Shadows danced across the battlefield. Flames once controlled by allies now raged out of control without care for who or what they consumed. It was hard to determine who was simply injured and who was dead in the commotion.
His classmates had fought back-to-back with pros, their difficult school years giving them the edge they needed to stand alongside seasoned veterans. He shuddered to think of how many wouldn’t make it to their graduation in less than a week. To come so far and fall short... Deku clenched his hand, feeling the stretch and rebound of One For All as it bounced around his ligaments, pushing and pulling against itself to keep his body in check. He could feel all of the quirk’s former wielders at his back. The specters of Shimura Nana and Yagi Toshinori flanked either side of his shoulder, points of light in a dark vista.
Kacchan was still up and heaving, sweat running down the side of his face mingling with blood on the way down. Deku knew the other hero was at his limit. They were being overrun.
Shouto on the other hand, looked to be standing on his own. At least for now. One less thing for Izuku to worry about.
“Izuku, we can’t keep this up much longer,” Shouto panted, kicking another villain down using all his elemental advantages, throwing out a spray of ice to cool Bakugou off.
“We just need to hold on a little bit longer! Reinforcements are coming," Deku shouted from where he fought.
Tomura zeroed in on what was taking Midoriya’s attention away from him and scratched at the sides of his arms. Large red welts raised along the seams of his skin. He laughed.
“Oh, reinforcements are coming,” he growled.
Midoriya followed Tomura’s eyes, to see a tidal wave of villains approaching from the east.
“Shouto! Behind you!” Midoriya screeched.
They tumbled over the battered hellscape in roiling waves of body, each quirk melding them together in Midoriya’s mind as they swarmed towards them. There was no way that they could take that many people on and still stop Tomura from reaching the device.
Shouto turned to face the tide.
“Shouto, no! Don’t even think about it!” Midoriya screeched, clawing his way out of one battle and into another.
Shouto looked over his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Izuku.”
He led with his right side, bracing his foot before spinning forward launching out a supernova of ice, spreading across the gap between buildings, not only freezing the villains in their tracks, but creating a physical blockade for half a kilometer in each direction.
And at the center of it all, encased under several tonnes of ice, was Todoroki Shouto. The ice wasn’t clear enough for Deku to actually see his boyfriend underneath it, but he couldn’t help but register a blot of deep red hazed by cloudy ice. Deku realized he was screaming only when he stopped.
“Look around you, all this destruction is laid at your feet, Midoriya Izuku,” Tomura laughed, disintegrating debris around him to reveal more bodies.
This wasn’t a battle between the prodigies of All For One and One For All, it wasn’t a knock down drag out fight for the age of heroes itself, it was a massacre.
And Todoroki was down. Down. That word rebounded around his head along with One For All. He grit his teeth against the pain in his heart. “You’re going down, Tomura.”
Deku spared a moment to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Bodies of his fallen comrades flashed before him, Tsu, Ochako, All Might. He saw their broken forms in every shadow, but his tears had long since run out.
Swift eye contact was made with Katsuki, one eyebrow raised in silent question.
Kacchan smirked in response and gave a nod. If this was to be the end, they’d go down fighting. For their friends. Their families. They would end this here.
Using all the power he could muster, Deku took to the air, following Kacchan as he took them both higher with the power of his explosions.
The reached the zenith of their climb in the thin air above Takoba, in the distance Izuku caught a clear beachfront once covered with trash out of the corner of his eye.
“Y’know. You’re not so bad Deku.” Kacchan said, gripping tight to Deku’s forearms.
They had one shot at this, but Deku found the time to smile in response. “Let’s make this a home run.”
Kacchan used his quirk to increase their momentum, turning it into a spin. At the last moment he flung Deku towards the ground and Midoriya accessed maximum power that rippled and ravaged through his entire body. He pulled all the energy into his feet and prepared for impact.
He released a wordless battle cry, keeping his eyes open as the ground raced towards him. This was not the time for cheesy attack lines and cheek, this was beyond all of that, beyond anything they’d be taught to handle.
