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The Path to Villainy

Chapter Text

“That’s a new one,” Shigaraki said, scratching his neck. Small dry flakes fluttered to land on his shirt collar, trapped on the black fabric.

Izuku paused mid sentence, fingers stilling on the keyboard. His sort-of friend inspected the newest photo addition to Izuku’s tack board, shamelessly staring. The bags under his eyes were pronounced tonight, eyes bloodshot. Izuku didn’t think Shigaraki paid that much attention to what was tacked on that board, but apparently Izuku had been mistaken.

Shigaraki paused his nervous tick to stab one bony finger smack dab in the middle of Kacchan’s chest. “Who is he?”

Izuku turned his gaze back to the screen and continued typing. “Kacchan.”

“That’s a stupid hero name,” Shigaraki said. He moved away from the wall and Izuku’s desk, wandering over to the couch where Izuku had settled with his laptop. “He a new side kick?”

“He’s a first year student at U.A.,” Izuku said, suspicious of Shigaraki’s interest. The older man typically had little care for anything that didn’t revolve directly around his own childish needs. Izuku typed a little harder, wishing the other would let the subject drop. “He’s not a Pro Hero yet.”

“Then why do you have him on your little shrine wall?” Shigaraki asked.

“Did you want something?” Izuku asked. He did a quick glance around looking for Kurogiri waiting in a corner, but Shigaraki’s babysitter was nowhere to be seen. “Giran’s not here, and I’m trying to finish work.”

“Rude,” Shigaraki muttered under his breath. He sat on the couch next to Deku, worn eyes staring from beyond his loose hoodie. Shigaraki dug around in his hoodie’s front pockets before carefully pulling out a piece of paper held delicately between two fingers. He handed it over and Izuku recognized Kurogiri’s handwriting. “We’re attacking U.A. in a couple days. That’s the list of teachers that will be on duty.”

Izuku scanned the list, pausing on All Might’s name for only a fraction longer than the others before getting to the end. This must have been why Giran was recruiting so many people for Shigaraki’s little group over the past week. If Shigaraki and Kurogiri were attempting an attack on U.A., they’d need all the villains they could get.

Shigaraki tilted his head toward the tack board, eyes lingering on Kacchan’s picture. Izuku abandoned the small list to join him in staring at the photo. He’d gotten it off the U.A. student website about a week ago and still considered it a lucky find. The student paper club had done a small feature article on the first training session the Hero Course students had in costume.

The shot of Kacchan had been taken after an attack, leaving Kacchan grinning and wiping sweat off the side of his face with the back of his hand. Izuku had been stunned when he recognized the student as Kacchan and realized just how good Kacchan looked as a hero (it made sense; Kacchan had always been Izuku’s hero to some degree).

It was really a lovely, candid shot.

His twisted friend continued staring, mouth widening in a crooked smile at the rare regular photo among the collection of polished promo shots. Shigaraki bit the edge of his ripped lip. “Or will this attack be hitting too close to home for you, little hero lover?”

“I already have reports on all of these,” Izuku said, folding Kurogiri’s list—which was the truth. He had reports on every teacher that ever worked at U.A. long before he had started his little side job. They just hadn’t been typed neatly, yet. Izuku closed the laptop and walked over to his desk. He dropped the thing carelessly and flicked on the monitor to his main computer. “You can have the info half price if you drop the topic.”

“I’ll pay double if you tell me why a U.A. Student was impressive enough to make your wall,” Shigaraki said. He went back to scratching his neck. “Maybe we’ll have to watch for him when we’re looking for All Might if he caught your eye.”

Shigaraki wasn’t going to leave without an answer; he was childish that way. Izuku clicked the print button from his database and huffed. “Triple.”

It’s not like Shigaraki would be paying, and Izuku wanted to get his mother something nice for her birthday coming up (and being able to afford box seats to the U.A. Sports Festival later in the year certainly couldn’t hurt, either).

“Done,” Shigaraki said, loose smile.

“Kacchan’s my childhood friend,” Izuku said, flicking the edge of the keyboard. He could still feel Kacchan’s voice ringing in his ears the last time they spoke: when Kacchan made a playful suggestion of how Izuku could get a Quirk. Izuku’s mouth twitched into a smile. “I like to keep up with his hero career. He was the top scoring student from the entrance exams, you know.”

“You sound proud,” Shigaraki said. He hummed and stared at the photo. “And quite delusional. We both know you don’t have any friends other than me, Midoriya.”

“Kacchan is Kacchan,” Midoriya said, biting the edge of his thumb. “Just because I haven’t seen him since he started high school doesn’t mean we aren’t still friends.”

A one-sided friendship still counted as far as Midoriya was concerned (that’s how it’d been since Izuku found out he would never get a Quirk, why give up his stubbornness now?).

“Sure,” Shigaraki said, smile still crooked and wide.

“Here’s your information,” Izuku said, dropping the folder in Shigaraki’s lap. He smiled brightly at the other man, putting his hands behind his back. “Try not to die. Even if you know everything about them, the pro heroes that teach at U.A. are no pushovers.”

“Don’t worry,” Shigaraki said. He got up from the couch and stared down over Izuku with a lazy grin. “When they see what we’ve got, even All Might won’t stand a chance.”

Izuku frowned, crossing his arms. He couldn’t think of anyone Giran had recruited lately that would pose a legitimate threat to All Might or the other teachers. Shigaraki himself had a rather impressive Quirk, but it would require getting in close to All Might and keeping contact—both things Izuku knew Shigaraki wasn’t good at. Add all that in with the regular teachers who were more than capable like Eraser Head or even Present Mic on campus and it would be trouble. This whole thing was going to be a disaster at best.

So why was Shigaraki so confident?

“If I see your Kacchan, I’ll be sure to say ‘hello’,” Shigaraki said, wiggling his fingers and interrupting Izuku’s thoughts. “Bye, Midoriya.”

“Hey,” Izuku started, but cut off when Shigaraki disappeared through Kurogiri’s warp gate.

Izuku bit the edge of his thumb hard enough to draw blood from his nail. He’d expected they’d eventually attack U.A., but this—he pulled his hand down and snorted. Izuku looked at the picture of Kacchan again and tapped his childhood friend on the nose before returning to his work.

He shouldn’t worry about drawing extra attention to Kacchan through Shigaraki; Kacchan drew enough attention to himself that it wouldn’t matter.

(Kacchan would be fine; he’d be fine.)

Izuku went back to work.

Kacchan had almost died and it was Izuku’s fault.

He clutched his scorched notebook to his chest, rubbing at his eyes as he cried in the back lot behind the middle school. The tears wouldn’t stop and it choked his breath; this new ache strangling him. If he hadn’t bothered All Might; if he hadn’t asked the man if it was possible for Izuku to be a hero, that monster wouldn’t have gotten away. It wouldn’t have attacked downtown.

It wouldn’t have taken Kacchan.

“Worthless,” Izuku whispered. He opened the book, back against the wall, staring down at the signature from All Might. Izuku didn’t deserve it.

(But he couldn’t let it go either. It was All Might’s signature, after all. He kept it with a guilty heart.)

Izuku hadn’t even known Kacchan was in trouble until he had wandered home and saw what happened on the evening news. If All Might had been even two minutes later to the scene, Kacchan would have been eaten alive by that Slime.

Knowing that it was his fault that the Villain escaped, Izuku had avoided contact with Kacchan at all costs (not that his friend minded; barely even noticed). Kacchan had no idea that Izuku had been the one to put him in that embarrassing position (oh, how Kacchan hated it when people asked if he was the boy who’d been attacked), but it didn’t matter. Izuku knew.

Izuku watched fat droplets hit the edges of the page, and sniffed. It’d been a week since Kacchan came back to school, and Izuku still hadn’t been able to look the other boy in the eye.

“Most people are happy to have that hero’s autograph,” a raspy voice said. Izuku heard a scratching noise, and looked up into dark eyes behind a hood. The stranger smiled, scratching his neck hard and almost amused at Izuku’s misery. “How odd.”

(That was the first time Izuku met Shigaraki Tomura.)

“You’re going to U.A.,” Giran said, strutting into the room and spitting out a mouthful of smoke. He dumped a stack of papers on Izuku’s desk and grinned, showing off the gap between his teeth. “Lucky you.”

“What,” Izuku gaped, staring at the documents. He flipped through them one by one and there was no mistake: Transfer papers to send Izuku from his current high school to U.A.’s Department of General Education. His fingers crumpled the paper’s edges. “What is this?”

“The League of Villain’s attack on U.A. was a total disaster,” Giran said. He licked the side of his teeth and pointed his cigarette at the pages. “Those were hard to secure, by the way, so you better be grateful for the opportunity and don’t crinkle the pages!”

“You still haven’t explained what’s going on,” Izuku said, hands shaking. He slammed the too-good-to-be-true documents on the table. U.A. High School was his old dream. He’d crushed it on his own when he decided to come work here. How dare they? How dare they try to make a dead dream a reality after the things Izuku had done? “What does this have to do with the League of Villain’s attack?”

Izuku had heard all about that disaster (Izuku knew it would be one from the start, he did) from third parties this time around—the news had gleefully covered the defeat of the team and the attack on U.A. Shigaraki had been dangerously unsettled and upset afterwards, so Izuku had been discretely warned to keep his distance via a text. A follow up email from Kurogiri a few days later filled in the details that their experimental Nomu had been defeated by All Might.

(Big surprise.)

“The U.A. students were more of a threat than they expected,” Giran said. “So they need more information. That’s your whole job, kid! You’re an info analyst and one of the best ones I’ve had the privilege of hiring. Plus, you’re the right age and no one would suspect you in a heartbeat with those big eyes and that cute little face.

“So they paid me a whole, whole lot of money to make sure you get your ass into that school and get the dirt on every single little wanna-be future hero that you can and then report back with how to destroy them like a good little analyst. You got that, kid?”

“I study police reports and villain testimonies to analyze Quirks and report the best methods of use and defense based on observation,” Izuku said through gritted teeth. “I don’t know the first thing about going undercover.”

“Come on, Midoriya,” Giran said. He snuffed out his cigarette in an ashtray. “We both know it’s the exact same thing, except you’re going to a nice new school and keeping a good close eye on all your little classmates instead of watching civilian video recordings from online.”

This was absurd. It was bad enough he was selling out Pro Heroes, but at least it was their job to fight villains. They were prepared on some level for just about anything. But they were asking Izuku to rat out his peers who were still learning. It was low, even for this group.

Izuku grabbed his backpack and headed for the door. “I’m going to see Shigaraki.”

“Don’t worry,” Giran called after him. “I’ll keep your desk warm for you on the weekends!”

The door slammed shut, but Izuku only saw red as he ran down the street headed for a certain bar.

“You keep notes on heroes?” The older boy who had introduced himself as Shigaraki asked, holding the book by the corner edge. He pinched it, like he didn’t want to touch it and held it slightly over his head. “Huh.”

“I know it’s a weird hobby, but you don’t have to act so disgusted,” Izuku said, wiping away the last of his tears. He still felt guilty over Kacchan and how his hero obsession had caused it, but he still had pride. There was a lot of work and effort in that notebook and he wouldn’t be mocked by this new stranger. “Please give it back.”

“Disgust?” Shigaraki asked. He looked at his hand and chuckled. Shigaraki dropped the notebook over Izuku’s head, and the boy scrambled to get it before it fell on the ground. “No, you misunderstand. My Quirk.”

“Your Quirk?” Izuku asked when the older boy paused.

“My Quirk,” Shigaraki said again. He reached down and picked up a soda can that rested against the wall. He held it with four fingers and his index finger aloft. He grinned again and said, “Is a little destructive.”

Shigaraki dropped his finger and the can crumpled away into dust the second all five fingers touched.

“Wow,” Izuku said.

Kacchan’s destruction was deafening noises and explosions; heat and fire and energy. Shigaraki’s destruction, while no less utterly complete, was quiet like a whisper. The contrast was stunning.

“Crying over an autograph and impressed with my Quirk?” Shigaraki asked, tilting his head to the side. He scratched the side of his neck and chuckled. “You are odd.”

Izuku leaned back when Shigaraki flicked his fingers against his notebook. “But very useful.”

It was hard to say “no” when Shigaraki asked Izuku if he wanted to meet his friend Kurogiri.

“Shigaraki,” Izuku said, opening the door to the bar. Kurogiri looked up from cleaning glasses and turned away. His little master sat at the bar, his villain costume hand on his face and staring at the television static through the fingers. Izuku hissed, “You can’t order me around. I’m not one of your little league members.”

“I saw your Kacchan, but I didn’t say hello for you. I’m sorry, I said I would, didn’t I?” Shigaraki tilted his head down as he faced Izuku, eye wide and pupil small. Izuku stilled; there was that dangerous crack in Shigaraki’s voice that cued a tantrum. “He was trouble.”

Izuku swallowed; tantrums meant people died. “Yeah. Kacchan’s like that.”

“But not as much as the Todoroki boy,” Shigaraki said. He hopped off the stool and stomped over to Izuku in his dirty red sneakers. He loomed over him, pupil shaking. “I lost my game.”

Shigaraki leaned closer and dropped his hand on Izuku’s shoulder, middle finger raised. His grip squeezed so tight Izuku feared his bone might snap. “You’re gonna’ help me win Round 2, Midoriya. Aren’t you? You’re a good friend like that. We can play co-op this time.”

Izuku darted a glance at Kurogiri for possible support. The older man made no move to intervene (Izuku shouldn’t have bothered. Kurogiri always took Shigaraki’s side. He played favorites. It was common knowledge. He knew that. He knew that!). Izuku looked Shigaraki back in the eye and forced his face to smile, though he knew it was as crooked as Shigaraki’s.

“Of course,” Izuku said. He swallowed hard. “Just ask next time. Friends ask, they don’t order.”

(Unless you were Kacchan; Izuku shook his head. No, no. He wasn’t thinking about that right now.)

“Oh,” Shigaraki said. He let go of Izuku’s shoulder and wandered back to the bar. “I didn’t know that.”

Izuku massaged his shoulder and took a few shaky steps to the bar counter. This particular sort-of friend was bad for Izuku’s health. But at this point, he didn’t have very many other options, either.

He took a seat next to Shigaraki and stared at the table top, accepting this odd fate of his. “So what made you think of sending me to U.A.?”

“It was Master’s idea,” Shigaraki said. He dropped his chin on the bar top and slumped to the side. “He thinks you’ll be a better use there than in Giran’s office.”

Izuku’s blood froze. He shivered in his seat, and covered the bottom of his mouth with his hand. “You talk to your Master about me?”

The true Leader of the League of Villains: Shigaraki’s precious Master. Izuku had caught him on the television screen talking to Shigaraki once or twice, but never stuck around. There was something dark about that man that was to be avoided at all costs. He was one person that Izuku had no desire to learn more about in his Quirk notes. To be on that man’s radar in any way was worrisome.

“Why wouldn’t I tell him about my friends?” Shigaraki asked, the innocence of the question unnatural coming from such a potential monster.

Izuku often forgot that Shigaraki was the Master’s favorite person, too.

“I just didn’t realize I was that important,” Izuku said, muttering lowly with what he hoped was a good excuse. “I figured you’d have better things to talk about.”

“Friends are good things to talk about.” Shigaraki ruffled Izuku’s hair. A few strands fell off, transformed to dust. Shigaraki plucked a hair and disintegrated it. “Go have fun at school, Midoriya.”

He swallowed and leaned his head back. “Yeah, I will.”

“You’re a talented young man,” Kurogiri said, flipping through one of Izuku’s notebooks. Shigaraki had noticed the volume number on the one he’d seen and asked if he could see the rest. Izuku was too flattered to think that might be a bad idea. Kurogiri, however, was the one who took a true interest. “Very bright. Your analytical skill is quite high for someone your age.”

Izuku flushed under the praise, and it took steeling all of his jittery nerves to keep from stuttering. “Thank you.”

“Have you thought about what you’d like to do after you graduate? There are many fields where this sort of knowledge could be of great use,” Kurogiri said, his warp Quirk fluttering around his body, ever moving.

“Ah, no,” Izuku said, holding his arm. He rubbed under his sleeve and shrugged. He bit the edge of his lip and chuckled. “There was a place I wanted to go, but it’s impossible.”

He thought he might be able to make it in at one point in his life, but All Might had explained it well enough. Izuku had dreams, but he couldn’t be a Hero. Not that way. Not without a Quirk. And Kacchan suffered from Izuku’s desperate need to have anyone tell him that he could.

It wasn’t worth it.

Izuku could get another dream.

“Then perhaps, I could make a suggestion?” Kurogiri said. He set down Izuku’s notebook and gently slid it across the bar top to Izuku. “I have a friend who would greatly benefit from your knowledge and busy mind.”

“Oh?” Izuku asked.

Kurogiri chuckled, his eyes squinting together in joy. “Yes, it’s quite the lucrative business for those who have the spirit for it.”

Shigaraki snickered off to the side. “It’ll be a whole new level.”

Izuku felt a small knot grow in the back of his throat. Something felt wrong about all of this, but—but if he couldn’t be a hero, and he was trapped here with Shigaraki and Kurogiri anyway—was it so wrong to be somewhere where he was wanted?

Izuku scanned his U.A. ID and passed through the gate without any trouble, despite every wracking heartbeat in his chest screaming that it should be otherwise. He walked among the throng of students all eager to get back to their classes, chatting happily about this or that. The morning gossip consisted of Class 1-A and the recent League of Villains attack.

Izuku kept his head down and clutched his backpack strap.

The only saving grace of this entire ordeal was that Shigaraki hadn’t given Izuku a deadline to acquire all the requested information. Izuku had plenty of time to get settled in classes, make some friends, and make sure no one knew that he was gathering data to sell to illegal underground info brokers to sign their doom in the future when Shigaraki next said “Go” to his new group.

“I really need to get a grip,” Izuku muttered under his breath. He kept his eyes darting around the campus, looking for a familiar face or two but found none. He shook his head and walked faster, aiming to get into the building as fast as possible. “It’s my first day and I don’t have time for this. I just need to find my class and be glad that I’m here.”

By some miracle and a polite student in the hallway with glasses and a “Responsible” presence who was more than happy to help the new transfer student, Izuku managed to make it to his first class and stumbled through his introduction without any major issues.

His seat was behind a tired looking boy named Hitoshi Shinsou who had hair more wild than Izuku’s, but he seemed polite enough under his disinterest.

It wasn’t until lunch that Izuku had to steel his nerves again and answer questions.

“Late transfers are pretty rare,” Shinsou said, leaning over the back of his chair. His voice was light, but friendly enough. “How’d you manage it?”

“Good grades,” Izuku said, repeating the justification on his paperwork. He played with his fingers, rubbing his thumb on his index finger while he finished the cover story. “I wasn’t in a good place personally during the entrance exams, which meant I missed them. Someone encouraged me to give it another shot once things calmed down, and I guess my grades were impressive enough to make an exception.”

Funny enough, the story was basically true—the only lie was that Izuku still didn’t have his life back together where he needed it.

“Huh,” Shinsou said. He tilted his head and smiled in that sly way that yelled “I know there’s more to it than that and I’m going to find out later.” But instead he just said, “Lucky you.”

“Yeah,” Izuku said, folding his arms on the desk. He smiled brightly, even as his heart thumped. “Lucky me.”

Kurogiri had just introduced Izuku to a Villain Broker.

Izuku was two seconds away from having a full blown panic attack right there in the middle of the dirt encrusted office, and he was sure it was showing from his shaking shoulders to the wide eyes.

“Unusual for you to come to me with something like this,” Giran said, leaning back in his chair. He crossed one leg over the other and straightened his scarf. “What’s the occasion?”

“You mentioned recently that you were overworked since you began expanding your business into villain costumes,” Kurogiri said. “And who better than to help recruit than someone who analyzes Quirks?”

“He’s a kid,” Giran said. Izuku thought for a few fleeting seconds that this man had some sort of conscience, up until his next line. “They don’t know shit. They’re only good for running things or throwing in front of things. You really think he can do actual work?”

“I’ve read his notes, and I assure you that he’d impress even you. Given the proper equipment and resources, who knows how far he could go?” Kurogiri stated proudly.

Izuku ran through every polite way he could possible say “Thank you, but I’m not interested” without making someone in the room angry.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Giran said. He held his hand out and made a waving motion. “Come over here, kid.”

“I-I think there’s been some mistake,” Izuku said, glancing between Kurogiri and Giran. “I’m not looking for a part time job. I mean, I still need to study for entrance exams and uh—”

“Nonsense,” Kurogiri said. “You’re bright enough to handle both responsibilities. I have complete faith in you.”

“Kurogiri worked hard to get you this job opportunity.” A heavy hand dropped on Izuku’s shoulder, one finger raised. Shigaraki leaned on him, reminding Izuku that he had come, too. “He even gave up some of our video game time for it. Are you going to just let that go to waste? That’s rude, Midoriya.”

The squeeze of Shigaraki’s fingers and the twitch of the one was more than enough words between the lines.

Izuku swallowed and tugged out one of his notebooks to hand to Giran.

