“That’s a new one,” Shigaraki said, scratching his neck. Small dry flakes fluttered to land on his shirt collar, trapped on the black fabric.
Izuku paused mid sentence, fingers stilling on the keyboard. His sort-of friend inspected the newest photo addition to Izuku’s tack board, shamelessly staring. The bags under his eyes were pronounced tonight, eyes bloodshot. Izuku didn’t think Shigaraki paid that much attention to what was tacked on that board, but apparently Izuku had been mistaken.
Shigaraki paused his nervous tick to stab one bony finger smack dab in the middle of Kacchan’s chest. “Who is he?”
Izuku turned his gaze back to the screen and continued typing. “Kacchan.”
“That’s a stupid hero name,” Shigaraki said. He moved away from the wall and Izuku’s desk, wandering over to the couch where Izuku had settled with his laptop. “He a new side kick?”
“He’s a first year student at U.A.,” Izuku said, suspicious of Shigaraki’s interest. The older man typically had little care for anything that didn’t revolve directly around his own childish needs. Izuku typed a little harder, wishing the other would let the subject drop. “He’s not a Pro Hero yet.”
“Then why do you have him on your little shrine wall?” Shigaraki asked.
“Did you want something?” Izuku asked. He did a quick glance around looking for Kurogiri waiting in a corner, but Shigaraki’s babysitter was nowhere to be seen. “Giran’s not here, and I’m trying to finish work.”
“Rude,” Shigaraki muttered under his breath. He sat on the couch next to Deku, worn eyes staring from beyond his loose hoodie. Shigaraki dug around in his hoodie’s front pockets before carefully pulling out a piece of paper held delicately between two fingers. He handed it over and Izuku recognized Kurogiri’s handwriting. “We’re attacking U.A. in a couple days. That’s the list of teachers that will be on duty.”
Izuku scanned the list, pausing on All Might’s name for only a fraction longer than the others before getting to the end. This must have been why Giran was recruiting so many people for Shigaraki’s little group over the past week. If Shigaraki and Kurogiri were attempting an attack on U.A., they’d need all the villains they could get.
Shigaraki tilted his head toward the tack board, eyes lingering on Kacchan’s picture. Izuku abandoned the small list to join him in staring at the photo. He’d gotten it off the U.A. student website about a week ago and still considered it a lucky find. The student paper club had done a small feature article on the first training session the Hero Course students had in costume.
The shot of Kacchan had been taken after an attack, leaving Kacchan grinning and wiping sweat off the side of his face with the back of his hand. Izuku had been stunned when he recognized the student as Kacchan and realized just how good Kacchan looked as a hero (it made sense; Kacchan had always been Izuku’s hero to some degree).
It was really a lovely, candid shot.
His twisted friend continued staring, mouth widening in a crooked smile at the rare regular photo among the collection of polished promo shots. Shigaraki bit the edge of his ripped lip. “Or will this attack be hitting too close to home for you, little hero lover?”
“I already have reports on all of these,” Izuku said, folding Kurogiri’s list—which was the truth. He had reports on every teacher that ever worked at U.A. long before he had started his little side job. They just hadn’t been typed neatly, yet. Izuku closed the laptop and walked over to his desk. He dropped the thing carelessly and flicked on the monitor to his main computer. “You can have the info half price if you drop the topic.”
“I’ll pay double if you tell me why a U.A. Student was impressive enough to make your wall,” Shigaraki said. He went back to scratching his neck. “Maybe we’ll have to watch for him when we’re looking for All Might if he caught your eye.”
Shigaraki wasn’t going to leave without an answer; he was childish that way. Izuku clicked the print button from his database and huffed. “Triple.”
It’s not like Shigaraki would be paying, and Izuku wanted to get his mother something nice for her birthday coming up (and being able to afford box seats to the U.A. Sports Festival later in the year certainly couldn’t hurt, either).
“Done,” Shigaraki said, loose smile.
“Kacchan’s my childhood friend,” Izuku said, flicking the edge of the keyboard. He could still feel Kacchan’s voice ringing in his ears the last time they spoke: when Kacchan made a playful suggestion of how Izuku could get a Quirk. Izuku’s mouth twitched into a smile. “I like to keep up with his hero career. He was the top scoring student from the entrance exams, you know.”