A flash, and a shockwave, and shapes moving in front of his eyes. Nothing enough to resemble shapes. He was laying in the center of a crater, and at the edge of it crawled Tomura. Injured, but still alive. Damn All For One and his menagerie of fucked up quirks he'd passed on to his apprentice.
Pain edged in around his vision, creating tunnels of darkness into the air. He could see Kacchan, mouth agape. That alone told him that the state of his body had to be bad.
He opened his mouth and shouted the only thing he could.
And then the tunnels around his eyes closed in. His last moments agony. If only he could have done something different. Changed things. Been a better hero from the start and save everyone.
As Izuku closed his eyes, one by one the specters of One For All flickered out of existence until it was just Nana and Toshinori in front of him, each of them with a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
His eyes closed and they were still there, both of them wearing their signature smiles and outlined in light.
Nana smiled and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “You’re going to be amazing.”
Her light shattered into sparks leaving just Yagi Toshinori, a sickly form silhouetted by a hero in his prime. Both images moved in tandem.
Firm arms gripped his shoulders in a hug and Izuku felt very, very small.
His mentor looked at him seriously, before poking him in the cheek.
“Don’t forget to smile.”
In the darkness, Izuku brought to mind his friends, each of their faces, not as he had last seen them, but smiling as they had done thousands of times.
A small tinder of hope ignited in his chest.
Maybe he would see them soon.
That tinder of hope grew like a butterfly unfurling its wings inside his chest, reflecting a vibrant green glow around a the dark room. It sang with a feeling of relief.
He was watching his life in reverse in a large pool of water. All the moments of joy, every trial and tribulation that led up to this point.
The water showed him everything: the friends and the fights, every mistake he had made and every moment he wished he could have done something different. Something better.
If only he had lived up to his mantle, his mentor.
The recollection started to slow approaching his childhood. Posters passed in a flash. Years of not speaking up when bullied flashed before his eyes, letting problems get out of hand. Flashes of working his hardest to surmount an unattainable goal.
Deku closed his eyes, and wished that he could have hugged his mother one more time. Out of anyone, his life had been the hardest on her. It would be no different in death.
He sank backwards into the water.
When he opened his eyes again, he felt the wetness on his face first, and then realized he was looking into the tear filled eyes of his mother.
“I’m sorry, Izuku, I’m sorry!”
Izuku dropped his hands to the keyboard, accidentally canceling the replay of the video. He pushed his way out of the chair and away from his mother’s arms. This was… this was.
He looked down at his hands, unscarred and small.
This was that memory. The one he’d used as his driving force for ten odd years.
His head ached like his brain had been run over by a truck and wanted to leak out of his ears. Which was rude of it. Tears of pain mixed with the tears already running down his cheeks.
The All Might calendar on the wall proclaimed it was the day his dreams were dashed, broken, and glued back together anew.
It was also definitely a part of the past. His past.
He clenched his hands, digging his fingernails into his palms to try and balance the pain in his head with the rest of his body. He pushed away from the computer, slipped out of his mother’s grasp, and sprinted down the hallway.
“Izuku, it is ten o’clock at night, where are you going?” his mother called, but Izuku’s shorter legs were too quick for her to catch the back of his shirt. He’d already bolted down the stairs and grabbed his shoes by the time she ran into the hallway.
Something was going on here and he wasn’t going to waste this chance. Whether this was a dream or reality- he couldn’t know. But damn if he wasn’t going to do something to prevent this if he could. He had to find Shouto. He had to.
He was six years old. That meant that All Might hadn’t fought All For One yet. If he could stop that, he could change everything. He could save Shouto, Tsuyu, Uraraka, Tenya, Hitoshi, even Kacchan. He could save everyone.
Trying to sort through the scattered thoughts in his aching brain, a flash of an explosion went off in front of him. It brought him to a halt moments from running into the street. Wind tore at his hair as a car passed, going too fast for the suburban neighborhood it was desperate to escape.
“Stupid Deku! What are you doing out so late?” Kacchan sneered even as he dusted soot off his sleeves. He was short, almost as short as Izuku, and his hair looked too big for his head. Those red eyes were unmistakable, even through a haze of pain. Especially through a haze of pain.
This… this hadn’t happened the first time through.
