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Something Like a Star

Chapter Text

A curl passes gently across his forehead. His lungs burn, but it’s not too bad yet. If he concentrates, Izuku can hear the blood rushing through his ears. For the most part though, he just floats, blinking around at the blue around him. Garbled voices break through his calm, startling him out of his relaxation.

His limbs are heavy as he moves them through the water, breaking the surface and taking a breath for the first time in… probably a while. The air is a welcome change, soothing the dull burn in his chest as he pushes his hair out of his eyes.

When Izuku does look up though, it’s to see the scowls of his classmates, who must have come up a while ago. With a jolt, he realizes he’s the last one up. Again.

“Three forty-six,” the gym teacher says, handing Izuku a towel as he leaves the pool. He sounds impressed. “Head to the nurse, Midoriya. We should make sure you’re alright, since you’re…”

Quirkless. Izuku gives Shouji-sensei a wry look as the other kids start jeering. Shouji-sensei looks back at him apologetically, but Izuku doesn’t blame him. It’s not new, and at this point Izuku is used to it. A first year teacher like Shouji-sensei probably just doesn’t know what to do with this kind of behavior, if the waves of uncertainty coming off him are any indication.

“Alright, sensei.” He heads to the locker room, toweling his hair off as he walks.

Breath tests end this way every year; they’ll test the class to see their how long they can hold their breaths, so they know who can be pushed further during swim units and who needs a more manageable lesson. But for Izuku, who’s somehow missing both an extra toe joint and a quirk, it’s an average day. He used to hold out hope that he’d manifest some kind of quirk, and tried for years to breathe fire like Dad or pull objects like Mom. But to breathe fire, he figured, he’d need a lot of breath.

So he trained, holding his breath for a little longer every time he took a bath or went to a pool. Even now, when he knows there’s no chance of his quirk manifesting, just sitting in the water for a while is nice sometimes. And every year, this is the one physical test he beats the rest of his classmates in because of it. Shouji-senpai is concerned because he’s new and doesn’t know that.

To be fair, Izuku admits that spending more than three minutes underwater without a quirk is a little unusual, especially since he could easily have gone longer.

When the door slams open and someone stomps in, Izuku expects the fear that runs through his veins and churns his stomach.

His locker door slams shut. Izuku just barely manages to get his fingers out of the way and yelps.

“Oh don’t give me that shit.” Kacchan is suddenly very close, bright red eyes glinting with anger and something only Izuku could ever hope to recognize as humiliation. “Didn’t even fucking touch you, stupid Deku.”

Izuku inches back as much as he dares for some breathing room. Kacchan is radiating anger like an oven, and while it isn’t unusual, it’s still uncomfortable. Often, Izuku finds Kacchan’s (frankly pretty obvious) emotions mirrored in himself. Izuku’s angry too. He’s humiliated too. He doesn’t like Kacchan any more than Kacchan likes him; the difference is that Izuku is weak, and Kacchan is strong. Izuku has to control himself because the world Kacchan thrives in is literally designed to be against him.

When he shoves his own anger aside though, there’s only room for fear. Izuku shakes as Kacchan berates him, though he knows better than to think even Kacchan would hurt him during school. Fear, Izuku’s learned, is irrational. It doesn’t care whether or not he’s in actual danger; it’ll rear its ugly head regardless.

Some pitiful voice in the back of his mind whispers that he still cares about Kacchan, and that Kacchan still cares about him. He shoves that thought as deep down as it will go.

Of course he still cares about Kacchan. Izuku has always been the type to love and forgive easily. He forgave Kacchan so many times though, that at some point it became routine. So he stopped. It was easier than it should have been, but Izuku still cares about him; love and hate, he’s realized over the years,  aren’t mutually exclusive.

But Kacchan doesn’t care about him anymore, not in the same sense. He just misses, on some level, the validation that Izuku’s blind worship brought him. 

Izuku flinches hard when Kacchan punches the locker by his face.  “Are you even listening to me, you shit?” 

The locker is dented now, but Kacchan does have his full attention. Izuku only looks at him, unable to speak. Kacchan is livid , convinced that Izuku somehow challenged him by not hearing the verbal beating he’s been dishing out. 

He’s fairly sure he’s used up his luck quota for the rest of time when the bell rings, signaling that it’s time for homeroom and giving Izuku an escape route.

He manages to grab his bag and slip away with a quick “Gotta get to the nurse, see you later Kacchan!” and he knows that, were they not in school, he’d have a very angry, very explosive boy on his tail. As it is, Kacchan yells something intelligible and Izuku flinches involuntarily at the telltale smash of locker doors.

The way to the nurse’s office is unfamiliar at best; for all the minor injuries Izuku has accrued from the other kids over the years, he very rarely gets hurt on school grounds. He can count on one hand the number of times he’s been here.

To his surprise, it’s not just the sour-faced nurse waiting for him when he gets there, but Shouji-sensei too.

“Midoriya! I was wondering where you’d gone.”

Izuku blinks at him. “I got… sidetracked. I thought you had a homeroom class, sir. What are you doing here?”

“You don’t seem the type to care much about your own wellbeing,” Shouji-sensei says. There’s a wry grin on his face, a mirror image of the look Izuku gave him earlier. “I wanted to make sure you actually came to get checked out.”

Well, Izuku can’t say he doesn’t appreciate the sentiment, particularly since no teacher has ever actually cared this much about him before. Still… “I was coming, but you didn’t need to worry. I’m fine.”

It’s not the most thorough checkup Izuku’s ever gotten, but he’s completely fine so it doesn’t matter. The nurse seems to really hate her job, or maybe she just hates Izuku. Wouldn’t be the first time, so he’s not surprised if that’s the case. She checks his eyes with a flight that Izuku is fairly sure should be brighter, and asks him some questions about the day and time, as though she’s checking for a concussion.

Shouji-sensei does a really terrible job of hiding his relief at the nurse’s proclamation that Izuku is alright. For what it’s worth, Izuku knows he wouldn’t have been able to hide it at all.

Mom calls it being sensitive, but Izuku thinks he’s just observant. People try so hard to hide their emotions, but he can always tell. It’s part of why, he thinks ruefully, he was so close to Kacchan all the time. There was never anything to dig through; he acted on his emotions, rather than trying to hide them. The people who try to lie about emotions (adults in particular, Izuku’s noticed) are beyond exhausting.

“—did you manage to stay under for so long without hurting yourself?”

Izuku startles and looks up at Shouji-sensei. “What?”

He laughs and waves Izuku over. “Come on, I’ll walk you to class. I asked how you can hold your breath so long.”

“Oh.” As they walk, he scrambles to find an answer that is less pathetic sounding than I was training for a quirk I knew I would never get and comes up with “I’m a freediver.”

Shouji-sensei looks like he wants to ask more questions, but they’re already at Izuku’s classroom. Hoping to avoid continuing the conversation, Izuku slips into the room quietly. Shouji-sensei is standing in the doorway, in plain view of everyone, so Izuku isn’t asked for a late note.

He stares at his desk and doesn’t look up until he knows for a fact that Shouji-sensei is gone. They’re apparently discussing the “goals for the future” worksheet they filled out last week, and their plans for high school.

Izuku pulls out his notebook and goes over it, seeing if there are any holes in his notes on Shouji-sensei. He may as well fix them up while he’s still thinking about it. There’s no way he’ll be called on before the end of class; no one, the teachers included, really cares about Izuku’s goals for the future.

 

Name: Shouji Mikio

 

Quirk: Recollection

 

Classification: Memory Quirk

 

What follows is a mostly airtight description of Shouji-sensei’s quirk, followed by a sketch of his face and a doodle of what his hero costume might look like. Izuku absentmindedly adds a few minor details to both, then glances at the clock. Still another five minutes. He flips through the pages, seeing if there’s another one he might have to clean up a bit, and lands on… Kacchan’s.

Well, more precisely, Kacchan’s entry in this journal, which is a continuation of his entry in journal thirteen, which is a continuation of his entry in journal twelve, and so on. Sometimes Izuku winces at exactly how much information he’s accumulated, but it makes sense. After all, whether they like it or not, the two of them spend quite a lot of time together. And the pages and pages of notes he’s taken are only basic self-preservation; the more he analyzes Kacchan’s fighting style, the easier it is to dodge, and the less likely he is to come home with bruises in noticeable places.

“—Midoriya trying to get into U.A. too?”

The low hum of noise that’s always in the room stops immediately, and Izuku can feel the tension and anticipation skyrocket for a moment. Then the class bursts into disbelieving laughter, sneering at him.

The bell rings, announcing the end of the school day, but Izuku knows better than to try and move. There’s only one person that’s not laughing, and that seriousness spells even bigger trouble if Izuku tries to escape.

“What the fuck, Deku?”

And just like that, the laughter dies and the tension snaps back into place so fast Izuku gets whiplash.

The rage pouring from Kacchan is unusual only in its intensity. If Izuku wasn’t so sure of his goal of being a hero, he’d be afraid for his life right now. Kacchan is standing in front of Izuku’s desk, towering over him. His eyes are almost glowing with… well, at least it’s not hatred, though Izuku doesn’t think that much unfiltered hostility is much better. Yet again, it’s mirrored in Izuku, who chokes down his own negativity because picking a fight with death itself is a more inviting prospect than provoking Kacchan further.

“You think a quirkless shitstain like you is going to get into U.A. with me ?” he asks, words dripping with venom. “You think you’re going to take this from me, Deku?”

“I just want to apply,” Izuku says quietly, looking down at the desk to avoid Kacchan’s eyes. “Just because there’s no precedent—”

Kacchan picks up the notebook from the desk. He examines it for half a second before throwing it out the window, completely ignoring the dismayed noise Izuku makes. “That’s because people without quirks are weak, you fucking idiot. You’ll never be a hero.”

Izuku keeps his mouth shut, tears welling up in his eyes. He can’t help it; this may not be anything new, but the anger, the humiliation, the confusing pang of guilt all hit him at once. He can’t say a word without making everything worse— all he can do is wait for Kacchan to, for lack of a better word, excuse him.

“You know, Deku,” he says, looking much calmer than he should, “If you want a quirk so bad, there’s a much faster way to get one. Just jump off the building and die already. What do you think the odds are that someone can be born quirkless twice in a row?”

Izuku lets out a sob, choking on the painful, confusing guilt that’s overtaking him even as Kacchan and the other kids leave. He scrubs at his eyes with his sleeves and shoulders his bag.

He moves quickly, ignoring the other students and the teacher. If they don’t hate him, they pity him, and Izuku knows which is worse. By the time he gets to the first floor and finds where his notebook landed. It’s in the fountain, completely useless now.

