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Scorpions and Chains

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It had been an accident... a simple accident, because Izuku was one to interfere when it came to the safety of others. Now, it was costing him his life, every breath threatened to be his last. He'd collapsed so suddenly, too fast for Uraraka to grab him. His eyes rolled back and his spine arched as he gasped and struggled to breathe because his throat was swelling inside and he couldn't get air. His vision blurred and black spots danced at the corner of his eyes. He could make out Uraraka's tearstained face looking down at him in horror. She grabbed his head to prevent him from slamming it against the ground again, her other hand occasionally stroking his hair, trying desperately to give him some sort of comfort.

"Deku! It'll be okay… it'll be okay just – just hold on, okay? Please, just hold on, Deku!"

Her voice was hard to hear, mixed in with the panicked chatter of the crowd that had gathered and the haziness of his mind. Someone called for help, someone kept asking 'Is the boy okay? What's wrong with him?' and most watched in worry, unsure of what to do.

His heartbeat pumped in his throat and his body felt too hot. He was sweating, drenching his clothes. It was hard to breathe… a cough, followed by a gurgle, and he choked on his own fluids, coughing and having his spit fly out his mouth and hit his own face. Something bubbly leaked from the corner of his lips, and with his mind so disoriented, he couldn't figure out that he was foaming at the mouth. He tried to speak, but it came out as a pained grunt that ended with a wet cough.

"He's choking!" He heard Iida yell and felt a number of hands on him, pushing. "Put him on his side, hurry!"

Iida was helped by other bystanders to shift Izuku onto his side and Uraraka's hands turned his head, but still holding on to him. The change in positions caused him to vomit out liquids, giving him a few seconds of relief and managing a few breaths before his throat clogged up again. Instincts kicking in, his body fought against suffocation. His legs kicked at their own accord and his fingers scratched at the ground, trying to physically force himself to stay alive. His skin kept switching from hot to cold, then hot again and his body shivered uncontrollably.

"Deku! Please, hang on – please!"

Just how had it gone all wrong?

He hadn't expected his morning to be anything special. Yeah, sure, it was his sixteenth birthday, but his birthdays weren't anything special. He usually only had his mom to celebrate with him, but he was living in the dorms now, far away from her, so he only expected a 'Happy Birthday, sweetheart' text from her.

"Midoriya!" Iida suddenly called out of nowhere.

Izuku flinched, accidentally drawing a squiggly line across his notebook. Still disturbed by the sudden action of his friend, Izuku whirled around to look at him, placing one hand over his thrumming heart. He didn't like it when people snuck up on him like that. It reminded him of getting jumped by bullies. "Oh – Ah, yeah?"

"Today is a splendid day outside, isn't it?

"I… guess so?" Izuku wasn't sure. He hadn't finished his homework, so he hadn't had time to go jogging yet. He was still weirder out by Iida. Why such a random topic?

"Well then, why don't we have a walk? Some fresh air and sunlight is quite beneficial for both body and mind!" Iida declared loudly. He suddenly grabbed Izuku by his elbow and started to drag him along. "Come, join me!"

"Wah – hold up, wait! I'm – I'm not done yet, I–" Izuku stuttered and tried to pull away, his other hand was unconsciously reaching for his notebook still open on the common room table.

"Yes, homework is just as important; however, it can wait, while your health cannot!"

Izuku blinked. "My health? Iida, I'm fine–"

"Nonsense!" Iida interrupted as he continued to pull Izuku with him. "You're very pale! Please, allow me to accompany you! I assure you, it is for your own benefit!"

"I, ah – okay…" he finally agreed, mostly because he didn't have a choice in the first place. Slipping on their shoes and exiting the dorms, Izuku wondered what had gotten his tall friend so excited today. He seemed more outgoing than usual, and his sudden demand to leave the dorms just didn't make sense. They just walked in silence, and Izuku would occasionally look around to talk about something because why was it so quiet?

"So, Midoriya," Iida started.

"Ah – yes?" he was so confused because he knew something was up.

"I've heard Kirishima, Kaminari, Ashido and Jiro talking about their visit to that arcade place."

Okay, where was he going with this? "Yeah, it seemed like they had a lot of fun," Izuku said, smiling at the memory. He loved it when his friends got home, all tired out but satisfied. It was a wonderful feeling, knowing they were happy.

"I've heard they are planning to go to that new mall tomorrow. Uraraka and I might go as well. Would you like to come along, Midoriya?"

"Huh?" Izuku tilted his head in confusion. "I… okay, sure." Even if he wasn't really interested, he couldn't say no to spending time with his two best friends.

