From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has read this. This is the final chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter 23: The Number One Hero

It's past sunset, and Kimiko is deep in thought as she walks the short distance from her middle school to her home. The deadline for turning in her career options is approaching fast but her form is still as blank as when she had first gotten it from the teacher, though a little crumpled now from the many times she had unceremoniously stuffed it in her bag.

The rest of her classmates seem to have already decided what to write. They all want to be pro heroes, of course. They would nominate that as their first, second, and third choices if that were allowed.

Being the daughter of two pro heroes, everyone expects Kimiko to follow their footsteps and become one herself, but to be completely honest, she's not really sure that's what she wants.

Of course when she was a kid, she had been like everyone else and dreamed of becoming a hero. But then she grew up, and as she did she became painfully aware of the reality that her parents live in. Being a pro hero is more than just being cool and kicking ass, she knows that now. It's more than what society has romanticized it to be.

Kimiko had once asked why her parents had married young, and her Dad had told her it's because her Mom had almost died. Then she saw the ugly scar on the side of his abdomen, and he told her it was from when he himself had almost died. Wow. Both her parents had had a brush with death before they even turned 30. Being a pro hero is definitely not a joke.

Other than the obvious risks, there's also the sheer amount of time and commitment that being a pro hero requires; it's almost inhumane. Kimiko had had to spend a lot of time on her own in her childhood. The memories are vague now, but she remembers always having been the last to be picked up at nursery and kindergarten. Then, when she started going home by herself in elementary school, she had to have her own key because neither of her parents came home until much later.

Kimiko never felt neglected. Her Mom and Dad always made up for the lots of time they were absent by showering her with plenty of attention when they were around. They also made sure to set aside time to spend with her on weekends, even if it was just to take her out to eat. She never felt unloved, but as she matured, she realized just how tough it was on her parents to keep a semblance of balance in their lives.

She bets those kinds of consequences never crossed her classmates' minds when they so eagerly wrote 'pro hero' on their career forms.

It's not that Kimiko has completely decided against becoming a pro hero. A part of her still wants to go that route. After all, she looks up to her parents very much. She just wishes she could have more time to think it through. She'll be turning 15 soon, and by the end of the current school year, she'll need to make up her mind on whether she would enter the Hero Course at UA or just do something else entirely.

Getting into the elite school wouldn't be a problem. She could get in by recommendation, of course, but even if she chooses not to rely on her parents' influence, she has no doubt she'll be able to pass the entrance exam on her own skill alone.

Kimiko has learned how to fight since she was young. Her Mom insists that being in tune with one's body is a skill essential to everyone, not just heroes, and had enrolled Kimiko into a martial arts program as soon as she entered elementary school. Kimiko had immediately taken to it. She apparently has natural talent, and she enjoyed rubbing the fact into the faces of other children. She has continued with the practice and gotten her first black belt recently; she would have gotten it way sooner too if her grades weren't a bigger priority.

Her Dad keeps nagging about the importance of staying at the top, instilling in Kimiko the need to take her studies seriously. He says he doesn't care if she becomes a pro hero or not, but whatever she decides to do, she better make sure she does her darnedest to be the best at it. Kimiko swears he'd probably go as far as police her homework if he weren't so busy with his job.

Not that he isn't supportive of her martial arts. On the contrary, he encourages it. He has had an active role in training her how to fight, particularly how to use her Quirk strategically in case of an actual battle. Her master at the dojo teaches her techniques, then her Dad helps her figure out how to incorporate her floating balls of nitroglycerin into them.

It has also been their yearly father-daughter tradition to watch the sports festival at UA live, then on the drive home, her Dad would quiz her on what she thinks this one kid should have done to win, or how Kimiko herself would have strategized against this other kid.

Kimiko enjoys that a lot. She likes the mental challenge of coming up with ways to win, and she likes the proud look her Dad gives her when she says the right things.

This year though, she couldn't concentrate. Her stupid brothers had come with them for the first time. They distracted her with their stupid antics and she completely missed how the boy with the teleportation Quirk had lost the finals.

She was livid, and the three of them had fought in the car all the way home, until their Dad threatened never to bring any of them ever again if they didn't shut the hell up. Of course, Kimiko shut her mouth then, even though she thought it was really unfair because she hadn't been the one who started it.

