learn why he said that stuff'.
While it made sense, it really didn't make sense, either. For the longest time - essentially since Midoriya could remember Bakugou first developing his ego problem - he'd always just assumed that Bakugou was a pompous ass. It was rather blunt, but it failed to become less true as they both grew older. And, with his ego, it was just assumed that Bakugou was going to talk down on anyone he saw to be below him. Which, unfortunately, was everyone.
But, the way that Kirishima spoke, it made Midoriya hesitate. Each time the greenette thought that he'd developed an answer toward Kirishima's statement, he found himself looking at his answer with disdain.
Just because Bakugou had an ego, it didn't mean that he had to pick him of all people to belittle. If it had to do with him being Quirkless, then the next question was: why did it matter? If it was because of his goal and aspiration, the following question was: what did that have to do with Bakugou?
No matter how many questions he answered, he found himself asking a new question, and then struggling with the answer. It was, for lack of a better term, painfully repetitive. It was tedious. And it was unending. There was likely correlation between these circling answers and his recent restless nights.
There'd been moments of indecision, where Midoriya had considered bringing the topic up with a professional - or at least, someone who was an adult. Aizawa, while stern and cool on the exterior, was fairly level-headed, and might shed some sort of light on the silent battle within Midoriya's mind. Though, he also might just sigh and refer to Hound Dog's services. And not that the school counselor wasn't helpful - because anyone who was able to assist prospective heroes students through the worst parts of their lives, was bound to be good - but Midoriya was hesitant simply because he didn't know Hound Dog.
If he was to be honest, he'd rather talk to someone he knew.
While he was positive that All Might would be more than willing to listen, he also knew that All Might wasn't the best with words... or advice. Truly, he loved his predecessor, and held all the respect possible for him, but realistically, Midoriya knew All Might was only halfway decent with his words. Still, it crossed the young boy's mind to give it a shot anyways - after all, maybe the large man would have some sort of surprisingly sage wisdom?
An explosion rang out in the dead of night, the booming echoing sending a shiver down Midoriya's spine as he felt his instincts flare up. His fists clenched, and his muscles tightened, in anticipation of the blow that never came. Without even realizing, his eyes had closed, and slowly he opened his eyes, scowling to himself as he did so. It was always the unseen blows that hurt the most, he'd realized early in life.
With Bakugou's Quirk, if he could see the attack incoming, he could brace himself quickly enough - he could expect the pain. But the worst moments were the ones he didn't see coming. He'd come to fear the unseen, and by extension, had developed a paranoia to explosions when he didn't expect them. Or at least, he categorized it as a paranoia. He didn't know what else to call it.
'Kacchan...?' Midoriya wondered idly, seeing a small trail of smoke rise from one of U.A's mock cities. It wasn't too far away, Midoriya realized, glancing back toward the dorms in the distance. He'd been so lost in thought, he hadn't realized how far he'd walked. Faintly, he could smell the smoke that hung in the air - a sign that this explosion hadn't been the first of its kind.
He knew he should turn around, and head back to the dorms. His brain told him it was time to head back. He didn't need to see his tormentor - his friends had made that clear. Avoid Bakugou.
It was like a magnetic pull, yearning him forward. The tug - whether it was his heart, telling him to confront his old friend, or his brain feeding an old habit - lured him toward the column of smoke, pushing him with a thoughtless command. His brain had almost stopped functioning, as it always did when it came to situations such as these.
'Why... why am I going there? What is it that I'm looking for? There are no answers there - there's nothing there. Just... Kacchan...'
Another explosion - this time, louder than the previous one - rang out, though Midoriya didn't flinch the same as before. Partially, he'd been expecting another, and now that he knew of the location, his brain was more at ease. Though, he still felt his hair stand on end as he drew closer. His heart rate picked up as his nerves became more pronounced.
"He's gotta learn why he said that stuff."
'Will... will I...?'
A third explosion, the smoke and fire now visible upon detonation, thundered across the fake city, and Midoriya felt something stir within as he finally made out his old friend's form. The blonde was hunched over, heaving and panting, his palms facing upward as he gasped deeply. There was a look of unadulterated frustration on his face, which was twisted into a venomous scowl as he cursed loudly, clenching his fists as he did so.
"FUCK! WHY WON'T THESE THOUGHTS JUST..." Several small pops bounced around Bakugou's palms, before he roared out, "GO AWAY!"
His words were punctuated by a massive detonation, causing the Earth to tremble as the vibrations ran throughout the city. Midoriya winced as he saw the grimace of pain briefly shoot across the boy's face, before being swept away by another round of anger. His hands shot into the sky again, and his eyes narrowed as he took a breath in.
For a brief second, Midoriya expected Bakugou to unleash another torrent of explosions, however, the volatile teen seemed to hesitate a second, and dropped his hands, an unreadable expression crossing his face. He huffed angrily, opting to throw himself rather violently into a sitting position. Then, his head twisted quickly, and his eyes met Midoriya's.
It was then that the green-haired teenager realized he hadn't stopped walking - and he'd subconsciously approached the same person he'd been told to avoid.
