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Measuring The Hurt Within The Golden Rule

Chapter Text

The sun is setting. It turns the sky orange and a burnt red, the dark blue of night sliding in from the east. Clouds are running a brilliant and royal purple, and birds flutter in the distance over a wide and glimmering city.

Izuku just can't muster up any sort of feeling, everything numb and dull, a washed out grey. His foot hovers over open air, and he sways, just a little, with the breeze. Mom’ll be fine without him. The world will be fine without him. He's useless and quirkless, and this. This is a way to atone for, for being a burden. For being worthless.

He sets his foot down, and stifles a sob. It hurts, but he can't figure out why. Izuku looks down, and, really, it's high enough he… he won't feel a thing.

His foot hovers over air, and Izuku closes his eyes, leans—

 

A door slams, and Izuku whirls, startled.

 

“W-Wait! Just, just wait—”

 

His foot slips.

 

Someone yells, and Izuku maybe thought it would have gone in slow motion, taken forever to fall, to… to stop, to reach the end. It all goes so fast, he thinks his heart stops, and fear swallows him whole.

 

I don't want to die.

 

A bruising grip snaps ahold of his ankle, and Izuku slams into the side of the building, a scream bundled too tight in his throat. His vision blackens with pain, and he chokes on another sob, eyes screwing shut.

The hold jerks, and slowly, slowly, he can feel himself go up, feel his backpack straps slipping off his shoulders, down his arms. “I'm, I'm so, so s-sorry, oh my god… Please, please, I'm s-so sorry,” whimpers a voice above him, half strung with hiccups and a stutter.

Something warm slips up his uniform’s leg, the limb going pins and needles. Izuku’s tears and bookbag struggle free, fall away. It feels… it feels...

 

I don't want to die. I just… I just

 

He's pulled flat, over the edge of the roof and the raised barrier. Rough concrete scraps his hands and arms, is unforgiving to his head or back. Someone gives a loud but shaky breath, and Izuku opens his eyes.

It's… Izuku knows him. It's a niggling feeling, but in a… vague way. That brief spark is swept away when the—the older boy? The older boy scrambles tentacles over giant and half blood covered talons to him. Flyaway black hair frames an anguished but masked face, streaked with tears and snot, pointed ears folded back. Not a very pretty image for, for a… hero?

A mirthless laugh escapes Izuku, and the hero flinches.

“Are, are you okay?” he stammers, tentacles melting back to hands and flying to a bag strapped to his side. “I'm, I'm so sorry, about… about your leg, about... This is all my, my fault, if I'd only been a bit quicker—”

 

I don't want to die but.

 

Izuku clamps a hand over his mouth, and curls up and into himself. Everything hurts, likes it's all coming back at once, amplified and then compounded with the knot surely forming at the back of his head and the bruise along his back. It hurts so, so much.

 

“— know, I just, just happened to be —”

 

No. No, no, no, no.

 

Izuku jerks, uncurls, and everything wobbles dangerously as he grabs blindly for the hero. “No! No, please, you can't, can't tell anyone!” he pleads, hands catching in the hero’s cloak, and everything throbs. “P-Please, please… I won't, I won't try again… please.”

The older boy hunches his shoulders, eyes wide, and his pouch spills open as he fretfully tries to pry Izuku’s hands free one handed. “I'm, I'm sorry, you need… help I can't g-give. My supervisor is coming, and he'll sort everything out, he'll do a good job…” He pauses, and then a truly tortured look crosses his face. “The doors… they're, they're not… how am I—”

But Izuku can't hear anymore, not over the rush of blood in his ears, not over the thunder beat of his heart. Not over Kacchan’s and all his classmates’ jeers ringing in his ears. He, He has to leave. Mom can't… Mom can't know about this. No one can know about this.

Everything hurts, but Izuku musters a last bit of strength and shoves the older boy back. The hero flails backwards with a yelp, and Izuku is up, legs unsteady, and his left ankle nearly gives on that first step. A brief look shows him a bloody sock and shoe, his ankle pulsing with heat and broken skin. The talons, the hero had gripped too hard. Izuku swallows, thick and gummy, and stumbles over the hero toward the still open door.

If he can just, just get to a bus stop, he can ride almost all the way home. It'll take longer, but… but.

 

“H-Hey—!”

 

His body gives out just in the doorway where concrete turns to linoleum, and fresh tears blur his starburst vision as his jaw clicks shut with a rattling crack.

Blood fills his mouth. 

It's the last thing he knows.

Chapter Text

Amajiki fidgets in the plastic chair, hands clasped, and eyes squeezed shut.

Clearly the breathing exercises his therapist recommended are not doing as an effective job as usual; Taishiro can see each inhale is too shaky, a fine hair tremble. He aborts a frown and takes another bite out of his red bean bun, shoots a worried look at the drawn curtains of the patient’s room.

The kid takes everything so… hard. He'll admit, while it's a very rare chance to catch someone in the act, maybe he should plan a few rescue scenarios not villain related. It's easy to forget in the industry. Heroes deal with villains, the police with anything else, and if needed, provide support. The two don't always coincide, and gaps form.

“Amajiki-kun, you did a good job,” Taishiro says into the quiet, and the boy peeks one eye open, mouth drawn miserably. “Yes, there were things you could have done better, but you saved that boy’s life and that's all that matters.”

“But I didn't,” he insists, ears still folded back. “I could have called sooner or, or reacted quicker. I nearly broke his ankle squeezing too hard, and then he tried to run. It was unbefitting of a hero..."

It's one thing to want to improve, but Amajiki only ever manages to tear himself down. Where he got this… complex, Taishiro just doesn't know.

He crosses his arms, the bag on his right arm crinkling with the movement. “Suneater, as your supervisor and mentor, I'm telling you: you did a good job, no ifs, ands, or buts, about it, okay? Trust me on this,” he says, and then stuffs the last of the bun into his mouth.

Amajiki just looks at him, both eyes open now, before ducking his head. “Okay,” he murmurs, face hiding toward the wall. “Okay.”

With a nod, Taishiro chews and swallows before reaching for another in the bag. He's just popped the plastic when the curtains flutter open in the corner of his eye. The boy’s mother steps out into the hallway, hair still out of its bun, and blazer and skirt rumpled. She wipes at her eyes before startling, staring at them both as if she couldn't be imagining it.

Taishiro smiles at Ms. Midoriya as she steps over. “You're both still here?” she asks, and wrings her hands. “You don't have to stay, the doctor said Izuku would be fine. I'm not filing a complaint or anything.”

Amajiki shrinks down in his chair, but Taishiro just shakes his head. “No problem, Midoriya-san, we're just still here to, ah, see everything through, if it's alright?”

Unsure, Midoriya nods. “I, um, was just going to go get some food before the cafeteria closed, I'd, um, appreciate it if…” she trails off. “No. No, it's okay, you've both done enough, I don't know how I could ever repay you.”

Fatgum rubs his neck. “Suneater can go with you, I'll watch young Midoriya until you come back,” he offers, and Amajiki sends him a startled look. She starts to protest, but he waves a hand. “It's no problem, just have him bring me back some cake, won't you?”

She nods, and offers a watery smile to him and Amajiki once he shuffles over. “Thank you,” she says, and sniffs, before leading Amajiki away.

With a heavy inhale, exhale, Taishiro bites the bun in half before making his way into the room. He carefully squeezes through the doorway, not especially made for someone of his size, and then lifts the curtain aside, takes stock.