Anger bubbles up, almost boiling over. If Izuku wasn’t who he is and he actually did decide to jump off the building, Kacchan could kiss his hero career goodbye. Though, knowing Kacchan it was a calculated risk. Somehow that makes this even worse.

Izuku fishes the notebook out of the fountain. It’s soaked through entirely, so Izuku wraps it in his towel from gym. He can dry it later, with Mom’s hair dryer. For now, he just puts the towel-covered notebook in his backpack and decides to go home. He’ll take the shortcut under the bridge today; he just wants to dry his notebook and check the news for hero fights he missed in school, then maybe take a nap. It’s been a long day.

The walk home is usually calming. There’s no one around, assuming he hasn’t been trailed by the other boys, and Izuku finds that he likes the silence. The silence means that there’s less to notice.

And he notices everything about the people he’s around. If it wasn’t so exhausting, he thinks he’d love people reading.

Days like today, when there aren’t any people around, or even any cars, are a welcome change. Izuku wants to sort through all of his emotions. Not that he seems to be doing a particularly good job; a phantom of his anger and fear creeps up on him as he passes under his favorite bridge about twenty minutes’ walk from home.

Then the ground explodes in front of him, or at least it seems to. The manhole cover clatters to the ground as Izuku is overcome with a tidal wave of rancid goo and anger and mindless terror.

Izuku is no stranger to fear. Fear haunts his every waking thought, and it’s been that way for so long that he’s not sure what it’s like not to live with terror thrumming through his blood.

Which is why, even as the villain’s goo is filling Izuku’s sinuses painfully, he’s able to focus on anger.

All he wanted to do was go home and mind his own business. All he wanted to do was lay low until he got to high school, then maybe try to make some friends there. All he wanted was to help people, and now he’s being suffocated by living slime because he took this stupid shortcut home and it’s not fair.

His lungs and sinuses clear, just for an instant.

Then the sludge is back, noxious slime filling his lungs and mouth and overwhelming his senses. The burn in his lungs isn’t oxygen deprivation; it hasn’t been nearly long enough for that. He’s drowning, that’s what’s happening, his lungs filling with sentient goop. He can’t see, doesn’t dare open his eyes because there’s more of this stuff covering his face and it’s definitely toxic and he doesn’t want to know what’ll happen if he gets it in his eyes. Not that it matters, since he’s going to die here. No one ever comes this way, and for an instant Izuku is enraged with himself for taking a road like this, where no one will come to save him—

And then the slime is being whipped away from his body with a yell that, even as foggy as his mind is right now, Izuku would know anywhere.

“Texas SMASH!”

Izuku can feel his body hit the ground hard, too weak to keep itself upright. He coughs until his throat is raw, though there’s nothing in his lungs to come up anymore. His adrenaline rush ebbs in seconds, leaving him nauseous and… numb.

He knows he should feel something, especially when his hero stands above him and tells him not to worry, “For I am here.” He just… can’t.

The nausea takes over and Izuku retches, dry heaving painfully over the open manhole before rolling over and passing out.

He doesn’t know how long it’s been when he wakes up, only that he’s all but smacked in the face with relief when he does. Somehow, he ends up with All Might’s autograph and a pat on the head—which is more interaction than he ever really expected—but he’s still too out of it to realize that he hasn’t asked the question he wants to ask before All Might is about to bound away. So Izuku does the only thing he can do: he holds on for dear life.

Izuku knows he’s not at a hundred percent still. He’s not totally numb anymore, just… muted. Even the bone-deep ache in his muscles isn’t as painful as he thinks it probably should be. That’s probably why, when All Might’s body deflates before his very eyes, Izuku can’t muster up more than a surprised blink.

“All… Might?”

He can’t get a read on the man in front of him, but he imagines there’s some form of panic happening internally. After all, he’s projecting a fairly calm aura in the face of something that, Izuku knows, could be the end of an era. He could, with a word, end the era of All Might, now that he knows this secret. For all that All Might knows, he will. And yet, his face is deadly calm.

Izuku feels the faint tug of disappointment; he’s always hoped that All Might wouldn’t lie like other adults, but he supposes that even the Symbol of Peace is only human.

He listens as All Might tells him the story of a near-fatal encounter with an unnamed arch nemesis, and winces in sympathy when he shows Izuku the massive puckered scar in his side. There’s a time limit, All Might tells him, to how much he can use his quirk per day now. The fanboy within Izuku is both saddened and curious at all this new information.

But even through his numbness, All Might’s blunt explanation of why Izuku can never be a hero deals a crushing, tear-inducing blow. He doesn’t cry immediately, waiting until All Might dashes away to find the villain that somehow escaped while they were talking.  

Everyone who knows anything about Izuku knows that he’s something of a crybaby, but these tears are different from the ones most people see. He knows this feeling well—a hopelessness that has a tendency to take over late at night or on particularly bad days. When he feels like this, crying is the last thing he wants to do. The tears don’t seem to care though, streaming down his face regardless as his heart shatters in his chest.

He pulls himself together as quickly as he can, resolving to go home and sort through all this in a place that’s… not some rooftop across town.

That’s when he notices that the explosions All Might was heading for aren’t stopping. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any other movement in that area at all, meaning… no hero activity. Izuku climbs down the stairs and jogs over to investigate, his skirmish-chaser instincts keeping him from being noticed by the crowd.

There are so many heroes here, so why aren’t they doing anything? A sharp stab of anger pierces through Izuku’s devastation as he fights his way to the front of the crowd.

The slime villain is holding someone hostage, is the first thing he notices. The sharp tang of terror makes him nauseous, though Izuku isn’t the victim this time. No, the victim is slightly bigger than him, with a shock of blonde hair peeking through the sludge—

Izuku doesn’t remember moving, or deciding to help, but the next thing he knows, his backpack is on the ground in front of the villain and Kacchan manages to grab a few vital breaths before the villain recovers and sets his sights on Izuku.

Still, Izuku buys just enough time for the heroes to—finally—step in and rescue Kacchan.

He’s scolded for putting himself in danger, over and over until every single hero (plus Kacchan, because of course Kacchan can never pass up an opportunity to yell at him, even if Izuku did just save his life) has had a chance to tell him, indirectly, how someone who’s quirkless is useless in battle and shouldn’t play the hero. Were Izuku more stable, he might have cried or snapped back that the only useless person in battle is a person who doesn’t do anything.

As it is, though, he takes his verbal lashings quietly, without complaint, and moves to go home.
It’s only when he turns onto his street and is met with a familiar pair of blue boots that Izuku looks up from the concrete.

When All Might, with his signature bright smile, says that “Young man, you can be a hero,” Izuku cries again, from happiness, from relief, from pride, from total emotional overload that’s going to leave his nerves positively raw later.

All in all, he supposes as his hero’s hand lands on his shoulder, it’s been a damn good day.

Chapter Text

Nights like tonight, Izuku thinks, are definitely part of the reason he’s so tired all the time.

He got a text from Sumiko-senpai a few hours ago, asking to meet on the bridge. Of course he’d gone to meet her; she only asks if she actually needs help. Still, he kind of wishes that they could meet at a time that wasn’t the middle of the night.

She had a pretty bad day in school. Well, bad would be putting it lightly, I’m sure, Izuku thinks, staring out over the river. It’s never just a bad day when Sumiko-senpai calls him. Still, they got through it and she went home. When he checked his phone, it was nearly four in the morning. He wasn’t going to get any sleep anyway, so he stayed behind, perching at the edge of the bridge to wait for sunrise.

Now, he’d venture a guess that it’s almost five; it’s still dark out, but there’s an almost imperceptible touch of gray in the air, like dawn is about to break.

There’s very little traffic on the street behind him. The quiet is nice, especially after the tough few months he’s had. He loves training with All Might, of course, but he can’t deny that he’s had less and less time to relax lately.

Right as the first red beam of sunlight peeks over the horizon, something wraps around his arms and torso tightly and Izuku panics for an instant before feeling… nothing. He stops struggling almost immediately, turning toward his assailant with vague curiosity.

A man stands there, hair raised in an unlikely position. Izuku thinks he’s probably looking at him, but the man’s gaze is obscured by a pair of bright yellow goggles.

Eraserhead, Izuku thinks, wondering vaguely why he’s not as excited as he thinks he should be. After all, this isn’t a common occurrence in the slightest; Eraserhead is the underground Erasing Hero—most people don’t even know his name, which gives him a tactical advantage that most heroes could only dream of. Izuku admires Eraserhead, and the fact that the man currently has him trapped for some reason would normally send his fanboy mind into a tizzy.

“An empathy quirk, huh?” It’s clearly a hypothetical question, though the monotone way he says it makes it sound more like a statement. “Unusual, but it explains why you’re up here.”

There is… so much about that statement that doesn’t make sense to Izuku, but he can’t really bring himself to care. He blinks slowly at Eraserhead, watching as his hair falls back around his face. For an instant, Izuku is slapped in the face with confusion and worry and yes, a little bit of awe before the hero’s hair rises again and the red glow behind his goggles returns, as does Izuku’s general apathy.

“What’s your name?” he asks, sounding slightly less gruff.

Izuku stares at him. “Midoriya Izuku.”

He hums quietly, and Izuku has to wonder vaguely what’s going on. Eraserhead isn’t a hero known for his conversational skills.

“Well, whatever it is that’s got you up here, Midoriya, I’m sure it’s not actually worth your life.”

The pieces click neatly into place for Izuku. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not here to jump. I’m just waiting for sunrise. No other reason.”

Izuku realizes what’s happening as Eraserhead’s hair falls. He’s hit with a wave of embarrassment and even more confusion. He scrambles to his feet and bows low enough to be nearly bent in half, face burning red.

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to mislead you, I had a friend who needed my help and I came up here to talk her down and then it was too late to just go home so I wanted to watch the sun come up over the river but not for that—” By the time Izuku looks up, still fumbling apologies, Eraserhead is gone.

That seems much more his style.

For a moment Izuku wonders why he tried to erase Izuku’s quirk, but in hindsight, it makes sense if he thought Izuku was going to jump and possibly fight him.

Izuku sighs, turning back to the horizon. Meeting Eraserhead is something he’s thought about time and again over the years; after all, he’s one of the only heroes that fights while essentially quirkless. He’s got an insanely powerful quirk, of course, but it’s hardly an offensive one. And yet, when Izuku finally did meet him, it was after an emotionally draining night and he couldn’t even ask him all the questions he’s been half exploding with since he was a kid.

