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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 conscious, 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.