Midoriya lays facing away, the room lights dim and the window dark. A small leather strap mares one bony wrist, but otherwise the room is like any other. From what Taishiro gleamed, they don't think he's a danger, just that his anxiety and nerves may have been pushed too far. Usually manageable, his mother had disclosed, through tears and minimal urging, but being teased and bullied relentlessly for being… for being quirkless has clearly taken its toll.

They're just waiting on him to wake up, shed some light, hopefully.

Taishiro shoots the few chairs available amused looks before taking a spot on the floor. “If you weren't already awake, I feel like my lack of stealth and big size would have woken you up,” he muses, and there. A minute stutter, the boy stiffening. “I'm a pro, kid, think I should be able to tell when someone's fakin’ it.”

There's a lull, but the boy shifts onto his back, wrist cuff preventing a full roll over. He blinks owlishly at Taishiro, all his mother's son, and a shine over takes his eyes.

“Why are you here?” he whispers, tears budding at the corner of his eyes. “I'm… I'm sure you have much more important things to, to be doing, Fatgum.”

Grinning, Taishiro arches an eyebrow. “Ohoho, know who I am, then?” he preens, but at the lack of reaction, draws the humor back. Smiling, at least, he continues, “But, well, there's nothing more important than making sure someone's okay, kid. It's what being a hero is all about.”

Midoriya sniffs, but the tears don't stop. “I'm, I'm sorry I wasted your time,” he says, voice wavering, falters. “Today was just… very bad. I don't, don't want to..."

“We all have our bad days,” he agrees, and puts the bun back in the bag. He'll finish once they leave. “We just have to muddle through sometimes, and, hey, it's my literal job to help out, y’know.”

He's almost like a minature Amajiki. It breaks Taishiro’s heart that anyone would bully any kid, least of all for being quirkless.

They lapse into another period of silence, but Taishiro can see the kid thinking so clearly, thoughts racing. Must be a pretty tough question, then. He can only hope he can give the kid the answers he needs.

“Can,” Midoriya starts, and then swallows. The boy licks his lips, and then shuts his eyes briefly as if asking for strength. He reopens his eyes, and then looks at Taishiro head on. No fear. Just… full of hope and determination, and so very, very tired. “Can anyone become a, a hero?”

Oh. Well now, boy can't pull his punches can he? Taishiro hums, thinking it over. It doesn't actually take all that much deliberation, he just has to find the right words. This is too important to go at half-assed.

“Yes,” he says, and at the near awe that inspires, he pushes on. “But, I'll be blunt, what kind of hero will depend on you. I can't say being quirkless won't make it hard, because it will, but I also don't see why it can't happen.”

Taishiro just has to think about heroes like Sir Nighteye or Hound Dog, and he can't say no. Everyone's a hero in their own way, and not all quirks are as flashy or physically useful as All Might or Endeavor. He thinks about Eraserhead, No. 13, and Outburst, too. Hell, even his own quirk. Their quirks are… useful, but they have clear disadvantages unlike Mt. Lady or Kamui Woods. They learned to fight, or got better in other areas, to make up for their very niche quirks.

Taishiro bets all the people back from his middle school would be undoubtedly surprised to see him now. A Pro Hero, not only with his own agency, but up there in the top twenty. If only they could see him now, huh? So, being quirkless? There's nothing, he thinks, that could really stop the boy if he truly wants to be a Hero.

Midoriya makes to cover his face, and while the cuff stops him, he presses his free hand tight, shoulders shaking.

“For what it's worth,” Taishiro says, sitting forward, “I think you can do it, and I'll be looking forward to the day I see you join the ranks, Midoriya-kun.”

The boy turns away, trembling, and they share a silent but peaceful wait until Amajiki and Midoriya return not too long later. The pure look of relief and love on her face as her son rolls over at the noise, as she all but throws her food down to hug her son, is what makes the job worth it. It's not everyday they get a happy ending, a hopeful outlook for tomorrow, but this couldn't have gone any better.

“F-Fatgum,” Amajiki murmurs as they step back, a plastic covered slice of cake in his hands. The walk must have done him some good, his voice is much clearer, and he even makes brief eye contact. “You should, should give them the agency’s card. I think… I think it'd be good.”

“Oh?” Taishiro says, eyebrows rising. Rare as they are, Amajiki makes well thought out suggestions and has great ideas when he manages to share them. This. This he can't take lightly. “Are you sure? While we may not have been working together very long, I do so greatly value your opinion.”

He ducks his head, but his ears are neutral facing if a bit droopy. A good sign. “I am, Midoriya-san had a, a lot to say about her son. I think—” And Amajiki pauses, darts a look at the small family past the gapped curtains. So easily, this whole evening could have been spent in the morgue— “I think he'd do well, that… that we'd all be better for it.”

Well, that settles that then. Taishiro pats at his pockets, and the noise of his bag draws the Midoriyas’ attention.

Clearly reluctant, the mother takes a few steps in their direction. “Did you lose something, Fatgum-san?” she asks, looking around.

He finds the cards in a back pocket, and he hands her one before she can ask any more questions. “Give this to your son and tell him to give my agency a call sometime, our door will be open to him,” Taishiro says, grinning.

She takes the card as if she were receiving a gift from God, eyes wide and near reverent. “This… you don't know how much this will mean to him,” she says, and sniffs, much to Taishiro’s horror. “He's always admired Heroes so much, wanted to be one with all of his might, but being quirkless made it so, so hard .”

“Ah, well,” he blusters, unsure what to do with a crying civilian in a non-villain and non-threatening setting. Seems like Amajiki might not be the only one needing some remedial teaching, haha. “Just tell him we'll be waiting.”

Midoriya nods, and then she bows, deeply, to the both of them. “Thank you, thank you both so much,” she says, and Taishiro rubs the back of his head when she straightens. “I hope you both have a goodnight.”

“Y-You too,” Amajiki says, Taishiro echoing him.

They wave to Midoriya where he peeks from between the separated curtains, and he offers a tentative one back, smile watery, before they turn away.

Yeah, Taishiro looks forward to getting to know the kid.

“I hope he calls,” he says as they press into a stairwell, ducking to avoid the top of the doorway. “I really do.” 

From behind, Amajiki murmurs a soft, “Me too,” and Taishiro can't help but feel good about the future.

Chapter Text

Nine months from this moment, Izuku isn't sure where he'll be.

He'd hoped, of course, to be at Yuuei. It's all he's ever wanted, and he's never wanted anything more than that. To become a great hero. That's it. That's all, but. That's not… feasible, is it? He's not going to go to Yuuei. He's not… not going to go because. Because he's not going to go. He can't. Not with, with—

Izuku sees it behind his eyes, every time they're closed for longer than a blink. Fire, blistering air, forceful and searing heat. Hears jeers from too familiar faces and too white teeth. The pitying glances of his teachers. He sees no place there for him. He sees nobody in his corner, no one who thinks that, hey, maybe he… maybe he can do it. No one does. Not even Mom. What's he supposed to do with that? Preserve? Izuku isn't sure he knows how.

Maybe. Maybe he'll just… he'll just try again. Maybe. It'd seemed like… not a good idea, but the only idea, the only course of action Izuku could take. The only way he'd even begin to feel better if he'd just not been alive to feel.

Every time the crawling shame and anger and despair rears its ugly head, Izuku takes out the card in his pocket and just. Looks at it.

Maybe it's the too sweet whispers, whispers telling him that Fatgum didn't mean a single word he said, that make him only ever look at it and never reach for the phone.

 

The Aluminium Tangerine Agency.

 

Sometimes Izuku laughs, too thin and strung out, but he laughs because it's funny, and maybe he needs that. A brief respite where everything is lighter just for a, a moment.