He was impressed (Izuku shoved down the shameful pride that bubbled up); Kurogiri congratulated Izuku on his new job, and commented he’d be sure to pick up something lovely for Izuku’s Mother as well to celebrate.

“You don’t have a Quirk?” Shinsou asked, putting away his things. He closed the clasp on his bag and leaned on his desk. “Huh.”

“Kinda lame, right?” Izuku stacked his books neatly before putting them in his bag. It always came back to Quirks. Always. Always. Always. Izuku forced a smile. “I’m used to it, though.”

“I wouldn’t say lame, exactly,” Shinsou said. He kept his eyes on Izuku, studying. “But it does make things harder, I imagine.”

“Only a little,” Izuku said. He pinched his fingers together and shrugged. “It depends who I’m talking to and what I need to do.”

Like becoming a hero. That was rather hard to do without a Quirk.

Being a villain, apparently, was much easier. Against his wishes and judgement, Izuku had been rather excelling at the position. The internal conflict over doing what was right and being praised and wanted battled even now as he wondered what he was doing with his life in this dream school.

“That’s true,” Shinsou said. “Even most Quirks don’t give people a huge advantage, so it’s not like you’re that different.”

“Yup,” Izuku said. He shrugged lightly, and his skin itches to end the conversation. Shinsou was smart and Izuku wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep going before he let something important slip. “You don’t have to wait for me. I’m going to go walk around the school before I head out to try and remember where everything is. I don’t want to keep you.”

“Sure,” Shinsou said. He knocked his knuckles on the back of Izuku’s desk and smiled softly. “See you later, Midoriya.”

“Bye,” Izuku said, waving his hand.

It wasn’t until Shinsou had left that Izuku realized he didn’t know what Shinsou’s Quirk was.

(He’d find out later.)

It terrified Izuku how easily he had adapted to working in Giran’s little underground office.

At first, every inch of him screamed “This is wrong and good people don’t do this and you wanted to be a Hero at one point, Izuku—what are you doing here!?” every second and through every breath. Those thoughts were smothered by the much louder voice of common sense that yelled: “These people know where your mother lives.”

This louder thought had been highly reinforced with “You’re in over your head so keep it down” the first time he saw Shigaraki kill someone.

(Kurogiri had been very kind and warped Izuku somewhere private to vomit and rubbed his back before returning him to Giran’s to finish his part time shift.)

After a week or two, Izuku justified every thing he gave over to Giran with the mindset of “They’re Pro Heroes. It doesn’t matter what villains know, the Heroes will win.”

By the time he graduated middle school, Izuku had gotten used to everything to such a degree that he barely even blinked when he saw his highly coveted strategies were working when he spotted someone he’d ratted out be defeated on the evening news.

Routine was a terrifying thing.

Giran praised him for a job well done and slowly introduced him to the art of wrangling wanna-be villains looking for work in addition to his analysis job. Izuku learned when Shigaraki was on the verge of a tantrum and how to calm him down. Kurogiri learned Izuku’s favorite (non-alcoholic) drinks and encouraged him to stop by the bar and keep Shigaraki company from time to time.

Izuku went to school, worked for Giran, developed a weird friendship with his new Villain friend, and went home to kiss his mother on the cheek.

Every day, Izuku found himself wanted and appreciated.

Every day chipped away at Izuku’s will to get away.

“Deku?” Kacchan’s incredulous yell filled the half-empty hallway. He grabbed a fist full of Izuku’s blazer and slammed him into the nearest wall. “What the hell are you doing here, you shitty nerd?”

“Kacchan,” Izuku yelped. He grabbed at Kacchan’s wrist and pressed his toe into the ground. He wasn’t expecting to run into Kacchan ever. The Hero Course and the General Studies Department weren’t supposed to interact much and Izuku had done everything he could to avoid his friend’s path (but it was only a matter of time until he messed up; Kacchan was too unpredictable). Izuku grunted, “It’s good to see you.”

“Answer the question,” Kacchan said. He pulled Izuku back and slammed him back into the wall. “I thought you finally got smart keeping your ass back at home, you Quirkless loser. What the hell do you think you’re doing at U.A.?”

“I’m in General Studies,” Izuku said, gritting his teeth. He pushed on Kacchan’s arm when the other boy’s grip tightened enough that his collar started to choke. “It’s a good school and the opportunities are better for later.”

“I was the only one from our school who got into U.A. when we graduated,” Kacchan hissed. “When the hell did you sneak in?”

“Late transfer,” Izuku said, hoping that would appease the explosive teen.

“Bullshit,” Kacchan said. He shook Izuku again, knocking his head on the back of the wall. Izuku blacked out for a second, and it ached. Kacchan got in his face; breath warm and palms sparking. “Why the hell are you really here?”

Izuku wondered if there was something really wrong with him when he realized he had missed this to some degree. Perhaps not Kacchan trying to choke him exactly, but definitely the sound of his voice and that flicker of “I’m the best how dare you threaten that position?” that flashed in his eyes every time he really got angry with Izuku.

“Dude, Bakugou, what are you doing?” A new voice interrupted.

Kacchan flinched hard enough to back away without letting go of the blazer and Izuku turned his head the same time Kacchan did. A redhead stood off to the side with a girl with pink skin and a boy with short blond hair with a streak of black.

“That’s so not manly,” the redhead said, starting the conversation. He crossed his arms and frowned. “I know you’ve got a short fuse, but you’re about to strangle that guy. What are you doing?”

Kacchan glanced at the hand tight in Izuku’s collar and his eyes widened a fraction. He looked at the newcomers again before letting go of Izuku like his hand had been burned. Izuku coughed as he got his breath back, but he was hyper focused on the look that had crossed Kacchan’s face for all of five seconds: Shame.

“You know what? I don’t care,” Kacchan said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and turned his back on Izuku. “However the hell you got into this school is your own damned business, but just stay the hell away from me, Deku.”

“Kacchan,” Izuku said, rubbing his throat. He coughed a couple times and held a hand out. Izuku had wanted to avoid Kacchan, but now that he was here the other boy was leaving too soon. “Hey, wait!”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” Kacchan said, turning around and putting his broad back to Izuku. “Beat it.”

“What is with you?” the redhead said. He shook Kacchan’s arm casually; easily. Kacchan didn’t push him away. The redhead asked, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Let’s go, Kirishima,” Kacchan said.

Izuku dropped both hands at his side as Kacchan grabbed the redhead’s arm and dragged him along down the hallway. The others in the group followed along, glancing back at Izuku every so often, but not saying anything just yet.

“Wait, Bakugou! Who was that? What’s going on?” The redhead—no, Kirishima—continued to ask, even as Kacchan’s grip refused to budge and they made their way further and further down the hall. “Talk to me, man!”

“He’s just some loser I used to go to school with, drop it,” Kacchan said, just as they disappeared around the corner.

Izuku hadn’t really pictured how his first meeting with Kacchan since middle school would go, but he was sure that this wasn’t a scenario he could have envisioned.

He didn’t think it was possible for anyone to make Kacchan feel ashamed.

(Izuku realized much, much later after he’d left school for the day that the tightening in his chest that made it hard to breath was jealousy.)

“Finished daydreaming?” Shigaraki asked, tugging on the side of Izuku’s hair. The younger boy batted him away and turned, happy to see it was just Shigaraki’s wrinkled face and not his costume-hand. It meant he was in a good mood. “You’ve been staring at your drink for a while.”

“I saw Kacchan today,” Izuku admitted, writing out the names of his classmates on each page of his new notebook in preparation for the upcoming month. He didn’t have a deadline, but he had to have something to show for his efforts just in case. Kurogiri cleaned glasses off to the side, listening to their conversation from the other side of the bar top. Izuku chose his words carefully. “He looked well.”

“Your friend give you the cold shoulder, didn’t he?” Shigaraki asked, snickering under his breath. His voice cracked through the raspy tone. “Might explain why you’re so chilly tonight.”

Izuku underlined Shinsou’s name, making sure to listen carefully in the upcoming days to find out what his Quirk was. The biggest downfall of transferring in late was that everyone else already knew their classmates’ Quirks. Izuku had a lot of catching up to do.

“Don’t ignore me,” Shigaraki said, reaching over. He flicked Izuku harder in the head and with a vicious push shoved his notebook so far down the counter that it nearly fell off the edge. “Tell me about your Kacchan.”

“He shoved me against a wall and yelled at me to leave him alone and never talk to him again,” Izuku said, glaring at Shigaraki. He narrowed his eyes and gripped his fists under the table. The words spilled out before he could stop them: “I’m the same Quirkless loser I’ve always been to him, so nothing’s changed. We haven’t been actual friends since we were six. I spend more time than is healthy wishing we were still friends like we were when we were toddlers because I still admire him, but it’s never going to happen. Are you happy, now?”

“No,” Shigaraki said, serious as he’s ever been. He dug a finger into the center of Izuku’s forehead and pressed in. “But neither are you.”

Izuku grunted, wincing under Shigaraki’s sharp finger. The pressure stayed constant, adding to a growing headache. “What’s your point, Shigaraki?”

“That we should make sure no one else is either,” Shigaraki said. He kept digging his finger into Izuku’s forehead, until it tilted toward the counter. “Including your little Kacchan.”

“I don’t want to make Kacchan miserable,” Izuku said, voice hoarse.

He pictured the other boy in his rumbled uniform walking away with new friends (real friends; not minions—only a real friend could make Kacchan doubt his bullish nature). Izuku pictured him wearing his hero costume and saving the day, eyes fierce behind his domino mask. Izuku closed his eyes and smiled.

No, no he didn’t want Kacchan to be miserable.

“You just want him to be yours,” Shigaraki said, slamming Izuku’s head into the counter. Izuku groaned, shoulders bunching in as the explosion of pain registered. Shigaraki chuckled and slid off the bar top as Izuku hissed, holding his head. He wandered to the corner and clicked on the television. “I’m going to call Master. Kurogiri, see Midoriya home.”

“Of course,” Kurogiri said, opening the warp. “Have a lovely evening.”

Izuku grabbed his backpack and walked through quickly, thankfully avoiding Master arriving on screen. Kurogiri dropped him off outside his apartment in a back alley where no one could see him. Izuku took his time walking up the stairs to his apartment.

Shigaraki’s words buzzed in his brain through the newly acquired headache.

Izuku didn’t want to own Kacchan. Izuku had never wanted that. He’d just wanted to be friends.

(But now he couldn’t stop thinking about it.)

“Kacchan doesn’t like you,” Izuku said, whispering under his breath. He sucked in a breath. “That’s never going to change.”

(“But it could,” Shigaraki’s voice whispered. “You’ve got better friends now. Just like he does. It could work.”)

Izuku kissed his mother on the cheek when he got upstairs and hid away to his room. He dropped his bag on the ground and dropped on his mattress, covering the back of his head with a pillow.

School tomorrow was going to be hell.

Chapter Text

“Okay, so let’s hear it,” Eijirou said, dumping open his books on the diner table he and Bakugou met at for their study sessions. He prepared himself for the conversation at hand, but there was no getting around it: Eijirou and his best bro needed to have a chat, and the local diner was a nice neutral location to have it. “What was up with you and that green haired kid the other day? You totally lost it, bro.”

“We’re here to study and I don’t want to talk about it,” Bakugou said, shoving the condiments aside to the end of the table and setting up his school work. He reached across the table and opened Eijirou’s book for him. “So drop it.”

Eijirou narrowed his eyes together and crossed his arms over his books. Bakugou wasn’t get out of this that easily.

“Come on, you haven’t been the same since yesterday.” Eijirou frowned, tapping his finger. “You’ve been like ten times grumpier than usual, and I know what happened yesterday is bothering you.”

Bakugou huffed under his breath. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Eijirou stared him down, stressing the “Dude, I know when you’re upset, so go ahead and open up” in his gaze.

Bakugou caved (as Eijirou knew he would; the “look” never failed) and sighed, rubbing the back of his head as he slumped on the table. He killed a few seconds ordering some food from the waitress before caving to the inevitable heart-to-heart conversation.

He glared at Eijirou through the corner of his eyes and muttered, “It’s just like I said before: we used to play together as kids and then he kept following me around. Deku hadn’t gotten into U.A. last time I checked, so I was surprised to see him. That’s all there is to it.”

“It’s not manly to lie,” Eijirou said, waving his finger back and forth. He leaned across the table, lowering his voice in case there was another student around to eavesdrop. “You don’t nearly strangle someone over a simple ‘I wasn’t expecting to see him here’ scenario. Be straight with me. I’m not going to judge, man.”

Bakugou grunted, avoiding eye contact. If Eijirou didn’t know better, he’d almost say Bakugou was embarrassed. The other kept staring at the table, brows creased and eyes focused on a spec of salt.

“Okay, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Eijirou said, adjusting his plans. If Bakugou was this upset, pushing him might not be the best idea. He reached across the table and fist-bumped Bakugou in the shoulder. “But I bet you’ll feel better if you do, and I won’t tell a soul if you don’t want me to.”

His prickly friend stayed silent for a few more moments before he huffed and started packing up his things. Each shove of a book or pencil was with enough force Eijirou was surprised nothing had broken or snapped yet.


“Not here,” he said. He shoved the last of his things in his bag and threw money on the table for the food they’d ordered. “We’ll go to your place.”

“Sure,” Eijirou said, grabbing his things and flagging down a to-go box.

The smell of burgers taunted him the entire way home, but thankfully he was too distracted by how much Bakugou had closed in on himself the entire walk home. He kept this eyes straight, his shoulders tense, and looked like he was going to sprint and run away before Eijirou got him to open up.

Thankfully they made it to Eijirou’s house without issue or Bakugou chickening out.

Whatever was up with that boy from yesterday might be more serious than Eijirou had originally thought.

“I used to beat him up,” Bakugou said, glaring at the wall. It had taken him an entire hour to work up the nerve to speak. “A lot.”

“Come again?” Eijirou asked, setting down a couple of drinks on his desk that he’d retrieved from the kitchen when it looked like his friend was going to take his time talking.

Bakugou groaned and covered his face with his arms, falling back on the bed and crumpling the covers. He grumbled through his sleeves. “Deku would piss me off. I’d beat him up. Rinse and repeat for ten years.”

The gritted teeth, the flushed face, and the clipped sentences were clues that Bakugou’s bullying of that kid was much, much worse than he was letting on. Eijirou straddled his desk chair and crossed his arms over the back.

When he first met Bakugou in class, Eijirou’s first thought was Bakugou was the manliest man he’d ever met: Confident, fit, strong, and well, manly. Eijirou instantly knew this was a guy he was going to be friends with.

After he got to know him, he realized the guy was also short tempered, kinda full of himself, and socially awkward on top of all that (Eijirou had started to get the vibe that Bakugou didn’t have many friends after about the fifth insult in a row and Bakugou’s inability to learn anyone’s names).

It was around that time that Eijirou decided that shell of Bakugou’s was worth cracking to find the awesome guy underneath all the “I’m the best and I’m going to crush all of you” spirit that was admirable, but needed a bit of fine-tuning to include teamwork and friendship into his “I’m going for number one” goal.

Sure enough, after getting knocked down a peg by Todoroki in their first hands-on hero training course, and a few humility checks from the rest of the class, Bakugou’s temper and one-man-show attitude chipped away just enough that it was easy to see the awesome hero Bakugou would be in the future.

Bakugou was still prickly and foul tempered, but Eijirou was proud to hold the spot of his best friend.

But this? Eijirou leaned his head on his arms. He hadn’t really predicted this. Bakugou could be a bit of a jackass, but he hadn’t pegged him for a dedicated bully with a long-term victim. That wasn’t hero-like at all.

No wonder he didn’t want to talk about it.

“Are you sorry about it?” Eijirou asked, curious despite himself.

“What?” Bakugou asked, looking through his arms. “What are you talking about?”

“Beating up that kid for so many years,” Eijirou clarified. “You’re embarrassed about it because you know it was wrong, right? Maybe you’d feel better if you apologized to him. Whether or not he accepts it, you’ll at least be able to get it off your chest and move on.”

“Can I say no?” Bakugou asked. He snorted and held his hand back over his eyes. He rolled over on his side, ruffling his hair and yelling. “Every time I see that shitty nerd I just want to punch him in the face and that sure hasn’t changed. He’s lucky I usually restrain myself and stick to telling him to get lost.”

“Is there a reason he makes you so angry?” Eijirou asked.

“No,” Bakugou said, far too quickly. That meant the answer was “yes” but he figured they wouldn’t be touching that subject today. Bakugou sat up from the bed and slid to the floor, back to the mattress. “Half of it was just habit. I’ve been pushing him around since we were like six.”

“That’s…” Eijirou trailed off. He studied Bakugou’s flushed face and embarrassed pout and rubbed the back of his neck. “Something.”

“Whatever,” Bakugou said.

“You should still probably apologize,” Eijirou said. Bakugou glared and he shrugged. “Even if it’s just for your freakout yesterday. You’re going to run into him again and if you bully him here like you did before, you might get written up or suspended. That’d suck, dude.”

Bakugou groaned and rubbed his eyes. “Fine.”

“Awesome,” Eijirou said, holding his arm up in the air. This was all going much better than he had been expecting. And once it was settled, Bakugou could go back to working on being the number one hero. “I’ll even come with you to be your support if anything goes wrong!”

“Like I’ll need it,” Bakugou huffed. He got off the floor and stretched with both arms behind his back. “Deku’ll roll over and just be glad I’m talking to him. He’s a freak like that.”

“Oh?” Eijirou asked.

“Deku thinks we’re best friends,” Bakugou said, smirking with an odd look in his eyes. “It’s as pathetic as his lack of a Quirk.”

“We’re going to have to work on this ‘bully Deku’ thing you’ve got going on,” Eijirou said, realizing that this thing ran deep in Bakugou’s system. He might not even be aware he’s doing it. “And I’m absolutely coming with you tomorrow.”

“Do what you want,” Bakugou said. He picked up his bag and headed for the door. “I’m going home and good luck studying by yourself.”

“Studying,” Eijirou said. He jerked up and headed after Bakugou. “Wait! I really need that help for the test.”

The asshole laughed as he ran out the door.

Eijirou probably had that coming after making the guy confess his soul. He snorted and rubbed under his nose. A few lost test points were worth it for that sort of thing.

“Hey, shitty Deku,” Bakugou called out, surprising the other kid enough that he jumped in his seat.

Eijirou wanted to cry; this apology was off to a great start.

The few lingering students from the General Studies class stared at the two Class 1-A students as they invaded during the lunch break. Bakugou loomed over “Deku” (Eijirou needed to get that guy’s actual name) and glared at him so hard that Eijirou was scared he might develop a second Quirk.

(Bakugou with laser eyes was a frightening thought.)

“Kacchan,” Deku said, looking up with wide eyes. “What are you doing here?”

Eijirou blinked when Bakugou did absolutely nothing in response to that positively precious nickname. It was like the name hadn’t even registered.

“Yesterday didn’t happen,” Bakugou said. He huffed and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking off to the side. “You got that?”

“I wasn’t going to tell anyone if you were worried about that,” Deku said, laughing nervously. He looked at the desk, and shrugged. Eijirou crossed his arms, watching the kid shrink into his desk. “It was my fault anyway for not telling you I was coming. It was unfair to surprise you like that, huh?”

“Whatever,” Bakugou said. Eijirou had half a mind to tell the kid to speak up for himself more, but he didn’t get the chance. Bakugou pushed the conversation forward with another line: “Everything I said didn’t happen, either, so if we see each other in the halls or something, it’s whatever.”

Deku smiled so brightly Eijirou thought he might go blind.

Somewhere between the shock of this Deku actually being fond of Bakugou despite what the other had admitted and trying to process there was someone who could get away with calling Bakugou “Kacchan” (he was still stuck on that), Eijirou almost missed it when Deku addressed him.

“Who’s your friend, Kacchan?”

Bakugou huffed and nodded toward Eijirou. “This is Kirishima. He’s in my class.”

“Aw, don’t I get a better introduction that that? I’m your best friend!” Eijirou laughed, elbowing Bakugou in the side. He batted Eijirou away, but it wasn’t an explosion, so they were in the clear. Deku twitched slightly watching them, and Eijirou caught the slight strain on his smile. He backed up a step and held out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Izuku Midoriya,” the other said, shaking Eijirou’s hand. “Kacchan’s the only one who calls me ‘Deku.’”

“Got it,” Eijirou said.

“Alright, this mush fest has gone on long enough,” Bakugou said. He grabbed Eijirou by the shirt sleeve and started dragging him to the door. “I said what I wanted to. See you later or something, Deku.”

“Bye, Kacchan,” Midoriya said, waving. He stared long and hard at the two of them as they left the room, and Eijirou felt a tiny sliver of bad vibes.

He hoped he was imagining it.

It was about a week later when Midoriya came to visit them in their class. During lunch, he timidly tapped on the door, waved hello to Iida who recognized him as “The transfer student I helped direct to class last week” before stopping at Bakugou’s desk.

He put a small bento box down and said it was from his mother. Bakugou said nothing in response, staring at the box like it might explode. Eventually, Midoriya asked softly, “Can I talk to you later, Kacchan? Alone?”

