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Live a Hero

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Inko Midoriya has a son.

Misaki and Daichi know this. They’ve been next door neighbors to the Midoriyas for the past couple of years now, and apparently, a few years ago, she adopted a little boy. A nine year old, Misaki remembers overhearing--the boy would be twelve now, if she remembers correctly.

Except, for all their visits to the Midoriya household, Misaki and her husband have never seen him.

“He’s here,” Inko says uncomfortably when they inquire his whereabouts, “he’s just...he’s very skittish. He doesn’t really like people all that much, you’ll have to understand.”

It was an interesting choice of wording. “Skittish” rather than “shy” and “you’ll have to understand” rather than “you’ll have to forgive him.” The neighbors are confused and skeptical; after all, they’ve never seen the boy, or even any sign that he actually exists at all.  

Misaki is over at the Midoriya residence for coffee one day (Inko is always very welcoming, if just for a short time; she never has company for more than thirty minutes or so) when she sees the first sign of there actually being someone else in the house.

“So, this son of yours,” Misaki is saying during said visit, stirring her coffee absentmindedly if just to have something to do. “Are we ever going to get the chance to meet him?”

Inko smiles softly. It looks painful. “Maybe someday,” she says, “hopefully. He’s…” She stirs her own coffee nervously. “He’s, well, he’s very--”

A door slams abruptly in another room.

Misaki jumps, nearly spilling coffee all over herself, and Inko raises her head. She isn’t startled, merely...concerned. Like this has happened many times before.

“I’m sorry,” Inko says, setting down her coffee and rising to her feet, “but, for now...I’m going to have to ask that you go.”

This has also happened before, Inko asking her to leave abruptly. Inko, of course, is as sweet as she can be about it, never demanding and always very kind, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t odd, and that doesn’t mean Misaki isn’t offended.

The Midoriya household is strange. Misaki and her husband don’t visit often, but every time they’ve been over this far, the household has had a...strange air about it. Or, perhaps it’s not the household so much as it is the feeling Misaki and Daichi get when they’re in the household. Inko says that it’s an old house and maybe it’s just because it’s creaky and rickety, but Misaki has her doubts.

That, and she finds knives lying around the house sometimes.

She doesn’t find very many of them and the occasions are rare on which she does, but they’re there--embedded in the walls, scattered across the coffee table, even behind the couch cushions sometimes. Inko laughs is off, but the laughter is always nervous and pained.

“It’s nothing,” Inko says, yanking two knives from the wall and setting them on the kitchen counter. “You aren’t in danger here, I promise you that.”

Another odd choice of wording. Inko doesn’t explain the knives; she never has, and Misaki doesn’t think she ever will.

Misaki doesn’t try and investigate. She isn’t sure she won’t find something she’ll regret. The Midoriya household is full of secrets, and despite her curiosity, Misaki isn’t about to go snooping again.

The one time she tried, when Inko was making tea in the other room, two knives had shot out of nowhere and missed her by inches.

Misaki’s visits to the Midoriya household stopped after that. Inko had been furious, and she said that Misaki had no right to go snooping, which was true, but either way, Misaki wasn’t about to step into that household again.

Inko Midoriya has a son. And, apparently, Misaki is on both of their bad sides.


Inko does have a son.

She has a son, twelve now (she thinks--the police hadn’t been able to find out Izuku’s birthday for sure, but he’s about twelve), and she loves him with her whole heart. Izuku is quiet and skittish and he has a bad habit of throwing knives at people when he’s scared or feels threatened, but he tries his best and has a heart of pure gold.

Misaki and Daichi leave after a visit, their final visit, and Inko, once she’s sure they’re gone, creeps down the hallway towards the door of her son’s room. It’s never locked, Izuku never locks it, she knows this without trying. She knocks on the door twice, and when she receives no objection from within, she heads inside.

Her son’s room is... special.

That’s really the only nice way she can put it.  

The walls are splashed with multi-colored paints, reds and blues and greens and purples and pinks and oranges and, basically, all things bright and colorful. Her son fell in love with colors the day Inko brought him home, and one of the first things Inko had done was bought several cans of paint and let him splash the walls with color.

Her son likes colorful things, and he also likes stuffed animals and blankets with “pretty patterns” and…

And…

...He likes knives, too.

The walls, bright and colorful, are lined with knives. None of them are longer than Inko’s forearm, but the blades gleam in harmony beneath the overhead lights of the room, threatening despite their sizes.

The knife thing isn’t exactly new; Izuku had always had knives on him since the day he was found. He’d almost knifed the hero who found him in the face several times.

(No one blamed him.)

(No one could.)

Inko makes her way across the room and to the closet. This door is locked, she knows it is without trying the handle, and she knocks twice. She waits a moment for an answer, and when one doesn’t come, she opens her mouth.

“Izuku?” she calls gently. “You can come out now, it’s alright. They’re gone.”

There’s a beat.

And then, two knocks come from the other side of the door.

Inko smiles gently, even though Izuku can’t see her. “Not yet?” Inko asks.

One knock this time.

“Alright,” she says, understanding. Her son loves her, she knows this, but he needs space sometimes. A lot of space sometimes. “Do you want anything to eat?”

Two knocks come as an answer.

“Alright, that’s okay. What about ice cream?”

There’s another long beat.

And then, one knock.

Inko smiles brightly again, despite that Izuku can’t see her. “I’ll be right back,” she says, a promise, and she turns on her heel and retreats the room.

Inko loves her son. She’s only been his mother for three years thus far, but she loves him dearly and would do just about anything for him.


“He was brought in last month by the hero, Ingenium. We ran his DNA through the system, but there aren’t any matches. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, this boy doesn’t exist.”


Inko is awoken that night by a hand shaking her shoulder.

She sits up, blinking rapidly and willing her eyes to adjust to the dark. “Izuku?” she murmurs, suddenly more awake now that she realizes what’s going on. “Izuku, are you…?”

Her eyes adjust enough for her to make out Izuku’s outline in the dark. He’s fiddling with something--knives, she realizes. Two of them, one in each hand, the blades gleaming in the light of the full moon shining through the window.

“I-I’m sorry,” Izuku stammers, his blades sliding against each other. His hands are shaking, she notices. “I-I...I-I just…”

“It’s okay,” she says immediately, and she reaches out, gently--very, very gently--settling her hand on his cheek. “It’s okay, Izuku, it’s okay. You’re safe, I promise. Come here.”

He does. He sets his knives on the nightstand first, but then he’s in Inko’s arms, and she hugs him tight.

This happens a lot, Izuku coming to her in the middle of the night, never offering an explanation (never needing to offer an explanation). He’s had nightmares regularly since the day he came home, and Inko’s heart aches for him every time.

She never asks what he dreams about. She doesn’t dare make him relive whatever horrors he sees in his dreams. And anyways, it’s not like she needs to know to be able to hold him and comfort him, so she lets it go. It’s been three years, yes, but she’s still finding Izuku’s boundaries. He has several of them.

“It’s okay, Izuku,” she promises, running her fingers through his hair. He’s trembling (not crying, he never cries) and holding onto her in what she’d consider a death grip. “It’s okay, you’re safe, I promise you’re safe.”

It’s a horrible, horrible thing, his nightmares. The boy has a hard time sleeping already; add “nightmares” to that and he hardly ever gets the chance to rest peacefully. It isn’t fair, Inko thinks, holding him and stroking his hair as he trembles in her arms. He’s done nothing to deserve this. For all his knives, he’s done absolutely nothing to deserve this.


“Ma’am, are you sure about this? He’s our hardest case, if you're looking to adopt a child, there are others--”

“No. I’d like to meet him. Please.”


Izuku doesn’t like people. He never has. He tells Inko to have company over so she can hang out with others, but then he runs off and locks himself in the closet until they leave. He doesn’t like company, and she’d stop having people over altogether if he’d let her.

But he doesn’t. He wants her to have friends. Which is odd, considering Izuku’s own distaste for people.

Or maybe “distaste” is the wrong word. Perhaps “fear” is more accurate.

He doesn’t like going out in public at all, he never has. He’ll go out with her occasionally, but stays glued to her side like he’s terrified to lose her, and she doesn’t let him out of her sight. He gets startled easily, and when he’s scared he brings out the knives and that is not something Inko wants happening in public. The public doesn’t understand that knives are Izuku’s comfort, that knives make him feel safe and that he’d never actually hurt anyone. He throws knives when he’s scared or startled, yes, but his aim is accurate and he’d never, ever hit anyone.

The public doesn’t understand this, and for this reason, Inko and Izuku don’t go out often. When Inko goes shopping for groceries, she lets Izuku stay home, where he does his schoolwork (she’s homeschooled him since adopting him--he can barely handle a walk down the street, much less being in a classroom full of other kids) and, when he’s able, he rests, too, which is good. He needs whatever sleep he can get.   

He likes going out with her to the park on occasion, though. He’s told her before that he loves the sunshine.


“Hello, there. My name is Inko. What’s your name? ...No? You don’t want to tell me your name? That’s okay, you don’t have to, sweetheart. Take your time.”


Izuku dyes his hair green.

He says it’s because “black is scary” and “green is pretty,” but Inko has a suspicion it has something to do with the fact that her own hair has a natural green hue to it. Izuku is shy and skittish and not much of a talker at all, but Inko knows he loves her, and she doesn’t miss how his eyes light up when, due to their matching hair color, strangers at the parks they visit comment on their “family resemblance.”

It’s expensive, keeping up with hair dye, but Inko does it. She knows how much it means to him.


“I have a question, sweetheart. Would you...like me to be your mother? Would you like to be my son?”


Izuku does not smile.

It’s not that he isn’t happy, because he is. Inko has seen him truly, honestly happy a fair amount of times. Like the day she brought him home and showed him his new home, or when she bought him his first stuffed animal (and all the stuffed animals that followed). He doesn’t smile--Inko isn’t sure he can-- but his eyes fill with life and light, and even though he isn’t smiling, Inko can always tell when he’s happy.

She isn’t sure anyone else would be able to tell, but she can, and that’s what matters.


“Would you like a new name? ...Yes, that’s right, you can if you want to. You can pick anything you’d like. ...Would you like me to help you choose?”

A nod, small, shy and quick. 

“Alright, let’s think, shall we? Hmm…”


“I-Inko-san?”

Inko turns; Izuku is standing in the doorway, fiddling with one of his knives. He’d spoken to her, but he isn’t looking at her.

She wishes he’d call her “mom,” but he’s only recently dropped “Midoriya-san,” and she’ll take small victories. They’re still trying, still moving forward, still making progress. They’ll get there. Eventually.

“Yes, what is it?” Inko asks, smiling gently. Izuku is much like a cat in that he gets startled easily and that it takes time to gain his trust. Inko is proud to say that Izuku trusts her, but even so; he’s easily spooked and extremely hard to calm down.

Plus, he has a tendency to lash out and throw his knives when he’s startled, and although he’d never hit anyone, Inko doesn’t want him to feel threatened enough to attack.  

Izuku fiddles with the knives some more. The green is fading out of his black hair; they’ll have to get it re-done soon.

“H-Hypothetically,” Izuku stutters slowly, “c-can...c-can I be a hero?”

Inko pauses with a small frown. “Why do you ask?”

Izuku bites his lip. “I-I mean,” he says, “I-I was just...thinking, recently. I-I mean, h-heroes don’t really...look like this, do they?”

Inko absolutely hates the way he phrased that, but she understands where he’s coming from.

Izuku has never been the healthiest person. He’s skinny, pale, and he’s prone to illness more often than Inko wants to think about. But, aside from that...Izuku is covered in scars.

All over his forearms, all over his legs, all over his face; beneath his clothes are more scars, more times he’d been hurt. Some of them are small and faint and others are long and jagged, like his skin was cracked.

“...Izuku…” She studies his face, his eyes. “Is this...really hypothetical?”

Izuku doesn’t flinch, but he slides the blades of his knives together slightly more frantically. “Yes.”

It isn’t. He’s lying. And Inko gets the feeling that he knows she knows he’s lying.

She doesn’t call him out, though. Instead, she crosses the room towards him. He doesn’t flinch back like he used to; he stays where he is, and when Inko reaches him, she kneels in front of him and settles her hands on his. The knives finally still, and Izuku raises his head. He’s small for a twelve year old, and they’re eye-level.

“Izuku…”


“Is that the one you want? You decided?”

A nod.

“Alright.” Inko smiles. She doesn’t hug him, even though she wants to. It’s taken months for them to build enough trust for him to answer her when she asks a question (he answers non-verbally, but even so), and she isn’t about to break that trust.

She’ll wait for him. She’ll wait for him, wait with him, and she’ll be patient all the way.

“You’re absolutely sure of this, sweetheart? This is your choice?”

The nine year old nods feverishly, and Inko beams at him.

“Well, in that case...Izuku it is.”

Izuku doesn’t smile, but his eyes shine with a newfound light. It’s the first time Inko has seen it.  


It isn’t fair, Inko thinks, for what feels like the millionth time when it comes to this boy. It isn’t fair, none of it’s fair. His entire life hasn’t been fair. He’s suffered through so much and been hurt so many times, seen and endured more than any human being, let alone a child, should’ve.

It isn’t fair, Inko thinks. It isn’t fair at all.

But Izuku is watching her, waiting for an answer, and she puts those thoughts aside for now and smiles at him.

“Izuku, sweetheart…” She meets his eyes and squeezes his hands gently. “You’d make a great hero.”

There’s just a moment, a moment in which she sees light in his eyes, bright and shining even though the rest of his face stays stoic as always. The knives hit the floor and then he’s hugging her, and she hugs him back tightly.


“Do you like it, Izuku?”

A nod.

“Good. Because it’s yours. This is your room now, sweetie.”

He whirls around to stare at her, eyes wide. He blinks once, confused, and she smiles. He doesn’t return the gesture, but she can tell by the light in his eyes that, if he could, he’d be smiling back at her.


It isn’t fair, Inko thinks. She’s sitting on the couch, and Izuku is sleeping, curled up against her side, two knives held loosely between his fingers. She runs her fingers over his cheek and through his hair absentmindedly, and when her fingers brush over some of the many scars on his skin, her heart aches.

It isn’t fair. This boy has seen and been through so much, so much he didn’t deserve, so much pain.

And it also isn’t fair that the boy who wants to be a hero more than anything else…

...Would be raised and hurt so devastatingly by villains.

Chapter Text

Izuku is tired.

He’s always tired. He sleeps in mounds of stuffed animals and blankets his mom got for him, and it’s warm and comfortable and safe and he knows it’s safe, but he can never get a decent amount of sleep. When he can sleep, he gets nightmares; if he manages to fall asleep again, he wakes up exhausted.

He wonders, briefly, if he’ll ever get a full night of sleep a day in his life.

Shink.

His mother’s chopsticks clatter against her plate, and Izuku sharpens his knives across from her, absentmindedly, with a piece of flint. His breakfast sits in front of him, untouched; he hasn’t had much of an appetite since last night’s nightmare, and he isn’t sure he’ll have an appetite at all today.

Shink.

“What is this?”

Shink.

“Child, you misunderstand. This is where you belong.”

Shink.

“This is who you are.”

Shink.

“This is what you are.”

Shink.

“...Izuku.”

Izuku’s head snaps up immediately, hands tensing. His mom smiles at him, gently but sadly, and she reaches across the tiny dining table, settling her hand over his.

“I know you don’t want to,” she says, “but try to eat something, okay?”

Izuku swallows thickly. “...Okay.”

He sets the knife and flint on the table and takes up his chopsticks. A part of him is hungry, but the majority of him wants to puke just by the mere thought of food. He stares at his plate, chopsticks between his fingers, for a long, long moment.

Eventually, his mother sighs. “...You can sharpen your knife if you want, Izuku. Try to eat something later, okay?”

Izuku takes up the knife and flint again immediately; he doesn’t say anything, but that’s alright. He and his mother have mastered the art of silent communication.

(They’d had to.)

His mom puts foil over his plate for him to have later if he wants it, and Izuku, after making sure she doesn’t need his help, scurries off to his room again, shutting the door behind him.

(He doesn’t lock it. He never locks it.)

He’s fifteen now (he thinks--either that, or fourteen. He doesn’t remember his birthday, so he and his mother decided on celebrating it in April), but his room isn’t what you’d expect from a boy his age. The walls are splashed with multi-colors, mostly bright and neon ones like green, pink, blue, and yellow. Izuku had done this, with his mother, when he was around nine. She’d bought him cans of paint and let him go at it, coming into help and check on his progress every now and then.

His bed is covered with stuffed animals (mostly cats and dogs) and blankets, and the multicolored walls are lined with Izuku’s knife collection. His mother doesn’t know how he got half of these knives, and she doesn’t really ask; Izuku finds them anywhere, in alleys, dumpsters, plus what knives his mother did purchase for him.

Honestly, Izuku isn’t really sure how he ended up with so many knives. He has two pencil cups on the little (paint-splattered) desk by his bed, and although the cups are full, there’s only one pencil in each. The rest of the space is taken up by even more knives.

(No, he’s not obsessed with knives. He’s just vaguely terrified of being caught without them.)

He flops onto his bed, face-down, and shuts his eyes.

“You’re making a mistake, my boy. Believe me, you don’t want to do this.”

Izuku opens his eyes again and sits up. It’s a Saturday, which means there’s no schoolwork for him to get done, which means he can relax.

Or, as much as someone in his predicament can relax.

Which is less than ideal, honestly.

He gets up, grabbing his favorite hoodie off the bedpost (tye-dyed, blue and white, like a bright, cloudy sky) and slipping it over his head. He pulls two knives out of the pencil cup by the bed, sheaths them at his belt along with the knives already there, then leaves his room.

He finds his mother in the living room, bent over papers sprawled on the table. Izuku stands there, waiting for her to notice him; as soon as she does, she raises her head and looks at him quizzically.

“What is it, Izuku?”

“I’m going to go for a walk,” Izuku says, pointing over his shoulder at the door. “Is...that okay?”

His mother pauses briefly, thinking this over. Then, she nods.

“That’s fine,” she says. “Be careful, though, alright? Remember what Kagami-san told you.”

“I will,” Izuku promises. She beckons him over, and as soon as he’s within reach, she kisses his cheek. Afterwards, he makes for the door, slips on his shoes (they’re light-up shoes; odd, perhaps, but what the heck), and heads out.

It’s a recent development, his mother letting him take short walks by himself. It’s been a long road, getting here; Izuku has been seeing a therapist (Kagami-san) for the past six years or so, but even then, it’s taken this long for him to be comfortable walking down the street without his mother beside him.

Slow development, but development nonetheless. He’s proud of it, if he does say so himself. He wishes it’d be faster, though. Oh, how he wishes it’d be faster.

It’s warm out--he can tell by the sunshine--but he’s always cold, so he leaves the hoodie on. He’s always had a hard time regulating his own body temperature, hence the reason he had so many blankets on his bed and so many hoodies in his closet.

He ignores the looks he gets from people as he heads down the way. He keeps his hood over his head, avoiding their skeptical gazes and hoping they don’t see just how many scars there are on his face. He hears a couple words, a couple questions, like, “Should a kid really be out here alone?” and “He’s all by himself. That’s strange…” but he ignores it.

Honestly, he looks like a ten year old. He’s short (very short, actually--barely five feet tall) and skinny, not to mention the shoes he’s wearing that light up with every step. He probably looks like a child to them. And he’s oddly okay with that, as long as they leave him alone.

Better they mistake him for a little kid than see the scars and mistake him for what he used to be.

He keeps on down the street, hands in his pockets, fingers curled around two pocket knives. He’s okay. He’s okay. No one’s stopped him or said anything yet. He’s okay. He can do this, he’s okay. He’s oka--

Someone knocks shoulders with him, hard, and Izuku stumbles, just slightly, balance askew by the force of the hit. He turns around, raising his head ever so slightly.

“Oy, watch where you’re going.”

Izuku looks at him. He’s blond, with spiky hair and flaming red eyes. He’s walking with two others who, thankfully, hadn’t knocked into Izuku as well.

He’s furious.

“You were the one who knocked into me,” Izuku says, not because he wants to, but because that’s the first thing that comes to mind. “I’m sorry for my part in it.”

The kid snarls back at him. He’s angry, but Izuku doesn’t sense danger from him. It’s an empty threat, his fury. He’d never actually outright attack Izuku.

(Izuku knows how to do this, how to tell when a threat is real or not.)

The kid steps towards him, stopping just short of him. Izuku’s fingers clench his knives just a little bit tighter.

Empty threat. Empty threat. Empty threat, he tells himself, but that doesn’t stop his immediate reactions to being approached like this. It’s an empty threat. Empty threat. Empty threat. Breathe. You’re okay. Don’t throw knives at him. Don’t throw the knives. Hold back. Empty threat. Empty threat. You know what a true threat is and this isn’t one. Don’t throw away your development thus far for him. Empty threat. Empty threat. Not worth it.

Not worth it.

Don’t do it.

Don’t do it.

Don’t use it--

“--Hey, I’m talking to you.” The kid’s voice brings Izuku back to the present, and he reaches forward to grab Izuku’s shoulder.

Izuku ducks beneath his hand and springs backwards, avoiding the touch. His head snaps up, and for the first time, the kid gets a look at his face.

Immediately, Izuku watches the stranger’s eyes fill with something-- something like shock, confusion, horror, and everything in between. Izuku stares at him, right in the eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Izuku says, feet already moving. “I have to go.”

He power-walks down the sidewalk in the opposite direction, leaving the stranger and his friends behind.


“Here…”

Cold fingers on his face. Black flooding his vision.

“Maybe this will calm you down...teach you your place…”

He screams, and the world explodes into white and red and black.


As soon as Izuku knows he’s far away enough (he isn’t following you, he isn’t following you, you’re okay, you’re okay, he isn’t following you, empty threat, empty threat, empty threat), he ducks into an alleyway and leans against the wall, breathing heavily for a moment or two.

That…

That could have gone very, very badly.

It’s over now. It could have gone badly but it didn’t. You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay.

Izuku catches his breath and opens his eyes again. The sky above is bright, but the alley is dark. He stomps his foot, then watches the multi-colored lights flash on the floor and wall. It’s comforting, somehow. It reminds him that darkness isn’t all there is.

Mew.

Izuku’s head snaps up again, and he looks around wildly for a moment or two, fingers clenching around the hilts of his sheathed knives. He doesn’t hear the sound again for another long time.

Mew.

He turns his head to the side, where the sound comes from. He waits a long moment, and then, he creeps down the alley to investigate, occasionally stomping his foot every now and then to light up the alley.

A little further down, he sees a cardboard box, lit up by his shoes when he stomps. Curious, and constantly looking over his shoulder, just in case, he closes in, loosening his hold on his knives.

He kneels by the box, steels himself, then flips back the flaps to look inside.

Six pairs of glowing eyes look back at him.

Izuku tilts his head. The eyes blink at him.

He doesn’t leave the alley alone.


“Hey--heyheyheyheyhey, calm down, calm down, it’s okay, you’re safe now, calm down. It’s alright, no one will hurt you now.”

...

“Do you want the knives back? ...Okay, okay, calm down. I’ll give you them back if you promise not to try and stab me again, okay? ...Okay, here… Heya, headquarters? Ingenium, requesting backup. Send an ambulance, hurry.”


“Welcome back, Izuku. Did you have a nice--Izuku what is that.”

Izuku kneels and sets the cardboard box down, kicking the door shut behind him. His mom stares, watching, waiting; when Izuku flips back the lids, six kittens turn and meow in scattered unison at him and his mom.

His mom stares for another moment--and then, her eyes soften in realization. “Oh, Izuku, we can’t...I’m not sure we can…”

The kittens immediately hop out of the box, climbing onto his lap and on his sleeves. Izuku pets their fluffy little heads, then turns his gaze up towards his mother pleadingly.

She looks torn. “Izuku, we can’t... all six of them…”

Izuku looks down again, sadly. There’s another long beat, and then,

“Okay, okay, Izuku, okay, we can keep them.”

Izuku’s head snaps up to meet her gaze, and she bites her lip. “But they’re your responsibility to take care of, alright?”

Izuku nods immediately, rising to his feet. He holds three of the kittens in his arms; the other three cling to him, their little claws digging into the sleeves of his hoodie. He feels their purrs against his hands, and he can’t help the warmth that spreads through his chest.

He looks at his mother, not smiling, but she can always tell when he’s happy, somehow. She smiles at him, and he hopes she can tell just how thankful he is.

He sleeps...reasonably okay that night. He’s always cold, and usually he sleeps with a hoodie along the rest of his blankets, but this time, the kittens curl against his chest, meowing and purring happily, and he snuggles them as tightly as he dares.

Their warmth seeps into him, and he sleeps.


“What the hell...what happened to this kid?”

“Villains, there’s no other explanation. We’re lucky we found him when we did, he was losing a lot of blood.”

“Those wounds...it looked like his skin was cracked open from the inside out. Like something was destroying him.”

“Ingenium, you said you found him alone?”

“He was alone, yeah. Freaked out pretty badly by something, too, poor kid. If I’d been any slower, he would’ve knifed me in the face.”

“Hmm, yes. Does he have a Quirk? Do you know?”

“Well, I mean...ex-rays of his toes would suggest that he didn’t. But…”


Izuku goes out the next day for cat food and a litterbox. His mother gives him some cash, and shortly afterwards, he heads out (after kissing each kitten on the forehead once...or twice).

He wears his heelys this time and the same hoodie from yesterday (now covered in black cat hair, not that it matters), and thankfully, he isn’t approached or knocked into by anybody, which is good. He can avoid more breakdowns that way.

The pet shop is located on the other side of town, further into the city in a small, infrequently busy part of town, for which Izuku is glad. Going out two days in a row, especially to places with lots of people, would be hard. He isn’t sure he’d be able to cope with it.

He continues down the sidewalk, towards the edge of town where the pet shop is. He passes a few people here and there, but not too many, and soon, he’s all alone. No one passes by, on foot or in cars; just him and the sidewalk.

He comes to a bridge, and he stops there for a moment. It isn’t a very long bridge; he can see the light from the end of it, but even so, he’s never liked the darkness.

(He has reason not to like the darkness.)

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small but bold flashlight. He flicks it on; the light penetrates the darkness, and after another moment, he keeps walking, following the path of light left by the flashlight.

He gets about halfway through before he hears a clank and a clatter behind him.

He spins around immediately, yanking two knives from sheaths at his belt and holding them between his fingers. A sewer cap hits the road, spins like a coin, then falls on its side.

From the gaping hole in the street emerges a gross, slithering blob of something, a shapeless something with beady, bulging eyes and white, white teeth. Its body doesn’t have shape, but it’s definitely alive.

Its eyes find Izuku’s and stay there. “Well, whaddya know,” it says in a garbled, gurgling voice, emerging further from the sewer to face Izuku fully. “Perfect timing, kid.”

Threat.

Threat.

Threat.

Threat.

Threat.

The villain lunges.


“Grab him! Somebody, grab him!”

“I’ve got him, I’ve--ACK!”

“He’s running, get him!”

“I’ve--OW! He bit me--!”

He runs. He runs, he headbutts people who grab him, he bites them, he kicks, he thrashes, he screams, he’s scared, he wants out, he wants out, he has to run he has to run he has to get out of here before they hurt him everyone hurts him he has to run he has to run before before before before before--

He makes it to the door, but then it opens, and he bonks his head against the new arrival’s leg. He’s thrown backwards by the force of it, and he hits the ground, breathing heavily, scared, terrified, hyped up, exhausted, exhausted, exhausted, he’s so tired of running, he’s so tired of running--

He looks up at the face of the person he’d knocked into. A woman. A stranger. Someone he doesn’t know.

She meets his eyes, and he doesn’t know why but a sudden feeling of calm overcomes him, and he knows in an instant that she isn’t going to hurt him. He knows somehow that she isn’t going to hurt him. He doesn’t know how he knows it but he does.

The woman kneels in front of him, looking at him with a gentle gaze, unlike anything he’s ever seen before. She reaches towards him, gently, and when he flinches back, not out of fear but out of habit, her smile turns sad, and she nods, knowingly, withdrawing her hand.

“Hello, there.” She sits on the floor, just like that, and he feels like he should feel threatened but he doesn’t. “My name is Inko. What’s your name?”

His name.

He...he has a name. He does, but…

He shakes his head feverishly, ignoring his pounding headache. The woman watches him with soft, kind--that’s what it is, it’s kindness--eyes.

“...No? You don’t want to tell me your name?”

He shakes his head again, more feverishly this time. He’s expecting a hit, he’s expecting pain, but all he gets is another small, understanding smile.

“That’s okay, you don’t have to, sweetheart. Take your time.”

No one has ever spoken to him the way this woman speaks to him now, gentle and kind and understanding.

It shocks him, but also comforts him.


Izuku dodges.

Chapter Text

Izuku skids backwards for a moment or so, but ultimately keeps his wits and footing about him. The shapeless, gurgling villain turns its bulging eyes towards him, and its white, white teeth curve into an amused smile.

“A feisty one, are you,” the villain grins, slithering towards him again. “I like a kid with some spunk--!”

It lashes out at Izuku with its shapeless body, and Izuku turns, ducks, and dives to the side. Something splashes his hand as he dives, but he’s fast enough to avoid the villain. He skids, his heelys carrying him backwards from the momentum of the dive; he stops himself by slamming the blade of his knife into the asphalt before him.

The villain looks less amused this time, rising up again to face Izuku fully. “Alright, kiddo,” it says, “you can stop dodging now. I love the feisty ones, but this is getting tedious…”

Threat.

Th R eA t.

T h RE a T.

Th RE A t.

THREAT.

Izuku feels something bubble up in his chest, as his fingers curl around the hilts of his knives and the villain rises to its full, shapeless, gurgling height in front of him. Izuku grits his teeth, mind racing.

“Now, let me show you how it’s done…”

He runs towards the villain this time without giving it the chance to strike first. The villain grins at him, most likely assuming this is his game, but it isn’t.

The villain swings at him, and Izuku shifts from the balls of his feet to his heels, where the wheels are, and bends himself backwards. The villain’s swinging limb misses his face by inches, and Izuku waits, watching, for the right moment. The villain fixes one of its bulging eyes at Izuku, and with a swing of Izuku’s arm, the knives fly.

“Knives are close-combat weapons, but if you get good at hitting your target, well, it’s a whole new game. ...Why not get good at it now, my boy? Your aim?”

Two of them sink into the villain’s liquid body harmlessly, as Izuku had deducted they would. That’s why he threw three knives.

There’s a spurt of blood, and the villain lets out a horrible screech and wail, thrashing and writhing and moving shapeless limbs to clutch at its face.

Izuku swings himself around, a considerable distance away, and watches. The only thing he feels is regret from losing three of his knives.

“I-I can’t, I-I-I can’t, I-I’ll hit her--!”

“Then you’re going to have to learn to aim quickly if you don’t want to.”

The villain looks at Izuku, blood mixing with its green, shapeless body. One eye is wide, scared, angry, pained; the other is bloody, with a knife protruding from it.

“What the hell are you!?” the villain shrieks. “You’re just a kid, how could--!”

Izuku responds by shining his bright little flashlight in the villain’s face. It shrieks and writhes back further, and Izuku watches, deadpan.

“You’re a villain,” Izuku says plainly. “And you attacked me. What did you expect me to do? ‘Oh, yes, please suffocate me. I’d love that.’ I don’t think so.”

The villain looks at him again, and this time, it meets Izuku’s eyes. Rather than seeing Izuku as a potential victim or a target, it finally looks at Izuku’s face, half-shrouded by darkness and the hood over his head.

Izuku knows how he looks. He’s always known. He’s always wished he didn’t know.

“What…” The villain has gone from angry and shocked to utterly horrified. “You...a kid…”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I-I didn’t mean to--”

“It’s okay, they made you do it. It’s okay.”

A gust of wind interrupts the villain, and Izuku’s hands go up to shield himself instinctively. The villain’s shriek turns into a gurgle, and its liquid body is blown to bits, splashing unceremoniously on the street and the sides of the tunnel.

Izuku blinks, then turns towards the source of the wind.

There’s a man standing there, tall, intimidating, burly. He’s holding a bag in one hand (a grocery bag--Izuku and his mom shop there often enough for him to recognize it), and there’s a near blinding smile on his face.

Not a threat.

“Fear not, child!” the man proclaims in a loud, booming, reassuring kind of voice. “I am here!”

Izuku tilts his head to one side, turning his flashlight off and stuffing it in his pocket with three other small, sheathed knives. The man starts across the way towards him, and Izuku has half a mind to flinch away.

“Are you alright?” the stranger asks. “I apologize for getting you caught up in my villain chasing. I’ve been trying to capture this one all morning!”

Izuku blinks at him. “...Are you a hero?”

The man looks confused, maybe shocked for a moment, but it’s gone an instant later. “Indeed!” he says, and he extends his hand to Izuku. “All Might, at your service.”

Izuku shakes the hero’s hand around a sheathed knife, which he’d forgotten he was holding. The hero--All Might--gives him a bit of an odd look (or, rather, he gives the knife an odd look), but then, he raises his head towards Izuku.

Izuku keeps his head down, hoping his hood and the darkness shroud all the scars on his face.

“We’re taking you out on a mission with us. ...No, this isn’t something you can skip. Consider this your official initiation, my boy.”

“Well, if you’re alright, I will be taking this villain to the police!” All Might says, releasing Izuku’s hand. “You should probably move along as well, my boy.”

Izuku flinches, but just for a second. He nods, the movement small and miniscule, and All Might turns away and begans gathering up the slime splattered on the walls and road.

It is not over quickly.

Shink.

All Might actually jumps, and he turns to Izuku again. “...That reminds me,” he says, straightening up. “Do you like knives, my boy?”

Izuku has absentmindedly been sharpening one for the past minute or so.

“Yeah,” Izuku says simply, still sharpening it. It bothers him that he doesn’t remember pulling his knife and flint from his belt.

Izuku keeps sharpening the knife, and All Might goes back to gathering up the slime. Izuku isn’t sure what All Might is feeling, but just from the vibe he’s getting, there’s an air of...awkwardness.

Oh.

Right.

He said I should go home.

Izuku spins on the balls of his feet to head in the opposite direction.

“...You don’t want to do this. Believe me, my boy, you don’t want to do this. This is who you are now. This is what you are now. You cannot deny it.”

"T͔͍̺̣h̤ͅḭ̫̥̩̪͖s̴̙͎̫̩.͝"̬̬̫͇͇̦ ̘̲͉̦͞

̷͉̘̮̤̖"̦̯̳͞Is̖̻̹̲̺̻̠͞.̼̱͓̱͓̼"̠̮̫͈

͚̹̜̺͖ͅ"҉̬͎̙Y̜̘̜o̠u̜.̢̠"҉͇̣͓

Izuku stops, frozen in place.

“Well, that should be it!” All Might says behind him, and Izuku turns; the hero has, somehow, managed to compact all the slime into two identical soda bottles. “Also, here! I believe these are yours?”

He holds three knives out to Izuku. One is still bloody. Izuku takes the knives immediately, sheathing the clean ones at his belt and holding the bloodied one for another moment. He’d have to clean it off later…

“Well, I hate to fight crime and run, but this is where I take my leave!” All Might says, beaming at him. “You did well holding your own against the villain, my boy! I applaud you for that. Try to be more careful in the future, alright?”

Applauded for holding his own, huh. Izuku is fairly certain he did a bit more than that.

But no matter. He nods, and All Might steps out of the tunnel, into the sunlight. Izuku watches; the hero crouches, and a second later, he launches himself into the sky, another gust of wind blowing Izuku’s hair and hood back off his face.

He looks up as the hero disappears from sight.

“...This is what you’ll always be.”

Izuku turns and looks at the gaping sewer cap in the street.


Izuku leans against the wall of the police station, waiting, sharpening a knife absentmindedly. His hood is back over his head, and he focuses on his scarred hands as he moves the flint across the blade.

He hears the door of the police station open again, and out walks All Might, no longer carrying the sludge villain with him. Immediately, Izuku lifts his head and steps out of the shadows, towards the hero.

All Might stops, staring at him in wonder, looking him over from top to bottom. Once he’s sure that, yes, this is the kid he’d met under the bridge a little while ago, he says, “Well now, you got here quickly.”

Izuku shrugs, hoping he doesn’t smell like the routes he’d taken to get here. “There’s something I wanted to ask you,” Izuku says simply. He’s been here since the hero arrived to turn in the villain and has been waiting ever since. “About hero work.”  

“Ahh.” All Might rubs the back of his neck for a moment or so, awkwardly. “I’m really sorry, kiddo, but there’re a few other things I have to get done today, and I’m kind of on a time crunch.”

Izuku frowns. “It won’t take long, I just. I wanted to know something.”

“I have a website,” All Might says. “Message me from there, alright? What’s your name?”

“Midoriya Izuku,” Izuku says, without hesitation, “but--”

“Alright, just sign your message as such, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!” All Might says. He’s rushing his speech, Izuku notices; he’s in a hurry to...get somewhere or do something, apparently. “I hate to run off on ya like this, but I’m completely out of time.”

Izuku opens his mouth.

“You’re going to live to regret this...if you survive at all.”

No sound comes out of it. All Might launches himself into the air again, and Izuku watches the hero disappear into the sky once more, higher up, and up, and up--

He lands on the rooftop of a building a little ways off, completely vanishing from Izuku’s sight.

Izuku frowns, tilting his head to one side in confusion.

And then, he decides to investigate.


Toshinori is nearly out of time.

He’s close, he’s really close; he can’t maintain his “hero” form for much longer, and maintaining it while talking with the police officers regarding the sludge villain had already been a struggle.

And then, that boy…

Toshinori feels horrible for running out on him like he had, but he was out of time. He couldn’t stay and have a proper conversation with the boy without revealing his secret.

He stopped on the rooftop for a break, just to catch his breath. He really isn’t fit for long villain chases anymore; he’s lucky he hasn’t revealed himself yet--

Thump.

Toshinori spins around--he’s still “All Might,” currently, but he’d been about to drop his form a second ago, and there’s steam rising from his body. Any second now, it’s going to drop, and there isn’t a thing he can do about it.

The boy from earlier swings himself onto the rooftop, a forearm-length knife in each hand.

Toshinori stares at him, wide-eyed. “How did you…”

“I scaled the building,” Izuku says casually, like he didn’t just do the thing he said he did.

“You... how…!?”

“I’ve done it before,” Izuku says flatly. He has a hood over his head and he’s keeping his head down, so it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of expression he’s wearing. Honestly, Toshinori has... no idea what to think about this kid. He looks like he’s maybe...ten? Eleven?...but he’d stabbed a villain in the eye with aim that’d make even a professional fighter jealous. With mental, emotional ease that would make a professional fighter jealous.

And maybe a little scared.

More steam rises from Toshinori’s arm, and he’s reminded of his time limit.

“Listen, kiddo, I’d love to talk with you more,” Toshinori says, and he means it, he really, really means it, “but I don’t have time right now. I don’t--”

Izuku raises his head, and for the first time, Toshinori meets the boy’s eyes.

His eyes are... dead. Haunted. The eyes of someone who’d fought a vicious battle and emerged victorious, but not unscathed. The eyes of someone who’d witness a thousand bloody, gruesome murders. The eyes of someone who’d suffered and seen too much.

Toshinori has seen eyes like these before. He’s seen them on retired heroes, on heroes who’d witnessed and been through so much. He’s seen them on heroes who’d been traumatized in the line of work. He’s seen them on people who have suffered so much that, eventually, their eyes lost their light.

But he’s never seen them on a child before. A child’s eyes, dead, eyes that have seen and suffered so much. Scars splattered all over his skin, all over his hands, all over his face, two knives clutched between scarred fingers.

“I want to know,” Izuku says. “...What is it...that makes a hero?”

What…

His time runs up, and the rooftop is engulfed with steam.


The kid is not shocked. A little startled, perhaps, when buff, hero “All Might” suddenly becomes skinny, sickly “Toshinori Yagi,” but he isn’t...shocked. He isn’t off-put. He doesn’t shout, or scream, or run away (not that he could, considering the height of the building they’re atop, but point in case).

Toshinori is forced to tell him. He tells the boy about the injury he’d received while fighting that villain five years ago; the boy listens, nodding periodically, knives sliding against each other, and Toshinori can’t believe he’s taking it so well. He really, really can’t. This kid, this child, is nodding in understanding while Toshinori explains a gruesome injury.

Something about that isn’t right.

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” Izuku says, looking down at his knives. “I know it’s...hard. I’ve been…” He pauses, knives sliding together slightly faster than before. “...Villains have hurt me, too.”

It shows, Toshinori thinks. He doesn’t want to imagine the kinds of things this boy has gone through. Doesn’t want to imagine the kind of things those eyes have seen.

“...Your question,” Toshinori says, watching him steadily, unsure of what he should say or how he should respond. “About ‘what makes a hero’...what do you mean by that?”

The knives still for a moment, and then the boy continues sliding them against each other, the sound of metal against metal in Toshinori’s ears.

“...I was wondering how you can be one,” Izuku says. “If, s-say, someone like me wanted to become a hero...hypothetically.” He adds this quickly, with an air of seriousness. “Just...just hypothetically.”

“Hypothetically,” Toshinori repeats, not buying it but not calling him out. Izuku nods feverishly.

“Hypothetically,” Izuku says again. “Could...I be a hero? Could someone like me, I mean, hypothetically, if I wanted to.”

Toshinori looks down for a long moment, considering his answer.

“...If you want to be a hero, Midoriya,” he says, “then that’s all there is to it, isn’t there? If you want to be a hero...if you want to save others…”

Spare them from the fate that befell you. You want to keep them from experiencing the things you’ve experienced. Keep them from seeing what you’ve seen.

“...then, I don’t see why you can’t become a hero,” Toshinori says.

Something flashes in the boy’s dead, tormented eyes; a flash of light, something real that hadn’t been there before. It isn’t a smile--his face doesn’t change--but Toshinori thinks, maybe, it could be.

“I do have to ask,” Toshinori says. “Your knives…” (The knives in Izuku’s hands still as his fingers go stiff). “...You have...extremely accurate aim.”

Izuku nods stiffly. “Yeah.”

“...Is there...a reason you’re, you know...fiddling with them?”

Izuku blinks at him for a moment, a little confused. Then, he looks away again, though he makes no move to put the knives away.

“...Sorry,” Izuku says. “I have…”

He slides the blades of the knives together again.

“...Problems.”

There’s nothing Toshinori can say to that.


Izuku goes home after that, stopping by the pet shop to grab the supplies he’d originally set out to get that morning. He has his hood up over his head again, as usual; when he steps through the front door, he flips off his hood and begins slipping off his shoes.

At least three dozen different meows meet him, and Izuku sets the bag on the floor and kneels, reaching out as the six kittens approach him and rub against his legs and hands. Their happy purrs and trills warm Izuku’s heart, and he scratches behind their ears and lets them climb on him. They’re very clingy.

“Welcome back, Izuku!” his mom says, peering around the hallway and smiling at him. She’s whisking a bowl of something. “I’ll be there in just a second, alright?”

Izuku nods, making sure she sees it before rising to his feet, holding three of the kittens while the rest hang off him precariously by their claws. It reminds Izuku, just a little bit, of how he’d scaled the building earlier to get to All Might.

Honestly, the look on the man’s face when Izuku swung himself onto the rooftop…

Solid gold.

Izuku heads into his room, pushing the door shut with his foot, and he kneels, managing to pry the kittens off of him. They explore his room happily, most of them ending up curled on his bed in his mounds of blankets and stuffed animals.

The rest of the day goes uneventfully; Izuku cleans the blood off that one knife and sharpens the others, then settles the kittens in with their litter box and food and water bowls. He plays with them for a little while after that, dangling a piece of string above their heads and yanking it up when they leap for it. Their claws remind Izuku of little tiny knives.

His mom makes curry for dinner, and after she kisses him goodnight (and tells him, for the utmost time, not to be afraid to wake her up if he needs her), Izuku goes to bed.


“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I-I’m sorry, K-Ko--”

“Shh, it’s okay. It isn’t your fault. They made you, you didn’t want to.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I-I-I’m sorry--”

“It’s okay, stop crying. You didn’t hurt me, remember? They made you. It isn’t you, it’s them. It’s okay, I promise.”


“She couldn’t do it, my boy, don’t you see? She was weak.”

“Y-You...h-how...w-w-w-why did you--”

“Don’t cry, child. You’re stronger than she was. And this experience will only make you stronger.”


“Here...maybe this will calm you down...teach you your place…”


“Everyone, get out of here! What the hell--!”

A scream. A crash. More screams. Some of them are his. Some of them are not. 


Izuku wakes up, silent, but sharply. He lays there for a long time, staring up at the ceiling, heart in his throat and breath getting caught on a lump there, something he can’t swallow back.

His nightlights are on (all five of them), but they don’t help quell the darkness now like they usually do. He feels distorted, frantic, not entirely there, and he moves on numb feet into the bathroom, thoughts racing as quickly as his frantically beating heart.

"̝͔̟͈͚͢T̵͕̖̦̦͇h͕̜̝̞is͍͍̥̹̣͜ ̧̥̠̪̻͙i̙̬͉ͅs͎͍͇͉͞ ̤̻̞̲w̯ͅh̰̮̟̺̲̻ͅo̯̮͔̘ ̖̠̞̤̙͕yo̴͚̭̲̭̳̬u̲ ̻̞̝͓̙̭͎a͓̲͓̘r͙̰̩͍̗̝̬͝e.̬̺̳͔̞̝ͅ"̲̹̤̘̜͘ ̟̲̮̟͍

̺̺͈͍͚"T̹̹̖h̟̹̦̥i̶̘͔s ̝͉͎͔͕͔i̦̲̝s ̢̤̖͍̮͓̲w͔̻̗̻̙͔̜͜h͏̞̳͎͙̯a̱͉̞̻͉̼t̼̜̫̣͢ ̳̳̕yo̝̝̠̺̯̳u̳͈ ḁ̴̦̖̝͖͈͔r͙̟e̼̼̦̫̲."̙͚ ͢

He bends over the toilet and throws up.


Inko wakes up feeling...distorted.

She sits up immediately, ears ringing, and although her body is still half asleep, her mind is fully awake and aware, and she swungs herself out of bed immediately, rushing from her room, down the hall, all the way to her son’s bedroom.

She wants to throw the door open, but doesn’t. She’s done that before, in the past; Izuku hadn’t meant to, but he’d thrown five knives. The doors still have deep nicks where they’d sunk into the wood.

She knocks. Her ears are ringing, her mind is jumbled, but none of that matters. She knocks, more frantically, when she gets no answer.

“Izuku?” she calls. “Izuku. Izuku, I’m coming in now.”

No answer. She opens the door and hurries inside.

The six kittens Izuku had brought home yesterday are circling in front of the bathroom door, meowing, pawing the door, scratching it. Inko rushes over immediately; she sees the light on from the crack at the bottom of the door.

She knocks, becoming more scared and frantic by the second. “Izuku? Izuku, answer me.”

There is no answer.

She turns the knob. The door is, blessedly, unlocked, although the static in her mind and ears makes it take a second longer to register this information. She swings open the door and hurries inside.

Izuku is curled up on the floor, back pressed against the wall, shaking horribly. Inko pushes past the static in her mind and races over, keeping her steps as light as she can.

“Izuku. Izuku.”

This has happened before. She knows how to handle it. That doesn’t make it any easier, but at least she knows what to do.

She reaches out and gently settles her hand on his balled fist. Immediately, his eyes snap open and find hers.

His green irises flash gold, just for a moment; she feels a blur in her mind, another distortion, and her vision goes blurry, but it passes quickly. This has happened before, many times before. She knows how to handle it.

She pushes through the static, squeezing his white knuckles.

“It’s okay. You aren’t there anymore, Izuku, you’re here. You’re here, you’re safe, I promise. Please…”

She waits for him to make the next move, because anything she does from here on could end very badly, for both of them.

Izuku blinks. Some of the panic fades from his eyes, but only some, and realization, awareness replaces it. He moves, slowly, painstakingly slowly, uncurling from his fetal position and sitting up, palms pressed flat against the tiled floor. He looks at her, face pale, scars standing out painfully against his skin.

Inko opens her arms to him, and he falls into them, his own arms going around her waist, head tucking under her chin. He doesn’t cry, but he trembles, and Inko strokes his hair and rocks them both back and forth.

The kittens find them eventually, too, and they make themselves comfortable, hopping into Inko’s lap and curling against Izuku’s stomach and chest. Inko barely notices them. The static in her ears and brain finally begins to dissipate as Izuku’s trembling slows, and eventually, it stops altogether, and Izuku’s breathing evens out.

This happens more often than Inko wants to think about, and even though she knows how to handle situations like this…

...That doesn’t make it any less painful. She squeezes Izuku tightly, resting her cheek on top of his head.

Another close call.


“Turn on the alarm, hurry! There’s a break--!”

“Stop it, right there--!”

“You won’t get away, we won’t let you--!”

A swing. A gurgle. Unconscious policemen. Alarms blaring as the new, half-blind, anger and hate driven prisoner escapes.

V e n g e a n c e

Chapter Text

"I’m s-sorry, I’m sorry, I-I—”

“Hey, stop that, okay? Stop apologizing, it isn’t your fault. You’re getting better at aiming, you know! It barely grazed me—!”

“I-I don’t want to hurt you!” His voice is a high-pitched shriek. “I-I never wanted to hurt you, K-Ko-chan, I-I never wanted, I—I—I hate myse—!”

“Nonono, don’t say that!” She hugs him tightly, and when she pulls away, she’s smiling, trying to be reassuring. “I-I know you hate it now, and...and I hate it, too, but you’re getting really good with those knives! They’re like...they’re like little claws, you know? You’re like a cat! A little kitten!”

He blinks at her. “R-R...Really?”

“Of course!” She boops him on the nose lightly with a bandaged finger. “So, don’t hate yourself, okay? Please, for me.”

“...Okay. I won’t, Ko-chan.”


Inko cannot let Izuku get sick.

He gets sick a lot, due to his less-than-stellar health, but it’s the fevers that Inko has to avoid. Whenever Izuku shows any sign of a fever, she has to do literally whatever it takes to snuff it out.

And, right now, it feels like Izuku is getting a fever.

It makes sense, really; after last night, when he’d stress-vomited at least thrice and couldn’t get even an hour of decent sleep, it only made sense for him to get a stress fever. But even so, she can’t let it happen if she can help it. Bad things happen when Izuku is feverish, not just to her but to him, too, and she doesn’t want to put him through that. He goes through so much as it is.

She sits by him at his bedside, pressing her hand over a wet rag on his forehead. He’s curled in a fetal position on his side, chin nearly touching his knees; the kittens he’d brought home are curled with him, purring, and Inko is glad she’d decided to let Izuku keep them. Maybe their warmth helps.

She reaches over and settles her free hand on Izuku’s balled fist, biting her lip. His hand is cold—his hands are always cold—and she strokes her thumb along his white knuckles.

After a second or so, she removes her hand and reaches over. Izuku has a sheathed knife on the desk by his bed, and she grabs it, then turns back to her son. She uncurls his balled fist, then closes his fingers again around the hilt of the sheathed knife. Izuku’s fingers tighten around it immediately, and Inko rests her hand over his again.

When she checks his temperature later, she’s relieved to discover that Izuku was not getting a fever—or, if he had been, she’d been able to snuff it out before it got any worse.

She’s glad.


She’s going over papers in the living room when she hears a door open and close, and Izuku shuffles into the room, dark circles even more prominent than usual on his pale face beneath his tired eyes. He has a blue and white striped blanket pulled over his shoulders, and he’s holding a sheathed knife. The kittens (three of them—the other three must still be asleep) curl around his ankles, rubbing their heads against his legs.

Inko smiles softly (sadly) and scoots over a tad, patting the spot beside her on the couch. Izuku blinks at her for just a moment, but doesn’t hesitate; he quickens his steps and sinks down beside her on the couch, and when he knocks his head against her shoulder gently (an “okay”), she wraps an arm around him and threads her fingers through his hair.

(It’s mostly black again; Izuku will probably want to have the green re-done pretty soon.)

“Are you alright now?” Inko asks softly. She feels the smallest hint of static in her mind, though she doesn’t comment. It isn’t bad enough that she can’t push through it with ease.

Izuku pauses, then nods, the movement small and stiff. She waits another moment or two to see if he’ll continue, and when he doesn’t, she goes on.

“...Do you want to take the medicine, just in case?”

Izuku bites his lip for a long moment. Then, he nods feverishly, and Inko kisses his temple lightly before getting to her feet and heading into the kitchen.

When she returns with two small pills and a cup of water, the kittens are in Izuku’s lap, and he’s stroking his fingers through their fur gently, though he’s holding the hilt of his knife in a white-knuckled grip in his other hand. Inko sits beside him again; he takes the pills with the hand not holding the knife, then accepts the water to wash them down.

Inko sets the empty cup on the coffee table and wraps an arm around his shoulders again. With her other hand, she reaches out, and the kittens immediately raise their heads to investigate her hand.

“...Do you have names for them yet?” Inko asks quietly.

Izuku nods, some light returning to his exhausted eyes. Fluffy, he fingerspells, then points at one. Marshmallow, (he points to another), and Kittles. (He points at the last one.) The other three are Icy, Snickers, and Rainbow.

Inko smiles. “Those are good names,” she says, running her fingers through his hair again. Izuku nods in his own agreement, and Inko returns to the paperwork on the table, absentmindedly stroking Izuku’s hair.

He falls asleep eventually with his head on her shoulder, and she doesn’t dare move until he wakes up first.


“Stand aside, brat.”

“You can’t make him train today! He’s sick, you can’t make him do it today, please!”

The villain—a henchman—clicks his tongue. “Tch. Stupid girl. You’d better learn your place, or else—”

“Now, now…” A hand lands on the villain’s shoulder. “Didn’t you hear her? She said the boy is sick. We need to treat these children with respect.”

The henchman calms down, just a bit, then shrugs off the hand, spins around, and storms from the room. “Stupid brats…”

She bares her teeth at his retreating back.


It takes a couple of days before Izuku decides to go out again. It always does; after close calls like the one he’d had a few days ago, when he’d almost, almost lost control, he stays home for at least a couple of days.

“Are you sure you want to go out?” his mother asks. She isn’t worried, merely making sure he’s alright with it and not pressured by some self-set rule. “You can wait for a few more days too, if you’d like.”

Izuku shakes his head. “I’m fine,” he says (he’s back to talking again—his bouts of selective silence don’t generally last more than a few days). “I’ll come home if I need to.”

She nods. “Give me a call if you need me to come get you.”

Izuku nods back at her, pulling his hoodie over his head. This one is dark purple, almost black, with tiny swirls like galaxies throughout it. His hair only has a few streaks of green left in it now, leaving it mostly black, but for now, that’s fine; as much as he hates it, he can wait a few more days to get it re-done.

After making sure he has at least ten knives with him (keywords: at least) , he says one final goodbye to his mother and the six kittens, then heads out.

The first thing he notices when he’s outside is the pair of eyes watching him from between the blinds in the neighbor’s house.

Izuku frowns, tilting his head to one side; when the owner of the eyes realize they’ve been found out, they abort, snapping the blinds shut and hiding their faces. Izuku shrugs to himself, then turns and continues on his way. His mother has warned him about their “snooping neighbors”, and besides, he doesn’t want to affiliate himself with them (or anyone, really), anyway.

It’s a sunny day again, which is really nice. He doesn’t like the rain or the darkness, so these fair-weathered days are nothing short of a godsend. At least he doesn’t have to deal with rain or darkness today, on top of everything else…

Absentmindedly, he pulls his phone from his pocket and scrolls through the news. The first headline to meet his attention is, THE HERO, ALL MIGHT: SEVEN VILLAINS CAPTURED IN THREE HOURS! and he looks it over once or twice, then stuffs his phone back in his pocket.

Three hours, huh, Izuku thinks, continuing down on his way. That’s his time limit. Three hours. Guess he won’t be doing any more hero work today...

He keeps on down the sidewalk. He keeps his hood up, hands stuff in his pockets, fingers curled around hilts of his knives as he walks. He ignores the usual looks and finger points, and his feet carry him all the way to the park he and his mother frequent on good days.

Izuku passes a few kids playing catch with mothers and fathers; he doesn’t get any odd looks from people here, considering he looks like a ten year old and it’s after school, not to mention he keeps his hood over his head and his gaze pointed at his light-up shoes.

There’s a cherry blossom tree in the middle of the park; the branches are thin, allowing sunlight to stream through them and hit the grass below, and Izuku flops on the ground in the sun, hands folded on his stomach, eyes staring up at the sky.

A clear, blue sky. Sunlight. Warmth.

He shuts his eyes. He doesn’t fall asleep, merely rests.


Cherry blossoms fall on his face.

He sits up, shaking his head (his hood has fallen back), then reaching and picking up one of the blossoms. He examines it curiously for a moment or two, then raises his head.

There’s a little girl standing across from him, black hair flowing over her shoulders, wide eyes bearing into his. Izuku blinks at her twice in rapid session, then considers how he looks and shrinks backwards.

“S-Sorry,” he says immediately, reaching behind him for his hood, “ignore me, it’s fine—”

The girl doesn’t seem to notice; she points, wordlessly, into the tree over Izuku’s head, and Izuku leans back and looks.

There’s a frisbee stuck in the tree, caught on the edge of one of the branches.

Izuku blinks up at it, then looks back at the girl. She stares back at him, and then, they both raise their heads up at the frisbee again, then back down at each other.

Izuku points up at the frisbee. “Do you...want me to get that for you?”

The girl follows his finger with her eyes, then points up at the frisbee, too. Izuku blinks at her again—but then, he comes to a realization.

Can you hear me? he asks, using what Sign Language he and his mother had learned previously.

The girl’s eyes shine, and a brilliant smile lights up her face. She shakes her head feverishly, raising her own little hands and messily Signing.

No, she says. But, you know how to—

“H-Hey! Wait up!”

Izuku looks over her shoulder, and the girl follows his gaze and spins around. A kid races over, bright red hair spiked atop his head, looking frantic.

“Don’t run off like that!” he says to the girl, panting from the run over. “I—” He stops, raising his head to look at Izuku.

Izuku blinks at him. He blinks back. There are about thirty seconds in which that’s all they do.

And then the girl runs over to the stranger and tugs at his shirt. The kid looks at her, and she fingerspells, He Signs, slowly and precisely. The kid watches her, and it takes a few times, but then it clicks, and he “ohhhh” s in realization.

“Hey, you know Sign?” the kid asks, now looking at Izuku, and Izuku shrugs, making a little seesaw motion with his hand.

“A little,” he says. “My mom and I learned some a couple years ago.”

“Oh, man, this is great!” the stranger says, grinning. “Gosh, you have no idea what a relief this is. I bumped into her earlier at the train station, but I have no idea how to talk to her right. I’ve been, y’know…” He pulls out his phone and flips around the screen. “I found the alphabet, but, I mean…”

Izuku nods, looking at the girl again. You’re lost? he asks, and the girl nods. You’re deaf? Another nod. What’s your name?

Yatchi, the girl answers, and then, she looks up at the tree again—rather, at the frisbee still trapped in the branches. Izuku and the stranger both look up at once, the latter wincing.

“Ah, man,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. “That’s pretty high up there…”

It’s stuck, the girl, Yatchi, announces, as though this is a conclusion she’s only just now coming to.

Izuku nods, and this time, he gets to his feet.

“I’ll get it down,” Izuku says simply, brushing a few blades of grass off his jeans. “Give me, like, ten seconds.”

“Give you ten— oh geez.”

Izuku doesn’t even use his knives; he grabs the closest branch and swings himself up into the tree.

He gets his feet underneath him and balances on the branch, then grabs the next highest one and pulls himself onto that, too. He isn’t heavy; with his size, his general lack of appetite, not to mention his health, he probably won’t ever be a healthy weight.

Right now, though, it works. The branches don’t snap beneath him, so that’s at least a good thing. Being unhealthy isn’t, but at least he won’t fall from the tree unless he does something stupid…

He continues to swing himself up, branch by branch. He doesn’t pull out his knives to climb; that’s not really something he wants to do right now, especially not in front of that little girl or the parents and their children at the park.

He gets to the frisbee sooner than expected, and he reaches out towards it with all his might, one hand curled around a branch to keep him steady, the other stretched out towards the frisbee. It’s on the edge of a branch, barely out of his reach; his fingertips graze it, but he can’t make it fall.

Crap.

He whips out a knife, just for a second, and knocks down the frisbee with it. He glances down as it falls; the girl rushes forward immediately to catch it, and by the time she raises her head to beam at him excitedly, Izuku has sheathed his knife and is already making his way back down the tree, hopping branch to branch.

His feet hit the ground, and he straightens up again, brushing himself off. Yatchi is beaming from ear to ear with a smile even more blinding than All Might’s, if that’s a thing that’s possible, and Izuku is glad.

“Whoa, that was really cool, actually,” the kid with red hair says, and Izuku turns to him, blinking. “Do you do that a lot? Climb trees, I mean.”

“No,” Izuku says, shrugging. “I just, I’m good at navigating.”

