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Something Like a Star

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Name: Shouji Mikio

 

Quirk: Recollection

 

Classification: Memory Quirk

 

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

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

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

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

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

“What the fuck, Deku?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His lungs and sinuses clear, just for an instant.

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

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

“Texas SMASH!”

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

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

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

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

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

“All… Might?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Izuku stares at him. “Midoriya Izuku.”

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

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

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

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

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

That seems much more his style.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m always careful, Mom.”

 

-

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shoot.” Midoriya blinks at him curiously.

“What are your parents’ quirks?”

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

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

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

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

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

“But I’m quirkless.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Quirkless, right?”

Chapter Text

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

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

People born with empathy are ridiculously emotional. Check.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All Might.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait.

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

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

“Blackmailed,” Eraserhead mumbles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sorry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know,” he says, frustrated.

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

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

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

That seems to be the answer Eraserhead wants to hear.

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eraserhead.”

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

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

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

Chapter Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-

 

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

“…Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eraserhead.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re skipping it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can still move.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The boy with the electric quirk tries to throw an arm around Izuku’s shoulders, and it’s only the almost blinding kindness that’s pouring from him that stops Izuku from flinching at the sudden, wide movement. He manages to turn, ducking away without the kid noticing. “Kaminari Denki. How’s it going?”

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

“Language, please!” Iida protests.

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

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

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

Kaminari shrugs and points at himself. “No matter, man. If I can learn to control a quirk, you can too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Text

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

“Midoriya, a word.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A link,” Izuku realizes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I—Thank you!”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Text

U.A. is a bit strange, though that shouldn’t be entirely unexpected, in hindsight. They only have traditional class until lunch, and then Aizawa says they’ll start their hero training.  

The class is buzzing with anticipation for most of the morning. Even Kacchan seems to be in a slightly better mood than usual, though he still doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge any attempts to befriend him.

Iida and Uraraka sit with Izuku during lunch of their own volition. When they’re not looking, he pinches the tender skin on the inside of his elbow, hard. The sharp pain tells him that he’s not dreaming, and a warm feeling grows in his chest. He can’t seem to wipe the smile off his face—not that that’s making him stand out much, since everyone else is in a fantastic mood.

The workload U.A. is giving them is no joke, but there’s something amazing about being taught by heroes. At the very least, Izuku thinks, they make sure the material is relevant, unlike public school.

“Hey Deku, you know all about pro heroes, right? Who do you think is going to be teaching foundational studies?” Uraraka asks through a mouthful of food.

“Finish chewing before you speak please, Uraraka,” Iida chides. Then he turns to Izuku. “Though I admit I am also interested in your thoughts, Midoriya.”

Izuku thinks for a moment, chewing on a mouthful of pork and rice and sifting through possibilities in his head. “Well other than Gang Orca, none of the top ten heroes are teachers here, so they’re out. Gang Orca would be a good choice though, since he’s a very well-rounded hero. But then there are so many other heroes. The Pussycats have been off the grid for a couple years now, so not them, and most of the other pros that live in the Tokyo area work here and have assigned subjects already so—”

Uraraka giggles, jolting Izuku out of his train of thought. “You mutter to yourself a lot, don’t you?”

Izuku flushes in embarrassment, but it doesn’t seem like she’s making fun of him. It’s more like she’s making an observation than trying to insult him.

“A—Anyway,” he says, wringing his hands nervously, “I think Gang Orca is probably the safest bet. He’d be great for combat training, and he’s the number nine hero on top of that.”

“That’s true,” Iida says, sounding entirely genuine in his agreement. “I believe that’s a valid theory, Midoriya. Your reasoning was fairly sound as well.”

The praise makes Izuku’s stomach flutter in a way that’s not altogether unpleasant, and he takes another bite to avoid responding to that in some awkward way that will send his new friends running for the hills.

Lunch passes without Izuku making a total fool of himself, and the other two seem genuinely impressed by what they’ve seen of his nerdier side, so he counts it as a win.

He supposes it’s a good thing he’s so preoccupied, because it makes his surprise much more authentic than he thinks it would have been otherwise when All Might bursts into class after lunch, wearing one of his older costumes.

Izuku may be somewhat immune to seeing All Might at this point, but the silver age costume is still a sight to behold—All Might hasn’t worn it in Izuku’s lifetime, and he had long since resigned himself to never seeing it in person at all, personal relationship or no personal relationship.

He has no idea why he didn’t account for All Might when thinking about the potential teachers for foundational hero studies, but thinking it through, it makes total sense.

“The hero costumes you designed on your applications have been created and deposited in your lockers, so everyone suit up!” All Might is saying, sounding excited. “For our first lesson, we’re diving in headfirst with battle trials!”

That sounds exactly like All Might. He isn’t the type to ease people into anything. Which, Izuku supposes, makes him a perfect fit for a U.A. teacher.

“Deku, come on!” Uraraka all but drags him out of the classroom, toward the lockers.

It’s not until he’s holding the costume— his costume, he thought of it and designed it and now it’s here, it’s tangible, it’s in his hands —that it hits him. He’s truly a U.A. student now.

All Might splits them into teams of two, and by some stroke of luck, Izuku is paired with Uraraka. Poor Iida is paired with Kacchan, who ignores his attempts to be friendly.

Instead, Kacchan’s attention is uncharacteristically fixed on Izuku. A steady stream of fury and confusion have been coming through the link since last night, but when All Might makes him and Iida the villains to Izuku and Uraraka’s heroes, the undercurrent of desperation is so strong that Izuku almost gets swept up in it himself. But it’s not control of his empathy or confidence that keeps Kacchan’s emotions from totally overwhelming Izuku.

It’s an all-consuming, petrifying fear.

“Go all out, without worrying about injury!” All Might says, not understanding that while most people might still hold back a little, Kacchan won’t. “This is a practical exercise, after all!”

Iida and Kacchan are given a few minutes to set up in the building they’ll be using for the exercise. In the meantime, Izuku forces himself to box away the terror. He can deal with that… later, when he and Uraraka aren’t meant to be planning their strategy.

“Iida’s quirk is speed based, so as long as you can divert his attention you shouldn’t have a lot to worry about, in theory.” Izuku makes sure he’s not muttering this time; it’s important that Uraraka has as much information as possible. There’s a spider on the desk near his hand, and he brushes it off vaguely.

“What do you mean, ‘you?’” she asks, furrowing her brows in confusion. “Where are you going to be?”

Izuku coughs and scratches the back of his head, hoping his awkwardness, and not the rest of the swirling black hole of emotion he’s feeling, is what she sees. “As far away from you as I can manage.”

“But why—”

Uraraka is cut off by All Might’s booming voice giving them the signal to start. Izuku swallows hard, past the lump in his throat. Kacchan’s sick anticipation tells him all he needs to know about what’s waiting for him behind that door.

He turns to Uraraka. “This isn’t going to sound good, but I mean it in all seriousness, Uraraka. There are two things you need to do for us to win this, and you’re not going to like one of them.”

They only have seconds before they get to the door, so he doesn’t wait for a response. “You’ve got to use whatever you’ve got to distract Iida. No one in the class is a match for him when it comes to speed, so you have to outsmart him.”

There’s no time for Uraraka to argue or ask what Izuku is going to do, so she nods once, looking determined. “And the other thing?”

“Get behind me,” Izuku says grimly, hand on the doorknob, “and when you see an opportunity, run.

Izuku has fourteen hero notebooks. Fourteen entries of two pages each, adding up to twenty-eight pages and eleven cumulative years of knowledge on Bakugou Katsuki. It barely scratches the surface of who Kacchan is, and who he has the potential to be, but for today, that’s all Izuku has.

As it turns out, it’s all he needs.

Almost as soon as they set foot in the building, Kacchan is on him. On him, not on them, because Kacchan doesn’t give a damn about this training exercise. Just by being here, Izuku has slighted him; in Kacchan’s mind, that’s more than unforgivable. It’s unfathomable. Izuku has known exactly what’s coming in this fight since All Might picked their groups out of those boxes.

The other boy may not pull his punches, but there are some things he does that are just reflex by now. One of those things is beginning every fight with a swift right hook. Izuku has been on the receiving end of that blow his entire life. He knows where it’s aimed and the exact force that’s usually behind it (second left rib, near the center of his ribcage so he’s winded, but nothing breaks), and even a general idea of how much harder it’s going to hit now that Kacchan is so, so angry (definitely broken bones, unless Izuku is careful).

So when Kacchan lunges at him, Izuku is ready, using that force to flip Kacchan over his shoulder.

Uraraka is behind him, but if she was good enough to pass the practical exam, Izuku is sure she has the reflexes to dodge when Kacchan is tossed in that direction. He’s right; she moves out of the way, shocked. Izuku gives her a look , and she snaps out of it, nodding once and dashing to the door that should lead her to the room with the “bomb.”

It’s a good thing she gets out when she does, too; Kacchan has nearly shaken off his own surprise, and he’s so angry it makes Izuku want to vomit.

He only has a few seconds at best before Kacchan regains enough of his wits to start actually attacking, and if he wants to have any hope at all of surviving this—much less having a chance to win it—he needs to get out of sight, now.

As he turns the corner he hears an almost unintelligible roar of “Deku, you piece of shit!”

Just in time, he thinks, rounding another corner.

Luckily, Kacchan’s hero costume has been built for power, not stealth. Izuku can hear him coming, so he can stay a step or two ahead.

“Come on, Deku,” the other boy says, taunting. “How much of a fucking coward do you have to be, hiding even though you’ve got such a flashy quirk now?”

He’s right about one thing—Izuku can’t hide forever. He has to think of some way to beat Kacchan without using One for All. While he can handle the pain, he would still prefer not to.

“You saw that hit coming, didn’t you, you fucking stalker?” Kacchan hisses, his footsteps moving closer. “You think I don’t know about what’s in those notebooks of yours? You’ve been laughing at me this whole goddamn time, Deku.”

Izuku doesn’t respond. He can’t afford to, even when Kacchan is saying things that they both know are blatantly untrue; Izuku worshipped the ground he walked on for so long, and even now he has a healthy respect (born largely from fear, he knows, but it’s respect all the same) for Kacchan. But if he says that—if he says anything, Kacchan will be on him faster than Izuku can blink.

“You know what’s really fucking sad?” Kacchan asks, scary calm. “You think that because you have a strong quirk now, you’re as good as everyone else. Every single person here is a stepping stone for me, you know. But you? You’re barely even a pebble. You’re just a worthless Deku, like you’ve always been. Quirk or no quirk.”

Izuku bites his tongue. There’s silence for a moment, then a rush of sick satisfaction from Kacchan.

Kacchan’s breath ghosts by Izuku’s ear. “Found you, you fucking nerd.”

It’s only years of experience that lets Izuku dodge the worst of the five or six point-blank blasts Kacchan aims at him. His ears ring as he swallows down his panic.

That was really fucking loud.

He jumps out of point-blank range, blinking the spots out of his eyes. Uraraka is in his ear, saying something he can’t quite make out. She sounds panicked, though, so he can only assume that things went bad with Iida.

Kacchan lands a blow to Izuku’s side as his vision clears. The pain is a fairly small concern right now, and luckily he hit a rib, so there shouldn’t be any really bad damage.

Instead, Izuku focuses on his options. He could use One for All, but he’d prefer not to break his bones two days in a row; as terrifying as Kacchan is right now, the thought of facing Recovery Girl again is almost as bad. He could try to knock Kacchan out without One for All… somehow.

Unlikely, but that’s the only option he can really pick right now, since Uraraka needs him at his best—

“If I don’t hit him, I won’t kill him!” Kacchan sounds like he’s truly snapped, and Izuku has never felt so much rage in his life. It’s blinding, exploding out of the mental box he’s tried so hard to keep it in.

Izuku has less than a fraction of a second to react to the massive, deadly explosion that Kacchan is aiming at him, and it barely misses him. His hair is singed, and his ear feels too cold not to be badly burned.

Izuku is pissed —not just because of whatever the hell is going on with with Kacchan (though that’s a large part of it). He doesn’t remember sending the blast to the ceiling. He doesn’t remember realizing he was right under the room where Uraraka and Iida are probably fighting, and he doesn’t remember powering up One for All.

What he does remember is screaming in frustration at some point, and snapping several bones in his arm.

He doesn’t scream at that part, which surprises him. Though he supposes this is the third time he’s done this, and he’s maybe a little used to it by now.

All Might declares the winners to be Izuku and Uraraka, and Izuku thinks he probably made the right decision even if he doesn’t recall making it. All Might ushers him to Recovery Girl’s office with the boy with red hair—Kirishima, Izuku remembers vaguely—as an escort.

Also, Izuku thinks wryly, picking up on All Might’s worry and guilt, to make sure I don’t do something stupid, like collapse.

“Are you alright, dude?” Kirishima asks, looking at Izuku with clear concern in his eyes.

Izuku blinks at him owlishly. “I shattered every bone in my arm.”

Kirishima winces and Izuku feels guilty of his own accord for a moment; maybe that was a little too far. Kirishima is a funny guy, but Izuku probably shouldn’t assume he knows him well enough to know when he’s joking yet.

“I meant like, otherwise. You two were roughing each other up pretty bad, but you nearly got hit with that explosion!”

Oh, I know, Izuku thinks. He’s still blinking the spots out of his eyes.

Out loud, he snorts and grimaces at the way it jolts his arm. “My ear is a little messed up, but just bumps and bruises otherwise. Kacchan wasn’t actually trying to kill me, you know.”

Kirishima gapes at him, which is actually pretty funny when he has to walk sideways for the look to be effective. “What fight were you watching?”

Izuku shrugs, then winces. He really should be paying more attention to what he does with his arms. “None,” he manages to say. “I was fighting in it.”

“Oh shit, sorry.” Kirishima has the decency to look a little embarrassed. “I just—he really seems to hate you, dude. Is that guy even hero material?”

“Yes,” Izuku all but snaps, surprising himself. Kirishima looks shocked too, so he takes a breath before continuing. “I’m sorry, that was rude.”

“It’s… It’s cool. Your head’s still all messed up from adrenaline or shock or something.”

The shocked look on Kirishima’s face is replaced almost immediately by a wide, genuine grin. There’s nothing behind that smile but concern and admiration, which help Izuku avoid focusing on the blazing anger still burning in Kacchan.

For a moment, Izuku considers letting the subject lie, and letting Kirishima think it really is shock that’s got him on edge. He doesn’t know what possesses him not to.

“I won’t lie to you, Kirishima,” he says, looking at the floor as they walk. “There’s a lot of bad blood between me and Kacchan. But that doesn’t mean either of us can’t be a hero. Kacchan is more than he was in that match.”