“What about?” Bakugou said, glancing around the room, subconscious of all the eyes on him. “I’m busy.”

“It will just take a minute, but it’s personal,” Midoriya said. He wrung his hands together, shifting in his slightly too-large blazer. “Can we talk after school? Please?”

“Fine,” Bakugou said. “Whatever.”

“Thank you, Kacchan,” Midoriya said. He smiled quickly before dashing out of the room, avoiding eye contact or conversation with anyone else in the class.

Eijirou took cover under his desk the second some idiot said “Did that guy just call Bakugou “Kacchan”?” and the explosions started.

Somewhere in the chaos, Eijirou reminded himself to check in with Bakugou later concerning whatever conversation he was going to have with Midoriya.

“You did what!”

Eijirou broke into a sprint the second he heard the enraged yell and the following explosion. He knew it had been a good idea to wait for Bakugou to finish up and walk home together. His gut feeling told him to be there for his friend and his gut hadn’t been wrong. Something had gone very, very wrong with that meet up with Midoriya.

Digging his feet into the grass to run faster, Eijirou hoped he wasn’t too late.

Turning the corner he saw Bakugou leap toward Midoriya, already on the ground next to a burnt chunk of dirt.

Activating his Quirk, Eijirou threw himself between Bakugou and Midoriya, taking the full brunt of the attack.

The surprise broke Bakugou out of his rage as the smoke cleared, but now it was Eijirou who was furious.

“What the hell are you doing?” Eijirou yelled, pushing Bakugou back hard enough that he stumbled and had to catch himself. “You could have killed him!”

“He!” Bakugou yelled. He stuttered over his words, so enraged he couldn’t find his voice. Bakugou eventually pointed and his palms continued to spark. “Deku—”

“I don’t care what he did,” Eijirou said, standing his ground. He stayed in Bakugou’s line of sight, keeping him from seeing the other boy. Eijirou asked as seriously as he could, trying to stress the importance of what was going on. “Do you want to get expelled?”

“No,” Bakugou yelled. “But I can’t—”

Eijirou pointed, “Get out of here and cool your head! We’ll talk later.”

Bakugou still looked a step away from murder, but Eijirou wasn’t going to let his best friend destroy himself over some messed up relationship with someone he bullies.

“You’ll never be a hero if you get thrown out of school for attacking a classmate,” Eijirou said. He dropped his arms and grabbed Bakugou by the shoulders and squeezed. “I know you’re upset, but you need to calm down. I’ll take care of Midoriya and meet you at the gate where we’re going to go to my place and talk this out, okay?”

He words must have gotten through, because Bakugou’s breathing evened out enough that he could talk without yelling. He pointed at Midoriya and yelled, “You stay away from me” before stomping toward the front gate.

Eijirou deflated, dropping his Quirk and running his hand through his hair. What a mess.

He held out a hand to help Midoriya up from the ground but he didn’t take it. Midoriya was too busy staring at Eijirou with an unreadable expression.

“You just yelled at Kacchan and he listened,” Midoriya said, matter of fact but the hint of awe was unmistakable. “No one can tell him what to do.”

“Well, he’s grown up a lot since he started at U.A.,” Eijirou said. He reached down and tugged Midoriya up off the ground. “Though apparently not enough if he’s still doing stuff like this.”

“It’s fine,” Midoriya said, softly. His shoulders dropped and he shrugged. “I had that coming.”

“Dude, that’s messed up,” Eijirou said. He shook his head back and forth slowly. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but nobody deserves to get beaten up like that for wanting to talk.”

Midoriya stayed quiet for a second before slowly speaking, “Do you remember that student who was caught by the slime monster last semester? The one All Might saved?”

“Yeah,” Eijirou said. “It was all over the news.”

“Kacchan was the one who was caught,” Midoriya said. He sucked in a slow breath and exhaled. “And it was all my fault.”

“You’re a strong guy, Midoriya,” Eijirou said. He sniffed a bit, eyes still tearing up from the manly tale of Midoriya’s own capture, and how much he suffered feeling guilty over what happened to Bakugou. “I know you think it’s your fault, but you got caught, too, remember? You’re completely glossing over that you went through the same thing as Bakugou because you’re thinking of him first. That’s some real heroic thinking.”

“I’m not a hero,” Midoriya said, soft and stern. “And it was very different circumstances. Kacchan had it much, much worse.”

“Still,” Eijirou said. He patted Midoriya on the arm and smiled. “Not only all that, but you worked up the nerve to even tell Bakugou what happened.”

“The guilt’s been eating me up inside since it happened,” Midoriya said. He grabbed his arm and stared at the grass. “I wouldn’t be able to keep looking him in the eye knowing that he didn’t know what I had done.”

“Which was still an accident and not your fault,” Eijirou stressed. He patted Midoriya on the shoulder with his most reassuring boost of strength. “You’re a good guy and I’m sure this will all work out okay.”

“Maybe,” Midoriya said.

“But for now, I’m going to go make sure Bakugou cooled off,” Eijirou said, letting go of the other boy. He gave Midoriya a thumb’s up and smiled. “I’ll make sure he comes to apologize.”

“Right,” Midoriya said. He squeezed his hands together and that strained smile that twisted Eijirou’s insides returned. “You two are good friends, aren’t you?”

“I like to think so,” Eijirou said.

“And your Quirk,” Midoriya said. His focus intensified and Eijirou felt like he was under a microscope slide. “You took a direct hit from Kacchan to the face and are fine.”

“Hardening,” Eijirou said, holding up his hand and showing off his Quirk. “I’m indestructible.”

“It compliments his Quirk,” Midoriya said. He picked up his backpack and smiled at Eijirou, eyes cold and focused. “You’ll have to tell me all about it later.”

“Sure,” Eijirou said, attempting to ignore the squirming sensation of warning his gut kept throwing at him.

It took a while, but Eijirou finally found Bakugou near the far corner of the U.A. outer wall by himself. He had huddled himself in a corner, half hidden behind his bag. Eijirou walked slowly over, picking up his pace when he got a better look at his friend.

“Are you crying?” Eijirou asked. He leaned over, putting his hands on his knees. “Dude, are you okay?”

“Shut up,” Bakugou said, wiping away the loose tears. “I wasn’t crying. Go away.”

“We need to talk about what happened,” Eijirou said. He squat next to Bakugou and nudged their shoulders together. “I really don’t want you to get in trouble. What if it had been a teacher to intervene and not me?”

“I hate him,” Bakugou said. He bit his thumb and shook his hair out. “I hate Deku.”

Eijirou didn’t comment when Bakugou started to cry again. He just leaned against him and prayed that he could help sort this mess between the two of them before this exploded into something bigger.

(The things he did for his friends.)

Chapter Text

Izuku felt ugly.

Kurogiri set a glass in front of him, but Izuku didn’t touch the bubbly drink. His upset stomach would appreciate the settling effect of the ginger ale, but he deserved to let it twist.

He should be happy for Kacchan.

After having years of nothing but followers who just wanted to be around Kacchan for the popularity, Izuku should be ecstatic that Kacchan made a friend who genuinely cared about him. Kirishima had been one hundred percent focused on keeping Kacchan out of trouble, and the worry on his face when he thought his friend might be expelled was genuine. Izuku should be nothing but grateful that Kacchan has had someone looking out for him so well this past year.

Kacchan even found a friend who’s Quirk worked so well with his own that Kirishima didn’t have to worry about Kacchan losing his temper.

Instead of being glad, however, Izuku wanted to test how much force it would take to crack Kirishima’s hardened skin into a thousand pieces.

Jealousy was a nasty emotion, and Izuku hated it.

“Midoriya,” Shigaraki said, speaking through the hand that covered his face. The other man sounded amused, a stark contrast to the turmoil Izuku felt. He reached over and poked Izuku in the shoulder. “Hatred is a good look on you.”

“I don’t hate anyone,” Izuku snapped.

He didn’t. He didn’t hate Kirishima. He was a nice guy who cared about Kacchan and wanted what was best. The redhead was a good friend for Kacchan and that was no reason to hate someone.

Izuku was jealous of Kirishima, that was an entirely different emotion.

“I didn’t say you hated a person,” Shigaraki said. He pushed Izuku’s glass of ginger ale closer to his hand. Izuku wished he could see Shigaraki’s face to see what the other was feeling. It was hard to tell from his tone what Shigaraki’s end goal was in all of this. The other asked, “But you do hate something very much right now, don’t you? What is it?”

Izuku had only one response to that question: “Myself.”

Shigaraki turned enough that Izuku could see his questioning, but still very focused eye.

Izuku shrunk in on himself at the bar top and swallowed before elaborating. “I hate that I’m so jealous of Kirishima and his Quirk. Kacchan deserves good friends.”

“But his good friend isn’t you,” Shigaraki said. He tugged on a strand of Izuku’s hair, tilting his face away again. The hand hid his eyes. “So you’re mad.”

Izuku tilted his head to the side as Shigaraki continued to tug his hair. Back and forth; it was distracting, but not enough so. “I guess.”

“Would your Kacchan like you more if you had a Quirk?” Shigaraki asked, twisting Izuku’s hair around his finger until it was painful.

“Yes,” Izuku answered, laughing to himself. What else could he say? It was true. “Kacchan’s shallow that way.”

“Your Kacchan doesn’t sound like he’s worth the effort,” Shigaraki said. He let go of Izuku’s hair, twisting a strand he’d pulled in his fingers. He played with it until he finally touched all five fingers to it and dissolved it. “Why do you want him so badly?”

“Kacchan is,” Izuku started. He bit the edge of his lip and closed his eyes. He thought of the little boy who fell off the bridge, eyes screaming for help even as his voice said “I’m okay!” to everyone else. He thought of Kacchan’s delight at his own Quirk; his inability to accept defeat under any circumstances. Kacchan was selfish and shallow and rude, but he was still: “Important. He’s important and I only wish I was as important to him as he is to me.”

“Midoriya,” Shigaraki said. He leaned closer to Izuku and stared hard. Two minutes passed of Izuku squirming under Shigaraki’s intense gaze before the other made a move. Shigaraki tapped an index finger against the side of Izuku’s face, dragging it down slowly along his cheek. “If you could have any Quirk in the world, which one would you want?”

“That’s a cruel question, Shigaraki,” Izuku said, feeling his own eyes narrow. He gripped his fists under the table hard before going for the drink in front of him to give his hands something to do before he made a mistake. “I don’t appreciate it.”

“It’s a theoretical,” Kurogiri said, reminding Izuku that he was there. “I’m sure humoring Shigaraki won’t hurt. I find it hard to believe you’ve never thought about it at least once.”

“I really haven’t.” Izuku spun the empty glass in his hands. He eventually let it go and pushed it over, watching it roll on the counter in a small circle. “Even before I knew I was Quirkless, I only vaguely wondered what I might get that could help me become a hero. Afterwards, I just wanted to figure out if I could be a Hero without a Quirk. There were never really specifics involved.”

“Hero this, hero that,” Shigaraki said, snorting. He tugged his hand off his face and set it on the desk. Both eyes focused and watched Izuku carefully. Shigaraki hissed, “Be selfish, Midoriya. If you could have any power you wanted right now, what would it be?”

“For any reason,” Kurogiri added, something smug in his voice. “There must be something you desperately want that a Quirk of some sort could help you get.”

“If I answer will you drop this conversation?” Izuku asked, his chest still tight. He didn’t want to talk about this. He didn’t want to theorize about things he could never have, whether it was a Quirk or Kacchan’s respect. “I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Sure,” Shigaraki said. He smiled, biting the edge of his lip, finger tapping on the counter. “So what is it that you want?”

Izuku stared at his half-empty glass, bubbles lightly fizzing.

He wanted Kacchan to like and respect him. He wanted to stop being jealous of Kirishima’s ability to power through Kacchan’s Quirk like it was nothing and hold his ground. He wanted. Izuku wanted.

Izuku looked Shigaraki in the eye and said, “I want Kacchan to look at me.”

“Are you ready for the Sports Festival?” Shinsou asked, leaning over the back of his chair. He smiled just a tad, small and confident. “I can’t wait to show the Hero Class that they’re not the only ones with potential in this school.”

Izuku nodded before wincing. In all the chaos of Kacchan and focusing on Kirishima, he forgot that everyone in the school was required to participate. He was not prepared. At all. Shinsou on the other hand…

“You seem excited,” Izuku said.

Though Izuku could only wonder why; he still didn’t know what Shinsou’s Quirk was. The guy never used it. Unlike everyone else in the class who often showed it off, or used it naturally just from having it, Shinsou kept his Quirk well guarded and close to his chest.

It was a little frustrating that Izuku felt it too rude to outright ask what it was.

“That’s because I’m going to take the finals and get into the Hero Course,” Shinsou said. He gripped his hand into a fist on the table and narrowed his eyes.

Izuku pressed his lips together, happy they could still form a small smile. It was nice to know others could keep their dreams and go after them. “I hope you get in.”

“Same,” Shinsou said. He laughed and ran his hand through his hair. “After I failed the entrance exam, I had lost hope of getting in until they told us everyone has a shot during the Sports Festival. Unlike the entrance exam, there’s no bias against certain Quirks when you go one on one.”

“Bias?” Izuku asked, hoping he wasn’t leading the conversation too much, but this might be his chance to figure out Shinsou’s Quirk.

“Toward physical Quirks,” Shinsou said. He paused and snorted. “I forgot, you transferred straight into General Studies so you didn’t have to take it. They make you fight a bunch of giant robots and you get points for the ones you defeat, so it leans towards powerful and physical Quirks, or ones that give you a field advantage of some sort.”

“I see,” Izuku said.

Shinsou shrugged and turned back toward the board. “My Quirk doesn’t do so hot against robots, but just you wait until the tournament. Then I’ll really show my stuff.”

“Good luck,” Izuku said, his smile fading a bit as he realized Shinsou was done talking on the matter.

It was all for the best, since Izuku needed to figure out what he was going to do during the Sports Festival himself.

“If you’re in need of some sort of combat training to aid you in the opening rounds, myself or Giran may be able to assist,” Kurogiri said, after patiently listening to Izuku explain his upcoming predicament. “Many require such training to compensate for various Quirks, so I don’t see why it can’t help you as well.”

Shigaraki scratched his neck, face hidden behind his hoodie instead of his villain costume. He sprawled out on the couch near the wall, sneaker digging on the ground as he moved his leg back and forth. “Don’t see why you need it. It’s not like you’re going to try and actually compete against everyone else.”

Izuku flinched and scowled at the table. Shigaraki was usually better about rubbing his lack of a Quirk in his face, but the other had been pretty stuck on the topic since the other day. Izuku almost growled. “Even if I don’t have a Quirk, I don’t want to just roll over and give up.”

“Because you’re a hero at heart,” Shigaraki said, the mocking tone unmistakable. He rolled over and crawled off the couch. He shuffled up behind Izuku and leaned on his back, draping his arms around Izuku’s shoulders. He let his fingers drape open near the counter. “But that’s fine. I like you anyway.”

Izuku shivered, Shigaraki’s breath warm near his ear.

“And don’t worry about your little festival,” Shigaraki continued. “Kurogiri will help you out, and I’ve got a surprise planned for later. You’ll like it.”

“A surprise?” Izuku asked.

“If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise,” Shigaraki said. He pulled his arms up and squeezed Izuku in an awkward hug. “But I know you’ll like it.”

“Come now, if you keep that up you’ll spoil the surprise,” Kurogiri said. He set a drink down and leaned on the counter in front of Izuku and Shigaraki. “Now then, what style of martial arts or self defense do you think you’d prefer?”

Izuku didn’t have a preference, but Kurogiri didn’t seem to mind as he ran through the names of more reputable villains Izuku could seek out for guidance.

He half considered taking one of them up on Kurogiri’s offer. What was one more villain contact in his life at this point?

“Midoriya!” Kirishima shouted from across the lunchroom. He waved and tapped over, alone and smiling brightly. Izuku glanced around for where Kacchan might be hiding alongside him but he didn’t spot him. Izuku tried not to feel too relieved by the knowledge the two of them weren’t joined at the hip. Kirishima stopped near his table and held a hand up. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay,” Izuku said. Shinsou paused in his own lunch, staring up at the intruder. He glanced at Izuku and he took the cue to start making introductions: “This is Kirishima, from Class 1-A. Kirishima, this is Shinsou from my class.”

“Oh, I know you,” Kirishima said, grinning. He put both hands on his hips and laughed. “You’re the guy who declared war on our class.”

Izuku looked between the two of them, confused, but Shinsou seemed to know what he was talking about.

The other smirked and said, “I meant it, too.”

“Bring it on!” Kirishima said, grinning bright with his sharp teeth. He caught himself after a moment and turned to Midoriya. “Oh, sorry. I came over to talk to you, not get caught up in manly rivalries.”

“It’s fine,” Izuku said, used to being overlooked. He did want to hurry the conversation along anyway. “What did you need?”

“Just wanted to see how you were doing after the other day,” Kirishima said, voice softer. “Bakugou’s still a little shaken up, so I figured you might be, too.”

“Shaken up?” Izuku asked, well aware Shinsou was staring now, brow raised and interested in the conversation. His heart beat faster at the thought of Kacchan upset (what was wrong with him, lately?). Izuku put a hand on the back of his neck to calm himself down. “What do you mean?”

“He’s bothered by how badly he overreacted,” Kirishima admitted. He took a seat at the table and cross his arms on it. “Not that he’s admitting to that, but I’m pretty sure that’s what the problem is.”

“Are you talking about the bad tempered guy who said he’d kill me?” Shinsou asked, dividing a green bean in half with his fork. “I have a hard time believing he’d feel bad about overreacting to anything.”

As if remembering they weren’t alone, Kirishima jolted and laughed nervously. He rubbed the back of his head, almost mimicking Izuku’s current pose. “I guess I could see that, but Bakugou means well.” Kirishima dared a look at Izuku. “Most of the time.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Shinsou said, very clearly not taking their word for it.

“Anyway, just wanted to say hello since I spotted you,” Kirishima said, patting the table. Izuku was impressed the hard-headed fellow sensed the building awkward atmosphere. He gave a thumb’s up and said, “Good luck in the Sports Festival, you two! You’re gonna’ need it facing down me and Bakugou. We’re one team you’re not gonna’ take down!”

Getting up and tapping away, Kirishima rejoined his friends from the other class, still smiling. He grabbed a couple of lunch boxes from the side table and headed out the side door, probably to find Kacchan.

“Midoriya,” Shinsou said.

“Yes?” Izuku answered.

“You snapped your chopsticks in half,” Shinsou said, pointedly looking at Izuku’s hand.

He released the broken wood onto the table and bit his lip. “I guess I did.”

Shinsou patted Izuku on the back. “Don’t worry. They won’t know what hit them when the Sports Festival arrives.”

“Right,” Izuku said, finding he’d gotten used to the ugliness in his chest now that it was all encompassing.

Izuku didn’t manage to catch Kacchan to find out for himself if what Kirishima had reported was true. Their schedules didn’t line up, and if you added into the equation that it was possible Kacchan was avoiding Izuku on purpose (which felt like a knife digging in his chest), it was no surprise the two hadn’t crossed paths.

He hopped onto the train, heading toward a familiar district that he now saw almost as much as his own home, attempting to stop thinking about Kacchan for five seconds or how much he wanted to smash Kirishima’s pretty face in. Izuku shook his head, hair falling around his face. He needed to focus, considering where he was going. It wasn’t unusual for Izuku to visit the bar when he was feeling low, but today he’d received a text from Shigaraki asking him to make sure he stopped by.

Shigaraki said Izuku’s “surprise” was ready.

As if the day couldn’t get any worse.

Nothing Shigaraki had gotten for him would be good. The man was a villain and there was a good chance that Izuku would have to do damage control when this was all over, assuming he made it through the evening without insulting Shigaraki.

The saddest part of all of this, is he was sure Shigaraki was doing this to make Izuku feel better; if only his idea of helping actually helped.

Izuku pushed open the door to the bar, spotting Shigaraki in full villain gear. He paused, seeing only Kurogiri as the second member in the room. Shigaraki stayed still, watching Izuku closely, and his only visible eye practically grinned when he spotted Izuku at the doorway.

“Midoriya,” Shigaraki said, sounding happy of all things. Izuku’s guard went up. Shigaraki’s fingers twitched. “I’m glad you’re on time.”

“Is there a reason you’re in costume?” Izuku asked, gripping tight to his backpack strap. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Shigaraki in his full gear, covered in hands. It was always either just the one on his face or his civilian hoodie. Izuku took a step back toward the door unconsciously. “I thought you just had a present for me.”

“I do,” Shigaraki said. He tilted his head and his voice lifted in glee. “I had to wear my costume to go get it.”

“Oh?” Izuku said, feeling his stomach drop. “And what is it?”

“You’ll see,” Shigaraki said. He turned to Kurogiri and waved at Izuku to come closer. “We have to go somewhere first. Master wants to meet you. That’s part of the surprise, too.”