It's takes three weeks for it not to be enough.

It takes three weeks after he gets to go home, after he musters more than enough energy to crawl out of bed. It takes two weeks after he rejoins classes, after he begins to trawl through the amount of makeup work, after he keeps his mouth shut and doesn't talk to anyone. It takes one week after he rips page after page after weak and fragile page out of his notebook and throws them away.

One week after Izuku tells his homeroom teacher that… that he needs to rethink his choices. One week after he's assured of the time he still has to choose, one week after the pity and relief finally leaves his teacher’s face.

Barely two days after Kac—no, no, no.

Barely two days after Bakugou tries… tries to—

It's barely two days after Izuku bolts, only remaining mangled notebook clutched tight to his chest. Two days after he leaves Bakugou choking and wheezing behind him, that he takes out the card and.

Doesn't call. He can't bring himself to, hand trembling and tears muddying what little he can see. He can't. He can't because that numb feeling is coming back and he doesn't know what else to do. The future’s splayed out limp and bare before him, and Izuku doesn't know what to do, doesn't know where he'll be nine months from now.

 

 

If he'll be anywhere at all.

 

 

Izuku finds himself in front of the agency with the sun inching behind the cityscape and bloated clouds, wet with dripping rain and soaked through. His bookbag feels like dead weight, his head throbs and his ankle protests as if from a distance, but he couldn't leave it behind, and he couldn't go home. Izuku’s phone buzzes in his pocket, and it can only be Mom because he was supposed to be home some time ago and he has no friends, hasn't turned any of his Hero alerts back on.

 

She probably thinks he—

 

The door opens, and. Someone walks out, plain clothed and content looking. Prepared, the man has an umbrella, but unprepared, he stumbles at the sight of Izuku, mouth drawing open in surprise to reveal a pair of sharp and long fangs.

A calm settles over Izuku, such a strange and stark change, and the man’s stubbled face draws up in discomfort. “Wow, kid, wanna come in and dry off?” he asks, slicked back hair coming undone as he fumbles with the umbrella, its underside rods raking across his head. “I think you could use about ten million hugs.”

You look like a vampire, Izuku thinks, but he also maybe says that out loud because the man, hero? Gives him a wry look, pointed ears twitching.

“Ten billion hugs,” he amends, and steps closer to tug on one limp sleeve. “C’mon, kid, let's dry you off.”

The peacefulness recedes the further Izuku lets himself be led in, the more he wants to question it. But it's not enough to make Izuku stop the Hero from depositing him in what has to be an empty break room, going by the fridge and appliances. The man sits him down at a table, easing his book bag from his shoulders, and having lost the umbrella on the way somewhere. He goes about mixing Izuku something into a mug of hot water without prompting, and.

It's like… the numbness is seeping back in, all the bottled up negatively and stress running through a strainer. Izuku didn't realize he felt so… so bad until now, as it seems to slither back under his skin, as the heat from the mug pressed onto him seeps into his cold hands.

“I'm going to go find some towels, maybe some clothes,” and he eyes Izuku, critical, but pinched as he presses at the bridge of his nose,” so, don't go anywhere, okay?”

“Okay,” is all Izuku can offer, internally clinging to anything good he can feel.

Grimacing, the Hero rubs a hand through his hair. “And, I'm sorry, but you're going to feel terrible once I leave,” he says, and presses the side of his other hand to his nose, ducking. “Sorry in advance.”

He's barely gone when it hits Izuku like a freight train. The breath’s kicked from his lungs, and, God, why did he come? This was a mistake. Stupid, stupid . His phone buzzes again, but it's forgotten as he stands, mug left on the table. Izuku needs to leave, go home, before he, he does something else he'll regret.

“Oh.”

Izuku freezes, bookbag barely on one shoulder, and looks up.

Suneater stands stiff in the doorway, hands wrapped around a mug of his own, eyes wide and maskless. “Oh,” he repeats, softer, and darts a look around. “Are… Are you okay?”

 

 

Are you okay?

 

 

No one but Mom’s asked him that. His absence from class was barely a blip on anyone’s radar, and no one cared. But, then who would? Who would care about someone worthless and quirkless?

 

No one. No one, that's who.

 

“Do I look o-okay?” Izuku stammers, suddenly filled with guilt and envy and exhaustion. Something hot and too, too heavy. “What a, a stupid question.”

The older boy flinches, and shrinks back. Izuku wants to take it back, but the words shrivel up, turn to dust. “N-No,” Suneater says, looking up through his bangs, face drawn tight, “but I thought I'd ask... if, if you maybe... wanted to talk.“

Izuku inhales, shakily, and the bookbag slips off his shoulder with a damp thud. He exhales with a sob, and buckles. “I'm, I'm not okay,” he whimpers from the floor, and hides his face, the tears. “I'm so tired.”

Shuffling, the Hero coming closer. Izuku can see his shoes between his fingers, ratty looking sneakers.

“I'm… sorry,” Suneater says, voice close. More shuffling, and then a shoulder presses into Izuku’s, tentative. “I'm, I'm sorry.”

Bakugou isn't his friend anymore, hasn't been for a long time, and Izuku just doesn't want to believe it, not even now.

 

Hey, why don't you take a leap of faith off the roof

 

 

Midoriya-kun?"

 


and hope for a quirk in the next life!

Chapter Text

Tamaki doesn't mean to listen in, but the door to the break room is still open, and Toyomitsu is right there. In.

“—know, but have you considered a therapist?” he's asking, and then paces by the doorway, mouth drawn into a frown. It looks so strange. Out. “Or maybe a therapy group? Twenty percent of the population is quite a lot of people, Midoriya-san.”

Closing his eyes, Tamaki goes to sip his mug. Air hits his tongue, and he grimaces. Right. He's run out again. Three cups now. Right. In.

His pocket buzzes, and he fishes out his phone. Out.

 

7:35pm

Mirio: hey, worried cos u didn't show up for board game night??? everything okay??

 

Scrolling up, there's about five more messages along that vein. One from Hado and Buatsuiko each, Rika too, and a few unrelated. Tamaki types back a lukewarm response to them all, a little too… tired, to say much more than everything is fine and busy atm ttyl. He stuffs the phone back into his pocket before the first response buzzes in, and catches Toyomitsu just as he hangs up.

 

In.

 

He looks tired, and Tamaki bites his lip. Abe’s elbow just graces the corner as Toyomitsu drifts from view.

 

Out.

 

“I can't use my quirk on him too much,” Abe says, even tone the barest shade of.. something else. “The jolt back could exacerbate things. It's merely a stop gap, he needs… to talk to someone.”

Talking helps. Tamaki knows this. But. He also knows that talking only helps if you want to talk. Midoriya looks like he wants to, but he just doesn't know how or who to trust. Tamaki leans forward, hair falling past his ears. In. What would he know, anyway? Advice is not his forte. Heroism… is barely his forte. Out. Tamaki rubs absently at his chest, and swallows, thickly. Midoriya had barely been a dark speck against the sky, and he feels sick at the memory. It's all such a blur. Blood, open air, the ground at his back. It's a quiet area, he remembers Toyomitsu saying, we gotta ease you into solo patrols sometime, yeah?

Just his luck, poor as it already is. Tamaki inhales, a little more sharply than he means to, and exhales shakily.

There's a scuff of shoe, and in the doorway Midoriya’s dwarfed by Toyomitsu’s sheer size, the ill-fitting clothes doing nothing for him. In. Out. The younger boy looks anywhere but Tamaki as he's ushered back to the table, face drawn and miserable.