Even without his quirk, it would be hard for Izuku not to notice Kirishima’s surprise. He can’t say it’s even uncalled-for. Izuku hates Bakugou Katsuki, more than almost anyone else. That has to be clear even in the short time they've been at U.A.

They’re almost to Recovery Girl’s office, so Izuku doesn’t flounder for long. Stupid, he thinks, to do something so awkward when Kirishima has the potential to be a great friend.

“That was pretty manly of you, Midoriya,” Kirishima finally says, just as they reach the office. There’s a toothy grin on his face. “If a guy like you can defend him like that, maybe I should give him a chance.”

Privately, Izuku is pretty sure that someone like Kirishima is either going to be Kacchan’s best friend or his new Deku. He really, really hopes it’s not the latter—Kirishima is too good a guy for that.

“You again?” Recovery Girl’s voice startles both of them and Izuku winces—partly from pain, but partly from embarrassment that the school nurse knows him on sight on the second day of school.

Izuku forces a smile, already preparing himself mentally for the berating he’s sure he’s going to get. “Yes ma’am.”

“I’m going to have a word with All Might, pushing you kids so hard already,” she mutters. Then she turns to Kirishima. “Do you have a note, or do you need one?”

Kirishima grins at her and holds up a hall pass. “All Might didn’t remember to give me one, so I picked up a blank one. Can you sign it for me?”

“Oh, that man…” Recovery Girl takes the pass to her desk and fills it out quickly before handing it to Kirishima. “Straight back to class, you hear me? No funny business.”

It doesn’t seem like the idea ever even crossed Kirishima’s mind. “Naturally. See you later, Midoriya!”

Izuku smiles at him before being ushered into the infirmary. The door swings shut behind Recovery Girl, and she looks at Izuku sternly.

“Alright, on the table. Let’s get a look at you.”

Now that Kirishima isn’t around to distract him, Izuku has nothing to distract him from the incredible pain in his arm. He sits down gingerly, doing his best not to jostle it.

Recovery Girl wheels a stool over to him with surprising skill, considering that it’s nearly as tall as her. She perches on Izuku’s right, examining his throbbing arm closely.

“Second degree burns on your ear and part of your face, and a mild concussion, but your arm is the worst of it. You’ve shattered it again,” she says, confirming Izuku’s thoughts.

She presses a kiss to it and Izuku can feel the bones start to mend themselves, draining his already sapped energy. “That’ll fix the worst of it, but I want you to come in after school so we can finish up, understand?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Izuku says. He’s exhausted, but he expected that. He can get through it without too much trouble. But when he stands up to go back to class, he wobbles on his feet and Recovery Girl pushes him back onto the bed firmly.

“Oh no you don’t,” she says, tone allowing for no argument whatsoever. “You’re going to lie down right there and take a nap. Clear?”

Izuku hums in agreement. A nap sounds really nice right now, actually.

“Good boy. I’m going to have a word with All Might about letting you run amok with One for All and not continuing that training he was so excited about.” She speaks matter-of-factly, seemingly unaware of the bomb she’s just dropped on Izuku.

“You—You know about—”

“Of course I do,” she says with a small smile. “All Might got injured a lot when he was your age, you know.”

Well, that makes Izuku feel… slightly less bad about his embarrassing lack of control over his quirk. “I would never have guessed.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Recovery Girl says reasonably. “He goes to unnecessary lengths to seem infallible. Here, have a gummy.”

Izuku has never heard someone talk about All Might like this. Even Aizawa, as unaffected as he seems, seems to hold a certain level of respect for All Might. Recovery Girl has that respect, but… It seems different , somehow. Maybe there are people out there who know All Might as a person, rather than just a hero—or in Izuku’s case, as a teacher.

He’s tempted to prod a little further, but he bites his tongue for now. All Might’s life isn’t his business, no matter if he wants to know more or not. Besides, if this trend keeps up, there’ll be plenty of time for him to hear more from Recovery Girl; he hasn’t made even a small amount of progress with One for All, so he’s going to be in this office a lot, probably.

Besides. He’s… really tired, now that his arm has stopped hurting so much.

“An overstimulated empath and my quirk aren’t a good mix,” Recovery Girl says sagely. She nudges Izuku toward the pillow. “You’re not going to be any use to anyone in that state, dear. Rest is essential to recovery.”

Izuku doesn’t want to, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to persuade her to let him go back to class. Healing hero though she may be, there’s steel in her mind that won’t be broken. He can’t seem to find the energy to try either, so he acquiesces, letting his eyes drift shut.

When he wakes up, it’s to All Might being scolded by Recovery Girl.

“—He’s got a hero complex the size of yours and none of the training to back it. Don’t indulge that behavior if it’s going to get him seriously injured! That should be your first concern as a teacher, whether he’s your successor or not.”

He shifts slightly, still not even really half awake, and finds that his arm has an IV in it. He vaguely wonders why before dozing off again.

Izuku drifts in and out for a while, catching snippets of the rest of conversation between Recovery Girl and All Might, then silence. When he wakes up for real, there are only about twenty minutes left until homeroom, and he’s sore as hell.

“Awake?” Recovery Girl looks over at him from her desk. Izuku tries to nod before realizing what a mistake that is, and she chuckles. There’s an undercurrent of worry that he manages to pick up on, though. “The worst of your concussion and the breaks in your arms should be gone by tomorrow morning, but you’ll need to come see me for the burns and the less severe fractures before school. Can you manage not to strain yourself for less than a day?”

Izuku scratches the back of his head sheepishly. “I’ll do my best.”

She tuts, but removes the IV and puts his arm in a sling without further comment before sending him to class with a note and a handful of gummy candy.

The clock on his phone says he’s only about five minutes late to homeroom. Thank goodness for small mercies.

Still, Izuku can feel the eyes on him as he makes his way to his seat. Another spider is perched there, but he lets it be since it looks harmless. There’s an inordinate amount of relief coming from Uraraka and Iida, but it’s the vague worry coming from the rest of the class that’s more surprising; they don’t even know him, so why would they worry about him at all? Logically, though, he supposes it makes sense. They’re all aspiring heroes, after all.

At least, that’s what he tells himself as he chews on a pencil and tries his hardest to ignore Kacchan very obviously staring at him with a blank expression. His emotions are just as unreadable right now, a swirling black hole of confusion and rage that Izuku would, frankly, give almost anything to keep away from his consciousness. Unfortunately, he’s not sure he could manage to block that bond for very long after the beating it took earlier.

So he does the next best thing, latching onto Aizawa’s bored exhaustion. It is, as usual, a phenomenal anchor in a sea of emotions, and Izuku’s head clears a bit.

Aizawa’s lecturing doesn’t miss a beat, but he does raise an eyebrow ever so slightly and glance in Izuku’s direction for a fraction of a second. A thrum of amusement comes through the link, and Izuku becomes embarrassingly aware that he isn’t as sneaky as he hoped he was.

The bell rings soon afterward, and Aizawa’s head thumps loudly onto the desk. He’s asleep—or at least, seems to be—in a fraction of an instant. Taking this as a sign of dismissal, everyone starts to pack their things. Only a few people leave immediately though.

“Deku-kun!”

Uraraka yells his name and Izuku jolts, nearly shrieking in surprise. She’s got both hands on his desk—when did she even have time to get over here?—as she leans over, seemingly inspecting his wounds. “Are you okay? What was all that about earlier?”

“Uraraka-san, please refrain from yelling! I believe you startled him. And no wonder, after today!” Iida’s sudden appearance has Izuku jumping half a foot off his seat, since he’s not really any quieter than Uraraka had been.

He flushes, looking down at his desk. “It’s fine, Iida,” he says. “Jumpiness is part and parcel of being around me, you get used to it.”

From across the room, Kacchan snorts quietly before shouldering his bag and walking out. For one long moment, Izuku entertains the notion of going after him, explaining everything about One for All and All Might’s training, even empathy. Then he sighs and dismisses it; if he knows anything for sure right now, it’s that Kacchan is in the worst possible state of mind for anyone to try talking to him.

“Do you want to go get something to eat?” Uraraka asks.

Izuku reverts his attention back to the other two. Iida looks like he’s thinking it over, and Uraraka is practically bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement.

“Oh are you going to get food?” It’s Ashido. Izuku didn’t even notice that she and her friends were still here.

“Sounds like fun! Can we come?” Kaminari sits on the desk next to Izuku. “Kirishima went home already so we’ve got nothing else to do.”

Izuku isn’t sure how to decline without being awkward, but he’s kind of exhausted. In the face of their excitement though, he knows he’s going to get swept into the plans if he doesn’t say anything.

“Midoriya-chan, you seem tired. Are your injuries alright?” The question is followed by a quiet croak not unlike a frog’s. Izuku remembers Asui well; her quirk stuck in his head on the first day because of how versatile it is.

He takes the opportunity she’s presented him and runs with it. “I’m alright, but I should get home anyway. My mom is going to be worried enough when I come home like this.”

The others laugh when he lightly shakes his broken arm in its sling. They don’t seem angry that he’s blowing them off, just a little disappointed. That’s not fantastic, but he supposes it means they really do want to hang out with him. It’s nice, in a way.

“Raincheck?” he offers, smiling shyly.

“I'm afraid I can't go either,” Iida says. He sounds significantly less awkward than Izuku, though he supposed that makes sense.

Everyone else can go, apparently, which leaves Iida and Izuku alone once they leave with promises to hang out another time.

When they're gone, Iida turns to him with a smile. “What direction is your house? At the very least, we may be able to walk part of the way home together.”

As it turns out, Iida lives in the same direction. Aizawa is completely asleep, which generally means Izuku doesn't have training, so he and Iida leave together, waving at familiar faces in the hall. Izuku leads them a little out of the way to avoid the underpass where all this began. The result had been great, but he's in no hurry to relive that part of that day.

Walking with Iida is interesting. Izuku doesn't have to carry the conversation himself, but he's certainly not silent either. He responds to Izuku’s enthusiasm with equal (or almost equal) vigor, and despite his robotic way of speaking, the conversation flows in a way Izuku has never experienced with someone his own age. They keep the topics light, with the exception of the slime villain-- “That was you and Bakugou six months ago, yes?” --but it's still the most fun Izuku has had with a classmate in… well, ever.

In retrospect, then, it shouldn't be very surprising when Iida goes from being fairly content to a burst of shocked fear in less than a second.

“What on earth--”

Izuku looks ahead, toward where Iida is staring. There, sitting in the middle of the road less than two meters away from them, is a massive spider easily the size of one of Iida’s hands.

Chapter Text

Tenya doesn’t think of himself as judgmental by nature; on the contrary, his judgments are, for the most part, based in careful analysis of a person’s behavior or the general situation he’s facing. He prides himself on being able to change his own opinions, given appropriate evidence, but also in his good instincts with people. He rarely finds the need to revise his first impressions.

Then he met Midoriya Izuku. First impression: disrespectful, irresponsible, and delusional if he thought he was going to become a great hero. Harsh, perhaps, but not an illogical conclusion, given his behavior at the entrance exam several months ago.

Tenya’s second impression of Midoriya Izuku is much more amicable, garnering the respect he didn’t originally think the other boy worthy of. After all, only someone with a truly heroic spirit would figure out the true meaning behind the practical portion of the U.A entrance exam. This went hand in hand with his first impression of Uraraka, as someone willing to potentially give up admittance to the best school in the country in order to give a chance to someone just as worthy.

He also appears to have… very few positive experiences with his peers, to put it lightly. Midoriya, for as talkative as he can be—downright chatty at times—is very quiet until he finds a niche he decides he fits into. Tenya noticed it at lunch yesterday, when Ashido, Kirishima, and Kaminari joined them, and again today after class. Coupled with his and Bakugou’s past, Tenya has a general idea of why that might be.

After the disaster of their battle simulation, Tenya admits that his original verdict of “irresponsible” still holds regrettably true for Midoriya, but U.A. is unlikely to let that go unchecked for long.

Tenya is also glad that, as he doesn’t particularly like secrets, Midoriya appears to be an open and honest person with very few secrets to his name. All in all, it appears that once he gets over his unfortunate habit of hurting himself every time he needs to accomplish anything, Midoriya will be a fantastic hero, and Tenya is proud to make his acquaintance.

It’s that habit that spurs him into walking Midoriya home, though, particularly when he confirms that the villain attack last year was Midoriya and not someone who happened to look similar. Something tells Tenya that being friends with Midoriya is going to require a little more caretaking than it has with Momo in the past, for more reasons than one. Still, the conversation is pleasant and Tenya finds himself losing track of time.

At least, he loses track of time until they come across a massive spider standing directly in their path.

“What on earth? ” Tenya doesn’t think he can be blamed for the outburst—after all, a spider that large garners some surprise even under the best circumstances.

Midoriya looks confused for a moment before seeming to register the situation. “Oh. What are you doing here?”

Apparently, Midoriya is not planning on stopping the behavior that’s already given Tenya no less than three heart attack scares in three (total) days, because he doesn’t miss a beat before shouldering his backpack, walking up to the spider—which is easily the size of Midoriya’s face —and scooping it into his hands.

Tenya resolves that Midoriya does, in fact, lack any semblance of survival instincts when he pets the thing and deposits it carefully on his left shoulder.

“I do have a phone, you know,” Midoriya chides the spider, as if that’s a perfectly sensible thing that normal people do. “You didn’t need to follow me to school and all the way home.”

It takes a moment for Tenya to find his voice. “M-Midoriya, be careful! You are already injured enough as it is!”

“Of what?” Midoriya looks at him with wide eyes that are too innocent for someone with a twenty centimeter spider standing on his shoulder. For a moment he seems to realize what a dangerous and strange thing he’s done, but he smashes Tenya’s relief to pieces when his eyes fill with laughter that doesn’t reach his mouth. “Oh, him? This is Yori. He belongs to my friend Sumiko, he’s completely harmless.”

The spider moves for the first time since scurrying its horribly long legs into Midoriya’s hands, nudging a leg against his neck. Tenya’s heart leaps to his throat, but Midoriya just laughs.

“I guess belongs is a strong word. He gets annoyed if we call him a pet.” Midoriya pets the thing again and Tenya suppresses a shudder. “Sumiko-senpai’s quirk lets her talk to spiders, so she sends them to check up on me sometimes.”

“I see.” The explanation makes perfect sense, but that doesn’t make the spider itself any less unpleasant.

“Is that weird? Sumiko-senpai and I have been friends a long time, but I know her quirk freaks people out sometimes…” Midoriya’s eyes shine with a vulnerability that makes Tenya feel like a horrible person for associating any negative thoughts with him at all.

Tenya shakes his head and privately wonders if Midoriya is aware of the power of his puppy dog eyes. “Not at all! It is admirable that your friend cares so much about you, no matter how unorthodox her methods may be!”

