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From Muddy Waters

Chapter Text

It had been a long time since Toshinori had visited UA. Too long.

Walking through the long corridors leading to the observation room for the entrance, he could almost believe that he was one of those nervous children passing through the doors again, terrified and hoping that they would beat the odds, make their mark, and enter the most exclusive high school in Japan for heroics. Hoping that this would be the start of their heroics career.

“Yagi-san.”

Blinking, Toshinori pulled himself from his memories and looked for the speaker. “Ah. Nedzu-san.” Reaching up, he patted at his messy mane of blond hair nervously. “My apologies. I was caught up in memories.”

“Don’t worry,” Nedzu said, trotting over to him. “I’m happy that you even managed to find the time to come.”

Toshinori grinned sheepishly and bowed. “Well, I figured that if I’m going to be teaching here, I should probably start becoming acquainted with my co-workers. And I understand that watching the entrance exam is something of a tradition for the faculty.”

Nedzu smiled. “I’m sure that they’ll be thrilled that you’re so eager to be a part of things,” he said mildly. “You’re just in time, too. Present Mic is just finishing up explaining the point-scoring system.”

“Ah, is it still the robots, then?” Toshinori asked as he followed the headmaster.

“One, two, and three pointers,” Nedzu confirmed, moving quickly in a way that someone that didn’t value their life would describe as ‘scurrying’, “with a zero-pointer to keep things from getting too boring.”

Toshinori chuckled. Oh, did he ever remember those robots.

The doors to the viewing room were surprisingly non-descript for UA. Plain metal and unpainted, tall enough to accommodate even him without trouble. Inside, the room was already dim, a massive bank of screens dominating the wall across from the entrance and a long table with chairs set up in front of it. The other teachers were already seated, lightly chatting with each other.

“Jeez, that kid sure was strict,” Midnight, the 18+ heroine was saying. Toshinori could only make out a small sliver of her face as he came over to the table, but he could tell that she was grinning. “I like to see that in a hero.”

“Mmm, it’s all well and good in a structured setting like a school, but if he wants to succeed as a hero, he’s going to have to loosen up.” Blood King replied. “Too stiff, and he’ll break the first time he comes across something that he hasn’t been specifically taught how to handle.”

Both good points. Toshinori quietly slid into a seat, content to listen. In heroics he may be these people’s senpai, but in teaching he wasn’t even a kouhai. Scanning the room by habit, he noticed a man dressed in dark clothing leaning against the wall, a mass of capture-tape wrapped around his neck and shoulders like a scarf. If he remembered correctly, he was the Underground Hero, Eraserhead…

“AAAAANND START!”

Toshinori jumped a little in his seat and turned his attention back to the screens. The exam had started.

The mass of examinees surged forward into mock cities and met the battle robots quickly. Toshinori watched them carefully as they began to fight, trying to pick out particularly talented-seeming individuals. The rest of the staff didn’t know it, but he was here for more than just teaching.

One of these examinees could be the next bearer of One for All.

“Ah - looks like we have a frontrunner in Arena A,” Midnight commented, pointing towards a particular screen. “He’s barely letting anyone else get any points.” She grinned and licked her lips. “I like to see that sort of vigor in a young man.”

“Vigorous or not, he’s being rather careless with his explosions,” Ectoplasm noted. “A bit of shrapnel just nearly hit some of the other examinees.”

“Well, he is trying to get into a school,” Blood King replied. “If he was perfect already he wouldn’t need to.”

Toshinori saw the merits of both arguments. The boy was certainly talented, that was true; he supposed that it would come down to whether or not the boy was willing to recognize his flaws. In any case, for all of the boy’s talents Toshinori doubted that he’d be a good fit for One for All. His Quirk alone meshed poorly with it, and the way the boy was laughing on the screen was…worrying.

Letting his eyes drift away from the explosive boy, he began to scan through the rest of the screens, trying to pick out the early frontrunners. The explosion boy was not the only promising-looking test-taker today - there were several others he found catching his attention. A boy with engines in his legs - clearly from the Iida family; Toshinori had worked with them before, and found some warmth blooming where his stomach had been at the thought that they were still going strong. Another boy, dressed in a green tracksuit with curly hair, smashed a robot away from another examinee that had been knocked down with what seemed to be a strength Quirk. A girl with what seemed to be a gravity-manipulation quirk who was making it rain robots. Another boy with bright red hair, using some sort of armoring quirk to smash through the robots - a girl with a mutation quirk that made her look like a frog using her tongue to smash one bot into two others - another with what looked like a sonic quirk -

“Oops, look like the kids have been bunched up too long,” Ectoplasm said mildly, pointing towards one of the screens. Looking up, Toshinori saw one of the massive zero-pointers looming over the buildings of one of the exam grounds. He remembered those ones - so intimidating as a student, but now -

“Wait. Something’s wrong.” Power Loader was leaning forward in his seat, squinting and pointing at the screen. Toshinori looked -

His eyes widened. “That girl is trapped.” The girl with the gravity quirk that he’d been admiring - she seemed to be trapped underneath some rubble. And all of the others there were running right past her.

Shit. Toshinori glanced over at Nedzu - he’d never asked if they had a shut-off button here -

“Wait - who is that?”

Toshinori had had his hands on the arms of his chair, about to haul himself up and dash to the rescue when Midnight’s voice stopped him. Looking back over at the screen, he just caught it - someone moving forward, towards the zero-pointer, so fast that they were just a blur on the camera - perhaps the Iida boy -

No. Not the Iida boy.

Toshinori watched as the blur slowed down enough for the cameras to pick the figure out. It was the boy with the strength Quirk, or rather an enhancement Quirk, judging from how quickly he was moving. He slowed down just a few dozen meters from the girl -

He crouched, and there was something about his legs -

And then he was a blur again, rocketing up to the zero-pointer’s head and hanging in the air in front of it, one arm cocked back like he was about to punch it except the arm wasn’t moving -

- but the sleeve of his tracksuit was bulging, tearing and ripping and a mass of twisted flesh, nearly as big as the boy himself and nauseatingly familiar (the arm of the man that had torn a hole in his side with a grin and left him a frail shadow of himself) swung forward and slammed into the flat face of the giant robot.

Silence filled the room as they all watched the face of the robot crumple in, explosions triggering through its joints as the pure power behind the swing forced it back. The boy, a tiny figure in front of it, twisted in mid-air, catching himself on a nearby building and slowing down his fall as the robot continued to self-destruct.

They could feel the impact of it hitting the ground from where they were sitting. A glass of water by Toshinori’s hand trembled, ripples playing along its surface.

One second, then two, and then three passed in silence, before excited muttering broke out throughout the room.

“Did you just see that? One punch -”

“Not the prettiest quirk, but that much power -”

“Do we have the marks of that kid, I want to see -”

Toshinori could barely hear anything over the ringing in his ears. If he’d still had a stomach, it would have been sinking down to his toes. All he could think about was that arm. That twisted mass of muscle and power.

Who was that kid?

Chapter Text

“- this is your Hero Academia!”

Izuku smiled as his acceptance finished playing for the fiftieth time, his stomach fluttering with joy. He’d known after the exam that he’d done well, but while waiting for the results his mind had gone crazy. Had he gotten enough points? Had his destruction of the giant zero-pointer actually worked against him?

Had they found out who his father was?

“Izuku, you’re going to be late!”

Izuku jumped in his chair, his eyes flicking over to the clock. Oh no - he should have left five minutes ago! Had he really spent that much time watching his acceptance? Hastily standing up, he scooped the holoplayer up from his desk and stuck it into his uniform blazer’s pocket. Grabbing his backpack from his bed, he flung open his bedroom door.

His mother was standing there as he came out, teary-eyed but smiling. “Do you have your notebooks? Your handkerchief?” she asked, trotting along beside him as he headed towards the door.

Izuku grinned at her, torn between amusement and anxiety. Putting on his red sneakers, he said, “Yes, mom, I’ve got everything. I packed last night.”

She pulled a crumpled tissue from the sleeve of her pink cardigan and began dabbing at her eyes. “I know,” she said, “I just - I’m so proud of you. You worked so hard -”

“We worked so hard,” Izuku said, standing back up. He walked back over to his mom and wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

His mom hugged him back, squeezing him tight and sniffling into his shoulder. Then she pulled back, smoothing the lapels of his uniform’s blazer. “You’re going to be a really cool hero,” she said, smiling through her tears. “And some day, you’re going to take down your father.” Reaching up, she pulled his head down and kissed his cheek.

His own eyes were feeling a little hot. He kissed her cheek back and with one last squeeze, stepped back towards the door. “With you supporting me, I know I will,” he said, grinning at her.

“I’ll pick up the things for katsudon before you get home,” she called as he stepped through the door. “Good luck!”

“Thanks mom!” he called over his shoulder. “I love you!”

“I love you too!”

As he trotted down the street towards the subway, Izuku found himself thinking back to the exam again. He’d been so worried coming out of it - he’d had a late start thanks to his habit of getting caught up in his thoughts, and the others had swept ahead of him.

He’d known that he should have just run along with all the others when the huge zero-pointer had appeared, but then he’d seen that girl that had kept him from falling on his face trapped underneath some rubble and it had been like his legs were moving on his own. He’d totally forgotten everything that he’d promised to himself and just moved until he was right in the robot’s face, putting his fist through the solid metal until it gave out, its joints collapsing from the force.

He still kind of wished that he’d had a chance to find out the girl’s name.

Well, she’d been doing pretty well from what he’d seen during the exam. Maybe he’d see her around the school.

Stepping into a subway car, he fingered the tiny holo-projector in his coat pocket, wondering if she’d had All Might welcoming her as well. He’d taken to carrying the device around with him everywhere as a talisman for good luck, and more than once he’d found himself re-watching the acceptance video in the middle of the night when he’d woken up, convinced that he’d dreamed the whole thing.

But he didn’t need to watch it now. Crammed into the subway car, he scrolled through his news feed on his phone. Everything was dominated by the news that All Might would be starting his new teaching job at today and Izuku found that he couldn’t keep a smile off of his face at the news.

Everything was finally going to be alright.

It was only with long practice of melting into the background that he was able to slip through the crowds surrounding the school’s gates without being stopped. He was lucky that he did, too, because it took him nearly fifteen minutes to find his classroom.

Class 1-A. Izuku looked up from his phone where his school schedule was downloaded to the sign above the giant (for mutation quirks, perhaps) red door. Taking in a deep breath, he gripped his backpack’s straps tight. This was it. The start of his career as a hero.

“Excuse me, are you going to go in?”

Izuku choked. Whirling around, he flailed and backed into the door with a thump.

It was her - the girl! He would recognize her bobbed hair and rosy cheeks anywhere!

She didn’t seem to recognize him though, just smiling and politely ignoring his overreaction. “I take it you’re nervous for your first day too, huh? I still can’t believe I got into UA, can you? Especially after the exam - I got trapped under some rubble while a zero-pointer was attacking and had to be rescued!” Her nose crinkled and she cocked her head to one side. “It was sooo embarrassing, and I didn’t even manage to thank the boy that saved me ‘cause the exam ended right after!”

“O-oh, is that so?” Izuku babbled inanely, internally wincing at his own words. “W-well, don’t worry - I don’t think that you embarrassed yourself, I mean, when I punched that zero-pointer -”

The girl’s eyes were as round as her cheeks. Her mouth dropped open, and then she was suddenly leaning forward to examine his face closely. “It was you? Yeah, now I recognize you!” She rocked back on her heels, her eyes squeezing shut as a sunny grin spread across her face. “Your quirk is so cool and gross!”

Izuku’s stomach plunged. “Y-you saw? My arm?” He’d thought that he’d been moving too fast - but then again the school had taped the entire thing -

Your quirk is a natural part of your body, Izuku, and nothing to be ashamed of, murmured a voice from his memories.

The girl ignored him, karate-chopping the air in front of her. “The robot was like ‘aaahh’ and you were like ‘wachaaaa’ -”

Someone cleared their throat.

The girl paused and looked around. Izuku joined her. It looked like they were alone out here -

“Down here.”

Izuku looked down and saw a yellow caterpillar. “What -?”

The caterpillar moved. Rolling onto its side, it revealed a pale, tired-looking face surrounded by a thick tangle of dark hair. “Class starts in thirty seconds. It would be a shame to be marked late on your first day.”

Izuku looked down at his phone.

His eyes bulged - the caterpillar spoke truth!

The bright red door bounced off of the wall as the two of them rushed through, nearly tripping over a desk and garnering stares from the rest of the kids in the room. Grabbing the nearest empty one, Izuku sat down and tried to ignore them. The heat creeping up his ears told him that he had failed.

The caterpillar followed them in. Rolling up behind the teacher’s desk, it rose from the ground until it was standing and split open, allowing a man in dark clothes and a pile of bandages wound around his neck to step out.

“My name is Aizawa Shouta,” he said without preamble, “and I will be your homeroom teacher.” He pulled out a pile of Yuuei gym clothes from the sleeping bag and tossed it onto the desk. “Now get dressed and meet me outside. We’re doing Quirk Apprehension testing.” Ignoring the protests that began to rise up, he turned and headed out of the room.

Once everyone was dressed they followed Aizawa-sensei outside to large dirt pitch. Milling around as they waited for everyone to finally arrive, Izuku finally found himself with the time to look around at his other classmates.

No one appeared to be entirely comfortable with how things were going. A few people had formed small groups of two or three, mumbling to each other. A few others were standing alone, their faces set in expressions of concentration, clearly trying to hype themselves up for the coming tests.

“Alright, listen up,” Aizawa said, and despite the fact that they all had only met him less than twenty minutes ago they all quieted down in a few seconds. “Softball pitch, standing long jump, fifty meter dash, endurance running, grip strength, sustained sideways jump, upper body tests, and seated toe touch. You all know these tests from middle school, where you were banned from using your quirks.” Pausing, he pulled what looked like a phone from his pocket.

“You’re not in middle school now, though. You’re in the top school for Heroics in the country. If you want to exceed your limits, you first have to know where you’re starting. And since the MEXT have yet to start keeping track of such things, establishing that baseline is up to us. Bakugou.”

The man’s gaze flicked over to a blond boy standing apart from the rest of the class, his face creased in a dark frown.

Izuku frowned to himself. Bakugou - that name was familiar; could it be?

Aizawa tossed a softball at him. “What was your best for softball throw in middle school?”

The newly-named Bakugou’s expression didn’t change even as he caught the ball and began to walk towards the pitch that Aizawa was gesturing to. “Seventy-six meters.”

“Try doing it with your quirk this time,” the teacher ordered, holding up his phone.

Bakugou looked at him for a long moment, something calculating in his eyes. Then he turned and rearing back readied himself for his throw.

“DIE!” he howled as he threw, an explosion erupting from his hand.

Dust flew through the air, making Izuku’s eyes sting. By the time he was done rubbing at them, Aizawa was holding up his phone with the screen towards them.

705.2 meters, it read in tall, white letters.

“This is the start of your hero foundations course.”

There was a beat of silence. Then -

“Awesome!”

“So cool!”

“We can use our quirks? That’s the department of Heroics for you -”

“This is going to be so fun -”

“Fun?” Aizawa’s voice cut through the chatter like a knife. “Is that why you came to Yuuei? Were you planning on spending the next three years just having a good ol’ time?”

A chill raced down Izuku’s back at the look on the man’s face.

“New rule, then. Just to keep things interesting, the last-ranked student in these trials will be immediately expelled.”

…Shit.

It turned out that the toss was just a demonstration of Aizawa’s expectations. Instead of continuing with the softball toss, they started anew with the fifty meter dash. First to go was the tall boy with engine legs that had scolded Izuku for talking during the exam explanations, against a girl that seemed to have a mutation-type quirk that made her look like a frog.

Distantly, Izuku was aware of the part of his brain that never shut off carefully watching and tabulating the racer’s quirks. The vast majority of his brain, however, was taken up with figuring out how he was going to play this.

He had placed well in the exams, but going all out meant - well, nothing good. But neither could he pull back too much, that would be suspicious. Perhaps towards the high-end of the middle of the pack? His quirk was supposed to be just run-of-the-mill enhancement, well-suited for the flashy Heroics course…

“Midoriya.”

Izuku jumped. Aizawa looked at him from underneath his hair, his face expressionless. “You’re up.”

Shakily nodding, he headed towards the starting line. His opponent was the boy from earlier - Bakugou. He was still scowling, his hands flexing, and his expression only darkened further when Izuku tried to smile at him.

It was just a physical test, he told himself as they got ready. He could easily time this so that he’d fall in the middle of the pack. The boy with the engines had the best time so far so just one leg-strengthening Quirk and a mild amplification Quirk would probably be enough -

“Go!”

There was a loud crack beside him and the other boy was launching forward, explosions roaring from his hands like he was some sort of rocket. It was very impressive, Izuku thought as he shot forward, just barely feeling the strain.

“Four point one four seconds,” the timing robot called out as he passed the line.

Oof, a little better than he had wanted. Izuku swallowed and hid a wince.

The other tests went much the same way. Some students shone particularly well in one test, where others struggled. After that first test, Izuku was careful to keep himself in the middle of the pack, all too aware of Aizawa’s burning gaze. He wondered if they were doing particularly poorly - every time Izuku looked up, he seemed to be frowning at his phone where he was recording their marks.

Finally, though, they were at the last test - softball throw. The other kids were panting and sweating, their limbs trembling, and Izuku wondered if that was the point of putting this test last.

“Midoriya!”

Izuku nodded politely and tried not to wilt underneath Aizawa’s gaze. It had been getting more and more sharp as the tests went on. Maybe a strengthening and an enhancement Quirk, this time? Impress him a little? Izuku took the ball from his hand and went to the pitching mound, slotted in his Quirks, wound up and threw as hard as he could -

“Forty-six meters.”

…What?

“I erased your quirk.”

Izuku whipped his head around to see Aizawa standing behind him with his hair floating upwards and glowing red eyes. Reaching up, he loosened his scarves around his neck and began to walk towards him, each step carefully placed like some stalking big cat.

“Midoriya Izuku, placed first in the entrance exam and single-handedly took out a zero-pointer robot with one punch.” Step. Step. Step. The bandages had loosened entirely and were now floating around the two of them, winding around Izuku’s arms as he stood there, feeling paralyzed by his teacher’s red-tinged, unblinking gaze. “That’s not an easy accomplishment. Your marks on your written exam were quite high as well. So tell me, then - why have you been half-assing these tests?”

Half-assing - the recording. Of course, of course a teacher would watch the recordings before starting the class -

“I - I didn’t want to ruin my gym uniform on the first day,” Izuku stammered, “and I didn’t want to damage the pitch either -”

The scarves tightened as Aizawa’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not good enough. Being a hero isn’t a job where you can just coast by and choose when you want to work hard. If you’re not going to use your quirk properly in something as simple as a set of Quirk Apprehension tests, then you shouldn’t be here at all.”

It felt like those red eyes were burning through him, seeing every secret that he was trying to keep hidden. He’d seen the video, seen Izuku’s arm -

The scarf abruptly let go of him. Aizawa’s hair fell back down and the red glow disappeared. The stern look didn’t, though. “I will worry about the possible damages. You worry about excelling.” Turning, he walked back to where he’d been standing before. “This is the only chance I’ll give you. Throw properly, or I’ll throw you out.”

Izuku realized then that he was trembling. Looking over at the other kids, he saw that most of them were looking confused. The girl that he’d saved looked upset and was glaring at an unruffled Aizawa. The blond boy he’d raced was glaring at him.

Izuku looked down at the dirt. He didn’t want to - but he couldn’t say that Aizawa was wrong -

He put the ball down carefully and began to pull his shirt off.

“Woah, dude, this is school -”

“Wait, he was serious about his clothes?”

“Wow, he’s ripped -”

Izuku ignored the chattering that started up and neatly folded the shirt. This would be for his future, he told himself. It’s not like this would never come up.

Walking down the pitch with his shirt in his hands, he headed to the one person he sort-of knew and held it out. “Here,” he said the brown-haired girl, “can you hold this while I take the test?”

The girl blinked rapidly at him, her face bright red. “I - guess?” she said in a squeaky voice, taking the shirt. Her eyes were bouncing between his chest and his face.

Izuku nodded, not saying anything about her gaze. “Thank you.” Then he headed back to the pitch, picking the ball back up. Aizawa’s gaze was burning a hole into his head.

Alright. For his future.

A strength Quirk, to start with. He could feel the energy filling the muscles of his arm. Then another. And another. Three was enough. He didn’t need to look down to tell that the muscles all along his right arm had gotten significantly more defined. Then came the magnification Quirks, two in all. From the gasps behind him, the bulging of his muscles had become noticeable even to the other students. He gritted his teeth as the burning started, his skin stretching until it felt like it was going to split. Finally, reinforcement, strengthening muscles and bones and tendons so that he didn’t snap his own spine with the first swing.

Behind him, people were muttering.

For my future, Izuku thought to himself, looking up and trying not to look at his mutated arm. This is all for my future.

He could hear his own heartbeat pounding in his head.

He reared back, the sounds of his audience fading away in his ears, and threw.

KRA-KOOM

The shockwave of his throw sent the dirt of the pitch flying. People screamed and covered their eyes; in the distance, he could hear the sound of breaking glass. He couldn’t even see the ball anymore.

As the dust settled, he turned to look at Aizawa.

The man was grinning and holding up his phone. On the screen, he could see in large white digits -

Eight oh three point nine meters.


They were let go after the rest of the class had finished taking the test. Their rankings were revealed, and the purple-haired boy with balls on his head that had ended up in last place was told not to come back tomorrow.

Watching the boy sob, Izuku had felt sorry for him. He didn’t doubt that the boy had tried his best, but Yuuei was one of the best in the world. If he hadn’t done any physical conditioning before starting, then there wasn’t much that could be done.

The rest of the kids had been pretty quiet after that. No one had seemed to be in the mood to hang around, and Izuku had decided that just going was probably the best thing he could do. His mom would want to know how his first day went, at least, and he wanted to talk to her about having to use more Quirks than he originally intended.

His arm tingled at the memory. Turning his arms into those grotesque mockeries of limbs - he had never liked doing that. Even back then. After he’d found out where the Quirks had come from, he’d liked it even less, feeling like it was reflecting the source of his power. Having to whip it out already, so soon in the year had his stomach churning.

Yeah, it was definitely best to just head home. Talking things out with his mom always made him feel better.

As he was trudging towards the school gates, however, a hand clapped down on his shoulder and began to drag him towards the trees on either side of the walkway.

“Wha -”

He was hauled around and pinned up against one of the trees before he could even finish the word.

“Oi, what the hell was that shit during the tests?”

Izuku blinked, staring at the person confronting him. It was the kid that he’d raced against, that had demonstrated the ball throw - what had the teacher called him? Baku-something?

“Uhhh, I’m sorry?” he tried. “I’m not quite sure what I did -”

The boy’s frown, which had already been present on his face, deepened.

“God, Deku, stop with the bullshit. I’m talking about how you were holding back in the tests!”

Deku. Deku? Could it really be?

“Kacchan?”

And somehow, the frown became even deeper.

“What the hell’s with that surprised tone?” he snarled. “Did you fucking forget who I was when you changed your name? What the hell type of name is Midoriya, anyways?”

For a moment, Izuku didn’t answer.

Kacchan. Bakugou Katsuki. His childhood friend, from before - everything. He hadn’t seen him in years, hadn’t expected to see him - but then, why wouldn’t he? Getting into Yuuei had been Kacchan’s dream since they were children, just learning about how to become a hero.

Despite still being pinned against a tree, Izuku keep from grinning. “Kacchan!” he said happily. “It’s great to see you, I didn’t realize you got in too!”

Kacchan’s lip curled. “’Course I got in, you stupid Deku! Now stop avoiding the question, what the hell was with you holding back in those tests?”

Oh. Crap. Izuku slid his gaze away to some point just beyond Kacchan’s ear. “Like I told Mr Aizawa, I was worried about the destruction. That last throw shattered a bunch of windows -”

Kacchan let out a frustrated snarl and wordlessly pulled him forward, only to slam him back against the tree. “Not that! I’m talking about the other tests, your other powers!”

Izuku’s stomach dropped. That’s right, he had known Kacchan when they were little. Back before he figured out the secret behind his multiple quirks and stopped showing them off to his friends.

Those had been such good memories, before everything.

“What other powers?” he asked, making the snap decision to play dumb.

Whoops, that was the wrong decision, judging from how Kacchan’s expression became thunderous.

“The fuck are you saying, ‘what other powers’?!” he snapped, raising his voice. “The powers I remember you showing off like the shitty Deku you are!”

Izuku raised his hands and tried uselessly to shush him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he babbled quickly, “I’ve only ever had a strength quirk -”

He was let up off of the tree just enough so that Kacchan could slam him back against it hard enough to hurt. Kacchan pushed their faces in close, close enough that Izuku could smell the pickles they had had for lunch on his breath.

“I told you to stop with that shit,” he growled, his red eyes boring into Izuku’s. “Do you think I’m some fucking extra that’ll just smile and nod at you fucking around? I remember you teleporting, Deku.” His hands began to smoke. “You could breathe fire, and see through walls, and it was so fucking annoying!”

Kacchan was shouting again. Izuku gritted his teeth and made a shushing motion with his hands. “You’re remembering wrong,” he said. With a quick wriggle, he managed to slip away from Kacchan’s grip and straightened his jacket. His phone buzzed in his pocket and he slipped it out. “I have to get going, my mom’s going to be worried if I don’t come home on time -”

As he had been speaking, Izuku had been unlocking his phone to see what his mother had sent him. He didn’t blame her for worrying, and honestly, if Kacchan was recognizing him they’d probably have to talk anyways. As he opened the messaging app to see what she was saying, though, his stomach dropped.

There was no message. No text message, at least. Just a notification of his mother’s location.

He could feel the blood draining from his face.

“Deku?” Kacchan’s voice was rough, but Izuku could hear the sudden concern underneath it from long practice. “The fuck -”

“I have to go,” Izuku said, stuffing his phone back into his pocket and hoisting his backpack higher. He couldn’t look at Kacchan now. He’d break down, say something. “I need to go home.”

“Deku, you fuck -”

Izuku dodged Kacchan’s hand and speed-walked away from the other boy. He needed to get away - get away -

His phone felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket as passed through the school gates.

No message. No explanation. Him and his mom had come up with this signal five years ago, as soon as they had gotten away. If one day he got just a notification of her location, or if she got a notification of his location, with no message attached, then that meant -

He’s found us. Don’t come home.

Chapter Text

The setting sun was weak on Izuku’s face as the train rattled along, the light nearly swallowed up by the encroaching night.

He’s found us. Don’t come home.

Izuku squeezed his phone in his hands until the edges were digging into his palms.

He’d been eight when he’d first found out the true name of his Quirk. Eight when he’d first heard the true name of his father. Eight when he began to realize exactly how his father kept him and his mother in such comfortable circumstances.

All for One.

He could still remember the day that he had found out about his Quirk in vivid detail. His father had slammed his hand in the car door after they'd come home from a morning appointment, splitting the skin and allowing bright red drops of blood to run down his fingers. He’s hissed, his brow furrowing, and Izuku, silly three-year-old that he’d been, had given it a kiss to make it better as they walked to the house. That blood had smeared on his lips and he’d licked it away, tasting warm salty copper - and then that afternoon he’d breathed fire. Just a little tongue of flame…

His father had been so happy. He’d smiled, that wide, toothy smile of his, seeming to completely forget his hurting hand. He’d lifted Izuku up and kissed his cheeks, hugging him tightly. It had been a sunny day, and the birds had been singing outside, and it had felt like the whole world was celebrating along with Izuku as he had laughed and laughed with joy. He’d gotten his Quirk!

Then his training had started, and things only seemed to get better. His father had brought him more Quirks, whispered about how this had to be a secret between the two of them. A daddy-son secret, that not even his mother could know about. And Izuku, like a stupid child, had accepted all of it with a giggle and a grin, too dazzled by all the Quirks he was being given to even begin asking where they had come from.

Do you not like your gift, Izuku?

Not before it was too late.

His hands were trembling, and Izuku couldn’t make them stop.

He’s found us. Don’t come home.

Swallowing back a whimper, Izuku pressed the phone and his hands against his face. What was he going to do?

They had planned for this. They’d known it was a possibility. Even with the injuries that his father had taken, his money and underlings and Quirks meant that what was fatal for others was not necessarily fatal for him.

A small, hopeful part of him reminded him that he was going to a hero school now, taught by actual heroes. If he told them - heroes were supposed to save people, right? Help them when they needed help. And Aizawa-sensei was kind of intimidating, yes, but his other teachers had seemed perfectly nice. Yes, the one time he’d let the fact that his father was a villain slip had ended up with them being kicked out of the shelter they’d been staying at in the middle of the night, but this was different, right? Maybe, if he told one of them -

The doors hissed open, letting a few people in. Izuku hadn’t even realized that they’d stopped.

“- and seriously, he was all like, ‘I didn’t do it! I’m not a thief!’ and he just kept going on and on about it,” a school girl, still in her uniform, was saying to the small group of friends surrounding her. She flipped her hair over her shoulder dismissively. “Like, your dad was a freaking bank robber, do you really expect us to believe that?”

A chorus of agreement rose up around her. Izuku’s stomach did a bellyflop onto the ground.

“Yeah, everyone knows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

“Villains raise villains, it’s a fact!”

“Who else could it be?”

“Seriously,” the first girl repeated, looking at her phone. “It’s a good thing that hero was there, though. Who knows what could have happened if wasn’t.”

“Yeah —”

Izuku was very careful not to look at the group of girls directly. Slowly, he pulled his phone and hands away from his face and concentrated on keeping his face still.

Right. How could he forget that?

Villains raise villains. How often had heard that? Not precisely in those words, maybe, but in actions. In the words not said. In a lack of surprise, when certain kids got in trouble at school for little things that were overlooked in the rest of the class. Everyone knew that you had to keep a closer eye on them, considering who their parents were. Who knew what they were learning at home?

His chin wobbled.

Why would Yuuei be any different? He tried to come up with a reason and failed. They were heroes, they were supposed to put away villains, full stop.

No, if he went to the teachers at school, confessed everything, he’d just be kicked out as a security risk, at best. More likely he’d be locked up and interrogated for everything he knew about his father’s ‘work’. It wouldn’t matter that he didn’t know anything, that him and his mother had run away as soon as they could when they found out what he was doing - villains raised villains. It was a law of the world that had no room for the grey areas.

He scrubbed roughly at his face. He had to face facts. He wasn’t going to be getting help. He’d have to handle this on his own.

Mom had stolen a lot of money on their way out, and squirreled it away in various accounts and caches. As part of their emergency plans, she’d always made sure that he carried the necessary documents to access the accounts, so money wouldn’t be a problem…

But what about everything else? What else could he do? His brain felt like it was overheating. It kept skipping back to his mother, to his memories of when they were a happy family. It didn’t seem to want to figure out what to do - all it seemed to want to do was curl up on the ground and cry.

He had to figure something out, though. Otherwise, everything his mother had done would be for nothing. He had to - he had to -

He went back to pressing his face against his phone, fighting back tears. He had to figure something out, yes, he thought as he slowed down his breathing. He had to figure out what he was going to do.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. First things were first. He had to hide from his father. Undoubtedly, he’d have his men combing the Mustafar District - so to start with, he needed to find a place to stay that wasn’t there.

One step at a time. He could do this. He just had to take it one step at a time.


Izuku ended up riding the rails the entire night, thinking things over. Struggling with the memories that threatened to bubble up and dominate his thoughts.

Slowly making his way towards Yuuei, Izuku forced back the memory of his mother hugging him, her tears soaking his hair, and promising him that she’d get them out of there, no matter how long it takes, sweetie, even if it looks like I’m not doing anything I swear I’m working on getting us out, I swear, I swear…

FUMP

Izuku bounced off of the person that he had walked into and immediately started to apologize. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going -”

“That is quite alright, Midoriya-kun.” A strong hand clapped down on his shoulder. “I wanted to talk to you anyways!”

Looking up from the ground, Izuku saw the person that he’d bumped into, and blanched. “W-what about?” he asked the engine-legged boy. They were standing outside of the classroom; he hadn’t even noticed that he’d arrived. He hoped that he wasn’t going to get lectured again - he could see the other kids in the class peering out from the doorway -

The boy took his hand off and bowed deeply, scattering Izuku’s thoughts. “My name is Iida Tenya. I wish to apologize for my actions towards you on the day of the entrance exam!” he said loudly. “I unfairly singled you out in the auditorium and embarrassed you! I also wrote you off during the exam itself!”

“I-it’s okay,” Izuku stammered, feeling his face heat up. More heads were peeping out of the doorway. A few were grinning.

God, he hoped that this wouldn’t be like middle school. After he and his mother had escaped from his father, he’d gone through a period where he hadn’t dared use any of his Quirks. The other students at his middle school had picked up on that and labeled him as Quirkless until his second year, bullying him mercilessly. He’d ended up showing off a strength Quirk just to get some peace and quiet so he could actually learn in his classes.

“No it is not!” Iida straightened and adjusted his glasses. “I wrote you off as hopeless, but it was you that saw the hidden test in the exam! Despite all of my knowledge, I did not, and I acted cruelly towards you!”

“Okay then, I forgive you!” Izuku put his hands up like he could ward off the other boy’s loud words.

Iida slammed into a low bow again. “Thank you for your forgiveness!” Straightening back up once again, he then turned and began to usher Izuku towards the class doorway. “Now, let us enter the classroom before we are marked late!”

It was impossible to stop the other boy. He was steered through the doorway and pushed into his desk before he could make more than a few small sputtered gasps of protest, the other students parting before them like the Red Sea. As soon as he sat down, it only got worse, as the waves of students came crashing back in.

“Hey there, Midoriya-kun!” The brown-haired girl from the exam leaned forward on his desk. “I realized last night that I never even told you my name! I’m Uraraka Ochako!”

“N-nice to meet you -”

A girl with pink skin abruptly sat down on his desk, swinging her legs and grinning at him. “None of us got to introduce ourselves! My names Ashido! Mina Ashido!”

“Ah, no fair! How do you already have girls all over you?” Someone moaned behind him. Feeling his face burn even hotter, Izuku turned his head and opened his mouth to deny it.

The blond boy that had spoken cut him off by shoving a hand in his face. “Name’s Kaminari Denki,” he said, grinning as well. “Teach me your secrets, master!”

Laughter rang through the room, and more people came up to introduce themselves. Izuku felt dizzy as names stampeded through his head, only weakly attached to the faces that danced in and out of his vision. People were complimenting him, asking him about his Quirk, asking if he wanted to hang out later, asking him if he wanted to study together -

Despite his burning face, Izuku felt himself relaxing as the conversation washed over him. His mom may still be missing, but at least school seemed like it was going to go okay.

“Oi.”

The classroom abruptly quieted at the sound of their homeroom teacher’s voice. They hadn’t even heard him come in! The crowd that had gathered around his desk scattered as his classmates rushed to their own seats and sat down.

“Still room for improvement, but better than yesterday,” was Aizawa-sensei’s only comment. Then he began to take roll-call.

After the tension-filled tests that had made up their introduction to life at Yuuei, their first morning of proper classes was surprisingly normal. They had lessons like English and Math, taking notes and listening to a teacher lecture. They ate lunch in a large cafeteria with the rest of the kids in their year. Really, the only difference from middle school was that instead of the usual boring teachers they were being taught by pro heroes.

After lunch was different, however. After lunch -

That was when the practical lessons began.

Sitting at his desk as the bell rang to note the end of lunch, Izuku could barely keep himself from vibrating with excitement. Lessons with All Might! The Number One Hero in the world, the Symbol of Peace, the Pillar of Society - everything that was the opposite of Izuku’s father. To be taught by him…

Izuku smiled slightly to himself. When he’d found out who his father was, he’d thought that that was it. That he’d never be a hero, not with his blood. But here he was now, in Yuuei Academy, about to be taught his first practical lesson in heroics.

He couldn’t wait to tell Mom -

His smile dropped off of his face like his stomach dropped down to his feet. His eyes prickled. Damn it. Damn it, no, he wasn’t going to think about that right now, he could deal with it later.

“I AM -”

A shout from the doorway managed to pull him out of his thoughts. Izuku looked up and -

“ENTERING THE ROOM LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!”

The room broke out in cheers. All thoughts of his mother were shoved aside as Izuku watched the Number One Hero march to the lectern at the front of the class, his famous grin plastered across his face.

“That’s his Silver Age costume, isn’t it?”

“Wow, so retro!”

“Foundational Hero Studies!” All Might cried, quieting the class down. “Through this class, we’ll be building up your hero foundation! So let’s jump right in!” He pulled out a card and held it up in front of them “WITH THE TRIAL OF BATTLE!”

The class broke out into cheers. Izuku heard Kacchan growl excitedly.

“And to go with your first battle,” All Might continued, “we’ve prepared the gear that you all requested for your costumes.” One side of the wall abruptly hissed and extended, revealing numbered metal cases. “Now put ‘em on and meet me at Ground Theta! There’s no time to waste!”

They didn’t need any more encouragement. Izuku found himself swept up in the excitement of the rest of the class and surged forward, finding the case that had been assigned to him. Him and his Mom had worked so hard together coming up with designs -

- No, no he wasn’t going to let this cool him off! Izuku shoved the emotions of the thought down and held his case close to his chest, blinking back tears as he headed towards the changeroom. Crying wasn’t going to do anything here - the best he could do was honour her by becoming the best hero he possibly could be.

The inside of the changeroom was loud, filled with the excited yelling of his classmates. Slipping in, Izuku headed towards one of the empty lockers that lined the back of the room before setting his case down on the bench bolted to the floor in front of it.

“Midoriya,” a low voice said as he opened the case. Izuku looked up to Iida, already half-undressed. “Are you feeling alright?”

Everyone else was still chattering around them, occasionally breaking off to ooh and ahh over parts of each other’s costumes. Izuku swallowed and turned back to his case, staring down at the costume with unseeing eyes. “I’m fine, Iida,” he said. “Why do you ask?”

“You looked sad back in the classroom,” Iida replied bluntly. “If something’s wrong, I would be happy to help you explain to the teacher -”

“No.”

The noise in the room dipped slightly, and Izuku realized that he had spoken a little too sharply. Some of the other boys were looking over at him with concern. He pasted on a smile and began to pull out his costume, trying to ignore them. If he just acted like everything was fine, everything would be fine.

Iida was still looking at him, now a little shocked and hurt, and a pang went through Izuku’s chest.

“It’s alright, Iida,” he said, putting his boots to one side. “I just - you know, it just really hit me that this is all real. I’m going to be taught by All Might, and - and I want to make a good impression -”

Iida stopped him with a pat on the back. “I see,” he said. “My apologies, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

Izuku chuckled weakly. “It’s alright, you were just concerned. A-anyways, we should really get dressed, everyone else is nearly done -”

Iida blinked and then looked around before straightening. “You’re right!” he said, “I’ll let you get to it, then!”

Izuku just nodded, taking off his shirt.


The costume had turned out perfectly.

Standing in one of Yuuei’s model cities, Izuku couldn’t stop himself from running a hand down the front of his costume, marvelling at it.

He and his mother had spent many nights together brainstorming after they found out that he’d been accepted. The both of them being nerds, they played video after video of hero debuts, debating the various pros and cons of their costumes. Eventually, they’d managed to narrow down onto what they liked best and what would work best with his Quirk.

At its base, his costume was simply an armoured jumpsuit with boots, gloves, and a mask. The jumpsuit was mostly a dark green, with the upper half of his chest and shoulders covered by bright white V that came to a point just underneath his breastbone, and was echoed in colour by his boots, belt and gloves. A helmet, smooth and white except for two subtle points at the back and covering most of his face except for a large tinted visor, connected with a metal jaw piece painted to look like a grin. A few of his curls escaped from the back, the armoured part of the helmet being focused on his front. Finger-width white lines made angular rectangles along his jumpsuit’s sides, an addition from his mother and echoed in green along the sides of his boots and his helmet, finishing off the look.

“Ah, Midoriya!” Uraraka called as he walked out into the training grounds, another one of Yuuei’s model cities. She was wearing a jumpsuit as well, but hers seemed to be based off of an astronaut rather than his racer look. Her grin was wide and sunny and she waved at him happily, walking over to greet him. “I like your costume! It looks badass!”

No one could see it under his helmet, but Izuku could feel himself blushing. “Y-yours looks great as well!” he said, giving her the thumbs up. “Totally space-themed!”

Uraraka laughed as he internally cringed at himself for saying something so obvious. “Really? I wasn’t sure, it was bit tighter than I expected.”

“Deku,” came a familiar growl from behind him.

Izuku turned. “Kacchan, what -”

He barely had time to get a look at Kacchan’s costume before the other boy had grabbed him by the front of his costume and hauled him to the tips of his toes.

“We never finished our conversation yesterday,” Kacchan said in a low growl, his face serious.

“Hey, that’s rude!” Uraraka snapped from behind them. “We were talking!”

“Eh? Who cares, extra -”

Izuku swallowed, suddenly feeling like he was standing between the unstoppable force and the immovable object. Looking over his shoulder, he could see that Uraraka’s cheeks were reddening, and she looked ready to start something -

“Attention, students!” All Might called, cutting the argument short, “I will now be explaining the trial!”

The trial was fairly simple as All Might explained it, reading the details off of a small sheet of paper. Teams of two (and one of three, since one of them had been expelled yesterday) would go up against each other in a mock indoor battle, vying for control of a ‘nuclear device’ as heroes and villains. The teams and roles would be decided by a random draw (and whoo boy, Kacchan had not been happy about that). The villains would get an extra five minutes at the start to prepare for the heroes’ arrival, and they would all have fifteen minutes to complete the exercise.

Simple enough. The only trouble would be making sure that he didn’t slip up and start showing more than one Quirk.

The way All for One worked was a lot like an inventory system in a video game. While he could carry around a lot of different Quirks, he could only use a certain number at one time - barring the ones he had multiples of. Those ones, he could stack into one slot, regulating them together at the same time like stacking multiples of the same item. In total, he could manage three different types of Quirks at a time. Any more, and he risked injuring himself.

But he could manage this. He’d already been limiting what types of Quirks that he used. So long as he stuck to physical ones like he had been doing, he should be okay.

Right?

“Alright!” All Might shouted, pulling Izuku back out from his worrying, “if everyone has found their partners - Team A, Yaoyorozu and Midoriya! You will be the villains!”

Izuku’s eye twitched underneath his helmet; this was not a good sign.

“You will be going up against Team D, Uraraka and Todoroki! Use your extra time well, for this will not be an easy battle! Everyone else, follow me to the observation room! We will be watching your classmates’ performances and then analyzing them, so pay close attention!”

Even better. A muscle in Izuku’s cheek was twitching as well. On the villain team, up against a hero team made up of a cute girl and a hero’s son, and everyone would be watching. God was speaking to him, and he was telling him that he hated him.

A hand touched his shoulder, making him jump. Turning his head, he saw a tall, mature-looking girl in a leotard with a cutout that went down to her belly-button, her hair pulled back in a pony-tail. “Midoriya? I am Yaoyorozu Momo.” She bowed shallowly. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Swallowing, he bowed back. “Nice to m-meet you too.”

“If you want to come with me, I have some ideas on how to approach this exercise.” She turned and began to walk into the building.

After a second, Izuku realized that he was being left behind and hastily followed. “Y-yeah,” he said as he caught up, “I had a few ideas too - I mean, if you want to share -”

“Of course!” Yaoyorozu said, looking at him with surprise. “We are supposed to be a team in this, after all.”

Izuku smiled nervously, only belatedly remembering that she couldn’t see the expression through his helmet. “S-sorry, I just -” he stopped and coughed, clearing his throat. “Okay, um, what’s you’re quirk, then? I - we didn’t really have a chance to do introductions yesterday in homeroom -”

“My quirk is Creation,” Yaoyorozu interrupted, thankfully cutting off his babbling. Extending an arm, Izuku watched as a metal quarterstaff emerged from her bicep. “I can create anything I want from my fat cells, provided that I understand its atomic make-up.”

“That’s so cool!” Izuku gushed, forgetting his nervousness. “How complex of an item can you make? Can you make more than one at once?”

The girl smiled at him, her cheeks looking a little pink. “So long as I know how it’s put together and what it’s made of, I can make it,” she said. “As for making more than one object at once -” she looked away “That depends on the object. The more times I've made them before the easier it is.”

“Still, that’s so cool!” And it was - Izuku’s mind was buzzing, possibilities bubbling up in his head. “My quirk is just strength -”

“Ah, yes, I overheard Uraraka speaking about your conduct in the entrance exam,” Yaoyorozu said. They had found the mock nuclear device while they were talking and were now on the stairs, halfway up to top floor. “You took out one of the zero-pointers on your own when she was in danger, didn’t you? I’m a recommended student, so I didn’t take the same exam, but it sounds like your first place was well-earned.”

Izuku blushed and rubbed the back of his helmet. “T-thanks,” he said, his stutter coming back.

Their earpieces crackled suddenly, All Might’s voice piercing through their mutual admiration. “Students, you only have four more minutes to prepare!”


Toshinori hadn’t slept well last night.

It was nothing new. After his fight with All for One, after the injury, after the surgeries and rehabilitation and the drugs and the pain - sleep had become only a passing acquaintance with him. More often than not, he would spend his nights sitting up, staring down at the city from his apartment and letting waves of exhaustion roll over him. When he did manage to close his eyes, he was chased by nightmares of that fight, of a smug, bloody smile and taunting words and a cruel hand buried in his side, twisting and tearing and pulling -

So yeah. He hadn’t slept well.

But despite the exhaustion still tugging at him, he kept his smile on for his students. This may only have been his first class with them, but he was already finding fondness welling up in his chest as they chattered around him in the control room.

Looking at the array of screens in front of him, he reached up and activated the communication earpiece he had on. “Villain Team, your preparation time is up! Hero Team, you may begin!”

“Yes, sensei!” both teams chanted, making something warm uncurl in what was left of Toshinori’s digestive system.

Uraraka Ochako and Todoroki Shouto made up the hero team. Both were impressive, Uraraka scoring high in the practical exam with her Zero Gravity Quirk and Todoroki showing exactly why he was recommended in his exam with his own Quirk. But they were going up against equally impressive opponents - Yaoyorozu Momo, who was also in on recommendation, and the top scorer in the practical exam, Midoriya Izuku.

Keeping his smile on his face, Toshinori’s turned over what he knew about the last boy.

Midoriya Izuku. He’d been in the room when he’d destroyed that zero-pointer in a single punch - with an arm that resembled that of the man that had torn a hole in his side.

Toshinori wasn’t proud, but his first reaction to seeing that had been to silently panic. Sitting in the darkened room along with all of the other teachers, he was fairly certain that no one else had noticed, but after that sight he couldn’t remember much of what had happened. All he could think about was that arm, and the memories that it forced to the front of his mind.

Somehow, in the days following he had managed to get his hands on the boy’s file. He thought that he remembered giving some sort of excuse about getting to know his students, but he wasn’t sure.

The file had been unremarkable. A set of grades from middle school. A few extracurriculars, mostly based around reading. And a picture of a rather plain, unremarkable-looking boy.

Yes, the boy had his freckles. Yes, the boy had his curly hair. But his expression, the softness in his face - it was nothing like All for One. There was too much vulnerability, the sort that his old enemy would never let himself show.

But the thought still gnawed at him. Tugged at him. Prodded him during those long nights before the school year started. So he found himself watching rather closely as the match started, hoping that this would finally put his mind to rest.

The Hero Team was going for a subtle entrance, avoiding the front door. That was good - basic it may be, he had seen more than one hero not think things through even that far when in a time crunch. Yaoyorozu was up by the mock nuke, still generating objects to trap the hallway leading to the room she was in. And Midoriya, who was clearly taking the more mobile role -

Or maybe not. Toshinori frowned internally. Where had the boy gone? The building was wired up so that there were precious few blindspots, but the boy seemed to have found one. Restlessly looking over the screens, he heard the students begin to talk behind him, noticing the same thing as him.

“Hey, where did Midoriya go?” asked the pink-skinned girl, Ashido.

“Yeah, did he leave Yaoyorozu to fend for herself? That’s not very manly of him,” the red-haired boy Kirishima said with a disappointed look.

“It’s doubtful. More likely, he’s hiding to set up an ambush and draw the heroes into a fight on his terms,” said the girl with a frog Quirk, Asui, her finger to her chin.

“His conduct in the entrance exam shows that he does not have such darkness within him,” young Tokoyami added. “Asui-san’s evaluation is correct, I believe.”

“That still doesn’t explain where he’s gone, though, dude,” Kaminari, the electricity Quirk using boy pointed out.

The heroes were entering one of the larger rooms, now. It seemed that several doors had been blocked off, forcing them to take a certain path - a clever move from the villains. The heroes probably realized that as well, judging how slowly they were moving, their heads moving from side to side as they kept their eyes open for traps. Filled with crates and pillars as the room was, there were multiple places that Midoriya could be hiding, waiting for them to let their guard down.

But the attack didn’t come from any of those hiding places.

They had nearly reached the center of the room when Midoriya dropped down on them from the rafters, his arms masses of twisted muscle, and clapped his hands together.
The resulting shockwave threw Uraraka and Todoroki in opposite directions and had static flickering across the screens. Still in the room with the nuke, Yaoyorozu looked up with a concerned look on her face.

Behind him, the other students had gone silent. Internally, Toshinori agreed with them. That was - that was a rather impressive move, for a student. Very experienced. Separating and stunning the heroes at the same time and putting them on the back foot.

Midoriya had landed on the floor in a crouch and was straightening as the heroes began to painfully pull themselves up from where they had fallen. His form spewed steam as he slimmed down, his helmet moving between the two of them. Toshinori had barely a second to draw in a breath before Midoriya clearly chose Todoroki as the more dangerous of the two and surged forward, an arm cocked back.

Chapter Text

Izuku surged towards Todoroki, Yaoyorozu’s warning ringing in his ears.

During the recommended students exam, Todoroki was able to take out most of his opponents at a long range with his ice. The few times one managed to get in close, though, he seemed to have trouble. The key to defeating him, then, is to get as close as quickly as possible.

Something that I specialize in, Izuku thought grimly to himself. After letting out the shockwave, he’d immediately dialed it back down to only one strength Quirk. This was only practice, after all, and he didn’t want to actually hurt either of his opponents.

Todoroki, however, hadn’t seemed to have heard that. Panting, the ice covering his left side cracked and breaking off, Izuku had only a heartbeat to see a wild look in the other boy’s eyes before he found himself dodging a spike of ice.

“Gahhh!” he couldn’t help shouting as the rough spike scraped past his ribs. His costume was strong enough to keep from tearing, but the armour plates underneath were ground into his side hard enough that he could feel the top layers of his skin being scraped off. Twisting mid-air, he landed in a crouch, only to be forced to dodge again as another ice spear was launched towards him.

No wonder Todoroki was a recommended student, Izuku thought enviously. Anyone else in their class probably would have been taken out by Izuku’s followup to his initial shockwave, but Todoroki had already been starting his counterattack by the time Izuku reached him. Those reflexes -

Izuku pumped himself back up to three strength and a reinforcement Quirk and slammed his hands together to create another shockwave, shattering the third ice spear mid-thrust. He could admire Todoroki later, he told himself sternly. Right now, he had to keep his head in the fight.

His Quirk is called Half-Hot, Half-Cold; his left side projects his fire and his right ice. He prefers to use his right side, though; I’ve never seen him use his left. During the exam, I overheard him say that he wanted to get by without using it - I’m not sure what that was about, so aiming for his left side is probably your best bet.

So far, Yaoyorozu’s information had been good. Time to push it further.

The air was filled with dazzling ice crystals from the shattered spikes, blown away from them both by Izuku’s shockwave. Todoroki had raised his arms to protect his face, and Izuku lunged, cocking his arm like he was about to punch the other boy in the stomach.

Just as he expected, Todoroki raised a wall of ice in front of him, just high enough to cover him. Izuku flung his arm forward anyways. He let go of his strength and magnification Quirks, focusing on his reinforcement, and his fingers sank into the ice like butter. Then with a twist, his momentum whipped him around -

And had his foot slamming into the left side of Todoroki’s face like a runaway train.

Todoroki’s head snapped around with a sound that had Izuku wincing. There was no time for pity, though - Todoroki’s ice spears needed room to start, and Izuku wasn’t about to give that to him. Adding back a single strength Quirk, he tore his fingers from the ice and landed in a crouch. A pump of a speed Quirk to his legs, and he launched himself towards Todoroki once more.

Yaoyorozu’s information continued to be good. Keeping up the pressure on Todoroki’s left side, the boy was forced back, away from the doorway that lead to Yaoyorozu. Izuku punched and kicked, swiping at the other boy’s legs, his face, his side - nothing on his left was safe. Awkwardly positioned, he seemed to struggle to put up any ice defenses on that side. The ice that he had already put there had shattered in the first few punches and shockwaves, leaving his face bare and the red, shiny scarred flesh around his eye exposed. Leaving his eye exposed, round and with its pupil shrunk to a pinprick in fear.

Between breaths, Izuku wondered. He was pounding Todoroki into the ground, and yet not so much as a spark was flaring from him. Such control - and yet -

And yet -

That eye. In that eye, Izuku thought he could see fear. And still, Todoroki didn’t use his fire. At this rate, Izuku would have him defeated in less than a minute, but -

This didn’t feel like he was coming up on victory. This felt like bullying.

The whisper of those words had him flinching, just a tiny stutter in the swings of his blows. Todoroki had his back against the wall, frost webbing out from where his right hand was braced against it, his eyes wide. Izuku gritted his teeth, Aizawa’s words from the day before sliding through his mind - Heroes couldn’t decide when they wanted to work - one last punch should do the trick -

Todoroki thrust his left hand out like he was trying to ward off Izuku’s enhanced blow -

Smoke.

Izuku was just an inch or two away from Todoroki’s hand when he saw it.

Smoke. Sparks. And a tiny twist of flame, right in the center of the other boy’s palm.

Izuku clapped his hands together and rode the shockwave back, out of range of Todoroki’s attack. The wave of force slammed Todoroki back as well, cracking his head against the wall. The fear that had been in his eyes disappeared, replaced with a daze.

That had been close. Too close. Izuku had to end this now. He gather up his strength Quirk and focused it in his legs, launching himself forward -

Suddenly, he was weightless, his steps making him surge foward uncontrollably. His butt was stinging, like someone had slapped it.

Uraraka, he thought before he slammed face-first into the wall beside Todoroki.

“Todoroki!” Uraraka shouted, her voice oddly ringing in Izuku’s ears. “You go on ahead and get to the nuke! I’ll take care of Midoriya!”

His neck aching, Izuku tried to force himself to his feet. No, he had to -

Uraraka’s Quirk abruptly reminded him of its existence as his push to get himself off of the floor sent him slamming back up against the ceiling.

Damn superstrength.

“GO!” Uraraka shouted beneath him.

His eyes had squeezed shut as he hit the ceiling, but he opened them just in time to see Todoroki disappear into the doorway heading towards Yaoyorozu. Gritting his teeth, he opened the comm channel to her.

“Yaoyorozu!” he said, “I’m sorry, Todoroki’s coming towards you - I’ll beat Uraraka as fast as possible and then reinforce you!”

Yaoyorozu didn’t have time to reply, because Uraraka then canceled her quirk, sending him falling back down to the floor.

He barely kept himself from falling flat on his face. Managing to land in a crouch, he then found himself on the defensive as Uraraka attacked, swinging with open palms and clearly trying to catch him in her Quirk again.

Damn. With how nice Uraraka had been earlier, he hadn’t expected her to be so aggressive. Now he was paying the price, though. And Yaoyorozu would be too, if he didn’t figure out how to neutralize Uraraka.

“Jeez,” Uraraka panted, “I heard you talking to your partner. Saying you’ll beat me as soon as possible? Awful full of yourself, aren’t you?”

“Sorry,” Izuku said, dodging a swipe that nearly clipped his shoulder, “I meant no disrespect towards your strength!” Another swipe nearly got him - he needed a plan.

A plan, a plan - there was a muffled explosion behind him, one of Yaoyorozu’s traps that they’d set up being triggered - there was an odd cracking noise behind him, like ice creaking - Uraraka swiped at him again and he didn’t dodge this time and she caught him, sending him flying with his sudden weightlessness -

At least, she would have, if Izuku hadn’t managed to grab a hold of wrist. Just in time, too, because the ice that Todoroki had let off swept across the floor and froze Uraraka up to mid-thigh where she stood.

“Ahh, that was close!” Izuku said, his eyes wide under his helmet. Uraraka’s eyes were wide as well, and her teeth were chattering.

“W-what the hell?” she said, sounding indignant. “T-todoroki!”

Pulling out his capture tape, a plan whirling in his head, Izuku quickly tied her hands down against her thighs, preventing Uraraka from canceling her Quirk. He needed it now if he wanted to get to Yaoyorozu in time.

“H-hey, jeez, w-watch where you’re t-touching,” Uraraka said through chattering teeth.

“Sorry!” Izuku said automatically, too focused to even be embarrassed, “Thanks for the help though!” Grabbing her shoulders, he pulled his knees up to his chest and put his feet against her chest, going down to just one Quirk so he wouldn’t hurt her too bad, and kicked off.

He rocketed across the room, to the stairs, twisting around and reaching to push himself up the stairs. With the touch of a finger he was flying up -

The sight that greeted him made his chest clench. Yaoyorozu was frozen up to her hips, helplessly bashing at the ice trapping her with her quarterstaff as Todoroki was walking over to the nuke -

Izuku slammed his fist into the ceiling as he hit it, breaking part of it into large chunks. Grabbing a larger piece, he could see that Todoroki had paused and was turning around. The two of them were far away, and he only had one shot at this.

He didn’t even think, activating an aiming quirk. His eyes ached at the abrupt change, but now he could see things clearer. Todoroki, still too close to the nuke. Yaoyorozu, still frozen and between him and a clear shot at Todoroki.

He made his choice of what to aim at, and his arm reared back.

“Yaoyorozu!” he screamed, and chucked the rock as hard as he could at the ice.

Just as he had hoped, the ice shattered, freeing her and sending a glittering veil of ice crystals into the air. Todoroki was still turning, but Yaoyorozu’s quarterstaff slammed into his legs before he could do much more than open his mouth. He grunted as he hit the ground, and Izuku could see the water vapor beginning to crystallize around his hand -

But it was too late. In a flash, Yaoyorozu’s capture tape was wound around Todoroki’s ankles and knotted tightly.

Izuku’s earpiece crackled and All Might’s voice spoke.

“VILLAIN TEAM WINS!”


The four of them limped their way to the control room, sweaty, exhausted, and in Todoroki’s case, heavily bruised.

Izuku wasn’t worried about that, however. He knew that Recovery Girl was on staff, and so was more worried about having possibly damaged a new friendship.

“Seriously, I’m super super sorry, I wasn’t even thinking when I was tying you up, all I could think was that I could move so much faster with your Quirk -” Izuku babbled frantically to Uraraka, wringing his hands.

Uraraka only chuckled, taking off her helmet and shaking out her hair. “Stop apologizing, would ya? I get what you were after - it was a smart move to win the match, not anything pervy!”

“Sorry -” Izuku snapped his mouth shut with a click and flushed an even deeper red. This time, everyone could see his expressions; as soon as the match was declared in his and Yaoyorozu’s favour, he had taken his helmet off and raced over to check that the others weren’t too injured. The helmet itself was now tucked under his arm, clutched to his side like a teddy bear.

“Uraraka’s right,” Yaoyorozu chimed in from his other side. She had Todoroki’s arm slung over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry, her blow with her quarterstaff having apparently been quite powerful in urgency and making walking a little painful for the other boy. “It was a snap judgment that was the reason we managed to pull out a win, not an inappropriate attempt to touch her.”

“Quite true!” All Might called from the doorway of the control room. “But we can discuss your performances in more detail in here!”

Oof. This was not a part that Izuku had been looking forward to. Despite knowing better, he found his mind going back over his actions - the aiming Quirk he’d used hadn’t been one of the obvious ones, right?

“DUDES THAT WAS AWESOME!”

Walking into the control room was like walking into a barely-controlled party. Immediately, Izuku found the pink-skinned girl with the acid quirk and the blond boy with the electricity quirk slinging their arms over his shoulders and immediately launching into rants about how awesome he’d been in those last minutes of the match. Staggering under their weight, Izuku saw that the others were similarly being swamped; Yaoyorozu in particular looked flustered as a girl with earphone jacks for earlobes gushed at her with sparkling eyes.

“Now now, children, that’s enough!” All Might called over the frenzy. “This is still a class, and we still have to analyze the performances of our heroes and villains!”

Izuku’s fans, who he now remembered had introduced themselves earlier as Ashido and Kaminari, made matching disappointed sounds but pulled away, quieting right down. Izuku supposed that it was a mark of how much respect All Might commanded that he could calm their excited class so quickly.

“Right then,” All Might said, putting his hands on his hips, “let’s start with declaring the match’s MVP! Anyone?”

Iida’s hand shot up into the air. “Sir!” he called, “I would say that in this match, Midoriya is the clear MVP!”

Izuku made a strangled noise, his cheeks heating. Him? Yaoyorozu had made the final blow, and Uraraka had saved Todoroki - surely All Might -

“Excellent! But can you tell me why, young Iida?”

Nope. Alright then. Izuku would just stand here and die then from embarrassment.

“First of all, looking at the two teams, the Villain team clearly was working together far better than the heroes! While this is most obvious near the end, one could see even at the start that Todoroki and Uraraka were having trouble properly communicating! While Todoroki did make the ramp up to the window, at no point did he offer Uraraka help, even when she was clearly struggling to keep up! He also did not wait for her once he made it to the top, and overall acted as if he was alone rather than as a member of a team! The crowning moment of this, however, was his actions in freezing Yaoyorozu! He used far too much power and ended up freezing his own teammate as well, leaving Midoriya free to come up for a last-minute save!”

“Huh, y’know, now that I think about it, Todoroki did seem pretty cold towards Uraraka,” Kaminari said quietly to a boy with odd elbows as he stood beside Izuku. Izuku twiddled his thumbs; he’d thought that that was the case. Uraraka and Todoroki’s Quirks working together could have done a lot of damage - heck, even just using Uraraka’s Quirk could have gotten them above the lower floors where Izuku had been waiting…

Iida continued, gesturing emphatically, “Uraraka was better than Todoroki, but also failed in working together! When she managed to save him from Midoriya’s attack, she could have easily had Todoroki freeze him in place and take him out of the match entirely! Instead, she insisted on fighting him herself and had Todoroki go on to Yaoyorozu, negating their advantage in numbers! This, combined with Todoroki’s misapplication of his Quirk, ended with her helpless to stop Midoriya from capturing her and then reinforcing his own teammate!”

“The villains, in contrast, clearly took their extra time in the beginning to come up with a plan that played to both of their strengths! Yaoyorozu’s quirk is versatile, but works best in a support position, while Midoriya’s quirk is ideal for front line combat! Accordingly, their plan was based on this, with Midoriya being the one to engage and delay the heroes while Yaoyorozu focused on building up their defenses around the objective! As well, from how Midoriya focused on Todoroki’s left side, I believe that they also discussed their opponents’ Quirks and weak points!”

All Might held up a hand, temporarily stopping Iida’s rant, and turned towards Izuku. “Young man and young lady, is Iida correct in this?”

Izuku twiddled his fingers harder and looked down, kicking at the floor. Were they not supposed to - ?

Yaoyorozu was nowhere near as nervous as him. “Yes we did, All Might. I was in the recommended student’s exam, so I saw Todoroki’s use of his Quirk. Midoriya was in the general exam and had seen Uraraka’s - he warned me about how she could possibly use hers to bypass my traps.”

“A wise move!” All Might praised. “Remember, knowing an opponent’s Quirk can be the difference between victory and defeat, so don’t hesitate to pool what knowledge you have together!” Gracefully ignoring how both Izuku and Yaoyorozu reddened slightly in pleased embarrassment at his compliment, he turned back to Iida. “My apologies, my boy! Please continue!”

“Yes sir!” Iida said, chopping the air. “Taking such strong teamwork into consideration, it’s difficult to separate the two, but I find that I have to give Midoriya the slight edge for his use of Uraraka’s quirk! Taking the effects of a strange and different Quirk and then using it to magnify your own efforts - that is the mark of a pro! He did not use it to show off, either! Instead, he used it to help get his teammate into position to strike the final blow, showing a maturity, tactical sense, and once again a strong commitment to working as a team with Yaoyorozu! That is why I believe that he deserves the title of MVP for the match!”

Iida finally stopped, taking a deep breath. “Did I miss anything, sensei?” he asked.

All Might beamed, his omnipresent smile somehow managing to stretch even wider. “No, that was very complete, young Iida. Very well thought out!” He flashed a thumbs up. Iida looked ready to swoon with joy. “I would give young Yaoyorozu some more credit for her traps - if they hadn’t slowed Todoroki down, no speed boost would have saved the villains - but on the whole, I cannot help but agree with your assessment of the situation!”

He turned back to the four of them, his smile a little less fixed. “Now, young Todoroki, you took a bit of a beating back there! Go see Recovery Girl, she’ll fix you right up and then you can come back and help analyze your classmates’ duels as well, alright?”

“I’ll take him to her, if that’s alright, Sensei?” Yaoyorozu volunteered.

“More than alright, young lady! Just hurry back - I don’t want you missing more of the class than you have to.”


The walk to the nurse’s office was rather long from the battle area. With Todoroki’s arm slung over her shoulders in a fireman’s carry as the two of them limped along, Momo wondered if anyone had ever brought that up with UA’s administration; surely it would be more efficient for Recovery Girl to be set closer to the Heroics track, rather than the exact middle of the school?

Or perhaps that was a selfish thought. Momo chewed on the inside of her cheek. UA was first and foremost a school; there were safety precautions in place that simply did not exist in actual heroics, meant to keep students from being severely injured. And while Gen-Ed and Business Course students were maybe not at daily risk of injury, the Support Course did deal with dangerous substances and inventions at times -

“We’re here,” Todoroki said quietly.

Momo blinked and looked up, seeing the sign for the Nurse’s office above her. “Oh!” she said, “My apologies, Todoroki-kun. I was just thinking.”

“So was I.” The statement sounded so grim coming out of Todoroki’s mouth that Momo couldn’t help but look at him in confusion. He didn’t look back at her, though. Instead, he pulled his arm free from her shoulders and straightened before knocking on the door.

“Come in,” a warm, elderly woman’s voice called out.

Todoroki pressed a hand against the door and slid it open, stepping in. Momo followed on his heels, pausing to close the door again behind them.

The small figure of Recovery Girl was dwarfed by her office chair as she turned it around, clicking her pen. She sighed gustily as she saw Todoroki’s bruised face, looking so disappointed that Momo had to stop herself from bowing low in apology.

“The first day,” she said lowly, shaking her head, “the first day! I am going to be having words with All Might! Come here, dear, and take a seat. You too, young lady, I’ll be giving you a look afterwards.”

“Oh, that’s quite alright,” Momo said, raising her hands as her cheeks heated, “I didn’t fight much -”

Recovery Girl scoffed. “Please, I can see how red the skin on your legs have gotten. I assume you faced this one?”

Momo looked over in time to see Todoroki lowering his head. She wrung her hands. “It’s nothing, my partner freed me -”

“I’ll be the one to decide whether or not its nothing, thank you,” Recover Girl said. She pointed at the bed where Todoroki was sitting with her pen with a sharp gleam in her eyes. “Frostbite is nothing to play around with, deary.”

Obediently, Momo sat down on the bed, feeling awkward. Pulling out a sheet, Recovery Girl began to look Todoroki over, turning his head this way and that, checking his eyes and having him remove his costume’s top to check his ribs. Momo could barely keep her wince internal as she saw the bruises already starting to bloom across the boy’s torso, and wondered just how hard Midoriya had gone after him. She had warned him about Todoroki’s talents, but those bruises looked painful.

Todoroki showed no emotion as the exam went on though, answering Recovery Girl’s questions in a flat, unemotional voice. Recovery Girl took notes as she went, occasionally making the odd tutting noise as he explained a particularly nasty bruise, before finally putting aside her clipboard and taking Todoroki’s face in both hands.

“Hold still, dear,” she said, puckering up.

Todoroki, to his credit, didn’t even flinch as she laid a slobbery kiss onto his cheek, only sighing a little as her Quirk took effect and drained his energy. She handed him a small bag of gummies before turning to Momo, saying “Eat up before you go back to class, sweetie, it won’t do you any good to collapse halfway back.”

Obediently, Todoroki did as she said, stoically munching as Momo was put through much the same examination as he was. Considering how she had played more of a supporting role in the fight, she was in far better shape, but Recovery Girl handed her a bag of gummies as well once she was done.

“I know that it’s mostly superficial, young lady,” she said, cutting off Momo’s protests as they began, “but considering your Quirk I don’t think that it can hurt to give you some more nutrients whenever possible. Now I want both of you to finish those bags before you start heading back. I just need to file these.” She raised the papers and jumped down off of her chair. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Momo nodded in understanding, but the hero was already gone. Opening the gummy package, she took one out and began to obediently chew. It was strawberry-flavoured.

“Do you know who trained him?”

Momo turned her head and quirked an eyebrow at Todoroki. “I’m sorry?”

Todoroki was slouched over, his jaw still moving as he chewed. He picked out another gummy from his package before replying. “Midoriya. He’s been trained in using his Quirk. Did he mention who trained him?”

Momo frowned and chewed thoughtfully on another gummy. They were actually quite good, not too sweet and with a satisfying amount of resistance as she chewed. “He didn’t mention being trained,” she said slowly, “but we only had five minutes before the match to talk. He did seem very confident in his fighting abilities, though.” She swallowed and fished through the package, picking out a blue gummy this time. “Are you sure that he was trained in his Quirk? It makes sense that he would train in martial arts -”

“His movements were smooth and confident. He switched between his bulked-up form and a slimmer, faster form mid-fight,” Todoroki interrupted, an odd tone in his voice. His face was blank of any expression.  “During the Quirk Apprehension tests, you could see the other students were self-trained. Their use of their Quirks were clunky in most of their tests, no matter the power. But Midoriya’s was smooth and practiced.”

Momo had stopped chewing halfway through Todoroki’s…rant wasn’t quite the right word, but it was close enough. She hadn’t been physically present for most of the fight, but from the praise she’d heard from the other students…

“Enhancement Quirks are not overly rare,” she pointed out. “His parents could have taught him how to use it easily.”

Todoroki shook his head. “In a fight? His instincts were on par with my own, and I’ve been being trained for as long as I can remember.”

That strange tone was still in his voice. Momo struggled to place it. Why was Todoroki so interested in this? The boy had been apathetic to everything around him for as long as she’d known him.“Perhaps he was trained, then. Why does it bother you so much?”

Todoroki tilted his head down, a small furrow appearing between his brows. He didn’t answer for nearly a minute.

“It doesn’t…bother me,” he finally said quietly. So quietly that Momo wasn’t sure that she was meant to hear it.

Momo quirked a brow, but didn’t have a chance to probe further. The door to the nurse’s office creaked open, letting Recovery Girl come bustling back in. “Alright then, have you two finished your gummies yet?”

Chapter Text

Papers were strewn over his coffee table and the recording of the third battle was playing on his television, but Toshinori couldn’t seem to get his mind to focus. He kept going back over the first battle of that day, with Midoriya. It should have relieved him; even looking closely, there was nothing that couldn’t be explained away as just a particularly mutative enhancement Quirk.

Unless Midoriya had chosen his Quirks to adhere to that particular explanation. Enhancement Quirks were very broad by definition, and one that enhanced the whole body…

No. No, he’d heard the discussion before the students had reached the observation room — All for One would never have been so concerned about offending another student. Nor would he have concerned himself with cooperating with an assigned partner.

Unless Midoriya was under some set of orders to not make waves. In that case, being the perfect example of a hero-in-training would make sense, if only to throw off any suspicion for future plans.

Giving up, Toshinori put down his pen that he was supposed to be taking notes with and scrubbed at his face. Grabbing the remote, he stopped the video that was currently playing and switched it back over to the first fight, settling in for another watch.

There were Midoriya and Yaoyorozu, planning in the building as she pulled out the components for several traps from her body. There were Todoroki and Uraraka, standing outside. Uraraka was trying to drag Todoroki into a conversation about their strategy. Todoroki was steadfastly ignoring her. Yaoyorozu and Midoriya came to some sort of agreement, and Midoriya split off, walking confidently down a flight of stairs.

Confidence. That was the key here. Toshinori thought back to Quirk Apprehension tests that he had watched the day before.

Technically speaking, he probably shouldn’t have been watching the tests. The welcoming ceremony was going on, after all, and even if he wasn’t slated for a speech (and he wasn’t, he had checked three times that morning), he probably should have at least made an appearance. With the way his mind was gnawing at the memory of the exam, though, his head didn’t have room for concerns about his image. He had to figure out this Midoriya Izuku before he truly began to teach.

Who knows, he remembered thinking as he snuck though the hallways to the training grounds the tests were taking place in, maybe he’d even learn a thing or two about teaching while he watched.

As he had listened to Aizawa lay out his rules, however, he found himself wondering if he was even cut out to be a teacher at all. Threats on your students’ very first day - Toshinori wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to do something like that, no matter how much it drove the students to push themselves!

Or not push themselves.

“You going to come out?” Aizawa called, still standing on the empty pitch.

Toshinori jumped slightly and guiltily sidled out from his hiding place, smiling nervously. “So you knew I was there, then.”

Aizawa let out a long breath before turning to look at him. “I wouldn’t be a very good hero if I didn’t,” he said, beginning to walk towards him. Despite being over a foot shorter than him, the man somehow managed to radiate menace. “So. Let it out. Tell me how cruel I was being, Mister Number One Hero.”

Toshinori rubbed the back of his neck. “I wouldn’t want to tell you how to do your job -”

A snort cut him off before he could even finish that sentence. “Please,” he said, his lip curled slightly in irritation, “I know your type. You aren’t the sort to bite the bullet and tell a kid they can’t cut it. So.” He stopped in front of Toshinori, craning his neck to shoot him a challenging look, “Get it off your chest.”

Toshinori was silent for a long moment. He had meant what he said; he didn’t want to start of the year by trying to tell one of his coworkers how to do their job. But -

“Those tests don’t measure everything,” he finally let out reluctantly. “That boy could have surprised us all.”

Aizawa snorted. “Unlikely,” he said. “I read his file; he had several sexual harassment complaints in his previous school. That’s not the sort of conduct that should be tolerated in any student of UA, let alone in the Heroics track.”

He smirked at Toshinori’s expression of surprise. “You’re not the only one that reads student files,” he said. Then his smirk faded. “Any reason I should be worried about Midoriya?”

“What?” Belatedly, Toshinori realized that he probably should have read more than one students’ file if he wanted to obfuscate his thoughts. “N-no, no. I was just curious about the boy’s Quirk.”

Aizawa cocked an unimpressed eyebrow. “I know you’re new to teaching, but I would think that it goes without saying that teachers aren’t supposed to have favourites.” Ignoring his spluttering, he continued. “Similar Quirks or no, if you want to be a mentor you should wait until at least the second semester. Then you can put in an internship offer.”

“No, no, no, I’m not -” Toshinori sputtered, trying desperately to come up with an excuse that didn’t include mentioning his suspicions. If he started talking about them and they didn’t pan out, he could be ruining someone’s career before it even began! “- I was just impressed by his performance in the entrance exam and wanted to know more!”

The other man’s unimpressed look morphed into a frown. “Ah. That.”

“You…don’t approve?” Toshinori asked meekly.

“No, his performance was impressive in the exam,” Aizawa said slowly, his eyes narrowing and looking at something past Toshinori. He tucked his chin into his capture weapon. “His reluctance to use it during the tests, though - usually I have to restrain students in Quirk usage. For him, though - I had to force him into using his full power.”

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.” Toshinori wasn’t sure why, but he felt like he had to defend the boy. “If he already knows restraint -”

But Aizawa was shaking his head. “That wasn’t restraint. That was fear.” His tone brooked no disagreement. “I have the feeling that whoever did his Quirk therapy was slacking off.”

Toshinori’s eyes widened. “You think so?”

Aizawa scratched his cheek. “Call it a hunch.” Apparently deciding that their conversation was over, he turned and began to leave. “Whatever the case, his fear is making him hesitate,” he called over his shoulder. “If he wants to be a hero, that has to stop.”

Well, there had been none of that hesitation today. He had jumped onto Todoroki as quick as a cat, attacking his weak points without mercy, forcing him back into a defensive position —

The scar on his side throbbed, remembering its creation.

The bulging monstrosity of an arm lashed across the screen, creating a shockwave. It looked so much like All for One’s, and the smoothness of Midoriya’s attack — that spoke of years of training. The way it shifted sizes, too; that could be explained by the same thing —

Toshinori scrubbed at his face again.

He had to make a decision about this. Was he going to treat this as an actual investigation or not? He knew how much his word counted for these days. If he told someone that he suspected a student of being related to a villain, they would take it seriously.

But what if he was wrong? What if Midoriya truly had no connection to All for One? An accusation like that would destroy the boy’s career before it even began. But if he was right, would keeping quiet put others in danger? Midoriya didn’t seem to act like his father — if All for One was his father…

And even if he did alert somebody, would he be alerting the rest of UA’s faculty or would he be bringing in his old team? Or both?