"... the fuck do you want?"
It was... surprisingly tame, compared to what Midoriya had been expecting. Then again, he wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Perhaps an explosion to his face?
"I, uh, sorry. I was just... walking..." Midoriya stammered out, realizing he'd intruded. "I'll... I'll just go...!"
He turned, unsure why he'd even been drawn to this place in the first place. Really, he couldn't figure it out - it was as if his heart and brain had acted in some weird unison, prodding him to this spot, to say something, and find some answer. And, now that he was here, there was nothing. No questions, no comments, no anger. Nothing. Just ... the urge to get away.
And just like that, he stopped. It was like his muscles were controlled by some small contraption, and that device was held by the blonde teenager.
But he didn't turn around - he didn't dare face the angry red eyes that were surely glaring at him. He couldn't. He wouldn't.
"Answer something for me." It wasn't a question, but then, why would it be, Midoriya wondered. Bakugou didn't ask things from people - he demanded them. "Do you remember this place?"
'Well, it's something of a question, I guess...' Midoriya corrected internally. He sighed, and then looked around.
At first, nothing came to mind. It was one of the mock cities - but not the mock city that he'd taken his practical exam in, nor the same mock city that he and the boy behind him had fought All Might in. It was unremarkable, really. Perhaps they'd done a class assignment here at some point during the semester, but there was nothing specific enough to make Midoriya remember it off the top of his head.
"Turn around, ner-" Bakugou hesitated, cutting his sentence off. And that was enough to cause Midoriya to stiffen in surprise, because Bakugou Katsuki didn't hesitate. After a second, Bakugou spoke again. "Just... turn around."
And so, he did. And, deep down, something clicked as he looked at the building behind Bakugou. It was tall, yes, but no different than any other building, except... there were cracks in its framing that seemed to have been reinforced and patched over by Cementoss at some point. Cracks... from a Quirk. From a super-strength Quirk.
"This is..." Midoriya mumbled.
Bakugou sniffed. "The place you beat me. The first time you ever beat me. And the first time you ever used your Quirk against me." He said the word 'Quirk' with such disdain, Midoriya wondered if he was going to actually spit on the ground. But alas, he didn't - he simply stared with unmasked anger.
"You beat me. Then, do you remember what you said after?"
Did he remember...? Midoriya thought back, trying to recall exactly what he said.
"'One day I will make this Quirk my own and beat you with my own power!'" Bakugou recited coldly. He scowled. "It was an insult then. A fucking mockery of me. But... I realized better. You weren't just boasting - you were telling me something. That power... it's his, isn't it?"
His...? Midoriya's eyes widened. His heart rate immediately picked up. Had Bakugou actually figured out his secret?!
"All Might. That power... it's All Might's, isn't it?" His voice was quiet - too quiet. It wasn't Bakugou's. It was, but it wasn't. Midoriya couldn't remember the last time he'd heard the blonde speak so... controlled. The usual anger that laced his words together was absent, and it made him sound... so much different.
But at much as he wanted to focus on that, he couldn't simply ignore Bakugou's implications or question. And he certainly couldn't ignore how his old friend had seemingly put the pieces together. That one line, though, couldn't have given it all away, could it? There had to be something else - there had to be more. Kacchan was observant, Midoriya could easily admit that. But there was more to this deduction - there had to be.
"... before I answer that, what makes you think that I got a Quirk from All Might?"
Bakugou's nose twitched, and a flicker of anger passed across his features, before he exhaled heavily, and the emotion slipped from his expression. "For one, I'm not a damn idiot. You and him have the same power. He seems to give you extra attention. You reacted different than anyone when he retired... and you were there, way back when. When he stopped that sludge asshole. You were there - and he was, too."
"Why would that make a difference...?"
"Because after that day, you changed."
Had he changed? Being honest, he hadn't really stopped to evaluate himself personally from that day onward. Ever since becoming All Might's disciple, he'd been focused on improving his body in order to handle the power that had been made known to him as One-For-All. He hadn't even remotely considered his personality changing with his body - if anything, he thought he was about the same. Perhaps a touch more talkative, but nothing else.
But had he changed? To an outsider, maybe he had. To someone who watched him, but never saw his regime, perhaps he had changed? To Kacchan, who had spend a lifetime torturing him in small, but daily methods, picking on the spineless boy he'd been, maybe he had grown somewhat?
"You weren't just a Quirkless wannabe anymore. You didn't follow anyone, anymore. You stopped searching - you looked like you'd found something. Like some fucking realization had struck you." That flicker of anger popped back onto Bakugou's face, and he struggled to ease it away, this time. "At first, I thought you were finally growing up - but then, you pissed me off more. You still wanted to go to U.A. and you still wanted to be a fucking hero."
Bakugou tilted his head, unsure of if he'd actually heard Midoriya speak or not.
"Why... why did it matter...?" The words tumbled from Midoriya's mouth without him even meaning to speak. But, then again, they were the sole reason that had driven him forward - the same thing that brought him outside in the first place. The same thing that had driven sleep away.