“I really hope you take Blau’s words to heart, he really knows his stuff,” Toyomistu says, and Midoriya nods, clearly halfhearted. “And, once you're in a better place… there's an internship here with your name on it, I promise.”

Midoriya ducks his head, eyes red rimmed and puffy. “Thank… Thank you,” he whispers, and Toyomitsu gives Tamaki a briefly pained look before gently gripping the younger boy’s shoulder and stepping back.

They're left alone as Toyomitsu wanders back out to Abe, and Butcher, by the sound of it. Working on getting them home, since Abe is usually the one to drive Tamaki when it's raining cats and dogs. Like it is. Right now. Thunder crashes outside, and Midoriya jumps, teeth clenching and eyes squeezing shut. Tamaki hunkers down, at a loss. In.

“I, I missed a lot of… of classes once,” he offers suddenly, and without much thought. Midoriya peeks at him with one eye. He's just going to make things worse. As always. But. Mirio would try, so. Tamaki will try. “It's… horrible, catching up.”

Out. Near impossible, more like. But. Doable.

The younger boy doesn't say anything, and Tamaki flounders, briefly, on what to say. Whether he should say more. The younger boy sags suddenly, though, and Tamaki blinks back at muddy green.

“No one... cared,” Midoriya stumbles, voice wavering, eyes on his fisted hands. “No one noticed that.. I wasnt there.”

Tamaki can see it. If Mirio hadn't… if no one had, had cared. He wonders where he'd be right now, with certain clarity it wouldn't be where he is at all. Life's… hard, like that, he realizes. With a hard swallow, Tamaki licks his lips. It's incessant, how he still just wants to apologize, everything bearing down like it's his fault.

Lot good that'll do.

“I, um, get decent grades,” he says, and tries not to let the tired but quizzical look wear him down. “If… you need help, I can…”

Another pause, longer than the last, and Tamaki wants to flinch away. He doesn't, but his eyes do rest on his own hands, twisting together anxiously. He's never been a mentor, only ever needed one himself. This isn't a good idea, but he's already offered… Would it be inconsiderate to rescind it? Probably. His ears fold over, and Tamaki flexes his hands. Probably...

“I… would a-appreciate that,” Midoriya says, small and almost not there. Tamaki looks up, and. There's that determination again, the kind that got him shoved over. “If, If you really mean it…”

Tamaki musters up a ghost of a smile. 

Too late now, huh?

Chapter Text

Inko paces, restless, slippered feet a bare scuffling noise as she makes her circuit through the kitchen and then back out.

It's hard not to worry after hours of it, days and weeks of it. Izuku’s okay, he is, and he'll be home soon, Fatgum promised. It's a fact that call shaved at least a few years off her life, so suddenly sure it would be the police to… to inform her… Inko crumples the paper in her hand without meaning to, and stumbles to halt, stricken, and attempts to smooth it back out. This can't go on, it can't. It's not that she didn't see it, because she did, just not fully. How could this happen? How could children be so, so cruel to one another? How could his teachers turn a blind eye… how could she?

 

How is she going to tell Izuku about—

 

A knock, heavy, but not hurried, harried. Inko jolts, realizes with a start that she's in Izuku’s room. It feels like the almost empty walls mock her, the cleared dresser top, the now sparsely occupied desk. The tossed posters and figurines rest in the back of her closet, torn and a few bent. She'd managed to rescue them before they were picked up on trash day, mortified and scared. Some of the most important things to her baby boy, sitting in the garbage. Why didn't she try harder? He couldn't have cried out for help any louder than that, and what did she do?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Inko inhales. Exhales. “Coming,” she calls, with just the faintest waver, at the next knock.

The first thing she notices is that it's stopped raining again, the night wet and buildings slick with water. The second is the man she hopes is Blau, as Fatgum called him, and then standing just next to him, Izuku. Who doesn't look at her, dressed in unfamilar clothes.

“Midoriya-san,” the man says, eyes lidded, and terribly at peace compared to the turmoil Inko squashes down. “I'm Blau, Fatgum should have mentioned my name.”

Inko nods, and when Izuku doesn't look up, not even briefly, she bites her lip. “Izuku, sweetheart, I'm not mad at you,” she says, darts a self-conscious look at Blau, and then opens her arms. Just at myself, at Mitsuki, at Madaru, at Katsuki, at the school. Never you. “I'm not, I promise. Give me a hug?”

Finally, finally, he looks up, face drawn wobbly and eyes red rimmed. “M-Mom,” he whimpers, and then bundles into her. Muffled into her shoulder, as they sink to the floor, “Mom, M-Mom—”

Breathe, just breathe. “Shh, it's, it's  okay,” she says, and almost wishes Hisashi were here. Almost. “We'll get through this.”

Above them, when Inko looks and mouths a silent Thank you , Blau gives a small smile, fangs bright, and tips his head. “I'll be in touch,” he says, soft, and slips away into the night.

It's easy to tug herself and Izuku up, less so to shut and lock the door with her arms full as they are, but it's accomplished, and she shuffles them to the living room. They're a bundle, and Izuku doesn't let go when they drop onto the couch, actually tightens his hold when she turns her head, which. Okay. Inko can wait. Izuku has waited longer for something that won't… won't ever get better, so, she can wait.

Inko gently rubs a hand up and down his back, hums deep in her chest, and waits. Just waits.


No more, she vows, no more.

Chapter Text

“See ya later kid!” rises in a staggered and echoed chorus, but Izuku can't manage more than a polite smile still. Takeshi, Butcher, and Danno don't seem to let it bother them as they pass with the others.

“Next week, we're going for dango,” Butcher chirps before they're out the door. Danno waves tentatively, and Takeshi lazily. “Don't forget!”

He won't. Not that he could because Danno’s sure to send a reminder later, and then the day of. It's… nice to, to have friends, y’know? So nice. Izuku bites his lip, and darts a look at Amajiki. So very… nice.

The older boy shifts next to him, and scratches at an ear. “It… went well?” he asks, unsure. He's only walked Izuku home a few times, so it makes sense. “Not to, to imply it didn't…”

Izuku nods, and grips tight his bag straps. It's nice. Everyone understands, and soon… soon he thinks that'll be all that matters. It's, it's a work in progress, but he knows that now. It was so hard to see that, and, well. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, right?

“I… I spoke up today,” he admits after a moment, and makes for the doorway, Tamaki just behind. Time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye, but it's bittersweet, honestly. “Everyone knew where I, I was coming from.”

Amajiki makes a pleased noise. “G-Good,” he mumbles out the corner of Izuku’s eye. “That's good…”

April is just a month away. Exam Hell is over, and he doesn't blame himself for Bakugou anymore. Mostly. Mainly. Enough of the time. A sobering turn of events when he really thinks about it. Izuku’s phone buzzes, and when he takes it out, the line reads, All Might Joins the Fray! A part of him wants to go watch, an itch in his fingers, but it's… not meant to be. Things are good in moderation, and Izuku was really bad at that, moderation. But. Maybe just this one, Amajiki might not mind—

An arm slithers over his shoulders, and Izuku startles, as usual, but the blinding grin next to his face stifles the instinct to flinch.

“What's up, Midoriya?” Togata laughs, scrubbing knuckles into his hair. He skips away when Izuku squirms and makes to jab him in the side. “Brutal, kid! And to think I come bearing gifts!”

Izuku wrinkles his nose, and pats suspiciously at his hair. “I-I don't think I want it,” he grumbles, and fidgets. Togata just grins. Okay. Maybe he does. “...What is it?”