It’s a half truth at best, but there’s something about Midoriya that makes it hard for Tenya to want to say anything that might even slightly upset him.

Then Midoriya beams at him, seeming happy that his new friend accepts the stranger aspects of his old one, and Tenya decides that it’s probably the smile. Momo has a similar one that’s gotten her nearly everything she’s ever asked for.

It’s a dangerous power in the wrong hands, Tenya thinks as he tries to pick up their conversation from where it left off.

-

Izuku isn’t stupid; he knows Iida is freaked out by Yori. Actually, he’d be more surprised if Iida just took a surprise like this in stride. Born and bred hero or not, a twenty centimeter huntsman spider is enough to freak most people out.

Still, it’s a pleasant surprise that it’s the spider and not the quirk that seems to be making Iida twitchy. After all, Izuku can’t fault anyone for being unnerved by a spider, but certain quirks have a tendency to garner… mixed responses. That’s a little harder for him to overlook for more reasons than one.

He didn’t need to worry though; Iida is too nice to be that kind of person. He even seems to be genuinely trying not to stare at Yori too much despite his perch on Izuku’s shoulder.

When they reach Izuku’s block, he and Iida part ways without Izuku making a complete fool of himself. Despite the little hiccup, Iida doesn’t seem like he’s going to drop Izuku the way he’d originally feared.

“I will see you tomorrow morning, Midoriya. Do your best not to injure yourself further, if you would.” His voice is muffled from the bandages on Izuku’s right ear.

He can’t help the flustered flush that spreads across his face. “I’m trying not to make it a habit, don’t worry. See you tomorrow!”

With any luck, he’ll get the hang of One for All before this bone-breaking thing does become a habit, he muses as he makes his way down the block to his house. As he passes the Bakugous’ house, he can hear both Kacchan and his mother from all the way across the street. If he walks a little faster to pass it, well.

Only Yori is there to witness it.

It takes less than a minute to get to his house from there, and there are two starkly different minds inside. It doesn’t seem like Mom is alone. Izuku looks at his bandages, a bit self-conscious. Mom is bound to be upset when she sees the state he’s in, but he’d prefer not to have that conversation in front of any of her friends.

There’s no putting it off though, so he opens the door. He waits to greet his mother and her friend until he takes off his shoes and makes it into the living room. “I’m home.”

“Izuku! Welcome home—goodness, what happened to you?” Mom doesn’t pay Yori any mind and is careful when she takes his face in her hands, mindful of his heavily bandaged right ear. Her worry and dread are nearly overwhelming, but Izuku smiles half-heartedly.

“I’ll be fine tomorrow, don’t worry.”

He doesn’t mean to deflect the question, but telling Mom everything that happened today is just going to upset her more. Though, in Izuku’s opinion, it’s been a… pretty good day, all things considered.

Not that he’d even dream of telling Mom that; she’s beyond worried enough as it is, and it doesn’t seem like she’s going to overlook that he hasn’t answered the question. Her eyebrows furrow a bit. “I’ll be calling Mitsuki about Katsuki later, but you’re to do everything possible to avoid fighting him in school, understand?”

Izuku starts to nod before he freezes.

“How did you know—” He glances at the spider perched on his shoulder and realizes. “Sumiko-senpai talked to you again, didn’t she?”

Mom sighs. “Yes, because she knew you wouldn’t give me the full story. We worry about you, Izuku.”

Well, there’s nothing like a good guilt trip to make Izuku want to spill his deepest secrets. Mom does deserve to know the truth though, especially about One for All. If he tries to keep her in the dark… all she’s going to do is worry and assume the worst. Izuku glances at his messed up arm and realizes that this is the first of many times he’s going to come home like this.

“I’m sorry” is all he says. “I don’t mean for you to worry. I’m being careful though, like I promised.”

Mom raises an eyebrow and eyes the heavy bandaging on his head. “I can see that.”

Izuku flushes. He’s only saved from responding because Sumiko picks that moment to peek in from behind the door. “Is now a bad time?”

Her eyes widen when she looks at Izuku and notices his injuries, but she doesn’t move.

“No, no, Sumiko-chan, if you want to talk to him you should do it quickly. You said your uncle gets off work soon, right? You should be getting home.” Mom smiles at her and Izuku is a little scared that the two of them are teaming up on this.

She seems to take that as permission and enters the room fully. Her steps are nearly silent as she walks over to Izuku and puts a gentle hand on the uninjured side of his face. “I’m glad you’re ok. I’ve had a few eyes on you since yesterday, but you know they’re not great with details. I didn’t know how bad it was.”

Izuku sighs. He’s glad, on some level, that he has a friend who worries about him, but he doesn’t want her to have to. Especially since she’s right; spiders don’t have the most reliable memories, or even the same ability to understand pain. To a spider, you’re either functional or half dead.

“Like I said,” Izuku says, boxing away Sumiko’s worry in his mind because it’s a little overwhelming, “I’ll be fine by tomorrow.”

She looks at him, and he can’t help feeling a little unnerved. Her quirk makes her pupils massive, so that her eyes look eerily black despite their natural brown. “The two of you brought a building down on yourselves.”

Well, that’s… a valid concern. All of this is, and Izuku knows it. He just doesn’t know how to fix it.

“Trust me,” Izuku says, avoiding both her eyes and Mom’s by looking down at a tiny stain in the carpet, “If I hadn’t brought down the building, it would have gotten worse.”

It’s a half-truth at best, since Izuku doesn’t actually know how much worse it could have gotten without All Might intervening, but it does seem to make Sumiko back down. She worries about him, especially when Kacchan is involved, and to be fair, Izuku doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to interacting with Kacchan.

Still, it’s not like he wanted to get half his ear blown off.

“You still need to be careful,” Mom scolds him. She doesn’t seem to like the idea of Izuku bringing a building down on himself. He can’t exactly blame her.

Mom definitely has opinions she’s not sharing about this, Izuku knows. She’s always made it abundantly clear that she disapproves of Kacchan’s and Izuku’s lopsided “friendship,” even when they were kids. Hopefully, when she knows that Izuku is more than capable of defending himself, he’ll be able to put at least some of that worry to rest.

He chooses not to think about the several other problems that are going to arise from that later. For now, it seems like both Mom and Sumiko are content to let it lie when he promises not to bring another building down on himself on purpose.

Actually, Mom is probably just trying not to make a scene in front of a guest. Izuku will take what he can get though, all things considered.

“Are you going to stay for dinner, Sumiko-chan?” Mom asks with a smile.

Sumiko smiles, but shakes her head. “My uncle and I are going out for dinner tonight, so I should get going. Thank you for the offer though.”

She’s lying, Izuku knows, but he didn’t expect anything different. Sumiko is the least social person he’s ever met; coming over to talk to Mom probably took a lot out of her emotionally, if the barely concealed panic is any indication.

“I’ll walk you out,” Izuku offers. Sumiko looks at him gratefully.

The front door closes behind them. Izuku lingers at the gate. “Hey, senpai? I have a favor to ask.”

The look Sumiko gives him is curious, but there’s a sense of knowing coming from her as well. “Yeah?”

“I know you’re worried about me but you can’t use your quirk to keep an eye on me at school.” Izuku winces at his own bluntness, but there isn’t really a better way to say it. He can’t even imagine what the staff would think if they caught wind of a random high schooler spying on them.

Though it does bring up an interesting hole in the school's security that he thinks he should talk to Recovery Girl about tomorrow.

Sumiko looks at him, dubious. “You didn't really think I would agree to that, did you?”

Izuku sighs, because no. He really didn't. “U.A. takes security seriously, senpai. Even reporters aren't allowed inside.”

It takes a moment for Sumiko to respond. When she does, it’s with real exasperation. “It's only the second day, Izuku. You've already picked a fight with that Bakugou kid, and broken a bone, and you want me not to worry?”

Izuku decides that now would be a bad time to mention how many bones he actually broke. “What makes you so sure I picked a fight? The pairing was random. Neither of us had anything to do with it.”

Sumiko doesn’t even grace that with a response, just giving Izuku a look. Which is fair.

They stare each other down for longer than is comfortable. Izuku isn't surprised when he cracks first; Sumiko can be ridiculously stubborn about certain things, and Kacchan is one of them.

“They can come with me on my way to school,” he concedes. “But you really can't send them on campus or we'll both get in trouble.”

Sumiko hesitates, setting Izuku on edge. It’s actually not likely that there would be any serious repercussions, but to have anything go wrong when he’s so, so close to his dream… Maybe it’s selfish, but he doesn’t want that taken away from him now.

And then there’s One for All. As soon as the thought occurs to him, Izuku has to physically keep himself from panicking. The last thing he wants Sumiko’s worried meddling to put her in danger.

Izuku has become an expert at hiding his emotions, but the words still come out tinged with the slightest hint of desperation. “Promise me.”

It takes a moment, but Sumiko nods with a small smile, plucking Yori off of Izuku’s shoulder. “Alright. I promise. As long as you don’t go picking fights with Bakugou, I won’t try to mother you.”

The thought makes Izuku wrinkle his nose a little. “You’re only a year older than me, let my mom do her thing please.”

Sumiko laughs softly and ruffles his hair before turning to leave. “Your mom needs all the help she can get with you sometimes.”

For a second Izuku wants to protest, but it’s pretty clear that Sumiko is kidding; besides, he can’t deny that the past year has been hard on his mother. So instead he pouts and waits to go inside before she’s out of sight.

“Did Sumiko-chan get going?” Mom asks when he gets back inside. She’s standing at the kitchen counter, facing away from Izuku.

“Yeah.”

Between one moment and another, Mom manages to cross the room and wrap her arms around Izuku with a quiet hiccup. “You are not allowed to break yourself in school, Izuku!”

The words are scolding, but she’s definitely crying. She’s avoiding his injuries, but that seems to be the extent of what she can make herself do right now, since there’s a wet spot growing on Izuku’s shirt.

“I was so worried about you going to school with Katsuki and then Sumiko-chan knocked on the door for the first time in years and tells me you got yourself hurt fighting with him and-- and--” Mom is choking on her emotions, and Izuku is doing his best not to do the same. He didn’t mean to scare her.

“I’m alright, really,” he says, trying to help her calm down enough to actually talk things out with her. “There’s something we have to talk about though. I should have told you a while ago actually. It’s about how I got into U.A.”

His poor mother is a swirling mess of relief and worry, but she does eventually come to terms with the fact that Izuku is relatively fine and will be right as rain in the morning.

It almost makes Izuku feel bad about telling her about All Might and One for All and his empathy quirk when she starts crying again. He’s crying too, this time, and can’t really be bothered to parse out who is feeling what. It’s been a hell of a day.

Izuku is grateful that they manage to get through dinner and he can go to bed early, but Mom fixes him with the Look, the one that means that they will be discussing this further later. He’s not looking forward to it, but the healing he got earlier has him running on fumes. He falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

 

Chapter Text

It's cold when Izuku wakes up in the morning. Too cold even for spring. He's up early, which probably accounts for at least some of it, but when he reaches over to his phone and checks the weather report, it doesn't look like it's going to change for the next few hours.

He doesn't plan on sticking around for breakfast; Mom took the news about One for All startlingly well, but Izuku really doesn't want to push that luck. It only takes him twenty minutes to get dressed and another fifteen to throw together a quick omelette and inhale it. He needs to get to school early anyway.

Changing his bandages proves to be a bit of an issue, since he slept on the side of his injured ear and now the old ones have scabbed over. But he manages without irritating the burn too much, which is lucky; after the last twenty-four hours, Izuku isn't sure he'll be able to handle another scolding from Recovery Girl.

Izuku's link to Kacchan tingles with mild grumpiness, signalling that the other boy is awake and moving. If Izuku wants to avoid dealing with him on the walk to school, he should leave soon.

He doesn't plan on doing much for breakfast anyway, since any energy he'd gain from it would just end up gone by the time class starts anyway. So Izuku grabs a piece of cheese and heads out the door.

The rest of the Bakugou house is still dark when he passes it, but Izuku swears he can feel Kacchan's eyes on him when he walks by the window. He walks a little faster, grip on his bag tightening just a bit.

There are still quite a few people awake and moving around, he notices. There's an almost overwhelming amount of excitement that grows as he gets closer and closer to U.A. School doesn't start for another few hours, so it's a bit odd.

It's only when the gates are visible that he figures out why: there are at least a hundred reporters congregated outside, all clamoring for a way in. Trying to make his way through that is... an unappealing concept, to say the least. But there aren't any other entrances that Izuku knows of.

One of the reporters catches sight of Izuku almost immediately and takes in his school uniform in the same second. Izuku braces himself for the inevitable swarm of people clamoring for his attention, since he's almost undoubtedly the first student they've seen today.

"Young man! You're sure here early, how do you like it here?"

"What is it like, having the number one hero as a teacher?"

"Is he as good at teaching as the world thinks he is?"

"Are those injuries related to your coursework?"

"What's All Might really like?"

Izuku tries to duck his head and get through them, but apparently there's not much that can stop reporters. They're crowding him, blocking his way into the school, and at the moment he's too preoccupied with trying to block out their questions and their emotions to try and fight through it.

Something wraps around his waist and that's the only warning Izuku has before he's being pulled out of the crowd and a single hand lands on his shoulder.

"If you have questions, feel free to send a request through the proper channels." Aizawa's voice rings loud and clear, cutting through the din of reporters still calling out questions. "Our first years are, clearly, underage and cannot consent to be interviewed without you contacting their parents. If you'd like to keep your jobs, I suggest that you keep that in mind."

Aizawa releases the capture weapon from Izuku's waist and turns, motioning for Izuku to follow. Izuku is slightly hesitant to turn his back to the horde of reporters, but he does it when Aizawa stops to give him a chance to catch up.

"Damn reporters," he mutters. "They never know when to stop."

Oh, Izuku remembers. Aizawa is an underground hero. One of his least favorite things has always reportedly been dealing with the press. That's one more rumor about Eraserhead that Izuku can check off as being fact, then.

It's not until they get inside that Aizawa actually looks at him, and Izuku is oddly grateful. That was a lot, and having a few minutes to process so much emotion is nice.

"That was like an adrenaline rush from hell," he whispers to himself.

Aizawa snickers quietly before Izuku can even process that he's just cursed in front of a teacher. "Get used to it. If you want to be a hero it's going to get worse."

Izuku doesn't really want to think about that right now. "You're here early, sensei."

"I work here." The amusement isn't gone, but it's less visible than it was a second ago. Honestly, Izuku is surprised it was ever there in the first place. Aizawa likes keeping up appearances, even when something really does strike him as amusing or upsetting.

Not that Izuku or even All Might is any better about it, he supposes.

Aizawa walks him to Recovery Girl's office, and Izuku can't help but hope she's in a good mood. She's terrifying when she's angry.