“You sound proud,” Shigaraki said. He hummed and stared at the photo. “And quite delusional. We both know you don’t have any friends other than me, Midoriya.”
“Kacchan is Kacchan,” Midoriya said, biting the edge of his thumb. “Just because I haven’t seen him since he started high school doesn’t mean we aren’t still friends.”
A one-sided friendship still counted as far as Midoriya was concerned (that’s how it’d been since Izuku found out he would never get a Quirk, why give up his stubbornness now?).
“Sure,” Shigaraki said, smile still crooked and wide.
“Here’s your information,” Izuku said, dropping the folder in Shigaraki’s lap. He smiled brightly at the other man, putting his hands behind his back. “Try not to die. Even if you know everything about them, the pro heroes that teach at U.A. are no pushovers.”
“Don’t worry,” Shigaraki said. He got up from the couch and stared down over Izuku with a lazy grin. “When they see what we’ve got, even All Might won’t stand a chance.”
Izuku frowned, crossing his arms. He couldn’t think of anyone Giran had recruited lately that would pose a legitimate threat to All Might or the other teachers. Shigaraki himself had a rather impressive Quirk, but it would require getting in close to All Might and keeping contact—both things Izuku knew Shigaraki wasn’t good at. Add all that in with the regular teachers who were more than capable like Eraser Head or even Present Mic on campus and it would be trouble. This whole thing was going to be a disaster at best.
So why was Shigaraki so confident?
“If I see your Kacchan, I’ll be sure to say ‘hello’,” Shigaraki said, wiggling his fingers and interrupting Izuku’s thoughts. “Bye, Midoriya.”
“Hey,” Izuku started, but cut off when Shigaraki disappeared through Kurogiri’s warp gate.
Izuku bit the edge of his thumb hard enough to draw blood from his nail. He’d expected they’d eventually attack U.A., but this—he pulled his hand down and snorted. Izuku looked at the picture of Kacchan again and tapped his childhood friend on the nose before returning to his work.
He shouldn’t worry about drawing extra attention to Kacchan through Shigaraki; Kacchan drew enough attention to himself that it wouldn’t matter.
(Kacchan would be fine; he’d be fine.)
Izuku went back to work.
Kacchan had almost died and it was Izuku’s fault.
He clutched his scorched notebook to his chest, rubbing at his eyes as he cried in the back lot behind the middle school. The tears wouldn’t stop and it choked his breath; this new ache strangling him. If he hadn’t bothered All Might; if he hadn’t asked the man if it was possible for Izuku to be a hero, that monster wouldn’t have gotten away. It wouldn’t have attacked downtown.
It wouldn’t have taken Kacchan.
“Worthless,” Izuku whispered. He opened the book, back against the wall, staring down at the signature from All Might. Izuku didn’t deserve it.
(But he couldn’t let it go either. It was All Might’s signature, after all. He kept it with a guilty heart.)
Izuku hadn’t even known Kacchan was in trouble until he had wandered home and saw what happened on the evening news. If All Might had been even two minutes later to the scene, Kacchan would have been eaten alive by that Slime.
Knowing that it was his fault that the Villain escaped, Izuku had avoided contact with Kacchan at all costs (not that his friend minded; barely even noticed). Kacchan had no idea that Izuku had been the one to put him in that embarrassing position (oh, how Kacchan hated it when people asked if he was the boy who’d been attacked), but it didn’t matter. Izuku knew.
Izuku watched fat droplets hit the edges of the page, and sniffed. It’d been a week since Kacchan came back to school, and Izuku still hadn’t been able to look the other boy in the eye.
“Most people are happy to have that hero’s autograph,” a raspy voice said. Izuku heard a scratching noise, and looked up into dark eyes behind a hood. The stranger smiled, scratching his neck hard and almost amused at Izuku’s misery. “How odd.”
(That was the first time Izuku met Shigaraki Tomura.)