Her Mom had been kinder and sneaked snacks into her room to make her feel better after she locked herself inside in protest.

Someone calls Kimiko's name and she looks up, jostled from her thoughts. She has reached their apartment building and one of her Mom's sidekicks at the agency is waving at her from the rolled down window of a car in the driveway.

Kimiko greets the lady, who tells her that she's just about to leave after having dropped off some reports for Uravity. Is Kimiko returning from school only now? It's already late! Will she have enough time to get ready for tonight's event?

Kimiko pales. Crap, she's forgotten all about that! There's a commemoration party of some sort tonight for all the pro heroes celebrating their 20th anniversary. That includes both her parents, and their whole family will be going!

She hurriedly thanks her mom's sidekick for the reminder then books it to the elevator.

Needless to say, her Dad is almost gnashing his teeth in anger when she appears at the door. He's already in his hero costume, minus the flashy equipment and accessories that she figures he'll put on when they're already at the venue.

What the hell took Kimiko so long to get home? She wasn't picking up his calls either! Did she have a date, huh? Is she neglecting her family now for some punk?! Is that it?!

Kimiko makes a disgusted face. She just forgot, no need to be overdramatic. She won't take too long to get ready anyway, so her Dad should just chill. He snaps at her to get to it; he doesn't want to be late.

As Kimiko makes her way to the bathroom to wash up, she hears her Mom coaxing her brothers to behave so she can help them get dressed. Her Dad soon joins them, snarling at the boys to quit acting like little monkeys and put on their pants already.

Kimiko piles her hair on her head to prevent it from getting wet as she sits on the plastic stool and starts the shower. She'll have to forgo shampoo for now. Her hair wouldn't dry in time; it's way too long now, going down past the middle of her back. She had decided to grow it out because her face is almost an exact replica of her Dad's, and her stupid brothers keep teasing her that she looks like a boy.

Her brothers are the bane of Kimiko's existence, but they're also the reason that the latter part of her childhood became much livelier. When she was 9, and then again a year later when she was 10, her parents had told her she was going to have a sibling, and both times, she had wished it would be a girl because boys were stupid. Both times, it had ended up being boys, and although Kimiko was a bit disappointed at first, she learned to love her brothers anyway. They're annoying but it's not all that bad, at least nobody can challenge her position in the family as the favorite daughter.

There's loud rapping on the bathroom door, then her Dad calls out. Is Kimiko asleep in there?! Can't she shower a little faster? Her brothers are dressed and she's the only one they're waiting for.

All right, all right, she's done! Jeez, her Dad is such a nag, seriously! She wraps a towel around herself and exits the bathroom, sending a scowl in her Dad's direction as she heads to her room.

His voice follows her through the hallway. If she's not ready in fifteen minutes, they're going ahead without her. Also, she's trailing water all over the floor! Does she think she has a maid to clean up after her? Kimiko yells back angrily through her closed bedroom door that she would have toweled off properly if he hadn't been rushing her so much.

Kimiko grabs one of her semi-formal dresses from the rack in her closet and hurriedly puts it on. She runs a brush through her long blonde hair in front of the mirror. It's so spiky, it won't stay flat no matter how hard she brushes. She doesn't have the luxury of time to style it properly though, so she just leaves it kind of sticking out in all directions at the back. Whatever, it'll have to do.

She stuffs the brush, some powder, and a stick of lip gloss into a small purse before heading out of the room. It's all the makeup she needs, since her complexion is naturally a nice rosy pink thanks to her Mom's genes.

Her Dad is waiting for her by the entryway. He clicks his tongue at her but says nothing more as they go down the elevator together to join her Mom and brothers in the car.

When they get to the venue, Ochaco and the children go ahead to sit at their designated table in the dining hall. Meanwhile, Katsuki goes backstage to deposit their luggage containing the bulkier parts of his and Ochaco's costumes. They'll put them all on later, when it's time for them to go up the stage to receive their plaques of recognition.

Security is being kept tight at the venue, and many pro heroes outside their batch as well as police offers are on patrol. When the latter see Katsuki, they come to attention and salute. He only gives them a grudging nod in response. He knows it's protocol for them, since he's now Commander of the Special Assault Team and technically their superior, but the formality of it all annoys him. That aside though, he can't say he regrets having taken the job.