As it turns out, though she isn’t particularly happy with the way the burns are healing, she seems impressed that Izuku hasn’t made any of his injuries worse. Which is fair, he supposes.

Unlike yesterday, she doesn’t keep Izuku for too long. Once his arm and burns are well on their way to healing, Recovery Girl sends him to the cafeteria with a note for Lunch Rush that says simply, “Feed him” in perfect penmanship.

It’s nearly deserted when he gets there, but Lunch Rush laughs when he gets the note. “Already got a major injury, kid? She must have put you through the scolding of your life.”

Izuku just smiles sheepishly and nods, deciding against mentioning the two major injuries he managed to get in the space of ten minutes.

Lunch Rush hands him a tray piled high and flashes a thumbs up before going back to whatever he was cooking before.

He looks around for a place to sit. Only one chair is full, this early in the morning. After a moment's deliberation, Izuku decides that he may as well try to be friendly.

The other person is a boy with deep violet hair and eye bags to rival Aizawa's. He looks like he's working on an assignment.

"Do you... mind if I sit here?" Izuku asks, smiling.

The guy looks up at him blankly, but Izuku can feel cold surprise and suspicion cut through him like a knife.

"Whatever." He goes back to his homework without even a second glance, but he's not focusing on it at all. Izuku doesn't say anything for a while and just eats his food. That seems to do the trick. The guy's emotions level out somewhat and his hackles lower.

Izuku doesn't risk speaking up until he finishes most of his food. There are a few more people in the cafeteria now, most talking quietly amongst themselves or working on some assignment or other.

"I'm Midoriya Izuku, by the way. I'm in the hero course, what about you?" Izuku flashes the other boy a grin.

The boy doesn't seem impressed and Izuku can't help but panic a little. "Sorry if I'm being awkward, I'm not really great at... peopleing. What's your name?"

It's a long moment before the other boy responds, and he seems to be steeling himself for something. "Shinsou Hitoshi. I'm in general studies. My quirk is Brainwashing."

The fanboy within Izuku has a mild heart attack-- brainwashing quirks are so rare . "That's so cool!"

Shinsou blinks slowly, absolutely floored. "Um. What?"

"That's such an awesome quirk," Izuku babbles, reaching for his notebook. Luckily his arm is nearly healed; in his excitement, he'd forgotten it was even in the sling. "Brainwashing is so uncommon, how powerful is your quirk? How does it work? Can you control more than one person? It’s too bad you’re in general studies, your quirk is perfect for heroics."

That seems to break Shinsou out of his shock. He snorts. "That's not what the hero exam results said."

"Oh, is that why you're in general studies?" At Shinsou's shrug, Izuku shakes his head. "That doesn’t really seem fair. I have a strength augmenting quirk, so I would have had an unfair advantage over quirks like yours."

Shinsou's expression flattens almost immediately. "I know."

"But why wouldn't there be a less physical practical?" Izuku mutters, barely hearing him as he scribbles in his notebook. He can clean up the notes later. "I never even thought of that, but people like you and Eraserhead would have had a tough time with an exam like that."

When Izuku looks up, Shinsou seems almost amused. At least that's better than most of the other reactions Izuku's muttering has garnered over the years.

"You're kind of a weird guy."

Izuku scratches the back of his neck. "Yeah, well…”

Shinsou puts his papers away and shoulders his bag. "I'll see you around, Midoriya."

It seems like he means it, too, so Izuku counts that as a win in the "social interactions" column. He waves and grins brightly. "I hope so, Shinsou-kun!"

Shinsou disappears through the doors. The cafeteria isn’t as empty anymore, so close to class, but Izuku only finishes his food and packs his things. There isn’t enough time for him to talk to anyone else for long, but his conversation with Shinsou was more than enough to put him in a decent mood. It seems like UA really is going to be different, just like he’d hoped.

But not this different, he thinks in a panic less than an hour later. His name is on the board above Yaoyoruzu’s, labeling the two of them class rep and vice rep, and not a single person outside of Kacchan is listening to Izuku when he says he’s really not the best for this job pick someone else please. Even Aizawa just shrugs and moves on with class, leaving Izuku to stew in his own nerves and try to block out Kacchan’s irritation. And Aizawa is no help for once; when he’s actually in the room, he’s silently amused at this, and then he’s not in the room because homeroom is over.

Really, there are worse things than having a class that trusts him and thinks he’s cool, but Izuku is used to being a wallflower; a little warning would have been nice.

He can’t seem to focus on classes too much, which is probably not too terrible as it’s still the first week. Still not ideal, but he’ll deal with it. Uraraka manages to snap him out of it fairly quickly during lunch with an offhand question about whether or not Iida is a “rich boy.”

For the first time, Iida actually seems flustered, though that’s where his reservations begin and end. His eyes light up as he tells them about Ingenium, the older brother he admires so much, and Izuku thinks he could listen to Iida go on like this for hours. Ingenium is to Iida what All Might is to Izuku, and it’s beyond nice to find someone who’s as open about that sort of admiration as Izuku has always been.

Unfortunately, the moment is shattered when a blaring alarm tears through the chatter in the cafeteria.

Even before Iida and Uraraka manage to react, Izuku’s head is pounding, full of hundreds of people’s panic and confusion. He vaguely hears someone say there’s an intruder on campus before Iida is dragging him and Uraraka out into the hall to evacuate.

Izuku was already reeling in the cafeteria, but this is immensely worse. Now it’s like the press from this morning on an exponentially worse level. Students from every grade are packed into the halls like sardines, all at varying levels of panic that’s churning Izuku’s stomach. He and Uraraka get separated from Iida, then each other, and then Izuku is alone in a sea of people and their feelings . Kacchan isn’t anywhere nearby, though through the link Izuku can tell that he’s annoyed and excited; Aizawa is far away too, more irritated than anything. Neither of them is in their normal mindset and Izuku can’t manage to get a hold on anything concrete to ground himself until a sharp, clear spike of almost childlike delight cuts through all the panic like nothing, and Izuku latches on out of instinct.

His mind clears slightly, just enough to get himself back on his feet. Iida is… above the exit sign? How did he get up there? Izuku can just make him out above the heads of several taller upperclassmen in front of him.

He’s yelling something about a false alarm and the press-- the stupid press, Izuku thinks bitterly, realizing why Aizawa is probably so irritated --and people calm down bit by bit, as the news makes the rounds. The crushing panic they were all feeling eases up, and Izuku feels like he can breathe again. The childlike delight seeps away slowly as well, but Izuku doesn’t chase it now that he’s got his feet under him again. It was probably a passerby, since it’s still there and there appears to be a crowd outside the gates.

It takes nearly an hour and a half to get back to class, and hero training is cancelled for the day because of the incident. So they pile into homeroom, and Aizawa announces a study period, looking like he’d prefer nothing more than to collapse on the floor, unconscious.

Still, Izuku stands up. “Sensei, can I make an announcement?”

Aizawa just shrugs and waves him along, so he takes a deep breath. “I’ve decided to resign as class president.” The class erupts into confused questions and he winces; he’s had more than enough of these unintentional group attacks for the day. “Instead,” he says, trying to get everyone’s attention, “I’ve decided to make Iida the class president in my place, since I  believe he’s most suited to it, after today.”

That part seems less surprising to the rest of them, and there’s not a single person who seems to disagree. Even Kacchan only grumbles a bit before settling down.

The rest of the period is uneventful, most people disregarding the idea of “studying” when it’s only the first week of school. Iida tries several times to get the class on track with Yaoyoruzu’s help, but it rarely works for longer than a few minutes. Izuku doesn’t envy that responsibility, but Iida is much better suited than he is. He made a good choice.

Aizawa is asleep until dismissal, sitting up when they all start packing up. “Come prepared to work yourselves to the bone tomorrow,” he says, monotone as ever. “And be on time.”

People say their goodbyes and head home. Izuku shoulders his backpack to do the same.

“Midoriya,” Aizawa says, rolling up his sleeping bag, “A word.”

“I guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Izuku waves apologetically to Uraraka and Iida. He waves off their offers to wait for him, so they leave.

Aizawa looks at him intensely enough that it feels to Izuku like he’s being examined from four feet away. “You’re still coherent,” is all he says.

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Izuku mutters. He clears his throat before he runs his mouth any further. “Sorry.”

“I’m not surprised.” Aizawa rolls his eyes and sits on his desk. “Your coherency in the aftermath of a high-stress situation is the bare minimum of what I expect after months of training under myself and All Might.”

The not that he’s doing such a great job goes unsaid, but it’s there in the way Aizawa’s eyes linger on Izuku’s no longer broken arm.

“Regardless, today I’ve--”

“I am here to assist in your training!”

There’s a surge of irritation, but Aizawa’s eye only twitches for a moment. “As I said, I’ve asked him to come in and help with your manipulation training. He’ll be your crash test dummy, as it were.”

Izuku cocks his head slightly in confusion, looking from Aizawa to the now powered-down All Might and back again. “I’m supposed to practice… on All Might? I thought I was practicing on you, Sensei.”

The man says nothing, simply raising an eyebrow in that way that means he expects Izuku to figure it out on his own. Not that he has much time to say anything to begin with, since All Might speaks up.

“I’m happy to help, my boy!” he says, clapping Izuku on the shoulder. “It will be a learning experience for us both. And I do love giving my students a good challenge!”

Izuku has no idea what he means by that.

-

Midoriya finds out very quickly what All Might means by that, which makes Shouta’s lips twitch imperceptibly. It amuses and frustrates him endlessly when he puts his students into difficult situations and they bang their heads against the same wall over and over, expecting a different result.

He’d known exactly how this first lesson would play out the moment All Might accepted his request for help training the boy; Midoriya would dive headfirst into unknown waters, as he always does. From there he would make one of two realizations: either he would figure out the mechanics of his quirk, or he would get lost in the maze of emotions All Might carries around as the Symbol of Peace.

And at the moment, it’s looking like the latter.

Midoriya has laughed and cried more than a few times in the last hour and a half, which is par for the course in this sort of training. It’s fascinating to witness secondhand the emotions of a man who’s always smiling.

Which isn’t the reason Shouta enlisted All Might in this training, but is certainly an interesting side benefit.

The real reason, which he’s almost sure Midoriya will have grasped by the end of the day, is that links are a crutch during training. His link with Shouta made him a less than ideal test subject for Midoriya’s emotional manipulation ability.

It’s still a little funny how the boy seemed to think Shouta wasn’t aware of the emotional connection he’d formed unconsciously. It wasn’t surprising in the slightest; personally training someone with an empathy quirk meant he’d had to be prepared for that anyway.

“Doesn’t this feel a little invasive?” Midoriya asks for the eighth time, wincing. “I don’t feel right just… poking around your head.”

All Might just throws his head back and laughs. “It’s fine, my boy!” he says, for the eighth time. “We’re nearly done anyhow.”

Midoriya is making progress, though it’s clear he doesn’t see it yet. Shouta has to wonder at the quality of education he and Bakugou recieved, that not only did Midoriya never realize his own quirk over the course of ten years, but neither had any of his teachers. The kid’s a quick learner, picking up on the breadcrumbs Shouta drops for him almost immediately. How he’d managed to keep a handle on any of this without the quirk instruction his classmates had been given as children is as much a mystery as his second quirk, whatever that is.

Frankly, it leaves Shouta a little impressed.

At the two hour mark, Midoriya’s eyes are as determined as ever but he’s straining himself. After the stress he was under today, that’s no surprise. It’s getting dark, as well, so Shouta calls it a day.

“I don’t want to walk you home,” he says as an explanation, which is the truth even if it’s not the whole truth. It’s in the opposite direction of his apartment and his patrol route, so night training was more inconvenient than productive.

As Midoriya shoulders his backpack again, he looks at Shouta. “By the way, sensei. I meant to tell someone about this earlier but today was just so crazy and there wasn’t much downtime before the study period, and then I couldn’t exactly talk to you in private because I didn’t want to disturb you--”

“Spit it out, Midoriya,” Shouta says. He hits send on a text to Thirteen and looks at the boy sharply.

Midoriya looks between him and All Might. “I have this friend…”

By the end of the inevitable muttering phase, Shouta can safely say that he’s pieced together most of the point: U.A.’s security is lacking. This isn’t exactly news.

“Thank you for telling me. I’ll bring it up to the Principal when we have our next staff meeting. See to it that your friend keeps her promise, Midoriya.”

“Both she and you could have gotten yourselves in serious trouble, had you not brought this to our attention,” All Might pipes up, a little unnecessarily. The look on Midoriya’s face proves that he already knows this, but what’s done is done.

They send Midoriya home and Shouta grabs his things to leave. All Might doesn’t have any paperwork to deal with about tomorrow, the lucky bastard, since he doesn’t have a homeroom. Shouta, on the other hand, has another few emails he has to send to the principal and Recovery Girl tonight.

A text comes in from Thirteen, telling him that the USJ facility is ready for use, and that security is heightened after today’s incident.

Chapter Text

“--waiting for more heroes to arrive and support, Mount Lady and Kamui Woods are doing their best to contain the situation.”

“Do not fear, citizens, for I am here on my way to work!”

Tomura sneers and jabs at the power button on the old TV perhaps a little too harshly. That voice just.

Grates on him.

He takes a deep breath of the musty air, wishing for the millionth time this week they had an air conditioning unit or even a fan to keep air moving in this nasty place. But that wasn’t nearly enough to piss him off, really. Not even listening to the newscaster praising All Might would have done that. After all, he’d only have to deal with it for one more day after today.

“We’re gonna beat the final boss, Kurogiri,” he says, spinning around a few times on his barstool.

Kurogiri doesn’t roll his eyes, but that’s probably just because he doesn’t really have eyes to roll to begin with. The guy doesn’t get excited for anything, even the idea that the world will finally be rid of All Might. Even the Nomu; when Sensei had shown Nomu to Kurogiri, he’d stiffened slightly, but nothing else.

“If all goes well,” is all he says, polishing a glass passively.

Tomura just laughs, because how could it not go well? The plan is airtight; the Nomu is unstoppable and under his full control, and Sensei’s information is the most accurate it could possibly be. All Might will be there today, and Tomura is going to be the one to kill him.

The world will finally be rid of the so-called “Symbol of Peace,” one way or another. Then they can move on to the other, less annoying things and burn them all to the ground. With All Might gone, nothing will stand in Sensei’s way, and Tomura will get to destroy whatever he wants, whatever he decides he doesn't like. And there’s quite the list.

Speaking of things Tomura doesn’t like… he turns on the audio for the store room surveillance.

“I’m just saying, he seems crazy!” Some no-name villain Kurogiri recruited last week is saying. He has tentacles for arms and vaguely looks like a squid, so he’s probably on the flood zone team. “Attacking U.A. is already too much, but trying to kill All Might? It’s suicide!”