“Navigating?” the stranger repeats, blinking. “That’s...a nice word. How old are you, again?”

“Fifteen.”

A beat.

“WAIT,” the stranger says, eyes wide. “I thought you were, like, eleven!”

“I get that a lot,” Izuku says.

“Well, I’m sorry, then,” he says. “I’m Kirishima Ejirou, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Midoriya Izuku. Likewise.”

“Seriously, though,” Kirishima goes on, calming down some since his initial shock, “I swear, that was really dang cool. You were like some kind of alley cat, jumping around like that.”

“Oh, I know! I’ll call you Kitten! You’ll like that better than your real name, probably, right?”

Izuku swallows hard. “...Yeah.”

Yatchi waves a hand at him, and Izuku turns to her, blinking. Thank you, she says, still beaming, clutching the frisbee close.

Izuku nods. You’re welcome, he says, and then, he turns back to Kirishima. “You said she’s lost?”

Kirishima nods. “Yeah,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. “I found her at the train station earlier. I think she got separated from her parents, or they got on a train without her. We waited there for a while, but, I mean, obviously we didn’t have any luck. I was on my way to the police station, but she wanted to stop for a little while, so, well...here we are.”

Izuku nods stiffly. “Would it help if, you know...if I stuck around for a while? Just until we find her parents?”

Kirishima sucks in a deep breath, then claps his hands together and bows his head, like he’s praying. He says, in a single rush of breath, “Please stick around and help me I can’t understand anything she’s trying to tell me.”

Izuku nods simply. It isn’t what he wants to do; he’d much rather be alone, be lying in the sun, maybe on his way home to snuggle his cats, but this is more important. He’ll stick around at least until he’s sure Yatchi gets home safely.

Yatchi rushes towards him and holds out the frisbee, practically pressing it into his hands, and Izuku looks back and forth between her and Kirishima, not really knowing what to do. Eventually, his fingers close around the frisbee, and Yatchi lets go of it and steps back.

We can play together, she says.

Izuku blinks.

“...She wants us to play frisbee,” Izuku says to Kirishima.

“Oh!” Kirishima snaps his fingers. “We can do that, yeah!”


“What kind of ‘mission’ is this?”


Izuku catches the frisbee in one hand, then sends it at Yatchi, who catches it with both hands over her head, beaming, then throws it (gracelessly) at Kirishima. Kirishima lunges forward, skidding on the ground with hands outstretched to catch it, and Yatchi laughs and points.

Kirishima tosses the frisbee to Izuku, who again tosses it to Yatchi, who again tosses it to Kirishima, and so on and so forth.

This is strange, Izuku thinks, catching it and sending it at Yatchi once more. His hood is still down, but so far, he hasn’t gotten any looks (or, maybe he has, and people have just been kind enough to avert their eyes and not draw attention to him). This is...really strange.

He’s so lost in thought that he almost misses the next time the frisbee is thrown at him, but his reflexes are fast enough that he catches it and sends it off to Yatchi in one smooth movement.

This is...really, really strange.

He’s never...done anything like this before. With his mom, yeah, once or twice (not very often, though; usually when they go to the park, all Izuku wants to do is lay in the sun), but this is...something totally different.

He’s never...done something like this with people his age before. He’s never hung out with other kids before.

“Here’s your initiation, my children. ...Kill him.”

Izuku throws the frisbee too hard and too long, almost like—

—almost like he’s throwing one of his knives—

Yatchi ducks beneath it, and it sails right over her head, far behind her, finally disappearing into the shadows of a small forest nearby. Yatchi gives Izuku this less-than-thrilled scowl, then spins around and chases after it.

Izuku actually has to catch his breath, sucking oxygen from between his gritted teeth once, twice, thrice—

“Hey, man, you okay?”

There’s a hand on his shoulder suddenly and Izuku whips around, and there’s blood in his ears and his heart is pounding and kill him he wants me to kill him I can’t kill him—

He snaps out of it as he reaches for one of his knives. The familiar feeling of his fingers curling around the hilt is what finally whips him back to the present where he belongs.

He forces himself to relax, forces himself to take a deep breath, recalls what his therapist told him. The danger is gone and cannot hurt him anymore. He’s alright here, where he is. He’s fine. He’s fine. He’s fine.

“Sorry,” Izuku gasps out, turning his head away. “Th-That was uncalled for.”

“No, it’s cool,” Kirishima says, though he seems just as shocked as Izuku, though his shock is laced with worry. “I shouldn’t have grabbed ya like that, that was my fault. You okay?”

“Yeah,” Izuku says, shaking his head with vigor, like he could somehow knock his feelings and memories out of there (he can’t). “Sorry, I...I have...problems.”

The only reason he isn’t sharpening a knife right now is because he isn’t sure what he’d do the moment he has a knife in his hand.

“Well, I mean…” Kirishima pauses, like he’s thinking about what to say. “You kinda look like you’ve been through hell, no offense.”

Well, at least it isn’t pity.

“Yeah, kinda have been,” Izuku says. “Anyway, I—I think we should go to the police station now. Have them find Yatchi’s parents.”

It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going through Kirishima’s mind right now, but he doesn’t argue, rather nodding. “Yeah, agreed,” he says. A second later, Yatchi returns with the frisbee, and when Izuku explains that they want to go ahead and find her parents, Yatchi smiles and nods, and they set off.


Yatchi skips between Kirishima and Izuku, her hand in Kirishima’s, the frisbee tucked under her arm. Her free hand sways at her side as she bounces, taking two steps for every one of Kirishima’s (Izuku, also, takes two steps for every one of Kirishima’s).

Unexpectedly, Yatchi slips her free hand into Izuku’s, and out of habit, Izuku flinches, but doesn’t pull away. It’s just a little girl, just a little girl, pull yourself together—

Just a little girl.

“Kowareta, my girl, why don’t  you go first?”

Izuku jerks his hand back, releasing Yatchi’s, and Yatchi gives him this sad, wide-eyed look, like he’d betrayed her in some horrible way.

Sorry, Izuku Signs quickly. My hands are cold. You probably don’t want to hold them anyway.

Yatchi doesn’t look any less betrayed, but she doesn’t try holding his hand again, which both hurts him and leaves him grateful.

They keep on towards the police station, and Izuku keeps his head down, hands now stuffed in his pockets where he can feel his knives against his knuckles. A few clouds have begun to roll in, which only adds to his gloom. Why can’t it just stay sunny, seriously, why—

He hears a whirring sound and a crunch of metal to his left.

Threat.

He leaps and tackles Yatchi and Kirishima to the ground, slamming what measly bodyweight he has against them. He takes them both down, hitting the asphalt, and an entire car flies out from the side street they’d passed a second ago, missing them just barely.

Izuku rolls with the fall and skids to his feet immediately, knives already flashing, one in each hand. Kirishima and Yatchi are still on the ground, but they’re out of danger for now. They watch, the three of them, as the car slams into the side of a building with more crunches and creaks of metal, and Izuku grits his teeth.

Screams fill his ears, and surrounding civilians begin to run, scrambling to get away from the disaster.

“What the hell!?” Kirishima gasps, scrambling to his feet alongside Izuku, pulling Yatchi up with him. Her eyes are wide, and she grasps at Kirishima’s forearms for purchase, holding tightly. “Holy—!”

Another car slams into the first one, and it explodes.

The shockwaves throw Izuku back off his feet, as well as Kirishima and Yatchi, and Izuku rolls twice before getting his feet underneath him again, skidding backwards slightly as his shoes scrape the asphalt. He grits his teeth into a snarl, eyes narrowed.

Threat.

There are fires now, along with the screaming, panicking civilians and the decimated vehicles still smashed in the side of the building.

Threat.

T h r eA t

“Get back!” Izuku shouts, running, shoes slamming into the asphalt. Multi-colored lights flash in the corners of his vision as he draws out two more knives, another one for each hand. Screams and the crackles of fire roar through his ears, feet pounding the ground in time with his racing heart.

He turns the corner sharply.

If his reflexes had been any slower, he would’ve had his head taken off by a car.

He dodges, grazed by some part of the crunched metal that used to be a vehicle. The gash on his arm is already bleeding, and it stings, but he’s had worse. He’s had so much worse.

He gets to his feet, eyes narrowed at the sight in front of him.

“Do you wanna die!?” Izuku barks. “Is that it!?”

The slime villain moves its one eye and white, white teeth on him, face curling into a grotesque grin. “So you finally get here,” the villain gurgles, slithering towards him. “I thought you might...you know, kid, you took something away from me under that bridge...my eye, my dignity…”

“You...literally tried using me as a skin suit,” Izuku says. “What did you expect me to do? Sing you a song?”

He clutches his knives, two in each hand, a little harder, and the villain looks appalled.

“That didn’t give you the right to stab me in the eye!” it shrieks in a gross, wretched gurgle. “You…” The villain’s body thrashes and writhes for a moment. “I’m...going...to kill you…”

“You already tried once,” Izuku says, crouching. “You really wanna lose that other eye?”

“Oh, I won’t fail this time,” the villain says, grinning at him. “This time, it’ll be you who loses.”

Izuku pounces. The villain springs at him likewise, laughing, actually laughing, and Izuku grits his teeth, hilts of his knives held between his fingers, ready to fly, itching to fly, itching to bury themselves in their target—

“You heard me, Kowareta. Kill him. Kill him and become who you’re meant to be.”

He snaps himself out of it quickly, a little scared of himself, because that train of thought was. Not. Good—

Izuku’s hesitation costs him. The knives fly, but the villain is able to slide its eye further down the slime on its body, and the knives sink harmlessly into it.

There’s a beat, a moment.

And then he’s drowning.


There’s a situation downtown. It’s...bad. It’s really bad, judging by the clips Toshinori saw on the news.

As it is now, he’s rushing for the scene as Toshinori, not All Might (he’d already used up his time today, dammit), just to see for himself. Heroes are on their way already to do what they can, but…

He has to make sure his hunch isn’t right. He has to make sure the villain hadn’t actually escaped—

Sirens whir as vehicles speed by him on the roads. The sky has turned black with smoke, and embers rise into the sky, only to be swallowed up by darkness.

Toshinori gets there; the area is already being blocked off by police, and a few heroes are on the scene, dragging injured civilians from buildings or vehicles, then bringing them to waiting paramedics.

“Hurry, we need reinforcements—!”

“I can’t fight in fires like this—!”

“Where’s the firetruck!?”

“The road conditions—!”

“There’s a kid, there’s a kid—!”

“YATCHI!! MIDORIYA!!”

The voice prevails through the others, and a kid comes barrelling down the street, whirling around frantically, looking this way and that, scared, horrified.

“MIDORIYA!!” he shouts again.

Midoriya.

“There’s a kid.”

Toshinori’s heart leaps into his throat.


“I won’t kill him!” She throws down the knife she’s been given. “I won’t kill him. I don’t care what you think is right or good, but I will not kill him!”

A chuckle, dark and deep.

“...Yes, that’s what I thought, too, my dear girl. ...You’re weak.”


Izuku is drowning.

He’s kicking and he’s thrashing and his lungs fill with liquid until he can’t breathe anymore, until his throat constricts and tightens and he can’t, he grips his knives tighter but he can’t fight anymore, he’s thrashing and fighting but anything he does now is p o i n t l e s s he’s going to d i e he’s going to f a i l—

And then it stops.

He hits the ground, coughing and hacking and bringing up whatever foreign fluid clogs his lungs and throat. His shaking fingers close around the hilts of his knives, palms bracing him against the ground, the cracked asphalt leaving scrapes on his knees through his jeans.

His head snaps up a second later. The slime villain isn’t looking at him anymore, rather smiling, grinning, at someone at the end of the alleyway.

Yatchi. Hands outstretched, hands dripping wet. Her eyes are wide and scared, but she doesn’t back down, she doesn’t run, she…

“Well, well, well,” the slime villain says, slithering towards her slowly. Izuku finally stops hurling and his mind starts ticking like a bomb, and he tightens his grips around his knives and, “a water Quirk...how fascinating…”

And—

—Stay away, stay away, stop, stop, stop stop stop stop stop stop stop—

The villain pounces on her, and her screams cut through Izuku’s mind like a chainsaw.

“No! Stay away from her! Ko-chan!” He’s screaming, he’s thrashing, he’s being physically restrained by several villains cuffing his forearms, dragging him back. “Ko-chan! KO-CHAN!”

Ko-chan is reaching for him, the ringleader of this whole operation grasping her upper arm, keeping her from escaping. “Kitten—!”

Their fingertips brush, but then they’re yanked away from each other, and fingers are settled over Ko-chan’s face and tears stream down her cheeks, she’s scared she’s scared she’s so scared—

“KO-CHAN!” He screams and thrashes but it’s not enough, it’s not enough, he’s never enough. “KOWARETA!!”

There’s a sound. A crack. A crunch. A snap. Ko-chan’s screams tear through his ears, and blood splatters the walls and floors and she crumples to the ground, eyes wide and unseeing, and there’s blood beneath her and around her and—

Yatchi is still screaming and thrashing and the villain is laughing, he’s laughing, he’s killing her, and for a second Yatchi’s figure flickers, and it isn’t Yatchi anymore but Ko-chan, it’s Ko-chan screaming and then it’s Yatchi again, scared eyes, terrified, dying, being killed—

Izuku’s mind fills with static. His entire body goes numb. In the back of his mind he hears words, he feels it, a voice that is his but also isn’t.

 D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

And then, louder. Getting louder. Filling his mind, blanking out any other thought.

 D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́ O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑ .͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́ O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎ D̹̟̺̦͖̬ Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈ D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

Around him, the world blurs. Izuku narrows his eyes, a stinging burn in his chest, but he ignores it, the pain drowned out by thoughts of, I want to save her, I want to save her, I want to save her, I have to save her, I won’t lose anyone else, I can’t lose anyone else.

I won’t let anyone else...  

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

He narrows his eyes, a burn in his chest.

T̷̳̳̲̥̩̊̉̆̍ȟ̸̷̰̝͎̫͎̮̱͓̼͂͌ͨͧ̏ͫi̵̛̻̖ͮ̏͆͗̐s̶͈̜̗ͤ͐ ̣͇̏̌ͩ͊͜͝ͅį͓̰͇͙̮̰͙ͦ̍̏ͭ̓ͩ̅̋͝͡ŝ̲̲̳͇̥ͣ͆͆ͧ͑͐ ̻͓̫̃̍͊̐͋̓͘͜ͅw̵͕͇͖̭͈̒̇͗̔̿͐̎̕͜h͎̻̱̠ͯ̄ͨͨ̄͊͠ö̴̰̪̳͎͙̘́̓̓̆̉͒̐̂ͅ ͓͈͚͇̲͚͓̞̌͆͋͌ͤ͢͜͟y͍͉͈̘̳̍ͣ̌ͧͣ͊̕͞͡ͅo̧̼͉̻̅́u̾̑͏̸̛̹ ͕̥̰̝͈͕̠̤̿͑ͩ͌̏͢à̵̶̻̺͒ͩ̽̈́ͣ͆ͣ̕r̳̫̔̊ͮ̏͡e͚̥͇̥͔͍̳̳͇ͨ͗̑ͪ͊͊̒͂ͬ͘.̯͇̻̞̞͓ͫ́̽͊̽̌͑ ̢̣̺͖̘̤͙̭̤ͩ̋T̵͍̮̝̟̰̓̅ͮ̉̊̅ḥ̴̳̮͆͗ͬ͝i̮͖̹͔͗́͊̊ͦs̳̳̣͓͂͠ ̶̝͎͍͇͇̥̫́̀ͪ͂̓̌̾̚i̸͈̫̭͚̊ͮͣ̃̆̌̈͆ͯ͟s̸̥͎̞̜̐ͮ̀̎͂͂̎̓ ̢̫̩͙̠̼̊̋́ͅw̸̮̱̔̂͛ͤͅẖ̞͈̣͖̟̥͎̞ͬ̑ͣ́̚̚á̧̮ͫ̾̌ͫ͝ť̼̹͚̼̙̩̥̍͋̍͛ͩ̚͝ ̘̽̓̂y̵̘̫̟̰̪̬̩͂̄ͧ̆̿ͨ͊̓̕͡ͅo̤̩͙̺̪̳̞͍̝͐̄̆̓͆͆͝ư̙̫͈̼̭͉̼̽̔ͥ̎͟ ͓̥̹̮͔̪̬͎̦͒ͥͪ̉́̚a̶̢̫͉ͩ̏̆̈̽r̻̬̭̘̓̌̉̈̋ͭ̽̎̔͠ȅ͎̙̖͎̱͖̫͖ͨͤ.̂͆̈̑̈́̋̚҉͖̙͈̜͇̲̯̝͖͢͝ ̔ͥ͑̽̏͏͎̩ͅ

 

T̷̳̳̲̥̩̊̉̆̍ȟ̸̷̰̝͎̫͎̮̱͓̼͂͌ͨͧ̏ͫi̵̛̻̖ͮ̏͆͗̐s̶͈̜̗ͤ͐ ̣͇̏̌ͩ͊͜͝ͅį͓̰͇͙̮̰͙ͦ̍̏ͭ̓ͩ̅̋͝͡ŝ̲̲̳͇̥ͣ͆͆ͧ͑͐ ̻͓̫̃̍͊̐͋̓͘͜ͅw̵͕͇͖̭͈̒̇͗̔̿͐̎̕͜h͎̻̱̠ͯ̄ͨͨ̄͊͠ö̴̰̪̳͎͙̘́̓̓̆̉͒̐̂ͅ ͓͈͚͇̲͚͓̞̌͆͋͌ͤ͢͜͟y͍͉͈̘̳̍ͣ̌ͧͣ͊̕͞͡ͅo̧̼͉̻̅́u̾̑͏̸̛̹ ͕̥̰̝͈͕̠̤̿͑ͩ͌̏͢à̵̶̻̺͒ͩ̽̈́ͣ͆ͣ̕r̳̫̔̊ͮ̏͡e͚̥͇̥͔͍̳̳͇ͨ͗̑ͪ͊͊̒͂ͬ͘.̯͇̻̞̞͓ͫ́̽͊̽̌͑ ̢̣̺͖̘̤͙̭̤ͩ̋T̵͍̮̝̟̰̓̅ͮ̉̊̅ḥ̴̳̮͆͗ͬ͝i̮͖̹͔͗́͊̊ͦs̳̳̣͓͂͠ ̶̝͎͍͇͇̥̫́̀ͪ͂̓̌̾̚i̸͈̫̭͚̊ͮͣ̃̆̌̈͆ͯ͟s̸̥͎̞̜̐ͮ̀̎͂͂̎̓ ̢̫̩͙̠̼̊̋́ͅw̸̮̱̔̂͛ͤͅẖ̞͈̣͖̟̥͎̞ͬ̑ͣ́̚̚á̧̮ͫ̾̌ͫ͝ť̼̹͚̼̙̩̥̍͋̍͛ͩ̚͝ ̘̽̓̂y̵̘̫̟̰̪̬̩͂̄ͧ̆̿ͨ͊̓̕͡ͅo̤̩͙̺̪̳̞͍̝͐̄̆̓͆͆͝ư̙̫͈̼̭͉̼̽̔ͥ̎͟ ͓̥̹̮͔̪̬͎̦͒ͥͪ̉́̚a̶̢̫͉ͩ̏̆̈̽r̻̬̭̘̓̌̉̈̋ͭ̽̎̔͠ȅ͎̙̖͎̱͖̫͖ͨͤ.̂͆̈̑̈́̋̚҉͖̙͈̜͇̲̯̝͖͢͝ ̔ͥ͑̽̏͏͎̩ͅ

 

T̷̳̳̲̥̩̊̉̆̍ȟ̸̷̰̝͎̫͎̮̱͓̼͂͌ͨͧ̏ͫi̵̛̻̖ͮ̏͆͗̐s̶͈̜̗ͤ͐ ̣͇̏̌ͩ͊͜͝ͅį͓̰͇͙̮̰͙ͦ̍̏ͭ̓ͩ̅̋͝͡ŝ̲̲̳͇̥ͣ͆͆ͧ͑͐ ̻͓̫̃̍͊̐͋̓͘͜ͅw̵͕͇͖̭͈̒̇͗̔̿͐̎̕͜h͎̻̱̠ͯ̄ͨͨ̄͊͠ö̴̰̪̳͎͙̘́̓̓̆̉͒̐̂ͅ ͓͈͚͇̲͚͓̞̌͆͋͌ͤ͢͜͟y͍͉͈̘̳̍ͣ̌ͧͣ͊̕͞͡ͅo̧̼͉̻̅́u̾̑͏̸̛̹ ͕̥̰̝͈͕̠̤̿͑ͩ͌̏͢à̵̶̻̺͒ͩ̽̈́ͣ͆ͣ̕r̳̫̔̊ͮ̏͡e͚̥͇̥͔͍̳̳͇ͨ͗̑ͪ͊͊̒͂ͬ͘.̯͇̻̞̞͓ͫ́̽͊̽̌͑S̢̫͉̠͎̺͓̙ͭ̑ͬ͌̆͘͟a̛͕̠̟͉̟̙͕̭̳͑͑ͬ̇̊͞v̛̩̫̎̒ͮ͋ͪͤe̥͖͚̱͔ͫ̂ ͖̤̳͇̰͈̣̏ͯ̽̔̿͘ẖ̲̻͎͇̘̬̝ͫ̄ͣ͌ͧ̕e̸̷͉̘͍̘̺̰͆ͨ͞r̜̼̰͙͎̥͉ͪ̐̒ͭͦͧͯ͊̕ ̢̣̺͖̘̤͙̭̤ͩ̋T̵͍̮̝̟̰̓̅ͮ̉̊̅ḥ̴̳̮͆͗ͬ͝i̮͖̹͔͗́͊̊ͦs̳̳̣͓͂͠ ̶̝͎͍͇͇̥̫́̀ͪ͂̓̌̾̚i̸͈̫̭͚̊ͮͣ̃̆̌̈͆ͯ͟s̸̥͎̞̜̐ͮ̀̎͂͂̎̓ ̢̫̩͙̠̼̊̋́ͅw̸̮̱̔̂͛ͤͅẖ̞͈̣͖̟̥͎̞ͬ̑ͣ́̚̚á̧̮ͫ̾̌ͫ͝ť̼̹͚̼̙̩̥̍͋̍͛ͩ̚͝ ̘̽̓̂y̵̘̫̟̰̪̬̩͂̄ͧ̆̿ͨ͊̓̕͡ͅo̤̩͙̺̪̳̞͍̝͐̄̆̓͆͆͝ư̙̫͈̼̭͉̼̽̔ͥ̎͟ ͓̥̹̮͔̪̬͎̦͒ͥͪ̉́̚a̶̢̫͉ͩ̏̆̈̽r̻̬̭̘̓̌̉̈̋ͭ̽̎̔͠ȅ͎̙̖͎̱͖̫͖ͨͤ.̂͆̈̑̈́̋̚҉͖̙͈̜͇̲̯̝͖͢͝ ̔ͥ͑̽̏͏͎̩ͅ

 

T̷̳̳̲̥̩̊̉̆̍ȟ̸̷̰̝͎̫͎̮̱͓̼͂͌ͨͧ̏ͫi̵̛̻̖ͮ̏͆͗̐s̶͈̜̗ͤ͐ ̣͇̏̌ͩ͊͜͝ͅį͓̰͇͙̮̰͙ͦ̍̏ͭ̓ͩ̅̋͝͡ŝ̲̲̳͇̥ͣ͆͆ͧ͑͐ ̻͓̫̃̍͊̐͋̓͘͜ͅw̵͕͇͖̭͈̒̇͗̔̿͐̎̕͜h͎̻̱̠ͯ̄ͨͨ̄͊͠ö̴̰̪̳͎͙̘́̓̓̆̉͒̐̂ͅ ͓͈͚͇̲͚͓̞̌͆͋͌ͤ͢͜͟y͍͉͈̘̳̍ͣ̌ͧͣ͊̕͞͡ͅo̧̼͉̻̅́u̾̑͏̸̛̹ ͕̥̰̝͈͕̠̤̿͑ͩ͌̏͢à̵̶̻̺͒ͩ̽̈́ͣ͆ͣ̕r̳̫̔̊ͮ̏͡e͚̥͇̥͔͍̳̳͇ͨ͗̑ͪ͊͊̒͂ͬ͘.̯͇̻̞̞͓ͫ́̽͊̽̌͑S̢̫͉̠͎̺͓̙ͭ̑ͬ͌̆͘͟a̛͕̠̟͉̟̙͕̭̳͑͑ͬ̇̊͞v̛̩̫̎̒ͮ͋ͪͤe̥͖͚̱͔ͫ̂ ͖̤̳͇̰͈̣̏ͯ̽̔̿͘ẖ̲̻͎͇̘̬̝ͫ̄ͣ͌ͧ̕e̸̷͉̘͍̘̺̰͆ͨ͞r̜̼̰͙͎̥͉ͪ̐̒ͭͦͧͯ͊̕ ̢̣̺͖̘̤͙̭̤ͩ̋T̵͍̮̝̟̰̓̅ͮ̉̊̅ḥ̴̳̮͆͗ͬ͝i̮͖̹͔͗́͊̊ͦs̳̳̣͓͂͠ ̶̝͎͍͇͇̥̫́̀ͪ͂̓̌̾̚i̸͈̫̭͚̊ͮͣ̃̆̌̈͆ͯ͟s̸̥͎̞̜̐ͮ̀̎͂͂̎̓ ̢̫̩͙̠̼̊̋́ͅw̸̮̱̔̂͛ͤͅẖ̞͈̣͖̟̥͎̞ͬ̑ͣ́̚̚á̧̮ͫ̾̌ͫ͝ť̼̹͚̼̙̩̥̍͋̍͛ͩ̚͝ ̘̽̓̂y̵̘̫̟̰̪̬̩͂̄ͧ̆̿ͨ͊̓̕͡ͅo̤̩͙̺̪̳̞͍̝͐̄̆̓͆͆͝ư̙̫͈̼̭͉̼̽̔ͥ̎͟ ͓̥̹̮͔̪̬͎̦͒ͥͪ̉́̚a̶̢̫͉ͩ̏̆̈̽r̻̬̭̘̓̌̉̈̋ͭ̽̎̔͠ȅ͎̙̖͎̱͖̫͖ͨͤ.̂͆̈̑̈́̋̚҉͖̙͈̜͇̲̯̝͖͢͝ ̔ͥ͑̽̏͏͎̩ͅ

 

S̢̫͉̠͎̺͓̙ͭ̑ͬ͌̆͘͟a̛͕̠̟͉̟̙͕̭̳͑͑ͬ̇̊͞v̛̩̫̎̒ͮ͋ͪͤe̥͖͚̱͔ͫ̂ ͖̤̳͇̰͈̣̏ͯ̽̔̿͘ẖ̲̻͎͇̘̬̝ͫ̄ͣ͌ͧ̕e̸̷͉̘͍̘̺̰͆ͨ͞r̜̼̰͙͎̥͉ͪ̐̒ͭͦͧͯ͊̕ T̷̳̳̲̥̩̊̉̆̍ȟ̸̷̰̝͎̫͎̮̱͓̼͂͌ͨͧ̏ͫi̵̛̻̖ͮ̏͆͗̐s̶͈̜̗ͤ͐ ̣͇̏̌ͩ͊͜͝ͅį͓̰͇͙̮̰͙ͦ̍̏ͭ̓ͩ̅̋͝͡ŝ̲̲̳͇̥ͣ͆͆ͧ͑͐ ̻͓̫̃̍͊̐͋̓͘͜ͅw̵͕͇͖̭͈̒̇͗̔̿͐̎̕͜h͎̻̱̠ͯ̄ͨͨ̄͊͠ö̴̰̪̳͎͙̘́̓̓̆̉͒̐̂ͅ ͓͈͚͇̲͚͓̞̌͆͋͌ͤ͢͜͟y͍͉͈̘̳̍ͣ̌ͧͣ͊̕͞͡ͅo̧̼͉̻̅́u̾̑͏̸̛̹ ͕̥̰̝͈͕̠̤̿͑ͩ͌̏͢à̵̶̻̺͒ͩ̽̈́ͣ͆ͣ̕r̳̫̔̊ͮ̏͡e͚̥͇̥͔͍̳̳͇ͨ͗̑ͪ͊͊̒͂ͬ͘.̯͇̻̞̞͓ͫ́̽͊̽̌͑S̢̫͉̠͎̺͓̙ͭ̑ͬ͌̆͘͟a̛͕̠̟͉̟̙͕̭̳͑͑ͬ̇̊͞v̛̩̫̎̒ͮ͋ͪͤe̥͖͚̱͔ͫ̂ ͖̤̳͇̰͈̣̏ͯ̽̔̿͘ẖ̲̻͎͇̘̬̝ͫ̄ͣ͌ͧ̕e̸̷͉̘͍̘̺̰͆ͨ͞r̜̼̰͙͎̥͉ͪ̐̒ͭͦͧͯ͊̕ ̢̣̺͖̘̤͙̭̤ͩ̋T̵͍̮̝̟̰̓̅ͮ̉̊̅ḥ̴̳̮͆͗ͬ͝i̮͖̹͔͗́͊̊ͦs̳̳̣͓͂͠ ̶̝͎͍͇͇̥̫́̀ͪ͂̓̌̾̚i̸͈̫̭͚̊ͮͣ̃̆̌̈͆ͯ͟s̸̥͎̞̜̐ͮ̀̎͂͂̎̓ ̢̫̩͙̠̼̊̋́ͅw̸̮̱̔̂͛ͤͅẖ̞͈̣͖̟̥͎̞ͬ̑ͣ́̚̚á̧̮ͫ̾̌ͫ͝ť̼̹͚̼̙̩̥̍͋̍͛ͩ̚͝ ̘̽̓̂y̵̘̫̟̰̪̬̩͂̄ͧ̆̿ͨ͊̓̕͡ͅo̤̩͙̺̪̳̞͍̝͐̄̆̓͆͆͝ư̙̫͈̼̭͉̼̽̔ͥ̎͟ ͓̥̹̮͔̪̬͎̦͒ͥͪ̉́̚a̶̢̫͉ͩ̏̆̈̽r̻̬̭̘̓̌̉̈̋ͭ̽̎̔͠ȅ͎̙̖͎̱͖̫͖ͨͤ.̂͆̈̑̈́̋̚҉͖̙͈̜͇̲̯̝͖͢͝ ̔ͥ͑̽̏͏͎̩ͅS̢̫͉̠͎̺͓̙ͭ̑ͬ͌̆͘͟a̛͕̠̟͉̟̙͕̭̳͑͑ͬ̇̊͞v̛̩̫̎̒ͮ͋ͪͤe̥͖͚̱͔ͫ̂ ͖̤̳͇̰͈̣̏ͯ̽̔̿͘ẖ̲̻͎͇̘̬̝ͫ̄ͣ͌ͧ̕e̸̷͉̘͍̘̺̰͆ͨ͞r̜̼̰͙͎̥͉ͪ̐̒ͭͦͧͯ͊̕

 

S̴̢̼̭̹̘̹̻̩͍̼̖̯͍͑̏͛̂̇͂͝Á̧̐ͮͤ̃̈̉̑ͥ͟͝҉̴̠̦̳͇̯̭̮̲̞̘ͅV̶̸͓̙̪̮͒̎ͫ̅̅̍͑͂̒͂̍ͥ̾ͦ̕Ȅ̋̒͌ͬͨ̐̄̍̈̎҉͘҉̼̝̺̼̲̦̮̻̮̝̭ ͇̥̮̜͕͎̦̲͇̉̑̓̿̎͛̉̑͘͠ͅH̛͐ͪ̂ͤ͒͐̆ͣ͐ͪͮͭ͂̏̍̎̈́͠͏̺͕̮̝͕͈͖̥̜̣̦̼̥̼E̗͔͙̬̜̜̦͔͍͓̘̺̝͍͍̺̗̽͛̆͂̊̏̈́̄ͥ͊͜͞ͅR̶̴̸͔̙̺̣͓̤͕͕̪͆̉ͫ̏͐̔̌̓ͧ͗̔̊ͧ̒͑ T̡̰̣̱̺͔̪͔͚̹̙̼͈̙̤͓̗ͤ͂͌͑̓̃͜͠h̵͉̱͇̼̼̜͍͖̻̳̟̙̞̖̱ͧͬ̓̃̅̚į̡͓̦̗̮̪̦̮͉̬̬ͥ͋ͫͥ̆̆ͨ̌ͥ̓ͤͤ̂̚͟s̡̲̲̝̬͑̐̏ͭͧ̄̑͒̿̍͐́ͤ͑ ̢̧̩̦͖̣̥̲͖̖̝͚̱̰͉͎͍̐͐͐͐ͪ̂͒̐̈́̈ͤ͆͜į̐͑̐̎̄ͧ̓̆ͤͮ͒̚҉̩͓̟̱̭s̵̗̯͕̟͙̲͙̟͓͓͈̩̻͈̭ͧ̂̎͗̄ͧ̄ͤ̆̊̑ͮ͗̓ͣ̀ͨ ̵̧̨̼͉̫͇̻̘͈̖̯̲̤̭͙̽̓ͥͫͯ͛̋̒͋͗̀ͫ͞͡w̸̷ͫ͆̐́̐͆ͧͩ̓̂ͯ̌͌͆͘͜͏̜̦̗̜͖̮̹̥ͅh̷͇͕̪̺͍͓̰̫̠͖̫̤͉̯̦̺̽̆̌̓ͮͯ̀̎̑̒̓̈͊̑̿o̷̵̢̘̦͈̘̳̲̝̠͓̤̲̫̼̺͙̺̣̔̿̂͒̊̿̍ͮ̍͘ͅ ̶̧͔͓̮͔̝̘͙̠̮̤͕̪̻̻̮͖͕̬ͭ͋̓̊ͯͣ̏̂̂̌͟ỳ̷̵̶̢̡̜̱͕̖̼͉̪̮̗͖̬̥̯̺̫̤̣͛ͩͪoͮ̎͂̋̎̌͂͢͡҉͚͕̼̬̲͕̬͍̬̻̝̫͓̟̤̲u̢̪̳̥̫̭̝̘̺͂̂̆̓̇͐̽̈̊͊ͧ̍͘͘͢͟ͅ ̸͎̼͚̼̹͉͚̺̼̳͍̮̙̭̙̯̮̜̖͋ͣ͊ͣ̉ͥ̑ͥ̾̈́͢ä̴̮͙͓̩͈͚͈͔͈̟͙͈̲͍͚͉̙̙́͒ͫ̅̉͑͛̿ͭ̌ͬ̽̋̕͜͡r̵̅ͪ̿̌ͫ̿̏ͭ͞͏̱̦̱̬̺̮̺̹͙̠̜̰̹̰̼͔e̐ͯͫ͆ͣͤͤ́̍ͯ͒҉̨̧̼͍͍̩͔͍̞̖͙̱̖̬̝͚͈̕ S̴̢̼̭̹̘̹̻̩͍̼̖̯͍͑̏͛̂̇͂͝Á̧̐ͮͤ̃̈̉̑ͥ͟͝҉̴̠̦̳͇̯̭̮̲̞̘ͅV̶̸͓̙̪̮͒̎ͫ̅̅̍͑͂̒͂̍ͥ̾ͦ̕Ȅ̋̒͌ͬͨ̐̄̍̈̎҉͘҉̼̝̺̼̲̦̮̻̮̝̭ ͇̥̮̜͕͎̦̲͇̉̑̓̿̎͛̉̑͘͠ͅH̛͐ͪ̂ͤ͒͐̆ͣ͐ͪͮͭ͂̏̍̎̈́͠͏̺͕̮̝͕͈͖̥̜̣̦̼̥̼E̗͔͙̬̜̜̦͔͍͓̘̺̝͍͍̺̗̽͛̆͂̊̏̈́̄ͥ͊͜͞ͅR̶̴̸͔̙̺̣͓̤͕͕̪͆̉ͫ̏͐̔̌̓ͧ͗̔̊ͧ̒͑ .̡̜̝̲͉͚̭̗̻͇̪̪̫̞͋̾͗͊̕͜͝ͅ ̶̴̢̛͔̦̱̖̰͊ͬͯ̾ͮͯ͆̒́̒̀͌̀͊́͆͠ͅT̰̬̻̙̘̺͓̠͍̦͓̞͍̭̄̋̆̏ͪͪ͗̃̏̿ͨ́͢h̸͖̘̪̥͓ͭ̓͒ͤ̆ͨ̌͑͆̌̅͞͠i̸͉̹͔͖̥̩̩͆͐̇̃̈́̍ͮ͊ͥ̀ͯ͗̊͡s̲̫̞̳͇̲̹̭̯̮͙̉͂̅ͥͨͪ͆ͩ̍̈̃̚͡ ͮ̊̍͋ͥ̾ͯ̉ͮ́̅͐̑̈̒̔͏̷̵̢͉̻̼͇͇̖̱̘̪͎͖̺̜̰i̢ͩ͊̂ͥ̒̈́͐̑ͫͬͮ̿ͫ̽͜҉̴̹̼͈͉̞̱s̳̠̣͔̪͙̘̘ͫ̀͂ͨ̕͝͝ͅ ̨̩̫̼͎̳͎͉͍̙͉̊̈̓ͪ̀ͫͨ͐ͣ͘͠wͦͦ̏͐ͨͧ̋̉̓͌͂̃̃͋̐ͪ̏̾̈͡҉̢͖̭̱͇̣̦̗̕h̫̪̰̖̬͍̳͂ͯͭ̌̓̉̌͒͗̈̂ͤ̉̕͝ͅa̢͈̟̜̺̙̦͚͖͖̬͈̤̭̜̘̞͕͌̾̊̔ͬ̔̓͆̅͜ͅt̼̙͇̜̤͚̦̣͕͙̜͕̬̻͕̦͈̪͖͛ͫ̊̓̑͘͡͞͡ ̸̧̫̲̘̠̹̤̻̭̥̿ͤ̎̎͊̈̓ͯ̓̑ͫ̇͢͜͡y̸̨̥̥̩̲̝̞̭̝͔̘̝̱̱̭͙̥̾̓̆̔̌̉͑̈̏̓̂̑ͯͫ͛ͨ͛͘o̢̪̦̙͔͇̖͚̲̺̫̣̤̳̓̐͂̔͆̀̽̾̓ͩ̎͌̋͌͟u̵̷͓͓͚̳̝̙̯̪͇̞̦͉͔̱͙͓̭ͬ̌̈̓͐̒̐ͨ͂̍ͯ͌̍͠ͅ ̨̮̖̘͙̠̯͖͈̮̉͐͐͛͒̈́̊̇̒̿͂͐͂ͥ̿͜͜ͅą̗̜̗̩͍̳̞̺̮̻̹̦̳̞͊͊ͬ̑̿͆r̶̞̣͉̰̭̖̬̣ͧͨ̀͒̅̿̓͠e̥̬̼͕̬̦̮̟͚̞̪̝̯̥̣̬̬̲̅̏ͥ̋͛͆ͨ̅͋͢͡.̴̷̡͓͓̭̮̩ͥ̽ͦ̒̃͞ ̸̨̨̮͈̼͒̋ͥͣͤ̉͌̒̾̈́̕ S̴̢̼̭̹̘̹̻̩͍̼̖̯͍͑̏͛̂̇͂͝Á̧̐ͮͤ̃̈̉̑ͥ͟͝҉̴̠̦̳͇̯̭̮̲̞̘ͅV̶̸͓̙̪̮͒̎ͫ̅̅̍͑͂̒͂̍ͥ̾ͦ̕Ȅ̋̒͌ͬͨ̐̄̍̈̎҉͘҉̼̝̺̼̲̦̮̻̮̝̭ ͇̥̮̜͕͎̦̲͇̉̑̓̿̎͛̉̑͘͠ͅH̛͐ͪ̂ͤ͒͐̆ͣ͐ͪͮͭ͂̏̍̎̈́͠͏̺͕̮̝͕͈͖̥̜̣̦̼̥̼E̗͔͙̬̜̜̦͔͍͓̘̺̝͍͍̺̗̽͛̆͂̊̏̈́̄ͥ͊͜͞ͅR̶̴̸͔̙̺̣͓̤͕͕̪͆̉ͫ̏͐̔̌̓ͧ͗̔̊ͧ̒͑

T̢̨̜͍̫̯̺͚̫̣̄͑̑̋̄͌͑̉͒ͨ̿̒ͩ͊͡H̸̷̆͑̔ͨ̇ͤ́ͤ͞҉̥̭̬̪͙̳I̷̢̜̤̻͈͙͕͙̗̼̠̗͈̍̿ͥ̚͘S̷̗̙̦̦̝̭̼ͭ̆̈́ͫ̂ͬ̈́̏̅͋ͦ ̉͐͌͒̅ͣͬ̍̋̊̓̈́̔͂͌ͤͧͨ͏̢̠̘͎̺̬̻̝̹̮̦̫͖̥̻̺͞ͅÍ̴̢͔͚̟̲̜͔͍͍̺̰̭̌̅̎̓̑ͩͫͣͣͦͅS̷̛̹̟̗̣̳̹̫͑͂̇́̾̿͛̌ͪ͊͆͛̿ͯ̇ͣͥ̈́͞ ̸̷͖̬̼̗̠̥̗͎̼̮͎̘ͭ͗̒̅̆ͦ͑̚S̝̲̜̞̥̠̹̻͇͍̘͂ͩͪ̄͑͛͑̂ͯ̃́̈̑̀̎̏ͧ̈̓͠À̡̛̱̪̠̘̲ͨͫ̔̒ͧͧͤ̈́̇̄̃́̏̓ͫͣ͜V̧̧̡̯̖̫̗͇̭͈̫̥̠͖̞̻̼̜̫̰̤̰ͥͩͨ̾̂ͣ͆̿ͮ̌̀̐̑̒ͨ̍ͧ̂Ễ̥̫͖͎̼ͦ͐͒̆̐̄̓͡ ̌ͩ͛̍ͧͪͪ͂͌̃̾͆̾̌̎͏̭̰͇̲̘̪͠Hͩͭ̄ͫͣͩ͂̍ͧ͂̄҉̴̜̮͕̯̱̦͈̘̺̖͍͙̗͎̳͙̟̣E͗̀̆̈́̊̄̿̄̂ͩͫ̾̌̊̈́̀҉͍̺̝͈͠ͅR̵̘͓̮̱̐͌̿͂͢ ̵̎ͨ̃̓̃̈҉̛͟͏̦̺͖̺̘̩̪̰͓̳̖̼ͅW̘̞̪͎͔͎̰̟͉͓̟̖̿̃͑̑̄ͭ̊ͭͨ̑̚̚͠͞͠H̶͓͍̳͇̼ͦ̿ͪ͊̊͟͠O̡̲͈͔̺͔̖̱̝̟͒̒ͦ͋ͥ̂ͤ̾̐͛ͬͬ̍̄ͣ͞ ͬ̃̊͘͟͏͍͈̬̮̭̞͖͈̕Y̷̷̭͈̰̦̤̌̈̊̆͌͒̇ͫ͞͝͝O̶̢̦̫̠̜͓̗̟̯̙̙̳͌̽̀ͨ̓Ư͌ͭ͂͑͒̅̏̓̋̈́̍ͪͫͤ̍̈̿̀҉͡҉̧̦̠̺͍̺̯̞̰̮ͅ ̡͚͎̜̳̭̤̳̱͈̳͎̺̾ͪ̎̒̀̒̏̎ͫͨ͆͗͟ͅS̶̸͍̤̱̻̯̱̝̙̮̺̼̳͍̉̌ͥ̈́̓̌ͪͭͩ̋̄ͫ̈̑̒͝ͅA̧̭̖̩̻̖̙̙͇̟̘̤̺̥̫̻̥͖͆͊̒ͯ̆̍ͤ̉͛̋͛ͫ͛̑͆̃ͫV͌̓ͥ̍͆̃̍̐̚͏҉̢͏̙̘͍͖͙͍̠E̴͑̏ͫ͆̕͟͢҉̥̳̗̜̰̫͍̳̤ ̔̄͌͋͐҉̴̛͇͓̖̘̫̟̺̰͍̺̻̯̯̕͝Ḧ̡̛̠͔̭̣̜̰͉͈͚̭̜́̈́̇̅́̐̄͛͆E̸̞̠̹͍̟̓ͭ͐̂̇͆͐̽̐͐̂͋̒ͅR̶̶̡̛̹̜̯̺͉͙͎̮͍͇͈͒ͥ͊̋̑ͪͤ̆̉͐͑̈́̕ ̵̨̧͙̲̬̫̗̪̫̘̰̜͇̬ͫ͆̄̓ͧ̽͋̔̉̏̅̆̈̏ͨͫͨͦ͘A̷̦̦̗̘͉̯̥̻̎̊̏̒͐̓̋̅ͭ̾ͯ͆ͥͫͬ͟͝͞Rͥ̋̋̌̽̽ͣ̈́̾̌̔͛ͤͪ́̚͜҉͍͖̰̼͙͇E̛̹̫̟̖͇͙ͫ͋̂̈͛͝ ̷̶̭͕̺̇̈́͛̉̽͌͐̃͛́̄̀ͮ͒ͪ̈́͛̾̾͘S̡̝͈̺͇̮̫̞͔͖̜͎̘̻̟͍̩̲̦̝̒ͮ̌͂̓͛ͬ̅ͧͤͦ̇ͥ̅̑̑͒ͬ̆͟͡A̡ͤ͑͊̈́̓̾̓̈́̒͌͒̓̿͑ͤ̉͒҉̯̲̘̻͎̫͓̼̳̘̘̤͇͚̜̼̹̤͞V̴̸̶̛̱̳̖̺̪̥̖͙͚̏͗ͭͬͧ̈́͊̋ͩ͊̇ͬͭͦͪ̚͢E̴̙͍̙̱͂ͩ̌̑ͥ̄ͯ̃͌̋̏͒̒̅͌ͯ͊͜͟͝ ̗̬̭͙̥͖ͣ̐͆ͭͨ͂̄ͣ͊̃͆ͧ̊̔͋̕͢͜͡H̵̡̨̟͕͉̻̲̗͔̪̟̭̦̗̟͈̮̥̗́ͯ̍ͧ̊́̄͊ͦͩ̐ͫͫ̂͊̚̚͢ͅȨ̛͙̫̲̪͇͉͕̘̦̪̙̼̫̖͔̥̱̓̆ͥ̉̊̕͟ͅR̷̷̙̫̥͚̳̫͇͑ͦ̏͆͊ͯͦ̂̅͌ͪ̏͒̎̇ͯ͜ͅ ̸̃̊ͥͪ̄ͬ͋҉̝̫̠̝͓̟̳͖̻̺̯̻͎̘̠̲͔̟Ş̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅ

Ş̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅŞ̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅ

Ş̇͋͋̄̈́̊̈́̅̚҉̴̤̞̭̖͚ͅA̢̯̳̘̹̱̣̣̼̖̲̹͇ͦͫͤͨ͌̒ͦ͢͢V̸̺͎̦̤̋ͬ̃̂ͣ͆̉̇͗̑͐̕͟E̵̶̲̩̺̲̜̺̞̭̪͉ͫͩ̔ͥͩ̉̓ͥͧͥ̈ͯ̔͂ͣͧ͌̅́ͅ ̵̢̨̗̙̼̖̦̞͈̗̞̳̻̼̝̗̫͚̰̃̍̊͋̕͝ͅH̸̸͔͓͎̜̦̝̺̪̼͓͚̺͕͓̱̙͇̒͐ͬͫͅE̷̟̫͖̳̩͓͋̽ͫ̊ͬ͊̿͛̓ͩ͗̍̃̂̓͊Ṛ̨̮͖̞̪̘̺̪̰̮̝ͯ̾ͨ̐̃̌͘͘͠ͅ

 

S̏̍̄́̋̈́̎̀͗ͯͬ͋̚͞͏̛͈͔̱̱͚̪̪͓͞A̛̘͇̼̟ͫ͋͒̊͌ͩ̋͢͟V̵̜̹̻̱̬͈͉̺̮͓̣̻̤̍̅ͭ̒̂̎͠E̢̪̰̣̰̱̭̘̯̝ͦ͆̀̒͗̽͋͊ͥ̈ͪ̆ͦ̉̊̎̇͊̂͢ ̭̲̱͎̳͇̖͓̼ͤ̅̿̏̓̕͠͠Ḩ̧̤̩̹͍͂̏́͑͐ͣ̃̀̽É̷̡̧̖̳̪̞̳̯̮̰͖̣̯͇̣́̽͊͒̑ͭ̒̏ͨ́̈͒͊ͦ̄̿͊̏͟Rͮͫ̔̋ͦ͐ͨ̅̓̍̆̏̉̍̏͢҉̶͈̻̝͇̦̗̫̦̝̟̫S̏̍̄́̋̈́̎̀͗ͯͬ͋̚͞͏̛͈͔̱̱͚̪̪͓͞A̛̘͇̼̟ͫ͋͒̊͌ͩ̋͢͟V̵̜̹̻̱̬͈͉̺̮͓̣̻̤̍̅ͭ̒̂̎͠E̢̪̰̣̰̱̭̘̯̝ͦ͆̀̒͗̽͋͊ͥ̈ͪ̆ͦ̉̊̎̇͊̂͢ ̭̲̱͎̳͇̖͓̼ͤ̅̿̏̓̕͠͠Ḩ̧̤̩̹͍͂̏́͑͐ͣ̃̀̽É̷̡̧̖̳̪̞̳̯̮̰͖̣̯͇̣́̽͊͒̑ͭ̒̏ͨ́̈͒͊ͦ̄̿͊̏͟Rͮͫ̔̋ͦ͐ͨ̅̓̍̆̏̉̍̏͢҉̶͈̻̝͇̦̗̫̦̝̟̫S̏̍̄́̋̈́̎̀͗ͯͬ͋̚͞͏̛͈͔̱̱͚̪̪͓͞A̛̘͇̼̟ͫ͋͒̊͌ͩ̋͢͟V̵̜̹̻̱̬͈͉̺̮͓̣̻̤̍̅ͭ̒̂̎͠E̢̪̰̣̰̱̭̘̯̝ͦ͆̀̒͗̽͋͊ͥ̈ͪ̆ͦ̉̊̎̇͊̂͢ ̭̲̱͎̳͇̖͓̼ͤ̅̿̏̓̕͠͠Ḩ̧̤̩̹͍͂̏́͑͐ͣ̃̀̽É̷̡̧̖̳̪̞̳̯̮̰͖̣̯͇̣́̽͊͒̑ͭ̒̏ͨ́̈͒͊ͦ̄̿͊̏͟Rͮͫ̔̋ͦ͐ͨ̅̓̍̆̏̉̍̏͢҉̶͈̻̝͇̦̗̫̦̝̟̫ S̏̍̄́̋̈́̎̀͗ͯͬ͋̚͞͏̛͈͔̱̱͚̪̪͓͞A̛̘͇̼̟ͫ͋͒̊͌ͩ̋͢͟V̵̜̹̻̱̬͈͉̺̮͓̣̻̤̍̅ͭ̒̂̎͠E̢̪̰̣̰̱̭̘̯̝ͦ͆̀̒͗̽͋͊ͥ̈ͪ̆ͦ̉̊̎̇͊̂͢ ̭̲̱͎̳͇̖͓̼ͤ̅̿̏̓̕͠͠Ḩ̧̤̩̹͍͂̏́͑͐ͣ̃̀̽É̷̡̧̖̳̪̞̳̯̮̰͖̣̯͇̣́̽͊͒̑ͭ̒̏ͨ́̈͒͊ͦ̄̿͊̏͟Rͮͫ̔̋ͦ͐ͨ̅̓̍̆̏̉̍̏͢҉̶͈̻̝͇̦̗̫̦̝̟̫S̏̍̄́̋̈́̎̀͗ͯͬ͋̚͞͏̛͈͔̱̱͚̪̪͓͞A̛̘͇̼̟ͫ͋͒̊͌ͩ̋͢͟V̵̜̹̻̱̬͈͉̺̮͓̣̻̤̍̅ͭ̒̂̎͠E̢̪̰̣̰̱̭̘̯̝ͦ͆̀̒͗̽͋͊ͥ̈ͪ̆ͦ̉̊̎̇͊̂͢ ̭̲̱͎̳͇̖͓̼ͤ̅̿̏̓̕͠͠Ḩ̧̤̩̹͍͂̏́͑͐ͣ̃̀̽É̷̡̧̖̳̪̞̳̯̮̰͖̣̯͇̣́̽͊͒̑ͭ̒̏ͨ́̈͒͊ͦ̄̿͊̏͟Rͮͫ̔̋ͦ͐ͨ̅̓̍̆̏̉̍̏͢҉̶͈̻̝͇̦̗̫̦̝̟̫




























Save her.

He surrenders himself to the static and moves forward.


He’s on his hands and knees, tears streaming vigorously down his face, Ko-chan’s blood pooling beneath her still body.

The ringleader, the one who’d done this to her, the one who’d k i l l e d h e r, stands to his full height before him. He seems almost proud.

“She couldn’t do it, my boy, don’t you see?” the monster says deeply. “She was weak.”

He cannot breathe, he cannot breathe, he cannot breathe. He’s shaking harder than he’s ever trembled before, and he’s never cried so hard in his entire life.

“Y-You...h-how...w-w-w-why did you—”

“Don’t cry, child,” the m o n s t e r soothes, kneeling in Ko-chan’s blood in front of him without any heed to it at all. The monster reaches out and takes his chin, and he jerks his head away. “You’re stronger than she was. And this experience will only make you stronger.”

“You didn’t have to k-kill her!” He can’t breathe, he can’t breathe, his throat is so tight and his chest burns, why does it hurt so much, why does it hurt so much, p l e a s e s t o p p l e a s e s t o p p l e a s e s t o p. “You knew she couldn’t do it, y-you knew! W-Why did you—? You didn’t have to—!”

“Hmm…” The monster does not move from his spot, rather raises a single hand towards him, almost gently. “My boy, let this make you stronger, now. Let this experience—!”

“No, I won’t! What you’re doing can’t be right, K-K—” it hurts it hurts it hurts “K-Ko-chan was right, what you’re doing is twisted and wrong and I won’t have any part in it!”

The monstermonstermonster chuckles and shakes his head. “You don’t want to do this. Believe me, my boy, you don’t want to do this. This is who you are now. This is what you are now. You cannot deny it. You are...a villain.”

“No, you’re a villain!” he shrieks, defiant. “You’re a villain, and no matter what you do to me, I won’t be one, too!”

Another deep chuckle. The monster is amused. “Foolish child. Here…” He reaches out a hand, a hand splattered with Ko-chan’s blood and tears as she screamed and cried, as her life was stolen from her. “You are not in your right mind now, my boy. Maybe this will calm you down...teach you your place…”

Fingers—cold, deadly, monstermonstermonstermonstermonster settle over his face, gentle but cold, gentle but scary, gentle but murdering—

“You will live to regret this. This, rebellion. ...If you survive at all.”

He feels a surge of something, and within him he feels several snaps and crunches and breaks and he screams, and his veins fill with fire and heat and it burns, it hurts, it hurts so bad, he feels like he’s being ripped apart from the inside out, and he feels blood in his throat and he feels it on his arms and legs and chest and stomach he’s literally being torn apart he’s being torn apart t o r n a p a r t—

“Kitten.”

He screams and grabs and y a n k s, not at something physical but at something within him, he yanks and he pulls and he drags and he harnesses and it hurts so badly, it hurts so badly but seeing Ko-chan in pain hurt so much worse this is nothing this is nothing this is nothing—

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

“Aaagh, what in the—!”

“Everyone, get out of here! What the hell—!”

He feels himself screaming as static fills his mind and heart and soul and all he can think about is Ko-chan, all he can think about is her shining eyes and smile but the image is swallowed by her blank, dead eyes and broken body and he screams louder, cries harder, thrashes, shrieks, yanks yanks yanks, drags drags drags, pulls pulls pulls, until—

Static.


Toshinori watches, and there’s nothing he can do. Absolutely nothing. The police are forcing the civilians back, and there isn’t a single hero on site right now that can take care of the situation.

And Izuku is there. And so is a little girl, who’d slipped past the policemen to help Izuku when it was him being drowned and suffocated, but now it’s her in Izuku’s place, held captive in the villain’s liquid but suffocating grasp. Toshinori feels a burn and an ache but there’s nothing he can do, there’s nothing he can do, absolutely nothing he can do—

And then something weird happens.

The villain has been thrashing and laughing and cackling this entire time, but now...it stops. The villain stops moving, stops laughing, stops everything.

Izuku has moved again, striding forward, and he has those same dead eyes as before but now they’re bright golden, his irises are a bright, molten gold and he’s striding forward, slowly, but deliberately.

Toshinori’s vision blurs. On the corners of his sight, static begins to gather, like pixel-glitches in a video game. His ears ring, and his mind is full of the static, suddenly. He can’t think. He tries but he literally cannot think.

And then the villain is thrashing again, but this isn’t a gleeful thrash, a triumphant flailing of joy.

No. This is writhing. This is the villain shrinking in on himself, shrieking, twisting, and Izuku continues towards him, step after step, eyes bright gold.

"̢͈̲͎̰L̬̟̺̱͉̗̯͎ͅe̦̬͠t̶̢͚͔̞̦͚̰̬͡ ̡̻̗̻͙͖͚̘ḩ҉̱̤̟͙̱̜e̻͖̝͘͡r̨̩̝̥̝͈ ̖͍̖̠͘͟͞ģ̺͎̫̻̱̗͞o̢̥̠̭͔̫.̴̤̙̺̯͎̱͚̣͢ͅ"҉̧̜̙ͅͅ ̝͉

 

Izuku’s voice slices through the static, but only long enough for Toshinori to be completely, utterly horrified by his tone of voice. His voice is low and it sounds like there are several people talking at once, garbled but somehow oh so very clear.

The villain thrashes again, writhing and screeching like it’s in physical pain, and Yatchi drops from its hold and scrambles to her feet. She doesn’t run towards the police; rather, she runs towards Izuku, hiding behind his legs and burying her face in his lower back.

Izuku doesn’t flinch. Two knives come out of nowhere, and suddenly he’s holding three in each hand in between his fingers, blades gleaming in the light of nearby fires.

“͘Y̴͖ou̷̘̣͚̬̹ ̢͕̭͖͈̹h͖̣͔̘̭̱̣av̜̭͔̦̗̜e̝̦̺ ͓̘̤̼̝̱n̵̝̤̟̯͚͚o̷̜̟̩̻̝̥͇ ̸̭̣̞̼r̯̝̝͔i̜͔͍̻ͅg̝̳̭̞͔͓̕ͅh͉̯͉͡t͜ t̸͙̬͉̦̯̱̫o̬͙̮̻ ͈̤͈͈o̟͙̘̘̪͚th̖̪̞̝̟e̤̮̝r̸͓͇͚̘s͍̬̠̥͍͕̫’͎̙̟̖ ̘l̪͠ͅi̧̗͍̠̙̺̪̥v͙̘̫e̛̜͖̝͍s͖͚̮.͍̲͈̱͇̖ͅ”̸̳͎͈͕͙͖͙ ̜

There is no way that voice is coming out of a kid, there is no way—

“͟T͔̬̹͍͍̻͢h̪̬̮e̻͎̥i̖̰r̦̰̬̯͕̘ͅ ̬̘̗̱͕l̰̰i̖̻͠v̰͞e̮s̫̗̣͍̣̲̼ ̢̞̲͕̱̭̥ͅd̙̰̥o͏̦̝̘ ͍̺̳̮ͅͅn̴̰͓͎̪̘o̲͕͈͈̬̠t̞͉͉͈̝ ͈͖̜̭b̧̯̻̰̦e̛̘̮̹̬ḷ̻o͖̟n͍͎͔ģ̗̺͇̣̞̣ ̡͙̖̝͖ͅt̵̻̖͍̮̟o̴̝̰̱͇̫̘ ҉̳̜͔͓̤̞ͅy͇̰͜ou̧̘͚̥.̦”̠̘̥͖ͅ ̢͖̖̖̥̣̫

The slime villain is still shrieking and writhing.

“̗̹Y̺͎͓̲̖̼̺o̶͈̳̟͓u͇̖̪ ͙͓̞ẖ̦͓̣̗̥a̲͕v͖͘e̟̱̗̬͘ ̛̥͕̮̞̻͉͈n̷̙̯̰̥̖o ̭̦͕̠͖͖͎r͎̗̰̮̰̰̬i̸̜̝̼̮͓g̨h͟t͉͓̙̩͚͖̬ ҉̺̮t̝͙̻̖̼͚͢o͕̳ ̗͖͈̠̯t͔̤̬̮͔a͚̯̩̝k͓̼̯̹̺̕e̹̪̱͙̘͞ ̱͚i̹͖͕t̥̻̖̩̣̬͢ͅ ̪̻̘ͅf̵̫̞̭͙r̸͔̫̲̯̳̹o̠̮m̖̪͍̼̘̤͢ ̘̙̦͍͔t̯̣̦͓̦h̬̲̬̗͈͙e͖̥̖̕m͓͖̘͈̬̞͓͘.̢̞̜̤̲̻”͓͖̠̬̹ ̮̠̖̫̞͕

“S-Stop it!” the villain gurgles. “Stop it, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, s-stop it, please—!”