“You’re going to U.A.,” Giran said, strutting into the room and spitting out a mouthful of smoke. He dumped a stack of papers on Izuku’s desk and grinned, showing off the gap between his teeth. “Lucky you.”
“What,” Izuku gaped, staring at the documents. He flipped through them one by one and there was no mistake: Transfer papers to send Izuku from his current high school to U.A.’s Department of General Education. His fingers crumpled the paper’s edges. “What is this?”
“The League of Villain’s attack on U.A. was a total disaster,” Giran said. He licked the side of his teeth and pointed his cigarette at the pages. “Those were hard to secure, by the way, so you better be grateful for the opportunity and don’t crinkle the pages!”
“You still haven’t explained what’s going on,” Izuku said, hands shaking. He slammed the too-good-to-be-true documents on the table. U.A. High School was his old dream. He’d crushed it on his own when he decided to come work here. How dare they? How dare they try to make a dead dream a reality after the things Izuku had done? “What does this have to do with the League of Villain’s attack?”
Izuku had heard all about that disaster (Izuku knew it would be one from the start, he did) from third parties this time around—the news had gleefully covered the defeat of the team and the attack on U.A. Shigaraki had been dangerously unsettled and upset afterwards, so Izuku had been discretely warned to keep his distance via a text. A follow up email from Kurogiri a few days later filled in the details that their experimental Nomu had been defeated by All Might.
“The U.A. students were more of a threat than they expected,” Giran said. “So they need more information. That’s your whole job, kid! You’re an info analyst and one of the best ones I’ve had the privilege of hiring. Plus, you’re the right age and no one would suspect you in a heartbeat with those big eyes and that cute little face.
“So they paid me a whole, whole lot of money to make sure you get your ass into that school and get the dirt on every single little wanna-be future hero that you can and then report back with how to destroy them like a good little analyst. You got that, kid?”
“I study police reports and villain testimonies to analyze Quirks and report the best methods of use and defense based on observation,” Izuku said through gritted teeth. “I don’t know the first thing about going undercover.”
“Come on, Midoriya,” Giran said. He snuffed out his cigarette in an ashtray. “We both know it’s the exact same thing, except you’re going to a nice new school and keeping a good close eye on all your little classmates instead of watching civilian video recordings from online.”
This was absurd. It was bad enough he was selling out Pro Heroes, but at least it was their job to fight villains. They were prepared on some level for just about anything. But they were asking Izuku to rat out his peers who were still learning. It was low, even for this group.
Izuku grabbed his backpack and headed for the door. “I’m going to see Shigaraki.”
“Don’t worry,” Giran called after him. “I’ll keep your desk warm for you on the weekends!”
The door slammed shut, but Izuku only saw red as he ran down the street headed for a certain bar.
“You keep notes on heroes?” The older boy who had introduced himself as Shigaraki asked, holding the book by the corner edge. He pinched it, like he didn’t want to touch it and held it slightly over his head. “Huh.”
“I know it’s a weird hobby, but you don’t have to act so disgusted,” Izuku said, wiping away the last of his tears. He still felt guilty over Kacchan and how his hero obsession had caused it, but he still had pride. There was a lot of work and effort in that notebook and he wouldn’t be mocked by this new stranger. “Please give it back.”
“Disgust?” Shigaraki asked. He looked at his hand and chuckled. Shigaraki dropped the notebook over Izuku’s head, and the boy scrambled to get it before it fell on the ground. “No, you misunderstand. My Quirk.”
“Your Quirk?” Izuku asked when the older boy paused.
“My Quirk,” Shigaraki said again. He reached down and picked up a soda can that rested against the wall. He held it with four fingers and his index finger aloft. He grinned again and said, “Is a little destructive.”
Shigaraki dropped his finger and the can crumpled away into dust the second all five fingers touched.
“Wow,” Izuku said.
Kacchan’s destruction was deafening noises and explosions; heat and fire and energy. Shigaraki’s destruction, while no less utterly complete, was quiet like a whisper. The contrast was stunning.
“Crying over an autograph and impressed with my Quirk?” Shigaraki asked, tilting his head to the side. He scratched the side of his neck and chuckled. “You are odd.”