The answer he was looking for.
And he knew the only person who would have the answer(s) he was looking for, stood directly in front of him. Fear couldn't afford to paralyze him now - he needed answers.
Bakugou's sneer became slightly more pronounced. "Because you were Quirkless - and you couldn't win a fight."
"There's more to being a hero than fighting," Midoriya countered.
And, of course, he believed his words. But, even with that simple phrase - that simple answer, he found pieces beginning to settle into place. Within his brain, the clouds began to shift, and the stars of recognition became just a little less convoluted. Suddenly, there was an answer in sight, for the first time since the questions had been posed.
"What kind of hero loses?!" Finally, it seemed, Bakugou was back to his normal demeanor, as he lashed out suddenly. His ruby eyes held the stubbornness they always held, but as Midoriya locked gazes, he noticed they seemed... less certain than usual. There was something off about his tone, about his posture. "What kind of hero can't fight?!"
Midoriya opened his mouth to speak, but found his words drown out by Bakugou's sudden tirade.
"You could never be a hero, because you were hopeless! Because you couldn't win! You, a Quirkless Deku, wanted to be like All Might - and that was such bullshit! It was a fucking disgrace!"
It happened without meaning - he really hadn't meant for it to happen. But, inevitably, there were some things that Midoriya had unconsciously picked up from watching Bakugou for so many years. And this was one of them.
"That's bullshit!" Midoriya lashed out, his own anger flaring. It was almost enough to cause Bakugou to recoil. Almost. But it was enough to halt the blonde's rant, giving Midoriya a moment to get a word in, letting his anger take the driver's seat for a change. "Heroes aren't heroes because they fight - they're heroes because they protect people! They protect the innocent - All Might protects people! I didn't want to be a hero to fight - I wanted to be a hero to stand up for innocent people! To save them, with a smile!"
It was almost therapeutic, Midoriya would later realize. His anger, justified or not, had rarely been allowed to escape in his words, and it showed. It wasn't something he was good at. It was draining. Letting all that rage seep from his body, like a poison leaking from his pores. It was weight he never even knew he carried - but as soon as it was in the open, he felt his shoulders sag from the pressure that was lifted.
But before he knew it, another round of anger was raring its ugly face, as more and more feelings cropped up.
"Why did you pick me?!" Midoriya hollered, unconsciously calling upon One-For-All. The bio-kinetic electricity danced around his figure, illuminating him in a faint intimating hue. "Out of everyone, you picked me! I might have been Quirkless, but that's no excuse! Why me?!"
Bakugou didn't answer - but then again, Midoriya wasn't ready for an answer at that moment, regardless of his question. His anger had reached its tipping point; like a pot overflowing, his rage demanded compensation. He hadn't even realized he was reacting, until he realized he'd rushed forward at Bakugou, lashing out with a wicked side-kick. The strike missed, as Bakugou leapt backward, using a dimmed explosion to propel his movement backward.
Despite realizing he'd essentially attacked his classmate unprovoked, Midoriya didn't stop to debate whether he'd acted in the wrong. Instead, he hissed, and prepared himself for Bakugou's counter-attack, which came in the form of an aerial assault. The green-haired teen performed a back-flip, using his foot to deflect the outstretched hand, and redirect the explosion away from his body. Bakugou glared as he tumbled to the ground, before lunging forward again with blazing speed.
'He's not giving me time to think...!' Midoriya realized suddenly, barely landing on his feet, before being forced to jump back to avoid the blast radius of the explosion. Smoke and ash filled the air, masking Bakugou's figure, and clouding their makeshift battlefield. Then, a sharp pain erupted in his torso, as he was sent careening to the side, courtesy of a direct punch from a hidden Bakugou. As he hit the ground, he rolled, and regained his footing quickly enough to dive forward out of the way of another aerial attack.
With his back to Bakugou, an image flashed in Midoriya's mind, back to their days in middle school when the blonde would place a palm on his shoulder and burn his shirt to leave a 'warning'. Instinct - whether it was raw, or trained, Midoriya didn't have time consider which - kicked in, and Midoriya did a full 180, using the dorsum of his foot to catch Bakugou in the face - who'd been aiming for another sneak attack. The kick sent the sandy-haired teenager off balance, resulting in a mistimed explosion.
Bakugou hit the ground, but this time, skid across the asphalt, and grunted loudly.
It was just the break that Midoriya needed for his sanity to take back control, as he realized he'd pretty much just started an all-out-brawl between the two. "K-Kacchan!"
He prepared to move forward, but Bakugou's vehement response stopped him in his tracks.
There was a moment of silence between the two, as Midoriya stopped mid-stride, his hand slightly outstretched, as if to offer it to the downed frenemy. Bakugou remained on the ground, using his arm to wipe away a small trail of blood that leaked from his temple, courtesy of the roundhouse kick. "Just. Fucking. STOP!"
He exhaled thickly, the glare still pronounced. "Stop coddling me, dammit! I fucking tormented you! I hated you! I struck you - again and again! I burned you! Bruised you! Beat you! And you still came back! You always came back! Like you were looking down on me! And... and yet, you still act like you have to... protect me!"