The sun rises slowly, and Izuku remembers that today is a school day. He gets up to head home, shoving his hands in his pockets to keep them safe from the early morning chill. The walk home is quiet, since most people are still only just getting up. A few cars pass him, people heading out for an early shift or coming home from a late one, but not enough to really constitute traffic.

When he gets home, the sounds of cooking are emanating from the kitchen.

“I’m home,” Izuku says, taking off his shoes and heading toward the source of the noise.

Mom turns around and looks at him with obvious relief in her eyes, and smiles. “Welcome home. How was your friend?”

“She’s alright now,” Izuku says, yawning. “Once she left, a pro hero showed up on patrol. It was cool.”

Which, he knows, it was. He met Eraserhead. At the time it seemed anything but cool though. Still, Mom looks excited on his behalf as she flips the omelet in the pan.

“That’s exciting!” Suddenly she’s looking at him, wagging her spatula at him sternly. “But you be careful, being out so early in the morning. I know your friend needs your help sometimes, but it’s not very safe for a boy your age out there.”

A boy without a quirk. The unspoken words shine through loud and clear, though Izuku knows his mother isn’t even truly conscious of what she’s not saying. He can’t blame her, either; she doesn’t know about All Might and One for All, and the training Izuku is doing every day after school and on the weekends.

“I’m always careful, Mom.”

 

-

 

Toshinori knows exactly what he’s expecting when he shows up to the beach this afternoon, and that’s for his protégé to be waiting for him in his workout clothes, as bright eyed and bushy tailed as he always is.

He’s certainly not expecting young Midoriya to be slouched against an old refrigerator, looking dead to the world until he notices Toshinori and forces himself to brighten. Well, that’s worrying.

“Good afternoon, my boy! Are you feeling alright?” Toshinori has never been one to mince words, and he’s hardly known for his tact even on his best day.

Midoriya gives him a smile. “Just a bit tired, I had a long night. But I’m ready to train, don’t worry!”

Toshinori activates One for All and puts his hands on his hips, going for the authoritative teacher aesthetic he’s been working on for a few months. “You certainly shouldn’t overdo it. If you’re too tired to make the most of your training, you shouldn’t risk your health, young Midoriya!”

The boy looks like he wants to protest, but Toshinori holds up a hand to quell any complaints.

“How about we have a talk instead? I know you must have questions for me, even now.”

It appears to be an offer Midoriya can’t refuse, and Toshinori feels a little pride swell in his chest. He’s still green as a teacher, which isn’t always fair to Midoriya, and seeing that he’s done something right like this is always a pleasant feeling.

He decides that, if training is on hold for the day (which it certainly is; young Midoriya looks tired enough that he’s about to nap standing up), the diet plan can wait as well. As Midoriya grills him about day to day life as a pro hero and as the number one, they head to the ice cream parlor down the block. Toshinori treats Midoriya to a single scoop; even if they’re off the plan for a day, more than that isn’t a good idea.

“Aw, there’s no chocolate chip.” Toshinori is sure he wasn’t supposed to hear that, as it seemed to have come out in Midoriya’s signature muttering voice.

He points to the cookie dough ice cream. “Is that not chocolate chip?”

Midoriya scrunches his nose up a little bit. “I’m not a fan of the cookie dough part.”

How peculiar. Even Toshinori isn’t opposed to a little bit of cookie dough once in awhile, as a treat. He’s certainly never met anyone Midoriya’s age that hasn’t liked it.

Still, the boy settles on a scoop of mint chip, citing it as “the next closest thing,” and goes back to peppering Toshinori with questions until they sit down and he takes a bite of ice cream.

While he’s occupied, Toshinori takes the opportunity to ask a question of his own. “So, my boy, what kept you up so late last night?”

Midoriya crunches on a chunk of dark chocolate, simply looking at him. Even after he swallows, it’s a few moments before he speaks. “My friend needed to talk to me.”

Toshinori can’t hold back his tut of disapproval, though a hint of pride still warms his chest a bit. “Helping your friends is an admirable endeavor, young Midoriya! But you must keep your own health and wellbeing in mind. I am sure it could have waited until morning.”

The way his student squirms uncomfortably is a bit worrying. “With Sumiko-senpai, it kind of… can’t. She only calls me when things get, uh, dangerously bad.”

Toshinori blinks before the truth of what Midoriya is saying hits him. “Ah. Well my boy, the point still stands. You’re still a child, not a trained professional, no matter how mature you may be for your age.”

Midoriya looks at him a little helplessly, and Toshinori imagines that a thousand protests are sitting unspoken on his tongue. They’ll have to work on that bleeding heart of his; a hero complex is a natural and important part of the life they’ve chosen, but there is a limit to how much any one person can help. Young Midoriya needs to learn his limits.

How hypocritical, Toshinori thinks, holding back a wry smile. He folds his hands and looks down at his sherbet before speaking. “It’s important to know who you can and can’t help, young Midoriya! Pulling someone from the edge is not the same as keeping them grounded, understand?”

His student nods and takes another small bite of his ice cream. The sound of crunching chocolate isn’t a familiar one to Toshinori, who spends an inordinate amount of time monitoring his own diet.

“So you were up all night helping your friend, yes? Can I expect this to be a regular occurrence, because we’ll need to factor that into your training schedule if—”

“No!” Midoriya waves his spoon vehemently, droplets of mint ice cream splattering on the table.

“No, don’t worry about it. It’s not a regular thing, she’s fine most of the time. I don’t go out at night at all, usually, because I can’t exactly defend myself if something happens. By the way, does Eraserhead patrol this area a lot?”

Toshinori doesn’t know where that question came from. He sifts through the rest of the rambling in his mind, and no, it had nothing to do with what Midoriya was saying. “I believe so, though Eraserhead and I are not close enough that I keep track of where he patrols or vice versa. Why do you ask, my boy?”

“I ran into him last night! Well, this morning.” There’s a fanatic glow in his student’s eye that makes Toshinori chuckle; once a fanboy, always a fanboy. Besides, the fact that Midoriya even knows Eraserhead is a mark of his obsession.

“Oh?”

Midoriya laughs, a little awkward now as he scratches the back of his neck. “Yeah… I was watching the sunrise on the bridge after Sumiko-senpai went home and he kind of, um, got the wrong idea.”

Sounds like an easy mistake to make, to Toshinori. A kid alone on a bridge at all hours of the night? He can’t name another hero that wouldn’t jump to conclusions. Midoriya likely corrected the assumption with a lot of blushing and stammering, and knowing Aizawa, he’d taken the first opportunity to bolt.

Toshinori can only hope—futilely, if Midoriya makes it into U.A.—that the two don’t meet again, knowing the way Aizawa handles awkward situations like that. Though, he supposes, there’s always the chance that Aizawa will simply pretend it never happened. That seems to fit him as well.

“He said something weird, though,” Midoriya says through a mouthful of ice cream, looking at Toshinori with wide eyes.

“He spoke to you?” That’s even more surprising than the two of them crossing paths in the first place.

Midoriya nods and doesn’t speak again until he’s swallowed his ice cream. “When he tried to erase my quirk, he said something about being an empath? But obviously his quirk is Erase, so I thought it was weird because he can’t have two quirks, of course, and—”

Wait. Is that possible? Over the last few months, he’s assumed that his protégé was keeping up the ruse out of embarrassment at being caught in a white lie. Completely understandable, he’d thought, since, lie or not, he’d be hard pressed to become a hero without substantial training.

Never once has he entertained the idea that Midoriya simply might not know.

“Young Midoriya,” Toshinori says slowly, “I have a somewhat odd question for you.”

“Shoot.” Midoriya blinks at him curiously.

“What are your parents’ quirks?”

The look on Midoriya’s face is utterly confused, but he answers promptly anyway. “Mom can attract small objects. My father breathes fire. Why do you ask?”

Ah. So it would never have occurred to him, Toshinori realizes. “Well, to my knowledge, my boy, you aren’t actually quirkless. I believe that last night, Eraserhead was referring to you.

Midoriya laughs quietly, and the sound is a little sad. “That’s not a very funny joke, All Might, but I appreciate how it could be to you.”

“Izuku.” At that, the boy snaps to attention. The name is strange and foreign in Toshinori’s mouth. “I would never joke about this. I assumed that you knew.”

After all, Midoriya has never been particularly dense, especially when it comes to quirk analysis. It makes more sense for him to have known and kept this a secret, rather than for him to remain oblivious to it for… however long it’s been since his quirk manifested.

“But I’m quirkless.”

That confused, slightly lost expression is what hammers the final nail in the coffin; Midoriya has, somehow, remained entirely unaware his entire life of something that even Toshinori had noticed from the first week.

Toshinori reaches over and pats Midoriya on the head awkwardly. “Not in the slightest, my boy. Even Eraserhead agrees with me. Your quirk just isn’t something that’s as obvious as you were expecting, given your parents’ quirks.”

Midoriya has always had busy eyes; a hundred thoughts are going through his head at any given moment, and it shows. But it’s easy to see, now, the instant the puzzle pieces click together in his mind.

“You… You think I’m an empath.” There’s something hollow sounding in his voice that Toshinori can’t say he likes, but he nods anyway. “…I can see why you’d think that, but there’s no way. The doctors said I was quirkless.”

There’s that word again, though this time with a little less confusion and a little more disappointment. Toshinori is in way over his head, he realizes; he’s never been particularly perceptive, and this is the type of conversation that needs to be handled with delicacy. All he can do, he supposes, is try his best.

At least, that’s what he plans on doing, until the tears well up in Midoriya’s eyes and he panics a little.

The boy wipes his eyes clear quickly, sniffling. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it. You know me, world’s biggest crybaby—”

Across the room, a toddler wails just as Midoriya’s breath hitches. Toshinori looks at him with an eyebrow raised, channeling his inner Aizawa.

“Quirkless, right?”

Chapter Text

Izuku takes a deep breath to calm himself. His ice cream is a melted, unappetizing mess, but he’s not upset about it in the slightest.

Objectively, everything All Might is implying makes sense. Izuku knows the quirk classes inside and out, empathy included.

People born with empathy are ridiculously emotional. Check.

They prefer being around people but are easily overwhelmed. Check.

They live in a continuous feedback loop of the emotions of everyone around them. Well… He can’t exactly vouch for whether he’s been feeling everyone else’s emotions his whole life, but it would certainly explain a lot.

“Is that why I felt so… weird, when Eraserhead used his quirk on me?” Izuku asks, hardly daring to hope. “Because he erased my emotions?”

All Might shrugs a little. “I’m not very experienced with eraser-type quirks, but I would venture to say yes.” The confusion coming from him is obvious, though Izuku can’t really tell if it’s truly All Might’s confusion or his own. “You really never knew, huh? That does explain quite a bit.”