His companion, someone with a lizard tail, just shrugs and leans on a shelf of… canned beans? Maybe vegetables. Their cameras are grainy as shit. “Not your call, man. It pays well.”

“So you’re crazy too then.” Squid-guy throws his tentacles up in the air, exasperated.

Tomura can feel his face twitch. This guy was vaguely irritating to begin with, but to have some NPC acting out on the day of his boss battle is putting a slight damper on his mood. He stands and stretches luxuriously, feeling his spine pop in a few places. Those bar stools are a bit annoying to sit on for an extended period.

A quiet clink sounds when Kurogiri sets down the glass he was working on. “Shigaraki-san--”

Tomura just waves him off and heads to the back, creeping into the hallway. The door to the store room is barely cracked. Idiots. He rolls his eyes and pushes it open, poking his head inside.

“Ooh, are we telling secrets?”

Squid-guy stares at him with the creepiest giant eyes, but Tomura can’t help but relish the terror in them when he opens the door all the way. “I-- We weren’t--”

“I-- We weren’t--” Tomura mimics, laughing. “You so were. It’s my big day, you know? I don’t want it ruined by a couple of idiots who think All Might is a god.”

Whatever Squid-guy wants to say next is cut off when Tomura reaches out and grips his chin as if talking to a child.

“You think I’m crazy?” He asks rhetorically, as the nasty, slimy skin begins to crumble away under his fingers. “Well shit. I mean, you might be right. But I don’t quite understand what you mean by this mission being too much. Maybe for you, but who the hell are you to say what’s too much for me? If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t have joined up.”

The squid-guy’s face-- or well, what’s left of it --collapses in on itself, the slime dry and the skin under it turned to dust that can’t support its own weight.

Tomura leans against the wall as the squid-guy’s body collapses on the floor. The guy with the lizard tail swallows when their eyes meet. “I didn’t--”

“If you did, you’d be dead,” Tomura says, snorting. He stands up and turns to leave, gesturing to the corpse leaking all sorts of gross things on the floor. “Clean this up. We’re leaving in a few hours.”

-

Of all the things Izuku expected from his fourth day of school, a field trip was the most mundane.

Though, to be fair, it's a U.A. field trip so it's almost guaranteed to be the furthest thing from mundane.  They already know it’s a rescue training day but it’s bound to be much more difficult than it sounds, since Aizawa is chaperoning personally instead of one of their general class teachers. Plus normal hero training is cancelled for the day, which promises a long, grueling afternoon.

“We haven’t left campus,” he notices after the bus has been going for a while. Kirishima and Kaminari look over from where they’re poking fun at Kacchan-- really, and they say Izuku has no survival instincts --and make noises that sound vaguely surprised.

Iida clears his throat and Izuku braces himself for the lecture that’s inevitably going to come about the long and rich history of U.A. and its campus. Not that he’s uninterested, but Iida is… loud.

The bus stops outside a massive dome building covered in mirrored glass. It’s easily as big as the main school building, if not maybe a little bigger. Just looking at it when the sun is directly on it like this gives Izuku a little bit of a headache.

Even without the added benefit of being able to sense her, it’s easy to tell when Uraraka sees whatever it is that excites her. She squeals in a way that reminds Izuku a little of himself.

“The Space Hero, Thirteen!”

Oh. Well now he’s just as excited as she is. Thirteen isn’t exactly an underground hero, but they don’t interact with the press much out of personal preference. There’s a lot more information about them in comparison to, say, Eraserhead, and Izuku knows quite a bit about them, but their entries in his hero journal are much less detailed than those of more well-known heroes like Present Mic. The opportunity to learn rescue techniques from someone like Thirteen is absolutely a dream come true, and since they specialize in rescue he’s sure the class is going to be incredibly helpful--

A dull thump in the back of Izuku’s head stops the flow of quiet words streaming out of his mouth.

“Shut the fuck up,” Kacchan snaps. “We get it, you’re a nerd.”

“Hey, not cool man.” Kaminari looks at Kacchan disapprovingly and crosses his arms. “The muttering doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Kacchan just rolls his eyes. “It’s annoying, dumbass. I don’t want to sit here and listen to Deku’s creepy ass fanboying. Besides, if I was planning on actually hurting him he’d be crying.”

Irritating as that response is, Izuku has to admit he has a point. That wasn’t Kacchan trying to be… Kacchan. That really was just a tap to get him out of his own head.

“I’m fine,” Izuku assures Kaminari with a sheepish grin. “I get a little lost in thought sometimes.”

It’s not fine and they both know it, but before Kaminari can argue the point or Kacchan can snap something to get the last word, Thirteen calls for their attention. “Welcome to the Unforeseen Simulation Joint. We’ve designed this facility to house several different disaster zones for you to train your quirks in various rescue scenarios. There are fires, landslides, and floods, among others.”

The class erupts into murmurs, everyone wondering which zone they’d be using today. Uraraka is saying something about wanting to be in the landslide zone, but Izuku is paying more attention to the hushed exchange between Thirteen and Aizawa. Aizawa gets irritated when Thirteen holds up three fingers, so they’re probably talking about All Might. Now that he’s thinking about it, it is a little strange that he’s not here for their basic heroics training, since that’s his subject. But if he used up all his time, that explains it. He did solve an unusual amount of incidents this morning, if the news headlines are anything to go by.

“Alright everyone!” Thirteen says, waving to get the class’s attention. “My name is Thirteen, and I’m sure at least some of you are aware that I’m a pro hero specializing in rescue, despite my Quirk--”

Before they can finish whatever they were going to say, a deep purple vortex appears near the center of the dome. People stalk out of it with grim stances and grimmer faces.

“Whoa, is this some kind of test like the entrance exam? One of those ‘the lesson has already begun’ things?” Kirishima whispers to Kaminari.

Izuku would wonder the same things if it wasn’t for the jolt of surprise and suppressed panic coming from Aizawa, that quickly cools into something colder than ice. It’s only when he pulls his goggles over his eyes that Izuku feels his spine go ramrod straight.

This isn’t a test. These are real villains, attacking their class on school grounds. The school hasn’t had time to add extra security after the breach yesterday, and there are villains in the room with them what the hell.

“Kurogiri, I distinctly remember the information saying All Might was supposed to be here,” one of them says, voice carrying clearly over the dead silence. If Izuku has to guess, it’s probably the one covered in hands, standing in front of the portal instead of surging forward like nearly everyone else.

“Say, do you think he’d come if we killed the kids instead?”

None of the villains say a word, but they all surge forward, scattering around the facility as Izuku’s blood runs cold. There are enough of them that they can probably have people stationed at every rescue zone and still have enough to launch a full frontal attack.  

“I'm not getting through to the school, “ Thirteen says, speaking directly to Eraserhead.

“Not surprising,” Eraserhead says. His eyes are locked on the horde of incoming villains. “Kaminari, use your headset to try and get help through the school or your parents. Thirteen, get the students out of here while I buy us some time.”

“Yes sir,” they both confirm.

Thirteen tries to herd them all toward the doors, but Izuku lags behind the others. “You can’t take on that many villains alone, sir. Eraserhead’s style is erasing and ambushing. How are you going to--”

“Every hero needs a few tricks up their sleeve, Midoriya. Now get going.” Without another word, Eraserhead jumps into the hoard of villains as Iida drags Izuku away.

It doesn’t look like Eraserhead is having too much of a problem with the villains, so he turns and runs too. Iida shouldn’t have to pull him along like that; it’ll just slow them both down.

As it turns out, it doesn’t matter.

“Pardon me,” the purple vortex says, materializing in front of the exit. The villain has bright yellow lights for eyes and nothing even resembling a body. “We cannot allow you to do that. We are the League of Villains, and I’m afraid none of you can leave until we’ve accomplished our goal of killing All Might.”

Kill… All Might? Izuku barely has time to process the statement before Kacchan and Kirishima both lunge at the villain with anger like he’s never felt from either of them.

Wait, he wants to scream. Kacchan may be an ass, but Kirishima isn’t and neither of them deserve whatever could happen to them if they attack this man, this non-corporeal villain with a warp quirk. Thirteen is yelling at the boys to get out of their way, and then Izuku sees nothing but black.

“A shame. It seems that to get what we want, we're going to have to torture you to death.”

The villain’s voice echoes around him, impossibly loud. The warp feels strange, like all the hair on his body is standing upright. It makes Izuku want to scrub himself free of the sensation, the way he used to do with Sumiko’s spiders.

“Well, hopefully it will at least be somewhat entertaining.”

Before the darkness even begins to dissipate, he registers the familiar burning sensation of water entering his lungs. He holds his breath on instinct and tries to orient himself. Up and down get confused underwater, and he’s deep enough down that light is beginning to dissipate.

Izuku brings a hand to his mouth and blows a tiny bit of air out. The bubbles float away from his hand, and he follows them toward the surface.

He can’t have gotten more than a meter or two from where he was warped before a slimy hand wraps around his ankle, dragging him down even further. When he looks down, a villain grins toothily at him.

“Nothing personal, kid,” he says, voice garbled through the water.

Izuku swerves and aims a kick at the villain’s head. The guy narrowly dodges, eyes narrowing dangerously. His grip on Izuku’s ankle never falters.

“You’ll hit your limit soon enough, kid,” the villain says, grinning. “Everyone does. Just quit struggling, it’ll be easier.”

The fact that Izuku’s lungs aren’t burning yet despite the effort he’s given tells him exactly how wrong this villain is, and Izuku really doesn’t have the patience for it right now. He’s scared, he’s angry, and this guy is enjoying this no matter what he says.

So Izuku does exactly what he’s told, and stops struggling. He starts to sink almost immediately-- the villain wasn’t expecting that. Before he has time to realize what’s happening, Izuku jabs sharply at his gills with both hands.

A flurry of bubbles comes out of the villain’s mouth as his lungs expel air, and Izuku takes the chance to kick toward the surface. He’s moving slowly; he loves his red sneakers, but they aren’t the best thing to swim in. He manages to get closer to the surface before the water behind him shifts. Recovered, the villain is back on his tail.

Before he can get a hand on Izuku, something wraps tightly around his waist and rips him out of the water.

“There you are, Midoriya-chan,” Asui says, slurring slightly over her extended tongue. Izuku almost doesn’t hear her over the air rushing past his ears.

Asui lands lightly on the ship, and Izuku has to wonder, a little hysterically, where she’d even jumped from. She sets him down and retracts her tongue back in her mouth. “I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one here. Did you get warped after us?”

“I-- what? No.” Izuku shakes his head. “I was taken when everyone else was. One of the villains kept me underwater for a bit.”

“You were under a long time.” Asui blinks at him. “You’re awfully calm about this.”

You are too, is the first thing to come to mind, but when he stops for a moment, he realizes that she’s not. Nobody in the entire facility is calm right now. The students are terrified, the villains are… all sorts of different things that are going to give Izuku a headache, and Aizawa is far from the only person suppressing his panic. Even Izuku isn’t really calm-- he’s angry, he realizes, same as Kacchan. But this time it isn’t because of him.

It’s because this is the second time in a year that he’s been attacked by villains for no reason, and had to rely on someone to come save him.

“I’m not,” he says, keeping control for now. “I just… Panicking is only going to make things worse.”

It seems like Asui agrees. She taps her lip thoughtfully. “Then what do we do now? They’re staying in the water for the moment, so we have some time to plan our next move.”

Izuku peers over the edge and sees that she’s right. “Why aren’t they attacking?” he wonders. “We’re on their playing field. They have the advantage, so why are they just floating there?”

She shrugs, just as confused as him. “They’ve been there since we got warped here. I’m not sure what they’re waiting for.”

The villains are all treading water, keeping their heads above the surface but otherwise not making any moves toward the ship. Even the one that attacked him when they warped is there now, rubbing his gills and looking immensely irritated. They’re all eyeing Izuku and Asui, impatient and suspicious.

“They don’t know our quirks,” Izuku realizes. He looks at Asui, wide-eyed. “They knew today’s class schedule, but they don’t know our quirks. Why else would you be warped to the flood zone?”

It’s the only thing that makes sense. They wouldn’t be so suspicious otherwise. Attacking U.A. is something that’s never happened before, so it makes sense that the villains aren’t taking any unnecessary risks.

And following that logic… “They’re here to kill All Might.”

Asui is confused for a split second, then the same dawning horror Izuku feels starts seeping from her. “Midoriya-chan, you don’t think…”

Neither of them finish that sentence. Izuku can’t even bring himself to think about the possibility that they really have a way to kill All Might. They can’t possibly know about his condition, or his time limit. That means that, if they do have a plan, they’re planning for an All Might in his prime.

Izuku doesn’t want to imagine what kind of damage something like that could do.

He can’t plan for this. He doesn’t know any of these villains, doesn’t even really know the extent of Asui’s abilities. For this fight, something tells him he’s going to need something out of his comfort zone.

It doesn’t matter that there are more villains here than have ever attacked at once before, or that they’re up against impossible odds. It doesn’t matter that they’re just kids with four days of training. It doesn’t matter that he’s scared, that Aizawa is scared, that even Kacchan is scared, somewhere in the facility. He takes a deep breath, pushing the terror to the furthest corner of his mind. He’ll deal with it later, if… when they survive this.

Fear, he’s learned over the last year, is one of the easier things to drown out. There are so many things stronger than fear, at least in the short term, and One for All isn’t the only quirk he has.

Izuku reaches just under the surface of his mind and latches on tightly to something he’s been trying to avoid since it made itself known.

He turns to Asui with a mad glint in his eye.  

“Whether they have a plan or not, we fight.”

Chapter Text

The dumbass with the shitty dyejob says something, and Katsuki tunes in barely in time to catch something like last of them, you think?

Damn Shitty Hair and his shitty teeth.

Katsuki just glares at the unconscious villains littering the floor of whatever fucked up building they’re in. They weren’t even worth the eight minutes it took to take them down. Would have been less if the building wasn’t one false move from collapsing on them all.

These are the idiots that are trying to kill All Might? What a load of crap.”  

Shitty Hair puts his hands on his hips and says something that sounds vaguely scolding. He catches “not the best situation” and rolls his eyes.

“No shit.”

Of course it’s not a good situation. It’s close to a worst-case scenario. That’s not to say it’s not a good opportunity. If they’re gonna be heroes, what better way to practice than on actual villains? It’s still hero training and they’re still on school grounds, so they won’t get in trouble for using their quirks-- something this school actually seems to care about for some stupid reason.

Something tugs at the back of Katsuki’s mind, like a rubber band pulled tight. Nervous, terrified energy floods through his veins.