It wasn't anger. At least, not his normal anger. Midoriya slowly dropped his hand, taking in the words as Bakugou's feelings slowly came out. Just as his anger had emerged without his meaning, pouring out like a water from a crack in the dam, the feelings that began escaping from the explosive teenager were unintended. His voice became strained, and an unfamiliar shine pooled in his eyes.
The two - separated by only a few feet - stared at one another, neither willing, or able, to speak. For a second, it reminded the both of them the first time they'd ever ended up in this same position: the day on the river. It seemed like a lifetime ago. For Bakugou, he could remember the ache he'd felt when he landed in the water. And for Midoriya, he could remember the thrum of his heart against his ribs as he saw his then-friend land in the water. For any two others, it wouldn't have been anything - but for Bakugou, it was the first time he ever felt that he was being looked down upon.
And it was the moment that cemented, for the both of them, their constant struggle in each other's lives.
"I'm not fucking helpless," Bakugou hissed quietly. "And you don't need to protect me. I don't want your fucking protection - I don't need it."
All those years? Had he really thought...?
Each burn, each bruise, each abrasion, cut, blister, welt, each and every physical and mental wound, was inflicted upon him, all because he'd tried to help?
"Is that really what you thought...?"
Bakugou stared defiantly at Midoriya, unflinching. And, throughout their short exchange, Midoriya's face had been mostly unreadable, though concern was the primary emotion. Now, his blank look had broken, and all that was left was confusion. "I don't..."
"You always defied me. Even though I was supposed to become the hero, you always, always tried to upstage me. You couldn't leave it alone - even without a Quirk, you refused to stop. I tried to show you - no hero loses, and stays the hero. If you can't win a fight, you're nothing. But you wouldn't stop - you wouldn't quit. And I hated that. Your fucking ignorance - you were always right there, trying to follow me. Even though it was hopeless."
"Why...? Why did..." Midoriya's voice cracked. He hesitated, unable to put his thoughts into words. "Why did you try to break me...?"
"I don't know."
It wasn't an answer - both teenager knew that. But, it was equally frustrating, though neither party would realize other's true frustrations. It was impossible, after all. Locked in their own pains, they wouldn't be able to experience empathy for the other's situation, without closure in their own.
"And that's what pisses me off. I don't fucking know. I tried to fucking break you. I... fuck. FUCK!" Small crackles appeared in Bakugou's hands as he aggressively stood up, stomping as he did so. It didn't sate his anger in the slightest, and he growled as the frustration simply grew within his chest. "FUCK! I almost fucking killed you, and I almost fucking killed All Might - and I don't-!" An explosion went off, aimed at his feet.
"FUCKING!" Another explosion.
He heaved heavily, drawing in deep breaths - whether to calm his rage, or because he'd literally blown through his stamina, it was a mystery to Midoriya - and dropped his gaze to the ground, shielding his eyes. His body trembled ever-so-slightly, and with widened eyes, Midoriya realized, he was crying.
Conflict ran rampant through the greenette's mind. His natural instinct urged him to go to Bakugou's side - to comfort his friend-turned-bully. Regardless of what the teenager was to him, the fact remained: heroes don't discriminate. But, yet, his rationality spoke loud and clear: it wouldn't alleviate any of the feelings that either party felt toward one another. In fact, it would probably worsen their already fragile relationship.
Strangely, Midoriya wasn't mad. He was frustrated - no doubt. He'd come for answers, and quite frankly, he hadn't really found any sort of closure at all. The only thing he'd discovered, really only added to his questions and uncertainty. It wasn't helpful - not in the slightest. But, for some reason, he wasn't mad. Perhaps it was because rage wasn't his typical response.
Or, perhaps, he also didn't know.
That was the problem, wasn't it? Nobody knew - and the more he'd thought about it, the more he'd wondered if anyone would know. No matter how many psychologists existed, there was probably no one in the world that would ever be able to provide an explanation of why things occurred the way they did.
Sure, Bakugou had been spoiled senseless. His ego had been spoon-fed pretty much since birth. He'd never been reprimanded for a thing. And, he'd been touted as the next great hero. But Midoriya himself knew he'd been part of that disastrous equation - he, too, had fed that ego. And he'd refused to let Bakugou get in trouble. And, like everything else, he had touted Bakugou as the next great hero.
He was part of the broken system, too.
"What pisses me off the most..." Bakugou started again, impossibly quiet - especially for him. "All our shitty classmates keep fucking asking, 'why, why, why?' and I have no fucking clue. That shitty counselor asks me 'why, why, why?', and I have no fucking idea. Then, you ask me, and I fucking... I fucking remember saying it. And I remember saying it to get some sort of fucking reaction from you. To get you to acknowledge you were below me. All some sort of sick fucking move to demoralize you and cause you to finally lose."
'The hero always wins.'