Togata shoots Amajiki an amused look before pulling something from his pocket. “Tada, a visitor’s pass!” he crows, and presents the card and lanyard like an offering, one knee bent. “I heard you liked Heroes, so I figured, hey, you'd like a tour of Yuuei!”

The words cut something deep, and Izuku feels struck to the core with it. It's not Togata’s fault. It's not. Not many people know, not even Amajiki now still, and Izuku desperately wants to keep it that way despite urging to the contrary, but. But, it feels like suddenly everything he's worked for goes out the window. His face twists without him meaning to, and the alarmed look Togata gives him would be funny, usually, except. He's just so, so bright that it hurts to look at him sometimes. Jealously’s ugly, and it wraps its creeping fingers around his heart for a startled breath.

“M-Midoriya-kun?” Amajiki says, shoulder brushing his.

With a shivering exhale, Izuku shakes his head. “T-Thank you, but… but no thank you,” he stammers, and hates it. It feels like he's suffocating, and here he was, doing so well .

Togata looks between them, face drawing up in concern, but he tucks the pass out of sight. “No big deal,” he says easily, and smiles, leans forward, conspiratorial. “ Little known secret: I almost went to Shinketsu, and they've got a much, heh, cooler campus.”

Thought processes grind to a uncoordinated halt, and Izuku mentally stumbles. Togata didn't just—the sheer audacity pulls a startled laugh out of Izuku, at near odds with the turmoil twisting his stomach into knots. With a muted groan, Amajiki turns away from Togata, and oh god, that's so dumb .

Smug, Togata straightens. “You're so much easier to amuse than my boss,” he says, and then affects a stern look, a finger coming up. Recites, “‘Humor is vital for today’s society because without it we would be lost.'”

Huh. Izuku scrubs at his eyes with his sleeve, smile softening. He doesn't know much about Sir Nighteye, personality-wise, but. In his pocket, he still carries around Fatgum’s card, very much worse for wear, and he does… feel better.

“Huh,” Izuku says, and.

Chapter Text

Inko almost slams the door in his face.

Almost. Almost. She should have, honestly.

“How did you get ahold of this address, Katsuki?”

His hair is a little longer, and it redoubles how much he looks like Mitsuki, but he otherwise doesn't look much different. Tie crooked and barely even tied, loose Yuuei uniform, disgruntled expression. He seems… subdued, though, considering where he used to be more boisterous and loud, demanding, so demanding, but polite in her presence, almost. Maybe it's a little… petty of Inko to stare, to overtly and pointedly glance over the purple and scrawling scars, stains, marks, that wrap almost lovingly across his face and then slip beneath his collar. Maybe it is. It's definitely rude, and Inko wants to care, but all she can hear is the shrill ring of her phone when she finally and demurely looks Katsuki in the eye, the words, Mrs. Midoriya, your son's

With a click of his tongue, he looks away first, down. “Dad’s address book,” Katsuki admits, and the flexing of his hands draws her attention. Purple mares the palms, curls over the back of his hands. “Nobody would fuc—I mean, no one would tell me why, so…”

Inko folds her hands together. Dammit, Masaru. “You weren't owed that,” she says, and he blinks at her, as if he doesn't understand. Spoiled, almost. Still used to getting his way, doing what he wants first and foremost. “We moved for a reason. That has to be good enough.”

It'd been easy, once she told Hisashi. They're closer to Izuku’s high school and Fatgum’s agency, he can walk to either now, and she knows he always enjoyed that. He doesn't have to worry about accidentally happening upon Katsuki, she made sure of it. He'd have the choice, if he wanted one day. It'd be his. And yet .

What reason?” he hisses, genuinely confused, more than a little bit angry. “Nobody said anything, and Deku wouldn't give me the time of fucking day  after, after I came back—” Katsuki cuts himself off, eyes screwing shut, breaths coming too fast. Inko waits it out, merely watches as it turns to a gagged wheeze, as he fumbles for his pocket with a choked, “Fuck.

No one deserves what happened. Not what happened to Izuku at Katsuki’s hands, not what happened to Katsuki at the villain’s. No one. Inko doesn't believe in karma or divine retribution, not really. That makes it too easy to shift blame from where blame is due, and sometimes bad things happen, but that doesn't mean they weren't preventable. Both were preventable in more ways than one, somewhere along the line.

Izuku blames himself for, you know,” she says, chiding, and gestures slightly at the inhaler, tugs it gently for emphasis with her quirk. No misunderstandings. None. Katsuki’s fist closes over it, a cough trapped behind his clenched teeth as he draws it away. “I don't know how he did it exactly, but he traced the path of the sludge villain—he usually took that tunnel home. He doesn't know why you were there. I don't... I don't know why he cares.”

And, Inko doesn't. Or, she does, but it's hard to understand herself. They were very good friends when a Quirk was just an eventuality, but as soon as it wasn't… Izuku became lesser, inferior. Barely tolerated, and not just by other children, but the adults too. As if having a Quirk enthroned his usefulness to society, and then by not having one… it's as if he was asked everyday henceforth What use are you?

She doesn't know why he needed to prove his worth, least of all to Katsuki.

“That, that doesn't answer—” he starts, croaks, and suddenly, Inko’s the one who's  angry .

“You don't need to know why,” she interrupts, snaps, and he stares at her, as if he can't fathom who she is anymore. “But, you want answers, yes? Well, so do I, Katsuki. Why did you bully him? Relentlessly, endlessly, why? You isolated Izuku, you were his best friend, but you hurt him, day in and day out. Why? Why, Katsuki? Why would you do that?

But.

No answer is forthcoming. Katsuki just. Continues to stare at her, all the flushed color draining from his face. Inko sniffs, and dabs none too gently at her eyes. Izuku gets it from the both of them, the tears. Hisashi cried over every little milestone when Izuku was a baby. It's why she was glad he wasn't there for, for everything in real time. He would have cried because Izuku cried, and then she would have cried, and it would have just been a whole mess. Hisashi cried enough over video chat, as it is.

Inko takes a steadying breath. “Go home, Katsuki,” she says, because Izuku isn't home anyway. “Go home.

 

He goes.

Chapter Text

Ochako likes to think she's slowly getting a handle on the various shades of pissed off and irate that Bakugou comes in. Keyword: likes to think.

Yuuei is a whole new kettle of fish, and Plus Ultra! means discovering new ways to teeter on the edge of something unknown. So, it's the in between that she's sure will constantly catch her off guard. She's only known him for a few months now, after all, and half the time it's glaringly apparent that he considers her a burden, just barely humoring her. It's a wonder they're even friends—something Ochako is, perhaps, only eighty percent sure of. Winning that disastrous Hero-Villain simulation certainly set them on a pretty precarious course, if she’s honest, and.

She can't say she regrets it. Nope, not all.

 

Come over here and say that to my face, you fucking Copy-Paste shortcut !”

 

Usually, anyway.

Friends don't let friends commit senseless murder, Ochako tells herself, drawing up with a confidence she doesn't quite feel. If it works for Bakugou, it sure as hell can work for her.

Too distracted by Monoma, Bakugou doesn't notice her until he's suddenly eye level over the other boy’s head, doesn’t notice that Ochako grabbing hold of his shirt. He snarls and twists around, but she flashes him a deliberately serene look even as he spits and snatches at her. She almost lets go, wrist bending just out of reach of his striped hands, and Monoma takes that time to escape, murder in his eyes.

It’s probably too much to hope that he’ll have learned a lesson from this near death experience.