He didn’t know. He didn’t want to talk to the faculty about how he had been injured; his suspicions could too easily be brushed off as paranoia. But at the same time he could hardly just waltz back to his old team after how he had left them. Nighteye would probably take him back — he’d been trying to get in contact with him for a while now. Something about finding the next bearer of One for All for him. Frankly Toshinori was a little upset at him for his presumption. Passing on his Quirk was hardly something that he needed to have decided for him —

Toshinori gritted his teeth. He was letting himself get distracted, and his scar was throbbing now in time with his heartbeat. He got up from his couch, breathing carefully so as not to aggravate his old injury any more, and headed towards his kitchen. He was due to eat something anyways; he could take some painkillers as well, get ahead of his chronic pain for once.

He’d figure this out later. He still had work to do. It had been a long day, and he still had several videos of the battle trial to get through. His suspicions of one student did not override his duties towards the rest of them.


Tomura was sulking again. Sprawled out over Kurogiri’s nice clean counter and savagely tapping away at some handheld game while muttering to himself, Kurogiri eyed him and continued cleaning the many dirty glasses from today’s business.

Now, none of this was particularly unusual. It was rather his normal state of being, if Kurogiri was tracking things accurately (and he was, he had checked). What was unusual was the topic of his sulking. Usually, Tomura sulked about normal things, like the state of the heroics industry, All Might’s continued existance, and his occasional difficulties in dressing himself thanks to his disintegration Quirk. Tonight, though, he was sulking about their master ignoring him.

“He said that I’d have my chance soon,” Tomura muttered, glaring down at his handheld gaming device and tapping the attack button particularly viciously. “He said he was just finishing up, that we’d do it right after —”

Kurogiri couldn’t keep himself silent anymore. “Shigaraki Tomura,” he said sternly, putting down the glass he’d been polishing, “our Master told you that his son slipped his net. You know how much he cares for the boy. It’s only natural that he is going to be distracted while the child’s who knows where.”

Of course, Kurogiri left out the part where that was technically his fault. He’d been the one tasked with leading the party to bring Inko and Izuku in, but somehow Inko must have sent out a warning to her son. After warping her to her husband, Kurogiri had been ordered back to her little apartment to await Izuku’s return.

It had been one in the morning before he finally admitted to himself that it wasn’t going to happen. Luckily, All for One had been understanding, pointing out that Inko had had five years to plan for this eventuality, but it still stung somewhat to fail the man that had saved him.

It was hard to see from underneath the hand covering Tomura’s face, but Kurogiri had long practice in picking out his facial expressions. Tomura was pouting.

Like a five year old.

Again.

“He promised, though,” Tomura whined. “We know where All Might is, we have a Noumu ready — why won’t he let me kill him?”

Kurogiri sighed. “Because he cares about you, Tomura,” he said, feeling very tired. “Ready or not, powers fading or not, All Might is far from an easy target. And while we do know where he is currently working -”

There was a soft beep from the monitor in the corner of the bar. Both of their heads whipped towards it.

The green light on the machine was flashing, warning them of an incoming call. Tomura straightened in his seat, closing his game. “Sensei.”

The light stopped flickering and became steady. The screen lit up, showing a silhouette of a man sitting in a chair, his face cloaked in shadow. “Tomura.” The low, metallic voice of All for One came through like he was there in the room with them. “I’ve heard that you’ve been rather restless lately.”

Kurogiri thought back to the hour spent mopping up the disintegrated remains of that unfortunate thug that had laughed too loudly this afternoon and winced. Restless was putting it mildly. Picking the cup that he’d been cleaning back up, he started running a rag around the rim again.

Tomura tapped a fingernail against the surface of the bar. “The asshole was being too loud,” he said, sounding like a sulky middle-schooler. “I shut him up.”

All for One sighed, a light, disappointed noise. “We’ve talked about this, Tomura. If you want to lead the League of Villains, you can’t keep disintegrating your underlings. That’s a quick route to having no underlings at all.”

Tomura bowed his head, thankfully accepting the rebuke without a sound.

“But I doubt that it was his volume that was truly irritating you,” All for One continued, his voice gentle. “So how about you tell me the real reason for your temper this week?”

Tomura was silent for a long time before answering. “You’ve been busy a lot lately,” he finally said, back to sounding sulky. “With your son.”

“Ah.” There was a wealth of emotions in that single syllable; irritation, sympathy, tiredness — more than Tomura could likely read, stunted as he was. “Yes. Izuku.” He sighed. “Tomura, you know that I must find him. My wife was unfortunately rather uncommunicative about where he was when Kurogiri and the others retrieved her, so we’ve been having to do things the old-fashioned way.”

“You’ve been looking for him for ages —” Tomura began, sounding heated.

“Two days is hardly ages,” All for One said, and for all that his tone was still light, it had a dark, warning current underneath the words.

Tomura bowed his head quickly, again accepting the rebuke. “I’m not just talking about that,” he said, still sounding slightly heated. “You were busy for weeks before getting Inko-sama too.”

All for One was silent at his words. Tomura seemed to take heart from it, straightening up again. “You said that I’d be the leader of the League of Villains some day. You said that I could be the field leader right now.” His hand spasmed, clearly wanting to grab something and hold on until it was dust. “How can I be the field leader if I never go into the field?”

All for One was still silent. It wasn’t an angry silence, though. No, it felt more — thoughtful. Kurogiri put the glass he’d been pretending to clean back down onto the bar. “He is not wrong, Master,” he said delicately. “Tomura has always been one to learn best by doing.”

“I’m well aware of that,” All for One said. His voice lacked the bite of true anger despite his words, though, so Kurogiri knew he was fine. He hummed softly, clearly mulling both of their words over.

Both he and Tomura waited patiently. It never paid to rush their master, after all.

“Perhaps you are right,” All for One finally said. “Perhaps I have been neglecting you.”

Tomura let out a long, low breath through his teeth.

“You raise a good point about needing experience,” All for One continued. “So I have a task for you.”

Tomura made a noise and scooted closer to the monitor. “Tell me, and it will be done, Sensei,” he said, his voice trembling with excitement.

“We know that All Might is now trying his hand at teaching,” All for One purred. “However, that is only part of the battle. We lack knowledge of his schedule. Yuuei has a large campus. Too large to search.”

“We could just kill a couple of their brats,” Tomura suggested, cocking his head to one side. “Draw him out that way.”

All for One chuckled. “You’re not wrong, Tomura,” he said approvingly, “and it would leave quite a lot of egg on the heroes’ faces. But it’s not the most efficient way of going about things. No, if we want to maximize our chance to kill the Symbol of Peace, we’re going to have to find his exact location at every moment of the day.”

“We need to find his schedule,” Tomura breathed, ending his sentence with a soft giggle. “The teacher’s office would have that.”

“Then to Yuuei you’ll have to go,” All for One said, sounding pleased. “Once you have that, then we can properly plan an ambush with our Noumu.”

“Yes, Sensei,” Tomura said. He was grinning behind his hand, his eyes wide with gleeful fantasies. “In fact, I think I already know how…”


Sleeping in a manga cafe sucked. The couches were small and uncomfortable, and you always had to keep one ear out for an employee coming to check your cubicle. Just about the only good thing about the one he’d slept in was that it was close to a convenience store that sold breakfasts.

Not very good breakfasts, though, Izuku thought as he slipped past the few reporters that surrounded the UA gates this early. His stomach grumbled, and he placed a hand over it. Or very satisfying.

The inside of UA was very quiet, echoing with the sounds of Izuku’s footsteps. Heading towards his classroom, he found himself going over his actions in the previous day’s exercise. They’d be getting their evaluations on that today, meaning that either All Might or Aizawa would have watched the recordings of the fights. Had he been subtle enough with his Quirks? He thought that he had; out of all of them, only the aiming Quirk had physical differences that couldn’t be explained away by an enhancement Quirk, but he’d been wearing a helmet — but the helmet’s visor wasn’t super dark —

He’d brought a hand to his chin at some point as he started to mutter. It was a bad habit, especially with the secrets he was keeping, but this early he was most likely the first person here, so it probably wouldn’t hurt. He reached the doorway of the classroom and stepped through, still muttering to himself.

The door slammed shut behind him.

His teeth clicked together as his stomach dropped. Whirling, his mind bubbled with excuses, deflections —

Only for his stomach to sink deeper as he saw who had surprised him.

Kacchan glared from underneath heavy brows and stalked towards him, one hand popping with small explosions. “Deku,” he growled.

Izuku backed up as Kacchan came closer, holding up his hands. “K-kacchan,” he greeted back, his voice shaking. “You’re early today. I thought I’d be the only one —”

His legs knocked against something. His seat.

Kacchan reached towards him — Izuku flinched at the memory of explosions —

And then he was gently pushed down into his seat. Well, gently for Kacchan. Looking up at the other boy, his confusion only deepened as he pulled a bento box and a thermos from his backpack and put them on Izuku’s desk before sitting down in his own chair, laying arms over its back.

“I told the hag about seeing you again,” he said shortly. “She says hi, and to eat up.”

Izuku blinked.

Kacchan scowled. “I said eat up!” he snapped. “I had to get up at four with her to make that, you better not let it go to waste!”

Izuku hastily obeyed. Pulling the bento towards him, he opened it up to find steamed rice and fish with rolled scrambled eggs. A sniff of the thermos revealed it to be filled with green tea. He looked up at Kacchan.

“Well?” the other boy demanded.

Izuku hastily began to shovel the food into his mouth. Kacchan watched him, his red eyes inscrutable.

The food was excellent, of course. Everything Kacchan did, he did to near perfection. It had been that way ever since they were kids, with him and Izuku competing for the head of their pack of friends. Izuku kept shoveling the food into his mouth as he remembered running through the park that had been near their elementary school. He’d always been watching Kacchan’s back as he marched ahead, completely confident in the power of his Quirk to protect him from whatever was coming. He’d envied that confidence back then, and still did now. He took after his mother, anxiety always tugging at the back of his mind —

“You remember the promise we made when we were kids?” Kacchan asked suddenly.

Izuku looked up from his meal, swallowing his last mouthful of rice. He’d emptied the bento quick enough, despite Kacchan’s unwavering stare.

Kacchan growled when he didn’t answer right away. “Our promise for the future. That we’d be heroes together!”

Izuku swallowed again, his mouth suddenly dry. Their promise. He remembered that. Kacchan had made him spit in his palm and shake on it - that they’d become the Number One Team when they grew up. “Of course I do,” he said quietly. “The Best Team, that would never be defeated, right?”

He peeked up from underneath his eyelashes, only for his stomach to sink. Kacchan didn’t look pleased that he remembered. A small explosion cracked from his palm, scorching the top of Izuku’s desk.

“You were the only one that was strong enough to stand beside me when we were kids. And you were the only person to beat me in the entrance exam.” He was baring his teeth, more explosions popping off of his fingers. “So why were you holding back during the tests? Why did you run off after that text?”

Izuku looked back down at his hands. He’d never told Kacchan exactly what his Quirk was when they were children; he’d just showed them off as his father gave them to him. He hadn’t known back then how his father had gotten them — and once he had, he’d stopped using them so freely. Kacchan had thought that it was a strategic move, to get their future competition to underestimate him.

Izuku hadn’t disabused him of that idea. It was better than the truth.

“I told you,” he said quietly, putting his chopsticks down on the bento. “You’re remembering wrong. I’ve only ever had an enhancement Quirk.”

Kacchan growled and let off a set of larger explosions, scorching a few more marks into his desk and making it shudder. “Why the fuck are you lying to me?” he said. “We weren’t little kids, I know what I saw! And you still haven’t said anything about why you ran off yesterday!”

A pang went through Izuku’s chest. “Mom wanted me home,” he lied, averting his eyes.

Kacchan had been smoldering before. Now he erupted. Standing up, he slapped the bento off of Izuku’s desk with a snarl, ignoring it hitting the classroom wall. “FUCKING DEKU! Do you know what it’s like for your best fucking friend to just disappear one day!?” He slammed his hands down on the desk, shoving his forehead against Izuku’s hard enough for it to hurt. “One day, you were there, and the next, you were gone. Not even my Mom and Dad knew where you and your mom had gone! And now you’ve come back like nothing happened, acting like some weak-ass little shit!”

Izuku swallowed. “Kacchan, I —” he began. He’d never heard the other boy call him that before. His ‘best friend’. All of a sudden, the old ache of leaving everyone they’d known behind reopened in his chest. Kacchan had been his best friend too —

But that was precisely why he couldn’t say anything.

His fingers curled into fists in his lap. A couple of weeks before his eighth birthday, him and his father had been watching the news like they always did, comparing and discussing the Quirks of the heroes being reported on. There had been a new sidekick for Endeavour’s agency out and about, with a Quirk that let them jump around and bounce off of walls. Izuku had been able to tell that they weren’t using the power to its full potential, and had said so as he cuddled closer into his father’s side.

On his birthday, his father had given him a Quirk that allowed him to jump around and bounce off of walls.

Izuku hadn’t thought much of it at first. He’d just been happy to practice bouncing around their training area, giggling and dodging his father’s playful attempts to catch him. He hadn’t thought much of it at all until the report of the sidekick’s body being pulled in pieces from the city bay had hit the news.

Checking against the few videos online of the sidekick in action had confirmed it. His newest Quirk wasn’t similar to the sidekick’s; it was identical. And when he’d gone to his father, asked him about it, praying that he’d have an explanation that would make that horrible falling sensation in his stomach stop —

He hadn’t even denied it.

Izuku could still remember that evening so well. His father had come home from work, greeting Mom as usual. He’d come over to Izuku next, scooping him up and planting kisses on his cheeks as he carried him to their training dojo with the excuse of daddy-son time. Once they had reached there, he’d put Izuku down to take off his suit jacket, and Izuku had forced out his question through numb lips.

His father had stopped mid-gesture for a moment, his jacket half-way down his arms. He’d been facing away from Izuku, his bone-white shirt straining over his shoulders, and for a long, long moment he was silent. Then —

“Do you not like your birthday present, Izuku?”

He’d almost sounded hurt. Like killing another person for their Quirk truly was supposed to be a birthday present. And in that moment, the man that Izuku had known as his father had disappeared.

His father had been a gentle, loving man. He’d kissed his wife when he’d come home, and stayed home with Izuku when he was sick. He was a man that doted on his family, that you couldn’t imagine every hurting another human being.

The man he’d come to know in the following months was not his father. That man would kill another person out of idle admiration for their Quirk. That man would think nothing of maiming someone simply for irritating them.

That man would stop at nothing to get Izuku back. He’d spent five years already just to get Izuku’s mother.

That was why he couldn’t tell Kacchan the real reason why he’d left so quickly yesterday. If he got Kacchan mixed up in this — he couldn’t deal with getting Kacchan hurt.

His friend was looming over him, his eyes burning. Izuku couldn’t get himself to look at him. “I can’t —”

“Bakugou!”

The interruption had them both jumping and whirling to face the speaker.

Iida marched over to where they were sitting, chopping furiously at the air. “How dare you mark up the desks like that! Don’t you think that that’s disrespectful to the students that sat there before us?”

“The fuck you saying, four-eyes?” Kacchan snarled.

Iida’s chopping only got more frantic as he saw the mess from the bento on the wall. “Was that you too?” he asked, his face turning red. “If you have come to Yuuei simply to throw food around and destroy property —”

“Shut the fuck up!” Kacchan shouted, explosions crackling along his fingers.

Izuku’s heart was pounding with relief. Slumping back in his seat, he let Iida draw Kacchan’s attention away from him. A few more of the students were entering the room now as well, with some of them shooting him sympathetic looks as they took their seats.

The way Kacchan had been acting, it was unlikely that he’d bring this up again in front of their classmates. He’d be safe for the rest of the day, most likely.

After school, though…

Well. He deal with it as it came.

Chapter Text

“A class president?”

“Yes,” Aizawa said, looking bored. He grabbed his sleeping bag and stepped into it. “I don’t particularly care how you decide, just do so quietly and before the end of the period.” He zipped up the bag and lay down, vanishing behind his desk. “Wake me when you’re all done.”

Silence reigned for half a heartbeat before the class erupted into chatter. Izuku slumped down in his desk, staring at the scorch marks from this morning.

Class president. It was such a normal high school thing. With how things seemed to usually work around Yuuei, it was almost made into something funny by its normality.

“Be quiet!”

Izuku jumped in his seat. Turning his head, he saw that Iida had stood up from his desk and was standing stiffly with his arms at his sides. “This is a task in which you must carry everyone’s weight along with your own,” he said sternly, chopping at the air with his arm. “Just because you’d like to do it doesn’t mean you can!”

“Geez,” Ashido said, falling back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest, “that’s a mean thing to say, Iida-kun. How would you pick a president, then?”

The arm that had been cutting through the air briskly adjusted the other boy’s glasses. “Obviously, we should put it to a vote,” he began haughtily.

Sero, the boy with tape-dispenser elbows, blew a raspberry. “That’s stupid. We barely know each other; obviously we’d all just vote for ourselves.”

“Ah, well, that’s easy to fix,” Izuku mused out loud.

From the way everyone’s head turned to face him, obviously a little too loud. Swallowing back the urge to cringe, Izuku forced himself to face the stares. “I mean, sure, it’s only been two days, and we haven’t really been able to get to know each other yet, but Iida’s suggestion is probably the best we have. And since we have the whole period to decide, we could easily use this time to get to know each other and just vote at the end.”

“That’s a good suggestion,” Asui noted after a second, touching her finger to her chin. “I’m in favour of it.”

“Midoriya’s right,” a red-haired boy chimed in, his hair carefully gelled into spikes. “We should all get to know each other, and then we can do like Iida says and vote.”

“That would probably be easier in a circle, then,” a voice that Izuku couldn’t quite put a name to said.

The room dissolved into the sounds of desks being rearranged into a circle. At the front, Aizawa didn’t react to the noise except to crack open an eye and tell them that they’d be putting their desks back in their original positions before they left.

Small groups had already formed with people finding similar tempers or interests shared between them, and Izuku was surprised to find himself in the middle of one himself. Uraraka was one of them, flashing him a grin as she placed her desk beside his in the circle, but to his surprise Iida set himself down on his other side, his glasses flashing.

“Ah,” Izuku said weakly, “sorry for hijacking your suggestion, Iida. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Iida readjusted his glasses, removing the shine that had been hiding his eyes. “What for?” he asked, looking sincerely surprised by Izuku’s words. “You were simply supporting my suggestion and improving it.”

Izuku smiled weakly. “Er, well…” he said, trailing off. His eyes alighted on the girl putting her desk next to Iida and he lunged for the change of topic. “Yaoyorozu, hi!”

“Hello, Midoriya,” Yaoyorozu replied, a small smile playing around her lips. “I hope you don’t mind if I join this part of the group.”

Izuku smiled. He’d enjoyed working with Yaoyorozu yesterday. She’d been a great partner, listening to his input and adding her own, and she’d been impressed by his knowledge about Quirks and hero tactics rather than creeped out like his middle school classmates.

“Not at all, Yaoyorozu!” Uraraka said cheerfully, kneeling on her seat so she could lean over the front of her desk. “You were great yesterday, by the way!”

Yaoyorozu smiled. “So were you.”

Then, the introductions started. Starting from the kids sitting at the front of the class, they went clockwise along the circle, introducing themselves properly by their name and Quirk.

“Asui Tsuyu. Call me Tsu-chan. My Quirk is Frog.”

“Kaminari Denki! I love girls and video games! My Quirk is Electrification!”

“Kirishima Eijirou! My Quirk is Hardening, and I really admire the old hero Crimson Riot!”

“Ohh,” Kaminari said, “that old guy? I think I remember him. He was pretty cool!”

Kirishima grinned, exposing a mouthful of pointed teeth. “Yeah!” he said. “He inspired me to be a hero in the first place!”

“Oh, cool, not All Might?”

“Well,” Kirishima said, shrugging, “he’s cool too, Crimson Riot’s just super manly - I dunno if you’ve ever heard any of his old interviews, but he was all about living life without regrets!”

“Hah! That’s so cool!” Kaminari said.

“Exactly!”

“I like Thirteen,” Uraraka chimed in from beside Izuku. “Their Quirk could be so dangerous, but they help so many people in rescue — it’s super admirable.”

“Personally I like Ingenium,” Iida commented.

“Ah, I find Ryukyu particularly inspiring —”

“The number nine hero? Yeah, she’s really cool —”

Izuku grinned helplessly as the introductions dissolved into gushing about their favourite heroes. So much for his suggestion. It was nice, though, listening to his classmates. Growing up with his father, they had watched the daily roundup of heroics every night on the news, commenting on the various Quirks and how they were used. Izuku had loved it, even taking notes in a set of notebooks that had gone everywhere with them.

After he’d found out about his Quirk, though — it had been a long time before Izuku could bear to hero-watch again. Even longer before he could enjoy it without a dark twist of guilt low in his stomach.

“Midoriya?”

Izuku jumped a little in his seat. “S-sorry, I was a little zoned out there…” He trailed off as he realized that most of the class was now looking at him. “D-do I have something on my face?”

Iida adjusted his glasses. “Do not worry, your face is fine,” he said, “we just got onto the topic of why we wanted to become heroes and I noticed that you hadn’t been taking part in the discussion.”

Izuku squirmed in his seat. “It’s alright,” he said, “I wasn’t feeling left out or anything —”

“That’s good,” Ashido noted brightly, “but now that you’re with us — why do you want to be a hero, Midori?”

“Midori? Uh, I — I guess…” He trailed off again, trying to put the feeling into words.

He’d always wanted to be a hero, of course. Every child did. But that want — it had been distant. A hazy dream that slipped in an out as necessary, a game on the playground.

Izuku could remember the moment that dream had become something real. The day it went from a want to a need.

He and his mom had been standing outside of the shelter they’d fled to, the first few nights of their escape, the sound of the door closing ringing in their ears. His mother had been trembling, holding his hand so tightly that it hurt and with tears in her eyes that threatened to spill over every time her shoulders jerked with her suppressed sobs. Guilt had burned in his throat like vomit, knowing that this was all because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut that his father was villain.

He had looked up at the twilight sky. If this was one of his shows, a hero would appear now. They would smile, and ask what was wrong, and his mom would explain, and then the hero would make everything better. That was what they did, after all. What they were supposed to do.

But standing on the sidewalk, no heroes came. Izuku looked and looked, and it was just them, alone on an empty street. He even looked up, thinking that maybe a hero that could fly would see them, but even straining his eyes he couldn’t see anyone. There wasn’t a cloud or a star to take away from the empty expanse that stretched above him. Nothing to take away that awful, helpless feeling of being alone.

Just the big, empty blue sky.

“I — I grew up watching a lot of hero fights,” Izuku said slowly, words sticking to the lining of his throat. “And I read a lot of hero reports, too. I guess — admiration? But also dissatisfaction?” He looked down at his hands, clenching and unclenching them. “There are so many people out there that need help, and the heroes can’t be everywhere all the time, even if they want to. I guess — I want to be those people’s hero. The ones who feel like they’re being left behind or ignored. Who feel like no hero’s going to save them.” He swallowed, the memory of blue rising up again. “I guess — I want to do my part to make sure that no one else feels like that.”

The classroom was silent. Looking up from his desk, Izuku felt his cheeks redden slightly in embarrassment at the looks that the others were sending him. Uraraka was looking at him with wide eyes — and so was Yaoyorozu —

“Bravo!” Iida suddenly shouted into the stillness of the classroom, applauding loudly. “Bravo!”

“So manly!” Kirishima said with tears in his eyes, clenching his fists on top of his desk. “That’s such a manly reason, Midoriya!” He scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand.

The room broke into more yells of encouragement at his words, people chattering and complimenting Izuku’s reason. A chair screeched against the floor as Kaminari stood up, also looking teary-eyed.

“All in favour of doing the vote now?” he asked loudly, sticking his hand into the air.

“Aye!” shouted Ashido, also standing up from her seat. “Everyone for Midoriya as president, raise your hand!”

A forest of arms sprang up around the circle, and Izuku’s brain stuttered to a stop. “Eh?”

“Anyone opposed?”

“Like anyone would!”

Both Kaminari and Ashido crashed back down into the chairs and let out a cheer.

“Motion passed!”


Izuku stared into space, his mind flatlining.

Him. Class president.

What.

How had this happened? He couldn’t figure it out.

“Heeeyyy, Mister President!”

Snapping out of his daze, Izuku shook his head and smiled weakly at Uraraka. “Sorry,” he said. “Just — thinking.”

She grinned down at him, taking a seat across the lunchroom table from him and picking up her chopsticks. “About all your responsibilities?” she teased, popping some rice into her mouth.

“Of course he is,” Iida said primly from his seat beside her. “The position of class president is an extremely important one, and I’m sure that Midoriya is treating it with appropriate gravity.”

Uraraka snickered and began to chew. “Chill out, Iida, I’m just teasing him.”

“My point still stands.” Iida pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Midoriya will be our class’ representative to the school at large and the faculty. When people look at him, they will assume that his conduct represents our class’ outlook and behaviour at large. Therefore it is vital that he treats this seriously —”

Izuku had only known Iida maybe a day and a half now, but he could already recognize the signs of his friend winding himself up into a rant. His gut already churning from his new position, he hastily cut the other boy off by pushing a bottle of soy sauce towards him. “Um, hey, Iida, before we get too far into this stuff, maybe we should make sure that we’ve eaten?” he suggested. “Before our lunches get cold?”

Iida paused mid-chop, looking serious, before nodding. “You’re right,” Iida said, taking the soy sauce, “I don’t need to be reminding you of what you very well already know.”

Izuku sighed internally with relief. Looking back down at his own food, he began to shovel it into his mouth. Thankfully, his stomach calmed down in its somersaults as the food hit his tongue, letting him swallow it without trouble. That was a good thing too, because the food was delicious.

“Excuse me,” said an unfamiliar voice, “would you mind if I joined you?”

His mouth filled with rice and egg, Izuku turned his head to see who was speaking and nearly spat it all out.

Todoroki, unmistakable with his red and white hair, stood over the three of them, holding his tray. His face blank, he cocked his head slightly to one side. “May I sit with you for lunch?” he repeated.

Izuku looked at his friends. Uraraka seemed surprised, and Izuku understood; why would someone as chilly as Todoroki come over to them, specifically? A quick, surreptitious look around the lunchroom showed that their table was hardly the only place the other boy could have sat down. There was even an empty table just a few seats over.

As Izuku was pondering this mystery, however, Iida took control of the situation. “Of course you can,” he said politely. “I hope that you don’t mind if we continue talking?”

“That’s fine,” Todoroki said, setting his tray down right beside Izuku’s. Soba and green tea; very traditional. Somehow, it fit Todoroki.

As the other boy sat down beside him and began eating, Izuku slowly turned back to his own food. Iida and Uraraka continued on talking, filling the air around him with comforting chatter. Occasionally, they tried to draw Todoroki in, but after the first few monosyllabic answers, they seemed to give up.

As they began to talk about Iida’s older brother, the hero Ingenium (and wow, Izuku was going to have to remember to ask Iida for an autograph), Izuku became aware of an odd itch at the edge of his senses. A feeling of being watched.

He just barely kept himself from visibly tensing. For a wild moment, he wondered if his father had somehow managed to sneak a spy into Yuuei, and was having him watched right now, but the thought was soon extinguished by a movement out of the corner of his eye.

Turning his head just a little, he found the source of the sensation. Todoroki was peering at him intently out from underneath the curtain of his white hair. When the two of their eyes met, Todoroki hurriedly looked away.

Slowly pulling his chopsticks from his mouth, Izuku focused on keeping his face neutral. He looked away, testing a guess, and soon the sensation of being watched return. Another glance, and Todoroki was looking away again, this time with the tips of his ears reddening.

Was this why Todoroki had asked to sit with them? If so, what was the reason behind it? Could he be jealous of yesterday’s battle trial, and be looking for weak points for the next one?

It was possible, Izuku supposed, since his father was Endeavour. The Number Two Hero’s one-sided rivalry with All Might was not hard to figure out from watching the man’s fights. It would make sense that he encouraged the same sort of competitive spirit in his son.

Something in the back of his head disagreed with that assessment, though. Izuku continued to catch Todoroki sneaking looks at him, and by the time Izuku had finished his eggs and rice, he was pretty sure that the look on Todoroki’s face was not one of rivalry. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was confident in saying that it wasn’t rivalry.

Pushing his now-empty bowl aside, Izuku was reaching for his apple slices when the alarms began to go off.

BRAAAAHHH BRAAAAHHHH BRAAAAHHHH

Like everyone else in the lunch room, Izuku looked up from his meal in confusion. He’d read all the brochures from the school, but what were these for again —?

“Security Level Three has been breached. Students please evacuate.”

A ripple of panic, low at first but getting louder, rolled over room as the mechanical words from the PA system were processed. Security level three —

Like a storm surge, people began to run towards the exits.

“Someone’s infiltrated the campus!”

“I can’t believe it, this hasn’t happened in three years!”

“OUT OF MY WAY -”

Izuku and the rest of his friends were swept up by the crowd before they could even open their mouths to protest. Screams and shouts rang through the air. In the press of bodies, Izuku could barely breathe. All around him, people were trying to shove past him, knocking him around until he couldn’t tell which way he was going.

It was almost a relief then to finally hit something solid. The mass of bodies had knocked him out to the edges of the crowd, pressing him tight against windows that lined the cafeteria. Squinting into the sunlight, he saw the courtyard outside.

And who was infiltrating the school.

A mass of bodies, similar to the crowd at his back, were mobbing the front entrance of the school. Izuku could see cameras, boom mikes, people holding microphones and wearing suits —

The media? The media had infiltrated the school? How had they gotten past the barrier? Izuku’s eyes darted over to the main gate, partially hidden by the reporters.

His heart stopped.

There was a figure there, walking smoothly and steadily away from the main crowd. Wearing a black hoodie with the hood up, it was impossible to see their face until they paused at the open entrance in the barrier and turned their head.

That bone-white hair. The distorted, skull-like grin that showed too many teeth.

Shigaraki Tomura.

Had he been found already?


Izuku stared at the gates to the school as the maintenance bots worked on repairing it.

He’d tried to get close as soon as school had let out. See how, exactly, the Barrier had been breached. All through the rest of the day, he’d told himself that he’d seen wrong. That it was just his paranoia acting up, that it couldn’t have been Shigaraki that he’d seen. But the repair bots had shooed him away every time, chattering on about how it was dangerous for students to be around construction.

It hadn’t mattered, though. He’d gotten close enough.

The Barrier had been disintegrated.

No. Decayed.

Izuku bit his lip.

He’d been very small, the first time he’d met Shigaraki. His fourth birthday had been just a few days ago, he remembered, when his father had come home with guests. Kurogiri, who he’d known before as someone who worked with his father, and a kid with strange white hair.

He’d been afraid, at first, of the other boy. His wide, staring red eyes, the way he’d scratched at his neck — for a sheltered four year old, he’d been terrifying. But his mother had told him to be nice while Kurogiri and her and spoken to his father, and he’d sucked it up.

They’d ended up playing video games after some awkwardness. Shigaraki had liked that. He’d complained when Kurogiri had come back to take him — wherever he went.

Kurogiri had come back a couple of times after that. Sometimes with Shigaraki. Sometimes without. His mom had liked that — had said that she sometimes got lonely. Izuku could remember her sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, laughing with the man.

She’d trusted him. And yet he’d probably been involved with capturing her —

Izuku swallowed. Tried to push the thoughts down. Failed.

For all the tea and conversations over the years with each other, Kurogiri was All for One’s creature at heart. He’d been the one his father had called to help Izuku understand how to use his Blink Quirk. Even limited to ten feet as it was, a teleportation Quirk was a tricky one to master. Kurogiri had been the one that had managed to finally explain the three-dimensional thinking that was necessary to use the Quirk to its full advantage in a way a six-year-old could understand.

With how useful Kurogiri’s Quirk was to moving people quickly, it was a good bet that he’d been involved with moving his mother as well. Moved her to his father, who was —

Who was —

Izuku gritted his teeth. He didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to think about what his father could be doing to his mom to find out where Izuku was.

He didn’t want to acknowledge the seed of fear that whispered that she was already dead.

Breathing in through his nose, he remembered the days before everything. When sunlight had poured through the windows of their home and everyone had been happy. When he hadn’t known that all of his father’s nice coworkers were his loyal lieutenants in his criminal empire.

If Shigaraki had been here, then Kurogiri could not have been far.

Turning, Izuku scanned the street. He felt jumpy, like his nerves were pins that were trying to poke through his skin. If Shigaraki had been here, then so had Kurogiri, he repeated to himself. With how noticeable Kurogiri was, though, he wouldn’t have been out in the open.

By design, there were very few hiding places this close to Yuuei. The road was wide open, with multiple cameras that even Izuku, with his relatively little experience in spotting such things, could see. Cars were banned from parking on the street. There weren’t even trash cans big enough to hide in!

Izuku reached up and tugged on his lower lip. With how Kurogiri’s warp Quirk worked, he’d need far more than a trash can to keep from being noticed. Even with the distraction of the media, if he wasn’t careful someone would notice one of his warps.

He scanned the street again. A hiding place — there wasn’t one on the street, but maybe —

There. An alleyway across the street. Narrow, but if Shigaraki was the only one doing whatever he needed to be in Yuuei to do, it was perfect. Looking both ways, Izuku waited for a car to pass before jogging across to the other sidewalk.

Down the alleyway was very dark, but Izuku could see a set of footprints coming out of a puddle of some sort of liquid.

He started tugging on his lip again. Should he go in? Or could it be a trap —

“Hey, Midoriya!”

Izuku jumped, whirling around to see who had called out to him. A strength Quirk rose up underneath his skin as he readied himself —

Uraraka blinked and cocked her head to one side, smiling at him. “I thought that was you!” she said cheerfully. “Jeez, you left in a hurry after Mr Aizawa let us go.”

Iida, standing just a step behind her, adjusted his glasses. “Indeed!” he boomed. “We didn’t even have a chance to talk after lunch!”

Swallowing, Izuku forced his strength Quirk back into inactivity and tried to smile. “Sorry,” he said. “I was just thinking about what happened.”

“Oh. Yeah. That.” Uraraka frowned and stuck her thumbs underneath her backpack straps. “I don’t know what they were thinking. Did they really believe that they could just stroll in and start interviewing All Might?”

“It’s quite possible that they did,” Iida said, making his usual chopping gestures. “All Might is known for his amiability towards the media.”

Uraraka frowned. “There’s such a thing as pushing that too far, though,” she said. “I mean, when the alarms went off in the cafeteria everyone panicked! They were running to the exits, and I almost got run over! A few people even had to see Recovery Girl!”

Izuku grimaced. He hadn’t heard that, but considering the press of people it was certainly believable. He shook his head. “Well, after the dressing down the Principle gave everyone, I doubt they’ll be trying something like that again.” Sighing, he scratched at his scalp. “Honestly, though, you were really cool in there Iida. You totally took control of the situation while I did nothing.”

Iida reddened and chopped at the air. “Not at all! I simply had a Quirk that allowed me to get everyone’s attention quickly without injuring someone! I’m quite sure that if you had the chance you would have calmed things down as well!”

Izuku remembered the paralysis that had locked his limbs at the sight of the black hoodie and bit his lower lip. “I doubt it.” He shook his head. “Honestly, maybe you should be class president instead of me.”

The flurry of disagreement that arose after that comment knocked him entirely out of the self-pity spiral that he had begun to fall into.

“What! No way!” Uraraka’s fists were clenched in front of her. “Midori, one missed opportunity doesn’t mean that you should be thrown out of office!”

“Uraraka is right!” Iida said. “We are students for a reason! Regardless of how I handled the situation, you are the one that gained our class’ respect and trust enough for a near unanimous vote!”

“Yeah, what Iida said!” Uraraka punched his shoulder and then put her hands on her hips. “Now stop putting yourself down!”

Izuku held his hands up and took a step back in the face of their overwhelming passion. “O-okay, okay, I’ll stop saying stuff like that!”

“Good,” Iida said with a sniff, adjusting his glasses. “In any case, Uraraka and I came over here for a reason other than discussing today’s events.”

“Yeah!” Uraraka’s hands were still on her hips, and her she still had an intense look on her face. “Now you listen — me and Iida were going to go see a movie. The new one, with the pirates. And you’re going to be coming with us!”

“Ah, wait, Uraraka, we were going to give him a choice!”

A movie? Izuku’s mouth opened automatically to refuse — he needed to — to —

Investigate? Kurogiri’s warps couldn’t be tracked. Shigaraki undoubtedly had experience in fighting with his Quirk as well. And if they were where he thought they could be…

Everything that his mother had sacrificed for him during their escape would have been for nothing if he just walked back into his father’s arms. No, trying to investigate this further on his own was a mistake that he refused to make.

And. Well. Looking at Iida frantically trying to talk down a still-intense Uraraka, he couldn’t keep the corners of his mouth from quirking up. He hadn’t really had a lot of friends after they had left his father. Now he had two of them.

“It’s okay, Iida,” Izuku said, cutting off Iida mid-rant. “I’d — I'd love to go.”

The sunny smile that Uraraka shot at him made his ears heat up.

Chapter Text

The sun was setting outside of the dojo, dripping sticky golden light through the window and into the room. Floating in the air, Izuku mumbled to himself and rubbed at his eyes with the back of his small, chubby hand.

A low chuckle rumbled through the chest underneath his cheek. “Getting a little sleepy, are we?”

Izuku grumbled, squirming so that he could look his father in the eye. “Noooo,” he whined. “M’fine.”

His dad raised an eyebrow at him, his smile exposing a slice of teeth. “There’s no shame in being tired, Izuku,” he said gently. “You’ve kept it up for —” he paused, checking his watch, “— over an hour now, and you’ve only had it for a week. It took me much longer to get the hang of this Quirk.”

Izuku twisted his fingers in his father’s silky white shirt, his pout not wavering. “I’m not a baby,” he insisted.

His father chuckled again. Cupping the back of Izuku’s head, he pressed a kiss on top of his curls. “I know,” he said. “But we should be starting dinner soon anyways, so how about we shut it down?”

Izuku squinted suspiciously, but his father’s face was innocent. “Alright,” he said, “but not because I’m tired.”

“Of course,” his father agreed, his expression not wavering.

Taking a breath, Izuku shut his eyes and reached into himself, feeling for the light that was this Quirk. It was easy to find, considering that it was the only one he was currently using and felt very different from the more physical Quirks that his father had been giving him before. Reaching out, he felt for the ‘switch’ that activated this Quirk and flicked it into the off position.

Immediately, the gravity in the room went back to normal. There was a crash as one of the weights that his father used fell back to the floor. His father’s grip tightened, holding him close, and he twisted in the air so that he landed on his feet, Izuku secure in arms.

Izuku yawned again and nuzzled close to his father’s neck, making a quiet happy noise as his father’s hand petted his curls. “Very good,” he said against Izuku’s scalp. “Very, very good. Now how about we go start dinner, hm?”

Izuku made an agreeable noise and let his father carry him to the kitchen, setting him down in one of the kitchen table’s chairs. Putting his arms on the table, he used them as a pillow and put his head down, letting himself drowse as his father began to prepare their meal. The smell and sound of pork and onions sizzling in a pan soon filled the air.

“So, how has Kacchan been behaving?” his father asked after a few minutes.

“Mmm, he’s been okay,” Izuku mumbled, not opening his eyes. He was just resting them, really. He wasn’t tired. “He doesn’t like it when I stop him from being mean, though.”

“Ah,” his father said, sounding amused. “And your teachers?”

Izuku shrugged. “They exist.”

His father laughed. “My word, how scathing!”

Izuku shrugged again. “They like Kacchan. Everyone says that he has a good Quirk for Heroics.”

His father’s laughter trailed off into low chuckles. “Ah, of course. Because every hero remembers their kindergarten teachers.” His shoes clicked against the floor, getting louder as he came closer to Izuku. “Open your mouth, I have a treat.”

Keeping his eyes closed, Izuku obeyed, letting his father put a bit of the pork and onions that he was cooking into Izuku’s mouth. Biting down, he savored the taste of spices that the pork had been cooking in —

Click.

Forcing his eyes open, Izuku frowned. His father had gone back to the sizzling pan on the stove and wasn’t facing him, so Izuku felt confident that he wouldn’t notice him reaching inside of his mouth to pull out whatever weird stiff thing he’d just bitten down on.

Pulling the object out, he blinked blearily at it. It was whitish, and had almost felt a little like he was biting down on a bit of plastic —

It was as he was holding it between his thumb and forefinger, twisting it in the late afternoon light streaming through the windows that he realized what the object was.

A fingernail.

Izuku dropped it to the table and sucked in a gasp of air.

“Izuku?” His father’s voice was soft, concerned.

Izuku turned in his chair, his eyes open now, and saw what his father was really cooking. “D-daddy?”

His father blinked at him, looking concerned even as slicing into the bicep of the arm he had on the cutting board. “Is something wrong?”

The bicep had a tattoo on it. It was a woman’s name, and Izuku wondered if it was the owner’s girlfriend or daughter. He could hear his own breaths harshly whistling in his ears. “Daddy, that’s a person.”

His father cocked his head to one side. “Yes?”

“Daddy, t-that’s a person, you’re cooking a person —”

His father quirked an eyebrow at him. “You’ve never complained before.”  The frying pan was hissing. His father had finished slicing off part of the arm’s bicep and dropped it into the pan as Izuku watched.

His mouth was dry. “I-I didn’t know what it was before.”

His father hummed and poked at the cooking meat. “So?”

Izuku slid off of his seat, landing onto shaky legs. “I — I don’t want to eat that,” he said. He could hear the quaver in his voice. “I don’t — I don’t want it.”

His father’s poking stilled. He was entirely still, like a predator about to strike.

Izuku flinched as he put the spatula he’d been using down and turned, facing him. Shark eyes, his brain mumbled as he looked at his father. He’d seen those eyes before in a nature documentary, as a shark tore a seal apart. Shark eyes, looking at its prey and feeling nothing.

Slowly, slowly, his father cocked his head to one side. A bit of blood dribbled down from his hairline. “I’ll repeat,” he said, his voice low and concerned and mismatched with the empty look on his face. “So? What does it matter? They’re dead; refusing now won’t bring them back to life.”

Izuku swallowed. “I don’t want it.”

More blood was pouring down his father’s face, soaking. He blinked, and his skin was shredding now, just a red blotch that was beginning to stain his white shirt red. He turned his head and despite him now lacking eyes, his movements were sure and steady as he took a spoon and scooped some of the stew in the pan out, the meat wobbling. There was something white in there too, something that was looking back —

Izuku covered his mouth, the back of his throat burning. His father’s face was gone now, just a mouth left below stained bandages, like the last time he’d seen him in that hospital room. He stepped towards Izuku and then was kneeling in front of him, his fingers on his free hand digging into Izuku’s cheeks and forcing his mouth open.

“What does it matter,” his father repeated, a few drops of his blood trickling out from underneath the bandages and landing on Izuku’s cheeks. “They’re already dead.” The spoon clicked against his teeth as it was forced into his mouth. “Refusing won’t save them, Izuku.”

Izuku jerked awake to the sound of someone pounding on the door of the cubicle. Panic slammed through him — had he been found? Was he going to be thrown out? Was he being attacked?

“Hey, kid! You okay in there?”

No. No, he wasn’t being attacked. Izuku tried to relax, muscle by muscle, as he remembered where he was. He was in a manga cafe for the night. He was fine. He was paid up. No one would be attacking him here.

He was safe. He was —

His stomach roiled. Clamping his mouth shut, Izuku rolled onto his side and pressed his hands tightly against his mouth, breathing heavily through his nose. He couldn’t throw up here. Whoever was at the door of the cubicle was still knocking, making worried noises. He needed to get up and answer them.

Izuku really hated his nightmares.

Swallowing back the vomit lurking in the back of his throat, he forced himself to sit up and breathe. Slapping his cheeks, he hoped that he’d managed to get at least a little colour into them as he got up and crossed the cubicle to answer the door.

Swinging it open, he bowed low, his mouth opening to apologize, and promptly got smacked on the head.

“Ah! Sorry!” said the knocker, his cheeks reddening. Izuku stood up, his hand on his head, and looked at the cafe employee that had woken him up.

He was a young man, not much older than Izuku, with long white feathers instead of hair. Smaller feathers dotted the corners of his jaw and poked out from underneath the cafe’s uniform, crooked and squashed by the cloth. “Didn’t mean to disturb you — well, that’s not quite true — you were having a nightmare and it sounded really bad —”

With half of his brain still lingering in the world of his nightmares, Izuku could only stare blankly as the man continued babbling on. Was this what it was like when he got on one of his muttering jags? No wonder people got annoyed.

Annoyed.

Crap, right, he was supposed to be apologizing!

“Ah, no!” Izuku said, holding up his hands. He squinted at the man’s nametag, pinned sloppily to his rumpled shirt. “Hakuchou-san, I should be the one apologizing, I was the one disturbing you —”

“— no no no you’re a paying customer —”

“— so is everyone else here —”

“Oh my god,” someone groaned, “can you two please stop?”

A woman, looking to be in her mid-twenties, was glaring at the two of them from her cubicle a few doors down. Half-hanging out from her door, all Izuku could see of her clothing was a purple tank top, one strap falling off of her shoulder. The circles under her eyes matched her tops colour, and a cigarette was dangling from her lip.

Hakuchou stiffened beside Izuku, flushing red. “Nebosuke-san!” he cried. “We’ve told you before, this is the non-smoking section —”

Nebosuke rolled her eyes, a few strands of black hair falling in front of them. “Whatever,” she said. “It’s not even lit.”

“Still, I must insist —”

“Hey, kid,” she said, her cigarette bobbing as she spoke, “sorry about your nightmare and all, but you’re going to be late if you don’t get going soon.”

Izuku automatically glanced at the small clock that came with the cubicle and eeped. He’d slept through his alarm!

Leaving the two of them to their argument, Izuku ducked back into his cubicle and shut the door. He’d been dressing in the train station bathroom the last few days but he didn’t have time for that now. Going to the small attached bathroom, he splashed a little water on his face and ran a brush quickly through his hair and then got dressed. The attention his uniform would get here didn’t matter next to being late to homeroom.

His fingers fumbling with his tie, he nodded briefly to the other two as he went around them, heading out the door before either of them could say anything.

He’d been using this manga cafe to sleep in for the past few days for several reasons. It was smaller, meaning that there were less people around to notice a high school student sleeping there, and less staffed than several other ones that dotted the neighbourhood. Most importantly, though, it was a five minute walk to the nearest station.

On the train, Izuku wedged himself into a corner by the doors and gnawed on a piece of melon bread that he’d bought from the station, scrolling through his phone, checking his news feed as he did every morning. His nerves were still prickling from his nightmare; usually, the normality of his ritual soothed him, making him forget about his situation for as long as it took to get to Yuuei for another day of lessons. Today though, it only made his stomach do flips as he choked each bite of his bread down.

It had been two days. Two days since the break-in on campus, and it was still all anyone could talk about. Quotes from Principle Nedzu, reporters breathlessly wondering why All Might hadn’t just come out like it was his fault that they’d broken the law, opinion pieces on the state of the police’s holding cells…

That skull-like smile. Izuku switched from his news feed over to one of the hero forums he frequented, the memory of seeing Shigaraki pressing against the back of his eyes.
He’d been thinking about it for two days. Two days spent trying to figure out how to tell someone that he’d seen a villain without getting them asking questions of how he knew they were a villain. He still hadn’t figured out a way that wouldn’t make someone wonder. They weren’t dressed in uniform? Neither were the media. They were acting suspicious? How were they acting suspicious? Just walking away wasn’t suspicious.

Izuku pinched his mouth shut, not seeing the new forum posts in front of him. His brain was screaming that something was going on, and he couldn’t tell anyone even as it kept him up at night, staring at the ceiling. It was the worst type of torture, and all he could do was wait for the hammer to drop.

The train slowed and stopped, the doors opening. Outside, Izuku could see the towers of Yuuei gleaming. He slipped his phone into his pocket and stepped out, gripping his backpack straps and shoving his worries down. He could think about this later, the same way he could sleep later. Right now, he had classes to get to.


Of course, just saying something didn’t make it true.

The melon bread that he’d eaten for breakfast sat like a stone in Izuku’s stomach as he stood outside of the bus that would be taking his class to their first off-campus lesson. Already wearing his costume, he could feel the debt of his disturbed sleep tugging at his eyes as he waved his classmates onto the bus. “This way, this way,” he mumbled, glad that his costume’s helmet hid his yawns so well. “Onto the bus, please.”

That stupid dream. It always surfaced whenever he got really stressed, without fail. He’d had it so many times now, and yet it still was bad enough to wake him from a sound sleep. It wasn’t even accurate — he’d never actually eaten people.

No, his brain was just being over-dramatic. He didn’t need to actually eat people. A few drops of blood, a hair —

A memory swam up abruptly, of sitting on his father’s knee and watching as he flicked out the sharp little blade on his wedding ring and pressed his thumb against the point until a drop of blood welled up. He’d presented his thumb to Izuku, having him lick the blood off and chuckling, talking about how he’d give himself a bald patch if Izuku kept getting the hang of his Quirks so quickly so they were going to be doing it this way now —

“Midoriya-kun.”

Izuku jumped. Yaoyorozu was standing in the doorway to the bus, one foot on the first step. Looking around quickly, he realized that the two of them were alone; everyone had finished getting onto the bus.

“Ah, sorry,” he said, embarrassment pushing his tiredness away temporarily. He followed Yaoyorozu onto the bus. “I was just — thinking.” He cringed at how lame that excuse was.

Thankfully, Yaoyorozu didn’t call him out, instead taking a set. Izuku began to scan the seats himself, looking for someplace to sit.

A movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Turning his head, he was surprised to see Todoroki of all people gesturing to get his attention.

The other boy had been quiet ever since their battle trial on the first day of school. From the way had acted the rest of the week, Izuku hadn’t thought that it had been from anger over his loss; the other boy had been coolly cordial when Kaminari and Ashido had continued gushing over Izuku and Yaoyorozu’s win, and he’d been perfectly polite when Izuku had literally run into him by the Yuuei barrier the other day. In fact, if it wasn’t for that one time during lunch that he’d caught the other boy staring at him, Izuku would have said that the other boy was ignoring that the battle trial had happened at all.

Hesitantly, he walked over. What could Todoroki want?

“Sorry, is something wrong Todoroki-kun? If you need to talk to Mister Aizawa —”

“You can sit beside me,” Todoroki said flatly, cutting him off.

Izuku blinked. “Uh —”

“You were looking for a seat.” Todoroki’s blank expression didn’t change. “I’m offering you one.”

Jeez, was he being threatened or something? “I — uh, okay.” He nervously sat down in the seat beside Todoroki. “Thanks.”

Todoroki nodded once, and then leaned back in his seat, staring straight ahead.

The bus rumbled as it started, and a low cheer started up from his classmates as they began to move forward. Taking his cue from Todoroki, Izuku leaned back in his seat.

His eyes ached with tiredness, but refused to close. Memories of his father’s lessons swam just underneath the surface of his thoughts, threatening to burst through. His dream hadn’t been literal, but metaphorically they weren’t too far from the truth.

They’re dead. Refusing it won’t bring them back to life.

Izuku shivered and sank lower into his seat.

“Hey, Midoriya.”

Izuku jumped. “Ah, sorry, what? I was just thinking to myself.”

The frog-faced girl that had spoken merely blinked, her face unreadable. “That’s no problem. Bus rides are good for thinking.”

“Y-yeah.” Izuku scratched his neck and grimaced. A bit too good for thinking, in his view. “It’s Asui, right?”

“Yes, but call me Tsu-chan,” the frog-faced girl said. “We haven’t had much of a chance to talk before, so I’ll tell you now; I always say what I think, no matter what’s on my mind.”

“Uh huh?” Izuku said. Despite himself, he was finding himself honestly curious as to why Tsuyu was bringing this up.

She looked at him without blinking as she spoke. “Your Quirk is very strong, but it’s also a bit odd.”

Izuku choked on his spit.

“W-what do you mean?” he asked, chopping the air like Iida. “How, how is it odd?”

“Enhancement Quirks don’t usually have their users switch between sizes like yours does,” Tsuyu said.

“She has a point,” the red-haired boy called Kirishima said thoughtfully. He rubbed his chin. “Massive changes like that are actually really rare, outside of gigantification or shrinking Quirks like Mount Lady.” He grinned, exposing sharp teeth. “I wouldn’t worry about it though, Midoriya. Once we’ve graduated, that sort of flashiness will only help you in the popularity rankings!” Stretching his arm out, he activated his own Quirk and hardened his skin. “Mine is good in a punch-up, but it’s not very flashy. I’m going to have a lot of trouble sticking out in the pack.”

Izuku’s chest gave a pang, hearing someone with such a useful Quirk put themselves down. “It might not be flashy, Kirishima, but it’s not useless! Its a great Quirk for a pro to have!” he said, leaning forward in his seat.

“Great for a pro, yeah, but it’s not bad to be thinking about marketing yourself already,” Ashido chimed in. “A lot of heroics is like a popularity contest, and standing out is a part of that.”

“My navel Quirk is perfect for that,” Aoyama said, setting his chin in his hands. “It is both powerful and flashy; perfect for one as sparkling as moi.”

“Yeah, but it can make your stomach collapse if you over-use it,” Ashido teased, patting Aoyama on the back.

“If we’re talking about flashy and strong, though, you can’t leave out Todoroki and Bakugou,” Kirishima said. “Now that’s where the real competition is.”

“More with Todoroki, I think,” Tsuyu said, pressing a finger to her chin. “Bakugou’s got a pretty crappy personality. That’s not a recipe for success.”

“What the fuck?” Kacchan said, leaning forward in his seat with a scary look on his face. “You bitch, I’ll beat all of you extras in the rankings!”

“See?” said Tsuyu, pointing at the explosive blond.

“Why you —”

“Yeah, we may not have known you for long, man, but it doesn’t take much time to know you have the personality of a turd soaked in sewage!” Kaminari said with a grin.

“YOU FUCKING —”

Izuku blinked and leaned back in his seat, letting Kacchan scream himself out. The others in the class — they were laughing at Kacchan. Teasing him. Izuku hadn’t seen his friend since the end of elementary school, but while they had been together no one had ever dared to make fun of his friend. With such a strong Quirk, everyone had known that the blond was going places, so everyone had tried to stay on his good side.

“Back on Midoriya’s Quirk though —”

Izuku stiffened at Kirishima’s words, despite the other boy’s sparkling eyes.

“— the way your arm swells up is super cool, man! Like you look all normal, and then suddenly you’ve got this huge arm and you’re hitting like All Might — it’s just cool!”

After the dream, and with the memories still lurking in the back of his mind, Izuku couldn’t keep the words from coming out. “Really? I think it’s just ugly.”

“What? No way man,” Kaminari said, completely ignoring the still-screaming Kacchan, “like Kirishima said, it’s cool!”

“DON’T IGNORE ME, YOU STUPID FUCKER!”

Izuku shook his head and looked down at his lap. It wasn’t cool, stuffing your arm with stolen Quirks. It was horrifying. He hated looking at his swollen limbs when he had so many Quirks active; the way his muscle and skin twisted and warped felt like it was just showing the world how twisted and warped his actual Quirk was.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Todoroki looking at him with an odd expression. He was rubbing his index finger along the side of the scar tissue surrounding his eye, his gaze fixed on Izuku.

Suddenly feeling uncomfortable, he averted his eyes, looking towards the front of the bus, only to find himself pinned by another odd look.

Aizawa, his hair straggling over his face, was peering at him intently. Sitting on one of the seats that was facing the other side of the bus, he was holding his phone in his hand. As Izuku watched, he casually broke off his staring and began to write something in there.

Izuku’s stomach flopped. What was that about?

He didn’t have time to think about it, though, as the bus slowed down to a stop in front of an enormous white dome. The brakes hissed, and Aizawa stood up from his seat, slipping his phone into one of the cases on his belt. “Alright, we’re here,” he said, his voice cutting through the chatter somehow without being raised. “Get a move on, time’s wasting.”


Shouta Aizawa hid his frown in his capture weapon as he watched the students enter the USJ.

Midoriya Izuku.

The student that was currently occupying his thoughts didn’t look back as he followed the others into the building, too occupied by putting on his helmet.

The boy was a mystery. And not a normal one.

Shouta hadn’t thought much about the boy before that first day. He hadn’t thought much of any of the students, actually. Beyond a brief, cursory skim of their files, he hadn’t expended any real effort in thinking about the start of the new school year. What was the point in getting attached to a bunch of kids that he was probably going to expel, after all?

But then the Assessment Test had happened, and something had begun to tickle at the back of his skull.

Most people didn’t think that Shouta was a very emotional person. Most of the time, they would be right. However, there were a few things that did reliably press his buttons. One was letting a student slide by when they clearly wouldn’t be able to reach their dreams. Another was cruelty to animals.

The third was a teacher not doing their job.

Technically speaking, of course, Quirk counselors weren’t teachers, but Shouta didn’t much care for technicalities like that. Counselors were supposed to teach people on how to accept their Quirks, and mostly dealt with young children. The level of power they had over their patients was similar to that of a teacher. Therefore, in Shouta’s mind, they were lumped into the same group as official teachers.

As soon as the tests had started, then, several red flags began to pop up around Midoriya. Shouta had been there the day of the entrance exam, and he’d seen what the boy was capable of. That mutated arm — Shouta had no doubt that its strength was comparable to All Might’s. During the tests, though — there was nothing. Just a boy with a basic enhancement Quirk, firmly in the middle of the pack.

Now, that had ended up hitting a sub-point on his first button. Heroics, even with the non-underground heroes, was not a career that you could coast by in. Even if you ignored the rankings like Shouta did, fighting villains was a job that pushed you to your limits daily. So to see a student that he knew was talented seemingly slacking off — well, it pissed him off.

So he had called the kid out. Canceled his Quirk and given him the lecture that at the time, he had thought the kid needed. Talented as the boy was, if his seeming habit of slacking off wasn’t corrected soon, it was likely that he would end up getting someone killed.

After his lecture was when the suspicion started. Standing to one side, away from the students, he had a better look at Midoriya’s face than them. He saw the emotions that passed over his students face and his stomach dropped. There was nervousness, of course. But underneath that —

Disgust. Unhappiness. Fear.

All things that shouldn’t be passing over the face of someone looking at their own Quirk.

He hadn’t shown his concern at the time, of course. He still had a class to finish up, and he’d already put Midoriya on the spot already. Putting more pressure on him then would have only had him clamming up.

Instead, he’d waited until after school and then gone and pulled the boy’s file. Looking over the records, his worry had only climbed. There were no clues in his school files as to why he would feel negatively about his Quirk. Of course, bullying was rarely mentioned in files, but Shouta hadn’t seen any signs of that. The boy had hardly been shy around others his own age; just a bit of nervousness around girls, and even that hadn’t been so bad. He’d given his shirt to one during the final test, for God’s sake!

That only left trouble at home, then. For the first time in a long time, Shouta regretted his tendency towards gruffness with his students. You only got one chance at making a first impression, and he knew that the impression he gave was hardly one that encouraged students to confide in him.

Grimacing, he followed the last of the students inside of the USJ. This was not going to be quick. Midoriya was a quiet kid. Hardly the sort to bring his problems to others if Shouta was reading him right. But as long as he was in Shouta’s care, Shouta would be doing his damnedest to help the kid.

Inside of the USJ, the rest of the kids were already oohing and ahhing over the zones that they could see. Thirteen was waiting for them, radiating pride as they introduced themselves.

Shouta frowned as the students began to buzz with excitement. He’d been distracted slightly as he came in, but now that he was looking around —

“Hey, Thirteen,” he said quietly, coming up to stand beside the other hero, “wasn’t All Might supposed to join us here?”

“He called while you were one your way,” Thirteen said, their voice equally as quiet. “He did some heroing during his commute and ended up using all of his time.”

Shouta squeezed his eyes shut. That man was the height of irrationality. There were plenty of heroes in the city, and he knew that he was on a strict time limit these days.
He would have thought that the man would have taken special care, too, considering his seeming interest in Midoriya. Though maybe it was for the best, then, that he’d run out of time. Considering how overwhelming the Number One Hero could be and how uncomfortable with his Quirk Midoriya was, he could see All Might trying to jump right in and fix things without first earning the boy’s trust. The kid would probably just shut down even further if that happened.

Well, him not being here didn’t ruin things. He shrugged irritatedly. “Oh well. Shall we?”

“Right,” Thirteen said, turning back towards the students. “But before we begin, just one thing…or maybe two…or three or four…”

There was a wave of muffled giggles from the students.

With that, Thirteen launched into their explanation of their Quirk and the dangers of it. Shouta settled back and watched the kids, seeing if they were absorbing what Thirteen was saying.

Most of them did seem to be listening intently. Gratifyingly, Bakugou was included in that group — a relief, considering some of his behaviour during the battle trial. With his helmet on, Shouta couldn’t make out most of Midoriya’s face, but his body language suggested that he was listening.

Todoroki, however, didn’t seem to be paying attention at all. The split-haired boy was standing near the back of the group, just behind Midoriya, and was staring intently at him with his mis-matched eyes.

Shouta hoped that the stare wasn’t due to the defeat Midoriya had inflicted on him the other day. He and every other hero knew what Endeavor was like with his one-sided rivalry with All Might. He did not need something similar developing in the man’s son.

Thirteen was just wrapping up when a warning abruptly snapped its fingers in the back of his mind. His gut clenched, warning him that something was now very, very wrong. Shouta looked around, trying to see what had set him off, and spotted it.

The air in the courtyard was warping, for a lack of a better word. Darkening into a thick purple-black mist that was wrapping itself into some sort of ball. For a wild moment, Shouta wondered what it was.

Then a pale, spidery hand poked out, pushing the mist downwards so that its owner peer through, their face covered with another, this time severed, hand.

His heart began to hammer in his chest as adrenaline began to thunder through his veins. The children hadn’t noticed anything yet, still enjoying Thirteen’s presentation. He had to get them out of here, now.

“Huddle together and don’t move!” he shouted, whipping his head around to look at his kids. Some stared up at him in confusion, while others looked around him with wide eyes, seeing what had set him off. “Thirteen! Protect the students!”

“Wait, is this part of the exercise?” one of the kids questioned. Kirishima. His name was Kirishima.

“Don’t move!” Shouta snapped, pulling his goggles down. The warp gate had widened now, and his stomach sank as more and more villains came charging through, all of them heading towards him and his class.

“These are villains!”

Chapter Text

Izuku couldn’t breathe.

Kurogiri and Shigaraki were here.

His ears were ringing as he stared down at the two villains, standing at the back of an army of villains.

Puffs of condensation spread and retracted along the bottom of his helmet’s visor as breaths harshly ripped in and out of his lungs. How. How had they known? Him and his mom had been so careful — they’d hidden the documents so carefully, he kept the acceptance hologram on him at all times — how had they found him? Were all of these villains part of an attempt to bring him home? A lesson in defying his father’s will?

No — no — he wouldn’t, surely he wouldn’t —

Unless — his brain was skipping like an old, scratched record — unless —

Unless — he wanted to burn Izuku’s bridges? Reveal his connections to the villains, make it so no one would defend him —

Oh god. Oh god. Izuku’s eyes darted from his teachers to his classmates and back again. Oh god. Could he depend on these people for defense? If it was revealed — he’d only known them for a week — surely the teachers — but they were pros —

“Eraserhead and Thirteen.” Kurogiri’s booming voice interrupted Izuku’s brain in the middle of running in circles and crying. “How odd. The schedule we acquired said that All Might would be here.”

“So that was you that helped the media break in yesterday,” Aizawa said, loosening his capture weapon from its usual pile around his neck.

“Where is he,” Shigaraki rasped, already scratching at his neck. “Where’s the Symbol of Peace? We went through all this trouble — you can’t tell me that he’s not here…” Sucking in a breath, he let his hands drop to his sides. “Tell me; do you think he’ll come if we kill some kids?”

“What the hell, man?” Kaminari quietly wailed beside Izuku. “What the hell? How are villains here?”

“Forget how they got here, what happened to the alarms?” Yaoyorozu asked, her voice tight.

Thirteen turned their head slightly. “We have some set up, of course, but if they’re not going off already…”

“Then one of the villains must be blocking them,” Todoroki said. He moved up to the front of the crowd. Izuku could just see his red-and-white hair out of the corner of his eye. “This is an isolated space away from the main campus, during a time when a class was scheduled. This is not some impulsive attack. They’re here for a reason.”

“Thirteen, start evacuating the students,” Aizawa ordered, not looking at them. “Try calling the school as well. Kaminari, you too — you might be able to get through.” He began to move towards the stairs.

“W-wait, Mr Aizawa!” Uraraka called, taking a step after him. “You can’t be thinking about taking them all on yourself!”

“Even if you suppress all of their Quirks, there are too many!” Iida said.

Aizawa’s hair began to float. He turned his head towards them, his face stony and goggles firmly over his eyes. “A hero always has another trick up their sleeve. Don’t waste your time worrying about me! Number Thirteen, I’m relying on you!”

Before the last syllable had left his lips, he was already launching himself forward. Izuku, his knees shaking and brain still refusing to work, watched his outmatched teacher launch himself into the mass of villains down below without even a hint of hesitation.

“Right!” Thirteen called from behind Izuku. “Kids, let’s get out of here quickly!”

The others didn’t need to be told twice. Izuku watched, his legs paralyzed, as Aizawa begin to tear through the crowd below. He didn’t move until Iida and Uraraka began to pull him away.

“Come along, now, Midoriya! We can’t help him now!” Iida was saying.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Izuku saw it.

Black mist.

He opened his mouth to warn Thirteen, but it was already too late. Kurogiri was reforming in front of them, forcing them to come to an abrupt halt.

“My apologies,” he said, his gold eyes gleaming in the mass of mist that was his body and not sounding sorry at all, “but I’m afraid that allowing you all to escape is not part of the plan today.”

Thirteen threw out an arm to stop Sero from falling into the black mist. “Oh really?” they asked. “Then what is the plan?”

Behind their back, Izuku could see them flicking open a finger.

Kurogiri’s eyes shifted in size in such a way that suggested a raised eyebrow. “Why — to kill Mr All Might, of course. That is the League of Villain’s raison d’etre, after all.”

What? Izuku could hear his blood rushing through his veins in his ears. Kill All Might?

So they weren’t here for him?

Immediately, his mind began to chew on this knowledge. First, he felt a rush of relief — he was still safe. His father didn’t know that he was at Yuuei. Then came a rush of horror.

Shigaraki, despite how he often acted, was far from stupid. He wouldn’t have come here if he didn’t have an actual plan to kill the Symbol of Peace. And Izuku’s father wouldn’t have let him come without the tools to do so.

Izuku’s mind shifted to the large, black-skinned being with the bulging eyes and exposed brain. It had just been standing there, behind Shigaraki. Like it was waiting for orders. Some sort of biological weapon, maybe?

“Unfortunately,” Kurogiri said, his eyes shifting once again to look them all over, “it seems that he is not here. Tell me, Rescue Hero Number Thirteen, was the information we received inaccurate from the start?”

“That’s none of your business, villain,” Thirteen replied in a low voice, bringing their hand around. “Now, out of our way!”

The roaring noise of the Rescue Hero’s Quirk was overwhelming. Somehow, though, it didn’t drown out Kurogiri’s words.

“How rude,” the man commented, “and futile. You haven’t been in many battles before, have you?”

The roar was louder now. And also behind them.

Thirteen’s screams as their own Quirk was turned against them would haunt Izuku for the rest of his life. This close to the teacher, Izuku could see their costume and flesh being torn away from their body in bloody strips before being disintegrated in the portal that Kurogiri had set up.

“God damn it!” someone screamed. A hand slammed down on top of Izuku’s head, pushing him down to the ground as someone flew over his head. “You bastard —”

The explosion that sent his ears ringing answered who the someone was. “Kacchan!”

The roar cut out as Kurogiri went flying back, his mist whipping around him in tendrils. “My word,” he said mildly, “such a vicious attack from someone in a hero course.”

“Fucking bastard,” Kacchan growled, bent over slightly in a ready position. “Bet you didn’t expect us to fight back, did you?”

“Oh no,” Kurogiri replied, his form solidifying somewhat, “you are the Hero world’s golden eggs, after all. We could hardly write you off.” His mist bubbled and began to flow out from him again, but faster. “That is why we came up with this part of the plan.”

Before any of them could do more than think of running, the mist was surrounding them.

No. No no no no —

Izuku lunged forward as the black mist began swirling up Kacchan’s legs, grabbing a hold of one of his grenade gauntlets. A strength Quirk activated without any input from his brain, and as the dark mist began to cover his vision he pulled —

There was a soft, sucking sound that Izuku recognized as the sound of people being transported in Kurogiri’s mist, and then the mist cleared away.

One, two, three, four, five — he looked beside him, where he’d tried to pull Kacchan — five, thank god, five, and he was six. Him, Kacchan, Uraraka, Iida, Yaoyorozu, Kaminari, and the quiet bird-headed boy with the sentient shadow Quirk, Tokoyami.

Everyone else was gone. Even Thirteen.

Shit. Izuku gritted his teeth, his eyes beginning to sting. Shit — how useless was he? His classmates, the people he was responsible for, that he was beginning to think of as friends — they’d been transported to who knew where —

The gauntlet in his hand was jerked out of his grip, only to be replaced by another hand in a red and black glove that squeezed his fingers tightly. “Deku. Stop.”

“Kacchan?”

His friend wasn’t grinning like he usually did in a fight. He was glaring at the cloud that was Kurogiri, his face set in an intense frown. “You’re thinking too much. There’s an enemy in front of us.”

The others were getting up from their crouches, looking around in alarm as well. Oddly enough, that combined with Kacchan’s words calmed Izuku down. He was right; there was an enemy in front of them. What was left of their class needed direction. His mind began to scrabble at the forming certainty in his head, slowing down its panicky run.

Uraraka’s hair was flying out from the sides of her head as she looked around wildly. “What did he do with out classmates? Thirteen? They’re all gone!”

“What are we going to do?” Kaminari said, sounding panicky. “These villains —”

Kacchan scoffed. “What are we going to do,” he mocked, crouching down into a ready position. “Obviously, we have to beat this asshole into the ground!”

Kurogiri’s yellow eyes narrowed. “That’s rather arrogant of you, isn’t it, to think that you can do better than a pro hero?” Mist began to expand from him again, tendrils whipping around like they were reflecting his irritation.

Izuku frowned as Kacchan snarled. His mind held fast to Kurogiri’s words — ‘do better than a pro hero’…

Reaching up, his glove tapped against the mouthpiece of his helmet, unable to tug at his lower lip. Kurogiri wasn’t wrong. Thirteen was mainly a rescue hero, helping in disasters rather than hunting down criminals, but he wouldn’t have gotten his license without at least having some experience. All of them, by contrast, had only been in the hero course for a week. Just looking at it logically, they didn’t have much of a chance of taking Kurogiri down.

But was that really what they had to do?

Izuku remembered one of the afternoons he spent with his father, during their training. His father had had him working on retrieving an object that he was protecting — Izuku couldn’t remember what it was now. He’d thrown himself at his father, over and over again, completely unable to defeat him and take the object. He remembered finally just throwing himself down on the floor and crying as the last rays of sunlight were disappearing, so frustrated that he couldn’t defeat his father.

“It’s impossible! I can’t do it!”

His father had picked him up as he sobbed and cuddled him close until the tears tapered off.

“Now, now, Izuku. You just made a mistake and forgot what your actual objective was. You aren’t supposed to defeat me —”

Izuku grabbed Kacchan’s shoulder just as he began to surge forward. “Wait!”

“EH?” Kacchan had a scary look on his face as he looked back at him, but Izuku ignored it.

Looking at Kurogiri, he could just see the USJ doors behind him. He squeezed Kacchan’s shoulder, thoughts darting along his neurons to build a picture of what they had to do in his head. “Don’t attack just yet. I have a plan.”


Toshinori’s thumb was hovering over the icon on his phone. All he had to do was press it, and the call would start. It was the perfect time; he had the rest of the day off, thanks to his inability to turn away from a crime in progress. The teacher’s lounge was empty, with everyone else being busy with their classes, so he wouldn’t be interrupted.

Despite all of that, though, he couldn’t make his thumb drop down and start the call.

Putting his phone down on the coffee table with a clatter, he sighed and ran his hands through the untameable mess of his hair. The icon of Sir Nighteye stared up at him from his phone, one of the rare ones where he was smiling. He glared at it balefully, begrudging that smile and how poorly it represented their current relationship.

Why had things had to end so awkwardly between them? Why had Enishi had to use his Quirk on Toshinori and then start demanding that he retire? Why could the man not understand that it was Toshinori’s life and not his? If Toshinori preferred to go down swinging —

He pressed his lips together, a finger tapping against the knuckles of his opposite hand.

The thing was, Enishi had been instrumental in tracking All for One down in the first place. Before Enishi had come into his life, all Toshinori had managed to do for decades was nibble away at the edges of All for One’s empire, annoying him more than doing any real damage. Enishi had been the one to notice the uptick in missing people’s reports. Enishi had been the one to start cross-referencing them with the types of Quirks that All for One liked to steal. Enishi had been the one triangulate the reports and figure out where the man actually headquartered his operations.

Toshinori had been riding high the day they finally attacked. He had been convinced that he would finally avenge his fallen master — and then he’d lost everything as All for One taunted him, lost his temper and his head and very nearly his life —

The scar on his side gave a twinge and he grimaced, lowering and placing a hand over it. He needed to stop thinking of these things.

But he couldn’t. Not when his enemy’s son was possibly in Yuuei for who knew what purpose. Regardless of whether or not what he feared was true, having someone like Enishi helping him would be invaluable. He could help Toshinori cross-reference what the school’s files said against the public files on the Midoriya family. He could help track Midoriya and see if he made any suspicious movements. He could help review the recordings of the battle trial and tell Toshinori if he was being paranoid.

Yes, Enishi could help him quite a bit in this. So why couldn’t he make himself actually call the man?

Leaning back in the couch cushions, Toshinori sighed again. In the end, he knew perfectly well why things why he was so reluctant to bring the man in. It was for the same reason that he had been so insistent on Toshinori retiring, and why things had ended so poorly between the two of them. It was because the man cared, and that frightened him. Enishi cared so much for the man behind the smile, and the only reason Toshinori was going to call him was to take advantage of that to investigate one of his students like they were a criminal.

It was wrong, and he knew it was wrong; but he just couldn’t let it go. The thought gnawed at him at night, the footage from the exam playing on the inside of his eyelids as he tried to sleep. That massive, mutated arm, slamming into the robot and his side, making the robot’s joints explode and tearing a hole in him. That level of mutation that he had never seen in anyone else in his decades-long career. But why would All for One send his child to Yuuei of all places? What would he get from that sort of risk?

Toshinori rubbed his face. Maybe he should have gone and seen that psychologist like the hospital had wanted him to.

“Yagi-san, you have such a solemn face. Is something wrong?”

Toshinori jumped, fumbling his phone before hastily putting it into sleep mode. “P-principal Nedzu!” he said, nervously chuckling. “My apologies, I though I was alone in here.”

Nedzu’s face was not suited to making human expressions, but Toshinori got the impression that he was smiling. “Perhaps it’s for the best that I interrupted you,” he said, strolling in and clambering up onto the couch beside him. “Such a look on your face — may I ask what has you so twisted up?”

The lie leapt to his tongue easily — he wasn’t quite ready to bring his suspicions to Nedzu. Not until he had another set of eyes agreeing that something was wrong. “Just taking a break from lesson planning,” he said with a weak chuckle. “I must say, I never quite realized how difficult a teacher’s job was before I started trying to do it! Or enjoyable!”

Toshinori was pretty sure at this point that Nedzu was, indeed, smiling. “I’m glad,” he said. “I will admit that it is not always the most glamorous of jobs, but I certainly find a great deal of satisfaction in it.”

“Well, children are the future,” Toshinori babbled. “Glamorous or not, there’s probably no job more important —”

Nedzu’s beady eyes gleamed. “Except, perhaps, you finding your successor.”

Toshinori’s mouth had been open mid-laugh. He shut it with a click of teeth that was very loud in the silence of the teacher’s lounge.

“How about some tea?” Nedzu said. Despite the phrasing, it wasn’t an invitation.

Making the tea didn’t take nearly as much time as Toshinori wanted it to. Too soon, he found himself kneeling by the low table that sat in front of the lounge’s couch.

Nedzu stirred his cup with slow, unhurried motions. On the wall, the clock ticked quietly to itself, a steady beat that his heart marched double-time to.

After taking a long sip, Nedzu set his cup down with a clink and looked at him with knowing, beady eyes. “So,” he said, “I’ve noticed that you’ve already pulled two students’ files. Have you already narrowed it down so much, or should I be worried about these two?” His long tail twitched behind him, swaying lazily like a cat about to pounce. “Or rather — should I be worried about Midoriya?”

Nedzu’s eyes narrowed and Toshinori knew that he’d given something away. Reaching up, he scratched at his jaw as his mind raced.