Izuku knows what happens when he gets too emotional, and he’s dangerously close at the moment. Still, he has to wonder how much of this is him. There’s every chance that All Might and Eraserhead are wrong, and that he’s just overly emotional. Rationally, he knows that, but he can’t help the sliver of hope that peeks through the panic and frustration at the thought of being quirkless after all.

A thought occurs to Izuku and his blood runs cold. “Does… Does this mean you’re going to stop training me? I mean, I’m not really quirkless after all, and I would never tell anyone about One for All I promise so you can go find a new successor if you want—”

All Might reaches over and flicks Izuku on the forehead lightly. “None of that now, my boy. Your quirk, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with my decision to take you on as my successor. Today we took a well-deserved break because you needed sleep, but tomorrow I expect to see you back in top form!”

Izuku loves training—he’d even venture to say that it’s his favorite part of the day. But he’s never looked forward to it so much before. “Yes, sir!”

“As a matter of fact…” All Might looks thoughtful but doesn’t elaborate. “Never mind. We can cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Izuku’s brow furrows in mild irritation—All Might has a tendency to do that sometimes: just start to say something and stop because he doesn’t think Izuku is ready to hear it—but he lets it go.

He looks down at what’s left of his ice cream, thinking. He doesn’t know much about his paternal grandparents, maybe empathy was one of their quirks? It’s unusual, but not unheard-of for a quirk to skip a generation, and it’s not as though they have a lot of contact with any part of that side of the family so it’s possible that the gene exists and they just don’t know about it. Then there’s his lack of that extra toe joint that the doctors wrote off as another freak part of Izuku’s biology. Add that to the exceeding rarity of empathy quirks, and it’s no wonder that no one thought to test Izuku for one.

He has to hold back a childish snicker when he realizes that he’s not the quirkless Deku that Kacchan still seems to think he is, but he sobers quickly when he realizes that empathy is useful primarily for relationships, not for hero work. So maybe Kacchan still has something of a point, Izuku supposes, though at least the quirkless part of the equation is invalid now.

Izuku feels giddy, drunk on the knowledge that maybe this part of his life is over—a part he had always expected to be permanent.

All Might walks with him back to the beach, and Izuku is struck with how good of a day it’s been, regardless of how things are at school or how absolutely exhausted he is. For less than a second, he entertains the idea that All Might would appreciate an invitation to dinner. He dismisses the idea almost immediately; Mom doesn’t even know about Izuku’s afternoon training sessions, much less that they’re taking place with the Number One Hero.

Clearing the section of the beach that All Might wants him to clear takes less time than Izuku expects it to, though that may have something to do with his tendency to push himself too hard.

When he’s not moving garbage from the beach to the dump, he’s experimenting with his newfound quirk. It’s… much harder than he thought it would be.

 

It’s overwhelming, especially for young children, one article reads. Picking our emotions from the rest of the world’s is a really difficult thing when we’re around too many people or we aren’t trained yet.

 

Tell him something he doesn’t know, Internet. Many of the articles are written by scientists or parents of people with empathy quirks, but almost none are written by the people themselves. Izuku gets the distinct impression that a lot of them are shut-ins, unsurprisingly.

That’s hardly helpful though when it comes to training himself. He doesn’t really have anyone to ask for help, either; All Might doesn’t seem to know the first thing about quirks that aren’t One for All or the quirks of his coworkers.

Izuku supposes that most people aren’t like him, obsessed with overanalyzing any and all quirks they can find.

He wakes up early in the mornings now, getting in an hour or two at the beach before school. It’s the only compromise All Might was willing to make in upping the intensity of Izuku’s schedule, despite the otherwise unused few hours in is weekday afternoons and the massive blocks of free time in his weekend schedule.

There’s an increasing frustration there, too, between Izuku and All Might. He knows All Might isn’t exactly forthcoming with most information; that’s the nature of the beast when dealing with the Number One Hero. But there’s something important that he’s not telling Izuku, which is irking.

Izuku isn’t used to not trusting All Might, and it makes him a little sick. Still, he stubbornly refuses to push the issue, forcing himself to believe that All Might will tell him what’s going on when it becomes truly important.

It just doesn’t feel very nice when All Might acts like other adults; he says one thing, but his emotions say another.

For a long time, Izuku thought it was just him seeing lies where there were none, but if there’s one thing that’s become clear in the weeks since he discovered his natural quirk, it’s that he’s something of a walking lie detector.

After a bit of soul searching and a very long walk down memory lane, he’s realized that that tendency in particular is what drew him to Kacchan as a child: people like him, who wear their emotions on their sleeves, are rare enough to be refreshing, even if all they exude is anger, all the time.

Kacchan is the reason I’m always a little angry, Izuku thinks in mild amusement one day. It’s lunch, and he’s scrolling through yet another article on empathy.

 

One of the more unknown aspects of empathy, it reads, is the ability to link with others. Often involuntarily, an Empath will form a connection to someone with whom they’re close to, or share a deep emotional connection to. This link isn’t always necessarily positive, as it can stem from happiness or from deep trauma…

 

Izuku has to wonder which of the two made him link with Kacchan, or if it was just time. Because he is linked with him; Izuku has, for as long as he can remember, known exactly what mood Kacchan is in, whether or not they were together. He can’t decide how he feels about that, though he knows how he should feel.

He opens another article, one about breaking empathetic links. It only says what the others have all said: it’s impossible, though they can degrade with time and distance.

The sharp, quiet laugh that escapes is entirely beyond Izuku's control. After all, he’s most likely never going to be free from Kacchan. Not only are they going to go to U.A. together (he will get into U.A., he has to), but they’re both aiming to be top heroes.

When he was little, it was his dream to be by Kacchan’s side forever. Now that that’s a possibility, Izuku isn’t so sure that’s what he wants.

Of course he still wants to be a hero, but Kacchan hasn’t grown up to be the friend Izuku hoped he’d be. Quite the opposite, actually—

His phone buzzes, breaking him out of his train of thought. No one ever really texts him during the day; outside of Sumiko, he has no friends.

It’s All Might.

Midoriya!! Are you available to meet today after school gets out for you today? I have a surprise for you!!!!!

Something tells Izuku this is what he’s been trying so hard to be patient about. Hopefully, All Might will come clean about whatever’s been bothering him today, though Izuku does his best not to get his hopes up.

He sends an affirmative text back because he has no plans and they both know it. The lunch bell rings, and Izuku revels in the fact that he’s had a relatively quiet day so far. Kacchan has been hyperstressed lately because of exams, and it’s taking a toll on Izuku too.

When he gets to the beach later that day, All Might… isn’t alone. A familiar, scruffy man lays on the sand next to him, wrapped in a bright yellow sleeping bag. He appears to be sound asleep.

“Midoriya my boy!” All Might booms, waving. He’s in his muscled form, and Izuku can’t help but think of how lucky they are that no one comes here yet, because otherwise they’d be mobbed.

The man in the bag shifts and wakes up, looking for all the world like a man who wishes for death. Of himself or someone else, though, Izuku can’t quite tell.

“What’s going on?” he asks, a little redundantly. The man is sitting up now, looking at Izuku with a bleariness that is definitely faked. He’s as alert as any pro, and it shows in his eyes. Still, Izuku has to wonder what he’s doing sleeping at… four in the afternoon…

Wait.

“Eraserhead?” That’s the only pro he knows of that’s nocturnal, and it would explain why he’s so familiar.

The man doesn’t reply, only nods once before All Might steps forward, wearing his signature bright smile. “I’ve come to realize, young Midoriya, that I cannot help you with your quirk! That’s why I’ve asked—”

“Blackmailed,” Eraserhead mumbles.

Asked Eraserhead to assist me in your training.” All Might looks at the other man, looking wounded. “I would never resort to anything as low as blackmail, my friend!”

Eraserhead looks blandly at All Might and blinks. “Using the rat counts as blackmail. He threatened to stick me with the second years.”

“Oh.” All Might looks uncomfortable. Izuku can relate, though it has more to do with the fact that he has no earthly idea what’s happening. “Well, that wasn’t my intention!”

All Eraserhead does is roll his eyes before zipping himself out of his sleeping bag to stand up, his every movement exhausted.

Izuku raises his hand, a little timid. “Can I just ask, with all due respect of course, because Eraserhead is one of the coolest heroes ever and I’d never think of saying anything to offend you and I’m rambling again ok. Um… What are you doing here?”

The deadpan look Eraserhead gives him is directly in line with what (Izuku is pretty sure) he’s feeling. There’s something comforting in that, he thinks.

“He’s… I’ve asked him to assist me with your training, my boy!” All Might says, in lieu of letting Eraserhead explain for himself. “He knows more about quirk training than I do, and I thought it pertinent that you learn to control your quirk.”

There’s a long silence as Izuku processes what’s being said. All Might looks vaguely uncomfortable, and Eraserhead is… bored. Izuku has to wonder if that’s his default reaction to pretty much everything.

The moment seems to stretch on forever before Eraserhead sighs, gifting Izuku with the most deadpan, exhausted look he’s ever seen.

“Midoriya Izuku. Empath. You were the boy on the roof.”

Izuku blinks, then nods emphatically. “Yes, that was me! I’m surprised you remember that, since it was a while ago and I know you probably meet a lot of people as a hero, though I guess you meet less than you might if you worked during the day. I can totally understand why an underground hero might work at night, of course, but I’m just saying. Anyway, I’m sorry again for that night, I didn’t mean to deceive you—”

Eraserhead holds up an exasperated hand, effectively shutting Izuku up. “You’re embarrassing yourself, kid.”

“Sorry.”

“Stop that,” the man says, peering at him through half-lidded eyes. Izuku gets the uncomfortable feeling that his soul is being stared into, and resists the urge to apologize again, for everything he’s ever done wrong. “You’ve really found yourself a student, All Might. I’m amazed.”

All Might laughs, and Izuku gets the distinct impression that the relief washing over him is coming from him. “He’s made immense progress! Watch out, I may even become a better teacher than you!”

That doesn’t mean a thing to Izuku, but Eraserhead just shrugs. If anything, the expression on his face manages to get even drier, as if the thought of All Might being a good teacher isn’t even realistic enough to entertain.

That’s irritating, to say the least. All Might is a fine teacher, better than Izuku has ever had. It’s obvious that he’s learning just as much as Izuku, and that he’s new at it, but he’s honestly trying, and that’s more than Eraserhead even seems to want to do—

Izuku takes a breath. That temper is Kacchan, not him, and he does his best to keep a lid on it, no matter how disagreeable he finds anything. He’s not Bakugou Katsuki, willing to yell and curse at teachers and authority. He can’t afford to, not when he’s been given the chance of a lifetime twice in a single lifetime.