“Put me down, you hag,” he snaps, teeth bared, and it's not the worst thing he's called her. Ochako tries for a cheeky smile, something she’s picking up from Ashido, and is pleased when he falters, just the barest. Ashido’s a force to be reckoned with, everyone knows that. “Put me down."

Ochako does, letting go of his shirt and pressing the tips of her fingers together. Release. “I don’t know why you let him get to you,” she says, Bakugou’s feet landing firmly back on the ground. “Kaminari-kun has a running pool on how quickly he rebounds from each encounter—I think Sero-kun won just now.”

Bakugou bristles, complete and utter offense curdling his face, and snatches up his flung bookbag, the flap snapping with the movement. “Fucking busybodies with nothing better to do than waste their time,” he sneers, judgment crackling with the near power of the divine, and the purple streaks deepen the severity.

It startles Ochako, the vehemence. “It’s just a little fun,” she tries, not terribly sure why this is what draws out the truly rare and blistering anger. She’s only seen it once before, that fateful first day of class, and Aizawa hadn’t bated an eye.

 

How wide is your blast radius?

 

Sixty feet.

 

Mm, and how far away are your classmates?

 

She still doesn’t quite know what to make of that whole… exchange. Bakugou is somewhat of an enigma, a particularly cryptid-like figure in their class, and he makes no moves to make friends. Not that it stops Ochako, or Kirishima and that group, from trying. Bakugou may not have the best control over his quirk, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t awe-inspiring in his work ethic.

He’s probably the most hard-working person she’s ever met.

With a sharp snarl, Bakugou turns on his heel, and stalks away with every line of his being draped in a terrible rage. Ochako sighs, and watches him go, shifts the bag on her shoulder.

Considers the tattered book left dejectedly on the floor.

It's charred, no doubt a victim of Bakugou’s quirk, but as she picks it up and flips it over, it's clearly… not his? Ochako squints at the writing on the front, at the just barely legible Hero Analysis For The Future, Volume Thirteen in a more precise and tight handwriting than anything she's seen from Bakugou. Which, well. He doesn’t have to say anything, but she’s pretty sure everyone knows that he writes with an… unfamiliar difficulty.

She just didn't expect this of him, is all. A secret fanboy? This book is one out of thirteen. It's one thing after another today, huh? First the Media Invasion, and now this. Not that Ochako can complain.

Curious, and maybe just a bit nosy, she flips to a random page and begins to read.

Chapter Text

Ochako may, or may not, forget to give Bakugou his book back.

She doesn't mean to keep it; it's an honest mistake. She's halfway to school by the time she remembers that she forgot it again, every single time. It's just… all the notes are incredibly thoughtful, and gives her a lot to think about. A whole week she considers her current path, if only because she wonders excruciatingly about what else she could do with her quirk. Being a hero means money, easily, and it's dangerous, Ochako knows that, but. Well.

Cranes tip over often enough, right? Would people scramble at the chance to have her around to make moving things easier? There's permits out there for commercial use of quirks, and she considers it, maybe a little more seriously then is fair.

Ochako considers it.

And then.

And then Sensei's dying.

Dying to protect them.

Ochako thought she knew what it meant, that being a hero meant putting your life on the line. She thought she knew what it had meant. With the way Sensei's arm’s twisted backwards, his body slammed once, twice, thrice

She'd thought she knew, and realizes, as blood flies and her heart squeezes tight, that she didn't.

The thing holds Sensei like a small child might, carelessly by one arm, and lets his broken body dangle like a limp doll. There are too many of them, and everyone's been scattered. Aoyama makes a horrible noise beside her, muffled by his gloves, and Yoarashi growls, teeth clenched from where he props Bakugou up, broken arm cradled to his chest. Bakugou, though.

He just stares, something curdling across his face as the villain covered with hands says something Ochako can't hear, not over the roar of terror in her ears. The purple scars throw his face into severe relief, and then he's slipping off Yoarashi’s shoulder and flopping toward her, grabbing her arm.

“Round face,” he hisses, as villains close in, and the, the thing sniffs at Sensei like a piece of meat. “Round face, throw me.

It'd been an accident, spur of the moment with the clock tick tocking, and they probably wouldn't have won otherwise because Hagakure is invisible, how do you even fight that? Let alone plan for Yaomomo’s creativity?

Slingshot, she thinks, lip wobbling but. A hero, she's going to be a hero.

Ochako grabs hold of Bakugou's arm, just his feet leaving the ground, bum leg and all, and she steps up from their hiding spot, draws back, and throws him.

And, as Bakugou sails through the air like a thunderous comet, cutting a swath through the villains caging in a flagging Kirishima and Ashido, Ochako thinks she knows how dangerous it is to be a hero now.

She thinks that.

She thinks that, and thinks that, and thinks that up until the doors to the entrance burst open, blood running a curtain across her face as the air twists her up and away from the ground, nausea tickling her throat, but a hurt Tsuyu wrapped safely in her arms. Yoarashi howls, Bakugou picking himself up from the dirt, and then.

 

And then—

 

Up until All Might wins, steam curling away from his body, Ochako thinks that, and.


And realizes, yet again, that no, no she really didn't.

Chapter Text

The secret smoulders between them.

It's a heavy, and unbelievable thing; a horrific and very much a real thing. Ochako can see the cracked and cratered skin everytime she closes her eyes, each blink. An after image seared into her eyes just like Sensei, a limp doll tossed aside. Just like Thirteen being eaten up by their own quirk. Just like blood running a river down a ruined side.

Beside her, Bakugou tenses, and then stands. The way he looks at All Might is not something she can understand, not something she can really describe, but then again. Maybe she isn't meant to.

Bakugou leaves, the faint pop and sizzle of burnt sugar left in his wake. Ochako tries for something apologetic, a beseeching smile, even as she stands, intent to follow. But. But, by the way All Might hangs his head, somehow it makes this all worse.

“It's alright, my girl, you may go,” he says, to spare her the impoliteness of what she was already about to do. “I'll see you in class.”

And so, Ochako leaves, this secret hung like a weight over her neck. My time is short, he'd said, and he'd said that while looking at Bakugou, something else she didn't understand except, perhaps, the way it was an apology but not enough. Not enough for whatever it was meant to apologize for.

Recovery Girl holds her gaze evenly for the brief moment it meets hers. Ochako thinks the smile she draws up is more of a grimace than anything encouraging, and then she's out the door. She takes a moment outside, and presses the heels of her palms to her eyes.

 

It's okay, Ochako tells herself. It's okay.

 

With a long exhale, she draws her hands away and then slaps softly at her cheeks before turning to follow the just faint crackling that she can still hear. The halls are deserted, everyone gone for the day, the sky dark, so it's not so hard.

She finds Bakugou on the nearest set of stairs, face in his hands. The line of his shoulders is taut, rigid, and Ochako doesn't know what to do, so. So, she sits, close enough, but not touching. Everyone learned that the hard way, Kaminari flat on his back and singed after dangling a loose sock across Bakugou's bare neck.

They sit, the seconds ticking by. Ochako knows Aizawa-sensei must be coming for them soon, but she hopes for just a little longer, he might not.

With a loud exhale, Bakugou drops his hands from his face. “I saw him,” he says, and it's scarily even, the way he does. Bakugou turns, just a little, and Ochako can see tears along his eyes, and he bares his teeth at her. Together in this empty hallway, it feels like they're in another world. “I saw him, and he saw me, and he just watched.

She knows a little more now, they all do. Victim of villain attack just over a year ago. All Might had reportedly been chasing him, lost sight of him. Didn't appear until the villain had already grabbed a hostage and nearly killed two others. Nearly a third, she realizes, the faint sheen of disbelief in Bakugou's eyes clear enough.