In his heart, he knew that he was treating Midoriya as if he was already correct — that the boy was All for One’s. In his head, though, he knew that the information he had pulled together was far from conclusive. That was why he was trying to screw up the courage to call Nighteye, after all. He knew in his head as well, though, that Nedzu would take his instincts seriously if he gave them voice.

But…

While he had been concentrating on all of the clues that pointed towards the boy being related to All for One, his instincts didn’t just let him dismiss the other things that he had seen. The boy had been polite and apologetic once the battle trial was over, not gloating as All for One had the habit of doing. According to Aizawa, his stated reason for becoming a hero was so that he could help people who felt ignored by more mainstream heroes. And of course, above all — nothing that he had shown could not be explained away by an enhancement Quirk.

“Not — about him,” he said slowly, “but rather — for him.” He knotted his fingers in his lap. “I noticed that his level of strength with his Quirk was similar to mine, but talking to Aizawa — he brought up some concerns. I’m not sure if he’s shared it with you, but he suspects that whoever was in charge of Midoriya’s Quirk counseling was — well, his exact words were ‘slacking off’.”

Nedzu’s eyes narrowed. Carefully, he set his cup down. “I’m afraid that he did not,” he said, his voice suddenly stripped of any of its previous warmth. “Would you mind filling me in?”


Izuku was careful to keep an eye on Kurogiri as he hurriedly explained his plan to the other students. The mist of the man’s Quirk twisted lazily in the air as he watched them, clearly not willing to be the one that attacked first. This many managing to dodge his scattering attack must have unnerved him.

“Everybody got it?”

“You’re insane!” Kaminari whisper-shouted. “You. Are. Insane.”

“Perhaps he is,” Tokoyami said, “but we have no other choice. We need to alert the school.”

Iida was gritting his teeth. “I don’t want to leave you all behind —”

“But nothing!” Uraraka had clenched her hands up in front of her chest. “You’re the fastest, Iida! It only makes sense that you be the one to go!”

“Just count on us to make sure you get through,” Yaoyorozu said as she handed the object Izuku had asked her to make to Iida. “No matter what happens, keep running for the doors.”

“Kacchan?” Izuku said, turning his head to look at the one student that hadn’t spoken. “You in?”

His friend growled low in his throat, turning his head to glare at the villain. “I’m in,” he said. “Let’s show this misty bastard who’s boss!”

“Alright,” Izuku said, turning back to the others. “Let’s get started!”

Privately, he knew that Kaminari was right, even if it wasn’t for the reasons the other boy had listed. He knew Kurogiri, and Kurogiri knew him. His helmet’s visor was tinted, but not completely — if he got close enough, then there was a strong chance that the teleporting villain would recognize him. If he slipped up and used too many Quirks at once, the villain would recognize him. If he showed himself to be too familiar with Kurogiri’s Quirk, the villain would recognize him. And if the villain recognized him…

All of him and his mother’s work would be for nothing. Kurogiri would bundle him up and dump him in front of his father in the blink of an eye.

But he couldn’t just stand by. He couldn’t just let his classmates, the kids he was beginning to think of as friends, be torn apart by this League of Villains. Risk or no risk, he had to fight. He would just have to be smart about it, and use his classmates' Quirks instead.

Kurogiri’s form rippled as they began to spread out from the little cluster they’d been in, his eyes warping again to suggest a raised eyebrow. “Are you going to be trying to escape, now?” he asked in a tired-sounding voice. “Was your previous attempt not warning enough?”

Kacchan barked a laugh and lunged forward. “A warning? Don’t make me laugh!” His hands crackled as he crossed the space between him and the villain. “You just got all the dead weight out of the way!”

“Now is that any way to refer to your classmates?” Kurogiri chided, flowing out of the way. His metal collar gleamed in the lights of the dome. “Such words make me wonder —”

He cut off his words as Izuku swiped at his collar, darting away. Izuku ground his teeth; he’d been so close to ending this! Bouncing back from his failed attack, he dodged a stream of mist that lashed at him like a whip and held his hands up in a guard position, ready to attack again.

Kurogiri’s mist coiled around him, twisting like a hurricane with his collar at the center. “A distraction for an attack from behind,” he said, his voice now carrying an undercurrent of wariness. “You really are Golden Eggs.”

Kacchan scoffed. “Please, that’s just basic tactics.” He spat on the ground. “Now that you’re paying attention, though —” He flung his hands out behind him and ignited their sweat, slicing through the air from the power of his explosions. “TRY AND DODGE THIS!”

The massive explosion behind Kacchan as he rocketed forward was the perfect cover for Izuku, just as he had planned. Turning sharply on his heel, he nodded at Iida. That was all the other boy needed as his engine legs exploded into action. In a second he was passing Izuku, and Izuku was turning back to the fight between Kurogiri and Kacchan.

It was risk to join the fight, but a necessary one. Kacchan, loud and brash, was coming in from above, distracting the villain as Izuku snuck in from below. Again, he lunged for the collar that he knew protected the only parts of Kurogiri’s body that remained solid — and as he expected, again he failed. The mist whipped around the two of them and sent the two of them crashing together to the ground with enough force to leave Izuku breathless for a second.

You forgot what your goal was, his father had said, cuddling him as he calmed down from his tantrum. Your goal was not to beat me, it was to retrieve the object.

Izuku gritted his teeth and forced himself to his knees and elbows, sucking in breaths through his teeth. This entire fight was like that lesson from long ago; their objective was not to beat Kurogiri — it was to get Iida out so that he could get help.

That was why he hauled himself back to his feet and flung himself at Kurogiri again, despite knowing the risks of being recognized. That was why he threw a flurry of punches at the man despite seeing the mist swirl all around him.

A redirected explosion cracked across his faceplate, forcing him back and away from Kurogiri. Thankfully, his visor didn’t crack, but his ears were ringing and eyes swimming with black spots as he staggered back. There was a thump and a grunt of pain from Kacchan somewhere behind him.

“Enough.” Kurogiri’s deep voice was like rolling thunder, vibrating in Izuku’s chest. “You think that I don’t know what you’re trying to do?”

A wave of black flowed past Izuku as the spots cleared, heading away from him. Turning his head, his heart began to pound.

Iida was close to doors — but not close enough. Izuku was close to Kurogiri — but not close enough.

He watched helplessly as Kurogiri’s mist flowed together, any hint of a humanoid shape falling away. A wave of darness was now chasing after Iida, crowned with the villains glowing yellow eyes. “I’ve told you,” he rumbled, flowing like the waters of a hurricane’s storm surge, “you escaping for help is not part of plan.”

Iida looked back. His glasses were falling down his nose, and his eyes were wide.

Izuku opened his mouth to scream a warning.

Then there was a flash of light and a loud bang, loud enough to send his ears ringing again even through his helmet. Kurogiri reared back, his body roiling around him as his glowing eyes narrowed into slits. “GAH!”

Then the rest of their plan kicked in.

Having thrown the flashbang grenade that Yaoyorozu had given him, Iida continued running towards the doors.

Kaminari shot past Izuku, wailing loudly as tears streamed down his cheeks. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU TALKED ME INTO THIS —” he screamed, crackling with electricity, and plunged into the darkness of Kurogiri’s body.

There was a moment of silence, where Kurogiri was still reeling and where Kaminari’s screams were fading. Then —

Lightning boomed, the sudden heat forcing air away from itself as light ripped through the dark cloud of Kurogiri’s body. The inside of the mass lit up like a light being switched on inside a balloon, showing the hunched-over figure of Kaminari as he let off all of his electricity at once. Kurogiri screamed, his mist shooting out into stiff tendrils and arching like fingers curling in agony. Lines of electricity danced along the villain’s armoured collar, twisting through the air.

Then the light switched off. The figure of Kaminari disappeared, leaving only the crackles of static dancing along the now clear shape of the armoured collar. The rest of the mist, with its owner stunned, drooped and flowed downwards, shaped like nothing in particular.

This was where Uraraka now came in. She had been hot on Kaminari’s heels like Izuku had planned, shoving her way through the waist-high mist without hesitation on her way to the metal collar. Reaching it, she clamped her hands down on it, activating her Quirk. “Tokoyami! Dark Shadow!”

Dark Shadow shrieked, its black body launching itself over Izuku and grabbing Kurogiri’s metal collar in its hooked beak. The shadow’s mouth screeched against the metal and its stretched body contorted — rippled —

And threw Kurogiri away from them with enough force to send dirt flying through the air. Tiny grains of dirt hissed as they crashed against Izuku’s visor, making him flinch back and raise his arms to defend himself.

The wind died down after a second, leaving only the harsh sound of his own breathing in his ears. Slowly, Izuku lowered his arms.

The doors that lead to the outside were open, one hanging awkwardly from its hinges where it had nearly been torn off from the force of Iida’s passing. Kaminari knelt in the dirt, grinning with a blank look on his face and giving him the thumbs up. Uraraka was panting, her cheeks red. Turning around, Izuku could see Yaoyorozu kneeling by Kacchan, helping him sit up as Dark Shadow twined around Tokoyami. Nowhere did he see any trace of Kurogiri’s mist.

His legs trembled. Shook. His knees buckled and he was sitting in the dirt, trembling with relief. They’d done it. His hasty plan had done it. Iida was out, and Kurogiri was gone.

He let himself bask in the feeling of a job well done for a few heartbeats before forcing himself to stand. They still needed to get out as well; Kaminari was in no shape to continue fighting, and they’d only get in Aizawa’s way if they tried to cross the courtyard to start searching for the others.

“Everyone,” he said, his voice shaky, “help Kaminari and Kacchan up. We need to get out of here.”

Uraraka was the first to react. “R-right,” she said, her voice shaking. Her steps were steady as she went over to Kaminari, though, and helped to his feet as he giggled uselessly.
Satisfied that that was taken care of, Izuku turned to check on Tokoyami, Yaoyorozu and Kacchan. “You guys —”

He stopped. Frowned. They weren’t listening to him. They weren’t even looking at him. They were looking back down at the courtyard.

Jogging over, he leaned over to put a hand on Yaoyorozu’s shoulder. “Hey, come on —”

The words died in his throat as he saw what they were looking at.

Groaning bodies lay strewn across the courtyard, unable to match Eraserhead in the sort of combat that he specialized in. They lay in a fan pattern, all clearly having attempted to surge up the stairs and go after them while they tried to run away.

Not a single one had made it within ten feet of the stairs.

That wasn’t what the others were looking at though. Izuku could hear Uraraka come up behind him, pulling a still-giggling Kaminari with her. She sucked in a sharp breath as she saw too.

The great black beast that had come with Shigaraki was no longer standing at his back like some sort of mutated bodyguard. Now it was crouching over the battered and bleeding body of their teacher, one of his arms caught in a meaty fist, the other enormous hand pressing his face down against the dirt in a pool of red. Shigaraki was crouched in front of him, the hand on his face hiding his expression but rocking slightly in his way that Izuku recognized was glee.

“— so cool, Eraserhead,” he was rasping. “But it doesn’t look like you’re doing too well against Noumu. If only All Might was here.” His head turned until it was facing them, huddled up together at the top of the stairs. “Still. These kids will do, I think, for spitting in his face.”

“Aizawa-sensei,” Izuku breathed, barely recognizing his own voice.

The man wasn’t moving. The puddle under his head was growing larger.

And Shigaraki —

“Noumu.” Izuku couldn’t see his eyes, this far away, but he knew from the tone of his voice that they would be glittering. “Bring me one of the kids up here. I want to make an example for our dear Symbol of Peace.”

Chapter Text

The Noumu was blindingly fast. Before Izuku could even blink, it was in front of them, its bulging blank eyes staring at them without emotion. One large hand, gleaming and slick with blood, reached towards Yaoyorozu where she was kneeling by Kacchan.

All caution fled from Izuku’s head. That hand that was covered in his teacher’s blood was now reaching towards his friends. It was no choice at all to pump up his arm with several strength and reinforcement quirks. No choice at all.

He rushed forward even as he was layering his Quirks, sloppy and clumsy and undoubtedly telegraphing his blow like mad as he swung his swelling fist at the Noumu’s exposed brain. After what it had done to Aizawa-sensei, there was no time for caution — he needed to take it down as quickly as possible. He needed to hit true. The bulging eye of the Noumu watched dully as Izuku’s fist whistled through the air, the silhouette of it reflecting back at him.

Then it was gone.

Izuku’s fist smashed thought the concrete of the top steps, sending up a spray of dust and pebbles. Automatically, he pulled back several of his Quirks, his head buzzing and ready to slot others in, and looked around. Where had the Noumu gone —

A black hand clamped down on his head, blocking his view.

Oh, he thought hysterically as he lifted his hands to uselessly try to pry the hand off of his head, that’s where he went.

Scrabbling at the fat fingers wrapped around his visor, his boots kicked frantically through the rubble. He couldn’t seem to find the leverage he needed. The hand was tight, so tight he could feel the pressure of his helmet being squeezed around him. His visor was groaning, creaking as he was lifted up, his feet now swinging uselessly in the air. He could hear the others screaming around him, Kacchan screaming for the Noumu to put him down, but they were all drowned out by the popping noises of the cracks forming across his vision.

And then he was flying through the air. The black hand was gone. Lights spun dizzily over him and Izuku realized that he had been thrown just before he hit the ground.

He slammed into the dirt below and bounced, all the air leaving his lungs with a whoosh. Like a stone skipping across the top of a pond, he skidded along the ground, uncontrollably tumbling head over heels. The world whipped past him and he scrabbled, his gloves tearing, trying to stop himself —

A foot slammed into him, stopping him dead. What little air he had managed to suck back into his lungs was knocked back out again, leaving him still and wheezing on the ground, his arms twitching. He rolled his eyes up in their sockets until it hurt, peering past the cracks, knowing already who had stopped him and still praying that it was someone else.

No such luck for him.

Through his cracked visor, past the hand clamped tight to the white-haired man’s face, Shigaraki leered down at him, his foot pressing down hard on his back. “Hey there, brat,” he cooed. “Nice of you to drop by.”

Izuku’s heart hammered in his chest. He couldn’t reply — his voice could give the game away.

Shigaraki theatrically took his foot off of him, taking a step back and spreading his arms. “What? No snappy comebacks? I thought that that was a must-have for heroes.”

Slowly, keeping his eyes on the white-haired man in front of him, Izuku got up onto his hands and knees. His heart was hammering in his chest. He didn’t try to run; even after not seeing Shigaraki for five years, he didn’t doubt that he was still as fast as ever. That wasn’t even taking the Noumu into consideration, either.

God. The Noumu. Izuku turned his head just a little, trying to spot it in his peripheral vision — had he been the only one to be grabbed, or had the beast —

A hand clamped down around his throat before he’d turned more than a few degrees. Shigaraki’s body radiated heat as he pulled Izuku towards him with a four-fingered grip. “Hey now,” he growled, “don’t go looking back at those other heroes. You’re in a bad enough situation right now.”

“Though I suppose that it’s not a surprise for a brat like you to pull that sort of shit,” he continued, sounding even more pissed if that was possible. “I bet you’re worried about them, thinking that Noumu’s going to hurt them.” The hand around his neck squeezed tighter. Izuku thought his heart was going to beat right out of his chest. “That sort of naive thinking — it makes me sick. You’re in a bad situation, but you’re acting like you can go help someone else.” The one finger that wasn’t touching him hovered over Izuku’s jugular. “Well, maybe you just didn’t see what my Quirk did to your teacher.”

Izuku’s gut clenched. He moved his eyes, struggling to not turn his head and set the man off again but still see what Shigaraki had done —

“See,” Shigaraki said, his tone shifting to something terribly conversational, “my Quirk is called Decay. Anything I touch with all five fingers crumbles away. Including people.” He shook Izuku slightly, forcing him to move or feel that fifth finger touch him. “Your teacher was good, but it’s hard to fight with your arm withering away.”

Izuku felt his breath quicken. Despite himself, he couldn’t keep his head from starting to turn again. Had Shigaraki —

Once again, the hand tightened around his neck, cutting off his air. “Really? What did I just tell you?” Shigaraki said, slipping back into his angry voice. “I just told you what my Quirk can do, and you try to go help your teacher.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Shigaraki’s free hand reach up and begin scratching at his neck. “That sort of selflessness — acting like you can help someone despite everything — it makes me sick.” He scratched at his neck harder, leaving red lines that stood our starkly against his pale skin. A few drops of blood beaded along the marks.

Izuku struggled for a breath, still not daring to speak. His chest heaved. He could hit Shigaraki — but could he do it before the final finger touched him? Izuku wasn’t sure.

Then the hand stopped scratching, abruptly falling to his side. “You know what,” he said, shifting back to a conversational tone and tugging Izuku back closer, “I was going to make this quick. But with how you’ve been acting — I’ve changed my mind.” The hand he’d been scratching his neck with clamped down on his bicep, only his pinky not quite touching. He leaned in close to Izuku’s helmet, so close that his breath left a cloud of mist on his cracked visor. “I’m going to make this nice and slow.”

Shit. Shit! The pinky lowered and Izuku scrabbled for a strength Quirk, a resistance Quirk, anything —

But nothing happened. The two of them stood, frozen, Izuku’s hands halfway up to the hand that had all five fingers wrapped tightly around his bicep.

“What?” Shigaraki hissed, his red eyes narrowed behind the hand on his face. They rolled in their sockets and widened as they looked at something to Izuku’s left.

Izuku didn’t try to see what he was looking at. Frantically, he activated a strength Quirk and grabbed for the wrist of the hand clamped onto his arm.

But even distracted, Shigaraki was still blindingly fast. Izuku barely saw his red irises snap back towards him before he had let go and was jumping back out of reach, leaving Izuku stumbling from his own momentum.

“Nice try, brat,” he snarled, “but your teacher can’t protect you forever. Noumu!”

His teacher? Izuku had only a second to turn his head and see Aizawa-sensei, trembling on his hands and knees and with his red gaze locked on Shigaraki before the Noumu arrived and slammed his head back into the bloodied ground with a sickening crack.

“AIZAWA-SENSEI!” he screamed before he could stop himself.

The Noumu’s head snapped towards him.

Shit shit shit shit shit

Aizawa was no longer moving on the ground, his head slowly being haloed by a bright fresh puddle of blood. Shigaraki was just out of range for an easy swipe, and he was paying attention, lowering Izuku’s chances of landing a hit even further. Technically speaking, he could probably use one of his less obvious Quirks, but that would just confirm —

“FUCKING ASSHOLES, DIEEEEEEE!!”

Kacchan appeared out of nowhere on Izuku’s right, his hand outstretched and sparking. Shigaraki turned, his eyes widening. He put up his hands as if he could ward of the explosion with them alone — and then a wave of black mist sprang into being between him and the attack.

Izuku’s stomach fell like it had tumbled off of a cliff.

“My apologies, young hero,” the warp user boomed, his voice all around them, “but I’m afraid that I cannot allow you to harm Tomura so.”

In slow motion, Izuku saw the explosion get swallowed up by the mist, only for its light to suddenly start licking along the side of his visor. He didn’t need to turn his head to know what Kurogiri had done. He was redirecting the force, making it hit them instead of his own allies.

Unlike with Shigaraki, the Quirks that he needed came to him quickly. Speed for his legs, to move out of range of the explosion; Inertia, to keep from harming himself or Kacchan at the speeds they’d need to move; and Cooling, to stop the heat of the explosion from hurting them as well. He grabbed onto Kacchan, still with his arm outstretched beside him, and moved.

The fiery explosion ripped through where they had been standing only a heartbeat ago, so hot and powerful that even with Cooling Izuku could feel sweat prickling on his neck and chest. Kacchan was clinging to him, his fingers digging into his bicep.

“Damn it,” he hissed. It was becoming increasingly difficult to see through his helmet, but Izuku could see the lack of colour in Kacchan’s face when he turned his head. “Damn it, how the hell did he get back up so fast?”

Izuku swallowed and turned back to the scene in front of them. He wouldn’t mind knowing himself.

Kurogiri, despite being lit up with electricity only a few minutes ago and being flung halfway across the USJ, was now back behind Shigaraki, his yellow eyes glowing as he glared at them and looking no worse for wear.

“That was too close,” Shigaraki rasped, hunched over slightly and watching them both with wide, wide eyes. “Where the hell were you before?”

“My apologies, Shigaraki Tomura,” Kurogiri said. He wasn’t taking his eyes off of them either; they were narrowed in a squint, like he was trying to pick them apart mentally. “It turned out that they were rather more clever than I originally gave them credit for. They distracted me long enough for one of their number to escape the facility.”

Shigaraki’s head whipped around. His eyes narrowed and he snarled. “What?”

“The young man’s Quirk seemed to be based on speed as well, so I would estimate that we have less than ten minutes left before we have to leave.” He sounded almost apologetic as he spoke, a blob of mist flowing onto Shigaraki’s shoulder like a comforting hand.

“No,” Shigaraki growled, his eyes reddened slits and face distorted with rage underneath the hand. “No, no, no, I’m not leaving with nothing to show!”

“Tomura, we are no match for Yuuei’s entire faculty,” Kurogiri said. “And without All Might here, our original aim has failed as well. He would understand us making a tactical retreat.”

Izuku stiffened. He knew exactly who this ‘he’ was. Dread churned in his gut, despite the lack of surprise.

“No,” Shigaraki hissed again, snapping his head around to glare at them with wild eyes. “No, I’m going to make sure that they remember the League of Villains. Noumu!” He shrieked the last word, making Kurogiri back away as the massive black-skinned beast stood up from where it had been standing over Aizawa-sensei.

Its eyes were still as blank as before as Shigaraki spoke his next command. “Drag them back here! I wanna spell out a message with these brats’ bodies!”

Shit.

Just like before, the Noumu moved faster than Izuku could follow without a Quirk. One moment, it was crouched over Aizawa-sensei like some sort of vulture about to feast. The next, it was in front of them, blocking out the lights from above as it reached out towards the two of them.

Izuku saw the fear flicker across Kacchan’s face one of the massive black hands came closer and closer to his face. Behind them, he heard Yaoyorozu scream.

Then they were yanked back, just out of reach. Izuku felt the wind whistle in his ears as the Noumu’s swipe just missed him.

“That was close!” someone chirped.

Izuku looked down and saw the glowing yellow eyes of Tokoyami’s quirk looking back up at him. Its black body was wrapped around him and Kacchan, pulling them through the air and away from the muscular figure of Noumu.

Not fast enough, though. Its bulging eyes rolled and settled on them. Its muscles twitched. Contracted. Izuku tensed, calling up his resistance and strength Quirks but too slow because the creature was already shooting towards them, spittle flying from its jagged yellow teeth as it opened its mouth in a discordant roar —

Only to slam to a stop with a crackling noise, close enough that some of its spittle splashed onto Izuku’s cracked visor. His fists up and over his head, Izuku risked a look down.

His eyes widened. Ice had crawled up the Noumu’s arms from where it had been running towards them on all fours —

“Get them out of the way!”

There was an even louder cracking noise, like several gunshots, and then the Noumu was blocked entirely from view by a sheet of thick white ice.

“Todoroki-kun!” Uraraka shouted.

Izuku hit the ground a little roughly, Tokoyami’s Quirk chirping an apology alongside its master that Izuku barely heard. Following the path of ice with his eyes, Izuku’s heart thumped in his chest as he saw Todoroki and Asui climbing onto shore with Thirteen held up between them, Todoroki’s right hand held out and still steaming with the cold.

Uraraka rushed over from where she had been with the others, helping take a hold of Thirteen. “You came just in time,” she said, sounding close to tears. “That monster — it’s supposed to kill All Might! We need to get out of here!”

“Agreed,” Asui — no, Tsu-chan said. “Thirteen’s hurt, and the villains we faced only hurt them more. They need medical attention.”

“Did you manage to break the jamming?” Todoroki asked, finally taking his attention off of the ice he’d sent out and hoisting their teacher a little higher on his shoulders. “Where’s Aizawa-sensei?”

No one answered. No one could. The ice was blocking the view, but Izuku swallowed. The blood that they’d seen…

Todoroki’s lips thinned.

He didn’t have a chance to say anything though, because at that moment the Noumu decided to show that a little ice was not about to stop it.

The wall that Todoroki had created let out a loud crack and shattered. The black mass of muscle that was the Noumu shot forward, swinging its shattered stump of an arm at the new arrivals.

Izuku moved before he could stop himself. His arm swelled and he swung again — maybe this time he’d hit it —

Yes! He felt flesh beneath his knuckles and he pushed everything he had into the hit, dust hissing against his cracked visor as the displaced air from his punch whipped around him, obscuring the Noumu. There were shouts behind him, the sounds of shoes scraping on soil as the others were blown back from the force, but — a solid hit!

…A solid hit.

A solid. Hit. That should have knocked the Noumu back.

But Izuku could still feel something against his knuckles.

Slowly, he looked up, the dust that had been kicked up slowly falling back down to the ground. The Noumu looked down at him blankly. Izuku’s swollen fist was resting squarely in the middle of its abdomen, as if he had just given it a light tap.

“Shock absorption,” Shigaraki called, still hunched over animalistically and clawing at his throat. “Noumu!”

There had been stumps where the Noumu’s arms had been. Just a little past the hulking beast, Izuku could see its original arms, still stuck frozen to the ground. Now, though, the stumps on the beast were twitching. Rippling. As Izuku watched, the Noumu’s arms regrew with wet cracking noises.

Shock absorption, and now Regeneration. This wasn’t just a normal Quirk user, then. All for One —

The monster flexed its new fingers.

Clawing at the horror stuffing his head like a thick fog, Izuku belatedly tried to stumble back, out of the Noumu’s reach. Thick black fingers snapped shut around his neck like a vice, leaving only a trickle of air to reach his lungs.

Izuku’s world narrowed down as he desperately tried to suck in a breath. Desperately, he clawed at the hand with his own enhanced limb, trying to pull it off. All that earned him, however, was his arm being caught in a grip as tight as the one around his throat and the experience of being slammed onto the ground hard enough for his head to bounce.

Pain shot through his skull and his vision went white for a moment.

When it came back in, he was treated to the sight of Shigaraki staring down at him with mad red eyes. He was kneeling by Izuku’s head, his eyes roving over Izuku’s much-battered face-plate.

“Poor little student,” he hissed, stretching his hand out wide over Izuku’s head and placing it softly, gently, mockingly on top of his faceplate. “You just had to be the hero and die first.”

No. No! Izuku tried to struggle, tried to think, tried to reach for a Quirk that would get him out of this only for the Noumu’s hand on his throat to tighten and completely cut off his air. The spiderweb of cracks over his eyes increased, racing across his field of vision and cutting the glass into smaller and smaller pieces that crumbled into his eyes.

Uselessly, Izuku closed them, the metal around his head warping and shifting as it to began to disintegrate too, peeling away like a flower to reveal the face that no doubt Shigaraki and Kurogiri would recognize —

CRASH!

“DO NOT FEAR! FOR I AM HERE!”


It took Toshinori less than a second to assess the situation.

Aizawa was lying in a pool of his own blood on the ground, not moving. Young Uraraka and Tokoyami were down by the edge of the Flood Zone, along with Young Todoroki and Asui, who were holding up a clearly badly injured Thirteen. More students — Yaoyorozu, an injured Bakugou, and a short-circuited Kaminari — were at the bottom of the stairs, watching what was going on with horrified expressions (except, of course, for Kaminari, who was drooling quietly to himself with a vacant smile).

All of them were fine for now, though, Toshinori thought as he launched himself towards the one student pinned down by some black-skinned muscle-bound monstrosity, a pale-haired villain covered in preserved hands hovering over him. A third villain, seemingly made of black mist, watched them with glowing yellow eyes.

The others could wait. This student needed his help right now.

A clap of his hands by the black villain’s head to make it shriek and let go from the pain of the boom. A slap to the face of the hand villain, knocking the one covering his face right off. The student underneath the black villain’s hands — it was young Midoriya, his helmet seemingly turned to dust. Toshinori made a note to avoid the hand villain’s grasp. He slid his arms underneath the boy and bring him back to Yaoyorozu-chan for safe-keeping right now.

Next, while the villains are still reeling, grab the other students. Gently with Todoroki and Asui especially, since Thirteen was supported by them. Someone had torn the other hero’s suit open, tearing the skin off of their back — the misty villain, perhaps? His Quirk was not immediately obvious.

Finally, Toshinori grabbed Aizawa, gently cradling the other man in his arms. He was disturbingly limp, his face covered in blood, but Toshinori could feel a puff of air against his collarbone as he picked the man up.

He was such an idiot. Wasting his precious time during his commute when there were plenty of other heroes around — what had he been thinking? Now these kids — his students — had nearly died. His kouhais had nearly died. And now he was staring down these villains with the bitter taste of blood on the back of his tongue.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

“Wha — how did we —” young Uraraka stammered as Toshinori came to a stop in front of them, still cradling their teacher. She looked around wildly with her eyes popping and fists clenched in front of her, only her pinkies left out. “All Might!”

“Uraraka, my girl,” Toshinori said, bending over. “Take your teacher here and head for the doors. I will keep these villains at bay.”

Thankfully, the girl does not ask questions. She takes her teacher along with young Yaoyorozu, the latter taking his head and shoulders while she took his feet. Toshinori can feel the tremors in his muscles that warn of future pain from pushing himself. He doesn’t have time to give her answers.

Beginning to turn, he paused for a moment at the sight of Midoriya.

The boy was still on the ground where Toshinori had left him, lying on his side facing the stairs. He was half-raised up on one trembling arm, his other raised to cover the lower half of his face as he stared at the ground, clearly struggling to process how close he had come to dying.

A powerful wave of shame rose up like a tide in his throat. The boy looked so frightened, and he had been spending the entire morning mulling over whether or not to investigate him like a criminal. Curly hair and freckles or no, the boy didn’t look anything like All for One right now. With tears spilling down his face, he looked like a child that needed rescuing.

A rescue that Toshinori was more than glad to do. Finishing his turn, he flung out an arm to his side. “The rest of you, do not worry! The rest of the faculty is on their way! For your own safety, though, I must insist that you all run!”

“Yes, sensei!” young Yaoyorozu called. Out of the corner of his eye, Toshinori could see young Bakugou helping Midoriya to his feet. Satisfied that that, at least, was under control, he turned and devoted his full attention to the villains still standing by the edge of the Flood Zone.

None of them were moving except for the hand villain, who was scratching furiously at his neck. “You saw it. You saw it, right, Kurogiri?”

The misty villain, apparently unimaginatively named Kurogiri, was watching the retreating students carefully with slitted yellow eyes. “Yes, Shigaraki, I did.”

Tucking away his questions at that odd exchange, Toshinori shifted his legs into a steadier stance and braced himself. He did not like how these villains were ignoring him. “Oi oi oi! Villains, do you really think that you can afford to be ignoring me at this time?”

Both of the villains, Kurogiri and Shigaraki, turned their heads sharply towards him as if they’d forgotten that he was even here. Clenching his fists, Toshinori stood up straight with a grim expression. “I, the Symbol of Peace, have come to put an end to your games! Surrender now, and things will go better for you!”

Shigaraki’s hand that had been scratching at his neck stopped. Fell to his side. “All Might.” His eyes, half-hidden behind the hand re-clamped to his face, darted between Toshinori and the students running up the stairs. He hissed and curled his fingers like they were claws digging into a victim’s flesh. Still, though, he did not move, seeming unable to decide between facing him or going after the children again. “I wonder, do you know…”

“It doesn’t matter,” Toshinori cut him off harshly. He didn’t have time for witty back and forth banter. The taste of blood was getting stronger in his mouth. “If you will not surrender, then I will have to take you in by force!”

“Force? How like a ‘hero’,” Shigaraki said sarcastically, his eyes narrowing. “Noumu! Keep the Symbol of Peace busy! We have some unfinished business with these brats.”

“Shigaraki Tomura, we should retreat,” Kurogiri sounded almost nervous, his yellow eyes shifting in the mist of his body. “Back-up is already on its way. Our chances of success and getting away have dropped far too much —”

“No,” Shigaraki hissed, snapping an arm through the air like he was physically pushing away his fellow villain’s concerns. “Noumu! Keep the Symbol of Peace busy!”

The black, muscle-bound villain that had been pinning young Midoriya to the ground let out an awful, discordant shriek and launched itself at Toshinori.

Toshinori barely had the time to dodge. Fast! Dodging a follow-up swing, he weaved around the flailing limbs of the beast and slammed his fist into the creature’s exposed brain. He never liked killing, but judging from the damage he’d seen done to Aizawa and how the hand villain had been disintegrating Midoriya’s helmet, that didn’t seem to be a problem for them. He would meet such force with equal force and prevent them from attacking the students once more!

Except the Noumu moved. Instead of its brain, Toshinori’s fist hit its face hard enough to send out a shockwave.

And stopped.

Long practice had Toshinori moving away from the creature’s next attack even as his mind whirled. No damage. No damage at all. One for All could break through any single hardening or resilience Quirk that Toshinori had met — that only left some sort of absorption or nullification Quirk.

“Shock absorption,” Shigaraki called over his shoulder, staggering up from where he had been knocked down by the shockwave. “Tell me, All Might — how does it feel to have all that strength, and not have it mean anything?” He giggled, turning away and spreading his arms, his hands flexing. “All your strength, and you can’t even save these brats in front of you. Kurogiri!”

The mist villain flowed like water, making a pool of black that Shigaraki forced his hands through. The children, frantically running up the stairs, shrieked as mist formed in front of them. Ducking underneath a swing from the Noumu, Toshinori reached out and shouted uselessly.

But instead of grabbing at the children like Toshinori expected, Shigaraki’s hands landed on the stairs themselves. The cement paled, spreading out like a pool from the villain’s hands and crumbling like chalk. The children shrieked as steps crumbled beneath them, their feet slipping and driving them to their knees —

The Noumu roared, discordant and wrong.

A muscle in Toshinori’s arm panged, sending a needle of pain right through his brain. Dodging under a swipe, Toshinori internally grimaced.

Damn it. Damn it. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the black mist flowing down and behind the falling children. Midoriya seemed to have taken a particularly hard fall, Uraraka having slammed into him and sent him tumbling down to that black cloud —

But Uraraka shot up and grabbed him just in time, heaving him back by his arm just in time as the cloud tried to wrap around him.

Time. It all came down to time. Would he be able to keep this up for long enough to overwhelm the shock absorption ability? His muscles were already twinging warnings to him that he was overdoing it, and the taste of blood was no longer confined to just the back of his mouth. He could feel its heat seeping out between his teeth.

The Noumu was moving on all fours, lunging and snapping like a rabid dog. So far, he was keeping just ahead of it, but that wouldn’t allow him to actually help the children in their fight against the villains.

There was no choice, then. Jumping back a few feet more from the Noumu, Toshinori raised his fists higher. Blood or no, pain or no, he had no choice. He had to keep it up long enough to defeat this monster. The students were depending on him.

He swung. One Hundred Percent!

The Noumu’s body was as hard as rock under his knuckles, but Toshinori ignored it. His skin was splitting from hitting the beast and blocking its blows as well, but he ignored it. The Noumu was howling, its tongue lolling from its mouth, but he ignored it. All of his focus was on hitting the same points on his opponents body, over and over, with all of his strength. It was like sprinting for an hour without breaks, his body burning and begging to stop, but he didn’t. He had to do this. He could not lose!

Finally, after a hundred hits, he began to feel it. The Noumu’s body began to shudder. The howling and snarling choked off, its muscles no longer feeling like rock underneath Toshinori’s hands.

So the beast could take one hundred percent of his power, so what? He’d just have to go beyond that. The children were shouting, blurred shapes moving in his peripheral vision as they dodged the swipes and clouds of the two villains’ attacks. Still alive, and still fighting, just like him. Burning up, his body shaking, he began to push the creature back with every blow. His thighs aching and screaming faded into the back of his mind.

His fist slammed into the creature’s gut, forcing it back. It smashed through the trees nearby, the very ground shattering under its feet as it tried to stop its flight. Toshinori didn’t care. Flinging himself into the air, he raised his hands above his head to bring down as a hammerblow.

The creature bounced off of the ground, a shockwave rippling out from hit. The concrete crumbled underneath Toshinori’s feet as he landed and drew back a fist.

ONE FOR ALL —

His body was aching, about to collapse. He could feel a trickle of blood streaming down the side of his chin. But the Noumu was not yet done. Toshinori could see its eyes moving, its arms starting to try and turn its body around to face him once more.

He’d reached his limit here. But wasn’t breaking limits what being a hero was all about?

— ONE MILLION PERCENT!

His fist slammed into the Noumu’s exposed side, sending him flying up. He slammed into the ceiling of the USJ, the metal warping and the lights exploding as he hit and kept going, the metal shrieking and tearing now —

And then the sky was exposed, and the creature was gone. With blurring eyes, Toshinori could see the clouds outside disappearing as the Noumu whipped through them like a comet.

Sweat dripping down his spine, breathing raggedly as the trickle of blood that escaped his mouth wound its way down his chin, he squeezed his fists just a bit tighter. God, but he had gotten weaker. It had taken him over three hundred hits to defeat that monster. He wiped the blood from his face —

The students screamed.

Whipping his head around, Toshinori cursed. He just couldn’t stop being stupid today, could he? There were still villains up!

Shigaraki had stopped swiping his hands through the mist villain’s portals and jumped fully through so that he was in front of the children. His head down and hands outstretched, he was in the thick of the children, forcing them apart and stumbling back into the surrounding warp portals. He was surging towards Midoriya and Uraraka in particular, the latter trying to help the former to his feet. Her head was snapping up, an arm coming up too slow, the villain’s deadly grip already too close. Toshinori could make it, had to make it —

Pain ripped through him, radiating from his scar and feeling like his injury was being inflicted on him all over again. He stumbled, his feet suddenly feeling too heavy to even lift.

No. No! Toshinori took a step, and then another even as he felt the steam begin to come off of him, signalling his failing power. No, he would not let one of his students die here, not now!

But he was too far. He could feel it, in the way his vision was darkening, in the way his knees were beginning to buckle. He had given all he had in the fight with the Noumu, and now he had nothing left to save these children in front of him.

CRACK

Shigaraki howled and yanked his hand back from where he had been reaching for the students, blood standing out against his pale skin.

The mist that had been swirling around pulled back like a hand touching a hot stove. “Shigaraki!” Kurogiri shouted, “it’s too late! We have to go!” His mist twisted into a tornado, arcing through the air to wrap around the pale-haired man.

“This isn’t over,” Shigaraki spat at them all, his head twisting back and forth to glare at them all. He turned towards the nearest ripple of mist, holding his hand close to his chest. “I will kill All Might. And I will —”

CRACK CRACK CRACK

Shigaraki howled and tumbled into the warp, disappearing from sight. The mist villain twisted around and into himself as well, even as the shouts from outside became audible.

“Damn it, don’t let him get away!”

Toshinori could have wept with relief at the sight of the Yuuei faculty. All of them appeared at the top of the stairs. Snipe, the one that had just save Uraraka and Midoriya, gave them a quick once over before raising his gun again. Ectoplasm spat out several clones, two of which immediately went over to begin helping carry out Aizawa, who had fallen into the rubble of the stairs during Shigaraki’s final attack on the students. And Cementoss, bless him, put up a wall between him and the children, loudly instructing them to start making their way out of the building, that emergency services had already been contacted, etcetera.

Toshinori let go of the power that he had been struggling to keep at the surface and sank to his knees, steam rolling off of him. A cough wracked through him, blood spattering on the ground.

Relief and horror ran through him in equal measures, leaving him sweating and trembling. That had been too close. All of that had been far too close. The children were alive, they were fine, but —

Digging his now-bony fingers into the dirt, he clenched his jaw, remembering the conversation that he’d been having with Nedzu before young Iida had burst in. The conversation about successors.

Staring at the blood mixing with the dirt below him, Toshinori promised himself. No more games. No more excuses.

It was time to pass on One for All.

Chapter Text

“FUCK!”

Tomura tumbled from Kurogiri’s warp gate and slammed into the floor, letting out a loud curse. Wincing, Kurogiri reformed himself into a more humanoid form as the young man swore and screamed on the floor, clearly unaware of where exactly Kurogiri had taken them.

Normally, he would already be correcting the young man’s language. Such a reaction to a setback was hardly one that would inspire confidence in future underlings, after all. Considering the cause of this setback, though — well, quite frankly Kurogiri felt like joining the boy in screaming and swearing on the floor.

His master’s son. Izuku. The boy had been right in front of them, pinned down with the decayed dust of his costume’s helmet covering his face but not doing a thing to hide him. The boy was at Yuuei, as a student. How —?

In the darkened room, lit only by an array of monitors showing various news and security feeds, sat a chair facing away from them. Surrounded by various pieces of medical equipment, the man sitting in the chair did not bother to turn around as he addressed them, his voice pitched to cut through his protege’s tantrum.

“Tomura. I take it that things did not go as planned, then?” said All for One.

The young man’s screams cut out as the boy slammed his mouth shut, seeming to finally realize where he was. Breathing harshly through his nose and twitching on the ground, he swallowed wetly before answering. “No, Sensei.”

All for One hummed quietly to himself. Hastily, Kurogiri stepped forward to take over the speaking.“It seems that the schedule we managed to acquire was incorrect. All Might was not present when we first arrived.”

“Oh? But he must have shown up later, at least, considering that our Noumu is not with you,” said a new voice. An older man, his face dominated by a bushy mustache, emerged from the shadow, his equally-bushy eyebrows pulled together in a frown. He was carrying a first-aid kit and knelt down beside Tomura as he talked, sounding annoyed. “I doubt that anyone else could have prevented him from returning with you.”

“We found your son,” Tomura said from the floor, his voice tight with pain. He wasn’t looking at the doctor who was already cutting his shirt open to start treatment or Kurogiri, who was hovering anxiously. His red eyes, wet with pain, were locked on the back of their master’s chair.

There was a long moment of silence at that sentence where no one moved. Even the doctor stopped mid-slice through Tomura’s ruined shirt. Then —

“What?” All for One said, turning his chair around.

“Your son, Sensei. Izuku — he was there. He was standing with the rest of the heroes’ ‘Golden Eggs’, like he belonged there!”

There was another beat of silence. Kurogiri would not have thought that it was possible to pin a person in place with a look without eyeballs, but All for One was never one to let such things slow him down. Turning his scarred head towards him, he asked in a low voice, “Kurogiri? Is what Tomura saying true?”

Kurogiri, despite not currently having a throat, swallowed nervously. “I was not as close as Shigaraki was, Master, but I believe I was close enough. The boy has not changed that much in five years.”

All for One was silent for a long, long time at that. Long enough that the doctor went back to treating Tomura’s wounds. Tomura hissed and pouted through all of it as expected, but at a much lower volume than usual, his eyes bouncing between watching the doctor dig the bullets from his wounds and the still figure of his Sensei.

Finally, just as the last bandage was being tucked into place, All for One spoke once more.

“You’ve done very well, Tomura,” he said, a strange undercurrent to his gentle tone. “Rest up, and once you’re better we’ll discuss what happened more.”

“Sensei…” Tomura mumbled, clearly slightly woozy from the blood loss.

“Hush,” All for One replied. “To bed with you. Kurogiri can explain what happened since he wasn’t shot.”

If Kurogiri had had a stomach, it would have flopped uneasily at the man’s words. Only his tone, gentle and understanding, kept him where he was with the assurance that he would not be punished for this mess.

The doctor helped Tomura up, ignoring the young mans curses and whining as he was walked out of the room, leaving Kurogiri alone with his Master. Tucking his hands behind him, he braced himself for a more thorough interrogation.

But it did not seem to be coming. Rather than launching into a series of questions, All for One fell back into his silence from before. Leaning back in his chair, surrounded by softly-beeping machines and IV bags, he raised one hand to his mouth and tugged on his lower lip in an oddly nervous gesture, clearly thinking hard. If his face had not been a mass of scar tissue, Kurogiri had the impression that his forehead would have been furrowed.

Kurogiri did not say any of this out loud, though. At best, it would not be appreciated. At worst…

Finally, after the silence stretched across several minutes, All for One spoke in an oddly unsure tone. “Did any of the heroes present seem aware of him? Of Izuku?”

Kurogiri blinked to himself, wondering at the tone and then the question. “I’m sorry, sir, what do you mean by ‘aware’ of him?”

All for One made a low noise in his throat, still tugging at his lower lip. “My apologies. The news you brought back is very good. You did well to bring it to my attention right away. But it is also…worrying.”

Kurogiri tried to understand what he was saying. “You fear that the heroes will hurt him? If I can put your mind at rest, I don’t think that that is likely; he hardly looked afraid of them.”

All for One let out a huff of air. “That’s good to know,” he said, “but no, that was not quite what I was worried about. Rather —” He went quiet for a moment before speaking again, the words carefully shaped as they left his mouth. “Rather, I was worried as to whether or not the heroes know about Izuku’s connection to us at all.”

The connection was like lightning streaking across the sky. “You’re worried that the heroes are protecting him. Are aware of us.”

“Precisely,” All for One murmured.

Kurogiri’s mind was racing. “Tomura…” he murmured, “Tomura began to ask All Might if he knew, but he was cut off before he could even finish his sentence…”

All for One let his hand fall down to his lap and grimaced. “All Might,” he muttered. “I underestimated him. I thought that his sudden turn to teaching was part of his attempt to find a successor, but if he is there instead to keep my boy from me…” His voice trailed off into a growl. “With how Inko was acting, I thought that he was perhaps on his own and could simply be retrieved like her. If the heroes are aware of his situation, though — that’s no longer possible. Not with the quality of villains we could dig up at short notice.”

Kurogiri bowed his head. “Please, let me apologize again for not being able to retrieve him. Tomura and I tried —”

He was cut off by an impatient wave of All for One’s hand. “It’s fine,” he said. “The boy is far too much like his father anyways, stubborn to a fault. If he did not want to come with you, then he was not coming with you. And I would hardly expect you to guess that he would be hiding at Yuuei of all places.”

Kurogiri raised his head. “I can’t help but wonder how he even got in,” he confessed. “Don’t the students there go through background checks?”

“All Might’s influence, no doubt,” All for One replied, his voice dipping back down into a growl. “But that’s beside the point. Call Giran. I have a job for him.”


It had been two hours since the teachers had arrived, and Ochako was still shaking.

Standing on the steps to the USJ, she watched the crowd of police officers and EMTs swarm around them all, checking for injuries and taking statements. Mostly checking for injuries; she’d heard several of the police officers swear when Aizawa-sensei was wheeled past them, the EMTs crowding around him not quite blocking the sight of the bloody injuries that littered his body. She couldn’t blame them for letting themselves be pushed aside by the other EMTs after that.

She pressed her hands together like she was releasing her Quirk, willing them to stop trembling.

She'd done nothing.

There had been so much blood. That beast — the Noumu or whatever that hand villain had called it — its hands had been covered in their teacher’s blood —

She slapped her cheeks sharply and squeezed her burning eyes shut. No. No, the danger was over. It was gone. There was no reason for her to start crying now!

Sniffing, she bit her lower lip and looked around for something to distract herself with. A few of the others were talking to the teachers, some were being checked over more thoroughly as they sat in the backs of ambulances…

There. Over by the ambulances, sitting on the curb was Midoriya-kun, his knees drawn up to his chest and his face buried on top. Letting go of her lip, she curled her fingers into her palms, careful to keep her pinkies free.

Midoriya. While she’d been panicking, just watching Thirteen-sensei be torn apart by their own Quirk, he’d been pulling together a plan. While she’d been paralyzed with fear the first time the Noumu attacked them, he’d charged in and tried to defend Yaoyorozu.

And while she’d just watched, he’d nearly been murdered by the villains. Held down by that bloody-handed monster, the hand villain disintegrating his helmet —

All she’d done was watch. And he was the one curled up in a miserable pile on the curb.

Taking a deep breath, Ochako counted for four and let it out. Then she began walking over to Midoriya.

Up close, he looked even more miserable than from on the stairs. The shattered, disintegrated remnants of his helmet hung around his neck, exposed wires and metal bent and crumpled and not hiding how his shoulders were shaking at all. A few steps away, Yaoyorozu and Iida were standing with one of the police officers, a plain-looking man in an old-fashioned trench-coat and hat that Ochako remembered introducing himself as Nao-something.

Quietly, she sat down beside Midoriya, wrapping her arms around her own knees and resting her cheek on them. This close, she could see the half-hidden redness of his cheeks as he sobbed silently into his legs.

“Hey Midoriya-kun,” she said after a moment where Midoriya didn’t seem to notice her.

The way that he jumped, sucking in a wet breath, proved her right that he didn’t know she was there.

“Ura —” he croaked. Wincing, he stopped and touched his throat.

“Ah, sorry!” Ochako said, waving her arms. “You don’t have to talk! You were just sitting here and — and —” She stopped, pressing her lips together. Now that she was closer, she could see the black bruises that were peeking out from underneath his costume’s collar, making even more guilt squirm through her guts like snakes.

Turning her head, she looked down at her hands. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

Midoriya put his hand on hers before she could say anything more. Looking back up, she saw him scrub roughly at his cheeks and then smile shakily at her. “Not you,” he rasped, pointing at his still-damp cheeks, “just. Saw Aizawa-sensei.”

Ochako bit the inside of her cheek. “Yeah,” she said. “I saw him too.”

Midoriya smiled that trembling smile at her again, and then bowed his head. She could just see him blinking rapidly, a few fresh tears escaping his eyes.

For a long couple of minutes, they were silent. Midoriya’s shoulders jerked as he suppressed his sobs. Pulling her own knees up, she let them press a little against his, trying to communicate silently that he wasn’t alone. She wasn’t alone. Maybe it was just having something else to focus on, but feeling the little shudders traveling up her legs from where they were touching was almost soothing. The fear that had been running laps up and down her back began to slow and drain away.

“You know, I really admire you,” Ochako said after a while of feeling her friend shaking beside her. “What you did in there, I mean.”

Midoriya sniffed. “What?” he croaked shakily.

Ochako looked down at her hands, gripping at her knees so tightly the knuckles were white. When had they started doing that?

“The way you came up with a plan, and got Iida out,” she said. The fear was gone now, but shame was seeping in to replace it. Before it had only been on the edges of her mind, rising a little with these thoughts but now without anything to hold it at bay the emotion was crashing over her like a wave. “Everyone was freaking out, I couldn’t even move — and then you were there, with a plan.” She swallowed, her throat tightening. “All I could think was that that mist villain had just killed our teacher, and we were next — and meanwhile you’d noticed his weakness, looked over everyone that was left from his attack and come up with a plan to get Iida out and neutralize him at the same time —”

Midoriya smacked her hand lightly, wiping at his face. “I froze too,” he rasped. “Kacchan had to attack — and Kurogiri came back fast too…”

Why was he so hard on himself? “That’s still better than anything I managed!” she snapped, her eyes starting to burn. She looked back down at her hands — her useless hands, that hadn’t done anything to help. “I lightened him up a little and then just stood by uselessly when that other thing grabbed you —”

Midoriya smacked her hand again, then grabbed them when she looked at him. Looking straight into her eyes and leaning forward, his voice was barely above a whisper but as firm as if his words were carved in stone. “You were the one to pull me out of the way of Shigaraki. You were the one that managed to grab his wrist and throw him away when he went for Aizawa-sensei again. When it came down to the wire, you came through. You’re a fantastic hero already, Uraraka. Don’t put yourself down.”

Ochako felt her face heating up as Midoriya spoke. That — all of that had been nothing, really. She’d just been reacting —

“Excuse me.”

Ochako and Midoriya jumped as a shadow loomed over them. Squinting and shading her eyes with her hands, she realized that it was the detective in the trenchcoat. He must have finished talking with Iida and Yaoyorozu; he was still holding his pen and pad of paper, though.

He smiled reassuringly down at the two of them, his eyes kind. “I’m sorry for interrupting you two,” he said, “though perhaps it’s for the best, considering your topic. Do you mind if I ask you some questions about what happened here?”

Ochako glanced over at Midoriya, who seemed to be doing an impression of turtle retreating into its shell. He was pale and rubbing his throat. She bit her lip and turning back to the police officer said, “I’m okay with answering some questions, I think, but Midoriya should probably see one of the EMTs first.”

“Midoriya?” The detective tilted up the brim of his hat, looking down at them with a smile crinkling his eyes. “So you’re the famous Midoriya, then.”

“F-famous?” Midoriya rasped, his shoulders hunching up around his ears. He looked away. “I — I’m —”

Detective Naomasa’s smile stretched even wider. “I’ve been speaking with your classmates and all of them have had nothing but praise for how you took control of the situation back there. Iida-kun especially praised your plan for getting him out of the USJ to get help.”

Oh, Midoriya’s face was entirely red now. Ochako couldn’t help but grin, her previous guilt and worry melting away at the way Midoriya’s arms flailed and hid his face. “Don’t be shy, Midoriya-kun! Iida was only giving you your due!”

“G-got caught, though,” he coughed, his voice muffled due to his face being hidden in his arms again. “If I’d just run —”

“Then it would have been me down there with that villain,” Yaoyorozu said, coming up behind the detective with Iida at her heels. “That monster was about to grab me when you acted.”

Midoriya peeked out from his arms, his face still red. “I didn’t think. All I did was take a swipe at him, I could have grabbed you and run —”

“Midoriya, you’re being too hard on yourself,” Iida interrupted, adjusting his glasses. “If we’re talking in terms of who did the least, all I did was run, and even then you were the one to give me the push —”

“Ah, no, Iida-kun, now you’re the one being to hard on yourself,” Yaoyorozu said. She looked down at her feet. “All I did was make a flash-bang grenade and nearly be attacked by that Noumu.”

“Yaoyorozu-chan, no,” Ochako said, unable to keep quiet, “we wouldn’t have had a chance without that grenade! All I did was make him lighter so that Tokoyami could throw him further, and I wouldn’t have even managed that if that grenade hadn’t stunned him!”

“A-hem.”

Ochako looked away from the other girl and flushed as she saw that it was the detective that had cleared his throat. Not too much, though, as she was pretty sure that the hand that he’d raised to his face was hiding a laugh.

“If I can say something as a police officer,” he began, lowering his hand and revealing that yes, he was indeed laughing, “you all handled yourselves very well in this situation. None of you were seriously injured or killed, and you all focused on getting help rather than being caught up in trying to fight. You all did exactly as I would expect hero course students to do.” Flipping his notebook closed, he tucked it and his pen into one of his coat’s pockets before then doing something that Ochako hadn’t expected.

Taking his hat off, Detective Naomasa knelt down on one knee in front of Midoriya and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. His smile fading, he caught Midoriya’s eye with his own.

“Midoriya-kun, you have been in the hero course for a week,” he said. “It’s good to reflect on your actions and seek to do better, but not to the point where you ignore your accomplishments. I do truly believe that it was thanks to your plan and actions that your classmates managed to get out of this with only minor injuries, and I know that your teachers would agree with me.”

Midoriya’s lower lip quivered, and Ochako felt her own eyes start to burn again.

“Now,” the detective said, standing back up, “I believe that earlier young Uraraka said you hadn’t been looked over yet?”

Midoriya raised his head a little and winced, rubbing his throat. “Others…” he rasped.

Naomasa looked down at him with a mix of pity and concern. “You know, it’s good to be concerned with the safety of others, but you shouldn’t neglect your own health,” he said. “I have a friend who did that and now he has trouble helping anyone at all.” Reaching down a hand, he helped pull Midoriya to his feet.

Midoriya sniffed loudly and scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his arm. “Aizawa-sensei,” he mumbled, and his voice was really sounding painful now, “others, they fought villains. I just —” he paused and let out a painful cough, “— distracted them.”

“Midoriya!” Iida shouted, chopping the air with a horrified look on his face. “Regardless of your definition of fighting, you were tossed around repeatedly by that Noumu and choked! You could very easily have died —”

“Iida!” Ochako hissed in perfect synchrony with Yaoyorozu. Rising to her feet as well, she put a hand on Midoriya’s shoulder and felt him tremble. “That’s not what he needs to hear right now!”

Iida, to his credit, realized what he’d done wrong almost right away. His hands chopping the air furiously, he began to babble apologies. Ochako didn’t feel much like letting him off with just that, though, and prepared to let him have it.

Yaoyorozu, however, beat her to it, beginning to lecture Iida on the importance of reassuring victims of violent crimes as he bowed and nodded along, still babbling apologies. As the show went on, though, she noticed Naomasa leading Midoriya away and bending over slightly to say something to him.

Remembering the rasp of Midoriya’s voice, she frowned and began to walk after them, ready to remind the detective that Midoriya had just been strangled and was already having trouble speaking. As she came closer, though, she began to hear their conversation in more detail.

“— not picking up,” Naomasa was saying, holding out his phone. His notebook and pen had disappeared somewhere into the many pockets of his coat. “I’ve already talked to your teachers, and they say that this is the only number on record for your mother. Would you happen to have her work number?”

Midoriya, looking pale, shook his head. “Work…strict,” he forced out. “Need…focus. Phone off.” He paused to rub his throat before speaking again. “Can just…walk home. Tell her there.”

Naomasa frowned. “With what just happened, I’m not sure if the school would be comfortable with that. Perhaps one of the teachers could escort you —”

But Midoriya was shaking his head frantically. “No,” he rasped. “No, others —” He stopped and covered his mouth, tears in his eyes as he coughed again.

Those tears were what spurred Ochako into action. Clenching her hands into fists, she strode between the two of them and planted herself in front of Midoriya like a shield. “He can come home with me!”

The detective blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“He can come home with me!” she repeated. “I’m not too far from the campus, and he can stay until his mom picks him up!”

Naomasa straightened and lifted the brim of his hat, raising an eyebrow at her. “Are you sure? Wouldn’t you need to check with your parents first?”

Ochako shook her head. “I live by myself! It would be no trouble at all!”

“Uraraka…” Midoriya croaked behind her.

“By yourself, huh?” Naomasa said.

Abruptly, Ochako realized what this probably sounded like and flushed. “I-it’s not like that!” she said, waving her arms around. “I mean, I don’t really want to be alone after everything —” She cringed.

The corners of Naomasa’s mouth curled up and she blushed harder. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that Midoriya had gone red as well and was looking down at the ground.

“Alright then,” Naomasa said, taking pity on them both. “I’ll let it slide for now. You might want to have a word with your mother, though, Midoriya, about getting some other emergency contacts.”

Midoriya just nodded. Satisfied, Naomasa looked away and craned his head, making a satisfied noise. “Ah, looks like Recovery Girl has arrived.” He turned back to the two of them. “Now, unfortunately, I don’t think that you can get out of a check-up before leaving, kids, so how about I just escort you to her now?”

“That sounds good!” Ochako’s cheeks just wouldn’t stop burning. “Let’s go!”

She marched past them both without looking back, all too aware of Midoriya shuffling after her.


“And then the rest of the faculty arrived and, well, you know the rest,” Tsukauchi concluded, snapping his notebook shut.

Lying back on his bed, Toshinori squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced. “And the children? Aizawa and Thirteen? I know that the pros at least were injured rather badly.”

He cracked open an eye just in time to see Tsukauchi bow his head. “They were, unfortunately. Eraserhead-san had significant head trauma, including the base of his orbital socket fracturing, and Thirteen-san was badly lacerated by that Warp Quirk villain. According to Todoroki-kun and Asui-kun, they were temporarily captured by the villains waiting for them in the Flood Zone as well, who further aggravated their injuries in an attempt to force the students to surrender. The doctors are hopeful for their chances of recovery, though, and none of the students were injured worse than some scrapes and bruises.” He flashed a strained smile. “Honestly, I’m more worried about the emotional effects of the attack when it comes to them.”

Toshinori knew that his friend was trying to cheer him up, but it wasn’t working. Grimacing, he reached up and rubbed at his forehead. “If I had been smarter with my time, they would not have even scrapes,” he pointed out. “Those villains wouldn’t have had the time to terrify them so, either.”

“Yagi-kun,” Tsukauchi said, looking at him with concern, “don’t take this entirely on your shoulders. It was the villains that decided to attack the students.”

“To get to me,” Toshinori disagreed. “If I had been there, then they would have been focused on me rather than the students.”

Tsukauchi sighed.

Then there was a knock at the door. Before either of them could answer, the door opened, revealing Recovery Girl with a frown creasing her wrinkled face.

“Toshinori,” the elderly heroine said, “there’s someone here to see you, I believe.”

Toshinori blinked. “Oh,” he said. “I didn’t expect him to come so soon.”

She sighed. “The man would do anything for you, Toshinori,” she pointed out. “Is it really so hard to believe?”

He shifted uncomfortably. Tsukauchi looked between the two of them and then cleared his throat, standing up. “I…should get going then, I think,” he said.

“That would probably be for the best,” Recovery Girl agreed dryly.

Toshinori bit the inside of his cheek and wished Tsukauchi well as he put his coat on and slipped out the door, ignoring the concerned looks he kept shooting at him. As he waited for Recover Girl to bring his guest up, he shifted in his bed so that he was at least sitting up. As he did, he found his thoughts turning back to what Tsukauchi had told him about what had happened before he arrived.

Midoriya. For all of Toshinori’s suspicion of the boy, he had apparently acted like a true hero back there at the USJ, rallying his classmates and trying to protect them from the Noumu. And when Toshinori had arrived and seen him pinned down underneath that monster — and how that boy had clung to his shirt as he carried him away to safety…

He let out a long, low sigh. Up until now, he had been able to second-guess the boy’s motives. But now — that boy had been terrified in his arms. He had been a second away from death.

All of the students had been seconds away from death. All because he couldn’t support his Quirk for more than three hours a day.

Well. Hopefully, that would soon no longer be a worry.

The door clicked open. Pulling himself from his thoughts, he laced his fingers over his stomach and braced himself.

Enishi Kenma, also known as Sir Nighteye, stood stiffly in the doorway, Recovery Girl hovering behind him.

Toshinori took a deep breath. “Sir Nighteye.”

Enishi’s lips thinned. Not replying, he turned and bowed towards Recovery Girl. “My apologies,” he said. “May we have some privacy to speak?”

Recovery Girl didn’t answer right away. Instead she very obviously turned her head towards Toshinori, carefully looking him over. Apparently, she found whatever she was looking for because she turned back to Enishi with a stern glint in her eye. Pointing her cane at him, she said sternly, “I hear one raised word, and you’re out on your ear, understand, young man?”

Enishi nodded stiffly. “Perfectly,” he said.

Looking doubtful, she nevertheless left the room, closing the door behind her, leaving the two of them with a mile of silence between them.

Enishi was the first to move. Crossing the room with tight, deliberate steps, he sat down in the the chair that Naomasa had so recently been in and folded his hands in his lap. “Well,” he said, “you called, and here I am.”

Toshinori tried to smile. He didn’t think that he succeeded with the way Enishi’s lips thinned even further. “I wasn’t expecting you so soon,” he said, trying to sound light. “I hope I didn’t cause any trouble, calling you out of nowhere.”

“Of course I came right away,” Enishi said, his hands curling into loose fists. “It’s on the news already. They’re saying that the villains wanted to kill All Might —”

His eyes darted towards Toshinori’s face before he could hide his wince. His jaw visibly clenched. “So it’s true, then.”

Toshinori rubbed his forehead. “Yes,” he admitted. “They were there for me.”

Enishi nearly vibrated with tension, like the last cable of a collapsing bridge just barely hanging on. “You used up all your time before. That’s why you weren’t there in the first place, wasn’t it.”

Toshinori flinched. For all that he’d been beating himself up over it, it — hurt, to hear it said aloud.

Enishi hissed out a breath through clenched-tight teeth. “Why are you still doing this?” he asked in a ragged voice. “Why can you not —”

“Do as you say?” Toshinori said, unable to keep an edge from his voice.

Enishi’s fists tightened in his lap. Narrowing his eyes behind his glasses, he straightened his back and tilted his chin up aggressively. “Accept your limits,” he snapped in a low voice. “You were injured. I know that the time you can keep your hero form up has been lessening. So why do you keep insisting on carrying on like nothing happened?”

Now it was Toshinori’s turn to press his lips together tightly. “I am the Symbol of Peace,” he said. “A Pillar of Society. You and I both know what happens when a pillar crumbles.”

“But you don’t have to crumble,” Enishi ground out. “Retire. Pass One for All on and devote yourself to training your replacement. If you leave on your own terms no one will see you as crumbling!”

Toshinori ground his teeth together. “I did not call you hear for a lecture, Enishi,” he warned. “And in any case, I don’t need it.” He twisted the sheets covering his legs until they felt like they were about to tear. He had to force the words out. “Today has — impressed the importance of passing on One for All more than enough.”

He couldn’t quite keep from sounding like a sullen teenager. Luckily, though, Enishi didn’t seem to notice as he rocked back in his seat, his eyes wide behind his glasses.

“I’ve looked at young Mirio’s files, and I will admit that he is quite impressive,” Toshinori continued, wanting to get this out of the way. “So I wanted to ask you to set up a face-to-face meeting between the two of us.” He twiddled his thumbs. “Files do not say everything about a person, after all.”

Enishi didn’t speak for a long moment, stiff and straight as a statue in his chair. Then he leaned forward. “So you’re taking my advice. You’re retiring.”

Damn it. He’d been hoping that suggesting a meeting with young Mirio would distract the man. He braced himself for an explosion.

“I’m not.”

It was slow. A volcanic eruption, rather than a bomb, but it went off all the same. “What. Are. You. Talking about. If you pass on One for All —”

Toshinori raised a hand, trying to get him to calm down. “One for All is not something that can be mastered in a day, and in the meantime I can’t just tear away one of society’s pillars after this attack —”

“And do you not think that the world watching their Number One Hero die won’t be tearing it away?” Enishi shouted, jumping to his feet. “My predictions are never wrong, you have barely —”

The door slammed open with enough force to bounce off of the wall. Recovery Girl was a very short woman, not even coming up to Toshinori’s waist when he was standing, but as she walked into the room with stiff-legged steps she seemed as tall as a giant.

“You,” she snapped, pointing her cane at Enishi. “Out. Now.”

Enishi, to his credit, did not argue with the gleam in her eye. Reaching down, he simply righted his chair from where it had fallen and, with a quick bow to the both of them, headed towards the door.

“Ah, wait,” Toshinori said, reaching after the man.

Enishi paused in the doorway. “Don’t worry,” he bit out. “I will certainly be in contact for the meeting between you and Mirio-kun.” And then he was gone.

Damn. Toshinori sank back into his pillows as Recovery Girl came over to him, muttering furiously.

He hadn’t even be able to mention Midoriya to him. Though maybe that was for the better after what he’d been thinking earlier. What he had seen at the USJ had shaken his suspicions more than a little, making him really question whether or not he was reading too much into the boy’s Quirk.

There was a cold pricking in the bend of his elbow. Pulled from his thoughts, he saw Recovery Girl adjusting an IV tube. She shot him a sharp look.

“I hope,” she said acidly, “that you aren’t thinking of trying to go after your friend.”

Sighing, Toshinori shook his head. “No,” he said morosely, “it’s better to wait for him to cool down.”

And then there was just him, and his thoughts, and low sounds of Recovery Girl bustling around him.

 

Chapter Text

Izuku’s eyes were itchy with exhaustion the morning after the USJ attack.

It had taken hours to extricate himself from Uraraka’s place without drawing her suspicion. In the end, he’d called a SaikoCar and pretended that it was his mom and even then he’d barely been able to redirect her questions about why his mom wasn’t coming to the door. Then he’d had to find a manga cafe with a free overnight cubicle — not an easy proposition that late. He’d finally ended up going back to the one he’d been staying at the night before, despite knowing that he should be trying to keep his movements random after what had just a happened at the USJ.

And now, he was reaping the punishment of his laziness. Sitting in the cafe’s break room at a rickety little table across from Nebosuke, the sleepy woman who didn’t seem to ever go home despite clearly being in her thirties, Hakucho beside him dishing out bowls of rice for the three of them, and the TV playing a news report of yesterday’s attack in the corner of the room.

Nebosuke looked at him meaningfully as a bowl of rice was placed in front of him and nudged a plate of pickled vegetables towards him. “Best eat up, kid. Hakucho got these special for you.”

Hakucho yelped and glared at her, the effect cut a little by the frilly white apron he was wearing. “N-nebosuke! Don’t force him to eat! He might not have an appetite after yesterday!”

Nebosuke scoffed. “A teenage boy? Without an appetite? If he’s not hungry I’ll drive him to the hospital myself.”

“Nebosuke!”

Izuku ducked his head as the argument continued and stared down at the rice before him. The bowl it was in was a nice blue with a cutesy design of cherry blossoms around the rim that was marred by a small chip. The rice, however, was steaming and fragrant, mixing nicely with the sharp smell of the vegetables. As Nebosuke and Hakucho continued to argue, he began to stuff some of the food into his mouth. The sooner he was done eating the sooner he was out here.

Even as he shoveled the food into his mouth, though, Izuku didn’t taste it. The reporters on the TV were droning on and on about the attack yesterday, throwing around wild theories that Izuku couldn’t decide if he wanted to laugh or cry at. No one — absolutely no one had any clue just how dangerous things had been at the USJ. For all the criticism that the reporters were throwing at Yuuei, they had no idea just how close to death all of them had been.

How close to being taken he had been.

The sharp taste of pickle was dull on Izuku’s tongue as he remembered the looks on Shigaraki and Kurogiri’s faces as they came after him. They had realized — had known, and now they were back and undoubtedly had told his father exactly where he was. His father knew where he was…

He couldn’t keep half-assing this, he thought as he swallowed a clump of rice and vegetable. He couldn’t just keep this holding pattern. He needed to come up with a real plan on how he was going to stay ahead of All for One.

Someone cleared their throat. Abruptly, Izuku realized that he had stopped eating. Looking over at the other two people sitting at the table, he realized that they were both staring at him.

Crap. Had they said something?

Setting down his chopsticks, he tried to force a smile. It felt stiff and fake. “Sorry, I was just a bit zoned out there. Did you say something?”

From the way Nebosuke’s eyebrow quirked upwards, he had a feeling that his smile was looking a little strained. She traded a look with Hakucho and turned back towards him, leaning forward. “Me and Hakucho here were just talking about the USJ Incident yesterday.”

Yep, his smile was definitely plastic here. “Oh?”

Nebosuke drummed her fingers on the table. “It must have been very scary,” she said carefully, her gaze intent. “Being there, I mean.”

Being there — crap, that’s right, him and his class had been on the report. He’d run past them in his uniform as well, of course they had to know that he went to Yuuei. Crap, crap, crap. Looking back down at his bowl, he stirred it and put another clump of rice into his mouth in place of actually answering, his stomach churning.

Silence stretched out between the three of them, broken only by the low murmur of the television. Izuku resolutely kept his eyes on his food, but in his peripheral vision he could see Hakucho and Nebosuke exchanging looks.

“Um, listen, kid,” Hakucho began hesitantly. “I don’t usually ask questions about why people stay here overnight. Not my business, you know? But after seeing yesterday’s report…”

Izuku was almost done his bowl. Scraping the sides, he chewed on his mouthful a little faster.

“…It’s a little weird to have a student of such a high-class school sleeping in one of my cubicles night after night. Especially after they’ve been attacked by villains. So I guess that what I’m wondering is just —”

Izuku licked the last grain of rice from the corner of his mouth and stood up. Clapping his hands together, he bowed towards both of them, avoiding looking them in the eye. “Thank you for the meal,” he said mechanically, already moving towards the door.

Nebosuke caught his arm as he passed by. “Hey, kid, stop.”

Izuku tried to pull his arm away.

Nebosuke frowned and gripped tighter. “Kid.”

He pressed his lips together tightly, but stopped.

Nebosuke sighed. Loosening her grip a little, she turned in her chair so that she was facing him directly. “Kid, what Hakucho’s trying to ask is — are you in trouble? Would you like us to call someone?”

Izuku’s heart seized in his chest. “No!” he blurted out, snapping his head to look at them. “No, don’t —” He snapped his mouth shut again with a click, his teeth hurting.

Both of them were looked taken aback at the vehemence of his words. Nebosuke’s eyes were wider than Izuku had ever seen them, and Hakucho was blinking rapidly as the feathers on his head puffed out.

Shit. Shit shit shit —

Izuku bowed again to hide how he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing his heart to be calm. “Thank you,” he said carefully, “for your concern. Both of you. I appreciate your offer —” to call the heroes and reveal me and possibly destroy my life “— but I’m fine, and would prefer to keep my current difficulties private, if you don’t mind.”

“Kid, you’re sleeping in a manga cafe rather than your home. Even if you’re homeless or something, I’m sure your teachers at Yuuei —”

“I’m fine.” Izuku regretted the harshness of his tone as soon as the words left his mouth. Straightening, he smoothed his hands down the front of his shirt and tried to ignore the worried looks that the two were shooting him. “I just don’t want to be a burden on my teachers at such a time.” Turning, he headed towards the door.

Behind him, a chair screeched. “Wait, Midoriya-kun!”

Izuku ignored him. His bag was still in his cubicle and he grabbed it, already going over the other manga cafe’s in the area.

“Kid, wait!”

Slinging his backpack on, he ducked underneath Nebosuke’s hand and dodged around Hakucho, heading towards the door at a pace just under a run. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears and his eyes were burning.

“Kid, please we want to help you!”

He broke. Tears welling up and falling down his cheeks, he ran out the door, Hakucho and Nebosuke’s shouts fading behind him.


He’d hidden in the train station’s washroom until the tears stopped, and then rode the line to the opposite side of the city with his sweater’s hood up to hide his face.

Stupid. Stupid. Why had he run? That just confirmed that something was wrong! Izuku berated himself mercilessly as he walked down the sidewalk, a map of the prefecture’s train routes crumpled in his hand. He’d picked it up as he went to the station’s lockers to hide his bag for the day. Stupid! He’d acted so stupid!

Up ahead was a park, filled with running paths and trees that he could lose himself in for a few hours. Entering it, he pulled his hood from his head and scrubbed at his face. In for four, hold, out for four, just like his mom had taught him. He needed to calm down. He needed to focus.

The sounds of the street behind him were quickly muffled as he headed deeper into the park, the trees absorbing the sound. Leaves rustled in the breeze, dappling the ground with sunlight. Up ahead, he could see a clearing with a pond that was full of plants and surrounded by benches. This early, there was no one else here to enjoy the weather, making it perfect for some uninterrupted planning.

Sitting down, Izuku spread the map out on the bench beside him and tried to concentrate.

We just want to help you!

Taking that cafe off of the map would be a pity, but not a world-ender. Manga cafe’s were popular, after all, and Internet cafes were a possibility too.

Kid, do you need us to call someone?

Luckily, food was still not a problem. There had been a bit of a street food renaissance in the last five years, so vendors tended to dot the streets, and convenience stores may not have the best food but it was always cheap and filling.

Eraserhead took a lot of damage. He’s in surgery now, but it’s almost guaranteed that he’s going to lose some effectiveness in the future.

So long as he kept his movements random — wasn’t there a dice app he could download? If he did that, rather than following the train routes…

Thirteen was badly injured as well. That villain’s warp Quirk did a number on them, turning Black Hole around on them. It’s going to be weeks before they’re back on their feet again.

Izuku ground his teeth and wiped at his eyes. He needed to focus, he needed to figure out how to hide his tracks so that he could stay ahead of his father, no matter — no matter —

No matter how selfish it seemed. Breathing shakily, Izuku folded up the map and tucked it away before putting his head in his hands.

Aizawa-sensei and Thirteen-sensei. His classmates too — they’d all been injured because he’d said nothing, done nothing when he saw Shigaraki at the school that day. Maybe he hadn’t known what exactly was being planned, but he had known perfectly well that something was up. And had he done anything with that information? No, he’d gone to a movie with his friends.

Stupid. Stupid and selfish. ‘Everything his mother had done would be for nothing if he walked back into Dad’s arms’, hah! He’d just been scared, and now everyone around him was paying the price.

His chest felt tight, and he forced himself to breathe. In for four, hold, out for four. He peered through his fingers as he counted, his eyes falling on the pond in front of him. It was a lot larger than he would have expected to see normally in a city park, filled even this early in the year with green lily-pads and reeds.

There was a park like this near where he and his mom and lived, right down to the pond filled with plants. She had taken him to it a lot when they had first escaped; looking back, he supposed that despite everything she had missed the large garden and bits of forest that had surrounded their house.

It was half a year of visiting that park before he was able to put what he was feeling into words. It had been a sticky day in July; just a few days after his mother’s birthday. They’d gone to the park together, and had ended up sitting in front of the pond, trying to spot frogs, when Izuku finally managed to say the words that had been lurking on the back of his tongue since he was eight.

Mom? Am I a bad person?

He could still remember the confusion on her face as she had turned to him. The way his eyes had been burning with tears the same way they were burning now. The way her arms had felt so safe as they wrapped around him in a hug.

Even after he’d confronted his father, before they ran away, he hadn’t stopped feeding Izuku Quirks. Every time, Izuku would protest, but his father had a way of twisting his words around in circles until Izuku was agreeing with him, taking the Quirk even as his stomach churned. At school, he’d always been praised for his smarts, but in that dojo, with his father kneeling in front of him with a new Quirk — he’d never felt so dumb.

So that was why he had asked his mother if he was a bad person; surely a good person would have stuck to their guns and refused those Quirks, regardless of his father’s words?

His mother had hugged him tightly, tucking his head under her chin. She’d told him no, he wasn’t a bad person. His father’s crimes weren’t his — that his guilt was proof that he was a good person, feeling bad for his father’s victims. That he could be like one of the lotus flowers that had been blooming that day, rising above the muddy water to reveal its beautiful pure white bloom.