Eraserhead has a raised eyebrow when Izuku finally looks up. “He told me you were doubting that you have a quirk. That wouldn’t be advisable. I won’t have an untrained empath running around because he’s too stubborn to let go of an inferiority complex. If I wasn’t sure you were an empath before, I would be now.”

“Y—Yes,” All Might says. He looks shaken, paler than Izuku is used to seeing him. “Young Midoriya, what on earth was that?”

Izuku scratches the back of his neck, avoiding the heroes’ eyes like the plague and staring at the sand. “I, um… I’m not really sure. Kacchan has been pretty stressed lately, and he’s repressing it so I’m a little on edge.”

He’s staring at the sandy concrete that separates the parking lot from the beach, instead of his teacher—teachers? He’s pretty sure Eraserhead has agreed to teach him, or he wouldn’t be here. Whatever the case, he can’t force himself to face them. He wasn’t even conscious of doing it, but apparently that uncharacteristic burst of anger was strong enough that—

“You were projecting,” Eraserhead says. He doesn’t sound surprised, doesn’t really sound like anything out of the ordinary. “You really haven’t been trained at all.”

Izuku glances up at the men in front of him: some of the color has returned to All Might’s face, though he does look a bit worried, and Eraserhead is looking at him with tired eyes.

“What was it that upset you like that, my boy?” All Might asks. His arms uncross, falling to his sides.

It’s not as though Izuku really has an answer for him. That outburst was his own, only supplemented by Kacchan’s underlying anger; at least, that’s what he can gather from the research he’s done. But as to what actually upset him? Izuku doesn’t have a clue.

“I don’t know,” he says, frustrated.

Eraserhead sits on the sand, without regard for getting the stuff in his clothes or sitting on any hidden trash. Izuku wonders for a moment if the man has given up on life entirely, risking tetanus from something hidden in the sand stabbing his rear.

“You’ve got your work cut out for you, kid, and I’m not a pushover like All Might,” he says. Bored though he may be, something flashes in his eyes: the spark of a challenge. “Think you can handle it?”

Of course he can. “If it helps me become a hero,” Izuku says, channeling his frustration into determination, “I can handle anything.”

That seems to be the answer Eraserhead wants to hear.

Chapter Text

Training with Eraserhead—with Aizawa-sensei––is entirely different from training with All Might.

For starters, they meet nearly every day, unless something comes up. All Might’s grueling physical workouts require rest days to be fully effective, but Aizawa-sensei’s are entirely in Izuku’s head.

“Tell me what she’s feeling right now.”

The only reason Izuku doesn’t groan out loud is that he’s exhausted. They've been at this for hours, and that single sentence is essentially Aizawa-sensei’s “lesson plan” for almost every day. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Right now they’re at the park, and Izuku has a long list of adjectives in front of him, despite having long since memorized it. The woman in question is wearing a blue dress and scrolling through something on her phone, totally unaware of Izuku’s prodding into her head. He’s being inundated from all sides with emotions from every single person at the park right now, and he’d give anything for a little bit of peace and quiet. Still, he pushes through and does his best to identify the emotions of the woman in blue.

“She’s… upset about something,” he manages, fighting his way past the emotional fatigue. “Disgusted.”

The woman closes her phone and looks out at the children playing with an indifferent expression. If he wasn’t completely sure otherwise, Izuku would think she was having a fine day.

“Why might she feel that way?” Aizawa-sensei asks, instead of picking someone else. “Be observant, Midoriya.”

Izuku watches the woman carefully, and thinks that it probably has something to do with her cell phone, since the spike of displeasure only just happened. “Maybe she got a text from someone she doesn’t want to talk to? Or she saw a news article she didn’t like.”

They repeat the exercise a few times before Aizawa-sensei decides to call it a day, to Izuku’s immense relief. He walks Izuku home, as usual—apparently, “the rat” decided to make it Aizawa-sensei’s responsibility to ensure Izuku’s safety if they’re out after dark, which they usually are.

The familiar, surface-level boredom that Aizawa-sensei practically sweats is a relief after the daily sensory overload Izuku is putting himself through, and he latches onto it as often as necessary. In fact, he’s pretty sure that Aizawa-sensei is unknowingly the only reason Izuku hasn’t had a total shutdown. Normally, this level of emotional input is far too much for him to handle.

They’ve been working on fine-tuning Izuku’s ability to distinguish his own emotions from other people’s, and certain people’s from an entire group. Aizawa-sensei seems to believe that they can’t work on control until Izuku has a handle on that aspect of his quirk.

“Izuku, you’re back!” Mom looks away from the TV when Izuku opens the door. Aizawa-sensei disappeared when they reached this street, so Izuku is alone. “I’ve put your plate in the microwave, let me go get it.”

She’s worried, and though his quirk doesn’t tell him why, he can hazard a guess. He’s been coming home later than usual with Aizawa-sensei’s extra training, and he almost always goes to bed early nowadays, exhausted both physically and mentally. He wishes he could reassure her, tell her that he’s actually happier and safer than he’s ever been.

Still, he’s not sure if he should say anything. Explaining One for All is, of course, out of the question, and he doesn’t know how to explain discovering his original quirk without including All Might, Aizawa-sensei, and One for All.

He doesn’t like keeping things from her, but he supposes that it’s nothing new. He’s spent most of his life keeping the worst of his problems from coming home with him. Not that that was particularly difficult when Kacchan stopped walking home with him in second grade, despite them living on the same block.

Mom comes back holding a plate of food with a bright smile that Izuku knows is fake.

Under the worry, there’s an unerring loneliness that accompanies his mother wherever she goes, and Izuku has never ever noticed her without it. It’s as ingrained into her as Kacchan’s anger is into him. Mom fakes smiles even more than Izuku does.

“…Mom?”

She looks over at him, seeming surprised at something. “Yes?”

Izuku takes a breath and scooches over on the couch, making room for her. “Want to watch a movie? I don’t have a lot of homework tonight, and tomorrow is a day off, so...”

There’s no mistaking the spike of happiness, even if she was trying to hide it. Which, of course, she’s not. “How about an All Might marathon? We haven’t done one of those in ages!”

Izuku smiles and nods. Little things, he thinks. He can’t do much, but making people happy is an almost physical necessity for him, and little things can make all the difference, especially with people like his mother. Not for the first time, he wishes his father understood that and called once in a while, outside of birthdays and Christmas.

They spend all night in front of the TV, watching old All Might movies that Izuku knows now aren’t even remotely accurate adaptations. Somehow that makes them even better, like a fairy tale that reminds him of being a child. When he gets tired, he curls into his mother’s side like he used to do as a little kid, and she lets him fall asleep like that.

It’s exactly the break he needs, as it turns out, and Mom seems to have needed it too. It isn’t until he goes to training the next day—with All Might and Aizawa-sensei—that he realizes exactly how much he needed to decompress and just be for a while.

Kacchan has been leaving him alone for the most part, studying for the U.A. entrance exams, but even that has been stressing him out.

Izuku’s training, on top of regular class and studying, is akin to going to normal school and three different cram schools, all at once. It’s nice to just relax for now, with his mom.

The entrance exam is coming up faster than Izuku would like. He’s still got a ways to go with All Might and the beach, and he’s nowhere near done with his training with Aizawa-sensei. Though, to be fair, Aizawa-sensei did say that they’re only going to cover the basics.

When the day of the entrance exam comes, Izuku wakes up early, before the sun. There’s still a bit of work to do before it’s time to go, and even though All Might said their training is over, Izuku refuses to leave the job unfinished.

He clears off the rest of the beach just as the sun peeks over the horizon, and All Might is waiting for him when he does, positively oozing pride from his pores.

All Might hands Izuku a strand of hair—of hair—and says, “Eat this.”

There’s no more instruction, no more time for instruction before Izuku needs to go home and get ready for the biggest standardized test of his life.

He’s barely able to walk straight, there’s so much nervousness swirling in his gut right now. As he walks through the gates of U.A., that nervousness increases to the point where it’s an immense effort to even put one foot in front of the other without shaking.

Pick them apart, he tells himself, thinking back to Aizawa-sensei's lessons on compartmentalization. Put everyone else's feelings in a box. Even a flimsy cardboard box is better than nothing.

Izuku is so lost in his own head, so focused on calming his nerves and shutting out everyone else’s, that he trips over his own feet.

Before he hits the ground, someone touches his shoulder and suddenly he’s weightless, floating horizontally a foot above the concrete. As he spins a bit, he comes face to face with a rosy-cheeked girl about his own age.

“Sorry! I didn’t mean to use my quirk without permission, but I thought it might be bad luck to trip right before a test!” she says cheerily, moving Izuku so he’s vertical. She makes a symbol with her hands and gravity returns to him, landing him solidly on the ground.

A girl is talking to me, Izuku thinks with no small amount of confusion. A girl is talking to me, and not laughing at me. What’s happening?

Before he knows it, she’s gone, and he’s alone before he gets the self-awareness to thank her.

The rest of the day passes in a rush of nerves, humiliation when one boy calls him out for his muttering in front of the entire room, and pain—because apparently, One for All breaks every single bone in whatever limb he channels it from, which is fantastic.

On the upside, even if he failed the exam miserably, he kept that girl from getting hurt.

When he gets home, he tries to go straight to his room and bypass Mom for now. That doesn’t seem to be an option. She’s standing by the door, with excitement on her face that doesn’t match the dread in her mind, and Izuku must look awful because her expression immediately crumbles and he finds himself swept into a hug almost immediately.

Izuku can separate his and Mom’s emotions without even trying, now that he knows how, and he identifies this intense need to comfort as being her. Oddly enough—or maybe not so oddly—that’s what breaks him, and for the first time in… he can’t even really remember, it’s Izuku’s own sadness that makes him cry.

 

-

 

Inko doesn’t know what to do. She knew how this test would go, from the very beginning, and she had a hundred plans in place to help her son get through this reality check.

Not one of those plans included having him break down in her arms before completely shutting down.

Izuku has been distant lately, keeping secrets and coming home later, but he’s coming home bruised less and less often. He’s simultaneously more emotional than he’s ever been, and more stable. And Inko would bet her right hand that Izuku doesn’t think she’s noticed exactly how much muscle he’s been building in an incredible amount of time.

It’s worrying, to say the least, but all of that goes out the window when she sees the gutted look on his face when he comes home from the U.A. entrance exam. It went badly, just as she thought it would, just as Izuku, somewhere in there, thought it would. Every plan she has crumbles into nonexistence when he doesn’t pull away from her instinctive hug the way she thought he might, given how he’s been lately, but instead lets himself cry.