“̥͈Y̴̜̝̥͙o͉̜̣͍̪͙̭u’̸̼̘̪̳̪r̗̭̥e͏ ̗̤͔̖͓̜t̟̤̰̹ͅͅh̨e̶̫ ̜͉̫o̕ͅne̲̹̹̟ ͙̞̬͇g̨̱̭ͅo̠̹̟̮̞̻ͅi̻͚̤̯̻̯͝ͅṇ͎̭͙̹͝ͅg̡̪ ̩͇̮͈͉̞̻͘a̗͖̻̖̜͠r͍̼̱̮̤͚ͅo͎̖u̦͡n͚̮̣̕d̵̼̰̗͎̙͈͍ ̲͉͍̘̙͈̮t̙̼̤r̰̬y̭̬̺͓͎͍̗i͍̟͕̠n̤̤̩͈͉g̵ ̜̘͙̗̫t̩͉͖o̤͍̪̖ ̡̘̠̪͕̥̺̟s̱̳̤͉t҉͇͔e͇͙ͅa̷̗̪̬̻͓̟l ̼̯͠pe̻̳͉͕̙̻̞o̲̞͘p̵l̶̗̟̰̠e’̶͍̥̩̥̼̻s̬͇̳̦̪ ̮l͔͇̬̠̦͉i̱̭̤̯̕v̟̫̻̜e̠͕s̮̗͉,͍̻̥ ͔͉͚͖̠̝ṋ̨͓͖̘̩͙o̡͇̠̱̘̫t̥̱̥͚ m͔̻̜̗̦e̘̮̗͜.̝̣̻͔͖͡”͔͕̟͜ ̰̣̜

What. The hell. Toshinori’s mind is still full of static and for the life of him, he can’t get rid of it. His line of sight is closing over with static, and judging by the reactions of the people near him, they’re experiencing the same.

“Stop it, I’ll do anything!” the slime villain pleads with him, actually pleads. “Stop it, stop it—!”

Izuku stares him down harder. The villain shrieks and writhes again, thrashing, screaming, and Toshinori’s ears fill with static, too, until he can’t hear anything but a buzz, a garbled, static buzz through his mind and ears.

And then, Yatchi’s arms wrap around Izuku’s leg and squeeze tightly. Her eyes are closed, tears streaming down her cheeks, and—

Something changes. Izuku’s eyes flicker green, for a brief, brief moment—and then the slime villain drops into an unmoving puddle, its one eye closing.  It...probably isn’t dead, Toshinori thinks. Probably.

There’s a beat. The static clears—some of it, at least, but not all of it—and Toshinori shakes his head vigorously, then raises his gaze—

Izuku’s eyes are still golden, and there’s blood running down his face from them, like big, bloody tears.

And then he crumples to the ground.

The static cuts abruptly, giving Toshinori a sudden yank of whiplash, and Yatchi’s screams bring him back to the present fully. The girl shakes Izuku harshly, but Izuku doesn’t move, limp and still with blood on his face beneath his closed eyes.

It takes Yatchi’s scream to bring them all back to the present, actually, and then there’s business around Toshinori again, paramedics rushing forward towards Yatchi and Izuku (tailed by that red-haired kid who’d been shouting for them earlier), and the heroes and police move to secure the unconscious villain.

Toshinori can’t move. Midoriya Izuku, scarred, with eyes of a hardened soldier ready to carry out commands, a boy with knives and scarily accurate aim, a boy who’d seen so many unspoken horrors.

That moment, when Yatchi’s arms squeezed Izuku’s leg and Izuku’s awareness returned, when the green flashed in his irises…

Toshinori had seen fear.

Toshinori had seen pain.


A chuckle. “I suppose you’re stronger than even I gave you credit for, my boy. How intriguing. How...wonderful.”

Chapter Text

Tensei is having a bad day.

Villains have been on the loose and more bold than ever, seemingly, and not only has it been a bad day, but it’s been an incredibly long day as well that just can’t seem to end fast enough.

Right now, he’s on patrol in an abandoned part of the city. A helicopter had spotted a few suspicious looking individuals earlier and reported it to the police station, and the police had sent the memo to the nearest hero agency, who in turn but Ingenium on the case.

It isn’t a problem at all, he just wants this day to be over already.

Nonetheless, he doesn’t complain. Being a hero means helping people, and if he can help someone by investigating this area, well, he’ll do it--

Like on cue, a piercing, grating scream meets Tensei’s ears, and immediately, he stands a little straighter, now fully alert and on the lookout. The scream goes on for a good long while--a child’s screams, a boy’s by the sound of it--and Tensei takes off after it, following the echoing, pained scream down winding roads and streets.

He touches the communicator by his ear. “Headquarters, this is Ingenium, checking in. Downtown, near Shinjuku. I need people on stand-by.”

“Noted, Ingenium. Be careful.”

Tensei cuts the connection and keeps down the street, running. The screams have stopped, leaving a haunted echo of them in Tensei’s ears, and he moves faster. That’d been a child, a young child, scared and hurt and Tensei only hoped they were okay--

Tensei sees him, running. A blur in the darkness, tripping and stumbling, but the silhouette is too small to be anything other than a child.

“H-Hey, wait!” Tensei calls, sprinting after him. A part of him thinks smooth, smooth, real smooth, but he ignores that as best he can and continues to run, chasing after this child with all his might.

And then he feels something, almost physically feels something. It isn’t a solid thing, but rather...something within him. His mind fills with haze and static, and the corners of his vision pixelate, blacks and whites blinking and winking at him as he tries to follow the kid through the streets.

Must be the kid’s Quirk, Tensei thinks, plowing through the invading static as best he can. If he was the one screaming a second ago…

He runs faster. It gets harder the closer he gets to the boy, but no matter, he runs anyway.

He catches up to him.

“Hey, kid, hold on a second! I’m a hero, I’m here to help you--!”

The kid whirls around. His eyes glow a bright gold in the darkness, gold flecked with green, and it’s hard to tell what color his hair is in the bad lighting, but it’s dark, and he’s covered in--

Shit.

Holy--

The boy lashes out at him unexpectedly with a short but grating scream, and Tensei barely has the chance to dodge before the blade of a knife swipes the space he’d occupied a second before. Another knife is thrown at his leg (to keep him from running, Tensei thinks; smart kid), and Tensei dodges again.

“H-Hey, kid, calm down--!”

The kid does not calm down. He runs at Tensei, withdrawing his arm, about to plunge a knife straight into his face. His eyes are gold but they’re also full of such terror and fear unlike anything Tensei has ever seen before.

He lets instincts and training take over, grabbing the kid’s wrist and, and he hates himself for it, twisting the knife out of his grip. The kid’s shoes hit the ground and he thrashes and struggles, still screaming, and the static is worse than before but Tensei pushes through it.

“Hey--heyheyheyheyhey, calm down, calm down,” Tensei says, catching the kid’s other wrist and holding him steady. He’s bleeding from several wounds in several places; Tensei would probably get a headache trying to count all of them. “It’s okay, you’re safe now, calm down. It’s alright, no one will hurt you now.”

The kid finally meets his eyes. They’re half-gold-half-green now, gold covered with green splotches (or maybe it’s the other way around), but it looks like some of his awareness has returned, if some.

The kid opens his mouth. Nothing comes out of it. Tensei reaches over without breaking eye contact, taking the kid’s knives off the ground; immediately, longing flashes in the kid’s wide, scared eyes, and Tensei looks between him and the knives for another moment.

“...Do you want the knives back?”

The kid doesn’t answer, not really; his breath hitches in his throat, and his eyes fill with a new kind of fear.

“Okay, okay, calm down,” Tensei says immediately. “I’ll give them back if you promise not to try and stab me again, okay?”

The boy swallows hard, then nods. The movement is shaky and desperate, and Tensei hands the knives over with a small, “Okay, here.” The kid snatches them away at once, clutching them close; Tensei has half a mind to remind the kid to be careful with them, but all things considered, he doesn’t.

“Now,” Tensei says, trying to be gentle, “we have to--kid!”

His eyes roll back in his head, and Tensei swoops in to catch him when he falls. Unconscious. Still bleeding.

Tensei touches the earpiece again. “Heya, headquarters? Ingenium, requesting backup.” The kid’s breathing is deeper now than before, but his breath wheezes. “Send an ambulance, hurry.”

“Noted. We’ll be with you shortly.”


It’s a mess.

All of it.

Now that he’s been brought to something like awareness again, Toshinori hears the sirens of the arriving firetrucks and ambulances. The boy from earlier with spiky red hair is comforting the little girl; her face is buried in his stomach, and her hands fist handfuls of his shirt. He’s patting her head calmingly while giving a testimony to the police; said officer is jotting down everything he says on a notebook.

The ambulance has already loaded Izuku onto a stretcher. He’s unconscious, face a ghastly pale with blood running down his cheeks from his eyes, almost like tears. Those eyes had been open a minute ago, bright gold and deadly and blank.

But also afraid. In those moments of awareness brought back to him by Yatchi’s arms around his leg, there had been fear and pain in the boy’s flickering eyes.

Toshinori has already assumed the boy’s been through hell. This much has always been obvious, what with those jagged, broken scars all over his skin, that exhausted but dead look in his lightless eyes…

But this is further confirmation.

“Toshinori.”

Toshinori turns; Naomasa starts towards him, eyes full of concern, but also a sense of solemness and professionalism.

“Tsukauchi,” Toshinori greets, turning to him.

“The villain is still alive,” Naomasa says, getting right down to business for now. “I can say pretty confidently that he’ll be serving a lifetime in prison for what he’s done.”

Toshinori nods stiffly. A roll of thunder echoes through the sky as the paramedics load Izuku into an ambulance and promptly take off for the nearest hospital. Toshinori watches the ambulance until the lights fade out of sight, then turns back to Naomasa.

“That boy,” Naomasa says. “Do you know him?”

“...Sort of,” Toshinori answers. “We met briefly on a different encounter with the same villain. I’d gotten there to save the boy, but, honestly, he was doing just fine on his own.”

Naomasa nods. “I’m assuming this is why the villain only has one functioning eye.”

“Yeah.”

“Damn.” Naomasa looks at where the ambulance had disappeared down the street, then shakes his head. “It takes a lot of mental strength to do something like that, even in self-defense…” He stops suddenly, like he had just remembered a long-forgotten answer on a test. “...Do you know the boys’ name?”

“Midoriya Izuku.”

Naomasa’s eyes fill with something odd, something Toshinori can’t put his finger on. “I see,” Naomasa says, turning away.

Toshinori frowns. “You’ve heard of him?”

Naomasa releases a sharp exhale through his nose. “There isn’t a detective in the region who hasn’t heard his name.”

Toshinori’s breath catches in his throat, but before he has the chance to say anything else, they’re approached by the red-haired boy, who is carrying the girl against his hip.

“H-Hey, sorry for interrupting,” he says, hoisting the girl up further, “a-and this might be a bad time, but me and Midoriya--” He pauses and winces. “We were taking this girl to the police station when we were attacked by that...thing. I found her alone this morning. She’s deaf, and I have no idea where her parents are.”

“Oh,” Naomasa says, nodding. “yes, thank you for looking after her. Would you mind accompanying us to the station? It won’t take long to locate her parents and give them a call.”

The boy nods immediately. “Yeah, I don’t mind,” he says. “Thanks.”

He’s keeping level-headed about all of this, Toshinori thinks briefly. Despite the situation, he’s keeping a level-head about this.

He doesn’t really dwell on it for very long; Naomasa says his farewells and gets in the police car with Kirishima and Yatchi, and while they speed out of sight, Toshinori contemplates what to do.

In the end, his feet carry him to the hospital. The words, “What is it that makes a hero?” run through his mind constantly, like a broken record.


There’s a woman pleading earnestly with a nurse when Toshinori reaches the hospital. She isn’t frantic, isn’t panicking, just very, very earnest. And maybe a little desperate.

“You have to let me see him,” she’s saying, and it almost, almost sounds like a demand. “Please. It’s important.”

The nurse looks at her helplessly. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but until he stabilizes, we can’t allow any visitations. He’s on heavy Quirk suppressants as it is, we don’t know--”

“You don’t understand.” She reaches out, taking the nurse by the arm and looking him dead in the eyes. “If he wakes up alone like this, in this place, he’s going to panic. He’s going to freak out, and he’s going to end up hurting someone, or himself. Please, just...let me see him.”

Izuku’s mother. There...isn’t much resemblance, honestly, aside from the few green streaks in Izuku’s hair that matches this woman’s, but there isn’t any doubt about it, in the end.

This woman is Izuku’s mother.

The nurse looks torn, and after another second--after closer inspecting the raw desperation in the woman’s eyes--he nods.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he says, and the woman nods while he turns away and disappears down the hallway. The woman watches him leave, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

The way she spoke, the words she used...this has happened before. Maybe not this exact scenario, but the basic gist. It’s happened before.

Izuku had been hospitalized like this before.

And, judging by the woman’s desperation, the results had been disastrous.

Eventually, the nurse returns and tells the woman that, yes, she can see her son now, and she follows the nurse back down the hall from whence he’d come, and Toshinori watches them go, a bit torn.

Midoriya Izuku.

Toshinori doesn’t know why, but something about the boy--his eyes, his suffering, his scars, the words, “What is it that makes a hero?” --really hits him hard. He doesn’t hang around the hospital (he sees no point to), but he makes a mental note to return at a later date.


It’s dark.

That’s the very first thing he notices when he regains consciousness. It isn’t the fog in his head or the tiredness of his limbs; it isn’t the tubes against his arms and face, or even the dull but painful burn in his chest.

No. It’s the fact that it’s completely dark.

Dark.

Dark.

Dark.

“Ha, what a brat. Think you can talk like that and get away with it? Well, I’ll show you what happens when you mouth off to me.”

Dark.

Dark.

Dark.

“Stop screaming! The sooner you stop yellin’ at me, the sooner I’ll let you out!”

Dark.

Dark.

Dark.

Something reaches out and touches his forearm. Very lightly, very gently, barely enough to bring him back to reality, but once he’s there he’s able to keep a firm grip on himself, sucking in long, deep breaths (he’d been holding it a second ago; he hadn’t even realized it).

Mom.

It’s mom.

The dark is still there but he’s reminded that it’s temporary. His ears are ringing. He hears and sees nothing. But he can feel that touch, gentle and soft and just a little bit hesitant, trying. Giving him space.

He reaches for her, and she threads her fingers through his and squeezes his hand. He squeezes back and tries to swallow the lump in his throat with little success.

His mother loosens her hold on his hand, but doesn’t let go entirely. For a second, he wonders what she’s doing; and then, he feels a small weight dip what he assumes is the hospital bed.

Then another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And then he feels something rub against his cheek. Something soft and warm and vibrating gently. Other similar somethings climb on his chest or nuzzle under his arms.

He feels his mother bend his fingers into letters.

I s n u c k t h e m i n

Izuku squeezes her hand, hoping she realizes what this means to him.


She does.


Izuku’s sight, along with the rest of his senses, come back all at once the next day. His hospital room is stark white, and the distinct, familiar smell of it makes his stomach churn. At least mom is here, her and his kittens. That’s the only good thing about this situation.

“They’re going to take you off of Quirk suppressants a little later on today, when they’re sure it’s stabilized,” Mom informs him softly, petting one of his kittens in her lap. “After that, they’re going to send you home.”

Izuku nods stiffly, looking down at his scarred hands. “Are...are my eyes back to normal, or…?”

“Hmm, here.”

She takes his chin in her hand gently and looks into his eyes for a long moment. After that, she smiles and sits back in her chair once again.

“There are a few gold speckles left,” she says, “but you can’t see them unless you’re really looking for them.”

Izuku nods, fiddling with the edge of the scratchy hospital blanket. Just the feeling brings back unwanted memories.

His mother notices. “Do you want me to bring you anything from home?” she asks.

So far, she’s brought him the six kittens and two knives, both of which sit on the bedside table; normally Izuku would be clutching them, but he’s decided to hold Fluffy right now instead.

Izuku nods. His mother doesn’t ask exactly what he wants; she knows him pretty well, so chances are she’ll guess correctly. She smiles and rises to her feet, leaning over and kissing the top of his head.

“I’ll be back,” she says, a promise; he nods, and she heads off. He doesn’t look away until the door closes behind her.


He’s okay on his own--or, he supposes, he isn’t really on his own, with the kittens constantly crawling over him and snuggling down once they’ve found a comfortable position. Izuku is exhausted, but he doesn’t sleep, can’t sleep. He has a hard time sleeping naturally as it is, but add recent events onto all of that…

Mom gets back reasonably quickly, with his favorite white-blue tye-dyed hoodie and a blanket of the same color. He feels better, once he’s wearing the hoodie and the blanket is wrapped around him tightly; just the familiar feeling brings a lovely sense of comfort to him, and he relishes in it.

“I spoke with Kagami-san earlier,” Mom says, sinking back into the chair by the bedside. “Your next session with him isn’t supposed to be for another three weeks, but he said if you’d like, he could meet with you sometime this week instead. What do you think?”

Kagami-san. His therapist. Izuku has always liked him; the man has a very gentle, comforting air about him, he always had, which was exactly what Izuku needed.

Izuku waits for a bit, thinking. “...I’ll...think about it,” he answers finally. “I-I think...I-I’ll be okay, but, just in case…”

Mom nods. “Alright,” she says, smiling softly. “I’ll tell him. Let me know when you make up your mind, okay?”

Izuku nods back. “I-I will, Inko-san.”

(Inko-san, a step up from Midoriya-san. He doesn’t know why, but he’s...never been able to bring himself to call her “Mom” to her face.)

She doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she’s never seemed to mind. She’s always had an endless amount of patience for him; Izuku has no idea where she gets it all from.

“It’s alright, sweetheart,” she says, threading her fingers through his hair for a moment. She smiles again, this time focusing on his mop of black hair. “When we get home,” she says, “let’s re-do the dye, alright?”

That’s another thing; she’s always seemed to know exactly what he’s feeling. It’s taken time to get here, where they are now, but they made it, and there’s only moving forward from this point on.

Izuku nods. “S-Sounds good.”

“Oh.” She pauses for a moment, withdrawing her hand. “I spoke with one of the detectives on the police force,” she says. “He’d like to speak with you, if you think you’re up to it.”

Oh.

Um.

Izuku has...never been a fan of interacting with people, and if this had been two years ago and Mom was asking this question--well, first of all, she wouldn’t consider asking this question, already knowing his answer was a solid no, but second, he wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

Now, though…

“That’s okay,” Izuku says, nodding as though to reassure himself. “I-I think I’ll be okay. When do they wanna talk?”

“Whenever you’re ready.”

Izuku swallows, absentmindedly stroking Marshmallow’s fur. “...I...I-I think I’m ready now.”

Mom nods, rising to her feet again. “You know the gesture, if you change your mind,” she says. “If anything makes you uncomfortable or you feel threatened, don’t hesitate, okay?”

Izuku nods back. “I won’t.”


Two people enter the hospital room; someone Izuku doesn’t recognize, and All Might (but not the “All Might” the world knows him as; this is the All Might Izuku met on the roof, maimed and scarred by a villain many years ago). Mom is right behind them, and of course she is.

“Hello, Midoriya-kun,” the stranger greets, extending a hand to Izuku (he’s cautious, Izuku notices; not pushy at all, waiting for Izuku to make the next move). “I’m Naomasa. This is Toshinori, a friend of mine who also helps out on the force.”

Not technically a lie, Izuku thinks, then reaches out and shakes Naomasa’s hand. He feels no threat from the officer. He must know about All Might’s true identity, then.

“If you don’t mind,” Naomasa says, withdrawing his hand, “I do have a couple of questions I would like to ask you regarding the slime villain.”

Izuku nods. “I-I don’t mind,” he says, and he says it to both him and Naomasa. A little extra reassurance to himself never hurts.

Naomasa nods and takes an empty chair by the bed. Toshinori and Mom move to stand elsewhere, Toshinori to the side and Mom on the other side of the bed.

Naomasa pulls out a small notebook and a pen. “I’ll keep this short,” he says, flipping open the notebook. “And then I’ll let you rest. There are only a few things I would like you to clarify for me.”

Izuku nods again, petting Kittles beneath the hospital blanket, and Naomasa launches off the questions, one after the other, and Izuku fires back his answers.

“Have you and this villain had any encounters in the past before today?”

“Once. I met him under a bridge.”

“Hmm. And you gouged his eye out in self-defense?”

“Yes.”

“What exactly did he want with you, originally?”

“Something about taking over my body, I think. I didn’t really give him much of a chance to say anything else.”

“I see. And…”

It goes on like this for some time, simple questions, rapid fire. Izuku has no trouble answering, which is...odd, considering it usually takes more time for him to recover after episodes.

Maybe he’s getting better. The thought sends a happy little leap through his chest.

After the questions, Naomasa has Izuku confirm a few other things from other eyewitness accounts, things that’d happened when the slime villain attacked the second time. Izuku confirms it all with a consistent “yes”; the information is accurate (although he does have to fill in a blank here and there).

“Well, I do believe that’s all from me,” Naomasa says, rising to his feet and tucking his notebook into the pocket of his coat. “Thank you for your time, Midoriya-kun. I’m sorry we had to do this so suddenly after the incident.”

“It’s okay,” Izuku says, nodding, once again to himself and Naomasa. “Thank you. The villain, is he…?”

“Behind bars,” Naomasa assures him, nodding firmly. “And he’s going to stay there for a long, long time, don’t worry.”

Izuku lets out a long breath. It isn’t exactly a sigh, merely an exhale. At least he won’t have to worry about the slime villain again.

“Inko-san.” Naomasa turns to his mother, and she meets his gaze. “If you have a moment, I would like to speak with you outside.”

“Of course,” Mom says, nodding--and then she stops and turns to Izuku. “Will you be okay?”

Izuku nods. “I’ll be fine.”

Mom smiles and nods once in acknowledgement. Naomasa turns from her towards Toshinori, still standing on the other side of the room. He has yet to say anything.

“Toshinori--” Naomasa says.

And then Toshinori finally speaks.

“If it’s alright with you, Inko-san,” Toshinori says, straightening up and fully facing Mom for a moment, then turning towards Izuku, “I would like to speak with your son for a moment.”

Oh.

He probably wants answers. It’s fair enough, Izuku thinks; after all, who wouldn’t want answers, after what happened earlier?

Mom looks from him, to Izuku, then back to him. “If Izuku doesn’t mind,” she says, “and if he’s comfortable with it, then I have no complaints. Izuku?”

Izuku looks at Toshinori for a long moment.

Not a threat.

He nods. “It’s fine,” he says, and he actually believes the words this time. He doesn’t have to do any extra convincing. “If...If I feel overwhelmed I’ll ask him to leave.”

Mom nods once, then follows Naomasa out, leaving Izuku and Toshinori behind. Toshinori doesn’t do anything for the longest of moments; and then, he crosses the room and sinks into the chai by the bedside that Naomasa had occupied moments before. One of the kittens--Rainbow--pokes its head from under the blanket and mrows at Toshinori questioningly, and Izuku exhales sharply through his nose at the look of awestruck confusion on Toshinori’s face.

The moment passes very quickly, though. Izuku glances at the clear liquid in the bag on the IV stand; Quirk suppressants, leaving an odd, constricted feeling within him that he only notices when he thinks about it.

“...You want answers, right?” Izuku says stiffly. “That’s why you’re here.”


Toshinori feels like he’s being called out, but...he assumes it’s only fair. He’d come, first and foremostly, to make sure Izuku was alright, but now that he knows the kid is alright, he’s brought to his second reason for being here, his second reason for asking Naomasa if he could accompany him to the hospital.

There’s a story here. A story behind each scar on Izuku’s skin, a story behind those dead eyes. A story behind that Quirk.

“I won’t lie,” Toshinori says, folding his hands loosely together. “Ever since I met you…”

“I’m strange, right?”

Toshinori blinks. “I wasn’t going--”

“You were thinking it,” Izuku cuts in. “And that’s...that’s okay. I think it, too. I don’t think…” He stops, takes in a breath. “I don’t think there’s anything about me that isn’t seriously messed up.”

His tone of voice here is odd. Resigned, even. He doesn’t sound upset or frustrated, or even angry, merely... accepting. Like this is a truth he’s already grasped and he will refuse to hear anything else.

“...Midoriya, my boy--”

“D-Don’t.”

Toshinori’s breath gets stuck in his throat. Izuku’s tone is completely different now, small and...desperate.

“D-Don’t call me that,” he says.

“...Midoriya?”

“N-No, the...the other thing.”

And Toshinori doesn’t understand it, but then again, he doesn’t understand a lot about this boy, and either way, it’s not his place to question.

So he doesn’t. He nods, making a mental note to never call Izuku that again. “Alright. I won’t call you that.”

Izuku nods stiffly.

“...What happened earlier,” Toshinori says, “and...and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to. You owe me no answers. But before, with the villain…”

“I wanted to kill him.”

It comes out so suddenly that Toshinori feels like he’s been physically beaten upside the head with the words. He’d been meaning to inquire about Izuku’s Quirk, not...not that.

“I wanted to kill him,” Izuku says, and his hands ball into fists against the blanket over his legs. “If...if Y-Yatchi hadn’t snapped me out of it when she did, I-I...I think...I-I honestly think I would have.”

There’s blood and bile in Toshinori’s throat, and he fights to swallow it back. His next words come slowly, hesitantly, and he knows they aren’t the right words to say in this kind of situation, but they flow anyway.

“...Have you ever...killed anyone, Midoriya?”

There’s a long pause.

“...No. I haven’t,” Izuku says, “but...I’ve...I’ve come close. Really, really close. My Quirk, you...you saw what it did to the slime villain, r-right? You know what it can do.”

An image of the slime villain, screaming and writhing in pain in the alleyway springs into Toshinori’s mind. He chases it away quickly.

“It’s why I asked you what I did, back on the roof,” Izuku goes on. “About ‘what makes a hero,’ and whether or not I could be one...my Quirk, it’s…”

His next words are small.

“...It’s a villain’s Quirk.”

Toshinori feels vaguely like he’s been stabbed in the gut, but no, this is finally something he can help with. He knows what to say, right now. He can finally say something that would help Izuku.

“No, it isn’t a villain’s Quirk, Midoriya,” Toshinori says quickly. “It isn’t. It’s your power, and whether it’s a villain’s or a hero’s depends on what you--”

“N-No, that’s not...that’s not what I mean.” He raises his head, meeting Toshinori’s eyes with his own blank, dead ones. “It is literally a villain’s Quirk. It doesn’t...exactly...belong to me.”

...And once again, Toshinori is stumbling for something to say.

He comes up empty. He has no idea how to respond to that, or even what that means.

“...Midoriya…you don’t have to tell me,” Toshinori assures him, and then, “but...if you want to share...I’m listening.”  

If he’s truthful with himself, he wants to know. He’s invested with this boy’s case at this point, and more than that, he’s worried for him. He’s concerned about this child.

Izuku takes in a long, deep breath and holds it for a long, long while.

“...There were three of us.”

All other thoughts fade away, and Toshinori rests his chin on his knuckles and listens.

“...I...I-I don’t know why we were there or what he wanted from us,” Izuku says, and it’s really, really hard to tell exactly what he’s feeling, by his tone of voice. “But, there were three of us. Me, another boy, a-and--”

His voice stops. There’s a pause. Then he continues.

“...We were training to be villains,” Izuku goes on. “O-Or, they were training us to be villains. The reason I got so good at fighting was because they made me. I-If I didn’t do what they wanted, they…”

Toshinori takes in a breath. “Midori--”

“There was this one villain,” Izuku interrupts, plunging forward. “He was the leader’s second in command, or-or something. He hated us. W-When we didn’t do what he wanted, or when we talked back to him, he--disobeyed his own orders and, he--he--”

Toshinori feels a sudden rush of something--the kind of feeling he gets when he sees a person in distress, when he sees someone backed into a corner and wants nothing more than to save them.

“...When I was...nine,” Izuku goes on, “we were--the three of us, I-I mean, we...we were brought by our leader to this...building. We had...we had no idea…”

His voice is picking up speed.

“...Midoriya, if you want to stop--”

Izuku doesn’t stop. He probably can’t stop at this point. “He brought us there, and--and there was that villain. The one who...the one who always hurt us, the one who...w-who always yelled at us. He was tied up, w-with his hands behind his back, and he--”

Toshinori almost doesn’t want to know, but he’s invested now, and Izuku doesn’t seem like he’ll be stopping anytime soon.

“--He was scared,” Izuku says, and yes, that is a strain in his voice. He is struggling. “It...it was the first time any of us had seen him scared like that. A-And then, our leader, he--he gave Ko-chan a knife, a-and…he told her to kill him.”

This story is going south, Toshinori knows it. There’s a reason for Izuku’s scars, for Izuku’s pain, and he feels like this might be it, he feels it but he doesn’t want to, he almost, almost doesn’t want to hear the rest of it.

“She didn’t,” Izuku says, voice suddenly sharp. “She didn’t, a-and--and our leader, he, he knew she wouldn’t be able to, he knew, but he still--”

Oh no.

No, no, no, no--

“He killed her,” Izuku chokes. “He killed her, r-right in front of me, a-and...and I couldn’t...I couldn’t do anything to stop it.”

There’s a sudden rush of silence, a sudden rush of nothingness that mirrors Toshinori’s current thought process. When his train of thought is back on the rails, it speeds on relentlessly, and all he can think of is children, they were children, Izuku and this girl, they were children--

“After that, I...I rebelled,” Izuku goes on, and the strain from his voice is gone, replaced with this bitter something. “I told him I wanted no part in what he was doing and that I wouldn’t...I wouldn’t stand around and tolerate it anymore. A-And then...and then he grabbed me. I-I don’t...at the time, I-I didn’t know, exactly, what he did, but--he forced one on me. A Quirk, I mean.”

Oh.

Oh--

“I think…” Izuku takes in a breath, holds it, then lets it go and keeps going. “I think he did it thinking it’d...thinking it’d slow me down, or maybe--maybe even kill me. But...”

He lowers his head, and his hands shake.

“...He underestimated the strength of someone who’d already lost everything.”  

Toshinori puts all other thoughts out of his mind and focuses on this boy in front of him, this boy who’d been through hell, who’d literally witnessed what sounds like a horrible, gruesome murder--and not only that, but the murder of someone he knew. The murder of someone…

...Someone he probably called a friend.

“Were you two...close?” Toshinori asks, hardly wanting to voice the question at all. “The girl, was she...was she a friend?”

“My sister.”

“...Oh.”

There’s a moment that follows in which Toshinori feels like he’s been stabbed in the chest.

“...Our parents didn’t want us,” Izuku says. “They left us for dead. Ko-chan was...I think she was three, and I was...two years younger than her, so one. The villains found us and raised us and one more to be like them. Right up until…”

Toshinori nods stiffly. He doesn’t know what to say.

“It’s why I want to be a hero so badly,” Izuku goes on. “Because...I-I mean, after what happened to K-Ko...the thought of that happening to anyone else, just...I-I...I can’t take it.”

“I understand,” Toshinori says, but it’s a lie, he doesn’t understand. There’s no possible way he could understand even a tiny bit of what this boy has gone through, the things he’s seen.

“But I can’t,” Izuku says sharply, and Toshinori feels almost physically yanked by the whiplash. “My Quirk, it’s...it’s…i-it belongs to a villain. It’s...it’s a villain’s Quirk. I can’t be a hero with it.”

“...What exactly does your Quirk do, Midoriya?”

“I can twist and warp a person’s senses,” Izuku answers simply. It feels rehearsed. “I have little to no control over it, though. It’s just...output. I can’t direct all of it at a single person. Some of it slips through the cracks either way.”

“Senses,” Toshinori repeats, and Izuku nods.

“That includes most of your nerves,” Izuku elaborates. “S-Since pain is a feeling and feelings are senses, I--I can twist that, too. Amplify it, or take it away. But I can’t really control it fully. It’s...it’s foreign, this Quirk. It...it’s like an extra limb was sewn onto me. It’s there, but...I can’t...really control it.”

A Quirk, forced on him. Toshinori has a serious sense of deja vu--he’s heard this before. Stories of people with Quirks forced upon them against their will. A villain with the ability to do that.

“...Your eyes,” Toshinori says, remembering. “...They were bleeding.”

Izuku doesn’t flinch. “I can’t turn it off.”

“...What?”

“My Quirk,” Izuku says, looking at him. Toshinori can still see golden flecks in his irises. “I can’t turn it off. The most I can do, to keep from hurting anyone I don’t want to hurt...is redirect it on myself.”

It’s like something out of a horror film, really. And, like something out of a horror film, Toshinori doesn’t want to believe any of it is real.

But it is. It makes sense now.

“...And that’s why,” Izuku says, “I can’t be a hero. This Quirk, it isn’t...it isn’t even mine. I can’t--I can’t become a hero with a power that doesn’t belong to me--”

“Yes you can.”

Izuku’s head snaps up. “What?”

Toshinori folds his hands together and takes in a breath.

I can’t give One For All to this kid. It would literally destroy him, mentally, physically, emotionally.

But…

“...Let me tell you the story,” Toshinori begins. “About how I became a hero.”

And then, he tells him. Not the whole story. He leaves out the part of All For One and the origins of One For All, but aside from that, he leaves nothing hidden. He tells Izuku about One For All, knowing the boy will keep it a secret, and the boy listens attentively, eyes wide and full of...something Toshinori can’t be sure of.

But he tells him. Toshinori tells him the story; himself, Quirkless, a mentor who believed in him, who gave him power so that he could become a hero.

“...It seems almost improper,” Toshinori says, once he’s finished, “to compare it with your situation, but...your power, Midoriya...it belongs to you. Not the villain who gave it to you. This power is yours, and it’s for you to use however you like.”

Izuku ducks his head. Toshinori can’t see his eyes. “I can’t,” Izuku breathes.

“You can,” Toshinori says.

“I can’t!” Izuku snaps, and he sounds genuinely distressed. “I can’t control it, don’t you know!? I wanted to kill him, there’s no way you can think that’s okay--!”

“The villain,” Toshinori cuts in, “was going to murder you. And he was going to murder that little girl. You had to be snapped out of it, but, Izuku...you were snapped out of it. And I think...if you wanted to, and only if you wanted to…”

He pauses. Izuku says nothing.

“...You can become a hero.”

The words hang in the air for a good long while. When Izuku’s voice comes back, it’s strained and soft.

“...I don’t think I can.”

“I know you can,” Toshinori says. “And...if you’ll allow me...I’d like to help you.”

Izuku looks up at him again. “What do you mean?”

“I’ll help you,” Toshinori repeats. “If you want to be a hero, if that’s your goal...I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect you to accept my help right away, or even at all, but if you’d like, I could help train and prepare you.”

Izuku’s eyes shine. It’s not much, but they shine. The gold is almost completely gone now, leaving behind deep green.

“...You...You would do that,” Izuku says, and Toshinori thinks it’s a question, even though it’s posed as a statement. “Even though you know my story, even though you know where I came from...even though you know what I am--”

“Who, Midoriya,” Toshinori corrects, “who, not what. Don’t degrade yourself like that.”

“But--” Izuku blinks, looking caught somewhere between confused and helpless. “I...I grew up a villain, how--”

“Your roots do not define the person you become,” Toshinori cuts in, before he can degrade himself again. “That’s up to you, Midoriya.”

The silence stretches on for what feels like decades. For a moment, Toshinori doesn’t think it will ever break.

And then,

“...I accept,” Izuku says, looking at him again. “I...I’ll have to ask my mom, first, and make sure she’s okay with it, but...as for me, I...I think I’ll be okay. With you training me.”

Toshinori nods. “And only if you’re sure,” he says. “You can back out any time.”

“I’ll be okay,” Izuku says, meeting his eyes. “Thank you, Toshinori-san. I...I’ll become a hero.”

And Toshinori sees something new in his eyes, as he utters those words. He’s seen anger and fear and pain in Izuku’s gaze before, but now, as he looks into the boy’s eyes…

...He sees determination.

Toshinori smiles. He wants to reach out and ruffle the kid’s hair, but doesn’t. “I’m glad,” he says instead, smiling. “You’re going to be a great hero, Midoriya. I know it.”

Izuku doesn’t smile--Toshinori isn’t sure he can--but his eyes shine brighter than ever before.

Chapter Text

“I wanted to assure you that your son will not receive any sort of punishment for his actions today,” Naomasa says, once he and Inko are alone in the hallway outside the hospital room. “Considering the position he was in and the stress he was under, it wouldn’t be fair for us to hand out any form of punishment, despite his Quirk usage against the villain being technically against the law.”

Inko nods. It’s hard to read this woman, Naomasa thinks; either way, he isn’t about to get in the way of her and her son. She gives off this vibe, and he has no doubt she’d tear him or anyone else into pieces if they tried harming her boy.

“I wanted to speak with you regarding his Quirk and his medical complications,” Naomasa continues. “I have it down that the request for Quirk suppressants was accepted...five years ago?”

“Around five years ago,” Inko confirms, nodding shortly. “We only use them if we suspect his Quirk could go haywire, and it’s a considerably light dosage, just enough to force it down.”

Naomasa nods. “I was speaking to our higher-up in light of the villain attack,” he continues, “and we’ve sent in clearance for him to carry stronger Quirk suppressants with him at all times. Not just for his own safety, but for the safety of the people around him.”

She nods again, taking this in. “That makes sense,” she says, and although she isn’t the easiest person to read, Naomasa can definitely see pain in her eyes. “Thank you. I appreciate you talking to me about this.”

“Ah, it’s the least I can do,” Naomasa says, and it really, really is; he doesn’t know a whole lot about Inko or her son, but he knows enough. He was one of the detectives leading the investigation, after the kid was brought in by Ingenium six years ago.

“Thank you for your time.” Naomasa bows, then straightens up. “I’ll let you get back to your son.” When he thinks about it, he pulls a notebook from his pocket, jots something down, then tears out the page and hands it to her. “Feel free to call me any time. The doctors should get back to you on Midoriya-kun’s Quirk suppressants soon.”

Inko takes the slip of paper, looks at it a moment, then folds it in half and stows it in her pocket. “Thank you,” she says, and Naomasa merely nods and tips his hat.

The door of the hospital room opens, and out steps Toshinori. In all his years of knowing him, Naomasa doesn’t think he’s ever seen the man look more drawn and exhausted.

The farewells are bid, and while Inko returns to the hospital room with her son, Toshinori and Naomasa flank each other and start down the hallway in the opposite direction.

“So,” Naomasa says, quietly, “you spoke to him? The boy?”

Toshinori takes in a breath. He doesn’t say anything for a long moment. “...That poor kid…”

Naomasa nods stiffly.

“How much do you know, about his situation?” Toshinori asks, and Naomasa sighs heavily.

“I know whatever the investigation team managed to scavenge. That he was born without a Quirk but ended up with one, that there’s no record of him anywhere, and…”

Toshinori’s eyes bear into his. “And?”

“...He escaped the hospital once or twice, after Ingenium found him,” Naomasa says stiffly. “He was on Quirk suppressants back then, so he couldn’t blow away the staff with his power, but he got past the security every time. We always chased him down, in the end, before he got very far, but...eventually, we decided to investigate in the direction he was headed.”

Toshinori says nothing.

“We found a building,” Naomasa goes on. “Way, way out there, in part of an abandoned suburb. It was structurally unstable at first, so we had a group of heroes come in and secure it before we carried out the investigation. We found...well, we found villains, first of all. Several of them, in deep states of unconsciousness. Also…”

The double doors open for them, and they step out of the hospital, into the light of the setting sun.

“...We found the body of a young girl,” Naomasa says. “We did a DNA sample, and…”

“Kowareta,” Toshinori says, and Naomasa turns to him. “She was Midoriya’s older sister.”

Naomasa nods stiffly, and in his mind he wonders what kind of twisted people would murder a little girl, murder a child, but he’s been a detective long enough to know that the world really is just that sick and demented, that there are people out there—villains, monsters—who would do such a thing.

“The doctors examined her body to determine what actually killed her,” Naomasa goes on, “and from the x-rays...it looked like every bone in her body had been twisted and snapped. Her internal organs were damaged beyond what could be fixed, and if that didn’t kill her already, the bloodloss would’ve.”

It makes his stomach twist, thinking about this, but he turns towards Toshinori and doesn’t let it show.

“...And now you’ve spoken with the boy, too,” Naomasa says. “So you know his side of the story?”

Toshinori nods stiffly, pain and exhaustion ebbed deep in his eyes. “...Tsukauchi...that girl, Kowareta...and Midoriya, his Quirk…”

“...All For One,” Naomasa says simply. They’re both thinking it. “He’s the only villain out there that can forcefully put Quirks on people like that, not to mention keep an operation like that so under wraps…”

“He forced something onto her, too,” Toshinori says. “Kowareta. All For One knew she wouldn’t be able to handle having a Quirk forced onto her, so he killed her by doing exactly that.”

Naomasa takes in a breath through his nose. He feels suddenly very drained. “That’s what it looks like, yeah.”

Toshinori looks down for a long moment, hands clenched into fists at his sides.

“I hope that bastard burns in hell.”

Naomasa lets out a breath, but nods his agreement. “We can at least be glad that you defeated him, when you did,” he says. “By the way it sounds, you fought him a year or so after Midoriya-kun was rescued by Ingenium. He’s long gone now.”

Toshinori nods, the movement small. “...I do have one last question,” he says, looking up. “The boy, Midoriya...does he know? How Kowareta was killed?”

Naomasa’s breath gets stuck in his throat.

“...No. No, he doesn’t.”


“Damn brat, this is the third time we’ve had to treat her for cuts. Do you care about her at all? Do you even give a damn that one slip of the knife could literally kill her?”

“No, I-I do care, I-I do—!”

“Then you’ll work harder at your aim. We ain’t gonna keep treating her injuries. If you don’t want her to die, you’ll do literally whatever you can to handle those knives better. Do you understand me?”

“I-I do, I-I do, I promise.”


His forearm is bandaged—he hadn’t noticed it before, but he remembers being cut by a piece of torn up car that’d been flung at him. He sighs, reaching over and running his fingers along the bandages.


“Ko-chan?”

Her arms are bandaged. Both of them. “What’s up?” she asks, turning to look at him. They have a room, not a cage, but even their shared bedroom is dehumanizing. There are three beds, small. A window way up high. Dark walls.

Very dark.

“A-Are...your arms,” he says, moving towards where she’s sitting on the floor, fiddling with a small pocket knife idly. Knives are usually his thing, but she’s been trained, too. Not as intensely as him, but still. “...The gashes, do you think they’ll...do you think they’ll scar?”

Ko-chan shrugs. “Maybe,” she says, scooting aside needlessly and patting the spot next to her. He sinks down, drawing his knees to his chest. “Either way, I don’t care.”

“I do,” he says, and his eyes burn. “I care.”

She gives him a look. “Listen,” she says, “I know you care, but...it’s like I said before. If you weren’t forced to do this, you wouldn’t, and I know you wouldn’t. You just have to...you have to remember that, Kitten. You have to remember that. Okay?”

“...Okay.”


Another scar, probably, he thinks, clenching his teeth behind his lips. Great.

It’s...quiet, in the hospital room. The doctors are going to be taking him off Quirk suppressants soon, which is good; if his Quirk comes back on, though, they’ll have to keep injecting him. Usually a few doses of Quirk suppressants turns off his Quirk—”resets it,” so to say. He only hopes it happens quickly, he’s never been the biggest fan of hospitals and even though he has most of the comforts of home here with him—Mom, blankets, his kittens, and his favorite hoodie—he still misses his own room. The white walls aren’t bad—at least they aren’t black—but he’d rather they be colorful.

Mom is perched on the chair in the corner of the room, filling out a clipboard, and Izuku’s kittens are curled either on top of him or beside him. Their warmth and purrs makes him feel at home, when he shuts his eyes to block out the view of the hospital room.

He doesn’t say anything, and his mother doesn’t, either. The silence is welcoming, and Izuku has half a mind to fall asleep again then and there (and only half a mind—the other part of him, the part closest in touch with recent events, would keep him awake with a fear of the nightmares he knows would come).

And then there’s a knock at the door, and Mom looks up as Izuku turns his head. Mom rises to her feet, settling the clipboard down on her chair behind her before crossing the room.

She opens it. Izuku can see the doctor just beyond the threshold.

“I have two people in the waiting room who would like to see Midoriya-kun,” the doctor explains. “A little girl, and an older man. I told them I would have to ask the two of you first, make sure you were alright with it.”

Yatchi. The little girl has to be Yatchi. As for the man...perhaps Yatchi’s father?

Mom turns to look at him, and although she says nothing, Izuku can see the unspoken question written clearly on her face.

“...Maybe...for a little bit,” Izuku says. Talking with Toshinori earlier had been...draining, to put it lightly, and while it hadn’t been especially hard to tell the man about his past, once he’d started...it still took a lot out of him, to remember.

He’s glad he did it, though.

Mom nods to the doctor, who leaves with a promise to return shortly. Mom doesn’t move back to her spot in the corner, rather staying by the door to await the arrivals, and Izuku pushes himself into a sitting position. He isn’t nearly as exhausted as before, and it isn’t hard. Rainbow gives a little mrrow of protest when he moves, but soon enough the kitten is making itself comfortable again by his side.

And then the door bursts open, and in tumbles Yatchi.

There’s no moment, no second, no time to prepare himself or even call out; Yatchi barrels across the room as fast as she can and promptly dives right into Izuku’s arms.


“Come on, come on, we’re nearly there!”

“I-I don’t think we should be doing this,” he says, stumbling as Ko-chan drags him along. “I-If we get caught—”

“We just won’t get caught, then, it’s that simple!” she says, beaming at him, and somehow that smile erases his worries, cuts through the dark like a powerful flashlight. “Besides, we might never get another chance like this! We have to!”

There’s something about the tone of her voice, that smile on her face, that has him agreeing with her. They head down the winding corridors—they’ve done this often, they know this terrain well—and finally come to an enormous door at the end of the tunnel.

It’s not locked, they know this. He and Ko-chan reach out and began pulling and tugging on the handle until eventually, at long, long last, they manage to open it. A breeze of cold, biting wind hits him in the face, through his thin clothing, everywhere, but it’s...it’s somehow the most wonderful thing he’s ever felt.

“Come on, hurry!” Ko-chan says, beaming again, and she takes him by the forearm and pulls him outside, into the night. It’s not like they can escape; surrounding them on all sides is a legitimate electric fence, and they know from past attempts that it is not something to be messed around with.

Ko-chan lets go of his arm. The building lays behind them and the fence ahead, but he feels almost free outside, in the cold, in the wind. He feels real.

Ko-chan tilts her head back, and he stops alongside her and follows her gaze.

Above them stretch millions of stars. It’s dark above, dark behind, dark all around, but the stars are there, bright and brilliant, and...he’s never seen them like this before. He’s never seen anything so increible.

“...Wow,” he breathes, and he can’t help the smile that tugs at his lips. It feels unnatural, on his face, but perfect at the same time. “...It’s...it’s so pretty, Ko-chan…”

Her hand squeezes his, and he tightens his fingers around hers immediately. They don’t turn their gazes from the stars, don’t look at each other, but they don’t need to.

“...We’re going to get out of here someday, Kitten,” she tells him, and she says it in such a way that he absolutely, completely believes her. “Someday...you, and me...we’ll escape. We’ll get out of here, the two of us. I promise we will.”

She squeezes his hand, tighter.

“I promise.”

And as they watch the stars, as they feel the cold, as they stand in awe, and even when they return to their cell of a bedroom, even when they continue on, even as they train the next day…

...He holds onto that promise and doesn’t let go.


“KO-CHAN! KOWARETA!”


He didn’t consent to this and there are millions of red flags going off in his head. He feels Yatchi’s arms around him and he’s screaming at himself to get away, to make her let go because no, he isn’t ready for this, he’s not, he’s not.

But for some reason, he...doesn’t push her away. He doesn’t return the embrace, sure, but he doesn’t force her back, doesn’t flash Mom the “safe” gesture, doesn’t ask someone to get her off.

He raises a hand and pats her head a little awkwardly, but it seems to be enough. She pulls back finally, and he hates that he’s glad she did, but when she smiles at him, he’s reminded. He remembers.

The man in the doorway—Yatchi’s father, by the resemblance—takes a step forward. Yatchi hops off the hospital bed, and Izuku’s cats swarm him again, though for the first time, he ignores them.

He meets eyes with the man for a moment.

Not a threat.

“I want to thank you, personally,” he says, and to Izuku’s surprise, he bows lowly, and Izuku is too shocked to say anything. “Thank you for saving my daughter. If it weren’t for you, I...I don’t know where we’d be right now.”

“You can become a hero.”

It’s...odd.

Everything.

He feels odd, his thoughts aren’t coming together the way they should, and...he’s never been... thanked before. Let alone for actually rescuing someone.

He opens his mouth. The thought that comes to mind is, Yatchi rescued me, too. She snapped me out of it. She’s the reason I’m here right now.

The words won’t come. His breath isn’t there. He feels vaguely like he’s being strangled, but it’s not even...a bad feeling. It’s just, not something he’s familiar with. He doesn’t understand.

He sees Mom smile at him and give him a thumbs up, and in his head he hears her words. He’d been twelve when she said them. He’s not sure she remembers but he does. He holds onto these words. He’s never forgotten.

“Izuku, sweetheart…”

“...You’re welcome,” he manages, somehow.

“...You’d make a great hero.”

Ko-chan hadn’t kept her promise. She hadn’t been able to. He doesn’t resent her, he can’t; if anything, the only thing he feels is a bone-deep regret.

But…

I promise, he finds himself swearing, as Yatchi beams, then bows clumsily alongside her father, like she’s not entirely sure whether or not she should be doing it, I promise, Ko-chan.

...As long as I have a say in it...I won’t let anyone suffer like you suffered. I won’t lose anyone else.

I promise.

I swear it.

No matter what.

Chapter Text

Home, is all Izuku can think, flopping face-down onto his bed. Surrounded by warmth, comfort, and his walls full of knives, he exhales deeply and closes his eyes.

Home.

His kittens roam the room freely, apparently just as glad to be back as he is. Most of them end up on the bed with him as he burrows himself beneath his mound of blankets and stuffed animals and curls into a ball. His eyes are still closed, so he can’t see, but he can feel the kittens curling against him, purring, and he lets out another long sigh of relief.

For the first time since the villain attack, he allows himself a moment of relaxation.

Mom makes dinner—katsudon, a meal he’s come to associate with “home” and “safe,” so it’s perfect for tonight. He eats what he can and sharpens a knife for the remainder of the meal; Mom seems satisfied with how much he’d eaten, because she doesn’t prompt him to eat more, rather storing the leftovers in the fridge for if he wants it tomorrow.

Mom kisses him goodnight, reminds him that he can always come get her if he needs her, and he nods and heads to bed, his cats hot on his heels. They’ve started following him around; he can’t go anywhere anymore without six tiny, purring escorts.  

Not that he’s complaining.

Sleeping in his own room, alone aside from the kittens, doesn’t last long, and he eventually finds himself crawling into bed with Mom. He doesn’t do it now as much as he did when he was little, but in light of recent events, he really doesn’t feel like being alone.

She always understands, opening her arms to him and never asking for an explanation, which he appreciates. Explaining himself sometimes can be…

...Difficult. And he’s glad she doesn’t make him.


He’s convinced his cats are mini godsends. Their warmth, their life, their constant happiness, almost makes up for Izuku’s lack thereof. He’s glad he has them, glad his mother let him take them in.

“I bought some new dye yesterday,” Mom says, and Izuku lowers his book to look at her. The kittens are either hanging off his sleeves, curled on his lap or, in one case, on his head, and Mom smiles. “Whenever you want to redo it is fine with me.”

Izuku nods, setting down his book on the coffee table, careful not to shift the cats. He reaches and pulls Fluffy off his head; the kitten mrows in protest, but calms down again the moment Izuku settles her in his lap.

“Are you...busy now?” he asks.

Mom shakes her head.

Roughly an hour later, Izuku’s hair is drying, but he can already tell by looking in the mirror that it’s almost completely green again. The exception is the roots, but it’s an exception he can live with; the majority of it is green, and that’s enough for him.

It’s relaxing, just, being home while things slowly yet surely return to normal (or, as “normal” as things can get when Izuku is involved). He’s glad to be out of the hospital; he’s never felt very comfortable in them, not without Mom.

He’s wandering around the house, dangling a piece of string that the kittens keep going after and attacking, when there’s a knock at the door.

Mom looks up from the coffee table from where she’s bent over papers, and Izuku raises his head to meet her eyes. He nods at her, and she rises to her feet while Izuku bends down, scoops the kittens into his arms, and ducks behind the couch with them.

He hears Mom open the door, and he peaks his head up from behind the couch to watch.

“Good morning, Midoriya-san,” says Toshinori from beyond the door. Izuku still has a hard time believing this man is actually “All Might,” but either way. “I came to speak with you, if you have the time.”

“Oh,” Mom says, blinking. “One second.”

She closes the door, then looks over her shoulder at Izuku. “Is this okay with you, or do you want me to tell him to leave?”

Izuku shrugs, straightening up and moving to sit on the couch instead of crouching behind it. “It’s okay,” he says, releasing the kittens when they squirm. “He’s fine, I don’t mind him.”

Toshinori may be the first person apart from Mom and Kagami-san (and possibly Kirishima and Yatchi, possibly) that he genuinely doesn’t mind.

Actually, for perhaps the first time in his life, Izuku is curious. Toshinori offered to help Izuku become a hero, to help train him even after he heard Izuku’s story, even after he knew Izuku’s origins, what he once was.

Now he’s come to their home, and Izuku wants to know why.

Mom lets him in, and Toshinori steps into the house meekly, bowing and apologizing for the intrusion. Mom offers him a chair, and he declines, saying that he’d rather stand (which only further heightens Izuku’s curiosity).

The two of them cross the room, and Mom sits on the couch beside Izuku while Toshinori offers him a smile, one Izuku acknowledges with a nod and nothing more. Rainbow hops off the couch to investigate the newcomer, though Toshinori doesn’t seem to acknowledge her.

“What’s this about?” Mom asks in a tone Izuku has heard quite often—it’s a stern, almost warning kind of voice; she’s used it on snooping neighbors a lot in the past.

Toshinori takes in a breath. “I’m not here to waste your time,” he says, “so I’ll cut right to the chase. I wasn’t completely honest with you when I introduced myself; my civilian name is Yagi Toshinori, but I am more commonly known to the public as All Might.”

Izuku hadn’t recognized the name when he first heard it, but Mom certainly does. Her eyes widen, but other than that, her face doesn’t change.

“Go on.”

“I sustained an injury and cannot perform hero work for more than three hours each day,” Toshinori goes on. “I came here to tell you who I really was, and to ask you a question regarding your son.”

Mom’s tone doesn’t change, either. “What about my son?”

“I spoke with him for a bit,” Izuku answers; both Mom and Toshinori turn to him immediately, and he goes on: “He offered to help train me to become a hero.”

Mom’s eyes widen, but she doesn’t seem over the top surprised. Izuku raises his head to Toshinori, and the man nods, then starts up again.

“Yes,” Toshinori says, “that is true, but I wanted to ask your permission beforehand, Midoriya-san.”

“Inko is fine,” Mom says, and then, on the topic at hand, “Where would you be training him, and how?”

“Dagobah beach,” Toshinori says, “and how depends all on Izuku. I won’t push any boundaries or do anything that I know would harm him, I assure you.”

“You’d be gearing him up to attend a hero course through high school, I assume.”

“Yes, that is the goal.”

“Which hero school?”

“U.A., if at all possible. We’re aiming for the most prestigious hero academy there is, but I have an acquaintance there who I think will be able to help Izuku learn to control his Quirk. There are a lot of skilled individuals there, and I think, even if getting accepted is a challenge, that being there will benefit Izuku a lot.”

Mom pauses, then turns back to him. “Are you okay with this, Izuku? You trust him?”

“Trust” is...a very strong word. Izuku has never trusted easily, never, but All Might is a hero, and he’s never gotten any bad signals from the man, in or out of hero form. Izuku has learned how to distinguish between threats and not-threats (and empty threats, too, in some cases), and All Might—Yagi Toshinori—falls into the “not-threat” category. Izuku is sure All Might is a threat to villains, of course, but not to him.

He nods. “I do.”

Mom nods as well, then looks Toshinori in the eyes. “If Izuku wants to, then I have no objections.”

Toshinori blinks twice, like he wasn’t expecting it to be this easy, but then, he nods firmly.

“Thank you. I won’t let either of you down, I promise.”


Toshinori doesn’t know how he winds up sitting on the couch beside Inko while Izuku bustles about in the kitchen. Inko had, with Izuku’s consent, asked Toshinori if he’d like to stay awhile just so the two of them could talk, and Toshinori really had no right to say no, considering this woman is trusting her son to him.

Speaking of,

“I’ll be honest,” Toshinori says, “I wasn’t expecting you to agree to me training Izuku so quickly.”

Inko nods. “If Izuku wants to do something and is comfortable doing it,” she says, “then I like backing him up. He seemed excited, actually, when you walked in.”

Toshinori blinks. The most he’d seen Izuku do was stare at his cats and occasionally raise his head. “...Excited?”

“He doesn’t show it how most people would expect,” Inko says, “but there are ways to tell, once you get to know him better. Also, regarding my agreement, there aren’t many people who stand a chance against him when he’s threatened, so I know he’ll be able to take care of himself if it comes down to that.”

Honestly, Toshinori wouldn’t have believed Izuku could take care of himself if he hadn’t seen how he reduced the sludge villain to a puddle of unmoving muck. The villain himself is actually being treated by medical professionals in the confides of prison and has yet to regain consciousness.

“I do have a question,” Toshinori says, “and if this is too personal, or you’d rather not answer, then feel free to tell me off.”

“Alright, go on.”

“Why did you choose to adopt Izuku?”

Inko swishes her cup of tea for a moment. “I happened to have a bit of involvement in his case myself,” she says, “so, as soon as I heard there was a child…”

Toshinori blinks. “Involvement?”

Inko nods. “I’m a lawyer,” she clarifies simply. “I was called in by a friend who needed an opinion, and I ended up...well...getting invested in the case myself, not as a lawyer, but, as a person.” Inko sets her tea down on the coffee table and takes in a long breath. “You know, I’d never planned to adopt a child. When I adopted Izuku, it was right after my husband up and left, so I wasn’t in the best spot in a lot of ways.”

Toshinori says nothing, but he nods to show he’s listening.

“When my friend told me about the case,” Inko says, “and said there was a child involved, that he was traumatized and hurt and that no one knew what to do with him...I don’t know, it struck me really hard. Once he’d stabilized some, I asked if I could meet him, and, well...when I saw him…”


She opens the door, and he crashes into her leg.

She’s almost surprised at how little the impact has on her, the fact that the boy is thrown nearly five feet back while she is barely fazed, but she knows all too well. She’s seen situations like this far too many times.

She’s seen cases of domestic abuse, she’s spoken with children who’d come from abuse families, and it breaks her heart every time. Now, she sees that same kind of fear, that same kind of denial, that same kind of panic in this boy’s eyes, as he stares at her from where he is on the floor, as the doctors make to approach but don’t, as the boy’s chest heaves and his eyes lock with hers.

The moment their eyes meet, Inko is invested. She sees pain and fear and panic in this child’s wide eyes, but beyond that, she sees a deep, aching something. She sees a child who has been destroyed, a child who has had everything taken away from them. A child who’s lost everything.

He looks terrible, pale skinned, almost painfully thin. His forearms and legs are bandaged all the way down to his hands and feet, and Inko sees more bandages that disappear beneath his hospital gown. The only thing not completely bandaged is his face, but even then, there are wads of gauze taped over one cheek, and his forehead is wrapped with even more bandages.

A lot of things happen when she looks him in the eye, and when that moment passes, it leaves her with a newfound sense of purpose.

No one else would give a damn about this child as he is, sick and traumatized and hurt and honestly, dangerous, if the reports are anything to go by.

But she does. She’s barely known him for ten seconds and she already cares about him so much.


“...He needed me,” Inko says, “and I think I needed him, too. It was...it is, it still is...it’s a battle. Izuku does whatever he can, tries his best, talks to his therapist, and he’s getting better. He’s already made so much progress, and we’re still moving forward, and it’s hard, but it’s all been worth it. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Toshinori takes this in, then nods. “I’m glad the two of you have each other, then,” he says.

Inko smiles. “Me too.”

At that moment, Izuku steps down the hall and into the living room, holding a kitchen knife. It’s impossible for Toshinori to read exactly what he’s thinking, but Inko gets it immediately and rises to her feet.

“I’ll take care of it,” she says, taking the knife when he hands it out to her. “Give me a second.”

Izuku nods, and Inko retreats down the hall into the kitchen.

It’s weird, seeing Izuku give up a knife, even if it is a kitchen knife. “What’s wrong?” Toshinori asks.