Don't meet your heroes, Ochako thinks absently, and takes a deep breath.

Chapter Text

The sports festival has barely begun and already there are whispers.

 

Did you see…?

 

No. That one over there?

 

Yeah, the whole class, right, but…

 

Yeah, pretty scary looking scars, right? He doesn't look very friendly.

 

I heard

 

With a thump, Mirio bundles into Tamaki's side, water bottles in hand, and it disrupts the nasty thrall the gossip has on him. The speakers crackle barely a moment later, Present Mic's voice burying it beyond Tamaki's hearing.

"Think Fat Gum will pick anyone this round for interns?" Mirio says, leaning closer as the crowd swells with cheers. "If I know Sir, he probably isn't even watching."

That's… a fair assessment, from what little Tamaki knows of Sir Nighteye.

"Not… Not until the s-second round in a few months at least, especially with Midoriya on s-staff…" he mumbles back, ears flicking low against the fervor and pitch of the air, and takes one of the bottles to sip at.

They're a somewhat small agency, not too big, but. Tamaki's sure Toyomitsu will come to like at least one of the first years, though which one has yet to be seen. He just hopes they're nice. Enough interns have poked fun at him, which is… fair? But, if any picked at Izuku? The mere idea draws a frown to Tamaki's face.

Mirio laughs, and elbows Tamaki gently. "Well, meeting new people is always fun, which isn't to say Bubble Girl isn't fun, but I wanna be a senpai like you, y'know?"

Oh. Oh. Tamaki wrinkles his nose, flushing, and ducks his head even as Mirio draws him closer with an arm across his shoulders. "I'm, I'm sure you'll do a… a much better job," he stammers, biting back an undeserved smile, and doesn't know what to do with the chuckle that incites.

"I dunno, Midoriya-kun might not agree," Mirio says, and turns as class 1-A's representative steps up to the microphone.

Something about her seems familiar, the answer fumbling along the tip of his tongue, but even with her name called across the arena, Tamaki can't place it.

His forgetfulness must be plain across his face because Mirio leans back in. "Yaoyorozu Momo," he starts, like it's a secret, "pretty well to do family in Japan. Her quirk allows her to use her fat cells to create inorganic things."

Ah . Tamaki frowns again. He'd have expected her to be… fuller? In figure to support that, like Fat Gum. But. Then again, what does he know anyway...

Her speech washes over the crowd to an even wilder cheer, and then from there, the Sports Festival begins.

"Hey, remember when we both nearly got trampled?" Mirio laughs, as the gates clog with squirming first year students. Tamaki tugs at the hair by his ear in retaliation. He needs a haircut. "Ow, ow! How many times do I have to apologize for that?"

"At least o-once more," Tamaki chides, drawing up a squiggly smile.

Their obstacle course had included 'villains' of the upperclassmen, but it's something new every year generally, somehow. Principal Nedzu isn't a one trick pony by any means, though, and the near miss of a 'villain' still sends a shiver up Tamaki's spine.

Here lies Amajiki Tamaki: Pantsed in front of the entirety of Japan. May his soul find peace.

And it was all Mirio's fault.

"Where's Hado-san, anyway?" Mirio wonders, as this year's entrance exam robots descend upon the stage.

 

"Right here! "

 

Tamaki yelps, jerking forward and nearly over the railing, his water bottle dropping out of sight. Hands in the back of his uniform are the only things that keep him from spilling to the ground below, and there's a smattering of chuckles and a too familiar giggle as he's reeled back into his seat. Heat crawls up his neck, and Tamaki turns a watery glare on Nejire, her smile widening.

"Sorry, Torinikkun," she sing songs, "I had to have a very serious talk with Todoroki-kun!"

Mirio snorts even as Tamaki despairs whatever she did to the first year. Without him there to scold tact into her, the possibilities are endless.

"O-Oh, is that all?" Tamaki says in the end, and Nejire's normally serene expression falters, just a little, as she hops over the seats to press into his other side.

He's not surprised when she shakes her head. "I also met Bakugou-kun, you know? With the purple stripes in 1-A? I really wanted to know of they were a part of his quirk or not."

She's a less tactful version of Izuku like that, too curious for her own good but. Tactless, most of the time. It's too much to hope they never meet because Tamaki knows he's already living on borrowed time.

Mirio hums, and the boom of explosions draw their eyes. By the canyon's edge, stalled first years have thrown themselves out of the way as ice is sent spiraling in every direction, the leaders of the pack fighting for headway. "And how'd that go?"

Nejire laughs as Present Mic yells with excitement over the speakers. "He tried to blow me up," she says, all good cheer even as Tamaki drops his face into his hands. "But his cute little friend stopped him. I think I interrupted something important though…"

Well. At least she's none the worse for wear, Tamaki thinks, eyeing her briefly from between his fingers.

He's… heard things, about that first year. Generally unpleasant things, untangled from the usual gossip between absent-minded predictions and history homework during study group. A short wick to an explosive personality to match the quirk, and tidbits about where the purple scars actually come from. Nejire's probably heard the same things, but her curiosity tends to require a more hands on approach more often than not. Tamaki isn't usually one for gossip, merely an attentive ear when words are hard to come by and Rika has to get her own words out somehow, but.

 

But.

 

Only kid to ever get accepted from Aldera to Yuuei, despite everything, Rika had mumbled, squinting at a word problem as if that might make it easier to solve, and not elaborating on whatever everything might be.

It's just… that's where Izuku went to school, and it makes Tamaki wonder.

"—SHIMA TAKES A NASTY SPILL RIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE LAND MINES, BUT THAT WON'T DETER CLASS A'S REPRESENTATIVE—"

It's… It's none of his business, obviously, they've barely know each other for a year, barely knows anything really, and the first year might not even know Midoriya; they could have been in entirely different classes and never managed to cross paths outside a brief glance, but. But, an ugly and tiny and insignificant part of Tamaki simmers at the thought that it might not be true.

"—YOARASHI AND TODOROKI ARE NECK AND NECK FOR THE GATE, WHO WILL MAKE—"

That it might be the complete opposite, and he hopes beyond hope that Toyomitsu doesn't like him. Or, at least, will like anyone else more than him.

"—ON, WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE? ERASERHEAD, WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU TEACHING— "

These aren't very, very heroic thoughts, and a sort of shame heats the collar of Tamaki's uniform at the sheer audacity

"Tamaki, quick!" Mirio says, excited, and that's the only reason Tamaki straightens, broken free from his thoughts and barely missing Nejire's flung arms as all of the sound rushes back in.

Under the clear sun, ice glitters as Endeavor's son hurtles for the finish line. He's just barely outpacing his classmate's buffeting wind, a blinding trail following in his wake that even Tamaki squints against, and.

It's almost as if in slow motion, the ensuing impact.

From behind like a wavering missile, that first year, Bakugou, drops from the sky on sputtering explosions and slams into both Todoroki and Yoarashi right before they can disappear from view. They all hit the lip from dirt to concrete hard, a phantom wince working up Tamaki's spine, and the girl clinging to Bakugou's shoulders goes flying over their heads.

Dead silence fills the stands as dusts flies, obscuring everything from view, and it's a long moment before Present Mic finds his voice. "REJOICE, MASS MEDIA," he hollers into the void, "THIS IS JUST THE SORT OF DEVELOPMENT YOU CRAVE!"

Mirio barks a laugh, grinning wide, and Tamaki can't help how contagious it is despite, well, everything.