The Midoriya family is a family of criers; that’s common knowledge to anyone who knows them. Heck, that’s common knowledge to most of the neighborhood at this point. But in Izuku, that crying has never expressed anything but skin deep emotions.

Inko may not be a genius, but she knows her son, and Izuku keeps the lid on his true emotions tighter than that annoying jelly jar in the back of the fridge.

…Perhaps not the best analogy, but true nonetheless; the last time Inko saw Izuku like this, he was only six. Sometimes it feels as if he’s doing his best to act as her emotional support, rather than the other way around. It’s left her out of practice. Still, she does her best, holding him as tightly as she can without saying a word. If he wants to talk to her, he can and will.

He doesn’t.

When he pulls away nearly twenty minutes later, he murmurs something about failing the practical exam and asks her to let him be alone for a while, retreating to his room. Inko takes note of the tone of his voice and feels tears prick her eyes.

Poor Izuku, she thinks, putting on her apron and pulling out the pork she bought just for tonight. He’s always felt so much. With a sigh, she sets to work making dinner and braces herself for whatever is going to come next.

Inko has never been able to do everything she’s wanted to for her son. No matter how much she wishes she could, she can’t give him a quirk to stop the bullies at school. He does his best to keep his genuine sadness over not having friends a secret from her, and if Inko knows him at all, it’s because he doesn’t want her to feel bad about being completely powerless.

When she calls him down for dinner, Inko can’t help feeling another pang of sadness and worry. He’s got that blank look on his face again, the one that promises at least a night of him being alive but not really living.

She guides him to the table and he sits down, blinking vacantly. It’s vaguely creepy, the way he’s staring into space, but she knows it’s better than some other things he could be doing. Once she’d walked in on him eating macaroni and cheese out of one of their travel mugs, using a can opener as a utensil.

It’s not Izuku’s fault that he shuts down sometimes; Inko chalks it up to him feeling too much and not knowing how to deal with it when the lid on his emotions cracks.

More than once, she’s tried to talk his father into getting him into therapy, but Hisashi doesn’t want to pay for it; he doesn’t think there’s an issue at all, based on their brief, sporadic phone calls. So Inko does what she can with her very limited resources, and keeps their little family from falling apart.

“You made it into all those other schools,” she says, feeling a little useless because Izuku isn’t actually hearing her.

He’s picking at his katsudon slowly. His bites are too large, slipping off the fork more often than not. Still, he’s making progress and that’s all she can ask. She’ll worry about U.A. later; for now, what’s important is getting through tonight.

After they finish dinner—which takes much longer than usual, since Inko refuses to move until Izuku manages at least three quarters of his food—Inko forgoes the dishes in favor of sitting on the couch with him until he’s ready to sleep. If a little lost sleep and some dirty dishes are the cost of comforting her son as his dreams are crushed, so be it.

He falls asleep on her shoulder, and Inko couldn’t be more glad. When he gets like this, it’s not unheard-of for him to be awake until he comes back to himself—which is anywhere between a few hours and a few days.

Based on what triggered it this time, it wouldn’t surprise her if it’s the latter. With a quiet sigh, Inko stands up, carefully extracting herself from Izuku’s arms so as not to wake him. She lifts him with some difficulty—he’s put on so much muscle in the last few months—and moves slowly down the hall to put him to bed.

As she’s pulling the blankets to his chest, something moves outside in the darkness. It looks vaguely humanoid, and something is fluttering around the area of the person’s neck. None of this would be out of the ordinary, really, except that the person is sitting in a tree, facing her son’s bedroom window.

Something flares in her chest. Logically, Inko knows she should call someone, but there’s no way she can stop herself when this person could pose an immediate threat to her son. She focuses on whatever it is that’s fluttering around the person’s neck and pulls hard with her quirk.

A loud thunk noise indicates that the person has fallen out of the tree.

Adrenaline is pumping its way through her veins, making her heart race and her hands shake violently as Izuku sleeps on, blissfully unaware. She leans out the window to get a better look at the person she just dropped from ten feet up.

They’re not on the ground, where they should be after a fall like that. Inko looks around and only barely suppresses the scream that rises in her throat when the man—it is a man, she can see now—appears in her peripheral vision out of nowhere. He peers down at her, ruby eyes glowing as his hair stands at an impossible angle atop his head. The man stares at her for a moment, gaze searching for something that he seems to find, and blinks hard. His eyes stop glowing when they open again, and his hair falls around his face in a tangled mess.

Now he looks almost normal, if more scruffy than the average person. For a few awkward, silent seconds, Inko wonders why a homeless man would want to spy on her son. Then a memory surfaces—Izuku, barely twelve with a blinding grin on his face as he holds up a rare, grainy picture of

“Eraserhead.”

The man blinks at her, but doesn’t confirm or deny it. In fact, if they weren’t standing so close to each other, she might have thought he didn’t hear her at all, for all the reaction she gets. But they are and he did, and only the memory of Izuku’s excited rambling clues her in to the fact that this man is about to bolt like a startled cat.

So she acts fast. After all, Izuku has been keeping so many secrets lately, and that’s not like him at all… but it’s exactly up the alley of an underground hero like the man she’s just caught keeping an eye on him.

“Why don’t you come in then, Eraserhead?” Inko asks with as much composure she can muster, considering she’s hanging half out of her son’s window at ten o’clock at night. “I think we need to have a discussion, you and I.”

Chapter Text

There’s very little that stuns Shouta, but he’d thought he was secure in the shadow of the tree. So when he’d lost his balance because of something yanking on his scarves, of all things, he’d been beyond surprised.

He supposes, looking wryly down at the steaming mug of tea in his hand, that underestimating a mother’s intellect wasn't his smartest move. Particularly when that mother has a son like Midoriya Izuku, who has, Shouta gathers, had quite the day.

Not that he’s surprised; he saw the footage from the practical exam, and after the disaster with Toshinori’s mysterious transmittable quirk, Shouta would be more surprised if Midoriya knew that he’d passed. He’s observant, but not omniscient, and U.A. has always expended quite a bit of effort keeping Hero Points a secret.

Speaking of observant… At first glance, Midoriya Inko isn’t incredibly interesting (though the same can also be said of her son, to be fair). But it seemed that she understood immediately the relationship between Shouta and Izuku once discovering his identity. Either Izuku hasn’t been as secretive as Shouta has been led to believe, which is unlikely, or he’s looking at one of the sources of the boy’s somewhat impressive observational skills.

“I don’t mean to sound impertinent, Eraserhead—” Shouta holds back a snort, since technically he was the one caught spying on her son in a tree, even if he was only checking up on the kid before patrol “—but you’ve been teaching Izuku how to fight, haven’t you?”

“In a sense, yes.” Shouta leaves it at that and takes a sip of the tea. Earl Grey. He supposes the caffeine is more for her benefit.

Midoriya’s mother fidgets, eyes focusing on everything but Shouta. That firey confidence from earlier has dissipated, presumably because a pro hero is the furthest thing from a threat to her son. She doesn't seem intimidated though, which Shouta puts down to his appearance.

“How long has this been going on?” The steadiness of her voice surprises Shouta, though he doesn’t let it show on his face.

He can truthfully say “Three months,” because even if Midoriya has been training with All Might for longer, Shouta hasn’t been in the picture the whole time.

Still, Inko looks as though it makes perfect sense, and Shouta has to wonder what’s been going on with the kid that’s making his mother so relieved to have him in the picture.

“I’m sure you already know what today was, then. That’s why you were here, right?” This woman seems more than capable of carrying the conversation on her own; Shouta doesn’t know why she keeps asking questions she already knows the answers to.

It’s not annoying—Hizashi does it so much that Shouta is all but immune to people's little conversational nuances—but it’s definitely perplexing.

“I assume it didn’t go well, then,” he says, just to keep up the trend of stating the obvious.

Inko doesn’t pick up on the joke, which is probably for the best. Instead she looks at him with the bone-deep fatigue that Shouta has come to associate with parents, and parents alone. It’s a unique tiredness that comes from a decade and a half of nonstop stress, and he has to assume that parents with “quirkless” (he uses that word lightly, since Midoriya is the farthest possible person from quirkless) children have it even worse than most, worrying about their kids’ safety more than normal.

When she speaks, that exhaustion dulls her voice into a dispassionate, hopeless tone. There’s something else there, but Aizawa isn’t well-versed enough in the art of peopleing to identify it. “Are you at all surprised?”

And what is he supposed to say to that, really?

Luckily, the Midoriyas have proven themselves a family of conversationalists, and Inko seems to have one more question for him. Shouta hopes it isn’t another redundant one.

“You said you’ve been training Izuku,” Inko says, sounding as if she’s testing the way the words feel on her tongue. Then she looks him dead in the eye, though her own are uncertain. “Are you going to keep training him when he doesn’t get into U.A.?”

Shouta doesn’t answer immediately. Though Inko doesn’t know it’s a trick question, it certainly is.

“I think,” he says slowly, “that you may be underestimating your son’s abilities. I’m not going to make a decision on that matter until I’m sure he’s been rejected.”

“And if, hypothetically, I want you to stop anyway?” she asks, her gaze piercing.

Shouta only takes a sip of his tea. “I would say, hypothetically, that would be a very stupid decision.”

He didn’t feel like trying to care about the woman’s sharp intake of breath; Aizawa Shouta has always been a man who calls things as he sees them. An untrained empath would pose a danger to himself and anyone else around, not to mention All Might’s freak quirk and whatever ramifications that could have if left unchecked. Plus… “If I know Midoriya at all, he would, hypothetically, continue to train without my supervision, which could, hypothetically, get him seriously hurt, or even killed.”

Inko doesn’t seem to know what to say to that, so instead she says nothing as Shouta drains his mug and stands. She walks him to the front door, and he can’t stop himself from saying one more thing. “Have a little faith in your son, Midoriya-san. His potential isn’t quite zero, you know.”

Hizashi has always said Shouta is a closeted dramatic at heart, but he likes to think of his sudden exits as more… pertinent. Whatever the case, he lassos himself to the roof between one moment and the next, out of sight of Midoriya Inko when she looks out to find him again.

Honestly, Shouta thinks to himself as he heads to the city. Conferences aren’t supposed to start for months yet.

 

-

 

Izuku comes back to himself over time, blinking slowly at his surroundings. He’s in the kitchen, he realizes, sitting at the table. It must be dinner time, because Mom is sitting across from him and there’s a fork in his hand.

“…Mom?”

She looks startled, then relief pours out of her in a tidal wave that’s almost overwhelming. “Welcome back, Izuku.”