That was Bakugou's mentality - even from a young age, Midoriya recognized that drive. For the longest time - even following him to U.A. - that mentality stood as a constant driving force in Midoriya's life. It was part of what drove Midoriya to be 'Plus Ultra', as the school's motto went. He'd always followed Bakugou's attitude on winning, because in both of their eyes, a hero didn't lose.
The difference between the two of them was now clear as day, but what good would that do either of them?
"But I don't know why I wanted to it that badly. And that's what pisses me off the most. And then... and then... I wonder, have I always been wrong...? All Might picked you - fucking you, of all people. He acknowledge you - not me. And, now, I realize how fucking far behind I am, and I realize everyone was wrong. So why...?"
Midoriya blinked as Bakugou finally looked up, tears streaming down his face. "Why was I the one who ended All Might? Why was I the one who..."
Why was I the one who almost ended you?
It didn't need to be spoken, for Midoriya to understand. He finally understood.
The clouds in his brain had finally cleared. The constellation made sense.
'For Kacchan... he's always been told one way. He's always seen one thing. I was... I was an opposing force. The foil to his vision. The contradiction. Naturally, anyone who believed one thing, but had someone who existed as its opposite, would come to despise the existence of that exception. And, truly, over time, most people would stop following around someone who continued to berate them, physically and mentally. But...'
"Was I wrong about everything...? Why was I the wrong one in everything?!"
'I had nothing. For the longest time... I had nothing. And Kacchan... had everything. A Quirk. An obtainable dream. A support system. To me - to a Quirkless kid - he was the closest thing to All Might I had in my life. That's why...'
"Why did you keep following me?! Why didn't you stay down?!"
'Maybe I was his exception - the proof he wasn't completely right... but even so, he had everything I didn't...! Of course I'd follow him! Of course I'd look up to him - because he had everything I wanted to be! And if defying him was to defy his vision... his beliefs... if that made me the target... then there's nothing I could do...'
"After everything... WHY DO YOU KEEP TRYING TO PROTECT ME?!"
There was no answer. There was no sentence that Midoriya could string together, in order to placate Bakugou's conflicted feelings. And, with the traffic jam in his brain, Midoriya doubted he'd be able to even put together his feelings enough to respond in the first place. In Bakugou's anger, there was something that hadn't been there before; guilt. It was masked with the layers upon layers on anger beyond it, but Midoriya could hear the crack in his friend's tone as they stared at one another.
A breeze, faint as it was, tumbled through the empty street, bringing the smell of smoke with it. It brought Midoriya back to the time he'd saved Bakugou from the Sludge Villain. He hadn't understood Bakugou's vehement response to his intervention - simply, he'd written it off as 'Kacchan being Kacchan'. But was it different now?
"You... you wanted me to lose." Midoriya's voice was soft - a stark contrast to how their conversation had been up until he spoke. Between Bakugou's heaving and the breeze around them, it was almost difficult to hear the soft-spoken words that began to tumble from the disciple of All Might. "I get it now... it was because I stood for everything that opposed you, wasn't it? I was... proof. Proof that you might be wrong. I was the outlier in the equation that you thought you had figured out..."
"Every... every time I tried to save you, it was me looking down on you, because I shouldn't be able to save anyone, was that it? It wasn't just because I was Quirkless - it was because everyone told you that you could do it. And by my intervention, I was doing it, and you weren't. Is that... does that seem right?"
"I- I don't fucking know," Bakugou hissed. "I don't know!"
But he did know. And they both knew that. The moment that Bakugou broke their staring contest, it became painfully obvious to the both of them. The guilt, the shame, the pain - it all stemmed from the both of their knowledge. They had a toxic history. And there was no repairing that. There was no ignoring it, either.
So many people had tried to overlook it, in favor of Bakugou's glimmering future. What was one Quirkless kid in the eyes of history?
Bakugou had tried to get rid of that problem by berating it, and beating it, so that it would hopefully fade. He'd tried to push it away, and break its spirit. When the only exception to his reality was removed, he'd finally be at peace with his potential. The world - the people around him - would be right.
And Midoriya had tried to cover the problem by apologizing. By pretending it was everyone else's fault. It couldn't be Kacchan's fault - he was going to be a hero. He wanted to be a hero. And that made it okay to the boy who once saw the spiky-haired blonde as the closest thing to All Might. He was inspired, by Bakugou, to become a hero, despite not realizing that his attempts at becoming a hero were literally proving everyone in Bakugou's life wrong.
He was a walking antithesis.
"You kept getting up. You kept on trying. And my shitty brain thought - win. Win. Be a hero, and fucking win!"
"Take a nosedive off the roof, and hope for a Quirk in your next lifetime!"
"And now... and now All Might is retired - and I don't think I was ever right! But if I'm not right, then what the fuck am I doing here?!"
The thud that echoed through the street was the sound of meat striking meat, a soft, dull, but slapping sound as Bakugou staggered backward, clutching his face. His eyes were wide, staring at Midoriya with complete shock written across his face. Slowly, he withdrew his hand, letting it fall limply to his side, as both parties processed what, exactly, had transpired.
"Don't... don't you go doubting yourself...!"