Katsuki is 38 now. It's been a year since he became Commander, and a decade since he joined the SAT.

In only a year after his recruitment, he had been promoted to Squad Leader, a position he had held for three and a half years before he finally took the civil service exam that allowed his promotion to the level of Captain.

He could have done it earlier, but he wasn't ready. There was something he wanted to accomplish before he could let himself be removed from the roster of heroes eligible for the rankings. He had to at reach #1 first, or at least be as close to it as possible.

The news of his recruitment into the SAT had caused his popularity to soar for a time. No prominent hero since Eraserhead had done it, so people were excited to talk about Bakugo's career move. It also did a lot to improve his performance evaluations. The SAT imposes mandatory continuing education and stringent training to its officers, and it proved very helpful in getting Katsuki out of the rut that his former managers had warned him about.

Katsuki rose back to the Top 10 within six months of returning to work, and to #6 within a year. By that time, Deku had already climbed all the way up to #2, while Todoroki was at #4, but it was fine. Katsuki was catching up, and at a rate faster than he had even thought he could.

Deku made it to #1 a little before he turned 29, and he has stayed there since. For three years after that, the ranks of #2 and #3 shuffled between Katsuki and Todoroki, and then one day, Katsuki finally broke through to #1. He held the rank for only one month, and he had even had to share the spot with shithead Deku, but it was fine. Katsuki was satisfied. There are worse ways to end a phase in one's career.

After reaching that milestone, Katsuki told Eraserhead, who had indulged him all that time, that he was finally ready to let go. His promotion was immediately processed, and by the following month, he was Captain of the SAT division in Tokyo and his name was gone from the hero rankings. He was 32, Kimiko was 9, and Ochaco was pregnant with a second baby.

Unlike their first, this one had been planned. He and Ochaco had decided that they were finally in a good place to try for another child. While they were still very busy with their careers, it wasn't as bad as when they were just starting out. For one, they had already managed to attain positions at their jobs that allowed them privileges essential to keeping some balance in their lives.

Ochaco had cemented her rank at #12. She had also become Deku's business partner at the agency, rather than simply being his employee. As the #1 hero, he hardly ever had time anymore to focus on the work needed to keep his agency running, and Ochaco had to take on most of the work. To be fair to her, he had offered to restructure the agency as a partnership between the two of them, and she accepted.

It turns out that being part-owner comes with great perks, a lot of money not the least among them. Katsuki is mature and practical enough not to be embarrassed to admit that his wife earns more than him now.

More than that, the position had allowed Ochaco to stay active with hero work even during her pregnancy. Their apartment became an extension of her office. She had reports delivered to her doorstep and conducted strategy meetings via video call from the comfort of their living room. Her doctor had approved it, as long as she refrained from getting involved in missions herself.

It was just as well because she got pregnant again barely a year after giving birth to their second child. Like Kimiko, this next baby was not planned, and Katsuki is grateful to all the gods that at least it had happened when their family already had the capacity to make the situation work. He can't imagine what it would have been like if it had been Kimiko who was too quickly followed by an unexpected sibling.

As a ranking officer in the SAT, Katsuki is entitled to some privileges of his own, the most useful of which is that he and his immediate family are given priority at government-run institutions. He and Ochaco didn't have to go through the same hardship looking for an available nursery for their sons as they had with Kimiko. Katsuki had filled out some forms, and the boys were immediately accepted into a public nursery close to their home.

It also helped that the boys' age gap with Kimiko is significantly big. She was already a pre-teen by then, and they could trust her to look after her brothers when they had to work late.

Acquiring money and status as they succeed in their careers has made their lives a little more comfortable. The setup is still not perfect, of course; it may never be. But Katsuki would like to believe that their family is happy nonetheless. In any case, he is. His wife is the best woman he could ever have married, and though his kids are all brats who keep fighting with one another like the little shits that they are, they're wonderful in their own way. He's proud of them, and he knows Ochaco is, too, even though in private she tends to complain about them all having inherited the Bakugo temperament.

Deku is assigned to the same table in the dining hall as the Bakugo family, and Katsuki makes a face. At least Todoroki is at a different table, or this dinner would be beyond unbearable.