Katsuki’s eyes widen for a fraction of a second, then narrow. Oh hell no. They’re not doing this. Whoever the fuck is messing around in his head is gonna fucking die, and Katsuki is gonna make sure it’s painful.

The air shifts next to him for a fraction of a second before some camouflaged villain tries to get the drop on him, yelling like a moron.

“Ha! You let your guard--” Katsuki blows the shit out of his face before he can even finish. He is not in the mood. The villain drops to the ground with a heavy thud, burn marks covering his face and head.

“Oh, fuck you.”

Shitty Hair is staring at him with no small amount of wonder. As it should be. His voice is louder and closer than usual when he says something that sounds like “Whoa, that was amazing. Did you know he was there or what?”

No, but no one needs to know that. There’s someone still poking around his head. Or rather, leaning hard into that one spot of his mind, like their life depends on it. Try as he might, Katsuki can’t seem to get the asshole to let up.

Whatever. If all it does is make him afraid it’s a weak ass quirk that’s not worth his time. He can ignore it.

“Yo, Shitty Hair.” The guy looks at him, seeming surprised that he’s being directly addressed. “Yeah, you. Who else is here? Dumbass. I’m going back and I’m gonna beat the shit outta those idiots who think it’s okay to fuck with U.A., starting with the warp douchebag. You coming or what?”

A number of different emotions cross Shitty Hair’s face. Stupid. He’s too easy to read; Katsuki can tell the exact moment when he decides on fighting back rather than trying to escape like a fucking wimp.

“You can count on me, bro!” Shitty Hair says excitedly, slamming his fists together.

Katsuki’s eye twitches, but he can’t be bothered to correct him. “Just don’t get in my fucking way.”

-

“This seems unusually dangerous, even for you,” Asui ribbits, bent over a row of shot glasses with a bottle of nail polish remover.

Izuku bores a hole in yet another battery with the third and final paring knife he'd found in the kitchen and pours the acid into a bottle that was at one point full of fancy sparkling water, wincing as a tiny bit more splashes onto his fingers. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

He’d had a hunch that the cruise ship was fully stocked, since it seemed fully functional and U.A.’s attention to detail is second to none. Luckily, he’d been right. A supplies closet had provided the batteries, some water treatment kits, and an immense amount of cleaning supplies and Asui managed to find the nail polish remover under the sink in the women’s restroom. Izuku had handed her as much bleach as she could carry and told her to pour it out the bathroom window into the water. He’d piled the rest up and told her to do the same with all of it: bleach, laundry soap, drain cleaner, whatever she could get her hands on. Some of it was even expired, which was lucky for them. The whole process had taken less than five minutes.

Meanwhile, he’d broken several promises to his mother and started breaking open all the batteries he could find into glass bottles.

One last one and… There. He opens one of the bottles from the water treatment kit and pours some of the chemical crystals into every bottle in the line. “The chemicals in the water are probably starting to affect them by now. Can you see any of the villain’s gills from here, Asui?”

“Call me Tsuyu,” she says immediately, peering over the edge. Then she kneels back down to grab the bottle of polish remover and dump it over the side. “I can’t see the gills from here, but some of them look pretty sick, ribbit. There are more of them now. I think some of them were hiding underwater. Let me just…”

She takes off her goggles and adjusts something, looking down at a tiny screen between the two eyepieces with wide eyes. So her goggles double as a camera. Good to know. “It looks like their gills are inflamed pretty badly, ribbit.

“Good.” Izuku takes a deep breath and breaks off the neck of one of the bottles he’s filled. The sound echoes loudly through the relative silence, cracking above the din of the distant fighting.

A low ripple of surprise goes through the villains, and Izuku latches onto it, magnifies it until it’s severe shock and they’re all floating there, frozen for at least a little while. It’s done clumsily, since he still hasn’t mastered the skill; any one of them could recognize what he just did, but if they do, they won’t be expecting One for All.

Izuku breaks off the tops of the rest of the bottles, with Asui’s help. They carefully place the shot glasses into the bottles and Asui lifts them all into her arms gingerly, making sure not to spill them.

“You want me to just drop these?” she asks, cocking her head sideways.

“Yup.” Izuku pops the “p” sound and peers through the space under the railing, watching Eraserhead try to hold off a horde of villains on his own. “We’ve got to get over there.”

It looks like Asui wants to argue, but at that moment Izuku feels a spike of rage that isn’t him or Kacchan, right before a giant, clawed hand rips the boat in half.

They’re out of time, apparently.

“Time to go,” Asui says, looking down at the tainted water covering their feet.

Izuku glares over the edge of the ship at the villains who had the nerve to attack them at school, who want to kill them even though they’re just kids, and bares his teeth in a cold grin.

“I guess it is.”

Asui’s eyes widen in shock and a tiny bit of fear, but she nods. She trusts him. Izuku holds on to that thought before leaning hard into the link between him and Kacchan and letting the buildup of anger from the last few minutes loose all at once.

Without wasting another second, Izuku leaps off the deck of the ship as high and far as he can, screaming “Die!”

One for All sparks through his veins and Izuku feels his left thumb and ring finger shatter less than an instant later. One for All’s power surges through the air and into the water, turning the bay into a whirlpool that rounds up all of the villains neatly.

“Asui, now!” he yells, barely even feeling the pain through the adrenaline.

Asui jumps toward him and drops their makeshift bombs into the whirlpool. Some light in midair, some don’t light at all, but enough of them land properly to do some serious damage; if they don’t burn the villains with fire, the battery acid will definitely do the trick.

He feels Asui’s tongue wrap around his waist again and then the two of them are falling, heading straight for the shore. The villains’ screams follow echo among the cacophony of other noises coming from all around the facility.

When they land, the impact jolts Izuku’s hand and he winces. “Ow.”

Asui retracts her tongue and looks at him consideringly. “Midoriya-chan, why do you know how to make explosives?”

“I don’t! Well, theoretically with enough batteries I could but-- No, I don’t know how to make bombs! It’s just…” He looks around to stall for time. There aren’t any villains nearby, but they’re sitting ducks here. “Let’s find a place to hide near the plaza. We have to pass through there anyway.”

Not that he’s planning on trying to escape, but the central plaza is where he needs to be anyway.

The best place to hide would probably be the lake, but that water is too toxic for Asui now. Then there’s that battery acid from the not-bombs that didn't go off, which is probably still floating around in there. The lake is out of the question.

Wordlessly, Asui points to the decorative foliage surrounding this side of the plaza. They can probably hide there, but getting through it without confronting the hand guy is going to be another problem. If they’re lucky, they might be able to take a couple of villains down before they get spotted by the hand guy or the big one whose brain is exposed for some reason that Izuku doesn’t want to dwell too hard on right now.

Izuku nods, and the two of them creep toward the bush on all fours. He winces at the pressure put on his hands, but refuses to make a sound. If they’re discovered, it’s over.

On the other hand, Asui doesn’t seem to have any such qualms, grabbing his wrists as soon as they were hidden. “You got acid on your hands, ribbit,” she says, almost inaudibly. Izuku just shrugs; it hurts, but he can deal with if-- when they get out of here.

She just reaches around the back of her head and unties her hair. The leaves rustle quietly, but with all the fighting around them it goes unnoticed. It seems like she has something in mind, so Izuku holds up his hands as much as he can in their cramped space. Asui wrings the water out of her hair and over his burns.

Izuku resists the urge to whimper in pain, looking at the battle going on next to them instead.

“The lake was saltwater, so that should help a little,” she says, tying it back again. It does, but that’s the least of Izuku’s concerns right now.

Eraserhead is losing.

Slowly but surely, he’s losing. Most of the villains from the initial horde are down for the count, but Eraserhead is slowing down. The ones that are left seem to be picking up on that and double their efforts to take him down.

One of the villains with a lizard tail claws at Eraserhead’s face and gets alarmingly close. Izuku panics a little; if Eraserhead is kil-- taken down, there’s no one standing between the villains and the rest of them. But another, stronger voice in Izuku’s head cries out at the thought of Aizawa being taken down here for a completely different reason.

Eraserhead freezes for a fraction of a second, back in action almost too fast for anyone to notice. But there’s a spike of panic from him that tells Izuku more than enough. Eraserhead knows they’re there; at least, he knows that Izuku is there, and now he’s distracted. Now he’s going to expend energy trying to find them and keep the fight away from them, and he’s going to get hurt because of Izuku freaking out.

Izuku makes a split second decision, focusing harder than he ever has in his life as he tears at the link connecting him to Aizawa. He feels One for All crackling in his eyes.

It doesn’t make a sound, and takes only a split second, but it shakes him to his core. Izuku feels his breath quicken and his eyes tear up because this is agony, like his nails are being ripped from their beds all at once. This isn’t supposed to happen and Aizawa is supposed to be right there and he’s supposed to be Izuku’s rock and Izuku can’t feel him, can’t feel the burns on his hands or his broken fingers or Aizawa and Aizawa is one of the people he’s supposed to be able to feel from anywhere in the world.

All Izuku can see is Aizawa, tying up villains left and right but looking more and more frantic as seconds tick by. Asui is still here, watching the fight play out with just as much horror as Izuku is, but she may as well not be for all the attention Izuku is paying her.

And in Izuku’s panic he doesn’t notice the villain covered in hands stalking across the plaza until Eraserhead charges him. It looks like he’s angry, but Izuku can’t tell and the pain of whatever he just did to his link is still fresh.

“You’re way cooler than I thought you were, Eraserhead,” the guy says, easily dodging most of the hero’s attacks even though the hand over his face should be obstructing his vision. He’s satisfied, confident; he’s enjoying this. “That quirk isn’t really suited for groups, but you’re holding your own pretty damn well. I’ve found your weakness though.”

The instant Eraserhead’s hair falls again, the guy’s stance shifts completely. He forgoes dodging the next hit, instead grabbing Eraserhead by the elbow and holding him there. Izuku can’t help the choked, inhuman sound that escapes his throat when the skin of his elbow begins to crumble away into dust.

“You’re not even meant to be here,” the hand guy sneers, mood changing so fast it gives Izuku whiplash. “I came here to fight All Might, not some… glitch in the system.”

Eraserhead grits his teeth in pain when the muscles of his arm become visible, but only spits in the hand guy’s face and lands a vicious kick to his kneecaps.

The hand guy goes down almost instantly-- he doesn’t seem to be a fighter. But almost instantly, the villain with the protruding eyes and exposed brain is behind him, grabbing Eraserhead by the head and lifting him off the ground.

Izuku freezes.

This villain is as blank to him as Aizawa.

“You know what, glitch-hero?” the hand guy asks conversationally, completely unaware of Izuku’s meltdown. “You really piss me off. And now I’m allowed to destroy things that piss me off, it’s awesome. But you kind of impressed me with that show earlier. Were you trying to be all valiant so your students wouldn’t worry?”

Eraserhead’s goggles crack and fall to the floor with a clatter that’s far too loud for the amount of noise in this room, and Izuku hears Asui inhale sharply. The goggles are the last thing on Izuku’s mind; he has no idea what Eraserhead feels right now, or even if he’ll survive the next few minutes. His hands hurt. His head hurts. There’s a villain whose moods change from moment to moment and a villain who feels nothing. They’re probably going to die here.

“Nomu.”

That single word is all the hand guy says before the other villain slams Eraserhead’s face into the pavement hard enough for long cracks to spiderweb through it. Asui and Izuku both flinch, the branches and leaves around them rustling with the movement.

The hand guy is almost overflowing with twisted excitement. “Against the Nomu, you might as well be quirkless, Eraserhead. It’s All Might’s perfect nemesis, you know. We designed it that way.” He looks directly at Izuku and Asui’s hiding place and takes the three steps to get there before making the bush crumble to dust. “I wonder if your students would be interested in a tutorial.”

Both Asui and Izuku look up at him, frozen with terror. This is a villain, someone the pros deal with. They’re not on this level yet. They don’t stand a chance.

“Or maybe not.”

He reaches out toward Asui’s face, and Izuku is powerless to stop it. His heart stops in his chest when the villain’s fifth finger touches her face.

Nothing happens.

“Ah, shit,” the villain says, leaning back on his heels. “That was really cool, Eraserhead.”

Izuku’s eyes dart over to see Eraserhead staring at the villain, eyes flashing brilliant red. They go back to brown and, for an instant, Izuku sees relief on his teacher’s face before the Nomu grinds it back into the pavement.

He doesn’t know what possesses him to do it. Maybe it’s overload. Maybe it’s the hand guy’s own sick enthusiasm infecting his mind. Maybe it’s his subconscious refusing to go down without a fight, just like Eraserhead.

Whatever the reason, he stands up.

“It was kind of a bad hiding place, wasn’t it?” Izuku asks, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly. “Or maybe you’re just that observant?”

He doesn’t dare hope to distract the villain until the other heroes arrive. It could be hours. Or they might not ever come. The class isn't due back for hours yet. But if he can keep this guy talking, then maybe he can at least keep the Nomu from hurting Aizawa any further.

The hand guy cocks his head. “You’re pretty chatty for someone who’s about to die, kid.”

He’s not annoyed though, which is lucky. He’s intrigued, and a little suspicious. Izuku can work with that. He takes hold of that emotion and slowly-- so, so slowly-starts to strengthen it in his mind.

“It’s, uh, nervous habit,” he manages to say with a nervousness that’s only a little fake. He very gently nudges the villain from curiosity to satisfaction. Baby steps, Aizawa told him during training. “For all I know, we’re the last students alive. You’re too strong for us when we’re all split up like this.”

It must be the right thing to say, because the villain pushes his own way toward satisfaction. “Of course we are. You didn’t really think a bunch of level ones like you had any chance against someone like me, did you?”

“I wanted to believe it.” Izuku lets his voice break and a little of his hopelessness seep into his tone. “I wanted-- But if my teacher can’t even beat you… what chance do I have, really?”

“None!” The villain sounds absolutely delighted, like Izuku is a small child that’s solved a difficult math problem.

Oh.

That’s the secret. That’s what he’s been missing.

This villain likes to be above people. He likes breaking them. If Izuku can play into that, his clumsy emotional manipulation may just be enough to keep the three of them alive.

“Even All Might doesn’t have a chance against my Nomu,” he continues. Izuku counts his blessings that he didn’t have to keep the conversation going; of all the things to bite him in the ass right now, he didn’t expect his lack of social skills to be one of them.

“Is that thing… even human?” he asks in a small voice.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

Before Izuku even has a chance to formulate a less dangerous way of saying yes, I would very much like to know if it keeps you from killing me on sight, another inky vortex appears next to the villain.

The warp villain-- Kurogiri, if Izuku remembers correctly and wow, what a name --looks at the hand guy. “Shigaraki-san, Thirteen is out of commission.”

“Ooh, did you kill them already Kurogiri?” Shigaraki asks, forgetting about Izuku in an instant.