Mom, I’m sorry, but I’m starting to think that maybe you were wrong about me.

Curled up in a miserable guilty ball on the bench, he didn’t hear the pair approaching him, despite them doing nothing to hide.

“Midoriya!”

Izuku jumped a foot into the air, his Quirks rising underneath his skin. Who — was it one of his father’s men? Had he been snuck up on —

Standing a few feet away on the runner’s path with someone that looked like an older, glasses-less version of him, was Iida. Wearing the tight running suit that he had worn to the entrance exam, he was sweating slightly and breathing heavily. The older man — too young to be his father — was bent over slightly at the waist, kicking his legs up in a way clearly meant to cool them down.

“I-Iida!” Izuku stammered, his mind racing. Damn it — he had never expected to see one of his classmates here! And he’d just been crying —

“My apologies, Midoriya! I did not mean to surprise you,” Iida said, walking over to him. “Though I will admit that you surprised me. I didn’t expect to see you today. Do you live nearby?”

Shit shit shit shit shit

To buy time, Izuku laughed nervously and looked down, scratching the back of his neck. “Ah, no, not really,” he said, “me and mom actually live in another part of the city, but, uh,” you idiot why did you bring up your mom “her boss refused to let her have the day off, so she had to work, but I didn’t want to just be alone in the apartment…” he rambled.

“Wait wait wait, stop.” The man that Iida had been running with had apparently cooled down enough to come over and was now frowning down at him. Before more than a trickle of alarm could go through Izuku, though, he continued. “Your mom’s boss is forcing her to work after yesterday? Does he know that you were a part of that?”

“Uh,” come on, think, “well, he could hardly miss it, so I guess so. My mom’s complained about him before, though, he’s a total hardass.”

The frown only deepened as the man crossed his arms. Exhaust pipes stuck out from his elbows, in contrast to Iida’s legs. “There’s being a hardass and then there’s being a dick. After what happened to you guys, I can’t imagine that someone would be so cruel as to force your mom to work the day after. Even Yuuei gave you guys the day off!”

Izuku’s stomach flopped and he looked down again. “Yeah, well…” he mumbled, avoiding the man’s eyes.

“Brother!” Iida said sharply, chopping the air, “that’s true and all but you are making Midoriya uncomfortable. My apologies, Midoriya,” he said, turning back to Izuku and bowing, “this is my brother, Tensei. He was quite distressed when he heard of yesterday’s events and took some time off to keep me company. Tensei, this is Midoriya Izuku, my friend.”

Tensei. Tensei. That name was familiar. Had Iida mentioned it before —?

Izuku’s head snapped up as he remembered. “Ingenium!”

Ingenium’s frown had disappeared when Iida had scolded him, replaced by a sheepish smile. At the sound of his hero name, though, the smile became something prouder and he winked. “In the flesh! Nice to finally meet you, Midoriya-kun. Tenya’s been telling me about you all week.” He stuck out his hand for a handshake.

Dazed, Izuku took it, his previous guilt being pushed back to the back of his mind. Ingenium. Ingenium was standing in front of him, and Izuku had nothing for him to sign.

“Anyways,” Ingenium said, “like Tenya was saying, I managed to get some time off after what happened. And this might be forward of me to say, but if your mother is being kept busy by her boss, I know that we have plenty of room for another today.”

“Oh, no, no,” Izuku said, putting up his hands, “I couldn’t —”

“We insist!” Iida said, puffing out his chest. “Yesterday was quite frightening, after all. I myself have already found myself having nightmares —” He sputtered to a stop as Ingenium put a hand on his head and mussed his hair.

“Sorry, Midoriya-kun, you’re outvoted,” he said, winking at him again. “You’re coming with us whether you like it or not.”

“I - buh - whuh -” Izuku stammered as Ingenium clapped a friendly arm around his shoulder and began to steer him down the path headed towards the street.

“Yes!” Iida said, trotting alongside them. “Do not worry, Midoriya! My family will not mind! Now, do you have anything in particular you’d like to do today?”


The Iida family was — dizzying.

Sitting at the dinner table, Izuku could only watch in dazed amazement as dinner was dished up and transferred to the hot pads in front of him before he could even get halfway through his offer to help with dinner.

“No, no, you’re a guest!” Iida’s mother said, waving him away from the stove. “Sit down, relax!”

“But surely —”

“Mom’s orders, Midoriya!” Ingenium said cheerfully, taking him by his shoulders and steering him towards the table.

“Indeed!” Iida boomed from where he was helping chop up vegetables. “Sit down and relax! While your mother is still being kept by her boss, we, the Iida family, shall help you relax and recover from yesterday’s events!”

Izuku smiled weakly and allowed himself to be pushed down into a chair. This was clearly not a fight that he would be winning. Once he was down, Ingenium nodded to himself and went over to a set of cupboards where he started to pull out bowls and plates. Iida and his mother continued to cook together, happily chattering to each other over the hiss of onions and the clack of the knife cutting through the vegetables. Izuku could see, now, where Iida got his tendency towards loud, clear speech and broad gestures; his mother began swinging around her spoon wildly as she made a particular point that he couldn’t quite hear over the cooking meal. Iida was smiling at her and replying, his cheeks flushed with happiness.

It was such a familiar domestic scene that Izuku could feel his heart clenching in his chest from homesickness. How many times had this scene played out with him and his mom? How many times had he come home from school with a story that he told her over dinner, making her smile as the shadow of his father lifted for just a few minutes from their shoulders —

“So!” Ingenium said, bringing the dishes over and beginning to set them out, “How have you been holding up, then? Didn’t really get a chance to talk this afternoon, what with the tour and everything.” Despite his family’s volume, he seemed content to speak a little quieter. Putting down a bowl in front of him, he looked Izuku in the eye. “I know we can be a little overwhelming at times, but if you’re really not comfortable —”

“Ah, no, no, it’s fine,” Izuku said, pasting his weak smile back onto his face. “Really. It’s nice not to be alone.”

Ingenium smiled at him. Not the big, broad, heroic smile that he’d flashed around on their walk back from the park, or the proud, almost verging on smug smile that he’d worn as he showed a fanboying Izuku around the Iida family’s workshop. No, this one was a soft smile; the sort you’d show someone after you’d pulled them from the wreckage of a villain attack. Warm and comforting, it seemed to communicate that everything would be fine now, because the hero was here.

“I’m glad,” he said, honestly sounding glad. “What you and your class went through was not something any group of first-years should go through. I can’t imagine how scared you must have been.”

The memory of Shigaraki and Kurogiri surging through his classmates towards him darted across him mind and his smile fell into a grimace.

Something in the mass of noise coming from the stove pinged. “Ah, Tensei!” Iida’s mother called. “Rice is ready! Can you serve it up?”

“Sure thing!” Ingenium said. Turning back to Izuku, he looked apologetic. “Sorry, Midoriya, I know you’re a guest but would you mind setting the rest of the table?”

“Sure, no problem,” Izuku said, grateful for the distraction from his memories of yesterday.

Soon, they were all sitting down around the table, with Ingenium and Iida sitting beside each other and Izuku beside Iida’s mother (Iida’s father was apparently working late). Izuku was surprised by how normal the dishes were, considering the wealth of the Iida family; teriyaki chicken, steamed vegetables, rice, and miso. When he thought about it, though, it wasn’t that surprising — after all, even when they were still living with his father, it wasn’t like they were constantly eating Kobe beef steaks.

“Is it good, Midoriya?” Iida asked before a lump had time to form in his throat. Looking up from his rice, Izuku saw that Iida had a worried look on his face.

“Oh, yeah!” Izuku quickly shoveled some rice and chicken into his mouth. “Ish good!” he said through a full mouth.

Iida relaxed, looking pleased, and turned to his own food. For a little while, then, everyone concentrated on eating. As he scraped his bowl of chicken and vegetables with his chopsticks, Izuku admitted to himself that he hadn’t just been being polite to Iida; the food really was good. The chicken was soft and tender, dripping with the salty teriyaki sauce, offset by the sweetness of the steamed vegetables and rice. The miso in turn was refreshing, cleaning his palate in between bites in a way that the cheaper varieties of the soup couldn’t.

“So, Tensei,” Iida’s mom said after they had all slowed down in their bites, “have you heard anything Nemuri-chan yet?”

Izuku didn’t know who Nemuri-chan was, but judging from how Ingenium choked, he could guess that they were probably some sort of girlfriend. Wiping a dribble of miso from his chin, he put his bowl of soup down on table. “Mom,” he groaned, “it’s Midnight for business, not Nemuri-chan. And no, she hasn’t told me anything, considering that it’s only been an active investigation for day.”

Izuku looked up from his own meal at the sound of one of his teacher’s names. “Midnight-sensei? You know her?”

Ingenium nodded and helped himself to some more rice. “Yeah, we went to school together. Present Mic and Eraserhead too; we were all in the same class.” Patting the rice down, he poured what was left of his soup over top of it and dug in. “We still talk regularly.”

“He means that she flirts with him,” Iida’s mom whispered loudly, clearly not actually trying to hide what she was saying. “And sometimes he flirts back.” Sticking a bite of rice into her mouth, she grinned as Ingenium started sputtering again. “Now if only the my son would stop stringing her along…”

“H-hey!” Ingenium said, pointing his chopsticks at her, “she’s the one that prefers to keep things casual!”

Iida’s mother scoffed and shook her head. “Bah! Sure, she wanted to keep it casual when you first graduated, but have you asked her recently?”

“Ah, pardon me, mother, brother, but may I ask what you two are talking about?” Iida asked, looking between the two of them curiously. “What would Midnight have to talk to you about professionally?”

“Ahhh…” Ingenium said, looking torn, “well, I guess since you were both victims it wouldn’t hurt…” He tapped his chopsticks against the edge of his bowl in a nervous gesture. “Nemuri’s part of the investigation team that’s looking into the attack.”

Iida’s eyes widened. “Investigation? I wasn’t aware that Midnight-sensei had experience with such things.”

Ingenium shrugged. “She’s like Shouta — neither of them have Quirks for direct combat, so they tend to pick up the slack in other areas. I don’t blame you for not knowing, though; Nemuri’s persona doesn’t exactly make people think she’s really one for detective work.”

Still, the police surely have plenty of their own detectives; for what reason would they specifically need a hero? Unless it was a matter of access — if they specifically need access to Yuuei’s records, that could explain it. Yuuei is notorious for its privacy —

“Bingo,” Ingenium said.

Abruptly, Izuku realized that he had started mumbling out loud and clapped a hand over his mouth, mortified. “Sorry,” he squeaked out from between his fingers. “I didn’t —”

The two elder Iida’s chuckled as the younger simply smiled at him. “No need to apologize, Midoriya,” Iida assured him, “you were just thinking out loud.”

Izuku’s face still felt hot, though.

After a few more seconds of chuckling, Ingenium put his chopsticks and bowl down and folded his hands under his chin. “You were right, though, kid. Normally, Shouta is the guy that works with the police, but with what happened he obviously can’t, so she’s been appointed as their liaison.”

“But what would the police have to investigate at Yuuei?” Iida asked. “Would they not be focusing their efforts on the USJ and tracking the criminals responsible?”

Ingenium shook his head. “The villains that were left behind are being interrogated, but so far it doesn’t seem like they know much about the ringleaders. It seems that this whole attack was thrown together quite quickly. A few even claimed that they were recruited the day of.”

“The day of?” Iida almost sounded insulted that the attack had been so poorly planned. Ingenium seemed to agree with Izuku’s thoughts, laughing quietly at the indignant look on his little brother’s face.

Izuku however, didn’t say anything. He just looked down at his empty bowl, the delicious food that he had just been eating spoiling in his stomach.

“Ah, sorry, Midoriya, would you like some more food?” Ingenium asked, his laughter trailing off.

Izuku looked up from his bowl, seeing that all three members of the Iida family were looking at him, and tried to smile. “No, no, that’s alright,” he said, his stomach cramping at the thought of putting more food in it right now.

Iida blinked, looking closely at him, and then frowned. Putting his chopsticks down, he pushed the teapot towards him. “My apologies, Midoriya,” he said quietly. “I should have realized that this might not be the most comfortable topic for you.”

Iida’s mother cocked her head to one side. “What do you mean, Tenya?”

“Ah…” Iida didn’t answer right away, instead looking at Izuku for permission.

Izuku bit the inside of his cheek and hunched his shoulders. “The villains had caught me before All Might arrived,” he said, knowing that he sounded terse but unable to stop it. “One of them had a disintegration Quirk and used it on my helmet while I was wearing it.”

Iida’s mother let out a soft gasp. Looking up, Izuku saw that both of the elder Iida’s were looking at him from concern.

“All Might stopped him before I actually got hurt,” he mumbled, his eyes dropping back down to his dishes as heat crawled up the back of his neck.

“Still,” Ingenium said, “that sounds terrifying.”

Izuku hunched his shoulders a little higher. It had been terrifying, but for entirely different reasons than the Iida’s knew. His identity had been revealed, and no doubt now his father knew that he was at Yuuei. His mother was still gone, probably dead at his hands —

Izuku swallowed and ducked his head a little lower in a useless gesture, trying to hide his burning eyes. Picking up a bit of leftover rice from his bowl, he chewed on it to look busy. From the sympathetic noises around him, he hadn’t succeeded.

Ingenium’s seat creaked under him as he cleared his throat. “Right, so — getting off that topic,” he said, thankfully not pointing out Izuku’s clear upset. “You guys excited for your first Sports Festival?”

The sudden change of topic almost gave Izuku whiplash. Choking on the rice, he covered his mouth.

Iida, who had picked his chopsticks up again dropped them. “It’s still proceeding?” he asked, sounding astonished.

“As far as I know,” Ingenium said, tactfully ignoring Izuku choking across the table from him. “It’s more popular than the Olympics here, so short of the apocalypse I doubt it’s going to be cancelled.”

“Still,” Iida’s mother said, “Tenya has a point. Yuuei was just attacked by a group of villains. Aren’t they concerned about security?”

Ingenium shrugged. “I haven’t talked much to Nemuri-chan about it, but Principal Nedzu isn’t one to take such things lightly. He’s probably working on it with the police.”

Izuku was glad that Ingenium was so sure about this, because he wasn’t. The Sports Festival. He had completely forgotten about it with everything that had happened. Reaching up, he rubbed his forehead.

Him and his mom had talked a lot about it before he’d put in his application to Yuuei. Both of them knew full well how popular the festival was; after all, him and his father had always watched the Third-year events, picking out and discussing the various Quirks that were on display. No doubt his father would be watching if he was capable of it.

But Yuuei was one of the best in the world. Most of the top ten heroes in Japan had graduated from it, and while he was unsure as to whether or not the heroes would defend him if his parentage came out, its very reputation was likely to make his father step carefully should they be discovered.

In the end, they had compromised, promising each other that he would dye his hair and avoid the cameras as much as possible. After all, ones performance in the Festival was not necessarily an indicator of their success in the future. All Might had apparently never really distinguished himself there and yet he had been the Number One Hero for decades. His father no doubt knew of him now, but Izuku figured that it couldn’t hurt to keep to that plan. The avoiding the cameras bit, at least, even if the hair dye was pointless now.

“So you have any plans for your speech?” Ingenium asked, bringing Izuku’s musings to a screeching halt.

“S-speech?”

“Yeah, your speech,” Ingenium said, gesturing with his chopsticks. “First-year the person who got the highest score on the entrance exam gives the welcoming speech.” He cocked his head. “You didn’t know that?”

Numbly, Izuku shook his head. “Me and my — we always watched the Third-years,” he said, his mind whirling.

“Ah,” Ingenium said sympathetically. “Well, don’t worry too much about it. No one expects much from the speeches and the faculty always prefers it if you keep it short and sweet anyways. Just say something about sportsmanship and you’ll be fine. Shouta can give you some pointers as well.” He clicked his chopsticks together and pointed them at him. “Or even All Might! He’s good at speeches!”

“I — I’d rather not bother him,” Izuku said. Then his mind caught up to what Ingenium was saying. “Wait, you’re talking about Aizawa-sensei, right? Won’t he still be in the hospital?”

Ingenium snorted. “Shouta? Stay in the hospital?” He shook his head. “Man’s a workaholic. I’ll bet you 200 yen that you’ll see him in class tomorrow.”

“Brother, you shouldn’t be gambling, it sets the wrong impression!” Iida fussed.

Ingenium just laughed. “It’s not a bet when you know you’re going to win!” he said. “Let me tell you about his first internship…”

Chapter Text

Izuku wrapped his fingers tightly around the straps of his backpack as he walked to school the next day. His head swiveling around like a bobble-head doll, he scanned the crowds as he walked through the Barrier, not missing the whispers and stares.

For all comfort that his dinner with the Iida family had provided, it did not allow him to forget what was worrying him in the first place. Were the stares that followed him just because he had been on TV, or were they because his father had already infiltrated the school? Were the whispers about how he’d had his helmet disintegrated by the main leader, or were they collecting information to pass on to the League of Villains so that they could set up an ambush?

Izuku pressed his lips together and looked down at the ground, his chest tight. No, no, he tried to assure himself, not even his father could get a spy into Yuuei. There were background checks that would have caught anyone connected to him —

The same checks that caught you?

His backpack straps cut into his fingers as he gripped them that much harder.

The warning bell for the start of the day chimed, warning him that he had five minutes to get to class and stopping his thoughts from spiraling down that dark rabbit hole further. Taking a deep breath, he consciously forced his hands to relax. Yes, the USJ had been scary but it was over. The others would only be concerned if he still looked freaked out. He was fine. He was fine. He was fine.

He repeated the words over and over in his head as he pushed through the crowds that filled the hallways. Murmurs filled the air as he passed, and his skin itched, but he survived the trip to 1-A’s classroom unscathed. No one jumped out to grab him and drag him into one of Kurogiri’s warps. He was safe here, behind Yuuei’s Barrier.

Right?

“Midoriya!”

The sound of his name being shouted nearly made him jump a foot in the air. His Quirks rising up beneath his skin, he looked around wildly for an enemy —

Only to see Uraraka charging towards him with a determined look on her face, her phone in a white-knuckled grip in her hands and the rest of the class hot on her heels.

Izuku swallowed and took a step back, but it was too late. He was surrounded before he had a chance to flee. His heart pounding in his chest, he wondered wildly if somehow his classmates had figured out that Shigaraki and the rest of the League had been after him —

“Trade numbers with us!” Uraraka shouted, shoving her pink-covered phone into his face.

“…Wha?” Izuku croaked out even as his fingers obediently fumbled through his pockets.

Pulling the phone back slightly, she held it close to her chest, her chin rounding out stubbornly. “After you left, I was really worried! You were all distracted and then I realized that I didn’t have your number, and I didn’t have any way of talking to you!”

“None of us did,” Yaoyorozu interrupted before Uraraka could really gain steam. She lifted her own phone, covered in a metallic gold-coloured case. “After what happened, we all traded numbers, but it seems that you were somehow missed. And from Iida-kun’s story, it sounds like you really could have used someone to talk to.”

Izuku, pulling out his phone from his pocket, paused and looked at Iida in confusion.

Iida adjusted his glasses, looking apologetic but holding out his own phone as well. It was a plain black, looking like it belonged to a salaryman rather than a high school student. “My apologies, Midoriya, but Uraraka was quite worried when she came in this morning. I told her about last night and it only seemed to worry her more.”

“It worried all of us!” Ashido interrupted, pushing her pouting face into Izuku’s vision. “We all heard that you got grabbed by that big black No-thing and had your helmet destroyed and then you disappeared off the face of the earth!”

“I must agree with everyone else here, Midoriya,” came the calm voice of Tokoyami from over his shoulder. Looking, Izuku saw that he was holding up a phone decorated with an upside-down cross. “After all that happened, I was quite consumed with worry as to how you were holding up. It would have been nice to be able to contact you outside of school hours.”

“So trade numbers with everyone Midori, and we’ll set up a group chat!” Ashido stuck her phone out in between the two of them and waved it, making the cascade of charms attached to the case clatter and sparkle in the lights. “Then we’ll be able to sleep without worry!”

“Uh,” Izuku stammered, unconsciously shrinking back from the over-enthusiastic girl.

“I’m sorry, Midori?” Yaoyorozu asked, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize that the two of you were so close?”

“UH,” Izuku said, heat crawling up his neck.

Ashido just burst into laughter, slapping at Izuku’s shoulder.“Nah, nah, you’re reading it all wrong, Yaomomo!” Still grinning, she flashed a peace sign. “It’s not that sort of closeness. It’s just that the way I see it, we all fought together against the villains, yeah? And I don’t know about you, but I think that causes its own closeness, you know? So, Midori.” She moved her hand from his shoulder to his curls, ruffling them wildly and only letting up when he ducked away from her hand. “Like his hair!”

“Ah — so it’s like a marker of friendship?” Yaoyorozu’s eyes widened and she looked touched. “So when you call me Yaomomo —”

“It’s ‘cause I consider you a friend!” Ashido chirped, grinning even wider.

She stuck her phone out towards Izuku again, waggling it so that the charms clacked together. “C’mon! I heard you were super cool with the villains anyways!”

His smile quivered for a second at her words, but no one noticed. Uraraka pouted and asked why she didn’t have a cool nickname at that moment, and then phones were getting passed around wildly, everyone’s attention on putting their information in.

As the phones were passed around (even Kacchan and Todoroki were here! Kacchan snarled at everyone to be careful with his but he was actually taking part!) Izuku ducked his head, his chest feeling tight again.

All of this concern. This worry. It simultaneously lit a flame of happiness in his chest and weighed it down with dread. If they knew that his father was a villain — that he had known the ringleaders of the group that attacked them — would they be so worried? Would they be passing his phone around so carefully, bumping shoulders with him and talking about nicknames and patting him gently on the back and shoulders? It felt so good to be a part of a group, even while it felt that he was at the same time walking along a knife’s edge.

If he slipped up — if his father attacked Yuuei again — all of this would come crashing down. He’d be alone, with only his father for company.

The final bell rang, letting them all know that they had about thirty seconds to get to their seats. Already trained by Aizawa’s pointed timing with a stopwatch every morning, they all broke off from their sharing and were in their seats in only fifteen.

As he sat down behind Kacchan, who despite exchanging numbers with everyone was pointedly not looking at him, Izuku’s mind wandered back to the dinner the night before and Ingenium’s bet. The hero’s story about their teacher’s first internship had been funny and all, but would Aizawa really be back after only a day to recover?

The door opened.

Oh. Okay. Yes he would be back after only a day to recover.

Covered with so many bandages that he looked like a mummy, Aizawa entered the room and shuffled towards his desk, completely ignoring the gasps and comments that filled the air. Izuku gripped the edge of his desk, the comfort that had been warring with his anxiety decisively losing the battle for his chest. Guilt rose up and filled him so completely that he didn’t have room to breathe.

His arms hanging in slings across his chest and his face covered in bandages, Aizawa’s every movement spoke of pain that barely had the edge taken off. It took nearly an entire minute for him to make it to his desk and sit down, his bandages stark white against the green of the chalkboard.

Izuku looked down at his desk and saw cracks forming where he was gripping it.

Numbly, he listened as the Sports Festival was announced and explained and the class dissolved into chatter. He could hear Uraraka getting hyped up and dragging the others into a cheer, but he couldn’t summon the energy to join in.

The villains had done this to his teacher. He had done this to his teacher by not saying anything when he saw Shigaraki that day. His teacher was beaten so badly that he looked like a mummy with all of the necessary bandages —

His eyes burned and he swallowed.

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t act like nothing was wrong. He had to tell them.

It didn’t get any better for the rest of the day. His head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. He would get his books out for the rest of his classes and then just stare at the blank pages as the teachers lectured, not absorbing a single word. It was like he was drowning in his guilt, pushed under the waves as he desperately tried to get a breath of fresh air.

His fault, his fault, his fault, the voice in the back of his head chanted as he gathered up his things at the end of the day. All his fault. If he had just bit the bullet and said something after the media break-in —

“Hey! Who are all of you guys?”

Izuku looked up from the blank pages of his notebook to see a mass of people standing in the doorway to the classroom. The rest of the class had already gotten up at the sound of the bell, leaving him behind, but even from the opposite side of the room he could tell that the people standing in the doorway were not members of his class.

Slowly, he stood up from his chair, now listening to the conversation that was filling the room.

“— scoping out the competition,” Kacchan was saying, facing the crowd head-on. “They want to see the class that survived a villain attack, see how they measure up to us.” Izuku heard him let out the huff of air that was his version of a chuckle. “Useless as it is. Out of the way, extras!”

“Bakugou, don’t call people extras!” Iida snapped, waving his hands through the air.

“No, no, he’s right,” said an unfamiliar voice that cut through the chatter filling the hallway.

Coming up to the back of the class, Izuku peered through the bodies, muttering ‘excuse me’s’ and ‘pardons’ as he tried to squeeze to the front. The others, thankfully, parted to let him through with only a few low apologies, allowing him to reach the front and see who was speaking.

The boy standing in front of Kacchan and scratching the back of his neck was tall, with bright purple hair styled so that it swept off of his face and up into the air. Dark bags hung underneath his eyes, and his gaze was unimpressed as he looked them up and down, a small twist to his lips. “I did come to see what you guys were made of; that much is true. I got to admit though, I’m a little disappointed.” He cocked his head to the side, his hand falling away. “Are all of you such arrogant assholes?”

“What? No way man, don’t just shove us into the same box as Bakugou —” Kaminari began to protest.

He was cut off as the purple-haired boy continued speaking like he wasn’t even there. “Did you know that the General Studies department is where most of the people that fail the Heroics exam go?” he asked, his conversational tone belied by the challenge in his eyes.

Izuku did know, thanks to his habit of over-studying everything that caught his attention.

“The Sports Festival is one of the few places that Gen Ed students can stand out, after that,” the purple-haired boy said. “Depending on our performance, we can be moved up to Heroics, and vice-versa. Your class already has an open spot, too, so is it really that surprising that people might want a preview of their goal?”

His eyes, also purple, narrowed abruptly, transforming his gaze from challenging to something more sinister. “Considering how you’ve been acting, though, I doubt that anyone here would be content with just slipping into an empty slot. Rather, I think we’d all prefer to drag as many of you off of your high horses as possible.” The corners of his mouth twitched with the hint of a smile, and he opened his mouth to continue talking, but —

“Our high horses?” Izuku barely recognized the sound of his own voice, so low and full of menace. His hands were squeezing the straps of his backpack tightly, but he felt like he was floating outside of his body, watching what was going on.

The purple-haired boy looked over at him with an irritated look that abruptly melted away. He took a step back just as Izuku took a step forward.

Maybe it was the guilt that had been eating away at his insides all day. Maybe it was his lack of sleep. Maybe it was his fear that at any moment his father would send Kurogiri to come and take him. But Izuku could only feel anger at the boy’s words, rather than his usual anxiety.

“Our high horses? Arrogant?” The words spilled from his lips with a nasty, mocking, and strangely familiar edge to them. “You’re acting as if we wanted those villains to ambush us. Like we’re marching around, bragging about nearly being murdered during our first week of classes.” The boy’s face had gone pale, and other people were backing up as well, but Izuku kept walking forward with slow, steady steps. “Thirteen-sensei got thrown around and then tortured to try and get two of my classmates to give up. Aizawa-sensei nearly got beaten to death by one of the villains in front of us.”

The boy was pressed up against the crowd until he couldn’t move any further back. The crush of the people wouldn’t let him.

Izuku stepped so close that their chests were almost touching. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and hear the blood rushing in his ears. “Then that villain grabbed me, and pinned me down by my neck until I couldn’t breathe while another started disintegrating my helmet.” He leaned forward until he could feel the soft, staccato puffs of the other boy’s breaths on his face. “I’m only alive because of that helmet. If it hadn’t been there, I would have been —” stolen “— dead before All Might could have arrived. Do you know what that’s like? Knowing that you came within less of a second from dying, and then having to come to school like nothing happened?”

There was silence all around him. His hands were hurting from how hard he was gripping his backpack’s straps as he waited for an answer.

But no answer came.

Izuku let out a hiss of air through his teeth, something dark bubbling beneath his skin. “Before you start calling people arrogant,” he said, keeping his voice quiet, “maybe you should check the mirror.”

A hand gently touched his shoulder, not quite gripping it. “Alright, boys,” said a low, feminine voice, “break it up.”

Allowing the hand to pull him back, Izuku realized that he was trembling. Looking at the hand on his shoulder, he followed it up and realized that it was Midnight-sensei.

She wasn’t looking at him, despite the hand on his shoulder. Instead she was casting a disappointed look over everyone that had come to the classroom, her free hand on her hip. “I can understand your feelings,” she said, “however, as Midoriya-kun just pointed out, this sort of thing is hardly becoming for students wishing to enter the Heroics department. High spirits are to be expected for the Sports Festival, but they should be confined to the Sports Festival. Am I understood?”

The crowd around them shuffled, mumbling their agreement. Midnight nodded, but she still had a disappointed look on her face. “Let’s call this a day, then, shall we? We’ll see you all tomorrow.”

The crowd dispersed fairly quickly, some people actually jogging away. Izuku looked down at his shoes.

Where had all of that come from? That black bitterness that had risen up in his chest, pushing away the guilt? He bit the inside of his cheek, remembering how everyone had been backing away from him. The guilt began to rise up in him again; he hadn’t been acting much like a Heroics student either; if anything, he’d been acting like —

“Um, Midnight-sensei,” Uraraka piped up, “is Midori going to get in trouble for that?”

Izuku’s stomach, already shrinking at his own behaviour, shriveled further at the thought. Looking up, though, he was relieved to see the teacher shaking her head.

“Don’t worry,” she said in a soft, sympathetic voice, “it’s far from my first time dealing with this sort of thing. No one’s expecting any of you to just bounce back from the USJ right away.” She looked back down at Izuku, her blue eyes undeservedly soft. “However, it does dovetail into the reason why I’m down here. I’m afraid that Principal Nedzu would like to speak to you, Midoriya-kun.”

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened. Had he been found out — ? Fear stabbed through him despite his previous decision to come clean.

Midnight, not being able to read minds, misinterpreted his expression and patted his arm. “You’re not in trouble,” she reassured him. “He just wants to check in on you after what happened and talk a little about your speech.”

“His speech?” Uraraka asked, cocking her head to one side.

“As the top scorer in the entrance exam, Midoriya will be the one to give the opening speech for the First-years at the Sports Festival,” Iida explained. Clapping a hand on Uraraka’s shoulder, he looked over at Izuku with a faint shred of worry in his gaze before nodding. “We’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“Tomorrow,” Izuku said weakly. As his two friends walked away, he saw them pass by Kacchan, who was loitering at the corner where the hallways met. After they were gone, the other boy lingered for a long moment, his expression unreadable. Then he turned and left, not looking back.

Gently, Midnight tugged at him, leading him in the opposite direction of the other students. “Come on, now,” she said gently. “Better get to the Principle before the tea is cold.”


The kettle gurgled as it heated the water, breaking the silence and yet somehow increasing the awkwardness filling the room that much more with its volume. Sitting on the couch in his muscled form, Toshinori couldn’t repress an awkward cough.

The young man across from him looked at him with concern-filled black eyes. “Sorry, do you need — ?” He was already reaching for his blazer’s pocket, where Toshinori could see the edge of a handkerchief poking out.

Wincing, Toshinori waved the gesture away, horribly aware of the careful way the boy was watching him. “I’m fine, my boy. Simply — well. I wasn’t quite expecting Sir Nighteye to set this up this quickly.”

Mirio Toogata, ‘call me Mirio-kun, All Might!’, smiled at the sound of his mentor’s name. “Sir’s not one to let the grass grow under his feet when he’s sure of something,” he chirped. Then he wilted a bit. “Er, well, I assume at least? He didn’t really explain much before this meeting, just told me to show up…”

With an internal sigh, Toshinori decided to stop dragging this out. Just as the kettle automatically clicked off, he let go of his muscle form.

Mirio, to his credit, didn’t scream. His eyes widened so much that Toshinori thought they’d pop out for a second, but he didn’t scream.

Toshinori smiled mirthlessly. “I hope I don’t have to tell you that this shouldn’t leave the room.”

Mirio’s mouth worked a few times before any sound came out. “N-no. Sir,” he squeaked. His eyes were still wide.

“Six years ago I had a battle with a villain,” Toshinori began. “You wouldn’t know him, or his crimes, but suffice to say, I had been chasing him for my entire heroing career, as my mentor had chased him before me.”

“Your entire…” Mirio whispered, his eyes still wide.

Toshinori nodded jerkily, his side giving a throb at the memory of the fight. “I defeated him, but not without injury.” He placed a hand over his side. “He struck a blow that effectively destroyed several of my internal organs. I lost a lung and my entire stomach, and the surgeries meant to help me survive those losses had me withering away even more. Leaving me in the form you see in front of you.”

Mirio was silent. For a lack of anything else to do, Toshinori got up and began to make the tea. “This injury limits me in how long I can use my Quirk. Three hours a day is my maximum now, and” he grimaced as the words passed his lips, “it’s only getting shorter.”

Bringing the teapot back with him, he set it down on the small table in front of the couch. Mirio watched him, his eyes not so wide now but still plenty confused.

“I’m…flattered, sir, that you’re trusting me with this information, but — why are you telling me? And why does Sir have to do with it?”

Toshinori took a deep breath. Make it fast, he told himself, like ripping off a bandaid. “Because my Quirk is unique in this world. It is not one that is inherited from one’s parents, but one that is earned through hard work. It is called One for All, and can be passed on to another person by choice.”

Mirio was silent for a long minute, his forehead puckered in thought, before he hesitantly spoke. “One for All. I think I’ve heard Sir saying something like that over the phone…”

Reaching for the pot, Toshinori poured himself some tea. It was still weak, but he was drinking it more for the comfort than for the taste. Holding the cup between both hands, he nodded. “He was one of my few confidants all these years, before our — disagreement.” He heaved a sigh. Like a bandaid. “I still trust his judgement, though. He’s aware of the extent of my injuries, and put your name forward as a possible inheritor of this power.”

“Sir —” Mirio stammered, his eyes widening again. “He wants me to have it? One for All?”

Toshinori nodded, and took a sip as he watched the thoughts play over the boy’s face. Shock, flattery, discomfort, happiness, confusion…

The boy pinched his lips together, his brow furrowing again in deep thought. Toshinori took another sip of his tea-flavoured hot water, watching him. After a long minute, his hands curled into fists on top of his thighs, and he seemed to come to a decision.

“Sir,” Mirio said, looking down at his lap, “All Might-san. I would be honoured to receive your Quirk.”

Toshinori put his cup down. “Good.” Reaching up, he readied himself to pull out one of his hairs.

“But before I do…” The boy looked up. “I’m curious. You’ve talked about the power, and I know that Sir would not recommend me if he didn’t think I could do it. From how he speaks of you, and your falling-out, I have the feeling that he’s been wanting you to pass it on for quite a while now. But — All Might-san. Do you want to give this Quirk to me?”

Toshinori paused.

Mirio looked at him seriously.

“Does it matter?” he finally said, shifting in his seat under the boy’s stare. He let his hand fall back to his lap. “The incident at the USJ showed that I need to pass it on. Several of the students nearly died because I was not there thanks to my time limit. I cannot continue to selfishly hoard this power to myself —”

“But should you just hand it to the first person that’s suggested to you?” Mirio’s face was unchanging in its seriousness. He leaned forward slightly in his seat. “This power — you aren’t the first to hold it, are you.”

It wasn’t a question, but Toshinori couldn’t help but answer. “No,” he admitted. “I’m the eighth to hold it. At its core, it’s a stockpiling power, with each successive generation wielding the combined power of the previous holders.”

“Then deciding the next person to hold it — that’s one of the most important decisions that you can make, isn’t it?”

The most sacred of decisions. Toshinori grimaced. “You’re refusing it, then?”

“No,” Mirio said, shaking his head. “I’m saying that we don’t know each other. That this is too important a decision to make on another person’s word, no matter how good Sir is.” From his expression, the words pained him, but his tone was firm and resolute. “Despite your duties, sir, I have something to ask of you. Will you consider it?”

Toshinori…hadn’t been expecting this. Hiding his confusion behind a long sip of his drink, he carefully considered the boy — no, the young man in front of him.

He was strong, obviously. The muscle beneath his uniform was evident, even through the shapeless blazer. Fond of smiling, too, from what he’d seen before approaching him. Toshinori detected a touch of Nighteye’s influence in that. But underneath that was also a strong streak of seriousness; also Nighteye’s influence, he thought.

Putting his tea down, he folded his hands in his lap and met young Mirio’s gaze steadily. “I will.”

“Watch the Sports Festival,” he said. “Not just me; everyone. Truly judge whether or not I’m worthy of receiving this power, or if you think that someone else would be a better fit.”

Toshinori raised an eyebrow, even if internally he found himself warming slightly to the young man. “You would risk not getting it?”

“I think it would be more of a risk to get it and not be worthy of it, sir,” Mirio replied simply.

A small but unstoppable smile pulled at the corners of Toshinori’s lips. Maybe his worries about Nighteye’s choice weren’t as warranted as he thought.

“Well?” Mirio asked, a small bit of nervousness peeking out. “Will you? Sir?”

Not hiding his smile, Toshinori leaned back in his seat, resting his cup in his lap. “Nothing would make me happier,” he said, his grin widening as a smile broke out across Mirio’s face.


This was fine. This was fine. He was going to see the principal, and that was fine. He’d go in, he’d get a handout on how to do his speech, he’d say ‘hey by the way my Dad is a supervillain’, and then he’d get out. It was the right thing to do. He’d been planning to do it in the first place, and the principal would be asking how he was doing, anyways, so he’d be able to slip the confession in no problem. ‘No, no, I’m doing fine, I just haven’t been sleeping well because my father masterminded the USJ attack and my identity was revealed to his minions. I’m really sorry, but would you mind giving me some protection from him? No, I had nothing to do with attack, I swear!’

God. Izuku let his head droop forward a little. It sounded bad enough in his head. How was it going to sound out loud?

“Hey, kid, what’s with the worried face?”

Peering up from his shoes, Izuku tried to read Midnight’s face as she looked down at him. He thought that she looked concerned, but that couldn’t be right, could it? They hadn’t even had a class with her yet, she didn’t know him well enough to care.

“Nothing,” he mumbled, looking back down at his feet.

A warm hand settled on his shoulder, making him jump. Looking up, he saw that no, it really was concern on her face as she looked down at him. “Midoriya-kun, don't worry. It’s okay. He might be the principal, but Nedzu’s not scary. He just wants to make sure you’re holding up okay after everything that happened.”

“I doubt that.” Izuku winced as the mumbled words slipped from his lips, despite their truth. He didn’t deserve this sort of concern from so many people. His classmates, Ingenium, and now even the principal? They didn’t know the secrets he was carrying around with him.

“You doubt that?” Now Midnight was really looking concerned. Her hand went from his shoulder to the top of his head, petting his curls. “Why wouldn’t we be concerned with you? You and your class went through a very scary experience, Midoriya-kun, one that was at least partially our fault. Of course we’re going to be worried about you lot. If you’re worried about the special attention, it’s because the villains were especially hard on you.”

Izuku hunched his shoulders up around his ears, his stomach squirming. “Still,” he said, unable to look her in the eye, “you must all have better things to do than look after me.”

“Midoriya-kun.” The steady click-click-click of Midnight’s heels stopped, and her hand fell back onto his shoulder, keeping him in place. Tugging gently at him, she made him turn so that he was facing her head on. Placing her other hand on his free shoulder, she bent her knees slightly until they were face-to-face. This close, he couldn’t fool himself into thinking the concern on her face was false — her eyes were skipping over him like they were looking for bruises. “Your safety, and the safety of all of your classmates was entrusted to us by your parents and society. You are part of the next generation of heroes, and victims of a vicious villain attack.” Her hands loosened, and before Izuku could blink he was pulled into a hug, his head tucked against the heroine’s shoulder. “We are your teachers, the ones that should be protecting you. Never doubt that you are our number one priority.”

Izuku’s eyes were burning. Twisting his fingers in the hem of his uniform’s blazer, he tried to keep his breathing steady. His mom had barely been missing for a week, and yet this hug was reminding him so much of her…

After a long minute, Midnight pulled back. Thankfully, she didn’t say anything as he wiped at his eyes, banishing the thin rime of tears that had collected at their corners. The rest of the trip to the principal’s office was spent in silence, with her hand back on his shoulder. This time, however, he didn’t tense at her touch.

No, instead he tensed as they reached the wooden double doors that lead to the principal’s office. Lifting the hand that wasn’t holding his shoulder, Midnight rapped her knuckles against them firmly.

“Come in,” called a high, soft voice.

With one last whisper of reassurance, Midnight pushed him through the doorway, closing it behind him.

The first thing to strike Izuku as door shut behind him was that Principal Nedzu’s office wasn’t as big as he expected. Certainly, it was larger than his middle school principal’s office — it was almost as large as him and his mom’s apartment — but considering how over-the-top Yuuei tended to be, it was surprisingly reasonably-sized. Just large enough for a desk with the floor-to-ceiling windows that dominated one of the walls at its back, a set of chairs and two small couches set up across from each other with a small table between them. On the table there was already a steaming pot of tea and several cups, along with what looked like some rice crackers and a sheaf of papers.

The second thing he noticed was that it wasn’t just Principal Nedzu that was waiting for him.

Aizawa-sensei, still mummified, sat on one of the couches, somehow holding a cup of steaming tea with casts on both arms. His head turned towards Izuku as the door clicked shut and despite not being able to see his eyes, Izuku found himself unable to meet the man’s look. Dropping his gaze down to his shoes, he gripped his backpack straps tightly.

“Ah, Midoriya-kun,” the…dog? Rat? Bear? Sitting at the desk in front of the windows took a sip from his own steaming cup, his tail twitching hypnotically behind him. “You didn’t have too much trouble finding your way here, did you?”

Izuku swallowed, still unable to drag his eyes away from his feet for long. “No,” he mumbled, “Midnight-sensei came and collected me once the other students cleared out a bit.”

“The other students?” Nedzu asked, putting his cup down.

Izuku shrugged, not moving from his position near the door. “The other classes in our year. They wanted to see us in person after the attack.”

Aizawa made a low, displeased noise. Izuku’s stomach joined his gaze at his feet.

“Let me guess,” the man said, his voice slightly muffled by his bandages, “they were acting as if you being attacked made you think you were better than them?”

Izuku knew his flinch was probably answer enough, but he spoke anyways to be polite. “One of the students, he said he wanted to move to the Heroics track. He called us arrogant, and I — I kind of snapped at him. Told him that we nearly died and he was being the arrogant one.”

“Good,” Aizawa said, tilting his head to one side slightly. “That way of thinking is not fitting for a future hero. Hopefully he’ll take your words to heart.”

Izuku pressed his lips together tightly and didn’t say anything.

“Anyways,” the principal said, “please, take a seat. I wanted to talk to you about the speech you’ll be giving at the start of the Festival. Help yourself to the crackers and the tea is fresh if you’d like some.”

Izuku chewed on the inside of his cheek and shuffled over to the couch opposite of Aizawa. Sitting down, he avoided looking at the man by putting his backpack between his feet and pouring himself a cup of tea.

“Now, I’m not sure how much attention you’ve paid to the beginning of the Festival each year, but for every year we make sure to have the top student give a short speech at the opening ceremony. And by short, we mean within five minutes. I’ve taken the liberty of printing out some of the speeches of the previous years and have put them in the file on the table; take them home and study them if you wish for ideas on structure and topic.”

Obediently taking the file, Izuku flipped it open and took a quick glance over the papers inside. Most seemed to be about fair play, or courage, or being number one. The normal sort of thing one would expect from a speech at the beginning of a sports event.

“Of course, I would also caution you not to be too short. If you look at page five of the file you’ll see an example of one of those — Todoroki Enji, or rather Endeavor as you might know him…”

The smell of tea was strong. Taking one of the crackers, Izuku stuck it in his mouth. Shrimp flavoured, like he’d expected. Looking at the wrapping, his stomach still flopping around from nervousness, he dully realized that they were the same brand his mother had liked to serve to guests. Nedzu continued to drone on and on and on, his voice like the white noise of a radio tuned between stations.

His mother. How often had she played hostess while they were still with his father? He could remember this, all of this; sitting up straight, a tie around his neck and itching, the smell of tea in the air, this brand of crackers —

“— and All Might too wanted me to pass on his offer to help you —”

Aizawa interrupted Nedzu’s rambling smoothly, like the bow of a boat being pushed into a still pond. “Midoriya. You’re trembling.”

Izuku blinked and realized that he was still holding the wrapper for the crackers. Pulling himself from memories of a dark, polished table and the low murmur of voices, he put it down and tucked his now-free hand into his lap. “Sorry,” he said quietly, willing the shaking to stop. “This is all just — so normal.” He ducked his head. “Like nothing happened.”

The two men were silent, and Izuku found the words leaving his mouth just to fill the air with noise again. “I know that you said in class that the Festival is supposed to show that we’re still strong, and that security will be tightened, but all I can think about is the attack. I haven’t heard anything online or on the news about catching Sh — the ringleaders, so I can’t help but wonder where this confidence in security measures is coming from. One of the ringleaders had a warp Quirk — it would be easy for him to repeat the USJ again, except this time at the Sports Festival. Even if there are heroes there, there are even more civilians —”

The sight of Aizawa heaving himself to his feet made Izuku stutter and come to a stop. Standing up, his teacher towered over him as he shuffled to the couch where Izuku was sitting and made a gesture for him to scoot over. Obediently, Izuku did so, letting the man sit down beside him. This close, Izuku could smell the sharp scent of disinfectant on the bandages.

“You should not have gone through the USJ,” Aizawa said, his tone firm and brooking no disagreement. “Not on your first week. Not at any point during your education here. The attack by the villains was the direct result of us being slack in the security of an off-campus lesson.”

Izuku’s mouth had been hanging open since Aizawa had gotten up. He closed it with a click at the man’s words.

“To be frank, I don’t disagree with you on the matter of the Sports Festival,” he continued, shifting slightly and leaning back into a more comfortable-looking position. “The USJ attack showed a disturbing boldness from the villains, and with how public the Sports Festival is, it no doubt would make another tempting target for the ringleaders of the attack. However.” He turned his head, and Izuku could see the black of his eyes between the bandages covering his face. “Don’t forget that we pros aren’t just sitting around after what’s happened. This attack angered the entire Hero community. We’ve actually had to turn away heroes that were offering their time to patrol the grounds during the Festival. More are searching the streets as we speak for signs of this ‘League of Villains’. And we here at Yuuei have been going over our own security measures with a fine-toothed comb. Every employee and even the faculty are being re-checked for connections to villains or villain groups, and if they are found they will immediately be removed from the school for security purposes, regardless of their position.”

“Even us faculty members that arrived later to the attack are being re-examined!” Nedzu chimed in, taking a sip.

But what about the students? Izuku wondered wildly. His father — he’d seen his father with other children, he’d had businesses ‘helping’ them with their unruly Quirks —

But they didn’t know that. And all students went through a background check anyways before being accepted, and schedules were kept in the teacher’s office, not just lying around, so they probably didn’t even think that a student was a possibility…

“So I won’t tell you how to feel,” Aizawa said, lifting one of his cast-covered arms and placing it on his head in a clumsy pat, “but hopefully knowing this will make you feel a bit better.”

A bit better. Bitter bile welled up in the back of Izuku’s throat and his eyes welled up with tears.

They were being so kind. So kind, because he was afraid. Because they didn’t know —

“Midoriya?”

He should tell them now. He had to tell them now, before they were too kind to him. The words were welling up in his throat, pressing up against the back of his teeth —

“Midoriya-kun,” the principal asked, putting his cup down, “is something wrong?”

He had to tell them, he had to — “I saw him before the attack,” came out of his mouth in a croak, “the decay villain. Shigaraki. I saw him on the day the media broke in.”

The room went silent, even as Midoriya internally cursed. Those weren’t the words he needed to say! Taking a deep, shuddering breath he focused on talking —

“I saw him, and I didn’t say anything because all I had was a bad vibe, but I didn’t say anything and then the attack…”

His voice cracked and he snapped his mouth shut. No, damn it — this wasn’t important! He needed to tell them about who was behind Shigaraki, not about seeing him, but now the words had stopped completely, blocked by the lump that had swelled up in his throat. Ducking his head, he scrubbed at his eyes in frustration.

“Midoriya,” Aizawa said quietly beside him.

Izuku hiccuped and swallowed back a sob. Damn it, he still had to tell them!

“Midoriya-kun, please look at us,” said the gentle voice of the principal.

Sniffling, Izuku obeyed, almost to break back into tears at the sympathy that was radiating from the both of them.

“Midoriya-kun, no one is going to blame you for not reporting on seeing this Shigaraki,” the principal said. “You just said that all you had was a gut feeling. That means that he wasn’t doing anything villainous at the time, correct?”

Unable to speak, Izuku nodded.

“And with the confusion of the break-in itself, I doubt that any of us would have paid much mind even if you had reported it, since, as you said, all you had was a bad feeling.”

He’d had more — why couldn’t he speak? Why couldn’t he tell them the truth — he had to tell them, he was putting everyone in danger —

“In the future, if you see him again, or get a bad feeling about someone you see, please come and tell us. I’ll let the rest of the faculty know about what happened so that they know to take you seriously, but in the meantime…” The principal looked at Aizawa. “Perhaps it would be best if we cut this meeting short.”

“I think that would be best,” Aizawa agreed, slowly getting up and pulling Izuku to his feet. Hastily, Izuku grabbed his bag as he was ushered towards the door. He tried to speak but the lump in his throat wouldn’t go away, no matter how many times he swallowed.

Aizawa clumsily opened the door and nudged Izuku out of the office. “Go home and gets some rest, Midoriya,” he said, “and stop blaming yourself for things you couldn’t have seen coming.”

No — he needed to —

The door shut with a click, leaving Izuku alone with his thoughts. Thoughts that swirled and buffeted him like the world’s worst hurricane, filled with doubt and self-recrimination. For a lack of anything better to do, he began to walk away, his mind spinning and the lump in his throat only growing worse. Why had he said that stuff about seeing Shigaraki, and not mentioned the rest? Why hadn’t he been able to squeeze the words out?

He was a coward. That was the only explanation. He was a coward, using the school as a meat shield against his father.

The chant of coward coward coward filling his head as he walked from the campus was why he didn’t notice the person jogging up to him until they grabbed his bicep and pulled him into an alleyway. Seeing who it was was why the Quirks rising up under his skin fizzled away, his mouth dropping open. “You —”

Chapter Text

Izuku sat on the couch in one of the karaoke bar’s private rooms, so tense he felt like he was on the verge of vibrating.

Across from him, Hakucho and Nebosuke sat, Hakucho mimicking the tension he felt while Nebosuke lounged, flipping through the menu that came with the room. “Huh, they serve chicken wings here. I wouldn’t think that would be a thing here, considering how messy they are. Dirty up all the microphones and stuff.”

Hakucho nearly whimpered, closing his eyes with a pained expression. “Nebosuke-san, please read the mood,” he whispered.

Nebosuke raised her head just enough to raise an eyebrow at him. “What? Personally, I prefer to have some food in my stomach before starting a serious conversation. How about you, kid? You want something to eat before we talk? Something to drink?”

“I’d rather we just get this over with,” Izuku said. It felt like someone was strangling him, just getting the words out.

Nebosuke shrugged theatrically and threw the menu down on the table. “Suit yourself,” she said. Crossing her arms, she pinned him place with a look. “You’re related to a villain, aren’t you.”

Izuku flinched. His chest tightened. His ears began to ring faintly, and his mind began to race. That guess wasn’t random, you just didn’t throw around those sorts of accusations wildly, not even in private. “I —” He squeaked, stopped, cleared his throat and tried again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Yuuei doesn’t accept —”

“Kid.” Nebosuke’s face was serious and her gaze never wavered, even as Hakucho touched her arm, his eyes bouncing between the two of them.

His fingers curled into fists on top of his thighs and he dropped his gaze. He’d just been about to tell the principal less than an hour ago, but now…

“Yuuei doesn’t accept students with connections to villains,” he insisted, staring down at his hands. His chest felt tight. Why were they confronting him about this? What did they want? “You, you can’t just fling that sort of accusation around. You need to think about the effects of your words —”

There was a sharp clack. Izuku flinched and raised his eyes. Nebosuke was sitting back, having tossed something — no, two somethings — onto the table between them.

Phones. She’d tossed what could only be her and Hakucho’s phones on the table towards him.

He looked up further. Her face was stony, but something in her eyes was soft. “Kid,” she said quietly, “take a look at our phones if you want. We haven’t contacted Yuuei, and we’re not going to if you give us some answers. We’re just worried about you.”

The lump was back in his throat. “You’ve got a funny way of showing worry, then,” his voice wavering. “D-dragging me into an alley, accusing me of b-being related to a villain when I’m in the Heroics course —”

“You’re in the Heroics course?” Hakucho said, his feathery eyebrows shooting up his forehead.

Izuku’s eyes burned at the disbelief in the man’s voice. His nails digging into the palms of his hands, he straightened. “I-is that so hard to believe? That I could want — could b-be a hero?”

Nebosuke touched Hakucho’s arm before he could answer, her eyes staying on Izuku. “Hakucho. Let me do the talking.”

But Izuku’s gut was churning now. Taking a deep breath, he stood up and grabbed his backpack. “N-no. I’m done talking. I’m not going to sit here and be accused of being a — a bad person.”

“What? No, Midoriya-san, we’re not —”

“Then why did you grab me?” Izuku snapped, gripping his backpack tightly. “Why did you drag me in here?”

Hakucho sputtered, but Nebosuke simply watched him, cocking her head to one side. “Because we want to help you, kid.”

“Why?”

“Because my dad was a villain.”

The words that Izuku had been about to spit out froze in his throat. “What?”

Nebosuke, still with her head cocked to one side, looked away and scratched at her neck. “My dad. He was a villain. You wouldn’t have heard of him; he was never much more than a petty thug, but…” Her eyes slid back towards him and she gave a small shrug. “Like I said. We want to help you.”

Izuku didn’t so much sit as he fell back down into his seat. “You…”

“Is it so hard to believe?” she said, a smirk that didn’t reach her eyes twisting her lips. “I mean, I am living in a manga cafe. Not a lot of people do that just for shits and giggles, even if they are psychology students.”

“Well, you don’t have to —”

“I’m not a freeloader, Hakucho,” she said sharply, like this was an argument they’d had before.

Izuku didn’t say anything, and Nebosuke sighed. Uncrossing her arms, she leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. “Like I said, my dad was never much more than a petty thug. Hired muscle for any number of more ambitious villains.” Her lips twitched in a grim, bitter smile. “One of those villains was wrapped up in Quirk trafficking, and gave my mother to him as a reward for good work. Apparently she was too old for selling anymore.”

“Quirk…trafficking…” Izuku repeated. Unconsciously, he looked down at his hands. He’d only heard about that in history class…

Nebosuke shrugged, that bitter smile staying on her face. “Yeah,” she said in reply to his expression, “it’s not as prevalent as during the first few generations of Quirked individuals — police actually try to catch the traffickers these days — but it still happens. My mother was just one of those people that fell through the cracks.”

Izuku bit the inside of his cheek. Had his father ever — no. No, Quirk trafficking was for providing rich old men with women so that they could breed themselves the perfect heir. His father just took the Quirk, he wasn’t interested in breeding programs.

Nebosuke continued speaking. “Anyways, the boss that gave him my mom was eventually taken down by some heroes. So was my father. I was about four at the time, and there was a big trial.” She paused for a moment. “It was all over the papers.”

“And that was it.” Her eyes became distant, looking at a memory. “Bad guys were put away. Me and my mother were left alone. By everyone.”

Reaching up, she scrubbed at her face. “Heroes didn’t care, police didn’t care. Only our neighbours cared, and what they cared about was the fact that she had been sleeping with my father.” Her voice was monotone, but her eyes narrowed as she continued speaking. “Didn’t matter that she’d been trafficked. Didn’t matter that he beat her. All they cared was that she’d been sleeping with him. We were both tarred with the same brush as him. Only people that showed sympathy were Hakucho and his mom.” She turned her gaze back at him, and Izuku almost flinched at their intensity. “So believe me. We get it. This isn’t something that can get out.” The intensity softened. “But kid — look at yourself. You’re a mess.”

This time, Izuku couldn’t stop the flinch that ran through his shoulders. “I — I’m not…”

“Um, Midoriya-kun. San.” Hakucho shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he piped up. “No offense, but — you kind of are. I mean, you were sleeping in a manga cafe — are, sleeping in a manga cafe. And even though I don’t think you’re giving the heroes enough credit —”

“Now, we don’t know the details, of what’s going on, or why you’re homeless,” Nebosuke said loudly, cutting him off and ignoring his sigh, “but we both understand why going to your teachers is maybe not a possibility.”

“So,” Hakucho said, his feathers puffing up slightly in what seemed to be irritation, “I — we wanted to extend to you an offer of help. I live above the cafe, and it’s not the fanciest but I do have room for another person…”

He continued talking about groceries, and laundry, and how they could talk about pitching in for bills and Izuku could feel the tears welling up in his eyes again, his throat swelling shut as Hakucho went on and on, Nebosuke chiming in occasionally, the two of them so, so kind when he didn’t deserve it…

The first sob that escaped his mouth cut Hakucho off mid-sentence. Izuku blinked rapidly, trying to keep the tears from falling and failing miserably as the began to stream down his cheeks faster than he could wipe them away. A second sob escaped his mouth, then a third, and he tried to hold them back, his body shaking but he couldn’t —

Izuku hunched over, pressing his forehead to his knees and howled. Tears and snot flowed from his eyes and nose and his chest ached as he let go of all of the emotions that had been building up in him for the past week, tearing from his throat at a volume that had the small, distant part of his brain that never shut off wondering if the bar’s employees were going to kick them out. Wrapping his arms around his knees he rocked back and forth, barely able to feel the hands that were now stroking his back and head or hear the voices trying to comfort him. There was just the pain and fear and shame pouring from his mouth like the fire from the first Quirk he’d taken from his father, burning his throat and mouth.

“— I can’t I can’t I can’t he’ll find me and take me back he’s got so many men and he knows I’m at Yuuei and he’ll hurt everyone and I couldn’t say anything because I’m a coward —”

Two pairs of arms were now wrapping around him, pulling up and away from his knees and tears continued to pour down his face, soaking his cheeks and shirt. “I, I,” he gasped, reaching up and digging his fingers into the arms around him, “I’m so s-s-scared, I know what he can do, and the longer I d-don’t tell anyone the worse it is, the more people he’ll hurt —” His voice choked off and he started sobbing again.

“Kid,” Nebosuke said, her voice softer than Izuku had ever heard it before, “kid, come back to the cafe.”

“No!” Izuku wailed, squeezing his eyes shut. “No, you don’t understand, he’s got people everywhere, I have to keep moving or he’ll find me! He’ll hurt you to get me —”

“Kid.” Two strong hands gripped either side of his face, making his eyes pop open in surprise. Nebosuke was looking at him seriously. “Kid, take a deep breath and listen to me. Have you ever heard of pursuit predators?”

The non-sequitor was so unexpected that Izuku stopped sobbing. Blinking wetly, he breathed heavily, his chest aching. “Huh?”

“Pursuit predators. They’re animals that hunt down their prey not by outpacing them, or overwhelming them. They just outlast them. Have you heard of that before?” Nebosuke’s gaze was intense. “It’s a very successful hunting strategy.”

His breathing was still shaky. “Uh, okay?”

“Do you know what species is best known for this strategy?”

Still not understanding what this had to do with anything, Izuku shook his head.

“Humans.”

Okay. Izuku blinked blankly up at her, trying to figure out why she had brought this up. She wasn’t babbling, so there had to be a reason behind it…

“Um, Nebosuke-san,” Hakucho said awkwardly over Izuku’s head, “I don’t think that he gets it.”

“I really don’t,” Izuku agreed quietly.

Nebosuke didn’t look away from Izuku, but her gaze and grip softened slightly. “Your dad. The way you’re talking about him, about having to run away from him because it’s not safe.” Her gaze intensified. “You’re acting like a prey animal. You’re panicking.”

Izuku tensed. “I’m not…” he began, but trailed off, because — wasn’t he? The knot in his chest that seemed to swell every time he tried to think of how he was going to handle things, the guilt that had choked him as he looked at Aizawa…

Nebosuke nodded in satisfaction as the realization rolled over him. “Panicking. Running around between cafes, trying to keep up being a student — he’s got you running yourself into the ground.”

“But —” Izuku bit his lip. But his father was dangerous, he was the reason the USJ attack had even happened. “You don’t understand, he was involved with what happened at the USJ, and he knows I’m going to Yuuei now —”

“And that doesn’t change the fact that you’re panicking.” Nebosuke’s gaze was still intense, but her voice was gentle. “Take a deep breath, and really think. Involved with the USJ or no, calm down and think. You said that your attendance at the school was revealed during the attack?”

Izuku nodded. His hand drifted up to his mouth and he began to nervously tug at his lower lip.

“And you think —”

“I know.” The words came from him without his permission, dropping heavily between them.

Nebosuke paused and traded glances with Hakucho. “You know, then, that he was involved. I won’t ask how deeply, but — think. You’re worried that he wants to retrieve you. How would he go about doing that?”

“Just use Kurogiri —”

“Who?”

Oh right, their names hadn’t been released by the police. “The villain with the Warp Quirk,” he mumbled around his fingers. “He, he’s the one that got everyone into the USJ. My dad would use him to grab me —”

Except even as he said the words — spoke aloud the fears that scratched at the inside of his skull — they sounded wrong. Hollow. Without the certainty of a fact.

Because now, sitting between the two, having to explain to people who knew his secret and didn’t hate him, with all of their voices mixing together and drowning out his heart’s panicked hammering…

Maybe Kurogiri hadn’t grabbed him in the middle of his class because he didn’t have Izuku’s precise coordinates, but everyone, sooner or later, had to pass through the UA barrier, and that only had one opening. And Izuku had already seen the alleyway that Kurogiri and Shigaraki must have hidden in when causing the break-in. Kurogiri could have just waited there or in one of the buildings on either side of it until he saw Izuku and grabbed him then, but he didn’t.

Why didn’t he? His father had had such a tight leash on him before they left, so Izuku couldn’t see him waiting unless the reason was extremely important. Wracking his brains, the only reason Izuku could think of was that his father didn’t want to do it so publicly, but even then he could have waited, had Izuku followed and then grabbed —

But he didn’t. Why not?

Izuku hunched his shoulders up around his ears, his train of thought speeding up. Why wouldn’t his father do something so simple? He had to have done something like that to grab his mother, probably inside of the apartment with minimal fuss since Izuku hadn’t been approached about his missing mother, but if he didn’t do that with Izuku, then that could only mean that he thought Izuku would be missed and pursued. No, not just pursued, vigorously pursued. By heroes — and ones that he couldn’t just kill without causing more problems.

But why would he think that?

…Because the heroes had protected him at the USJ. It was like a light turning on in his head as he remembered All Might saving him. He’d been panicking, hardly able to breathe, but Shigaraki had asked if All Might knew, and All Might had cut him off, eager to fight. If Shigaraki reported that to Izuku’s father…

“Holy shit,” he whispered. He’d accidentally given himself the perfect cover.

“Just realized something?” Nebosuke asked.

Izuku looked up from his lap, where his gaze had dropped as his thoughts sped up. He still had his lip caught between his thumb and forefinger, pulled out and away from his gums. Letting it go, he let his hand drop back down his lap, feeling a little stunned at his realization. “I — yeah. I did.”

Nebosuke’s lips twitched into what Izuku distantly realized was the first smile he’d ever seen on her face. “What I tell you,” she said, reaching up to boop his nose. “Pursuit predator.”

“Yeah,” he said. Then he remembered the smell of disinfectant and bandages and dropped his gaze again. “I — still, me being at Yuuei is still dangerous. They’ve already been attacked once —”

“But that wasn’t because you were there,” Hakucho interrupted. His hand was still on Izuku’s back, warm and surprisingly large. “You said yourself, your father found out you were there during the attack. The attack itself wasn’t your fault.”

“But me being there is still a threat, he could still attack again —”

“Could, could, could,” Nebosuke interrupted. “All I keep hearing from you is stuff that could happen. You’re still panicking.” Leaning forward, she caught his eyes again. “Midoriya-kun. Do you want to be a hero?”

Izuku swallowed. “Yes,” he said in a very quiet voice.

“Then be a hero. Don’t go confessing to the faculty just to assuage your guilt. All that’ll do is get you kicked out and easier to find by your dad.” Her face was serious, and something in her tone made him sit up straighter. A solemnity, like a pronouncement from some ancient god that sent shivers rattling down his spine. Looking her in the eye, he could have sworn he saw a glow like a fire in her eyes as she looked down at him.

That strange look and tone still thrumming through her, she stared him down. “The Sports Festival is coming up. Everyone will be watching, so take advantage of that! Make that your declaration of war! Show everyone that your blood is nothing next to your drive!”

“Show everyone you’re going to be a hero!”


Nebosuke’s words thrummed through him for the two weeks before the Sports Festival. Lying on the borrowed futon in Hakucho’s small apartment above the cafe, they circled his head, both soothing and invigorating him with their permission to focus on something other than his guilt. Words still got stuck in his throat every time he so much as looked at Aizawa-sensei, but he was able to take notes again in class, and talk at his friends without feeling like he was about to throw up.

He wasn’t constantly tired and jumpy, either. It was hard to notice when he was in the middle of it, but once he had a home base in Hakucho’s apartment, he realized just how badly he had needed one. The routine of helping with groceries, cooking meals, cleaning — just coming home to the same place every day — settled him in a way nothing else did. Doing his homework at a kitchen table rather than in a loud internet cafe, having dinner at the same time every night, it was all so much more comforting than he had ever realized it to be before he had started high school.

Sure, he still watched himself coming and going from school. He made a point of using a different train line every day to get back to the cafe, keeping his eyes peeled for anyone paying him special attention. But he found himself relaxing as time passed and no one jumped out of an alleyway to drag him through one of Kurogiri’s portals.

Before he knew it was the day of the Festival.

Izuku checked over his backpack one last time. Bento, check. Gym uniform, check. Wallet, check.

“You grabbed your bento, right?” Hakucho asked, lying back from where he was sitting in front of the TV and peering down to the door where Izuku was checking his backpack.

Turning his head, Izuku smiled and nodded. “Yep,” he said. “Thanks for making one for me, by the way.”

Hakucho grinned sheepishly. “Well, I mean, I know that Yuuei serves food, but this is a special day —”

Izuku couldn’t see Nebosuke from where he was sitting but he heard her snort over the sound of the television loud and clear. “He was just thanking you, Hakucho. You don’t need to make excuses for yourself.”

“I wasn’t, I just wanted to make sure everything was okay!”

Nebosuke snorted again, and then leaned back so that Izuku could see her as well. “Hey, kid,” she said, “good luck.” Then she looked down at Hakucho. “See how easy that was?”

Izuku was laughing to himself as he left the two of them to their bickering and headed to the train station.

One ride later and Izuku was walking through the Yuuei Barrier, bypassing the waiting lines of the media and heading towards their classroom where they were supposed to meet up before heading to the stadium. He had just turned the corner and entered the hallway that lead to their classroom when a hand abruptly shot out from a storage closet and clamped down on his upper arm.

“What —” Izuku said, overwhelmed by a feeling of deja-vu that only grew stronger as he saw who had dragged him in.

Kacchan shut the door behind them with a final-sounding click, a scowl on his face. “Deku.”

Crap. “K-kacchan,” he said, “sorry, did you need to talk to me about something? O-only Aizawa-sensei will be expecting us —”

“Shut up.” Kacchan’s back straightened and despite their similar sizes, he loomed over Izuku as he took the few steps away from the door that were needed to stand in front of him.

Izuku shut up. He did flinch, though, when Kacchan slammed his hand against the wall beside his head.

Leaning forward, Kacchan’s eyes bored into his. “I’m here to give you your one and only warning. This is Yuuei’s Sports Festival, not some shitty gym class. I’ll kill you if you don’t take this seriously.”

Izuku’s stomach sank. “Kacchan,” he said, his eyes skittering away, “I — I always do my best —”

Kacchan’s face was stone as he pulled back his hand and slammed it against the wall beside Izuku’s head again, letting off a small explosion. “No, you don’t.”

“I do!” Izuku insisted. The good mood that had been buoying him up fled away, leaving a sick pit in his stomach.

Kacchan’s nostrils flared and he grabbed the front of Izuku’s uniform. Twisting his fingers in the cloth, he dragged him forward until they were nose-to-nose. “Stop. Lying to me,” he spat out through gritted teeth. “All this bullshit about you having an enhancement Quirk — I was right beside you during the USJ! You do not only have an enhancement Quirk! If you don’t stop it with this shit I’ll make you!”

“Kacchan —”

“Why do you keep lying?!”

Izuku chewed on the inside of his cheek, staying silent. Lack of kidnapping attempts or no, telling Kacchan about his father was still incredibly risky. If he got it into his head to try and fight —

The door to the closet opened, letting in light from the hallway. Kacchan stiffened and turned his head, letting Izuku peer over his shoulder.

Todoroki, his face blank as usual, stood there, his hand still on the doorknob. “Aizawa-sensei’s waiting for you two.”

Kacchan scoffed and let his hand drop from the wall. “Me and Deku are just having a conversation.”

“Conversations don’t involve yelling.” Todoroki’s face was still blank, but Izuku could see that his free hand had curled into a fist at his side.

“They do when the other person’s acting like some sort of weakling.”

Todoroki cocked his head to one side slightly, his face still not expressing any emotion. “Midoriya-kun is far from a weakling. Or are you forgetting that he was the one that masterminded the counter-attack against the villains’ leaders?”

Kacchan snarled. “Fucking Icyhot, mind your own fucking business!”

“I refuse.” Todoroki’s eyes were cold. “It’s a hero’s job to poke their noses in where they’re not welcome.” His eyes narrowed. “Something that someone like you should remember.”

Kacchan went very, very still.

Oh no. Izuku remembered this from when they were little. He opened his mouth to try and defuse the situation —

“Whatever,” Kacchan ground out. Walking stiff-legged, he shouldered his way past Todoroki and left the closet, the sound of him stomping down the hallway quickly fading.

Izuku blinked in surprise. When they were kids, that stillness was usually a precursor to a screaming attack —

“Are you alright?”

Izuku jumped, having forgotten that Todoroki was still there with his surprise. “I — yeah, no, I’m fine. Thanks.” Scratching the back of his neck, he stepped towards the doorway. “We should get going before Aizawa-sensei yells at us.”

“He won’t,” Todoroki said, glancing down the hallway. “I don’t think he’s gotten to school yet.”

“He —” Izuku’s brain caught on to what Todoroki was saying. “Aizawa-sensei didn’t send you?”

Todoroki looked back at him, his face still but his hand now relaxed at his side. He took a step to one side, letting Izuku exit the closet properly. “No. I haven’t even been to the classroom this morning.”

“Then why —”

“I heard him shouting.” Todoroki’s voice flattened again, like when he had been talking to Kacchan. “At you.”

Izuku scratched at the back of his neck again, his mind still whirring. “Yeah, but — why would that bother you?” The other boy had been eating lunch with him all this time but he never spoke very much — Izuku was pretty sure still that it wasn’t some sort of competition thing but Todoroki was so hard to read —

“Because you’re my friend.”

Izuku froze mid-scratch as his mind screeched to a halt. “I — what?”

Todoroki’s face softened into something that looked like honest confusion as he tilted his head to one side again. “We are friends, aren’t we? We eat lunch together, and I save seats for you. All the manga and TV shows say that that’s what friends do.”

Wow. Wow, okay. Thinking back, Todoroki had saved him a seat on the bus — and on the bench in gym — and he kept coming up to him during group work…

Damn. Izuku had totally misread this situation. “I — yeah, yeah, we’re friends!” he said, and to Izuku’s surprise he didn’t feel like he was lying. “Sorry, I just — didn’t want to read too much into things.” He smiled up at the other boy.

Todoroki smiled back, a small, soft expression. “We should go, then, before Aizawa-sensei does come in.”

Izuku nodded and began to walk. “Yeah.”


The apartment was perfectly nice. It was up high above the street and other buildings, affording a view of the sea through large shatterproof floor-to-ceiling windows. The furniture was comfortable, the kitchen clean and well-stocked, and there were more books than she knew what to do with. Even a TV, though many of the channels were blocked.

All in all, like many things to do with her husband, she had no real complaints aside from the fact that she couldn’t leave.

Inko stared down at the pages of the book, a long-cold cup of tea at her elbow. It had been the better part of an hour and she still had yet to get past the opening paragraphs of the chapter.

Pressing her fingertips against her eyelids, she grimaced as white and black dots played across her vision. This was the seventh book she’d tried to start reading in the small, locked apartment, and she still couldn’t find it in herself to actually pay it any attention.

Giving up, she closed the book with a sigh. It was a pity that she’d already cleaned the bathroom today. Breakfast hadn’t dirtied the kitchen enough to clean, either, and she’d made her bed when she got up, so there was no distracting herself from her helplessness there. Looking at clock, she saw that it was almost at the half hour and drummed her fingers. It would be self-indulgent, but she wasn’t getting much done anyways, and the self-help books she’d gotten into after her and Izuku’s escape had all recommended it…

She’d give herself one half hour to worry, and then she’d try again, she promised herself. She took a breath —

— oh god oh god oh god where was Izuku where was he staying did he remember the account numbers did he have the cards with him had he asked for help did he know to ask for help was he still going to school was he eating right was he sleeping enough —

On and on and on the worries circled his head, shrieking like banshees. She dug her nails into the varnish of the table and bit the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood, her guts aching with fear. They’d known that this was a possibility. They’d prepared for it, talked about it, planned for it — and then nothing had happened for five years and they’d started to relax…

The clock that had been ticking bonged the hour and Inko let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Forcing back the thoughts, she breathed in and out until the overwhelming emotion had been pushed back into the small mental closet she had been keeping it in. Her fingertips hurt and she could see the scratches that she had left on the table. Uncurling her fingers, she rubbed each tip against her thumb meticulously to dislodge the varnish caught underneath them. Then she stood up, brushed the curled-up detritus into the palm of one of her hands, and headed to the sink. She brushed the varnish off of her palm into the garbage. Then, pinching the cuffs of her pink cardigan’s sleeves she pulled each one up slightly until her wrists were exposed. Then she turned on the water and began to wash her hands.

She’d been stupid. She’d slipped up, and now her Izuku was paying the price. He was always paying the price. If she hadn’t been so stupid as to be taken in by Hisashi all those years ago —

No. Not Hisashi. Inko turned the water off and picked up the towel hanging from the oven door’s handle to dry them, perhaps a little more forcefully than she would normally. That man had lied to her so much, from the very beginning — she doubted that his name actually was Hisashi.

That man, who had charmed and flattered her from the moment they met. Doted on the stupid nineteen-year-old that she was, showering her with the gifts and attention that had never been there when she was in foster care. Who had trapped her in a gilded cage and tried to make her son become a villain —

There was the soft sigh of air being suddenly displaced. Inko stiffened, knowing far too well what it signified.

“Inko-chan.” Kurogiri said in his low, almost apologetic voice.

Inko clenched her jaw and didn’t reply. Instead she busied herself with carefully folding the towel that she’d been drying her hands on and hanging it back on the oven door handle, keeping her back to the man.

There was a moment of silence, as Kurogiri waited for an answer that was not coming. Then he sighed. “He would like to see you.”

Again. How many times did that make this now? Three? Four? Her mind warred between anger and relief; in the first few days, he’d questioned her for hours. Then he’d suddenly stopped, making her fear that he’d found Izuku. If he wanted another round, though, maybe he’d just been trying to soften her up. He remembered about her anxiety, after all.

The untouched laptop in the other room with its homepage set to Google was proof enough of that.

“I’m busy,” Inko said in her coldest tone. Turning away from the counter, she kept her eyes straight ahead and didn’t look at Kurogiri as she walked past him, back to the table. Sitting down, she flipped the book back open randomly and took a sip of her cold tea, just barely keeping from making a face at its bitterness.

Kurogiri sighed again. “You know that there’s not actually a choice,” he said in a soft voice.

Inko flipped the page, not reading the actual words. Of course she knew that she didn’t have a choice, but she’d spent long enough dancing to her husband’s tune. She wasn’t going to start again. She’d already lived longer than she’d expected after her capture. If he wanted to see her, he’d have to drag her to him.

There was a soft shush of air being displaced. The mist of Kurogiri’s warp gate was cool against her skin. Inko closed her eyes as she was overtaken by the sensation of falling.

And then she was landing onto a soft couch in a dimly-lit room, a muscular arm winding around her shoulders and pulling her against a broad chest.

“Inko,” her husband rumbled, brushing his lips against the soft skin where her jaw met her ear. “Nice of you to join me.”

Six years ago, that hint of a kiss would have sent little sparks of electricity dancing through her body. She would have turned and caught his lips with her own in greeting.

Now, with the history between them and the rough rasp of scar tissue catching against her earlobe, all it created was a sludgy wave of dread. “Hisashi,” she bit out, hoping that he couldn’t hear the tremble in her voice. “You hardly gave me a choice.”