Izuku stared at the portal Kurogiri opened up and his blood ran cold. Shigaraki’s Master wanted to meet Izuku. Every inch of him screamed to run the other way and out the door, consequences be damned.

Kurogiri opened a portal behind Izuku when he turned to do just that.

Tripping over his feet as he tumbled through the black warp gate, Izuku fell flat on his face, scraping his hands on a concrete floor. The dark room flickered above him with flashes of light and the sounds in the background sounded like screams. Izuku saw red sneakers walk past him as he kept his eyes focused on the floor, calm and even even as the warp gate behind them flickered out with a snap.

“It’s good to meet you, Midoriya,” a raspy voice said.

Izuku shivered on the floor as he finally found the courage to look up. He saw a man attached to all sorts of tubes and machinery, twisted and unhealthy with a body that screamed of illness. The man wheezed, grinning wide—Izuku covered the bottom of his mouth to cover the shocked scream: The top half of the man’s head was missing.

Master said, “Shigaraki’s spoken so fondly of you.”

Izuku's heart sank.

Chapter Text

Izuku should get up.

His fingers dug into the concrete, his palms still stinging from where they’d been scraped, but he couldn’t force himself to move. He’d fallen prey to panic and his trembling body refused to move.

Shigaraki’s Master was terrifying in a way Izuku couldn’t put into words. There was something wrong about him; something horrible. Like an oozing sensation of unnatural energy, or the sheer knowledge that this man was the leader of the League of Villains and so terrifying even most Villains avoided speaking of him.

“You should get up,” Shigaraki said, scratching his neck. He shifted his weight back and forth on his sneakers. “It’s rude to stay down there.”

“Do give him a moment,” Master said, the considerate tone in his voice a high contrast to the intimidation he created, even strapped to all that medical equipment. He tapped his finger on the edge of his chair. “Not everyone is as used to me as you are.”

Shigaraki grunted, but leaned down to tug on Izuku’s sleeve all the same. He yanked hard, but didn’t grab Izuku’s arm just yet. “Get up. I want to show you your surprise.”

“Yes, Shigaraki’s been so excited preparing it for you,” Kurogiri said from behind Izuku’s shoulder. He sounded like an amused parent. “I do hope you appreciate it, but if you’ll excuse me, I have a bar to look after.”

Kurogiri left, leaving them alone together once more.

Izuku swallowed, but managed to stand on his shaky feet as he faced the inevitable. He bumped into Shigaraki’s side, but the other didn’t mind. He chuckled under his breath and kept tugging on Izuku’s sleeve.

“Now that your little friend is on his feet, why don’t we show him what you got him?” Master raised one hand up and waved it to the side. “Nomu, bring him in.”

“Him?” Izuku asked.

Loud stomping echoed in the room, followed by muffled yelling. Izuku put his hand over his mouth again upon spotting the giant monster, brain exposed. He had heard about the Nomu but he hadn’t seen it. The bulging eyes looked in odd directions, and drool fell from it’s mouth. It radiated the same wrongness that Master excreted. Though worse than the monstrous figure, was the man held tight in its grasp: Crying and kicking his legs.

“Wh-what’s going on?” Izuku asked Shigaraki, voice shaking. “Who’s that?”

“Your present,” Shigaraki said, grinning brightly.

Midoriya didn’t look happy.

Why didn’t he look happy? Tomura had gotten him something really good. Something to make him feel better. Instead, Midoriya gaped wide eyed, horrified at the Nomu holding the first half of his present.

Sometimes, Tomura really liked Midoriya’s scared face (it was cute and made him want to make the other boy cry; he could understand Kacchan a bit on that front). Even friends should be scared of you from time to time (that’s what it meant to have power; Master had said so), but not right now.

He didn’t want Midoriya to be scared now. Tomura was giving him something good. Something to stop Midoriya from feeling so jealous and down at the bar. If he had this gift, he might be more thankful and play with Tomura again.

“How is that my present?” Midoriya asked, eyes darting to Tomura. They screamed for answers.


Oh, that was it. Midoriya didn’t understand the present. Tomura scratched at his neck. He had forgotten; most people don’t know what Master could do and how amazing he was. Tomura could fix that.

“Don’t worry, I’ll explain,” Tomura said. He pointed at the man and yelled at the Nomu. “Drop him, Nomu. But don’t let him get away. Hold an arm.”

The Nomu followed his direct instructions like a good beast.

“Shigaraki?” Izuku asked.

“Wait, wait,” Tomura said, waving his hand. He grabbed Midoriya’s arm (careful, careful, only four fingers) and tugged him toward Master. His friend’s feet dragged as he stumbled, still scared, but that was okay. It’d be fine soon. He turned to Master and nodded at the man trembling at the Nomu. “I wanted to show his Quirk off first, so Midoriya can see it. Can you help?”

“Of course,” Master said. “I’m glad you’re making friends, so much so I even prepared for this when you told me what you planned to bring. I found a lovely little Quirk to show off your present for you.”

Tomura shook Midoriya’s sleeve back and forth in excitement. Master was the best. He’d see. They’d all see.

Master gathered a fireball in his hand (that was perfect, that was perfect!) and before Midoriya could shout, threw it toward the man on the ground.

Tomura’s friend made a jump forward toward the other man, but Tomura tightened his grip. “No, just watch.”

“Watch? That’ll kill him!” Midoriya yelled.

Tomura snorted; he killed people all the time. Midoriya knew that. Why was he upset now. He pushed Midoriya’s cheek to turn his attention back to the present. “You’re missing it.”

The fire blast hit the man dead on, but he didn’t scream or yell. Instead, there was a soft sound of whooshing wind as his body absorbed the fireball into himself. A small flicker of energy danced along his skin, before setting into small stripes that pulsed light red to match the flames.

Midoriya’s eyes widened and he got that look—the one he got the first time he saw Shigaraki’s Quirk. The one he got when he was focused on a video clip of a new Pro Hero or Villain showing off a new move.

He was impressed.

Shigaraki had done well.

“He absorbed the fire,” Izuku said. He saw the man’s angry face and his head ran through all the options that could have accomplished that. Izuku’s eyes darted over the man’s skin where new markings rested and mumbled under his breath. “But where did it all go? And what are the markings? Is he storing it somehow? Can he let it out? What does it do?”

“You were right,” Master said. “He is very gifted at analytics.”

Izuku immediately dropped his thought process and reminded himself of where he was and what was going on. He swallowed and looked at Shigaraki. They’d shown off a man with a very impressive Quirk, but what did that have to do with Izuku? “How is this my present?”

“His Quirk is nice, isn’t it?” Shigaraki asked. He pointed at the man, still giddy as he leaned in toward Izuku. “He can do more with it.”

“You people are sick!” The man yelled. Izuku flinched as the man turned and gathered a fireball in his hand and slammed it over his shoulder into the Nomu that held his arm. It exploded upon impact, freeing himself. “I’m out of here.”

The man made it five steps before the Nomu slammed him into the ground again, already healed.

“Absorb and Release,” Izuku said.

Shigaraki hugged Izuku around the back, the hands of his costume digging into his back and arms. “It works on explosions, too. I tested it. Do you know what that means?”

Izuku did, but he wouldn’t say it.

Shigaraki did: “It doesn’t just block an Explosion Quirk, it nullifies it. How much more perfect is that than hardened skin?”

“I don’t understand,” Izuku whispered. The Quirk was amazing, and it did compliment Kacchan’s Quirk better than Kirishima’s from one point of view, but he still kept coming around to one loud screaming thought: What did this have to do with Izuku? How was that a present? “Shigaraki?”

“This is your gift,” Shigaraki said, chuckling. He squeezed and touched their heads together. “I asked Master to give you a Quirk, and when he said ‘yes’ I made sure to find the perfect one. It’s not exactly what you asked for, but I thought this was better.”

Izuku shook his head. This had to be some nightmare; he wanted to wake up. Izuku ignored Master and focused on Shigaraki and the man struggling with the Nomu. Words escaped him, and Izuku could barely manage a whisper of “What?”

“Your surprise is a Quirk. I’m giving you one,” Tomura said, repeating himself. He slipped away from Midoriya and stared hard; why wasn’t he more excited? “I even found one that made things easier with your precious Kacchan. Aren’t you happy?”

“What happens to him?” Midoriya asked. He shook his head and took a step back, away from Tomura. “I can’t steal someone’s Quirk, Shigaraki.”

“You didn’t,” Tomura said. He loomed over Midoriya and did his best to get across what a nice gesture this was. Tomura had been thoughtful enough to keep Midoriya’s hands clean through all this. Why didn’t he appreciate the gift? It’s everything Midoriya had wanted! “Master and I did. Just accept the present, Midoriya. You want it. I can tell. It’s in your eyes. You’re thinking about it right now, aren’t you?”

Midoriya touched Tomura’s arm and his smile was strained. “I’m really happy you thought of me, and I do appreciate it, but this is really wrong. I don’t want a Quirk if it comes at the expense of someone else losing theirs.”

“You only think that because you don’t have the Quirk yet,” Tomura said. He had always made exceptions for Midoriya’s heroism; they were friends. Friends could have flaws and Tomura could forgive Midoriya’s flaws. But right, his friend’s heroic nature was annoying. He scratched at his neck, fighting the growing itch. “Once you get it, you’ll forget all about where it came from.”

As long as he remembered it was a gift from Tomura, that is.

“No,” Midoriya said, digging his fingers into Tomura’s sleeve. He tightened his grip and swallowed. “Even if your Master can steal Quirks like you said, this isn’t the way. Please, Shigaraki. Don’t do this.”

Tomura scratched harder. He didn’t understand. Tomura had thought everything through. He’d studied. He’d found a Quirk that matched Kacchan. Tomura found the perfect Quirk that would make Midoriya happy.

He wanted to make Midoriya happy.

Tomura started to bleed where he scratched, breaking the skin.

Why? Why? Why?

“I’ve seen enough,” Master said. Midoriya turned to look at the man, and Shigaraki stilled his hand.

Izuku needed to think. This was going by too fast and Shigaraki was upset and bleeding and Izuku needed to fix this. And then Master spoke.

“I’m going to make this easy for everyone,” Master said. He waved his fingers toward himself and the Nomu picked up the man and dragged the captive closer. “Shigaraki worked very hard to give you this present, but I can see you still have second thoughts. Disappointing, but understandable considering all he’s said about you. So how about this?”

Master placed his palm on the other man’s forehead. There was a light and a scream and a body slumped over; lifeless.

Too shocked to do anything more, Izuku dropped his hold on Shigaraki’s arm.

“Whether you accept this present or not, this man dies either way,” Master said. He held his hand up. “Now, are you going to waste this man’s Quirk on nothing, or are you going to accept my boy’s thoughtful gift?”

He couldn’t take it. A man was dead. The man wasn’t moving. Taking his Quirk had killed him or was he breathing? Izuku couldn’t tell in the dark. He sobbed covering the bottom of his mouth again. He’d forgotten. It’d been so long since Shigaraki killed someone in front of him. These were Villains. His friend was a Villain. What was he doing here? What had he done?

Izuku couldn’t take that Quirk; no matter how much he wanted it.

“N-no,” Izuku said, voice barely a whisper. “I c-can’t.”

The illusion of choice shattered as Shigaraki snapped.

“You can. You will.” Shigaraki shoved Izuku forward and kicked out his legs from under him. Izuku regretted not looking into those self defense lessons as he was manhandled into a kneeling position in front of Master. “Enjoy your new Quirk, Midoriya.”

“Let’s hope he’s a strong one,” Master said. He placed his palm on Izuku’s forehead. Heat built under his coarse skin; Izuku squirmed, feeling parts of his uniform crumble under Shigaraki’s touch as the other struggled to hold Izuku still. Master smirked, the crooked smile burned into Izuku’s mind. “And do continue being such a good friend to my boy, should you wake up after.”

Izuku screamed.

Chapter Text

“Wow, that transfer student looks like he got hit with a bus,” Uraraka said, crossing her arms as she scanned the General Studies class. The mass of U.A. students mingled in the main yard as they waited for the events to officially begin and Uraraka had been checking out the competition. “I wonder what happened.”

Tenya adjusted his glasses as he looked over to see the young boy who’d caused such a ruckus in class by giving Bakugou a cute pet name. Uraraka had been correct: Midoriya’s posture was slumped, heavy bags lined his eyes, and his breathing looked fairly labored. It rather looked like he had the flu. Despite understanding the desire to make sure he participated in such a large event, ignoring one’s health shouldn’t be done!

But perhaps it was also just a case of nerves.

Tenya had overheard from Kirishima that Midoriya was Quirkless, which meant participation in the day’s festivities may have been a source of severe anxiety for their timid peer. Sleep deprivation, too, could have caused such symptoms.

“You want to go over and see how he is, don’t you?” Uraraka said, nudging him in the arm. She nodded her head toward the General Studies class. “Come on, Class Rep, let’s go see if he’s okay.”

“Agreed,” Tenya said.

The two of them crossed the grass, dodging through excited students and attempting to make good time as they navigated the masses. Iida kept an eye on the clock to make sure that they didn’t take too long, lest they be late for the opening ceremony.

“Good day, Midoriya,” Tenya said as he got close enough. The boy flinched upon being addressed, but his shoulders dropped into a more calm posture when he noticed who it was. Tenya held a hand up and leaned forward. “I noticed you looked under the weather. Are you alright?”

Midoriya’s expression fell into a soft smile, but it was little comfort when compared to the weariness in his eyes. “I’m okay. Thank you for asking, though.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Shinsou said, flicking Midoriya in the side of the head as he turned around. “Midoriya caught the flu and stayed home sick yesterday, but here he is when he should be in bed.”

Tenya tried not to be too pleased that his first prediction had proven true.

“I’m fine,” Midoriya said again, with more bite behind the words. He crossed his arms and sniffed. “I feel tired and achey, but nothing I can’t handle. I didn’t want to miss the Sports Festival. I would have regretted it all year.”

“That’s what he says,” Shinsou said, rolling his head to the side. He shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at Midoriya. “But we’ll see how he’s still feeling when the first event starts and he can barely move because he’s thinking too hard about how much his limbs hurt.”

“He has a point,” Uraraka said. She put one ankle behind the other and laced her fingers behind her back. “If you’re not feeling well, you should probably sit out and watch or you might hurt yourself.”

“Uraraka is absolutely right,” Tenya said, nodding in agreement. “Your dedication to class participation is absolutely admirable, but not at the expense of your well being.”

“I’m glad that you’re worried about me, but I’m really okay.” Midoriya’s smile turned a touch more genuine, even up to his tired eyes. He waved his hand in front of his face. “If it gets too much, I’ll definitely sit out. I promise.”

“If you’re sure,” Tenya said. The barely noticeable tremble in the other boy’s frame still caused a hint of worry, but he couldn’t do much about it unless Midoriya cooperated. The other boy might be a tad more prideful than Tenya had anticipated, which he supposed was to be expected of any student at this fine establishment. He cleared his throat. “However, should you need assistance, please do not hesitate to ask.”

“Wouldn’t that be cheating in this event?” Midoriya asked, his smile twitching.

“That wasn’t what I meant!” Tenya said, nearly stuttering. He moved his glasses back into place and clarified, “I mean if you need help getting to the sidelines or calling a teacher or—”

“He was making a joke, Iida,” Uraraka said. She tittered and slapped him on the back. “We all know you’d never cheat, even a guy who’s only met you twice, Class Rep.”

“You’re a good person, Iida,” Midoriya said. He gave them a tiny wave and pointed toward the clock. “But you really don’t need to worry. Shinsou’s here and the opening ceremony’s about to start.”

“Let’s go, Iida,” Uraraka said, tugging his arm. “He said he’ll be fine and there are plenty of teachers watching in case anything happens.”

“Good luck today in the competition! I hope you feel better enough to participate with your best!” Tenya said.

“I’ll see you later,” Midoriya said.

“Oh!” Uraraka said, still walking forward as the students gathered into lines. “Later you have to tell me how you get away with calling Bakugou ‘Kacchan’ okay? I need to know!”

Tenya could hear Midoriya’s snort from their distance away.

He would not lie and say he wasn’t curious himself.

“Aw, you’ve got the little Class 1-A heroes all worried about you,” Shinsou said in that semi-mocking manner Izuku had come to associate with him. It wasn’t quite mean enough to be cruelty, but there was enough bitterness to it to discourage too much sincerity. Shinsou followed Izuku to their own spots in line and chuckled. “I can’t tell if that’s adorable or belittling.”

“Iida is the responsible type,” Izuku said, rubbing his arm through his long sleeves. Thankfully when asked why he was wearing a long shirt under his gym uniform, Shinsou believed him when he said he was still chilled from his “flu.” Though Izuku must have looked worse than he felt if Iida and his friend felt the need to come over and see him. “I don’t think it even crossed his mind that he was doing anything other than checking up on a friend, instead of assuming we were too weak to handle things.”

“I suppose he’s one of the few in that class I could give benefit of the doubt to,” Shinsou said. He turned over his shoulder and stared down at Izuku, his focus shifted and the topic of conversation with it. “You know, I’ve talked a lot about my goals for this festival, but I don’t think you ever said what yours were. How bad of a hit are you taking with this flu thing?”

Izuku ignored the itching under his skin and the pulse in the back of his brain as his body continued to adjust uncomfortably to the new intrusion. “What do you mean?”

“What did you want to accomplish today? Did you want to make it to the finals? Get noticed in a particular event? Just participate so you could say that you were here?” Shinsou asked. “I know you don’t have a Quirk, but you’re smart enough to cause some real damage if you put your mind to it. I’ve seen your notes on the class, and they’re intense—you had every strength and weakness listed for half the class’ Quirks, down to details I’d never have thought of. It was almost enough to make me wonder if you were going to be my big competition today instead of Class 1-A.”

Izuku stilled, hand gripped into his sleeve. They were by no means complete, but he had been working on Quirk analysis during his breaks and downtimes in class in case Shigaraki ever remembered why they had sent Izuku here (he got distracted so easily; a blessing and a curse).

But Izuku had kept those notes to himself; he hadn’t told anyone about them at the school. “When did you see my notes?”

“I read over your shoulder while you were writing sometimes during lunch breaks or in class. You were muttering under your breath and so focused it was hard not to be curious,” Shinsou said. He made a noticeable pause before asking slowly. “Were they supposed to be a secret or something?”

“No,” Izuku said, heart pounding as loud as his headache. “No, that’s not it.”

He’d been sloppy.

Izuku knew he wasn’t cut out for this sort of thing. He’d always taken his notes in public where people were far too happy to ignore him and be seen as some sort of nut for talking to himself, and everyone in Giran’s office knew what the notes were for (and how much they cost) so they knew not to snoop or bother him. He should have known Shinsou, someone as smart as himself, would take an interest.

Like Izuku needed more damage control in his life right now.

“I just didn’t think anyone cared enough about them to look,” Izuku lied. After all, Shigaraki’s interest in his notebooks were what started this nightmare. Shinsou didn’t look convinced, so Izuku went for a half-truth to sooth things over: “But maybe I also wanted to keep them to myself.”

“Makes sense,” Shinsou said, scratching the back of his head and ruffling his hair. “Most people wouldn’t take too kindly to their Quirk being overanalyzed and shredded for weaknesses.”

“That’s one way to put it,” Izuku said.

He didn’t need this. His head hurt, his body ached, everything felt like it was on fire and he was still here at the Festival because if he spent one more day crying in his bed, his mother might have actually called him out for faking an illness (but he was sick in a way; just one he couldn’t admit to). Izuku wanted to go to sleep. He wanted everything to stop squirming under his skin as his body adjusted. Izuku wanted it all to just stop.

But he had something he had to accomplish today; he had Shigaraki’s gift whether he wanted it or not, and now Izuku had to deal with it.

“You never did answer,” Shinsou said, snapping his fingers in front of Izuku’s face. “How far did you want to go in the tournament today? What’s your end goal?”

Izuku looked for the catch to that question in Shinsou’s eyes, but he couldn’t find it. Slight suspicion over his notes lingered, but it was mostly friendly curiosity. Despite his standoffish nature, Shinsou did consider himself Izuku’s friend.

Before he could answer, Kacchan took the stage and grabbed the mic.

(He hadn’t noticed they’d started the ceremonies; what a mess—what a mess.)

“I pledge that I’ll be number one,” Kacchan said.

The entirety of the audience flew into a frenzy of rage and disbelief and chaotic energy that only Kacchan could inspire, but Izuku heard none of it.

It’d been a simple line, but it was so “Kacchan” that Izuku’s chest ached.

Seeing Kirishima throw his arm around Kacchan’s shoulder as he got off stage and laugh made his chest burn from something other than his physical aches. It was that ugly feeling, rearing its ugly head yet again. Kirishima slapped Kacchan’s back and they two of them rejoined the class, laughing. Happy.

“Midoriya,” Shinsou said, watching him closely. “How far do you want to go?”

“As far as I can,” Izuku said, staring hard across the field at Kacchan’s cocky smile. “Even if I only make it a few steps forward.”

“I could take you there,” Shinsou said. “At least until we have to start fending for ourselves.”

Izuku asked, “Why?”