He must have had another episode, he realizes. A bad one, if Mom’s reaction is anything to go by.

They’re not uncommon, these episodes. They’ve happened periodically throughout Izuku’s whole life, and when he did a little digging last month, he found out that they’re extremely common when people with empathy quirks get overwhelmed; they just shut down until their minds recover enough to start functioning again.

The mess of emotion at the entrance exam, the adrenaline rush—from no less than fifty people—from the practical exam, and his own screw up must have had an even greater effect on him than he realized.

“How long?” he asks, looking down at his food.

There’s silence for a long minute before Mom answers. “A week.”

Izuku’s eyes snap up to her. He’s never had an episode that long before. The U.A. response should be here any day, and he’s lost so much time he isn’t at all prepared to read it. He pushes the thought to the back of his mind; he can’t deal with it right now, he can freak out about it later.

“I talked with your teacher the other day,” Mom says, trying and failing to come across as casual. Izuku doesn’t know exactly how to describe what she’s feeling, other than parental. And not in a good way. That’s unnerving, since he’s pretty sure he’s doing alright in school.

He takes a bite of salad. “Which one?”

“Eraserhead.”

Izuku chokes, a bit of lettuce getting caught in his windpipe. He coughs hard for a moment before catching his breath. Mom looks worried, but Izuku is still stunned. “You talked to him? How?”

Mom rolls her eyes, as if it’s obvious, which—no, it’s not. “I invited him in the front door, naturally. He’s… an interesting man.”

Translation: she doesn’t like him at all. Izuku can’t help the barely-there amusement at the idea of the two of them meeting for the first time, because he’s always suspected that Mom wouldn’t like Aizawa-sensei much; he’s far too blunt for her taste.

Still, that doesn’t mean good things for Izuku, if the two of them are talking. Even disregarding anything else, it means that now Mom knows that Izuku has been hiding things from her.

“I’ll be honest, Izuku,” Mom says, her hands fidgeting nervously. “I don’t want you training with that man at all.”

“Mom—”

“Let me finish,” she says, more stern than she’s been in a while, and Izuku physically closes his mouth. “I don’t want you training with him. He’s a hero, yes, but you’re… you’re quirkless, Izuku, and it’s dangerous.”

Mom has never actually said the word to his face. She alludes to it, skates around it to spare his feelings and keep things from getting awkward. She’s serious about this.

But,” she says, letting out a resigned sigh, “he made some very good points, so… I don’t like it, but I’ll support you on this. Just promise me you’ll be—”

She doesn’t get to finish the sentence, because Izuku is hugging her tightly.

“I’ll be careful,” he promises, because they’re both trying so hard right now, and for different things, and Izuku doesn’t even know if Aizawa-sensei or All Might are going to be training him now that he’s failed his exam but it makes things so much easier now that his mom knows and he doesn’t have to keep as many secrets.

It makes it even sweeter when the letter from U.A. arrives the next day, and All Might tells him personally how proud he is that Izuku got in on hero points, the measure of the true meaning behind the test.

Izuku laughs through tears and so does his mom, and he feels closer to her than he has in years today. On top of acceptance into the school of his dreams and his idol being his full time teacher, it’s a great day to celebrate.

The final few months before the end of the school year are simultaneously too slow and a total blur. His lessons with All Might and Aizawa-sensei are over, so there's less in his schedule. On the other hand, there are still a million things to do before the start of the new school year: uniforms, class assignments, and learning the new route he's going to have to walk every morning are the bare bones basics. Izuku also spends an inordinate amount of time going over his vague memories of people from the entrance exam. That boy with blue hair and the engines in his legs will definitely have passed. Izuku winces when he realizes that, and hopes the guy doesn't remember him if they're in the same class. Then, finally, the day comes.

The halls of U.A. are just as huge and intimidating as they were the last time Izuku was here. He’s not accustomed to a school looking so new, and yet so old at the same time; U.A. was built ages ago, and other than touchups to the foundations and technology within it, it’s stayed exactly the same.

“1-A, 1-A, that should be down… this hall, I think,” he murmurs to himself, rounding a blind corner.

There’s excitement thrumming through his veins, and most of it is his own. There are still nerves, but it’s his first day of high school and honestly, it would be stranger if he wasn’t.

The door to classroom 1-A (and honestly, how did he manage to scrape his way into class 1-A when he barely made it into the school and he has a quirk that destroys his body every time he uses it?) is in front of him within moments, and there’s… an incredible amount of noise coming from it.

When Izuku opens the door, the noise doesn’t stop but it does get quieter. A few curious eyes veer over to him, but it’s the loud “You!” that gets his attention, along with the spike in excitement.

It’s the girl he saved from that massive zero point robot during the exam. She dashes up to him and falls into a deep bow. “Thank you for saving my life! My name is Uraraka Ochako.”

There are more people staring now, and Izuku stutters out something that’s probably not even close to a proper response. He’s similarly introduced to the boy with blue hair from the entrance exam, whose name is Iida and who turns out to be less rude and more… passionate.

His new classmates are genuinely friendly, which is a big enough adjustment on its own that Izuku is even a little grateful when the classroom door slams open.

“Deku, what the fuck?” comes the more than familiar snarl as Kacchan gets into Izuku’s face, eyes glowing with irritation.

Izuku has to try very hard not to flinch, but he manages it. The rage that oozes from Kacchan is almost palpable. As terrifying as it is, it’s also so familiar that it actually makes Izuku a little more at ease; he’s totally lost with these new people, but this? An angry-beyond-belief Bakugou Katsuki?

No problem.

Izuku smiles at him, and it’s genuine, if a little wobbly. “Hi, Kacchan. Surprise!”

“Don’t give me that shit.” A sharp pop resonates in the room, and Izuku flinches, noting the familiar smell of burning desk.

Izuku is sure he has more to say—Kacchan always has more to say, when it involves insulting him—but then Iida, with more courage than Izuku has ever, in his life, possessed, launches into a lecture aimed at Kacchan about respecting school property and quirk regulations. Surprisingly enough, it actually works. Izuku stares, gobsmacked, as Kacchan glares at Iida, even more irritated now, before seeming to decide it’s not worth it.

“Are you alright, Deku?” Uraraka asks quietly, looking shocked.

The fact that she’s calling him by that name is ten times more shocking than Kacchan’s behavior. In fact, it’s just as shocking as the fact that she seems to be genuinely worried.

“Midoriya,” he blurts out, instead of answering. “My name is Midoriya Izuku. Deku is… a nickname, I guess.”

Uraraka considers for a second before smiling. “Well, I like it! Do you mind if I call you that?”

When he thinks about it, Izuku finds that, though he thinks he probably should… he doesn’t. He smiles and shakes his head just as the door opens again.

Another familiar sight greets Izuku: Aizawa-sensei in his sleeping bag. It takes Izuku a second to connect the dots between the giant yellow caterpillar scooting his way across the floor and the fact that he’s at U.A. in a classroom, and what is Aizawa-sensei doing here?

Luckily no one seems to notice Izuku’s shock over their own confusion as Aizawa-sensei maneuvers himself into a mostly upright position.

“My name is Aizawa Shouta,” he says, yawning. “I’ll be your homeroom teacher this semester, those of you who make it past today. Welcome to U.A., this is a prestigious honor that’s been bestowed upon you, et cetera, et cetera. You all know what I’m supposed to say already.”

Izuku gawks at him, but doesn’t say anything that could lead to someone suspecting that they already know each other. Aizawa-sensei didn’t say anything about being a teacher at U.A., which Izuku supposes makes sense, given the way Aizawa-sensei lives his life. It explains a lot, when he thinks about it; Aizawa-sensei seemed like a natural when he was teaching Izuku about his quirk, but he’d never even thought to consider that he might have some experience.

“You’ve all been provided with P.E. uniforms, so go get dressed.”

The ripple of confusion that moves through the room doesn’t go unnoticed by Aizawa-sensei, whose eyes flicker to Izuku so quickly he thinks he may have imagined it.

“Isn’t there an entrance ceremony or something?” asks the boy with red hair and shark teeth. The question is echoed throughout the class, and Aizawa-sensei looks at them, completely deadpan.

“We’re skipping it.”

Izuku’s quiet snort is lost to the general outcry of confusion from class; this type of thing is just like Aizawa-sensei.

All of Izuku’s initial amusement fades when he announces that the loser of the quirk apprehension test will be expelled, and looks Izuku dead in the eye with an unreadable expression.

And of course, because One for All shatters his bones and empathy is… well, pretty much useless, Izuku is coming in last for every single test. It’s only during the throwing test that Izuku gets desperate enough to use One for All, and it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when Aizawa-sensei erases his quirk.

Though, to be honest, it’s probably only unsurprising because he doesn’t erase One for All, but empathy, and Izuku is pretty sure he’s incapable of feeling surprise at the moment.

He looks over at Aizawa-sensei blandly. “Is something wrong?”

“You have no control over your quirk, do you?” he asks, as if he didn’t know the answer already. Izuku shakes his head obediently. “You’re no use as a hero if you destroy yourself every time you use your quirk, kid. You’re a liability if you can’t move on the field.”

But what if I don’t destroy myself? Izuku thinks, feeling One for All spike through his veins. When Aizawa-sensei’s hair falls and his eyes dim again, Izuku is slapped in the face with his classmates’ confusion and awe in their teacher. For now, he pushes it aside and focuses. That wasn’t a half bad idea, and he finds that he can, in fact, transfer One for All to specific parts of his body.

Ten seconds and one almost-as-good-as-Kacchan score later, Izuku is clutching his wrist because that hurt. Still, he grits his teeth and grins at Aizawa-sensei, who looks at him with passive indifference.

“I can still move.”

Someone—the girl with the headphones coming out of her earlobes—says something quietly about this kid being unexpectedly metal, and there’s a low murmur of agreement, except Kacchan, who tch-s to himself and glares at the grass.

Izuku ends the day in second to last place, thanks to that. The only person who ranks below him in terms of points is the small purple boy who makes the girls—and Izuku, because of what the kid is feeling— uncomfortable. Aizawa-sensei expels him on the spot, and doesn’t relent when the other boy grovels. Not that Izuku expected him to, really.

It’s beyond terrifying that, had Izuku not gotten in that one decent score, that would have been him.

But for right now, his purple finger throbs insistently, and Aizawa-sensei sends him to Recovery Girl. When he gets back, fully healed and only slightly more tired than before, he’s hyperaware of his classmates’ eyes on him for the rest of the day.

He’s not at all prepared when three of them bounce—yes, bounce, it’s a bit strange—up to Izuku, Uraraka, and Iida during lunch.