It was the same as when they'd fought All Might. The same as when Bakugou had chosen to lose at All Might's hand, versus simply attempting to cooperate. And, for some reason - a reason Midoriya would never be able to place - there was something that made Midoriya have to act when he saw his old bully in this state.
"It's because I thought you were once so amazing..." Bio-kinetic electricity began jumping from Midoriya's skin, his clothes starting to tremble under the collection of power and energy. His eyes grew narrow, the emerald depths becoming increasingly bright as the energy danced around his face, and he dropped into a fighting stance.
Bakugou's eyes grew wide as he quickly shifted into a defensive position, preparing himself for another assault.
This time, though, the speed was significantly different. It wasn't the same as earlier, where Bakugou had driven the pace. Nor was it the same as when Gran Torino had helped Izuku unlock the 5% continuous access to One-For-All - this time, it was Midoriya dictating the speed. He began racing forward, determination and passion plastered on his face as he prepared an axe kick, powered by more than his usual 5%.
He brought his leg up, eyes wild with emotion. "... that I always chased you!"
Heavily, he brought it down, striking Bakugou's crossed arms with a heavy smack, nearly breaking the blonde boy's guard. He was sent sliding backward, but remained on his feet, continuing to shield his face from any possible follow-up attack.
"You... passed me...!" Bakugou hissed, breathing in raggedly, feeling the drain from his earlier attacks. There was an ache that resounded through his arms as he cocked them back, hands tense and ready to detonate at a moment's notice, but he paid the sensation little mind. His attention - his entire being - was solely focused on the relentless rush of the jade-eyed hero in front of him.
Midoriya didn't bother with words - there was too much to say, yet nothing that came out. His brain had taken a seat firmly behind his heart, and now, the damaged emotions that the boy had been dealing with for years was coming out wave after wave. Like a storm battering tirelessly against a wall, the cracks that had once detailed the walls began giving way to the maelstrom behind, resulting in the onslaught of emotion.
For Midoriya, he had no longer any idea of what he felt. There was a tumultuous roar of thoughts that echoed through his skull, each shot silencing the others, yet coaxing them louder at the same time. Rage mixed with regret, while sorrow fused with confusion, all of which leaked into every single attack he threw. A stray explosion knocked Midoriya off of his center of balance, though he quickly recovered with a tight spin, followed by the extension of his leg.
Narrowly, Bakugou dodged, and pressed an explosion forth desperately to counter the attack. The resulting explosion drew a sharp cry from Midoriya as his vision turned momentarily white, and he was sent forcefully backward. Smoke trailed from his clothes, though he recovered in an instant, landing squarely in a squat, powering his lunge forward. Electricity danced dangerously along his body, eagerly licking the pavement around him, serving as the only marker of where the boy was, versus where he had been.
"I've chased after you for so long... don't tell me you were going in the wrong direction!"
There were many ways Midoriya knew his comment could be taken. And, in another time when his mind was much more clear, he would probably realize it was hardly concise like he desired to be. But his brain was the concise part of his body - not his heart. And his heart had to make it known.
He didn't hate Bakugou.
He hated what Bakugou did. He hated the things he said. The people he'd berated along the way to becoming a hero. He hated the things that Bakugou got away with. He hated how the boy's path was obscured by his pedigree, instead of defined by his actions. He hated that he'd once contributed to it. He'd fed into Katsuki's massive ego-complex, driving him further down a path of identity crisis.
But, in the end, he knew it was on Bakugou's shoulders. And if there was one thing he hated above all else - beyond anything that anyone had done to him - he hated that Bakugou hadn't truly apologized.
That's why - when he leapt into the air, with his teeth grit and his leg poised forward for a simple strike - he felt the bubble of frustration finally reach its pinnacle. There may not have truly needed to be a winner in the fight. In fact, neither party was fighting for their pride, or their right to be at U.A. They were fighting for their feelings. They were fighting to express their feelings. Because, for the first time, Bakugou truly understood what Midoriya felt.
And the nasty, cold sensation of regret returned once more, as he watched Midoriya sail above him, drawing closer and closer, as if in slow-motion.
Maybe it was because he was blindsided by the sudden rush of emotions he was forced to cope with, or maybe it was his uncertainty, but when Bakugou used an explosion to propel himself forward, he did so without a clear conscious, for what was the first time since truly entering U.A., and he missed Midoriya's clenched fist drawn back.
Fist met face, and the world for both Bakugou and Midoriya came to a crashing halt. They fell, together, and when the dust settled, Midoriya was on top, gasping, with a defiant look on his face.
"You're not the wrong type of hero - you're the wrong type of person."
Bakugou heaved deeply, in and out, while staring Midoriya dead in the eye, unflinching.
"Even with everything you said... I still stand."
Even with everything you said... I'm All Might's disciple.
"Does this mean... everything I ever thought... is wrong?" Bakugou mumbled in a tone so unlike him. It almost made Midoriya wonder if he'd knocked something loose in the sandy-haired boy's skull.