“Because you look like shit and I think you want to beat a few of the students in Class 1-A as badly as I do,” Shinsou said.

“Wouldn’t dragging me along behind you hurt your chances?” Izuku asked, hyperaware that he still had no idea what Shinsou’s Quirk could be.

“Not as much as you’d think,” Shinsou said, sticking his hand in his pockets. “The offer is on the table, that’s all I’m saying.”

Izuku bit the edge of his thumb. There had to be some catch here. Izuku would be extra baggage in his current state (oh, he was going to get Shigaraki back for this somehow; he was). Shinsou, even if he was just being friendly, wasn’t the type to willingly put himself at a disadvantage. He wanted this win more than anything. There was a catch here. There had to be a catch.

“You’re thinking way too hard about this,” Shinsou said, flicking Izuku in the head. “And you’re muttering. So I’ll make this really easy—” Izuku shuddered at the use of that phrase. “—and boil it all down to a simple question, so the only thing you should think carefully about is your answer. Do you want me to help you get to the end of this tournament?”

Shinsou’s gaze left no room for playing around as the group of people around them moved toward the first field.

Izuku had only one answer and it bubbled up out of desire instead of common sense: “Yes.”

Hitoshi made a note to apologize later.

Izuku stared at the grass under his feet and the worn soles of his sneakers. His sleeve had torn on the right side and he clutched at the fabric. Izuku’s limbs ached and his fellow students breathed around him, chatting and happy and there was so much noise and where was he?

He could hear announcements over an intercom.

Everything was a blur.

Why did everyone look like they’d just run a marathon?

“Hey, Midoriya,” Shinsou asked, snapping his fingers twice in front of Izuku’s face. “You knocked your head pretty hard on that last lick of the race. Are you okay?”

Izuku answered, “Yes.”

Hitoshi was sure Midoriya would understand why he’d done this. It was the best and easiest way to make sure the other made it to the finish line.

(Hitoshi would still apologize.)

Izuku had lost time. A lot of time.

He breathed heavily, staring at a leaderboard that had his and Shinsou’s name on it along with two other students who were a part of his “Team.”

Why was it talking about a Calvary battle and why did Shinsou have headbands around his neck?

“I told you I’d get us to the finals,” Shinsou said. He looked guilty, but satisfied. “Though from here on out we’re competitors, so I can’t exactly give you a hand any more.”

“What did you do, Shinsou,” Midoriya asked, breath short. “How did you do that?”

“You don’t know, either?” A blond boy with a large tail asked while another with slick, styled blond hair stood next to him. Izuku recognized them both from Kacchan’s class, but had no idea why they’d be here. The one with the tail glared at Shinsou. “I hoped you might know since you’re in the same class. He did something with his Quirk and now I can’t remember anything from most of the Calvary race.”

“We won though,” the other blond said. “So does it really matter?”

“Yes, it matters,” the taller boy said. He pointed at Shinsou and shook his head. “I don’t know what you did, but you stay away from us.”

He grabbed his friend and dragged him off toward the other members of Class 1-A, leaving Shinsou and Izuku alone.

“What does your Quirk do, Shinsou?” Izuku asked under his breath. “What did you do to me?”

“Nothing bad,” Shinsou said. He rubbed under his nose and swallowed. Whatever he did, at least he felt bad about it (that was more than he could say for Shigaraki and his “well meaning” present). Shinsou got a weird smile. “I promise I’ll tell you all about it after the festival, okay?”

“And why not now?” Izuku asked.

“Because we’re going to be competitors in a minute, and I want to win,” Shinsou said. He patted Izuku on the back twice before his hand stilled and lingered there for an apologetic back rub. “No hard feelings, I hope? I didn’t mind getting you through the other two portions of the day because teamwork was a part of it, but from here on out, let’s focus on showing them what we can do and knock Class 1-A down a peg.”

Izuku inhaled slowly to calm down and focus. Shinsou was just like Shigaraki; they wanted to help, but their own selfish desires came first all the same. Apparently Izuku attracted a certain type of person when it came to friends.

“Only if you promise to tell me everything about your Quirk,” Izuku said, leaving zero room for any other answer with his most steady gaze. “It’s only fair.”

(He’d learned that trick from Giran when he dropped the laid back persona.)

“Promise,” Shinsou said. He nodded toward the students gathering in the yard. “Come on, let’s go find out what’s next.”

Izuku followed with mixed feelings.

Half of him felt betrayed that yet another choice had been forced upon him by a friend.

The other half noticed Kacchan and Kirishima’s names were on the board, too.

Tenya felt delightfully surprised that despite his illness, Midoriya had indeed made it to the final round alongside his friend Shinsou.

The pride he felt for the other, however, diminished quickly when he noted the potential explosion from his most lively classmate.

“How the hell is Deku in the finals?” Bakugou hissed, almost loud enough to interrupt Midnight as she announced the pairing brackets.

Kirishima had latched onto Bakugou’s arm, doing his best to calm the other down. His voice dripped of desperation and disbelief, putting him in an unusual state from his normal cheer. “Are you only just now noticing? He’s been tagging along with his friend from the General Studies class all day.”

“Of course I didn’t notice him! He’s not even supposed to be at school! He has the flu or something!” Bakugou hissed, thankfully lowering his voice.

“How did you know Midoriya had the flu?” Uraraka asked before Tenya could.

Jerked from his rant, Bakugou glared at Uraraka. “Shitty Deku’s mom is friends with mine and they talk. I haven’t been able to go a day without hearing about whatever the hell Deku has been up to since he got into our school since the old hag shouts it at me before I leave and always wants to bring it up at dinner.”

“He said he was feeling well enough to participate,” Tenya said. “And he clearly had aid from his friend throughout the day. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that he made it this far.”

“Deku still existing is a surprise,” Bakugou muttered under his breath.

“Calm down,” Kirishima said, throwing his arm around Bakugou’s shoulder. He patted the other boy on the chest and forced a grin. “I know things are bad between you two but hey! If he’s as bad at combat as you say he is, he’ll get knocked out in the first round and you won’t have to think about him again.”

Bakugou hissed under his breath but managed to get his temper under control before he activated his Quirk. Tenya felt proud of him, but remained wary as their class watched him struggle with his obvious discomfort concerning Midoriya in the finals.

“Are you going to be good, man?” Kirishima asked, keeping his voice low. Everyone could hear him, however Tenya did appreciate his at least attempt to be discrete. “Because it’s really hard to take the number one spot if you screw yourself over getting sloppy because you’re too focused on Midoriya.”

“I’m fine,” Bakugou said, shoving Kirishima off his arm. He spared a glare toward the other side of the field where Midoriya and his friend were watching Midnight explain the rules. Bakugou’s eyes narrowed and he sucked in a breath. “I got this far, didn’t I? I’m going to take number one and Deku isn’t going to change a thing.”

Tenya turned his attention back to midnight when she finished announcing the brackets for the upcoming tournament and the large graphic appeared on screen.

Kirishima whistled. “You know, I thought Midoriya might get knocked out of the first round, but he’s up against Aoyama. If he can dodge, he might have a shot.”

“He’s been stuck with Bakugou his whole life, right?” Uraraka asked.

“Uh, yes?” Kirishima answered.

She snorted and put her hands on her hips. “Than he totally knows how to dodge.”

A few students around her laughed, though Tenya noted Kirishima’s strained chuckle and his glances toward Bakugou.

As Class Rep, he should keep an eye on that situation before things got too out of hand with whatever was going on in that relationship.

Shinsou won his first round against a girl from Kacchan’s class named Ashido, and Izuku figured out Shinsou’s Quirk along with the rest of the school: Mind Control.

He still hadn’t figured out exactly how it worked, though. The transition from simple conversation to doing Shinsou’s bidding happened so smoothly, Izuku barely had time to look for what was similar in this situation versus what had happened to him when Shinsou used his Quirk previously.

(He hated how absolutely fascinating it was; there were very few Quirks that had no visible indicators of activation.)

After congratulating Shinsou on his win and stumbling through the slight awkwardness from their earlier “Fight”, Izuku tuned out of the tournament and the cheering people around him. His own match crawled toward him and he stared at the blank pages of his notebook. He knew Aoyama’s Quirk was a laser beam (Shinsou had told him as a second semi-apology about using his Quirk without permission) which meant things were working out better than Izuku had expected.

He hated that Kurogiri had been right that Izuku would have an ideal opportunity to put the plan into motion concerning Izuku’s stolen Quirk.

Izuku’s ankle tapped up and down rapidly as he crossed his arms and stared at the floor. Shigaraki and Kurogiri said they were watching the tournament in case anything went wrong (little comfort), but nothing should go wrong.

Izuku begged that nothing would go wrong.

(He was due for some luck. He really was.)

“Are you going to be okay?” Shinsou asked, jerking Izuku from his thoughts. He looked concerned, pronouncing the bags under his eyes. “Are you feeling worse from your flu again?”

“No,” Izuku said, shaking his head. He bit his lip and rubbed his arm under his sleeve. “Just nerves.”

“Aoyama seems like an idiot,” Shinsou said. He held up a fist and tried to smile. “If you can get close and punch him, you’ll probably be fine.”

Izuku huffed and rubbed the back of his neck. He massaged it and breathed in. That was one way, but he needed to be enough of a threat that Aoyama attacked him full force. He couldn’t afford to mess up.

Not if he wanted this plan to work.

“Either way, you should probably head down to the waiting room,” Shinsou said. He pointed at the stage. “Your match is up next.”

Izuku stood and controlled his shaky breathing. Now or never. Now or never.

“Good luck,” Shinsou said.

“Thanks.” Izuku shivered the entire way down the stairs toward the waiting room.

He’d need it.

“I know it’s none of my business, but watching Bakugou make such a big show of trying to convince us he doesn’t care about this match makes me want to know what the heck went down between him and Midoriya,” Uraraka said, watching her future opponent out of the corner of her eye. “Even Kirishima’s on edge about it.”

“I’m sure it’s deeply personal, whatever it is,” Tenya said. He kept his eyes on the arena floor as Midoriya and Aoyama made their way to the platform. Carried by Shinsou’s Quirk (it was easy to put two and two together after that first match), Midoriya looked worse than ever from his illness. Worry bubbled up in Tenya’s chest watching those shaky steps up to the stage. “Midoriya should forfeit this match. He doesn’t look fit for a fight.”

“I hate to agree, but you might be right,” Uraraka said. She crossed her arms and left Bakugou alone. “He looks worse than he did this morning.”

“I’m sure he’s more exhausted than he feels after being manipulated all morning into doing such strenuous physical activity,” Tenya said. “I doubt his stamina is at its best.”

“Doesn’t look like he’s going to give up though,” Uraraka said. She smiled a bit and grinned. “Even though it might not be the best choice, you have to respect it a little.”

“Yes, heroic pride can have its uses,” Tenya said. He fixed his glasses. “And thankfully the medical team at this school is second to none. Midoriya has likely taken this into account in his decision.”

“Oh, looks like they’re starting!” Uraraka said.

The match began as expected, with Aoyama making a few shallow boasts about beauty and his superiority. Midoriya seemed unaffected, though whether it was because he was too sick to focus or simply had learned to tune out that sort of behavior was up in the air.

Midoriya, surprisingly (or maybe not so, Tenya didn’t know him that well yet) made the first move. He made a run for Aoyama as the boy started to get into his attack pose and made a grab for the Sparkle Belt.

Putting his class training to use, Aoyama switched gears and fired his laser to give him a push away from Midoriya, thankfully stopping before he blew himself out of bounds. Undeterred, the transfer student made another run for him. Aoyama continued to gloat, but remained respectfully wary. His belt was an important factor in directing his Quirk; it was a smart move to try and apprehend it.

Aoyama made another navel laser shot, but Midoriya fell to the ground. It was a sloppy fall, however, and he stumbled.

The fight continued like this for longer than expected, Midoriya’s movements becoming more sporadic and desperate the longer the fight continued. Aoyama, also on a time limit due to his Quirk, also seemed a bit more frayed around the edges when he realized his opponent was more scrappy than he had planned for.

“I was making a joke about him knowing how to dodge, but I guess he really does know how to get out of the way,” Uraraka said, leaning forward in her chair. “He’s doing better than I thought he would.”

“It’s going to come to an end soon, though. Aoyama doesn’t have many shots left from his laser and Midoriya’s starting to look desperate,” Tenya said. The reckless attacks and aggressive behavior reminded Tenya of something, but he couldn’t quite place it. “Neither of them can keep going like this.”

Fate agreed as Aoyama fired his laser at the same time Midoriya made one last dive for his belt.

His timing was poor and the laser hit Midoriya straight in the chest.

“Hey!” Shinsou said from a few rows back, standing in shock as the blast hit his friend.

Uraraka, too was nearly out of her seat, but Tenya could only stare in awe as the beam turned into a spiral funnel of wind, sucking straight into the middle of Midoriya’s chest. His hands clenched, his teeth grit, and his eyes were so wide you could see the whites of them from the stands.

Midoriya screamed as an electric crackle of loose, white energy danced along his limbs.

Chapter Text

It hurt.

Izuku grit his teeth and clutched his chest, the entire world blocked out save for the sear of pain smothering every inch of his body.

His new Quirk fought and struggled but it did its job, absorbing the energy of the other boy’s navel laser and converting into a compact packet, compressed and ready to burst. Izuku watched the energy dance on his skin though his torn sleeve until it settled into tiny tick-mark like lines in a row that ran halfway down his arm like a sound level on a stereo.

“Are you okay?” Aoyama asked, though his voice was muffled as it tried to pass through the absolute pounding in his head from the extra pulse of his heart and the anxious energy in Izuku’s veins. “Midoriya?”

Izuku wished desperately that he’d had a chance to practice with his new Quirk, but that wasn’t possible. This had to be believable. Izuku had to look like he’d never had his Quirk activate before and what better way to ensure that than to have actually never used it before?

“Move,” Izuku grunted through clenched teeth. The Quirk had two steps, and Izuku found he had absolutely zero control of the second right now. He yelled as he threw out his arm to the side. “Now!”

Without his consent, the energy he’d stolen from Aoyama came exploding out from his hand toward the stands.

Cementoss threw up a cement wall to stop the beam from hitting the spectators without a second of hesitation, like a Pro Hero should.

“I told you he’d be fine,” Shigaraki said, hovering over Izuku. His form blurred in and out as Izuku’s exhausted eyes struggled to stay open and focus on the spectating figure.

Izuku felt wrong; as if the unnaturalness of Shigaraki’s Master had seeped into him like tar and clung to every inch of muscle and bone.

The concrete chilled his back as he tried to focus on the person hovering above him, but between the agony and the numbness, Izuku felt like he was drifting down a river of needles.

Shigaraki waved his fingers in front of Izuku’s eyes. They blurred in and out and he muttered softly, “I think.”

“His eyes are tracking your hand, so I do believe he’s still under a bit of shock,” Kurogiri said from the side. He must have returned at some point. “The transfer can be quite the ordeal if you’re not mentally prepared for it.”

Izuku breathed; it hurt.

“He’s young,” Master said, his voice echoing in the dark room. Izuku listened to the deep bass of it, shivering harder against the floor. “He’ll adjust. Take him somewhere and put him to bed, Shigaraki. He’ll be fine after he rests.”

“Of course, Master,” Shigaraki said. The world turned black as Izuku closed his eyes. He couldn’t find the effort to keep them open. But he listened: “Thank you.”

“I hope your little friend enjoys his present once he realizes how kind this was of you,” Master said.

He lied.

This request was selfish at its core.

Shigaraki believed his Master anyway.

Izuku slept.

His hand shook, trembling so hard Izuku had to hold his wrist to steady it. The people in the crowd had gone silent and Cementoss made his way over to where Izuku breathed heavily on stage, staring at his hand. Present Mic yelled over the intercoms and Midnight’s heels clacked as they entered the field. The little tick marks on his arm had gone and the explosive power with it and—

Izuku felt better.

He still felt drained and exhausted, but the pain and lingering wriggling wrongness under his skin had left.

“He—he doesn’t have a Quirk!” Aoyama said. Izuku looked at him as his opponent pointed and gaped. “How’d he do that?”

“That was something else we just saw!” Present Mic screamed from over the intercom, still talking. “Can someone tell me what just happened down there?”

All eyes were on Izuku as he stood in the center of the platform. He ignored Aoyama to stare at the destruction of the cement wall Cementoss had created from redirecting the beam. The wind blew lightly through his hair, ruffling it.

The spotlight was on.

The plan was in action.

Izuku lied.

The scratchy sheets under his cheek were unfamiliar. Izuku pressed his face into them and rolled over, clutching to the blankets. He felt sore everywhere and a familiar pounding sensation pulsed in the back of his head. Izuku struggled to focus, trying to remember where he was and what had happened.

“Are you waking up?” Shigaraki asked, setting a glass of water near the side table. Izuku opened his eyes, seeing the other boy hover above him. Shigaraki’s hoodie was missing, and the other man only wore a simple t-shirt with bare arms. It was the most skin Izuku had ever seen Shigaraki reveal. His fingers twitched every so often and there was a slight hint of concern in his eyes. Izuku sat up, staring at the old mattress he was on; Shigaraki scratched his neck. “You were asleep for a while. I called your mom and said you were sleeping over at my place.”

“Thanks,” Izuku said, almost absently. His limbs felt heavy and the memories came back one at a time, replaying the scene in that horrible room with that monster and the Nomu. Shigaraki continued to hover, but keeping a timid distance that was unlike him. Shigaraki loved touching Izuku when he could. It was odd, but he supposed that fit this situation. Izuku looked at his hands. He remembered. He asked, “I have a Quirk now?”

Shigaraki cracked an inappropriate smile. “Yes! I know that was rough for you, but Master said in a few days you’ll feel better than ever once your body adjusts.”

Izuku clutched his hand into a fist. Shigaraki’s bare room surrounded them and he fell back on the pillows. He didn’t have the energy for this. Izuku stared at the ceiling, feeling his nerves pulse under his skin with a new vengeance. The foreign entity residing in his body refused to be ignored, and Izuku wasn’t sure what to do with it.

It’s not like he could give it back.

His friend remained unsure and strangely self conscious. Izuku studied him with a steady gaze, with what he assumed was a thoughtful look, but it must have been more intimidating than he’d planned: Shigaraki opened his mouth and closed it before he said, “Don’t hate me.”

Izuku turned his head away from Shigaraki for a second before considering the other man again. His eyes wavered; his fingers twitched. If he didn’t know better, Izuku might say that Shigaraki almost looked scared (Izuku almost laughed). Shigaraki acting unsure was a rarity; usually it was petulant pouting and anger over things not going his way. This was different; Izuku felt pity.

“I don’t hate you,” Izuku said. He tugged the blanket up and rolled toward Shigaraki, keeping his gaze locked with the other man’s. “I’m just tired.”

“Good,” Shigaraki said. He took a swaying step back and nodded. “Good. You sleep and I’ll make sure you get home in the morning.”

He walked out as Izuku closed his eyes again.

Recovery Girl stared at the results from Izuku’s scan. The tournament round had been declared Aoyama’s win as Izuku had been forced to forfeit. His “panic” over shooting beam of beam of energy for the first time had been hysterical enough that no one questioned it was the first time Izuku had ever seen that happen.

(Not that they should; it was one of the only things Izuku hadn’t lied about.)

Thirteen, one of the teachers who had volunteered to take Izuku to the nurse, stood behind him. They had volunteered to stay with him while they calmed down the audience and got everything settled. Outside the Festival continued to go on, but he had no access to the monitors to know how everyone else faired. Izuku wondered how Kacchan and Shinsou were doing.

“You say you first started feeling ill a couple a few days ago?” Recovery Girl asked, drawing Izuku’s attention back to the matter at hand: Acting. She continued reading his chart from when he was a child and the doctor said he’d never develop a Quirk. “And you feel better now after what happened in your match?”

“Yes,” Izuku said. He swallowed and curled in on himself, attempting to look confused and ashamed (at least that second part was easy; he was). “I wasn’t feeling good when I stayed at a friend’s house, so I stayed home sick yesterday. I still felt bad this morning, but I didn’t want to miss the festival.”

“Understandable,” she said. Recovery Girl placed his chart back down on the table. “Has anything like that happened before?”

“No,” Izuku said. He kept his eyes glued on the table. Izuku leaned his head forward and held the back of his head, digging his fingers into his hair in genuine frustration as he tried to sell the innocent act. “I’m Quirkless.”

“I can tell this is frustrating for you,” Recovery Girl said. She rubbed Izuku lightly on the back. “But your initial scans are showing that a Quirk has developed. It’s not completely unheard of for a Quirk to develop later in life, but it is rare.”

Izuku nodded. He looked through the side of his arms. “Is that what happened? And why I’ve been sick the past couple of days?”

“I believe so,” Recovery Girl said. “We won’t know for sure until we run some more tests, but it’s very possible your body has been tiring itself out trying to adapt to the new Quirk.”

Izuku nodded and held himself. “Thank you.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” Recovery Girl said. “Now if you follow Thirteen, they’ll help you to one of my aids who will run the rest of the tests. I’d help myself, but I might be needed with the ongoing matches, but don’t worry, you’ll be in good hands all the same.”