Which is probably for the best, since Izuku’s face hardens at the words. This Shigaraki person is treating Izuku like he’s below him, even though Izuku’s not the one attacking children. Even though Izuku’s not the one with some convoluted plan to destroy the foundation of their society.

Izuku isn’t the one pinning Eraserhead down for trying to save people. Izuku isn’t the one getting excited over the idea of someone dying. Izuku isn’t the one in the wrong here, so why does this man think Izuku is below him?

He can feel Asui’s hand wrap around his less injured wrist tightly. She probably has a lot of questions, but Izuku forces himself not to look at her. He schools his expression into something more docile and starts inching his way toward the exit, tugging Asui along with him discreetly.

Not for an instant does he think they’ll escape, but it’ll help keep up the ruse that he’s just a scared kid.

“So not only didn’t you kill the hero, but couldn’t even keep a group of kids from escaping. How is it that you have a warp quirk, but someone managed to get out of the building?” Shigaraki is positively oozing hostility.

“Regardless, there will be dozens of pros here shortly,” Kurogiri says. He sounds unbothered by Shigaraki’s outburst, but Izuku knows better.

Izuku knows fear when he feels it, and Kurogiri fears Shigaraki.

He can use that.

As he and Asui inch closer to the other side of the plaza, Izuku tugs carefully on Shigaraki’s anger, amping it up from boiling to explosive, the type of anger that would put Kacchan to shame.

“We can’t fight dozens of pros, Kurogiri!” He snaps, scratching anxiously at some of the exposed skin on his neck. “This is your fault.”

Izuku can feel his eye twitch with the effort, but he manages to twist at Kurogiri’s fear, pulling on it like a rubber band.

“We... should probably retreat,” Kurogiri says carefully. “We have proven our point sufficiently.”

They’ve barely done anything besides injure the teachers, but Izuku isn’t going to point that out. The sooner they leave, the sooner he’ll know if everyone’s okay. The sooner he’ll know if Aizawa is okay.

His grip on Kurogiri’s fear falters, just for an instant.

Izuku isn’t stupid enough to try to get it back. Then they would definitely notice that something's off, and he can’t show his hand like that. But he can’t think of anything else to do. Normal logic doesn’t apply here, and this isn’t like the cruise ship; there isn’t time for him and Asui to come up with a plan.

Shigaraki looks at him directly. “Where the hell do you think you’re going, chatty kid?”

There’s no time for him to answer, since right then, glass and metal rains down on them and All Might lands in the plaza.

He's not smiling.

“There's no need to fear anymore, students. I am here.”

Chapter Text

I am here. I am here. I am here.

The words echo through Izuku’s head, louder than ever. Once, not that long ago, they would have brought a sense of safety. He’d be as relieved as Asui is to see the Symbol of Peace coming to their aid.

As it is, Izuku knows better.

Thirteen’s three raised fingers from when they arrived— was it really less than an hour ago? —flash through his mind. All Might is out of time, but he’s here. His time limit has been steadily decreasing since the slime incident anyway, and he’s here.

“All Might—” You’re out of time, Izuku wants to say. This might be a fight you can’t win.

For as thick as the man can be sometimes, Izuku is sure he hears everything Izuku isn’t saying in those two choked out words.

“Young Midoriya, Young Asui,” All Might says, still with that terrifying look on his face, so far from his usual smile, “Stay behind me.”

The Nomu watches this all happen with its disturbing, protruding eyes and a blankness that makes Izuku shiver a little. “All Might,” he warns, “They’ve got… something. That person over there isn’t normal. They’ve got some kind of weapon to use against you.”

“Everything will be fine, Midoriya.” The man isn’t the least bit worried.

Izuku isn’t surprised, but finds himself unusually irritated— All Might’s time limit is up, his life is in danger, and he doesn’t seem to care. Izuku can feel his own gaze grow the tiniest bit frostier.

Shigaraki’s face is unreadable behind the severed hand covering his face, but the twisted excitement that fills Izuku can only be from him. “Look, Kurogiri. It’s not game over after all.”

If possible, All Might’s expression gets even colder. “The lives of these children are not parts of some game .”

“Everything is a game,” Shigaraki says, dismissive. “And you’re one of the final bosses, Symbol of Peace. Lucky for me, I’ve got a cheat code.”

The villain raises his hand slightly, and the Nomu stands, leaving Eraserhead limp on the floor.

He isn’t moving, isn’t conscious, hasn’t been since saving Asui’s life, probably. The man’s arm is twisted at an impossible angle, and the other is bleeding profusely from the elbow Shigaraki disintegrated. His head is surrounded by a pool of his blood that reaches to his shattered goggles. A strangled noise escapes Izuku’s throat despite his attempts to stop it.

Stay behind me, All Might said, as if he actually expected them to comply. As if, after being blown off, after what he’s fruitlessly sacrificed for this fight, Izuku would just stand by and idly watch both of his teachers get killed.

His eye twitches as One for All crackles through him. All he can think about is moving as fast as he possibly can, broken bones be damned. He isn’t stupid enough to try and fight the Nomu, not when they have no idea what it’s capable of or what its quirk is. The air rushes past his ears, deafeningly loud.

For one heart-stopping fraction of a second, Izuku is moving at normal speed. He grabs Eraserhead awkwardly, trying not to jostle anything or break the man’s arm further before he’s back at that same insane speed, grabbing Asui by the back of her utility belt as he passes her. Izuku grits his teeth in pain when he realizes his mistake of grabbing her with his two broken fingers, but doesn’t slow down for the few seconds it takes to get to the entrance area.

More than half the class is gathered there already, looking tense. Asui is looking a little greener than usual and rubbing her neck, and Izuku feels momentarily guilty about the whiplash and motion sickness she definitely has now. But it’s better that she be uncomfortable than dead, and she was almost certainly going to die if All Might made even one false move and left an opening for the villains. And even if he didn’t, it’ll be easier for All Might to fight whatever that thing is if he has no one there to protect.

Well.

Fewer people.

But that’s beside the point.

Yaoyorozu, Kaminari, and Jirou are there too even though he’s sure he saw them all get swallowed by warps. Izuku is glad to see them, but particularly glad to see Yaoyorozu.

“Midoriya, Tsuyu! Are you guys okay?” Kaminari asks, looking worried and a little out of it. Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if he’d had to overload to get out of whatever zone he was sent to.

“I’m fine—”

“He’s not fine,” Asui says, talking over him. She blinks and looks down at Izuku’s legs, which are… fine? His fingers are still broken and his hands are covered in acid burns but there’s not a single thing wrong with him otherwise.

Well, that’s. New.

Maybe the fight isn’t over yet.

He redirects his classmates’ attention to something much more important than his miraculously unbroken body. “I’m fine . But Aizawa-sensei…”

The rest of the students look uncharacteristically grim when they look at their teacher, broken in Izuku’s arms.

“Yaoyorozu, we need first aid for him,” Izuku says, trying to keep his… everything, out of his voice. He can’t panic; that wouldn’t do anyone any good. He can’t afford to dwell on this new development with One for All. And the people deserving of his anger are back in the central plaza, so it would be unfair to take it out on his classmates.

His resulting smile is empty at best, but it probably comes across as cold, he realizes as his classmates stare at him.

Yaoyorozu doesn’t waste much time on confusion, using her quirk to make tourniquets and medical supplies that will hopefully staunch Aizawa’s blood flow and set his bones for a while.

“You’re going back out there, aren't you Midoriya?” Jirou’s voice is completely flat, as if she knows the answer to that already. Which, given the reputation Izuku has built in the last few days alone, is probably true.

A thunderous boom echoes through the facility. Izuku looks toward the central plaza where All Might seems to have realized that Izuku was right and he’s outmatched, and then back at his classmates. All of them have the same look on their face.

“Dude, they’ll kill you,” Kaminari says.

Jirou and Uraraka nod emphatically. “All Might is here already, so the other pros won’t be far behind,” Uraraka says, looking worried. “Kaminari is right.”

Yaoyorozu isn’t looking at him, more preoccupied with dressing Aizawa’s wounds, but her voice matches the concern and fear she’s feeling. “Midoriya, I don’t think… It’s a very good idea for you to go back there. All Might could get distracted trying to protect you.”

Under normal circumstances, Izuku would agree. It might even be enough normally to get him to think twice about going back into the fighting.

But these aren’t normal circumstances, and he’s the only one still conscious that knows that. Even if All Might does, by some miracle, manage to defeat the Nomu before he runs out of time, Shigaraki and Kurogiri are still a problem. Izuku can’t just stand by while All Might gets himself killed.

“I’ll just make sure he doesn’t have to then” is all he says before taking off as fast as he can without One for All. He may have gotten here without breaking anything, but he doesn’t want to risk the possibility of it being a fluke and get to the battle with broken legs.

He hears his classmates calling after him, but they cut themselves off quickly; there are still villains around, and it wouldn’t be smart to draw attention to the entrance.

Objectively, he muses as he runs, this is pretty stupid. But if he doesn’t do anything, who will?

“Fucking die you piece of shit!”

Well. That answers that question, Izuku supposes as a wave of light and heat nearly blinds him. It’s unsurprising that Kacchan would be in the middle of the most dangerous fight in the entire facility.

Kacchan is on one knee, pinning down Kurogiri with a fanatic grin on his face and explosions coming out of his hands. Kirishima’s mouth is pressed into an uncharacteristic frown, his arms hardened into bladelike shapes. A sharp crack pierces Izuku’s eardrums and he watches in awe when Todoroki’s ice covers the Nomu’s right side and snaps its limbs off brutally.

What really catches Izuku’s attention, though, is the blood seeping through All Might’s shirt when he manages to get free of the Nomu’s grasp. While they were grappling, it looks like the Nomu found his weak spot.

Izuku told him. He told All Might what could happen if he faced the Nomu and he didn't listen and now he's hurt.

“Oh, it’s the chatty kid,” Shigaraki says, sounding almost bored as he fixes Izuku with a deadly stare from between the fingers attached to his face. “You’re a persistent one, I’ll give you that.”

Izuku fights the urge to roll his eyes. This man is as melodramatic as they come, true, but the image of Aizawa’s broken, bleeding form burned into his eyelids reminds him that Shigaraki is dangerous.

None of his classmates give him a second glance, but their surprise, and irritation, in Kacchan’s case, at his appearance are palpable.

With a sickening groan, the Nomu rights itself with its good leg. The wounds-- are they even wounds at this point, when half of the thing is lying in shattered, bloody pieces on the ground? --ooze blood and pus, and something else that doesn’t seem normal for any kind of human body to secrete. The pits of flesh seem to be bloating in a way that’s certainly not natural, and Izuku realizes what’s happening just as the swells expand to the length of the thing’s elbows and knees.

The Nomu is directly in front of Todoroki and within reaching distance of Kacchan and the warp villain Kurogiri, and its body is regenerating like some kind of quirk and no no no that’s not fair this thing already has a quirk it can’t heal too or they’ll get hurt and All Might will die.  

Green lightning crackles through Izuku’s limbs as he darts around Todoroki. He balances on one hand for a split second and sweeps his leg under the Nomu’s only good one, unbalancing the thing before it has the chance to regenerate the other one. He doesn’t have the mental energy to spare, as the bones in his right leg break, to grimace as his hand gets covered in whatever it was that was secreting from the Nomu’s wounds.

But it does the trick. The Nomu loses its balance for a fraction of a second, long enough for Izuku to leap and land a solid, leg-and-arm-shattering punch to its stomach and knock it to the ground. Unfortunately, the fact that both his legs are broken means that he’s falling on his ass as well, in a much more permanent fashion than the Nomu.

Air rushes past his face, useless limbs jostling painfully. He never makes it to the ground.

All Might sets Izuku down by Kirishima, along with Kacchan and Todoroki. All three of the others look just as stunned as Izuku feels.

“Thanks for the opening, boys,” All Might says, his face finally relaxing into that familiar smile. “Now I need you to stay out of danger.”

Kirishima is the only one who shows any signs of agreeing to do so, but there isn’t much time for All Might to stay here and argue the point.

“Kurogiri,” Shigaraki says, tilting his head in curiosity but never letting his eyes stray from All Might, “Heroes are such hypocrites. Don’t you think so?”

The mist villain doesn’t seem to be interested in responding, rubbing at his neckpiece in discomfort. He must have a physical body in there that Kacchan was hurting. Shigaraki doesn’t seem fazed.

“What are you and Eraserhead teaching these kids anyway? That if you’re a villain, using violence to solve your problems is evil, but it’s okay as a hero? Or maybe you’re teaching them to leap before they look.” He’s addressing All Might now, and behind that childlike facade is a deep, burning hatred that makes Izuku shiver from more than just the pain of his broken bones.

“It’s only brave if they don’t live to tell the tale, you know. They’re not heroes. If I let them go, who knows how their bravery today will be received? Have you taught your students that yet, Symbol of Peace? That their efforts aren’t going to mean shit in this world?”

He’s been letting this happen, Izuku realizes. He let Izuku get away with Asui, and he’s letting them be right now to prove a point. They’ve been playing into his hands this whole time, and Shigaraki is proud of the handy way he’s dealt with the situation. Izuku can work with that.

A hand grips his hair tight enough to be painful, and Kacchan forces Izuku to look at him. “Whatever the fuck you’re about to do,” he says, narrowing his eyes as he gives Izuku’s injuries a cursory glance, “Don’t even think about it.”

Kacchan looks like hell, Izuku notices. Dirt and soot streaks his face, sticking to his sweat. A thin, dry streak of blood runs from his right ear. And underneath the irritation that Izuku is clinging onto for dear life-- at least that's still there, at least he can still feel Kacchan --he’s absolutely terrified, same as Izuku.

“Kacchan, your ears...”

Disbelief courses through Kacchan and the other boys. “Deku, you fuckin’ moron.”

“Every part of you is broken,” Kirishima says, glancing at him. “You kind of saved our butts back there already. Let the rest of us worry about things for a bit, Midoriya.”

Todoroki’s eyes are fixed on the battle going on before them. “There aren't many villains left, but we can't afford to protect you if they decide to attack us. Don’t give them a reason to.”

Shigaraki laughs as the Nomu lands another blow to All Might’s face. Everything in Izuku is telling him to go help; the lancing pain in his limbs feels more like fractures than true breaks, so he could probably do something --

Kacchan’s grip on his hair grows even tighter. The other boy's lips silently form the word don't, but it's not just Izuku he's telling. His free hand is twitching and sparking with tiny explosions. He wants to jump in just as badly as Izuku.

A surreptitious mental prod at Kirishima tells him that the other boy feels the same. It's enough to snap Izuku out of his delusions when he realizes that they're all feeling the same way, wanting to help but knowing they'll be more hindrance at this point.