Izuku leaned back when Shigaraki flicked his fingers against his notebook. “But very useful.”
It was hard to say “no” when Shigaraki asked Izuku if he wanted to meet his friend Kurogiri.
“Shigaraki,” Izuku said, opening the door to the bar. Kurogiri looked up from cleaning glasses and turned away. His little master sat at the bar, his villain costume hand on his face and staring at the television static through the fingers. Izuku hissed, “You can’t order me around. I’m not one of your little league members.”
“I saw your Kacchan, but I didn’t say hello for you. I’m sorry, I said I would, didn’t I?” Shigaraki tilted his head down as he faced Izuku, eye wide and pupil small. Izuku stilled; there was that dangerous crack in Shigaraki’s voice that cued a tantrum. “He was trouble.”
Izuku swallowed; tantrums meant people died. “Yeah. Kacchan’s like that.”
“But not as much as the Todoroki boy,” Shigaraki said. He hopped off the stool and stomped over to Izuku in his dirty red sneakers. He loomed over him, pupil shaking. “I lost my game.”
Shigaraki leaned closer and dropped his hand on Izuku’s shoulder, middle finger raised. His grip squeezed so tight Izuku feared his bone might snap. “You’re gonna’ help me win Round 2, Midoriya. Aren’t you? You’re a good friend like that. We can play co-op this time.”
Izuku darted a glance at Kurogiri for possible support. The older man made no move to intervene (Izuku shouldn’t have bothered. Kurogiri always took Shigaraki’s side. He played favorites. It was common knowledge. He knew that. He knew that!). Izuku looked Shigaraki back in the eye and forced his face to smile, though he knew it was as crooked as Shigaraki’s.
“Of course,” Izuku said. He swallowed hard. “Just ask next time. Friends ask, they don’t order.”
(Unless you were Kacchan; Izuku shook his head. No, no. He wasn’t thinking about that right now.)
“Oh,” Shigaraki said. He let go of Izuku’s shoulder and wandered back to the bar. “I didn’t know that.”
Izuku massaged his shoulder and took a few shaky steps to the bar counter. This particular sort-of friend was bad for Izuku’s health. But at this point, he didn’t have very many other options, either.
He took a seat next to Shigaraki and stared at the table top, accepting this odd fate of his. “So what made you think of sending me to U.A.?”
“It was Master’s idea,” Shigaraki said. He dropped his chin on the bar top and slumped to the side. “He thinks you’ll be a better use there than in Giran’s office.”
Izuku’s blood froze. He shivered in his seat, and covered the bottom of his mouth with his hand. “You talk to your Master about me?”
The true Leader of the League of Villains: Shigaraki’s precious Master. Izuku had caught him on the television screen talking to Shigaraki once or twice, but never stuck around. There was something dark about that man that was to be avoided at all costs. He was one person that Izuku had no desire to learn more about in his Quirk notes. To be on that man’s radar in any way was worrisome.
“Why wouldn’t I tell him about my friends?” Shigaraki asked, the innocence of the question unnatural coming from such a potential monster.
Izuku often forgot that Shigaraki was the Master’s favorite person, too.
“I just didn’t realize I was that important,” Izuku said, muttering lowly with what he hoped was a good excuse. “I figured you’d have better things to talk about.”
“Friends are good things to talk about.” Shigaraki ruffled Izuku’s hair. A few strands fell off, transformed to dust. Shigaraki plucked a hair and disintegrated it. “Go have fun at school, Midoriya.”
He swallowed and leaned his head back. “Yeah, I will.”
“You’re a talented young man,” Kurogiri said, flipping through one of Izuku’s notebooks. Shigaraki had noticed the volume number on the one he’d seen and asked if he could see the rest. Izuku was too flattered to think that might be a bad idea. Kurogiri, however, was the one who took a true interest. “Very bright. Your analytical skill is quite high for someone your age.”
Izuku flushed under the praise, and it took steeling all of his jittery nerves to keep from stuttering. “Thank you.”
“Have you thought about what you’d like to do after you graduate? There are many fields where this sort of knowledge could be of great use,” Kurogiri said, his warp Quirk fluttering around his body, ever moving.