"Excellent!" Iida said proudly. "I'll inform Uraraka. She'll be happy to know you'll be there as well."

Izuku chuckled softly. "Just happy I get to be with you guys."

"Of course! And we are always pleased to have you with us, Midoriya." He placed a hand on his shoulder. Izuku didn't know why, but it felt like there were a million other things hidden within Iida's words.

Izuku smiled shyly. "Thanks, Iida…"

Iida was about to say something when his phone buzzed. He checked it quickly, then used the hand on Izuku's shoulder to turned him around. "Shall we be heading back? You still have homework, after all."

He wasn't sure why Iida was all over the place today, but he seemed happy, so Izuku didn't question him.

As soon as they stepped back in, the multiple ear-piercing pops and explosions of confetti almost gave him a heart attack.

"Happy Birthday!" all of class 1-A cheered.

Izuku's brain still hadn't caught on yet, and he continued standing there, gaping like an idiot. He felt Iida pat him on the shoulder proudly. "Happy Birthday, Midoriya!"

"Wait… what… but – but how did…?" He struggled to speak because how in the heck did everyone know?

The common room was decorated with colorful streamers and the table had a stack of paper plates. A cake was neatly presented with a candle sticking out of it like a flag. Everyone was there… and when the group of friends parted, he saw her…

"Mom…?"

He was too shocked to move. She walked over to him with teary eyes and hugged him. He latched onto her greedily, not caring that everyone was watching.

"I'd never miss your birthday, sweetie." She squeezed him tighter and ran her fingers through his hair lovingly. He was slightly taller than her, but she still saw him as her baby boy.

"I missed you, mom," he whispered and snuggled his face in her neck. "I love you, mom. I'm so glad you're here."

"Love you, too, baby. You've gotten so far, I'm so proud of you, Izuku." And she meant it. Here he was, her little boy, all grown up and ready to take on the world. He was her world, her everything. She lived for this boy.

Someone in the back sniffed.

"Are you crying?" Sero asked Kirishima after spotting him wiping at his glossy eyes.

"The family love… it's too much. Manly tears, man. Manly tears…" Kirishima used his whole arm to dry his tears. Sero chuckled and gave him a pat on the back.

Izuku was the center of attention and was slightly nervous about it, but once he blew out the candles and everyone clapped for him, the realization slowly sunk in. He'd never had a birthday party with friends. He'd been to Bakugo's when they were children, but nothing more.

His mother wanted him to have an actual birthday party, one with friends who were more than happy to help out. He was sixteen, and he finally got to experience what having friends felt like. He was sure his mother had been the one to inform them of the importance of today's date.

Ochaco gave him a strong hug. "Happy birthday, Deku!" she cheered, not realizing he was blushing like crazy in her arms. A few students, and his mother, chuckled at that. He got a few more pats on the back a few of his friends.

"Happy birthday, man!" Kirishima congratulated him. "I still can't believe you're older than me!" he added and ruffled the green hair playfully, causing Izuku to laugh.

"Bakugo, get over here," Kirishima tried to encourage his friend who had been sitting on the farthest sofa, far away from where the party was. Izuku was surprised he was in the same room. Bakugo never told him a happy birthday, so he'd thought the blond would just stay in his room and avoid the party altogether.

"Why should I?"

"Because it's Deku's birthday," Ochaco reminded him sternly.

"Hope he dies on his next one," Bakugo grumbled.

"Don't be mean!" Ochaco scolded. Izuku sweat dropped. What could he say, really?

"Come on, be nice to him," Kirishima said. "Just for today?"

"Fuck off!"

"Guess that's a no."

"Party pooper," Mina commented, sticking her tongue out at him. They chuckled at the childish display, completely missing how the explosion boy was grinding his teeth in anger.

A few hours earlier, Todoroki had been the one to meet Izuku's mother first. He had been on his way out when he'd spotted her car by the gate. The mother had introduced herself and informed him why she was here. And because she wanted to surprise her boy, her son couldn't know about her arrival just yet, so Todoroki sent a text to everyone, informing them of the situation, and that they needed Izuku out. Iida had dragged the poor kid away, and everyone had managed to help the older woman get everything from the car.

Knowing it was the boy's birthday had been a shock for everyone. He hadn't informed anyone about his birth date, so if it weren't for his mother, they would have missed it. It also surprised them just how loving Izuku's mother was.