“Of course,” Izuku said. “Thank you, again.”

As he followed the Pro Hero to the other side of the room, Izuku stared at his hand and wondered when he’d get another chance to test this Quirk out again.

If he felt this much better after using it once, than maybe by the third or forth time, the absolute wrongness that crawled under his skin would be gone and he could finally appreciate this gift (good intentions had to mean something).

Then maybe this Quirk would really be his own.

Shigaraki stared at Izuku’s All Might memorabilia with so much disgust, he worried it might congeal into something tangible and attack.

“As abhorrent as young Midoriya’s choice in personal heroes might be,” Kurogiri said, looking as out of place in Izuku’s bedroom as Shigaraki. “We have a limited amount of time before his mother comes to check how he’s feeling now that he’s caught the flu.”

Izuku sniffed, rubbing the back of his nose with his hand. His mother hadn’t questioned it when Shigaraki arrived (dressed in civilian clothing, of course) with Izuku in tow, apologizing that he hadn’t noticed Izuku coming down with an illness while he was sleeping over. Izuku’s mother had taken the “Flu” excuse at face value and hurried Izuku into bed.

Shigaraki and Kurogiri said that today’s “sick day” was for planning and making sure that everyone was one the same page concerning the Sports Festival tomorrow.

(He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready. He wanted to throw up. What had they done?)

Izuku still ached, enough that even Shigaraki continued to look at him in a worried fashion when he thought Izuku wasn’t paying attention, and he wasn’t really all that surprised his mother believed him to be sick. His only reprieve was his exhaustion helped mask the pain and wrongness that continued to pulse under his skin.

But for some reason Kurogiri wanted him to go to school tomorrow and participate in the Festival.

“Master feels that your new Quirk should be revealed soon, and that hiding it will only cause trouble later down the line,” Kurogiri said. His warp gate flickered around him, lighting the shadows on the wall. Izuku could hear his mother puttering in the kitchen, and he knew that Kurogiri was ready to flick himself and Shigaraki out at any second should she come in. “After conversing with Master over the issue, we feel the Festival will provide the most opportunities for you to be hit on accident, and activate your Quirk.”

“And then?” Izuku asked.

“You lie and let them fill in the reason for themselves how you got developed such a thing,” Shigaraki said. He stared at Izuku, eyes focused and body tense. “Master said you’d feel better when your Quirk activates.”

“And fear not,” Kurogiri said. “We’ll be keeping an eye on the festivities, just in case anything goes wrong. Though should you need us, feel free to text and I’ll arrive as soon as possible.”

“So that’s the whole plan?” Izuku asked, choking out a laugh. This was the mighty League of Villains at their finest? Izuku rubbed his eyes. “Find some way to get smacked with an energy attack of some sort and act like I have no idea what happened? What if the opportunity doesn’t show up? I can’t even practice before hand to make sure it works?”

“I’m positive that it will,” Kurogiri said. “I’d be shocked if you couldn’t figure it out, and as to your second question—your initial reaction to the Quirk activating will be more authentic if it is indeed authentic. You’ll be far more credible if that part is at least true when you say it was the first time it’s happened. Surprise, genuine surprise, is incredibly hard to fake and everyone will be watching I imagine with such a crowd.”

“Right,” Izuku said.

“You really shouldn’t worry,” Kurogiri said. “Someone as smart and capable as yourself should have no problems fooling them all, and then you can reap the benefits of your new Quirk to your heart’s desire.”

He crossed his arms over his knees. He narrowed his eyes at Kurogiri, whose confidence in Izuku’s ability was starting to get old. He had once eaten up the praise, but with the upcoming task tomorrow, he was starting to wonder if it wan’t just some form of humoring on the older man’s part as he attempted to keep Shigaraki’s little pet friend around.

Izuku asked, “Do you mind if I talk to Shigaraki alone for a minute?”

Kurogiri paused, glancing toward the door.

“I’ll call when we’re done,” Shigaraki said. He waved his hand for Kurogiri to leave. “I’m sure it won’t take long.”

“Of course,” Kurogiri said.

He disappeared into his own warp, ever obedient, leaving Izuku and Shigaraki alone.

Shigaraki reached up to scratch his neck, slumping forward as he sat on the edge of Izuku’s bed. He waited for Izuku to speak first.

Izuku let him wait another five minutes, staring hard at the side of his face.

“Why did you give me a Quirk, Shigaraki?” Izuku asked when he was satisfied Shigaraki was squirming under the pressure. He felt like shit, but his mind had cleared and he wanted an answer now that it was just him and Shigaraki.

“You’re my friend,” Shigaraki answered, his nerves giving way to petulance once again.

Izuku couldn’t stop the laugh as it bubbled up and he chuckled into his knees. Shigaraki’s eyes widened a touch, confused and curious. Izuku rubbed his chest when the laughs subsided, for once not minding the influx of pain.

He cracked a smile at Shigaraki, amused at his half-pout. Izuku pushed his hair back, and leaned on his knee with an elbow. “Then I guess I should say thank you.”

Five hours of extensive testing and being poked and prodded like a guinea pig revealed that Izuku had a Quirk, but no indication of how it came to be or why it developed so late.

Since nothing else appeared physically wrong with him, they released him with schedule to train one on one with a teacher or two to get a handle on his Quirk in the upcoming week, or at least to teach him how to practice with it without hurting himself.

As he left the nurse’s office, he ran into Shinsou, waiting against the wall. His friend had a bandage wrapped around his neck and upper arm, but otherwise looked fine. He held a hand up when Izuku approached and said, “Hey. You okay? They rushed you off the stage pretty quick after that incident and you were in there for a long time.”

“I’m fine, but testing took a while,” Izuku said. He shrugged lightly and rubbed the back of his neck. The bags under Shinsou’s eyes were more pronounced, and his shoulders hung low. He must have lost. Izuku tried to smile, but he just wanted to go home. He wasn’t sure if he could play comforter to a sulking Shinsou right now. “Apparently I’m a late bloomer. Of all the times to find out, right?”

“I’m sure there could have been worse moments,” Shinsou said. He pushed off the wall and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Glad you’re okay, though. You gave everyone quite a scare when that laser hit your chest. Even your buddy Bakugou looked worried.”

“Kacchan looked worried?” Izuku asked, sitting up straighter. He tried to imagine that. Kacchan’s eyes widening; a look of concern. Fear for Izuku’s well being. Izuku felt guilty picturing such an awful sight as a worried Kacchan. “Really?”

“For a few seconds,” Shinsou said. “Visibly anyway. He started cursing and yelling about what the heck was going on and how you were Quirkless and such until Kirishima calmed him down, but yeah. I’d say he was worried for a minute, too.”


(Of course it was Kirishima. He’s always there now for Kacchan; like a leech. Even in this one moment where Kacchan might care it’s been ruined by the ugliness festering up.)

Izuku bit his lip and changed the topic and waved at the bandages. “What about you? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, Todoroki knocked me out of the ring pretty hard with an ice blast during our match,” Shinsou said, smiling, but it didn’t quite move his cheeks upward. He rolled his shoulder on the one side, before poking his bandages. “But nothing Recovery Girl couldn’t fix. A little leftover frost burns will heal up in no time after she fixed the broken arm.”

“Ouch,” Izuku said, wincing. He had never seen Todoroki’s Quirk in action, but he could imagine. “I’m sorry you lost.”

“I got forth place though,” Shinsou said, forcing a cheered expression. “So it wasn’t a total loss, even if that match was. And I can’t even be too mad at him for winning. Using an overkill immediately when the match started is definitely one way to keep me from using my Quirk, I’ll give him that. It was a smart move and he got me.”

Izuku wasn’t sure what condolences he could give, but did make a mental note that Shinsou’s Quirk took time to activate (though, he’d learn more about that later—Shinsou promised to tell him all about it).

“Wanna know who won?” Shinsou asked, mouth half crooked in a smile.

Izuku nodded slowly. “Sure.”

“Bakugou,” Shinsou said. He gripped his hand into a fist and smacked the flat side of it into the wall behind him. “He won it all, just like he said.”

“You’ll get another chance, Shinsou,” Izuku said. He tugged on his sleeve and nodded his head toward the hall. “Let’s go get something to eat and go home. I think we could both use an early night.”

“Sure,” Shinsou said, loosening his hand from its fist.

The two of them changed out of their gym clothes and made their way to the gate. By the time they reached the yard, most of the crowd from the festivities were long gone. Izuku looked at the clock and realized that Shinsou must have been waiting for him at least an hour or two; he felt rather touched.

“Thanks for waiting for me,” Izuku said. “It was nice to see a friendly face after all those tests.”

“Don’t mention it,” Shinsou said. He shrugged, staring ahead as they made their way to the exit gate. “I needed to sit somewhere and cool my head anyway.”

Izuku shifted his bag on his shoulder and pulled out his phone. He sent a text to his mother letting her know he’d be home soon, and let Kurogiri know that all was clear for the time being. He enjoyed the night air and the quiet walk as he finally allowed himself to calm down. Izuku pressed “Send” to the last message when Shinsou spoke up.

“I think that guy wants your attention,” Shinsou said, nodding his head forward. “He’s been waving his fingers at us for a minute now.”

Izuku looked up, spying Shigaraki, leaning against a light pole just outside the school grounds. He wore his hoodie over his face and half an eye peaked out from the hole.

“That’s a friend I met over the summer,” Izuku said. He pocketed his phone and smiled, hoping that Shigaraki could behave himself for the five minutes it would take Shinsou to leave. “Thanks for walking me this far, but I’ll have to go out to eat with you later. I want to catch up a bit with him, if you don’t mind. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Yeah, no problem. Night,” Shinsou said. His eyes darted over to Shigaraki for a split-second too long, enough that Izuku’s heartbeat picked up speed, but he turned and walked away without trouble.

When he was a far enough distance away, Izuku joined Shigaraki at his post. “Did you watch the match?”

“I did,” Shigaraki said. He leaned forward and his face nearly split in half from his wicket grin. “I’m starting to see why you like Kacchan so much.”

“Kacchan’s mine,” Izuku hissed, lying through his teeth and surprisingly even himself for blurting out the phrase. But today he had Kacchan’s attention for even the briefest moment and that was enough. Even if Shigaraki’s gift was what allowed for that moment, Izuku refused to share it. “You and the league stay away from him. Do you understand?”

Shigaraki licked his chapped lip and scratched the side of his neck. Silence fell over the two of them for a solid minute before he leaned back and his smile softened. “Anger’s a good look on you.”

“Let’s go get a snack,” Shigaraki said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked forward. “I’m hungry and Kurogiri can drop you off at home before your mother worries.”

Izuku followed, well aware Shigaraki had dodged the subject.

Chapter Text

Toshinori recognized the young boy in the photo.

It was the same young boy who had asked him if it was possible to be a Hero without a Quirk, and had seen Toshinori at his weakest when he had to tell the child his dreams were unrealistic. It seemed like something that had happened so long ago, but here he was again in Toshinori’s path. It seemed fate had a hand to play in bringing them together again.

Izuku Midoriya, Quirkless until two days ago.

“Aizawa, would you mind sharing what you’ve found out while investigating Izuku Midoriya?” Nezu asked, sipping his cup of tea.

“There isn’t much, but he does match the description of a strategist confirmed to be working for a suspected Villain Broker named Giran. His services have been highly coveted from what I’ve gathered and if Midoriya really is the same person, we can tie him to at least two Villains who’d used his strategies in attacks on Pro Heroes,” Aizawa said, dropping a report on the table in the middle of the teacher’s counsel. He adjusted his scarf and took a seat next to Yamada. “I think it’s safe to say it’s not a coincidence that he joined the school so soon after the Villain attack.”

“You acquired that information rather quickly,” Toshinori said. He flipped through the pages of the report, looking at the information they’d gotten from a few arrested villains.

Aizawa narrowed his eyes at Toshinori from the other side of Yamada. “He was under suspicion when we received his transfer papers so close to the villain attack, but we had nothing to directly tie him to everything.”

“It’s true the young man was under a close watch when we received his late application,” Nezu said. Toshinori had remembered their being slight gossip around the teacher’s room of a new student who was their first transfer in a while, but he hadn’t been aware they suspected the lad of foul play. Nezu placed his tea cup on the table. “The timing in and of itself was highly suspect, thus sending Aizawa to investigate, but considering his age, we thought it worth the risk to keep an eye on him rather than leaving him entirely to his own devices out in the world.”

“And now he’s got a Quirk,” Kayama said, crossing her arms under her chest. “Out of nowhere in the middle of the biggest event of the year. If he wasn’t suspicious before, he sure is now.”

“Yagi, you’ve been looking at his picture rather closely,” Aizawa said. He watched out of the corner of his eye with a steady gaze. “Something on your mind?”

“I met this boy once earlier in the year. He asked me if it was possible to be a hero without a Quirk,” Toshinori admitted. “I told him it was unrealistic, and he was naturally disappointed. I do remember being impressed with his notebook however. It contained detailed notes on all the Pro Heroes and their abilities. He seemed like a dedicated fan and someone quite capable in the future at perhaps a police position or becoming a detective.”

“You said he was suspected of being an analyst, right?” Kayama asked. She held her chin and stared at the picture of the boy on the table. “If the wrong sort of person got their hands on notes like that, it could really do some damage.”

“I’m starting to think that’s exactly what happened,” Aizawa said. “He couldn’t be a hero, so he went Villain instead.”

“That’s rough,” Yamada said, pulling his glasses down. “Talk about taking a different path.”

Toshinori’s fingers twitched under the table.

“If that’s true, it’s not your fault, Yagi,” Nezu said, picking up his teacup again; ever observant. “I’m sure you told him other things he could do to support heroes, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Toshinori said, still feeling a twinge of remorse. If that child really had gone down a path of villainy after their talk, then All Might had let him down. That was hard to swallow. “I voiced my initial thoughts concerning his notes and recommended he join the police force.”

“Then you have nothing to be ashamed about,” Nezu said. He tapped his cup on the saucer and grinned brightly. “In fact, think of this as an opportunity. If he is indeed aligned with villains, we have a chance to take him back to the right side here as a student of U.A.”

“What are you suggesting?” Aizawa asked.

“The Sports Festival isn’t just a chance for our students in the Hero Classes to be noticed by Pro Heroes,” Nezu said, almost smug, “It’s also a chance for students in our other departments to transfer in who didn’t quite make it during the entrance exams. Anyone from the Finals would qualify, and as I recall, only two General Studies students made it this year.”

Kayama licked her lips and leaned on the table. “So you want to move them up and let us keep a closer eye on him that way?”

“Sounds like a plan!” Yamada yelled. He threw his hands up and pointed them in finger guns. “And having a few students actually make it into the Hero Course will definitely be a morale boost for the rest of the school. Win-win.”

Aizawa slumped in his seat. Toshinori could feel the dread coming off him in waves. “You’re going to put them in my class, aren’t you?”

“Of course!” Nezu said, laughing.

Toshinori listened as the rest of the details were arranged concerning the transfer, and how they would continue to keep a close watch on young Midoriya. Toshinori could only hope they weren’t too late to save him from that dark path.

Especially if he got that Quirk where Toshinori suspected.

(Heaven help them all if that man were still alive.)

Izuku sat at the bar top next to Shigaraki, plopping down with enough force he rattled the stool and knocked his knees into the counter (he barely noticed).

Suspicious of the dazed behavior, Shigaraki asked tactfully, “What happened to you?”

“Today in class Shinsou and I got a notice from the main office,” Izuku started. He sniffed, rubbing his nose as his eyes watered and he rambled on half-conscious of what he was saying as the words poured out in short bursts. “Starting tomorrow, we’ll be transferred to the Hero Class. Anyone who made it to the Finals who hadn’t previously been in the Hero course was accepted. And you know the best part?

“We’re going to be in 1-A, so not just the Hero Class, but the top of the Hero Class. I almost couldn’t believe it and you should have seen Shinsou. He was so happy. I didn’t think it was possible for him to smile.” Izuku rubbed his eyes. “I almost hate that I’m so happy, considering what it cost to get here, but I can’t help it.”

Shigaraki tilted his head to the side, knocking a few strands of hair loose. “Oh?”

“I’m going to be in the same class as Kacchan,” Izuku said, unable to stop the flow of joyful tears. He’d dreamed of this. He’d dreamed of it his entire life: To be in the Hero Course at U.A. and to stand next to Kacchan as equals. To be a Hero like All Might. Now it was happening. What had been done was done and Izuku could only move forward. He had to believe that. Izuku covered his mouth and sucked in a breath. “Because I have a Quirk now, they’re letting me in.”

And that was all thanks to Shigaraki.

“Thank you,” Izuku said, tackling Shigaraki’s side in a hug. He leaned half off the stool, clinging to the frozen stiff Shigaraki and put his face in the other’s shoulders. The other mans’ stupid, selfish, thoughtless gift had gotten Izuku everything he’d ever wanted. His inner selfishness squashed the voice that told him spilled blood had gotten him here, but what was done was done. This was now. This is what mattered. Izuku squeezed Shigaraki harder. “I didn’t really mean it last time I said it, so I need to say it again: Thank you, thank you.”

Shigaraki held his hands in the air off to the sides, elbows bent. His breath picked up and Izuku could feel the panic growing. “What are you doing?”

“Hugging you,” Izuku said. He squeezed one more time before slipping away from the rigid villain. “Friends do that.”

Shigaraki nodded before slowly lowering his hands. He brushed off his shirt with his hand, fingers up and putting down most of the pressure with his palm. “Alright.”

“As touching as this is,” Kurogiri said, interrupting. He set a glass down hard on the bar top, his warp form shivering. “I feel you might be losing focus about why you’re attending that academy.”

“You want information and strategies,” Izuku said, grabbing the bottom of the stool to steady himself. He tensed his shoulders and glared, reminding himself to pay closer attention to Kurogiri and his sweet words. “I haven’t forgotten. Don’t worry.”

“As long as you understand,” Kurogiri said.

Izuku kept his mouth shut, pressing his lips together. He wanted to point out so badly that he didn’t work for the League of Villains directly. Izuku could walk any time he wanted.

But his mother could still be a target.

And now he had friends at school.

Izuku kept his mouth shut, and tried to ignore the steady way Shigaraki stared at him.

Kirishima had never really been an anxious person. He was pretty chill all around and most of his friends would tell you that from Ashido to Kaminari.

But this Midoriya kid set all of his nerves on edge because he was like a walking match to Bakugou’s fuse that could light the thing at any given second.

He was bad for Kirishima’s blood pressure.

“This is Izuku Midoriya and Hitoshi Shinsou,” Aizawa said, half bored as he sat half out of his sleeping bag at the front of the classroom. The two students stood next to him, one with his hands in his pockets and with a smug grin and the other barely containing his glee behind a shy smile and hands clasped. “For making it to the final rounds of the Festival, they were given the option to enter the Hero Course from General Studies, and as you can see, they accepted. Say hello to your new classmates.”

Chatter filled the room, but Kirishima had zeroed in on one person who had gone deathly silent.

Bakugou’s red eyes stared at Midoriya like he was a plague upon everyone’s existence. His hands clenched under his desk, knuckles white and teeth grit. Kirishima wasn’t sure what kept his buddy from exploding, but he had a feeling this simmering anger might be worse.

“However, though they’ve moved up,” Aizawa said. “There’s no coddling in this class and they’re going to be tested at the same level as the rest of you. The two of them are expected to catch up on their own time, so whether the rest of you help them out is up to you. Now everyone take a seat and let’s get class started.”

Fate seemed to be plotting against Kirishima, because it was at this moment he realized that one of the two empty seats in class were behind Bakugou—and Midoriya sat there.

“What’s wrong with you?” Kaminari asked, whispering as he leaned over closer to Kirishima. Shinsou took a seat in front of him and Kirishima had a feeling that he was listening to their conversation. Kaminari poked Kirishima’s arm. “You look like someone punched you in the gut.”

“I’ll tell you later,” Kirishima said, keeping his eye on Midoriya and Bakugou. The second kept ramrod straight and fists clenched, but managed to keep his brewing anger bottled up. Midoriya, on the other hand, shot Kirishima a glance before setting back into his chair. Kirishima rubbed his mouth and slumped in his seat. “Promise.”

“If you say so,” Kaminari said. He returned his attention back to the front of the classroom and things continued as normal.

Kirishima spent the rest of class praying that they made it through the day without anyone getting into a fight.

(He doubted it.)

“It’s so great that you made it into the class,” Uraraka said, stopping by Izuku’s desk. She smiled cutely, with her hands behind her back. “You’ve been the talk of the town since you got a Quirk during the Festival.”

Izuku pressed his lips together, glancing at Kacchan. The other had said nothing so far, and only dug into his lunch instead of acknowledging his new classmate. Kirishima had taken a seat in front of him, also eating quietly as Bakugou ignored everyone around himself. Izuku had half expected that, though, but what he hadn’t was for Iida to ignore him, too. He thought for sure the class rep would have come over to say hello with Uraraka.