“What? You got rocks in your ears or somethin’? Answer me stupid. Did you find out what your quirk was?” His snide words did little to belie the curiosity in his eyes.
He opened his mouth to say that he was quirkless and then paused.
“My quirk’s kind of complicated, I don’t really understand it yet but I’ll tell you all about it later,” Izuku replied in a disjointed voice. How had he spoken when he was six years old? Not how he spoke now, he was sure.
He had no idea if he would still have One For All at any point, or what was up with his current situation but maybe he could set Kacchan up for an easier future with a small blow to his ego. Remove one of the blocks that formed that foundation of his pride and the rest of them would fall. It was a chance worth taking.
Plus, it wasn’t a total lie. There was no way he could be here now with the chill of the night air rippling through his hair without a quirk. This had to be real. He was in the past. He wouldn’t be in so much pain if this was only a dream. Could it have been because of a quirk that had been looked over the first time? A quirk like the one All For One’s brother possessed?
“You better not try and one up me, Deku! Whatever your quirk is!” Kacchan said animatedly, turning and walking back through the gate into his house.
When had they gotten here?
“Don’t stay out too late and get abduc- abduck- taken by villains! I don’t want to have to save your ass, Deku!” Kacchan shouted from the stoop. His mother shrieked something about language but Kacchan’s glance back at Izuku was utterly unapologetic.
Izuku could only nod, a little dumbfounded by the exchange.
“Midoriya Izuku, you get back here this instant!” He heard his mom shout from further up the sidewalk, using her own quirk to pull him closer by his clothes. “You can’t just run outside like that. I know you’re upset but-”
“I’m sorry, but can you please relax Mom?” Izuku said, leaning into her embrace out of years of habit.
She scooped him up off the ground entirely. “What’s with this change in attitude? You sound so grown up all of a sudden!”
Izuku froze- Damn, his mother had always been pretty perceptive when she wanted to be- and he was a bad liar.
As his mother walked him back inside, Izuku fiercely debated with himself over what to do. If he told his mother the truth she might be able to help, but would she be able to believe him? What would become of him if she didn’t believe him? What if she thought he was crazy?
Back inside, Inko set her son on the counter and fussed around the kitchen making him a hot chocolate.
The gesture strengthened his resolve. He had to do something.
“I have something I need to tell you, and I need you to listen to me. I mean really listen to me. Regardless of how improbable it seems. Can you do this for me?” he spoke quietly, but with conviction in every word. If he was going to pull this off, he needed people in his corner. It was the only reason he’d gotten so far in the first place.
Inko took a seat on a stool, looking into her son’s eyes. Seeing the hard glint in them that did not belong to a six year old whose dreams had just been crushed.
“I promise,” she said, leaning forward to listen.
He opened his mouth to begin explaining and paused. “Actually, I have a really bad headache. Could you get me some medicine, mom?”
“Of course, sweetie.”
His mom didn’t let him out of her sight, using her quirk to grab the bottle from the shelf in the pantry instead of walking over to grab it. It was one she used a lot when she got home from hospital to make dinner. Perks of having a nurse for a mom, great painkillers.
He took the pills, rubbing at the side of his head as he tried to figure out a way to word what was happening to him. “Where do I start? First off, I’m beginning to think that I’m not quirkless-” at that Inko choked a sob back.
She wiped her eyes, “Honey, I know you want to believe that, but-”
“No, Mom. Listen to me. I’m here because I died.”
Inko dropped the cup from her hands, catching it with her quirk before it shattered on the wood floor of the kitchen.
“Honey, I don’t understand,” she said as she brought the cup back up to the counter, bracing her hands on either side of it. “I haven’t let you out of my sight all day.”
Izuku ran a hand through his hair and sighed, a surprisingly adult gesture before waving his hand in the air. “I think, I’m not sure yet. This could still be a dream for all I know. Let me start over. Hi, I’m Midoriya Izuku, a third year student at UA operating under the hero name Deku, I mentored under Grand Torino and All Might. My classmates included Bakugou Katsuki and Todoroki Shouto. We were a week away from our graduation when the League of Villains made one all out attack to take me down. And in that battle I- along with many others- died.”