Izuku looks him dead in the eyes and says in a flat tone of voice, “I can’t chop vegetables.”

It actually takes Toshinori a couple seconds to process this.

“...You can’t... what.”

“It’s weird I know,” Izuku says, “but I keep almost taking my fingers off whenever I try, so it’s better to just leave it to my mom.”

“But...I thought you were good with knives.”

“I am. Throwing knives. And sometimes slashing, depending on the situation. But I’m uncoordinated when it comes to actually chopping things.”

There’s a lot Toshinori doesn’t, will not, and can not understand about this boy, or even this family, so he doesn’t push it or ask again. Inko returns shortly thereafter, tells Izuku that everything has been chopped, and Izuku returns to the kitchen and Inko to the couch.

“He’s kind of chatty, once you get to know him,” Inko says absentmindedly, taking up her tea and stirring it. It stopped steaming a while ago. “Honestly, I thought it’d take longer, but he already seems pretty comfortable around you.”

It’s about the highest form of compliment Toshinori can receive, so he smiles. “I’m glad.”


Izuku returns a while later saying that there’s curry available, and then he disappears to his room with a steaming bowl in his hands and his kittens following him in a straight line, like a bunch of ducklings after their mother. He hears the door of Izuku’s room shut, then turns back to Inko.

“I’d best be going,” he says, rising to his feet. “Thank you for the hospitality, and again, I’m sorry for coming uninvited.”

Inko nods and rises to her feet beside him with no objections. “Here,” she says, spinning on her heel, “let me get you some of the curry to take with you, at least. Izuku likes cooking for people when he can.”

Toshinori opens his mouth to tell her that it’s fine, but he thinks of Izuku and drops it. Inko returns with a tupperware of curry wrapped in a hand towel, plus a little note card with her phone number on it, and she sends Toshinori on his way with a smile and a thank-you.

When he tries it at home, Toshinori comes to the conclusion that it is, admittedly, some of the best curry he’s ever had.


Izuku goes out the next day. He feels...good, actually, which is weird considering he’d been in the hospital until just recently. The looks and stares he gets as he heads to the park don’t even bother him as much as they should (and normally do).

U.A. He’d looked up the school yesterday on his laptop after Toshinori left. A prestigious hero academy with a little to no acceptance rate, strict in its teaching, a well-revered school.

And Izuku is going to be a part of it.

Well, he is, if he can get his Quirk under control by then, which...well…

He isn’t looking forward to that part of it.

Izuku is just passing the park when he sees something flying towards him out of the corner of his eye. He raises a hand before he turns his head, and his fingers close around smooth plastic.

A frisbee.

He looks in the direction from whence it’d come; Yatchi sprints towards him with a smile on her face, and hot on her heels is none other than Kirishima.

“Oy!” Kirishima says, waving his hands over his head and beaming. “Dude! I haven’t seen you in a while, how’s it going?”

“It’s fine,” Izuku says, handing the frisbee back to Yatchi, who takes it and bounces around him in a circle for a moment. “How are things with you?”

“Oh, I mean, well, things are going great,” Kirishima answers, nodding. “But I’ve been worried like crazy about ya lately. You were in the hospital, right?”

“Yeah,” Izuku answers, and he thinks, vaguely, that he likes Kirishima quite a bit. He’s easy-going and admittedly a bit more touchy-feely than Izuku is comfortable with, but he hasn’t tried laying hands on him since that one incident on the day of their first meeting, which he appreciates. “But I’m fine now, don’t worry.”

Along with his knives in his pocket, he also has a syringe with the stronger Quirk suppressants the doctors and police warranted him with. They’re stronger than his pills, which is nice, but he still hopes he never has to use them.

“Well, I’m just hanging out with Yatchi now,” Kirishima says. “Her dad’s teaching me some more Sign, so that’s nice. You can hang out with us for a while, if you want.”

Izuku almost says no, but...he’s actually feeling okay, right now. And besides, he wants to get better as soon as he can, so he supposes the more he gets used to socializing, the better.

“Alright,” he agrees.


Yatchi’s father, Kawomoto-san, is a lot like Kirishima. Easy going, good-natured, and he respects Izuku’s boundaries, too (or, that might just be because Kirishima purposely sat between the two of them on the grass). They play a couple rounds of frisbee, and it goes better now than it did the last time. Only good things come out of this visitation.

Eventually, Yatchi and Kawomoto-san bid their farewells, and Yatchi thanks Izuku (in Sign) for playing with her, to which he returns the gesture (literally), and afterwards, they part ways.

Yatchi and Kawomoto-san head down the sidewalk one way, no doubt to the train station, and Izuku and Kirishima head down the opposite way, towards Kirishima’s place.

“You don’t have to walk with me if you’ve got somewhere better to be,” Kirishima says idly. “I mean, it’s great to have company, but—”

“It’s fine,” Izuku says.

“...Dude.”

“Yes?”

“Are you...worried we’ll get attacked again?”

“No.”

“...Are you sure?”

“Just let me walk with you.”

Kirishima gives him a look, but shrugs.

“Listen,” Izuku says, when he isn’t sure he’s being taken seriously, “that villain escaped prison once, so what makes you think he can’t do it again?”

Kirishima looks suddenly uncomfortable. “Um, buddy, I dunno if you’ve heard about this, since you’ve been in the hospital…”

“What is it.”

“Um—”

“Just say it.”

“The slime villain dude hasn’t woken up since that day,” Kirishima says, rubbing the back of his neck. “He’s been unconscious and getting some pretty heavy medical treatment, from what I’ve heard.”

Izuku doesn’t loose footing. “...Oh.”

“Yeah, um...you really totalled him, dude.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you...okay?”

“Processing.”

“Alright.”

They take a couple more steps—and then, Izuku realizes that Kirishima isn’t beside him anymore.

He stops and turns; Kirishima is a couple steps behind him, head down, fists balled at his sides. Izuku frowns at him for a long moment.

“...Um...what’s up?”

“I’m sorry,” Kirishima blurts. “That day, when the villain attacked...I couldn’t do anything. I was trying to get people out of the buildings, but—there was this—this weird—I don’t even know how to describe it, it was like some weird... block was in my head. I couldn’t think or move or anything, I just—”

“That was my fault.”

Kirishima blinks at him twice. “What?”

“I have a Quirk,” Izuku says, turning fully. “I accidentally set it off when the villain got ahold of Yatchi.”

“Oh, that’s right, I never asked what your Quirk was..”

The word “your” there leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, but Izuku nods, spins on his heel, and keeps walking. Kirishima follows him, jogging to catch up.

“It’s not something I’m proud of,” Izuku admits, “but, the Quirk lets me twist and control a person’s senses.”

“Oh,” Kirishima says, pondering. He cradles his chin with a hand, and then, with a grin, he snaps his fingers. “You know, that’d be great for hero work, actually! Just think about it, like, if you could blind a villain during a fight, or like, mess around with the way they see things or hear things, there’s a lot you could do!”

Izuku pauses. “I guess,” he says.

If I could control it, anyway...and if I was willing to use it on other people.

“Do you have a name for it?”

Izuku blinks. “A name?”

“For the Quirk,” Kirishima clarifies, and he raises his arm. “My Quirk is ‘Hardening.’ I can harden any part of my body ‘till it’s pretty much indestructible.”

“That’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah, but I mean, it’s not super flashy, or anything.” Kirishima sighs, shaking his head. “I probably won’t be that popular of a hero, honestly. Everyone’s more into the flashy Quirks and stuff, so I don’t really know how well I’ll do.”

“I’m sure you’ll do great,” Izuku says, and he isn’t sure why he says it, actually. “I’m trying to get into a hero academy through high school, but I don’t know if I’ll make the cut.”

“Oh sweet, which one?”

“U.A.”

“Oh, dude! Same hat!”

Izuku blinks.

“I mean, me too!” Kirishima says, grinning. “Like I said before, my Quirk isn’t anything super flashy, but I’m still going to try my best to get in! What a cool coincidence, that we’re both aiming for the same school and all.”

It is pretty cool, actually. Izuku hasn’t known Kirishima for very long, but he likes him; it’ll be nice to have someone he already trusts nearby in such an enormous school as U.A.

“Oh, wait, you never answered!”

“Never answered what?”

“Your Quirk!” Kirishima says, and he raises a hand as though to knock Izuku on the shoulder, but thinks better of it and halts. “You never told me what it’s called!”

“Oh, um, I don’t know. It’s not called anything.”

“Not called anything?”

“Nope.”

“Well, we can name it, then, right?”

Izuku frowns. “...I mean, if you really want to.”

“Alright!” There’s a spring in Kirishima’s step now, and he puts his hand to his chin again in deep thought. “Hmm...oh waitwaitwait, I know, how about ‘Pixel.’”

Izuku blinks. “Like a video game?”

“Yeah,” Kirishima says, “exactly like a video game. What do you think?”

Izuku ponders it for a while, then shakes his head. “...I don’t think it fits.”

Kirishima doesn’t seem hurt, but he does look confused. “Really? I thought it worked pretty well, honestly…do you have any ideas?”

Izuku does. The first thing that comes to mind is static, because that’s exactly what he feels whenever he’s actually using the Quirk, but, he affiliates static with a lot of horrible things, so he isn’t sure he wants it to name it that.

“It’s kind of...broken,” Izuku says, shrugging, “the Quirk, I mean. If that helps.”

“Oh, ohohoh, I’ve got it, I’ve really got it!” Kirishima leaps in front of Izuku and holds out his hands dramatically. “How about ‘Glitch’?”

“...You’re really sold on this ‘video game’ thing, aren’t you?”

“C’mon, it’s cool!” Kirishima says, grinning. “Glitches in video games can be really helpful sometimes, too, just by convenience. What do you think?”

‘Glitch,’ huh?

“...Sure,” Izuku says, shrugging again, “why not?”

Kirishima claps his hands together— “Great!” — and when Izuku starts walking again, Kirishima jogs to catch up once more. “Hey, dude, since we’re both aiming for U.A., we could even train together. You seem to know what you’re doing with those knives, so I’m sure there’s a lot I could learn from ya.”

It doesn’t take long for Izuku to think this over. “That’s fine,” he says. “I’m not sure how much I can teach you, but, I mean, I’ll do my best.”

“Great!” Kirishima actually does a little victory leap into the air, beaming brighter than ever. “Thanks a bunch, dude!”

Izuku nods. “I’m training with someone myself,” he says offhandedly, “so I might be able to talk to him, if you’d want to get help from him, too.”

“Hey, I mean, any help would be awesome,” says Kirishima, “so if the guy you’re training with doesn’t mind, that’s be sweet!”

“I’ll ask him,” Izuku says, making a mental note to do so when he meets up with Toshinori at Dagobah beach tomorrow. “It depends on what he says, though, so don’t get your hopes up.”

“I won’t,” Kirishima says, but Izuku has a feeling that he’s already doing the exact opposite.

They walk for some time—quite some time, actually—but then, something flashes in the corner of Izuku’s eye.

He has his hands on his knives immediately, on edge and ready to fight. Kirishima stops beside him, and Izuku hears him ask what’s wrong, but he doesn’t listen.

“The alley,” Izuku says, pointing with a knife. “Something moved in the alley.”

Kirishima smiles, but it looks like a wince. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” he says, “you don’t have to—w-wait, hang on—!”

Izuku has already taken off across the street to investigate, and Kirishima hastens to catch up with him.

“You can’t just go chasing after every weird thing that moves in the alleys!” Kirishima whisper-shouts as they come closer. “You don’t know what’s in there. This is how people get killed.”

Izuku isn’t listening. He continues on, and despite his protests, Kirishima follows anyway.

They come to the alley; the lights on Izuku’s shoes bounce off the walls and make the blades of his knives gleam. For a long moment, Izuku stands and stares, and Kirishima falls into place behind him.

“...Okay,” Kirishima says, blinking. “What the hell.”

There’s a cat standing across from them, one paw raised off the ground. It hisses at them, ears flat against its head, and Kirishima flinches back while Izuku presses forward.

“Dude,” Kirishima hisses. “What are you doing?”

“It’s hurt,” Izuku says, looking over his shoulder at Kirishima. “We can’t leave it here alone, it’ll die.”

“That thing’s gonna scratch the crap out of you,” Kirishima says, shaking his head. “I get where you’re coming from, but there’s a better way of handling this that doesn’t involve just, grabbing it.”

“You’re right,” Izuku says, looking him in the eye. “It’s a shame we don’t have someone with indestructible skin. That’d be really nice right now.”

Kirishima looks horrified. “No way. I’m sorry, but no way.”


“Holy crap it’s going to kill me.”

“You’re fine, just hold on.”

“It’s literally going to kill me Midoriya.”

The cat has been making low, growl-like meows ever since Kirishima activated his Quirk and took it into his arms, but it hasn’t actually tried to attack him. Izuku assumes it has to do with the fact that the cat is injured and no doubt too weak to do so.

“Dude.”

“Just, calm down.”

“I really don’t like the way it’s looking at me dude.”

“It’s just scared,” Izuku says, stepping up to his front porch and pulling out his apartment key. “It’ll calm down once we get its leg fixed and we leave it alone.”

The cat growls lowly again, and Kirishima winces. “Yeah sure, sure, please hurry—” Mmrrrrrrr “—holy crap please hurry.”

Izuku unlocks the door, then opens it.

“I’m home,” he says, stepping inside; Kirishima steps in behind him, still holding the snarling cat, and Izuku’s kittens come prancing down the hallway to see him.

“Hi, it’s good to see you again,” Izuku says, kneeling down to pet each of them, “but there’s something I have to do.”

Mom rounds the corner. Izuku doesn’t think he’s ever seen her look so shocked and dumbfounded before in the entire time he’s known her.

There is, first of all, the cat in Kirishima’s arms.

And secondly, there is Kirishima.

“Mom, this is Kirishima Ejirou,” Izuku introduces, swinging an arm and gesturing at him. “He’s…” He’s...what? “He’s a friend of mine. I met him a little while ago, right before the slime villain incident.”

Mom blinks twice on the word friend, but then she nods. “It’s nice to meet you, Kirishima,” she says warmly, and then, back at Izuku, “But why is there another cat?”

“We found it in the alley,” Kirishima says; the cat mrrows at him angrily, and he holds it as far away from him as he can without letting go. “It’s hurt, so we wanted to take care of it.”

Mom sighs, shoulders slumping. “This place will be infested before long if this keeps up…” she moans, but then, she straightens up again and starts forward with purpose. “Alright, let’s see what we can do…”

Bandaging the cat’s leg is hard all on its own. Kirishima is the one who ends up doing it while Izuku holds the cat, and the cat struggles, but ultimately submits, too weak to do much else. Afterwards, Mom gets an old towel from the bathroom and sets up a little spot in Izuku’s room for it (her—this is something they realized while bandaging the cat).

As soon as the cat is laying down on the towel after Izuku gave it some water, it falls asleep.

“Thanks for doing that,” Izuku says to Kirishima; the two of them, plus Mom, are by the door once again. “Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” Kirishima says, shaking his head. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to come back tomorrow and check on her, y’know, see how she’s doing.”

Mom and Izuku exchange a meaningful look, then turn back to Kirishima. “That’s fine,” Mom says, nodding. “It’s been wonderful meeting you, Ejirou-kun.”

“It’s been nice meeting you, too, Inko-san,” Kirishima answers, and with a clumsy bow and a wave that Izuku and Mom return, he sets out for home.

Later, Mom tries convincing Izuku to get some sleep that night, but in the end, his insomnia keeps him up, and he sits with the cat right up until around three in the morning, when he finally ends up falling asleep on the floor with his kittens on top of him.


Ejirou goes back the next day, and the door is answered by Inko-san almost as soon as he knocks.

“Ah, Ejirou-kun,” Inko says, smiling and stepping out of the doorway. “Please, come in.”

“Thanks for having me,” Ejirou says, bowing, and when he straightens up, he looks around. There’s no sign of Midoriya, or the kittens that’d been following him around yesterday when they brought the cat in. “...Where’s Midoriya?”

“He’s still sleeping, as far as I know,” Inko answers. “It’s odd. He’s usually up by this time.”

Ejirou nods. “Did you look at the cat at all this morning, or…?”

She’s shaking her head before he finishes speaking. “No, I haven’t. Izuku is a light sleeper, so I don’t want to do anything to wake him up if he’s still asleep.”

“Ahh, right, gotcha…” Ejirou looks down at the ground, feeling a bit awkward. “So, um—”

A door opens in another room down the hall, and Midoriya walks into the room, wearing an expression Ejirou has never seen before.

Apparently, it sends off red flags for Inko, too. “Izuku?” she says, starting towards him. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

Midoriya looks at her for a long moment, eyes wide, and then he turns to Kirishima. “You’re not gonna believe this,” he says.


“Why,” Inko says, burying her face in her hands. “Why.”

“You’re either cursed,” Ejirou says, eyes wide, “or incredibly stinkin’ lucky.”

The cat is currently nursing three newborn kittens, leg still bandaged from the previous night. When Midoriya reaches out, she lets him pet her head without any kind of protest.

“I think we won her over,” Midoriya says, raising his head, and although he doesn’t smile and his expression doesn’t change, something in his tone definitely does. “Do you wanna help me name them?”

“This is it, then,” Inko says, shaking her head. “We’re going to become our own personal little cat cafe.”

She says it with so much mock-drama that Ejirou can’t help but laugh, and even Midoriya exhales sharply through his nose in something that could be amusement.


Izuku and Kirishima become close friends after that. There are some things you can’t do without growing incredibly fond of each other, and saving an injured mama cat together is one of them.

Chapter Text

It takes a lot of courage for Izuku to drag out a blank notebook, then seat himself in front of the desk. He pulls a pencil (the only pencil) out of his knife-filled pencil cup, flips open the notebook, and stares down at the pages. His cats roam the room; Fistfight (the mother cat—Izuku had let Kirishima name her) walks right across his notebook, then perches at the edge of the desk. Her newborn kittens are sleeping in a small cardboard box stuffed with one of Izuku’s fluffiest blankets on the other side of the room, and the seven resident kittens curl around his ankles or try biting the pencil out of his hand.

After a while longer of contemplation, he takes in a breath and pushes the chair backwards. Rising to his feet (and moving Rainbow out of his lap and onto the floor), he spins on his heel and retreats from the room.

His kittens escort him, as per usual (except Fistfight, who stays there on the edge of his desk like a judgemental gargoyle), but the journey is a short one. Izuku returns shortly thereafter with a purple sharpie from Mom’s office drawer, then takes his seat at the desk once again.

He flips the notebook back to the front and writes in big, bold print:

Quirk Analysis, No. 1

And then he sets the sharpie to the side and opens the notebook for real. He has to pry the pencil out of Kittles’ mouth, and once that’s done, he brandishes it, takes in a breath, and begins writing.

Name: Midoriya Izuku

Quirk: Glitch

The Quirk allows the user to twist the senses of the people around him. Can also alter nerves to cause pain and can also be used to block out pain. Can also be used on wielder. Hard to control.

He pauses, then scribbles that last bit out and writes it again.

Hard to control. Impossible to control. Can’t turn off. Can’t direct it properly. Can redirect on self. Causes blackout when used on self for too long. Makes victims heads “fill with static.” Like a “block.” Can override senses and override thought processes.

Can maim. Can hurt. Only use as a last resort. Can’t control. Can’t stop.

Threat.

He swallows hard, then circles the word “threat” over, and over, and over, and over—


“GABCK!”

Kirishima hits the ground on his butt in the grass, clutching his shin. He rolls over on his side, groaning, and Izuku stands by him.

“You don’t guard well if you don’t use your Quirk,” Izuku says.

Kirishima wheezes. “Yeah I noticed,” he strains in a single breath. Once he’s composed himself a bit more, he sits up, still wincing and rubbing his leg. “Dang, dude, for being so small, you can kick really hard.”

“It’s not that hard,” Izuku says, shrugging. “Getting hit in the shin hurts a lot, anyway, so if you can get a clean hit in it’s always a good option.”

Kirishima winces again. “Kinda dirty, though, don’t you think?”

“When it comes to your life or fighting dirty, I mean, the choice is obvious,” Izuku answers simply. “You can’t expect your enemy to pull punches or be sympathetic just because they wanna avoid fighting ‘dirty.’”

“I mean, I guess you’re right,” Kirishima says, shaking his head, “but still, I thought, y’know...we’re trying to be heroes, so wouldn’t fighting dirty kind of...put a stain on that?”

“Pretty sure ‘death by dirty-fighting villains’ would leave a stain on things, too.” Izuku extends a hand to Kirishima, and Kirishima takes it and lets Izuku pull him to his feet. It’s interesting; Kirishima is an easy person to be comfortable with, so Izuku isn’t even bothered by the contact.

“I get you wanna be better than villains,” Izuku says, stepping back, “but we aren’t stooping to their level. All we’re doing is making sure we have a means with which to survive. So.”

He spins around to face Kirishima again and raises his hands.

“You can avoid it if you want,” Izuku says, “but when it comes to saving your life or poking a villain in the eyes, I think the choice there is pretty obvious, don’t you?”

Kirishima doesn’t seem fully convinced. “It just seems kind of cowardly, y’know?” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. “The whole ‘fighting dirty’ thing.”

“Like I said, you don’t have to. But remember that it’s always an option. Round three?”


There’s something cathartic about sparring with Kirishima.

Back in his days with the villains, sparring was...terrifying, to say the least. They’re memories he keeps blotted from his memory, so he never dwells on it for long, but sparring with Kirishima is so simple and so lighthearted that it almost seems more like fun hang out time instead of training.

Plus, he doesn’t mind hanging out with Kirishima for extended periods of time, unlike he does with most people. Kirishima never asks Izuku about his past, either, why he’s scarred the way he is, why he knows so much about fighting, why he knows so much about fighting dirty, and that’s nice, too. He doesn’t mind talking about his past, but he’d rather do it on his own time.

Maybe when he and Kirishima have more trust built between them.

“So, this trainer you’re meeting with,” Kirishima says as he and Izuku trudge back down the sidewalk; Kirishima has grass stains all over his gray shirt, and Izuku fiddles with a pocket knife absentmindedly. “Did you talk to him about meeting me, or…?”

Izuku shakes his head. “Haven’t yet,” he answers. “Actually, I haven’t met with the guy to officially start training yet, either.”

“Seriously? I thought you were supposed to start meeting with him yesterday.”

“I was,” Izuku says, “but something came up, apparently. He says he has an acquaintance he wants me to meet before anything else.”

“Huh, guess that makes sense,” Kirishima says, but he says it in such a tone of voice that it obviously doesn’t make sense to him. “But, let me know as soon as you have his answer, ‘kay? We’ve only got about eight months now before the entrance exam, so we really need all the time we can get.”

Izuku nods. “I’ll let you know,” he promises.

“Thanks. So, um, about sparring...do you have any pointers? Any suggestions or anything? You landed me flat on my butt more times than I wanna admit.”

Izuku frowns. “Do you really wanna go through it all right now?”

Kirishima’s shoulders slump. “Y’know, I was afraid you’d say something like that,” he says, shaking his head. “Is it really that bad?”

“No,” Izuku says, “it’s not, but when it comes to suggestions, there’s a lot I can help you with.”

“Hit me.”

Izuku turns and faces the sidewalk once again. “Your Quirk is better for close-combat, right? But if you were standing a ways off and against someone with a long-range Quirk, you’d still be able to harden your body to defend. Offensively speaking, though, it’s close-range or nothing.”

“Sounds about right,” Kirishima says, nodding.

“So you’re a close-range fighter, which makes hand to hand combat even more important,” Izuku says. “If you harden your fingers and nothing else, you could make some pretty solid weapons for yourself without draining your stamina.”

Kirishima turns to him and blinks with wide eyes. “...Knife fingers.”

“Basically.”

“Knife fingers.”

“You’re the one who wanted tips from me.”

Kirishima pauses for a long moment, contemplating. “It’s not bad,” he says, “but if I’m gonna use my fingers as literal knives, I’d rather save it for a last resort kinda thing, y’know?”

“Yeah, I get it,” Izuku says. “Well, there’s other stuff I could talk about, but this is where we split up, so I’ll either text you or just tell you the next time I see you.”

“Ahh, alright,” Kirishima says, nodding. “See ya later, Midoriya!”

Izuku raises a hand. “See you.”

When he gets home, Izuku adds a new page in his notebook for Kirishima’s Quirk. He doesn’t have a whole lot of information on it yet, since they don’t use their respective Quirks during sparring sessions, but he jots down what he knows, what strategies Kirishima could possibly use during fights, then bids Mom goodnight and heads to bed.

He doesn’t actually end up sleeping, but laying there and staring at the ceiling with nothing better to do is pretty nice, too.


Dagobah beach has a reputation, but it definitely isn’t one to be proud of.

Izuku meets Toshinori there the next day, after Mom receives a text asking for Izuku to meet him there as soon as he’s available. Izuku is awake anyway, so he heads over around 5am to the infamous Dagobah beach.

Illegal dumpings, washed up garbage, as far as the eye can see. It’s astounding, really, how much junk has accumulated here. Neglect and illegal dumpers have left the sandy shores covered in so much garbage it’s kind of impressive. Everyone knows about Dagobah beach, even people just driving through the city.

...Which is all fine and dandy but it really, really doesn’t make sense why Izuku would meet All Might here for training. Unless their training has to do with a life-lesson about litter and illegal dumpings, which Izuku seriously doubts.

When Izuku arrives, Toshinori isn’t the only person standing behind an impressively tall heap of garbage. There’s someone else with him, another man with black hair and an exhausted expression that Izuku relates to more than he wants to admit.

The stranger sees Izuku coming before Toshinori. “Ahh, there you are,” he says, turning; Toshinori follows his gaze, and Izuku steps forward. He doesn’t get any threat vibes from the stranger, so he doesn’t think much of it.

“Midoriya, this is Aizawa Shouta,” Toshinori introduces. “Though, in the hero-world, he’s known more primarily as—”

“Eraserhead.”

Toshinori blinks at him. Aizawa looks unamused, but intrigued.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Izuku says, “so I did some digging around. You’re an underground hero who can erase Quirks.”

Aizawa nods. “To put it simply, yeah,” he says. “I’m surprised you were able to find me online, though.”

“When you’re sleep deprived enough,” Izuku says flatly, “anything’s possible.”

Aizawa blinks at him. Toshinori gives a long sigh and pinches the bridge of his nose, like he’s only now realizing how bad of an idea it was for Izuku and Aizawa to meet.

“But you’re here because you can turn off my Quirk,” Izuku says, and although the word my leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, he swallows it back and doesn’t beat around the bush. “Right?”

“Toshinori called me so I could meet you and exchange a word or so,” Aizawa answers simply. “I won’t be forcing you to use your Quirk if you aren’t comfortable with it. However, I will say, unless you have some semblance of control over your Quirk by the time of the entrance exam, you cannot be accepted into U.A. We can’t allow students in with unstable Quirks.”

Toshinori winces. “That’s a little—”

“Harsh?” Aizawa frowns further. “I’m telling him the way it is. Midoriya, you Quirk is specifically one that can cause harm to others unless it is controlled, and with power like that, I’m afraid that’s just the way it has to be.”

Izuku’s hands are in his pockets, and he feels the cool glass of the Quirk suppressant syringe against his knuckles while his fingers curl around the handle of a knife. This makes perfect sense; he has no doubt Aizawa knows about the incident with the sludge villain and, furthermore, it’s possibly he knows about Izuku’s entire background, so it makes sense why he’d put this forward first.

“I can help you learn to control it,” Aizawa says simply, “but that’s only if you’re willing to use it. If not, then, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do. The first step is getting your Quirk under control; if we can’t do that, then there’s no point in spending the next eight months here training.”

He’s right. Izuku knows this.

“...I’m...sorry for wasting your time,” Izuku says, raising his head, “but could we meet here again tomorrow? I think...I think I need some time, y’know, to think about it before I just…”

Aizawa sighs. “Got it,” he says, nodding, “but you have to make up your mind quickly. When it comes to Quirks and bringing them under control, it takes time. A long time. We don’t have the leisure of taking as long as we need.”

Izuku nods, bows, apologizes again, then spins around and heads for home without saying goodbye.


There’s a lot Izuku is unsure of.

He wants to go to U.A., he really, really wants to go to U.A., but his Quirk is a block. This Quirk he didn’t ask for, this Quirk he doesn’t want, is holding him back. It’s keeping him from that end goal.

And if he wants to reach U.A., he first has to tackle his Quirk, and that’s…

He spends all night thinking about it, wondering if it’s worth it, wondering if maybe being a hero isn’t for him after all, if maybe he’d be better off doing something else—he’s a broken person with a broken Quirk, after all, and even though Toshinori— All Might— told him very plainly that he can indeed become a hero…

He still has his doubts. He’ll always have his doubts.

And then his phone dings. Blinking against the light, Izuku reaches for it, grabs it off the side table, and holds it a little ways from his face.

[Kirishima]
Hey, dude, thanks for sparring with me and everything! I know we’ve only just started, but I feel like I’m learning a lot, thanks to you! I think it’s awesome we’re both going to the same hero school. I’m super pumped!! :D

...Huh. Impeccable timing. Izuku swallows, then swipes his scarred fingers across the on-screen keypad.

[Izuku]
Me too.

He’s not sure whether he means it, but sending that message to Kirishima kind of drives it home. He wants to be a hero, he wants to get better, he wants to feel like a normal person for once in his damned life.

And if that means learning to control his Quirk, even if it leaves him sick and reeling, he wants to do it.


“I’ll do it,” Izuku says, and the words almost make him physically sick. The way they feel going out, the way they feel in his own ears, makes him want to spin around and dive right into the nearest pile of garbage, but he doesn’t do that. The urge to face this head on and overcome it is greater than the urge to faceplant the garbage. “I’ll...I’ll use my Quirk.”

“You’re sure about this,” Aizawa says simply, and it’s phrased less like a question and more like a statement of fact. “Once we start, we’re going to see it through to the end. Are you ready?”

Izuku swallows hard. Ready is a strong word, but he nods. “Yeah, I...I am.”

Toshinori stands by him, but at Izuku’s gesture, he moves off the side to watch. He seems concerned, and his eyes keep darting between Izuku and Aizawa, probably waiting to see who makes the first move now.

Izuku takes in a breath and shuts his eyes. Using his Quirk willingly isn’t something he’s ever actually done before, so he isn’t sure how to exactly turn it on, but…

Whether I like it or not, it’s a part of me. This “extra limb that’s been sewn on” is just as much a part of me as my eyes or my arms. I hate it, but it’s there. It’s here.

It’s…

Me.

He reaches for something within him, something unnatural and dark and oh he really wants to vomit right about now but he forces it back. He calls to it, summons it to him; he feels the beginnings of it in his temples, then in the forefront of his mind, then gently eating away at his sight like...well...like glitches in a video game.

Izuku feels disgusting. Every part of him feels... wrong and twisted and he wants it to stop, he wants it to stop, it has to stop, he hates it, he hates it so much, the static is familiar and it calls his name, beckoning him further into it, and he tries to stay afloat but he feels like he’s steadily being dragged into an abyss and he can’t see anything, everything feels wrong and he wishes he’d said no, he shouldn’t have agreed to this, he knew it was bad, he knew it was, he knew it was, he knew it was—

And then it stops.

He feels like everything is sapped right out of him—and he means everything. His strength, his vision, his Quirk, his hearing, his senses, his thoughts…

He blinks at Aizawa, just in time to watch the red fade from the man’s eyes. “...You…”

“Sorry,” Aizawa says, and his voice is flat, but his eyes are apologetic. “I’d meant to erase it quicker. You good?”

Izuku is... really good, actually, for some odd reason. It’s the first time the Quirk has been turned off. Sure, Aizawa forcefully did it, but there were no Quirk suppressants involved, he didn’t have to turn the Quirk inward on himself, he didn’t even really have time to start panicking fully.  

“Hey. Kid.”

“Sorry,” Izuku says, shaking his head. “I’m...really fine. You just...you erased it?”

Aizawa nods. “Yeah, basically,” he says. “Took a second, but yeah.”

Izuku is surprised by how okay he feels right now, considering he’d been using his Quirk—something he hated, something that, up until this point, he’d only done mostly subconsciously and as a last resort—just a second ago. Maybe actually having it turned off for once by a semi-natural means is relieving. It’s progress. It’s improvement.

“From what I gather,” Aizawa says, “your Quirk is mostly output, correct? You can amplify its usage against certain individuals, but you can’t keep it from effecting anyone else nearby.”

Izuku swallows, then nods.

Aizawa pauses for a moment, thinking to himself. Toshinori seems concerned about something, but Izuku is still reeling from the whiplash too much to put much thought into why.

“I can help you,” Aizawa says simply. “It won’t be easy, but I think, with time, you can learn to at least control the output and who is effected. First and foremostly, you’ll need to learn how to properly use your Quirk without affecting the innocent onlookers. Everything else will come after that.”

Izuku blinks a couple times, still reeling, but he runs Aizawa’s words through his head once, then twice, then nods.

They don’t do anything else after that. Izuku makes a mental note to ask Toshinori about Kirishima tomorrow, thanks him and Aizawa for their time, then turns and heads home.

He feels... floaty, which is very strange for him. The last time he’d felt like this was when Mom first brought him home and gave him a life outside the torment of the villains. His Quirk has always been a problem, it’s always been his number one this is why I can’t be a hero.

But maybe now it’s different. Maybe if Aizawa helps him, he can learn to control it. Maybe now, for the first time in his life, he has a real, concrete reason to believe that in time, with training, he really can become a hero.


“I don’t think you have any idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Toshinori turns to Aizawa with a frown. “I know what you’re thinking,” he says, “and, yes, Midoriya isn’t...entirely stable, as a person, but—”

“His Quirk Factor is broken.”

Toshinori blinks at him, but Aizawa doesn’t turn, rather staring down the sidewalk where Izuku has left.

“People are generally born with Quirk Factors, even if they don’t have a Quirk to use it,” Aizawa says. “However, Midoriya had that Quirk forced on him, when he harnessed the Quirk and forced his body to adapt to it, he severely damaged his Quirk Factor. I had a hard time figuring out how to turn the Quirk off.”

Toshinori lets this sink in, and it lands in the pit of his stomach like a stone. “So, on the topic of him learning how to ever control it...are you saying he can’t?”

“If he wants to learn how to control it,” Aizawa says, “he’s going to have to figure out how to work around the broken parts. I think a lot of it has to do with psychological and emotional damage, which is, well...it’s more complicated than a physical problem.”

Toshinori nods stiffly. “But he can do it, you think.”

“It depends mostly on him,” Aizawa says. “But, that being said, I’ll do what I can. I think if he starts using his Quirk under his own free will, knowing I’m here to turn it off if it becomes dangerous, it’ll help his mentality regarding his Quirk.”

It makes sense; when Izuku had used his Quirk now, Toshinori had felt the output. It wasn’t nearly as intense as it’d been during the slime villain incident, but even so.

“He has a long way to go before U.A.,” Aizawa says, shaking his head, “but I don’t doubt him. If he really wants to be a hero...he’ll be able to do it.”


Kirishima’s fist swings at his head, and Izuku ducks beneath the blow, his own fist jabbing Kirishima in the stomach. Kirishima reels backwards, but throws up both arms in front of his face when Izuku swings his own fist. Izuku hooks his foot behind Kirishima’s shin and gives a hard yank; Kirishima trips and flails, and while he’s in the middle of regaining his balance, Izuku slams his heel into Kirishima’s chest and sends him to the ground.

“Hey, that lasted longer than before!” Kirishima says, grinning and bouncing to his feet. “I’m getting better, right?”

Izuku nods. “I think so,” he says. “Considering we’ve only been doing this for a couple of days, you’ve gotten really far.”

Kirishima grins brighter. “Thanks!”

Izuku hasn’t had the chance to ask Toshinori about Kirishima training with him; maybe on the days that Aizawa isn’t working with Izuku on his Quirk Kirishima can come along. He doesn’t think Toshinori would mind, granted he trains as “Toshinori” and not, well, “All Might.” While Izuku hadn’t known who All Might was when he first met him, now that he’s been doing more research on heroes on the internet, he’s surprised he didn’t.

The number one hero, All Might. Also the hero with the most lethal and secretive weakness.

“Even if my trainer can’t help both of us,” Izuku goes on, “I think me and you working together like this is good, too. I can teach you whatever he teaches me.”

Kirishima nods, and shortly thereafter, the two of them head out just as the sun begins to set beyond the horizon.

“Thanks again for helping me out,” Kirishima says once they’re walking. “I’ve always wanted to get better at hand to hand combat, seeing as how my Quirk kinda hinges on me being good at it…”

“No problem,” Izuku says without batting an eye. “It’s nice to be able to spar with a friend.”

Friend.

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking!” Kirishima says, raising an arm—he realizes what he’s about to do a second later, and he lowers his hand back down to his side with a bit of a dejected look. “Anyway, how’s your week looking?”

Izuku shrugs. “I don’t have much going on,” he says. “My mom got called out for a case, so she won’t be back until tomorrow, so I’ll probably just hang out, maybe try working on some schoolwork.”

“Ah, right, you mentioned you were homeschooled,” Kirishima says, touching his chin. “Dang, I’m so screwed when it comes to my own schooling. I’m probably what you’d call the ‘problem student.’ Everyone’s smarter than me.”

And Izuku doesn’t know what possesses him to do it, what kind of crazy thing makes him open his mouth, but he finds himself asking,

“Do you wanna come over to my place tonight? I might be able to help out.”

“You’re serious!?” Kirishima rounds him, eyes wide. “Dude, you’re already helping me with training, I really don’t wanna impose—”

“If you don’t want to that’s fine,” Izuku says, “but you aren’t imposing, I’m offering.” He doesn’t know why he’s offering, though, because he’s never actually invited anyone to his house before, ever. “I can make curry, too.”

Kirishima seems torn, but after a second, he takes in a deep breath and nods firmly. “I swear I’ll make it up to you someday, Midoriya,” he says. “You’re a super cool person, y’know?”

He’s never been told anything like that before, so he shrugs as a response. Kirishima makes to ruffle his hair, but stops before making contact, and Izuku feels both relieved and guilty at the same time.


Mom won’t mind Kirishima being here. She’s always encouraged visits, actually (although she always asks for Izuku’s consent beforehand, obviously), and she’s told Izuku time and time again that she’s glad he has a friend like him.

It’s one of the reasons why Izuku is alright with Kirishima coming over; if he didn’t think Mom would permit it, he wouldn’t have considered it. But, Mom likes Kirishima a lot, and so does Izuku’s growing number of cats (except Fistfight, who still hisses at him when he passes too close to her), so that’s a plus too.

The fridge is stocked; Izuku makes fresh rice and reheats leftover curry from his and Mom’s dinner the night before, then goes ahead and sets two plates out for him and Kirishima. He assumes they’ll sit in the living room and eat while they work. Mom has never minded that, either.

Izuku gets the cats their dinner around the same time the doorbell rings. “It’s open,” Izuku hollers down the hall as the kittens rush for their food bowls, and Izuku hears the front door open and shut as he makes his way over.

“Hey!” Kirishima greets, grinning and raising a hand. He’s toeing off his shoes, one hand around the strap of his backpack. “Thanks for having me over on short notice. You’re a real lifesaver, you know that, right?”

Izuku shrugs, not entirely sure how to respond to that.


The night goes uneventfully. Izuku won’t lie, he does feel a bit out of place here (not uncomfortable yet, just out of place), with Kirishima here and Mom out on business. He doesn’t know why he even offered for Kirishima to come over in the first place, because it’d definitely been a spur of the moment decision that he probably should’ve thought through a little better.

It’s fine, though. He’s fine. This is good. Socializing like this is good. Kirishima is his friend, someone he trusts, there’s nothing wrong with this situation. Besides, Izuku has been doing fairly okay ever since spilling his life story to Toshinori and getting discharged from the hospital. Maybe that’s another reason.

Everything is uneventful, at least, until a roll of thunder crashes outside and all Izuku’s seven kittens latch onto him like their lives depend on it. Kirishima raises his head from his text book toward the window.

“It’s raining?” Kirishima says, getting to his feet and hurrying over. Izuku manages to pry the kittens off him and follow.

“Crap.” Kirishima winces out the window; droplets of water roll down the glass surface on the outside of the house, and now that Izuku listens, he can hear rain pattering along the rooftop. “That changed super fast…”

“I should’ve known,” Izuku says, staring out the window. “I’ve been sore all day, I just didn’t think it had anything to do with the weather…”

“Wait, if you’ve been sore, then why were you sparring with me!?”

“It’s not a big deal.”

Kirishima spins around to face him. “It is a big deal!”

“Yeah, okay, I’m sorry,” Izuku says without meaning it, “but that’s not important right now. What do you wanna do?”

Kirishima regains his composure, looks out the window once more, then turns back to him again. “I could walk back to my place,” he says, “but it’s, y’know...it’s still a long ways off. I could call my parents, I guess, but like I said, they’re working late.”

Izuku thinks about this for a long moment. “...If you don’t have another option...you could stay here overnight.”

“Are you kidding me!?” Kirishima looks so shocked it’s almost comical. “No way! You’ve already done so much for me, man, I don’t wanna keep imposing on ya—”

“Pay me back with a soda or something,” Izuku says, “it’s probably better you stay here instead of trying to trudge home in the rain.”

“A soda!? For sparring, tutoring, and letting me stay overnight, you want a soda!?”

“Okay, fine. Two sodas.”

“Dude—!”

“It’s not just for you,” Izuku cuts in before he can start another argument. “I’d feel better if I knew you were here safe and not washed down some gutter because you weren’t paying attention.”

It takes a long time before Kirishima finally (reluctantly) agrees, though he refuses to do anything other than sleep on the floor. Izuku lets him, throwing him a pillow and a blanket off his bed.

“So you like colorful things,” Kirishima says thoughtfully, surveying Izuku’s bedroom as he spreads the blanket out on the floor. He hasn’t asked about the knives (yet), but then again, he hasn’t asked about a lot of things. Like Izuku’s scars.

Izuku nods. “Color is underrated,” he says, yanking another blanket from the closet and tossing it to Kirishima.

“Have you ever thought about glow in the dark star stickers?” Kirishima asks curiously. “I have some on my ceiling, they’re nice to look at sometimes when you can’t sleep.”

“...Star stickers?”

“Yeah, star stickers,” Kirishima confirms, nodding. “They glow in the dark. I don’t know if you can get them in different colors, but they’re really cool either way! I could bring you some sometime—actually, I’ll definitely bring you some sometime! You can take it as part of my rent.”

“It’s just for one night.”

“Yeah, but still.”

“You don’t—”

“Just take the damn star stickers, Midoriya.”

Izuku opens his mouth to object again, but doesn’t. Having glow in the dark star stickers on his ceiling to look at when he can’t sleep might be...kinda nice.

“...Alright. Thanks.”

Kirishima grins at him, and once Kirishima is settled in on the floor, Izuku hops onto his bed. Fistfight is in the cardboard box with her kittens, and five of the others curl up with Izuku while the other two snuggle up with Kirishima.

“Goodnight, Kirishima.”

“Night, dude.”

Izuku flicks off the bedside lamp. The nightlights scattered throughout the room keep everything considerably lit.

“Do the night lights bother you?”

“Nah, they’re fine,” Kirishima answers; in the light of one, Izuku sees the two kittens curled on his chest, and Kirishima is petting them. “Yeah, you definitely need some star stickers, though. They really complete a room.”

“I look forward to getting them,” Izuku says. “Goodnight.”

“Night dude, part two.”

Kirishima is asleep long before Izuku, and Izuku finds himself...content, actually. He’s been pushing himself lately, doing things he’s never done before—like sparring with Kirishima, using his Quirk, even having Kirishima over to his house and, furthermore, for a sleepover, but he feels...okay.

He’s really okay, actually. He feels like he’s making more progress than ever before.

To his surprise, he falls asleep easily.


The world is pixelating before his eyes. The flames move in like glitches, popping up where they shouldn’t be, their flames following the pixels and eating away at the world. The streets are empty, the sky is dark; the pavement has a long, single crack through it that stretches a full foot in diameter.

He stands amidst it with a body that doesn’t feel like his own, with a head that’s full of fog and distortion, and in the back of a mind he hears a voice, a voice that’s familiar but not his.

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

D͎̰̼͇̎͐͐ͮ̈́O͎̬̥̲̫ͣ̋͒́̂̽̉ ̲̗̥͖̈́̂̓I̤̱̫͍͙ͪ̅́̉ͥ̚ͅT̥̭̖͓̅ͣͥ̀ͩͅ.͕̤̱̣̪̪͓̿ ̗̲̪͓̭̎D̹̟̺̦͖̬Ȏ̰̮̠͉̥ͧ́ ̇ͯ̔̋͋I͓̙̟͍͑̋͑̈T̪̆͑.͈̳̄̈́̌̍̔͗ ̗̗͎̈̃̐̈D̥̘͍̰̻̪̲̊̔O̞͎̟͉͒ͅ ̪ͯͮ̏̚I͍̻̳̭̩̖ͧ̽ͦ̍͊T̆̾.̼͎͕͚̿͌͗̈́̐

 

The voice tells him to and he’s trying to hold back, but the world is being swallowed up right before his eyes. The flames grow, the buildings crumble into pixels and disappear before they hit the ground, his vision is clouding and his thought process isn’t his own.

“Izuku.”

He spins around. Across from him, amidst it all, he sees Yatchi.

But he hears Kowareta.

“That’s not your name, though.”

He grits his teeth and chokes on something. It tastes like blood. A crash drags his attention in that direction; half of a building slams into the asphalt and sends a shockwave that he barely feels.

When he turns his head back, he sees Kowareta, but she raises her hands and Signs, You know who you are.

Stop it, he thinks desperately, something rising in his chest and burning in his eyes. Stop it.

Kowareta becomes Yatchi.

“You know who you are.”

“Stop it!” he shouts, but the voice isn’t his. Another crash from the other direction, and he spins around to look behind him.

A giant pane of glass is just before his face, and he doesn’t see himself in the reflection. He sees a man, tall, with shaggy hair and an aura that radiates power. When he stumbles back, the not-him in the reflection smiles.

“This is who you are, [̸͝Ḑ҉̨͢͝*̸̛̕͢(̶̶͘#̡͢j̶̕ę͢͢a҉̸̧͡s̶̨j͠͏̧s̶̵̸*̶̵7̢͢#̛͡u̷̵͘]̵̷͏͟,” says Kowareta’s voice as the villain’s lips move. “This...is what you are.”

When he looks down, there’s blood around his feet and splattered on his clothes.

When he raises his head towards the mirror, he sees Kirishima, standing smiling like always.

A crack breaks the glass, and now Kirishima’s eyes are dead, skin pale, splattered in blood.

He stumbles backwards with a shriek, and tumbles into the crack in the pavement.

He falls.


Something touches him. Izuku screams and lashes out.

He doesn’t remember when he got a knife. He feels the impact, like metal against metal, and his eyes snap open just in time to watch pieces of his blade gleam in the moonlight, then scatter across the ground like large pieces of broken glass.

Kirishima kneels on the ground across from him, arms guarding his face, Quirk activated. Izuku is holding onto a destroyed knife, a small piece of the blade still protruding from the hilt.

He feels it a second later, amidst the panic and horror and the feeling like his chest is about to burst.

He turns it inward. It hits him immediately, the pain, the dulled senses; his vision goes black, and his ears ring. He thinks he hears Kirishima shouting something, but he can’t be sure.

“The drawer,” he gasps out, and his words are swallowed up by the ringing of his ears. “The drawer, the desk drawer, there’s a syringe—”

It’s the pain that hits him next, like his nerves are being twisted and tweaked all at once. He grits his teeth and rides it out and please hurry, please hurry, please—

Something pricks his arm, and his body doesn’t feel like his own anymore. The static begins to fade as an unnatural coolness penetrates through the burning haze, and slowly, the pain begins to ebb. The black in his sight becomes gray; he sees Kirishima, like a silhouette, kneeling on the ground in front of him again, and he hears Kirishima’s voice fade into his ears.

“—ey, hey, dude, Midoriya, Midoriya, hey, talk to me, man, please—”

Izuku drags in a shuddering breath, still clutching the hilt of the destroyed knife in a shaking hand.

“I’m okay,” Izuku chokes, gasping, heaving.

And then he makes a dive for the bedside trashcan and throws up.

“Oh hell, hell, dude, what—”

Kirishima is by him as bile burns his throat, and Izuku can feel his panic like it’s a tangible thing in the air. Kirishima doesn’t touch him, though; after what just happened a second ago, he’s probably afraid to.

Izuku stumbles back; his shoulder blades hit the wall first, and he sits there, panting, trying to get his breath back. He loosens his grip on the hilt of the knife, just because he feels too weak to maintain it.

He opens his mouth. He can’t speak.

“Just—sit here,” Kirishima says, getting to his feet, “I’m—I’m gonna find a first aid kit, or something, just stay here, don’t move.”

Izuku still can’t talk, so he nods shakily.. When Kirishima turns his back, Izuku shuts his eyes—a second later, a soft weight drops on his lap. Izuku’s eyes snap open; Marshmallow blinks at him and mrrows in his face. Izuku chokes on a shuddering sob, and just before Kirishima leaves the room, Izuku bangs the butt of the hilt into the floor twice.

Kirishima spins around. Izuku raises his other hand.

Thank you.

Kirishima smiles, and although it looks like a wince, Izuku can tell he’s trying his best to be reassuring.


Kirishima uses gauze to patch a wad of cotton over Izuku’s arm, where the syringe broke his skin. Izuku murmurs a shaky, barely distinguishable thank you, and Kirishima shakes his head.

“It’s fine,” he says, tying off the gauze and sitting back, running a hand through his hair. “It’s—It’s fine, I just—are you okay?”

No.

He’s not. He’s not.

The shattered pieces of his blade are still on the floor, where the knife had met Kirishima’s hardened arms. He thinks about it, and then he thinks about it again, and then again, and—

“No, hey, dude, no, that wasn’t your fault,” Kirishima cuts in immediately, sitting closer to him and shaking his head. “It wasn’t your fault, I shouldn’t’ve grabbed you, I just—” Kirishima stops and sits back, biting his lip. “You weren’t breathing.”

...Oh. He’s not mad at Kirishima for grabbing him, even without this new information; he’s upset that he’d lashed out, that he’d swung a knife, and he thinks about Kirishima’s quick-thinking, Kirishima’s Quirk, his arms in front of his face, and he thinks what would’ve happened if it’d been any other person, if it’d been any other Quirk, if it’d been a split second too late, if he’d been one second faster, if Kirishima had been one second slower—

“Why?”

Kirishima says nothing, and Izuku presses the heels of his hands into his eyes and drags in a long, shuddering breath.

“Why am I like this?” Izuku heaves, and the edges of his vision are black. He probably isn’t breathing right, even now, but it doesn’t matter at all. “I just, I’m—I’m doing better, I was doing better, so why—”

“Dude, it’s...it’s not your fault,” Kirishima says, shaking his head. “You lashed out because you were scared, anyone else would’ve done the same thing—”

“I was getting better,” Izuku snaps, and his voice trembles although his eyes are dry. “I’ve been trying, I thought —I thought I was, I thought, I—”

“Midoriya—”

“I could’ve k-killed—”

“You wouldn’t have,” Kirishima cuts in sharply, leaning forward and reaching out, like he’s going to put his hands on Izuku’s shoulders although no contact is made. “You wouldn’t have, Midoriya, I know you wouldn’t have.”

Izuku chokes on something—a spite-filled laugh, his frustration, his anger. “You don’t know a damn thing about me.”

“You’re wrong,” Kirishima argues. “I don’t know everything about you, you’re right, and you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want, but I think I know more about you than you realize.”

Izuku chokes on that odd not-laughter again. “You don’t know—”

“You saved me and Yatchi,” Kirishima goes on, regardless of Izuku’s protests. “When that car was hurled at us, you could’ve just saved yourself. But you didn’t.”

“That doesn’t—”

“After that, when people were running and screaming and trying to get to safety, you could’ve gone with them. You could’ve evacuated and gotten yourself out of there. But you didn’t.”

“T-That—”

“When the villain grabbed Yatchi, you didn’t have to fight back. You didn’t have to save her. You could have used her life as an opening and ran. But you didn’t, Midoriya.”

Izuku takes in a breath. So does Kirishima.

“...And, even before that,” Kirishima says, “when I was wandering around with Yatchi with no idea what to do, you stepped up to help us.”

“I-It was just because I knew Sign—”

“Still, though, you didn’t have to help us. You could’ve just kept going on about your day and kept doing your own thing, but you wanted to help us. It’s a lot smaller than the other things I mentioned, but, I think you get what I’m saying.”

Izuku wants to laugh again. And, also, he kind of wants to cry.

“...Listen, Midoriya…”

Kirishima scoots a little closer, opens his mouth, then shuts it and averts his gaze.

“There’s...a lot I don’t know about you,” Kirishima says quietly. “I don’t know why the hell your walls are lined with knives, I don’t know why you’ve got so many scars, I don’t know why you don’t smile, I don’t even know what the hell I injected you with a second ago or why it was so important. But...after everything...I think I’ve seen you, as a person. I think I’ve seen your heart.”

Izuku inhales sharply, then exhales the same way.

“Kirishima, you...I, just...don’t change, would you? Don’t ever change.”

Kirishima smiles at him, and it’s more honest this time, although Izuku can still see a bit of hurt and pain in his eyes.

“Hey, um, dude…” Kirishima rubs the back of his neck for a second. “...Um...if you don’t wanna that’s fine, and don’t worry about it at all, but, do you...want a hug?”

A hug. If Mom was in Kirishima’s position, Izuku would already be in her arms, but right now he’s not entirely sure. As much as he loves his mother’s hugs and how comforting they are, there’s just...he doesn’t know if he can handle it.

“I’m...I’m not...I don’t know,” Izuku says, then swallows hard. “It’d, I-I—It’d be nice, I just don’t…”

“...How about this,” Kirishima says, sitting a little straighter. “We can try, and the second you get uncomfortable, just pull away and I’ll let go, no questions asked.”

That...that could work. Besides, he trusts Kirishima. He gets no bad vibes from him, no threat, no danger. Kirishima is, honestly, a godsend of a friend, patient and bright when Izuku is upset and, well, to put it poetically, dark.

He nods. He has his doubts, has his fears, has his worries—right up until Kirishima’s arms actually encircle his shoulders.

He stiffens. Kirishima’s embrace is a lot different than Mom’s, but it’s not even in a bad way, it’s just...different. It’s tight, protective, secure, and even though it’s only been a few weeks since they’d actually become friends, Izuku feels safe.

Actually, it reminds him of Kowareta’s hugs. It’s that same kind of feeling, that same kind of “I’m not letting go,” that same kind of “I’m here for you.”

It takes a second, a second that seems to last no less than an eternity, but his arms move, the hilt of the broken knife slips from his hands, and he hugs Kirishima back.

“I’m trying,” he says, and his voice cracks. It’s not because he’s crying, because he isn’t, he’s just really, really frustrated. And disappointed. And angry. “I’m trying, I’m really trying—”

“And you’re doing a damn good job,” Kirishima adds firmly, squeezing him tighter. It’s still hard to breathe, but it’s okay this time. “You’ve seen hell but you’re still trying so hard and dude, that’s... really freaking admirable.”

Izuku exhales shakily. “I’m—”

“If you say you aren’t doing a good enough job, don’t even think about it. You’ve been pushing yourself lately, and you’ve really gotta learn to cut yourself some slack. And if that means staying home and missing a day of sparring, that is fine by me.”

Hearing those words means a lot to Izuku. It means more to him than he could properly express in his own words, so he just nods against Kirishima’s shoulder and does nothing more.

He doesn’t really know how long they’re on the floor like that together, but it definitely lasts a while. Eventually, Kirishima pulls back, and Izuku lets go. Izuku feels dizzy and disoriented; the Quirk suppressants did their job quicker than normal, considering it’s a stronger, more concentrated dose injected straight into his bloodstream in comparison to the pills, but still. Quirk suppressants have always made him feel off and sick, and now is no exception.  

“Listen, you’re gonna hate me for what I’m about to say,” Kirishima says, bringing Izuku out of his daze, “but you should probably eat a little something, even if it’s just a couple of crackers.”

That’s not a pleasant thought. Izuku shakes his head.

“Dude, I could feel your ribs, and you were literally just puking, you’re going to make yourself really sick at this rate—”

“If I eat something now it’s gonna come right back up,” Izuku says, shaking the thought from his mind. “It’s better if I just, wait until tomorrow.”

Kirishima bites his lip, but nods. “Do you, I don’t know...you wanna go back to sleep, or do you think you’ll be up for a while longer?”

“I’ll probably just...pass out in a few minutes, actually,” Izuku says, already feeling lightheaded. “The Quirk suppressants really mess with my senses…”

Kirishima blanches. “That’s what that syringe was?”

“I’ll explain it tomorrow,” Izuku says, “I promise, I’ll—I’ll tell you everything. For now, I just…”

“Right, bed, yeah,” Kirishima says, and he rises to his feet, wincing a bit. He holds a hand out to Izuku right afterwards, and Izuku reaches out, takes it, and lets Kirishima pull him to his feet. He staggers for a second, but doesn’t fall.

“Thanks, for...for being here,” Izuku says, stomach finally settling to something almost normal. “And...I’m sorry, about the knife—”

“Seriously, don’t apologize for that anymore,” Kirishima says. “Like I said, I’m sure I would’ve done the same thing. Just, try and get some sleep, yeah? I’m here if you need me.”

That comfort is enough.


When Inko gets home around noon the next day (she’d been supposed to get home sooner, but the airline was delayed a few hours due to the weather), she sees Izuku’s stack of homework on the coffee table, along with a stack of school books she doesn’t recognize. Her first thought is that Kirishima is visiting; after all, there’s no one else Izuku is close enough to invite over.

It’s odd, though, that Inko hasn’t seen either Kirishima or Izuku since arriving home. Not even the kittens have greeted her.

Confused, and a little concerned, she sets down her things and heads down the hallway toward Izuku’s room.

She knocks, and when there’s no answer, she opens the door and peaks inside.

It’s...odd, to say the least.

Kirishima and Izuku are curled up together on the floor, covered in at least five blankets. The seven kittens are on top of the boys, and it looks like Fistfight brought her two kittens out of the cardboard box and is curled around them on the edge of the pillow. Kirishima and Izuku are both sleeping soundly, soundly enough to not hear her come home or open the door, which is...very strange to see Izuku do.

Inko retreats from the room quickly as though not to disturb the peace, and she heads into the kitchen to start making lunch for whenever they wake up.

Chapter Text

Waking up is a slow occasion, which is odd because usually it’s the exact opposite. Actually sleeping in and of itself is something he can’t do a whole lot of, so the fact that he’s waking up at all already adds enough oddity to the situation without the fact that he’s waking up peacefully instead of in the thralls of some nightmare.

He wakes up in warmth and in peace, blinking his eyes open slowly and looking around. He’s still on the floor, wrapped in Kirishima’s arms and about three blankets. The kittens are all over the two of them, either curled up or sprawled, and Izuku doesn’t think he’s ever been this blatantly content before upon waking up.

Not to mention, the static has completely faded from his head thanks to the Quirk suppressants Kirishima injected him with last night. He still has to explain all of that.

Kirishima is still sleeping, it would seem, so Izuku doesn’t wake him or get up. He doesn’t have any reason to get up anyway what with how warm and comfortable it is here on the floor. He could easily stay here for another week and have no regrets.

So he shifts closer, until his forehead is touching Kirishima’s chest, and the sirens don’t even go off in his head like they usually do. He doesn’t think he’s ever been this blatantly calm before in his entire life. It’s odd.

He shuts his eyes and breathes in a long breath. Now that he’s slightly more awake, he feels a bit of what he’d felt last night; nauseous, dizzy, sickly. But he’s so comfortable right now that he’s completely okay with enduring it. He really doesn’t want this to end.

“Buddy? You awake?”

He hears a rustle by his head. A second later, Kirishima’s touches his shoulder lightly. “Dude?”

Izuku nods without opening his eyes.

“Do you...wanna get up?”

Izuku shakes his head. “If you want to that’s fine,” he says, even though he’ll admit (not out loud) that the floor would be much less comfortable without Kirishima, “but I’m just gonna stay here.”

“Yeah, that’s cool.” Kirishima settles down again and drapes his arm back over Izuku. “I didn’t really wanna get up, either. Just wanted to know if you did.”

Izuku nods again. “Cool.”

It’s quiet for a while, until Kirishima pokes his shoulder again. “You feeling a little better now?”

“Yeah,” Izuku says. “...Lowkey feel like I’m gonna throw up, but it’s fine.”

“Oh, crap.” Kirishima shifts again. Izuku cracks his eyes open to see him sitting up, carefully pulling the kittens off him and settling them closer to Izuku. “Do you, uh, do you want medicine or something? Should I bring a trashcan over?”

Izuku shakes his head. “It’s fine,” he says, snuggling further into the blankets. The kittens that had previously been laying on top of Kirishima now cuddle up with him, and he closes his eyes again. “I’ll make a dive for the bathroom if I have to. I’m fine right now.”