Apparently she failed. There was an amused huff, and she was tugged until they were both sitting back, her head resting against his shoulder like they always had when watching TV.

Appropriate, considering their surroundings. She could see now that indeed, they were sitting on a couch in front of a television that was paused on a pair of reporters sitting in a studio. Out of the corner of her eye, on the opposite side of her husband, she could see a set-up of medical equipment, a tangle of cords and tubes leading from his flesh to the machinery. She couldn’t hear or see anyone else present, something that didn’t surprise her. He had been keeping her isolated like he always had —

“I thought that we could perhaps watch some TV together,” Hisashi said, his voice oddly cheerful. He laid his cheek on top of her head, the scar tissue catching against her hair and sending pinpricks of pain through her scalp. Lifting the remote from his thigh where it had been resting, he pressed play. “Like old times.”

Today’s the day! The Yuuei Sports Festival!” the reporter, a thin and pretty woman with scales ringing her eyes spoke and gestured animatedly. “The day that every hero fan is waiting for!”

Inko’s heart stopped.

As the reporters chattered on, she focused on keeping her breathing even, her mind racing. How — could it be — it had to be a coincidence! It had to! He couldn’t have found Izuku so fast —

Hisashi’s next words dashed her hopes. “Feel up to a bet? I’m thinking that Izuku will sweep the events.”

She couldn’t keep a small whimper from escaping her throat. “Why —” Why are you taunting me with this? Why haven’t you just grabbed Izuku and dragged him back?

He hummed and pressed his lips against her head, his thumb rubbing over her shoulder. “I could ask you the very same thing,” he said, his lips moving against her scalp. “Leaving Izuku with the heroes…such a dangerous thing to do. What happens if he slips up? Isn’t the perfect little hero like they want? Will they throw him into Tartarus?”

…What? Inko’s mind jerked and shuddered like an engine struggling to shift to another gear. What was he going on about — ?

Wait.

On the screen, the R-Rated Heroine Midnight was introducing herself, saying something about a speech, but Inko didn’t pay attention. She was thinking furiously.

Slips up? The perfect little hero? Tartarus? Tartarus was the name of a prison — one meant for the worst of the worst. But why would Hisashi think that the heroes would put Izuku in there — even if they found out it was unlikely that they’d put Izuku in there —

Wait. No. ‘If he isn’t the perfect little hero like they want’ — that was the key phrase here. That one little phrase revealed that he thought the heroes already knew about him. That was why he hadn’t grabbed Izuku yet!

“Oh! First place in the entrance exam!” Inko felt his cheek bunch up in a grin against her scalp as he gave her a little squeeze. “Impressive. I would have thought that they would have just snuck him in as recommended student.”

Thoughts screamed through her head like they were on a bullet train. He thought that the heroes knew; that must be why he hadn’t grabbed Izuku yet. If the heroes knew, it was only natural to think that they’d go after Izuku if he disappeared. If he found out that wasn’t the case, though…

Taking a deep breath, Inko shifted to face her husband directly and raised her chin, staring into the mass of scar tissue that had once been his eyes. “They thought that that would attract too much attention,” she spat, her heart pounding so hard in her chest she could feel against her ribs. “No one realized how well he’d do compared to the others.”

Her baby boy was speaking, giving a speech to the rest of the assembled first years. Inko forced herself not to look, to keep her eyes on her husband, but part of her was soaking up her son’s words. It was something about not being afraid, not backing down, and she clutched the offered words close to her heart. She had been brave for her boy for years now — what was a few more? To keep him safe, she was willing to do worse than tell a lie.

Right now, though, a lie seemed to be all that was needed. Despite no longer having eyes, Inko could swear she could feel his gaze sweep over her. Forcing her trembling to stop, she kept her chin high and gaze challenging. This was the only shield she could give Izuku while they were apart and she would be damned before she let it fail.

Hisashi’s face was serious for a long, long moment as Izuku finished up his speech. Then, as Midnight came back on-camera to explain the first event, he smirked; a slow, sly curl of the corners of his lips.

“Well. I hope that doesn’t mean that he thinks he can slack off here,” he said. Turning his scarred face back towards the television he pulled her close again, toying with a few strands of her hair.

Inko let him. Her heart was still pounding as she settled back against his chest and she tried to subtly wipe her hands dry against her skirt. The first event had been announced; an obstacle race. Her Izuku was still on-screen, the camera following him. He was heading towards the starting line along with the rest of the First-years.

Good luck, Izuku, she said silently as she fretted the bottom of her cardigan. I love you.

Chapter Text

The rest of the First-years were chattering around him, but Izuku didn’t pay them any attention. He was focusing on keeping himself from throwing up.

That speech — he’d worked on it for the entire lead-up to the Festival, even practicing it in front of Nebosuke and Hakucho. Once he was up on that stage though, with everyone’s eyes on him…

He shuddered at the memory. He’d heard the other classes talking during their entrance, but their gazes had been the thing to fully communicate just how much they envied his class.

God, envied. They envied him and the rest of 1-A for being attacked and nearly killed by a bunch of villains. He didn’t know how that could possibly be twisted into something to be envied but somehow, the other classes had managed it. It made his stomach flip-flop worse than actually giving the speech, and he’d ended up having to focus on Kacchan glaring at him just to make it through the whole thing without stuttering.

Speaking of which…

Turning his head, Izuku grimaced as he saw that Kacchan was still glaring at the back of his head. Izuku imagined that it was due to Todoroki’s trick, but he couldn’t rule out that Kacchan was trying to intimidate him into slipping up and using his less-explainable Quirks in public.

Swallowing, he turned his head forward again and tried to focus. His speech had gone well, at least. Midnight had congratulated him quickly as he was getting down from the stage, squeezing his shoulder reassuringly. She’d said that he’d sounded very brave, almost like he was challenging the villains to be so brazen again. Izuku had just given her a wobbly smile as he left, all to aware that he was pretty much doing just that.

He hoped that his father had heard the speech. He hoped that he hadn’t. He hoped he did well. He hoped he didn’t slip up and show the wrong Quirk. Most of all, though, he hoped that he got through this Sports Festival alive and without falling into a panic attack.

Take deep breaths, Izuku. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Remember where you are, and let your worries pass through you.

Squeezing his eyes shut tightly and clasping his hands together, not for the first time he found himself grateful that him and his mother were — had been so similar. Her advice on how to handle his anxiety was probably the only thing keeping him from puking.

“You pray as well?” asked a soft, curious voice.

Izuku’s eyes snapped open and he looked to his side. Beside him was a girl he didn’t know, her hair seemingly made up of a mass of thorns and greenery. Her hands were clasped in front of her as well, and she was looking at him with friendly curiosity.

Looking down at his own hands, he realized that his pose was mimicking hers and felt heat crawl up his neck. “O-oh, no, I mean, not really? I’m not like — just, the pressure helps me center myself —”

The girl’s soft laughter had him hunching his shoulders up around his ears. Why did he suck so much at talking to new people?

Thankfully, though, her laughter didn’t seem to be mean-spirited. “My apologies,” she said, “I suppose I was getting ahead of myself. I was just excited to find someone that seemed to share the same faith as I do.”

Izuku unclasped his hands and tugged nervously at his lower lip. Gladly, he glommed on to her words, trying to remember his old Religions classes and letting his anxiety about his father fall to the back of his head for a bit. “Christianity, right? The one with all the kneeling?”

The girl nodded serenely, but beneath that she seemed to be struggling to keep from smiling again. “Precisely. I am Shiozaki Ibara, by the way. Class 1-B.”

“Oh! Uh, I’m —”

“Midoriya Izuku, from 1-A.” She stopped trying to hide the smile now. “I heard Midnight-sensei’s introduction.”

“R-right.” Izuku looked away and scratched at his cheek.

Thankfully, Shiozaki seemed happy to keep the conversation going on her own. “I enjoyed your speech, by the way. Your point about not letting fear dominate our hearts was well-timed, I think, after what happened to your class.”

Izuku’s shoulders went back up around his ears. “Um, yeah,” he said. He twiddled his fingers nervously.

Shiozaki looked at him oddly. Her mouth opened slightly, almost as if she was about to say something —

“START!”

The crowd slammed into the two of them before a sound could leave her lips. Quickly, they were separated, caught up in the crush of people, and Izuku pushed the girl from his mind in favour of figuring out how to get past this first obstacle before he was crushed to death.

The tunnel was narrow, too narrow to allow all of them through at once, and this was no doubt by design. A good lead was vital in a race, after all. So how was he going to get himself one?

“Oh, and it looks like the contestants are having some real trouble out of the gate! Ingenium, as a speed-based hero yourself, what are your thoughts on this?”

Ingenium? Izuku’s thoughts on how to get out of this momentarily scattered in his head as he heard the hero name of Iida’s big brother. Ingenium was here? The way he’d been talking during dinner two weeks ago, there’d been nothing to indicate that he’d be at the Festival.

“Well Mic, I have to say that whoever manages to get out of here first will have quite an advantage. It’s not impossible to come up from behind in a race, but the advantages of a head-start aren’t something to be dismissed.”

A particularly sharp elbow jammed into his kidneys, making him grit his teeth and refocus. Ingenium or no, he had to figure out what he was going to do to get out of this. He needed to get out of this crowd, but everyone was shoving. It felt like every square inch of the ground was covered —

Of the ground. Izuku looked up.

Reaching into the well of Quirks within him, he scooped out three. A jumping Quirk, a resistance Quirk, and a strength Quirk. The muscles in his legs swelled with strength, tightening his pants around his thighs. The tips of his fingers hardened and he raised them in preparation — and then he jumped.

The concrete was no match for his hardened fingertips and the strength behind them. They dug into it mercilessly, and keeping his momentum going he began to use Jump to scoot along the ceiling of the tunnel. The Quirk kept him moving along at a good pace, and so long as he kept his body close to the roof and guided himself along with his hardened grip, he was able to quickly cross the space —

The sharp smell of snow suddenly filled his nostrils. There was a crack like a thick piece of wood being snapped —

And then he was surging forward, trying to outrun the sheet of ice that was chasing him down the tunnel.

Todoroki.

Despite knowing that the ice would trap him if it caught him, Izuku felt a smile spreading across his face. This sort of running? Was a thousand times better than what he’d been doing before.

Behind him, he could hear other people firing up their various Quirks. He could hear the roar of Kacchan’s explosions, and the metallic rumbling of Iida’s engines. Keeping his body low, he pushed his legs even harder as he reached the end of the tunnel and jumped, twisting around in the air…

Ice shot out below him, trailing a figure with red and white hair. Izuku’s grin widened.

He hit the ground, rolled, and came up running. Swapping out his Quirks as he rolled, he came up from the ground with two speed and a wind Quirk that would reduce drag for him. Todoroki was still up ahead of him, but it wasn’t hard for Izuku to catch up to him. Behind him, he could hear the others launching themselves forward. Ahead of him, he could see Todoroki turning his head, his eyes widening for a moment — and then softening, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

“You nearly got me!” Izuku called, laughter bubbling up underneath his words and feeling lighter than he had since that first day of school. His muscles were already starting to burn and push the anxiety from before to the back of his mind. “Nearly!”

Todoroki turned his head forwards again, but Izuku saw his smile widen.

Underneath his feet, the ground rumbled. A shadow fell over him, blocking out the bright sun that been beating down on them.

“And the contestants have reached their first real obstacle! The Zero-Pointers!”

The robots almost blocked out the sun, but that light feeling was still bubbling up in him. He felt like he could fly. In fact —

Behind him, people had stopped and were milling.

Izuku moved.

Swapping out Speed for Jump and Wind Manipulation for Resistance, he twisted in a Magnification with the other two Quirks, feeling his skin harden like Kirishima’s, if more subtle. The hand of one of the giant robots was hovering over him, about to be brought down.

Izuku brought up his arms in front of his face. Paused, bending his legs and feeling the power building up. And then he jumped.

The metal shrieked as he slammed into it, unable to take the force of him slamming into it. He could feel it tearing apart underneath his arms, wires sparking and slapping against his shoulders and head — and then he was free, with only the feeling of cool wind blowing against his skin.

Parting his arms, he looked down at the ground below. Several of the robots were frozen now — Todoroki’s work, obviously. There were explosions, little orange bursts that signified Kacchan’s position. Present Mic was screaming as the frozen robots began to fall, and Izuku laughed as he began to fall.

This was easy. This was fun! Hitting the ground he dashed forward, shifting back to a speed Quirk and passing Todoroki with ease. Shifting between Quirks, dodging attacks by other students — it was fun in a way that Izuku hadn’t realized he’d missed until now.

Yes, this was one of only three chances he’d have, but — he ducked underneath a stretched-out limb that was trying to get a grip on him as he passed over the second obstacle with his Jump — compared to trying to stay ahead of his father, this was nothing. This was playing.

Hitting the ground on the other side of the canyon that was the second obstacle, he rolled to lessen his momentum and popped back up. Kacchan and Todoroki were ahead of him, having managed to get a lead back during the first obstacle, but it wouldn’t take much to catch up with them — wait, what was that?

Izuku slowed a little, ignoring the people passing him, and read the massive sign that was poking out of the trees and bushes lining the path. Warning: Mines…?

“Uh oh,” Present Mic called, “looks like the students have discovered the last obstacle now — THE MINE FIELD!”

The name of the obstacle was punctuated by the sound of an explosion. Whipping his head around, Izuku stared in disbelief as he saw a small figure go flying.

“Now these mines aren’t as dangerous as the ones used in wars, but they’re still not something to sniff at! You hit one of them, and you will definitely be regretting it!”

Jogging forward, Izuku pushed his way to the front of the crowd that had formed and stared.

A minefield. An actual minefield.

What the fuck?

As he stared, a student he didn’t recognize stepped on a mine and was sent flying. Then he landed on another, being sent flying again…

Not as dangerous his ass! If someone landed wrong they could break their neck!

Grimacing, Izuku slotted his jumping Quirk back into place. He was not going to be risking broken bones here and now. With his Jump Quirk, he’d avoid the whole thing entirely.

Then, up ahead, he saw it.

Kacchan and Todoroki were at the forefront of the crowd crossing the field, apparently not having slowed down to read the warning signs. Neck in neck for first place, Izuku could hear Kacchan yelling in frustration as Todoroki managed to get just a little further ahead of him. He saw the orange sparks around his hands.

Then he had to look away as Kacchan’s explosions triggered most of the mines behind him, sending people flying. Light seared across his face as a wall of hot wind hit him like a wall.

His ears ringing, Izuku looked back once the light faded, blinking rapidly. Present Mic was yelling again, and people were getting back up from where they had fallen. Purple smoke filled the air, covering the ground —

No. Not entirely covering the ground. There was a gap in the smoke where the wind was blowing, revealing a person lying on the ground. A person with red and white hair.

Izuku jumped without thinking. Wind whistled past his ears as he flew through the air, his heartbeat thundering in his ears. Below, the ground was a charred mess, blackest near the center and lightening as it radiated outwards. Todoroki was close to the center where Kacchan had taken off, lying in an awkward sprawl. Todoroki, who had forced Kacchan to back off and called Izuku his friend. Damn it, damn it — hadn’t anyone thought of this possibility?

He landed carelessly, knowing that there wouldn’t be any mines left, and nearly tripped as he stumbled over to his friend. Dropping to his knees and hovering his hands over the other boy, he was relieved to at least see that he was still breathing. The side of his head was smeared with blood though.

He gritted his teeth. Gently, gently, he rolled Todoroki on his back, wiping the blood away. Halfway through, the other boy’s eyes fluttered and opened, reassuring him that it probably wasn’t too bad for now. At least, he’d last long enough to probably get to a doctor. “Todoroki-kun. Are you okay?”

With a grunt, Todoroki sat up, his hand rising to touch the side of his head. He looked at the blood on his fingertips with confusion. “I’m bleeding, so not entirely. I should still be able to run —” He had started to get up as he spoke, but grunted and swayed halfway, forcing Izuku to catch him.

“Careful,” Izuku scolded, his stomach doing flips. Todoroki was surprisingly warm, considering how he mainly used his ice — although, they had been running, so maybe it wasn’t so surprising. Certainly, the people all around them weren’t slowing down, speeding past them like they weren’t there.

Todoroki rubbed his head again, his eyes squeezed shut. Leaning on Izuku, he looked up and frowned. Izuku was impressed. If he’d had an explosion go off in his face, he wouldn’t be up and moving around so quickly.

“We’re being passed,” he said, sounding faintly frustrated. His eyes narrowed again, whether in pain from straightening or in frustration, Izuku couldn’t tell. “Damn it. We’ll never catch up.”

From the way Present Mic was screaming about the end being in sight, Izuku realized that Todoroki was probably right. Looking around himself, he realized now that they were in the main bulk of the racers, all of them speeding ahead to leave them behind in the last kilometer of the race.

Looking back at Todoroki, Izuku saw that he was biting his lower lip, an unusual amount of emotion from the usually blank-faced boy.

The stadium was looming up above, a reminder that this was one of their only chances to make an impression on the people watching.

Izuku joined Todoroki in biting his lower lip. He’d completely forgotten that in his rush to make sure his self-declared friend was alright. This was supposed to be their introduction to the world, but now they were going to lose the first round. Even if they ran, even if he used a speed Quirk…

Todoroki was still leaning on him, his skin cold. Looking at him, Izuku saw that he pressing his frost-covered hand against his head. His face was screwed up in concentration. Shakily, he began to put one foot in front of the other, little bits of ice crackling as the ground froze around him.

Ice. The memory of large spears of ice thrusting forward at him during their first Heroics exercise bobbed to the surface if Izuku’s thoughts.

He grabbed Todoroki’s shoulder. “Todoroki, wait. You’re hurt —”

“I’m not going to let an injury keep me from passing to the next round,” Todoroki said, trying to shrug off his hand.

Izuku frowned and tightened his grip. “Neither am I,” he said. “But I think I have a better way of making up the distance than running.”

Todoroki paused and looked back at him, raising an eyebrow.


Shouta grimaced and settled a little deeper into his chair in the commentator’s box, incredibly glad that Tensei was here to act as a buffer between him and Hizashi. He loved the man — it wouldn’t have been logical to marry him if he didn’t — but sometimes his concern could be a little overwhelming. Sweet and understandable, but overwhelming.

With Tensei here, though, helping with the commentary, the overbearing attention was lessened enough for him to doze most of the time. His old classmate’s sudden interest in assisting with the Sports Festival had surprised him when he first found out about it; the last Shouta had heard, Tensei was involved in the Hero-Killer investigation, something that should have taken up most of his time. When Shouta had asked about it, though, Tensei had simply smiled and reminded him that Tenya was his little brother.

“And we are in the home stretch, listeners!” Hizashi shouted into the microphone, making Shouta wince. Sometimes it was like the man didn’t understand that the microphone was already taking care of the volume. “Bakugou continues to keep his massive head start after the minefield, but the other students aren’t giving up! They continue to race after him, all of them hoping for the prize of first place — or maybe not!”

The surprise in Hizashi’s tone made Shouta crack open an eye. For the race, a screen had been dropped down from the ceiling, allowing them to watch and comment on it as it went on. The cameras, which had been following the frontrunners, had jumped back to the edge of the minefield for some reason.

Wait. No. Not ‘some reason’. Shouta fully opened his eyes and sighed.

Midoriya and Todoroki. He’d heard the explosion and seen the aftereffects, with Todoroki injured and Midoriya stopping to help him. A good impulse to see in Heroics students, but not one that was appropriate right now. They had people on standby in case of injury, and Midoriya stopping, while exactly what Shouta thought a hero should do, was going to cost the both of them their chances in this year’s Festival.

Midoriya was crouched down beside Todoroki now, his arms wrapped around the other boy’s middle. Todoroki had a hand on the ground and his head bowed, like he was focusing on not throwing up.

Shouta was definitely going to be having words with Bakugou about this. Triggering his Quirk in the middle of a minefield showed a shocking lack of concern for others. Weak explosions or no, no one was going to be willing to team up with the boy in the future if he didn’t learn how to keep other people’s safety in mind.

Leaning back in his chair, Shouta closed his eyes again, making a mental note of it. He’d do it at the same time with Midoriya, reminding him to keep goals in mind.

Hizashi’s scream of surprise nearly knocked him down to the floor.

“WHAT ON EARTH —”

Grabbing the edge of the desk, Shouta managed to keep from hitting the ground at the cost of sending shooting pains up both of his arms. Hissing, he turned to glare at Hizashi, about to activate his Quirk when he realized that Tensei was also freaking out. He’d stood up, knocking his chair over and yelling…

Shouta swung his head towards the screen and saw why his two friends were freaking out.

Midoriya hadn’t been comforting Todoroki. He’d been hanging on.

A massive pillar of ice, gleaming in the sun, had launched the two of them up into the air and towards the stadium. Hanging in the air, his pants shredded from the knee down, Midoriya held Todoroki close to his chest. One arm was around the other boy’s back, the other reaching around his thighs. Todoroki had one of his own arms around Midoriya’s neck but the other was outstretched — his ice side —

They crested over the top of the stadium, all cameras on them now. Covered with layers upon layers of bandages, Shouta’s fingers couldn’t dig into the desk but they were giving it their best shot. His mind was racing, trying to figure out how they were planning to land. They had to have a plan, right?

But as they reached the peak of their arc and began to descend, Shouta didn’t see any signs of a plan. All he saw was two of his students beginning to fall down from a deadly height.

“They have a plan, right?” Tensei asked. His face was pale and shiny with sweat. He was staring at the falling students in horror. “Please tell me they have a plan.”

Several audience members seemed to be feeling the same. Shouta could see them moving, wings spreading and support items firing up, but he knew that they would be too late — he was going to see two of his students die —

Then Todoroki moved. The hand that had been outstretched joined its opposite around Midoriya’s neck, and his legs wrapped around Midoriya’s waist, leaving Midoriya’s arms free.

In the blink of an eye, the green-haired boy’s arms swelled like they had during the entrance exam and the softball throw. The two were now just past the audience and showing no signs of slowing down as he stretched the swollen monstrosities of his arms back like wings — and then brought them together in a clap that sounded as loud as thunder, even through the glass covering the front of the booth.

The bottle of water that Hizashi always kept close while broadcasting rattled and fell over with a dull thunk.

The heroes that had started moving towards the two kids were blown back from the shockwave, but it worked as Shouta now realized had been intended; the two of them that had been falling to their deaths had also been blown back, slowing down their momentum. They were no longer falling at what could only be called a terminal speed.

They were still falling, though. Midoriya brought his hands back again…

And another shockwave, slowing their fall again. Another clap, and another shockwave. And then they hit the ground of the stadium, no harder than if they had simply tripped.

Shouta sucked in a deep breath and let it out, slumping back in his chair. Those kids. Those damn kids of his — he should have expelled them on their first day, potential or no potential.

“Holy crap, Shouta,” Hizashi said softly, staring down at the pitch with a look of disbelief smeared across his face, “what have you been teaching those kids?”

Shouta wanted to ask himself that, but didn’t. Tensei was still staring down at the pitch, his mouth hanging open. Even the crowds filling the stadium seats were silent, their heads swiveling around to look at each other in disbelief.

A beep from a phone made all three of them jump in surprise. Hizashi reached into one of the many pockets in his jacket and fumbled it out, staring down at it.

“What does it say?” Tensei asked.

Shouta looked back down at the pitch. Todoroki and Midoriya weren’t the only ones down there, he realized. Bakugou was also there, apparently having passed through the final tunnel at some point while the two madmen were in the air. More students were now coming through the tunnel as well, sweating and looking around in confusion as they were met by silence.

“Huh,” Hizashi said.

No one could see it, but Shouta raised an eyebrow underneath his bandages. “What does that mean?”

Hizashi didn’t answer straight away. Instead he scooted back to the microphone and cleared his throat. “Well. Alright listeners. I don’t think any of us were expecting that. We’re unfortunately going to need a minute to figure out if it’s Midoriya or Todoroki that gets first place. But ah, in the meantime —”

The rest of what he was saying was drowned out by the roar that erupted from the audience. Like they had been waiting for a signal, all of the audience began to cheer for the two boys. Whether it was for the show of power the two had put on or the show of sportsmanship, Shouta wasn’t sure if even the audience knew. But he’d be damned if he wasn’t tempted to join in.


Sweating and panting, Izuku let go of the Quirks filling his aching arms and rolled off of Todoroki, staring up at the cloudless sky. His heart was pounding so fast and loud he could feel his own pulse in his neck and his jacket was sticking to him along with his undershirt. The roar of the crowd surrounded them, blocking out the sound of Present Mic’s words as he continued to talk.

That had been close. That had been so close…

“I hope we’re not disqualified for not going through the tunnel,” Todoroki said from beside him, also lying on his back.

His nerves were still jangling from the stunt they had pulled, but Izuku couldn’t get himself to do much more than close his eyes at that statement. “…I didn’t even think of that,” he admitted.

Todoroki was silent beside him for a moment. Then he let out a huff of air. And then another.

And then they two of them were cracking up. Lying on the ground, their hearts still pounding and the rest of the First-years flooding in as they finished the race, the two of them giggled furiously until tears began to stream down their faces. Rolling onto his side, Izuku wheezed with laughter, his eyes meeting Todoroki’s.

His usually stern, emotionless face was split open by a wide smile, his eyes shut as he laughed as well. Part of his hair was sticking up funny where he’d bled, and for some reason that just made Izuku laugh that much harder. Out of the corners of his eyes, he could see the other students milling around and staring at them. Kacchan was staring at them, his lip curled and expression a strange mix of pleased and furious. But Izuku couldn’t find it in himself to care. Not with this joy buoying him up in a way he hadn’t felt since seeing that message from his mom.

They’d done it. Disqualified or not, they’d made one hell of an impression.

A shadow fell over the two of them. Rubbing at his eye, Izuku looked up to see who had approached them out of the crowd and froze mid-chuckle.

Recovery Girl, backed up by a squad of uniformed first-responders, was looming over the two of them with an entirely unimpressed look on her face. “Well,” she said sternly, “I’m glad you two had fun, at least. The rest of us weren’t so lucky.”

…Oh. Right. That had probably been pretty scary for anyone watching…

His previous amusement began to be washed away by the familiar feeling of guilt. Falling from the top of their arc over the stadium, Izuku had been totally focused on timing his claps right, but someone watching from the outside probably wouldn’t have been able to tell that he even had a plan, would they? He’d just gotten so caught up in the feeling of stretching out his Quirk, of thinking his way past the simple challenges that all of his caution had been washed away…

Damn it.

His smile faded and he looked away. He couldn’t afford to do that again. Pulling himself up from where he’d been lying on the turf, he folded his legs underneath him in a seiza and bowed his head. “Sorry, Recovery Girl. I was just worried that me and Todoroki would lose our chance for this year because of an accident.”

The elderly woman’s cane rapped his knuckles sharply, making him hiss.

“Enough of that,” she said sternly. “It’s done, and the years of my life that stunt took off aren’t coming back. You just keep in mind in the future that no matter what your teacher says, this is just a school sports festival, you hear me? There’s no reason for you to go about risking your lives for a medal and some attention.” Punctuating the end of her sentence, she laid a sloppy kiss on Todoroki’s forehead. “We have medics standing by for situations like Todoroki-kun’s here. You didn’t need to stop.”

“But isn’t that what a hero should do?” Todoroki said quietly, sitting up. “Stop and help someone that’s injured?”

Recovery Girl sighed. “And what would he have done if you were seriously injured? First aid classes aren’t until second year.” She picked up one of his hands and placed a package of gummies into it before turning to Izuku. Giving him a kiss on a freckled cheek, she seemed to soften a little as she pulled back, her Quirk making Izuku’s skin itch as it repaired the scrapes he’d picked up during the race. “Not that the impulse isn’t a good one, but you have to keep your head in these sorts of situations.”

Izuku rubbed the back of his neck and looked down. “Yes, Recovery Girl,” he said meekly.

Recovery Girl just sighed again. Taking his hand like she had Todoroki’s, she put a gummy pack in his palm as well. “Both of you had better finish those before the start of the next round, understand?”

Both of them, now thoroughly cowed from their scolding, murmured their understanding. Apparently satisfied, Recovery Girl turned and walked away to deal with the other racers. The two of them tore open their gummies and began to obediently eat them.

Munching on a strawberry-flavoured one, Izuku finally took a good look around the two of them. The crowd had settled down a little after cheering so loudly for their entrance, but was still audibly and visually excited; people were moving in their seats, coming down the aisles for better views and hanging over the people in front of them while chattering loudly.

The people on the field weren’t quite as excited as the audience, however. Small cliques of people had gathered in little knots, glaring daggers at the two of them. Surprisingly, Kacchan’s glare wasn’t the worst of the lot; he still had an odd mix of anger and pleasure on his face. It was another blond boy that took the cake in that area, actually. With a small twitch underneath one of his blue eyes, he looked deranged as he glared at Izuku and Todoroki with twitching hands.

“Alright, alright, alright listeners!” Present Mic shouted over the PA system, “it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for! The start of the second event! Midnight, take it away!”

The 18-Plus Hero cracked her whip, placing a hand on her hip. “Thanks Mic! Now, everyone, only the first forty people to finish have a spot in this next event, so if your name isn’t called, TOO BAD AND BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME!”

A chorus of groans and angry mutters filled the air, making Midnight crack her whip again. “Life isn’t fair, kiddies! Take what you’ve learned here and remember it for next year! Now, in first place —”

Izuku stopped chewing. Even if his ears had been ringing at the time, it was hard not to hear Present Mic, and even with Todoroki’s words he struggled to believe that they would be disqualified. After all, it wasn’t like they’d touched the ground outside of the course. So would it be him or Todoroki that would be declared first place?”

“— Bakugou Katsuki!”

The rowdy crowd went silent for a heartbeat, echoing Izuku’s shock. Then —

“WHAT?” The single incredulous word was howled from a thousand throats.

Izuku’s wasn’t one of them, though. He was too busy trading looks with a wide-eyed Todoroki.

The screen behind Midnight changed to a short video, showing a wide view of the entrance into the stadium and several stories of spectators above it. Inside the dark tunnel, there was a small spark of light that rapidly grew bigger until Kacchan burst from it, his arms spread wide and grinning victoriously — just as Izuku and Todoroki appeared in the top right corner.

“We’re surprised too after that stunt, but video doesn’t lie!” Midnight called out. “Bakugou was technically first across the finish line, on the grounds of touching the pitch first! And on that note — Todoroki and Midoriya take second and third place, respectively!”

The video kept playing, showing Kacchan’s feet touching the ground, shortly followed by Todoroki’s back, and then Izuku’s arms as they flopped down in exhaustion.

Izuku grimaced, the gummies not quite as sweet now as they had been before.

“Sorry.”

Looking to his side, Izuku blinked in confusion at Todoroki as Midnight went on announcing everyone that had placed. “What for? The way they decided makes sense; you did hit the ground first.”

Todoroki grimaced, his cheek packed with gummies. “You did most of the work though. I gave us the first push with the ice pillar, but you were the one to time your jump perfectly and you made sure we landed safely —”

Izuku frowned and bumped shoulders with the other boy. “Hey, you managed that pillar with what had to be a concussion. I’m not sure I’d be able to do that if I had your power.”

Todoroki grimaced. “Still…”

“And that’s all of them! The rest of, clear the pitch! I will now explain the second event!”

Midnight’s words cut off any more conversation as both of them turned to pay attention to the rules.

A cavalry battle. With first place being worth ten million points. All of a sudden, Izuku was a lot less unhappy with coming in third. Kacchan was standing tall and looking bored, but he couldn’t have missed how everyone’s head had turned towards him at the announcement of his worth. His and Todoroki’s point values added together didn’t even come close to touching Kacchan’s.

As the fifteen minutes they had to form groups started, Izuku stood up, scarfing down the last of his gummies as he thought furiously. Being in third place, his point value was one of the higher ones —

“Hey! Big arms! Join with me!”

Izuku raised his head from where it had been hanging as he muttered to himself and jumped. Where had this crowd come from? Looking around, all of his classmates had come up to him and Todoroki and were now crowding them, asking to be a part of a group with one or both of them and shouting out their Quirks like they were afraid Izuku had forgotten them.

“Dude, my lightning’s a perfect defense —”

“Tape always comes in handy —”

“People can’t defend from what they can’t see —”

Izuku blinked and tried to take a step back from his eager classmates, raising his hands to ward them off. “I — uh, I need a little space —” He stopped as he bumped into something and a hand clamped down on his shoulder.

“Back off,” Todoroki warned, staring the others down. “A team should be put together based on how well you work together, not who can get to him first.”

“Easy for you to say!” Hagakure huffed, her sleeves waving through the air. “Mister I’m going to make the largest entrance ever and win second place! Shouldn’t you two be forming your own teams instead of concentrating your points in one place?”

Todoroki’s eyes narrowed and the hand on Izuku’s shoulder cooled noticeably. “We just proved how well we worked together. Why wouldn’t we be on the same team?”

Izuku wondered for a moment if he had any say in this at all. Only a moment though; then he accepted his fate. Having someone as powerful as Todoroki on his team could only be a boon, after all. And taking that into account…

Unconsciously, his hand lifted up to tug at his lower lip as he thought. With Todoroki’s ice, he’d make an excellent horse, able to block off attacks all along their left side. Izuku still didn’t know why the other boy refused to use his fire, but with only fifteen minutes they didn’t have time to argue about that. Izuku would just have to take his ice side as it was. However, that left their right side and front. Craning his neck, he tried to find Iida, eventually spotting him talking to a familiar-looking kid with purple hair. Iida would be perfect as the front horse…

“Midori-kun!”

Izuku was jerked out of his thoughts by the sound of one of his other friends’ voice. “Uraraka?”

The bouncy brown-haired girl cheerfully pushed her way past the others that were crowding him and Todoroki, completely ignoring their complaints with a sunny smile. “Team up with me!”

“Hey!” Kaminari shouted, “don’t just push your way past us!”

But even as he complained, Izuku’s mind was racing. Rearranging his planned team, he could see a powerful team taking shape. With Uraraka’s Quirk lightening him and Todoroki, they could easily be one of the most mobile teams on the field. Considering their point value with the two of them put together, that would be invaluable for both defense and offense. And while Izuku had been thinking of teams with the idea that he would be the rider, Uraraka could easily take his place up there…

“Done,” Izuku said, interrupting Kaminari. The other boy gasped in offense and stomped off theatrically as Uraraka cheered.

“Thanks!” she said, her eyes sparkling. “Friends should stick together in team-ups, doncha think?”

“Precisely,” Todoroki said gravely before Izuku could reply. “But that does leave us with one side vulnerable.”

“Oh, I can take anyone on trying to attack our right,” Uraraka said, her sunny smile sliding into something a little more predatory.

Izuku blinked, taking a moment to remember that oh right, most people couldn’t read his mind. “Ah, I was actually thinking that you could be the rider?” he said hesitantly, raising a finger.

“Eh?” Her predatory look dissolved, replaced by confusion. “I thought that you would be the rider, though, Midori? I mean, your arm thing gives you extra reach and even with the extra points I thought we’d be going after more…”

Todoroki shook his head. “With his Quirk, he’s better off being one of the horses.” He turned his head towards Izuku. “Right, Midoriya?”

Izuku barely heard him, because as soon as Uraraka had mentioned reach he was hit by a realization. Tugging at his lower lip, he thought furiously. Yes, the combination of the three of them was great for maneuverability, but was it great for getting the headbands? Remembering their first battle trial, he could recall how aggressive Uraraka had been — but also how easily he was able to keep her at bay by dodging. And if they got close, how good was Uraraka at defending herself, realistically?

He remembered Kacchan’s glare and shuddered. No, Uraraka would not be able to defend herself from an angry Kacchan. Sure, they could probably keep her away from him but that would mean they wouldn’t be able to get close enough to any of the other teams for her to grab their headbands. And that wasn’t even getting into all of the other people that had been glaring at them.

But if he had to be the rider, then they lost the advantage his speed could give them when working in tandem with Uraraka’s Quirk. And with Todoroki as the rider, he’d have to split his concentration between getting the headbands and defending them…

No, to properly take advantage of everyone’s Quirk, all three of them would need to be horses. But then who would be their rider?

“I’m not sure, Midori, but we should probably figure it out quick,” Uraraka said.

Izuku jumped and felt like his face was catching fire as he realized that he’d been muttering out loud. “I — uh —” he stammered.

Uraraka smiled at him, but it lessened as she gestured to the rest of the pitch. “Nearly everyone’s grouped up now.” Reaching up, she touched her chin, looking thoughtful. “The way you were talking about maneuverability and defense — that means we should be looking for someone with a long-range Quirk, right?”

His ears still hot, Izuku nodded furiously. “Right, right — that way we can keep them out of the way but they’ll still be able to grab headbands.” He scanned the crowds. Kacchan was facing away from him now, but he was already surrounded by a team and was barking orders at them. Izuku recognized Kirishima and Sero, but the pink-haired girl wearing goggles was a stranger to him. Other groups had coalesced as well, made of three and four people, leaving precious few still available for recruitment.

He tugged at his lower lip again, mentally going over the Quirks that he knew. Who, out of those that were still groupless, had the sort of Quirk that they were looking for?

Todoroki leaned into view as he thought, his hand raised and face blank. “If I may,” Todoroki said, “we’d have to check, but I think I know someone that fulfills those needs.”

“Oh?” Uraraka asked.

“Oh?” Izuku echoed.

“Oh,” Todoroki said calmly. Raising his hand, he pointed. “There. That person.”

Looking at the person that Todoroki was pointing at, Izuku wanted to slap his own forehead. Of course!

The five minute warning sounded as the three of them rushed over to the person and explained their plan. The large screen that showed the time remaining for them ticked down pitilessly as they arranged and prepared themselves, Midnight looking over them all with a sadistic smirk on her face.

Four minutes left. Then three. Two. One.

Midnight cracked her whip. “Time’s up!” she shouted, smirk widening into a grin. “All of you have formed your groups! If you don’t like them, too bad! The second round of the First-Year’s Sports Festival starts in thirty! Twenty-nine! Twenty-eight!”

“Everyone ready?” Izuku asked as he restlessly scanned the field, all too aware of the hungry looks in everyone’s eyes.

“Ready,” Todoroki said, a chill filling the air on Izuku’s right side.

“Everyone’s lightened up back here!” Uraraka said confidently.

“FIFTEEN! FOURTEEN!”

“Ready,” their rider said, their hands on Izuku’s shoulders. “Kero.”

Izuku couldn’t keep the grin from growing across his face as Asui’s words. “Perfect. Todoroki, get ready to lock Kacchan and his group down.” Kacchan would be looking for a fight, no doubt, and for once in his life Izuku wasn’t going to wait for it to be brought to him. “Asui-chan, once he’s caught, grab the headbands and we’ll go.”

“NINE! EIGHT!”

“Call me Tsu-chan,” Asui said.

Izuku laughed. “Sorry, sorry.” Kacchan had already turned his group around and was facing them, a stormy look pasted across his face.

“ONE — AND BEGIN!”

Chapter Text

Mirio truly was an impressive young man, even with his unfortunate habit of losing his clothes. Hanging over the railing to get a better look, Toshinori watched closely as the young man darted forward, his shirt gone as he dodged the paintballs flying through the air.

Behind him, Nedzu chuckled, his ever-present cup of tea in his paws. “See something that you like?”

Toshinori pulled back from the railing, smiling sheepishly. “Just realizing why Sir put his name forward,” he said. “He’s most impressive. The announcer wasn’t kidding when he said that he was practically already a pro.”

Nedzu nodded, smiling and taking a sip. “His internship with Sir Nighteye has certainly done wonders for him,” he agreed. “Especially in situations such as this. Prediction is a valuable skill for a hero.”

Toshinori’s side twinged. He knew that more than anything; being able to tell what a villain was about to do could mean the difference between life and death. Or a maiming.

“He certainly would be a good vessel for One for All,” he said quietly, sitting back down in his seat.

“He certainly would.” Nedzu finished his cup and then turned to the small kettle he had set up in the seat beside him. The two of them were sitting in the principal’s reserved box; a little bigger and more plush than the regular teacher’s box, Toshinori couldn’t help but feel a guilty sort of gratefulness that Nedzu had allowed him to sit there for the Festival. The other teachers may already know of his diminished form, but that didn’t mean that he enjoyed being forced to show it in front of his peers. Up here, in this private box, he could almost pretend that he was alone.

A shout rippled through the audience down below. Looking back over the railing, Toshinori saw one of the large screens set up along the sides of the stadium showing a slow-motion replay of Mirio going through a particularly impressive set of acrobatics to avoid several shots of paint before landing and shooting a smile at the camera.

A powerful, intelligent fighter with a smile that could light up a room. Yes, he certainly would be a good vessel. A good Symbol of Peace.

Toshinori wound his fingers together in his lap. Mirio was perfect, really. Absolutely perfect. Everything that he’d been looking for. And yet…

He remembered the glazed look in the Noumu’s eyes as he struggled against it. He grimaced. No, he was being selfish again. Mirio was a perfectly nice boy; it didn’t matter how they had been introduced. He had just walked up to his own Master in the streets, he had no room to judge.

“You still have doubts.” Nedzu’s voice was quiet, but it cut through the chatter of the crowds outside.

Looking to his side, Toshinori saw that the principal was holding a cup out to him.

Taking it, he leaned back in his chair, not taking a drink quite yet. “I shouldn’t,” he said.

Nedzu clambered back into his own seat, his own cup not so much as rattling against the saucer. “But you do.”

Toshinori grimaced. “I’m sure that it’s only because he was suggested to me, instead of me finding him.” He tapped his finger against the side of the cup. Memories of his own, too-short time with his master shifted in his mind, like a whale just underneath the surface of the ocean. “There’s nothing wrong with him, but —” He sighed and rubbed his forehead. “I’m being selfish. I’ve already pushed this off for too long and the students nearly paid the price, and I’m still dithering.”

Nedzu was silent, merely taking a sip of his tea. The crowd roared; glancing at the screens again, Toshinori saw that it was another replay of another of Mirio’s impressive moments. Clearly the boy was making a point of showing off what he could do.

“A PHONE CALL IS HERE!!”

Toshinori jumped, spilling the hot tea in his cup all over his hands and lap. Swearing, he jumped to his feet and reached over Nedzu, snatching up a handful of napkins even as he pulls out his phone and answers it.

“Ouch, ouch, yes, hello?” he said, dabbing at his lap. Catching a look from Nedzu, he winced apologetically and headed towards the door.

“Are you watching the Sports Festival?” Enishi’s familiar demanding tones drove into Toshinori’s ear.

Really? That was what he had spilled hot tea on himself for? Toshinori sighed. “Yes, yes, I am watching young Mirio —”

Enishi made a sharp, irritated noise. “Not the Third Years, the First Years!”

Out in the hallway, Toshinori stood with his legs spread, trying to minimize the amount of cloth touching him, and looked for a trash can to put the now-soaked napkins into. “No, young Mirio requested that I at least watch him action before making the decision —”

Again, he was cut off by an irritated noise. “It’s already been uploaded, I’m sending you a clip.”

Like clockwork, his phone chimed, alerting him that he’d received a message. Pulling the phone away from his ear, Toshinori let out his own quiet, irritated grumble. He knew it came from a place of concern; Enishi always became short when he was worried. But would it kill the man to maybe soften his tone a little? Toshinori was hardly some student to be scolded.

Putting the call on hold, he opened the attachment that Enishi had sent him and clicked play.

…Oh.

Okay. He understood the tension now.

Once the video had stopped playing, Toshinori quickly tapped the call on again and raised it to his ear. “Right. That.”

“You know the student, then?” Enishi’s voice was strained. “You’ve seen his Quirk?”

Toshinori rubbed at his forehead, his mouth twisting. “Enishi…”

“Does the faculty know?” His voice had a ragged, nearly hysterical edge that Toshinori hadn’t heard since their falling out. “Please, don’t tell me that —”

“Enishi.” Toshinori cut him off before he could wind himself up any more. “Enishi, please listen to me.”

The other end of the phone was silent for a long moment. Not long enough for Toshinori to explain, though. “No one knows, then. You saw that arm and that face, and you didn’t tell anyone.”

Toshinori pinched the bridge of his nose. “Enishi, the boy —”

“Has a Quirk that just happens to resemble that of your greatest enemy.”

“Has an enhancement Quirk,” Toshinori bit out, tasting blood. “Enishi, you can’t just throw around accusations like that.”

“That,” Enishi replied, biting out his own words, “is not an enhancement Quirk. Enhancement Quirks do not do temporary mutations like that.”

“Most don’t,” Toshinori said coolly. “Quirk research has always been a growing field. Can you say that you’ve studied every enhancement Quirk in the world?”

Enishi was silent over the line, and Toshinori sighed, cradling his elbow. Walking across the hall, he leaned against the window and peered out at the festival booths down below.

The Sports Festival had always had security, but from where he was standing Toshinori could see several heroes walking through the crowds, their heads turning as they looked around. Up near the entrance there was a particularly large knot of them; assisting with those still trying to enter, perhaps?

A flurry of movement closer to the stadium caught his eye. Squinting, he saw a man being dragged away from one of the stalls by two young heroes. It was hard to tell from this far away, but Toshinori thought he could recognize Kamui Woods and Mount Lady. The man was struggling, but Kamui Woods had a good grip on him already with his Lacquered Chains.

The windows were open a little to let in some air, so he could distantly hear the man’s shouts. Something about an uncle, and not being involved. A villain then, or one of their associates that had somehow managed to get past the entrance security. Looking at the situation with a practiced eye, he judged that Woods and Mount Lady had things well in hand and turned his attention back to the phone call.

“Enishi,” he said, “the boy was nearly killed at the USJ. He’d been pinned by the Noumu and Shigaraki was trying to disintegrate his head. If I had come in even a second later, he would have been dead.”

He could practically picture the stubborn pout that Enishi insisted he didn’t get forming on the man’s face. “It’s still far too coincidental,” he insisted.

“Yuuei’s done a full sweep of the students and faculty; his records are entirely clean,” Toshinori said. Behind him, back in the principal’s box, the audience roared again. “And besides which…” He hesitated. He had been suspicious, that much was true, but now that he was listening to someone else list off these qualities he was surprised at the protectiveness welling up in his chest. Was this what Gran Torino had felt, teaching him? “I’ve taught several classes with the boy and seen him with his friends. He’s a normal, good-natured boy, not a villain-in-training.”

Enishi was silent again. Toshinori sighed again. “I was suspicious as well, the first time I saw him using his Quirk. But think about it logically; All for One was more active in my time than in Nana’s. When would he have even had the time to have a child? I’m not about to throw those sorts of accusations around wildly. I know what my word is worth, if I so much as whisper this the boy would be thrown out on his ear — and that is why I said nothing.”

“All Might —” Enishi began.

“He’s a child,” Toshinori interrupted, feeling very tired. This was not how he’d wanted to spend his day, standing in a hallway with his lap soaked in tea, justifying his decisions like he was a little boy again. “A good boy who acts exactly how I’d want a Heroics student to. All I have for proof is a resemblance between two Quirks — and we both know that that is not an iron-clad identification.”

The boy half-lying on the ground, trembling and touching his face in realization of how close he’d come to dying flashed through Toshinori’s mind. “He’s a good boy,” he repeated, “and he’ll be a splendid hero someday.”

He could hear Enishi grinding his teeth. Finally, though, the other man spoke. “Very well,” he said in a cool voice. “May I ask what you think of Mirio so far?”

Toshinori gladly grabbed the offered change of topic. “He is impressive,” he admitted. “I can see why you’re so proud of him…”


Midnight’s whip cracked, the sirens went off, and Todoroki’s ice surged forward towards Kacchan’s group as the second round of the Sports Festival began.

The crowd’s roar loud in his ears, Izuku had already started forward before the ice had made it to Kacchan, almost tripping at how weightless he felt. He’d known that Uraraka’s Quirk was nothing to sneeze at, but it still amazed him at how little effort it was taking him to pull everyone along.

The ice snapped around Kacchan’s team’s ankles with a crack, holding them in place. Tsu-chan’s hands pressed down on his shoulders as she leaned forward and her tongue, a pink streak moving almost too fast for him to follow, shot from her mouth towards the ten million band that was so proudly displayed on Kacchan’s forehead. Izuku grinned, seeing the panic in Kirishima and Sero’s eyes as they struggled against Todoroki’s ice —

Then Izuku’s eyes caught movement. The pink-haired girl with goggles, the girl that he didn’t know, was grinning at him, and holding something in her hand. Something with a big, red button.

Kacchan’s hand sparked, sounding like a bunch of firecrackers going off, and blurred as it met the pink streak of Tsu-chan’s tongue. Above Izuku, Tsu-chan yelped, pulling back her tongue, and then the real explosion went off.

So bright that he had to close his eyes, Izuku skidded to a stop as something roared loud enough to make his ears ring. By the time he opened his eyes again, blinking away the spots, all he could see was the shattered, half-melted remains of Todoroki’s ice and an empty spot where Kacchan’s team had been.

“Have to do better than that, Deku!” Kacchan screamed.

Izuku’s head snapped up, following the sound, and his eyes widened. There, several feet above, Kacchan’s team was hovering, and suddenly Izuku realized where the pink-haired girl must have come from.

“A Support student,” Todoroki said from behind him. “I’m surprised. He doesn’t seem to be the type.”

“We’re going to have to be careful then; I saw her during the race, she’s totally loaded up with gear,” Uraraka said.

Izuku just chewed his lower lip, watching Kacchan and his team glide away. He was surprised by how disappointed he felt; he hadn’t realized that he’d been looking forward to challenging his oldest friend. “Tsu-chan, how’s your tongue?”

“It hurts a little,” she lisped, “but I’m a little more worried at all the teams coming after us now.”

Izuku snapped his head around. The others —

Three teams, one of which was made up of their own classmates, were bearing down on them, their eyes gleaming with greed. The team made up of their classmates (Yaoyorozu, Rikidou and Kouda with Jirou as the rider) looked especially terrifying.

“Sorry Midoriya!” Jirou called out, her earphone jacks rising up and shooting forward, “but that stunt of yours has everyone all fired up!”

Shit. Izuku squeezed Tsu-chan’s toes in warning and then moved.

They shot forward, away from the three that were bearing down on them like they had been fired from a gun. Now that they were moving, though, Izuku could see others heading towards them with similar looks in their eyes. A few broke off as Kacchan’s team landed, but most were still bearing down on them.

He gritted his teeth. “Todoroki, cover us!”

“Got it,” Todoroki replied. The air chilled on Izuku’s right, and then the crack of ice suddenly forming filled the air.

The other teams screamed and shouted as the ice shot out and covered them up to their knees, holding them in place — and unlike with Kacchan, they didn’t have any support items to help bust them out. Turning the team, Izuku trusted that the ice would hold and scanned the stadium for Kacchan’s team.

On his back, Izuku could feel Tsu-chan shivering. “Kero,” she croaked reproachfully, “I slow down in the cold, remember, Todoroki-kun?” Even as she spoke, though, Izuku could see lances of pink shooting through the air out of the corner of his eye, grabbing the bands around the trapped teams’ heads as they shouted and struggled.

“Sorry,” Todoroki replied. “If I switch now, my ice won’t be as effective. Just try to hang on.”

Tsu-chan ribbited again, wrapping the bounty of headbands around her neck.

“Ooooh, Todoroki, so cold towards your opponents! That’s a good half of the teams on the field now down to zero points thanks to the team-up of the two most flashy students — but without that ten million, they’re still nowhere close to first place! Speaking of which, Team Bakugou seems to have come up with a winning strategy of taking advantage of their teammate’s support items — but will that last against the onslaught?”

Present Mic’s words made Izuku look up, searching again for Kacchan’s team. He spotted them hovering again, white bands fluttering in a cackling Kacchan’s hands.

“Tsu-chan,” he said urgently, “can you grab Kacchan’s headband while he’s distracted?”

“Kero?” Tsu-chan shifted on his back, clearly following his gaze, and then ribbited again, sounding more determined. “Got it.” Her tongue lanced out towards Kacchan’s unprotected back as he continued laughing —

But Kacchan’s reflexes were too good. He must have seen the pink of her tongue out of the corner of his eye, or felt the wind, but as the tongue came close he was suddenly no longer laughing but whirling in his seat, his palm lighting up —

Izuku moved, skipping to the side and nearly sending all four of them tumbling to ground. Tsu-chan’s tongue reached its limit and began to pull back, just narrowly missing being caught in another explosion like before.

With a snap, her tongue was back in her mouth and they started moving again, trotting away as Kacchan’s group landed again. Tsu-chan’s long fingers dug into Izuku’s shoulders, betraying her nerves.

“Sorry about that,” Izuku said, apologizing to everyone, “I just didn’t want Tsu-chan getting her tongue burned again.”

“It’s alright,” Uraraka reassured them, sounding harried, “but I don’t think Bakugou’s going to let us get away with that again.” She pointed out past Izuku’s shoulder.

Following her gesture, Izuku realized that she was right. Kacchan, the headbands now wound around his neck, was urging his horses onwards, clearly moving to cut them off.

As the both of them ran, Izuku’s eyes met Kacchan’s. The boy’s expression was like at the end of race; that strange mix of joy and rage, like he couldn’t decide what to feel at Izuku’s actions.

“Oi, Deku!” the red-eyed boy roared, explosions popping in his hands like firecrackers, “When are you going to face me head-on, instead of running away!?”

Gritting his teeth, Izuku weighed his chances of getting away and didn’t like his odds. So instead of running, he switched his trajectory as well so that they were running head on towards his erstwhile friend. “Brave words, Kacchan! Especially after your start!”

Ooh, his expression was tilting towards anger now. “Deku…” he growled.

“Midori-kun, do we have a plan here?” Uraraka panted, sounding a little worried.

“I’d like to know as well,” Tsu-chan said from above him. “I’m not good with extreme temperatures.”

“Of course,” he said, keeping his eyes on Kacchan. Lowering his voice a little, he said, “Everyone, be ready to move sharply to the left. Uraraka, we need to do this quickly so I’m going to need your help pulling. Todoroki, throw out a wave of ice to catch them, especially Kacchan. Tsu-chan, once he’s done that, we’ll be on his side. While he’s blasting through the ice, you should be able to grab his headband. Then we’ll zoom out of here!”

He could feel everyone preparing behind him, chiming out their agreement. Kacchan and his team were bearing down on them, Kacchan’s eyes nearly glowing with the rage behind them. Izuku gritted his teeth. Closer…closer…

He could see the individual sparks spitting from Kacchan’s palms when he finally gave the signal. “NOW!”

Izuku pulled to the left, exposing Todoroki to Kacchan’s wrath. Or rather, exposing Kacchan to Todoroki’s ice. With that now-familiar creaking, snapping noise, ice burst forth from Todoroki’s right side, slamming into Kacchan’s team face-first.

Kacchan screamed in anger, the explosions coming from his palms no longer sounding like firecrackers — now, they were sounding like grenades. The ice that had slammed into them lit up inside with white light —

But it was too late. Speeding past them, Izuku saw the pink flash of Tsu-chan’s tongue, and then Present Mic was screaming.

“Oh my god! Did you see that, ladies and gentlemen and others!? With a brilliant use of their superior speed and mobility, Asui and her team are now in first place with the ten million point headband!!”

“Got it, kero,” Tsu-chan said unnecessarily as the crowd roared.

Izuku laughed. Behind him, he heard Kacchan scream in rage.

“Ten minutes left on the clock!” Uraraka said. “Think we can keep it for that long?”

Kacchan was still screaming, and the crowd was still roaring. Izuku’s heart was thumping in his chest with the excitement of his plan going off without a hitch and laughter was bubbling up his throat — and then a shadow passed over them.

“Hardly.”

“Oh, but it looks like  Asui’s team didn’t have a follow-up plan to keep the headband! Team Monoma, taking advantage of the confusion, has slipped past Team Asui’s defenses and stolen the headband for themselves!”

The laughter died before it had a chance to leave Izuku’s mouth. A blond boy, the one that had been staring at him and Todoroki with a deranged look, almost seemed to float by with the ten million point headband hooked over a finger. Izuku watched in shock as the boy turned to look over his shoulder, a smug grin curling up the corners of his mouth.

“Typical Class 1-A,” the boy — Monoma — gloated, twirling the headband around his finger once before securing it around his neck. “Too busy showing off to actually pay attention.” His smirk widened into a grin, and the deranged look reappeared. “Maybe you’ll actually learn your lesson this time as Class 1-B grinds you into the dirt!”

“Tsu-chan!” Izuku looked up and was relieved to see that the other girl was unhurt.

“Sorry, everybody,” Tsu-chan replied, touching the reddened tip of her tongue with a wince, “I didn’t put it around my neck fast enough.”

“It’s alright,” Uraraka said, “we still have the rest of our headbands!”

“And we still have time,” Todoroki said quietly. “Do we want to go after it again? We’ve already beaten Bakugou.”

“Hey!”

All four of them looked at Monoma, whose eye was twitching.

“Do you want to go after the band again?” he mimicked. “I just stole this from you and you were helpless to stop me!”

“No, that was more my fault,” Todoroki called out. “I’ve been over-using my ice, and Tsu-chan is affected by the cold —”

Tsu-chan croaked reproachfully. “Todoroki-kun…”

Monoma made a sound like an angry goose that had swallowed a kazoo and was slowly being choked to death. “I was better than you! I beat you!”

“Dude, calm down,” one of his horses muttered. “It’s not that big a deal.”

“Yes it is!” Monoma shrieked, smacking the horse’s head. “We spent weeks planning this! Agreeing to hang back and observe —”

“Well, I mean, we only really agreed so that you’d stop complaining about everything…”

Monoma smacked the front horse’s head again and hunched over, an animalistic glint in his eyes. “Well, it’s no matter. We’ll see if losing all of your points will finally get it through your big heads that you’re nothing special!”

Izuku stiffened. “Get ready —” he warned.

Monoma was already shooting forward as the words left his lips, his blue eyes so wide that even from several feet away Izuku could see the whites around his irises. His team covered the ground between them in a heartbeat, and Monoma’s hands were shooting forward —

But Izuku and the rest of them were already dodging. Monoma’s hand swiped through the air where Tsu-chan had just been a split second before, but Izuku had twisted on his toes, spinning the whole team around with himself as the pivot. “Why are you so angry about this?” he shouted. “It’s just the Sports Festival!”

Yanking on his fore-horse’s hair (Ow man, seriously, what the hell!) Monoma forced his own team to wheel around once again. “Just the Sports Festival?” he sneered. “I should have expected such arrogance from members of Class 1-A!” He snapped an arm out, narrowing his eyes. “You probably think that after the USJ you don’t even have to worry about attracting the attention of the pros! Well, Class 1-B is going to prove you wrong!” His eyes were glinting madly. “After all, how impressive would it look if none of 1-A made it to the finals?”

His team surged forward again. Izuku pulled the four of them into a dodge again as he digested what Monoma had just said. The USJ…

The cold coil of anger that had squirmed in his belly that day in the class began to move once again. “You think that we’ve been bragging about the USJ?” he called, just barely reigning back the anger that was begging to drip from his words. “Are you an idiot? When the hell have you seen us bragging about nearly dying?”

Monoma sneered as his horses turned around again. “I could hardly miss it. After all, the media —”

The media isn’t us,” snarled Izuku in that cold, frightening tone that he recognized all too well. Tsu-chan squeezed his shoulders, and he could feel Todoroki and Uraraka’s worried gazes, but just like in the classroom he couldn’t stop the words from coming out. “We don’t have control over what the media reports about us; we were too busy dealing with the fact that we were nearly murdered by a bunch of villains. And frankly, if you can’t tell the difference between what someone says about themselves and what the media says about them,” he couldn’t stop the growl now, “then someone so stupid has no place in the Hero Course.”

Monoma didn’t seem to take the hint, even as his horses’ eyes widened and they stumbled back. He smacked at his front horse for the third time, bristling. “Brave words,” he snapped. “Let’s see if you can back them up. Go!”

For the third time, Monoma’s group surged forward. Izuku’s jaw was aching from how tightly he was clenching it, and for the third time he dodged Monoma’s attack —

Only to smack into something solid. His cheek smushed flat against something, Izuku stumbled back. He couldn’t see — wait, there! A distortion in the air to their side —

“Solid Air,” Monoma said in a smug sing-song. “Tsuburaba and I have been setting up walls to pen you in with every pass.”

Izuku’s eyes snapped over to Monoma, realizing too late that the boy and his group had gotten too close here to dodge. Him and one of his teammates — that meant that his Quirk had to be something like —

Monoma leered down at him, holding out a hand. “Let’s see now how you stand up against your own Quirk,” he sneered, bringing the limb down.

No — his Quirk — Izuku didn’t know how it would work, if he grabbed All for One and the Quirks it had collected —

Izuku tried to dodge anyways, backing up, only for a shout of protest to come from Uraraka as she was squished against another wall that he hadn’t noticed. Monoma’s hand, unstoppable and unavoidable, swung downwards and slapped against Izuku’s scalp hard enough to make it sting.

Monoma laughed. “Pitiful!” he crowed. “Is this all that 1-A can offer?” He raised the hand that had slapped Izuku and clenched it into a fist. “Well, don’t feel bad — I’m sure that you’ll be able to learn something from watching us sweep the third round!” He pulled his hand back, grinning, and swung it forward —

— Izuku’s heart was pounding with fear; would this be where he was revealed to everyone —

Only for it to fall short by several inches from the headbands slung around Tsu-chan’s neck.

Monoma blinked. “Huh? But I copied —”

All for One. Not the individual Quirks that he’d been fed by his father.

Izuku moved before Monoma finished his sentence and buried his fist into the gut of the group’s front horse.

With a wheeze like the air being let out of a balloon, the boy sagged, pulling the entire group off-balance. Their form weakened, Monoma was distracted from the mystery of Izuku’s Quirk with the sudden and pressing need to keep from falling to the ground. Shooting them a wide-eyed look he pressed his hand against the wheezing horse’s scalp and sucked in a breath of his own —

Only for the pink blur of Tsu-chan’s tongue to crack him across his face. “Gah —” he croaked, spittle flying from his mouth.

But Tsu-chan wasn’t done yet. Her tongue snapped through the air again, this time tearing the mass of headbands that were similarly slung around Monoma’s neck. “Go!” she shouted through her mouthful.

Izuku needed no more instruction. Shoving a strength Quirk into his legs, he snapped one out in a perfect side kick and felt the air wall that had been penning them in shatter. Dragging their group through, he took off across the field, leaving the wheezing, sputtering group behind them.

“Nicely done Tsu-chan!” Uraraka cheered as they ran. “He didn’t even see you coming!”

Three minutes left!” Present Mic screamed from above. “Asui and her group have reclaimed their points and more, but will they be able to keep them in this crunch time!?

Looking over the field, Izuku personally felt pretty confident. The teams caught in Todoroki’s ice wave were still struggling to find a way out. Monoma’s team was crumbling and struggling to stay together with one of the horses wheezing for breath and the rider reeling from a mass of pure muscle cracking him across the face. The few free riders were mostly going after each other on the other side of the field, clearly unwilling to strike up a fight after what they’d done to Kacchan’s team —

Wait. Kacchan’s team. Izuku’s vision narrowed in at the shattered mountain of ice that had been trapping them just a few minutes ago, now spread across the grass and slowly melting. Kacchan’s team was nowhere to be seen.

His stomach plunged down to the ground. That was not good.

CRACK-KOOM!

Izuku’s head snapped up along with the rest of his team’s and he saw where Kacchan’s team had gone.

Or. Well. Where Kacchan had gone.

Haloed by the sun and his own firey explosions, Kacchan rocketed down from where he had been hovering up above with the jetpack that Izuku hadn’t noticed until now, a savage smile slashing across his face.

Izuku bolted, half-dragging the rest of his team behind him.

“D-damn it!” Uraraka yelled as they ran, Kacchan changing course to chase after them, “when did they get out of the ice?!”

“Probably while we were dealing with Monoma,” Todoroki said, his voice just a little tight. “But where’s the rest of his team? He can’t have abandoned them, that’s against —”

“Ahead of us!” Tsu-chan abruptly shouted, louder than Izuku had ever heard her speak. Thanks to her warning, though, he just managed to turn their team away from Kacchan’s, which had appeared out of nowhere.

“AHAHAHAHA!” The pink-haired girl from the support course that he’d noticed earlier cackled maniacally as they ran away, giving chase. “Cloaking device! A Hatsume Mei original!”

“The Support girl,” Todoroki said, his voice even tighter. “I thought that my ice would knock out her equipment.”

The girl cackled again. “So cold! But my babies know how to stay warm!”

Izuku only listened to the conversation with half an ear. Craning his head back, he scanned the sky, trying to spot Kacchan again. How could someone who made explosions and was flying around with a jetpack be so stealthy?

“One minute left, everyone! And it looks like Team Bakugou is making a play to get their headband back!”

Thank you, Present Mic, Izuku thought through gritted teeth. I’m not sure I would have noticed that without your help.

Where was Kacchan? What angle would he work to get close to them? He wasn’t stupid; clearly, he had realized that a head-on attack wouldn’t work but now that they knew he was using a jetpack Kacchan had to know that they’d be looking to the sky and on their guard —

Tsu-chan’s weight on his back suddenly shifted and she ribbited in alarm. Izuku snapped his head around.

“Tsu-chan!” Uraraka shrieked.

The Frog Quirk-using girl groped desperately through the air with her free hand. Half-standing, half-kneeling, the girl had her other hand wrapped tightly around one end of the bundle of headbands that seemingly had just been snatched from her neck. And at the other end, holding the headbands taut…

Izuku squinted and then, with dread, remembered what the Support Girl had shouted.

A cloaking device. Of course. The jetpack to move more quietly, and the invisibility shield to sneak up on them. Kacchan had never been a fan of stealth during their games when they were kids, but he wasn’t stupid. Of course he’d take advantage of the Support girl’s machines!

There, at the other end of the headbands, was a distortion in the air, just the size of someone Izuku’s age.

“THIRTY SECONDS!”

A strength Quirk wouldn’t help here. Izuku knew that Kacchan had an incredibly strong grip thanks to his Quirk needing him to have unusually strong ligaments and tendons in his hands and arms. Trying to pull Kacchan away, or even trying to run away — he didn’t know the really fine details of Tsu-chan’s Quirk, but he didn’t think that frogs were particularly well-known for their grips.

“Oi, Midori-kun!” Sero sang mockingly.

Izuku turned to look and saw tape flying through the air, right towards his legs. No!

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Tsu-chan’s eyes dart around.

“TEN SECONDS!”

Come on, come on, he thought at himself angrily as the tape continued to fly through the air. Think! You’re supposed to be good at thinking!

But a speed Quirk to dodge could tear the headbands from Tsu-chan’s grip, leaving them with no points at all — he did have other Quirks that could work here, to cut the tape or help Tsu-chan but they’d be impossible to hide behind an ‘enhancement’ Quirk —

Izuku felt like his feet were stuck to the ground. All he could do was watch Tsu-chan struggled to keep her grip on the headbands.

Then Tsu-chan’s big round eyes narrowed, and she abruptly let go.

No! Izuku watched in horror as the cloaking device that had been covering Kacchan dropped, revealing a grinning boy tumbling head over heels as his jetpack continued to push him away —

Wait, no. Not grinning.

Kacchan was spinning through the air, his teeth clenched tight together as all the force that he’d been using to pull the headbands away suddenly had no more resistance to work against. Muffled swears reached Izuku’s ears as his grip on the bands lessened, his arms snapping out and letting out little explosions to stabilize himself —

“FIVE SECONDS!”

The headbands sprayed out through the air like some sort of cloud, fluttering gently even Kacchan struggled to stabilize himself.

“FOUR SECONDS!”

Izuku could see the red numbers, blurring together in a mass. Uselessly, he reached out. They’d come so far, they couldn’t lose now!

“THREE SECONDS!”

Todoroki was shouting something. A large foot slammed into Izuku’s back, a large hand suddenly gripping his scalp tightly.

“TWO!”

A bony knee slammed into the back of his skull, making him see stars. Tape wrapped around his knees, snapping them together.

ONE!

A pink, ribbon-like tongue snaked through the air, darting into the mass of white and pulling out one in particular just as Sero pulled Izuku’s feet out from underneath him.

“AND TIME’S UP!”

Izuku hit the ground with a gasp, Tsu-chan and the rest being pulled down with him into a pile. Like time had suddenly sped up, headbands that had been floating through the air began to rain down around them.

Their points. The points they had all worked so hard for…

“Midori-kun!”

“Midoriya!”

Two sets of arms wound around him and began to pull him to his feet. Immediately, Tsu-chan’s worried face swam into view in front of him. “Sorry, kero,” she said through her mouthful of cloth. The ends of a headband were dangling from her mouth. “We didn’t have much time, so I wasn’t able to be properly careful not to hurt you.”

Reaching up, Izuku winced as he touched the back of his head but tried to smile. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but his own. “It’s alright,” he said, his eyes burning. “I’m just sorry that I couldn’t do more to help you with the headbands.” His eyes burned as he looked at the bands now littering the ground.

“It’s alright,” Todoroki said, putting a hand on his shoulder. Uraraka was still gripping his bicep.

Izuku blinked rapidly and tried to will the tears that he could feel pooling in the corners of his eyes back. He rubbed at them furiously. “At the end though, I couldn’t do anything — Bakugou and his team were coming for us and I froze…”

“You did exactly what I needed you to do,” Tsu-chan replied. The headband was still hanging from her mouth. “And you were the one that kept us at the top for the whole round.” She tilted her head to one side, pressing a finger to her chin. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“For most of the round,” Izuku corrected her. He let his hand fall back to his side and stared down at the ground. All of the headbands lying around them…

“Eh?” Uraraka frowned and gave his arm a little shake. “No — ah wait, Midori-kun, you haven’t looked at the scoreboard, have you!”

Izuku sniffed and raised his head. “The scoreboard…” He turned to see what Uraraka was pointing at —

And his mouth fell open at what he saw.

“IIINNN FIRST PLACE, WITH A LAST-MINUTE GRAB BY THEIR RIDER, TEEEEAAAAMM ASUI!!”

There, at the top of the display board, was his team’s name. With ten million and — and —

The sight blurred as the tears that Izuku had been holding back began to spill down his cheeks. Turning his head, he stared at Tsu-chan.

Pulling the headband from her mouth, she stretched the sodden piece of cloth out so that he could see the number printed on it. “I figured that while the rest of the headbands were nice, this was all that was really needed,” she said. “So I let go to make Bakugou stumble, and focused on finding and grabbing this one before the end of the round.”

Sucking in a breath, Izuku lunged forward and grabbed her in a hug as tears streamed down his cheek. Blubbering, he couldn’t even find the words needed to communicate his relief. He may have choked at the final moment, but Tsu-chan had come through.

Her head tucked in by his neck, Tsu-chan ribbited and patted his back. “It’s okay,” she said, “it’s okay.”

Izuku just sobbed that much harder. Todoroki and Uraraka’s hands, falling off as he rushed forward to pull Tsu-chan into a hug, reappeared to rub his back like his mom had done when he was small.

“IN SECOND PLACE, DESPITE THEIR LAST-MINUTE PLAY, TEEEEAAAAAAM BAKUGOU!”

Kacchan screamed in rage. Over his sobs, Izuku heard the crackling pops of the small explosions that Kacchan always gave off when angry.

“IN THIRD, COMING OUT OF NOWHERE, THE TEAM LED BY A GEN ED STUDENT — TEEEEAAAM SHINSOU!!”

Sniffling, Izuku pulled back, rubbing at his eyes. That name, Shinsou. It was familiar. Looking around, he quickly spotted a head of purple hair above a familiar smirking face.

Oh, Izuku thought. It’s him.

The other boy was standing tall, swinging his headbands around on a finger idly as he grinned. There weren’t as many around his finger as Izuku’s team had had, but there was still an impressive amount.

For a moment, their eyes met. Izuku could see the pride in the other boy’s gaze.

Behind him, he could see the rest of his team, including Iida. Something was off about them, though. Izuku narrowed his eyes. Iida seemed to just be staring into space as the announcers talked, something very strange for the normally studious boy.

“AND FINALLY, IN FOURTH PLACE, TEAM TETSUTETSU! AND WITH THAT, THE SECOND ROUND OF THE SPORTS FESTIVAL COMES TO AN END!”

The crowd roared its approval, filling up Izuku’s ears. Even as he was tugged away by his teammates, though, he found himself keeping his eyes on Iida.

The other boy was still standing there as the crowds began to disperse, looking to find lunch before the third round began. His face was tipped up to the sky for a long, long time.

Then he abruptly moved, beginning to stride away in the opposite direction.

Iida, Izuku wondered, what happened?

Chapter Text

Izuku and the others were still riding high on their victory as they spilled into the cafeteria, bubbling over with laughter and excitement. Even Tsu-chan, with her usually unemotional face, looked very pleased.

“— and then you were like ‘HYAH’ and hit him with your tongue and grabbed the headbands and it was sooo cool Tsu-chan!” Uraraka said, punching the air with a grin.

“Kero,” Tsu-chan said, smiling with her tongue sticking out from her mouth, “I was just imitating Midori-kun. He was the one that jumped on our chance when Monoma’s Quirk misfired.”

Laughing, Izuku scratched at his cheek, pushing away the worry that bubbled up in his chest at Tsu-chan’s words. Monoma’s Quirk hadn’t backfired; he’d just gotten the root Quirk of All for One. So far, he hadn’t heard anything from the other boy, who had just skulked off once the round was over, but part of him was worried that Monoma would start talking about what had happened. Hopefully, everyone else would just think the same as Tsu-chan, but —

“Ah, damn, there’s already a line,” Uraraka said, pouting.

Following her gaze, Izuku’s eyebrows shot up. There certainly was already a line; winding around the cafeteria, it seemed like everyone in the stadium had tried to cram themselves into this one room, filling the air with chatter and heat as the cooks tried to serve everyone.

“It’s going to take us a while to get our meals,” Tsu-chan said, pressing a finger to her chin.

“And the tables are filling up fast,” Uraraka said, humming in agreement. “Maybe we should go outside, see if we can’t get something from the stalls?”

“Those will probably be even busier,” Tsu-chan said. “Everyone that didn’t manage to get a seat in the stadium will be out there.”

“Well, I actually brought a bento,” Izuku said. “If you guys want to get in line, I can go get my bento and save us a table.”

“Would you?” Uraraka asked, already moving towards the end of the line. “Maybe one outside? It’s kind of stuffy in here.”

Tsu-chan was already following the other girl, so Izuku just nodded, smiling. “Sure! I’ll send you a text to tell you where I am?”

Uraraka grinned and flashed him a thumbs up. “See if you can find Todoroki-kun as well!” she called. “Let us know if he wants anything!”

“Will do!” Izuku called back, smiling.

Outside of the cafeteria, Izuku sighed. Taking his phone out, he checked his messages.

Somehow, in the time it took to get from the stadium pitch to the cafeteria, Todoroki had disappeared. At first, Izuku had been worried, thinking that maybe he’d had to go to Recovery Girl for another healing session, but then Tsu-chan had mentioned that she’d seen Endeavor hanging around.

No messages, Izuku thought as he checked the class group chat. I hope his dad isn’t too worried about the mines from the first round. Or the stunt we pulled afterwards to make up for the lost time. Izuku hadn’t meant to cause trouble…

Slipping his phone back into his pocket, Izuku shook his head and slapped his cheeks. Todoroki would be fine, he assured himself. His father was a hero, and had graduated from Yuuei himself! He’d understand the ‘Plus Ultra’ mentality. Endeavor was probably just checking to make sure Todoroki was okay after the hit he took in the minefield, like any good parent would.

As he got further and further from the cafeteria, the hallways got emptier and emptier. The noise of hundreds of students chattering excitedly to each other and music being played over the pitch outside got fainter and fainter, until the only noise keeping Izuku company was the sound of his sneakers squeaking against the tiled floor. Coming up to the changing room where everyone had stored their stuff before the Festival started, Izuku mused that it seemed that he was the only one that had brought a bento for lunch instead of buying it.

Just as the thought crossed his mind, though, a noise caught his ear. A low, angry-sounding rumble, like a large dog growling at someone. “— fun and games, Shouto. This has been your place to show what you’re capable of and you’ve been wasting your time with your tantrum. Not using your fire, playing second fiddle to that boy —” The word boy was spat out like it was something foul “— like I’ve taught you nothing. You were born to better than this!”

“He stopped to check on me after those mines went off.” Todoroki’s voice was almost unrecognizable with the chill in it. “Mom taught me to be polite.”

The man — it could only be a man — growled, low in his chest. “This is a competition, not some class picnic. You’re not here to make friends.”

“Maybe I am.” Todoroki’s voice had only gotten colder, impossible-seeming as it was. “I’m near the top of my class, and you’ve made sure that everyone already knows who I am. I don’t need to prance around like a show-pony here.”

There was a bang, making Izuku jump. Hastily grabbing the doorknob, he twisted it and opened the door. “Hey!” he squeaked, his voice breaking. Pausing, he cleared his throat and repeated himself. “Hey! Todoroki, I didn’t realize that you were here too! I thought you were grabbing yourself some lunch?”

The sight that greeted Izuku as he spoke made his stomach do flips. Todoroki was backed up against one of the tables, his arms crossed defensively and leaning back, away from the hulking pro-hero that was looming over him.