Kimiko and Deku are engaged in lively conversation. As if it weren't enough that Ochaco's friends with the asshole, now even their daughter has taken a liking to Deku, the goddamn Symbol of Peace.

Katsuki's eye had twitched uncontrollably when he saw the Deku button pin displayed proudly on Kimiko's school bag next to the one of Uravity. His traitor of a daughter had even sassed that she would have bought a Bakugo pin too, but none of those existed anymore. He's part of the fucking police force, so he isn't allowed to have a line of merchandise like regular pro heroes. Fuck!

Katsuki drops into the chair beside Ochaco's, which is currently empty as she's flitted over to the next table to introduce their sons to their former classmates, some of whom they haven't really interacted with in a while.

Deku greets him with a smile. Katsuki grimaces and warns him not to corrupt his daughter's thoughts with nerdy ideas. Kimiko rolls her eyes, but Deku only laughs before resuming their conversation about which of the graduating students from UA he's likely to recruit as a new sidekick.

Deku's single up to now. Katsuki doesn't know if he has ever dated anyone. It's certainly a popular topic to speculate about in the news, but either he's really not into that shit or he's hiding it really well. Even Ochaco doesn't know, and they're business partners. From time to time there would be rumors about Deku being spotted with some woman or other, but it always ends up dying down eventually because no further proof can be dug up. Deku always avoids the topic in his interviews, too.

A lot of their other classmates did end up getting married, however. In the years after they turned 30, weddings popped up one after another. It was a good time, certainly. By then, they had already had more than a decade to establish themselves in the industry, so they had a bit more leeway to settle down and start families.

A heavy arm drops onto Katsuki's shoulders as Kirishima arrives at their table, announcing loudly that he has missed him. Katsuki snarls and pushes him off. What the hell? The asshole's acting like they haven't seen each other in years, when he was just at their house for lunch a week ago. Katsuki snaps at him to go bother other people instead.

Kimiko breaks off her conversation with Deku and excitedly launches up her seat to give Kirishima a fist bump. Her brothers also run from the other table to do the same. Fuck, Katsuki's children have all been corrupted!

Kirishima takes the chair across Katsuki at the table. Beside him sits Ashido—well, also Kirishima now. The two had reconnected three years ago at their middle school's reunion. They immediately started dating, and within six months they were married. Not that it would still be considered a whirlwind courtship, of course. It's a relationship that had been waiting to happen since they were all students.

The lights in the hall dim to signal the start of the program. Ochaco and the boys settle into their seats, and they all quiet down. While dinner is served, several key officials from the Hero Public Safety Commission give long-ass speeches that Katsuki doesn't really pay much attention to, busy as he is helping his youngest with his meal.

All the heroes in the hall would be getting a plaque of recognition to celebrate the milestone of having reached 20 years of heroism. They will be going up the stage by school, except for those of them in the Top 20 as well as the SAT, who will be called separately.

Event attendants start approaching one table after another to advise its occupants to proceed to the dressing room. When it's their turn to leave, Katsuki warns his sons to behave unless they want to be punished severely when they get home. Ochaco satisfies herself with simply asking Kimiko to look after her brothers.

Backstage, they separate into the men's and women's dressing rooms. Katsuki retrieves his grenadier gauntlets, his knee guards, and his neck brace, snapping them on before standing by at the stage wings, where he is joined by the three other heroes in their batch who had also joined the SAT.

Two of them, the Captains of the Kanagawa and Chiba divisions, are graduates of different schools, but the Captain of the Tokyo division is from UA just like Katsuki. It's the guy he had seen exiting Eraserhead's office on the day he accepted the job, Shinso Hitoshi.

Shinso had shifted from the General Department to the Hero Course in his second year and was recruited into the SAT by Eraserhead much earlier than Katsuki. It had taken him longer to be promoted due to his relative lack of expertise in actual combat, and Captain is probably the highest rank he'll realistically manage to reach, but Shinso enjoys a position of high regard in the unit. His Mind Control Quirk has proven to be a valuable asset, especially in hostage situations.

The four of them line up and make their way up the stage as their names are announced. They receive their plaques, bow and shake hands with the head of the Hero Public Safety Commission, their photos are snapped, and then it's done. They descend from the stage, go back to the dressing room to relieve themselves of whatever parts of their costumes they don't need, and then they return to the dining hall. It's pretty anticlimactic, to be honest.