Kirishima is silent for a time. “...If you’re sure,” he says, and settles down again. The cats make no move to return to him, content with their new positions, and Kirishima drapes his arm around Izuku again, mindful of them. “Man, I’m just glad you’re alright, dude. Last night was…”

He doesn’t finish, but he doesn’t really need to. Izuku nods slowly, thinking, then decides not to and settles down again.

“We can talk about it later,” he says with a silent promise to himself to do so. “I promised I’d tell you about the Quirk suppressants and everything, so…”

Kirishima sighs. “As much as I’d love to know, you don’t have to tell me anything you aren’t comfortable with,” he reminds, keeping his tone soft. “You’ve obviously seen some crap, I don’t wanna make you relive anything.”

“It’s okay. I don’t mind talking about it.”

“Wait, really?”

“I’m not gonna run around shouting it to everyone,” Izuku intones, “but I don’t mind telling you.”

“Alright.” Kirishima shifts again. “As long as you’re okay with it.”

Izuku hums. He feels more awake now than before, which is disappointing, but he supposes it can’t be helped. The more awake he becomes, the less stellar he feels, and eventually, he sits up and scoops the kittens off him, depositing them onto the blanket below.

“Be back,” he says, rising to his feet. He feels unsteady, but it’s nothing compared to last night, so he counts it as an improvement.

“Oh, sure.” Kirishima sits up, then stands. “You okay, or…?”

“Remember that thing I said about throwing up?”

“...Oh.” Kirishima lets out a long sigh and runs his hand through his hair, and the silence stretches for a time. “Is it...is it really normal for stuff like this to happen, Midoriya?”

Izuku pauses, then exhales slowly. “No, it’s not,” he says. “It shouldn’t be. But it’s my normal.”

There’s really nothing else Kirishima can say after that, so Izuku goes ahead into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind him.

He doesn’t actually throw up, which surprises but relieves him, so he just splashes some water on his face to clear the remaining drowsiness and heads back into the room. The kittens are wandering around; Fistfight has her own kittens back in their cardboard box while the previous six roam the floor or hop onto Izuku’s bed.

Kirishima is folding up the blankets they’d used last night, and he raises his head when Izuku re-enters the room. “You doing okay?” he asks, standing with an armful of blankets.

Izuku nods. “Fine,” he says, picking a pillow up off the ground to help out. “I think I’ll probably feel better once I have something in my system, but it’s hard to say.”

“Okay, but as soon as you feel like it, we’re definitely going out later on to get those sodas I promised you.”

Izuku blinks. “We’re…?”

“Whenever you want to,” Kirishima answers, turning to him. “It could be today or it could be a month from now, but I really wanna do it.”

“I was joking.”

“So you don’t like soda?”

“No, I do, I just—”

“Then it’s settled, we’re doing it.”

“You don’t have to—”

Kirishima actually chucks one of the blankets at him. It smacks Izuku in the face and successfully cuts him off, which he supposes was Kirishima’s intention all along.

“Dude. Honestly.”

Izuku yanks down the blanket from his face and meets Kirishima’s eyes.

“You’re doing so much for me,” Kirishima says. “Just, let me find small ways to return the favor. Alright?”

Izuku stands there with an armful of blankets and wide eyes. Eventually, he nods, and Kirishima turns away, satisfied.

Izuku waits until Kirishima least expects it before hurling the blankets at him. They hit the back of Kirishima’s head, and Kirishima makes a small yelp of surprise and spins around.

“Now we’re even,” Izuku says flatly.

Kirishima grins at him, and Izuku’s sure that if he had the kind of face that could smile, he’d probably grin back at him.


“Morning, boys!” Mom greets cheerfully, beaming at the two of them as they head into the kitchen. “Good to see you up. I have breakfast ready.”

“Great!” Kirishima says, never one for proper etiquette. “Thanks for having me, Inko-san, Midoriya.”

“We’re glad to have you,” Mom says, which is exactly what Izuku is thinking. She has already dragged up an extra chair from the hall closet, and the table is set. “Go ahead and have a seat, I’ll bring everything over.”

“Do you want help?” Izuku asks, but Mom is already shaking her head and turning away. He doesn’t persist; he knows her well enough.

Izuku actually eats and stomachs his breakfast, which is fantastic. One of the reasons he ate more than he generally does (still not being that much, but anyway) was because he kept catching Kirishima side-eyeing him, concerned, and Izuku had promised that he’d eat breakfast this morning, so he was left with no choice.

Mom and Kirishima talk most, and Izuku inputs his two cents whenever he feels like it, though he mainly leaves it to them. Mom doesn’t know much about Kirishima aside from the fact that he and Izuku are friends, so them having the chance to get to know each other like this is good.

“So, how did you and Izuku meet?” Mom asks curiously, when they’re about midway through breakfast. It’s a fair question; considering Izuku is homeschooled, plus not being the biggest fan of socializing, there aren’t many opportunities for him to make friends.

“Oh, I met him at a park,” Kirishima answers, setting his chopsticks aside for the moment. “I was watching a little deaf girl, but I didn’t know any Sign Language, so at the time Midoriya was kind of a godsend.”

“I could teach you more Sign Language if you wanted me to,” Izuku says. His own chopsticks have been sitting off to the side for a long while now. “I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years.”

Kirishima puts his hands together. “Dude. Buddy. Pal. You’re gonna have to stop helping me out so much until I can repay you with something.”

“I already said you could buy me a soda.”

“Yeah, you did. One soda.”

“And you’re bringing me star stickers.”

“They’re just star stickers, you’re literally giving me free tutoring lessons, sparring lessons, you’ve let me invade your house—”

“I invited you over.”

“Dude.”

“You don’t have to get me anything at all, I don’t really care either way.”

Kirishima takes up his chopsticks and aims them at Izuku pointedly. “You, my friend, need to stop being so stubborn.”

Mom’s soft laughter brings Izuku and Kirishima out of their argument, and she waves a hand idly when they turn to her wide-eyed. She has her other hand by her mouth.

“You two are great,” she says, lowering her hand and smiling. “Eijirou-kun, feel free to come over any time you’d like. You aren’t imposing on either of us.”

“Are you sure?” He hadn’t really accepted it from Izuku, but maybe hearing Mom say it too will finally drive it home. “I don’t wanna—”

“We just said you’re not imposing,” Izuku says, taking up his chopsticks to eat again in a silent way of saying he’s through discussing this. “Besides, I like having you here, so it’s a win for both of us.”

Kirishima stares at him, and so does Mom for just a moment, though she breaks it by smiling. Izuku thinks it may be one of the most genuine smiles he’s ever seen from her.

Kirishima heads out shortly thereafter with a promise to return with Izuku’s star stickers. As for the sodas, he said he wanted to make it a more special occasion and take Izuku out to one of the shops downtown.

“You can pick your own that way, too,” Kirishima says as he slips on his shoes by the door. “We’ll make an outing out of it. Goof off downtown or something. Maybe I can get you a hoodie, you like those right?”

Considering the fact that Kirishima’s ever only seen him wearing a hoodie, and the fact that Kirishima’s ever only seen him wearing different hoodies every day, Izuku supposes his assumption is well founded.

“If you want to, I won’t stop you,” Izuku says simply. “...And I don’t think I could stop you if I tried anyway, so…”

Kirishima grins, straightening up again. “Well, I’ll be back with the stickers soon,” he says, turning towards the door. “Until then—oh, before I forget.” He pauses and looks to Izuku again. “That trainer you’re working with—”

“I’ll talk to him tomorrow,” Izuku says, already guessing Kirishima’s question. “Sorry, I just think it’s better to take it easy after last night—”

“No, I was just gonna say that you probably shouldn’t rush back into things,” Kirishima corrects. “I wasn’t gonna ask about training with him, I just wanted to remind you not to push yourself too hard.”

“...Oh. I see. Thanks.”

Kirishima smiles one final time, then heads out. Izuku waves goodbye until the door shuts behind him.


“He’s a nice boy,” Inko says, washing dishes while Izuku brings her the bowls from the table. “I’m—thank you—I’m glad the two of you became friends.”

Izuku nods. One of his kittens is hanging off his sleeve precariously. “I’m glad we’re friends too,” he says, bending down and picking Fistfight up from the floor. She’s skinnier than what she should be, but she’s gained weight since finding a home with the Midoriyas, which is good. “Kirishima is...he’s a good friend.”

Inko nods, fills the bowls with water to soak, then cuts the tap. “So,” she says, grabbing a towel and drying her hands with them, “do you...want to tell me what happened last night?”

Her back is turned to him, but she hears his shark intake of breath, followed by a sigh. “I...just, y’know...nightmares. The usual.”

Inko freezes and bites her lip, but nods steadily afterwards. “And Eijirou? He was there?”

“He was, yeah. He...he was.”

Inko turns around to face him finally; all his cats had somehow climbed onto him while she had her back turned, and now he has Fistfight in his arms and the older six kittens either on his shoulders or hanging off his arms.

Izuku looks down uncomfortably for a moment, shifting his weight. “He...he had to inject me with one of my new Quirk suppressants. Looking back on it now that things have kinda blown over, I hate that I made him do it, but...I don’t...if he hadn’t done it, I...”  

Inko nods, still biting her lip. It’s hard, situations like this. “You wouldn’t have asked him to do it if you didn’t need to, Izuku. It isn’t your fault.”

“I know.” But the tone of his voice says the opposite. “I just...it’s…” He stops, gives up, then shakes his head. His eyes are dull. “It’s...difficult. S-Sometimes.”

Inko sighs, but shakes her head. “You’ll get there,” she says gently. “It’s not always going to be this difficult.”

“I know.” His voice holds more confidence this time, just enough for Inko to notice. “I know. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiles softly, then pauses. “...Izuku?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you...sure you’re feeling alright?”

Izuku blinks at her, and it’s only now she realizes how glassy his eyes look. “What?”

“I know yesterday was rough,” Inko says, setting the hand towel to the side, “but, aside from the usual, do you feel any worse?”

Izuku blinks at her again. Fistfight squirms in his arms, and he lets her go. “I don’t...think so?”

Inko reaches out and presses her hand against his forehead. He doesn’t flinch; by this point, he trusts her enough to not to.  

“You feel warm,” Inko murmurs, lowering her hand again. “I don’t think it’s a fever, but if you notice anything out of the usual, let me know, okay?”

Izuku bites his lip, probably a habit he picked up from her. “Inko-san—”

“Izuku.” She takes his hands in hers, and she can feel his scars against her smooth fingers. “You have to tell me if something’s wrong. Whatever it is, we can work through it together, but I have to know. Okay?”

Izuku swallows hard, but nods shakily. “Okay.”


 

When Eijirou knocks about half an hour later, it’s Izuku who goes and opens the door. Eijirou has a little brown paper bag of something, which he holds up excitedly for Izuku to see.

“Got ‘em!” Eijirou says, slipping off his shoes hastily. When he sees Inko further down the hall, he lifts a hand and waves enthusiastically. “Hi Inko-san!”

Inko waves back with a smile, and Eijirou turns back to Izuku. “You wanna go ahead and put them in the room?” Eijirou asks, looking hardly able to contain his excitement.

Izuku nods, and Inko sees his eyes shine. “Yeah, let’s go.”

“Great!” Eijirou reaches out as though to grab Izuku’s wrist, but then stops short, flinching back. “Um, I, erm—”

Izuku lets out a sigh and raises his arm. “It’s okay.”

Eijirou beams, grabs Izuku by the wrist, and drags him excitedly out of the room and into Izuku’s bedroom. Inko hears the door swing shut (it doesn’t latch, just closes), and she shakes her head with a smile.

Eijirou is just what Izuku needs. Someone cheerful and outgoing in nature, but someone who can also respect Izuku’s own boundaries and not push him into doing anything he isn’t comfortable with. It’s good that Izuku has a friend like him now; Inko has always done whatever she could to coax Izuku out of his shell, but maybe having someone his own age, a friend and not a parent, can influence him further.

She goes back to her papers, still smiling.


 

“I think you’re really gonna like the stickers a lot,” Kirishima says, laying on Izuku’s bed and staring up at the ceiling with his fingers by his face, making a frame. “We could put some there,” he points, “there,” he points again, “anywhere you want. They’re gonna look awesome.”

Izuku is on his bed as well, though he’s laying on his front and scrolling idly through his phone, looking at pictures of constellations. The bag of stickers is on the bedside table.

“Find anything you like?” Kirishima asks, sitting up and repositioning himself so he’s laying beside Izuku in the same position. He glances over Izuku’s shoulder at his phone. “Got anything in mi—oh I like that idea, putting them on a ceiling fan. Hey, I bet we could get some glow in the dark paint somewhere and make some of them look like shooting stars. What do you think?”

Izuku nods stiffly, though there’s something else on his mind. “Hey, Kirishima, this...this might not be the best time, and you can say no if you want to, but do you wanna hear about my past?”

Kirishima stares at him like he’d just suggested chugging a jar of glow in the dark paint.“That came out of nowhere. Why do you wanna tell me now?”

“Because I want to stop thinking about finally telling you,” Izuku answers, sitting up, “and...I wanted to do it before the star thing, that way I have it off my chest.”  

Kirishima turns away for a moment, frowning, but then he nods. “If you wanna tell me, pal, I’m...I’m all ears.”

Izuku takes in a breath to steel himself. It doesn’t really bother him much anymore, talking about his past. It’s a part of himself he’s moved on from and never has to go back to. The repercussions of it are still here, but when it comes to Kirishima, his first friend after his mom...he can tell him.

“So...I, um...I didn’t always have this Quirk,” Izuku says slowly, holding his knees against his chest with his arms wrapped around them. “I was originally Quirkless, just like my sister. Up until I was nine, we—we lived with and were raised by villains.”

Kirishima’s eyes widen, but he has no tremendous outburst of shock, which Izuku appreciates. “I guess that kinda explains all the scars,” Kirishima says, pointing at one near Izuku’s neck. “Damn, dude, you must’ve seen hell. Where’s your sister now?”

“She’s—” This, this is something he’ll always have a hard time saying. “She’s dead, Kirishima.”

“...Oh.” Kirishima’s voice is small, and Izuku doesn’t trust himself to look at Kirishima’s face. “Midoriya, I’m—I’m really sorry—”

“Me too,” Izuku says, something rising in his throat. “A-Anyway, basically what happened is, she was killed, I flipped out, the leader gave me a Quirk trying to slow me down, I escaped, Inko-san adopted me, and...here we are. That’s the shortened version.”

“And...the longer version?”

Izuku swallows thickly, then shakes his head. He’d told Toshinori specifically because Toshinori was a retired hero and Izuku had no doubt he’d be able to handle the extent of what happened; but for Kirishima, Izuku doesn’t want to make him carry everything, not now. Maybe someday. Not right now.

Kirishima gets it, and doesn’t push for answers. “I’m—I’m really sorry,” he says, shaking his head, “and even that feels stupid to say.”

“It’s not stupid,” Izuku says, looking away. “Thanks. Sorry for dropping that on you all of a sudden.”

“No, it’s fine,” Kirishima says, shaking his head. “I just—um—I don’t know what to say.”

“That’s fair.” It’s getting awkward, so Izuku bites his lip, then changes the subject altogether. “Do you wanna go ahead and get started on the star stickers? I’m actually really excited about putting them up.”

“You are?” Kirishima turns to him, then tilts his head. “...This is how you look when you’re excited”

“I try, at least.”

“Well, that’s good enough for me.” Kirishima beams at him, trying to lighten the mood, and reaches over and snatches the paper bag off the table. “Y’know, I kinda noticed, the corners of your eyes have this little light to them when you’re in a good mood.”

Izuku blinks. “Is that so?”

Kirishima nods, and Izuku ponders. Mom has always told him that he got the gleam in his eyes when he was happy, or content, or as Kirishima put it, in a good mood. He finds it interesting that Kirishima picked up on it so quickly, and it’s nice that Kirishima knows how to tell when he’s genuinely happy instead of thinking he’s constantly dead inside.

They get to their feet, and Kirishima opens the paper bag. “Let’s get this started, then!”


“Little to the left.”

“Dude you just said that.”

“Further left.”

“Okay, this any better?”

“Too far, go back.”

“Midoriya, please, this is really dangerous.”

“It’s not dangerous in the whole scheme of things,” Izuku says, balancing precariously on Kirishima’s shoulders and reaching for the ceiling with the star stickers. Kirishima is standing on his bed, his hands clasped around Izuku’s ankles to hold him steady. “This is one of the safer-dangerous things out there.”

“What does that even mean?” Kirishima cries, stumbling. “Dude please this is super precarious.”

“I’m almost done, just a little bit more to the left.”

“I don’t like this, no sir, nooooo sirrr —dangit Fistfight now is not the time to like me.”

“What’s she doing?” Izuku asks, eyes focused on plastering one of the stickers to the ceiling.

“She’s rubbing against my ankles,” is Kirishima’s answer, voice strained. “Fistfight, please, do this when I’m not standing precariously on a bED—!”

Kirishima’s voice rises in volume and pitch, and suddenly he and Izuku are tumbling, stumbling, then falling. Izuku manages to steel himself and tuck and roll upon landing, but Kirishima isn’t as lucky and barely manages to fire up his Quirk before slamming back-first into the ground.

“...Dude,” Kirishima breathes, staring upwards, “we are not— oh the star stickers actually look really nice—but ow, we are not doing that again—”

“I still have ten stickers—”

“Put them on the wall or something. Fistfight’s out to kill me, I’m not doing that again.”

There’s a knock at the door, and when Izuku and Kirishima turn in that direction, Mom pokes her head in. “I heard a thud,” she says, frowning at the two of them on the floor. “...Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Izuku says. “Kirishima?”

Kirishima wheezes. “Yeah I’m good. Never better. Just trying to get the stickers on the ceiling.”

Mom blinks at him, then turns and looks up at the star-coated ceiling. “We have a ladder, you know,” she says, looking at Kirishima and Izuku again. “And several step stools.”

“Oh.” Kirishima flops back on the ground. Fistfight has gone back to ignoring him, rather pouncing into Izuku’s lap innocently and rubbing her head under his chin. “Oh, this is perfect. Perfect.”

Kirishima is such a drama queen and this entire situation is so absurd that Izuku almost wants to laugh.


The next time Izuku finds himself at Dagobah Beach for training, Aizawa isn’t there.

“He was asked to accompany a group of pros on a hideout mission,” Toshinori explains when Izuku ponders his whereabouts out loud. “He’ll probably be joining us a little further into the week, but knowing him he’ll be absent for a while.”

“That’s alright,” Izuku says; after what happened the other night, the thought of using his Quirk again, even in a controlled environment with Aizawa right there to shut it off, still makes him feel very sick. “What do you want to work on today? Is there something specific?”

“Actually, there’s not much I can think of right now that I can genuinely help you with,” Toshinori admits, shaking his head. “I could give you a couple hand-to-hand combat pointers, but you seem to have that figured out as well, and you certainly don’t need any weapons-training from me. Not that that’s a requirement for U.A. in the first place.”

Izuku supposes this makes sense. All Izuku really needs to figure out at this point is his Quirk. Everything else—his skill, his abilities—is pretty set in stone, and there’s no need to modify it.

“Are you going to be at U.A. this year, Toshinori?” Izuku asks at long last, when the silence stretches into a more uncomfortable zone.

Toshinori pauses, but nods. “I am,” he says, turning towards the horizon. “I’m searching for a successor at the moment, actually. There is someone I have in mind, but...I would like to wait until I know for sure I have the right person.”

Izuku nods, turning to look at the horizon likewise. “...On a totally unrelated subject, I have this friend I want you to meet.”


“HE SAID YES!?”

“He said yes,” Izuku says, nodding. He’s sitting on the headboard of his bed, holding the phone to his ear. His cats curl in his lap or on his chest, and his nightlights shine through the dark. “He wants to start meeting with you tomorrow if you’re up to it.”

“HELL YEAH, OH MAN THIS IS AMAZING, DUDE THANK YOU SO MUCH YOU’RE THE BEST, I COULD NEVER REPAY YOU, NEVER—”

“...Are you...crying?”

“THE WORLD DOESN’T DESERVE YOU, MIDORIYA IZUKU! YOU’RE TOO GREAT!”

Izuku exhales sharply through his nose, but argues not. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says. “Remember, four o’clock, in the morning, at Dagobah Beach. Don’t forget it. Write it down on your arm if you need to.”

“You got it, bro! I’ll see you then, alright? Oh, and make sure to get a good night’s sleep. Remember, I’m just a phone call away if you need me. Just say the word, I’ll come running.”

Izuku snorts again, shaking his head. “Goodnight, Kirishima.”

“Night, dude!”

He hangs up and sets his phone on the side table before snuggling beneath his comforters, taking his cats with him. Despite her attitude, Fistfight is surprisingly gentle with Izuku, and she’s currently curled against his chest, right where his heart is. Her three kittens are in their cardboard box on the other side of the room, snuggled up in their own blankets. Fistfight will return to them soon, Izuku knows this, she always does, but for now, she’s choosing to stay with him as though he were also her kitten.

Izuku glances up at the ceiling, at the star stickers he and Kirishima had put up there earlier, and he can’t believe where he is now. This time six years ago he’d been orphaned and alone, and now he has so much. There’s still a lot he’s getting through and a lot he has to deal with, but the fact he’s come so far already gives him more hope for the future.

He grabs his phone and snaps a picture of the ceiling. It looks better in person of course, but that doesn’t matter; he sets the photo as his phone’s background, then settles down again and falls asleep.


He’s on his way to Dagobah beach the next morning—early, of course—when Kirishima barrels past him energetically, whooping and leaping and pounding his fists into the air.

“Whoo! Yeah, let’s do this!” Kirishima hollers, launching into the air and fist-bumping the sky. “I’m so freaking pumped!”

“It’s four in the morning,” Izuku says simply, falling in step beside Kirishima when he waits up for him. “You should probably keep your voice down.”

“I know I know, but this is awesome! I can’t help it!” At this, he punches his fist into his open palm, looking so excited he could burst. “I’m super hyped, dude. This trainer guy you’ve been meeting with, he any good?”

Izuku pauses, pondering. So far, Aizawa has been far more of a help than Toshinori, which makes sense considering Izuku’s weaknesses and Aizawa’s strengths, but one thing Toshinori does have is experience, skill, and advice. After another second or so, he nods.

“He’s good,” Izuku answers. “He definitely knows what he’s talking about, if nothing else, and I’m sure he can give you a few more pointers on using your Quirk in battle, since I’m not exactly the most adept at that.”

Kirishima winces, but it lasts no longer than a moment before he’s beaming again. “Well, yeah, if you admire him, then he’s gotta be good,” Kirishima says, turning to him, and he’s run ahead before Izuku can ask what he means. With a sigh, Izuku jogs to catch up.

Toshinori is waiting for them on the garbage-covered shoreline of Dagobah beach. Aizawa isn’t there again, which Izuku was expecting, but Toshinori turns to them as they rush toward him.

“Ahh, morning,” Toshinori says, smiling. Izuku and Kirishima stop in front of him, panting (though Kirishima is far more dramatic about it than Izuku). “You must be Kirishima. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Really!?” Kirishima stammers, eyes wide. “I’ve heard a lot about you too, Toshinori-san! I look forward to working for you!” And then, with a low bow, “Thank you for having me!”

Toshinori waves a hand idly, and Kirishima straightens up again and runs a hand through his hair, nervous. He still has absolutely no idea that he’s talking to All Might. Judging by the look on his face and his current enthusiasm, he hasn’t got so much as a suspicion.

“Well, I won’t do any beating around the bush,” Toshinori says with a smile. “Kirishima-kun, what exactly is it you want to do?”

“I want to save people!” Kirishima shouts the words like he’s said them his whole life. “I want to be there if someone needs me, and I want to be able to do it as best I can, Sir!”

“Toshinori will do,” Toshinori says, shaking his head. He glances at Izuku, who shrugs, then turns back to Kirishima. “That’s a brilliant goal to have, Kirishima. You’ll make a fine hero with that attitude.”

Kirishima beams and turns to Izuku, who wishes, for the life of him, that he could return the gesture.


“Hauling garbage,” Kirishima strains, breathless, as he drags a loaded crate across the sands. “When you said we were training, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

“Training starts with your mind and body,” Izuku says, standing off to the side and watching idly. “We work on the ‘body’ part first, then the mind.”

Kirishima stops momentarily and stares at him, breathing heavily. “Then why aren’t you hauling anything?”

Izuku stares. “I’m literal skin and bones. The crates would sooner haul me.”

Kirishima sighs, but accepts it and keeps going.

Izuku notices Toshinori watching Kirishima, every so often casting a glance at Izuku, who doesn’t know how to respond other than shrugging or blinking. He ponders Toshinori’s search for a successor, One For All and what worthy person would eventually wield it in All Might’s place. It’s an odd thought.

He turns his gaze to Kirishima again, still struggling with the crates. “On second thought, lemme push. You pull.”  


“He’s a good kid,” Toshinori says, after a full morning of hauling and shunting. Kirishima bid Izuku goodbye and is heading off now, jogging down the sidewalk despite being working for hours.

Izuku watches Kirishima leave until he’s disappeared around a corner, then nods simply. “Yeah, he is.”

Toshinori is silent for a long moment. “Do you trust him, Midoriya?”

Izuku returns the silence for an equally long amount of time. He hasn’t known Kirishima for very long and he’s been notorious for having trust issues, and for good reason too, but already, he considers Kirishima to be a close friend, maybe even something of a brother.

“I do,” Izuku answers at long last. “I trust him with my life.”

Toshinori nods, taking it to heart, but says nothing. “Well, you should be heading home too, kiddo,” he says, turning to Izuku once more. “You and Kirishima can come back tomorrow, and I’ll ask Aizawa when he’ll be returning.”

The thought of working with his Quirk again still doesn’t appeal to Izuku, and he’d almost rather faceplant into the garbage than think about it, but he knows it must be done if he wants to get to U.A. and furthermore, become a hero at all, so he nods.

“Thank you,” he says. “I appreciate you doing this for us.”

“Think nothing of it,” Toshinori says, and although he’s smiling, there’s something very sad and tired about the look in his eyes, his demeanor. “I’m glad to be of service. Now, go ahead home, kid. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Izuku nods. “See you.” He sets off, jogging, down the sidewalk. He usually walks, but he feels a spring in his step today. Maybe those star stickers are a bigger morale booster than he realized.


Izuku sits on his bed late that night, scrolling through his contacts. He’d gotten Toshinori’s number from his mother, and that’s saved there, although he has yet to start an actual text conversation with the hero. Izuku doesn’t have many contacts on his phone at all; back before now, he’d had Mom’s, but that was it. Kirishima’s was added recently, as was Toshinori’s, so he has a total of three numbers on his little phone.

He’s just about to shut it down for the night when a text from Kirishima pops up. Izuku opens it.

[Kirishima]
Hey dude you wanna go out for those sodas tomorrow??? I’m not doing anything else after training I don’t think, and it’s the weekend so we’ll have plenty of time. What do you say?

Izuku doesn’t really have to think about it. He shifts into a more comfortable position and leans against his headboard; the surrounding kittens mrrow in protest to his movements, but settle down again quickly.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Sure, that sounds fantastic. What time and what place?

[Kirishima]
OH YAY!! \o/
As for a time….probably after training, or, like, whatever works for you. Maybe around noon? There’s a soda shop downtown, so just meet me by the plaza and I’ll show you to it.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Cool. See you.

After a long second of contemplation, Izuku sends another text.

[Midoriya Izuku]
:)

[Kirishima]
SHDFKJIJEFSKLDF
YOU SMILED.
HOLY CRAP YOU SMILED.

[Midoriya Izuku]
It’s. It’s an emoji. I’m not actually smiling physically.

[Kirishima]
YEAH BUT YOU’RE SMILING ON THE INSIDE RIGHT??
THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS.
DUDEDUDE I SCREENSHOTTED IT HOPE YOU DON’T MIND
DUDE I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU.

[Midoriya Izuku]

It’s. It’s just an emoticon.

[Kirishima]
ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ
SO HECKING PROUD OF YOU.

[Midoriya Izuku]
-_-

[Kirishima]
Ahh, now you’re back to normal. ANYWAY, I’ll see you tomorrow!! Don’t forget!

[Midoriya Izuku]
I couldn’t possibly forget. See you then. :)

[Kirishima]
YOU’RE JUST TOYING WITH ME NOW.

[Midoriya Izuku]
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

[Kirishima]
JWOLKSKPOKSDF:LDSKFL:DF

[Midoriya Izuku]
Goodnight, Kirishima.

[Kirishima]
Ok you win this time, night dude!! Cya tomorrow!

[Midoriya Izuku]
See you.

Izuku shuts off his phone, puts it on the charger on his nightstand, then turns over on his side and tries to fall asleep.


He wakes up to a sharp jolt of something, and as soon as his eyes are open, he feels like he’s being stabbed repeatedly in the head.

He jerks into an upright position, clutching his head a second later. His skin is burning. There’s a tightness in his chest, and he feels his Quirk, raging and strong and there even though he hadn’t turned it on out of his own free will.

His cats are meowing at him, concerned, but Izuku pays them no mind. He fumbles with the nightstand, still clutching his head with the other hand, feeling like his insides are going to become his outsides any second now. He tries forcing his Quirk inward on himself, but he can’t. He never can when stuff like this happens.

He finds the syringe of Quirk suppressants in the drawer. He’d just used one the other night, he hadn’t wanted to use one again so soon, it isn’t healthy, but he’s never been healthy and he can’t not use them right now so he does it anyway. He injects himself, shuts his eyes to ride it out, then tosses the syringe back into the drawer and slams it shut with a shaking hand. His whole body is shaking, actually.

He feels his Quirk get pulled back by the suppressants moments later, but it isn’t gone for good. He knows it isn’t. For a time it is but it’ll be back soon, it’ll be back and stronger than ever and he can’t take a second dose of suppressants, not immediately after a first dose.

He gets to his feet shakily and stumbles into the bathroom—or, rather, the first thing he actually does is stumble into the wall, but he’s aiming for the bathroom. He trips over the doorway and catches himself on the bathroom sink, wrists burning when he lands on them wrong.

He fumbles with the lightswitch next, and the white fluorescent lights seem to burn through his eyes and into his skull. It makes the pounding in his head skyrocket, but he ignores it in favor of rummaging through the bathroom’s top drawer.

Izuku finds the thermometer after minimal searching, and once he has it in his hand, he stumbles back against the wall and sinks to the floor. He holds the on button until the digital number zero blinks at him, then settles the tip of the device under his tongue and holds it there. His hands are shaking worse than before and he’s sure it won’t be an accurate reading, but he doesn’t have a choice right now.

It feels like an eternity between turning on the thermometer and hearing the small beeps to indicate it has a reading, and when those beeps finally come, Izuku pulls the device from his mouth and stares at it. The floor spins, but he manages to get the numbers 39.1 for the fever reading.

Yeah, that hadn’t just been a feeling. He is burning up.

Mom hasn’t seemed to notice yet, which he has to thank the Quirk suppressants for, coupled with his quick reflexes. He’d managed to get to the suppressants before the involuntary activation of his Quirk woke his mother, which is good. It’s very good.

It means she can’t stop him.


Izuku isn’t crying, but it’s about as close to crying as he’s ever gotten since living with Inko.

He’s only been with her for two years, and this is the first time she’s seen him like this. He clings to her often after coming to her in the wake of a bad dream, but now it’s different. It’s different because he’s feverish, and the Quirk suppressants aren’t doing their job. Maybe they can’t do their job.

“I hate it!” Izuku shrieks, and it’s the first time he’s spoken like this. The first time his voice has been this desperate. “I can’t stop it, I can’t, I can’t, I-I’m trying—!”

Inko holds him tighter, stroking his hair. “It’s okay,” she says, “It’s okay, Izuku, just calm down.” —But there’s static and confusion in her head, and she can barely actually feel Izuku right now. She can hear him through her ringing ears, but her senses have been completely thrown off. It’s not Izuku’s fault, he can’t help it, but it’s hard to work through. It’s hard to be reassuring when she isn’t 100% sure of her surroundings.

Izuku isn’t crying, but his voice is thick and shaky and honestly he may as well have been sobbing. “I hate it so much, I-I didn’t ask for it, I-I didn’t ask for it, Midoriya-san, I didn’t—”

“I know, I know you didn’t, it isn’t fair,” Inko says, trying to hold him tighter despite the war that seems to be raging in her head, “but you’re going to be okay. The fever won’t last forever, you’re going to be okay—”

But Izuku has no control, and sooner than later, Inko finds herself consumed by the Quirk that wasn’t his, but had been painfully thrust upon him.


 

Inko’s eyes snap open as a crack of thunder rolls through her ears. She sits up in the darkness, wondering why that of all things had been what she was dreaming about (remembering), and she sits there pondering for a single second before realizing.

Her eyes go wide, and she leaps out of bed and tears from the bedroom, rushing down the hall. The house is dark but her eyes are adjusted to it, so she doesn’t bother turning on the lights. She throws open the door to Izuku’s bedroom, for once without knocking.

The bed is empty. The bathroom light is on, the door wide open. Izuku’s kittens are roaming the room, meowing, searching.

And the window is open.

Inko runs to it and sticks her head out, greeted with rain and another roll of thunder. She searches, leaning out dangerously far and searching, desperate, but she finds nothing.

No one.

She retreats into the room, shaking, breath coming in tilteds gasps. The kittens have flocked around her but she doesn’t even notice them. Her eyes burn, she’s trembling, and she feels like the worst human being alive.

“D-Damn it.” She grits her teeth, her back hits the wall, she balls her fists. “Damn it, Izuku!”

She doesn’t mean it, but she can’t help it, and she flees the room, even as the tears begin to fall, and snatches her car keys off the table. She takes off into the night.


It’s still stormy the next day when Eijirou stands at Dagobah beach, alone, with Toshinori standing across from him. It isn’t raining anymore, but the clouds are plentiful and dark overhead, so he doesn’t trust that not to change.

Toshinori stares at Eijirou for a moment, then frowns. “Is Izuku not with you?”
“Yeah, I haven’t seen him all day,” Eijirou answers, frowning likewise. “It’s weird for him to not be here. Even the other day, he was half way here before I caught up with him, and I was running.”

It’s odd. It’s not right. And now that Eijirou has some understanding as to exactly what his friend went through, he’s worried.

“I’ll text him,” Eijirou says, already whipping out his phone and scrolling through it. Toshinori doesn’t stop him, and Eijirou finds Izuku’s number in his messages and sends a quick one.

[Kirishima]
Hey man, we’re at Dagobah beach rn. You sleeping in? Taking a day off? Either way it’s fine, just wanted to know how you were doing.

He doesn’t pocket the phone, rather holding onto it and impatiently awaiting a response. It doesn’t come.

“Maybe he’s still sleeping,” Eijirou concludes, finally pocketing his phone and nodding as though to convince himself. “Yeah, he’s probably just sleeping. You probably know he doesn’t have the best sleeping habits—I mean unless he didn’t tell you—”

“I assumed as much,” Toshinori says, holding out a hand, but he definitely seems worried, which only pushes Eijirou further on edge. “Well, we’ll wait for him a while longer before we begin. Maybe he forgot his phone.”

“Maybe,” Kirishima says, but it already seems unlikely.


Toshinori knows Izuku didn’t “forget his phone” and that’s why he isn’t responding to Kirishima’s texts, and the only reason he brings it up as an option is to try and put Kirishima’s mind at ease. He can tell the boy doesn’t believe him or think the option is a plausible one, but either way.

“I’m going to go check on Midoriya and Inko-san once we’ve finished up,” Kirishima tells him; ever since they started training, he’s been very out of it, and it shows in his progress thus far. When Izuku was here yesterday, Kirishima’s energy had been doubled. Now, it’s almost nonexistent.

“You can go check on them now, if you want to,” Toshinori says simply, knowing they won’t get anywhere today now that they’re both concerned for Izuku’s wellbeing. “I’ll drop by myself a bit later.”

“Really?” Kirishima says, turning to him, though his eyes dart to the sidewalk at once.

Toshinori nods, and Kirishima says a hasty thank you before taking off in the opposite direction. Toshinori isn’t sure he’s ever seen someone run that fast.


No one’s there. Not when Kirishima goes over in the morning, and not when Toshinori goes over that afternoon. The door is locked, the windows are shut, and the car is missing from the street. No matter how you look at it, Inko and Izuku aren’t at home now which, considering Izuku’s overall situation, puts Toshinori on a concerned, almost frenzical edge.

He hasn’t been able to get ahold of Inko, and Kirishima tells him that he hasn’t been able to get ahold of Izuku, either. The house is shut, vacant; it’s almost like the two of them have completely disappeared.

Toshinori visits again in the evening. Kirishima goes the next morning, a full day since they last heard from either Midoriya. Kirishima goes that afternoon, and Toshinori tries visiting in the evening, but nothing. The house is just as empty now as it’d been all the previous times they’d tried.

“I don’t get it,” Kirishima says, a whole solid two days since they last heard from Izuku or Inko. “I don’t get it at all, why wouldn’t Midoriya say something? I’ve been texting him all the time, why won’t he respond? It isn’t like him to be like this, and I know it isn’t like Inko-san, either.”

Something’s wrong. It’s a silent agreement between Toshinori and Kirishima. Neither of them dare to say it out loud, but they both know the truth; something is terribly, horribly wrong.

And then, on the evening of the third day, Toshinori is just leaving the residence after what seems like a wasted effort when Inko quite literally crashes into him.

She’s distraught about something, that much is plain. The car keys are still in her hand, and there are dark circles under her eyes, like it’s been days since she last slept. Around them, the rain falls and the sun sets in the horizon, and Toshinori thinks, for a moment, that Inko looks very scared.

No, Inko looks terrified, and despite everything, despite the fact that she’s raising a traumatized child, that she’s been in the hospital with him several times, is a lawyer, has seen so many terrible cases, including her own child, she looks devastatingly horrified.

“Inko,” Toshinori says, and she stares at him wide-eyed, like she’s never seen him before. “What’s wrong? Where’s Izuku?”

Something flickers in her eyes, and in the sky above them, lightning cracks.


“He’s gone.”

Toshinori is sitting on the couch, and Inko is taking several full bowls of cat food and setting them on the floor for the kittens. Toshinori had heard her fine, but he wants to believe he hadn’t.

“Gone?” he breathes, and Inko nods feverishly, rushing back to the counter to grab two more bowls for the many cats of the household. “What do you mean he’s gone?”

Inko is very distracted and very frantic, so it takes a good five seconds before she stammers out a response. “When he was little, eleven, he, he got terribly sick and he accidentally harmed me with his Quirk. It didn’t hurt much and it wasn’t a physical affliction, but it scared him, it scared him so badly, and now, whenever he gets sick, he—he, I—”

The door opens again around the same time thunder rolls and lightning strikes.

Izuku is in the doorway, and he looks worse than Toshinori has ever seen him. He’s soaking wet, his hair hangs in front of his face, and every inch of bare skin (which is mainly his face and neck, he’s still wearing a hoodie) is a ghostly shade of pale.

The bowls in Inko’s hands hit the ground, dry cat food flying everywhere, and she charges across the room with a sharp cry of Izuku’s name. She catches him when he pitches forward, though she pulls away a second later and frames his face in her hands, frantically looking him over.

“I told you we could work it out,” Inko tells him, and there’s a mixture of pain, relief, and anger in her tone, though mostly the former two. “I told you we could get through it together, Izuku, I told you to tell me.”

Toshinori approaches with a blanket he’d grabbed off the back of the couch, and Inko wastes no time in taking it and wrapping it around Izuku’s shaking shoulders. While she guides him over to the couch and the cats abandon their food in favor of greeting Izuku, Toshinori shuts the front door to keep out the wind.

He’s still processing this, all of this. Izuku had mentioned that he got sick often, but he’d never mentioned how disastrous it is when he gets really sick. He never told Toshinori that he leaves home, without warning, whenever his fever gets high enough to send his already wayward Quirk haywire, and of course he had no obligation to tell Toshinori anything, but…

Toshinori finds himself wondering if there’s something the kid doesn’t have baggage attached to, and as he watches Izuku curl up on the couch while Inko fusses over him (with good reason), he finds himself recalling Aizawa’s words.

He finds himself thinking that maybe he did bite off more than he could chew.  

Chapter Text

I’m sorry.

Mom keeps glancing at him over her shoulder from where she’s working in the kitchen, and whenever they make eye contact, Izuku raises a hand weakly.

I’m sorry.

Mom lets out a long sigh and takes the tray she’s been preparing and enters the living room, setting it down on the coffee table. Izuku is laying on the couch, a now-damp rag settled over his forehead; there’s a basin of cold water on the floor beside the couch.

I’m—

Mom reaches toward him and takes his hand in both of hers, cutting him off. She holds his gaze for a long moment, then sighs and settles down on the edge of the couch without letting go of his hand.

“Don’t apologize,” she says, voice quiet—or maybe that’s just Izuku’s ringing ears finally coming back to normal. “Izuku, I—all you’ve done is apologize since coming home, just... stop.”

Izuku swallows hard, head pounding. He feels like he owes it to her to apologize and to keep apologizing; after all, he’d been gone for a whole three days, isolating himself somewhere where no one would find him, where no one would feel the effects of his out of control Quirk, and it’s not the first time he’s done this. He’d come home as soon as his fever dropped below 39, which seemed to be the temperature in which his Quirk went haywire, but he’s still feverish and sick now and his mother is left to take care of him, even after frantically searching for him for the duration of those three days.  

“Izuku, you...you can’t keep doing this,” Mom says, shaking her head and squeezing his hand. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, or to me. I know you don’t want to hurt anyone, but I’d rather be here and have to deal with your Quirk than to not know where you are or if you’re hurt or in danger.”

Izuku knows this, he just doesn’t agree.

“Izuku, please. I want to help you figure things out. I want to do whatever I can for you, and I’m going to. There’s nothing you can say or do that’ll change that. But…” She stops, and sighs. “When you leave like that, without telling me where you’re going...it hurts me more than your Quirk ever could.”

Izuku also knows this, but he says nothing. After what happened when he was eleven, he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to trust himself enough to be around his mother while he’s feverish and his Quirk is out of control.

He raises the hand she isn’t holding. I’m sorry.

Mom lets out a long, long sigh, but smiles sadly and removes the rag from his head, soaking it in the water by the couch. She kisses his forehead, then settles the now wet rag back over his head and eyes.

“Just, lie still for now,” she says, and her voice is calming and gentle, though Izuku can also hear her exhaustion. “I’ll bring you your soup again later, after you’ve slept some. Alright?”

Izuku nods, and when he reaches for her hand, she squeezes it and doesn’t let go until long after he’s fallen into a restless slumber.


When he wakes up again, he still feels hazy and sick, but there’s a weight dipping the couch that definitely isn’t his. He sits up slowly from his fetal position, the humid rag falling onto the cushion he’d been curled on. Kirishima is sitting beside him on the couch lazily, thumbs tapping away at some game on his phone.

Kirishima glances over at Izuku, but just for a second. “Heya,” he says, but his tone lacks its usual merriment. “How’re you feeling?”

Izuku sighs. Okay, he says. He can feel something akin to hostility rolling off Kirishima in waves. ...What’s wrong?

Kirishima frowns at him, then sighs, still tapping away at his game. “I’m mad at you,” he says simply. “You were sick and you ran off without telling anybody. Inko-san said it happens a lot. Why would you do that? Do you have any idea how worried I was? How worried we all were?”

Izuku has always felt guilty about going away like he does when his fever drives his Quirk to the brink, but with his mother’s words, coupled with Kirishima’s, he feels even worse. I’m sorry, he says, for what he knows won’t be the last time. I’m sorry.

Kirishima lets out a heaving sigh, then lifts an arm. “C’mere, buddy.”

After little hesitation, Izuku scoots over and leans into Kirishima’s side. Kirishima settles his arm around Izuku’s shoulders, his other hand swiping at his phone. He’s playing some variation of Temple Run, and judging by the speed the character is moving at, he’s good at it.

What is it? Izuku asks, using simple signs that he’s sure Kirishima knows.

Kirishima manages to catch the movement out of the corner of his eye. “Just some dumb endless run game,” he answers shortly. “You wanna try?”

Izuku shakes his head. Kinda dizzy, he says. I’ll watch.

“Oh, okay. Yeah, you still feel pretty warm. Do you feel better or worse?”

Physically, better. Emotionally, worse.

Kirishima looks at him out of the corner of his eye, wincing. “I’m sorry,” he says, “that might’ve been kinda...harsh, y’know. For me to just drop that on you. But, dude, seriously, I was freaking out. I didn’t know where you were or what was going on. If you’re gonna do that again, just, text me so I know where you are. I’ll bring cookies or something, I dunno. Or soup, yeah, that’s probably better—”

“N-No.” Izuku’s voice is weak, and he feels Kirishima tense. “D-Don’t go looking for me. P-Please.”

“Dude, I won’t have to go looking for you if you just tell me where you—”

“I-I can’t—” Izuku’s parched throat gets the better of him, and soon he’s coughing and hacking. Kirishima stops what he’s doing and thumps him on the back, forcefully but not harshly, until the fit ends.

“Yeah, save your voice,” Kirishima says once it’s finally over, and he settles an arm around Izuku’s shoulders again. “Just, sign if you wanna talk, alright? Although, you should probably be resting instead.”

Izuku definitely doesn’t plan on verbalizing again, but he isn’t tired enough to fall asleep again right now. Kirishima restarts his run game, and Izuku leans his head on his shoulder to watch. He’s definitely good at the game; Izuku wonders if he plays it a lot.

A thought strikes him, and he bumps his head against Kirishima’s shoulder. Kirishima looks at him out of the corner of his eye. “What’s up?”

About you, Izuku says.

“...Me?”

Izuku nods. You, growing up.

“Oh—you wanna know about my childhood?”

Izuku nods again, and Kirishima takes in a breath, pondering. “Hmm...it’s pretty boring, to be honest, but I guess I should start from the top…”

Izuku closes his eyes, listening.

“Well, for starters, I was adopted, too.”

Really?

“Mmmhmm. Not really like you were, it was kinda more like...my parents left me on someone’s doorstep? That’s what my dad—y’know, my foster dad—that’s what he told me. It never really bothered me, y’know? Like, they were my parents one way or the other, blood or not, but I always did wonder what happened to my blood parents.”

My blood parents gave me and my sister up too, Izuku says. I know the feeling.

“Ah, right, erm...so, I guess from there I just kinda, y’know, I saw videos of heroes saving people, and I thought it was really cool. There was this girl I knew in the school I went to when I was younger. I didn’t really talk to her, but she was really inspiring. My family and I moved a little while later, and then...well, from then on I’ve got nothing to report, up until I met you.”

Izuku takes this to heart. So you were inspired to be a hero by that girl you knew?

“Well, partially. You were a huge inspiration to me, too, y’know.”

Izuku opens his eyes and blinks at Kirishima several times. Kirishima looks at him out of the corner of his eyes, but doesn’t turn to him, thumbs flying across his phone screen.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Kirishima says, cracking a smile. “It was really freaking awesome what you did against the slime villain dude. Even though you could’ve died, you jumped in there to save Yatchi, and I mean, that was...that was pretty amazing. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that, at the time.”

Izuku looks away.

“But I want to be able to, someday,” Kirishima says, smiling a little brighter. “I wanna be able to jump into the fray, fearless, and face whatever I’ve got right in front of me. I wanna be that shield between the victim and the villain, and thanks to you...I think I might be able to.”

It’s weird, hearing this from Kirishima, but Izuku supposes it’d be weird to hear from anyone. He says nothing, and Kirishima ruffles his hair with the hand that isn’t holding his phone. Izuku would usually flinch away from gestures like this, but it’s Kirishima. He trusts him.

“So...I’ve got a question for you, Midoriya. Why do you run off whenever you get sick?”

Izuku stiffens. It’s not that this is any harder to share than the rest of his life story, but he’s never actually had to explain this to anyone before. He takes a breath, swallows, then speaks. Softly.

“I can’t stop it. My Quirk. When I’m sick, Quirk suppressants only stop it for a small amount of time, and it’s dangerous to take more than the required dosage in a short amount of time. So I just...I-I don’t want to hurt anyone, so I just...I leave.”

“...I guess I get it,” Kirishima says, “but at the same time, man, I mean...do you really think that’s the solution?”

“I can’t control my Quirk,” Izuku croaks. “It’s like...i-it’s like I’m trapped within its chains whenever I use it. I can’t break free, and, the chains...they’re constantly suffocating me. That’s what it’s like. I don’t want to do that to anyone else.”

Kirishima is silent for a long time.

“...But, it’s your power, isn’t it?”

Izuku frowns at him, wondering, and Kirishima goes on.

“It’s your power,” Kirishima elaborates. “It’s yours now, regardless of who it belonged to before, and...it’s going to be hard, but you’re going to learn to control it. You’re going to use it to save people someday. I know you will.”

Izuku swallows back the lump in his throat. How do you know? he asks, only half sarcastic.

Kirishima pauses his game, sets his phone to the side, then turns to Izuku and smiles. Because I know you, Kirishima answers.

Izuku stares, and Kirishima laughs and ruffles his hair again. “Want a turn at the game?” he asks, passing over his phone, and Izuku shrugs, takes it, and gives it a shot.


It’s definitely Kirishima’s thing. Izuku can’t play it to save his life.


That’s about as coherent as Izuku gets for the next couple of days. He stays on the couch, sleeping fitfully and only waking up long enough to sip at some broth or water before going under again. He doesn’t really take the whole “recovery” thing very seriously until he overhears Mom telling Kirishima that she’s considering taking him to see a doctor, concerned that he’s dehydrated. After that, he begrudgingly drinks more water when he is awake, and when Kirishima brings him a bowl of soup his mother made, he accepts it.

It’s feels like it takes an eternity, but in reality, Izuku was only sick for a total of six days—three of which he spent where no one would find him, and the other three that were spent at home with Mom and Kirishima. On the sixth day since waking up feverish in the middle of the night, he finally manages to drag himself out of bed on his own fruition and head into the living room. He doesn’t remember exactly how he ended up in his own room instead of on the couch. Maybe Kirishima carried him, he can’t be sure.

Mom is going over papers when he steps into the room, his cats curling around his ankles. She beckons him over, and Izuku takes a seat beside her on the couch. Despite him knowing that she isn’t mad at him, he still can’t help but feel awkward and guilty.

“Toshinori called,” Mom says absentmindedly, reaching over and wrapping an arm around his shoulders.  After a moment or two, he leans into her. “He’s been worried about you, too, but I told him you were alright. How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Izuku says, which is true; it’s been the first time in almost a week that he’s felt well enough to function. “Thanks.”

Mom shakes her head. “I told Kirishima to go home and have some time to himself,” she tells him, tone light. “He’s been here consistently ever since you came home. He really cares for you a lot, Izuku.”

Izuku thinks back to Kirishima’s words, his smile, his heart, and nods. “I know.”

Mom nods, then lets him go and rises to her feet. “Well, I have soup leftover,” she says, already making for the kitchen. “Even if you don’t feel like it, you should eat something now that you’re up.”

Izuku wants to argue, but he can’t bring himself to do it this time. Not after everything he’s put her through. “Okay.”


“I’m like, almost positive that it’s too soon for you to be going out.”

“I won’t feel any better tomorrow,” Izuku says, falling in step beside Kirishima as they head to Dagobah Beach the following morning. Today makes a full week since Izuku originally got sick and ran off. “Besides, normality is good sometimes, especially with my life. Anything I can keep normal, I’d like to.”

Kirishima frowns, but sighs. “Okay, man, as long as you’re sure you can actually handle it,” he says. “I don’t mind carrying you home, but I’d rather not have to.”

“I’ll be okay,” Izuku assures him, but he’s not sure Kirishima believes him. “If it makes you feel better, I ate breakfast this morning.”

“That’s good,” Kirishima says, “but still. If you wanna go home, just say the word. Got it?”

Izuku snaps an unenthusiastic thumbs-up at him, and they continue on.


The day goes uneventfully. Nothing changes; Toshinori does seem worried, and he asks Izuku several times throughout the day if he’s alright, to which Izuku says that, yes, he is, and no, he doesn’t need to go home early, he’s fine, and yes, he’ll be okay. It’s tedious and it does get kind of annoying before long, but Izuku can hardly blame him for his concern.

They end earlier than usual that day, no doubt Toshinori trying to let Izuku home early, just in case he was lying about being alright. Kirishima has no argument against it; instead, he bows and thanks Toshinori for everything, then turns back towards Izuku with a grin.

“Well, I’ll cya later!” Kirishima says, approaching. “If you feel up to a study session tonight, just lemme know.”

“Alright.” Izuku nods. “See you later, maybe.”

“See yo—oh wait, I have an idea!” Kirishima takes Izuku’s wrist and moves his arm so it’s held out in front of him. “Do this—” Kirishima brings his hand down on the top of Izuku’s, “—then this—” He reverses the action, hitting the top of his hand against the bottom of Izuku’s, “—and then—” He balls his hand into a fist, and when Izuku does the same, Kirishima knocks their knuckles together. “—There we go! A handshake!”

Izuku blinks twice at his still-outstretched hand. “...That wasn’t a handshake.”

“Yes it is!” Kirishima says, grinning. “It’s our handshake!”

“...But we didn’t shake hands.”

Kirishima laughs, then shakes his head. “It’s one of those ‘best friend’ handshakes that people come up with,” he says, still beaming. “I figured we should have our own!”

Izuku blinks thrice, then draws his hand to himself and stares down at it. “...I…”

“Well, later! Bye, Toshinori-san!”

Kirishima waves his hand over his head at the both of them, and Izuku waves back at him slowly, still wide-eyed. Toshinori moves to stand beside him, also waving, and as soon as Kirishima is out of sight, they lower their hands in unison.

“...I’m considering giving One For All to him,” Toshinori says out of nowhere, and Izuku turns, listening. “I hadn’t had time to think about it before, but that boy was a help during the incident with the slime villain, wasn’t he?”

Izuku nods. “He took care of Yatchi, too,” he says, turning to face the sidewalk down which Kirishima had gone. “Even though he couldn’t communicate properly with her, and even though he didn’t know the first thing about her or her family, he still did whatever he could to help her.”

Toshinori nods. “So...what do you think?”

“About giving it to Kirishima?”

Toshinori nods, and Izuku ponders this.

“...I think, if he’d accept it, he’d be the perfect candidate for it,” Izuku says and means every word. “But, ultimately, whatever  you wanna do with your Quirk is up to you.”

He realizes, a second later, that that’s the exact same thing Kirishima had told him.

“Hmm…” Toshinori muses, then sighs. “Well, I’ll keep it in my thoughts,” he says, smiling. “As for you, Aizawa had asked me to tell you to meet him at the park near the plaza when you were finished up here. I told him you were under the weather and that you might not be able to make it today, but…”

“Tell him I’ll be there,” Izuku says, already turning in that direction. “Thank you, Toshinori-san.”

“Don’t mention it, kiddo. Tell Aizawa hi from me, the only way he’ll accept it is if it comes from you.”

Izuku nods, waves, then turns and heads down the street.


True to what Toshinori told him, Aizawa is waiting downtown in a small grassy park. It’s out of the way for the most part; not like the park Izuku had met Yatchi and Kirishima at. Not many people are here; Izuku sees an occasional passer-by or jogger, but that’s about it.

Aizawa lifts his head to him when he arrives. He isn’t wearing his costume, rather a plain gray t-shirt and black pants. Probably to blend in, Izuku thinks; despite being an underground hero, paparazzi is still a very real, very annoying thing, especially for Aizawa, who hates the media to begin with.

“You made it,” Aizawa says, arms crossed, though there’s no malice in his voice. “All Might told me you were sick.”

“There’s always something wrong with me,” Izuku says, “so whether we do this now or later doesn’t really make a difference. Besides, I’m feeling better.”

Aizawa raises an eyebrow at him, but shrugs it off. “We won’t be training here,” he says, turning and walking in the opposite direction. “Follow me. We’re taking the bullet train.”

Izuku tilts his head to one side, then jogs to flank him.


“The Shituigi Prefecture,” Aizawa announces after they get off the train and head farther downtown. “Mostly abandoned. There was a catastrophic earthquake a couple of years ago, and a lot of people call this place ‘cursed.’ It never got rebuilt, so it makes for a nice training ground.”

Izuku blinks at the wreckage. Half-standing buildings with blown out windows surround them. None of them are the same height, and every building looks more demolished than the last. There are giant, gaping cracks in the road from where the earthquake tore the asphalt apart, and Izuku has a hard time imagining a time where this was ever a bustling place.

“All Might basically told me that he’s got no idea how to train you or what to work on,” Aizawa says idly, stepping towards one of the buildings, “so he’s left it to me to train you properly.”

“That makes sense,” Izuku says, thinking this over. “With my skills, I’ll probably end up becoming some kind of underground hero, anyway. The media’s never really been my shtick, either.”

Aizawa turns to him, wondering. “You’re talkative today.”

“Would you rather I wasn’t?”

Aizawa shakes his head, which really could mean anything. “Anyway, yeah,” he says, turning towards the buildings, “all things considered it’s better for all of us that I’m the one to train you. Along with basic skills, there’s also your Quirk, which we still need to get a handle on before school starts.”

Oh. Yeah, that.

“What do you suggest?”

“As far as your Quirk goes? Nothing, right now. Before we do anything…” Aizawa turns to him sharply and shifts his feet. “Fight me. However you’d like to.”

Izuku blinks, then shrugs, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “Alrighty.”

He swings both arms out at the same time, and four knives go flying. Aizawa swings between them and aims a kick; Izuku throws himself backwards, fingers closing around another knife in his pocket. The next time Aizawa comes at him, Izuku throws it towards his face. It leaves a nick on his cheek, but that’s all it does. Izuku dives to the side to regain his bearings, grasping another knife, but then, his feet are kicked out from under him, fingers curl around his knife-arm, and he sees stars when the back of his head hits the pavement.

Aizawa pins his arm down beside his head on the ground, immobilizing it. “You’re quick on your feet,” Aizawa says, “but—”

Izuku grabs a handful of dirt from the ground and throws it in Aizawa’s face. Aizawa springs back, blinking feverishly, and Izuku hops to his feet and pulls back his knife arm, ready to throw the blade.

“I could end it,” Izuku says, looking Aizawa in the eyes (which is a bit tricky, because Aizawa is still blinking to clear away the dust), “but I’m not going to.”

Izuku lowers his knife arm, and Aizawa fishes clearing away the dirt in his eyes and stares.

“So,” he says, “you’ve already developed your own style there, huh.”

“It’s been years since I started fighting,” Izuku says, “so I would hope I’ve developed something by now.”

Aizawa gives a curt nod, though he seems distracted. “You know, Midoriya, I see a lot of things in you,” he says, stepping forward. “I see someone who’s had to fight for his life, I see someone who’s learned what he knows now from experience and pain, I see someone dangerous, someone with more power than he realizes. But, you know what I don’t see in you?”

Aizawa kneels in front of him, and with Izuku’s height, they’re nearly eye-level.

“... I don’t see a fifteen year old boy.”

Izuku swallows hard and grips his knife tighter. “Up until I met Kirishima, I didn’t know what a fifteen year old boy was supposed to look like.”

Aizawa nods and rises to his feet again. “I want you to know, I’m extremely familiar with your situation,” he says calmly, but matter of factly. “The police force almost had to call me in when they first found you, because their Quirk suppressants were no good at first and they didn’t want to risk giving you a higher dose. In the end, they didn’t need me, but they filled me in.”

That would explain a few things. “So you know everything.”

“I only know what the police knows,” Aizawa answers. “Anything you’ve kept to yourself, anything extra they’ve found just recently, I don’t know any of that. But I thought you had the right to know.”

Izuku looks down at his shoes—light up ones, a pair Mom got for him shortly after she took him in. They’d been big on him before, but he’s nearly grown into them now.

“Thanks,” he says, looking to Aizawa again. “Saves me the trouble of explaining everything, then.”

Aizawa nods sharply. “Tell you what,” he says, crossing his arms again. “Do good with your training, and I’ll take you out for ice cream or something.”

Izuku frowns. “Why would you do that?”

“It’s like I said,” Aizawa says, shifting into another fighting stance that’s more or less the same as the last time. “Fifteen year old boy. Now, round two?”

Izuku blinks, then nods and readies himself as well.


They don’t get around to any Quirk training that day. Aizawa says that, if Izuku really is under the weather or recovering from being ill, the last thing they want to do is force Izuku to use his Quirk and put his body under stress.

“We’ll wait until you’ve completely recovered before getting back into that,” Aizawa says as they head from the train station and back into the more populated part of the city. “Until then, don’t think about it too much, alright?”

Izuku nods. It’s later in the day, and there aren’t many people around; they still haven’t reached the heart of the city, and Izuku decides to enjoy the serenity while he can.

“Do you think I’ll be able to figure it out?” Izuku asks, when he thinks about it. “Do you really think I’ll be able to figure out my Quirk before school starts?”