“Is Iida okay?” Izuku asked.

“He’s still a little shaken up,” Uraraka said, looking at Iida. He ate alone at his desk, quiet and distracted by his meal. “He found out his brother had been attacked by the Hero Killer during the Festival, and this is his first day back in class after visiting him in the hospital.”

“Hero Killer?” Izuku asked. A true loner, that was one Villain that had no need of Giran or the League of Villains services, so Izuku had little experience with him. From what he understood, the man fancied himself sort of an anti-hero that targeted corrupt Pro Heroes, but he didn’t know much more than that. Izuku crossed his arms on the desk. “Iida’s brother is a Pro Hero?”

Uraraka’s smile turned down. “Yes, his big brother is Ingenium, though now he’s been forced to retire due to his injuries. Iida was always very proud of him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Izuku said. “I hope things work out.”

“Same,” Uraraka said. She forced herself to smile and clapping her hands together. “But I don’t think he likes us talking about it, so let’s swap up the topic! How does it feel having a Quirk now?”

Izuku caught the twitch of Kacchan’s hand out of the corner of his eye as he picked up his utensils. He smiled and laughed, “Like a dream come true. I was Quirkless for so long, it didn’t even strike my mind as something that could happen.”

“It is rather remarkable,” Uraraka said. “What are even the odds of developing a Quirk that late?”

“It’s bullshit,” Kacchan said, finally speaking up. He put his lunch down and glared over his shoulder. He stared Izuku down, eyes suspicious and angry. “I don’t know what you did to make this happen, but it sure as hell doesn’t change anything. You were a loser before you had a Quirk, Deku, and you’re a loser now, so don’t get any big ideas in your head about being a Hero.”

“No one asked you, Bakugou,” Uraraka said, narrowing her eyes. She put her hands on her hips and huffed. “I think he showed many heroic qualities before. He was determined and he got right into that ring with Aoyama despite being sick. Now that he’s got a Quirk, who knows what he’ll be able to do. He might even be a better hero than you, Bakugou! Especially when you’ve got that attitude.”

“What did you just say?” Kacchan asked. Kirishima and Izuku tensed at the same time (he shoved down the ugliness rearing its head; it wasn’t the time—it wasn’t the time!) as Kacchan slid his chair back with a screech and stood. He towered over the short Uraraka and hissed. “You say that again. I dare you.”

“I bet ‘Deku’ could be a better hero than you,” Uraraka said again.

Kacchan raised his hand, palm sparking when—

“All of you sit down,” Aizawa said, slamming the door open. “Lunch is over.”

Kirishima put his hand on Kacchan’s arm and grinned. “I’ll see you after class to study tonight, right?”

Kacchan looked at him like he was crazy before lowering his hand. He blinked and sat in his chair. “Yeah. No problem.”

“We should hang out too,” Uraraka said. She patted her skirt down and smiled. “We can see if we can’t cheer up Iida.”

“Sure,” Izuku said. “I’d like that.”

“I said we’re starting,” Aizawa said again, voice stern.

He snapped open his book and Uraraka looked at him funny.

“Is something wrong?” Izuku asked.

“No, he just seems grumpier today for some reason,” Uraraka said. She jerked under Aizawa’s glare and rushed back to her seat.

Izuku opened his notebook and discretely tore out Uraraka and Iida’s pages before crumpling them up in his hand. He had to take notes on the students and their Quirks, but no one said he had to take notes on every single one of them.

It wouldn’t hurt to make a few extra friends.

You never knew when you might need them.

Chapter Text

When Midoriya revealed he had a Quirk in front of the stands, Bakugou lost it. There wasn’t really a kind way to put it other than he flipped out into incoherent screaming. Kirishima watched his best friend go through a series of emotions starting with genuine worry that Midoriya was hurt from the blast, to confusion, to rage that he had activated a Quirk.

Somewhere in the fury, he had caught wind of “That little shit’s been hiding a Quirk!?” and a sincere belief that Midoriya might have been hiding a Quirk all these years just to get back at Bakugou for something now when it mattered.

(The ego his best friend had—it was worrying some days.)

Regardless, he’d thrown a proper fit and barely got his act together in time for his match against Uraraka. Though thinking back, Kirishima couldn’t even say that Bakugou had regained his cool since it was more accurate to say that he’d channeled all his rage over Midoriya into his fighting spirit, distracting himself by hyper focusing on his matches.

It had worked well enough for him to win, but he was still distressed and extra grumpy and Kirishima was legitimately worried there might be a repeat of the yard incident when Midoriya confessed he was the one that caused the slime monster incident. It took some manly badgering, but Kirishima and Bakugou did end up talking about it late into the night after the Festival, where they had a really great heart to heart about how he hated Izuku (though he might have been lying about that part) and didn’t feel like he really deserved that first place win since Todoroki only used half of his Quirk.

However good it was for them, Bakugou still bristled at the thought of having those talks (even if he needed them), and even admitted that it was starting to really wear thin on his nerves every time Kirishima gave him a “Talking down” in front of the others. It made him feel like a pet being tamed and Kirishima got the vibe that his own anger control issues were starting to bother even him at how often Kirishima had to calm him down lately.

Not wanting to embarrass Bakugou any further if he ever got like this again, Kirishima had come up with a code word for their little talks. If he thought Bakugou was going to far and they needed to cool his head down and talk it out, he’d ask if the other guy wanted to study. Everyone in class knew that they studied together already, so it was a win-win.

Bakugou got a heads up that he was losing control of himself without Kirishima looking like he was mothering the guy, and he knew he could safely talk about it later in confidence.

So far, their first test run had worked pretty well in class.

But now they were home after that first disastrous day, and Kirishima had Bakugou in front of him for yet another manly vent session.

And he wasn’t looking forward to this one; Midoriya was always a disastrous topic.

“Uraraka pressed your buttons pretty hard today, didn’t she?” Kirishima said. He put down the bowl of snacks between the two of them and tried to smile. “You shouldn’t let her get under you skin.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Bakugou muttered. He grabbed a cookie and snapped off a piece before popping it in his mouth. “Deku’s going to fall flat on his face, cry, and then go back to General Studies with his tail between his legs. Just you watch.”

“Does it really bother you so much that he’s trying to be a hero?” Kirishima asked.

Bakugou shoved the cookie basket aside and opened his textbook up. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I’m starting to really worry about you, man, and I know I’m beating a dead horse, but this is getting too much,” Kirishima said, opening up his own book. He huffed at the pages, but didn’t bother to read any of it. “I don’t know what he could have possibly done when you were six to make you this awful concerning him, but you’ve got to let it go if you really want to be a hero yourself.”

Kirishima flipped a page, waiting for Bakugou to respond. He felt his shoulders tense the longer the silence continued and his heart ached trying to figure out the best thing to do for his friend.

“It’s stupid,” Bakugou said, half under his breath. Kirishima watched him, and the frustrated curl of his lip and the clench of his hand.

“Dude, nothing’s stupid,” Kirishima said. He’d seen Bakugou at his worst, crying his eyes out and losing all self control. There couldn’t possibly be anything that would get rid of Kirishima at this point. He shoved his books aside and scooted around the table to knock their shoulders together. “Talk to me.”

“He didn’t do anything,” Bakugou said, softly. He pushed away from the table and Kirishima, leaning his back against Kirishima’s bed frame. He stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned his head back. “He talked back to me once or twice when I was beating up some other kid, but I had started bullying him long before that.”

Kirishima wisely didn’t comment on admission Bakugou bullied other kids, too. He kept quiet, afraid he’d ruin this small confession while his friend still wanted to talk.

“He just,” Bakugou said, before stopping. He swallowed and looked at his hands. “Deku kept trying to save me, and I hated it.”

“Save you?” Kirishima gently prompted.

“When I was five I fell off a log into a shallow river,” Bakugou started. He looked like he was staring at something far away. “I was fine. Barely a scratch but there was Deku holding his hand out looking all concerned and underestimating me. He’s always been doing stupid things like that. Saying my eyes are asking for help, whatever that means. It pissed me off. He’s a freaking weakling and always jumping in trying to save the day where he’s not wanted.”

Jumping in to save the day with no concern for yourself sounded pretty heroic—Kirishima paused. He stared at Bakugou’s clenched hands and frustrated face and his eyes widened a fraction.

“Bakugou, are you jealous of Midoriya?” Kirishima asked before he could stop.

Izuku couldn’t stop the tremble of nerves when Kacchan asked if they could talk behind the school after classes.

It had made paying attention in class near impossible, and brushing off Shinsou’s questions of concern and Uraraka’s advice to leave Kacchan hanging were difficult. He was glad to have friends who worried, but he had no idea what Kacchan would want to talk about. He’d already made it clear he wasn’t happy Izuku was in the same class.

Kacchan himself was no help, either. After he asked (asked! not demanded!) to see Izuku after class, he’d returned to his seat and remained in a half daze, quiet and contemplative. He didn’t talk with anyone during lunch (thought he did sit with Kirishima, Ashido, Sero, and Kaminari like usual), and aside from his calm mood, gave nothing away.

Even Kirishima wasn’t giving him any hints at what was going on with Kacchan, though he did stick close.

To heighten the absoluteness of his distraction and ability to get lost in his own thoughts, Izuku forgot to be disappointed when All Might had to be called away and couldn’t teach their regular class (he had forgotten All Might was going to be one of his teachers now).

When the bell rang, Kirishima shot Kacchan a thumbs up and waved at Izuku before leaving with his other friends.

More surprising than anything, Kacchan waited by his desk, watching Izuku.

“Might as well walk together,” he said, half mumbling.

Izuku’s heart skipped a beat and he nodded. “Sure, Kacchan.”

They walked side by side out of class and down the stairs to the courtyard. Izuku had lingered a few steps behind, but Kacchan lowered his pace until they were even. Heart swelling, he took the hint and kept up. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d walked next to Kacchan instead of behind him.

When they got to the back of the school, Izuku noted the spot of grass still brown from the last time he and Kacchan talked alone back here.

Kacchan noticed it, too and swallowed hard. He dropped his bag on the ground and leaned against the wall of the school building.

“Are you okay?” Izuku asked.

Kacchan reached up and pushed his hair back before he left the wall, standing straight. He looked Izuku straight in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry.”

Izuku had to be dreaming.

“Uraraka was right yesterday,” Kacchan said, quiet and unlike himself. “You could be a great hero, even before you got your Quirk.”

There was a long pause before Kacchan swallowed hard and said, “That’s why I hated you so much when we were kids. You were always running in to help and thinking of others first and I guess I felt threatened you would be a better hero than me. It came so easy for you that it pissed me off.”

Izuku almost hit his own chest to make sure his heart was beating.

Kacchan licked his lip, eyes not sure where to look as he bared his soul. “I wanted to break you, but you just kept going and were so damn strong I just hated you more and well, it got into a pretty vicious cycle.”

He stopped again and rubbed his mouth. “And you didn’t deserve that.”

“Kacchan,” Izuku said, unsure what else he could possibly say.

A thousand thoughts ran through his mind from starting with “Is he only apologizing because I got a Quirk?” to “No, no, he just said he thought these things before,” but then again, “He could be lying,” all the way to “Shut up, shut up! Kacchan’s talking to you, idiot!”

“Anyway,” Kacchan said. He shifted from one foot to the other and pressed his lips together. “I’m going to try and be better about it. You’re not a loser, and you never were, and I guess jealousy just made me really ugly.”

Izuku could relate to that one.

They both stood in silence for a few moments after that. Kacchan seemed to have said everything that he wanted to, and Izuku still wasn’t sure if he could manage a response from the pounding of his heart and the urge to cross the two feet between them and hug Kacchan tighter than he had Shigaraki the other day.

Eventually, Izuku found his voice and asked what had him most curious: “What brought this on?”

The only thing Izuku could think of that could have triggered this sudden revelation was Uraraka confronting him the other day, but that was almost a fight, not a revelation of guilty behavior.

“Kirishima,” Kacchan said, and Izuku immediately regretted asking. Kacchan snorted and rubbed the back of his head. “After I almost exploded on Uraraka yesterday, we uh, talked about it and he was the first one to just put a name to all those mixed up feelings I’ve been having. I don’t think I ever put it together that I was jealous, just that you made me angry. He was right, and the more I thought about it and the more we talked about it, I guess I realized I owed you a real apology.”


Izuku felt the twitch bubble up and swallowed it down. He crossed his arms and laughed, trying to sound sincere when he said, “I’m glad you two talked then. I hated not being friends with you, Kacchan. I hope we can start over.”

Kacchan nodded and bit his lip. “Right. We can do that, if you want.”

“I really want that,” Izuku said, hoping the desperation in his voice wasn’t too obvious.

If he scared Kacchan away now, he’d never forgive himself.

“For now though, I think I’ve had enough of confessionals,” Kacchan said, straightening. He grabbed his bag and threw it over his shoulder. “I’ll see you in class, De—” Kacchan cut himself off. He sucked in a slow breath before speaking again. “Izuku. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye, Kacchan,” Izuku whispered, unsure he was going to survive the rate of his heartbeat and desire to tackle Kacchan and make him say that name again.

He couldn’t remember the last time he heard Kacchan say his name properly.

Izuku pressed a hand to his chest and sucked in a breath. He concentrated on the syllables of Kacchan’s voice saying his name and trying to memorize it in case this was all a fluke. He wanted to remember Kacchan looking at him again and refused to think of the why and who—

“You two have your talk?” Kirishima asked, voice clear from around the corner. Izuku froze in place, looking up to see the back of Kacchan’s head as he stood at the corner of the building, almost out of sight on the other side of the yard.

“Yes, you stalker,” Kacchan said. He huffed and put his hands in his pockets. “I told you you didn’t have to wait.”

“Yeah, but then what sort of friend would I be?” Kirishima said, loud and without a care i the world. “This had to be hard for both of you, and I wanted to be here just in case.”

“You’re such a loser,” Kacchan said, but there was no bite in the words.

“So?” Kirishima asked, either unaware or uncaring that Izuku could hear their conversation. “How’d it go?”

“Good,” Kacchan said. He paused and nodded. “It went good.”

“You feel better?”

“Yeah,” Kacchan said. “I do.”

“Awesome,” Kirishima said. Kacchan disappeared from sight as a tan arm looped around his neck and dragged him fully behind the other side of the building. The joyful laughter and the cry of, “I’m so proud of you, dude” was unmistakable.

Izuku couldn’t see them, but he had no trouble imagining the hug they were sharing. Kirishima touched Kacchan at every chance he could get. Arm hugs and face touches from cheek to cheek to manly smacks. You could have mistaken them for lovers if you didn’t know better on some days when they shared tiny touches and mind-reading worthy looks. They had a closeness that had been building up over all those month that tormented the ugliest part of Izuku every day since he’d discovered Kacchan had friends that could make him feel shame.

That could tell Kacchan what to do.

And Kacchan did it.

Izuku grabbed his back and hurried the opposite direction, away from the laughter and the perfect picture they made as friends.

The entire way home, Izuku repeated Kacchan saying his name over and over. He had to focus on the good that happened this afternoon. He had good things happening. Izuku had a Quirk, and good friends, and after a good night’s rest he’d have his head back in the game.

Izuku could steal Kacchan back from Kirishima tomorrow.

Tomura listened as Master droned on about how a new party member would help him grow as a villain.

He was getting too soft apparently since he’d yet to come up with a good plan to attack All Might and UA again.

“It’s good that you have a friend, Shigaraki,” Master had said, “But you need a better influence in your life to push you forward to be the man I know you can be. Midoriya is good for company or maybe as a pet, but you need to think about your future.”

Tomura grunted, still unsure of his Master’s choice.

“And who knows? Maybe then you’ll be influential enough to scare your little friend away from the light side he’s so fond of, as well.”

Tomura didn’t need some other villain to do that. Midoriya would figure out soon enough that heroes like All Might weren’t worth his time soon enough. Tomura was the one who had given him what he wanted. Not those heroes. Tomura didn’t have to worry; Midoriya would be fine.

But he didn’t want to disobey Master yet, either.

So he’d give his new guy a try whenever Kurogiri managed to find him.

Tomura scratched his neck, leaning over the bar top before pushing off and pacing around the room. He eventually collapsed on his couch and spread his legs out.

He hated waiting.

Kirishima pressed Kacchan into the window of the darkened classroom, kissing him hard with rough lips and bites. He pressed his hand into the crook of Kacchan’s back, bending him so that Kirishima could loom above and keep Kacchan from wriggling away.

Sharp teeth nipped at Kacchan’s lip, and he breathed hard, clinging to Kirishima’s sleeves with sweating palms.

“I’m so proud of you,” Kirishima said, nuzzling their foreheads together. He leaned harder into Kacchan and put his knee between Kacchan’s legs. Kirishima placed his hands on the back of Kacchan’s neck and cooed, “I love it when you do what I tell you to. Such a good boy.”

Kacchan whimpered; Izuku dropped his bag in the doorway of the classroom.

“Hey,” Izuku said, stepping a few feet into the room. He looked behind him for Shinsou or Kaminari or anyone that could be in on a prank. This had to be a cruel joke of some sort. But he saw no one. Kirishima continued kissing Kacchan, pressing their hips together and Kacchan squirmed as he bucked back against the pressure. Izuku asked louder, “What are you doing?”

“You always do what I tell you to, don’t you, Katsuki?” Kirishima said, lips brushing against Kacchan’s. He leaned back and put his hands on Kacchan’s shoulders. “You’re so proud and so tough, but I know what you really want.”

“Stop ignoring me,” Izuku hissed. His feet turned traitor, gluing themselves to the floor when all he wanted was to run over and wring Kirishima’s neck. How dare he. Kacchan was a hero and a leader. He didn’t answer to other people. He could be wrong and he could make mistakes and he was a crybaby when no one was looking, but Kacchan sure as hell never submitted to anyone. Kacchan was always on top. Izuku growled. “Stop it!”

“Are you going to keep being good for me?” Kirishima asked. He tipped Kacchan’s chin up and grinned as Kacchan nodded. Izuku felt nauseous as he hung on Kirishima’s every word like a lovesick fool. “Get on your knees for me.”

Kirishima pushed Kacchan down, his knees slamming hard into the ground. The smack of it echoed in Izuku’s ears. Kacchan leaned forward to nuzzle Kirishima’s thigh. Kirishima grabbed the back of Kacchan’s head, fingers in that blond hair, and guided Kacchan’s face forward until his nose nuzzled somewhere much more intimate.

The ugliness in Izuku’s chest exploded.

“Get away from him!” Izuku found the strength to move and slammed into Kirishima’s side, knocking him hard into a desk and onto the ground. He slammed his head onto a surface, but his Quirk kept him safe from harm, cracking the floor instead of his skull. Kirishima laughed as he rolled over onto his back and leaned up on his elbows. Izuku glared at him, breathing hard. “What’s so funny?”

“Are you really mad that Kacchan’s on his knees?” Kirishima asked. His face split, showing off shark’s teeth in his smug grin. “Or are you just mad he didn’t drop to them for you?”

Izuku whipped his head to the side; Kacchan still knelt. He looked up with a burning red gaze, mouth slightly parted and face flushed. Kacchan placed a hand on Izuku’s thigh and slid it up until it rested near the belt line. He nearly crawled forward and whispered, “Izuku.”

“No,” Izuku whispered. He took a step, his back smacking into the desk. It scratched the floor from Izuku’s weight and Kacchan followed him. Still on his knees, Izuku could look down at him. He raised a hand, tempted to run it though Kacchan’s hair the same way Kirishima had. “Don’t. This isn’t right.”

“What’s the matter?” Kirishima asked, still grinning from the floor. Half hid in the lighting, his teeth shone brightly from the streetlights outside. “You had no trouble taking anything else you wanted. Why not Kacchan, too?”

“Shut up!” Izuku shouted.

But he didn’t push Kacchan away when he opened Izuku’s belt and—

Izuku gasped, eyes shooting open as he stared at his ceiling. All Might’s poster grinned back at him and he groaned as he curled on the side. He shoved his face in his pillow, drawing his legs into himself as he forced himself to calm down.

He hadn’t had a nightmare like that since the first time Shigaraki disintegrated someone’s face.

Izuku checked the time and sat up. The clock read just a little after eight and he’d realized his afternoon nap had gone on much longer than he’d intended. Izuku ran his hand through his hair and put his feet on the floor.

He covered his face with his hands and knew it was red.

Izuku had had a dream about Kacchan.

He sucked in a breath and grabbed his coat off the floor. He shoved his shoes on and tapped down the stairs. Izuku needed to distract himself and get some air.

He wasn’t going back to sleep; not with the image of Kacchan flushed and wanting still so fresh in his mind.

“I’m going to my friend’s house,” Izuku called.

“Be safe, dear!” his mother answered. “Let me know if you stay the night again.”

“I will,” Izuku said, smile strained. He waved and shoved his phone in his pocket before heading out the door.

He’d visit Shigaraki.

Nothing made Izuku forget about his own problems faster than actually listening to Shigaraki talk about his own day.

(He was running from his problems but he didn’t care. Not tonight.)