Endeavor was a lot bigger in person than he looked online. He took up space not just with his physical bulk, which frankly rivaled All Might, but with his very presence. He seemed to emanate menace along with the fire licking along his face and chest, filling the air and making Izuku struggle not to choke on his next words.

Stepping into the room, Izuku kept a smile pasted on to his face. “My mom made me a bento for today, but Tsu-chan and Uraraka are still in line. They asked if we could grab a table for all of us, y’know, to celebrate last round!”

Silence stretched out between them for what felt like an eternity to Izuku. Sweat prickled at his hairline, threatening to start dribbling down his temples, but he kept his smile up, trying to pretend that the Number Two Hero wasn’t trying to bore a hole through him with his glare.

Finally, finally, Todoroki spoke. “Yeah. Sorry, my old man wanted to talk to me.” In a show of courage the Izuku didn’t think he’d ever manage to reach, Todoroki batted away the arm that was blocking him in and walked away from his father, not looking back. “My sister made me a bento as well.”

Izuku focused on Todoroki, trying to calm his heart before it jumped from his chest. “Ah, that’s good! I think I spotted a few places where we could eat on my way here! If you want to check them out, I don’t think that Tsu-chan and Uraraka are going to be getting out of line any time soon.”

Endeavor growled.

Izuku flinched.

Todoroki didn’t so much as flutter an eyelash. Turning his head, he shot a disdainful look over his shoulder. “Do you mind? We don’t have long to eat.”

Endeavor growled again. “You have two hours for lunch.” Straightening, he crossed his arms over his chest. “But I suppose you aren’t wrong. You do need to eat. However,” he said, taking the few steps needed to loom over the two of them, “this conversation isn’t over.” He held Todoroki’s gaze for a long, uncomfortable minute. Then finally, he shouldered past Izuku, almost knocking him into a chair.

Izuku caught himself before falling over and steadied himself, rubbing his shoulder. He watched Endeavor walk out of the room, slamming the door behind him, and felt his stomach flop again. Turning to Todoroki, he looked at him closely. “Um, I didn’t just get you in trouble, did I?”

Todoroki grunted and shook his head. “No. He was already annoyed.”

“Oh.” Izuku bit the inside of his cheek. “Okay.” For a lack of anything else to do, he turned and walked over to his locker. Spinning the lock open, he grabbed his bento.

Turning back, he saw that Todoroki hadn’t moved. Standing stiff and straight, his hands clenched into fists at his sides and staring straight ahead, he radiated a cold, creeping anger that almost had Izuku apologizing.

Biting down on the urge, Izuku instead asked, “Um, didn’t you say you had a bento too?”

Todoroki let out a long, low breath. Clearly forcing himself to relax, he unclenched his fists and turned towards Izuku. “Midoriya.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku immediately began to babble, “I didn’t mean to cause trouble between you and your father —”

“You didn’t,” Todoroki said, cocking his head to one side and letting a little exasperation enter his voice. “You didn’t cause any trouble that wasn’t already there.”

Izuku bit the inside of his cheek. “So that — what I heard was…normal? For you?”

Todoroki didn’t answer right away. He looked down at his shoes for a moment, and then the door, clearly mulling something over in his mind. Izuku waited for him to finish thinking, squeezing his bento until his fingers hurt.

Finally, he looked back at Izuku, his face blank. “Midoriya. Have you ever heard of Quirk marriages?”

The box in Izuku’s hands creaked.

Todoroki’s story of his father — his family — made a sick sort of sense. Everyone knew about Endeavor’s one-sided rivalry with All Might. Equally, everyone knew that Endeavor’s family was never in the papers. Something that made sense — the more people that knew his wife poured boiling water on his youngest child, the more likely it was that someone would start asking questions. And the explanation as to why Todoroki only used his ice…

In front of him, Todoroki fell silent, the awful words coming to a stop. His face was still; and if Izuku hadn’t seen that same blank expression in the mirror so many times before, he would have said that he was un-bothered by the story — no, the truth that he’d just told. Questions and sympathetic words bubbled at the back of his throat but what came out of his mouth —

“Why are you telling me this?” His bento box was rattling in his grip. “I mean — I’m flattered that you trust me this much, but…”

Todoroki looked at him, his face still in that awful, blank expression. Then his eyes shifted. He looked away at the wall. Then down at his hands. He opened and closed them. Then he looked back up again and cocked his head to one side. “During the battle exercise. During the first week. You were good.”

Izuku blinked. “I — sorry, what?”

“You thought strategically, and used your Quirk well,” Todoroki continued. His hands fell dangling back down by his sides, flexing uncomfortably. “Your dad taught you.”

“N-no —” Izuku babbled, “My mom wouldn’t let — I just — I just practiced a lot, in the run-up to the entrance exam.”

Todoroki pressed his lips together. “You swapped between forms smoothly and easily mid-fight. You saw my counterattacks and countered them in turn, showing excellent instincts.” He took a step towards Izuku, an odd glint in his eye. “People don’t get that experienced in using their Quirks without a lot of practice and training. Even Bakugou isn’t that smooth in his use of his Quirk.”

“Well, I mean, you were still with Recovery Girl when Kacchan —”

A hand on his shoulder cut off Izuku’s babble. He’d looked down at some point, staring at the plain handkerchief covering his bento. Swallowing, he looked up at Todoroki through his eyelashes.

He swallowed again at the look on the other boy’s face. He could recognize what the glint in Todoroki’s eye was now — he’d seen it in his own face when he looked in the mirror.

Hunger. Not for food, or knowledge, but for understanding. A hunger for the ability to look at someone and know what you had gone through, what you were going through.

“People,” Todoroki began slowly, “don’t get as good as us two very often. Not without being trained from a young age.” The hand on his shoulder squeezed spasmodically, in a way that made Izuku think in the back of his mind that it was against Todoroki’s will. “Almost as soon as their Quirk comes in. Like how I was.” The pleading look in his eye sharpened.

Izuku couldn’t speak. Just from that, Todoroki had — Todoroki thought —

Abruptly, he looked back down at his plain-wrapped bento, held tightly in his shaking hands. His throat felt dry, his tongue thick. Todoroki thought, from what he’d seen of Izuku, that they were the same. That Izuku’s father had, had hurt him, beat him —

He felt like a fraud. His eyes were burning. Because while his father had fed him Quirks and taught him how to use them — he had never beaten Izuku. Even when Izuku had started trying to refuse the Quirks, his father had never physically hurt him. Before Izuku had figured out where his Quirks were coming from, his training had felt more like playing games than anything else. And now Todoroki was looking at him with such sympathy and desperate, mistaken understanding —

A few hot tears escaped his eyes, streaking down his freckled cheeks and dampening the cloth they fell onto. Something in his chest twisted, and he couldn’t seem to breathe. “I —” he choked out, “it’s nothing like that —”

The words petered out, and he kept staring down at his lunch, more tears dripping down his face.

Todoroki squeezed his shoulder again; this time, though, it felt like it was on purpose. “It’s hard, talking about this sort of thing,” he said quietly, his voice still soft and sympathetic. “But — I wanted you to know. That I know. And that you can talk to me, if you like.”

The tears only started coming harder. They clogged his mouth and throat, keeping him silent in the face of Todoroki’s kindness.

Finally, finally, Todoroki’s hand left his shoulder. Izuku still couldn’t look up, but he could hear the other boy heading towards his locker, and then the door. “I’ll grab a table and text you the location,” he said quietly.

And then the door clicked shut, leaving Izuku alone with his shame and silence.


It took several minutes for Izuku to get himself back under control. The thick black sludge of shame coiled around his heart tightly, but eventually he managed to pull it away and shove it back into the dark little box in the back of his skull where it belonged. A few splashes of water on his face, and he managed to at least pass look good enough that he only warranted a brief look of concern from the others over lunch.

Now, with lunch over, they were standing in the middle of the stadium again, Midnight on the stage ahead of them. The crowds in the stands were all chattering loudly, filling the air with noise. The other students around him were less enthusiastic; too nervous to make much noise as they waited for the third round of the Sports Festival.

Personally, Izuku was just enjoying soaking in the crowd’s excitement. After the talk with Todoroki, things hadn’t precisely been awkward, but they had been uncomfortable. He had been so thankful for Uraraka — she seemed to realize that something had happened, but instead of prodding she had pulled all of them along into a conversation about strategies against their classmates. Izuku hadn’t written in his notebooks for years, but he had been happy to chatter on about his classmates’ Quirks regardless, and soon enough Tsu-chan and Todoroki were adding their own two cents. The chatter was soothing, allowing him to more fully push away the memories that his talk with Todoroki had dredged up. All in all, lunch had ended well in his estimation, and was probably why he wasn’t looking as sick with nerves as Iida was.

Sneaking a glance at his friend, Izuku felt sympathetic. He wasn’t sure if the other boy had known about Ingenium coming to the Sports Festival, but even if he had, it still was probably nerve-wracking for him. It wasn’t hard to see how much Iida looked up to his brother, even if you hadn’t seen them together like Izuku had.

“Alright alright alright! Lunch is over and the third round of the First-Year’s Sports Festival is about to begin! ARE YOU ALL READY?!” Present Mic screamed.

The crowds replied with their own scream, so loud that it made Izuku rub at his ears. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Iida’s chin dip down to his chest and wondered if the noise was affecting him as well.

“Now, to explain this round, give it up for the R-Rated Hero MIDNIGHT!” Ingenium chimed in.

Iida’s shoulders jerked like someone had punched him. Izuku furrowed his brow.

Midnight cracked her whip, drawing Izuku’s attention back to her. “Now,” she said, holding up a box in one hand, “we’ll being drawing lots to decide the match-ups here. Those of you that didn’t pass on to this round, you’ll be taking part in recreational events before the beginning of the tournament. Those 16 that did manage to get into the tournament, you have a choice of whether or not to take part in the recreational events — if you’d rather rest up, you’re free to do so! So, beginning with the team that came in first place —”

“Miss!”

Izuku nearly jumped as Iida’s hand snapped into the air, accompanied by a shout. Pausing mid-sentence, Midnight blinked in confusion before nodding for Iida to continue. “Yes? What is it?”

His hand, still in the air, trembled. “I — I would like to withdraw from this competition!”

There was silence for a moment. Then —

“WHAT!?”

“Iida, this is a rare chance —”

“We don’t get many chances to show off for the pros like this —”

Iida shook his head violently, his teeth clenched. He snapped his arm back down and balled his hands into fists. “I did not earn my place in this third round!” he shouted, silencing the people that had been yelling at him. “I know that this is a rare opportunity, but I cannot in good conscience continue forward when I know that I have not earned my place!”

“Iida…” Izuku whispered. He reached you to place a hand on his friends shoulder.

Then another voice piped up. “I would also like to withdraw!”

Izuku turned his head. It was the other boy that had been on Iida’s team. Short and round, he had his hand clenched in a fist in front of his chest, a determined look on his face.
“Going forward when you haven’t earned your place — it goes against the spirit of the Sports Festival!”

Uhhh…” Mic said, sounding uncertain, “seems like there’s a revolt going on down on the pitch. The final decision is up to Midnight as to whether or not this request will be accepted…

Izuku looked back at Iida. The other boy wouldn’t meet his eyes; he simply stared down at the ground, his jaw clenched tightly.

“What innocent words,” Midnight said, her voice low. Then she cracked her whip, grinning. “I like them! I accept your resignations!”

Huh? Just like that? Izuku blinked rapidly in shock as beside him, Iida bowed low.

“Thank you very much! My apologies for interrupting!” he shouted.

“Iida —” Izuku began again.

His friend shrugged off his hand and shot him an apologetic look. “I’m sorry,” he said in a low voice. “I’m not giving up —” He pressed his lips together. “I’ll explain later. But in the meantime — watch out for Shinsou,” he warned.

With that, he turned and walked away from the group before Izuku could ask anymore questions. Watching him go, Izuku’s head was buzzing. ‘Watch out for Shinsou?’ What did that mean? Turning to look at the purple-haired boy, he just caught the other boy looking away with a bored expression.

Izuku chewed the inside of his cheek as his mind chewed over the mystery of Iida’s words.

In the meantime, up onstage, Midnight began to continue her explanation of the tournament. “So, those who would sign up for the empty slots would be coming from the fifth place team, Team Jirou. Would you like to decide amongst yourselves, or will it be decided by battle?”

The team that had just managed to squeak into fifth place if Izuku was remembering correctly looked at each other. Yaoyorozu was one of them, to his surprise; he had completely forgotten that she was a part of that team.

All four heads bowed together for a few seconds before they all straightened back up. Jirou, her hands on her hips, took a step forward. “No need for a fight,” she said. “We’ve decided that me and Yaomomo will take the spots.”

“Alright,” Midnight said agreeably. “In that case, let’s move on to the drawing of the lots!”

The actual drawing of the lots didn’t take much time. It took longer for the matches to be displayed. Looking at the row of names, Izuku wracked his mind to put a face to the name beside his. Shiozaki Ibara…

“It looks like we’ll be facing each other in the second round,” Todoroki said quietly from behind him.

Izuku jumped a little. Turning around, he tried to smile. “Don’t be so sure. A lot can happen in a fight.”

“Well said,” came a soft, feminine voice.

Looking over his shoulder, Izuku saw the vine girl from the start of the race. She smiled at him. “Midoriya Izuku?”

“Ah!” Now he remembered — the nice girl from the start of the race. “Shiozaki-san, right?”

Her smile widened, making her her eyes crinkled. “You remember me. I’m glad.”

He smiled back, nervous. “Looks like we’re fighting each other first, huh?”

“Quite,” she agreed. A bit of nervousness intruded on her expression. “I just wanted to talk before the start of the match — I know that Monoma-kun narrowed in on you during the second round, and wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings. Most of us don’t feel that way; he’s just very loud.”

Izuku huffed out a laugh and scratched the back of his head. “That’s — good to know. He said some stuff that was uh —”

“Incredibly unempathetic,” Todoroki drawled in a monotone.

Izuku shot a look at Todoroki, seeing how Shiozaki grimaced. But she sighed before he could say anything.

“I’m sorry about that. I know that Vlad-sensei has tried to talk to him about it, but he can be very stubborn.” She folded her hands in front of her and bowed. “Regardless of which one of us wins, please let me assure you that most of 1-B is entirely sympathetic to the situation that you found yourself in, and don’t believe that you’re being arrogant.”

“Um, thanks,” Izuku said, at a loss of what else he could say. “I, uh, we should probably get prepared for the start of our match.”

“Indeed.” Shiozaki rose from her bow. “I’ll meet you in the ring, then.”

“In the ring,” Izuku agreed.


In the ring indeed.

Walking out of the tunnel and up the steps, Izuku was a bundle of nerves. His stomach was spinning, the crowd roaring all around him and making his ears ring. Across from him, Shiozaki looked equally nervous, her vines twisting and twining around her shoulders and arms.

Alllllll right!” Present Mic screamed. “Are you all ready for the first match of the Tournament?!

The crowd screamed even louder, making Izuku wince and hunch up his shoulders. He caught Shiozaki shooting him a sympathetic look.

Iiiinnn one corner, a member of the famous Hero Course class 1-A, the chivalrous if teary MIDORIYA IZUKU!

Izuku winced again, this time in embarrassment. Had his crying really been that noticeable?

…Well, he had left a puddle on the ground, he supposed.

And in the other, from the rival class 1-B, the plant assassin, SHIOZAKI —

“Excuse me!”

Izuku blinked as Shiozaki raised her hand at Midnight, who was standing on a nearby platform to referee. Midnight pointed her whip at the girl, who’s sympathetic expression had melted into something that was closer to annoyed.

“I would like to lodge a complaint regarding that description of myself,” she said firmly. “It gives completely the wrong impression about me.” Clasping her hands in front of her, she continued, “I am no assassin. I joined the Hero Course in the name of helping others, not harming, no matter what this tournament requires.”

...Ah, okay,” Present Mic said, sounding a little put out. He cleared his throat and started again. “Innnnn the opposite corner, from Class 1-B, SHIOZAKI IBARA!!

Looking far more satisfied, Shiozaki turned back to Izuku and bowed. “My apologies for interrupting the start of the match,” she said.

“Uh, it’s okay?” Izuku replied, nervously scratching the back of his head.

Now, this match goes until either one of the contestants goes out of bounds or is unable to continue! The lovely Midnight —” the heroine preened “— will be the referee for the match, so no low blows! Now, take it away, Midnight!”

“You heard the man,” Midnight said, shooting a wink at one of the camera’s nearby. “Now,” she said, raising her whip, “start!”

She brought her whip down with a crack, and immediately Izuku was dodging whip-like vines. Shiozaki didn’t hesitate; her hands clasped in front of her, her vines shot forward, obviously trying to immobilize him right out of the gate.

Izuku, however, had been expecting something like that, and had had his Jump Quirk ready in his legs. He jumped above the vines, noting with a wince that several of them had cracked the cement surrounding where he’d been standing.

Shiozaki looked up, her eyes narrowing. More vines rippled around her head, clearly preparing to attack him while he was hanging helpless in the air.

He wouldn’t let them. Just as the new vines shot forward, he let go of Jump and shot a few strength Quirks into his arms, clapping his hands together.

The resulting shockwave shredded her vines and sent her skidding back in the ring as he landed. Only her shoving several of her vines into the ground kept her from falling out of the ring entirely.

Landing, Izuku saw her lower her arms from where she’d raised them to protect her face from flying debris.

He didn’t give her the time to launch another attack. It was time for his.

Speed in his legs, down to one strength Quirk in his arms, he darted forward. If he could just push her out of the ring, he’d be the winner. Her attacks had also thinned out her vines somewhat, making it easier for him to get in close —

Green moved in the corners of his eyes, and he saw satisfaction cross Shiozaki’s face.

He dropped, flat onto his stomach like he had tripped, and ignored the stinging on his palms. The pants that he had changed into after the first round thankfully held up under the abuse, but they didn’t protect him from the bruises he felt starting to form on his knees.

But the vines that Shiozaki had been trying to trap him in whizzed over his head rather than wrapping around him like she had clearly planned.

Scurrying back with a speed Quirk, he nearly tripped over himself for real trying to dodge the vines whipping through the air after him. They mostly seemed to be trying to keep him at a distance though, rather than capture him again. After he reached a certain distance they seemed to ignore him, allowing him get to his feet.

Shiozaki was wiping furiously at her face, dust covering her front. Squinting at him, her eyes clearly wet from trying to clean out the dust, her vines rose around her again, making it very clear that he wouldn’t be getting near her again.

He noticed that several more of the vines were still embedded in the concrete of the ring. No more claps to knock her out, either, then.

Keeping his strength and speed Quirks up, Izuku tried to think.

And with a flurry of blows, it seems that the two are taking a moment to breathe! It’s clear from that first exchange that neither of these two young heroes will be going down quickly — Midoriya’s Enhancement Quirk can keep him free and clear, but Shiozaki’s Vines aren’t about to let her be blown out of the ring on a whim!

Present Mic’s commentary washed over Izuku as he thought furiously. He could maybe get through Shiozaki’s thorny vines with a resistance Quirk, but the danger wasn’t really from the thorns; it was more from how they could act like tentacles. If they got a grip on him, got him off of the ground where he could leverage himself with any of the Quirks that he could disguise as part of an enhancement Quirk, it would be over.

No, the key to this fight would be making sure that she didn’t manage to literally trip him up.

Looking at the vines, he saw that she seemed to be keeping the bulk of them free. She’d also moved closer to the middle of the ring, clearly wary of another clap.

Izuku chewed on the inside of his cheek. Both of them were watching the other carefully, readying themselves for a sudden attack. A straightforward frontal attack was unlikely to work.

The bulk of the vines was intimidating. Izuku could freely admit that to himself. But the vines themselves were not overly strong. Certainly, they had disintegrated easily from the wind pressure of his clap. Izuku estimated that he’d only need two strength Quirks to tear right through them. Considering how quickly she seemed able to regrow them, though…

Wait. Izuku looked at the vines that were tying Shiozaki to the ground again. There were a lot of them, but they were spread out rather than bundled together. Most likely, she intended to keep the bulk free for attacks, but then send them shooting down the guiding vines in case of another clap.

A plan began to slot into place.

“Oh, it seemed for a moment there that the two had come to a standstill, but it seems now that Midoriya has a plan? He’s taken off his uniform’s jacket —”

Izuku surged forward towards Shiozaki, his head tucked low but his eyes on her vines.

“Whaaaat? A frontal assault? Not the smartest move, Midoriya —”

Shiozaki’s free vines reared above her head like a cobra about to strike. Izuku held his jacket in front of his chest, gripping it tightly.

And then the vines stuck. Lancing forward like cobra it resembled, it surged towards Izuku with the promise of a hammer-like blow. Izuku let it come closer, and closer, and closer —

And dodged.

The vines whipped past him, stirring up dust. Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku saw Shiozaki’s eyes widen. But he didn’t have time to muse on it.

Stomping his feet, he screeched to a stop. The thick column of Shiozaki’s vines in front of him tried to move, but it was too late. Whipping out his jacket from where he had held in front of his chest, Izuku knotted the tough material around the thorny vines with the jacket’s elbow-length sleeves and held on.

Even with the tough material, Izuku was glad for his resistance Quirk. Thorns scratched against his ribs and arms and cheeks as he began to pull. All around him, the thinner vines that Shiozaki had been relying to keep herself attached to the ground began to snap as she shouted.

But Izuku wasn’t about to stop. Turning, he felt the sudden jerk as the last of Shiozaki’s vines failed her. It was less than a second, but he had her in the air now, swinging —

— The crowd was roaring —

And then he was letting go. Shiozaki had split off her vines in a hasty attempt to escape his grip, but it was too late. The momentum was too great to stop, and she was literally flying out of the ring. She hit the ground and bounced several times before being stopped by the stadium wall.

“OH MY GOD, I TAKE IT BACK! I TAKE IT BACK! WITH A BRILLIANT MOVE, MIDORIYA LITERALLY THROWS SHIOZAKI FROM THE RING, TAKING THE VICTORY IN THE TOURNAMENT’S FIRST MATCH!”

Unnecessarily, Midnight declared Izuku the winner. Izuku didn’t listen to her, instead watching as Shiozaki rolled over on the grassy pitch, slowly pushing herself to her knees.

Jumping down from the ring, Izuku walked over to the girl and crouched down beside her, holding out a hand. “Um, sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I didn’t hurt you too bad, did I?”

Shiozaki, who was rubbing her back, looked up. “Oh, no,” she said. “At least, I don’t think so. You just knocked the breath out of me for a second.” Taking his hand, she allowed him to help her to her feet and flashed him a wry smile framed by her now chin-length vines. “I suppose the best of us won.”

“You did really well too,” Izuku said awkwardly. “I mean, you had the reflexes to keep from being knocked out in the first place, and your plan with the vines would have worked —”

“If I hadn’t fallen for your feinted frontal attack.” She shook her head. “Don’t speak so poorly of yourself. You won this match fair and square.” Then she winced, he hand reaching for her neck.

“Ah, sorry, did I hurt your neck —” Izuku reached for her neck as well and then hesitated, biting his lip. “At — at least let me walk you to Recovery Girl. It’s the least I can do after throwing you like that.”

Shiozaki’s eyes were narrowed with the pain, but her smile was genuine. “I would appreciate that, thank you.”

“And would you look at that! Such chivalry to his opponents, as we’ve come to expect from Midoriya! With that, we’ll be moving on to the next match, this time between classmates — Asui Tsuyu versusssss Aoyama Yuuga!”

Chapter Text

Tenya hated crying.

He didn’t mind it in other people; one could hardly help the intensity of their emotions, after all, and crying was literally one’s body getting rid of excess hormones so that it could return to an equilibrium. In himself, though, he hated it. His chest got tight, his nose ran everywhere, and even his glasses got smeared and dirty from his wet eyelashes rubbing against the lenses. His face got blotchy as well, staying discoloured for what felt like hours and making sure that everyone that saw him knew exactly what he’d been doing.

Tenya hated crying, and he hated crying in front of his brother even more.

Scrubbing at his face, his glasses dangling from his free hand, Tenya struggled to get his breathing under control. He was sitting in the changing room that 1-A had been assigned, hunched over one of the tables. He’d come here right after leaving the stadium’s pitch, his phone beginning to buzz in his pocket, to prevent his brother from seeing him break down.

He’d wanted so badly to get to the third round. It had been a surprise this morning, seeing his brother waiting for him at the breakfast table, and even more of one to hear that he would be assisting Present Mic with the commentary for the Festival. He’d known that his brother would likely be watching today, but knowing that he would actually be physically present had put a fire in him to do his best! He’d taken on the obstacle course with zeal, and then had been looking around for a team in the cavalry battle when that boy with the purple hair had come up to him and said something —

And then the battle had been over. He’d been standing there, with no idea what had happened. He’d looked up at the board and seen his name there, with the purple-haired boy’s name — Shinsou Hitoshi — and he hadn’t had the faintest clue as to how that happened.

“We did pretty well, didn’t we?” Shinsou had said blandly as Midnight had talked, dismissing all of them for lunch. He’d turned, waving Tenya away like he was some sort of annoying insect. “See you in the next round.”

A mind control Quirk. Tensei had told him about them several times, as they tended to make tough opponents. A mind control Quirk, and this Shinsou had used it on him! He hadn’t had to — if he’d just asked —

Tenya squeezed his hands into fists so tight that it hurt, a fresh wave of tears brewing in the corners of his eyes.

He’d seen how hard the others had fought for their places in the tournament during lunch. Videos had already been uploaded online, showing off the various teams. Tsu-chan-kun’s team with Midoriya, Todoroki and Uraraka in particular — they had taken Bakugou’s attacks with aplomb, with Tsu-chan-kun showing her cool-headedness off in the final seconds. Meanwhile, he had just been running around in the background with a vacant look on his face —

Standing there on the pitch as the tournament was explained, he hadn’t been able to stand it. Knowing how hard everyone else had worked while he was ridden like a dumb animal — he didn’t deserve to stand alongside the others. So he had excused himself, the back of his neck burning with his brother’s imaginary gaze, and then run away to cry to himself like a little boy.

He was useless; he’d shamed his family with his conduct today.

“Tenya!”

The door behind him banged open, making him jump. Turning in his seat, Tenya felt about an inch tall as he took in the panting, red-cheeked figure of his brother standing in the doorway, a mixture of relief and worry painted across his face.

Letting the door fall shut behind him, Tensei entered the room and crossed it to get to the table where Tenya was sitting in two long strides, sitting down on it with a thump and taking Tenya’s face in his hands. “Tenya, what happened out there?”

A lump swelled in Tenya’s throat. “Nii-san, I —” was all he managed to croak out before a sob escaped him. Ducking his head, he swallowed furiously and tried to ignore the feeling of more hot tears streaking down his face. He was fifteen, not five! He shouldn’t be crying —

“Hey hey hey,” Tensei said, stopping him from lowering his head any further. “Tenya, I’m not mad, okay? I’m just worried. You were so excited for the Festival, and then you dropped out. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Tenya sniffed, his nose making a revolting noise. “I’m fine,” he said wetly. “You didn’t need to leave your job — I didn’t mean to cause trouble between you and Present Mic-sensei —”

“Hey now, enough of that,” Tensei said sternly. He forced Tenya to look up into his eyes, his brows furrowed together in concern. “You didn’t cause any trouble at all. Hizashi knows how much you mean to me, if I hadn’t left when I did he would have pushed me out the door himself.”

Tenya sniffed again, his eyes welling up once more. “Still, I’m sorry for making you come down here. I just —” His throat swelled up.

Tensei’s expression, already sympathetic, only softened further. A thumb swiped under Tenya’s eyes, brushing away the tears that had begun to fall. Then those hands were pulling him close, into his brother’s arms and a hug that reminded him of home. The tears that had been wiped away were replaced quickly, flowing onto his brother’s stiff armour. “Deep breaths, little brother.”

It took several long minutes before the tears stopped. Before Tenya could speak again without his voice being choked out in his throat. Finally though, the bands around his chest loosened and he could speak properly.

Picking up the glasses that he’d put down on the table as the tears started, Tenya wiped his eyes one last time before putting them back on and looking at his brother. “I’m sorry —” he began again.

Tensei batted away his apology with a patient hand. “There’s nothing to apologize for,” he said calmly. “I came down here because I was worried that you were hurt.”

Tenya sniffed wetly, adjusting his glasses. “Not physically,” he said, twisting his fingers. “Just…” he trailed off.

Thankfully, his brother took over the conversation, as he always did on the rare occasions when words failed him. “You were really excited about the Sports Festival,” he said, his voice calm and not judging Tenya in the slightest. “I was surprised when you quit. You said that you hadn’t earned your place there.”

Tenya pressed his lips together and gripped his knees. “I didn’t. I wasn’t even aware during the cavalry battle.”

His brother didn’t say anything, radiating an encouraging silence.

“The rider —” Tenya choked on the boy’s name, “Shinsou, he has — has a mind control Quirk. All I remember is him coming up to me and saying something, and then waking up at the end of the round.” He clenched his teeth. “I watched the highlights during my lunch. Compared to everyone else —”

“Tenya…” his brother said softly. He shifted in his seat, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.

Tenya shook his head. “You have to have seen how hard everyone else fought for their place. Midoriya and his team — if Tsu-chan-kun hadn’t kept such a cool head, they would have been left out.” He gripped the fabric covering his legs tighter. “And there I was, scooting around in the background. I didn’t deserve to stand on the same platform as the rest of them!” Tenya could feel his brother’s thumb rubbing soothing circles on his shoulder. “I wanted to be there, to make our family proud, but if I allowed myself to continue on I would have been shaming the hard work of my classmates and embarrassing our family —”

His voice broke and he ducked his head, unable to look at his brother. His glasses were fogging up again.

The thumb rubbing circles slowed. Stopped. And then Tenya was being pulled from his seat into a gentle hug.

“Tenya,” his brother said with a soft pride, “there’s nothing you could do that would bring shame to our family.”

The tears that he had been trying so hard to keep back broke through the dam and began to stream down Iida’s face. Letting go of his pants, he wrapped his arms around his brother’s chest and dug his fingers into the cracks between the pieces of armour. “Nii-san!”

“You took a moral stand and stuck to it,” his brother continued, hugging him back. “There was nothing shameful in your conduct today, Tenya.”

Tenya sniffled. “That Shinsou — he used me, used his Quirk on me, it was some sort of mind control — all he had to do was ask —”

Tensei squeezed him closer. Raising a hand, he began to pet the top of Tenya’s head. “Well, people with mind-control Quirks tend to be regarded with suspicion. He might not have thought that you would be willing to work with him.”

Tenya pulled back slightly, raising his glasses to wipe at his eyes. He could feel his lower lip jutting out in a pout, but couldn’t stop it. “He didn’t even try, though,” he said mulishly.

Tensei laughed softly and ruffled his hair. “Cut him a little slack, Tenya,” he said gently, “he’s probably spent his whole life being shunned for his Quirk.”

Tenya frowned and readjusted his glasses so that they were sitting straight on his face. “His whole life?”

His older brother’s face lost the gentle amusement that had been painted across it. “Yeah,” he said. His mouth twisted. “People judge others very strongly on their Quirks, Tenya. I know that Somei was always very on the ball about bullying, but a lot of other schools aren’t, and outside of such places…” He trailed off and shrugged, looking uncomfortable. “People can be cruel. If you’re called a villain every time you reveal your Quirk, even if you don’t use it — well, I think it’s understandable that in a contest like the Festival, he wasn’t about to risk being unable to form a team.”

Tenya looked down at his hands again, which had fallen back into his lap. His brow furrowed. He hadn’t even thought of it like that.

“It’s alright to be upset that he used his Quirk on you like that,” Tensei continued, “but you should also keep these sorts of things in mind. A lot of villains that I’ve found myself facing have similar sorts of stories; they have a Quirk that society deems villainous, and feel like there’s nothing else they can do, you know? Sometimes, all they really need is someone to give them a chance, not more chiding.” Raising his hand, he ruffled Tenya’s hair again.

Tenya didn’t stop frowning though. “That…didn’t occur to me,” he said slowly. He squeezed his hands into fists. “I was simply so angry…”

“Well, you are still in school,” Tensei replied. “You’re supposed to learn here.”

Tenya simply nodded. To have a villainous Quirk…and that Shinsou had been at their door the day the Sports Festival was announced, stating his aim to enter the Hero Course. What sort of strength did it take, to be told over and over that your Quirk was suited to villainy, and still want to be a hero?

The hand in his hair left his scalp to clap down on his shoulder. Jerked out of his thoughts, Tenya watched his brother stand up.

“Well,” his brother said, “if you’re feeling better, you should probably go up to sit with your classmates. I met a few of them on my way down and they were very worried about you.”

“Ah —” Tenya stood up quickly enough to make his chair screech across the floor. “Oh dear, I’ll have to apologize to them for that! I didn’t mean to worry them!”

Tensei just laughed. “It’s fine, it’s fine,” he reassured as they both headed towards the door. “I told them that you probably just needed a little time to yourself.”

“I should still apologize,” Tenya insisted. Pausing in the doorway, he turned and bowed to his brother. “Thank you though, for telling them that. I don’t think that I would have properly appreciated their concern earlier.”

“It’s no problem,” Tensei said, opening the door to let them both out. “And Tenya?”

Tenya was already halfway out of the room. Pausing, he turned to look at his brother. “Yes?”

Tensei’s face was soft, his mouth curling into a smile. “I’m really proud of you.”


Izuku was not entirely sure how he had gotten himself into this situation.

Holding a watering can and tipping it at a gentle angle, he struggled to decide between watching the match that Recovery Girl had playing on a television nearby and watching Shiozaki’s vines grow as he sprinkled water down on them. On one hand, it was Tsu-chan, the girl who had managed to get their group through to the final round, who was fighting now. On the other hand, seeing how quickly the thorny vines that made up Shiozaki’s hair were growing was fascinating in itself. They didn’t seem to be any particular type of vine that he had ever seen before, but it wasn’t like he was someone that was very interested in gardening. Considering the rate of growth, it couldn’t just be the water triggering such a change. Perhaps it was sucking out nutrients through the scalp? If so, though, why would they need watering as well? If the vines could get nutrients through Shiozaki’s skin, then surely they could also get water —

“I’m not sure,” Shiozaki said peaceably, her head tilted back to help the water roll along her scalp. “Most of the time, I can force my vines to grow without needing a watering, but if I try and do it for too long or too often they’ll eventually stop until I directly water them.”

Izuku jumped a little, splashing a little water on Shiozaki’s forehead and making her nose wrinkle. “Sorry,” he said in embarrassment, “sometimes I don’t realize that I’m talking out loud when I’m thinking — you said that they’ll stop growing on their own, though?”

Shiozaki wiped at the water he’d spilled on her forehead and nodded, sending droplets into the bucket that had been set up behind the chair she was sitting in.

Izuku had stopped watering her as she had begun to speak and was now letting the watering can dangle from his fingers. Reaching up, he tugged at his lower lip as he turned that piece of information over in his mind. “Maybe it’s an inbuilt safety valve? Meant to prevent the vines from taking too much water or nutrients from the rest of your body? It sounds similar to parts of Recovery Girl’s Quirk, almost, where some injuries can’t be healed all at once without draining the body of vital energy. The fact that your vines can get that energy from being treated like normal plants —”

The door to the nurse’s office slammed open, bouncing off of the wall. Jumping a little, Izuku turned his head to see who had come in and saw several members of 1-B spilling into the small room. At the head of them was a girl with orange hair and side pony-tail.

“Shiozaki!” the girl said, crossing over to the chair where the other girl was sitting. “Sorry, we wanted to come and see you but Monoma was being a pain —” She stopped as she noticed Izuku and flushed slightly, raising her hands. “Ah, jeez, sorry again. Midoriya, right?”

“Uh, yeah,” Izuku said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He wasn’t quite sure how this was going to go; Shiozaki had been nice enough, but Monoma had more than enough personality —

“Before anything else, I want to apologize for the cavalry battle,” the girl said, putting his fears to rest. “I heard from his teammates some of the stuff Monoma said to you guys, and I just want you to know that not all of 1-B is like that.”

Nervously clutching the watering can, Izuku shrugged, not quite able to meet the other girl’s eyes. “Oh, uh, no need to worry, I know that he’s an outlier,” he lied. “Shiozaki and me were just talking about her Quirk, actually…”

“He was helping me regrow my vines a little before we went back to our seats,” Shiozaki interrupted smoothly. “I had a bit of a neck strain, but Recovery Girl fixed that right up, Kendo-san.”

The newly-named Kendo’s attention switched back to her classmate and she smiled. “That’s good to hear.”

“Yeah,” chimed in a boy with white hair and shadow-black skin that had entered along with Kendo. He grinned, the white of his teeth the only detail that Izuku could pick out of his face aside from his eyes. “That fight was impressive though, dude. Shiozaki’s no pushover.”

“Ah, thanks,” Izuku replied, still unsure. His class hadn’t really mingled outside of itself after the USJ, too aware of the hostility that the rest of the school seemed to feel towards them.

The other boy didn’t seem offended by his unenthusiastic response, thankfully. He stuck out his hand, his grin widening. “Kuroiro Shihai. And the others with me are Kodai Yui, Rin Hiryu, and Tokage Setsuna. The others are busy watching the matches or preparing.”

Switching to carrying the watering can in one hand, Izuku took the other boy’s hand and shook it. “Um, nice to meet you I guess.” He froze as the words left his lips and immediately began to backpedal. “I mean, it’s nice to meet you outside of the competition — not that I’m unsure whether it’s nice to meet you at all —”

Kendo snorted, hiding her mouth with her hand.

Izuku flushed and stopped talking, closing his mouth with a click. Looking around the room, he tried to find something to change the subject to. Thankfully, his eyes soon fell upon the perfect excuse.

“Oh, hey,” he said, his voice shrill, “the fight’s finally starting!”

The TV that was set into the wall was showing the platform that was set up for the fights, fully repaired and with Tsu-chan and Aoyama standing at opposite ends. On a platform, Midnight stood with her hand on her hip, looking the two of them over.

There was no sound, but Izuku could imagine Present Mic’s overly-excited introductions being screamed through the stadium. The cameras were switching between showing Tsu-chan and Aoyama’s faces — Tsu-chan calm and collected, her eyes focused on her opponent, and Aoyama winking at the camera as it passed him by.

“Oh, yeah, the next match,” Tokage said, shaking her dark hair out of her eyes. Separating from the group, she came over to stand next to Izuku, crossing her arms over her chest and grinning at him. “They’re both your classmates. Have you decided who you’re going to cheer on?”

Izuku hesitated, knowing that he shouldn’t answer right away — “Tsu-chan,” he admitted. The other boy seemed nice, but Tsu-chan had been the one to help him get through to this round. It would just be rude not to cheer for her.

Tokage’s face split into a sharp-toothed grin. “Tsu-chan?” she said, sounding delighted. “My goodness, you 1-A kids sure do move fast, don’t you? It’s only been a month.”

Izuku was confused for a moment; then he realized what the other girl was saying and his cheeks caught fire. “No no no no no!” he said, dropping the watering can to let it spill on the floor. “No, it’s not like that! She asked everyone to call her that! W-we, we’re not —”

The others broke into giggles as he sputtered. Tokage’s grin just grew wider and wider as he stumbled over his words, trailing off into a muttering fit.

Behind him, there was a sharp bark of laughter. A hand slapped him on the back, hard enough to make him take a step forward. Turning his head, Izuku saw that it was Rin, who had crossed the room while Izuku was looking at the TV.

“Don’t worry, she knows,” he said, slinging his arm over Izuku’s shoulders. “She’s just teasing you.”

Izuku wrung his hands. “I-I know that,” he said nervously, “I just — don’t want people getting the wrong idea about our class. Everyone’s already angry with us for being attacked —”

“Not everyone,” Koda said quietly.

Turning his head again, he saw that the quiet girl and Kendo were helping Shiozaki up from her seat so that she could sit on one of the beds.

Izuku bit the inside of his cheek and wrung his hands a little harder. “Maybe not everyone, but still a lot of people.”

“Well, they’re all dicks,” Kuroiro called from where he was leaning against the wall, shrugging like his words were self-evident.

The blunt, unapologetic statement startled a nervous giggle out of Izuku. On the screen, Midnight slashed her cat-o-nine-tails through the air, signaling the start of the match and drawing his attention in.

Looking at the match-up just by Quirks, it was an interesting. It could be argued that both specialized in long-range attacks, but with Tsu-chan’s powerful legs and jumps, she could easily get in close fast and —

Aoyama skipped across the ground like a stone across water and off the edge of the ring.

— And kick him out of the ring.

On the screen, the crowd was going wild as Tsu-chan stood in the middle of the ring. Izuku hadn’t known her for long, but he was pretty sure that there was a look of satisfaction on her froggy face.

Tokage let out a long, low whistle as Kuroiro and Rin both burst into laughter. “Damn,” she said, sounding impressed. “That was fast. He didn’t even have a chance to let off his Quirk.”

Izuku couldn’t stop the proud grin from spreading across his face. “Yeah,” he said excitedly, “with her Frog Quirk, she’s an excellent all-rounder with both long and short-range combat capabilities! She also has a cool head — I mean, you probably had a chance to see her during the Cavalry Battle, she was able to keep her head at the very end and figure out that we only really needed the ten million headband — which will really come in handy when she goes into Rescue work, because panic is one of the top killers in situations where rescue heroes are needed —”

“Okay man, we got it,” Rin said, taking his arm off of Izuku’s shoulders and holding his hands up in mock surrender. “Jeez, I defended you earlier and all, but I’m starting to think that maybe Tokage was onto something with you.”

Izuku snapped his mouth shut and blushed, covering the lower half of his face with his hands for good measure. “It’s not that,” he insisted in a squeak, “I just — really like watching people use their Quirks well.”

Kuroiro was still chuckling as he pushed off of the wall and came over, plopping himself on one of the free beds. “If you say so.”

Izuku felt his cheeks heat up even more.

“Don’t be embarrassed, I thought that what you were saying was very interesting,” Kendo said. She was sitting on the side of Shiozaki’s bed now, also watching the screen where the next fight was being set up. It was between Jirou and a boy from 1-B. Kendo patted the spot beside her, inviting him to sit. “Do you have any thoughts on this match-up?”

Looking at the others, none of them looked aggressive despite their earlier laughter, so he gingerly took a seat beside the red-head, his cheeks still hot. “Um, I don’t actually know as much about Jirou-san, but I know that she has a sound-based Quirk. Your classmate, though, I don’t know at all —”

“Awase,” Shiozaki said from behind him where she was lying down. “He can create molecular bonds between two objects.”

“Uh, Shiozaki, you do know that they could be facing each other, right?”

Shiozaki raised her head a little to shoot an unimpressed look at Kuroiro. “He’s taking place in a televised tournament. It’s not like he wouldn’t find out anyways.”

Tokage laughed again. “She’s got you there!”

Izuku had intended to go back to sit with the rest of his class after he had finished helping Shiozaki with her vines. For the rest of the round, though, Izuku didn’t quite manage to get up from the bed he was sitting on. Being there, trading comments with the other kids in the Hero course was surprisingly comfortable, considering Monoma’s behaviour towards him and his team. Perhaps Kendo had been correct, and most of 1-B didn’t hold any hard feelings towards 1-A. It was easy to believe as they watched Jirou trip Awase out of bounds with her earjacks after being bonded with the floor of the ring and cheered all the same for the unexpected victory.

As the matches went by, Izuku relaxed more and more. The 1-B students cheered and laughed and asked him questions as he went on muttering jags about the Quirks he saw. Uraraka and Yaoyorozu fought, with Uraraka managing a surprise win by pounding on Yaoyorozu fiercely enough to keep her from thinking and forcing her out of the ring. To his shame, Izuku was surprised, but he was still proud watching one of his friends jumping up and down in joy at her victory. Kacchan’s victory over his opponent, 1-B’s Honenuki Juuzou, was less unexpected to him, but had his fellow audience member’s gasping in surprise. Then there was another short match, between the purple-haired boy (Shinsou, Izuku thought his name was) and a pink-haired girl from the Support course where the girl had immediately stepped outside of the ring and forfeited her chance, and Kirishima versus a boy named Tetsutetsu who seemed to be a metallic copy of the boy.

Finally, thought, they were at the last match of the first round. Todoroki versus Sero. Izuku was particularly interested in watching this match; the conversation that they had had during lunch had not stopped bubbling in the back of his mind, merely simmering down during the other matches.

Sero was stretching his arms above his head casually as Midnight repeated the rules, showing off the growths on his elbows that created the tape that was his Quirk; Todoroki’s face was still in a way that made Izuku’s stomach do a slow, uncomfortable flip.

He recognized that blankness. He’d seen it plenty of times in the mirror. It was the blankness of someone repressing a wave of irrepressible emotion. His hands, which had been gesturing wildly as he chattered through all of the other matches, fell into his lap where they gripped the fabric of his pants.

The others were talking enthusiastically with each other, betting on whether or not the son of the Number Two Hero would make a good showing in his defeat of Sero. Izuku couldn’t bring himself to chide them; the tension gripping him was too strong.

Midnight raised her cat-o-nine-tails. Sero was still stretching his arms, but Izuku could tell that he was paying very close attention to Todoroki.

Todoroki was unreadable.

Midnight brought the cat-o-nine-tails down and the match started. Sero switched from stretching to shooting out tape instantly, saying something that the cameras couldn’t pick up and entangling Todoroki right away. He pulled, sending Todoroki skidding along the ground towards the edge of the ring —

And then there was ice. A mass of ice appeared in the blink of an eye, large enough to poke up past the top of the stadium and catching Sero in it without trouble.

Rimed with frost and clearly shivering, Midnight asked Sero if he could continue, despite the answer being obvious to everyone. Sero replied incredulously, this speech being caught by the cameras, but Izuku was unable to pay attention to it.

He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the small figure of Todoroki, standing in front of the iceburg with rounded shoulders. Stepping forward, he began to thaw Sero.

The others had been shocked by the abrupt violence of Todoroki’s attack, and only now were starting to talk again in hushed whispers.

His back looked so sad, Izuku found himself thinking. So sad and alone, like how Izuku had felt before coming Yuuei.


Sorahiko, known as Gran Torino to most of the world that bothered to notice him, took a determined slurp of his coffee. The microwave that he was warming his taiyaki in continued to hum along to itself, unmoved.

He had ached as he got up this morning, news of the Yuuei Sports Festival filling the room from his radio alarm clock. Not an ache in his bones; those were ever-present at his age, and honestly he barely even noticed them at this point in his life. No, it was an ache in his chest, today; an emptiness that couldn’t be filled. He had never been fond of the Festival, even while teaching at the damned school, but this year in particular it fell on a bad day. The day his best friend had been murdered, leaving him alone with a boy she had loved like a son and a duty that was too heavy for one set of shoulders to carry.

His coffee had gotten more than a small nip of alcohol poured into it that morning.

At times like this, when Nana’s shadow was a heavy weight in the back of his head, he didn’t often go out on patrol. Mostly he just stayed home and watched TV, forcing himself to pay attention to whatever was on until he could go to sleep again. Today, though, with the Sports Festival dominating all of the channels, he knew that he would have to go out just to keep from going insane from the memories that the school forced to the surface. On every channel he could see the students in their familiar uniforms, their faces set in a familiar determination that brought back the familiar memories of the short years between Nana passing One for All on and her murder at the hands of that monster —

As he waited for his breakfast slash lunch to finish warming up, his phone buzzed on the table. Pulling it from his belt, he couldn’t keep his lip from curling slightly at the sight of who was texting him.

Sir Nighteye was not a bad man. Sorahiko would never say that; rather he would say that he was a busybody and a nuisance that had never met a topic that he’d hesitated to give his opinion on.

Case in point, One for All.

Now, Sorahiko had not been particularly impressed the first time he had met Toshinori. He had thought that the kid was a delusional brat at best with his chatter about symbols, and had wondered if Nana hadn’t glommed onto him because she missed her own son so badly. She’d disappeared for nearly a year after her husband had died, to someplace that even he couldn’t find her. She was a woman that felt things deeply, so learning that that was the case with Toshinori wouldn’t have surprised him.

But slowly, the kid had proven himself. When Nana had taken the chance and pulled him out of foster care to personally take him in, he had thanked her by studying so hard that he got into Yuuei with some of the highest scores in its history. When she had finally deemed him capable of taking on One for All, he had used it to win the First Year Sports Festival and get transferred into the Hero Course. And when she had held the line against All for One, he had honoured her sacrifice by becoming the Symbol she had seen in him.

Every step of the way, Toshinori had proven that he deserved to be the Eighth Holder. And then Nighteye had come in and shoved his pet project in Toshinori’s face, like Nana’s Quirk was something to be so coldly passed on —

He took another swallow of his doctored coffee and grimaced, turning and tossing the phone onto his small kitchen table. It clattered loudly.

He’d gotten up a little late this morning — well, actually a lot late — so he’d missed the first two rounds of the Festival. The Festival was always set up so that those two events took up the morning, leaving the afternoon free for the inevitable tournament. As he took his taiyaki out of the microwave and headed back to the couch, the announcers on the TV were going over a highlight reel of the morning.

Sitting down on the worn piece of furniture, they were babbling on about that one First Year class in particular that had survived a villain attack. Apparently they were doing well. Sorahiko supposed that that was good; a low-stakes competition like the Sports Festival was likely a relief after that mess at the USJ.

Sinking his teeth into his first taiyaki, he leaned back in his seat and crossed his legs as the screen was filled by a hastily-slapped together highlight reel. He was only half paying attention as the reel began, beginning to mentally go over his patrol for later this afternoon when a flash of a massive, swollen arm caught his eye and he choked on his mouthful of food.

Because there, on the screen in front of him, with the announcers chattering away about how ‘impressive’ he was, was a smaller, dark-haired version of Nana’s murderer.
Catching the pieces that fell from his mouth and painfully swallowing, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the boy’s progress across the screen as the reel went on. Smashing through a Zero-Pointer — jumping over the top of the stadium — running around the pitch with a team — throwing his first opponent in the traditional third-round tournament out of the ring by her hair — all while the announcers babbled on about how the boy had gotten in with the highest score in the entrance exam, sounding so proud like they were the ones that raised him —
God. Had Toshinori seen this boy? Had he seen the way his arms swelled up like His had? The boy's hair was green rather than white but that resemblance - did he realize — he had to realize —

His phone buzzed on his table again, drawing his horrified gaze to it. Putting his cup down, Sorahiko stumbled towards it, picking it up with trembling hands.

Twenty-three texts and eight voicemail messages greeted his eyes, all mixed together and all from Nighteye. Scrolling back to the first text, he saw that there was a file attached. As if he was hypnotized, he opened it and saw a clip, longer than the one that had been in the reel, of the boy jumping over the top of the stadium, his arms swelling as he clapped them together to slow his fall.

His phone buzzed again, showing the alert that someone was trying to call him again. Sir Nighteye was trying to call him again.

He answered.

“You’ve seen the video I sent you?” the man said without preamble, his voice tight.

“Who the hell is that kid?” Sorahiko demanded, ignoring the niceties of conversation as well. “He looks like a fucking clone —”

“Of him, yes, I noticed.” Nighteye’s voice was grim.

“Does Toshinori know? Has he seen —”

“He has.” He hadn’t thought it was possible, but Nighteye’s voice had become even grimmer. “He says that it’s a coincidence. That he’s a nice boy.”

Sorahiko scrubbed at his forehead. “Fucking hell.”

“Precisely.” There was the sound of keys being tapped. “I’m working on a plan to get closer to him and find out what’s going on, but I’m going to need help.”

Sorahiko grimaced. “My help?”

The tapping paused for a moment before resuming. “If at all possible.”

Sorahiko wasn’t the fondest of Sir Nighteye. He was a busybody and liked to insert himself into things that weren’t his concern. But with Toshinori apparently ignoring the danger that was right in front of him —

“Of course,” he said, going back over to the couch and sitting back down. “What do you need?”

Chapter Text

Shame was already curdling in Shouto’s stomach as he exited the pitch, and only got worse as he saw who was waiting in the tunnel for him.

Endeavor, his flame mask flickering around his eyes, scowled as Shouto came closer. “We need to talk,” he demanded more than said.

Shouto averted his eyes and kept walking. “I won. There’s nothing to talk about.”

“By throwing a temper tantrum,” Endeavor sneered.

Well, at least the shame was becoming anger; that was a more comfortable emotion for Shouto to feel in his gut. “I ended the fight quickly and overwhelmed him entirely. You have nothing to complain about.” He was almost past his father now. If he could just make it to the waiting rooms…

No such luck.

The familiar feeling of one of Endeavor’s large hands clamping down on his arm hard enough to bruise stopped him. The heat coming off of Endeavor’s body was smothering as Shouto was pulled back like a doll to face him. Shouto didn’t flinch back at it, too used to it after a lifetime of facing it daily, but he didn’t hide the twist of his lips as he glared up at his father.

“You didn’t use your fire,” Endeavor growled.

Shouto didn’t even bother to hide his eye roll. This again? “I’ve told you, I don’t need your power to reach the top.”

The hand on his arm tightened even further, but Shouto didn’t let it show on his face how much it hurt. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

“You are wasting your talent,” the large man hissed. “You are my masterpiece, Shouto, and it’s about time that you outgrew this tantrum of yours!”

A sharp flicker of anger, like the flames that he hated so much, lanced through Shouto’s chest. He wrenched his arm out of his father’s grip and stepped away, glaring at him with all the venomous hatred he could muster. “It’s not a tantrum. I don’t need your Quirk to win and I never will.” Turning on his heel, he began to walk away, stiff-legged with rage. “Now if you wouldn’t mind, I need to prepare for my next match.”

“Shouto, don’t you dare walk away from me!” Endeavor snarled, but Shouto ignored him. Walking quickly, he turned the corner, secure in the knowledge that Endeavor wouldn’t risk following him and causing a scene.

Now, though, as he headed towards the waiting room set aside for 1-A, other thoughts began to bubble up.

His next match. He’d checked the match-ups and knew who he’d be going up against.

Midoriya Izuku. His first friend.

On the first day of school, Shouto hadn’t been very impressed by the majority of his classmates. The way they chattered and giggled with each other — it was something that was completely alien to Shouto, who’s world, never large, had narrowed down to just Endeavor’s house after his mother’s breakdown. No school or friends for Shouto; only training and his father’s lectures about his purpose and glorious future of beating All Might.

It hadn’t hurt as much as it might have. It wasn’t like he’d ever had friends even before he’d been pulled out of school anyway. Sure, some of the other kids in his elementary school classes had tried, but Shouto had never been allowed to blow off training. One time, Shouto had tried, going off with a group to look for frogs in a nearby park. His father’s fury and the blows his mother had taken for the crime of acting like a child had thoroughly cured any desire in him to disobey.

After being pulled out of public school, the desire for friends had only faded further. Watching the other kids in the neighbourhood pass by his house from his window as he iced his bruises and sprains, Shouto had found himself growing to resent them. Resent how they laughed with each other, complained about homework, excitedly talked about how cool Endeavor was, how cool it was that this or that friend lived so close to the Number Two Hero in Japan…

Those were things he’d never had. Things that he’d never wanted, he had tried to convince himself. Things that he tried to ignore on that first day, as groups quickly formed, filling the air with laughter and talking.

It was a little easier to pull up that shield of disdain once they were on the pitch, at least. Watching the others go through the exercises, he’d welcomed the irritation he’d felt as they struggled to get through them — this was Yuuei, the top Hero school in the country, and they were struggling with basic fitness? — letting it shield him from the awkward twist in his chest as he watched the others so easily talk to each other, cheering each other on.

Until the final exercise. The ball toss, where Midoriya Izuku had been picked out from the crowd by Aizawa-sensei and called to task for not giving his all.

Where Midoriya Izuku then blew them all away with a throw that was on-par with All Might’s strength.

That, Shouto thought as he entered the waiting room and sat down, was where his interest had started. Just a little twist in his chest; after all, that sort of power was definitely the sort of thing he’d have to watch out for if he was going to be Number One.

The second day, though. That was when it had shifted to something more. Something that snuck behind his defences and gripped his mind tightly.

Shouto knew that he had been somewhat cold towards Uraraka that day, but even with that twist of interest at Midoriya’s strength, he hadn’t been expecting much. Honestly, he’d been more worried about Yayaorozu and her Quirk. Strength Quirks were common, after all, and rarely trained well enough to be a threat to a Hero. Most villains and heroes with that sort of Quirk relied totally on overwhelming their opponent, something that Shouto could return with interest.

But Midoriya was not most people. The way he had moved — the way he had shifted between forms and darted about the room with his Quirk made Shouto feel like he was looking into a mirror. People who had taught themselves how to use their Quirks didn’t move like that, with that assurance and confidence.

And just like that, the suspicion blossomed. In the nurse’s office, the words tumbled from his lips, a hopeful question spilling out of him.

Was Midoriya like him?

It was such a small thought, only four words long, but it dominated his mind as he walked home that day. As he ate dinner. As his father trained him, berated him, hit him —

Did Midoriya know what this was like? Did Midoriya’s father see his quirk and start training him right away, when he was still small and longed to play outside with the other children?

Did Midoriya know what it was like to lie on the floor with his cheek being burned by his own vomit? Did he know what it was like to cover up bruises and burns whenever they had to go out to avoid questions? Did he listen to his mother sobbing at night after her husband had beaten her for trying to give him some small bit of a childhood?

Suddenly, Midoriya was all he could think about.

But it had been years since he had truly tried to talk to someone his own age, or outside of his family. Part of him was afraid that if he did his father would pull him out of school again if he showed too much interest, but more of him knew that that wouldn’t happen; it wouldn’t fit the story that had been built up in his father’s head over the years for him not to graduate from the best school in Japan. So he found himself trying to look up how, exactly, someone made friends.

Time with computers was strictly limited by Endeavor at his house, and he wasn’t allowed a phone, so simply looking up ‘How to make a friend’ was out. Instead, Shouto found himself forced to sneak into his sister’s room when Endeavor was out at work. He’d heard her on the rare occasions when they were allowed to eat together, talking about this or that book or drama, how *close* the characters were to each other, so her collection had seemed like the best place to start. She had a television in her room, thankfully, so he didn’t have to risk watching things in the main living room, and books were easy enough to sneak into his bookbag to read at school.

Watching the dramas and reading the books had opened a whole new world to him. With a hunger he hadn’t realized he’d been feeling he devoured it all, starved for depictions of the friendship that he’d never had the chance to feel. People — kids his age — walked across the screen and the pages of his books, laughing and playing and trusting others in a way that made his heart ache.

He wanted that. He wanted that with someone who understood. Someone who had to understand. Someone like Midoriya.

So Shouto had tried. He wrote down in his notebooks how the people in the books and dramas made friends, the simple little gestures that just seemed to refuse to come naturally to him, and started trying them out.

Eating lunch together had been the first thing. The books and dramas seemed to think that walking up and introducing yourself on the first day was the best way to go about it, but several said that doing so after the first day was okay too. So Shouto had gotten his lunch, screwed up his courage, and walked over to Midoriya’s table where he had already been sitting with his other friends.

Thankfully, Midoriya’s other friends hadn’t tried to shoo him away, and Midoriya hadn’t seemed unhappy to have him there in the days afterwards, even trying to draw him into his friends’ conversation occasionally. Shouto wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but they didn’t seem to hold his short answers against him, so he counted it as a success.

After that, he had put his other plans into motion. Working together during group work — success. Saving him a seat during practical lessons — success. Defending him from bullies — success. (Even if Midoriya had apparently only just realized that Shouto was trying to be his friend right then.) All in all, Shouto felt quite happy with the results of his campaign. He had a friend, one that he’d made all by himself, for the first time in his life.

A friend that he would now be fighting in the next stage of the Sports Festival tournament.

Shouto wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that.

It was a tournament, so there wouldn’t be any hard feelings, right? Only, fights were always serious in his reference materials…

No. No, they were both here to do their best, like Midoriya had said in his speech. This fight was a chance for them to show what they were made of.

A loud crackle over the loudspeaker in the room pulled Shouto out of his thoughts.

Todoroki Shouto and Midoriya Izuku to the pitch, please,” a voice droned. “Your match is up next.

Shouto blinked in surprise and looked at the clock hanging above the door. To his surprise, he realized that he had been just sitting here, waiting, through the other matches.

Well.

Standing up from table, he pushed his worries back down in his mind. It was time for him to show everyone, especially his father, that he only needed his mother’s power to be Number One. Everything else could wait until later.

Including his friendship with Midoriya.


ALLLLL RIGHT, EVERYBODY!! IT’S THE MATCH YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR SINCE THEIR EXPLOSIVE ENTRANCE IN THE FIRST ROUND! TODOROKIIIIIIII VERSUS MIDORIYAAAA!!

The crowd cheered as Shouto left the tunnel leading to the pitch, so loud that he was tempted to cover his ears. He didn’t though; he knew that his old man was watching somewhere. If he showed weakness, then he’d catch hell when they got home, regardless of the results of the match.

Of course, he’d catch hell anyways for not using his left side, but that wasn’t important. He was used to that type of hell.

Reaching the steps up to the ring, he began to climb them. As he came up to the top, he could see Midoriya across the cement platform, mirroring his actions. His head was tilted down, chin resting against his chest and brow furrowed in thought. Probably trying to come up with a strategy — something that Shouto should have done while waiting, he realized with a pang of irritation at his father.

Well, if Midoriya was looking like this now then he probably hadn’t done much planning either. Perhaps Shouto would be okay.

ONNNN ONE SIDE, WE HAVE THE POWERFUL! THE CLEVER! THE CHIVALROUS! MIDORIYAAAA IZUKUUUUU!

Midnight, standing on a scaffold up above them, gestured towards the green-haired boy with her whip as the screen above flickered, showing Midoriya’s picture to everyone that was too high up in the stands to properly see him in the ring. No doubt Endeavor was studying the picture closely, Shouto thought with annoyance, before shoving the thought away. He had to focus.

AAAAAANNND ON THE OTHER SIDE — SON OF THE NUMBER TWO HERO HIMSELF —

Shouto grimaced, dark thoughts rising back up before being shoved back down with twice the ruthlessness.

TODOROKIIIIIIII SHOUTOOOO!

The crowd had already been cheering as they came out, but as Present Mic finished they roared.

Shouto hid his desire to cover his ears by settling into a ready position. Across from him, Midoriya did the same.

It seemed that they were both resigned to the fact that only one of them would be moving on to the next round.

“Alright,” Midnight said, cracking her whip to get both of their attentions, “I know you two are rather high-spirited, but don’t get carried away here! Remember, at the end of the day, this is a tournament, not a fight to the death.”

She paused, clearly waiting for some sort of acknowledgment of her words. Shouto, keeping his eyes on Midoriya, nodded shortly.

Midoriya did the same. “Got it.”

“Good.” Midnight raised her whip. “On your marks!”

Shouto took in a breath and let it out, pushing his right foot forward in preparation.

“Get set!”

Midoriya squatted slightly, holding out his arms in clear readiness to let off a shockwave clap.

“FIGHT!” The whip came down with a crack and the match began.

Officially, that is. Neither of them moved right away.

The thing was, Shouto knew as he watched Midoriya’s every twitch, the thing was that they had already fought against each other in the Battle Trial. They’d watched each other’s matches against their respective opponents. Correspondingly, they both knew each other’s moves —

— And correspondingly, had at least a pretty good idea on how to counter them.

Midoriya’s shockwave claps were a major problem for Shouto. With his ice, his fighting style depended on large walls or spears, things that Midoriya had proven to be able to disintegrate with a well-aimed shockwave clap. Shouto had never used something like the iceberg from last round on the other boy, but he didn’t fancy his chances of being able to overwhelm him like he had Sero.

So a long-range fight like he preferred was — not advisable, to put it mildly.

Shouto was also at a disadvantage when it came to the length of the match as well. His power lowered his overall body temperature as he used it, making him vulnerable to hypothermia. Sure, technically speaking, he could use his father’s fire to warm up, but something shriveled and ugly in Shouto’s chest snarled at the thought of using it while his father was watching.

So his options were, generally speaking, limited.

With Midoriya, however — he didn’t seem to have any real time limit to his powers, or drawbacks such as harming himself. The positives of a simple enhancement Quirk, Shouto supposed, but the other boy still wasn’t attacking. Did he think that Shouto had a plan?

Above them, Midnight cleared her throat. “Ahem. I said you could start, boys.”

“We know,” Midoriya said quietly, keeping his eyes on Shouto. He shifted, lifting his foot to take a step to the side —

Shouto felt himself tense, the nerves on the right side of his body tingling as he activated his Quirk. Otherwise, though, he didn’t move.

What shot out from his foot was not impressive in the sense that Endeavor favoured. It was just a thin layer of ice, so thin it wasn’t even really visible as it shot forward towards the area where Midoriya would have to put his foot down. But with all of the disadvantages that Shouto was at, there was one area where he felt fairly confident they were on more even ground.

Midoriya put his foot down, his eyes still locked on Shouto, and slipped. His foot, which he had clearly been expecting to stay put, shot out from underneath him and forcing him into a splits-like position.

This was his chance. Shouto darted forward. Both of them knew how to use their Quirks and how to use them well. Both of them had to know that Shouto was at a disadvantage with his usual fighting style. So Shouto was going to have to mix it up and bring in the one area where they would both be on more even ground.

Hand to hand combat.

Sure, Midoriya could obviously just enhance his own strength, but hand to hand was about more than just that. Shouto’s fingers crumpled the front of the Midoriya’s coat as he grabbed a hold of it. Turning, he kept up his momentum and pulled, dragging Midoriya forward over his hip and into a flip.

Hand to hand was also about balance, pivot points, and technique. All things that Endeavor, shitty as he was, had emphasized after coming to terms with the fact that Shouto would never be able to bulk up to his level. His body type was too much like his mother’s, he had grunted, not looking at Shouto, so he was better off learning a different style of martial arts.

OHHHH, AND TODOROKI SEEMS TO BE MIXING IT UP! USING MARTIAL ARTS RATHER THAN HIS QUIRK, HE FLIPS MIDORIYA ONTO HIS BACK!

Of course he did,” came the tired tones of Aizawa. “They’ve already fought each other during class training and know that Midoriya can just smash any amount of ice Todoroki throws out. It’s only logical that he’d then fall back to less flashy techniques.

A GOOD POINT, ERASERHEAD!! INGENIUM, ANY COMMENTARY TO MAKE HERE?

Just that this is also a good move for Todoroki to show off some of his other talents. A powerful Quirk is never a bad thing in Heroics, but not every situation can be solved by one. It’s good to see that he has more moves than ‘throw an iceberg at it’.

AND ANOTHER GOOD POINT!

Midoriya hit the ground with a gasp that Shouto recognized — the air had been driven from his lungs. This was his chance. If he managed to freeze Midoriya to the ground, where he wouldn’t have the leverage needed to properly use his strength, he could end this match. His arm prickled as the air around them cooled —

But Midoriya was clever. His eyes had been squeezed shut from being slammed into the ground, but as Todoroki sent frost down the other boy’s arms they snapped open. Clawing at the ground, he twisted, and despite Shouto’s best efforts he managed to yank his arm from his grip and scuttle away, his eyes wary.

Damn. Seemed like he figured out the plan. Shouto’s mouth twisted slightly in irritation. Well, it wasn’t like he had a better one, so he’d have to make this one work. Keeping his eyes on Midoriya, he began to send out thin sheets of ice again. This time, however, it wasn’t towards any particular part of his opponent; instead, he had it bloom outward like some great flower, aiming to cover the entire ring.

Midoriya, however, wasn’t just sitting around as he did so. His sleeves suddenly tightened, stretched tight by sudden muscles, and the other boy lunged forward towards him.

It was an easy move to dodge; Shouto twisted, keeping his right foot on the ground. Midoriya’s speed wasn’t as high as he knew it could be, his feet slipping slightly on the ice beneath him —

CRACK!

Concrete crumbled underneath Midoriya’s foot as he came level with Shouto, and abruptly Shouto realized that he hadn’t dodged at all; he’d just done exactly as Midoriya had expected.

With his foot digging into the concrete to get past the slippery ice, Midoriya tucked in his head and squared his shoulder before body-checking Shouto hard enough to send him flying.

OHHH, LOOKS LIKE MIDORIYA IS SHOWING SOME MORE TALENTS AS WELL! TODOROKI TRIED TO ICE OVER THE RING TO KEEP HIM FROM GETTING THE PROPER LEVERAGE TO FIGHT, BUT THAT HASN’T STOPPED HIM IN THE SLIGHTEST! USING HIS QUIRK TO SMASH THROUGH THE GROUND, HE’S MADE HIS OWN FOOTHOLDS AND SENT TODOROKI FLYING!

Flying right out of the ring — Shouto gritted his teeth, aware that the boundaries of the ring were coming up. It was harder when he wasn’t directly touching the ground but…

He concentrated, his right side nearly burning from the cold he was forcing into being, but he ignored it. He was used to the cold, and right now it was the only thing that could keep him from losing. He heard a crackle and groan, ice crystals forming —

OH, AND JUST IN TIME TODOROKI MANAGES TO GET UP AN ICE WALL TO KEEP FROM BEING KNOCKED OUT OF THE RING! WHAT REFLEXES!

You’re right, Mic, reacting so fast is quite an accomplishment! I know a few people who’d have trouble thinking so fast on their feet, including me!

The compliments of the announcers washed over Shouto as he wheezed. He’d hit the ice wall hard, almost knocking the breath out of himself, but he didn’t have time to catch his breath. Just like during the Battle Trial, Midoriya was bearing down on him, his fists raised and eyes hard like emeralds.

Shouto got out of the way just in time. Midoriya slammed into the ice wall, reducing it to fine powdered snow as he slid away, taking advantage of the ice he’d managed to spread in order to move just a little bit faster. His chest still hurt as he stood up, but he could ignore that.

What he couldn’t ignore, however, was the shiver that abruptly ran through him. Gritting his teeth, he hunched over slightly in an attempt to hide it. Already? Making that wall so quickly must have taken more out of him than he expected.

Midoriya was coming at him again, though, so he didn’t have time to linger. Throwing up a weak wall of ice, he moved again so that just as Midoriya was smashing through it he was coming around it and grabbing his arm, trying to send out more cold because he was now on a timer and needed to end this quickly —

But again, Midoriya managed to wrench himself free, sliding away on the ice and shaking his arm. Shouto was shaking too, fiercer now, and he clenched his jaw in an attempt to keep his teeth from chattering. The cold was getting harder to ignore, sinking into his bones. He could feel Endeavor’s fire moving underneath his skin, begging to be used, but he pushed it back down. He didn’t need it. Cold as he was, he would win this without his father’s power.

Midoriya’s arm was pink from the cold. So were his cheeks, making his freckles stand out. At least the temperature was affecting him as well. Shouto let out a breath, the heat forming a white mist in the chill of the air surrounding him. It was time to end this.

Darting forward, he threw a punch at Midoriya’s face. Yes, most of the time Shouto needed his fire to warm up, but he still had a little bit of resistance to the cold of his ice naturally. Midoriya would have none of that. If he kept his ice coming at a low but steady rate, he could send cold shooting through his opponent with every blow while minimizing his own internal temperature drop.

Punch, punch, block, kick — the two of them traded blows as mist began to rise off of their bodies. It seemed that like Shouto, Midoriya’s body had been trained along with his Quirk. One advantage of having his body chilled already with his Quirk was that the blows were numbed at least.

But it was still an endurance match, and he had started off shivering. As the two of them fought, Present Mic screaming his commentary from above, Shouto found himself beginning to slow. Blows that he would have dodged or blocked at the start of the match began to get through, striking him hard. He ached from the cold, his skin burning and body aching.

Skipping back and blowing hard, Shouto looked over Midoriya. He was shivering too, and had the beginning of a magnificent black eye. Where Shouto’s blows had gotten through were bright red and almost blistering in the unmistakable signs of frostbite. His head ducked down, face hidden from view by his arms and surrounded by frost and ice, he looked almost as awful as Shouto felt.

Raising his hands once more, Shouto could barely curl his hands into fists. He could see patterns of frost twining up and down his arms. But the fight wasn’t over; not yet. He had to win —

“Todoroki, you’re shivering.”

Shouto had taken a stumbling step forward, but stopped at the sound of Midoriya’s voice. “S-so?” he forced out through chattering teeth.

Across from him, Midoriya lowered his arms just enough for Shouto to see his eyes. They weren’t the glittering emeralds from earlier in the match. No, these green eyes looking at him were soft with concern.

Shouto gritted his teeth and raised his trembling arms up a little higher. “We’re fighting. Is this really the time to worry about me?”

“Todoroki,” Midoriya said reproachfully. As Shouto was raising his arms higher, he was lowering his, revealing a worried expression. “You’re the one that wanted to be friends. Worrying about each other is what friends do.”

“Not in the middle of a fight.”

Midoriya’s face tightened and he took a step forward. “That’s the time that a friend should worry most,” he said. “Why aren’t you using your fire to warm yourself up?”

Shouto clenched his jaw tighter and took a step back, not letting his guard down. “I told you why.”

“You’re hurting yourself, though. You’re almost hypothermic —” He was coming closer, his face twisted with concern as his arms continued to lower.

“I told you!” Shouto snapped. Anger and fear began to rise up in the back of his throat and he didn’t know why. “I’ll win without my father’s power!”

Midoriya stopped, his head jerking back like he had been slapped. His arms dropped entirely down to his sides, but his hands were still clenched into fists. Through gritted teeth, he spoke.

“Todoro — no, Shouto, I understand not wanting to use a power you see as rightfully belonging to someone else,” he said in a trembling voice. “Believe me, you have no idea how much I understand, but you’re only hurting yourself —”

“I’ve felt worse,” Shouto snarled. The fear and anger had kept rising as Midoriya spoke, and all of a sudden he just wanted it to stop. He lunged forward and slammed a fist into Midoriya’s face, making him stagger back.

Midoriya didn’t raise his hands though, instead keeping them at his side. His fists were trembling, though.

“Shouto…” Midoriya said softly, almost too soft for Shouto to hear, “does this make you happy?”

“What?”

Midoriya had ducked his head. Now his whole body was trembling, but not, Shouto suspected, with cold. “Hurting yourself,” he snapped, stepping closer again, “out of spite towards someone.” He raised his head and Shouto saw that his eyes were shining with tears. “Hurting people that care about you to spite someone that doesn’t care at all!”

It was Shouto’s turn to feel like he had been slapped. “He —” he stammered out. He wanted to step back again but under that teary gaze it was like his feet were rooted to the ground.

“He doesn’t care! You told me yourself, he only sees you as a tool!” Midoriya thumped his chest. “Who cares what he thinks! He’s an asshole! All you talk about is him, but what about the rest of your family! What about your friends?! I care about you, and so does the rest of the class — watching you hurt yourself like this —” He stopped, and sucked in a breath through his teeth. Then he let it out before speaking again, softer this time. “Giving your father so much power over you — does it make you happy?”

Shouto’s mouth seemed to have stopped working. Happiness — that was for other people, in that other world —

You live in a different world than them,” Endeavor said as he dragged Shouto away from his laughing siblings.

His chest felt tight.

I’m not taking you to a doctor for this!” Endeavor shouted as Shouto lay on the floor, not even shivering anymore from the cold in his bones. “Stop with this tantrum and use your flames!" He turned towards the door where his siblings were standing, staring at him in horror. “What are you looking at? Get out of here!

He tried to breathe, shaking.

Your mother won’t be coming back,” his father said, sounding annoyed. Shouto’s face hurt underneath the thick bandages; almost as much as his heart did at the casual words. “God, she just had to do it. I told her that this is a crucial age —

Present Mic was saying something, but Shouto couldn’t hear it over the ringing in his ears.

His mother was sobbing, barely able to get the words out and facing away from Shouto. The kettle was rumbling, just on the verge of boiling. “I can’t do it anymore — I look at them and all I see is him —”

Shouto wanted to say that his father didn’t control him. Didn’t dominate his thoughts, was the reason behind his actions. But if he didn’t — then why was he the center of so many of his memories? Why did Shouto do so many things based on whether or not they would make Endeavor angry?

Trembling, Shouto tried to think of the last time he had done something without first thinking about how his father would react. Nothing was coming to mind.

“…roki-kun?” Midnight was talking to him from her scaffold. “Todoroki-kun, can you continue with the match?”

Shouto looked up at her, feeling oddly light. Across from him, Midori — no, Izuku, was looking at him with concern.

“Shouto?” Izuku asked.

Shouto looked down at his hands, almost entirely covered in frost now. They were still curled into fists, and with some effort he forced them open.

“Todoroki-kun?”

“…No, Midnight-sensei,” Shouto finally said. “I don’t think that I can continue the match.”

“Shouto?!” Izuku almost sounded scandalized, and Shouto couldn’t help but smile.

“Izuku,” he said, enjoying the way the other boy’s name flowed over his tongue, “thank you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“I — you’re welcome?” Izuku replied, still looking confused.

WELL, IN A SURPRISE TWIST AFTER ALL THAT FIGHTING, TODOROKI FORFEITS THE MATCH! MAN, I WISH THAT I KNEW WHAT MIDORIYA SAID!

Todoroki bowed respectfully towards his friend as the crowds began to cheer. “Good luck with the rest of your matches,” he said, turning away to head back to the stands. “I’ll be cheering for you.”