"WHAT A WILD UPSET, FOLKS," Present Mic continues, more landmines triggering like a herald to a storm as more first years race for the finish line, and the crowds go wild. "WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED SUCH TEAMWORK IN AN EVERYONE FOR THEMSELVES EVENT? THE FIRST ONE BACK TO THE STADIUM IN UNDENIABLE TRIUMPH IS—"

But, still. Under all the noise, Tamaki wonders.

Chapter Text

Time… passes.

Things happen, good and bad. Days where it seems like a million steps backward for two measly steps forward, where Izuku thinks about all the things from before that are no longer a part of the now. Where the feeling of growing apart from the things he knew is acutely painful, and those are the worst days. Where this long road doesn't feel right, that he must be doing it all wrong, wrong, wrong.

The bad days are the days where he remembers being quiet, being small, being invisible in the hopes of being unseen and not reminded of his inadequacies but hoping for a sign of the opposite. Some sort of clue to bolster the worn down embers of his confidence, but.

Izuku holds onto that numb thought, that too calm realization as the sky ran away from him, the ground rising up to greet him:

 

I don't want to die.

 

It makes it easier. Makes the good days great, and cherished. Days where Tamaki stutters out a compliment, and takes praise with a squiggly smile instead of hiding his face, less and less. Where Fatgum— Taishiro, kid, c'mon now —ruffles Izuku's hair, grins, and says, “We'll make a Pro out of you yet.” Where Mom smiles, and hugs him tight, and he wakes up day, after day, after day.

Where his teachers eye him with respect instead of pity, exclaim over his quirk solution papers and slip university pamphlets onto his desk. Where his classmates eye him not with contempt and cruel humor, but with joke envy and genuine care.

Where older Quirkless people tell him, I've been there, and I lived. Others didn't, and some of us won't, but that doesn't mean you should give up.

 

Live, kid.


And, so Izuku does.

He lives.

Chapter Text

Inko doesn't know what to do with herself, frozen by the door as Izuku's gaze skitters from hers and away.

The sudden surge of sheer happiness is belied by a heavy sort of grief, Inko finds herself at a loss for words, the knot in her throat twisting.

No tears, she tells herself, firm, no tears!

"It, it would only be for a few h-hours," he stammers, hands fisting tight his bag's straps. "The library is closed for, for renovations and, um, I know it's such s-short notice but everyone else lives further away so… so I figured..."

She can't help it. Inko pulls him into a tight hug and the muffled squeak he gives almost sets her off. "Of course!" she says, half a gasp, and flutters away the swell of tears. He's getting so tall. "They're welcome any time, okay? You tell them that, study group or not. They're… They're your friends, they'll always be welcome."

His returning hug is slow, unsure, and then fierce with the muscle he's put on in the last several months. "O-Okay," he says, and sniffs. " Okay. "

Inko doesn't want to let go; she feels as if they could stay here in this moment forever, if she just tried hard enough, but. He has school, he has friends waiting for him, so. So, she let's go, and they both wipe none too discreetly at their eyes once they part. Izuku smiles a squiggly line, and Inko commits it to memory before he can turn away, before she tips the door shut on farewell for the day.

He'll be back before she knows it with friends, actual friends.

"No tears," she tells herself, scrubs at her eyes, and—

Oh. Oh. Inko blinks, and a soft panic hits her as the realization sinks in. 

Izuku's bringing friends over. 

Izuku's bringing friends over, and. 

And, just like that, every single thing out of place seems to scream I am Here! 

There's at least three blankets thrown haphazardly across the couch. Their shoes are scattered by the front door, and loose socks and papers are everywhere. 

It's a good thing she's working from home today or this would have been a disaster. 

"I, I have to clean up," she realizes, and then stares into the kitchen. "Snacks. They'll need snacks, right? Dinner?"

They eat well enough, but. Kids enjoy junk food, right? They hardly have any of that, let alone snacks in general because they're not much of the type, in general, her and Izuku. Inko can barely imagine it. Chips? Sodas? She'll have to run out, and vacuum. She has to vacuum and dust everything. 

Inko loses track of time by that point. She darts back into the kitchen to scarf down what's left of breakfast, and then rolls up her sleeves and cleans. 

She bulldozes through the kitchen and living room, excitement and a prickly set of nerves driving her through it before noon. A break to crunch through an early lunch and several work briefs sees her flagging into three in the afternoon, the manic energy bleeding off quickly with a full stomach. Inko might take less time with her own room, stuffing dirty clothes into her hamper and brushing off her dresser with a quick wipe. 

Izuku's room gives her pause, the door ajar. Puddles of dirty clothes call to her, but still bare walls cause her to waver, an uncomfortable reminder. She's not found the will nor the right moment to offer back up his hero posters and figurines, worse for wear and still sitting in the back of her own closet, but. He's replaced a little, a school poster there, a gachapon and hero merch t-shirt there, but not to the extent of before. 

It's… not so scary anymore, the longer Inko looks. Her son is still there in the overstuffed and sagging bookcase, in the All Might comforter and misleadingly labelled t-shirts, the unholy amount of notebooks scattered about. 

 

Izuku is still here. 

 

That's what gets Inko to push the door the rest of the way open, to collect the thrown clothes and dust around the knick-knacks.

Izuku is still here, she repeats, and sniffs, blotting the rag with more cleaner before setting sights on the bookcase.

Two-thirds of it is actual books, she thinks, but the rest is rapidly filling with more and more notebooks. Inko let's her eyes drift over the spines, gaze jumping from Quirks: The First Century to Meta Liberation, Banzai, and Forward: Quirk Regulations For A New Age before to the well worn bindings of Izuku's notebooks. It's not quite a rainbow of colors, red by blue and orange by pink, but the array is a bright burst against the dark wood.

The lowest shelf draws her eye, only partially filled and the notebooks laid flat against each other with the over abundance of space.

The dust is thicker here, and the other shelves have lines scraped through it with use, but. Not these, she can tell, not for a good while now by the layer of dust she rubs between her fingers. There's very few of them, slim and edges run ragged, so Inko settles down onto the floor as she makes her way down, humming softly to herself.

Hero Analysis for the Future No. 12, mares the front of the last one she pulls free, and Inko frowns, pauses. 

This… This was not the last one he did, she knows. He'd been on the thirteenth, before , and Inko's sure of it, she remembers—

He'd left with it one morning, and come home that evening damp up to his elbows and knees, and, and… she'd never seen it again. The realization curdles her high spirits, just a little, and it's harder than it should be to tuck the notebooks back into their near hidden place, to not flip the cover back and just look. 

That's not Izuku anymore. He's still here, but those notebooks in particular… the writer no longer exists, not entirely. Inko wishes this would have been a more nostalgic find, but it just makes her sad and more than a little angry. 

At who, she's not sure anymore. Herself, probably, but. Not the her now, the her then. Inko's still  angry, but just yesterday she spoke with Masaru, anyway. It stings, and maybe she won't ever get over that, or maybe she will, but who's to say except Izuku.

He deserves that much, and a lot more.

With a huff, Inko picks herself up and pats none to gently at her own cheek. 

Enough of that, she tells herself, and glances at the clock—

Gasping, Inko jumps like a startled cat at the time, curses softly, and hurries from the room.

Rag tossed into the wash, cleaner stashed under the sink, and with her purse slung haphazardly over her shoulder and shoes slapped on, Inko all but runs out the door and down the steps. The sun angles overhead, the air just beginning to lose the barest of the summer heat for the evening. Soon. Soon Izuku will inch through the door and introduce his friends. 

The mere idea brings a dopey smile to her face.

Things are looking up... aren’t they?