Aizawa doesn’t answer for a long time. “It depends,” he says. “I won’t lie to you, your Quirk and your Quirk Factor aren’t in good shape. There’s a lot that’s been broken and torn and destroyed, most likely from when you first received the Quirk forcefully. If you want to control it, you’ve got a lot of work to do. So, I don’t think it’s so much a matter of whether I think you can do it. In the end, it’s primarily up to you.”

Izuku ponders this for a long moment. Being able to actually control his Quirk feels more like a distant dream than a possible future, but then he thinks of Kirishima’s words, and Kirishima’s faith in him, and, well...who is Izuku to let down his best friend?

“I’ll definitely give it my best shot,” Izuku says firmly. “And if I can’t do it, well, at least I tried.”

Aizawa turns to look at him for a moment, then nods and faces his head forward again. “Sounds like a plan to me.”

Izuku is just about to say something else, but just as he and Aizawa pass a nearby tree in the grass beside the sidewalk, he hears something rustle in the leaves. There’s no wind, so it can’t be that, which means…

Izuku and Aizawa both glance upwards into the tree at the same time. Standing on one of the highest branches, claws deep into the bark, is a striped, orange cat.

Izuku and Aizawa turn to look at each other at once. “I can climb trees,” Izuku says immediately, already stepping into the grass. “I’m going to get it down.”

To his surprise, Aizawa nods instead of objecting. “I’ll catch you if you fall,” he says, in on it, and Izuku swings himself up onto the first branch, then onto the second, then the third.

The cat does not want to be touched. It doesn’t want anything to do with Izuku, actually. It swipes at him and hisses, not realizing that it’s being helped, and Izuku barely manages to retract his hand in time.

“It’s scared,” Izuku hollers down to Aizawa, then tries again. “Hey, I’m not gonna hurt you, just let me—”

The cat snarls at him, and Izuku sighs and retracts his hand again. “I know how it feels, you know,” he says, and in his heart he knows the cat can’t understand him, but, still. “Being scared and thinking you need to fight all the time. But you don’t need to fight all the time. I want to help you.”

The cat doesn’t stop glaring at him, but the next time Izuku reaches out to it, it doesn’t swipe at him. It hisses, wary, right up until Izuku settles his hand gently on the cat’s head.  The cat stops snarling at him, and carefully, Izuku scoops it into his arms.

“You got it?” Aizawa calls up to him.

“Yeah, barely,” Izuku says, nodding, “but I don’t think it’s gonna want me carrying it down from the tree. It’s really scared.”

There’s a moment of silent thought, and then, Aizawa holds out his arms. “Jump, I’ll catch you.”

Izuku doesn’t even need to think about it. He leaps from the branch, tightening his hold around the cat, and he lands in Aizawa’s arms.

Aizawa sets him down, and Izuku loosens his grip on the cat when it squirms. It looks around, curious, then hisses at Aizawa when it notices him.

“Thanks,” Izuku says, petting the cat on the head with a finger. “Now that he’s down from the tree he’ll probably be a lot happier—”

“Midoriya. You’re too light.”

Izuku blinks at him. “What?”

“You weigh next to nothing,” Aizawa says, and now that their eyes meet, Izuku can see something like shock and realization deep in Aizawa’s stare. “If you want to keep training like this and eventually get into U.A., you’re going to need to get your health back on track first.”

Izuku blinks again. “I—”

“This isn’t negotiable, Midoriya. You’re going to kill yourself if you keep going on like this.”

Izuku wants to argue, but he knows there’s no way he can. Aizawa is right, he’s absolutely right, and it’s not the first time Izuku has heard this. Mom has always told him the same thing, pushed him to eat when he didn’t want to. Except, now, it’s finally starting to click.

“...Okay,” Izuku says, holding the cat a little tighter. It’s nicer to hold than his knives. “I’ll—I’ll do my best.”

Aizawa sighs, then straightens up and jerks his head down the sidewalk. “Well, come on. I promised you an ice cream either way, didn’t I?”

Izuku nods, puts down the cat, murmurs a small, “Goodbye. Stay out of the trees from now on,” then follows Aizawa down the sidewalk.

“Do you like cats, Aizawa-sensei?” Izuku asks, falling in step beside him.

Aizawa pauses, but nods. “I do,” he says. “I’m quite fond of them, actually.”

“Do you have any?”

Aizawa nods again.

“How many?”

“....Seventeen.”

Izuku’s heart soars. “Can I go see them sometime?” he asks, wishing he had the kind of face that would display his excitement properly. “Do you think they’d like me?”

“They’d probably like you more than they like me,” Aizawa says, and he sounds almost betrayed, “but yes, if you would like to see them sometime I don’t see why you can’t.”

Izuku’s spirits lift higher, and he nods. “Thank you.”

“What about you?” Aizawa asks. “I’m not even going to ask if you have any. How many do you have?”

“Ten, right now,” Izuku says, recalling each to mind. “I had six at first, but then I found another one, and then she turned out to be pregnant so now we have three little tiny kittens that live in a cardboard box.”

“Ten, huh?” Aizawa pauses for a moment, then looks over his shoulder. “I believe you have eleven, now.”

“What?” Izuku follows his gaze. The bad-tempered cat is right at Izuku’s heels, following him. “Aww…” Izuku kneels and stretches out his hand; the cat sniffs it, but doesn’t swipe or hiss, which is an improvement. “I bet they don’t have a home…”

“I’m sure they do, now,” Aizawa says, and Izuku has to agree. He holds out his arms, and when the cat steps into them tentatively, Izuku rises to his feet again.

“Do you think the ice cream place allows pets?” Izuku asks, falling in step beside Aizawa again with the cat nestled in his arms.

“Dunno,” Aizawa says, shrugging, “but we could always sit outside if we have to.”


Izuku gets home later that afternoon, around four o’clock; not late enough for his study session with Kirishima, but early enough for dinner to still be in the workings.

The cat in Izuku’s arms squirms, wanting to search out its new surroundings. Izuku shushes it and holds tighter.

“Just hang on a sec,” Izuku says, creeping towards his room after kicking off his shoes. “I have to ask Mom, but it’d be best to do over dinner. You don’t want her finding out about you before I have a chance to talk to her first—”

“Talk to me about what?” comes Mom’s voice from almost right behind him, and Izku takes in a long breath through his nose and lets it out slowly. “Izuku...what do you have?”

Izuku bites his lip, looks down at the cat, then turns around toward his mother. “Fiddlesticks?”

It garners exactly the kind of reaction Izuku was expecting. Mom lets out a heaving sigh, shoulders slumping, and shakes her head sadly.

“Izuku, I’m sorry, but ten is already too many,” she says, still shaking her head. “We can’t keep bringing more and more cats in, sweetheart, we can’t…”

“He’s sad,” Izuku says, looking to her desperately. “Look at him, Inko-san, he doesn’t have anybody to love him.”

“Izuku, sweetheart—”

“He’s really sad. And he’s all alone.”

“I’m sorry, Izuku, I really am, but...we already have so many…”

Izuku is just about to lose hope, but then he realizes something. He freezes, waits a second, and then, his eyes go wide. “Inko-san, he’s purring,” Izuku says, staring at her with bright eyes. “He’s purring, he’s never purred before, he’s actually happy, Inko-san, he’s happy, he loves us.”

“Oh, good lord…” Inko pinches the bridge of her nose. “Yes, yes, you can keep it...oh, dear, we might as well just open a cat cafe and be done with it…”

Izuku’s eyes shine. “Can we?”

“Izuku.”

Chapter Text

"I don’t know how to help him.”

“Yeah, I kinda gathered that from the beginning,” Shouta says with a frown, turning to face the horizon. “I’m surprised you’re only getting it now, but you’ve always been a little on the dense side.”

All Might—in his true form, not the form the world knows him by—turns to look at him, almost betrayed, but it doesn’t last long. His shoulders slump, and more than anything, he looks weary.

“I thought I’d know what to say, or what to do,” he says, turning to watch the sunrise, “but...after what happened now...I don’t think I’m suited for this kind of thing. I don’t want to give up on him, don’t get me wrong. That’s not what I mean. But…”

He trails off, but Shouta already heard all that he needed to.

“You want a quick fix for things,” Shouta says flatly, facing the horizon likewise. “You want to be able to dive into any kind of situation and right every wrong in the span of a moment. It’s what you’re used to doing. But you can’t do that with Midoriya. You’ll never be able to do that with Midoriya. The things he’s seen, what he’s been through...it could take a whole lifetime before he reaches any semblance of normal.”

“I know,” All Might says dolefully. “I know that—I knew that—I just hoped that I could do something about it regardless.”

Shouta takes in a breath, then nods. He understands it, really, he does, but even so. “Let me work with Midoriya,” he says, in a tone that doesn’t leave room for argument. “Quirk-wise, combat-wise...I’ll work with him.”

All Might turns to him, wide-eyed. “You’d do that?”

“I already said I’d help you,” Shouta says simply, “and at this point, I’m invested. You can focus on Midoriya’s friend and getting him into U.A., and I’ll work with Midoriya.”

All Might takes in a long, deep breath, then lets it out in a rush. “Thank you. I owe you one.”

“Mm. Don’t forget it.”


Shouta lands a blow on Midoriya’s ribs with the heel of his foot, and Midoriya stumbles to the side with a soft but sharp cry. Shouta straightens up again, panting to get his breath back, and Midoriya holds his side with his off-hand.

“Sorry,” Shouta says, stepping towards him. “I wasn’t trying to kick you that hard.” He isn’t one to go easy on people, especially aspiring heroes, but Midoriya is a special case. Shouta knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that even a single, normal kick has the potential to seriously injure Midoriya.

“It’s fine,” Midoriya says, lowering his hand and straightening up (though Shouta does catch the slight crinkle at the corner of his eye, something reminiscent of a wince). “I got distracted, and you hit me.”

Shouta frowns. “You got distracted.”

“Yep.” Except, he goes back to sharpening his knife with a piece of broken asphalt, and considering that this is a nervous habit, Shouta has no reason to believe him.

“Midoriya, I have a question for you.”

Midoriya stops and glowers up at him. He probably isn’t trying to glare, but his general demeanor and flat facial features make it seem that way quite often. “Shoot.”

“Is there anything else I need to know? Something that maybe the police don’t have on-file?”

Midoriya tilts his head to one side, but the look on his face stays the same. “Like, what do you mean?”

“I mean, is there anything I can say or do that’ll trigger a flashback.”

Midoriya’s hand freezes, the chunk of asphalt about halfway up the blade of the knife. He stares at Shouta, and he doesn’t look confused or shocked, merely startled. After a long moment, he lowers his arms down to his sides and takes a breath.

“...I don’t like being cornered.” Midoriya looks away and shifts his weight, rubbing his forearm with his opposite hand. “I know it’s bound to happen in the line of duty, but, while we’re training…”

“Noted. Anything else?”

“Don’t yell unexpectedly. Or call me ‘my boy.’”

“Don’t see why I would, but also noted. Any more?”

“...Don’t leave me alone in the dark.”

Shouta frowns, but takes this to heart, too. “Again, don’t see why I’d ever do that, but I won’t forget. Is there anything else?”

“No, not right now.” Midoriya sheathes the knife at his belt, and honestly, a part of Shouta is glad he’s finally stopped fiddling with it. “I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.”

“Please do.” Shouta studies Midoriya’s face one final time, just in case he’s in more pain than he’s letting on, then repositions his feet in a familiar stance. “Wanna try again?”

Midoriya nods, and they launch back into it.


“Your Quirk is interesting, Midoriya,” Shouta comments when they’re done for training that day and well on their way home. Midoriya turns to him with a frown, then shrugs and looks the other way.

“I mean, I’d guess it would be,” Midoriya says like he couldn’t care less, “if it weren’t such a pain to actually study.”

Shouta nods. “It’s odd,” he says, facing forward. “Considering its abilities, I want to label your Quirk as an emitter type, but then, your eyes change colors when you use it.”

“They flash gold for a while, yeah,” Midoriya says, nodding. “Usually there are golden flecks in my eyes for a while afterwards, too, even when the Quirk is off. That’s about all they do, though, so  it’s nothing special. Besides, don’t your eyes turn red when you use your Quirk, too?”

“Yes,” Shouta says, “but yours stay gold for days after. My eyes go back to their normal color the moment my Quirk is off, but your eyes have had golden flecks in them leftover from our first day training.”

Midoriya turns away again, and Shouta swears, he’d do anything to know exactly what this kid is thinking right now. “So...what do you make of that?”

“It’s a physical part of you that’s affected for a substantial duration of time by the activation of your Quirk,” Shouta continues, pondering all this over in his mind while he speaks. “That leads me to believe that it’s slightly more of a mutation Quirk. If you had been born with it, your eyes would probably be permanently golden. But, at the same time…”

Midoriya studies him. “‘At the same time’...what?”

Shouta sighs. He’d known what he was getting into from the very beginning, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. “Your Quirk,” Shouta says. “You don’t have any control over it, but you do subconsciously hold parts of it back.”

Midoriya’s frown deepens. “How do you know that?”

“Your Quirk is damaged severely. It may as well be broken, if I’m completely honest. Your Quirk factor’s all messed up, and your Quirk is about twice as screwed. It’s hard to turn off with my Quirk every so often, but while I am turning it off, it’s less like I’m forcing something back and more like I’m just straightening it out.”

Midoriya blinks at him, hard and long. “I don’t get it.”

Shouta heaves a groan. “Usually, when I turn a person’s Quirk off, I have to force it back. I have to shut off the Quirk factor in its entirety. But, with you, there’s only a small bit I have to shut off to force back whatever part of your Quirk’s going haywire. Makes sense?”

Midoriya does that weird blinking thing again. “...Slightly more sense. So it’s like fixing a leak in a dam rather than having to rebuild the entire thing.”

“Something like that,” Shouta says, though he makes a mental note to leave all analogies up to this kid in the future. “What I’m basically saying is, there’s a lot of your Quirk that we can’t explore at the time, because you’re always subconsciously holding something back because of your experiences. Which makes perfect sense, of course, but...someday, Midoriya, you’re going to have to accept it. No matter how much you hate it and no matter how twisted it is, this Quirk is a part of you now, and what you do with it is up to you to decide.”

Midoriya turns away and doesn’t say anything else for the rest of the walk to the train station, and Shouta takes this time to think. The fact that there’s a huge part of Midoriya’s Quirk that he isn’t even using, the fact that he’s holding something back, the fact that there’s so much mystery, his eyes…

Shouta runs by the convenience store on the way home and grabs a six-pack of doubleshots. He’s gonna be up all night anyway, so might as well have some caffeine to pass the time.


“Two raspberry sodas!” Kirishima says, holding up two fingers beside his bright smile. If it were any brighter, Izuku would probably have to look away.

“Comin’ right up,” the barista answers with a smile, and after Kirishima has paid and put a name down with the order, he and Izuku find a booth and sit down across from each other.

“Man, this is so nice!” Kirishima says, leaning back in his seat. He’s wearing a gray tanktop and has a sweatband tied around his head. “Jeez, training with Toshinori-san is brutal. How are things going on your end? You think you’ve recovered fully yet or nah?”

“I told you yesterday, I’m fine,” Izuku answers shortly. The barista comes by and drops off their drinks, bowing back after Izuku and Kirishima thank her. “I wouldn’t have left the house if I was still sick.”

“I dunno, dude.” Kirishima tears the paper off his straw, shaking his head. “You kinda have a bad habit of pushing yourself. Anyway, lemme know what you think about the soda. It’s not for everyone, and if you don’t like it I’ll get you something else.” Izuku nods, tears the paper off his own straw, then takes a sip of the beverage.

“...This is really good,”  Izuku says, staring at the drink wide-eyed. “I...didn’t know what I was expecting, but it’s really good.”

“I know, right!?” Kirishima grins at him, almost madly. “It’s great, isn’t it? It’s my favorite thing to get here. It’s kind of a bummer, it’s one of the less popular flavors, so not many people even wanna give it a shot.”

“More for us, then.”

Kirishima blinks, then smiles again. “More for us,” he agrees. When he raises his glass chessily, Izuku rolls his eyes, but clinks his own glass against Kirishima’s anyway.


Mom makes katsudon for him all the time. It was one of the first things she made for him after adopting him, and since then, he’s had a nostalgic, emotional attachment with the food. He’s positive that he could have it every day for the rest of his life and never grow tired of it.

He usually doesn’t finish it, though. Eating has always been a chore, and no matter how much he enjoys it, he has a hard time eating more than a few bites at a time. This is how it’s always been; he’s definitely eating more now than he did before, even when he was held captive by the villains, but it’s still nowhere near what he needs to be eating.

He sits at the table with Mom, and she sets down two bowls of katsudon, one for herself and one for him. She digs into her food first after a small, concerned glance in Izuku’s direction, but Izuku takes a bit more time contemplating before taking up his chopsticks. He thinks of Aizawa’s words, Kirishima’s comment on being able to feel his ribs when they hugged, and Izuku takes in a long breath, makes up his mind, and empties the bowl in about ten minutes.

Mom is shocked, which he expects, too shocked even to react when he pushes the empty bowl towards her and says that he’s going to bed. Once he’s in his room, alone, he flops face-down onto his mound of stuffed animals and blankets, stomach churning and bile burning his throat. His cats curl around him, purring, and Izuku just hopes he’ll be able to keep everything down.

He does, somehow. And for some reason it feels like a bigger victory than beating the slime villain.


“Hero costumes?”

Kirishima nods. He’s walking Izuku to the train station again, like he’s been doing for the past little while, ever since Izuku started training with Aizawa in the abandoned prefecture of the city.

“Something like that,” Kirishima says, nodding. “I was looking more into the U.A. applications, and they want you to send in your costume designs to the support group as soon as you can. I already have the basics of my costume down, although, there are a few things I wanna tweak here and there. What about you?”

Izuku has never thought of a hero costume. Up until recently, the mere thought of being a hero was idiotic; there was no way he could become a hero, absolutely no way, so the concept of designing a hero costume never once crossed his mind.

But, now,

“Guess I have some brainstorming to do,” Izuku decides, already thinking things over in his head. “I really have no idea.”

“Well, lemme know if you want any help,” Kirishima offers, grinning. “I’m not a super good brainstormer, but, I mean, I can throw a couple ideas out here and there.”

Izuku nods. “You on for another study session tonight?”

Kirishima lets out the biggest groan Izuku has ever heard. From anyone. And he’s been training diligently with Aizawa for a while now.

“...I’ll put gummies on the pages,” Izuku says finally, relenting. “And every time you reach the gummy on the page, you can have it. A little more motivating then, right?”

Kirishima perks up some, but only some.


Three beds. Two empty. One full. He and Ko-chan rarely sleep on their own respective beds anymore; they always end up curled on either his or hers, one way or another. The third bed is empty now. It usually isn’t this time of night, but…

“Do you think he’s okay?” he asks, head tucked beneath Ko-chan’s chin, arms tight around her waist. “He’s...he’s been gone for so long…”

Ko-chan’s arms tighten around his shoulders. “I’m sure he’s fine, Kitten,” she says, and her voice is so calming and familiar that he can’t help but cling to the words. “Sensei won’t hurt him. He’s always been the favorite…” Her voice trails off, and he feels her shake her head. “Nevermind, let’s talk about something else, okay? Anything else, you pick.”  

He shuts his eyes and ponders for a long moment. “Ko-chan...if you could be anything...anything at all...what would it be?”

“Anything?” Ko-chan pauses. “Hmm...you mean, like, any kind of person? Or any kind of anything? Because if so, turtles are pretty cool.”

He giggles, then shakes his head. “No, I mean, any kind of person. What job do you want?”

“Well...I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” Ko-chan says at long last. “Kinda like Sensei’s doctor, except I want to actually help people who need it. I wanna be able to go in places like this and help people like us.”

He thinks this over. It sounds good to him. He’d like to do that, too. “That sounds nice.”

“What about you, Kitten?”

Her voice grows dimmer.

“What do you want to be?”

Izuku opens his eyes and blinks up at a ceiling, lit with glow-in-the-dark stars. He’s back in his room, away from the memory, even though he’s not relieved. The memory is one he remembers with fondness; a time he and his sister had talked about the kinds of people they wanted to be, should they ever get away from that place.

He doesn’t remember how he answered her, though.

He sits up and in doing so accidentally knocks Snowball off his chest. He apologizes, but Snowball has already abandoned him for the foot of his bed, which he supposes is fair. He swings himself to his feet, then sits down at his desk and flicks on the lamp.

He pulls one of his composition notebooks from the drawer, then a pen from his pencil cup (though, he has more knives than pencils in it). Once he finds a blank page in the notebook (one right behind his analysis of Aizawa’s Quirk), he writes Hero Costume, No. 1 and begins scribbling.

He’s at it until sunlight streams through his window and he’s finally come up with something he likes. After that, he shuts the notebook triumphantly and crawls into bed with his cats again. Snowball has forgiven him, it seems, because she bumps her head under his chin and curls up at the crook of his neck.


Chains. That’s what his Quirk is. His Quirk is chains, wrapped around his chest, squeezing tight then tighter. Trapping him. Encircling him. He’s stuck. He’s always stuck. His Quirk is a prison. It controls him. He has no control over what it does or who it hurts. He has no say in it, and that is terrifying.

Those are Izuku’s thoughts as he exchanges blows with Aizawa. Aizawa fights in much the same way Izuku does, although Aizawa seems a bit more hesitant to land devastating blows (no doubt in favor of Izuku’s weak body—while Izuku is nimble and good with knives, that’s about all he is A couple serious blows from Aizawa and he’d be off to the hospital with broken ribs).

“I think that’s enough for now,” Aizawa says; he isn’t nearly as winded as Izuku, but he’s still panting. “So. Quirk training. Go ahead and fire it up.”

This is where the chains come in again. Izuku nods, shuts his eyes, and draws his Quirk out of himself. The only voluntary action he has when it comes to his Quirk is his ability to turn it on, and even then, it’s not like he can keep it from turning on when he’s sick or otherwise. Once the Quirk begins to activate, he’s hands-off. He can’t do anything.

But there’s something comforting about having Aizawa here. Just when the chains start to choke him, Aizawa forces the Quirk back, and Izuku can breathe freely again, vision cleared, fearless. (For a time. He’s only ever truly “fearless” for a very short amount of time.)

“You think you’ve gotten used to how it feels?” Aizawa asks, eyes returning from red to their usual color. “The first step is getting used to it. After that, we’ll work on getting you to shut it off voluntarily.”

“I think I’m getting used to it,” Izuku says, even though the hairs on his arms are standing straight up. “I’m—I’m not comfortable with it at all, but...I’m getting used to the way it feels.”

“And how does it feel?”

Izuku swallows thickly and looks down. “...Wrong. It feels wrong.”

“That’s understandable. This is an entirely different aspect of yourself that you’ve never actually explored before. You’ll get the hang of it, it’s just gonna take time.”

It’s been a full month. A full month since Izuku started training with Aizawa, and it’s only just now that he’s getting used to how his Quirk feels.

“Are you sure I’ll be able to do it before the entrance exam?” Izuku asks, fiddling with one of his knives. One thing Aizawa doesn’t seem to mind at all is when Izuku sharpens a knife absentmindedly.  “I mean, you...what do you think, realistically?”

“Realistically?” Aizawa frowns, but he doesn’t have to think about it. “No, I don’t think it’s possible for you to learn how to control it completely before the entrance exam. After working with you for some time and seeing your strengths and weaknesses, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will not be able to control it before school starts.”

This slams into Izuku like a bullet train, and he’s left stumbling for something to say. “But—you said if I didn’t learn to control it that going to U.A. wouldn’t work. You said—”

“I know what I said.” Aizawa takes in a breath through his nose, then lets it out slowly. “Looking back on it now, it was unrealistic of me to put that kind of lock on you. It’s going to take a long time before you make this Quirk your own, maybe even several years, who knows.”

“Several years…” Izuku doesn’t want to think about this. He’s been working hard, trying to eat better, just trying to be healthier, trying to get his Quirk under control, but now…

“I didn’t say that means you won’t be accepted into U.A.”

Izuku meets Aizawa’s gaze, and Aizawa keeps going.

“During the entrance exam, you’ll be fighting robots, which your Quirk is useless against anyway. You have no reason to use your Quirk, and considering the nature of your Quirk, it shouldn’t turn on suddenly like it did against the slime villain.”

Izuku blinks, mulling this over. “That’s...that’s true.”

“And,” Aizawa goes on, “Naomasa tells me you have Quirk suppressants. You could always take those with you just in case something does come up unexpectedly, but I doubt it. From what your Quirk has showed us so far, unless there’s immediate danger of death, it shouldn’t turn on without your consent.”

Izuku nods, but this is only one problem. “The rest of the school year,” he mentions, then bites his lip. “What about that?”

“You’re just going to have to shoot for Class A,” is Aizawa’s curt response, “which I will be homeroom teacher of. If you’re in my class, I can keep tabs on you and your Quirk in case something goes wrong that you can’t use suppressants for.”

“Class A...that’s the top class in the hero course, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

Izuku thinks this over. “So...it’s...it’s really all or nothing then, isn’t it?”

“That’s how it is being a hero anyway,” Aizawa says idly. “All or nothing. You know this, don’t you?”

He does. Izuku knows it better than anyone.

“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing now,” Aizawa goes on, “but when it comes to your Quirk and getting used to it...the only progress I see us making before the entrance exam is you’ll be able to turn it on comfortably. But, you still won’t be able to turn it off, and you still won’t be able to control the output.”

Izuku accepts this. Just being used to his Quirk is already improvement, and from there, he’s sure he can learn to control it. Once he stops freaking out whenever he feels its familiar presence overtaking his body.

“Do you wanna do another physical combat round or do you wanna try your Quirk again?” Aizawa asks after another moment, and after Izuku thinks it over, he decides.

“The Quirk again. If you would.”

“Got it.” Aizawa nods, then shuts his eyes. “Just tell me when you’re ready.”  

Izuku takes in a breath, holds it, then lets it out slowly. “I’m ready.”


“Your grades are terrible.”

“I know that!” Kirishima cries, running both hands through his hair frantically. “That’s why I’m here!”

Izuku flips the page in Kirishima’s notebook, looking back over past work. “...Hey, Kirishima, I think I found out what your problem is.”

“Really?” Kirishima perks up, then peers over Izuku’s shoulder. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Izuku flips around the notebook and points to it with a pencil he’d had tucked behind his ear. “All these answers are wrong.”

“DAGNABBIT MIDORIYA I KNOW THAT!!” Kirishima howls, burying his head in his hands. “JUST TELL ME HOW TO FIX IT!!”

Izuku exhales sharply, shakes his head, then goes into the actual explanation. They’re sitting in the living room of Izuku and Mom’s apartment, with Kirishima’s workbooks spread out on the coffee table and Izuku and him kneeling on the floor around it. The newest addition to the Midoriya family, Fiddlesticks, prowls the premises menacingly (except, he is scared of Fistfight. Izuku hopes they can get along someday soon. He’s getting really tired of hearing Fiddlesticks whining in the middle of the night when Fistfight is waiting to jump him nearby).

“It’s like this, see?” Izuku shows Kirishima one of the problems he reworked. “You had the formula wrong so all the answers were wrong. It’s a simple fix, but, y’know how picky math can be about numbers and whatnot. One little mistake and the whole thing’s gone to hell.”

“Ahh, I see.” Kirishima studies the notebook for a long moment, then nods. “I think I get it now, lemme try.”

Kirishima hasn’t said anything about One For All. Izuku isn’t sure Toshinori’s told him about it yet, or even decided to give it to him, so it’s not like Izuku can ask Kirishima, either. In the end, whether or not Toshinori gives it to him and whether or not Kirishima tells him about it is up to the both of them; it doesn’t make a difference to Izuku either way.

“So you’ve been training with someone else lately?” Kirishima asks as he reworks the problem for what feels like the upteenth time. “You’re barely with me and Toshinori-san anymore.”

“Yeah, I’ve been working with someone who’s helping me learn to control my Quirk,” Izuku answers, sharpening a pencil with one of his knives absentmindedly. “Since I’m pretty good at hand to hand combat and I don’t need, y’know, bodybuilding, it’s better that I work with this other guy.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.” Kirishima keeps scribbling. “The entrance exam is gonna be on us before you know it, man. Only a few more months to go now. Ya think we’re gonna be ready?”

To be completely honest, Izuku has no idea either way, but before he can say this, he thinks of the real meaning behind Kirishima’s question. He’s not looking for a specific yes or no; he’s looking for a morale booster. An encouragement.

Izuku nods firmly. “Definitely. We’ll be ready.”

Maybe the morale booster isn’t just for Kirishima, either.




Things continue on this way. Kirishima goes to train with Toshinori, and Izuku goes to train with Aizawa. He does join Kirishima and Toshinori every so often, when Aizawa is out on a mission or busy otherwise. The shoreline of Dagobah beach slowly clears as they move the garbage away, until the sky is visible and the shores sparkle in the sunlight.

They meet with Yatchi at the park every so often, too, on their way home from training or on their way to the soda shop. They play frisbee with her and her dad, Izuku has to climb a tree more than once to get it out of a branch when it’s thrown too far or too hard, and Kirishima slowly becomes better and better at Signing the longer he’s around Yatchi and Izuku.

Izuku makes an attempt to eat better, and it’s working. Mom always looks so shocked and surprised, but relieved underneath all of that, and Izuku kind of wishes he’d started eating healthier sooner, if just to put her heart at ease.

Fistfight’s kittens grow up. Fiddlesticks and Fistfight eventually learn to get along, though Fiddlesticks continues to keep up his “I couldn’t care less” persona, which is fine and expected of a cat like him. Izuku keeps taking notes on different heroes he sees on the news or otherwise, and keeps adding things here and there to his hero costume design whenever he thinks about it. He finally sends it out to U.A. once he’s finalized it; even though he isn’t yet a part of the school, they want everyone’s designs beforehand.

Along with that, he sent in his application form, which includes his name, age, Quirk, birthday, a copy of his medical files (which is about as thick as a small novel), the likes. As the months fly by and the day of the entrance exam draws closer, Izuku begins to feel more nervous than before, but at the same time, his excitement is skyrocketing.

If he can manage to pull this off he’ll be an official student of U.A. He’ll officially be on the road to becoming a hero. That thought excites him, and terrifies him at the same time.

The entrance exam is on them sooner than Izuku could have ever hoped, and early that morning before heading over to U.A., Izuku finds himself hugging and kissing each of his cats goodbye (Fiddlesticks pretends he doesn’t like it). Fistfight’s kittens are older now, almost as big as she is, and so are the original six kittens.

“I’ll be back this afternoon,” Izuku promises when they flock around him mrrowing in confusion. “I know, I know, I’ll miss you too.”

Mom turns the corner, smiling softly. “You ready for today?” she asks, and Izuku nods, straightening up.

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” he says, meeting her gaze. “I’ll do my best not to disappoint you.”

Mom smiles, but it’s almost sad this time. “Whether or not you get into U.A.,” she says, taking his hand in both of hers, “I will always, always be proud of you. Don’t forget that, Izuku.”

Izuku squeezes her fingers, then bumps his head against her shoulder. She hugs him tightly, and he returns it; The cats curl around both their ankles, purring and mrrowing, and eventually, Izuku steps out of his mother’s arms, waves goodbye, and sets off.


There’s still another good two hours before he has to be at U.A. for the exam; he’d set out early for the specific purpose of meeting with Aizawa at the abandoned city for one last training session before the exam. The morning is cool, but the sun is rising. Before long, it’ll be warm and sunny, just how he likes it.

He’s just about to head into the station when—

“MIDORIYAAAAAA!”

Izuku whirls around, and Kirishima almost glomps him, thinking better of it at the last second. It’s almost been a full year now since they first met, but he’s still careful to respect Izuku’s personal boundaries.

“You heading to see your trainer one last time?” Kirishima asks, breathless, like he’d run all the way over here.

Izuku nods. “Yeah,” he says. “And you’re going to Dagobah?”

“Somethin’ like that, yeah,” Kirishima says, nodding. “Dude, this is great, I’m so excited. I can’t believe it’s actually today, y’know? We’ve been training for months and it’s finally here.”

Izuku swallows hard, then nods. “I can’t believe it either,” he says. “And, to be honest, I’m kind of terrified.”

Kirishima heaves a long breath. “Yeah same dude,” he says, then straightens up again with a grin. “But, this is what we’ve been training for, so we’ll be fine! How’d the Quirk training go? Did you get it under control?”

Izuku shakes his head. “I can’t control it, but I’m more or less used to how it feels, which is the first step to learning to use it properly.”

Kirishima beams at him, brighter than ever. “Dude!” he cheers, putting out his arms—and then he stops, once again calling to mind Izuku’s boundaries. There have been considerably less of them, the closer Izuku and Kirishima have grown as friends, but regardless of all that, Kirishima is still cautious when it comes to sudden physical contact, which Izuku appreciates.

“You can hug me, Kirishima.”

Kirishima does hug him, tightly, and Izuku can’t even hug him back properly because his arms are pinned to his sides. Kirishima lets him down shortly, but there’s something different on his face. Something like relief.

“What is it?” Izuku asks, frowning.

“Nothing,” Kirishima says, but his eyes are bright. “I could feel your ribs before, Midoriya. I couldn’t this time.” Izuku blinks, but there’s something rising in his chest. Something warm and light. Kirishima cracks a grin, then shakes his head and ruffles Izuku’s hair playfully. “You’re still a midget, though.”

Izuku scoffs and kicks Kirishima in the shin. Kirishima howls and leaps backwards, holding his offended limb and hopping around on one foot.

“OW!! What’d you go and do that for!?”

“That didn’t hurt.”

“Yeah it did!”

Izuku rolls his eyes. He knows Kirishima is half kidding; he’s always been a bit more of a drama queen than most people. Eventually, he stops howling and complaining and steps up to Izuku again with a smile.

“Good luck,” he says, holding out his hand. “I’ll see you at U.A.”

Izuku nods back at him. “See you.”

They perform their special little (not)handshake, bid their farewells, and while Izuku steps onto the train, Kirishima spins around and bolts in the other direction, away from the station.

Huh, Izuku thinks as the train departs and Kirishima fades from sight. He ran all the way out here just to see me off...even though we’re literally going to see each other again in a few hours...

He doesn’t know why, but that thought also sends something warm and bright rising in his chest.


Aizawa is waiting for him again at their training grounds, just like always, but they don’t launch into their typical routine. Today is a bit different.

“So you’re comfortable with your Quirk now,” Aizawa says after they exchange a brief greeting. “Or, at least more comfortable than you used to be.”

Izuku nods. “I’m still getting used to it, I think, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be super comfortable using it, but it’s definitely better than it was. I think...I think I can do it, today. I really think I’m ready.”

“Good for you,” Aizawa says, and the words sound about as sincere as they can, coming from him. “I’ll be watching and grading the examinees, but don’t expect any favoritism from me.”

“I’d be more upset if you did show favoritism,” Izuku responds dryly. “So you’d better not.”

Aizawa rolls his eyes, but Izuku has known him long enough to know that he isn’t actually angry or fed up. If the rolling of the eyes could be done as a fond, endearing kind of gesture, this is what it would be.

“Well, good luck,” Aizawa says curtly. “I’ll see you there.”

“See you there, Aizawa-sensei.”


U.A. is enormous. It’s one of the biggest buildings Izuku has ever seen, and it’s one of the more intimidating ones, to be sure. But it’s not so much the building itself that intimidates him as it is the dozens of students running up the steps toward the building.

Izuku walks slowly, keeping his head set forward. Since hanging out with Kirishima and Yatchi more often, he’s had an easier time with people. Just in nine months, he’s already a lot more comfortable here than he’d be without the positive changes in his life.

Except, there are still dozens of people here, and he’s still working through a lot of crap.

So.

He took one knife with him. Aizawa said that they couldn’t let him take all his knives and that he can’t use it in the actual entrance exam, but he knows knives are a source of comfort for Izuku, just a little something that he can hold onto, and he said that he’d take the fall for it if Izuku got in trouble for having it.

Izuku holds onto the knife in his hoodie pocket. He’s wearing his galaxy hoodie again, along with a pair of bright red light-up shoes that also double as a pair of heelys. Kinda overkill, maybe, but what the hell, this is his big day and he’s stressed out enough as it is. Now if only he had Mom Kirishima and his cats with him. That would really complete this “comfort of home” thing.

“Oooh, your shoes are so cool!”

Izuku jumps and whirls around. A girl bounces up to him with bright eyes and lots of brown, bushy hair. She’s beaming, and it’s like the smile lights up her entire face. Kinda like Kirishima’s.

“I really like them a lot!” she says once she’s caught up with him. “I wish I had some light up shoes, that’d be—” She stops when she actually sees his face, and she blinks rapidly, her smile fading. “...That’s...a lot of scars.”

Izuku winces. “Sorry,” he says, turning away and making to pull his hood back over his head. “I’ll just, y’know, bye—”

“No it’s fine!” she says quickly, waving her hands about. “Sorry, I was just thinking out loud, that really wasn’t the right thing to say, I’m terrible, I’m sorry, I’m just, I’m so nervous and I’ve been waiting for this day for ever and, oh man, I messed up, I messed up now oh man—”

“Erm…” Izuku has always been socially inept, but now his mind is completely blank. He didn’t mind the comment about the scars; he knows how many he has and he knows how unusual it is to see so many on a boy’s face, but now he’s gone and upset her and now she’s upset herself and he doesn’t know what to do.

What would Kirishima do?

“Hey, erm...I’m nervous too,” Izuku says eventually, and she stops and looks at him, wide-eyed. “Let’s, just...l-let’s be nervous together.”

N a i l e d  i t.

This is somehow the right thing to say, because the girl lets out a huge sigh of relief, shoulders slumping. “I’m sorry,” she says, more calm than before. “I shouldn’t have freaked out like that, either. I’m, erm, my name is Uraraka Ochako. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Midoriya Izuku, likewise.”

There’s a total of five seconds in which neither of them say anything.

“...So…”

“S-So…” She rubs the back of her neck, and Izuku fiddles with the knife in his pocket a bit more. “We should...probably head inside now, right?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“OY, MIDORIYA!!”

Izuku and Uraraka both turn. Kirishima sprints toward them down the road, looking frantic.

“Oh man, I made it!” Kirishima says, panting and gasping for breath once he’s stopped in front of them. “Dude I thought I was gonna miss it—oh!” He notices Uraraka and straightens up again, smiling. “Who’s this?”

“Uraraka, this is Kirishima,” Izuku says, gesturing. “Kirishima, Uraraka.”

“Hi!” Uraraka greets, waving a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Kirishima.”

“You too,” Kirishima says, smiling with a nod. “Do you guys wanna go ahead inside?”

Uraraka nods, Izuku nods, and they head up the steps and into the building.


Aizawa was right, they are fighting robots, but the setting is a bit different than Izuku thought it’d be. It’s like one of Kirishima’s video games; each robot is assigned an amount of points based on how difficult it is to take down, and the points are calculated by the judges and added up at the end of it all. There’s a one-pointer, a two-pointer, a three-pointer, and a zero-pointer just thrown in there as an extra obstacle for the entrees to overcome.

“Ahh, man, we got assigned to different fields,” Kirishima laments, rubbing the back of his neck as the students disperse after Present Mic’s announcement. “Well, good luck out there, dude. You’ve got this.”

“Yeah,” Izuku says, nodding, “you too.”

Kirishima nods, but he seems distracted, and for a second Izuku thinks he’s going to say something else. He doesn’t, though, and waves goodbye as he turns with the others assigned to the same field as him and heads out. Izuku does the same with his own group.

He sees the girl, Uraraka, a little further up ahead. A part of him wants to walk with her, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t really know her, and besides, up front has the most people. He lags behind intentionally and brings up the rear of the group just for sake of avoiding awkward interactions.

There’s someone else there that looks familiar, walking at the very, very front of the pack, but Izuku knows for a fact that he’s never seen the boy before. When he turns his head slightly, Izuku catches dark eyes and a pair of glasses; his hair is also dark, near black, and he has a very stern expression.

Izuku swears he’s seen him somewhere before. He looks familiar, but at the same time, he knows he never met him. He’s never even passed him on the street like he did the blond bad-tempered kid.

Maybe he should ask about that sometime.

They reach the training grounds—a gigantic mock-city, with towering skyscrapers Izuku can see even above the surrounding wall. There are a lot of people here, strangers; Izuku is only glad that they’re not fighting each other. Robots he can handle, but going up against actual people with Quirks would be a lot more difficult.

For a while, everyone just kinda loiters in front of the open gates. They’re chatting, talking, comparing Quirks and boasting that “they’re gonna ‘win’” and that “they’re gonna make it into the hero course.” Izuku likes the enthusiasm, sort of, but he also kind of wishes they’d shut up.

“WE’VE STARTED!” booms Present Mic’s voice from one of the speakers surrounding the area, and all heads snap in that direction, Izuku’s included. “WHAT ARE YOU GUYS STANDING AROUND FOR!? WE’VE BEGUN!”
Oh, Izuku thinks, blinking. Guess we’re doing this, then.

He races ahead with the torrent of other examinees.

Everyone disperses once they’re inside, splitting off down side streets and alleys and the likes. Some of them plunge forward; Izuku decides to turn into one of the nearby alleys, for a couple of reasons. One, it’ll keep him away from everyone else, and two, well, where no one else is…

A robot spins around the corner, and Izuku skids to a halt. The robot raises what Izuku assumes is its mechanical eye and looks at him. The red dilates.

“Target locked,” chirps its robotic voice. The red light glows brighter, and Izuku barely has time to leap into the air before the blast is fired. It hits the asphalt where he’d been moments before, leaving a black crater in the street.

Izuku rolls on his shoulder and bounces to his feet, facing the robot. It stares at him like it wasn’t quite expecting him to dodge; and then, with another bright light, it fires again.

Izuku dodges this time, and the blast hits the cement harmlessly. Deciding that this is going nowhere and that he really needs a strategy, Izuku dives out of the way of another attack and hits the ground running.

A whirring, clicking sound behind him says he’s being followed, but he keeps going, listening for the tell-tale fire-up of the robot’s canon. He has an idea, but for it to work, he needs—

A second robot turns the corner in front of him, and it takes less than a second for it to lock on Izuku.

“Target locked,” the second robot says, firing up a blast; behind him, Izuku hears the sound, and he waits until the very last second to make his move.

He hears the blast behind him, the blast in front of him, and he leaps into the air. The robots’ respective blasts slam into each other, and they produce a couple sad whirring sounds before crashing to the ground in sad, smoldering heaps. Izuku rolls and gets his feet underneath him again shortly thereafter, gaze set forward.

He has a strategy now.


“Peculiar…” In the viewing room sits the soon-to-be teachers of U.A.’s new students, judging the entrance exam. Nedzu in particular is very intrigued, leaning forward in his chair to get closer to the screen. “Most of them are using their Quirks to take down the robots...yes, we have a couple of power houses, I see...but this one.”

He taps the screen; Midoriya is running down a street, pursued by two three-pointers. His gaze is set forward, determined, but anyone who didn’t know him well enough would assume he was simply bored.

“He’s not using his Quirk at all,” Midnight says, cradling her chin with a hand. “He’s using the robots to destroy each other.”

“Midoriya Izuku, examinee eight-four-five-six,” Cementoss says, looking over a paper on the desk in front of him. “FIfteen years old, Quirk ‘Glitch.’”

“So he has a Quirk,” Midnight says, frowning, “but he isn’t using it at all...”

“Does that count as points for him?” Cementoss inquires with a frown. “He isn’t technically  using his Quirk.”

“The entrance exam isn’t all about Quirks,” Shouta interrupts. All chairs turn towards him, and he sighs. “The exam is a time for the students to show us what they’re made of. Numbers on screen are great and all, and of course we want to see their Quirks in action, but…”

On-screen, Midoriya dives to the side and wall-jumps out of the way. Three two-pointer bots take out the three-pointers that’d been pursuing him, and Midoriya takes off down the street again, followed closely by the one remaining bot.

“...Their sense of strategy isn’t something we should brush off or overlook.”

The teachers stare at him a while longer, then turn back to the screens.


It’s actually going better than Izuku ever thought it would.

Being pursued constantly by robots sure gives him a run for his money, and his throat is burning with the force of his gasps, but he won’t stop now. He hasn’t been keeping track of how many robots he’s beaten thus far, but he can’t shake off Aizawa’s words, that “all or nothing.”

If he doesn’t come in first, if he doesn’t make it into Class A, he can’t go to U.A. Without Aizawa there should his Quirk go haywire, there’s no telling what he can do.

So his path is obvious: take out as many robots as possible, then hope that somehow it’s enough.

He keeps on with it, tricking robots into shooting each other. All he can say is, he’s glad he was able to start eating a bit healthier leading up to this; he isn’t sure his stamina would be able to hold out, otherwise. Plus, what training he did do with Toshinori on the beach had helped. He’s not sure he’d be able to continue like this without it.

“Five minutes remain!” Present Mic’s voice hollers, resounding throughout the training city. “Hurry, everybody! No time to waste!”

Izuku begins to mentally countdown from five minutes, running all the while.

He’s fleeing a two-pointer when the alley ends and suddenly he finds himself in the heat of the moment. Everyone is fighting; there are robots everywhere, getting blasted to smithereens and, in some cases, torn apart. Uraraka is running back and forth, tapping robots and launching them into the sky. When she taps her fingers together again, they drop and smash into the asphalt, their light-eyes going out.

That’s a cool Quirk, Izuku thinks, running past her; so long as he’s being pursued, he can’t really stop for anyone. I should write that down—

The ground shakes. Izuku skids to a halt, eyes going wide. He hears the sound of the two-pointer making ready a blast, and he leaps to the side to avoid it. The moment his feet touch the ground, the cement gives a lurch that almost sends Izuku off his feet again.

Ahead of them, buildings crash and crumble. Smoke rises. Examinees that were farther ahead are running back now, screaming, retreating. The robots that everyone else forgot are circling, though they don’t fire any blasts, considering they aren’t being directly attacked or approached.

Izuku watches as the Zero-Pointer steps down the street, bringing down entire buildings with it as it goes. Present Mic had treated this robot like it was as harmless as a butterfly; and now, seeing it, Izuku has determined that he’s a liar.

The thing is huge, and every move it makes sends the ground lurching. Izuku maintains his footing, but everyone else has turned and is running for the hills with abandon. They want nothing to do with the Zero-Pointer, it seems; the rest of the lesser, smaller robots watch them go, but don’t engage. It’s like they know the students are running. It’s like they know the students are scared.

And then, up ahead, Izuku hears something. A small cry of pain, barely there, but still, he heard it.

He turns, and the dust up ahead clears just enough for him to see Uraraka, pinned by a chunk of asphalt. Her face is contorted in pain, and she’s trying to reach behind her to touch the chunk of building, but she can’t reach around that far, and it seems trying brings more pain. Maybe her shoulder is dislocated.

The Zero-Pointer continues down the street, straight toward her. It isn’t dangerously close yet, but it’s getting there. Slowly but steadily, it’s getting there.

Izuku grits his teeth behind his lips, mind whirring.

And then he turns and looks at the complacent robots.


“It always turns out this way, doesn’t it?” Nedzu is saying, looking amused, which Shouta can’t be sure is a good sign. “Everyone always runs from the Zero-Pointer, no matter how powerful they are or their odds of victory. We all run from what we don’t understand, don’t we? I wonder…”

“Um…” Cementoss blinks at the screen several times, then points. “He’s not running.”

Everyone turns to watch—everyone but Shouta, who has known Midoriya long enough to know exactly what he’s planning.


“Uraraka-san!”

Ochako barely manages to lift her head off the ground, pain sparking through her arm and ribs. The ground trembles, tears burn her eyes, everyone ran the moment they saw the Zero-Pointer, even the ones who’d noticed she was stuck, pinned. They kept running even though they knew she was hurt, they left her alone.

Except—

“Make me float!” Midoriya shouts, sprinting towards her, and for someone that’s yelling, his voice is surprisingly steady and calm. “Do that thing you were doing with the rocks! Send me up!”

Uraraka just met him. She doesn’t know him. He’s covered in scars she doesn’t understand, and he’s always had this dead look in his eyes, like he was a corpse walking.

But there’s something in his gaze now, as he races towards her with what looks like an entire army of robots behind him. It isn’t panic. It isn’t franticness. Even his tone of voice remains reasonably calm.

No, there’s something in his eyes now that tells her that he knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s something in there that tells her, I’ve got this, please, trust me.

It’s uncanny, really, but she doesn’t question it. Wincing against the pain, she raises her hand, and Midoriya slaps it with his own. Immediately, his feet leave the ground, and he takes to the air.

“When I give you the signal, let me go!” Midoriya says down to her, calm despite the volume of his voice. “But only when I say so!”

Ochako is a bit more aware now that she has something to think about that isn’t impending doom—and it’s now that she notices all the robots that had been previously chasing Midoriya have stopped in their tracks and have raised their canons upwards at him.

The Zero-Pointer approaches still, shaking the ground, and Ochako’s panic flares. “Midoriya!” she shouts, voice breaking at the end. “They’re aiming for you! They’re going to—!”

“Don’t let me go until I say so!” Midoriya hollers back down at her, and now it’s there in his tone, that calm, collected I know exactly what I’m doing, trust me, and she does. She trusts him, even as she hears the robots fire up their blast, all in unison. She brings her hands together, fingertips a mere inch apart, waiting—

The robots fire their blasts, Midoriya’s voice rings “Now!” over the roaring in Ochako’s ears, and she taps her fingertips together and squeezes her eyes shut, not daring to look. She hears the crack, snap, and crunch of metal; then a wheezing, whirring sound, like clicking gears working against each other.

She looks over her shoulder, eyes barely cracked open. And then, they blow wide.

The Zero-Pointer, its glowing red eyes dark and lifeless, with a crater-like dent in the chestplate, is toppling down.

And only now does Ochako remember that Midoriya is still falling, too.

Her head snaps forward again, and she ignores the nausea that follows and stretches out her hand. “Midori!” she cries, straining to reach farther. Midoriya, falling, gets exactly what she intends and smacks their hands together again. His fall breaks, just before he hits the ground, and Ochako taps her fingertips together again to release him.

Midoriya rolls with practiced ease, then turns to look at her. “Hanging in there?” he asks, breathless, and Ochako nods. “Good…” Midoriya turns towards the robots again, and they’ve aimed their canons in his direction. All of them.

Ochako’s panic spikes again, but Midoriya maintains a startlingly calm demeanor. Under his breath, she hears him counting.

“Three, two, one…”

“TIME’S UP!” Present Mic’s voice booms over the loudspeakers, and the robots die all at once, their metal bodies slumping like broken marionettes and their red eyes going dark.

Ochako still feels nauseous, and her shoulder hurts something awful, but she can’t help but stare in awe at Midoriya’s back. She’d known there was something about him, something different, something special from the moment she first saw him, but...this was...this was far beyond anything she’d ever expected.

“Here…” Midoriya straightens up and moves towards her, then settles his hands beneath the asphalt pinning her. “I’ll lift and you go, okay?”

Ochako nods, and Midoriya strains and moves the asphalt just enough for her to wiggle free. He lets go of the chunk with a sharp exhale, and Ochako sits up with some difficulty, cradling her injured arm.

“Do you...need a medic?”

Ochako looks up at him, and he meets her eyes. He has the same dead expression as before, devoid of panic or joy or fear or sadness, just like his tone, and Ochako can barely bring herself to nod. Her mind is racing.

“Alright, just...stay here.” Midoriya holds a hand out to her (that’s scarred too, she realizes), then spins on his heel and jogs away.

Ochako watches him leave, still awestruck.

She realizes a second later that, unless it has something to do with turning him into a brilliant strategist, he didn’t use his Quirk at all.


Once Uraraka was treated by the school’s nurse (she has a healing Quirk, which is incredibly convenient because Izuku is sure Uraraka wasn’t the only victim, not to mention the other training cities and other Zero-Pointers Izuku knows were unleashed), Izuku doesn’t see much reason to stick around. Uraraka thanks him again for saving her when he makes to leave, and Izuku replies simply that it’s nothing and he’s glad she’s okay. After that, the entrance exam is announced complete, Uraraka bids him farewell and says that she hopes to see him in class, and Izuku agrees and heads to the front of the facility to wait for Kirishima.

That’s where he is now, scrolling through his phone idly. He’d already sent a text to Kirishima saying that they’ll meet at the front of the building, to which Kirishima had agreed readily and said that he’d be there shortly. Why he isn’t here now is what really bothers Izuku, though. Unless something went wrong.

It’s at that moment that Kirishima shows up, jogging and holding his phone in his left hand, but something is wrong. His right arm is in a sling around his shoulder.

“Sorry I’m late,” Kirishima says once he’s caught up, panting. “Were you here long?”

Izuku studies Kirishima’s face for a long moment, then pockets his phone. “What happened to you?”

Kirishima laughs shakily and rocks from the balls of his feet to his heels. “It’s, ahh...it’s kind of a long story...and a lot to explain...but seriously, those robots were no joke. And that Zero-Pointer? Super awesome but also reeeally overkill, don’tcha think?”

Well that was an abrupt change of subject. Izuku quirks a brow at him, suspicious, but he decides not to pry.

(Yet.)

Chapter Text

It’s going to be a while before they get the results back from the exam. Two-weeks, that was the estimate they were given before leaving the school. It takes time to sort through everything, apparently, which makes sense considering the sheer number of examinees.

Kirishima’s arm doesn’t take long to heal; he said that the school’s nurse kickstarted the healing, and by the next day, Kirishima removes the sling, his arm good as new.

“So, tell me.” They’re going over Kirishima’s workbooks in the living room the day after the exam, when Kirishima can use his right arm properly. “How’d you break your arm?”

Kirishima stiffens, then sighs and shakes his head. “Well, basically…” He sits back, leaving the pencil on the table beside his workbook, “...I kinda...turned myself into a human torpedo and shot straight through the center of the Zero-Pointer.”

Izuku blinks twice. “A human torpedo.”

“Yeah,” Kirishima says, nodding, “it was really cool, man, you should’ve seen it. But, I wasn’t really thinking about how my arm would take the force of impact, and, y’know...it just shattered.”

Izuku turns back to the workbook, turning all this over in his mind. Unless Kirishima got someone to help launch him, like Izuku got Uraraka’s help, then there’s no way Kirishima was able to shoot through the Zero-Pointer like a torpedo.

Also, Uraraka’s arm was also fractured, and her shoulder was dislocated. The nurse was able to heal both injuries in a short amount of time.

Which means that it shouldn’t have taken Kirishima’s arm longer to heal. Unless the nurse had something else to fix, first.

Izuku puts it out of his mind. Toshinori’s words about passing on One For All to Kirishima ride through on his train of thought, but he decides that, if Kirishima does have One For All now, it’s not his place to pry about it. If Kirishima really wants to share, then he’ll share.

And it’ll be on his terms.


“I’m still impressed that the two of you applied for U.A. at all,” Mom says over dinner; Kirishima is eating with them again, as he’s been doing quite often since coming over for studying sessions. “It’s the top hero academy in the region, isn’t it? It’s quite the goal to shoot for.”

“All the big-name heroes graduated from U.A.,” Kirishima says absentmindedly. “For most people, if you wanna do well in the hero world, you’ve gotta go through U.A. Besides, they’ve got a lot of heroes that teach there, too, so I bet you can learn a whole lot from all of them.”

Izuku doesn’t say anything. He’s more focused on not tossing his cookies at this point. It’s been easier to eat more lately, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is easy.

Kirishima heads home after dinner (and after thanking the two of them for their hospitality. Mom waves it off with a smile, and Izuku simply waves it off), and once he’s gone, Izuku starts down the hall toward his room, followed by all eleven of his cats (they follow him around constantly like ducklings after their mother, for some reason). He still can’t bring himself to get a full night’s sleep, but it’s whatever; he’s managed this far, he can continue to manage.

Except, “Izuku, can I talk to you for a second?”

Mom calls him back, and Izuku nods, spins on his heel, and steps back into the living room. Mom beckons him over to sit with her on the couch, and he does so.

“What is it?” Izuku asks, half concerned and half curious. “Is something wrong?”

Mom shakes her head feverishly. “No, nothing’s wrong,” she promises, and he knows she isn’t lying, “it’s just…” She pauses, then turns to him and takes both his hands in her own, squeezing his scarred fingers. “Izuku...you have no idea how proud I am of you, sweetheart. All you’ve done, after everything you’ve been through...shooting for U.A., trying to become a hero…”

She squeezes his fingers tighter and takes a moment before continuing.

“Even if you don’t get in,” she says, “even if you don’t make it, even if you can’t, Izuku, I’ll...I’ll always, always be proud of you for trying so hard.”

Izuku opens his mouth to say something, but the words are snatched out of his mouth before they’re even there. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t find something to say. He can’t find the words. He wishes for the life of him that he could smile, but he’s pretty sure what he’s feeling right now would leave him crying if not for his broken tear ducts.

He wishes he could show exactly what he’s feeling, because words aren’t something he has right now. And anyway, mere words don’t seem like they’d cut it here, either.

She gets it, though. Mom always gets it, and she releases one of his hands and cups his cheek instead, smiling.

“I know it’s hard,” she says, tracing one of his scars with her thumb gently, “but you’re going to get there, Izuku. Everything you’re doing now...even if it’s slow...you’re going to get there. And we’ll be there with you. So...don’t give up on it, okay?”

He’s overcome with it again and tries finding something, anything to say, but the only words he can manage are, “Thank you, Inko-san.” Even though his tone remains flat as always, she still manages to hear his gratitude in it, somehow, and she presses a kiss to his forehead.

“We’ll get the test results from U.A. soon,” she says, stroking his cheek again. “Until then, don’t worry, okay?”

He’d done his best in the entrance exam. He’d shot for the top, maybe even went a little overboard in taking down the Zero-Pointer, but what the heck. “I won’t,” Izuku says, and he means it. “I put my best foot forward at the exam, and if I don’t make it now...well...at least I know I gave it my all.”

She beams at him, and later that night when Izuku’s in his room, surrounded by all eleven cats and watching dumb animal vines on his computer, she brings him a bowl of his favorite ice cream.


Izuku doesn’t hear from Aizawa at all those two weeks leading up to receiving the test results from U.A. Izuku remembers Aizawa telling him, briefly, that he’ll be one of the final judges, so it makes sense why he hasn’t gotten back to Izuku yet, but still. A word here or there would be nice.

But, anyway, he doesn’t get any. Not until a full two weeks have passed since the entrance exam; then, he gets a text from Aizawa later that afternoon as he’s walking home alone from a soda shop trip with Kirishima.

[Aizawa-sensei]
Sorry about the cold shoulder. Trying to send out all the letters to everyone. It’s a pain. You should be getting yours soon. You did good at the exam.

It’s not much, but it’s a high compliment coming from Aizawa, so Izuku takes it and responds accordingly.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Thanks. You think it’s okay that I didn’t use my Quirk?
Or are they gonna go deducting points because I didn’t use it?

[Aizawa-sensei]
Well the rest of the judges didn’t really know how to go about that but you still took out the robots, which was the entire point of the exam. How you went about it doesn’t really matter.
In any case, I’m impressed. Nice thinking out there, I was wondering how you’d handle those robots without your Quirk.

[Midoriya Izuku]
It was either that or tearing apart the side panels and ripping out the wires. I’m glad the blaster thing went as well as it did.

[Aizawa-sensei]
I’d appreciate it if you went with a less reckless approach next time, but good job.
Bit of a warning, the results come in a projection, so get ready for some noise.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Oh. Thanks.

[Aizawa-sensei]
Yeah, don’t mention it.
Anyway, good luck. You’ll get the results soon enough.  

[Midoriya Izuku]
Willing to bet good money that you already know exactly what my results are,
But that’s none of my business.

[Aizawa-sensei]
Can’t you just take the ‘good luck’ and be done with it.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Absolutely not.
:)

[Aizawa-sensei]
That looks so passive-aggressive it’s not even funny.

[Midoriya Izuku]
:)

[Aizawa-sensei]
If your smile is that passive-aggressive in real life, you’re going to make one terrifying hero.

[Midoriya Izuku]
My real life smile is broken. This is the best I can do.

[Aizawa-sensei]
You’ll smile someday.

That actually catches Izuku by surprise. Aizawa doesn’t add to it, doesn’t say anything else, just lets that text hang there, and Izuku isn’t sure what to make of it. Izuku hasn’t smiled in years. The last time he smiled was…

Well, the last time he remembers smiling was when he and Ko-chan were looking up at the stars after sneaking out of the villains’ fortress, the night before Ko-chan was taken away from him forever. He hasn’t smiled since then, not once, not even a little bit.

But Aizawa’s words sound like a promise, and when Izuku gets home that late afternoon, he lays in his bed and stares up at the ceiling for what feels like weeks.


And then, that evening, the letter arrives.

Mom rushes into the room, beaming excitedly and waving it around over her head. She gives is to him when he approaches, and she says quickly that the postman just dropped it off. After that, she wishes him good luck, and Izuku heads into his room, alone, to open it.

He sits at his desk, the envelope on the surface in front of him. His cats are curiously curling around his ankles and hopping onto the desk to investigate the new item, and Izuku shoos them away calmly, then takes up the envelope and tears it open.