When Katsuki assumes his seat again at their table, his children want to take a look at his plaque and almost begin fighting among themselves about who gets to hold it first. He shushes them angrily. It's Ochaco's turn to go up the stage soon; can they act dignified for once and afford their mother some respect?

The heroes in the Top 20 are called in by rank. When Ochaco appears on stage, Kimiko and the boys shoot up from their seats and cheer loudly. Katsuki lets them go wild; Ochaco deserves the applause.

By the time she returns to the table, almost everyone's done, and it's Deku's turn next. The whole hall roars with applause as his name is called. Katsuki scoffs, but there's no real bite to it.

Katsuki will never admit it out loud, but he has, after many years of struggling with it, finally come to terms with Deku becoming the #1 hero. To be completely honest, the nerd deserves it, having devoted his entire life to pro heroism. He had worked his way from the literal bottom as a Quirkless piece of shit, all the way up to the top to become the new Symbol of Peace. All Might would have been proud.

Ochaco stops clapping to place her hand over Katsuki's on the table. He turns to look at her, and she's smiling at him. Katsuki's still #1 to her; that's what the expression on her face is saying. The corners of his mouth twitch upward in a smile of his own. If he has Ochaco, he can't really say he's lost anything.

Aside from commemorating everyone else's 20 years of heroism, tonight's event is also meant to celebrate 10 years of Deku being #1. He's been given a medal along with his plaque of recognition. It shines brightly from around his neck as he takes the podium to give a speech.

There's no hint of nerves in his voice, and the speech starts out like any other. He acknowledges the presence of the important people in the audience, gives thanks to everyone for their support, and promises to continue being a hero that deserves to be called the Symbol of Peace.

But then Deku pauses, and the speech takes a weird turn.

He recollects that over 20 years ago, there had been a villain called Stain. He's sure everyone remembers, and he's sure everyone knows the story that had led the man named Akaguro Chizome to become the Hero Killer. Akaguro had wanted to become a hero himself, but he became disillusioned by the reality of professional heroism. To his despair, it turned out that most people only wanted to be heroes for personal gain.

An uncomfortable silence falls over the audience, but it quickly lifts when Deku flashes his trademark grin from the podium. He assures everyone that he's not out to judge or to make a political commentary. He himself, even as the Symbol of Peace, has to admit that he enjoys the perks that come with being a pro hero. To him, personally, it doesn't matter if heroes get compensated for the work they do, as long as it doesn't detract from their mission to keep the country safe.

However, he does get Akaguro's point of view. Over the past two decades of working as a pro hero, Deku has come to realize repeatedly just how difficult and dangerous the job really is. And yet, becoming a pro hero remains to be the top career choice for students all over Japan. Isn't this because, maybe, the perks of the job are often highlighted more than the sacrifices it entails or the cause it really represents?

Deku looks directly at the camera recording the speech and broadcasting it live to televisions nationwide. He smiles kindly.

Tonight, even if it's just for a few minutes, he would like to change things up a bit. While there is no doubt that everyone in the hall deserves applause, those who have sacrificed the limelight to become heroes in the purest sense of the word deserve it even more.

Would the four members of the Special Assault Team kindly join him back on stage please?

Katsuki has become still as a statue. His three Captains stand up and begin awkwardly making their way to the front amidst scattered words of encouragement from the crowd. But Katsuki stays planted in his seat, shocked at fucking Deku's audacity to spring something like this on him.

Ochaco places a hand on his arm, and he turns to look at her. She's beaming brightly at him; she looks proud. Behind her, the boys are bouncing up and down eagerly on their seats, and Kimiko has clapped her hands together in excitement. Across the table, Kirishima is grinning from ear to ear.

Go on, Ochaco urges. Katsuki should go up the stage now. Her words are echoed by their children, and slowly, he stands up.

The walk to the stage seems to take forever. He doesn't know what to feel exactly. He should be seething because Deku's an asshole for not having informed Katsuki about this gimmick beforehand. Strangely though, Katsuki's not angry. If anything, he's nervous. His heart is pounding against his ribs as he climbs the short steps to the stage.