During the party, Izuku had tears of happiness in his eyes, and Inko was crying as well. It was obvious he took after her. They both shared many physical features, and Izuku's politeness and constant worry over others was a direct copy of his mother's caring nature. It was cute, seeing mother and son interacting so sweetly in front of everyone.

Everyone had a slice of cake, laughing at simple joke every now and then, and some students kept telling Inko a few events that took place during their time at UA. Inko walked over to Bakugo to hand him a slice of cake, because she knew this boy. He wouldn't take the cake unless she brought it over to him.

Mineta whispered something into Denki's ear, and the yellow-haired boy grinned. "Hey, guys," Denki called. "Remember at the License Exam, when everyone was trying to get to the finish line and Midoriya was behind a boulder with a naked lady the whole time?"

Izuku cringed and Sero let out a pfffft before covering his mouth to not lough out loud. He knew what Kaminari was trying to do.

"Izuku!" Inko yelled.

Izuku held out his hands in innocent, waving them erratically as if the movement would stop any accusations coming his way. "Wait, no, mom – that's not what happened!"

"Just what were you doing?" his mother demanded.

"Nothing! It was nothing, really–"

"She was on top of you," Sero said, snickering.

"Sero!" Izuku whined miserably.

"Izuku, that is not how I raised you!"

Izuku tried to explain, but because of his nervousness, it came out as gibberish. Denki had covered his face to muffle his laughter.

Inko sighed. "Izuku, do we need to have that talk again?" she asked sincerely. He immediately grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the room, hoping to talk with her privately. He was not having this conversation in front of them. A number of the students started laughing like maniacs.

"Priceless!" Mina laughed out loud.

"That was so worth it!" Denki said, trying to catch his breath.

"Careful," Momo intervened. "Just don't get him in trouble with his mother."

"Thank you all for helping me today," Inko thank Iida and Ochaco who volunteered to help her clean up. Todoroki and Tokoyami helped replace the garbage bag.

"It's no trouble," Iida told her. "We're very glad we all got to celebrate his birthday today."

"Yeah," Ochaco said as she collected a few empty paper plates. "We would've missed it if you hadn't told us. We never asked when his birthday was," she admitted embarrassingly. Some friends they were…

"Oh, it's nothing to worry about, sweetie. Izuku's always been a shy boy," Inko told them, using her Quirk to bring over a few empty cups. "He's also been a lonely boy. I don't think he realizes he has great friends now."

"He's never had friends before, has he?" Iida asked carefully. He had his suspicions, but Izuku's mother just confirmed them.

"No," she admitted sadly. "This is the first birthday party he's ever had with friends. He had a tough time with the other kids in school and… my poor boy was so lonely and I couldn't do anything to help him." She closed her eyes ad blinked away a few tears. "I'm glad he has you, now. Thank you for taking care of him. You don't know how much this means to me," she said, holding each of their hands. "He's a good boy, but he can get reckless sometimes."

They all remembered the many times he'd broken his bones. They couldn't imagine what his mother must've felt whenever she got informed of her son's injuries.

"We will do everything we can, ma'am," Iida said confidently, placing his palm over hers.

"Thank you." She hugged them both, showing them just how grateful she was.

She stayed the rest of the day, because she rarely got to see her boy anymore. He finished his homework quickly so he could join her again. She also admired the other kids. Just like Izuku, they were all children aiming for something big. Compared to the kids Izuku used to deal with, these UA kids were absolute sweethearts. Aside from Bakugo, they all treated him as an equal.

Even his teachers were helpful. She recalled that Uraraka girl telling her about the Quirk assessment incident. Their teacher stopped Bakugo from physically hurting her boy. That was the first time a teacher interfered to save him from getting bullied. Usually, the teachers would pretend nothing was happening, because they either didn't want to deal with it, or just didn't know how to deal with it.

"Man… we would have gotten you presents if we knew earlier," Kaminari complained.

Izuku smiled sheepishly. "You don't have to bring me anything, guys."

They all disagreed.

"Na-ah! No way – Everyone should get presents on their birthday!" Mina demanded.

"No, really, it's fine." It really was. He didn't need presents. Having them and his mother around was enough.

Overall, it was a good birthday party. He had his mom, his friends, and even All Might had sent him a 'Happy Birthday, my boy!' text. Well, it seemed like his mother hadn't forgotten to tell his teacher about his birthday.

By the end of the day, Izuku kissed her goodbye and walked her out. He gave her one last hug before she left. He felt complete that night. He was lucky to have such wonderful people around.

The next day, they made the trip to the mall.