Inko said nothing as she reached up her hands to cup her son’s face, green eyes to green eyes. Looking for a lie that she desperately wanted to find.
“The doctor was wrong about my quirk… or it wasn’t something he could read. I think I travel back in time when I die; actually, that could be totally wrong. Something happened though, and I’m here. I’m not going to waste this chance by sitting here trying to figure out how it happened.” Izuku looked away from his mother’s eyes, unable to bear the scrutiny there. Not when he was as unsure as she was. He wanted to backpedal all of a sudden, laugh and play it off as one big joke.
“You promise to me that you aren’t playing pretend,” Inko said, “Swear to me, on All Might.”
Izuku took a deep breath through his nose. “I swear on the life of my mentor, Yagi Toshinori, otherwise known as All Might, that I have told you nothing but the truth.”
Inko’s eyes filled with tears. Izuku froze, that seemed like a bad reaction. Why did he think this was a good idea? He hoped he didn’t look as bad as he felt, the pills would take awhile to start chipping away at the mountain of memories hammering away at his brain. Izuku looked away from his mom, if his age showed anywhere, it would be in his eyes.
Izuku picked at the back of his hand, feeling for scars that were no longer there. “Do you believe me?” he said.
“Of course I do, I’ll always believe you.” The mug clinked against the counter as she set it to the side, forgetting about the hot chocolate completely. “What do you need me to do?” she asked, bringing herself up to her full height as she wiped the tears out of her eyes. There was steel in the posture of her spine.
“I’m going to do my best to save everyone and prevent All For One’s rise. It starts here, and now.” Izuku looked up at his mother. This was his vow. He would start here and now. One For All or not, he would save everyone. Everyone.
He couldn’t get the vision of Shouto turning towards a tidal wave of enemies with a sad smile on his face out of his mind.
Tomura had laughed .
“We need to track someone down, Shimura Tenko. He’s about ten years old at this time, I think. We also need to report Todoroki Enji for child abuse and spousal abuse-” He would do everything he could to help Shouto, not matter what life threw at him. “-then I need to tell All Might to protect his left side when he fights All For One. Fuck, that fight should happen in a few months, right around the same time he fights Toxic Chainsaw. I should probably take care of that before the Enji thing, damn.”
“Language!” Inko chided.
Izuku rolled his eyes with a small smile. “Yes, Mom.”
Reaching across the counter he took one of his hero assessment notebooks.The first few pages were filled with childish scribblings, a few tear marks scattered here and there. He had only gotten around to filling out one page about All Might. Muttering, he started writing down bullet points and critical intersections of his life that he needed to meet in order to stop the League of Villains before they began. He wrote down every important detail he could think of, his friend’s names, their abilities, descriptions of the foes they had all faced. Whatever could help. He’d always been good at analyzing things.
He continued to speak as he wrote in compact, neat kanji. “I need to talk to All Might, or you need to. He might listen if it comes from an adult. I know it’s late, but do you think I could stay up and use the computer for a while?”
He was nowhere near finished writing everything down and there were things he would need to look up to make sure he was right. He grabbed the notebook and pen in his hands.
“Just this once, because of extenuating circumstances,” Inko booped her son on his nose. He seemed to be in higher spirits than earlier, at least. That was one thing she could find to be grateful for. Collecting him from the counter she wrapped him in a bone crushing hug.
“Thank you for trusting me. I don’t know how much I can do, but I’ll do what I can.”
She sent him up the stairs to his room, but Izuku stopped at the top of the steps and looked back at her. For a moment, the shadow of her son loomed high, looking like that of a grown man.
“I never told you, but to me, you were always one of the greatest heroes.”
Without another word he turned and walked down the hallway.
Inko felt the tightness in her chest break and the tears start to flow down her cheeks. On unsteady legs she walked over to the table and slumped into a chair. It was all so much to take in one day. She repeated in her mind the three things that Izuku had placed the most emphasis on; Shimura Tenko, Todoroki Enji, and Yagi Toshinori.
It was going to be one hell of a year.
Up in his room, Izuku found the cursor blinking against the search bar. With steady hands he typed a name and began the first step on his plan for a better future.
When he was six years old he learned that life wasn’t fair, but you could always choose to fight.