As soon as Katsuki takes his place with his three Captains, Deku resumes with his speech. He explains that the SAT remains an unpopular track for pro heroes, not surprisingly, because it's a relatively thankless job.

Pro heroes within the ranks of the SAT are exposed to the same amount of danger as a regular pro hero, if not more, but they don't get to reap the same rewards. On the contrary, they are excluded from the monthly rankings, leaving them outside the reward system fundamental to every heroes' career goals.

In the past decade, the SAT has suppressed a number of potential terror attacks and resolved countless situations that were deemed far too sensitive to make the news. Each time, they risked their lives for the sake of protecting the peace in the country, and each time, they received nothing for it, not a party to celebrate their success, not a medal to recognize their merit.

So tonight, Deku would like to encourage everyone in the room, as well as everyone watching the televised broadcast from their homes, to please stand up and raise their glasses to the unsung heroes on stage. It's time to give them the applause they deserve.

The hall is filled with the sound of chairs scratching against the floor as the guests stand up. Deku leads them in a toast. Then they applaud wildly, sincerely, and Katsuki feels his chest about to explode with emotion.

He swallows over the lump in his throat. He can't cry. Not here, not on stage, not in front of everyone.

He almost succeeds, too, but fucking Deku is not done. He leaves his fucking place at the fucking podium and walks over to where Katsuki is standing in the middle of the stage. He has a stupid wide grin on his face as he removes his shitty medal, pulling it over his shitty head.

Katsuki deserves it more than him, the shitty bastard fucking says. He may have become the Symbol of Peace, but Katsuki is the real number one hero.

When the medal slips around Katsuki's neck, he has no choice but to let the tears fall.

Author's Notes:


Seriously, I've become super attached to this headcanon of Kacchako. This is the longest story I've ever written. I invested a lot of effort in this. Like I said in a previous author's note, this may just be a fanfic, but I've made sure that this is the best fanfic it can possibly be.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this story as much as I had writing it. I will seriously miss updating this story. I will miss Kimiko, my first OC ever. I'm not too fond of OCs so I never write them. If you've noticed, Kimiko is the only non-canon character I ever named in this fic. The exchange program guy, the employers, the colleagues, even Kimiko's two brothers remained unnamed. This is because I have this stubborn rule that a name should only go to a character if it's relevant to the development of the plot. When I decided on Kimiko's name, I even made sure it would be something that made sense in the overall story I wanted to tell.

I also hope that the ending is to your satisfaction. When I first started writing, I only had up to the Heroes League of America arc thought out, then as I wrote and researched, the story took form and became what it is now. Originally, I was supposed to end this with Katsuki starting a hero agency with Ochaco, but I wasn't satisfied with that for many reasons. One, I didn't want Ochaco to be a shadow of her husband. I wanted her to be a strong, capable woman who has her own career separate from Katsuki's. Two, I'm not sure Katsuki's the type to go into business. Three, it is a confirmed canon fact that Deku eventually becomes the #1 hero, and since I wanted this story to be as canon-compliant as possible, that meant that I couldn't have Katsuki become #1 at the end.

I didn't want to end with him at #2 though. This story, after all, is about him taking the hard road to the top; it won't make sense if he doesn't reach the top.

The solution I thought of was to take him out of the hero rankings altogether. Because he's not being evaluated with the same system as the others, then technically, it can't be said that he's better or worse than anyone. It can't be said that he's #2 to anyone. And so the SAT became a thing.

Deku is the Symbol of Peace. He's the face of pro heroism, and he's the #1 hero that way. But Katsuki is Commander of the elite special operations unit that handles the highest-level missions, and in that way, he is also #1. Of course, given the nature of his position, it's something that would never have been acknowledged if not for Deku making his speech.

To be honest, there were plenty of times during the writing of this fic that I felt discouraged. Sometimes I couldn't help wondering if I was the only one who thought it was any good. But everyone who has left me a kudos or a comment (especially a comment) helped me power through my insecurities and keep on writing. That said, I would like to thank all of you. You have no idea how much your support means to me.

If you haven't left me a comment yet, I hope you can do so now that we're at the end. Tell me what you liked. Tell me how the story made you feel. It's the most precious reward I can ever get from writing.

I am planning to write more Kacchako fics, beginning immediately (that's how much I love the OTP), but this story will forever be special to me.

Until the next fic,