“Midoriya, right? I’m Kirishima!” That’s the guy with shark teeth from earlier. He has a hardening quirk, if Izuku remembers correctly.

The boy with the electric quirk throws an arm around Izuku’s shoulders, and it’s only the almost blinding kindness that’s pouring from him that stops Izuku from flinching at the sudden, wide movement. “Kaminari Denki. How’s it going?”

“Ashido Mina!” Her eyes are sparkling with both kindness and mischief, and Izuku has no doubt that this girl could snap him in two, despite how small she is. She winks one glittering black eye at him. “That was pretty badass of you, Midoriya, back on the field.”

“Language, please!” Iida protests.

“That’s what we keep telling him,” Uraraka says excitedly, seemingly ignoring Iida, “But he won’t listen!”

Every bone in his body is screaming at him for looking a gift horse in the mouth, but everyone in his class is so genuine and friendly. It seems wrong to take advantage of that without giving them at least a reason to back out if they want to.

“I was a pretty late bloomer. Aizawa-sensei was right, my quirk isn’t worth much until I learn to control it.”

He can feel Kaminari’s shrug; the other boy still hasn’t take his arm off Izuku’s shoulders yet, and it’s a little strange. “No matter, man. If I can learn to control a quirk, you can too.”

“I was in your group for the entrance exam, dude, and I don’t know if you can control it.” Ashido covers her snickers behind her hand, but oddly enough there’s no antagonism behind her teasing.

Is this how friends talk to each other? Izuku wonders, taking small bites of his food.

They chat for most of lunch, the other three taking the free seats at the table. They spend an undue amount of time talking about Izuku, which is a little uncomfortable, but they’re fun and talk about other things too. Izuku finds his fingers itching for his quirk notebooks, but he doesn’t want to start filling those out until tomorrow.

“What about that Bakugou kid? It looked like the two of them knew each other, right?”

The question, though not directed at Izuku, is clearly about him, so he wrenches himself out of his own thoughts for a moment.

And just in time, too. Everyone’s eyes veer over to him questioningly, though he can definitely feel a sharp spike of protectiveness from Uraraka that stands out from the intense curiosity from the rest of them.

Still, for a moment, all Izuku can do is blink. How does he describe his relationship with Kacchan? They’re certainly not friends, by any stretch of the imagination, but Izuku doesn’t think of Kacchan as an enemy and Kacchan, in turn, has never put Izuku high enough on his radar to consider him anything more than a nuisance.

Plus there’s the empathetic link he doesn’t even know about, Izuku thinks, fighting the urge to wince. It’s hardly something he can control, but he still thinks it would be nice, now that Kacchan isn't repressing his emotions because of stress, to not be constantly feeling the echo of every negative emotion imaginable.

“We’ve known each other our whole lives,” is what Izuku settles on.

A look of realization crosses Uraraka’s face. “Is he the one that gave you your nickname, Deku?”

“He doesn’t seem to like you all that much, even though he’s your childhood friend,” Ashido says, looking thoughtful.

Izuku fiddles with his chopsticks, though his food is long gone by now. “We haven’t gotten along in years. He’s not a bad guy, though! I’m sure you’ll learn to like him in time, since everyone pretty much does.”

Kirishima, Ashido, and Kaminari nod, taking Izuku’s word for it. Uraraka and Iida look less inclined to believe him. Luckily, the warning bell for class rings soon after that, so there isn’t much more time for them to question him.

They have so many pros as teachers. Present Mic’s English class is… a lot, and Izuku thinks Cementoss’s classical literature is going to be dull at best, but it’ll be a good experience, he thinks, to get used to working with heroes.

The day goes by quickly, and even Kacchan’s bad mood isn’t enough to put a damper on Izuku’s own happiness, for once.

Chapter Text

When homeroom period ends and the class is dismissed, Izuku bolts out of his chair. He’s dying to go home and start on a new notebook. His classmates have such powerful quirks, and for once he’s had a day at school he’s excited to tell his mother about.

“Midoriya, a word.”

Uraraka and Iida wave at him before turning, presumably to head home. Most of the rest of the class is gone, and Aizawa-sensei waits until they’re all gone before speaking.

“I’ll cut to the chase,” he says, sitting behind his desk and shuffling papers around. “You got in on hero points, and had no other points in the exam whatsoever. That means that, objectively, you have some catching up to do with your training. I expect to see that quirk All Might gave you improve exponentially by the end of the semester, am I clear?”

“Crystal.” That, at least, he planned on already. One for All is useless unless he learns to control it.

Aizawa-sensei nods once; his face doesn’t give anything away, but Izuku can feel his satisfaction and pride as if they were his own. Then, a pang of… something, that Aizawa-sensei suppresses too fast for Izuku to identify.

“If I don’t see substantial improvement, I will not hesitate to expel you, Midoriya, regardless of any prior history between us. I don’t train ticking time bombs, I train heroes. Is that clear?”

Izuku swallows, but his mouth is drier than a desert. “Perfectly.”

“Good.” Aizawa-sensei puts his papers into a folder, which he puts in the filing cabinet. “Now, follow me. We have some serious work to do on that quirk of yours.”

There’s a quiet crash as Izuku’s phone falls out of his hand. “Um… what?”

Aizawa-sensei looks at him, deadpan. “Your training. Do you think you’re getting out of doing your work just because you made it to U.A.? You merely earned the right to stand at the starting line, Midoriya. You still need to get to it.”

“You’re still… You’re still going to help me train?” Izuku asks, reeling. Aizawa-sensei had been so reluctant to train him in the first place, he has to wonder what changed.

“I don’t recall saying otherwise.” His teacher raises and eyebrow and looks down at Izuku’s forgotten cell phone. “Your mother might be upset if that’s broken.”

He thinks this is funny, Izuku realizes with a jolt, as he notices the amusement coming from Aizawa-sensei. Which, he supposes, it might be, to someone with a sense of humor as dry as his.

Izuku picks his phone up off the ground and stores it safely in his backpack. Aizawa-sensei walks down the hall, taking turns where Izuku didn’t even notice doors, and it serves as yet another reminder of how old and how prestigious it is.

He’s struck with the realization— again —of how lucky he is as he follows Aizawa-sensei

“You’ve made a lot of progress, but you’re still pitiably behind your classmates,” Aizawa-sensei says matter-of-factly. Izuku winces, because yeah. He can’t measure up to any of them.

Aizawa-sensei smacks him upside the head, too lightly to really be called a hit, but hard enough to get Izuku’s attention. “I can hear your brain working from here. Shut yourself up and listen to me, Midoriya, because neither of us is required to be here.”

“Yes sir.” He knows the man isn’t really annoyed; for as hard as he’s trying to wall up his emotions from Izuku, they’re coming through loud and clear.

Aizawa-sensei looks at him for a moment, thinking. “You’ve gotten as much instruction as I can offer in terms of how to maintain basic control over your quirk. What separates you from your peers though, is their ability to weaponize their quirks, and their proficiency in hand to hand combat.”

Weaponize their quirks… well, he’s not wrong. One for All is great and amazing and perfect for hero work, and it’s similar to many of these quirks Izuku’s classmates have in that it’s a weapon in and of itself. empathy, on the other hand, doesn’t have any real value to the more physical side of heroing. Rescue missions, maybe… But the ratio of rescue missions to villain takedowns is a little—

“What did I just say about thinking too hard, Midoriya?” Aizawa-sensei sounds a little exasperated now, and there’s a thrumming of mild irritation coming from him, as though it’s vibrating down a piece of elastic connecting their minds.

“A link,” Izuku realizes.

His teacher only raises an eyebrow. “Linking is dangerous on its best day, so do your best to avoid permanently connecting your mind to that of a villain, if you would. What I’m referring to is a way to weaponize your empathy.”

Weaponize empathy? That doesn’t seem possible; it mostly seems to affect Izuku, rather than the people around him. For hero work, empathy is, in theory, fundamentally useless.

“There are three basic methods someone can use to weaponize emotion-type quirks,” Aizawa-sensei says. “I assume you know them.”

Izuku vaguely remembers reading something like that, back when he was still obsessively learning about every quirk type he could find. There were very few articles on emotion-type quirks at the time, and even fewer on how to weaponize them. “Projection, manipulation, and… I think it was some form of removal?”

“Omission,” Aizawa-sensei confirms. “Nearly everyone with an emotion-type quirk has some measure of ability in projection. Beyond that, you’ll be able to acquire one of the other two.

The room they’re in is a small gym-style training room with a punching bag, free weights, mats, jump ropes, and a trampoline. It’s a little dusty-smelling, too. All of this adds up to Aizawa-sensei having Izuku’s undivided attention, which Izuku is self-aware enough to know is no small feat. Still, while what he’s saying does objectively make sense, there are several aspects of it that don’t.

“If people with emotion-type quirks have particular affinities for somehow altering someone else’s emotions, why exactly is it that empathy affects me so much instead of other people?”

His teacher shrugs. “You know as well as I do that quirks are unique to the person. Why does your friend Bakugou’s sweat contain nitroglycerin, and not his blood or tears? Why does my Erasing only work when I look at someone, rather than when I touch them? There is an element of luck in this sort of thing, Midoriya.”

Not the best answer, or the answer he was hoping for, but Izuku will take it. Genetics are genetics; they’re as absolute as it gets. Outside of One for All, which is an enigma in and of itself, quirks are impossible to alter.

“Now,” Aizawa-sensei says, sitting down, “We’re going to meet here after class three times a week, and on the occasional weekend, to try to get you caught up to the ten year advantage your classmates have on you.”

Izuku’s jaw drops. It’s hardly favoritism, but Aizawa-sensei doesn’t seem to be the type to care if his students are on a level playing field or not—it’s not as though hero work is ever truly fair.

“I—Thank you!”

The look on Aizawa-sensei’s face is blank at best. “Consider these lessons a lifeline. Understand, Midoriya, that if I ever for a moment think you’re not taking this seriously enough, that I will take this lifeline from you and leave you to either sink or swim. Are we clear?”

Izuku can hardly believe his luck. “Of course.”

The next hour and a half is hellish. By now Izuku knows how to identify his empathy, and how to shuffle emotions around in his head so that some have less effect on him than others. He knows more emotional descriptors than he ever thought he’d need in his life, and how to parse out basic, surface-level emotions from the deeper and more tangled web that lies beneath the surface of everyone’s consciousness.

That’s not what this is at all. Identifying emotions is like sifting through clutter-- tedious, exhausting, but not actually difficult. Now Aizawa-sensei has him trying to reach into someone else’s mind to mess with their emotions.

By the time he’s dismissed, he hasn’t made any progress at all.