He was halfway down the steps when Izuku’s voice rang out again. “Shouto!”

Shouto paused, looking over his shoulder. “Yes?”

Izuku’s skin was still reddened from the cold-enhanced blows they had traded. Clasping his hands in front of him, he looked Shouto in the eye as he spoke. “Thank you,” he said. “For listening.”

Shouto smiled a little. “Don’t thank me yet,” he said. Midnight had come down from her scaffold and was now standing behind Izuku, looking at him as well. “I’m still thinking about what you said.”

Then, with the echoes of the cheering crowds and Present Mic’s commentary ringing in his ears, he walked the rest of the way to the tunnel that would lead him back into the stands of the stadium. His father would undoubtedly find him soon, furious over him ‘giving up’.

Before he did, though…

Halfway down the tunnel, he paused for a moment. He was still cold, and should probably go to see Recovery Girl. Instead of heading there right away, though, he instead held up his left hand in front of him.

For just a few moments, he let go of the iron control that he used to keep his left half in check. Like they had just been waiting for this chance, a few small tongues of flame appeared, licking the air and spitting out sparks. Immediately, Shouto felt the cold begin to leave him.

Izuku’s words, about truly leaving his father’s control of him behind — he didn’t think that he was quite ready to start using his flames right away, but. Maybe at school, where he didn’t have to deal with his father’s gloating?

He snuffed out the flames and started walking again, heading towards Recovery Girl’s office. Like he had told Izuku, he had a lot of thinking to do.

Chapter Text

“Aww,” Hisashi pouted over Inko’s shoulder, “I was looking forward to seeing young Todoroki’s fire.” To emphasize his point, he squeezed her in his arms. “At least Izuku’s moving forward.”

Inko was unable to keep from tensing at her ex-husband’s touch. Since the Sports Festival had started, neither of them had left the room, and Hisashi had only gotten more touchy-feely. They had started out sitting beside each other on the couch like they had before Inko had found out who he really was, but during the time between the first and second round Hisashi had pulled her closer and closer until she was sitting on his lap with his arms encircled around her.

When she had first started dating him, she had found his cuddliness charming; touch-starved as she was from a childhood spent in foster services, she’d enjoyed the feeling of another person’s skin against her own. Whether just the palms of their hands or more, she had liked the warmth and solidity of his body against hers, and had spent many nights curled up in his lap as they watched (or didn’t watch) TV.

In the small part of her mind not carefully tracking her ex-husband’s reactions, she wondered if him pulling her into his lap was a genuine sign of affection or an attempt to manipulate those memories. In the balance of things, she was fairly certain that it was the latter.

“Don’t you think that it’s nice?” Hisashi asked, his voice light and playful.

Inko ground her teeth. “Yes,” she bit out. “It’s nice that he can show off for once.”

Hisashi snorted. “Hardly,” he said, his voice still warm, “he’s barely used any of the Quirks I got him.”

“I’m weeping.” The sarcastic words slipped out before Inko could stop them, and she forced her mouth shut hard enough that her teeth clicked. Clenching her hands into fists, she forced back the anger that had been bubbling in her stomach for hours now. Getting mad here would only make her slip up; she had to make sure that Hisashi continued to think that Yuuei was aware of Izuku’s parentage and was protecting him!

Luckily for her, Hisashi just laughed at her sarcasm, his chest rumbling. Reaching up, he cupped her cheek, ignoring how she flinched, and turned her face to his so that their lips nearly brushed. “Strange,” he said mockingly as he ran a thumb along her cheekbone, “I don’t feel any tears…”

Inko pressed her lips together tightly and twisted her fingers in her skirt. She wished she had the courage to just tear the pipe from his throat; tear it out and run away as he choked on his jokes and needling comments. That would keep Izuku safe too!

But she wasn’t. She wasn’t brave enough to do that, and face his enraged underlings that worshiped him like some sort of god. So instead, she pulled her face away from his hand and turned back to the TV, her eyes burning with tears for real now.

Hisashi just laughed again, pulling her back against him and resting his chin on her shoulder. “I suppose that I shouldn’t be so surprised by Todoroki, though,” he mused. “I mean, a single fight is hardly going to get through the boy’s trauma. This isn’t a shonen manga.”

Despite herself, Inko couldn’t keep from turning her head just enough to see Hisashi’s scarred scalp from the corner of her eye. “Trauma?”

She could feel the scarred skin of his cheeks bunching against her neck as he grinned. “I’m not surprised that you don’t know,” he said smugly. “The Heroics Commission has spent a lot of time and effort on covering it up. However — haven’t you ever wondered why Endeavor’s family doesn’t do public appearances? Except for young Shouto there?”

Inko bit the inside of her cheek. “It’s dangerous for a hero’s family to be too public,” she said stiffly, even as her mind raced to catch up with Hisashi’s.

Hisashi just chuckled, patting her belly. “For some, maybe,” he said. “In Endeavor’s case, however, it’s more to keep anyone from asking where the bruises on his wife and children are coming from. Well, were coming from, in the case of his wife.”

Inko knew that she wasn’t necessarily the smartest person around; her choice in romantic partners certainly proved that, but she could hardly not get it with the hints Hisashi was dropping. “…You’re claiming that Endeavor abuses his family,” she said slowly. “That the number two hero in Japan is a wife-beater.”

“Oh, I’m claiming nothing,” Hisashi said. He turned his head, tucking his smile into the crook of her neck. She could feel it widen. “Multiple people over the years have tried to expose the man. Reporters, other heroes, even his own employees. The Hero Commission has blocked every attempt.”

Inko was silent.

“Some of my own people confirmed it years back,” Hisashi continued murmuring into her neck. “It seems that Endeavor couldn’t stand being second-best but had given up on ever climbing past our dear All Might, so he decided to breed himself a better hero.” He snorted. “The world’s worst stage father, and the Hero Commission insists on protecting him instead of say, helping his victims.”

“Why are you talking to me about this?” Inko finally said. On the TV, Cementoss was smoothing the ring’s floor after talking to Midnight.

Hisashi nuzzled her throat, dragging what was left of his nose up to just behind her ear, laying a chaste kiss on the soft skin there. “I’m saying this because *that* is the sort of person that rises high as a Hero,” he said, his breath puffing against the shell of her ear. “This whole society that’s built up around Heroes, it’s broken. You know it’s broken, and you’ve put Izuku right in the middle of it.”

Inko continued to be silent, memories beginning to bubble up. Because Hisashi wasn’t wrong. Growing up in the foster system, she’d learned quickly and firmly that Heroes preferred to rescue pretty happy children that were a part of a pretty happy family that lived in a pretty happy house. They rarely bothered to help the little girl in a dirty dress that was afraid of not getting dinner the second night in a row because her mean classmates had stolen her notebooks again. At least, not if there were no cameras around.

He wasn’t wrong. That was the most damning thing. Izuku didn’t even have the protection that Inko was pretending he did either. If he stepped wrong, if it came out that Hisashi was his father…

“I know I frightened you that night, Inko,” he said quietly. “And I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have said those things. But can’t you understand that I only want what’s best for him?”

The memories of her childhood shifted at his words, allowing another, more recent one to float to the surface. Of her son sobbing, telling her that ‘Daddy’s been doing something very bad and making me do it too’…

Grabbing ahold of the anger that that memory brought up, Inko crushed it into a dense ball and held on tight as it began to burn. “What’s best for him?” Ice, rather than fire, dripped from her lips but burned all the same. “So to you, being a crime lord is being better than being a hero?”

“I prefer to think of myself as a philanthropist,” Hisashi sighed, sounding disappointed. “Someone who helps the people that are slipping through the gaping cracks of today’s society.”

Inko couldn’t keep a scoff from leaving her lips.

“Really now, Inko,” Hisashi said, sounding even more disappointed. He gave her a squeeze. “Don’t be like that. You know just as well as I do that this society isn’t kind to people that fall outside of the norm. People with mutation quirks, or weak Quirks, or whatever society deems is a ‘villainous’ Quirk —” What was left of his upper lip curled as he spat out the last example “— when bad things happen to them, there are no heroes there to pick them back. To extend a helping hand. Can you blame me for seeing them and wanting to help?”

“Yes,” Inko bit out. “Especially when you make it very clear that your ‘helping hand’ didn’t come free.”

Hisashi let out another sigh. “Nothing in life is free.”

“Heroism should be.”

“Should be. But it isn’t.” He gave her a squeeze and nuzzled behind her ear again. “The price the heroes demand is being a good little victim for the heroes to save, with no ugly Quirks. Or relatives. I don’t ask for anything so stringent.” Pulling back so that his lips were brushing the shell of her ear, Inko could feel his mouth shaping the whispered words he was pouring into her ear. “Tell me,” he asked, his voice no longer amused in the slightest, “how did you manage to convince the heroes to help you? What did you say to All Might to convince him to hide my child from me?”

Inko clenched her jaw. “I asked him if he wanted to piss you off and he agreed instantly,” she snarked even as she thought. What reason would All Might have to help Izuku? If he kept pressing, she needed an answer that would hold up to scrutiny…

Hisashi growled, low in his chest. Inko could feel it against her back. “I assume that’s you being flippant,” he said, his voice flat. “I can’t say that I appreciate it, though. You never answered my earlier question, either. What do you think the Heroics Commission is going to do to our boy if he puts a toe out of line, hm?”

“All Might will protect him,” Inko said. She was proud that her voice didn’t waver as she said it, because God knew that All Might had to hate Hisashi to reduce his face to a mass of scar tissue. Izuku wasn’t his father, wasn’t anything like Hisashi, but would All Might see that if the truth came out? Would anyone? Or would they just see another villain’s kid, trying to reach up past his betters…

On the TV, the next match was being announced. It was between a red-haired boy with a hardening Quirk and a purple-haired boy from Yuuei’s General Education track. Staring at the screen as Present Mic began hyping up the audience, she tried to ignore the sound of Hisashi’s teeth grinding.

“All Might can’t protect Izuku from everyone,” he said as Midnight clambered onto the referee’s platform. “The world will hate him for his Quirk, just as it hates young Shinsou. Our Quirks are not pretty, shiny things to distract the masses. Just as Shinsou-kun’s Brainwash frightens people by taking away their wills, Izuku and I’s frightens people by taking away what they consider to be their defining trait. Brainwash would be a perfect Quirk for Heroics if it was actually about saving people, but instead of being recommended for Heroics like he should be, he’s shunted off into the General Education track. Just because his Quirk doesn’t work well for smashing robots.”

“And yet, here he is,” Inko said steadily. Her hands were aching from how tightly she was squeezing the fabric in her hands now. “Fighting to get into the Heroics track anyways, instead of being consumed by his bitterness. Just like how Izuku fought past the guilt of what you did to get him his Quirks to go to Yuuei.” She had very nearly said ‘to apply to Yuuei’, and cursed herself. “And don’t pretend that you feel bad for Shinsou-kun — I saw how you were tugging your lip when you first heard his Quirk. You just want it for yourself.”

He let out a harsh bark of laughter in her ear and fell back. “You always think the worst of me, don’t you?” he said, not denying the charge at all. “I will admit, a couple of them have caught — well, not my eye, but definitely my attention. The boy with the molecular bonding Quirk as well…” He sounded wistful, and then shook his head, his tubes dragging against Inko’s arm. “Perhaps later. In any case, the match is about to start. Let’s watch.”


Izuku really hadn’t been expecting that from Todo — no, Shouto. When he’d spoken to Shouto, urging him to forget his father’s expectations, he had thought that he would use his fire, or, failing that, continue attacking with his ice. He had not expected Shouto to stare at him like he was seeing Izuku for the first time and then forfeit.

He’d been so stunned that he’d barely been able to react to Recovery Girl’s scolding as she wrapped him in heated blankets. Shouto had already been gone by the time he had reached her office, apparently having bounced back quickly from over-using his Quirk. Izuku wasn’t so lucky, and had been forced to stay through the next match, between Kacchan and Uraraka. At least he’d been able to watch it on the TV.

The match had been good, too, despite Uraraka losing in the end. Her strategy for dealing with Kacchan had been magnificent, keeping him on the defensive for the entire match, and if that final attack had landed…! That the other heroes in the audience hadn’t been able to see where she was going with things had been disappointing, but Aizawa had thankfully called them out for underestimating her. Frankly, Izuku agreed that if the heroes that had started booing Kacchan hadn’t been able to see how she had been setting things up, then they really should be handing in their licenses.

When Uraraka arrived in the office, helped there by Iida, he told her as much. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to help.

Sitting on a bed, her hands covered in bandages and her legs with a blanket, Uraraka scrubbed at her face. “I still lost,” she croaked, refusing to look up from her lap. “Nearly only counts with horseshoes and grenades. And I lost badly, he didn’t even have to touch me. You heard the audience — all they’re going to remember is the fragile little girl that couldn’t cut it —” Her voice cracked and she wiped under her nose.

“You’re being too hard on yourself!” Iida said from the opposite side of Uraraka’s bed, chopping the air fiercely. He had come in with Uraraka, having gone down to meet her as she was carried off of the pitch. “Firstly, Aizawa-sensei was quick to shut such talk down.”

“And you got to the second round of the tournament!” Izuku added, leaning forward and ignoring how the blankets slipped off of his shoulders. “Yuuei has hundreds of students, and you beat them all — with a Quirk that doesn’t have any immediately obvious combat capabilities! Any hero worth their salt would be impressed and glad to have you as an intern!”

Uraraka sniffled, still not looking at either of them. “You think so?” she asked, her voice thick with pleading. “I just — I wanted to win, and really show what I could do. Make my mom and dad proud.”

“I’m sure you have.” Iida readjusted his eyeglasses on his nose, puffing out his chest. “I know that if I had put up such an excellent fight against an opponent like Bakugou, my parents would be extremely proud of me.”

Izuku’s heart twinged at the thought of parents, but he smiled encouragingly at his friend. “The way you talk about your parents, there’s no way that they wouldn’t be proud of you,” he said. “Don’t forget, Kacchan’s one of the strongest in the class, and you kept him on the defensive through the entire fight. I don’t think many in our class could do that!”

“Midoriya-kun is right!” Iida agreed. Reaching over, he patted her arm awkwardly. “You said that you wanted to call him on the way here. Why not do that now?”

Wiping underneath her eyes, Uraraka finally looked up at them. Her brown eyes were still shiny, but she managed to shoot both of them a weak, trembling smile. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, you know what, Iida-kun? Maybe I will.” Pulling back the covers, she swung her legs over the side of the bed.

Without warning, Recovery Girl appeared at Izuku’s elbow, making him jump. “And where do you think you’re going, young lady?”

All three of them froze. Izuku traded glances with the other two. He’d thought that Recovery Girl had stepped out —

“Uhhh, I just wanted to call my parents?” Uraraka pitched the explanation so that it sounded more like a question than an answer.

Izuku cringed as the old heroine frowned. Reaching out, she patted the bed sternly. “If you want to make calls, I’ll bring you a phone,” she said. “You just spent the better part of fifteen minutes having explosion after explosion let off in your face. You are not getting out of this bed until I give you the okay, understand?”

“But it’s a private call,” Uraraka protested even as she pulled her legs back up onto the mattress.

“Then I’ll pull the curtains shut.” Recovery Girl was unmoved.

Uraraka still didn’t look happy, but she seemed to be able to tell that she wasn’t going to be able to make the other woman budge.

Iida, clearly uncomfortable with the tension in the air, cleared his throat. “If you’re worried about privacy, Uraraka-kun, Midoriya-kun and I can leave.”

“Oh, no, it’s alright!” The unhappiness melted away from Uraraka’s face as she brought her hands up. “I mean, I don’t want to force you out of here!”

“It’s no trouble at all!” Iida insisted. “I actually wanted to talk to Midoriya-kun about something before the next round starts.”

Izuku looked at him in surprise, his eyebrows rising. “You do?” He looked over his shoulder at the TV in the corner of the room and was surprised to realize that the last match had already finished. He pouted internally; he’d wanted to watch that!

Iida was already getting up. “Yes,” he said, putting the chair back against the wall. “If you’ll follow me?”

Nervous, Izuku glanced over at Recovery Girl. If she was being this stern about Uraraka…

But to his surprise, she simply nodded at him. “You’ve probably warmed up enough by now,” she said, gesturing to the heated blankets that had pooled around his waist. “Try to keep the dramatics to a minimum in the next match though. I don’t want you back for a second time, understand?”

“Yes ma’am,” Izuku said, getting up and bowing to her. Recovery Girl sniffed but accepted his statement, and after folding the blankets up and putting them on an empty bed Izuku followed Iida out of the room.

Iida was waiting for him just outside of the door, his arms crossed over his chest and a pensive look on his face.

“You wanted to talk to me?”

His friend jolted a little, like he hadn’t noticed Izuku come out. His impression was confirmed as Iida adjusted his glasses and spoke. “Midoriya-kun! My apologies, I was just thinking.”

“About what?” Izuku began walking down the hallway, heading back to the pitch. His next match would be happening soon, and he didn’t want to be disqualified because he was late.

“About your opponent in the next fight.” Iida’s voice was heavy, like he wasn’t quite happy to talk about this. “I’m not sure if it’s fair to warn you, but after Kirishima-kun’s fight…”

“Oh, you saw it?” Izuku supposed it made sense, since from where he was sitting he had an unobstructed view of the TV. “How was it?”

Iida pressed his lips together. “It ended very quickly.” He looked away. “I thought that warning Kirishima-kun would make the match unfair, but Shinsou-san didn’t even give him a chance to show what he could do. So, in the name of our friendship —” He stopped in the middle of the hallway, turning to face Izuku. “Midoriya-kun. I know that you’re fond of studying Quirks. Your commentary on how we use ours during class has always been very accurate and helpful. Tell me, have you managed to figure out what Shinsou’s Quirk is?”

Izuku blinked. He was worried about Shinsou — the purple-haired boy that had ‘declared war’ on them? “I hadn’t really thought about it, thought you did say something about watching out for him?”

“So you remember that. That’s good.” Iida shifted from one foot to another, looking unaccountably nervous. “Like I said, I thought that warning Shinsou-san’s opponents ahead of time would be unfair, but a hero would seek all the information they could before getting into a fight, yes, as they would try to help their fellow heroes as well? So it would only make sense for me to tell you —”

“About his Quirk?” Absentmindedly, Izuku brain began to churn and a hand drifted up to tug at his lower lip. “It can’t be physical, otherwise he wouldn’t be so bitter about being in General Studies. Physical Quirks are so common that most people with one aren’t offended when they meet one with a stronger one. It has to be subtle as well, considering I don’t recall seeing anything strange about him, so probably a mental Quirk…” He trailed off, mumbling to himself.

Iida didn’t wait for him to finish thinking though. “It’s mind control,” he said flatly. “Verbally triggered. If you reply to him, he has you.”

“Verbally triggered — wow, what an amazing Quirk!” Izuku said, more to himself than to Iida. His mind whirled at the knowledge. “No wonder he’s so bitter about not managing to get into the Hero Course, that sort of Quirk would be perfect for hero work!”

“Perfect for hero work?”

Izuku looked up from where he had been staring at the floor. “Yeah, it’s perfect!” he said, clenching his fists in front of him. “I mean, it pretty much automatically de-escalates any situation — the use of it in hostage situations alone —”

Iida was looking at him strangely. Izuku trailed off, feeling his cheeks heat. He knew his mumbling could be seen as a bit odd, but he couldn’t help it! Quirks were so interesting!

But then Iida’s face softened, and he smiled. “You’re right,” he agreed. “It would be very good for hero work. But it’s also easy to fall into.” His face became serious again. “No matter what Shinsou-kun says, you can’t answer,” he urged. “No matter what. If you answer him, the match is over. He’ll just make you walk out of the ring.”

Izuku had smiled back at his friend as he agreed, but became solemn at his warning. “Don’t reply. Got it,” he said.

The PA system crackled. “Midoriya Izuku and Shinsou Hitoshi, please head towards the pitch. Your match is about to begin.”

Izuku looked up. “I have to go.”

Iida nodded. “Good luck. And remember — he’s going to try and get you to speak at all costs. No matter what he says —”

“Don’t reply.”


Don’t reply. Don’t reply. Don’t reply.

Izuku chanted Iida’s advice to him over and over in his head as he walked onto the pitch, the roar of the audience washing over him. Don’t reply to Shinsou’s taunts. It was hard, though, to keep from apologizing as he walked into the ring, the crowd screaming even louder in delight. Shinsou’s expression was blank, but Izuku could spot the tension around his eyes. Had he received the same welcome when he had walked onto the ring?

Shinsou crossed his arms and looked away.

Izuku winced. Apparently not.

Don’t reply. Don’t speak to him. Iida’s warning echoed in Izuku’s head.

Izuku should have guessed that Shinsou’s power was something like that. When he had first met the other boy before the Sports Festival had begun, the part of him that hadn’t been furious had recognized the bitterness in his voice. The raw desire to prove himself, prove everyone that had ever said that he couldn’t do it wrong. He’d recognized it because he’d felt it in himself, making him apply to every Hero school he could to spite the little voice inside of him that said he’d never be any better than his father.

“AAANNND FINALLY, OUR OTHER OPPONENT APPEARS, MEANING WE CAN FINALLLLY START THE SEMI-FINALS!!!” Present Mic screamed over the PA system. “WE’RE DOWN TO JUST FOUR STUDENTS NOW, ALL OF THEM SHOWING THAT PLUS ULTRA SPIRIT! FOR THIS MATCH, WE HAVE THE GENERAL EDUCATION STUDENT THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE, SHINSOU HITOSHIIII!!”

The crowd cheered. Looking carefully, Izuku could see Shinsou’s shoulders relax minutely, clearly enjoying what was no doubt the rare experience of being cheered for.

He didn’t blame him. Izuku knew just how badly people with Quirks that could be termed ‘villainous’ were treated. It was where his father got a lot of his underlings, after all.

“AAAND HIS OPPONENT!! THE CHIVALROUS, THE DARING, THE TEARFUL, IZUKUUUU MIDORIYAAAA!!”

The crowd howled loud enough that Izuku would swear that the ring beneath his feet was trembling.

Shinsou’s eyes flashed with jealousy.

Izuku cringed.

“All right,” Midnight said from her platform, “you both know the rules by this point. You also know each other.” She looked them over sternly, winding the strands of her cat-o-nine-tails around her hand. “I want a good, clean match, understand?”

From the look on Shinsou’s face, Izuku had the feeling that she may have just increased the chances of the match going dirty. Though the other boy still had his arms crossed over his chest, Izuku slid into a ready stance. He didn’t expect a physical attack right away, but it couldn’t hurt to be prepared.

Midnight’s whip snapped through the air. “Ready!”

Shinsou narrowed his eyes.

“Set!”

Izuku breathed deeply, focusing on the here and now. No more time to think of his father.

“GO!”

The whip cracked through the air, and the fight began. Izuku slid into a stance, his arms held up in front of him, and made a ‘come and get it’ motion. It would be best to end the fight quickly, he thought as he stood still. It would be the smart thing. Looking at Shinsou, though, at the jealous twist to his lips…

If he ended it quickly, then Shinsou wouldn’t have any time to show what he was capable of.

And even if that was what he’d been doing with his opponents, it wouldn’t be fair to just do that right back at him.

Shinsou’s eyes were still narrowed at him, his lips pressed tightly together. “Really?” he finally said as Izuku made no move to attack him. “Am I so little a threat to you that you won’t even attack me? Do you think I’m just going to give up?”

Izuku opened his mouth to reply but snapped it shut just before a denial could escape it.

“Hah.” Shinsou looked away. “Looks like four-eyes warned you. You must be special to him, considering he didn’t seem to warn anyone else.”

Izuku swallowed back another comment.

The other boy’s eyes glittered as he looked back at him. “Still nothing. Impressive. I thought that you were the type to defend your friends without thinking, after your little tantrum when I confronted you.”

Tantrum — oh. Izuku shot him a look. Really? Pointing out his hypocrisy was throwing a tantrum now?

Then Izuku saw Shinsou’s mouth twist. Another attempt to make him speak.

Maybe it had been a mistake to try and give Shinsou time to show off. Shifting his weight, Izuku slipped a strength Quirk into his arms. All the other boy had been doing was talking; he’d at least expected some sort of physical attack. Anything to show that he was more than just a one-trick pony with his Quirk. But it seemed that he really didn’t have anything other than his Quirk.

Izuku didn’t know why he was disappointed.

“Though I guess it’s not really a surprise,” Shinsou was continuing. “I mean, after that pathetic excuse of a match with Todoroki —”

Izuku stiffened. “Pathetic —” After everything that Shouto had gone through, was going through, there was nothing pathetic about his friend.

But Shinsou’s eyes were gleaming, and Izuku realized his mistake just a second too late.

“Gotcha,” Shinsou said, his voice thick with triumph.

It was like the world was suddenly muffled around Izuku. The cheers of the crowds, Present Mic’s commentary, it was all suddenly so very far away. Shinsou was still standing across from him, but he had uncrossed his arms and was looking at him smugly. When he spoke, his voice was clear and sharp, slicing through the fog surrounding Izuku’s mind.

“Turn around, and walk out of the ring.”

Without any input from his mind, Izuku felt his body obey. He could hear Present Mic shouting, and the crowd murmuring to itself, but he couldn’t stop his body from continuing to obey Shinsou’s command. He turned, his feet scuffing against the concrete.

And then he saw them.

They weren’t a part of the audience. No, they were standing on the pitch in a crowd, so many of them that for a wild moment Izuku couldn’t figure out how he hadn’t seen them before —

Shadows. Figures made of darkness, spilling out from the tunnel he had come from and standing on the grass and the steps leading up to the ring, their faces too dark for him to pick out any details but their large, glowing white eyes that were staring at him…

What, Izuku wanted to say as he took a step towards them. What are you? What are these?

How could he tell that they were watching him?

He took another step towards them.

The mass of shadows meant that it was hard to pick out individual limbs, but Izuku could swear that he saw movement in the mass. Against the pale concrete of the arena, he could see arms moving, reaching out to him.

His mind was racing. He should have talked to Iida more. He should have tried to talk to Kirishima, and Shinsou’s other opponents. Was this normal? Was this what happened to all of Shinsou’s victims?

Another step. Another step. Another step, and Izuku’s gorge rose.

The figures at the front of the crowd had become clearer. Some were tall. Some were average-sized.

And some were very small indeed.

No. The others wouldn’t have seen this, Izuku realized as he got closer. This couldn’t be a normal side-effect of Shinsou’s Quirk, because this sort of variety —

These weren’t just random shadows, or a hallucination. They were ghosts. Vestiges of the original owners of his Quirks. He could feel it, echoes of what he felt when he was choosing what Quirks to use.

They were ghosts of his father’s victims. Of his victims, when he was too young and too stupid to keep his mouth shut.

He couldn’t seem to suck in enough air through Shinsou’s control of his body, but Izuku could feel his heart begin to speed up in his chest.

Of course they were watching him. Of course they were reaching out to him. He’d taken their Quirks, the part of them that was fundamentally them. And they wanted it back.

I’m sorry, Izuku thought, I’m sorry. He still couldn’t breathe enough, and his heart was just pounding louder and louder and his ears. I’m sorry, I’d give them back if I could…

Their blank white eyes stared at him accusingly. There were so many of them. So many hands now reaching out towards him, and they were moving more now, shifting around each other. No, not just moving around, some of them were climbing on each other, radiating desperation — they wanted their Quirks back —

Izuku took another step towards them.

They were climbing onto the arena now. Their grasping fingers were impossible to ignore against the pale concrete of the ring. They were crawling towards him, on top of each other, like a wave that wanted to drag him under. He couldn’t see the heroes sitting in the stands now, the piles of shadows were too high, moving too much while he couldn’t move at all —

His eyes began to burn as he stepped close enough that their fingers were nearly brushing his skin. His chest felt like a drum with his heart pounding against it, and suddenly he would have done anything to keep the shadows, the victims, from touching him

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…

Their eyes showed no acceptance. Izuku felt like his chest was about to burst. He was so sorry, he was so so sorry for taking their Quirks, and a sob was building up in his chest.

Their fingers were cold against his cheeks. Cold against his arms. Cold against his throat. So cold that it burned

Izuku screamed.

The noise tore out of his throat and through the air as tears gushed down his face, and the shadows disappeared. The world that had been so fuzzy outside of the shadows and Shinsou suddenly snapped back into focus.

Later, Izuku would realize that for the first time that day the audience had been silent. Not even Present Mic had said anything as the scream echoed through the stadium, bouncing off the concrete and bodies and slowly fading. But as he turned back around to face Shinsou, none of that registered with Izuku.

All he could hear was the pounding of his heartbeat like a drum. All he could see was Shinsou, standing there and looking like someone had hit him in the head with a bat.

No more mercy. No more chances. Izuku surged forward, a strength Quirk thickening his muscles.

“H-hey —” Shinsou began to say, but Izuku gave him no more time to speak. Those shadows — he wouldn’t let Shinsou force him to see them again!

He was on the other boy and slamming his fist into his stomach before another sound could leave his mouth. Shinsou let out a noise like a deflating balloon but Izuku didn’t linger. As he crumpled, Izuku grabbed the front of his uniform. It wasn’t safe to hit him so hard, a small voice pointed out in the back of Izuku’s mind, but he couldn’t hear it over his thundering heartbeat.

This time, keeping his mouth shut, Izuku twisted. Pivoted his weight. And hurled Shinsou not just out of the ring but into the crowd.

It was rude to the heroes, but they managed to catch the other boy. Shouts were rising up, but he turned to Midnight and stared at her. He still couldn’t breathe, couldn’t suck in enough air to ask, but he stared at her pleadingly.

Her eyebrows were twisted with concern as she looked first at Shinsou, being helped to his feet in the audience, and then at him.

Izuku kept his eyes on her. He had to keep his eyes on her.

She bit her lower lip, then raised her cat-o-nine-tails. “The winner is Midoriya —”

And that was all he needed to hear. His body trembling and bile rising at the back of his throat, Izuku bolted out of the ring and off of the pitch.

Chapter Text

Shouta was standing up before Midoriya had even left the pitch, heading for the door. Once more, he sent a mental thank you to Recovery Girl for healing him enough that he could now move at a decent clip, if not enough that he could easily open a door.

Cursing quietly under his breath as he fumbled with the announcer’s booth door, he stopped when a hand snaked around him to turn the knob. Looking behind him for the hand’s owner, he saw Tensei, his face pale and grim. “Go,” he said simply. Behind him, Shouta could see Hizashi, half-risen from his chair and just as pale as their friend.

All of them had been heroes for years, now. They all knew what a scream of pure terror sounded like.

Nodding at them both, Shouta obeyed. Half-jogging down the corridor, he tried to think of where Midoriya was likely heading.

The change rooms? He would know where those were, but they were on the opposite side of the stadium from where he had exited the pitch. Not to mention, they weren’t very private, and terrified people tended to want to hide when they ran.

More likely, then, he was heading to one of the stadium’s washrooms; not the public ones, but the private ones meant for the students.

His supposition was quickly proven correct as he rounded the corner towards the first set of washrooms he’d wanted to check. The crowd of his students surrounding the doorway was more than enough evidence. Most of the class had apparently come, concern radiating off of them. Todoroki was pressed up against the door, gently tapping it, with Yaoyorozu beside him, her eyes big. Even Bakugou was there, despite his match starting soon, his arms crossed over his chest and brows furrowed in a worried frown.

“Aizawa-sensei!” Uraraka called as she spotted him, her big brown eyes filled with tears. “Midori-kun’s not letting anyone in, we think he locked the door —”

“We heard him scream —” said Iida, chopping the air frantically as his glasses slid down his nose.

“We all did,” Ashido said, tears streaking down her cheeks and her hands clasped in front of her chest. “So we tried to find him —”

“I’m not surprised.” Shouta focused on keeping his voice calm; one of the first things you learned as a hero was that if you were calm, so were the civilians. If he let on how badly that scream had freaked him out, then there was no way that they’d listen. “He seems to have had a bad reaction to Shinsou’s Quirk. I’ve seen such a thing happen before.”

It wasn’t even a lie; mind control Quirks had a bad reputation for a reason. Along with the whole controlling someone against their will, a lot of them could cause bad psychological reactions in their victims. Anxiety, panic attacks and the like were common after someone was freed from mind control.

“Sir,” Iida said, pushing his glasses back into place, “I was controlled by Shinsou and didn’t have anywhere near such a reaction! Are you sure that it’s just —”

“Iida,” Shouta said sternly, even as he filed that little nugget of information away, “please trust me when I say that this isn’t my first time helping someone through the post-control period. Not everyone reacts the same way to psychological Quirks.”

He felt a little bad at how Iida stiffened, but pushed it aside. Now that he was closer, he could hear the shuddering gasps for air through the door. He needed to get in there now, before Midoriya hyperventilated himself into unconsciousness. “Right now, being crowded will only make things worse. I know that you’re all only concerned about your classmate, but you need to wait until I tell you that it’s okay to come in, understand?”

Some of the children, thankfully, looked like they understood. Todoroki looked like he had bitten into a lemon, but nodded, while for a moment Shouta thought that Uraraka and Iida’s heads would fall off from how hard they were nodding. The others looked more unsure, but Shouta figured that he could probably depend on the first three to keep things under control.

With that settled, he returned his attention to the bathroom door. With security concerns being what they were, several changes had been made before the Festival had started. Along with regular security sweeps by other heroes, every single lock in the stadium had been changed. Master keys were made, and placed in only one other person’s hands besides the Principal’s. For the first-year’s stadium, Shouta had all but begged to be that person, desperate to feel like he was actually part of efforts to keep his students safe.

Luckily for him, Nedzu had been sympathetic. Pulling out the massive ring of keys that he had hidden in his bandages, he ignored the gasps of the students behind him as he counted out the correct key for the bathrooms and slotted it into the lock. With a twist of his wrist, the lock disengaged and the door opened. Behind him, the students shuffled, clearly resisting the urge to storm in, but he ignored them as he stepped into the small room, closing the door behind him.

The washroom resembled pretty much every industrial washroom he’d ever been in. A plain tiled floor, sinks with mirrors bolted to the wall, and the walls painted an ugly off-white that clashed with the green of the stalls tucked into the corner, it stank heavily of floral-scented cleaners and —

Shouta grimaced as the sound of retching met his ears. He didn’t need to move from his place by the door to see Midoriya’s shoes poking from the stall closest to him, trembling from the force of his own vomiting.

That was not a good sign.

The retching ended, quickly replaced by a short, choking sobs. Stepping away from the door, Shouta walked the short distance to the stall, noting that Midoriya had been in too much of a hurry to even close the door behind him.

Despite having won his last match, Midoriya looked nothing like a winner right now. Kneeling in front of the white toilet, his shoulders shaking, the boy looked like a house of cards on the verge of collapse. The sour smell of vomit was thick in the air; so thick that Shouta suspected that Midoriya hadn’t made it all the way to the toilet before the first wave of vomit had escaped him.

“…A-aizawa…sensei…” Midoriya croaked after a minute. “S-sorry —”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Shouta said, cutting the boy off. Best to nip that sort of thing in the bud.

“I — I must have — I threw Shinsou-kun —” Midoriya swallowed, the noise loud in the quiet of the bathroom. “I scared everyone, didn’t I.”

“No.” Shouta tried to gentle his voice. He’d always been better at apprehending villains than soothing civilians, but that didn’t mean he was completely hopeless. “Scared for you, maybe. Every hero knows the difference between a scream of victory and a scream of terror. Then you ran off…” He shrugged, trying to keep things seeming casual and normal so that the boy’s fear had nothing to play off of.

Midoriya coughed, hacked, and spat something into the toilet. “That’s not much better,” he mumbled. But his trembling was smoothing out, and his voice was steadier. “You were — you were with Present Mic, in the announcer’s booth, and I made you come all the way down here…”

“I’m your teacher,” Shouta said, cutting off his self-deprecating words again. “While you’re in this school, your well-being is my concern and comes before hanging out in any announcer’s booth.”

Midoriya spat again. “Still…” he mumbled.

Looking at him carefully, Shouta judged that he had probably calmed down enough now that he could approach him without making him panic. Stepping towards him, he bent over at the waist with a low grunt and laid a bandaged hand on the boy’s back.

“This,” he said, keeping his voice firm but gentle, “coming and finding you, is not a problem. What is a problem, is what caused that reaction in the first place.” Even through the bandages, Shouta could feel Midoriya tense. “Would you like to talk about it?”

Midoriya didn’t answer. Crouched in front of the toilet, his hands gripping its sides, he didn’t so much as move for a long set of heartbeats. Then he abruptly stood up.

Shouta immediately let go and backed up. He should have waited, he cursed himself. “This isn’t some demand that you tell me what was going on there,” he said. “I misspoke. I just want to know if whatever caused that is something —”

“My dad —”

Shouta closed his mouth as Midoriya choked out the words, his voice rough.

“My dad —” he repeated. “I couldn’t — Shinsou-kun was making me —” His mouth shut with an audible click, and he swallowed loudly once. Twice. Then he was falling back down to his knees and loudly emptying what was left of his stomach into the toilet.

Distantly, Shouta noted that his hands left smears on the gleaming porcelain. That explained the smell.

Midoriya gagged, choking back what sounded like a sob as his shoulders began to shake again. He was gasping, now, sounding like he was about to tip over the edge into true hyperventilation.

Shouta stepped forward, placing a hand back on the kid’s back. This, at least, he couldn’t mess up. “Midoriya, concentrate on my voice, alright? Just concentrate on doing what I tell you. You need to take in a deep breath…” He let himself fall into the comfortable rhythm of guiding someone through a panic attack, mindlessly mouthing the instructions to steady Midoriya’s breathing, and wondered at the kid’s words and reactions.

For all that he had said outside of the bathroom to the other students, this sort of reaction wasn’t actually normal. Yes, he had seen reactions like this before, that much was true, but they had usually been from people who had been controlled for long periods of time, not just a minute. People who were only controlled for a short period were shaken, but not to the point of vomiting and hyperventilating.

My dad. I couldn’t. The worlds curled around Shouta’s head, heavy and thumping and leaving imprints in his mind. They were important, he could sense that. They were the key to this.

Maybe the key to other things as well. Looking down, he could see that Midoriya’s knuckles were still white on the toilet seat. Midoriya hated his Quirk, and called it ugly.

…He had the feeling that he would be spending some time after this taking a closer look at Midoriya’s records.

Finally, after several very long minutes, Midoriya’s breathing had settled down to the point that Shouta felt comfortable slowing it down on the instructions. For a minute more, they just stood there, half in and half out of the stall, Shouta rubbing the boy’s back as he shuddered, whimpering like a kicked puppy as he fought to get himself back under control.

Distantly, he could hear the sound of the crowd cheering, and Hizashi’s muffled commentary. Outside of the bathroom, he could hear the group that had followed Midoriya to the bathroom murmuring to each other and moving around. Rubbing the boy’s back, he kept his voice low as he asked, “Are you feeling better?”

Midoriya sniffled. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “I’m sorry.”

“Never be sorry for being afraid,” Shouta replied, still keeping his voice gentle. “Even the best heroes get scared.”

Lifting his hand away from the soiled toilet, Midoriya wiped his eyes one the back of his forearm. “Even All Might?”

“Of course,” Shouta replied. “Now, do you feel you can stand up?”

Midoriya nodded, his head flopping back and forth like it was barely attached to his body. As he slowly stood up, Shouta kept a hand on his shoulder, still able to feel the tension on it.

Once he was on his feet, he gently guided him out of the stall and towards the sinks. Midoriya was holding his hands out and away from his body, allowing Shouta to see the streaks of vomit stuck in the creases.

“Um, I kind of started throwing up on the way here,” Midoriya mumbled as they reached the white sinks. “I — I managed to catch most of it, but I think some of it might have fallen —”

“The janitors will take care of it,” Shouta said. Reaching past Midoriya, he turned the tap on. “You should focus on cleaning yourself up right now.” Even if, judging from the paleness of the boy’s reflection, there wasn’t much that splashing water on his face would help with. “Wash your hands and rinse your mouth.”

There was a roar from outside; the fight must be going well. Hizashi was yelling about something, at least. The words were too muffled to make out.

Obediently, Midoriya began to wash his hands. He looked up at the noise leaking into the room, though, his brow furrowing. “T-the next match already started? I d-didn’t realize that I’d been in here for so long.” Looking back down at his hands, he scrubbed them a little harder. He had started trembling again. “I — I really should hurry up, shouldn’t I? Everybody’s going to want a good fight for the finale.”

Shouta didn’t answer right away. Midoriya was scrubbing furiously at his hands now, leaving red streaks on his palms. Outside, there was another cheer.

“Need to make a good show,” Midoriya was mumbling, “gotta pull it together and give everyone a good show…” He cupped his hands underneath the faucet and splashed water on his face before taking a mouthful and swishing it around his cheeks. Spitting it out, he reached jerkily for a paper towel to pat dry his face.

“You know,” Shouta said, “people have withdrawn from matches before.”

Midoriya froze. “What?” he asked, turning his head to look at him with wide eyes.

Shouta squeezed his shoulder. “People have withdrawn from matches before,” he repeated. “They felt that they weren’t in the right head-space, or were otherwise unable to make a proper showing in their match, so they forfeited to their opponent before the fight began.”

Midoriya swallowed. “You think I should withdraw,” he said.

“You just spent the past half hour crying and throwing up in a toilet,” Shouta said gently. “You’re still trembling, even now. I think that if you go out there right now, you’re unlikely to properly show your capabilities.”

“But you and all the other teachers, you were saying how this was our big chance to show off for the pros —”

“In the first round, you jumped over the top of the stadium,” Shouta interrupted. “In the second, you had one of the most exciting battles with Bakugou’s team. You talked your one of your opponents into quitting the match to preserve their health, and helped another to Recovery Girl.” He squeezed the kid’s shoulder again. “You’ve more than made an impression during this Sports Festival, and every hero here knows what a terrified scream sounds like. No one will blame you for excusing yourself from a fight because you’re not mentally at your best.”

Midoriya turned away from him and stared at himself in the mirror, his throat working as he swallowed. “I — can I think about it?”

“Of course,” Shouta said. He let his hand drop from Midoriya’s shoulder and stepped back. “In the meantime, though, your friends are waiting outside. If you’d like, talk it over with them. They were quite concerned about you.”

Midoriya had looked up sharply at the mention of his friends, and his mouth quivered as Shouta told him how concerned they were. “They came to find me?” he asked meekly.

Shouta jerked his head towards the door. “They’ve been right outside all this time.” He shuffled towards it. “Just…think about it. You have two more Festivals as well. There’s no need to burn yourself out in your first year.”


“And in a surprise twist,” the announcer was saying, “it seems that Midoriya has decided to forfeit the match without a fight, or even an appearance! Boy, that Shinsou kid’s Quirk must have really rattled him!”

Inko relaxed right as Hisashi made a disappointed noise, burying what was left of his face into the crook of her neck. “Ah, I wanted to see him fight Bakugou-kun,” he complained.

“I’m just glad that he’s apparently okay,” Inko replied tartly, tensing right back up. “The way he ran off —”

“Our boy is strong,” Hisashi said, raising his face a little. “I won’t deny that his reaction to Shinsou-kun’s Quirk was strange, but nothing so petty would have stopped him.” He squeezed her hand in what would have been a comforting gesture a few years ago.

Then there was a knock at the door behind them. As Hisashi turned his head towards the noise Inko pulled her hand away from him, her skin crawling.

“Come in,” Hisashi called, seemingly not taking offense at her actions. The door creaked open, letting in a beam of light.

“Master,” Kurogiri said. Stepping in, Inko could see his mist curling off of him in agitation. “I’m aware that you did not wish to be disturbed, but we just received the news. We found ‘it’.”

Underneath her, Inko felt Hisashi straighten. “Our friends were successful, then?” he said eagerly.

It was only the shift in the position of Kurogiri’s eyes that let Inko know he was nodding. “Yes Master. I took the liberty of gathering together some of the others in preparation of your move.”

Hisashi grinned, the scar tissue of his face warping grotesquely. “Excellent. Let them know that I’ll be joining them.”

Kurogiri’s eyes widened. “Master?”

Hisashi’s arms wrapped back around Inko as he abruptly stood up. Letting out a little noise, she automatically flung her arms around his neck to steady herself. Underneath her, his chest rumbled.

“You know that this is something near and dear to my heart,” he said lightly, setting Inko down so that she was standing before straightening again and smoothing down his front. “Of course I’m going. Before I do, though, would you mind escorting my dear Inko back to her rooms?”

Before Kurogiri could say anything, though, a scratchy voice piped up. “I’ll do it, Sensei.”

Inko sucked in a soft breath as the speaker stepped into the room, revealing himself.

Shaggy white hair. Red eyes. Scratching at his neck…

“Tomura-chan,” she said softly.

She’d first met the little boy when she was pregnant with Izuku. She’d gone to Hisashi’s supposed office to meet him for dinner, only to find the white-haired boy sitting in a chair outside, hunched over and scratching at his neck.

Maybe it had been the hormones; maybe it had just been instinct. Either way, Inko had quickly found herself sitting down beside the little boy and smiling at him. She’d asked how he was doing, and he’d seemed so surprised by her concern that her heart had broken.

Hisashi and Kurogiri had come out of the office to find her listening patiently to the plot of the latest game Tomura-chan had been playing. The boy had been introduced as Kurogiri’s foster son, who’d come to live with him after his father had had an accident.

Just like that first time they’d met, Tomura-chan smiled shyly at her from underneath the curtain of his hair. “Hello, Inko-sama,” he said.

Inko swallowed. “Hello, Tomura-chan,” she said softly.

She’d wanted to take him with her and Izuku when they ran. She’d wanted to, but Kurogiri had kept to close an eye on him for her to be able to, so she’d cut her losses and ran. And now she was seeing the effect of that in front of her.

He was so thin. His neck had already had marks by the time she had run, but now it was covered in scars and fresh weals. Bandages were peeking out from underneath his shirt. And neither of the men in the room were reacting to his appearance at all.

She curled her hands into fists.

“Oh, Tomura,” Hisashi said casually. “Did you lose interest already?”

Tomura just shrugged. “All the interesting fights are done now,” he muttered, still scratching at his neck. “And I wanted to talk a little with Inko-sama.”

Hisashi hummed to himself for a moment, cocking his head to one side. Then he smiled. “Alright. I suppose that I can allow that.” Before Inko could react, his arm snaked out and pulled her against his side. Bending slightly, he pressed a kiss to the top of her head before stepping away again. “Don’t dawdle, though, Tomura. I’d like your company for this as well.”

“Yes Sensei,” Tomura said. Stepping further into the room, he hesitantly held out a hand to Inko.

Biting the inside of her cheek, Inko took it. The little smile that played across Tomura’s face almost made the whole situation feel okay, she noted.

Kurogiri’s mist billowed out, surrounding them. Automatically, Inko closed her eyes and gripped Tomura’s hand tighter. The feeling of falling overwhelmed her for a moment, before she felt solid ground beneath her feet.

Tomura’s hand was warm in hers, the pinky held away from her flesh. “We’re here,” he said unnecessarily.

Inko let out a breath and opened her eyes. “Thank you, Tomura-chan,” she said.

The hallway was offensively normal. It could have been from any high-end hotel, with a plush carpet that her shoes sank into and ornate decorations on the walls. It made her want to spit, that Hisashi would lock her up here.

Tomura scratched his neck again and tugged gently at her hand. “This way,” he said quietly.

Inko didn’t reply, but followed him as he began to walk. The carpet swallowed the sounds of their footsteps, deepening and widening the silence between them as they walked back towards what Inko assumed was her prison. Only the rasp of Tomura’s nails against the skin of his neck broke it, filling the air.

Until Tomura spoke. “Um,” he mumbled, “I was watching the Sports Festival too.”

Inko swallowed. “Were you?”

“Yeah.” Tomura paused for a moment, like he was gathering his thoughts. “I saw your son. Izuku. He was really good.” Another pause. “I think he could have won against that Bakugou kid.”

Katsuki-kun. Inko hoped that her son’s old friend was supporting him with her gone. “Maybe. I was more worried about him after his reaction to that Shinsou boy’s Quirk.”

“Ah, yeah.” Scratch, scratch, scratch. “That was kind of scary, wasn’t it.” Scratch, scratch, scratch. “Makes you wonder why no one went after him to make sure he was okay.”

“I’m sure that one of his teachers did,” Inko said, forcing her voice to stay steady. “There were more than just the two on the pitch present, after all.”

Tomura grunted, still scratching. “If Sensei had been there, though,” he said darkly, “there’d be no question. He would have made sure that Izuku was okay.”

Inko pressed her lips into a tight line.

“It must be driving you nuts, leaving him in the hands of the heroes,” Tomura continued, not looking at her. “Without protection, or anyone that actually cares about him.”

Risking a glance out of the corner of her eye, she thought that she saw blood on his fingertips.

“But don’t worry,” he said, “Sensei has a plan. He’s going to get Izuku back safe and sound.”

“A plan?” The words slipped out from her mouth as a chill ran down her spine. Back there, she had thought that Kurogiri’s interruption had been for normal business…

Tomura stopped scratching, letting his bloodstained hand fall back down to side as he turned to look at her. “Yeah,” he said innocently. “I don’t know all the details yet, but he’s got an idea on how to get him away from those heroes.” He turned back away. “That thing that he was looking for — it’s going to bring us one step closer to getting Izuku to come home.”

A yawning pit opened up in Inko’s stomach. She couldn’t speak, her tongue gluing itself to the top of her mouth.

A plan. He had a plan — she’d thought that saying that the heroes knew would protect Izuku —

Idiot. Idiot! She scolded herself. Of course he’d still be trying to get him back, he always gets what he wants…

“Ah! Ane-san!”

Inko was pulled from her thoughts by the sound of someone new calling for her. Looking up from the carpet, her eyes widened at the group of people she saw.

A group of very familiar men were standing up from the table they’d been sitting at, the clear signs of gambling scattered across it. There was the smell of cigarettes and coffee hanging heavy in the air, and a small TV playing in the corner. It was the awards ceremony for the first years at Yuuei; her son was standing on the second place podium, Katsuki-kun glaring down at him from first place.

She knew these men; she’d known them for years. They were the security team from the compound that she’d lived at, back when she hadn’t known what Hisashi was. She’d liked them — made cupcakes for more than a few when she knew it was their birthdays.

“O-oh,” she stammered. “Hello, Yamamoto-san.” She searched her memory. “How’s your wife been doing? Did you manage to make up with her?”

Yamamoto beamed, his dark blue hair falling in his eyes. “She’s doing great!” he said happily. “Your advice really worked!”

Inko smiled. “That’s good,” she said, hoping that the stress wasn’t showing on her face.

The thing was, she liked these men. Had liked them. Had trusted them. And yet — here they were, clearly guarding her prison to keep her from escaping. It made something in her chest twist, to see them smiling at her.

“Sorry that we haven’t really talked to you, Ane-san,” another guard, Mitsuni she thought his name was, interjected. “I mean, I wanted to at least, but we figured that with you and Master going through a rough patch, you might not really welcome us, you know?”

A rough patch. A rough patch? Inko bit back a hysterical laugh. Was that what Hisashi was calling it —

No. No. She wouldn’t concentrate on that. She wasn’t going to concentrate on the hole in her guts that had formed at the realization that Hisashi was still gunning for Izuku.

She was going to concentrate on the fact that these people guarding her thought that she and Hisashi were just going through ‘a rough patch’, and the possibilities that that opened.

Still smiling, she shook her head. “Ah, no,” she said. “I mean, I understand why you’d think that, but being alone — it leaves me with just my thoughts, you know? A bit of conversation would be nice, just to mix things up.”

Several of the guards grinned in genuine happiness. “We’ll be sure to do so, Ane-san,” Yamamoto assured her.

They were so quick to take her at face value, Inko thought as she looked over their smiling faces. Even Tomura looked calm, content to let her talk to the guards before ushering her back into her cell.

The hole in her gut was still there, but as she looked at them, it grew a bit smaller. I can work with this, she thought. I can use this.

The men chattered away with her, complimenting her on Izuku’s performance and expressing worry for abrupt departure after the match with Shinsou. They were all just as happy to see her as when she had truly been with Hisashi; they were still calling Ane-san as a mark of respect.

Yes, she thought, I’m going to manipulate the shit out of all of you.


After all that had happened that day; all of the emotional highs and lows, and the image of the shadowy ghosts he had seen chasing his thoughts, Izuku was dead on his feet as he walked through the door into Hakucho and Nebosuke’s small apartment and turned on the lights. Sitting down, he began to take his shoes off.

“CONGRATULATIONS!”

Izuku jumped nearly a whole foot into the air as poppers went off, filling the air with confetti. “Ah! W-what —” he stammered out, nearly tripping over his own feet as he whirled around.

Hakucho and Nebosuke were standing in the doorway leading to the rest of the apartment, grinning and holding poppers. “Hey there champion!” Nebosuke said, sounding more enthusiastic than Izuku had ever heard her sound before.

“Ch-champion?” Izuku questioned, shaking his head to loosen some of the confetti that had gotten caught in his curls. “I - I’m not the champion, I came in second —”

“Only because you had to step back for your health!” Hakucho said, interrupting him. His feathers flared out from his jaw. “There’s no shame in taking care of yourself. Everyone on the TV was saying it, and saying that you were showing the sort of good judgment that heroes should have, rather than trying to bull through it and possibly failing at the worst moment!”

Izuku rather doubted that, but didn’t say anything as warmth bloomed in his chest. Kicking off his shoes, he allowed himself to be guided into the main room of the apartment, where a small cake was waiting on the table, a few half-melted candles stuck into it haphazardly. Taking a seat with them, he blew it out as they chanted an old song about how they were all champions of something.

After cake was more celebration, and watching the news as they went over the events of the day. Izuku blushed every time he was mentioned, which was a lot. Highlight reels of him and Shouto jumping over the top of the stadium and the final seconds of the cavalry battle came up a lot. Him helping Shiozaki off of the field and Todoroki forfeiting to him came in a close second. Nebosuke and Hakucho argued over whether or not he could have a few sips of beer, with Hakucho surprisingly winning the argument for ‘No’.

Eventually, though, the celebrations wound down. They had the next day off from school to recover from the Sports Festival, but that didn’t mean that Izuku wasn’t tired now. Saying goodnight, Hakucho went off to his own room, and Nebosuke went down to the cafe and her cubicle. He was left alone in the main room of the apartment, with the lights turned off and the black of the night pressing in. Alone, with his memories of what he’d seen today.

Izuku shivered at the memory of the shadows, goosebumps rising on his skin. Sitting down on his futon, he pulled the covers up and around him like they could protect him from the world. Those shadows — it was silly to say, but even now, he knew that they hadn’t been hallucinations.

His phone vibrated in his hand and lit up, making him fumble and nearly drop it in surprise.

The class groupchat had been going wild all night, with his classmates crowing over how they had all done. Throwing compliments and links around, they had had his phone buzzing in his pocket non-stop until he’d been forced to mute the main server. For it to be vibrate…

Izuku’s eyes had been feeling gritty with sleep. Now though, he was wide awake.

It was a private message. From Kacchan.

Izuku swallowed in a futile attempt to wet his suddenly-dry throat. Kacchan had been furious, back on the podium. Izuku had barely been able to stand his infuriated gaze boring into the side of his head as All Might handed out the medals, wanting nothing more than to run off the pitch again. Thankfully, he’d been able to dodge the other boy as he left, but now he was messaging him…

He chewed the inside of his cheek as he debated ignoring the messages. He could just block Kacchan…

His phone buzzed again.

Damn. No, that wouldn’t work, and he knew it. He’d been trying to do so all before the Festival and that had just gotten him cornered in that closet.

With a sigh, he opened the messages. The light from the screen streamed across his face, revealing what Kacchan had written.

Bakugou Katsuki:
Oi, dumbass, how are you doing? You seemed pretty freaked out

Bakugou Katsuki:
Fucking asshole, don’t ignore me!!

Midoriya Izuku:
Sorry, sorry, I was in bed!

Midoriya Izuku:
I’m find, I didn’t mean to worry you

Bakugou Katsuki:
That’s no fucking excuse, so am I

Bakugou Katsuki:
Also, bullshit. You’re not fine

Izuku grimaced. Yeah, he’d been too optimistic. Kacchan was not going to take his misdirection tonight.

Midoriya Izuku:
I am!

Midoriya Izuku:
I just wasn’t expecting his Quirk, that’s all

The cursor blinked for a few seconds before Kacchan answered.

Bakugou Katsuki:
Fucking bullshitting me again. Four-eyes told us that he warned you about that purple fucker

Bakugou Katsuki:
No one else had that sort of reaction to it

Izuku sighed.

Midoriya Izuku:
I told you, I’m fine

Midoriya Izuku:
I’m sorry that I didn’t fight you, I just didn’t think I’d be able to give you a proper fight

There was a long pause now. Longer than the previous one.

That worried Izuku. Had he finally tested Kacchan’s patience too much. With a jolt, he remembered Katsuki’s words from the closet before.

If you don’t stop it with this shit then I’ll make you!

What had he meant by that? Was Kacchan going to tell the teachers the truth about his Quirk?

Izuku swallowed at the thought. His Quirk was so unusual, maybe they’d just brush it off as Kacchan being a sore loser?

No. No, he was never that lucky. Izuku’s eyes drifted away from the phone to stare into space as his mind bubbled frantically.

The teachers — if Yuuei knew, knew who he was, what he could do —

He could be thrown out. He could be arrested. He’d lose his friends, Hakucho and Nebosuke could get in trouble for helping him and be arrested as well. He could see himself trying desperately to explain as they all turned away from him. He could feel his father’s hands on his shoulders, welcoming him home.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move. Izuku jerked his head to look, sweat dripping down his cheek —

It was one of those shadowy figures, standing in the doorway with its hands outstretched.

Izuku jumped to his feet, his heartbeat thundering in his ears, and the figure was gone.

His phone chimed, and he looked down at it frantically.

Bakugou Katsuki:
Hey. Am I your friend?

His heart still hammering and breathing harsh, Izuku blinked in confusion. What?

With trembling thumbs, he typed a reply.

Midoriya Izuku:
Of course! We’ve known each other forever

Midoriya Izuku:
If this is about the fight, I’ve already told you that I didn’t think I could give you a proper one

Bakugou Katsuki:
This isn’t about the fight

Bakugou Katsuki:
If I’m your friend, why won’t you let me help you?

Izuku froze, his breath catching in his chest.

Midoriya Izuku:
What do you mean?

Bakugou Katsuki:
I’m not an idiot, Deku

Bakugou Katsuki:
Even if the fake name wasn’t a big enough clue, you freaking disappeared for five years and are pretending that you only have a super flexible enhancement Quirk

Bakugou Katsuki:
Which is bullshit because enhancement Quirks don’t cause those sorts of mutations you get whenever you let loose

Bakugou Katsuki:
On top of that, your mom still hasn’t called mine when they were practically attached at the hip when we were still in elementary

Bakugou Katsuki:
Seriously, the hag’s been complaining about it for weeks

Bakugou Katsuki:
I think you actually hurt her feelings

Izuku would have laughed if this sudden line of questioning wasn’t quite so terrifying. He gripped his phone tightly, hearing the plastic creak.

Bakugou Katsuki:
Whatever’s going on, it’s got you scared. Seriously scared.

Bakugou Katsuki:
And friends don’t leave friends scared.

Izuku swallowed. His eyes were burning for some reason, and his chest still felt tight, but in a different way now. His thumbs hovered over the phone keyboard.
It was weird to hear someone else expressing concern about him so directly. For so long, it had just been him and his mom. And now — sure he had Nebosuke and Hakucho and all his friends in class, but none of them had really come right out and bothered him to tell them what was going on out of concern. They just let him handle it himself.

Bakugou Katsuki:
Deku? You still there?

Bakugou Katsuki:
I swear to fucking god if you logged off after I bared my fucking heart like that I’m going to blow up your face the next time I see you

Like he wasn’t in control of his hands, Izuku began to type back a reply.

Midoriya Izuku:
No, no, I’m still here!

Midoriya Izuku:
Plz don’t blow my face up

Midoriya Izuku:
I’ll tell you everything tomorrow

Chapter Text

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and Izuku was weighing the pros and cons of throwing himself off the bridge he was waiting on for Kacchan.

Why had he agreed to this? Why had he agreed to finally tell Kacchan what was going on in his life? This was what he got for answering those texts while sleep-deprived.
God, what was he even going to say? There was no way he could just tell him what was going on.

Could he?

Izuku stared down at the water, chewing on the inside of his cheek. Part of him revolted at the thought of telling anyone anything, the part that remembered the empty sky and the whispers about villain’s kids that he heard from his middle school classmates.

Another part of him, though, whispered that this was Kacchan. His best friend since he could walk. The boy that always insisted that they’d be heroes together, with Izuku as the Number Two to keep Kacchan sharp in his spot at the top. The boy that made him breakfast, and texted him after the fight with Shinsou to make sure he was okay.

But this was Kacchan, he hissed at that part. Kacchan, who never backed down from a fight. Kacchan, who would probably go and try to fight Izuku’s father if he knew what the man had done to him.

Izuku ducked his head and ran his fingers through his hair. Even the thought of how that would end made him want to throw up.

No. He had to come up with a lie for everyone’s sake. To keep Kacchan safe, he had to figure out what he could say to throw one of the smartest people he’d ever known off of the trail.

He could do that, he told himself. He just needed a little time.

“Oi! Deku!”

Time that he did not have. Izuku jumped and whirled around. The bridge that they’d chosen as their meeting place wasn’t heavily trafficked, but there were enough people around that Kacchan’s shout had attracted a few stares. Cringing, Izuku tried to ignore them and paste on a smile as his brain whirled. “Kacchan!” he said, trying to sound enthusiastic. “You’re early.”

Kacchan strolled closer with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his cargo pants and shrugged. “Place we’re going to fills up quickly for brunch. Now come on, I talked to them but they can only keep a private table for so long.”

The other boy wasn’t kidding; he kept right on going and passed Izuku without pause, only turning his head to make sure that Izuku was following. Hurrying after him, Izuku quickly caught up. “Oh? You know someone there?”

Kacchan grunted, nodding and not looking him in the eye. “Yeah. The owner used to be a model or something, ended up quitting and opening this place. My parents used to do her clothes for shows, so we can ask her for the more private tables.” His red eyes darted towards Izuku and then away, in a way that Izuku realized was a rare show of nerves. “They’re not like, private rooms, but they still muffle sound pretty well.”

Izuku smiled at him, a more honest expression this time. “I’m sure it’ll be great,” he said.

They reached the restaurant after a few more minutes of walking, and Kacchan hadn’t been kidding about having to hurry to keep their private table. The two-story building was packed with people, and the hostess that met them at the door was quick to usher them upstairs to a booth that was only a few decibels quieter than the crowd they had to push through.

To Izuku’s surprise, almost a soon as they arrived food was set down in front of them. Kacchan had a meal of Eggs Benedict, the hollandaise sauce fragrant and mixing with the bacon and hashbrowns on the side, while Izuku —

“I called ahead while I was on the train,” Kacchan said, picking up his knife and fork and attacking his meal with furrowed brows. “You always like that French toast stuff, right? Even after we found out it wasn’t French, you always called it your favourite French meal.” Taking a bite of egg and ham, he chewed it savagely and swallowed before continuing. “They got this stuffed version of it here, filled with whatever you want. I told them to put in cheesecake, like your mom makes.” Another bite, more savage chewing. “How’s she doing, anyways? She wasn’t too freaked out by your fights?”

Izuku meant to deflect the question. Meant to turn it around and instead ask Kacchan about his own family, or whatever it took to avoid answering the question. That wasn’t what happened though. Instead, what burst through his lips was, “I wouldn’t know. I’m pretty sure that she’s too dead to have much of an opinion.”

Kacchan looked up from his plate sharply. A bit of hollandaise sauce was smeared at the corner of his cheek.

Izuku meant to bite his tongue. Meant to shut up. Instead, more words spilled out as he looked down at the French toast in front of him, made special like his mom had used to do. “She’s been dead for about a month, now.” His eyes felt hot.

The restaurant continued to move around them, people talking to each other. Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku could see a small family sitting at a nearby table. A father, a mother, and a son. They were smiling and laughing with each other.

Izuku’s family had used to be like that. Before everything had fallen apart, and he had to think about things like that.

“…What the hell are you talking about?” Kacchan finally said. “Your mom —” He cut himself off and shook his head, his brow furrowing again. “You’re not making any sense. Start from the beginning, when you disappeared.”

Izuku clung to the solidity of the order and obeyed. “You remember my dad, right?”

And the words just flowed from there. All of his arguments for not telling Kacchan everything fell away, and the whole story spewed from his mouth as a torrent. The Quirks, the presents, the training — the discovery — and then the fear, the tears, the running

The French toast was cold by the time he was done, and the traffic of the upper floor had lightened as people finished their meals. Izuku’s voice was a croak from holding back tears, and Kacchan’s expression was unreadable as he stared down at his own cold plate of Eggs Benedict.

“— Mom managed to send me the signal, so I knew not to go home, and yeah.” He sighed and looked down, unable to stop a few tears from streaking down his cheeks. “That’s why I think Mom’s dead. Dad — Dad really didn’t like being disobeyed. And taking me away was really disobeying him.”

The silence between them drew out. The table where that family had been sitting at the start of Izuku’s explanation was empty now, a waitress cleaning up the dishes. They clinked against each other as she piled them on her tray.

Kacchan’s expression didn’t change as he finally began to speak. “Do you have a place to stay?”

Izuku blinked. That was — he’d been expecting a question about where his father was, or threats to go kick his father’s ass, not this. “I — um, yeah. Some people — they offered me a place to stay, they’re pretty nice.”

Kacchan narrowed his eyes. “These people — are they asking for anything in return?”

For a second, Izuku didn’t understand what he was getting at. Then it clicked, and his eyes widened. His hands flew up in an attempt to dismiss the insinuation as he babbled — “No, no, never! They — well, one of them, they have a villain father as well, and they guessed that that was the case so they offered me a place when I needed it — all they ask is some help with the grocery money —”

Kacchan nodded sharply, cutting him off. “Good. They ask for shit like that, get the hell out of there.” He leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’ll distract the hag, and you can stay at my house, got it?”

Warmth bloomed in Izuku’s chest. He wouldn’t do that — it was too dangerous — but the fact that the offer was there made him feel safe in a way he hadn’t felt for over a month. “I will,” he lied. “If it ever gets bad.”

Kacchan nodded again. “Right. On the next topic — have you told the pros about this? Our teachers?”

And the warmth drained away. “You heard my story about the shelter, right?” Izuku said, looking away. “Of course I haven’t.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku saw Kacchan’s mouth twist. “I’m not talking about a bunch of stupid fuckmunches in the triple digits of the rankings, I’m talking about our teachers. You know, the ones good enough to be hired by Yuuei? I’m pretty sure that they’d at least give you the benefit of the doubt —”

Izuku shook his head sharply. “Villain’s kids don’t get the benefit of the doubt,” he said sharply. “And — the USJ. I — I knew those villains there, Shigaraki and Kurogiri. They work for my father, and I’ve already confessed to Aizawa-sensei and Principal Nedzu that I’ve seen Shigaraki before. There’s no way that they’d believe I had nothing to do with it!”

Kacchan’s eyes widened at Izuku’s confession, and Izuku internally cursed, readying himself for rejection because surely —

“Those two — that’s why they attacked us while All Might was busy. They were trying to grab you.” It wasn’t a question.

Izuku pursed his lips and nodded. “I — they recognized me when Shigaraki disintegrated my helmet. I think that they got the impression that the heroes do know, since they haven’t tried anything since, but if the teachers knew that I knew the villains that attacked us, they’ll surely believe that I knew they were going to attack!”

“They wouldn’t —”

Izuku shook his head again. “They would! What else are they supposed to think?”

Now it was Kacchan’s turn to purse his lips. Izuku could see him thinking, trying to figure out a way to convince him to tell someone.

“Look,” Izuku said, “I — I have this under control. I have a place to stay, and Mom made sure that I knew how to access the money we took on the way out.” He looked down at his hands. “Even in the best case scenario, I’d probably be kicked out of Yuuei. It’s more likely that if I confess, I’ll end up arrested and thrown into some hole to be forgotten. And I — I’ve wanted to be a Hero all my life. I know it’s selfish, but —”

His eyes began to burn and he trailed off, unable to put into words his need to be a Hero. His need to make up for all of the people his father had killed in a twisted attempt to make him happy.

He couldn’t. Dropping his head, he squeezed his hands into fists. “I can’t,” he said softly. “I — I just can’t, Kacchan. I know you think the best of our teachers, but I’ve seen too many heroes not even listen when someone’s related to a villain. I can’t risk telling them.”

“What about your mom, then!” Kacchan exploded, growling as smoke curled from where he was gripping the edge of the table. “What about her?! Are you just going to let that fucker get away with it?!”

Hot rage stabbed through the anxiety that had been coiling in Izuku’s chest. “Of course not!” he snapped. “That’s why I want to graduate! I want to become a Hero and take him down, and I can’t do that from a cell!” The tears had begun to spill down his cheeks, scalding hot. “Even if I tell, that won’t bring her back!”

Distantly, Izuku was glad that this floor of the restaurant had cleared out by this point. It would have been really awkward to have to explain to someone else why he was crying into his brunch.

Kacchan’s head jerked back like he’d been slapped. His jaw clenched and he looked away.

Sniffling, Izuku tipped his head back and blinked rapidly, trying to get the tears to stop. Wiping at his cheek with his palm, he swallowed before talking. “She’s gone,” he said, the words feeling like stones as they fell from his mouth. “All I can do now is honour her by becoming a Hero.”

Silence fell between the two of them. Izuku kept sniffling and having to wipe away tears while Kacchan sat silently, staring down at his plate.

God, it hurt, saying those words out loud. But they were true, won’t they? His mom was gone, dead at his father’s hands. She was gone, and never coming back.

“…I’m sorry,” Kacchan finally said after the silence had stretched out to a minute. He didn’t look up from his plate. “I guess I didn’t think of it like that.”

“It’s fine,” Izuku said, his voice tight from holding back even more tears. “You’ve never had to think about these things.”

Kacchan flinched.

Their breakfasts were long cold at this point, the sauces congealed and toast soggy from syrup. Izuku’s stomach curdled at the thought of eating any of it.

“Listen, Deku,” Kacchan said, finally looking up. There was an odd look in his eyes — guilt? “I’ll accept your decision not to tell our teachers. I doubt I could make you do it. But I want something in return.”

Izuku’s voice croaked as he spoke. “Okay?”

Kacchan leaned forward. “I want in.”

…What?

The other boy saw his confusion and made a derisive noise. “I don’t like lying, but do you really think that no one noticed your freak-out yesterday after your match? People are going to be looking closer at you, and asking questions. If you aren’t careful, it won’t matter that you didn’t tell them, they’ll figure out that something’s wrong.”

Izuku swallowed as his stomach plunged. Listening to Kacchan’s words…he couldn’t hear anything that he could disagree with.

“You’re going to need someone to back your stories up,” Kacchan continued. “So use me. Someone starts asking questions about your mom, I’ll talk about how she’s at work all the time. Someone asks about your dad, I’ll tell them he’s a fuckhead.”

The profanity shocked a wet giggle from Izuku, and a flash of approval played over Kacchan’s red eyes.

“T-thanks, Kacchan,” Izuku said, wiping at his damp cheeks one more time. “I will. Though, mom put down that he was dead on our new identities, so they probably won’t ask about him right away.”

Kacchan snorted in approval. “Good. He should be dead to you, anyways,” he said. He looked at their unfinished meal in front of him and snorted again, this time in disapproval. “This shit’s disgusting. Let me pay for it and we can go somewhere else to get our stories straight.”

Izuku cringed a little, still smiling. “Here,” he said, reaching towards his friend’s plate, “let me warm it up. I still have that Quirk from when we were little —”

Kacchan batted his hand away. “Don’t be dumb, warmed up eggs are disgusting.”

“Let me at least cover my half —” Izuku tried to offer.

“Stupid Deku,” Kacchan interrupted him, already pulling out his wallet. The words were fond, despite the derision inherent in them. “You think I need you to pay for me? I’m not the one living on my own at fifteen.”

Warmth bloomed in Izuku’s chest once more, and he sat back, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Thanks, Kacchan,” he said. “I’ll pick up the next bill though.”


“Alright then,” Nedzu said lightly, “now why don’t we move onto the meat of this meeting, then?”

Shouta grunted his appreciation as the rest of the faculty in the room murmured their agreement. Even with his bandages finally off, he was more than glad to keep this meeting moving at a steady clip, rather than continuing to pat themselves on the back for another well-done Sports Festival.

Or not so well done, he thought, drumming his fingers on top of the disappointingly thin file labeled ‘Midoriya Izuku’.

“To start with,” Nedzu continued, clicking the slideshow projected against the wall to the next slide, “there’s the matter of the empty seat in 1-A.” A picture of a familiar purple-haired boy appeared, his name neatly printed beside his head.

“Shinsou Hitoshi,” Vlad grunted, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “I’m against it. The boy’s got a good Quirk, yes, but that’s all he’s got. As things stand now, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the class.”

Shouta frowned at the other man, a rebuttal rising to his lips. All Might, in his reduced form, beat him to it though.

“Is that really a reason to keep him out altogether, though?” the other man asked. “It’s not easy for someone to reach the level of fitness required for the Hero track without some sort of supervision. And I think that I can name a few students in there already that aren’t that far ahead of Shinsou-kun in terms of fitness.”

Vlad was shaking his head though. “That’s not what I mean. In his fight with Midoriya — Midoriya was giving him a chance to hit him at the start, show what he could do outside of his Quirk. That’s the only reason why he wouldn’t attack right away. Midoriya was practically begging him to take a swing, and he still stuck to his Quirk. That sort of inflexibility is fatal in the field.”

This time, Shouta managed to defend Shinsou first. “He’s a first-year high school student, Vlad. I checked his file, he’s never been in a fight in his life. You can’t blame him for not being able to read a fight as well as we can.”

“Still.” Vlad continued to shake his head. “I can’t support this. He’s not ready.”

“No one’s ready when they first enter the Hero course,” Shouta said, hiding his irritation. “The structure will do him good.”

“Now now,” Nedzu noted lightly, “there’s no need to argue. While Vlad has a point, so does Aizawa. Children need structure, and I doubt that Shinsou is unaware of his weaknesses now after being thrown into the audience.”

Vlad grunted. Shouta narrowed his eyes at him, but didn’t say anything. Looking around, no one else seemed to have anything to say.

Nedzu nodded, his tail twitching smugly. Taking their silence for obedience, Nedzu continued. “The only question, then, is what class Shinsou-kun will be in.”

“What?” Vlad frowned. “1-A is the one with an open seat — why wouldn’t they take him?”

“Have you forgotten that scream already?” Nemuri asked dryly from her own seat. “The throwing him into the audience?” She turned towards Shouta. “I’m not so sure that it’s a good idea to have him and Midoriya in the same class.”

Shouta grimaced, unable to argue. He drummed his fingers on top of the folder.

Nedzu noted the nervous gesture. “You have something to say, Aizawa-san?”

“Just some concerns I wanted to bring up about Midoriya,” he replied. “Most of it is just theorizing, but…” He hesitated. He hated doing things like this; it was illogical to bring a theory into a conversation like this. However, it could directly affect Shinsou’s entrance into the Hero course. “I believe that Midoriya’s reaction to Shinsou’s Quirk has more to do with abuse in his past than Shinsou himself.”

The room went dead silent and still.

Nedzu put down his cup of tea carefully, his beady eyes gleaming. “That is a heavy statement Aizawa-san. Would you care to elaborate?”

Shouta grimaced. “Not particularly. Like I said, I have no confirmation; it’s simply a theory that I’ve put together from observing Midoriya since he entered my class.”

“That’s still serious, Shouta,” Hizashi said, any trace of flamboyance missing from his voice. “Everyone here knows how careful you are with things like this. You saying you have a suspicion is as good as a conviction.”

Shouta shot him a half-fond, half-annoyed look. “Don’t exaggerate,” he chided. “I’m not infallible.”

“You’re still usually pretty accurate with things like this,” Nemuri chimed in. “And as teachers, it’s our job to report these things if we even slightly suspect them.”

“Midnight-san is right,” Nedzu said. “If you suspect that this is an on-going abuse case —”

Shouta grunted. “That’s the thing; I don’t think it’s on-going. I think it was in the past.”

The room was silent again. He sighed.

Flipping open the folder, he pulled out the copied records he’d collected. He’d intended to discuss this in private with the principal, but if he was being put on the spot he’d just have to roll with it.

“I first noticed a hint of problems on the first day,” he said without preamble. “Midoriya had to be pushed to fully use his Quirk during my fitness tests, which is odd for a teenager basically given carte blanche to use his Quirk. He tried to excuse it as not wanting to cause damage to the pitch, but his reactions to his fully-powered up body were disturbing. He looked at himself in disgust, and released his Quirk as quickly as possible afterwards.”

“Ah, I remember that,” All Might interrupted. “But you thought that that was just the effect of a bad Quirk counselor, didn’t you?”

Shouta shot him a glare. “I’m getting to that,” he said coolly. All Might flushed at the rebuke, and he turned back to his file. “Looking closer, his distaste for his Quirk is a theme with him. On the way to the USJ, I even heard him refer to it as gross, despite his classmates’ compliments.” He paused. “The only time I’ve ever seen him smiling while using his Quirk was during the Sports Festival, in fact.”