“Ah, no,” Izuku said, holding his arm. He rubbed under his sleeve and shrugged. He bit the edge of his lip and chuckled. “There was a place I wanted to go, but it’s impossible.”
He thought he might be able to make it in at one point in his life, but All Might had explained it well enough. Izuku had dreams, but he couldn’t be a Hero. Not that way. Not without a Quirk. And Kacchan suffered from Izuku’s desperate need to have anyone tell him that he could.
It wasn’t worth it.
Izuku could get another dream.
“Then perhaps, I could make a suggestion?” Kurogiri said. He set down Izuku’s notebook and gently slid it across the bar top to Izuku. “I have a friend who would greatly benefit from your knowledge and busy mind.”
“Oh?” Izuku asked.
Kurogiri chuckled, his eyes squinting together in joy. “Yes, it’s quite the lucrative business for those who have the spirit for it.”
Shigaraki snickered off to the side. “It’ll be a whole new level.”
Izuku felt a small knot grow in the back of his throat. Something felt wrong about all of this, but—but if he couldn’t be a hero, and he was trapped here with Shigaraki and Kurogiri anyway—was it so wrong to be somewhere where he was wanted?
Izuku scanned his U.A. ID and passed through the gate without any trouble, despite every wracking heartbeat in his chest screaming that it should be otherwise. He walked among the throng of students all eager to get back to their classes, chatting happily about this or that. The morning gossip consisted of Class 1-A and the recent League of Villains attack.
Izuku kept his head down and clutched his backpack strap.
The only saving grace of this entire ordeal was that Shigaraki hadn’t given Izuku a deadline to acquire all the requested information. Izuku had plenty of time to get settled in classes, make some friends, and make sure no one knew that he was gathering data to sell to illegal underground info brokers to sign their doom in the future when Shigaraki next said “Go” to his new group.
“I really need to get a grip,” Izuku muttered under his breath. He kept his eyes darting around the campus, looking for a familiar face or two but found none. He shook his head and walked faster, aiming to get into the building as fast as possible. “It’s my first day and I don’t have time for this. I just need to find my class and be glad that I’m here.”
By some miracle and a polite student in the hallway with glasses and a “Responsible” presence who was more than happy to help the new transfer student, Izuku managed to make it to his first class and stumbled through his introduction without any major issues.
His seat was behind a tired looking boy named Hitoshi Shinsou who had hair more wild than Izuku’s, but he seemed polite enough under his disinterest.
It wasn’t until lunch that Izuku had to steel his nerves again and answer questions.
“Late transfers are pretty rare,” Shinsou said, leaning over the back of his chair. His voice was light, but friendly enough. “How’d you manage it?”
“Good grades,” Izuku said, repeating the justification on his paperwork. He played with his fingers, rubbing his thumb on his index finger while he finished the cover story. “I wasn’t in a good place personally during the entrance exams, which meant I missed them. Someone encouraged me to give it another shot once things calmed down, and I guess my grades were impressive enough to make an exception.”
Funny enough, the story was basically true—the only lie was that Izuku still didn’t have his life back together where he needed it.
“Huh,” Shinsou said. He tilted his head and smiled in that sly way that yelled “I know there’s more to it than that and I’m going to find out later.” But instead he just said, “Lucky you.”
“Yeah,” Izuku said, folding his arms on the desk. He smiled brightly, even as his heart thumped. “Lucky me.”
Kurogiri had just introduced Izuku to a Villain Broker.
Izuku was two seconds away from having a full blown panic attack right there in the middle of the dirt encrusted office, and he was sure it was showing from his shaking shoulders to the wide eyes.
“Unusual for you to come to me with something like this,” Giran said, leaning back in his chair. He crossed one leg over the other and straightened his scarf. “What’s the occasion?”
“You mentioned recently that you were overworked since you began expanding your business into villain costumes,” Kurogiri said. “And who better than to help recruit than someone who analyzes Quirks?”
“He’s a kid,” Giran said. Izuku thought for a few fleeting seconds that this man had some sort of conscience, up until his next line. “They don’t know shit. They’re only good for running things or throwing in front of things. You really think he can do actual work?”