"No." A new voice spoke, much deeper than either Midoriya or Bakugou. Both teens, scratched, bruised and beaten up, quickly turned to the intruder on their fight, panic and shock evident on their faces. A blonde man emerged from the safety of an ally, his sunken eyes betraying any emotions he was feeling. "It's not wrong to consider yourself powerful. You, Young Bakugou, do have a powerful Quirk. And you do have potential to become a great hero."
Both teens were quiet, sensing there was still more to All Might's response. "But. You have many shackles that will prevent you from ever fully realizing your potential. Your history does not simply fade - the words, the actions you've taken will always follow you. The past, sad to say, does not remain in the past."
Neither boy needed to speak. They both knew All Might's words to be true. Midoriya, especially. It had all started with one innocent talk - one moment, of which he felt vulnerable. He'd never imagined that he'd accidentally start a chain reaction that would result in the brawl the two had just shared. Perhaps, in another universe, they'd fight regardless, but in that world, there'd be much different feelings involved.
There was no going back. There never was that option, and from the moment that Bakugou had uttered those fateful words only a few months ago, they'd been prepared to haunt him for every step he tried to take forward. No matter whether he forgot them or not, the truth was that Midoriya wouldn't. Even after their fight, and his win, Bakugou knew that the green-haired teenager would likely never let go of the feelings he'd experienced during his childhood.
'What... the fuck have I done...?'
No matter how much therapy he went to, no matter who he spoke to, no matter who Midoriya befriended and laughed with, there would never be anything that could erase the damage that had been willingly inflicted.
It made Bakugou sick to his stomach, knowing that he'd purposely targeted anyone, let alone a Quirkless, defenseless boy. He wanted so badly to apologize... but the apology just didn't come to words. His heart, while willing, wasn't in it. It would be a reflex apology. A realization, if anything, but it would be devoid of the feeling that it truly needed and deserved.
"You've made some terrible mistakes, Young Bakugou. I am... aware of your shared history," All Might said uneasily, gesturing to the duo uncomfortably. "While your escape was quiet, Young Midoriya, somebody still saw you, and felt the need to come get me, just in case. And, judging by the outcome of your 'talk', it appears their fears weren't unfounded."
"Truthfully, I have no tolerance for bullying - of any kind. And there's certainly no reason standing that you shouldn't be expelled. Aizawa isn't typically lenient, however, I believe reformation is a greater path than equaled aggression, and clearly, he believes so, too." Bakugou averted his gaze uneasily at the mention of expulsion. Midoriya's heart skipped a beat, distantly recognizing the close reality that had almost come to shape. Truthfully, he couldn't imagine a career in heroics without Bakugou setting pace - whether or not they did it 'together' didn't matter.
They'd set out on their journey together. Even if they weren't upon the same wavelengths, they were upon the same destination. They shared the same end goal. They even shared the same inspiration. Their growth was in tandem - inspired by the successes of each other. With every step, they moved forward, challenging each other.
Perhaps it was a toxic relationship - perhaps there was only decay in the fragile fibers of their friendship. But there was no denying the fact that their growth was intertwined, rightly or wrongly.
All Might sighed; his age grew exponentially as he did so, reflected in his posture. "Winning. Saving. They're both the same - they're all born from the same desire. To save someone... to win... they're the same coin, but different sides. Young Midoriya," All Might turned his attention to his successor. "You believe saving is key to heroics. And you, Young Bakugou, believe winning to be key to heroics."
"Together, you two are formidable - but to truly take the next step, and understand of where you stand, you must learn to look in the world from the other's viewpoint. There will be fights you cannot win, but must still save those needing saving. And there will be those you cannot save without winning. Once you realize this, you will be a step further in your goals." All Might took a breath in. "But first... you must come to terms with your relationship. And what must happen."
Both teens exchanged a flicker of a glance at one another. Hot embers still fueled their earlier feud, though the fire was much tamer than it had been before. Their eyes locked for a fraction of a second, before they looked back at All Might, uncertainty swirling on their faces.
There was a moment of silence, before All Might realized they were waiting for answer. "I can't tell you what comes next - that's for you two to determine. But... that time to ponder will have to come later; Aizawa is waiting for you. Don't think for a second that he wasn't aware, too."
Midoriya paled slightly, and out of instinct, his gaze darted to Bakugou - another transgression against the blonde was hardly a good thing. And yet, as his eyes fell on the teen, he was surprised to see a rather accepting expression adorning Bakugou's face. It was far from content, but it was equally far from angry, confusing the greenette.
"Come; face your punishment."
And for both Midoriya and Bakugou, they knew they'd have to face the music at some point. Yet, for the both of them, they went silently, knowing that they'd found some answers in an otherwise humid night - but left with so many more.
They were both stuck on cleaning duty.
Honestly, both boys considered themselves immensely lucky. It was clear just by the look in Aizawa's tired eyes that he was debating a significantly harsher punishment; yet, there was something holding him back. Though his jaw remained locked, and his gaze was like ice, he seemingly relented, and settled for whatever whisper of mercy he was provided.