It's a bitter pill to swallow as they watch the strongest man on earth be beaten to death.

Except that, somehow, he doesn't. All Might’s resolve only grows as he takes more hits from the Nomu and Shigaraki taunts him, and then, miraculously, he sends the thing flying through the hole in the ceiling. The dust around him masks it well, even to Izuku, but there's steam drifting from All Might’s body as he stares down the villain.

The facility is quiet for the first time in what seems like ages but has probably been somewhere around thirty minutes.

Shigaraki is floored, scratching nervously at the exposed skin of his neck. He says something to Kurogiri that's drowned out by the sound of a gun firing. Kacchan’s hand gets impossibly tighter in Izuku’s hair in surprise.

“Shit,” Shigaraki hisses. “Kurogiri, this is your fault.

Almost immediately after, Izuku feels something visceral and painful shoot through his psyche from someone near the edge of his quirk’s range. Heartbreak.

It’s the last singular emotion he feels for a few minutes, as Present Mic lets loose one of his signature battle cries and the teachers descend on the facility.

The next few minutes are utter chaos. There are pros everywhere, decimating the remaining villains. Shigaraki is having a meltdown, Kurogiri seems to be frozen, and then, in the blink of an eye, they’re gone.

When the dust settles, there’s a cement wall blocking All Might from view and Cementoss is ushering the four of them toward the exit. Kacchan finally lets go of Izuku’s hair so Kirishima can pick him up and move him to the entrance with the rest of the class. It’s a little embarrassing, but no one seems particularly surprised and Izuku is starting to feel the shock set in, finally. He can feel the symptoms of quirk exhaustion setting in.

He manages to stay awake long enough to account for everyone and takes comfort in the fact that he’s the student with the most serious injuries. Aizawa, he’s told by the nice doctor lady, is on his way to the hospital already.

Then, as he’s being carefully loaded onto a stretcher, Izuku’s world goes dark.

Chapter Text

Three days. It’s been three days since the attack, and Shouta still hasn’t woken up yet.

Any minute now, the doctors assure him. It’s not a coma, his meds are just very strong and his body needs the rest. He doesn’t sleep much, does he?

He should be used to this sort of thing by now. They’ve been pros for half their lives, and Shouta has always, always been the type to bite off more than he can chew for someone else’s sake and come out worse for wear. It’s admirable. It’s a trait they share, because it’s what they need to be as good as they are at their jobs. That doesn’t make the image of Shouta lying bloody and barely breathing on the steps of USJ any less burned into Hizashi’s eyelids.

Even now, when Shouta is wrapped in bandages and hooked up to an IV and ten different machines, he can’t get the memory out of his head.

It keeps him up at night, despite how tired he’s been for the last few days. Luckily someone’s been covering for him on the radio show night shifts, and his listeners aren’t stupid; they know most of the pros with day jobs are dealing with the fallout of the USJ attack. It’s not their business how close to home it hit for Hizashi in particular, but they at least seem understanding.

It’s been three days.

Three days, eleven hours, and twelve minutes since Shouta was admitted, covered in the best bandages Yaoyorozu could manage under intense pressure. His eyes were covered, are covered still, and anything else would be distressing but that Shouta’s eyes could be damaged is the part that rips through Hizashi’s chest like broken glass.

Nemuri’s been nice enough to cover the few duties he has with the school-- Nezu’s been pretty understanding, on the whole --so Hizashi has barely left Shouta’s side. He’s become familiar, yet again, with existing on hospital cafeteria food and crappy coffee and sleeping on the reserved-for-family benches that never get any more comfortable.

He’s dozing when Shouta finally wakes up, a little over three and a half days after he’s admitted.

Shouta wakes violently, or as violently as he can while doped up on all the drugs. His heart rate monitor beeps loudly at the spike in his heartbeat, jolting Hizashi awake from his doze. Shouta groans when he tries to sit up.

“Don’t do that,” Hizashi chastises, pushing Shouta back down as gently as he can manage. He presses the call button.

“ ‘Zashi?” His voice is muffled through the bandages. He doesn’t reach out, but his heart rate does increase even further, according to the monitor. “Hizashi, why can’t I see anything? What happened?”

It takes an immense amount of self-control for Hizashi not to sugar coat things; not only does Shouta deserve the whole truth, but he’ll be immensely more upset later if Hizashi lies to him now.

“You’ve been out for three days. Your eyes were injured during the attack.” Honestly, Hizashi is proud of himself for not letting his voice shake. “They don’t know if it’s affected your quirk yet.”

It’s quiet for more than a minute as Shouta processes this. Personally, Hizashi is just glad he’s alive. But if Shouta can’t do hero work anymore, it’ll be awful. Hero work is a huge part of their lives.

“Well,” Shouta says at last, “I guess the batons are coming back out then, since those League of Villains bastards aren’t getting away with this.”

That’s… not what Hizashi was expecting.

Aizawa Shouta is the one person Hizashi knows better than anyone. After being friends for ten years and a couple for five, he knows Shouta better than anyone on the planet knows him. He knows that tone in Shouta’s voice, the one that means he’s feeling massively guilty about something but channeling it into anger because that’s the “logical” thing to do in a violent career like heroing.

“The batons always get you in trouble for excessive force” is all Hizashi can think to say.

Shouta goes very, very still before turning his head away, seeming to forget that his face is out of sight. “What do you want me to tell you? I don’t care about a stupid excessive force fine, Hizashi. One of my students is dead.”

“What?” Hizashi wracks his memory of that day, but there’s no way he could have forgotten a dead student. “The kids are fine.”

They got a full headcount after the villains were contained. No one escaped uninjured or without a case of quirk exhaustion, but all injuries besides Midoriya and Thirteen’s were fairly minor. No one was in the hospital for longer than a day.

Which begs the question… what does Shouta even remember?

Shouta tenses, but the doctor comes in before he can say anything. Now that Shouta is awake, they go over his chart with him. Hizashi is tempted to take out his hearing aids. He’s already heard it all. The broken bones, the lacerations, the concussion, the piece of bone that was missing from Shouta’s elbow like it had been dissolved. It’s been a long time since he’s taken a beating this bad.

But he doesn’t. He sits and listens to every word because there’s always new information when the doctor comes in. This time it’s as simple as asking Shouta when he’d like to have his quirk tested. The first time it was about a punctured lung and hemorrhaging in his brain.

He’s not taking chances.

Once the doctor leaves, it’s quiet for a while. Hizashi, for the first time in years, can’t get a read on Shouta; every part of him is covered and immobilized, so the facial expressions and body language that provide the only window into his mind are completely gone.

After a few minutes, Hizashi lets out a long breath. “What’s the last thing you remember about the attack?”

“You don’t want me to answer that.” Shouta gestures at him with the arm that only has a cast and isn’t totally immobilized. He can only assume it’s some kind of you’re stressed enough already thing.  

“I’ve already seen it, Shouta,” Hizashi says. Asui’s goggle footage of the fight had proven immensely helpful in streamlining the issues with police, but Hizashi needed to leave the room when he’d seen that thing-- the Nomu, everyone is calling it --slam Shouta’s face into the ground for saving his students.

He’d finished watching the fight later, of course, but there’s only so much one man can handle seeing the love of his life getting the life beaten out of him.

Shouta just sighs. When he finally does say something, it’s quiet enough that Hizashi has to strain to hear. “That… thing… catching me by the head and picking me up. After I found out that Midoriya…”

“He’s… well, I don’t think he’s fine, but he’s alive,” Hizashi is quick to say again. He doesn’t want to remember that part of the fight, the first time he’s seen Shouta quite that helpless.

“Didn’t seem that way to me,” Shouta snaps, with more venom than Hizashi’s heard directed at him in a long time.

“But he is.”

“Prove it.”

For one brief, guilt-inducing moment, Hizashi is a little irritated; Midoriya is fine, it’s Shouta who almost died. But almost immediately he realizes that whatever Shouta saw, it must have been bad enough that he’s sticking to this conclusion that Midoriya is dead. Asui’s goggles only caught one perspective of it, and she certainly wasn’t looking at Midoriya the whole time, so he an only hazard some guesses as to what Shouta may have seen. Whatever it is though, Hizashi can’t fault him for being upset. In all likelihood, it’s less about Shouta not believing him and more about needing to know for himself.

So he pulls out his cell phone and opens the email full of the students’ emergency contacts. “If you speak to him yourself, will you believe it?”

Shouta snorts quietly. “Sure. But I’m not holding my breath about speaking to him.

Hizashi suppresses his eye roll. If Shouta’s being snarky he’s got to be feeling a little less shaken than he was at first.

He slips his hand into Shouta’s reassuringly anyway before dialing Midoriya Inko’s cell phone number. If an awkward phone call is what it takes to make him feel better after the hell he just lived through, Hizashi will make a thousand.

-----------

“--and if I ever hear about you encouraging my son to make a life-altering decision without bringing it up to me first, you’ll regret it. He could have died in that attack, because he has a quirk he doesn’t know how to use. I may not be anyone important to the rest of the world but I am his mother, Mr. All Might, and so help me--”

Toshinori flinches for what feels like the fifth time in as many minutes. Young Midoriya’s mother had been… understandably distraught when notified of the attack and her son’s condition, but now that he’s home and she’s had some time to process, well…

He can honestly say that he’s very rarely been more scared of a civilian before.

It’s a bit of a relief when her cell phone rings. She looks down at it in irritation, but that melts away into worry when she sees the name of whoever is calling.

“Don’t move, I’m not done with you yet.” She points severely at Toshinori before answering her phone with decidedly less acid in her tone. “Hello? Is he alright? Oh, thank goodness. Izuku is having so much trouble already, I don’t know how I would be able to tell him if-- Ah, I’m not sure if that would be possible at the moment.”

Toshinori is staring at his clasped hands and doing his best not to eavesdrop, feeling every bit like a child in the principal’s office. It may not have been the most intelligent thing to offer Midoriya One for All without his mother’s knowledge. Secrecy is one thing, but after this attack, it’s become more clear to him than ever that young Midoriya really is just a child.

Especially after that stunt he pulled with the Nomu.

The cold panic that had gripped Toshinori when Midoriya launched himself at that monster has certainly left its mark. Only the other boys all but holding him down seemed to be keeping him from jumping immediately back into the fray after that shot.

Toshinori has always known Aizawa is a better teacher than him, but perhaps it’s time they started to work on that hero complex he’s so worried about Midoriya maintaining into pro work.

“I’ll see how he’s doing, if you don’t mind holding for a moment… Alright, one moment.” Mrs. Midoriya puts the call on hold and looks at Toshinori. “Would you like to take the phone and talk to Present Mic, or go check to see if Izuku has come back to himself yet? Eraserhead wants to speak to him.”

Yamada is the one on the phone? How odd. But if Aizawa is awake, it’s slightly less surprising. Perhaps Aizawa wants to check on the students’ well being.

“I will go check on young Midoriya,” he says. Yamada is something of a terror on the rare occasions that Aizawa is severely injured and Toshinori is already in the midst of a proper scolding, thanks.

Toshinori makes his way to what’s very obviously young Midoriya’s room, what with the images of himself plastered all over the name plaque on the open door. He can’t help but chuckle to himself at Midoriya’s fanboy antics, and isn’t at all surprised when the room itself is something like a shrine to every pro hero with their own merchandise.

The amusement doesn’t quite last when he sees Midoriya sitting cross-legged on his bed surrounded by empty juice pouches, sucking absently at another empty one as he stares at the wall with vacant eyes. A box of the pouches sits in front of him. It takes him several seconds to notice Toshinori’s presence. When he does, he only blinks and reaches for another juice box slowly. He fumbles with the straw, but manages to get it into the pouch without making too much of a mess.

Toshinori will be the first to admit that he’s never seen an overstimulated empath before, much less one that’s been through what Midoriya has. But somehow this isn’t what he expected.

“Young Midoriya?” The boy looks at him. “Aizawa would like to speak with you on the phone, if you’re feeling up to it.”

Toshinori doesn’t expect a favorable response. According to Mrs. Midoriya, he tends to go nonvocal during these times, and loses most of his normal behaviors. Now, seeing that behavior for himself, he’s inclined to agree.

But Midoriya’s eyes widen almost comically and he nods, slower than he would have under normal circumstances. Still, it’s a shock to see a spark after witnessing the shell of a person that Toshinori saw a moment ago.

Midoriya stands up and walks toward the door, handing Toshinori the juice pouch without even a glance his direction. He doesn’t mind at all, but it’s such a departure from normal Midoriya behavior that Toshinori pushes aside the hope that had surfaced for an instant, that maybe Midoriya had snapped out of it.

Of course he didn’t. He’s been traumatized, Toshinori reminds himself. He shakes his head and follows the boy back downstairs.

Mrs. Midoriya looks surprised to see her son out of his room, but doesn’t make any overt sign of it. To her credit, she doesn’t even blink twice when her son takes the phone right out of her hand.

“Aizawa… sensei?” His voice is scratchy and thick with disuse, and nowhere near his usual volume, but definitely audible.

His mother gasps to herself, and Toshinori realizes that this is probably unusual.

Midoriya doesn’t say anything for a moment. “Alive. Yes,” he says finally, as if testing out the words on his tongue. “Floaty. Lonely. I think.”

Of all the things Midoriya could say, that’s not what Toshinori expects to hear. It’s certainly not what he wants to hear. And it’s the last thing he does hear from the boy. It seems as though eight words is all he can muster the energy for.

Aizawa isn’t much for phone conversations on his best day, so Midoriya hangs up soon after.

“I--Izuku?” His mother sounds hopeful, but Toshinori knows better than to think that what just happened will happen again anytime soon. Midoriya pays his mother no mind and takes the juice pouch out of Toshinori’s hand before sitting on the coffee table.

Mrs. Midoriya sighs, looking resigned. After a moment she turns to Toshinori. “I know I said I wasn’t done with you but… Mr. All Might, you can understand why I’m upset, right?”

“I do. Rest assured I won’t make the same mistake twice.” He looks worriedly at Izuku. “Is he going to be…?”

“In a few days, I think.” She reaches out and puts a gentle hand on her son’s shoulder, guiding him to sit next to her instead of on top of a coaster. “Hopefully by the time school reopens.”

Toshinori looks at her in mild surprise. “He’ll still be allowed to attend?”

The glare that Mrs. Midoriya sends his way is less severe than before. “Regardless of how he got to that school, I won’t crush my son’s dreams again, Mr. All Might. I just didn’t think I’d have to come to terms with the danger for another few years yet.”

Ah. Well, that’s…

"I'm going to make sure you don't have to," he assures her, ignoring the little Gran-Torino-voice in the back of his mind that whispers that you can't save everyone, Toshinori.