“I’ve read his notes, and I assure you that he’d impress even you. Given the proper equipment and resources, who knows how far he could go?” Kurogiri stated proudly.
Izuku ran through every polite way he could possible say “Thank you, but I’m not interested” without making someone in the room angry.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Giran said. He held his hand out and made a waving motion. “Come over here, kid.”
“I-I think there’s been some mistake,” Izuku said, glancing between Kurogiri and Giran. “I’m not looking for a part time job. I mean, I still need to study for entrance exams and uh—”
“Nonsense,” Kurogiri said. “You’re bright enough to handle both responsibilities. I have complete faith in you.”
“Kurogiri worked hard to get you this job opportunity.” A heavy hand dropped on Izuku’s shoulder, one finger raised. Shigaraki leaned on him, reminding Izuku that he had come, too. “He even gave up some of our video game time for it. Are you going to just let that go to waste? That’s rude, Midoriya.”
The squeeze of Shigaraki’s fingers and the twitch of the one was more than enough words between the lines.
Izuku swallowed and tugged out one of his notebooks to hand to Giran.
He was impressed (Izuku shoved down the shameful pride that bubbled up); Kurogiri congratulated Izuku on his new job, and commented he’d be sure to pick up something lovely for Izuku’s Mother as well to celebrate.
“You don’t have a Quirk?” Shinsou asked, putting away his things. He closed the clasp on his bag and leaned on his desk. “Huh.”
“Kinda lame, right?” Izuku stacked his books neatly before putting them in his bag. It always came back to Quirks. Always. Always. Always. Izuku forced a smile. “I’m used to it, though.”
“I wouldn’t say lame, exactly,” Shinsou said. He kept his eyes on Izuku, studying. “But it does make things harder, I imagine.”
“Only a little,” Izuku said. He pinched his fingers together and shrugged. “It depends who I’m talking to and what I need to do.”
Like becoming a hero. That was rather hard to do without a Quirk.
Being a villain, apparently, was much easier. Against his wishes and judgement, Izuku had been rather excelling at the position. The internal conflict over doing what was right and being praised and wanted battled even now as he wondered what he was doing with his life in this dream school.
“That’s true,” Shinsou said. “Even most Quirks don’t give people a huge advantage, so it’s not like you’re that different.”
“Yup,” Izuku said. He shrugged lightly, and his skin itches to end the conversation. Shinsou was smart and Izuku wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep going before he let something important slip. “You don’t have to wait for me. I’m going to go walk around the school before I head out to try and remember where everything is. I don’t want to keep you.”
“Sure,” Shinsou said. He knocked his knuckles on the back of Izuku’s desk and smiled softly. “See you later, Midoriya.”
“Bye,” Izuku said, waving his hand.
It wasn’t until Shinsou had left that Izuku realized he didn’t know what Shinsou’s Quirk was.
(He’d find out later.)
It terrified Izuku how easily he had adapted to working in Giran’s little underground office.
At first, every inch of him screamed “This is wrong and good people don’t do this and you wanted to be a Hero at one point, Izuku—what are you doing here!?” every second and through every breath. Those thoughts were smothered by the much louder voice of common sense that yelled: “These people know where your mother lives.”
This louder thought had been highly reinforced with “You’re in over your head so keep it down” the first time he saw Shigaraki kill someone.
(Kurogiri had been very kind and warped Izuku somewhere private to vomit and rubbed his back before returning him to Giran’s to finish his part time shift.)
After a week or two, Izuku justified every thing he gave over to Giran with the mindset of “They’re Pro Heroes. It doesn’t matter what villains know, the Heroes will win.”
By the time he graduated middle school, Izuku had gotten used to everything to such a degree that he barely even blinked when he saw his highly coveted strategies were working when he spotted someone he’d ratted out be defeated on the evening news.
Routine was a terrifying thing.
Giran praised him for a job well done and slowly introduced him to the art of wrangling wanna-be villains looking for work in addition to his analysis job. Izuku learned when Shigaraki was on the verge of a tantrum and how to calm him down. Kurogiri learned Izuku’s favorite (non-alcoholic) drinks and encouraged him to stop by the bar and keep Shigaraki company from time to time.