“That’s worrying,” Vlad noted, “but it doesn’t explain why you suspect abuse. Like All Might said, that could be explained by a poor Quirk counselor. Heck, it could even be explained by an accident when he was young and his Quirk had just come in.”

“Like I told All Might, you haven’t let me finish.” Shouta didn’t bother to hide the bite in his voice. “There are other factors to my belief beyond what I’ve mentioned so far.” He tapped his finger against the papers. “His behaviour for someone with such a strong Quirk is strange too.”

“Strange? The kid’s a sweetheart,” Nemuri said.

“Yes, and that’s the problem,” Shouta replied. “I know children with strong quirks. They’re constantly praised growing up, to the point of arrogance. Even if they dodge that bullet, they have a certain confidence to them.” He drummed his fingers against his papers. “That confidence is missing entirely from Midoriya. He’s positively timid, flinching away from flashy displays and always looking to avoid confrontation. He’s not used to being the strongest person in a room.” Shouta shook his head. “After the USJ, he also revealed that he had seen one of the villains previously during the break-in and blamed himself for not informing us, despite having nothing other than a bad feeling about him. I know how abused children act, and Midoriya’s behaviour is closer to theirs than anything else.”

“The final nail in the coffin were his actions after his fight with Shinsou.” He steepled his fingers in front of his face. “I found him violently vomiting and crying in a bathroom. He mentioned his father, and being unable to do something.”

No one said anything. Shouta continued, remembering that disturbing conversation. “When I checked his records, his father was noted as being deceased, with his mother being his primary caretaker. She only has a weak telekinetic Quirk, nothing like what Midoriya has. It’s his father’s Quirk that he inherited, apparently.”

“You think that his father was the abuser,” Hizashi said, and the slight upset that Shouta could detect meant that he would be in for an earful tonight when they got home for not sharing. “And that it only stopped when he died, then?”

“His school records are unremarkable; no reports of bullying. Whatever made him the wreck he was in that bathroom, it came from home.”

“S-still, this feels like a little bit of a stretch,” All Might noted, a droplet of sweat on his temple. “Have you had a chance to directly ask Midoriya about this? Or his mother?”

Shouta grimaced. “That’s why I didn’t want to share this yet,” he said sourly. “All of this is conjecture. Considering Midoriya’s nerves, I wanted to build up more a relationship with him before trying to pry into his life like that. His father is dead, and digging up his corpse might do more harm than good if I’m forcing him to talk about it. I did call his mother, but it went direct to voicemail and she hasn’t gotten back to me yet.”

Nemuri grimaced. “None of us have a good enough relationship with him to press about this,” she pointed out. She looked at him over the top of her glasses. “You really think that this is why he is the way he is?”

“I won’t claim to be infallible, but I’m pretty confident that I’m right,” Shouta replied.

She sighed at that, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms underneath her breasts. “So that makes two possible abuse cases in your class, then.”

Shouta stiffened. “I beg your pardon?”

Nemuri nudged Cementoss beside her. “Ken and I heard some worrying things during Midoriya’s fight with Todoroki. I’m sure that you noticed — the two of them were talking during the match, and well…”

“The case is similar to yours,” Cementoss said stiffly, “but if it is another case of abuse, both of us are certain that it’s ongoing.”

“I see,” Nedzu said, folding his paws in front of him. “If you two would mind elaborating?”

Nemuri sat forward, her eyes tight with worry. “First of all — Shouta, has Todoroki ever used his fire in class?”

…Oh no.

“No,” Shouta said. “Not in the way he uses his ice.” Damn it, damn it, his mind was racing ahead of them and he could already see the shape of what was coming. He’d been so distracted by the mystery of Midoriya that he hadn’t seen…

Nemuri’s lips twisted. “Midoriya said several odd things to Todoroki about his use of his power during the fight. Mostly about how concerned he was about Todoroki hurting himself by not using his fire. But also about how Todoroki saw his fire as separate from himself, and how he wasn’t using it to spite someone. Someone who apparently doesn’t care about Todoroki and only sees him as a tool.” She tapped a crimson nail against the table. “I don’t know many people that would be close enough to Todoroki to do such a thing.”

Shouta clenched his jaw. Stupid, stupid, stupid, not seeing the forest for the trees —

Endeavor was not a pleasant man. A good hero; he wouldn’t be the Number Two Hero if he wasn’t, but he was about as pleasant to be around as being sodomized by a cactus. He was self-important, overbearing, and frequently used excessive force when bringing in criminals — and that was in public, when the cameras were on.

What was he like at home, where there weren’t any?

Todoroki’s use of his Quirk should have been a red flag to him. A giant red flag, lined with lights and with the pole topped by a siren.

Shouta groaned and sat back in his chair.

“I’m sorry,” All Might said in a slightly high-pitched voice, “are you accusing Endeavor —”

“Yes.” Nemuri’s expression was serious. “We all know what Endeavor’s like, and Midoriya’s words —”

“T-those are just Midoriya’s words, though,” All Might interrupted, looking pale. “Not Todoroki’s!”

“I’m sorry, All Might,” Cementoss said, sounding genuinely sorry, “but Todoroki was definitely not contradicting him either. I don’t like to think that we may have missed such a thing about a fellow hero, but as teachers it’s our duty to investigate such things thoroughly.”

Shouta could extend a little bit of sympathy at the stricken look on All Might’s face. He knew that the man didn’t seem super aware of the enmity that Endeavor held towards him, but not even Shouta would have thought that Endeavor was capable of such a thing. He was a Hero, after all.

Well, that’s what he got for thinking that Heroes were better than that. He should have remembered that people were people.

“Well, that is definitely concerning,” Nedzu said, his face inscrutable. “Aizawa-kun, do you have anything that would put Kayama and Ishiyama’s worries to rest?”

Shouta gritted his teeth. Damned rodent knew perfectly well — “No,” he said sourly. “I…can’t disagree with what they’re saying. Frankly, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t spot it before. Todoroki’s hardly subtle with his ice use, I just assumed that he was trying to be less destructive than his father —”

He snapped his mouth shut. Hizashi put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“I let myself get distracted,” he said heavily.

“Y-you can’t blame yourself, Aizawa,” All Might said. “I’ve worked with the man many times and never suspected such a thing!”

Shouta grimaced. “I’m his teacher,” he said. “Many students, I see more of them than their own parents, and I didn’t even think to question his use of his Quirk.” He shook his head. “It’s unacceptable. I shouldn’t have had to force my coworkers to pick up my slack.”

“We all knew how Todoroki-kun uses his Quirk,” Nedzu said, picking up his teacup again. “Any one of us should have picked up that something was wrong. However, throwing around blame doesn’t help young Todoroki-kun. Aizawa, considering the fact that you believe Midoriya-kun’s abuse is a past thing, you wouldn’t disagree if I ask us to focus on the possible current abuse case, do you?”

“It would be illogical to do anything else,” Shouta said. “We always need to focus on those currently in trouble, not those who were in trouble in the past.” He hesitated. “Though, if I could ask —”

“We’ll definitely keep an eye on Midoriya,” Vlad said, speaking up again. “Even if he’s not comfortable with confiding in you directly, if he lets anything else concerning slip, you’ll be the first to know.”

“As well, Recovery Girl has been certified in crisis counseling, which I think would be perfect after his match with Shinsou-kun. At the very least, she can start getting an idea of how much help Midoriya-kun requires. We can start looking for more long-term counseling as well,” Nezu added.

Shouta didn’t allow himself to show how grateful he felt at those words, but he nodded towards them. “Thank you. In the meantime, we need to come up with a plan on how we’re going to handle this investigation of Todoroki’s home life.”

 

Chapter Text

Exhaustion was tugging at Izuku’s eyelids as he trudged towards school the next day. Yawning and rubbing at his eyes with the hand that wasn’t holding an umbrella, he couldn’t bring himself to regret it, though.

He’d missed Kacchan, he realized now. He’d missed his soft yet rough nature, his bluntness, his — everything. He’d missed having a friend to confide in. It had been like the weight of the world had lifted from his shoulders when he had refined his cover story with Kacchan. Hakucho and Nebosuke were great and all, but Izuku found himself reluctant to talk to them straightforwardly like how he’d talked to Kacchan.

“Midoriya!”

The call from behind him made Izuku turn, its familiarity making him smile. “Iida! Good morning!”

The sight of his friend in a raincoat, its hood tightened around his head until only his face was visible, nearly made Izuku burst out laughing. It was absurd, and yet, somehow, entirely what he expected from his friend. Marching towards him, his arms pumping, Iida smiled back without slowing down at all.

“It’s good to see you!” he said as he came closer. “Especially this early — a full thirty minutes before the last bell! It makes me glad to see that I am not the only one to take punctuality seriously!”

Trotting to keep up with the taller boy’s strides, Izuku laughed softly. It hadn’t been anything purposefully done; he’d just woken up before his alarm and decided not to go back to sleep. As it turned out, getting up that much earlier meant that he missed the worst of the rush. “Yeah, well, hopefully I can take a quick nap before class. I’m still kind of tired from the Festival.”

They were close to the entrance to the actual building. Entering it, Izuku closed his umbrella, giving it a quick shake to get the worst of the moisture off. Iida headed to his locker, pulling his hood off of his head. “Did you not sleep well?” he asked. “You should be aiming to get at least eight hours of sleep every night —”

“Midoriya.”

Izuku looked up from the stand he was placing his umbrella in at the sound of Aizawa-sensei’s voice. Iida stopped talking mid-sentence. “Sir? Y-your bandages —”
“Recovery Girl finished healing me yesterday,” Aizawa-sensei said, scratching at the new pink scar underneath his right eye. The brightness of the colour was shocking against his pale skin and dark hair, making the mark impossible to ignore. Just a bit higher…

Unaware of the thoughts careening through Izuku’s head, Aizawa continued speaking. “You’ve arrived early. That’s good. I need to talk to you.”

Izuku’s stomach had plunged at the sight of his teacher's scar, but now it fell even further. He needed to talk to him? Izuku’s mind began to spin, trying to figure out what Aizawa-sensei had to talk to him about. Maybe what had happened at the Sports Festival?

The little voice in the back of his head disagreed, insisting that he’d been found out, but Izuku pushed it down. Aizawa-sensei wouldn’t be confronting him out here if he thought Izuku was a villain’s kid.

“Come on,” Aizawa-sensei said, turning. “We should talk in the teacher’s lounge.”

…Oh no.

The little voice came back with a vengeance, even as Izuku quickly changed his shoes and followed, trotting a little to catch up with his teacher. What could have given him away? Had Aizawa-sensei or another teacher gone digging when he mentioned his father?

Soon enough, they were at the teacher’s lounge, which was surprisingly empty considering it was so close to the start of school. As Izuku stepped into the room Aizawa-sensei closed the door behind him with a click that made him jump.

“Most of the others are preparing their own classrooms,” Aizawa-sensei said in a flat voice, answering Izuku’s silent question. “Technically speaking, I should be as well, but I thought it best if I spoke to you first.” Crossing the room, he brushed past Izuku and sat down on a swivel chair by a cat-themed desk, gesturing to the chair beside him. “Please take a seat.”

Izuku did so. Resting his hands on his thighs, he tried not to grip the fabric and give away the tension that was locking up his muscles. “About what, sir?”

Aizawa leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers in front of him. “You’re aware that General Studies students can transfer to the Hero Course, dependent on their results in the Sports Festival?”

…Oh no.

This wasn’t as bad as being discovered, but it felt pretty close. “Shinsou-kun…he’s being transferred to our class, then? Because we have an open spot.”

Aizawa nodded, his dark eyes watching him carefully. “There was some debate, after the incident at the Festival.”

A small part of Izuku squirmed at that. “T-that wasn’t because of his Quirk,” Izuku lied, memories of cold fingers brushing at his neck while the hot rage of ghosts who wished they could tear him to pieces to reclaim what was theirs bore in all around him, “I just — I just —”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Aizawa said, his voice strangely gentle. “I know that that sort of reaction doesn’t come about just because of being controlled for less than a minute.”

Izuku’s mouth snapped closed.

“And, before we continue,” the older man said, leaning forward, “I would like to point out that Recovery Girl does have training in trauma counseling. Whether you wish to discuss it in detail or no, I would urge you to take advantage of such a thing anyways. It’s not often talked about publicly, but many Heroes do take advantage of counseling after bad fights or ops that have gone wrong.” Resting his elbows on his legs, he pinned Izuku in place with a look. “Trying to simply muscle through this sort of thing doesn’t work. Even if you don’t want to talk with Recovery Girl, I would urge you to confide in someone here. Bottling things up isn’t healthy.”

Izuku just swallowed. “I’ll —” He paused, his voice small. “I’ll think about it. Sir.”

“Good.” The gaze softened, letting him move again as Aizawa leaned back in his chair. “In any case, I’m warning you about Shinsou’s transfer in advance for more than just emotional reasons. As class president, you’re a natural choice for helping Shinsou settle in. Would you be comfortable doing that, or would you prefer that I assign Yaoyorozu to it?”

Izuku’s breath hitched a little at the thought. If he went near Shinsou, would he see those figures again?

He pushed the thought away as soon as they bubbled to the surface of his mind. No, he wouldn’t see them — couldn’t see them, not unless Shinsou used his Quirk on him and if he was getting into the Hero Course, then surely he wouldn’t be the type?

He tried to smile at Aizawa, and knew that it was far too wobbly to be taken seriously. “I — I couldn’t. Yaoyorozu-chan already has far too much on her plate with our class. I couldn’t ask her to do this as well.”

Aizawa cocked his head to one side. “Are you certain? She was one of the people who came to check on you after your last match, I don’t doubt that she’d understand. It’s the job of the class representatives to make sure all of the students are comfortable, including you.”

“He’s going to be my classmate,” Izuku said, shaking his head. “I — I’ll need to get used to him at some point. Why not now?”

Aizawa was looking at him very, very closely, his dark eyes sharp. “You don’t have anything to prove, you know? I’m sure that Shinsou would understand —”

Izuku grimaced at his teacher’s words. He was sure that the man did believe what he was saying, but experience told him that it would hurt Shinsou quite a lot. With his Quirk, and Izuku’s public reaction to it, he was probably not in the right frame of mind to be able to just shrug it off.

“I can handle it,” he insisted.

There was a knock at the door. Aizawa looked up and called, “Come in.”

The door opened, and there was Shinsou, his backpack slung over one shoulder. “Aizawa-sensei,” he said politely, “I was told —” Then he stopped, catching sight of Izuku.
Despite knowing that the figures had not been on purpose, despite knowing that the boy wanted to be a hero just the same as him, Izuku instinctively flinched.

Shinsou’s lips tightened into a bloodless line.

“Mic found you then,” Aizawa said after a moment, clearly noticing the tension in the air but choosing not to comment on it. “Good. I was speaking with Midoriya here about his duties towards you as Class President.”

Izuku tried to smile. He knew from the look on Shinsou’s face that he had failed. “N-nice to see you again!”

Shinsou just grunted, stepping into the room. “Right,” he said. “It’s pretty sudden, though. I thought that the transfer would take more time.”

“The Hero course doesn’t believe in dragging one’s feet,” Aizawa simply replied. Grabbing a chair from beside him, he wheeled it out until it was between him and Izuku. “Neither do I. Come and sit, we have a lot to get through before classes start.”


Even with Aizawa hurrying, they were nearly late for class. As all three of them entered the room, Izuku saw Iida swelling up for a lecture before he caught sight of their teacher behind him. Ducking his head, he tried to ignore the looks of the others as he crossed the room and took his seat.

“Only five seconds,” Aizawa-sensei commented as he headed to his desk, Shinsou trailing behind him. “You’re improving. Anyways, let’s get moving. This is Shinsou Hitoshi; you all know him from the Sports Festival. He’ll be joining us in the Hero Course from now on.”

So blunt, Izuku thought, cringing as he felt the stares from his classmates boring into him.

The room was dead silent as Shinsou walked to the empty desk behind Izuku. The low screech of the chair being pulled back as he sat down seemed to echo through the room.

Izuku sank a little lower into his seat.

“Now,” Aizawa began, completely ignoring the awkwardness and placing a hand on a stack of papers on his desk, “to start with, I want to discuss the work week that’s coming up. As you all know, attracting the attention of Pros was one of the main aims of the Sports Festival. Some of you succeeded more than others at this.”

A few of his classmates shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

Aizawa turned around and picked up a piece of chalk. “Now, keep in mind that even though you’ve caught a pro’s interest this year, that’s no reason to slack off. Internship offers can be revoked at will and without explanation.” The chalk clicked at rasped against the board as he began to write. “So if you thought that now was a time to relax, think again. Especially those of you that got the most offers.”

He took a step back from the board as the room erupted into mutters. Izuku bit the inside of his cheek and gripped the edge of his desk as he screeched internally at the sight of his name’s position. Why was he so high?!

Up there, on the chalkboard, was a list of names with numbers and bars beside it. And up there, just underneath Todoroki and above Kacchan’s, was his name.

Yes, he’d pulled a few stunts, but he’d given up at the last minute! He’d have thought that that would knock of some offers, but he was still in the thousands!

He felt dizzy.

“Jeez, Midori, would it have killed you to leave a few for us?”

Wiping away some of the cold sweat from his forehead, Izuku turned his head to look at the speaker. “S-sorry, Jirou-kun, I didn’t mean to…”

The sound-based girl was twining one of her earjacks around her finger as she leaned back in her seat, a small grin on her face. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, her eyes warm. “Just commenting on your popularity.”

“No one blames you for taking up so much attention,” Tokoyami commented. Izuku turned in his seat to see the bird-headed boy leaning back in his seat with his arms crossed and head bowed. “It’s only natural for such a bright person to demand more attention.”

Izuku smiled shakily at that. Is that a compliment or not? he wondered. He didn’t know the other boy well, but he didn’t seem the type to be fond of ‘bright’ things.

As he opened his mouth to thank Tokoyami regardless, movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.

Shinsou was staring at the board, his jaw clenched and hands squeezed into fists on top of his desk. He looked — angry?

Izuku turned back towards the front of the room, trying to figure out what was angering him —

Oh. He saw it now.

With the shock beginning to wear off, he had the chance to look at the rest of the list up on the board. There was Todoroki, him, and Kacchan of course, but underneath the three of them…

Uraraka. Tsu-chan. Jirou and Kirishima and Sero. Aoyama and Yaoyorozu. All the people that had made it to the third round — except for Shinsou.

Izuku’s first thought was that that made sense, since it was unlikely that anyone outside of the Hero Course would have known that Shinsou had transferred in.

His second thought was that that was probably no comfort to Shinsou. No comfort at all. Because after what had happened during their match, and seeing all of the other people’s names up there, it would be too easy to believe that it was because of Izuku’s reaction to his Quirk.

Cringing, Izuku turned around to speak to Shinsou. Before he could open his mouth, though, Aizawa cleared his throat meaningfully. The room, which had been filled with chatter at the reveal of the offers immediately fell silent.

Aizawa didn’t comment. “Those of you that didn’t receive any offers will also have the opportunity to work alongside a pro. Before we get to that, though —”

The door to the classroom opened with a loud clack. “— you have to choose the names that you’ll be operating under!”

There, posing in the doorway, was Midnight. “Keep in mind, this could easily end up being the name that you operate under for the rest of your career — so choose carefully!”

“Midnight here will be evaluating your names,” Aizawa said in a monotone. “Like she says, you need to think carefully about the name you choose. It will communicate to the world what you want to be known for, and what future you see for yourself.”

“So take a whiteboard and pass it on!” Midnight said cheerfully, pulling out a stack of small boards and pens and handing several to the first person in each row. “Once you’re ready, you’ll introduce yourself to your classmates for the first time!”

Taking a whiteboard, Izuku turned in his seat. Shinsou was staring down at his desk now, his eyebrows knotted together. Chewing on the inside of his cheek, he tried to catch his attention, say something encouraging —

Shinsou snatched the whiteboards without raising his eyes, handing them on behind him with short, jerky motions.

Well, shit. Izuku turned back in his seat, intensely aware of the anger now radiating off of the other boy. It didn’t take a genius to see that the last thing Shinsou would want right now was platitudes.

Maybe later, after he’d had time to cool off.

Picking up his marker, he began to think on his own name. He’d had an idea of what he’d wanted to call himself for a while now. When he was little, before he’d found out what his father had planned for him, he’d had several ideas; some rip-offs of All Might, like Small Might and Mighty Boy. Others suggested his powers, like Multitude, or Dragon Man, for the Quirk that they told the world was his while he still lived with his father. All silly names, for silly little boys wrapped up in a comforting lie that their father had created for them.

The one he picked up his pen to write down, though, was from the world outside of that. A world where he was aware of the shadows outside of home; but not a world where he was alone. A name from the place where he’d sat beside a pond with his mother, and was told that he wasn’t bad.

Izuku wrote the name down confidently, even as his heart gave a little twinge in his chest.

Fifteen minutes later, Midnight clapped her hands at the front of the class. “Alright,” she said, her glasses pushed up to the top of her head. “I’m sure you’ve all thought things over. Who wants to present first?”

There was a ripple through the class as everyone looked at each other, but no one raised their hand. Midnight frowned.

“Really?” she said. “Come on, I promise I’ll be gentle!” She winked jokingly, but still no one raised their hand.

Izuku understood. Names were personal things, and no matter how confident you were, no one liked to be the first at things like this. At this rate, though, they’d never get done.

Taking a deep breath, he slowly raised his hand.

Midnight jumped on it. “Yes! You, Midoriya! Come introduce yourself!”

Holding his board close to his chest, Izuku tried to look confident as he walked to the chalkboard. “I am —” he began, before his voice cracked. He cleared his throat, and flipped his board over. “I’m Lotus, the Hero that Rises Above!”

“Oh, a flower? That’s unusual for someone with your powerset,” Midnight commented.

Izuku ducked his head. “Um…” he mumbled.

“I like it though!” Midnight continued like he hadn’t said anything. She flashed him a thumbs-up and a smile. “Very positive associations! We’re off to a good start!”

“Yeah, nice!” Kirishima seemed to absorb Midnight’s positivity as he called out from his seat, and that seemed to break the dam. His classmates began to cheer and chatter, perking back up.

“Alright! Who wants to go next?” Midnight asked.

With a relieved sigh, Izuku headed back to his desk.

Kirishima turned out to want to go next, introducing himself as Red Riot, in tribute to the old hero Crimson Riot. Then there was Tsu-chan, with Froppy, and Iida who wanted his name to be Stirling (”The Engine Hero like my brother!”) and Uraraka as Uravity. All of those names passed with no problem, Midnight praising them all.

Weaving in between those were some that weren’t so lucky. Aoyama was told to shorten his original long name into something more manageable, and Ashido’s first choice was flatly rejected. And Kacchan…

“Whaddya mean it gives off the wrong impression!?” Kacchan snapped, slamming his board down. “It means that I’ll crush any villain I come across!”

But Midnight was still shaking her head. “Back to the drawing board, Bakugou-kun,” she said, pointing at his seat. “Try to think of something that sounds less like a threat, alright?”

Growling, Kacchan obeyed, his face thunderous. Izuku tried to smile at him, which only made him growl louder. “Don’t fucking smile, Deku. It was a great name!”

“Alright, who’s left?” Midnight called, saving Izuku from replying. “How about our new boy — Shinsou-kun?”

The class, which had been chattering quietly to each other in excitement, quieted. The amusement which had been floating through Izuku’s chest stilled, tightening into a strangling snake.

The scraping noise of Shinsou’s chair was very loud in the sudden silence. As he walked to the front, Izuku could see the stiffness of his shoulders and knew that he was horribly aware of the cause of the silence.

The clack of the board meeting the desk echoed. “Mindfuck,” Shinsou drawled, “the Puppetmaster Hero.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku could see Sero grimace.

Midnight was frowning as well, her chin caught between her thumb and index finger. “Mmm, that’s a good first try. Thematic. On the whole, though, it’s generally frowned on to have a swear word in your Hero name. As well, with your Quirk being what it is, I’d advise you to avoid villainous-sounding names.” She shook her head. “You’re going to have an upwards battle already with the public; for your own good, you should try again.”

Shinsou’s shoulders had been stiff as he’d introduced his name, despite the drawl. They stiffened even more at Midnight’s words. “I suppose I should change the epithet too, huh?”

Midnight smiled kindly at him. “That wouldn’t hurt either,” she said, reaching out to touch his shoulder.

Shinsou pulled away before she could. Not saying a word, he headed back to his desk.

Midnight cleared her throat and straightened back up. “Alright then,” she said, “next?”


“My name was fine!”

“Yes Kacchan.”

“It was better than fine, it was great!”

“Yes Kacchan.”

“It was badass! Villains would have trembled, hearing it!”

“Yes Kacchan,” Izuku sighed, not stopping his scanning of the lunchroom. Kacchan had dragged him out of the room as soon as the bell had rung; none of his names had satisfied Midnight, and Izuku had seen his temper flaring more and more each time. Pretty much everyone else (minus Shinsou, who had spent the rest of the period thinking) had managed to get a name approved by her, but none of his had passed muster. He supposed that they were all lucky that Kacchan had repressed his rant long enough for them to leave the room.

Still, Izuku regretted that he’d been dragged away so soon. With how things had gone with Shinsou’s initial hero name choice and the class’ reaction to him, Izuku had found his instinctual flinches pushed away by his concern. He knew what it was like to feel isolated from others due to your Quirk, and wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

“Izuku.”

Izuku jumped in his seat a little, twisting around to see Shouto standing behind him, his tray held in front of him and a frown twisting his face. “Ah, Shouto-kun, sorry for rushing out like that —”

“Are you alright?” Shouto, his frown only deepening, looked suspiciously at Kacchan.

Oh. Right. Izuku abruptly remembered the last time Shouto had seen him and Kacchan together and frantically raised his hands. “I-it’s fine —”

But Kacchan had looked up from his lunch and was now frowning right back at Shouto, the hand holding his chopsticks smoldering. “Haah?” he said threateningly, “You got something to say, Half-n-Half?”

“What did you drag Izuku away for?” Shouto asked bluntly. “You’re not his friend, and the last time you two interacted you were threatening him. Why are you acting all buddy-buddy all of a sudden?”

“The fuck do you know, asshole? Who the hell are you to say I’m not his friend —”

The air crackled with tension. Desperately, Izuku scooted his chair back so that he was between the two of them and waved his hands harder. “Shouto-kun, Kacchan, please, calm down! Shouto-kun, I’m fine, we knew each other when we were younger and just needed to work some things out, that’s all. We’re all good now!”

Shouto’s eyes were still suspicious, but he didn’t contradict him. Instead, he set down his tray on Izuku’s other side and sat down. “I was just worried when he dragged you away.”

“He’s a big boy,” Kacchan said acidly, “he doesn’t need you to take care of him.”

Izuku sighed, scooting back to the table. “Kacchan, please,” he begged.

Kacchan grunted, but backed off. Well, he was still glaring at Shouto, but that was as close as he ever got to backing off once his temper was riled.

“Heeey, Mister President!”

Uraraka’s cheerful tones were just what Izuku needed to hear. Turning in his seat again, he smiled at the sight of the bouncy brown-haired girl and Iida, who was following behind her. He was holding his tray in one hand and chopping at the air with the other and he ranted about something, only to nearly bump into Uraraka as she came to an abrupt stop, her eyes fixed on Kacchan. Following her eyes, he visibly stiffened, his shoulders squaring.

Izuku sighed, but kept smiling. “It’s alright,” he said. “We talked things out after the Festival. Everything’s cool now.”

Both of them relaxed at his words. “Oh, that’s good,” Uraraka commented as she went around the table to sit on the other side. “The way he was glaring at you on the podium, I thought you’d need a bodyguard today!”

“Uraraka-kun!” Iida chided, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “That is no way to talk about one of our classmates! Of course Midoriya and Bakugou were able to talk things out! As future heroes —”

Before Iida could work himself up to a real lecture, though, Izuku spotted a familiar head of purple hair and shot to his feet.

“Shinsou-kun!” he hollered over the heads of his friends, “over here!”

The purple-haired boy looked over at him sharply, his features unreadable. For a moment, Izuku worried that the other boy would ignore his invitation, but then he squared his shoulders and, with his face still unreadable, he headed towards them.

Satisfied, Izuku sat back down. “Sorry guys,” he said sheepishly, still keeping an eye on the other boy to make sure he didn’t swerve away, “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Iida said, his eyes bright with approval. “As class president, it’s only natural for you to facilitate Shinsou-kun’s acceptance into the class. Eating together at lunch is the perfect opportunity for us to get to know him better in a more casual setting.”

Beside him, Uraraka didn’t seem quite as approving. “Um, I don’t want to step in anything personal,” she said slowly, “but didn’t you kind of have a bad reaction to him?”

“To his Quirk,” Kacchan said gruffly before Izuku could answer. “Not him.” His eyes slid towards Izuku, and if he hadn’t known Kacchan for so long he would have missed the sympathetic but approving gleam in them. “Shit like that might happen at any time in the field. Not everyone’s Quirk is going to be compatible with yours. He might as well practice getting over it now.”

“That doesn’t mean that he should push himself so harshly, though,” Shouto butted in around a mouthful of noodles. He’d been quiet, slurping down his cold soba, but now he was frowning at Kacchan again.

“Who are you, his moth — his father?”

Shouto’s eyes narrowed and he bit off what he had in his mouth, the rest of the noodles falling back down onto his plate. Before he could say anything more, though, Shinsou arrived.

“Sorry,” he drawled casually, “hope I didn’t interrupt anything here.” The stiffness in his shoulders showed how much of a lie his tone was, though, along with the fact that he didn’t put his tray down onto the table.

Izuku, caught between Shouto and Kacchan’s glares, smiled weakly at him. “No, no,” he said awkwardly. “I just figured that your lunch period probably changed when you were moved to our class and didn’t want you to eat alone on your first day!”

Shinsou looked at him carefully. “You take your duties as class president seriously, huh?”

“No, no, just being friendly,” Izuku hastily assured him. “You can sit beside Uraraka!”

Uraraka stiffened, making both of their eyes shoot over to her. When she didn’t say anything, though, Shinsou nodded jerkily, sliding into the chair beside her. “Thanks,” he muttered. Picking up his chopsticks, he stabbed them into his rice moodily.

The table was silent for a long awkward moment. Shouto and Kacchan had broken off their staring contest when Shinsou sat down, but they didn’t seem to be in the mood to say anything. Looking at the purple-haired boy, Izuku found himself nervously tapping his own utensils against the side of his bowl, words drying up and sticking in his throat.

Finally, though, Iida spoke. Adjusting his glasses, he cleared his throat and leaned forward. “So!” he said brightly, “Midoriya-kun, have you given any thought as to which offer you’re going to go with for the work experience week?”

Shinsou ducked his head at the words, making Izuku internally wince. Not the best topic, Iida, he thought ruefully, but he tried not to draw any attention to the other boy. He already seemed uncomfortable, mechanically eating his rice.

“Um, I haven’t really had the time to look through all of them,” he said weakly.

“Lucky you,” Shinsou muttered, moodily stuffing some rice into his mouth. Beside him, Uraraka looked pained.

Iida flushed, stiffening in his seat. “My apologies, Shinsou-kun,” he said loudly. “I did not mean to draw attention to your situation!”

“My situation?” Shinsou’s hadn’t looked up from his food, but Izuku could see how his shoulders stiffened. The temperature around them seemed to dip. “What, precisely,” he bit off, “do you mean by that?”

“Everyone acting like you’re radioactive waste,” Kacchan said helpfully. “Because of how Deku reacted to you using your Quirk on him.”

“Kacchan!”

“What?”

Izuku pressed his lips together tightly and glared at the blond boy. “Look,” he said, “what happened during the Sports Festival had nothing to do with Shinsou-kun’s Quirk, alright? It was my own issues that made me react that way, not his Quirk!”

Kacchan grimaced beside him while Todoroki just blinked, catlike. Iida sat very still in his seat, seeming unsure of where to look. His mouth opened and closed a few times.

Uraraka didn’t seem to have his trouble in asking. “Your issues, Midori-kun?” she said, looking at him curiously as a line formed between her eyebrows.

“Ah…” Izuku bit back his words. “I —” The words choked and died in his throat as quiet fell over their table. He looked down at the table, not sure of what to say. What he had said was true; it wasn’t Shinsou’s fault that his quirk had that sort of effect on him. At the same time, though, he would rather pull out his own teeth than go into detail on what his ‘issues’ were.

The sharp clack of chopsticks being set down on a tray stopped Izuku from having to answer.

“Your own issues?” Shinsou said, standing back up. His chair screeched against the floor, too loud in the quiet bubble around them. “You don’t have to lie to spare my feelings, Mister President.” He sneered the title. “I know what people think about my Quirk. I know how you feel about my Quirk. And I don’t need anybody’s pity. I got into the hero course on my own and I can get through it on my own as well.” Turning away from them, he stuck his hands into his pockets and began to walk away.

“W-wait!” Izuku said, trying to get up as well.

But it was too late. Shinsou disappeared into the surrounding crowds, not looking back even once.

Biting his lower lip, Izuku fell back into his seat and cradled his head in his hands. That was not how he had wanted this to go.

Chapter Text

Things did not get better after lunch. Shinsou, apparently lacking anywhere else to be, had already been back in class by the time they were finished, his chin resting in the palm of his hand and pointedly looking away from them all as they entered. As Izuku had sat down in front of him, Iida had tried to draw the other boy into a conversation before class officially started, half-lecturing him about the importance of finishing one’s lunch, and only gotten grunts in reply. Out of the corner of his eye, Izuku had been able to see Iida’s ears reddening, but he hadn’t dared turn his head to properly look back.

He didn’t want to make things even worse.

Unfortunately, the massive stack of application forms that had been dropped onto his desk with a boom had made that impossible. The back of his neck prickling from Shinsou’s glare, Izuku had tried to bury himself in his offers and ignore the other’s conversations around him, but the others hadn’t allowed him. Rambling on about their own offers, they had all seemed to want his opinion on the different agencies. Even Yaoyorozu, who he’d have thought would be confident enough to make her own choices without needing to discuss it with others had dropped by, talking about the different offers she’d gotten. She’d been thinking about going with Uwabami’s agency for some experience with a female hero.

The combination of those factors, along with just how many offers he had gotten, meant that he was still sitting at his desk as his classmates shuffled out from the room. So far, all he had managed was to weed out the definite nos. Removing the offer from Endeavor and the other agencies that he knew had bad reputations had winnowed down the pile considerably. Removing the offers from rescue agencies had narrowed it down further; while he respected the work that they did, his goal was more aligned with agencies that focused on criminal apprehension and prediction. He still had a large pile to get through, large enough that he was having trouble fitting it into his backpack with all of his other stuff, but it was far more manageable now than it had been at the outset.

“Do you need any help?”

Looking up from where he’d been struggling with the zipper of his backpack, Izuku flashed a smile at Shoto. “No, I’m fine,” he said. “I think I figured out how to arrange things.”

Shoto’s blank expression didn’t change. “That’s good,” he said seriously. “Back injuries are the worst.”

Izuku’s smile wavered. The way he said the words, Izuku could tell that he was speaking from experience.

Before he had to reply, though, Aizawa appeared, looking sleepy. “There you are,” he said blandly, clapping a hand onto Shoto’s shoulder. “Todoroki, do you have a minute? There’s something that I need to talk to you about.”

Shoto had been facing away from Aizawa, which hid the way that he winced at the touch. Izuku bit the inside of his cheek.

Any trace of pain had vanished from his face though as he turned to look at their teacher. “No, it’s fine. My father is away for tonight.”

Aizawa’s face was unreadable as he began to steer Shoto away from Izuku. “Good,” he said, his tone as inscrutable as his expression. “If you’ll follow me then?”

Shoto didn’t reply. Instead, he turned his head, awkwardly waving goodbye to Izuku. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said calmly.

Izuku raised his hand as well. “S-same to you,” he called after the two of them.

Now what was that about…

He didn’t have time to ponder things, though, because just as Aizawa and Shoto were leaving the room another person was entering it.

Blond and muscular, the upperclassman nearly bounced into the room, easily dodging around the desks until he was in front of Izuku’s. “Midoriya Izuku, right?” he chirped, pointing a finger enthusiastically at Izuku and nearly poking him in the eye.

“I — yeah?” Izuku replied, dodging the finger. “Sorry, do I know you?” What had he done to attract the attention of an upperclassman?

“Not right now, but depending on your reply, you may in the future!” The other boy was grinning at him. “Togata Mirio, at your service!”

Izuku blinked. “I — nice to meet you, Togata-senpai? But, what do you mean by ‘my reply’? My reply to what?”

Togata’s grin widened. Taking a step back, he reached into his pants pocket, pulling out a folded sheet of paper. “Why, your reply to Sir’s offer!” He nearly shoved the folded paper into Izuku’s face with his enthusiasm.

Leaning back in his chair, Izuku plucked the paper from the other boy’s hand and unfolded it. It was another internship offer, that much was clear immediately to Izuku’s eyes as he began to read it. “Um, thank you, but who’s —”

His eyes fell on the name of the hero that had started the agency that was offering him an internship.

“— S-sir Nighteye?!” He sputtered, his train of thought jumping the tracks. “S-sir Nighteye, the only sidekick of All Might himself?? He wants me to intern with him?!”

Togata was beaming now, his smile blinding in its sunniness as he collapsed into the desk behind him and crossed his arms over his chest. “Yep!” he said. “He was super impressed by your performance in the Sports Festival and wanted me to pass on the invitation personally!”

“A-ah, personally?” Izuku couldn’t keep his eyes off of the invitation, his heart pounding in his ears. Sir Nighteye, the only person that had ever been able to keep up with All Might enough to earn the title of sidekick, wanted him — HIM — to intern with his agency!

“Yeah! I saw the videos afterwards and I don’t blame him! You were really impressive — the way you jumped over the top of the stadium, and your fight during the cavalry battle — it was the sort of off-the-wall thinking Sir really likes seeing in heroes! I overheard him saying that you reminded him of someone —”

Reminded him of someone? Tension abruptly sliced through the fizzing happiness that had been welling up in Izuku’s chest. He looked up sharply from the offer. “I — reminded him of someone?”

Togata’s smile lessened a little as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, well, I maybe shouldn’t have been listening in; he was on the phone with someone. But yeah, he said that you reminded him of someone he’d known, and that the person he was talking to had known as well.”

Izuku’s eyes drifted down to the offer again, which suddenly didn’t make him feel like he’d swallowed a case of sodas. No, it made him now feel like he’d choked down a cannonball.

He…reminded Sir Nighteye of someone. He reminded All Might’s sidekick, who had been instrumental in tracking down his father’s different schemes and syndicates (judging from how his father had grumbled on his phone, before the fight and him and his mom’s flight), of someone. It could be innocent; he could be talking about another hero, or something, but Izuku’s gut was twisting a warning at those words.

And the fact that the offer had been passed on by hand, rather than the channels that everyone else went through…

Something wasn’t right about this. “Um, did he — did he say the name of who I reminded him of?”

Togata stopped rubbing the back of his neck, blinking curiously at Izuku. “Hm? No, I didn’t catch it, unfortunately.”

Izuku didn’t say anything to that, just looking back down at the paper and tugging nervously at his lower lip.

He should refuse this, his gut said, slowly twisting like a crocodile in a death roll. Sir Nighteye obviously knew, or at least strongly suspected that he was associated with All for One.

But. But. The fact that Izuku hadn’t been dragged out and thrown into a police cell meant that Sir Nighteye didn’t have any proof. No doubt he’d been invited to intern so that he could gather that information, and if Izuku was smart he wouldn’t give him that chance.

But. But. A little voice in the back of Izuku’s head reminded him of what he’d figured out was keeping him safe from his father attempting to retrieve him. His father thought that the heroes knew who he was. His father thought that they’d try to save him if he just grabbed Izuku.

Wouldn’t interning with someone so closely associated with the Number One Hero just reinforce that?

“You okay?”

Togata’s question shook Izuku out of his thoughts. Hastily he pulled his hand away from his mouth and flashed a numb smile. “Sorry, something just occurred to me. I — can you tell Sir Nighteye thank you for the offer for me? I still have to go through the rest of my offers, though, before I make a choice —”

Togata flashed him a worried look but stood up. “Certainly,” he said. “I’m sure there are plenty of heroes that would be happy to have you; I just wanted to make sure that you got Sir’s. I wasn’t trying to pressure you into anything.”

Izuku smiled again, nervously refolding the offer. “Don’t worry, I know,” he said, standing up and sliding it into his pocket. “It was very flattering that he asked you to hand it on personally, I just want to give everyone a fair chance.”

Togata’s worried look melted away and he laughed. “I see!” he chirped. “That’s understandable. Still, I hope to see you at the agency! You seem like a nice kid!”

Izuku felt his cheeks heat up. “U-um, you too!” he said. Swinging his backpack onto his shoulders, he scurried around the other boy and towards the door, the offer burning a hole in his pocket.

He had a lot to think about, and a lot to look up. Starting with what exactly Sir Nighteye’s Quirk was.


Shouta wished that Todoroki was a little less stoic. Peering at his student out of the corner of his eye, he couldn’t tell what he was thinking. There was no nervousness, not even boredom. Just a completely neutral expression, like he always wore. Not even a question of where they were going for their talk.

It made something in his stomach curdle, seeing that level of control from a teenager. That sort of unquestioning obedience.

What had Endeavor done to his son to make him like this?

Shouta cursed himself again for his hyperfocus on Midoriya. He should have noticed this the first week of classes, if not the first day.

“We’re here,” he said as they reached the door to the infirmary. Opening it, he stepped to one side, inviting Todoroki to enter first. Obediently, Todoroki did so, only to stop a few steps in. Coming in behind him, Shouta closed the door.

Only now, and only in his tone of voice, did Todoroki show emotion. “What is this?”

Turning away from the door, Shouta straightened. “This,” he said, his voice as heavy as his heart, “is what I suppose you’d call an intervention.”

The infirmary was empty except for the three people who had been waiting for them to arrive. The first was Recovery Girl, seated in her usual chair with a cup of tea steaming on her desk and a pile of forms that the clipboard in her lap was struggling to hold. The second person was a police officer with a cat’s head, Officer Sansa. He’d assisted in the cleanup of the USJ Incident; Shouta had spoken with him a few times while still in the hospital.

The final person was not a faculty member nor from the police. A slim middle-aged woman with tired but fierce eyes was sitting opposite of Recovery Girl on a stool with her own pile of forms. As soon as the words had left Shouta’s mouth, she had risen and crossed the room towards Todoroki before bowing in greeting. “Hogosha Yonenki, Musutafu Social Care Services,” she introduced herself.

Shouta saw Todoroki’s shoulders stiffen.

Straightening, Hogosha gestured towards a nearby bed. “Would you like to take a seat?”

Todoroki didn’t move. “What is this?” he repeated, a small hint of accusation underlying his words. “What is this about?”

Hogosha’s eyes flicked over to Shouta for a second, who subtly shook his head. No, he hadn’t told Todoroki. He hadn’t been sure how the boy would react, and in any case a hallway filled with other kids wasn’t the place to air this sort of thing.

The corners of the social worker’s mouth tugged downwards in a frown.

Officer Sansa took pity on the two of them. He stepped forward, an ear flicking nervously. “Todoroki-kun, my name is Officer Sansa. Your teachers recently alerted us to their suspicion that you have been being hurt at home. We’re here to figure out if that is true, gather evidence, and if necessary discuss your options regarding your removal from your abuser’s power.”

Todoroki was silent.

“As your homeroom teacher, Aizawa-san will be acting as your advocate. If you wish for someone else, though, we can retrieve them before continuing.”

Todoroki was still silent.

It was Sansa’s turn to look at Shouta this time. Silently, he placed a gentle hand onto Todoroki’s shoulder and guided him to the nearest bed to sit down. Todoroki nearly collapsed onto it, his face pale, and Shouta settled down beside him. Not right beside him, but still close.

Hogosha picked up her stool and sat it down by the bed. Not right in front of Todoroki, but to his side. Most likely, she was trying to seem less threatening like Shouta was. Sansa grabbed an extra stool and sat down as well, flipping open a notebook and pulling out a pen.

“Todoroki-kun,” Hogosha said delicately, “before we begin, how about we ask some basic questions to warm up? Can you give us your full name?”

Todoroki ducked his head instead of answering right away. Shouta considered placing a hand on his shoulder again, but before he could the boy finally spoke.

“Will this actually go anywhere?”

“Pardon, dearie?” Recovery Girl spoke for the first time, looking worried. “Would you mind repeating that?”

Todoroki carefully placed his hands on his thighs in that too-careful way that made Shouta hate himself a little more. “My father is Endeavor. The Number Two Hero in Japan. He’s a very powerful man.” He was looking at Sansa and Hogosha, his face painfully still. “If I talk to you — can you promise me that it will actually do anything? Or will he just be able to make it go away again?”

Again —

Shouta gritted his teeth. It wasn’t precisely surprising; as Todoroki had said, he was the Number Two Hero, and whatever his reputation couldn’t take care of, a well-placed threat or a bribe or the Commission could. And that was if anyone actually took the accusation seriously. Impulsively, he put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and squeezing it gently. “I won’t make false promises, Todoroki-kun,” he said. “But the moment that you entered this school, your health and well-being became our concern. Even if we can’t necessarily get him arrested for what he’s done, I don’t doubt that we can twist his arm into letting you go to avoid a scandal.”

“Someone as high as him only has that much further to fall,” Hogosha said darkly. “Eraserhead-san is correct. Someone as obsessed with image as your father will be desperate to avoid scandal. Social Care has done it before.”

There was a story there, but Shouta didn’t have time to question it. Todoroki had ducked his head as he had spoken, his hand coming up to touch the scar on his face, and there was a fine tremor in his shoulders. Gently, Shouta moved his hand away from his shoulder and began to rub the kid’s back.

The trembling slowly stilled, being replaced by deep, even breaths. Eventually, the hand touching his scar gingerly fell back down to his lap. “Alright,” Todoroki said, raising his head. It hurt to see that his stoic expression was back on. “What do you need to know?”

What followed was over three hours of explaining the process of investigating abuse claims, talking, and finally a physical examination. The scar was old (and the story behind it had been horrifying), but there were fresher injuries to document as well.

Apparently, Endeavor had not been pleased by his performance in the Sports Festival. There were bruises and small scorch marks up and down Todoroki’s arms and shoulders, some new and some old, and a large black and purple bruise that covered most of his stomach, all inflicted under the guise of remedial training. Shouta hadn’t had the faintest clue that he’d gone through the day without showing how much those injuries must hurt.

It was ridiculous. It was disgusting. The way Todoroki had spoken of these injuries, how easily he had hidden them through the day all spoke of how they weren’t infrequent occurrences. Something like this should have never gotten past him.

Hogosha had been stone-faced through the whole process, except for her eyes which only seemed to burn that much more with every minute that passed. Recovery Girl’s camera clicked loudly in the quiet of the room as Sansa took down her murmured observations. Sidling up to her, Shouta kept his voice low as he spoke. “When we get him removed from his father’s custody — where is he going to go?”

Hogosha didn’t take her eyes off of the dark bruises littering Shouta’s student’s skin. “We have several emergency foster homes for situations like this. Why?”

Shouta grunted. “Just thinking. The media’s full of bloodsuckers that will jump on this the moment they get a whiff of it.”

That got Hogosha to look at him. “I assure you, Social Care is not in the habit of revealing their cases to the media.”

“This isn’t most cases, though. This is about the Number Two Hero.” Shouta looked back at her steadily. “I’m not trying to criticize you or your work. I’m just worried about Todoroki having this splashed across the front page of every paper in Japan because the people who are supposed to be taking care of him are dazzled by the chance of having their fifteen minutes of fame. When was the last time a Hero was accused of something like this, anyways?”

Hogosha tilted her head to the side slightly. “What are you trying to get at, Eraserhead-san?”

Shouta paused for a moment before answering. He should really talk this over with Hizashi first, he knew, but the churning guilt in his stomach refused to listen to logic. “I’m an underground hero. I know more about avoiding publicity than normal foster parent or hero ever would. What would I need to do to become a foster parent?”


The compound was quiet. Too quiet. Kai was on high alert as soon as he stepped through the door.

He knew from the subtle sound of cloth sliding over hair that behind him, Kurono had noticed his sudden tension. Nemoto, too, noticed their actions, and Kai heard the unmistakable sound of the hammer on a gun being cocked back.

Deidoro, being drunk, missed all of this. “H-hey,” he slurred loudly, staggering past the three of them further into the compound, “I-irinakaaaaa, wassup with to cold welcome?” He punctuated his question with a loud burp that echoed in the silence of the building.

“Idiot…” Nemoto hissed. “Overhaul, may I?”

“No,” Kai murmured, his eyes skipping over the hallway that they’d entered. It was dark, the shadows lying thick on the ground and gathering in the corners. He hadn’t been expecting any of his men to be here; he knew that they only followed him because of the veneer that he was speaking for the Boss. His Expendables too did not always stay in the main part of the compound; most of the time they were in the tunnels below as they should be, guarding his true operations. For none of them to appear after Sakaki’s drunken shouting, though…

“We are not alone,” he said, placid words that hid the sudden spike of anger rising up in his chest. If someone had managed to get past his Expendables and reach Eri, some do-gooder hero that couldn’t understand his mission to cleanse the world of the filth that was Quirks — “Nemoto, raise our men. I want them down here in five minutes.”

“Understood, Overhaul-sama,” Nemoto said.

“And us?” Kurono’s voice thrummed with tension.

“We are going to begin to figure out what is going on here, and where the rest of my Expendables are.” Kai let some of the icy rage he was feeling drip into his voice. “Deidoro? You’ll be in the front.”

The dumb shit didn’t even have the sense to look afraid of Kai’s anger. “You got it boss!” he said, sloppily saluting him.

Kai didn’t dignify his words with an answer.

In the tunnels below, things were even quieter. The low sounds of insects and traffic from the nearby roads were completely shut out, leaving only the buzz of the sickly white lights that ran along the ceiling. The dull white walls of the hallway showed no sign of struggle; not even a scuff marred their eggshell surface.

It made the hair on the back of Kai’s neck stand up.

There was still no sign of any of his Expendables. None of his men seemed to be down here, not even Mimic. Even with him gone and it being night, there should have been someone still down here.

“Overhaul-sama,” Nemoto said, breaking the silence that even Sakaki, drunk as he was, had fallen into, “look.”

Pulling himself from his thoughts, Kai followed his underling’s pointing to a spot halfway down the hallway. There was something small and black lying crumpled there, and he sped up his steps.

“Overhaul-sama, please let us —”

Kai ignored his underlings’ words. It only took a few long steps before he was on the crumpled thing and picking it up.

It was Irinaka’s puppet. The black fabric that made up its body was soaked through with some cold liquid that was staining the edges of the white mask a reddish brown —

Kai dropped the puppet. It slapped wetly on the ground, and left his palm red.

His body revolted against what he saw, his skin trying to crawl off of his body. “Disgusting,” he hissed, flexing his hand.

“Kai,” Kurono said, coming up behind him and pulling out disinfectant wipes, “is that —”

Behind his mask, Kai gritted his teeth. “Yes,” he hissed. Peeling of his soiled glove he dropped it on top of the blood-soaked puppet and held out his hand. “Make sure that this is cleaned up as soon as possible.” Without a word, Kurono nodded and began to wipe away the filth. Looking further down the hallway, Kai could see drops of blood tracking across the ground, leading to the door set at the end. The door that lead to the main lab of his operations. “Where are my men, anyways?”

“On their way. Do you want to wait for them before going further?”

Kai could still feel the tackiness of the half-congealed blood on his hand even after a new glove was slipped over it. The door ahead of him was still and clean, refusing to even hint at what was beyond it. “No.”

Under his dirtied hand, the door and a large chunk of the wall was vaporized into dust. Not waiting for it to settle, Kai stormed foward, ready to tear these intruders apart. Deidoro jumped to the ceiling —

And was torn down just as quickly with a sickeningly wet crack.

“Eeep!”

Eri’s familiar terrified whimper slowed his steps more than the sight of one of his Expendables being taken out so quickly; his pace slowed, he had a chance to properly take in the room.

First, and most infuriatingly, the room was a mess. His footsteps slowing even further, Kai’s eyes widened at how completely it had been torn apart. All of the equipment, the records — it was all scattered across the floor and hanging out of drawers, except for a desk and chair.

His desk and chair, where he had gone over their plans and work. And currently, there was someone else sitting in it.

The man was massive; clearly larger than anyone else in the room, the way he dwarfed the furniture and how he was cutting an apple into bunny shapes and placing them on a small plate in front of him should have been laughable.

Kai wasn’t laughing, though. Not just because the man was sitting in what should have been a secure facility like it was his home, with Eri sitting on his lap. No, Kai wasn’t laughing because he recognized the man sitting there from the stories that the Boss had told him growing up.

A neat, tailored suit. White, curling hair. Freckles. Red eyes that regarded you like a predator deciding whether or not to kill a particularly fat mouse.

“All for One,” Kai said, his voice thinner than he would have liked. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Eri, pale and trembling at his sudden appearance, shrank back into the Emperor of the Underworld’s chest, her small fingers wrinkling his white shirt.

All for One clucked his tongue and put down the apple and small knife he’d been using. Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he wiped his fingers clean before stuffing the cloth back in. “Look at what you’ve done, Kai-kun,” he chided, his voice a rumble that Kai could almost feel in his own chest. “You got dust all over Eri-chan’s apples. Do you always make such dramatic entrances? Is that just your thing?”

Kai gritted his teeth. “I do when I believe that a burglar has somehow managed to get into my laboratory.”

All for One raised an eyebrow at him, then shrugged. “Fair enough, I suppose. Though you haven’t apologized for Eri-chan’s apples.”

The brat looked like she couldn’t care less about the state of the fucking fruit. She looked like she wanted to fuse with All for One’s chest to avoid his eyes, ducking her head as Kai’s gaze fell upon her.

“I’ll apologize later, after we’re done with what business has brought you here,” Kai said, just barely biting back a snarl.

All for One chuckled and shook his head. “Ah yes. Business. If you insist.” Leaning forward in the chair, he wrapped his arms around Eri as he stood up, settling her comfortably in the crook of his arm. Even standing across the room, he clearly towered over them, with a powerful build evident in the ease in which he carried the girl. “So, I suppose I’ll start by saying that your business with the Quirk-erasing bullets is now over.”

Behind Kai, Kurono stiffened. “What? How did you —”

Kai almost snarled at him to shut his mouth, but he was cut off before he could begin by All for One’s mocking laughter.

“How did you know?” he chuckled. “What a chestnut! I haven’t heard that in ages!” He shook his head, and when he looked up his eyes were cold and glinting like steel. “I’m All for One. What makes you think that I wouldn’t pay attention when I hear about some Yakuza relics making promises about Quirk-erasing anything? Or, when the truth of them has been ascertained, wouldn’t take steps to find out how exactly they’re being produced?”

He shifted the arm carrying Eri, making her grasp at his jacket. Her long tangled hair fell in front of her face, hiding her own red eyes from Kai’s gaze.

“Kurogiri,” All for One called into the empty air, not taking his eyes off of them, “I think it’s time Eri’s introduced to her new home.”

A black portal seemingly made of some sort of mist opened in the space beside him. From it, a thin, pale young man wearing what looked to be a severed hand attached to his face stepped out, holding a hand out towards the little girl. A quick shrug, and the girl was in the young man’s arms, her head buried into the crook of his scarred neck.

Despite knowing how dangerous the older man was, Kai took an aborted step forward at the sight of the key to his operations disappearing into that misty portal. But he couldn’t do anything. Not with All for One right there.

The bitter taste of defeat filled his mouth as the two of them disappeared, leaving All for One alone with them.

“Really now, Kai-kun, what was your plan with this?” the older man cooed, his eyes hard. “Honestly, I’m having a hard time telling. Did you think that you’d be able to torture Eri forever — which, by the way, was completely unnecessary? All you had to do was take a cell scraping and then keep a few cells growing at a time. Any half-way competent doctor could have done that. And the way you called her cursed — utter ridiculousness.” He shook his head, mock-disapproving. “I have trouble believing that anyone could be so stupid, but you didn’t even try, did you? She’s a bright enough child, it only took me an hour to teach her the basics of using her Quirk.” He reached up, smoothing a hand over his curls. “I haven’t looked this good in oh, about six years now, and it’s all thanks to her.”

“Don’t you talk about Overhaul-sama like that!” Kai had been able to feel Nemoto slowly growing in anger as the man had continued to speak, pressure building like a volcano. “His vision —”

“Needs glasses,” All for One snarked. He shook his head again. “But from your reactions, I can tell that I’m wasting my time trying to talk to you. I’ve left a few things for you to amuse yourself with —” He lazily gestured to nothing in particular, “— but consider this a warning. The Yakuza are dead and gone. I’m willing to let you have your fun, but if you try something like this again, I won’t be as kind when shutting it down.”

The man turned towards the still-open portal, no longer paying attention to them. “Have a nice night, Kai-kun.”

And then he was gone, along with all the rest of Kai’s work. His life’s work.

Nemoto was muttering behind him. “I should have shot him, why didn’t I shoot him —”

“Because he would have killed us all,” Kai heard himself say. Feeling like he was floating above his body, he slowly crossed the room to the desk, papers crunching under his feet. Aside from the plate of apples, the top of the piece of furniture was empty. He didn’t need to check to know that the drawers would be empty as well.

It was a small thing, barely expressing the helpless rage that was howling in his chest. But he picked the plate of apples up and threw it at the wall, as hard as he could.

The sound of it shattering was less than satisfying.

His harsh breathing rattled through his mask as he tried to process what had just happened. How he had so utterly lost to someone even he had started to believe was a myth, in such a short time.

“Kai?” Kurono’s voice was soft and careful like he was approaching a rabid animal.

Kai squeezed his hands into fists, feeling the nails dig into his palms. “Cancel the call to my men. They can’t see this.” They already didn’t respect him, whispering that he had injured the Boss because he lusted for power. If they knew that he’d been stolen from and was helpless to retaliate —

No. No, he wouldn’t think like that. Even centuries-old crime lords had their weaknesses. “Call up the Boss’ old right hand.” The old man hated him like the rest of the family, but he was only one man, and not particularly well-loved either. He also knew a hell of a lot about the old underworld, and wouldn’t take this sort of insult lying down. “I have some questions for him about our Dark Emperor.”

Chapter Text

Izuku tightened his grip on his backpack straps as he stood in front of the Nighteye Agency, trying to screw up the courage needed to walk in.

God, this was such a bad idea. This could blow up so hard in his face. But he couldn’t ignore the benefits. Along with reinforcing the idea that the Heroes knew about him, learning from one of the people that had helped take his father down the first time was too tempting to ignore. Sure, Sir Nighteye most likely was already suspicious of him; sure, he had a precognition Quirk. But from what Izuku could tell from hours of trawling message boards, the Quirk needed both skin and eye contact to work, and it was only for a week. He could avoid having someone use their Quirk on him for a week, surely.

Yeah, he told himself, he could do this. He’d gotten this far, after all. Gripping the straps of his backpack tightly, he pushed open the unremarkable door that lead into the building where the agency was —

“Who are you?”

— only to be greeted by a short old man leaning heavily on a cane and smiling up at him with a vacant expression.

Izuku blinked. Looked around the small, empty lobby. Looked at the old man, who he now realized was wearing a Hero costume in white and yellow.

He’d researched the other heroes and sidekicks of the Nighteye Agency before entering his application, just in case. There had been no mention of any little old men…

“Um…” he said, shifting uncomfortably, “I’m Midoriya Izuku? I’m here for the work week?” Maybe the man was a new hire?

The old man’s smile didn’t waver as he cocked his head to the side. “Toshinori?”

There was a worrying blankness in the man’s eyes. Izuku looked around the lobby again, but there was still no one but the two of them. “Um, no, my name is Midoriya Izuku.” He bit his lower lip for a moment before adding, “Are you…looking for someone?”

“Ah…” the old man said, like he was about to answer.

Izuku waited.

The old man stayed silent.

Okay. Izuku had bent over slightly while talking to the man, but now straightened up.

The Hero Commission was supposed to help Heroes retire when they were no longer able to fulfill their duty. All Izuku could think was that they’d maybe missed this one; in that case, as a Hero-in-training, it was his duty to make sure that the man was taken care of. Sir Nighteye or one of the other heroes would likely have a line to the appropriate authorities, right?

Extending his hand, he smiled at the old man. “It’s alright,” he said in his most reassuring voice, “you don’t have to answer that. I’m sure you have a good reason for being here. Can you tell me who you are?”

For a split second, something sharp and alert flashed across the old man’s eyes. It was gone so quickly thought that Izuku must have been imagining it, though. The old hero took his hand, squeezing it tight enough that it verged on painful. “Gran Torino!” he chirped. “Toshinori, you know that!”

Hiding his wince at the unexpectedly strong grip, Izuku kept smiling. “Sorry, Gran Torino,” he said. Playfully, he knocked on his head. “Had a blond moment, I guess.” There was an elevator at the end of the lobby, and he began to guide the old Hero towards it.

He was thankfully amenable to that, not fighting Izuku’s guidance. Once inside, Izuku hit the button to bring them up to the floor where the main offices were. He’d been told which one that was on the acceptance form, checking and rechecking it repeatedly.

Beside him, the old Hero — Gran Torino — didn’t say anything else, just quietly humming the old jingle to an All Might cereal that Izuku’s father hadn’t allowed him to eat.

The elevator was slow, groaning as it began to lift them through the air. Izuku wanted to break the silence as it began to stretch out, but wasn’t sure how. He didn’t have a lot of experience with this sort of thing; most of his father’s men had been young, and even if they weren’t, they had always still been clearheaded. After he and his mother had run, they hadn’t really had the time either. It had been a quickly-adopted habit to keep to themselves, only talking to the neighbours enough to be considered polite. His mother —

A small pang of pain in his chest had him steering his thoughts away from that topic. Thankfully, the doors opened with a soft chime and he and Gran Torino could enter the hallway, heading towards the door opposite at the very end. With his hands full with the old Hero, he couldn’t double-check the acceptance form one last time, but he’d re-read it enough times to know that this was the place, right?

“BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA —”

There was a blue woman, strapped into a machine that was tickling her as a tall forbidding man in a white suit watched. She was wearing very scanty clothing that exposed most of her midriff and the bottoms of her breasts.

Izuku felt his face heat up until it felt like it was on fire. “Um-I’m-sorry-I-think-I-have-the-wrong-address —” he babbled, quickly stepping back and shutting the door.

What the hell was that!? He shrieked mentally, whipping off his backpack and scrabbling through the papers inside. Had he transposed the digits somehow!? Gotten off at the wrong station!? God, he’d closed the door but he could still hear that laughter…

Wait, no. That wasn’t the same laughter as the woman.

A hand clapped down on his shoulder, and Izuku jerked his eyes up from the mess of papers that he’d pulled out.

It was the old Hero, Gran Torino. Except he wasn’t smiling vacantly, his eyes empty of thought. He was smirking down at Izuku, his eyes sharp and glittering with something not quite kind.

“Don’t worry kid,” he drawled, “you don’t have the wrong address.” He jerked his head back at the door. “Now why don’t you go back in and introduce yourself properly?”

…What?

The door cracked open, and the woman who had been in the machine peeked out, her eyes still teary from forced laughter. “Um, hi, sorry about that,” she squeaked out, her voice sounding a little rough. “You’re Midoriya Izuku, right? Sorry about that, Sir didn’t find my jokes funny enough in my last report. Would you like to come in?”

Izuku blinked at her. Looked between her and the suddenly not-senile Gran Torino. Then, stuffing his papers back into his bag and clutching it to his chest, he stood up. “I, uh, I guess? I-is that normal?”

The blue woman smiled, wiping away the lingering moisture from her eyes. “Only if you don’t have a good sense of humour,” she said. Her tone said that she meant for those words to be reassuring. Izuku, however, failed to be reassured. Was this how all Hero agencies worked?

As he stepped back into the room, Gran Torino on his heels, he found the tall man in the suit putting the tickling machine into what looked like a closet without a hint of shame in his posture. Closing the door, he brushed off the front of his white suit before turning towards them.

“Thank you, Bubble Girl,” he said in a dignified tone. “You have paperwork to do, don’t you? And this time —”

“I know,” the newly-named Bubble Girl said, ducking her head in an aborted bow. “Thank you Sir!” She scuttled away, leaving Izuku alone with Gran Torino and the man who could only be Sir Nighteye.

With another brush down the front of his suit, the green-haired man stalked towards Izuku. “Midoriya Izuku.”

Still clutching his bag tightly, Izuku fought the urge to hide his face behind it and stared fixedly at the Hero’s right ear as he loomed over him. “S-sir Nighteye. Sir. I’m here for the work experience week?”

“I’m well aware of that.” The man’s voice was cold. “I sent you the invitation, after all.”

Izuku swallowed and kept his eyes on the man’s ear. “R-right. So, um, I was told that you’d assign me as needed, and stuff —”

He flinched and stuttered to a stop as the man’s hand clapped down on shoulder and looked down at the top of his bag. No sense in tempting fate.

“Quite,” the man said after a moment, radiating irritation. “We’ll start your evaluation now, then, since you’re so eager.”

Izuku nearly looked up, barely catching himself in time to divert his gaze to Nighteye’s shoulder. “My evaluation?”

“I can hardly know where best to put you after seeing you briefly on TV.” Nighteye’s voice didn’t waver in its iciness as he let go of Izuku’s shoulder and turned, beginning to walk to one of desks nearby. “Since the rest of the office is out, we might as well begin with the combat evaluation.”

“Combat —”

Izuku’s nerves screamed and he ducked, just in time to hear and feel something whip through the air where his head had just been.

“Combat evaluation, brat,” Gran Torino said as he slammed into the wall above Sir Nighteye. “You pass if you can lay a finger on me in the next three minutes.”

Izuku stared at the two men, his heart pounding in his chest and horribly aware of the cracks webbing out from where the not-so-frail older man had landed. Sir Nighteye’s face was emotionless, his gaze challenging.

That hit could have knocked him out. No Hero worth their salt would have opened with such a move against a student, surely —

Unless they weren’t fighting a student. Izuku swallowed, his mouth dry. Sir Nighteye, it seemed, was not the only one here who knew who he was.

Then Gran Torino was flying at him again, and Izuku had no more time to think.

Scrabbling to grab a speed Quirk, Izuku was just barely able to scramble out of the way before the old man slammed into the space where he’d just been again. His legs gave a twinge at the sudden activation, making him grimace and quickly pull up a resistance Quirk before dodging again.

Sir Nighteye was watching them, he noted out of the corner of his eye. His arms crossed over his chest, he watched the two of them bounce and dodge around the room with narrowed eyes and a curled lip.

Okay. So this was definitely an attempt to force him to use a Quirk that couldn’t fall underneath his reported Enhancement. His heart thundering in his ears, Izuku dodged a kick that ruffled his hair as it passed by, so close that he saw a few of his hairs twisting in the air. He scuttled away, already panting and zig-zagging so as to keep himself from being an easy target. His fingernails scraped agains the tile of the floor as he scrambled, leaving dirt beneath them and making them hurt. Gran Torino was getting closer and closer with every swing, and he was running out of places to go —

“Midoriya,” Nighteye said coolly from where he was leaning against his desk, “you cannot win a fight by running away. You do remember the terms for passing this test, don’t you?”

Gran Torino kicked a roller chair at Izuku, forcing him to do a backflip to avoid getting hit.

“Yes,” Izuku panted, not taking his eyes off of the old man in front of him, “but you didn’t explain the consequences before he tried to put his foot through my head!”

Gran Torino just laughed unkindly and shot towards him again.

Izuku could already feel the bruises forming as he dove out of the way. Landing hard on his shoulder, he had to roll out of the way as Gran Torino kicked at his face.

Nighteye didn’t react, just pushing his glasses up his nose. “Even if you’re only here for a week, my agency handles dangerous cases. I need to know that you can handle opponents that aren’t just high school classmates. If you can’t, I’m afraid that I’d be honour-bound to correct this and bring your combat abilities up to snuff, so to speak. At least, as close to up to snuff as possible in a week.”

Well that was rather rude, Izuku thought wildly, pressing against the wall to avoid another violent ricochet. Sweat stuck his shirt to his back and front and trickled down his temples as he thought furiously. His classmates were students, yes, but they were students in one of the most exclusive Hero programs in the country. Also, that line was utter bullshit, and they both knew it.

That didn’t mean it wasn’t an effective threat, though. He was being pressed hard as they spoke, and Izuku didn’t like his chances trying to out-speed Gran Torino on the offense. If he didn’t land a hit though, there would only be more chances for him to be exposed.

Not even ten minutes into being here, he was cornered. He wanted to cry. He never should have come here. Not even ten minutes, and he was on the verge of being thrown into Tartarus.

The next kick got close enough to scrape his cheekbone, making it sting.

Unless he started thinking creatively.

Just barely dodging a followup hit, Izuku darted across the floor, keeping his body low. Ahead of him lay a desk, knocked over earlier by their fight. If he could just reach it —

“Too slow!”

Gran Torino appeared in front of him, his leg outstretched. Izuku was going too fast to change direction in time. His resistance Quirk wouldn’t be enough. And despite all of his time away, all of his time practicing with the Quirks he could pass off as part of an enhancement Quirk, he found himself automatically reaching for a forcefield Quirk.

His control shattered and he stumbled as he pulled back, the Quirks that he’d had active slipping from his mental grip. Sweat flew off of his jaw as he tried to slow down, sparkling in the air. No, he couldn’t use that Quirk, that would give it away entirely —

Izuku tasted blood as he opened his eyes, his head aching.

Above him, Sir Nighteye blinked, the black fading from his eyes. Gran Torino’s face looked like it had been carved from stone.

“…Aw, shit.”


Tears were streaming down the boy’s face as he buried it into the stuffed stomach of a much-loved rabbit plushie. Sitting on the edge of his bed, his shoulders were shaking under the weight of the grief that was driving those tears to his eyes. He sobbed and wailed silently, utterly alone…

Enishi couldn’t stop tapping his knuckles on the top of his desk as he leaned against it, turning the vision over and over in his mind. He poked and prodded at it, trying to find some sort of clue or hint that he could tell All Might about so that he’d finally do what was right and alert the authorities —

The door to the office opened and closed with an audible click and Enishi stilled. Turning around, he watched as the elderly Hero Gran Torino strolled over to the couch and hopped onto it, lacing his fingers over his stomach. “Did you get anything?” he asked, looking annoyingly relaxed.

Enishi lifted his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You first,” he said, unable to keep the ice from his voice. He didn’t like the older man, and he knew that the feeling was mutual. The first time that they had met, the older man had taunted him as a fanboy, and that wasn’t even going into the lack of back-up when Enishi had been trying to convince All Might to retire. Right now though, Gran Torino was his only ally it seemed in trying to reveal his newest intern as the villain he was, he reminded himself. Sucking in a breath, he added, “Please.”

Torino raised an eyebrow at him but thankfully didn’t say anything. “Kid’s good, I’ll give him that. Keeping ahead of me isn’t easy. Being willing to take a hit too — this isn’t going to be easy.”

“You didn’t see anything then.” Despite expecting the answer, Enishi’s stomach still sank. He dropped his glasses back into place and crossed his arms, grinding his teeth. “Nothing at all?”

Torino shook his head. “Like I said, kid’s good. He’s sticking to nothing that can’t be explained away by a powerful enhancement Quirk. I thought at the end he might do something to avoid that kick, but…” He trailed off and shook his head again. “Acted the part of the concerned Hero student outside as well. Thought for a moment he was going to try to find a police officer for the ‘poor senile old hero’.”

Enishi forced himself to unclench his jaw. He didn’t need the trouble of a cracked tooth.

“And you? Judging from the way you’re grinding your teeth, I don’t think you got anything useful from your Quirk.”

And he was right back to grinding his teeth. “Just the boy crying in what I assume was his room,” he said, unable to keep the sourness from his voice. “No sign of his father.”

Torino let out an explosive sigh. “Of course,” he said, his voice equally sour. Enishi bristled, but the other man held up a hand before he could say anything. “I’m not writing off your Quirk, I’m just not surprised. Things like this are never as easy to solve as we want to think, and it was a long shot anyways. We’ll just have to try again.”

Still nettled, Enishi leaned back, resting against his desk. “We might not have an ‘again’,” he pointed out. “You just kicked him in the face, and he definitely knew that I used my Quirk on him. If he had any sense, he’d leave —”

Torino scoffed. “And confirm our suspicions for us? No, that kid’s staying put. He’s played the innocent this long, he’ll keep it up until there’s no other way.” His eyes glittered. “It ain’t over yet, Nighteye, not by a long shot.”

Enishi bit the inside of his cheek. “He’ll be on his guard now, though. That will make things more difficult.” Despite his gloomy words, though, his mind was working. “I doubt that I’ll get many more chances to work with my Quirk — we’ll have to rely on you making him slip up with his Quirks.” Uncrossing his arms, he rubbed at his chin. “In the meantime, I’ll have to try and use more mundane means to investigate him. Find the holes in his backstory, trip him up with questioning.”

“Without letting the others in the office know, either,” Torino pointed out. “Don’t forget, we can’t treat him like a villain without others asking questions.” His eyes were still glittering with something close to malice.

Enishi grimaced. He hadn’t forgotten. “Speaking of which, I assume that you at least helped him with that bloody nose before leaving him alone?”

Torino grunted and waved a hand like he was brushing away a fly. “Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled. “Kid was fine. Took it like a champ. Didn’t so much as whimper.” He didn’t look at Enishi.

Enishi frowned, a small twist of his lips. He didn’t know Torino intimately — the man was intensely private, barely letting out that he had been All Might’s teacher several meetings after their first — but something was clearly weighing on the older man’s mind. “In that case, may I ask what’s wrong?”

Torino grumbled again. “It’s nothing. Just — kid smiled and apologized, when I was helping him. It reminded me of someone.”

Pushing up off of the desk, Enishi re-crossed his arms. “Reminded you of who?” he asked.

The glance he got in reply was as cold as a winter wind. “Of none of your business, brat. This is a mission, remember? I’m not about to go crying on your shoulder ‘cuz some memories got stirred up.”

That only got him to frown more. He stepped closer to the older man. “It is my business if it’s going to lead to you being compromised,” he warned. “This could go very badly if the boy decides to run —”

“Do not start lecturing me on this, boy,” Torino growled. He slid off of the couch and glared at him. “I’ve forgotten more about fieldwork than you’ve ever known. This won’t affect me, I assure you.”

Nettled, Enishi opened his mouth to snap back at the older man. Before he could, however, there was a knock at the door.

Both of them stiffened. Shooting a warning glare at Torino, Enishi walked over to the door and opened it, revealing Bubble Girl there, holding a box overflowing with papers.
“Um, I’m sorry Sir,” she said, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, “but the officers stopped by with more information about Stain?”

Enishi let out a breath through his nose. He had almost forgotten about that case. “Thank you, Bubble Girl. This is everything they have?”

She nodded. “All the files, witness and victim statements, maps, everything. They even included the analysis of their own people on what the villain’s Quirk could be! They’re pretty sure that it’s a paralysis Quirk, but they disagree on what the trigger is —”

“Thank you,” Enishi repeated, taking the box from her. Normally he enjoyed his sidekick’s, well, bubbliness, but right now it was only grating against his already-raw nerves.

Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to take the hint and instead peered past him into the room. “Um, if you don’t mind, Sir, where’s our new intern? I didn’t really get to properly introduce myself —”

“There was an accident,” Enishi said shortly, “so we’ve shown him to the rooms he’ll be staying in this week.” A thought struck him — it was still relatively early in the day. “We were testing his combat knowledge and he ended up with a bloody nose. If you wouldn’t mind, could you check in on him? If the bleeding’s stopped, I would appreciate it if you introduced him to some of our less violent office procedures.”

Bubble Girl straightened, looking flattered. “You can count on me!” she chirped, saluting him. “Sorry for bothering you!” With that, she scurried away, clearly eager to introduce herself.

Enishi closed the door with a sigh. In a perfect world, he would have been able to keep the boy isolated while studying him, but this was not one. Bubble Girl, however, had a keen mind behind her extroversion and had assisted in more than one corruption investigation. She would notice if the boy started acting suspiciously and report it to him, even if she didn’t know the whole story.

“Stain?” Torino asked once the door was closed.

“A criminal that I’ve been asked to assist with the analysis of,” Enishi replied, putting the box down on his desk. “I’d forgotten with the discovery of the boy. Don’t worry, I’ve handled multiple cases more than once.”

Torino just grunted. “Good,” he said. “I’ll check in with your sidekick and the kid as well. I don’t think he’d be likely to attack her but there’s safety in numbers.” With that, he headed towards the door.

Enishi only nodded. “If you see Mirio, please send him to me,” he said.

Torino paused, his hand on the doorknob. “You’re bringing him in?”

He’d started unpacking the documents from the box, spreading them across the spotless surface of his desk, but he looked up at the man’s tone. “He’s the newest holder of One for All. All Might informed me earlier that he’s passing it on to him today. Like it or not, this now involves him.”

The older Hero’s expression was inscrutable, but he didn’t say anything. He just slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him.