Tomura looked over when the door opened. Kurogiri was back sooner than he thought—no, wait.

It was Midoriya.

Face flushed and his clothes rumpled, Midoriya looked out of sorts. Bags lined his eyes and he had bundled himself up tight in a coat that didn’t match his outfit. Tomura looked at the clock and noted the late hour; this was when Midoriya tended to start packing up and go home after a visit, not arrive. His friend smiled at him, but it was weak and strained.

Tomura wondered if he needed to break someone for putting Midoriya in such a state.

“Hey,” he said, joining Tomura on the couch. His entire body sunk into the cushions, and he relaxed almost instantly as he sat side by side with Tomura. “Sorry I came by unannounced, but I needed some air and thought I’d come visit.”

“Sure,” Tomura said. He poked one of the lines under Midoriya’s eyes and dragged his finger down. “Did something happen?”

“I’ll tell you later,” Midoriya said. He turned his head to the side and looked up at Tomura with earnest eyes. “Tell me about your day instead.”

Now he knew something was wrong.

Before he could answer, Kurogiri warped in, and he had someone with him.

Tomura scratched his neck as Midoriya sat up straight on the couch.

“So this is the League of Villains?” Stain asked, standing in the doorway. “I’m not impressed.”

“D-did I pick a bad night to visit?” Midoriya whispered, attention glued to the Hero Killer.

“Don’t talk and stay where you are,” Tomura said back, and Midoriya wisely snapped his mouth shut.

When it looked like Midoriya was going to behave, Tomura got to his feet as the television clicked on, “Sound Only” playing on the screen. He turned to Stain, and took a seat at the bar top as Kurogiri walked behind it to fix their guest a drink.

It was time to see just what Master thought was so special about the Hero Killer and if he really deserved a spot in their party, and then later he’d he’d find out what was troubling Midoriya.

Whatever happened, Tomura had a good feeling in his chest that someone was going to die tonight.

Chapter Text

It was amazing how fast a small difference in convictions and goals could devolve into a knife fight.

Izuku breathed heavily as Stain excused himself from the room, still frozen in place not by the Hero Killer’s Quirk, but from the rational voice in his head that said “Shigaraki can handle himself, don’t get in his way.” So Izuku observed the fight instead from the sidelines, heart beating out of his chest in a panicked way he was growing far too used to, taking in very detail of the room and the people in it.

(He was an analyst, he needed to take in every detail. Every detail.)

But Stain had just walked out the door, and Shigaraki was still bleeding and Izuku found the strength to move again.

“I don’t want him in our party,” Shigaraki hissed as he sat up. His eyes were wide and pupils tiny; Izuku could feel the anger radiating off him as he entered the first steps of throwing a full on tantrum. Shigaraki held his wounded shoulder and growled as he stomped toward the Master’s television set.

“Are you okay?” Izuku asked. He hovered near Shigaraki’s injured side. He held his hand out just in case the other needed to lean on someone. “You’re bleeding. We should get that looked at.”

The knife had cut straight through his muscle and as far as Izuku knew, the League of Villains didn’t have a Recovery Girl equivalent. (He was surprised that he was holding it together so well with all that blood, but he supposed the necessity to stay calm won out over squeamishness.)

“Later,” Shigaraki said. He glared down at Izuku with misplaced anger and snarled. “I need to kill that man and show him just who the real villains are around here.”

“How are you going to do that?” Izuku asked, still hovering close. Kurogiri moved behind him at the bar, inspecting his own wound and cut arm instead of asking of Shigaraki. Izuku bit his lip trying not to be angry at that. “You’re hurt.”

Shigaraki smirked, squeezing his shoulder hard enough a new steam of blood soaked into his shirt. “I’m going to borrow a few Nomu from Master and wreck Hosu. He can’t finish his business in a city that’s not there and everyone will know the name of the League of Villains.”

Izuku moved around and clutched Shigaraki’s uninjured arm. His friend was a killer and dangerous, but this was taking things much too far. Izuku had seen that Nomu in person now and anything that was even remotely on All Might’s level should not be allowed to roam around causing destruction in a city, let alone three. The devastation would be unmeasurable and Izuku could stop it right now.

He’d never be able to live with himself if he didn’t.

“I think you’re in shock,” Izuku said, moving just enough that he could stand between Shigaraki and the screen. He forced Shigaraki to keep his attention on Izuku. “I don’t think you should be making big plans like this when you’re bleeding and injured.”

“I can think fine,” Shigaraki said, tugging on his arm. Izuku held tighter, squeezing it between two of his own. “Let go.”

“Not until you treat your shoulder,” Izuku said. “I know you’re smart so start acting like it. Leading an assault on an entire town while you’re upset and hurt is going to backfire in your face. You’re not thinking clearly, so take a second to calm down.”

Shigaraki yanked his arm free and shoved Izuku back with his elbow. The hit smacked into his ribs (surely leaving a bruise) and Izuku doubled over with a cough. “I know what I’m doing.”

“You really want to give Stain what he wants?” Izuku wheezed. He had to think fast. He was an analyst—no, he was a professional, paid-for-his-services analyst; he could do this. Izuku watched Shigaraki still, turning that murderous gaze toward Izuku. “Because that’s what you’re doing.”

“Excuse me?” Shigaraki asked.

“Stain wants to seek and destroy corrupt Pro-Heroes. What better way to figure out who they all are than to see who does and doesn’t respond to a city level threat?” Izuku asked. “The good ones will stay and fight the unbeatable odds and the fakes will run away, putting themselves in the perfect position to be tracked down. It’ll be like handing him a bag of candy.”

“I know what you’re doing.” Shigaraki narrowed his eyes. “You’re reaching for an excuse to stop me because you don’t want me to kill people.”

That was true.

Izuku maintained eye contact and turned his hands into fists. “But I’m not wrong, either. I’m an analyst, too, remember? You’re the one who wanted to be my friend because of it. Are you saying you don’t trust my strategies now?”

Shigaraki’s fingers twitched on his shoulder. One moved to scratch his neck, but he kept his hand on the wound.

He didn’t say anything; Izuku could see his brain running through his options.

This was the time to push it.

“Did you notice that Stain only used his Quirk on Kurogiri?” Izuku asked. Shigaraki tilted his head just so much to the side, considering Izuku. He tightened his grip on his shoulder; listening. Izuku rubbed a thumb into his bruised rib and tried to keep an even face. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he can only use his Quirk on one person at a time. The fact he usually corners Heroes when they’re alone supports that information. He’s fit enough to handle one or two opponents, he’d be overrun fairly easily.

“I don’t know what conditions he needs to use his Quirk, but even if he can switch targets quickly, he’d still be at a disadvantage against a large group,” Izuku finished. Shigaraki scared for a moment and he dropped his hand. The red stuck to his palm and Izuku swallowed. “If I can tell you that much now, think how much better a plan we can make if I have a chance to really study what he can do.”

“You want to help make a plan to kill Stain?” Shigaraki asked, leaning forward until the wrist of the hand on his face nearly touched Izuku’s nose. “Is that it?”

“Yes,” Izuku said, straightening his shoulders. The motion drew his attention to Shigaraki’s wound. Izuku pointed at the injury and narrowed his eyes. “And I want to treat that before it gets infected.”

“Why?” Shigaraki asked.

Because Izuku didn’t want Shigaraki to kill innocent people with a mob of Nomu. (He didn’t want anyone to die; too many had already.) Because Izuku remembered what the Hero Killer did to Iida’s brother. (He had a face to the Hero Killer now. He had a face). Because whether Izuku liked it or not, it was true: “You’re my friend.”

Shigaraki laughed and dropped his forehead into Izuku’s shoulder, the hand of his costume digging into his shoulder blade. “You’re a much better party member than Stain could ever be.”

Izuku exhaled and reached up to pat Shigaraki on the back.

“If you two are finished having a moment,” Kurogiri said, clearing his throat and drawing attention to himself and breaking his unusual silence. “I believe we should be tend to Shigaraki’s shoulder, as you said.”

Shigaraki pulled himself away and scratched his neck. He grunted in agreement and shuffled toward the bar before he came to a dead stop. Shigaraki squinted behind the fingers of his hand-mask and looked at Izuku. “I forgot we were interrupted. We were going to talk about why you came by so late.”

Izuku laughed, thinking about his stupid dream and his bad day. Compared to what just happened, it all felt like that had happened a thousand years ago. Izuku shook his head. “It doesn’t matter right now. It was something stupid and your shoulder is more important.”

Shigaraki grabbed the hand on his face and removed it. He looked Izuku straight in the eye and smiled. “If you ever want me to make someone disappear, you know you can just ask, right?”

“Of course,” Izuku said, feeling his chest tighten. “Who else would I ask?”

Shigaraki snickered under his breath and continued his walk to Kurogiri. “Good.”

Izuku leaned his head back and tugged out his phone to let his mother know he was staying the night. He’d be an awful friend to leave Shigaraki alone after all of this.

(And he didn’t trust the man not to change his mind if left alone with Kurogiri.)

Izuku kept his eyes on Iida the next day in school. It was no secret that their class rep had kept to himself, alone and quiet since the Sports Festival. He forced a smile when he said that he was fine.

It was a smile Izuku could relate to more and more every day.

Though one of the more obvious signs that he was still upset about his brother, was that Iida failed to come up with a hero name when they started preparing for the upcoming internships. Izuku hadn’t known the other boy long, but he knew Iida well enough now to know that he was responsible, someone who thought things through, and had a desire to become a hero as strong as anyone else in the class. It was unthinkable that he’d not put thought into his future title.

The Hero Killer had put Iida into such a state, there was no disputing that.

And Izuku had met that man last night; the same man who had put Iida’s brother in the hospital and caused him so much distress.

He had suggested helping Shigaraki take down the Hero Killer as a way to distract him from his plan to send Nomu to Hosu, but there was that half-second moment where he thought it would be good to take the man down for Iida’s sake, too.

It was something to think about.

“You figure out which internship you’re going to?” Kirishima asked, his voice loud and cheerful as he crossed his arms on Bakugou’s desk, kneeling in front of it (Izuku made fists under the tabletop). Classes had just ended and if it wasn’t bad enough they went another day without All Might teaching and his already lousy day, he had to deal with Kirishima distracting his thoughts, too. The other smiled, pointing at himself with his thumb. “I’m going with Fourth Kind.”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Kacchan answered, leaning back in his chair. He dropped his arm behind it and blew a few strands of his wild hair out of his face. “I’m still sorting through all of the offers.”

“You did get first place,” Kirishima said. He leaned his chin on his hand and grinned wide, showing off the teeth Izuku wanted to break (he really needed to get his jealousy under control). Kirishima poked Kacchan in the forehead. “I’d be more surprised if you hadn’t gotten so many.”

Kacchan grunted in response and knocked his hand into Izuku’s desk as he moved his arm. He frowned at the rattling desk and looked behind him, catching Izuku’s eye. He cleared his throat and glanced at Kirishima before asking. “What about you, De—Izuku? Did you know where you’re going?”

Ignoring Kirishima’s pleased grin, Izuku focused on Kacchan and counted down the days that saying his proper name would be as natural as “Deku” used to be. “Not yet.”

Without his knowledge, Kurogiri had nudged a few corrupt Pro-Heroes into sending Izuku a few offers in order to make things easier. He’d yet to pick one, still disgusted by how many Pro-Heroes were under the League of Villains thumb unbeknownst to the rest of the world.

But that wasn’t an excuse he could give for being indecisive.

“It’s been hard to pick when I’m still trying to learn how to use my Quirk,” Izuku said instead. “I haven’t had a lot of chance to practice with it and I haven’t really used it since the Festival.”

“That’s got to be a tricky one to practice,” Kirishima said, butting into the conversation. “Since you need to be hit with something like an energy blast, right? There aren’t a lot of people in class who could help with that.”

Izuku nodded and pressed his lips as he looked at Kacchan. “There’s only one or two.”

“Yeah, there’s Aoyama, and then maybe Todoroki if your power works with an energy like Fire,” Kirishima counted down. He frowned and scrunched his nose. “I think that might be it. Talk about limited options.”

“You forgot Bakugou,” Shinsou said, stepping up to Izuku’s desk. He held a hand up in a fist, and then burst all his fingers open. “Explosions are a burst of energy, aren’t they?”

Izuku was so happy he had made friends with Shinsou. The man was selfish, but reliable and smart; Shinsou also had wonderful intuition. He even provided the opening needed for Izuku to start getting closer to Kacchan on his own and finally put Shigaraki’s gift to it’s original purpose.

“Shinsou’s right,” Izuku said. He crossed his arms on his desk and tapped one finger on the surface. “If explosions work with my Quirk, then maybe you could help me practice, Kacchan.”

“Sure, maybe after the internships,” Kacchan said, almost dismissively. It wasn’t a straight up “Yes” of an answer, but Izuku would take it.

“You’re avoiding class,” Aizawa said, half hidden behind his scarf like always. “That’s not like you.”

Toshinori twitched, putting a hand on his neck as he hunched. He held his neck tighter and sighed. “I may have been taking advantage of other emergencies to avoid teaching class the past week, yes.”

“I thought you out of everyone would want to make sure this kid isn’t falling down the wrong path.” Aizawa took a few steps closer, eyes less judging than Toshinori had expected. “Or is something else weighing down your mind?”

“I’m not sure what to say to him,” Toshinori said. He sighed and leaned against the wall, waving down at his thin form. “He saw me like this, you know. It was one of the only reasons I convinced him what I was saying was true, and that even with a Quirk it’s difficult.

“It is also hard,” Toshinori continued, “to try and go from ‘It’s perfectly acceptable to not have a Quirk and pursuing another path’ to tell him ‘You have a Quirk now! You can be a hero!’ without some form of awkwardness.”

“How so?”

“I worry where he acquired this Quirk,” Toshinori admitted. “As long as I approach him with the suspicion that he got it from that man, I fear I may not be able to help him with as open mind as I should.”

“Have you spoken to Nezu about this?” Aizawa asked quietly.

“Not yet,” Toshinori said. “But I plan to.”

“Good,” Aizawa said, shoving his hands into his pockets. “The sooner we get this kid under control, the better.”

“Have you noticed something about him in class?” Toshinori asked, curious despite himself.

“He has a weird fixation with Bakugou,” Aizawa said, lowering his voice. His eyes scanned the hallway for eavesdroppers. “Aside from trying to listen in on most of his conversations, there’s also extended longing looks, and doodles of him in that notebook he keeps. He has stalker tendencies, though I haven’t caught him full on following Bakugou yet. I looked into it further, and found they used to go to the same middle school. When I originally did my research, I will admit I hadn’t thought to look for previous student connections.”

“And Bakugou?” Toshinori asked.

“Mixed,” Aizawa said. He crossed his arms and hummed. “He had starting acting weird a few months ago, being more irritable and confrontational than usually, but I regretfully didn’t make the connection to Midoriya’s arrival. I thought he was just stressed with the Festival coming up. Now seeing them together, it’s obvious that Midoriya’s arrival is what set him on edge. Bakugou moves unsure around that boy, uncomfortable and like he wants to escape. I’m not sure what happened between them though without straight up asking.”

“Do you think they’re a danger to each other?” Toshinori asked.

“I’m more worried for Kirishima,” Aizawa said. His eyes narrowed and he straightened his back. Toshinori was sure he would not like the next sentence from Aizawa’s mouth. “Midoriya is perfectly pleasant when speaking face to face, but the second Kirishima turns away or leaves, he drops the mask and the hatred I see in his face is concerning. It’s not hard to deduce he’s jealous of Kirishima’s friendship with Bakugou, and whether or not he acts on that jealousy is a powder keg waiting for a light.”

“Such as getting a new Quirk,” Toshinori finished. “That would bring new confidence.”

“Exactly,” Aizawa said. He exhaled and took a step back. “I’ll keep an eye on it.”

“Thank you,” Toshinori said. He gripped his hand into a fist and steeled himself. “As soon as the internships are over, I’ll be sure to have my head straight.”

“Good,” Aizawa said. He held a hand up as he turned to leave. “Don’t keep us waiting, All Might.”

Toshinori did not intend to. He’d kept them waiting far too long already.

“You’re going to Hosu for your internship?” Uraraka asked. Izuku paused filling in a line for his notes on Mineta, and listened in, despite not being a proper part of the conversation. “Why’d you pick there?”

“Normal Hero sent me an offer, and I thought it might be a good idea to tag along with a slightly lesser known Pro-Hero and see how things operate on that level, since I already have a better idea of how a high ranked one works.”

“Right, because of your brother,” Uraraka said. She stopped and covered the bottom of her mouth, having caught herself. “Sorry, Iida.”

“It’s alright,” Iida said, voice strained. He fiddled with a pen on his desk, avoiding looking Uraraka in the eyes. “My brother also spoke well of Normal Hero, which is another reason I’m picking him.”

“That’s good!” Uraraka said, her voice lightening in genuine cheer. She patted Iida on the shoulder and leaned forward. “I hope you have a good time and learn all you can.”

“How about you?” Iida asked, tactfully changing the subject. “Where are you off to?”

Izuku tuned out the rest of the conversation; he’d gotten what information he’d needed.

But now he needed to figure out what to do with it.

The Hero Killer was no joke if he could put Shigaraki on his back so easily, and Iida was in no shape mentally or physically to take him on either. Considering how hard he was trying to hide that he was upset, it wouldn’t surprise Izuku if his plan was to take on Stain alone with no knowledge of his Quirk or weaknesses.

(He really thought Iida would be smarter than that, but anger made people do stupid things.)

Izuku knew the Hero Killer’s Quirk, and could help create a plan around the man’s weaknesses, but he had no way to explain how he’d come across that knowledge without admitting his connection to the League of Villains.

Izuku may have driven himself into a hole with this one, but he could perhaps discourage Iida from getting in over his head.


(The internships started far too quickly for Izuku’s liking.)

“How’s your shoulder feeling?” Izuku asked, heading into the bar. Stopping by had become a routine he indulged in more often than he had before. His mother thought it was nice he had friends to hang out with (Izuku ignored the guilt that bubbled up over that time and time again). Shigaraki nursed a drink, his shoulder bandaged through the torn shirt he refused to replace. Izuku sat next to him and accepted the soda from Kurogiri. “Any better?”

“Doesn’t hurt much,” Shigaraki answered. He turned his head, a few strands of hair falling in his face. Izuku breathed an inward sigh of relief seeing the hand missing from his face. Shigaraki smirked, voice teasing as he asked, “How was your day? Having fun playing intern?”

“I skipped,” Izuku said. He leaned on the counter and breathed out. “I told the fake hero I had other things on my mind today, and for him to lie and say I was there or I’d rat him out to the Hero Organization.”

Shigaraki laughed and patted Izuku on the back in approval for that answer. Izuku tried not to roll his eyes or admit that it wasn’t quite like himself to do something like that either.

(He hated how easy it had become to blackmail someone into lying.)

“So what had your mind so occupied?” Shigaraki asked, amused.

“Stain,” Izuku said, catching Shigaraki’s interest. The other rolled a finger, wanting more information. “He paralyzed my friend’s brother, forcing him to retire from being a Pro-Hero. I’m fairly certain my friend took an internship in Hosu in order to get revenge, but I didn’t get a chance to stop him from going. I’m not sure what to do about it.”

“Surprised you’re so worried about someone who isn’t your precious Kacchan.” Shigaraki hummed. He reached over and tugged on a strand of Izuku’s hair, hard enough to hurt but not enough to tilt his head. “Aren’t you popular?”

“It’s not good to have only one friend, Shigaraki,” Izuku said, flicking Shigaraki’s wrist to get him to let go of his hair. He smiled out of the corner of his mouth and blew his bangs out of his face. “You should probably have more than just me, too.”

“I’ll look for more party members when I want to,” Shigaraki said. He held his fingers open and flexed his fingers. “What are you going to do about your classmate and Stain?”

“I don’t know, but it would help if I had more information,” Izuku said. He bit the side of his thumb and leaned forward. “But at least I’m motivated with two reasons to figure out all of the Hero Killer’s weak points: For you to get Stain out of your hair, and to keep Iida from doing something stupid.”

“Might I suggest leg work?” Kurogiri said. He finished polishing a glass and set it on the counter. “Take to the streets of Hosu yourself and find out first hand information on the Hero Killer. I’m sure your experience will be informative.”

“You want me to go to Hosu and investigate the Hero Killer in person?” Izuku asked, narrowing his eyes. “Alone?”

“I’ll go with you,” Shigaraki said, putting his glass down. “I haven’t been out in a while, myself.”

“Sure,” Izuku said. He tossed back the rest of his drink and hopped off from the counter. He shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “And if all else fails, we can just hang out for a while together.”

“Because friends do that,” Shigaraki said, nodding to himself as if he weren’t sure. He grabbed his hoodie off the stool next to him and yanked it over his head. “Let’s go find where Stain is hiding and dig the rat out before your other friend does.”

“Deal,” Izuku said.

Kurogiri opened the Warp portal to Hosu, and he followed Shigaraki onto the new street in the alley. Wind whipped through his hair and Izuku prayed that he and Shigaraki found Stain before Iida did.