Izuku went to school, worked for Giran, developed a weird friendship with his new Villain friend, and went home to kiss his mother on the cheek.
Every day, Izuku found himself wanted and appreciated.
Every day chipped away at Izuku’s will to get away.
“Deku?” Kacchan’s incredulous yell filled the half-empty hallway. He grabbed a fist full of Izuku’s blazer and slammed him into the nearest wall. “What the hell are you doing here, you shitty nerd?”
“Kacchan,” Izuku yelped. He grabbed at Kacchan’s wrist and pressed his toe into the ground. He wasn’t expecting to run into Kacchan ever. The Hero Course and the General Studies Department weren’t supposed to interact much and Izuku had done everything he could to avoid his friend’s path (but it was only a matter of time until he messed up; Kacchan was too unpredictable). Izuku grunted, “It’s good to see you.”
“Answer the question,” Kacchan said. He pulled Izuku back and slammed him back into the wall. “I thought you finally got smart keeping your ass back at home, you Quirkless loser. What the hell do you think you’re doing at U.A.?”
“I’m in General Studies,” Izuku said, gritting his teeth. He pushed on Kacchan’s arm when the other boy’s grip tightened enough that his collar started to choke. “It’s a good school and the opportunities are better for later.”
“I was the only one from our school who got into U.A. when we graduated,” Kacchan hissed. “When the hell did you sneak in?”
“Late transfer,” Izuku said, hoping that would appease the explosive teen.
“Bullshit,” Kacchan said. He shook Izuku again, knocking his head on the back of the wall. Izuku blacked out for a second, and it ached. Kacchan got in his face; breath warm and palms sparking. “Why the hell are you really here?”
Izuku wondered if there was something really wrong with him when he realized he had missed this to some degree. Perhaps not Kacchan trying to choke him exactly, but definitely the sound of his voice and that flicker of “I’m the best how dare you threaten that position?” that flashed in his eyes every time he really got angry with Izuku.
“Dude, Bakugou, what are you doing?” A new voice interrupted.
Kacchan flinched hard enough to back away without letting go of the blazer and Izuku turned his head the same time Kacchan did. A redhead stood off to the side with a girl with pink skin and a boy with short blond hair with a streak of black.
“That’s so not manly,” the redhead said, starting the conversation. He crossed his arms and frowned. “I know you’ve got a short fuse, but you’re about to strangle that guy. What are you doing?”
Kacchan glanced at the hand tight in Izuku’s collar and his eyes widened a fraction. He looked at the newcomers again before letting go of Izuku like his hand had been burned. Izuku coughed as he got his breath back, but he was hyper focused on the look that had crossed Kacchan’s face for all of five seconds: Shame.
“You know what? I don’t care,” Kacchan said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and turned his back on Izuku. “However the hell you got into this school is your own damned business, but just stay the hell away from me, Deku.”
“Kacchan,” Izuku said, rubbing his throat. He coughed a couple times and held a hand out. Izuku had wanted to avoid Kacchan, but now that he was here the other boy was leaving too soon. “Hey, wait!”
“I don’t want to talk to you,” Kacchan said, turning around and putting his broad back to Izuku. “Beat it.”
“What is with you?” the redhead said. He shook Kacchan’s arm casually; easily. Kacchan didn’t push him away. The redhead asked, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Let’s go, Kirishima,” Kacchan said.
Izuku dropped both hands at his side as Kacchan grabbed the redhead’s arm and dragged him along down the hallway. The others in the group followed along, glancing back at Izuku every so often, but not saying anything just yet.
“Wait, Bakugou! Who was that? What’s going on?” The redhead—no, Kirishima—continued to ask, even as Kacchan’s grip refused to budge and they made their way further and further down the hall. “Talk to me, man!”
“He’s just some loser I used to go to school with, drop it,” Kacchan said, just as they disappeared around the corner.
Izuku hadn’t really pictured how his first meeting with Kacchan since middle school would go, but he was sure that this wasn’t a scenario he could have envisioned.