While Izuku didn't have anything in mind to buy, he was happy enough to look around. The students scattered; Kirishima accompanied Kaminari and Jiro. Ashido went with Hagakure, and Asui went to check out water-related stores. Iida, being a guy all about speed, headed for the gyms section, confidant he'd find Quirk items suited for him.

Izuku and Ochaco stood in complete silence.

This… was awkward. He hadn't thought of what to do once arriving, and judging by her stillness, she hadn't either.

"So…" started nervously, wringing her hands.

"Ah… got anything in mind?" he asked, looking away shyly.

"Don't you need anything, Deku?"

"No, I'm alright. I thought I'd just have a look around."

She scratched the back of her head. "Yeah… that was my plan, too."

He checked his watch. "We have a lot of time. Wanna check the place out? You might find something," he said hopefully.

She stared at him at first, her cheeks going slightly brighter. She then smiled and gave him a firm nod. "Hmm!"

He hadn't expected her to perk up and take him by the hand. She was leading the way. The mall was divided into sections to help those with specific Quirks find what they needed. Izuku and Ochaco explored some of the areas. They hadn't planned on buying anything, but they ended up purchasing hooded jackets that they both found appealing.

At some point, they stopped for a quick bite.

"This place is so big!" Ochaco said in amazement, shoving a fork-full of cheesecake into her mouth.

"Yeah, I don't think we'll be able to cover it all," he commented, trying out his own cake, a strawberry red one. "It's really amazing, though. I wonder if Iida found the sports sections."

"Yeah," she admitted, looking as people came and went. "It's really easy to get lost here." She took another bite.

Izuku checked the time. "We still have an hour and a half. Do you want to check the water section later?"

Her eyes seemed to sparkle. "Yeah! I hope we meet up with Tsu there."

Turned out the water section was bigger than they had originally thought. Swimming pools were lined up on the sides and one of the walls was a giant glass aquarium, letting them see people with fish-like Quirks swimming in there. Those without Quirks related to water where just trying out swimsuits.

"Tsu!" Ochaco cheered when she saw her friend through the glass. The frog girl was in that resembled a diving suit. She spotted them and swam closer, stopping just as she touched the glass with her big hands. Ochaco, still happy and excited, placed her palm against the glass as well, making it seem like she was touching Tsuyu's hand. The frog girl looked over at Izuku. He smiled and gave her a friendly wave which she returned before swimming up.

"She looks happy," Ochaco said softly, moving her hands behind her back as she saw her friend swim up.

"Yeah," Izuku agreed. In the water, Asui seemed right at home.

They continued looking around. Ochaco bought a pink two piece skirted bikini because, well, why not? Walking out the store, Izuku couldn't stop smiling as Ochaco chatted happily. Seeing his friend in such a happy-go-lucky state always had that affect on him. His friends brought him joy so easily. The day couldn't have been better–

The glass window of a nearby jewelry store shattered. A man's unconscious body was thrown out before slamming and sliding across the floor. Bystanders screamed in shock and stopped whatever they were doing.

Ochaco and Izuku stared, frozen to the spot. What… just happened?

Alarms went off. People scattered. Izuku slowly turned to the broken window in horror. A female Villain in a skimpy leather suit was holding a woman down to the floor as her comrade invaded the store. An explosion came from the upper floors. Both Izuku and Ochaco dropped their bags. It was a full on attack.

He didn't know when he'd jumped into the store through the broken window, but seeing that woman being held down against her will, screaming as the Villain held a spike-covered hand only inches away from her face… he couldn't just stand there and watch. The second the Villain saw him with his fist ready to strike, she released her victim and jumped back.

Keeping his eyes on the Villain, he bent over to help the woman up. The Villain smirked and raised her hand, the spikes sticking out of her palm shot out, and Izuku grabbed the woman off the ground and flipped them both away. The spikes stabbed the ground.

"Go!" he yelled. "Go, run!"

The woman scrambled off the ground and hurriedly made a run for it, limping as she escaped.

"This isn't a game for kids, boy," the Villain said in amusement.

Izuku held his ground, fists ready. She was dangerous. He didn't care about what she could've stolen; he just didn't want anyone hurt. He had to stall her, keep her here until proper help arrived. The alarms were still going off. Where were the guards?

Then he remembered the explosion earlier. Did she have other comrades attacking other parts of the mall?

"You want to act the Hero's part, huh?" the Villain said, cocking her head to the side.

"Deku!" Ochaco screamed.