Like Aizawa said, a small, metallic object with a clear white bulb drops from the envelope, along with a letter,  and Izuku barely has time to bring his hands around his ears before the projection begins and All Might’s voice fills his head.

Except, he isn’t yelling, as he usually is. Izuku realizes this a second later and slowly lowers his hands from around his ears.

“Young Midoriya!” All Might, as a projection says. “Usually I’m a bit more enthusiastic when it comes to things like this, but Aizawa told me you weren’t good with loud noises, so I am holding back for your sake!”

Oh thank God.

“You know something, Midoriya..I never doubted you, but I was concerned.” In the projection, All Might is still smiling, but his tone of voice has changed. “I didn’t know how you’d hoped to pass the entrance exam, considering your Quirk, and more accurately, your inability to properly use your Quirk. But...time and time again...in the replays...I was blown away, Midoriya. You’re going to make a brilliant hero.”

Izuku blinks at the screen several times. “...Wait…”

“And,” All Might goes on, stepping to the far right side of the screen, “it is with great pleasure that I present to you, your final score.”

A small blue box appears on the opposite side of the screen.

COMBAT POINTS: 81
RESCUE POINTS: 60

Izuku stares.

“Even though you knew the peril of the situation,” All Might continues, “even though you could have used that time to take out the robots instead of turning them against the Zero-Pointer, you risked all of it to save that girl, even when no one else did or would. And that, Midoriya...is what being a hero is all about.”

Izuku can’t believe what he’s hearing, honestly. He’d told Kirishima that he thought they could do it, he’d told Aizawa that he was ready, he’d told himself that he’d do his best and go beyond, no matter what, but—

This, this is—

“Congratulations, Young Midoriya. You’re well on your way to becoming an incredible hero.”


Inko is pacing up and down the hall outside Izuku’s bedroom door. She hears a muffled voice from inside, but can’t make out any of the words. She’s lost count of how long it’s been since Izuku went in there with the letter, and she’s more antsy than she’s been in a long time.

Please, let him get in, she finds herself pleading with whoever it is that’ll listen. Let him get in. He deserves this. He’s earned this. Let him get in.

And then the door swings open, and Izuku stands in the doorway, eyes wide and shining. Without even asking, before he even says anything, Inko knows exactly what happened.

“You got in,” she breathes, bringing her hands to her mouth. It’s not a question, she already knows exactly what’d happened, but still. Izuku looks her in the eyes, lets out a breathy, shaky exhale that could be something like a relief laugh, then nods.

Inko can’t help it. She beams, then throws her arms around him tightly. Izuku returns the gesture fiercely, equally overwhelmed and equally relieved and overjoyed.

He’s done it. He’s been working towards this, hoping for this for a very long time now, and he’s done it. Even after everything, he’s finally done it.


[Midoriya Izuku - Problem Child]

[attachment.photo]
:)

It’s a very bad selfie of Midoriya, surrounded by all eleven of his cats, and holding up his acceptance letter to the camera. His expression is as dead as ever, but there’s a light in his eyes that Aizawa had never seen before.

[Aizawa Shouta]
Nice going, kid. See you at school.

[Midoriya Izuku - Problem Child]
See you.
Thanks for everything.

Aizawa exhales sharply with a half-smile, then shakes his head and pockets his phone. This kid is bound to be the death of him.


[Incoming Call - Kirishima]

Izuku picks up without hesitation. “What up.”

“DUDE DUDE DUDE DUDE DUDE I GOT IN I GOT IN HOW ABOUT YOU?”

Izuku pulls the phone away from his ear, wincing. So much for getting by without too many loud, sudden noises. Oof.

“You got in?” Izuku says, sitting down on the edge of his bed.

“HELL YEAH I GOT IN, OH MAN DUDE I’M SO EXCITED, DID YOU GET IN TOO?”

“I did,” Izuku says, nodding, and the words only truly sink in for him now. “I got my acceptance letter a couple hours ago.”

“ME TOO, OH MY GOSH, DUDE THIS IS AMAZING! WE DID IT, MAN, WE REALLY FREAKING DID IT!”

They did, didn’t they. Izuku pauses a moment, then pulls the phone away from his ear and opens his messenger without ending the call.

[Midoriya Izuku]
:D

On the other end of the phone, Kirishima makes a choked, intelligible noise.

“HOLY CRAP DUDE REALLY? ARE YOU THAT HAPPY?”

[Midoriya Izuku]
:D :D :D

Kirishima makes the noise again.

“YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY I AM FOR YOU DUDE.”

Izuku exhales sharply through his nose, then shakes his head and holds the phone to his ear again. “You should probably go to bed,” he says, glancing at his clock momentarily. “It’s late, right?”

“Oh yeah you’re right, sorry. I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

“I’m very rarely asleep before two in the morning.”

“...Hey, dude?”

“Yeah?”

“Might wanna think about getting some sleeping meds or something.”

“I’ve tried,” Izuku says, “but they’ve never worked all that well on me.”

“Hmm, right, right, yeah...sorry, it was stupid of me to assume you hadn’t already tried that...well, how about warm tea or something? Or reading a book?”

“I guess I could go over my notebooks again,” Izuku thinks out loud. “I could keep up the notes and whatnot.”

“Yeah, that sounds good! And I’ll leave my ringer on, so if you can’t sleep, don’t be afraid to give me a call.”

Izuku frowns. “Are you sure?”

Kirishima’s end goes silent, and then, Izuku’s phone lets out a little ding!

[Kirishima]
:D

Izuku snorts, then returns the phone to his ear. “You’re a dork.”

“YOU, sir, have no right to call me that.”

Izuku snorts again, then shakes his head. “Goodnight, Kiri-chan.”

It’s only a second later he realizes exactly what he’d just said. His stomach does a flip, his heart lurches, and he immediately tries covering for it.

“Wait, I take it back, forget I said anything—”

“DUDE!!”

Izuku jumps, but doesn’t pull the phone away from his ear this time. “Um...are you…? Mad…?”

“Dude no! I love it! My first nickname…! I’ll remember this moment forever!”

Izuku’s heartrate returns to normal, and he exhales sharply through his nose again. “...Dork.”

“OY!”

Izuku shakes his head, but the weight in his chest is gone, replaced with warmth. “Goodnight, Ki—Kiri-chan.”

“‘Night, buddy!”

Izuku terminates the call and, to his own surprise, falls asleep easily.


U.A. has a dress code. It isn’t super strict, but it is a dress code regardless; the students are each shipped their uniform shortly after being accepted into the school, and they’re expected to show up in said attire.

Izuku wears his uniform, definitely, but he also wears a tie-dye shirt beneath his gray blazer. It’s the first day of school, and despite the fact that he’s feeling mostly okay so far, he really goes all out in making sure he’s got as much color as he can in his outfit. He even wears mismatched, neon, ankle-length socks, and of course his light up shoes go without saying. He kind of considers re-dying his hair, but he’d done it recently enough and besides, it’s too much of an ordeal to consider doing before heading out.

So, he grabs his backpack off the back of the chair (it’s a swirl of pink, black and purple; the only reason he’s okay with the black is because it ties together well with the pink and purple to create what look like galaxies), heads out of his room, and meets his mom by the door.

She turns to him with a smile, seeming absolutely beside herself. “Do you have everything?” she asks, stepping forward to meet him halfway. “Your books, pencils, Quirk suppressants…?”

Izuku nods, feeling a mixture of terrified and excited. “Yeah,” he says, nodding. “Thank you. For...for everything.”

Her smile turns softer, and she cups his face in her hands and kisses his forehead. She’s taller than he is, so it takes a bit of bending down, but she’s never seemed to mind.

“Have fun, okay?” she says, gazing into his eyes. “And don’t be afraid to call me if something happens. Tell a teacher, call me, I’ll come pick you up, no questions asked.”

“I won’t forget. Thank you.”

She hugs him tight, then lets him go. He sets out, down the steps leading to their apartment, fingers curled around the straps of his backpack.

When he reaches the main street, he stops, looks around, then slings his backpack off and kneels on the sidewalk, unzipping it. Rainbow pops her head up from within and meows at him questioningly.

“Sorry.” Izuku scoops Rainbow into his arms and straightens up again, slinging his backpack over his shoulder again. “I didn’t want to be alone today.”

Rainbow bumps his chin with her head. She’s about ten months old now, but she’s always been small, so carrying her around, in his arms or his backpack, isn’t hard to do. Izuku holds her closer and makes his way down to the train station; he isn’t sure what U.A.’s policy is on animals, but with luck, he’ll be able to keep Rainbow hidden today.


Rainbow is surprisingly okay stowing away in Izuku’s backpack. She has to stay there while Izuku rides the train, then again once Izuku reaches the front steps leading into U.A. He only hopes Rainbow stays quiet; the last thing he wants is to be found out and get in trouble on the first day of school.

Finding Class 1-A once he’s inside is incredibly easy.  He manages to make it down the hallway without being too noticed by other students, and when he arrives, he stands before the towering door of Class 1-A, feeling more than a little intimidated. Buildings don’t scare him; it’s what lies beyond the door that he’s afraid of.

He takes in a breath and wonders if this was the right thing to do. He hasn’t seen Kirishima all morning, nor Aizawa, nor Uraraka; the only familiar face he’s seen all day has been Mom, and of course Rainbow, but the cat hardly counts. Izuku kind of wants to go hide in the bathroom and snuggle with Rainbow until he can get ahold of Kirishima, but that idea seems stupid, even to him.

Which leaves him with the only other option: actually facing his destiny. Oh boy.

He reaches for the door handle, but that’s all he has the chance to do before a familiar— blessedly familiar —voice bounces down the hallway towards him.

“Midoriya! You got in!”

It’s Uraraka, the girl from the entrance exam, and she’s beaming and springing towards him excitedly. “I’m so glad you did!” she says once she’s reached him, not even panting from her sprint. “That thing you did at the entrance exam was really cool!”

Izuku blinks. He hasn’t the slightest clue why she’s being friendly toward him. “...I...guess so?”

“No, really, I thought it was awesome!” she goes on, and Izuku takes a small, unnoticeable step backwards. She’s a bit more forward than what he’s used to, and he’s friends with Kirishima. “You were really cool, I’m glad you’re here!”

He wonders why. Why she’s glad he’s here. They don’t know each other, they aren’t friends, so unless she’s just a naturally nice person—or, unless she feels sorry for him because of a past told in his scars and eyes—he doesn’t understand her motives.

He’s just about to ask whether she wants to go on inside, when echoing footsteps draw his attention elsewhere. He lifts his head, and Uraraka follows his gaze; Kirishima sprints towards them frantically, gasping like he’s been doing this for hours.

“Made it,” Kirishima gasps once he reaches them and finally stops. “Man, that’s the second time I was almost late...that’s what I get for sleeping in, I guess…” He looks towards Uraraka, then beams. “Oh, you got in! Congratulations!”

“Thanks!” Uraraka says, beaming back at him. Izuku thinks he might just be blinded by it. “I’m really glad we’re all here!”

“We should head inside,” Izuku says, not because he’s in a hurry, but because he really, really doesn’t want to wind up in trouble on the first day of school. “We don’t want to be late.”

“Oh, right!” Uraraka says, nodding, but it’s Kirishima who sums up the courage first to reach for the handle and pull open the sliding, towering door.

The classroom is noisy and rambunctious when Kirishima, Uraraka, and Izuku step inside. The one boy Izuku sort of but not really recognized is getting on the case of the blond kid Izuku had met on the street, which seems so very long ago now.  Everyone else is chatting and talking, sitting on desks or otherwise, and within moments, Izuku is overwhelmed. His previous plan about hiding out in the bathroom appeals to him more than ever before.

Kirishima taps him twice on the shoulder, and Izuku whirls around to face him. Kirishima offers him a thumbs up and a smile, knowing exactly what’s going through his mind, and slowly, bit by bit, Izuku feels a bit of his panic ebb away. He’s sure that as long as the classroom is this noisy, he’ll always have trouble, but with Kirishima, maybe he’ll be okay.

The blond kid Izuku had met on the street notices him, though, and he looks Izuku in the eyes, completely ignoring the words of the other student. “Hey, I remember you,” the blond says, glowering at him. “You’re that weirdo I met on the street.”

The other students, to Izuku’s dismay, have turned to watch the exchange, and no, this is going terribly, he didn’t want to make a first impression like this, never.

“Come on, don’t pretend you don’t remember,” the blond growls, and Izuku can’t tell what he wants from him. Is he expecting some kind of a fight? Is that what he wants? The words empty threat bounce around in Izuku’s head for a while.

“No, I remember you,” Izuku says, nodding and trying to avoid the stares of the rest of his classmates. “Unfortunately.”

The blond glares, and Izuku can’t bring himself to be intimidated. Despite his persona, he knows this kid is all bark no bite; Izuku is a bit more worried about the pressing stares of his new classmates, though. That is quite a bit scarier.

“...Anyway, this is Midoriya!” Kirishima’s arm goes around his shoulders and honestly Kirishima is such a godsend that Izuku wonders sometimes if maybe he’s an angel. “I’m Kirishima, and this is Uraraka. Nice to meet you guys!”

Kirishima has such a bubbly personality, and when equally cheerful Uraraka nods enthusiastically and pounds her fist into the air, it breaks the tension. Izuku still gets a couple of looks as he makes his way to the empty desk near the back of the room (specifically from the boy with glasses that Izuku really feels like he should recognize), but at least he’s not the center of attention anymore.  

He takes his seat, slides his backpack off and leaves it on the floor (he wants to bring Rainbow out, but knows it isn’t a good idea, despite how badly he longs to hold her), then catches Kirishima’s eye again as Kirishima sits down at his own desk.

Kirishima takes his seat, but half-turns and raises a hand over his shoulder. You okay?

Izuku nods, though he remains unsure. I think so, he answers. I won’t know for sure until things get started.

Kirishima nods back at him, acknowledging this. Let me know if you need me to cover for you, he says. I’m a horrible liar but a great distraction.

Izuku thanks him, and Kirishima turns back around to face the front of the room.

And then Izuku realizes that he’s being stared at by someone else. Across the room, a few desks away on the back row, is a boy that Izuku has never seen before. He wasn’t even joining in on the din. He has an oddly shaped face, and it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going through his mind; his demeanor is gentle and non-threatening, but the fact remains that he is staring, which is kind of weird.

Then, to Izuku’s complete surprise, he lifts his hands. You Sign? he says, movements sharp with enthusiasm, and Izuku’s own eyes widen because up until this point, Yatchi is the only person he’s met who already knew Sign Language.

I do, Izuku says, feeling a bit numb. Are you deaf?

The stranger shakes his head. No, he says, selectively mute. You?

Selectively mute sometimes, Izuku answers, and it’s so much easier to Sign all of this than to actually say it. He wishes he could Sign with everyone. Your name?

Kouda, is the answer. Your name?

Midoriya, Izuku replies. It’s nice to meet you.

Likewise. Kouda smiles, and Izuku wishes he could return the gesture; being able to talk to Kouda like this, in a language Izuku is more comfortable with anyway, is fantastic.

Izuku fiddles with a knife in his pocket for a while absentmindedly, waiting; and then, he sees Kouda wave a hand in discreetly in his direction and turns his head towards him again.

Your cat thinks very highly of you, Kouda says, like it’s as easy as asking someone to pass the salt. She says that you need to be protected, though.

Izuku stares.

I can talk to animals, Kouda supplies, and he smiles, a bit embarrassed. I’ll help you cover for your cat today, he promises. Your secret is safe with me. Let me know if you need help.

Izuku finds himself wondering exactly what it was Rainbow had told him, but he decides that maybe he’s better off not knowing. He nods, says a quick thank you with a single hand, then goes back to fiddling with his knife. He feels better now than he did before.

The din continues for a while longer, until finally, Aizawa arrives. The air in the room changes immediately, going from lighthearted to grave in a matter of seconds.

“Please take your seats,” Aizawa says curtly, eyeing what students remain out of their chairs. “Don’t waste any more time.”

They leap and dive and sprint to obey, clambering to their desks like their lives depend on it. Within a matter of moments, everyone is where they should be.

“Good.” Aizawa stands in front of the desk for a total of three seconds before spinning around and making for the door. “Now follow me, single-file. We’re going outside.”

Confused and tentative, the students rise from their chairs again and do as instructed. Izuku takes up the rear, just behind Kouda, and when he reaches the door, he realized that Kirishima and Uraraka had waited up for him, too. They join him in the back of the group with Kouda, and much of Izuku’s unease fades.

Today is going pretty okay so far. He only hopes it keeps up.


The first order of business is a Quirk Apprehension test which, of course, Izuku has no way of properly attending. Aizawa pulls him aside and tells him, basically, that he gets it, but he still wants Izuku to do the exercises anyway.

“Whether or not you use your Quirk doesn’t really matter right now. I know what you’re capable of, so I don’t need any further proof of your abilities.”

This is fair. The test is fairly simple and not at all as strenuous as Izuku would expect from a test of this manner; there’s a ball throw, a couple general fitness training exercises, but it’s all standard procedure and really not anything super flashy. The exercises don’t take Izuku by surprise.

What does take him by surprise? Kirishima.

Kirishima aces the ball throw, going even farther than the blond kid, who Izuku now knows has a very powerful explosion Quirk. The only person Kirishima doesn’t beat out in the ball throw is Uraraka, who, of course, tapped the ball and sent it into infinity.

Except, as soon as the ball has taken air, Kirishima waves his hand around like it’s on fire and he’s trying to put out the flames. “Ow, owowowowowow,” Kirishima says quickly, then finally stops and looks down at his hand. “Dangit, that hurt more than I thought it would...I’m glad it’s not broken…”

Izuku slides up to him, arms crossed. “What’d you do.”

Kirishima jumps, which already says enough. Izuku should probably teach him how to lie, that might be nice. But, Aizawa has already moved them off to their next activity before Izuku has the chance to say anything, which, for now, might be for the best.


“Nice going on the ball throw!” someone says to him; Eijirou wishes he could remember all these names. He’ll probably be better off writing them all down on his arm for reference. “That’s some Quirk you got there, huh?”

Eijirou brushes it off as best he can. “S’not all that,” he says, shrugging. “Sorry, what’s your name again? I’ll probably be asking you that a lot.”

“Oh, it’s Sero,” he answers with a grin that Kirishima returns easily. Aizawa starts them on their next activity, instructing them to move into the gym for these next tests, and Sero flanks him.

“Hey, so, I’ve got a question,” Sero says, and Eijirou turns to him. “Your friend, Midoriya...what’s up with him?”

Eijirou’s immediate response is to be defensive; “what’s up with him,” what does that even mean; but then he takes into consideration that Midoriya is a special case. There’s no one quite like him in the entire world.

Eijirou glances behind him. Midoriya is at the very back of the line, walking with Uraraka. She’s talking and gesturing with smooth, exaggerated movements, and while Midoriya doesn’t seem to be paying much attention, he isn’t uncomfortable.

“...He’s...been through some stuff,” Eijirou says, shaking his head. “I know it’s easy to get intimidated by him—hell, I know I was at first—but he’s a really good guy. You just gotta be patient with him.”

“Ahh, I get it.” Sero nods, then holds his chin with a hand, pondering all of this. “Thanks, man. Some of us were wondering, but we didn’t wanna just... walk up to the guy and ask him. Didn’t really seem right.”

Eijirou shrugs. “He probably wouldn’t’ve minded,” he says, “but I get what you mean. Hey, if you wanna talk to him at all, bring up cats. Or heroes, he’s been super into them lately.”

“Thanks!” Sero flashes him another grin. “I’ll do my best!”

He breaks off towards the middle of the group and immediately starts talking with a few others in the class that Eijirou still has to learn the names of, and Eijirou looks farther back and catches Midoriya’s eyes. Eijirou snaps him a thumbs-up, and Midoriya throws him an unenthusiastic peace sign in return.


There are people talking about him. He doesn’t know what they’re saying, he can’t make it out all that well, but he knows they’re talking about him. It doesn’t necessarily bother him, that he’s the hot topic for conversation (which makes sense, he understands), but he wishes they’d say it to his face.

It doesn’t even seem bad, what they’re talking about. They don’t throw him any sympathetic glances or anything, don’t eye him nervously like they’re expecting him to pounce them. It’s...weird, actually. They don’t approach him, they don’t ask him questions, which is good, it’s nice, but they aren’t bad-mouthing him, either.

He wonders what Kirishima told that boy earlier, but that’s another thing he’ll just have to wait and see.

It’s really uneventful, really, the entire apprehension test. The explosion kid gets angry a few times (Bakugou, apparently; Aizawa had addressed him as such at one point), and Iida, the boy with glasses who Izuku can’t tell whether or not he’s supposed to actually recognize, keeps looking at him oddly out of the corner of his eye, which, considering Izuku’s appearance and the fact that Izuku didn’t use his Quirk once during the actual test, not to mention everyone else’s talking about him, could really mean anything.

“Take a long, hard look at your results,” Aizawa tells the group once it’s all said and done and their results are projected onto a giant screen by the gym. “Now we have a foundation from which to build upwards. Return to the classroom now, if you would please. You’ve got fifteen minutes before your next class.”

Simple enough. The students file back up toward the classroom, through the back door leading into the school. Izuku takes up the rear with Kirishima; Uraraka gets swept off by the crowd, which Izuku thinks may be for the best. As much as he likes her, and as nice as she is, she’s a bit too energetic for him right now.

Kouda moves a hand in Izuku’s line of sight, and Izuku turns to him, curious (and relieved that Kouda hadn’t tapped him to get his attention).

Your cat is thirsty, Kouda tells him. She’s been upset for a little while now.

Izuku has heard Rainbow’s muffled meows (and they’re blessedly muffled by everyone’s footsteps and voices), but he hadn’t known what she wanted. He takes this in, thinking; and then he realizes Kirishima is staring at him with wide eyes.

YOU BROUGHT YOUR CAT WITH YOU? Kirishima says, movements wide with disbelief, and Izuku nods.

I brought Rainbow.

That is a wonderful name, Kouda says, beaming.

Thanks, I like it too.

Kirishima pinches the bridge of his nose, but doesn’t ask again. I’ll cover for you or something, he says, get the cat some water.

Izuku nods, and he and Kouda stay in the back while the rest of the group plunges on towards the classroom.


They end up in the boy’s bathroom which is, thankfully, empty when they arrive. Kouji isn’t entirely sure what to think of Midoriya, this boy with scars on his skin and pain in his eyes, who smuggled in an actual live cat on the first day of school at the most prestigious Hero Academy in the world.

But, anyway, that’s neither here nor there. Right now, Midoriya is using the cap of his water bottle as something of a small bowl for the cat in question, Rainbow (who is completely white. Kouda wasn’t sure what he’d expected).

Rainbow is a chatterbox, really, she is. Kouda thinks it’s quite endearing; most cats he meets are the opposite, but this one won’t stop going on and on about Midoriya. Kouda just wishes she had more positive things to say about him.

This one’s mine, Rainbow says proudly, bumping her head underneath Midoriya’s chin when he offers her a bottlecap of water. Her “voice” sounds like meows and trills to Midoriya, of course, who doesn’t suspect a thing. He has lots of problems. He likes you, he thinks you’re nice. You’re quiet. He doesn’t mind being with you.  

Kouda doesn’t respond; he doesn’t want Midoriya to think he and Rainbow are gossiping about him when he can only hear one side of the conversation.

He’s my kitten, Rainbow boasts, curling against Midoriya’s chest as he caps the water bottle again. I love him very much.

Midoriya turns to Kouda, and although the look on his face doesn’t change much, he seems curious. What’s she saying? he asks; another odd thing about Midoriya is that while he can talk and he does talk, he seems more comfortable with Sign Language.

Kouda supposes it’s not all that strange after all. He’s like that, himself.

She says she loves you, Kouda answers with a smile. Midoriya blinks at him thrice in rapid session, then brings his arms around Rainbow and hugs her tight, burying his face into her fur. Kouda hears him murmur “I love you, too,” and his smile turns soft.

There’s still a lot he doesn’t understand, but that doesn’t mean he can’t look after Midoriya regardless.


Izuku and Kouda return to Class 1-A shortly thereafter, without bumping into anyone, and Izuku thanks Kouda (in Sign) and heads to his desk in the back of the room. He places his backpack across the surface and slides into his chair, glad to be off his feet.

The teacher for their next subject isn’t here yet, which might be a good thing seeing as how no one, aside from him and a few others, are in their proper seats where they belong. They’re sitting on desks (much to Iida’s dismay), chatting to each other even though they’ve only just met, and...

It’s weird.

It’s really weird, all of this, because Izuku is surrounded by new faces of people he doesn’t know, people his age, all with differing personalities and strengths and weaknesses, and it could just be him, but he’s pretty sure his classmates are intentionally avoiding him, which makes sense considering his scars and whatnot, and Rainbow is starting to get antsy now and he doesn’t know for how much longer he’s going to be able to keep her a secret—

Rainbow meows. Loudly.

And everyone turns to stare. Izuku is only glad the English teacher isn’t here yet, because there is no way that would go undetected.

“Wait...does someone have a cat?” the earphone-jack girl, Jirou, says (one thing Izuku did manage to remember was their names, which he has written down on a small notecard in his pocket for reference).

It’s Kirishima who answers first, slinging an arm around Izuku’s shoulders. “Nahh, you probably just heard it wrong,” he says breezily, and he’s such an easy-going guy that it’s hard not to believe him. “Maybe someone sneezed or something.”

Rainbow meows again, and this time there’s no denying it.

“Someone does have a cat!” Ashido declares loudly, leaping to her feet. “Okay, who is it!? I wanna see the cat, I love cats!”

Izuku sighs, but realizes that, quite literally, the cat is out of the bag. He unzips his backpack, and out of it leaps Rainbow, who trills and explores Izuku’s desk curiously.

“OH MY GOSH IT’S A CAT.” Ashido practically flies across the room. Rainbow lets her close, rubbing her face against Ashido’s hand when she reaches out. Rainbow has always been one of the more friendly cats, which is good; besides, the cat makes a nice distraction to keep peoples’ eyes off of Izuku. “What’s his name?”

“Her, and it’s Rainbow,” Izuku answers quietly. Ashido looks at him for a moment, then quickly refocuses her gaze on the cat, cooing and scratching her head.

“Awwe, I love her!” Hagakure gushes, and it’s hard to tell exactly what kind of face she’s wearing, considering she doesn’t...technically...have a face… “She’s so cute!”

Izuku is beginning to feel overwhelmed again, but he plays it off now better than he did before, taking Rainbow into his arms and holding her tight. “Thank you,” he murmurs, feeling awkward, but better now that he’s holding Rainbow. “I love her, too.”

It’s not as bad as it could be. Kirishima is right by his side, and already, Izuku knows his appearance isn’t the most approachable type, considering most of the class holds back. He’s almost glad for it. Everything seems to be going okay—

“Midoriya, is it?”

All heads turn in that direction. It’s Iida who spoke, that person Izuku feels like he should know from somewhere but doesn’t, and he’s looking at Izuku with the same eyes he gave the students perched on the edges of their desks where they didn’t belong.

“Hi,” Izuku says, already anticipating the worst. “I’m sorry. I won’t bring the cat tomorrow.”

Iida doesn’t seem surprised. He doesn’t scold him, either, just nods. “Alright,” he says, straightening his glasses. “But we aren’t supposed to bring pets. Please refrain from doing so in the future.”

Maybe Iida feels sorry for him. Maybe he overheard whatever it was Kirishima told Sero. Izuku doesn’t know, and he doesn’t really want to ask—

“I’ll give them back if you promise not to try to stab me again, okay?”

Izuku’s eyes go wide as Iida turns away. He’s realized it.

The hero who saved him all those years ago. Iida looks just like him.

He doesn’t get the chance to say anything; by the time he comes up with something, the teacher enters the room, and everyone is forced to quit conversation and return to their seats.


Izuku has some concerns. Rainbow has been well-behaved so far, but she’s getting antsier now, wanting to be free and out of his backpack, which is completely understandable, but at the same time, Izuku doesn’t know what he’s going to do if he’s found out by the teacher. Would they expel him for bringing a pet? It seems kind of extreme, but this is U.A., and after that Zero-Pointer in the entrance exam, Izuku wouldn’t put anything past them.

The teacher of their final class, the pro-hero Midnight, stands at the front of the room and gestures to the blackboard. Izuku listens and takes notes, but he’s mostly concerned about the squirming bundle that is his bag.

“As you can see here,” Midnight is saying, moments before disaster strikes, “the formula--”

Mrrow!

Disaster has struck, and everyone--but specifically Midnight--turns to look in the direction from whence the sound came. Izuku knows he’s done for. He’s absolutely done for. He’d taken Rainbow with him today because he didn’t want to go alone, but it might be his doom now—

To his shock, it’s Ashido who leaps from her feet and shoots her hand into the air. “I’m sorry!” she says, bowing lowly. “I sneezed! I tried holding it back but I couldn’t!”

Izuku stares.

Somehow, though, the teacher buys it. “Don’t get so worked up about it,” she says, frowning. “Go ahead and sit down, no worries.”

Ashido sinks back into her seat with a feigned sigh of relief, and she flashes Izuku a thumbs-up behind her back.

Izuku would like to say that’s the first and only time that happened, but it isn’t. Rainbow is still restless, and she still voices all these complaints. No matter how many times it happens, someone always covers for it; Kaminari pretends he’s coughing into his fist to stifle Rainbow’s protests, Jirou “knocks” her book off the table—even Yaoyorozu, whom Izuku took to be the most logical of the class aside from say Iida, scoots her chair backwards to cover one of Rainbow’s meows.

It’s one of the most bizzare but endearing situations Izuku has ever found himself in, and he can’t tell whether they’re doing it for his sake, or for Rainbow’s.

Either way, as his new classmates come up with more and more bizzare ways to cover for Rainbow’s noise, he can’t help but feel something stir in his chest. He’d had doubts before, lots of them, but…

Maybe coming to U.A. will be the best decision he’s ever made.


[Aizawa-sensei]
Sorry I didn’t get the chance to catch you before school ended. If you aren’t too out of it, do you wanna go for another Quirk training session at the usual place?

Izuku is on his way out of the school when he gets the text. He’d told Kirishima to go on ahead; like always, Kirishima was running late for his train, so Izuku shooed him on ahead. Rainbow is tucked away safely in Izuku’s backpack, secret safe. No one approached him afterwards expecting a thank-you; a couple of them winked at him behind the teacher’s back, a few more gave him thumbs-up in like manner, but that’s it. No one asks him about Rainbow, not even Iida.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Sounds good. See you in like half an hour.

[Aizawa-sensei]
Make it more like an hour, I’m still finishing up here.
Also, if you wanna bring your cat to school you can leave them in the teacher’s lounge.
No more stowaways.

Izuku isn’t surprised. The only thing that does surprise him is that Aizawa hadn’t brought it up sooner.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Alright. That’s fair.
See you later.

Aizawa doesn’t text back—there’s really no need for him to—so Izuku pockets his phone and finally looks up again.

He passes someone, someone with dual-colored hair and eyes and an expression nearly cold enough to match Izuku’s own. Izuku saw him at the Quirk Apprehension test, then later in Class 1-A; a classmate, but this is the first time Izuku’s been this close to him.

It’s the first time he’s actually had the chance to look at his face.

Todoroki, that’s his name; Izuku remembered his just like he remembered everyone else’s. He doesn’t look at Izuku when they pass, even though their shoulders nearly touch, and it should be fine, really, it should be.

But it isn’t.

It isn’t fine because every instinct Izuku has is screaming t h r e a t .

The world around him fades into white and slows to a near standstill. Todoroki doesn’t look at him, but it’s like Izuku can’t pull his eyes away.

T h R e AT, says every moment of training, every instinct, every hard-learned lesson from the villains.

Todoroki…? Izuku can’t look away. Wait...that doesn’t make sense...why would he…?

T h R e a T, it says again.

The world comes back into focus and motion, and Todoroki passes him and continues down his way, unaware that anything had transpired at all. Izuku spins on his heel and watches his retreating back, eyes wide, heart racing. This isn’t right, this can’t be right, this is his classmate, this is someone his own age, this is—

This is wrong, this is—

TH r E a T.

But how? Izuku thinks desperately, searching himself, because Todoroki isn’t a danger to him, Izuku is not threatened by Todoroki, but there’s something there, some deep instinct Izuku has that’s saying the opposite. How is he a threat? Why? To whom?

T h R e A t . . .

Izuku watches Todoroki until he turns the corner and disappears from sight.

. . . T o  h IM S e L F .

Chapter Text

Izuku spends a good hour on his laptop that afternoon after school, researching. The laptop itself is bright pink and decorated with dozens of stickers, but that’s not important; Izuku’s more focused on what’s on his screen right now.

He knew the name Todoroki sounded familiar to him. Endeavor, the number two hero—his true name is Todoroki Enji. Izuku had run into an article on him once while he was doing some digging on Aizawa. Izuku already doesn’t like the vibes Endeavor gives off, even in his picture, but he really can’t judge until he meets the man in person.

He reminds himself to bring an extra knife or two (or ten) should he ever meet the man.

And then he moves on to the “Iida” family. He looks up the family name, followed by “hero,” and the results file in. The top result is Iida Tensei, the hero “Ingenium,” a popular, well-loved guy who’s respected by both civilians and the entire hero industry. He’s definitely Iida’s older brother; Izuku wonders if maybe he should say something tomorrow at school.

He shuts the laptop, grabs a syringe of Quirk suppressants just in case, and heads out to meet Aizawa at the abandoned city.


Tomorrow comes quickly, despite Izuku barely catching two hours of sleep that night, and soon enough he’s setting off for the train station. Kirishima meets up with him, barely making his train in time, and then, a bit farther down the line as they’re walking towards U.A., Uraraka and Kouda sprint up to them, both beaming.

“Morning!” Uraraka says cheerily, and Kouda Signs the same thing to Izuku. “How are you all doing today?”

“I’m doing great!” Kirishima fist-bumps nothing, grinning. “Ready for another day, that’s for sure!”

Izuku tunes out the conversation and looks ahead. He catches a glimpse of Todoroki as he steps into the building, and Iida is a little farther off, marching towards the front steps.

Izuku doesn’t know what’s going on with Todoroki right now, so there’s not much he could say anyway, even if he wanted to, but Iida…

Be right back, Izuku says to Kouda while Kirishima and Uraraka ramble on and on. Don’t wait up for me.

Kouda nods his acknowledgement, and Izuku takes off towards Iida. It’s not really what he wants to do, but at the same time, he feels like he has to say something. Besides, today is a good day so far; what better time to talk to him than during the rare moments in which Izuku feels vaguely sociable?

“Iida.”

Iida turns to him, halting mid-step. “Oh,” he says, putting his foot down, “it’s you. You don’t have another cat, do you?”

Izuku shakes his head and resists the urge to start fiddling with the one pocket knife he has on him. “I wanted to apologize,” he says. “I...I probably shouldn’t have brought the cat yesterday at all, but...I just…”

Iida studies him for a moment, and Izuku feels vaguely like he’s being dissected. “I understand,” he says, “school is stressful for everyone, especially on the first day, but...please refrain from bringing pets in the future, alright?”

Izuku nods. Iida continues walking, and Izuku flanks him, though he does leave about a foot of space between them. They continue on in silence, and Izuku can’t tell whether or not it’s a comfortable silence.


Homeroom goes smoothly, and so do their next classes. At lunch in the cafeteria, Izuku spends his time, again, in Kirishima’s shadow. He’s glad no one’s seemed to notice his bizarre appearance yet, though he’s not counting on it to stay that way, and when he and Kirishima find a table, they’re joined quickly by Uraraka and Kouda.

Izuku can’t help but feel like he’s doing something wrong. He’s never been good in situations, and here, he doesn’t really feel like he belongs in this situation. Maybe he can take his lunch somewhere else so everyone can enjoy their time together. He doesn’t know if he’s handling these social situations correctly, he doesn’t know if maybe he’s coming across as too forward, or maybe not forward enough, or maybe he’s fine and he’s just overthinking things, he has no idea.  

And then, to Izuku’s surprise, Asui joins them at the table.

They haven’t spoken yet, not even a simple passing word, but Izuku has discerned already that Asui has a very simple, easy-going demeanor. She isn’t a mystery like Todoroki, won’t keep her true feelings to herself, and always speaks her mind.

“Midori-chan,” she says, sitting beside him (he has to resist the urge to scoot away, but she isn’t touching him, so he’s alright for now), “after the cat thing yesterday, I saw this and thought of you.”

She places something on the table and nudges it towards him.

“I was downtown shopping yesterday and I found this,” she says. “You iron it on, I believe. It might be kind of silly, but you seem like you like wearing colors, and you brought a cat with you yesterday, so I thought it suited you well. You can even put it on your blazer if you want.”

It’s an embroidered, cartoon-y cat, with multi-colored hearts on its coat and neon whiskers. Izuku stares at it, wide-eyed, and takes it into his hands carefully, like it’s glass with a crack already running down the center.

“You...really got this for me?”  

Asui nods. “If you want it, it’s yours.”

Izuku stares a while longer, then releases a shaky breath. “Thank you, Asui.”

“Call me Tsuyu,” she says, smiling at him. “I hope we can be friends, Midori-chan.”

Any previous sense of unease and worry leaves Izuku’s mind, and Asui—no, wait, Tsuyu—remains with them for lunch, chatting and talking away with the others. Izuku doesn’t join in the conversation, but it’s not because he’s uncomfortable. It’s for the opposite reason, actually.


The day goes uneventfully—Izuku and the others breeze through their final classes with flying colors. It seems his tutoring with Kirishima is finally paying off, because he almost gets some of the questions right.

And then, their final class of today. Hero Basic training, taught by none other than All Might.

It’s the first time Izuku has seen the hero since before the entrance exam; he’s looking like his usual, chipper self that the world knows him by, and with wide gestures and a blinding smile, he gives the introduction.

“I’m sure you’ve all really been waiting for this moment,” All Might says, clicking a button on the remote on the desk, “so I won’t beat around the bush!”

From several mechanical lockers on the far wall come several briefcases, each numbered according to its corresponding student.

The students don’t need to be told what this means.

“Hero costumes!” Kaminari exclaims, hopping to his feet. Izuku is glad they’re on opposite sides of the classroom, because he’s sure the volume and suddenness of the shout would have him flinching away. “Are you for real!? We really get to wear them!?”

“Indeed!” All Might says, nodding. “Go ahead and get suited up, then return to the classroom for further instruction!”

“Yessir!”


Hero costumes. It’d taken a lot of time and a lot of reworking it before Izuku was proud of his design. He had to take everything into consideration; his Quirk, his knives, his limitations, Quirk suppressants, what he should do if his Quirk leaves him blind, deaf or otherwise...there’s a lot to consider, when it comes to him. Everyone has things to consider, but he’s willing to bet good money that none of them have to think about nearly as much as he does.

At first he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d wanted to do with his costume. Half the time he spent working on it was just him trying to determine exactly what kind of message he wanted to give off. He’d grown up a villain, and he doesn’t want that to be what people affiliate him with, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to come off as weak to villains.

Something intimidating, but someone friendly. That’s what he’s going for.

For the longest time, he had no idea what to do. He’d thought about it ‘till his head pounded, then a little longer, until it finally hit him.

It’d hit him in the form of Fistfight pouncing Fiddlesticks.


Everyone, suited in their costumes, meet All Might on Field Gamma.

“OH MY GOSH, MIDORI!” Ashido springs forward, beaming excitedly at him. “You’re literally a cat!”

“Not quite,” Izuku says, shifting his weight. “It’s mainly the ears.”

He does have a pair of heavy-duty cat ears, if that’s a thing, along with several sheathed knives strapped around his calves and thighs. His entire costume is black, from his long-sleeved shirt to his black pants, except for the flipside of his cape, which is silver, but unnoticeable unless he puts it on upside down.

“Oh wow, that looks awesome!” Kirishima says, racing over. He looks pretty slick in his own costume, too, black, long-sleeved shirt and bright red shoulder pads. “Like a panther, right?”

“A kitten,” Izuku says, “but same difference.”

“I’ll be honest,” Tsuyu says, tapping a finger to her chin, “I was expecting something with a little more color, Midori-chan, taking into consideration what you usually wear.”

“Oh, I can do this.” Izuku stomps his black combat boots harder than usual; bright, multi-colored LED lights flash on the ground. “Plus, my cape is reversible. It’s silver on one side.”

“Nice.”

“Now, everyone, we will be deciding the teams at random!” All Might says flamboyantly, and Izuku and the others stop what they’re doing to listen. “Each team consists of two people, and each battle will have both a hero team, and a villain team! It’s the hero’s job to infiltrate the building and secure either the villains or their weapon, and it’s the villains’ job to stop the heroes, or defend their weapon. So whether you’re an attacker or a defender, there’s something here for you!”

Izuku’s brain is ticking already. So...villains versus heroes...attacking or defending…

The lots are drawn, and All Might declares them loudly for all to hear.

The villain team: Iida and Bakugou.

The hero team: Izuku and Uraraka.


All Might says something to Izuku, briefly, as he moves to join Uraraka outside of the training building. “I don’t know how you feel about all this,” All Might says, just loud enough for Izuku to hear as he passes by, “but if it gets to be too much, cross your fingers. I’ll call off the match.”

Izuku appreciates All Might looking after him, even though he’s sure he’ll be fine. After all, it’s just a practice match. “Thank you,” he says, then continues walking and joins Uraraka while Bakugou and Iida take their places and All Might and the remaining students head into the viewing area to watch everything unfold.

“Here.” Uraraka passes him a copy of the floorplan, which Izuku takes and studies. “There are a lot of stories, what do you think we should do?”

Izuku nods simply. “Judging by his behavior at the Quirk Apprehension test, Bakugou will probably be on the offense. Iida’s Quirk is better suited for defense anyway in comparison to Bakugou, so they’ll probably have Bakugou fight and Iida defend.”

Uraraka nods. “That sounds right.” She mulls this over in her head for a while, then moves her index finger down the front of the blueprint. “If we infiltrate through the side window, they probably won’t know we’re there.”

Izuku takes a moment to think about it. “How confident are you in your combat abilities?” he asks, turning towards her. “Because if you think you can hold our own in a fight, I have an idea.”

Uraraka glances at him. “I’m listening.”

“If you infiltrate the building from the ground and I infiltrate from the roof,” Izuku says, moving his finger along the blueprints as he speaks to show her the path, “we’re both bound to either run into Iida or Bakugou. Their fighting styles are a mystery to us right now, but I think it’s fair to say that they won’t be sticking together during the trial.”

“Oh, I get it…” Uraraka nods. “So if we check every floor, you from the top and me from the bottom, we’ll definitely bump into both Bakugou and Iida.”

“Exactly. And it’ll go a lot quicker this way, too. By splitting up like this, we won’t waste time wandering around trying to find them.”

“Perfect!” Uraraka beams enthusiastically, nodding. “But...that still leaves us with what we’re going to do once we bump into Iida or Bakugou…”

“We’ll think about that once we’re in the building,” Izuku says, raising his head and looking at the structure. “Our ten minutes is bound to be up any second now.”

As though on cue, All Might’s voice booms over the loudspeakers. “Time’s up! Heroes, you may now infiltrate the building!”

“Here we go,” Uraraka breathes, looking towards him. “Good luck, Midoriya.”

“You too.”

Izuku whips out two knives, one for each hand, and although Uraraka jumps, she doesn’t seem afraid. She enters through one of the windows on the first floor, and Izuku digs his knives into the side of the building and begins to climb.

He’s at the final floor in almost no time at all, and he pulls open the window with one hand and swings himself inside. He rolls on his shoulder to keep from making too much noise, then crouches and looks around.

No sign of anyone.

He rises to his feet slowly, knives still in hand, and takes another glance about the room. It’s a labyrinth of walls and turns and dead ends; Izuku isn’t sure how anyone would really be able to find their way through it, and for a hero exercise, it seems a bit overkill, but it’s whatever.

It’s too quiet up here for there to be anyone but Izuku. One thing Bakugou is not is quiet, and neither is Iida. Their Quirks are noisy ones, and so are their costumes; it’d be hard for either of them to sneak up on him without him realizing it.

So he takes the stairs down to the next lowest floor.

Then to the next lowest floor.

The further into the building he goes, the thicker the labyrinth becomes. He still doesn’t hear anything of great significance, and he isn’t far down enough to bump into Uraraka yet, so he has some time.

He does find it weird that he hasn’t heard anything from anyone yet. He taps the communication device by his ear.

“Uraraka, anything yet?” he asks, keeping his voice low.

“No, nothing,” she answers, voice a harsh whisper even through the mechanisms. “I don’t like this. I keep feeling like I’m being watched. Like someone’s breathing down my neck.”

Izuku doesn’t feel the same way, but he has to admit, everything is startlingly calm right now. It’s like they aren’t even in the middle of a test. “Bakugou is probably hiding out somewhere waiting for us,” he deduces, sprinting down the next staircase and moving swiftly through the labyrinth, feet barely touching the ground. “We’ll meet in the middle soon enough.”

“Got it. Over.”

Izuku doesn’t tap his device again. He continues through the labyrinth, checking through doors, peering into each room he passes. He knows something should happen soon; it doesn’t make sense for things to keep continuing this way.

He passes one door, then immediately presses himself against the wall to avoid being spotted. Silently, he taps his communication device by his ear.

“Uraraka. I found Iida. And the weapon.”

“Wait really? That’s great!” Uaraka’s voice is more enthusiastic than before, though still not much more than a whisper. “If you think you can take him out and get the weapon then go ahead. I’ll keep Bakugou distracted, wherever he is...I still haven’t seen any sign of him.”

“Gotcha.” Izuku nods. “Gonna engage now. See you on the flipside.”

“Okay. Good luck.”

Izuku lowers his hand back down to his side and draws a knife. He hears Iida monologuing to himself inside the room, but can’t make out any words.

Now’s as good a time as ever…

Izuku takes a breath, swings himself around the corner, and throws the knife after taking aim. The knife goes right by Iida and the nuclear weapon, embedding in the far wall.

Iida spins around to face him. Izuku raises a hand and waves at him. “If you could throw my knife back to me that’d be fantastic.”

Iida blinks at him twice, rapidly, then moves into a stance. “Never, hero!” he says, pointing a finger accusingly. “It was foolish of you to give up your weapon in the first place! I will never let you have this weapon!” After this, Iida breaks into a round of exaggerated, evil cackling.

Izuku blinks. “Is...is that your impersonation of a villain?”

“I am a villain!” Iida barks back at him.

Izuku blinks again. “...My cats are scarier than that. I’m sorry.”

“I DON’T WANT YOUR SYMPATHY.” Iida moves to stand in front of the weapon, ready to defend. “GIVE IT YOUR ALL, HERO!”

“Wellp.” Izuku crouches, then draws a second knife to replace the first one. “Guess we’re doing it this way.”  

He charges, not for any particular reason, but to see how Iida reacts.

It goes about how Izuku expected; when he gets too close, Iida grabs the weapon and zooms to the opposite side of the room with his Quirk. Izuku skids to a halt, then turns to look at him as he takes his stance before the weapon again.

“Nice try, hero!” Iida gawks, still playing the part. “But I will not let you lay a finger on this weapon!”

Izuku frowns. “You’re taking this pretty seriously, don’t you think?”

“Of course!” Iida nods, and the movement is very extreme and obvious, even with his helmet. “You are a hero infiltrating our base and trying to stop our brilliant scheme! Of course I’m taking this seriously!”

“Nice.” Izuku retracts his knife hand. “Shame if something happened to that weapon, don’t you think?”

Iida blinks at him, then takes a step backwards. “You wouldn’t.”

“Wanna bet?”

Izuku doesn’t wait for a response. He throws the knife.

Iida reacts the moment he sees Izuku’s hand move; he grabs the weapon again and yanks it out of the way of the knife. The blade sinks harmlessly into the wall, but it was a close call.

“You are insane!” Iida says, pointing at him again.

Izuku draws up another knife. “You’re the guys who brought a nuclear weapon into a small building in the first place, so I’m pretty sure this is more your fault than mine.”

“Don’t question our ways! We’re the villains here!”

“Really.”

Izuku tilts his head to one side without breaking eye contact.

You don’t laugh like one.”

It’s wrong, really, pulling this card, but Iida drops his guard long enough for Izuku to make his move. He throws a knife and kicks off the ground at the same time; the knife sinks into the wall by Iida’s head, and while Iida’s attention is directed there, Izuku moves in closer.

“It’s your power,” Kirishima had said, as Izuku leaned against his shoulder and watched him play dumb games on his phone. “...It’s going to be hard, but you’re going to learn to control it. You’re going to use it to save people someday, I know you will.”

Iida…

The feeling is familiar now. He only needs a little bit. Aizawa had already said he was holding the majority of it back; maybe he can hold back most of it again. Only use what he needs.

...I’m sorry.


Tenya has no idea what happens. One moment there’s a knife right by his head, and then, he can’t see anything. His vision doesn’t go black. No, it cuts to static, like one of those old TV screens with poor signal. He can hear it roaring in his ears, crackling constantly, getting louder—

—and then there’s nothing. His vision goes black, but he realizes this time that it’s because his eyes are closed. He opens them, blinks upwards; his blurry vision comes back into focus, and he sees Midoriya, scarred and breathing hard, with the needle of a now-empty syringe buried in his arm.

“Sorry, Iida.” Midoriya’s voice is thick, and Tenya can’t actually tell what kind of emotion is behind it, if any. Midoriya sounds exhausted more than anything else. “I didn’t want to have to use it, but…”

There’s capture tape wrapped around Tenya’s wrists, binding his hands together.

But that’s not what he’s concerned with. He’s lost, sure, and he knows he’ll lament his inability to fight back later, but what he’s really concerned with is Midoriya’s words.

Tenya doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’d never felt anything like that before, that static, that roaring in his ears like he was by an electronic, crackling ocean. He wonders if it has anything to do with Midoriya’s—scarred, dead-eyed Midoriya’s—Quirk.

But there’s a lot he doesn’t know about Midoriya. There’s a lot he’s not sure he wants to know.

“Either way…” Midoriya slips the needle into a special cylinder on his thigh. “...Guess I’ll just...end it here…”  

“Thought I heard a rat. Stand back before I blow off your head.”

Midoriya turns around, slowly. Bakugou is standing in the doorway, one of his gauntlets poised to fire.

Midoriya frowns. He isn’t close enough to the weapon to be able to reach out and touch it, but he’s close nonetheless. “You wouldn’t fire,” Midoriya says flatly. “It’s a nuclear weapon.” (Paper mache, actually, but they’re not supposed to think along those lines.) “Firing off that blast is suicide.”

“Who says I give a damn?” Bakugou’s finger curls around the pin of the grenade. “You’re the only one pitching a fit about it.”

“What are you doing!?” Tenya only finds his voice now, as Bakugou prepares to pull the pin. “Don’t do it! What are you thinking!?”

“Step away from the bomb,” Bakugou tells Midoriya, “and we’ll fight this good and fair. What do you say?”

“How about this.” Midoriya draws two knives. He’s still breathing hard. “You stop acting like an idiot and lower your weapon. If you fire that off, you’ll kill everyone in this building.”

“You know I’m not gonna back off!” Bakugou barks, teasing the pin. “Step away, or I’ll fire!”

“Then let’s see who’s quicker.” Midoriya retracts his arm, taking aim. “And who’s bluffing.”

“Midoriya!”

Uraraka barrels in out of nowhere and leaps at Bakugou.


It’s like Bakugou is ready for her, because he swings around and bashes the side of her head with the gauntlet. She flies backwards with a sharp cry of pain and hits the ground, unmoving. She might’ve blacked out, but she’s not bleeding, and the hit wasn’t hard enough to concuss her. Izuku wants to check on her more thoroughly, but right now, he has to believe that she’s okay.

“Nice going.” Izuku straightens up, lowering his arm. “You’re a coward, you know. Not even coming directly at me.”

Bakugou snarls at him. “What did you say?” he demands, starting forward. “You really want me to come directly at you, is that it, huh? I’ll give you that, Cat. And you’re not gonna like it.”

“Charming.”

He runs at Izuku, and Izuku has a brief thought that maybe he shouldn’t have egged Bakugou on right after taking a Quirk suppressant.

Izuku springs out of the way of Bakugou’s first swing; he swung with his left arm, very sure of himself. He was expecting to land the blow. But he doesn’t.

Izuku kicks Bakugou behind the knees, which sends Bakugou pitching forward. Just as Izuku is about to spring on him with the capture tape, Bakugou swings his arm around and fires off a blast dangerously close to Izuku’s face. Izuku falls back, his shoulder blades hitting the far wall; he can feel pain spiking up the side of his face and wonders, briefly, if he’ll wind up with another scar there.

“I forgot what you said.”

Bakugou grabs Izuku by the front of the shirt and slams him against the wall harder. Izuku’s mind goes blank. Their faces are inches away from each other, his feet are dangling, there’s a wall behind him, and he still has his knives in his hands but he can’t bring himself to raise them. His ears ring. His vision blurs. His head fills with cotton.

“You said you wanted me to come at you, didn’t you?” Bakugou’s holding him, grabbing him. He’s pinned up against a wall. His feet dangle, limp. A part of him wants to scream.

“...You know, you’re not all that, are you?” Bakugou leans in even closer. Izuku’s heart springs into his throat. “You talk a big game, but you really look your costume, you know. You’re pathetic. A kitten. A deku.”

Something snaps.

He doesn’t know what it is, but it’s a very defining something.

Izuku slams his knee under Bakugou’s chin. Bakugou reels back, but doesn’t let go, and Izuku sinks his teeth into Bakugou’s forearm. He shrieks and throws himself back, and Izuku hits the floor gasping.

“Did you seriously bite me!? What the hell!?”

Izuku yanks off his headband and throws it like a frisbee. Bakugou doesn’t move at first, but then, he hurls himself out of the way. The cat ears on Izuku’s headband sink into the far wall and stay there.

Bakugou turns to him, beside himself. “DID YOU REALLY PUT KNIVES IN YOUR FRICKIN CAT EARS!?”

“Do you really need me to answer that question?”

“What the hell is wrong with you!?”

Izuku rises, slowly. “Don’t call me Deku again.”

“Really!? What’s wrong with it, huh, Deku?”

Izuku’s eye twitches. “Don’t.”

“Whatcha gonna do about it, huh, Deku!?” Bakugou grins madly, eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you come and stop me if it means so much to you, Deku?”

“Don’t.”

“Come stop me, then, Deku!”

“Please, don’t.”

“Begging now, huh!?” Bakugou raises a gauntlet for another blast. “Not very heroic of you, Deku.”

Izuku charges.

There are two knives in his hands before he knows it. Bakugou fires the blast, but it’s all noise and nothing. Izuku dodges is, it blows a hole through the wall, Izuku’s knives flash in the light.

And then Bakugou is on the ground.


Eijirou knows exactly what he’s watching. In his mind, anyway, he does. But in his heart, he has no idea. He has no idea what’s going on here.

Midoriya had tackled Bakugou, and they’re on the ground now, rolling and tumbling. Midoriya’s knives flash, Bakugou’s explosions cloud the area. They can’t even see what’s going on half of the time.

He can see the screens, but he can’t hear any of what was exchanged between Midoriya and Bakugou. All he knows is Bakugou was saying something, and then Midoriya lost it.

He’s never seen Midoriya like this before.

“Sensei!” He pushes through the crowd of his fellow student onlookers and gets to All Might. “You have to stop the fight, something’s wrong! I’ve never seen Midoriya act like this, I don’t know what Bakugou said but you have to stop the fight before it goes any further!”

“I know,” All Might says, staring at the screens, “but look.”

Eijirou does.


Izuku barely knows what he’s doing anymore. It’s all instinct from here on. His knives are more of an empty threat, but they give Bakugou one more thing to think about. Izuku is a lot lighter on his feet than Bakugou is, which gives him an advantage, but with Bakugou’s all-range explosions, it doesn’t help by very much.

He dodges. He attacks. One of his knives leaves a gash on Bakugou’s cheek, another gash on his forearm, another on his shin. They’re small wounds but they’ll add up, they’ll add up and he’ll give up, they’ll add up and he’ll fall, he’ll lose, he’ll d—

Izuku freezes.

Bakugou bashes the side of his head with a gauntlet.

Izuku is thrown back off his feet, rolling and tumbling once he hits the ground. He gets his feet underneath him again, but there are bright stars in his line of sight, and his exhaustion from the Quirk suppressants is starting to get to him.

Bakugou stalks towards him, grinning. “You’re really nothing in the end, are you? Deku.”

Izuku’s head spins.

And then All Might’s voice booms over the loudspeakers.

“HERO TEAM WINS!”

Izuku’s head snaps up. So does Bakugou’s. “WHAT THE HELL!?” Bakugou screches, spinning around. “But—!”

Uraraka is there, breathing hard, blood streaking down the side of her face, but her palm is placed flat against the nuclear weapon.

She smiles, twistedly at Bakugou, then kindly at Izuku. “Thanks, Midoriya. We sure put these villains in their place.”

Izuku flops on the ground, Iida wails dramatically in despair, and Bakugou stands there trembling.


Bakugou and Iida filed out, but Izuku and Uraraka were asked by All Might over the loudspeakers to wait for the medics to arrive. Izuku is sitting against the wall now, knees pulled against his chest and arms wrapped around them. He’s still seeing stars, and he feels vaguely like he’s going to be sick, so he’s glad he doesn’t have to get up and walk himself.

Uraraka joins him, standing by him tentatively for a moment, then sinking down next to him when he doesn’t object. She too draws her knees against her chest and wraps her arms around them.

“Oh, man…” she breathes, then shakes her head. “That was crazy. You...are you okay?”

Izuku pulls his cape tighter around himself. “I’m fine. What about you? Are you okay?”

“Oh, y-yeah, I’m alright.” She giggles softly to herself, then sighs. “That really hurt when he hit me, though, I don’t think I want that to ever happen again—” She stops suddenly, does a double-take. Her eyes widen. “...Oh, wow…”

Izuku glances at her. “What.”

“N-Nothing, I just…you have golden sparkles in your eyes. They’re super pretty.”

Izuku blinks. “You...you really think so?”

“Oh, yeah, definitely!” Uraraka nods enthusiastically. “I think they’re really pretty! Super unique, too, I’ve never met anyone like that—”

Izuku leans his head against her shoulder. She doesn’t tense or flinch away, but her smile fades slowly.

“...Midoriya...are you…are you really okay?”

“...Yeah.”


Izuku doesn’t like the infirmary. It reminds him too much of a hospital. But, he assumes it’s better than nothing; besides, Uraraka is with him, so he’s not alone.

The door bangs the wall, and in runs Kirishima, Tsuyu, and Kouda, looking frantic. It’s Uraraka who speaks first, raising a hand in greeting; she has bandages wrapped around her forehead, but other than that, is unharmed.

“Hey!” she welcomes, smiling. “Did you guys already do your battle?”

“Yes.” Tsuyu hops forward, taps her finger to her chin. “Yours was the most gruesome, though. Are you both alright?”

Uraraka looks at Izuku, and when Izuku says nothing, she raises her head towards Tsuyu again. “We’re okay. Not great, but, we’re okay.”

Izuku holds his silence, and Kirishima steps forward. “Midoriya, what did Bakugou say to you?”

Izuku bites his lip. “Nothing.”

“You flipped out, Midoriya, he said something.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Dude—”

“Kiri-chan, please.”

Kirishima stops, and his teeth snap together with an audible click. “...Okay. Okay, I won’t. Sorry, I just…” He runs a hand through his air. “I was worried, man. That wasn’t like you at all.”

“I know. It’s okay.” It’s not. “I’ll be fine.” He’ll be, eventually. “Don’t worry.”

He’s lying.

No one says anything else—no one except Kouda, who raises a small, hasty We’re here for you, which Izuku returns with a Thank you, even though his hand shakes.


“You used your Quirk during the battle trial.” It isn’t a question. Izuku can tell this from the second he hears the words. He nods, looking downwards; he and Aizawa are headed down the hallway, towards the exit.

“I didn’t want to,” Izuku says, “and I used a Quirk Suppressant right afterwards—what?”

“Nothing,” Aizawa answers, shaking his head. “You decided to use it, though, of your own free will. This time nine months ago, you wouldn’t have even considered doing that.”

Izuku frowns, pondering this. He feels the lingering exhaustion from the Quirk suppressants, even though he’d slept some in the infirmary, and there’s still static in his mind (small bits, at least), but Aizawa definitely has a point.

“...Guess you’re right,” Izuku says, nodding stiffly. “Maybe there’s a chance after all.”

Aizawa frowns at him, then turns back toward the hallway. “Aren’t you cheerful today.”

Izuku snorts. “Cheerful.”

“C’mon, Problem Child, don’t be like that. Tell me what’s the matter with you.”

“Nothing’s the matter,” Izuku insists, shaking his head. “Just, had a tiring day is all, it’s no big deal. I’m sure I’ll be better off tomorrow.”