He didn’t think it was possible for anyone to make Kacchan feel ashamed.
(Izuku realized much, much later after he’d left school for the day that the tightening in his chest that made it hard to breath was jealousy.)
“Finished daydreaming?” Shigaraki asked, tugging on the side of Izuku’s hair. The younger boy batted him away and turned, happy to see it was just Shigaraki’s wrinkled face and not his costume-hand. It meant he was in a good mood. “You’ve been staring at your drink for a while.”
“I saw Kacchan today,” Izuku admitted, writing out the names of his classmates on each page of his new notebook in preparation for the upcoming month. He didn’t have a deadline, but he had to have something to show for his efforts just in case. Kurogiri cleaned glasses off to the side, listening to their conversation from the other side of the bar top. Izuku chose his words carefully. “He looked well.”
“Your friend give you the cold shoulder, didn’t he?” Shigaraki asked, snickering under his breath. His voice cracked through the raspy tone. “Might explain why you’re so chilly tonight.”
Izuku underlined Shinsou’s name, making sure to listen carefully in the upcoming days to find out what his Quirk was. The biggest downfall of transferring in late was that everyone else already knew their classmates’ Quirks. Izuku had a lot of catching up to do.
“Don’t ignore me,” Shigaraki said, reaching over. He flicked Izuku harder in the head and with a vicious push shoved his notebook so far down the counter that it nearly fell off the edge. “Tell me about your Kacchan.”
“He shoved me against a wall and yelled at me to leave him alone and never talk to him again,” Izuku said, glaring at Shigaraki. He narrowed his eyes and gripped his fists under the table. The words spilled out before he could stop them: “I’m the same Quirkless loser I’ve always been to him, so nothing’s changed. We haven’t been actual friends since we were six. I spend more time than is healthy wishing we were still friends like we were when we were toddlers because I still admire him, but it’s never going to happen. Are you happy, now?”
“No,” Shigaraki said, serious as he’s ever been. He dug a finger into the center of Izuku’s forehead and pressed in. “But neither are you.”
Izuku grunted, wincing under Shigaraki’s sharp finger. The pressure stayed constant, adding to a growing headache. “What’s your point, Shigaraki?”
“That we should make sure no one else is either,” Shigaraki said. He kept digging his finger into Izuku’s forehead, until it tilted toward the counter. “Including your little Kacchan.”
“I don’t want to make Kacchan miserable,” Izuku said, voice hoarse.
He pictured the other boy in his rumbled uniform walking away with new friends (real friends; not minions—only a real friend could make Kacchan doubt his bullish nature). Izuku pictured him wearing his hero costume and saving the day, eyes fierce behind his domino mask. Izuku closed his eyes and smiled.
No, no he didn’t want Kacchan to be miserable.
“You just want him to be yours,” Shigaraki said, slamming Izuku’s head into the counter. Izuku groaned, shoulders bunching in as the explosion of pain registered. Shigaraki chuckled and slid off the bar top as Izuku hissed, holding his head. He wandered to the corner and clicked on the television. “I’m going to call Master. Kurogiri, see Midoriya home.”
“Of course,” Kurogiri said, opening the warp. “Have a lovely evening.”
Izuku grabbed his backpack and walked through quickly, thankfully avoiding Master arriving on screen. Kurogiri dropped him off outside his apartment in a back alley where no one could see him. Izuku took his time walking up the stairs to his apartment.
Shigaraki’s words buzzed in his brain through the newly acquired headache.
Izuku didn’t want to own Kacchan. Izuku had never wanted that. He’d just wanted to be friends.
(But now he couldn’t stop thinking about it.)
“Kacchan doesn’t like you,” Izuku said, whispering under his breath. He sucked in a breath. “That’s never going to change.”
(“But it could,” Shigaraki’s voice whispered. “You’ve got better friends now. Just like he does. It could work.”)
Izuku kissed his mother on the cheek when he got upstairs and hid away to his room. He dropped his bag on the ground and dropped on his mattress, covering the back of his head with a pillow.
School tomorrow was going to be hell.