He turned just in time to see another Villain, ready to grab him. Izuku ducked under his arm and rolled away to the side. The female Villain charged at him, her hand ready to stab him. He dodged repeatedly, hearing the whoosh of air by his face when her hand got too close. After one, powerful swing, he ducked under her arms and saw the opening he'd been waiting for. In one swift motion, he grabbed her arm, turned, and mimicked the arm throw he'd preformed on Bakugo and Shinso, slamming her to the ground. In her state of confusion, he quickly flipped her over and pinned her down.

"You little brat!" the male Villain yelled. Izuku's heart almost stopped when he saw that he was targeting Ochaco. He was ready to release his capture when he saw his friend act. Using what Gunhead had tough her, she seized him by the upper arm, kicked the back of his knee to pull him down, and grabbed the back of his neck to slam him face down into the ground. He let out a pained grunt.

Izuku's eyes widened in horror when he saw that the Villain she had taken had had a scorpion's tail. Unknown to Ochaco, the tail slowly lifted, aiming for the back of her neck.

"Uraraka!" Without thinking, he released the female Villain and ran. He'd unconsciously used Full Cowl, because there was no way he'd reach her otherwise. That little boost was enough to get him there. Just as the tail arched to strike, he grabbed and tried to pull it back, as far as he could from stabbing his friend.

"Deku!" Ochaco yelled in surprise, finally realizing why Izuku had jumped in. Sharp pain cut through his back and he gasped in pain. Seven spikes stuck were sticking out of his back, just behind his left shoulder. He almost lost his balance from the sudden pain and his grip on the tail loosened. The tip of the tail suddenly twisted to the side–

–and the stinger at the tip pierced his arm.

"Deku!" Ochaco screamed in terror as her friend screeched in agony. He sucked in a breath and, with all the energy he had, he pulled the tail away and held it to the ground, keeping it at bay. He briefly saw the other Villain, getting ready to stab him again, when a dart randomly zipped by and struck her in the neck.

People in uniforms stormed the area. Uwabami led the team of officers through. Native was right behind her. He took aim with his blow stick and shot another dart at the Villain Ochaco was holding down. Kamui Woods was present. He used his wooden body parts to climb up to the upper floor, most likely to get to where the explosion had occurred.

The female Villain wobbled on her feet, and the Villain ion the ground stopped struggling.

"Kids, move away!" Uwabami commanded. Officers ran over and secured the two Villains, chaining them up. Ochaco and Izuku moved away as the officers did their work. She quickly grabbed Izuku's hands in worry.

"Deku, are you okay? Does it hurt?" she fussed over him, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. He was hunching over due to the pain in his back. The spikes resembled quills of a porcupine, sharp at the ends and thick at the center. Any movement caused his clothes to shift, nudging the spikes in the process. He squinted in pain.

"Oh, Deku…" Ochaco whimpered sympathetically.

"Get him outside. The medics should be here by now," Uwabami told two of the officers. They guided them both out, one officer holding Izuku by the elbow; just to be sure the boy wouldn't collapse. Ochaco held on to him as well, asking him if he was alright.

"I'm fine… really," he tried, but it was too painful to ignore the quills in his back. Just outside, their friends ran over to them. Aside from Kaminari who had a scratch on his cheek, they were all unharmed. When they heard an officer calling the medics over, they ran faster.

"Midoriya, Uraraka!" Iida yelled. "Are you unharmed?"

The group of friends followed along as the officers kept ushering the two forward.

"I'm fine, but Deku…" Ochaco looked at her wincing friend worriedly.

They saw the spikes in his back. "Holy crap!" Kaminari yelled, cringing at the thought of how deep those actually were.

"I'm fine… just…" Izuku tried to calm them down. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine." He felt dizzy and brain-fogged.

They spotted a white van. Medics carried in a person on a stretcher. Izuku's vision blurred. Shapes turned into cotton and voices melted into each other. Everything went sideways. His heart rammed against his chest, threatening to burst. He heard them yell for him, but his body and brain weren't functional anymore.

"Deku!"

"Midoriya!"

"We need help over here!"

Waves of nausea and agony knocked him over and over again. The spikes in his back were temporarily forgotten as his body jolted and jerked around, sending him rolling onto his back. The spikes dug in deeper, but he couldn't command his body. It had a mind of its own. He shivered uncontrollably and his throat clogged up. He couldn't breathe… panic set in because he couldn't breathe, he couldn't breathe – someone help!

"Just give up already."

"You're Quirkless – what do you think you can do?"

"–means good for nothing."

"You? A Hero? You've got to be kidding–"

"When is he going to stop dreaming?"

"–look at things realistically, kid."

"Useless Deku–"

"I'm sorry, Izuku! I'm so sorry!"

TBC