Without a second word, they both escaped the harsh glare of their homeroom teacher, and (though Bakugou would vehemently deny it) sighed in relief when they were free of the Erasure hero. But, as soon as the relief faded, they realized their state of solitude, and the tension came rushing back. While there was a lack of animosity, there was certainly a degree of hesitation in both teens, as they refused to look elsewhere.
It was far too soon to discuss the details behind their fight - only a little bit had passed, really, and the wounds were both figuratively and literally fresh. For Midoriya, at least, he knew he had plenty to think about. And so, they walked up in the staircase awkwardly, trying to maintain a reasonable distance from each other, and finally when Midoriya reached his floor, he hastily made for the hallway.
"I shouldn't have done it."
Midoriya paused, mid-step, though he didn't dare look back. The courage he'd held all throughout their confrontation had worn off for some time, and he felt his fatigue. Knowing he'd have to serve a punishment for the next several days was only adding to his level of exhaustion. And now, he was so close to being free, and yet...
He wanted to know.
He wanted to know what Bakugou was thinking. What he had to say. Hell, he wanted to know what he'd thought about their fight - the first even fight they'd ever had.
But his voice failed him. Maybe it was because he was tired - but nothing came up when he went to speak.
"I can't... tch." Bakugou clicked his tongue. "I've got a lot of shit to think about."
"Do... do you regret it?" Midoriya finally asked. Truthfully, he wasn't sure if he was referring to their fight, or their history. He decided he'd leave that interpretation up for Bakugou.
There was a moment of silence, followed by a slow, single word. "Yeah."
Midoriya nodded to himself - it was far from satisfactory, but it was the barest form of a starting point he could ask for. And, like Bakugou had even said - there was a lot to think about. He, too, had plenty to consider - and, with the days looking like they'd be full of solitude, there was plenty of time upcoming to think.
Just as Midoriya took another step, he heard Bakugou one last time.
"To get knocked around... to get shoved down, but keep getting back up... heroes that don't give up must be pretty damn strong."
Midoriya's eyes went wide. He turned around... to see no one.
But as he turned back toward the path that led to his door, he felt his heart pounding harder than it had all night. Because for the first time since their childhood... the first time since Bakugou began to turn on him...
It was no apology. It was far from enough.
But it was the first time that Bakugou had outright referred to him as a hero.
Oop! Maybe not the ending you were expecting?
There's still plenty of stuff to deal with regarding the fallout. Bakugou's relationship with the class, as well as the bridging between Midoriya and Bakugou. And, I think that there's a lot to still investigate with Midoriya's psyche, as well as Bakugou's. This will all be planned in a little sequel. Just a short, 4-5 chapter sequel.
OR, I could continue it here. It doesn't matter which. Let me know what you think - I know this was pretty strongly based off canon. Sorry. Like I said, Horikoshi really did it well, and it's hard to break the best already. So a quick explanation of things:
1) I have been studying for Grad School, which is why this chapter took so long. Sorry about that.
2) I already work in the ER, and with COVID, shit has been REAL.
3) Regarding the actual stuff, why did Midoriya win? Because Bakugou was distracted, simple enough. He wasn't fighting for the same reason in the manga; there's a lot different, and because it hasn't/wasn't addressed, it's something that's going to be addressed later on. Bakugou and All Might still need their talk, and I already have that loosely planned.
Guess I gotta add this part on, cause someone already reviewed complaining. Oi vey.
Okay WHY did Midoriya win? Let's count the ways. First, in the manga, Bakugou challenges Midoriya, knowing full well he plans to fight, one way or another. In this version, that is not the case. Secondly, Bakugou has ALREADY been training/venting his frustration by using his Quirk AS DEMONSTRATED on multiple occasions. Now, if I must go into how Bakugou has proven he can only launch a scale of 1-4 large explosions before suffering drawbacks, we can, but its suffice to point out he'd already been doing that. On a tertiary point, this Bakugou is dealing with significant guilt and frustration - the likes of which very easily cloud judgement. Have you ever hurt someone, and then they try to fight you? I have, sadly, and I can assure you that you're fighting them with a HELL of a lot LESS power than you have accessible. And before someone says, "oH, bUt IvE beEn iN fIgHt", congrats. I have too. I played ice hockey and unfortunately led my team in fighting major penalties for two years straight, before I realized I was dumb. But being tired and fighting someone fresh is almost grounds for a loss every time. Finally, and this is most important, THE FIGHT WASN'T OVER. Yes, Midoriya had him down with a punch - you must not watch much MHA then, because you seriously think the fight is over? Horikoshi had a big picture to look at - at least hundred more chapters, wouldn't you say? We had very different outcomes for very different reasons. If you don't like it, do it better! I'm sure you can! Sorry, but had to address this before it started a war.
I'm also probably cranky because I work 6 shifts a week and I have not been sleeping well at all, so I do apologize for the bite behind that. Hopefully this will end soon. But to those in deployment that are away from their families for so long, I truly respect your fortitude, because it is not easy. How you do it, it is beyond me. I gotta isolate for them, though.
Anyways, yeah, everyone please, please stay safe, and take care of yourself.