Izuku has always been good at paying attention.
It’s just something about the way he is. He channels it into the way that he analyzes Quirks, but there’s a part of him that simply pays attention to the world around him. It means Mom trusts him to take care of himself. She knows how good he is at staying out of trouble (mundane trouble, at least; Kacchan can sometimes be harder to predict and avoid) and tries not to worry when he chases after heroes.
It’s not a Quirk. Izuku pays attention to everything, even the things that normal people don’t, and it gives him an edge — he doesn’t trip over cracks, he tracks rubble from hero fights as they fly toward the crowd, he knows when someone sticks out a leg to trip him while he’s “distracted” or tries to creep up on him.
But it’s not a Quirk.
“A Quirkless loser like you could never get into Yuuei,” Kacchan snarls in his face. “If you want a Quirk so bad, why don’t you take a leap of faith off the roof and see if you get one in your next life?”
You shouldn’t say things like that, Kacchan, Izuku thinks, fishing his notebook out of the pond. What if I took you up on it? What would you do then?
(Something colder and angrier than he is stirs beneath the surface of his mind, but settles down just as quickly.)
Izuku stares up at the roof.
He doubts that Kacchan would try to save him. Kacchan wouldn’t hold out a hand and tell Izuku not to jump. He wouldn’t tell him—
Izuku shakes his head.
(Don’t do it, Yamamoto—!)
He starts walking home.
Izuku has nightmares.
They were worse when he was younger, his mom tells him. Mom was so scared that there was something wrong with him, but he slowly grew out of them. That’s a little true, but the real truth of it is that he got better at hiding them, so Mom didn’t have to worry about him.
Izuku can’t even remember most of his nightmares. What little he does, doesn’t make much sense.
They’re all disjointed flashes: blurred voices, blood, an endless stretch of clear skies—
Mom says his dad could breathe fire. Izuku doesn’t really remember him, either, and he doesn’t think his father accounts for the fire in his nightmares (he hopes his father doesn’t account for the fire in his nightmares), but for a long time he wanted to believe that maybe his Quirk would be fire like his father’s.
The nightmares were better when he believed they were a sign.
Now he wakes up in the middle of nights, tears gathering in his eyes as the nightmares leave him reaching for something that he can never have.
(Reaching for something/someone/somewhere that is gone and never coming back.)
Izuku doesn’t have a Quirk.
Izuku doesn’t take the route he usually does. He feels too disquieted. He doesn’t want to face his mom like this.
Kacchan is wrong, he tells himself. I can at least try.
I have to try.
Izuku wants to be a hero.
(Reborn, I don’t want to be—)
It’s everything he’s ever dreamed of. Everything other than the nightmares, or the nightmares-that-aren’t-nightmares, the ones where it’s only him and the soaring blue of a clear sky and the freedom to go wherever he wants.
Izuku forces himself to smile and laugh, the way that All Might always does.
I’m going to try, and you can’t stop me, Kacchan, Izuku thinks fiercely as he walks through the underpass.
Something scrapes behind him.
(Run! something inside Izuku screams.)
It’s just Izuku and Mom and their cat at home.
Izuku has something of a habit of finding hurt animals and bringing them home. He and Mom patch them up as well as they can, if they can, or take the animals to someone who can help if they can’t.
None of them stay until one of them does. He’s a rangy, underfed kitten that keeps showing up at their door for days after his leg has healed. Izuku looks at Mom and Mom looks back at him.
Izuku names him Natsu.
“You’ll do,” the sludge-monster says, and Izuku doesn’t have time to do more than throw his hands up in a futile warding gesture before the monster is upon him.
He should have taken the chance to run, but now there’s no way. The sludge is immobilizing him, and it’s forced its way into his mouth. It’s crawling down his throat and into his lungs and he’s drowning.
He’s drowning, clawing at the gunk around his mouth to try to free himself, and the sludge monster is laughing.
“Just give in, kid,” the monster says. “I promise it won’t hurt.”
Izuku panics even more at that, because it’s lying and he knows it’s lying and the worst part is that black is encroaching on the edges of his vision.
He’s going to die here.
He’s going to die here, and this monster is going to ride around in his skin, and his mom might never know what happened to him. This thing is going to kill him to continue to get away with its crimes, and there’s nothing Izuku can do about it.
Izuku’s sob doesn’t even register against the writhing mass.
I don’t want to die, he thinks, staring with fading vision toward the end of the underpass and the blue sky that will be the last thing he ever sees. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die!
Why don’t you let me help you with that? says a voice in the back of his head.
Everything around Izuku is dark now, but in the middle of the darkness, there is a light.
With the fraying thread of the connection Izuku still has with his body, he can feel his hands move without his control into a shape that is both unfamiliar and undeniably right.
Zero Point Breakthrough, murmurs the voice. First Edition.