Aizawa doesn’t seem convinced, but he’s learned by now that there’s no point in arguing with Izuku when he has his mind set on something. “If you say so,” he says, shaking his head, “but if you want to take a sick day tomorrow, don’t be afraid to. Stay home, cuddle your cats, do whatever, alright? You’re smart enough to afford a few off-days.”

Izuku considers this, then nods shakily. “I will. Thank you.”

Aizawa nods back. “I’ll let you go,” he says, stopping; Izuku stops a step or so ahead of him. “Your friend is waiting up for you, so go ahead home. Just don’t be afraid to not come in tomorrow. Give me a text or something ahead of time, and I’ll let the staff know. Alright?”

“Alright. Thank you, Sensei.”

“Yeah, just don’t forget what I said.”

Izuku nods again, and he and Aizawa go separate ways, Aizawa back further into the facility, and Izuku out the double doors and down the front steps. Kirishima is waiting for him, hands stuffed in his pockets, half-turned toward the horizon.

“Hey,” Kirishima says when he notices Izuku. He’s seemed distracted all day, which is fine; Izuku hasn’t been himself since the battle trial, either. “You ready?”

Izuku nods. He has the embroidered cat from Tsuyu in the front pocket of his blazer. He plans to ask Mom to iron it on tomorrow morning before school. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

They start down the street, together. In complete, total silence.

“...Hey, buddy, is it okay if I stay with you tonight?”

Izuku turns to him, frowning. “We’re always okay with it, but why tonight?”

“‘Cause, I dunno, I wanna keep an eye on you,” Kirishima says, running a hand through his hair again. “You’ve been...acting pretty strange since the battle trial, Midoriya, so...I just, y’know. Just for my own peace of mind.”

Izuku wants to argue, but Kirishima’s concerns aren’t unfounded, and Izuku hasn’t actually had the mental will or strength to tell him the truth yet, so he nods and concedes.

“Alright. You can stay the night.”

Kirishima does a goofy fist-bump to the sky, and Izuku rolls his eyes. Kirishima starts talking about school and whatnot, rambling on about their classmates and their counter strategies against each other, and Izuku pretends to listen. He’d tried to at first, but that didn’t work, so now it’s just him pretending like he’s still paying attention.

He doesn’t know what it was about Bakugou’s words that cut him so deeply.

But they did.

Mom makes katsudon for dinner; Kirishima texts his parents, lets them know where he’s at (foster parents, Izuku thinks briefly; he never did have the chance to ask Kirishima more about his family. He should do that); he and Kirishima make plans to study more tomorrow evening after school. Kirishima sets himself up on the floor of Izuku’s bedroom with lots of blankets and pillows; Fiddlesticks slinks up to him, though he sits on Kirishima’s stomach instead of actually laying down and getting comfortable. Kirishima groans at that, and Izuku rolls his eyes again.

“Goodnight, dude,” Kirishima says eventually, when the lights are out and the multicolored nightlights flash against the walls. The glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling add a nice touch. “And, Midoriya...don’t be afraid to wake me up if you need me, okay? Please.”

Izuku’s first initial reaction is to lie and say that he’s fine, but he doesn’t. “...Okay. I will.”

Kirishima must sense the honesty in his tone, because he doesn’t keep insisting. “Alright. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Kiri-chan.”

Izuku pulls the blankets up to his chin, and the cats swarm around him. Rainbow in particular seems dead-set on getting as close to him as she can, and Izuku lifts an arm and lets her curl against his chest. After that, he shuts his eyes and tries to fall asleep.

He does. Eventually.


He’s being ripped apart. Torn apart from the inside out. Everything’s crashing down around him, he hears screaming—some of it’s from him, some of it’s from the villains—and he feels his skin tearing, he feels blood and tears on his face. His throat burns. Everything burns. Everything is black.

“Dammit, we have to get out of here! Hurry!”

They’re trying to escape.

They’re getting away.

They'r̡e g͟e͝tt͏in͞g away.͟

T̸̨he̸͜y͘͞'͘re̛ g͜͞e̶͘҉tt͡͡in͏̛͡g̴̡͢ ͟͠aw̴̢ąy͞.

T҉̵̢h҉̨͘͞͠e͟͡y̧̨͜͠͝'̵̢r̡̨͢e̡̛̕͡ ͟ģ̶̷͟͢e̢҉҉͝t҉͏͘ţ̷į̸̡͝͝n̶̸̵҉g̶̡̡͘ ̷̸͡a̵̸͟w̛͠͝a̶y̶͢͞.̶̨̧͝

He’s being torn apart still, but he feels himself moving. He feels weightless, like he’s being tugged forward by something, by some other force, but he’s aware that he wants to move. He’s aware that it’s his choice.

He’s aware that they’re getting away.

He’s aware that he can stop them.

He’s going to. He has to. They’re monsters, they’re murderers, they’re killers and they’re scary and they’re everything he’s ever feared, everything Ko-chan’s hated, everything he hates.

He’s still screaming, but it’s more out of anguish than of pain now. He won’t kill them, that’s one thing he won’t do, but he can stop them. He can stop them.

Ḩ̕͢͡e̵̶̷͝ ͟͝͝͏̶k͏̡̡͘n͏ǫ̨͠͠w̵̴͟͢͠s̷̵̢̧ ̛h̢͏e̷̡͝ ͏̛͜c҉̛͘͞a̷̕̕͡n̷̶ ̡̢͝s̡͢͏͡t̷̶͘͝o̸̡p̸̢̛͘ ̶̡͢͡͏t̷͢͠h̷̛ę͢m.͏̧ ͝҉

There’s something beating against his skin again. Trying to break free. He can’t see. He can barely hear anymore. Everything is ringing and everything is pain and anguish and torment and he hears the villains screaming from what feels like underwater.

He feels weightless, but he also feels like he’s drowning.

He’s drowning.

He’s surrounded by darkness and he’s alone and there’s a monster inside of him that will not die and there’s a monster in him that wants to kill them but he won’t. Ko-chan wouldn’t want him to. She wouldn’t want him to.

He fights. He screams and he doesn’t know what’s controlling him anymore, how he knows what he’s doing, but he fights and swings and utilizes this monster, weaponizes it in a way that makes him want to throw up, in a way he knows Ko-chan would hate.

"Bu̷t̵̷ ̸͡s͜h͏e'̸̴͞s̸͠ ͟n͝o̧t͢ ͏h̵e̵͝r҉͞e ͞a̵̕͝n̷y҉̕͡m̶̛ơ̴̴r͢͏͜e͏̛,̧͞ ͏i̡̕͝s͝ ̷̷s͟h̷͡͝e?"̴̷ ̸

S҉̛͢h̸͘͝e̷̵̢̨'̧͘͜͡͞s̴͡ ̸͠n̸͢o̴̡̕͟͢t͢͏ ̴͢h̵̴͘e̢͠҉͘͡r̸̵҉̵e̶̛̛ ҉͠a̢̛͘͝n̢̛͢͡y̶͡m̶͜͜o̸̵̷͝r̕͜ę̴̧.̸̴̨͘ ̕͜

He fights. He drags up this twisted power that doesn’t belong to him, and he fights.

He fights, and in his head, he hears the word threat, threat, threat, threat, threat, repeated like a broken record. They HURT HER, they KILLED HER, they’re MONSTERS, they’re THREATS, they have to PAY.

G҉̷ET͜ ̸R̸͘͞Į͘D͜ O̴F͠ T͢͡H͝Ȩ͜͞M̴͠.̷̡

G͏̶͝E̢͢T̷̨͟͜ ̢҉͡R͘͝͠I̧͝D̛͏ ̡O͟҉̢͘̕F͘͟ ͏T̶̸̡͞H̷̛͞͠E̵͡ ̸̵̸T̵͢͟͏HR҉͢E̡҉̵A͘͜TS̢͟͞.̴̡̨


Midoriya starts screaming without warning.

Eijirou is already a bit on edge sleeping here tonight, considering what’d happened at school earlier, but he’d thought it would be okay. After all, Inko-san is here, Midoriya has been doing better, he isn’t sick and he’s been doing good at school—up until today, anyway.

And that’s really the problem. ‘Up until today.’

Eijirou is on his feet the second the screaming starts. He’d been dead asleep before, but it’s like his body was anticipating this, because he’s rushing over before he even registers moving and then he’s grabbing Midoriya’s shoulder and shaking him, calling his name.

“Midoriya—hey, Midoriya!—”

He isn’t screaming anymore, thankfully, but his face is contorted in pain and he lashes out at different intervals. At one point, he makes to reach for one of his knives on the bedside table, but Kirishima links their fingers together to keep him from grabbing it. He doesn’t want a repeat of last time.

And then the static starts. Eijirou feels his mind begin to fill with it, and he’s forced to let Midoriya go (he grabs the knife and hurls it across the room) in favor of digging through the desk drawer for one of Midoriya’s syringes. He finds the stash easily, tucked away in the back of the drawer, and he grabs the first one he sees and returns to Midoriya’s side.

He hates doing this, but he knows he has to, and fighting through the static, he pins down Midoriya’s flailing arm and injects him with the suppressants.

He barely has a chance to finish before Midoriya’s eyes snap open, and for a second Eijirou thinks that maybe he has another knife stashed somewhere, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t do anything, actually. He stares up at the ceiling, irises more golden than green, and breathes heavily. That’s all he does.

“Hey, Midoriya—” Eijirou sets the syringe on the desk and sits on the edge of the bed, not knowing what to do. “Midoriya—” He grips his friend’s shoulder, gives him a small shake, “hey, talk to me, man—”

Midoriya doesn’t talk to him, but what he does do is push himself up on his elbows and puke over the side of the bed. Eijirou thanks his lucky stars he’s not a sympathetic vomiter, then takes Midoriya by the shoulders and steadies him until it ends.

“You’re okay, man, you’re okay—try to calm down, yeah?—Yeah, try to breathe, you’re okay, I’ve gotcha. You’re—Midoriya!?”

Midoriya slumps, and Eijirou barely has time to catch him. Midoriya is limp, like a ragdoll, and even though his eyes are open and he’s still breathing heavily, he isn’t moving anymore.

“Inko-san!” Eijirou shrieks, feeling stupid for not doing this before. “Inko-san! We need you!”

Midoriya doesn’t react to his shouting at all, which may be the scariest part about this. He stays a dead weight against Eijirou’s chest, and Eijirou puts his arms around him and prays Inko heard him.

The door bangs the wall a few moments later, and Eijirou’s head snaps up as Inko rushes in. The relief crashes over Eijirou like a wave, but it’s not over yet.  

“H-He started screaming,” Eijirou says quickly, filling her in while she hurries over. He hates that his voice shakes. “I didn’t know what to do so I gave him one of his Quirk suppressants, but now he won’t respond to anything.”

Inko avoids the puddle on the floor and sits on the edge of the bed, brow furrowed, eyes on Izuku. Eijirou is glad for her calm, controlled demeanor, because he kind of feels like he’s going to start crying right about now.

“Let me take him,” Inko says, already holding out her arms, and Eijirou nods and hands Midoriya over. Inko wraps him in her arms immediately, holding him close, but he still doesn’t respond. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t react, he doesn’t move. He’s still awake, his eyes are open, but he may as well be unconscious.

“Izuku, say something,” Inko says, stroking Midoriya’s face and hair gently. “It’s okay, you’re safe, you’re away from them. It’s okay.”

Inko is taking this all in stride, like it’s happened before, but Eijirou doesn’t miss the pain and the worry in her eyes.

Midoriya still doesn’t respond. He stares at nothing, completely unaware of what’s going on around him, and—

Inko realizes it the same moment Eijirou does.

Midoriya isn’t breathing.

Eijirou’s heartrate skyrockets, and Inko shouts Midoriya’s name louder, this time shaking him and snapping by his ear. It doesn’t work, nothing changes, and Inko finally retracts her hand and strikes him between the shoulder blades.

This does garner a reaction, and Midoriya sucks in a long breath, then launches into what sounds like a painful coughing fit. Inko and Eijirou both release huge sighs of relief, and now that it seems the danger has passed, Eijirou feels lightheaded and disoriented.

Midoriya stops coughing eventually,though he still breathes as though he’d just resurfaced from being underwater, and he blinks half-lidded eyes up at Inko first, then over at Eijirou. He doesn’t say anything, but he inches his hand forward, reaching for him, and Eijirou meets him halfway, linking their fingers together again. When Midoriya gazes into his eyes, Eijirou sees deep pain ebbed in his stare, so deep and intense that Eijirou is taken aback by it. For someone so small in stature and young in age, Midoriya’s eyes look like they hold hundreds of years worth of pain.

They’re still golden, too. There’s a single splotch of green in each of them, but aside from that, they’re a molten, shining gold.

He doesn’t say anything. He shuts his eyes, his heavy breathing slowly evens out, his fingers loosen around Kirishima’s, and then that’s the end of that.

“His Quirk suppressants usually knock him out,” Inko says finally, after what feels like an eternity of silence. Her voice shakes a little, but turns very business-like a moment later. “He can’t sleep in here tonight, I’ll have to clean up and air out the room, would you mind taking him to the couch?”

Eijirou nods. “Yeah, I’ll take him.” He holds out his arms again, and Inko passes Midoriya to him slowly. Midoriya stirs for a second, but settles down again immediately afterwards.

“You got him?” Inko asks, rising to her feet, and Eijirou nods, settling one arm beneath Midoriya’s knees and the other around his shoulders. Inko nods her acknowledgement, and while she heads into the bathroom to gather cleaning supplies, Eijirou rises to his feet, taking Midoriya with him.

Midoriya is naturally small and still considerably underweight, so it’s less like carrying a teenager and more like carrying a ten year old. Eijirou almost trips over the cats at least seven times on his way to the living room; they’re all curled around his ankles, making sure he knows just how annoyed they are that he’s carrying their beloved, and he tries not to step on them and settles Midoriya on the couch as gently as he can.  

“Okay…” Eijirou goes down a mental checklist in his head, then turns and makes to leave. “Blankets, I should find some blankets—”

Fingers snake out and curl around his wrist, and Eijirou jumps, whirling back around. Midoriya’s eyes are open, cat-like golden in the darkness and filled with a panic Eijirou doesn’t know how to properly describe. His grip around Eijirou’s wrist is weak, and it wouldn’t be hard to jerk away, but Eijirou doesn’t have the heart.

“K-Kirishima—d-don’t leave me alone,” he strains. His eyes are dry, but it sounds like he could start crying any moment now. “I can’t, please—please don’t—I’m scared, I can’t, I’m scared—”

“I’m not going anywhere, it’s fine,” Eijirou says, trying to keep his tone light. Freaking out now will do more harm than good. “I’m here, okay? I’m not leaving, ever.”

It’s like Midoriya doesn’t hear him. He holds Eijirou’s wrist tighter, and under his breath he murmurs the words, “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared,” just like that in rapid session.

“What is it?” Eijirou asks, because if he knows exactly what’s wrong then maybe he can fix it. “What’s scaring you? What are you afraid of?”

Midoriya chokes out a dry, strangled sob. “Myself.”

Eijirou’s heart seizes in his chest, and for a while, he has nothing to say. He doesn’t know what Midoriya saw in that whatever it was, dream, flashback, memory—but it was bad, worse than the first time, and there has to be something he can do. He’s a hero now; if he can’t even help his best friend now, then what’s the point?

“Hey, scoot over a sec.”

Midoriya does so, and Eijirou squeezes onto the couch with him. It’s a tight fit, especially considering Midoriya immediately curls into a fetal position and buries his face in Eijirou’s chest, but it’s fine. The cats finally decide to jump onto the couch with them, almost completely covering Midoriya in their warmth. They’re purring and nuzzling him; one of them is licking his face.

Eijirou had always thought that the cats saw Midoriya as something of a guardian, maybe a parent, but no, that’s not it. In their eyes, he’s their kitten.

Eijirou eventually manages to detangle himself from Midoriya’s arms and the cats once Midoriya has fallen into a deeper sleep (most likely induced by the Quirk suppressants, which Eijirou is happy for, but it also makes him kind of sad), and he heads back into Midoriya’s room. Inko is in the bathroom, washing her hands, and Eijirou can’t help but feel like he’s being constantly hit by a freight train.

“Inko-san...has...has that ever happened before?”

Inko stiffens, then grasps the edge of the bathroom counter for support and draws in a long breath.

“No.” Her voice is thick. “No, it hasn’t. Did something happen earlier? Something I don’t know about?”

“I don’t know,” Eijirou answers, shaking his head. “I really, really don’t know. I just, we have this classmate who’s...kinda forward. Really short temper. He and Midoriya were pitted against each other for a battle trial, and...I don’t know what he said, no one does, and Midoriya won’t tell me, but…I don’t know, he actually used his Quirk earlier during the trial, and he used a Quirk suppressant then—”

Inko spins towards him, eyes wide. “He’s already had one dosage today?”

“Yeah, he—wait.” Eijirou’s heart begins to pound again. “Wait, was he—is that—did I—”

“No, no, it’s alright,” Inko says immediately, reaching towards him and settling her hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright. He would’ve turned it in on himself if you didn’t inject him. It is true that several doses in a short period of time can be dangerous, but...this happened earlier, you said?”

“Yeah, after lunch, so maybe...two in the afternoon?”

“Then I’m sure it’s fine,” Inko says, nodding. “Just, I’ll wake him up every now and then to make sure he’s okay. Thanks for…” She wipes her eyes for a moment. “Thanks for doing all of this for him, and for being here with him no matter what, Eijirou-kun. I’ll ask Izuku about what happened tomorrow. I’m—I’m sorry you keep having to see him in pain like this, but—”

“No, it’s…it’s fine.” Eijirou takes in a breath, lets it out slowly. “It’s fine, he can’t help it. I’m glad I was here.”

Inko turns to him with a soft, sad smile, then nods. “I’m glad you were here, too. And I know Izuku is.”


“Hey—Hey, buddy, wake up.”

Izuku’s shoulder is nudged, and he blinks his eyes open slowly, feeling more drained and exhausted than ever. He’s curled up against Kirishima’s side on the couch; Kirishima is laying on his back, pointing a flashlight upwards.

“Sorry, dude, but we gotta make sure your Quirk suppressants don’t keep you out for good,” Kirishima murmurs, voice barely rising above a whisper. Izuku is aware of the weight of his cats a few moments later, curled against him or on top of him. “Buddy, check this out.”

Izuku glances upwards at the ceiling. There’s a ring of light from the flashlight Kirishima holds, and with Kirishima’s other hand, he’s making odd shapes that come up as goofy-looking animals in the shadow of the light.

“See? It’s a dog. I know you’re more of a cat person, but I can’t figure out how to do a cat yet, and I’m too scared of Fistfight to try using her to make a shadow. But, look—I can do a parrot—and a crab—wait, it looks like a spider, sorry—are you afraid of spiders, dude? Hell, I sure am—Oh, look, look, I can do this. This kind of looks like a cat...no, it’s more like a dog again. Sorry—”

Izuku watches him for a while longer, then turns and buries his face against Kirishima’s neck. Kirishima falls silent. He lowers the flashlight, and his arm comes around Izuku’s shoulders, pulling him closer.

“It’s okay, buddy,” Kirishima murmurs, and Izuku draws in a shuddering breath and lets it out as a dry sob. “It’s okay…”

Chapter Text

The night isn’t rough, but it isn’t easy, either. Inko has to keep waking Izuku periodically to ensure that he actually can wake up, and then she has to check his temperature, and then she lets him sleep again, and then she has to repeat it all about an hour later. Eijirou does whatever he can, bless his soul, but that mostly consists of trying to keep Izuku awake and occupied while Inko bustles about.

Eijirou only falls asleep after hours of staying up with Inko. It’s practically morning by the time he finally gets some sleep, laying on the couch with Izuku glued to his side. Inko is grateful for Eijirou, but she wishes he doesn’t have to go through this.

She wishes he and Izuku didn’t have to go through this.

At around three in the morning, shortly after Eijirou falls asleep, that Inko decides to get some shut-eye herself. Izuku seems fine; he didn’t take the Quirk suppressants one after the other, and he’d been coherent every time he was awake, so she isn’t too worried about that. After setting her alarm, she covers Eijirou and Izuku with a blanket (and subsequently Izuku’s eleven cats, too, who are snuggling him) and retreats into her own bedroom to try and get some sleep.


When Izuku wakes up, Kirishima isn’t there.

He sits up, jostling his cats in the progress, who for once don’t seem to mind getting disturbed. They meow at him a bit, either in greeting or because they’re frustrated, then go right back to snoozing.

Izuku takes a long time to sit and stare, waiting for his vision to clear. Last night was...it feels really surreal, actually. All of it. But he remembers the flashback with a startling amount of clarity, despite the Quirk suppressants he’d taken right afterwards, which fogged the rest of his memory from last night.

He thought he’d forgotten what’d happened.

He gets to his feet, apologizing to his cats quietly, and crosses the hall toward his room. He stumbles a bit, unsteady, but ultimately makes it there without too much of a hassle. Kirishima isn’t here, either, which leads Izuku to think he’s either talking with Mom somewhere or in the kitchen making breakfast. Or both.

His cats don’t stay on the couch, and once they file into his room, mrowing proudly now that they’ve found him, he shuts his bedroom door behind him and leans against it for a long time, breathing. He doesn’t know what he’s feeling or what he should be feeling, emotion-wise; physically, though, he feels sick. Exhausted.

He drags himself upright after a few more minutes, then heads toward his closet. Might as well get ready for today.


Roughly ten minutes later, the door creaks open. “Dude, I didn’t know you were awake— dude what are you doing.”

“Getting ready,” Izuku says flatly, buttoning his blazer. He’s wearing a bright blue shirt underneath it this time, since all his tie-dye is in the laundry. “We have school in an hour.”

Kirishima’s eyes blow wide. “Wait, are you kidding me?” Kirishima crosses the room, pulls Izuku’s wrist away from the buttons. “Dude, last night was horrible. You couldn’t sleep—”

“That’s normal.”

“You can’t look me in the eyes and tell me what happened last night was normal.”

“It’s my normal.”

“That hasn’t happened in months, Midoriya, literal months. That was bad, that was really bad, I’m not gonna just—what, you think I’m gonna just let you go to school like everything is okay? What about your mom? Do you really think she’s going to let you?”

“Kiri-chan, please.”

“No, no way.” Kirishima shakes his head adamantly. “You had to take two doses of Quirk suppressants yesterday, Midoriya, two. What if something happens today at school, too? What if Bakugou says something that gets under your skin?”

“Bakugou is going to be there tomorrow, Kiri-chan. Me skipping today won’t change when he is and isn’t there, and he’s always going to have it in for me at this point.”

“That’s not it,” Kirishima tells him, irritated now. “If you’d just listen to me for a second—”

Izuku pulls a sheathed knife from his pocket and presses it into Kirishima’s hands. “I’ll give you this if you let it go.”

“You’ll—” Kirishima stares down at the knife. “Dude, no, you’re missing the point.”

“Well keep the knife anyway. Think of it as a gift from me.”

“You’re trying to change the subject.”  

“I’m trying to give you a present.”

“Dude.” Kirishima puts his free hand on Izuku’s shoulder heavily. “Just... listen to me for a second. Please.”

“...Okay.”

Kirishima lets him go. “I’m not saying Bakugou won’t be there tomorrow, or the next day; I’m talking about you and your health and you staying home and resting, just in case.”

Izuku won’t lie, he hasn’t felt this bad in a very long time. That thing he’d seen last night, that memory...he’d forgotten it. Whether or not he’d forgotten it due to his injuries, or whether he’d blotted it from his own mind, intentionally erasing it...he has no idea.

It wouldn’t surprise him if he did, though. Try to erase it from his memory.

“Kirishima...I get that you’re worried,” Izuku says heavily, “and, yeah, I’m...I’m exhausted.”

“See!?” Kirishima gestures at him, still holding the knife. “That’s what I’m saying!”

“But,” Izuku goes on, turning towards his friend, “if this is my bad normal, then I want U.A. to be my good normal. If I go there today, then...then it’s almost like nothing happened, you know? I want that.”

Kirishima quiets, then lets out a huge sigh, lowering his hands. “Yeah, I get it, but, Midoriya…these things...they happen, man. It’s not your fault they happen, but they do, and you can’t...you can’t pretend nothing’s wrong. Don’t do that.”

Izuku wants to argue, but at this point, there’s no reason to. Kirishima’s words hold some merit to them, so Izuku doesn’t brush them off.

“You’re right,” he relents with a heaving sigh. “You’re right, I just—please, I really do want to go today. I don’t want my past to bleed into my present anymore and ruin the things I actually do love. Besides...” He bends down, scoops Rainbow into his arms. “Aizawa-sensei said I could leave her in the teacher’s lounge during class and he’d look after her.”

“Oh, erm, that was nice of him…” Kirishima stops, and then, his eyes blow wide. “WAIT, does that mean you got caught!?”

“‘Caught’ is...not really the right word for it,” Izuku says, shifting his weight. “More like, he knew it from the get-go.”

“Oh good grief…” Kirishima sighs, but it doesn’t last long. “Listen, man, if you go to school today, I’m gonna hound you so bad.”

“Valid.”

“Dude, no, I mean, it’s going to be really annoying.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to make you go to Recovery Girl’s office every hour on the hour.”

“Slightly less okay, but okay.”

“I’m gonna make you eat a good lunch too.”

“Somebody should, so thanks.”

“Midoriya—”   Kirishima raises a finger, stops, then sighs and drops it. “There’s really nothing I can say that’ll make you change your mind, is there?”

“Nope.” Rainbow meows, too, as though agreeing. Kirishima groans under his breath, shakes his head, but relents.

“I dunno about Inko-san,” Kirishima says, “but if you really wanna go so badly, then, I guess...I guess I can’t really stop you, anyway.”

“You’re right.” Rainbow squirms, and Izuku settles her on his shoulder, where she sits proudly. “I’ll ask Mom when she wakes up.”

“Ask me what?”

Izuku and Kirishima turn. Mom is leaning against the doorway, arms crossed over her chest, expression hard to read. She seems a mixture of exhausted, concerned, and agitated.

Izuku goes to her, stepping into her arms when she opens them to him. He knows she’s worried, and she has every right to be, and honestly, if she tells him not to go to school, well, he won’t argue with her. He’s put her through enough as it is.

“You want to go to school?” she says, pulling away, and Izuku nods.

“I do,” he says, looking down at the ground. He can be stubborn with Kirishima, but Mom is different. “I really, really want to.”

Mom bites her lip, torn, then raises her head toward Kirishima still standing on the other side of the room. “You’ll be with him, I’m guessing.”

“Oh, yeah, definitely.” Kirishima steps up, puts his hand in Izuku’s line of sight, then settles it on Izuku’s shoulder. “I’ll keep an eye out for him, for sure. And if I think something’s wrong, I’ll tell a teacher and call you to come pick him up.”

Mom nods, then shifts her gaze back to Izuku. “I don’t like it,” she tells him, “and you know I don’t, Izuku.”

“I do.”

“But, if it means that much to you, and if you think it’ll do more good than harm...then I don’t mind you going. Just…” She stops, takes a breath, lets it out. “Promise me you’ll let Eijirou take care of you and call me if something happens, alright?”

“I promise,” Izuku says, and although his tone remains the same, he’s elated. “Thank you, Inko-san.”

She smiles at him, hugs both him and Kirishima at once, then sends them off.

Rainbow rides in Izuku’s backpack again, meowing periodically and poking her head out of a small spot Izuku left unzipped for her. Izuku isn’t as worried about her making noise now as he was before; Aizawa told him he could bring her, if he left her in the teacher’s lounge, so he isn’t doing anything wrong, here. Plus, the goofy little cartoon cat from Tsuyu is pinned to the front of Izuku’s blazer with a pin; a temporary fix until Mom can iron it on permanently. Despite what happened last night, Izuku is happy.

“...Seriously, Midoriya, do you want the knife back?”

“No,” Izuku answers without hesitation. “Think of it as a token of our friendship.”

“...A knife.”

“I don’t know what else to give you.”

Kirishima sighs, but smiles. “Well,” he says, “I’m touched. Thanks. I’ll treasure it always.”

Izuku nods back at him, and they walk on in silence silent for a time.

“Hey, dude, I’ve got a question for you.”

Izuku turns to him. “What up.”

“I’ve kinda been wondering this for a long time now, but…” Kirishima rubs the back of his neck, awkward. “When you’re telling me about her or talking about her, you always call Inko-san ‘mom’ or ‘my mom.’”

“Yes. That’s because she’s my mom.”

“Yeah, I know, but like...you don’t actually call her mom, when you’re talking to her.”

Izuku pauses, looks away. It only makes sense that Kirishima would pick up on this, especially after they’ve known each other for almost a full year now, and it’s not like Kirishima to keep things to himself for very long.  

“I was just wondering if there was a reason for it, y’know? And if you don’t wanna tell me that’s fine!” Kirishima says this quickly, waving his hands back and forth. “You don’t have to tell me anything, I was just wondering.”

“No, it’s fine.” Izuku stares at the sidewalk before them for a while longer. “There’s no big reason for it or anything. I guess I might have harbored feelings towards my birth mother for abandoning me and Kowareta like she did, but I never knew her anyway, and Inko-san is my actual mother now, so there’s no reason why I’d make the connection, I just...I don’t know why.”

“Hmm…” Kirishima sighs, then shakes his head. “I guess I can’t say I know how you feel. I was never upset at my parents for abandoning me, but then again, I always had a loving family from the very beginning, so it’s not like they threw me into a terrible situation like yours—” He freezes, then turns to Izuku wide-eyed. “I’ve said too much, haven’t I.”

“No, you’re fine. We’re discussing it.”

“But, it just—talking about it kinda feels…”

“Kiri-chan, it sucks, but it’s my past now. My past. I really don’t mind talking about it.”

Kirishima sighs, shakes his head, but he doesn’t bring it up again. They walk on for a while longer, towards the train station—except, that’s when Kirishima takes Izuku’s wrist and turns to him with a wild, mischievous grin.

“Hey, buddy, what do you say to running by the soda shop and grabbing one of our usuals before school?”

Izuku blinks. “Do we have time?”

“Only one way to find out.” And before Izuku has the chance to respond, Kirishima is dragging him down a side-street towards the soda shop.


“We’re late we’re late we’re freaking late—!”

“I told you this was a bad idea,” Izuku laments, running just slightly behind Kirishima. He can’t quite keep up with him. “‘Let’s get a soda,’ he said. ‘I’ll run in real quick and grab two to go,’ he said. ‘This won’t take more than ten seconds,’ he said.”

“Midoriya.”

“He lied.”

“You aren’t helping.”

“—he said, and wondered why we’re still friends.”

“Crap, okay, we’re almost there,” Kirishima pants, raising a finger to point as he runs. “As long as we get there before Aizawa-sensei—” And then, he stops, and drops his arm back down to his side. “Oh, dagnabbit.”

Izuku stops beside him and leans on his knees, breathing hard. “He’s walking into the building right now, isn’t he.”

“Yep.” Kirishima’s eyes are wide. “Dude, man, we are so screwed.”

“At least the soda was good.”

“I don’t think you realize how screwed we are.”

Izuku finally straightens up and looks ahead, just as Aizawa disappears into the building. Afterwards, Izuku raises his head, looking up at the high window of Class 1-A.

“...Hey Kiri-chan.”

He drags two forearm-length knives from two sheathes in his pockets. Kirishima jumps.

“HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD THOSE!?”

“That doesn’t matter,” Izuku says, jogging forward. “What does matter is whether or not you can scale a building in under two minutes.”

Kirishima’s eyes go wider. “Dude I’m sorry but what the actual hell?”  

Izuku responds by digging his knives into the side of the building. It’s a sturdy structure, and he doubts anyone would notice. If they get in trouble, well, he’ll take the fall for it.

“Let’s go,” Izuku says, and swings himself further upwards. Kirishima begins to shout something after him, but stops at the last second and hardens his hands and feet with his Quirk.

“I really hate you sometimes, I swear!”

“Save it for when we’re in prison together.”


Aizawa had told him to avoid reckless endeavors, but Izuku wasn’t one to take things like that literally. If anything, it was worth it to see the look on Sero’s face as he leapt from his seat, swore loudly in shock, then swung over to open the window. Izuku and Kirishima tumble inside together, then scramble to their feet and race for their desks.

Everyone else is sitting where they’re not supposed to; Tokoyami is perched on a desk, Bakugou is hanging over his, Uraraka, Tsuyu, Ashido, and a few others of the girls are chatting together in a circle—all eyes turn towards Izuku and Kirishima while they make their mad dash for their desks.

“What was that!?” Ashido shrieks, eyes wide as she stares. “What’s the hurry, you two!? Couldn’t you have taken the front door!?”

“Aizawa’s coming!” Kirishima shouts, eyes wide with horror.

And then the rest of the class is mirroring Kirishima’s movements, running and scrambling and whooping. They manage to get themselves into their seats before their assigned desks mere moments before the door swings open and Aizawa steps inside.

“Well, what do you know.” Aizawa shuts the door behind him and crosses over to the desk. “You’re all in your seats. That’s a first.”

Izuku and Kirishima are still breathing heavily, but the urge to laugh is almost overwhelming.


“Midoriya, hang back a bit. I need to speak with you.”

“Okay,” Izuku says, curious. “I’ll catch up with you later,” he tells Tsuyu, Uraraka, Kirishima and Kouda when they wait by the door. “I’ll see you after.”

Uraraka nods, and she and the others head off while Izuku turns back to Aizawa. Aizawa generally looks unamused, but there’s something deep and hard about his expression now that almost makes Izuku feel guilty.

“You look horrible,” Aizawa tells him frankly, holding nothing back. “I don’t know what happened last night, or what it is you’re not telling anyone, but just looking at you makes it obvious.”

Izuku swallows hard. He knows Kirishima had noticed, and Mom had noticed; his new classmates haven’t known him nearly long enough to notice, yet, but Aizawa certainly has. He should’ve known.

“...Yes.” Izuku shifts his weight. “Last night was...I didn’t sleep. I had to take another dosage of Quirk suppressants.”

“A second one.”

Izuku nods.

“Yeah, that’s not good,” AIzawa says, shaking his head. “Why are you even at school today?”

“I wanted to be here. It helps.”

Aizawa doesn’t argue. He doesn’t even sigh. “Alright,” he says, “but come get me if something happens. Hell, get All Might if you see him first. The teachers here know bits and pieces of your situation, but they don’t know everything.”

“I understand.” Izuku nods, bows shortly. “Thank you, Aizawa-sensei.”

“Yeah, it’s fine.” Aizawa shakes his head, then holds out a hand. “Alright, I know you have your cat with you. I’ll take them for now. You can come by the teacher’s lounge during breaks and see them.”

Izuku nods and slips off his backpack, setting it on the nearest desk. He tugs open the zipper, pulls it open.

Aizawa lets out the biggest sigh Izuku has ever, ever heard. From anyone.

“Midoriya. Are you. Kidding me.”

“They were in the alley by the soda shop, I couldn’t just leave them there all alone.” A beat. “Don’t tell Kirishima.”  

Aizawa pinches the bridge of his nose and shakes his head. “This is why you’re the Problem Child. It’s not even because of your past, it’s because you’re a damn cat magnet.”

“Can you still take care of them?” Izuku asks, turning towards him with wide eyes. “I can’t carry them around with me now, they’re little and they make too much noise.”

Aizawa doesn’t seem especially thrilled, but he doesn’t say no. “Yeah, I’ll take them, I’ll take them,” he says. “I’m also taking them to see if they’ve got worms or something after school. I don’t know how your mother lets you keep doing this.”

“She’s a cat person at heart,” Izuku says, peering into his backpack. Rainbow is licking them, each in turn; two gray little kitties about the size of Izuku’s fist. “She’d deny it, but she is.”

Aizawa sighs. “I think it’s more of her being an ‘Izuku’ person, but either way, I’ll look after them for you. I can take them to the vet sometime tonight, too.”

“Okay.” Izuku hands Rainbow and the two new kittens over, carefully, and Aizawa takes the three of them into his arms. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it, just go catch up with your classmates.”

Izuku snatches his backpack off the desk and heads off.

“Wait, Midoriya, one more thing.”

He pauses, turns around. “What is it?”

“Here.” Aizawa grabs a pack of something off the desk with his free hand and holds it out to him. “Post-it notes. I’ve spoken to the other teachers about this as well, but if something happens during class, if you have a flashback or something is triggered, stick one at the top of your desk. They won’t call on you as long as there’s one there.”

Izuku takes the sticky notes and studies them. They’re in all different colors, blues and greens and reds and yellows; some of them actually have little cat designs on them.

“Thank you,” Izuku says, raising his head. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s like I said, don’t mention it. Now go find your friends.”

Izuku spins on his heel and retreats, taking the post-its and leaving the cats in Aizawa’s care.


Izuku has to use a post-it note once in English class; true to Aizawa’s word, the teacher didn’t call on Izuku once, which Izuku appreciated more than words could properly express. It’s one thing to have problems, but it’s another thing to have those problems acknowledged by those over him who could help him get through them. It means a lot.

Now he’s sitting with Kirishima, Kouda, Tsuyu, and Uraraka at lunch. Izuku notices Todoroki sitting at a table by himself, and a part of Izuku wants to go talk to him, but he’s still reeling over the whole “threat” incident and doesn’t want to approach him until he knows the situation a little better.

Iida is sitting alone, too, but not for long. Uraraka quickly waves him over with a smile, and eventually, after nods from Uraraka and shakes from Iida, Iida relents and takes his tray to their table.

“Afternoon,” Iida says, sitting beside Uraraka, who scoots over to make room. On Uraraka’s side are her, Tsuyu, and Iida; on Izuku’s side is himself, Kirishima and Kouda. “I don’t know why you invited me over, but…”

“You did good at the combat training yesterday!” Uraraka says, beaming at him. “You got super into it, Iida! I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any hard feelings, y-y’know?”

“Hard feelings?” Iida frowns deeply. “It was a training match. Why would you think I harbored hard feelings towards you?”

“Because…” Uraraka jabs her thumb over her shoulder without looking. Bakugou is sitting by himself, shoulders hunched. “I tried saying hi to him earlier and all I got was a, ‘Get lost, Angel Face.’”

If he wants to be that way, then let him be that way, Kouda says firmly with a smile. He can’t put a damper on our style unless we let him.

Uraraka, Iida, and Tsuyu all stare at him, wondering.

“He basically said that Bakugou can’t ruin our lives unless we let him,” Kirishima translates roughly, then looks to Izuku for approval. Izuku nods.

“Speaking of, what did you think of the combat training, Midoriya?” Iida asks, setting down his chopsticks momentarily. “You certainly took me out a lot faster than I thought you would. You’re very experienced. I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

Izuku pushes a grain of rice around his plate for a moment. “I think,” he says, raising his head, “that I’d like you all to call me Izuku.”

Kirishima chokes, then slams his cup down on the table, coughing and spluttering. The others have their own reactions; Iida stares, blank, Uraraka blinks feverishly, and Kouda keeps raising and dropping his hands, almost like he’s stammering. The only one who doesn’t seem the least bit surprised is Tsuyu.

“What?” Izuku asks, frowning. “It’s a simple request, don’t you think?”

“Yes, but…” Iida  blinks, still startled. “We just got to know each other. We’re barely friends yet. Don’t you think it’s a little early to be on a first-name basis?”

Tsuyu raises a hand. “I’m on a first-name basis with everyone,” she supplies. “I think it’s sweet. Can I call you Izu-chan?”

Izuku turns to her, nodding. “Definitely. And can I call you Tsuyu-chan?”

“I’d prefer that, actually.”

“Okie dokie.”  

“Well, if it’s what you’d prefer, then I will call you Izuku,” Iida says, nodding and straightening his glasses. “If you change your mind, let me know.”

“I’d say you can call me Eijirou,” Kirishima says, “but you already have that little nickname for me.”

I’ll call you Izuku, Kouda says, smiling warmly. I like that name a lot.

Thank you, Izuku says. He’d picked the name himself when he was nine, so hearing that makes him really happy.

“You can call me Ochako,” Uraraka says, beaming. “This is really sweet, actually! It’s like we’re best friends already!”

Izuku feels something stir in his chest. Something warm. He nods. “I look forward to getting to know you all better.”  

“You too!” Ochako says, smiling brighter, if that’s even a thing that’s possible. The others follow her lead, and they continue on through lunch without incident. The warmth in Izuku’s chest still hasn’t died.

The bell rings eventually, summoning the students back to their class, and once their trays are taken care of, Izuku and his small little group of friends (he thinks he’s okay to call them his friends now, but he’s not certain yet) head back towards Class 1-A. Ochako and Tsuyu are chatting about something up ahead while everyone else listens, and Izuku contemplates visiting Rainbow and the other two kittens in the teacher’s lounge.

“Hold on, I forgot something,” Kirishima says unexpectedly, stopping. The others stop a few steps ahead of him and turn. “Go on ahead without me, I’ll catch up with y’all later.”

Izuku frowns, sensing something amiss. The others don’t.

“Alright,” Tsuyu says, waving a hand. “See you back at class. Don’t be late again.”

“You got it.” Kirishima flashes the group a grin and a thumbs up before taking off down the hall again. Iida hollers after him not to run, but that’s not what Izuku’s concerned with.

That wasn’t a real smile. Kirishima is hiding something.


“Hey, Bakugou. I wanna talk to you for a second.”

Bakugou turns to him, glaring. “What do you want?” he questions, hands stuffed deep into his pockets. “I don’t have all day, Weird Hair.”

“My name is Kirishima,” Eijirou says, resisting the urge to glare. “I wanna ask you something.”

“Hurry up.”

“What exactly did you say to Midoriya yesterday during the battle trial?”

“Ha?” Bakugou does glare at him, stepping forward. “What’s it to you, huh? Why do you care?”

“Because he’s my best friend,” Eijirou snaps. “He’s my best friend, and you said something yesterday that really tore him up. I wanna know what you said. Now.”

“And what makes you think I’m just gonna tell you?” Bakugou questions. He’s dropped some of his casual demeanor now, holding his hands at his sides, fists balled. “He was a coward. All I did was call him out.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

Bakugou’s eye twitches, and he takes another step forward. “You talk a lot, don’tcha. Why don’t you go ahead and back down before you make a mistake.”

“Is that a threat?” Eijirou takes three whole steps forward, closing the distance between the two of them until they’re eye level, inches away. “Do you think you scare me, Bakugou? Do you really think I’m intimidated by you?”

Bakugou’s glare darkens. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean, huh, Weird Hair?”

“You don’t scare me, Bakugou,” Eijirou grinds out lowly. “I know scary. And you don’t have his eyes.”

He doesn’t wait for Bakugou to respond. He leaves.


“What was that about?”

Eijirou freezes; Midoriya (Izuku, he has to remind himself of that) is leaning against the wall, arms crossed, eyes bearing straight into Eijirou’s like he’s searching his soul.

“Oh, erm…” Eijirou knows he’s better off not lying, and he rubs the back of his neck. “How much did you hear?”

“I didn’t hear anything,” Izuku answers flatly. His stance and his stare don’t change. “I only eavesdrop when it’s worth it. What’s up?”

“Oh, just...I asked Bakugou what he said to you yesterday,” Eijirou relents, shaking his head. “Sorry, man, I just...I wanted to know. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all day.”

Izuku’s body language stays the same, but his expression softens. “It’s really not that big of a deal,” he says, uncrossing his arms and standing up straight. “He called me Deku, and I reacted badly.”

“‘Deku’?”

Izuku flinches.

“Okay, sorry, sorry, I won’t say it again,” Eijirou amends quickly, waving his hands about. “Sorry, Mid—Izuku.”

“It’s...it’s fine.” It doesn’t seem fine, but Eijirou really doesn’t feel like arguing, and it would seem, neither does Izuku. “Let’s go. The others are waiting for us.”

“R-Right.” Eijirou nods, and when Izuku heads off, he follows closely.


The school day ends uneventfully, and Tsuyu is packing up her books to go home after their final class of the day. Everyone else is already filing out the door, some chatting, some silent. Tsuyu herself is internally beaming from ear to ear. Only a few days into school and she’s already met a lot of really cool people. Izu-chan was even wearing the embroidered cat she’d gotten for him, which made her entire day that much brighter. She hopes to become close friends with each of them, somehow. Maybe she’ll even learn Sign Language for Kouda—

She isn’t paying attention to what she’s doing and drops one of her school books. With a quiet mutter of disdain, she reaches down to pick it up.

That’s when she notices that the book has opened down the middle, revealing a small, cartoon-y embroidered frog with big, dorky eyes and a goofy smile with its tongue between its lips. Tsuyu stares at it for the longest of times—and then, she smiles and picks it and the book up.

She secures the little embroidered frog to the pocket of her blazer with a bobbypin, then gathers her remaining supplies into her backpack and leaves with the other students. She catches Izuku’s eyes for a moment; he looks down at the embroidered frog, then back up at her smiling face.

He doesn’t smile back at her, but his eyes light up in a way she’s never seen before.


Izuku pushes the front door open quietly and steps inside. Rainbow is on his shoulder; the other little kittens, back from their trip with Aizawa to the vet, are nestled in his arms.

“Inko-san?”

“I’m in the living room, Izuku! Welcome back!”

Izuku shuffles down the hallway tentatively and pokes his head into the living area. Mom is sitting at the table, going over a binder full of papers.

“Inko-san...would you be mad if I told you something?”

Mom turns to him with a frown—and then, judging by the look on her face—a combination of shock and horror—she realizes.

“...Izuku.”

“Their names are Shiny and Diamond.”

“Izuku.”

“I love them.”

“Izuku.”


When Tenya gets home that afternoon, it’s with a heavy heart and a racing mind. The Iida family home is a spacious one; his family has never been one to flaunt their good fortune with a fancy house or lots of expensive things, but they did put money into a good home that all of them could live in comfortably.

“Welcome back, Tenya!” says Tensei from where he’s perched at the couch, reading a book. He settles it on the side table and hails Tenya over. “How was school?”

“It was fine,” Tenya answers, kicking off his shoes by the door and crossing the room towards his older brother. “Nii-san, I have a question. And you might not know how to answer it, but I thought I’d ask.”

Tensei quirks a brow at him. “Oh? What’s up?”

“Do you happen to know anyone by the name of Midoriya Izuku?”

“Midoriya Izuku…” Tensei ponders for a long moment, then snaps his fingers. “Oh, yeah! I remember him. Sorry, it took me a little while. I forgot his new name.”

“His new…” Tenya blinks. “...How do you know him? Who is he?”

“Well, that’s…” Tensei lowers his hand, then shakes his head. “It’s a long story, Tenya. A very long story. And it’s really not my story to tell.”

Tenya bites his lip. “I get that,” he says, “but Midoriya Izuku is in the same class as me at U.A., and there’s...definitely a lot that he’s been through and is going through. I want to try and get along with him, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that at the moment. So...please. At least tell me something.”

Tensei sighs and shakes his head again, but rises to his feet. “Let’s take a walk around the suburb,” he says, already heading towards the door. “I’ll fill you in. Briefly.”

Chapter Text

That night, after showing Diamond and Shiny to his room where they could sleep, Izuku takes the train for the abandoned city to meet with Aizawa. Even now with school in session, they always try to meet whenever they can. Any more training Izuku can get with his Quirk is good.

“I’ll skip the combat training this time,” Aizawa says simply, tossing a piece of debris out of the way to clear the road a little further. “You’ve got that pretty down, so. Quirk training. Wanna go ahead and fire it up?”

Izuku nods. He’s a lot more comfortable using it now than he used to be, and it’s thanks to all this time spent here with Aizawa, in a controlled environment where he can’t cause harm to others or himself. He shuts his eyes, summons his Quirk from within him, and right when he feels like he can’t take its suffocating chains anymore, Aizawa shuts it off.

“It was easier to turn off that time,” Aizawa says simply while Izuku gasps for breath. “You’re getting better at using it, at least. Your body isn’t protesting now as much as it used to.”

“That’s...good?”

Aizawa frowns. “It’s not terrible,” he says, stepping towards him, “but there is an aspect of your Quirk that we don’t know anything about, so I’m a bit worried that if you get too comfortable with it, you’ll unleash that part of you without realizing it.”

“I hate my Quirk,” Izuku says simply. “I don’t imagine letting it run rampid anytime soon.”

“Still, you never know. We’ll have to go in shorter bouts from here on out, not let it run as long. Wanna try one more time?”

“Sure.”


School the next day comes upon them before they realize it, and Ochako and Kirishima find themselves in Class 1-A, waiting for the others and Aizawa to arrive.

Izuku looks better than yesterday, Ochako thinks. At the very least, the dark circles under his eyes are less pronounced than before, even though they’re still there. They’ve been there since day one, so the fact that they’re lesser than before should mean good things.

Class 1-A is rather empty at the moment; the only people who are in here right now are Ochako, Kirishima, Kouda, Ashido, Sero, Jirou, Yaoyorozu, and of course Izuku. It surprises Ochako that Iida isn’t here yet; usually he’s one of the first.

“Hey, you guys, I just figured out something real weird,” Sero says as he slides up to them, voice hushed. “It’s real weird, I did it on our way to class yesterday.”

Ochako and Kaminari blink at him. “What is it?” Kaminari asks, looking around suspiciously. “What’s up?”

Sero turns towards Yaoyorozu, seated at her desk, watching attentively. “Can you do the thing afterwards?” Sero asks, and Yaoyorozu sighs, exasperated, but eventually nods.

“Okay, watch this.” From his pocket, Sero produces a small laser light, which Ochako and Kaminari examine curiously. Sero aims the laser at Izuku’s desk, then turns it on. The little red light winks on the surface, and Izuku zeroes in on it immediately, staring.

“Watch,” Sero whispers, and he slowly drags the light off the desk and onto the floor. Izuku rises to his feet, and when Sero moves the light again, Izuku follows it.

“That’s...kinda strange,” Kaminari says, frowning.

“No, watch, it gets weirder.” Sero shifts the laser so that the little red dot moves up the wall. Without even breaking a stride, Izuku takes out two knives and begins to climb after the light.

“...Okay, slightly weirder,” Kaminari murmurs, staring along with the others. “But isn’t this kinda normal for Midoriya anyway…? This typical weirdness?”

“Watch this.” Sero directs the light onto the roof, and Izuku somehow keeps on after it.

“What even,” Jirou says, wide-eyed. “That’s— what in the world.”

“I know, right!?” Sero says, turning towards her. “I mean, I don’t even get why he’s going after the light in the first place but—GAHDSKFL.”

Izuku drops down from the roof on top of him, then snatches up the laser light from Sero’s open palm. “You aren’t getting this back,” Izuku says, then pockets the laser light and returns to his desk.

There’s a long moment of stunned silence before everyone breaks into hysteric cackles. Yaoyorozu rises from her seat and makes quick work of filling in the holes in the wall with her Quirk, and she returns to her seat just as Iida walks through the door.

He’s late, to everyone’s surprise. Aizawa still isn’t here, of course, which means he isn’t late by school rules, but by Iida’s standards, he is late.

“Ayy, dude.” Kaminari waves at him with a grin. “You’re usually the first one here, what’s with you getting here late?”

“Nothing,” Iida says curtly, but he glances at Izuku over his shoulder as he sits down at his desk. “Absolutely nothing. Don’t worry.”

Kaminari bumps Ochako’s forearm with his elbow. “Well that’s ominous,” Kaminari murmurs. “They fighting or something?”

“I don’t think so,” Ochako says, turning back and glancing at them, “but it’s really hard to tell…”

The others arrive shortly thereafter, some barely making it in time and others (like Aoyama) striding in like they’re the main act and everyone has been waiting for them. Aizawa arrives just as Aoyama takes his seat.

“So, you’re all here,” Aizawa says, frowning at them. “Good. We’ve got one thing for morning homeroom today before I send you off to your other classes.”

“Oh, please don’t be a pop quiz,” Ashido pleads, folding her hands and bowing her head against them. “Please don’t be a pop quiz, please don’t be a pop quiz…”

“You’ll be picking a class representative today.”

The classroom falls dead silent, and Izuku barely has a chance to clap his hands over his ears before the mood takes a u-turn and everyone is whooping and shrieking.


It’s Iida who suggests they determine by vote, which is the best way to go about things. There is the problem of them not really knowing each other well enough to properly vote for each other, but no matter. This is how they’ve decided to do things, and if it doesn’t work, well, they’ll just have to think of something else.

Except, judging by the results, that won’t be necessary.

“WHAT THE HECK,” Kirishima shrieks, eyes-wide. “HOW DID I GET FOUR VOTES!?”

“Dunno,” Izuku says, shrugging innocently. Behind him, Ochako whistles an unfamiliar tune.

“Izuku!” Kirishima rounds on him, wide-eyed. “Did you vote for me!?”

“Absolutely not. You’re only my best friend, why would I vote for you?”

“This isn’t funny! You don’t have any votes, who did you vote for!?”

“Definitely not my best friend. My very dense best friend.”

“DUDE WHY!?”

“If this is how it turned out, then it can’t be helped,” Aizawa cuts in before the arguing can go on any longer. “Kirishima will be class representative with four votes, and Yaoyorozu, with three, will be vice president.”

Kirishima looks like he wants to argue further, but doesn’t.


“Dang, man, I’m flattered that you voted for me,” Kirishima says over lunch, looking down at his bowl worriedly, “but I’m really, really not suited to lead the class. I’m a bonehead, don’t you know?”

“Oh, I know,” Izuku says, nodding and stirring his katsudon for a moment. “But you’re a very wonderful bonehead.”

“That’s not a reason to vote for me.”

“I voted for you,” Tsuyu says, raising a hand.

“So did I,” says Ochako, doing the same. Kouda’s hand also goes in the air.

Kirishima groans and slumps, his forehead hitting the table. “You’re all pure and precious and I love you but you didn’t have to vote for me.”

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Ochako admits with a small frown. “I think you’re a good choice, Kirishima. Besides, we all trust you a lot.”

Something flashes in Kirishima’s eyes for a fraction of a second. Izuku is sure he’s the only one who notices.

“...I guess,” Kirishima says, and goes back to stirring his rice aimlessly. “I just don’t know.”

Iida approaches before anyone has the chance to respond, and he sets his tray on the table beside Tsuyu, but makes no move to sit down. “Mido—sorry, Izuku,” he says, looking at him. “If you don’t mind, I would like to talk to you for a moment. In private.”

Kirishima looks at him skeptically, but Izuku shakes his head and gets to his seat. “It’s fine, Kiri-chan,” Izuku assures him, then, at Iida, “Sure. Let’s talk.”

Iida nods and turns away, and Izuku follows him.


Roughly thirty seconds later finds them in the darkened hallway leading away from the cafeteria, standing by opposite walls, watching each other. Izuku says nothing, waiting on Iida, and eventually, Iida sighs.

“I’ll come clean,” Iida says, lifting his head. “I asked my older brother about your predicament.”

“Ingenium?” It’s a guess, but judging by the flicker in Iida’s eyes, Izuku is right. “Yeah, I thought I recognized you from somewhere.”

“...Yes.” Iida shakes his head again. “I was wondering if my older brother had run into you at some point, considering…” His eyes flittle to Izuku’s scars, but he redirects his gaze quickly. “Well, I’m sure you know.”

“I do.”

Iida seems uncomfortable, which is odd, because Izuku doesn’t find anything uncomfortable about this situation.

“What I mean to say is, Izuku, I know about you,” Iida says. “My older brother told me you were raised with villains.”

“Not with, by, but basically yeah.”

Iida blinks. “You’re...taking this remarkably well.”

“I don’t see what there is to be upset about,” Izuku answers honestly. “I mean, your older brother is a hero so it only makes sense why you’d ask him about the weird kid with the scars to see what he knew.”

Iida winces. “You’re not weird, Izuku.”

Izuku tilts his head. “I’m a knife nut who was raised by villains to be a monster. Even though I’ve long since turned away from that, you can’t tell me you haven’t noticed a few side-effects. I look like I’m dead on my feet, you don’t have to lie to me. Whatever you wanna say, I can take it.”

“It’s not—” Iida sighs again, shakes his head. “It’s not like that. I’m not upset. I’m not even wary of you. I’m sorry I didn’t bring it to you first instead of asking my older brother. It’s your life, and it was wrong of me to intrude.”

“Thanks for apologizing,” Izuku says, “but I’m not the kind of guy who’d be upset by that. I know how I am. I know how I look, how I act. It’s weird.”

“It’s different,” Iida cuts in, “but it’s also beyond your control. What you did at the entrance exam, saving Uraraka—Ochako-san, when you saved her instead of taking out the robots...that was pretty remarkable of you. I’m still blown away.”

“Yeah, so was the Zero-Pointer.”

Iida stares at him, gaping, and Izuku eventually sighs. “I was trying to make a joke.”

“Oh.” Iida blinks, straightens up. “I apologize, I wasn’t sure…”

“It’s fine. You can’t offend me. It’s not like it’s obvious when I’m fooling around.”

“Yes, well—” Iida stops, takes in a long breath, then lets it out. “I want to make an effort to be able to tell,” he says. “If you don’t mind, Midor—Izuku—”

“You can call me Midoriya if it’s easier for you, Iida.”

“No, it’s alright, just takes a bit of getting used to.” Iida really seems to be struggling here. Izuku feels bad for him. “Anyway, Izuku, if you don’t mind, I would like to be friends.”

Izuku tilts his head again. “We’re kind of heading that way already, don’t you think? I mean, you’ve been sitting with us at lunch and everything and talking with the group. I think we’re well on the way.”

Iida stares at him again. “I’m—well, thank you, but I wanted to ask first. If there’s anything I do that bothers you, let me know.”

“I will.”

It’s odd, he thinks, Iida’s behavior here, but at the same time, it’s also incredibly endearing. He hadn’t been sure of Iida at first, hadn’t really known how to approach or talk to him, but it would seem Iida isn’t as cold as he’d first appeared. He’s very stern and very serious, but not cold.

“Thank you,” Izuku says, and he hopes that, somehow, Iida can hear his honesty. “I look forward to getting to know you better, Iida.”

“The feeling is mutual, Midori— Izuku, sorry, I’ll get it eventually, I promise.”

Izuku exhales sharply through his nose. “Take your time.”

They return to their table after that, when there’s no more to be said between them. The others are still there, waiting; Kirishima looks at Izuku, concerned, but Izuku waves him off.

“It’s fine,” he says, sinking into his seat beside Kirishima. “Don’t worry.”

Across from him, Iida sinks into his seat again, and Izuku can’t help but feel elated. He already has a group of friends, and everyone in it so far has been mindful of him and his boundaries and have even offered to help him whenever they could. It’s a good feeling.

Except, at that moment, a loud alarm blares. Izuku jumps, and Iida and the others look around wildly.

“That’s a terrible sound,” Tsuyu says, grimacing. “Is that the fire alarm?”

“No, not the fire alarm,” Iida says, turning towards the group with wide but grave eyes. “Someone’s trying to infiltrate the campus.”

After that, it’s pandemonium. The students in the cafeteria seem to forget everything they’ve ever learned about “walk, don’t run, stay calm,” because they trip and tumble over each other as though the hallway was their only saving grace. All the while, the alarms continue to blare. The noise, coupled with the screeches of other students and all their leaping and tumbling over each other, makes Izuku’s head pound.

“We have to evacuate with them,” Iida says, leaping to his feet starting forward toward the crowd. “Or, at least find out what’s going on, maybe try to calm everyone down—”

Tsuyu grasps his wrist, giving him a tug. Kirishima, Kouda, and Ochako are already on their feet, making to follow, but Izuku can’t move.

“Izu-chan, we have to go,” Tsuyu tells him, but he can barely hear her voice over the noise. “We have to evacuate with everyone else.”

He can’t. He can’t move, he can’t think; all he can do is clamp his hands around his ears, shut his eyes, and shake his head.

“I’ll wait with him,” Kirishima says, voice muffled over the roar of students, the blare of the alarm, and of course Izuku’s hands around his head.  

“I’ll stay too.” Tsuyu’s hand squeezes his forearm, and for once he doesn’t flinch away. “Go find out what’s wrong. Maybe you can stop the alarm.”

Iida, Ochako, and Kouda run off without further complaint, and Tsuyu drags both Izuku and Kirishima under the table to hide, just in case. The noise roars through Izuku’s ears like it’s reverberating through his entire body, and he doesn’t know why but it brings back so many terrible things. Voices. Villains. Feelings. Words.

“This is who you are,” they say. He’s heard them so many times. “This is what you are.”

“This is who you are, this is what you are.”

“This is who you are, this is what—”

Kirishima’s hands go over Izuku’s. Tsuyu’s hands are still on his forearm tightly. The noise is lesser now that Kirishima’s hands have joined his own around his ears, and Izuku squeezes his eyes shut and waits for the storm to pass.


It’s thanks to Iida’s quick thinking and a combination of his and Ochako’s Quirks that the situation gets under control. Apparently it hadn’t been anything major; a few stupid reporters thought it was a good idea to try pushing their way into U.A., which of course triggered all the alarms.

Or, that’s what Iida and Ochako tell them, as they return to the cafeteria. Tsuyu and Kirishima help Izuku out from under the table, and while Izuku can stand on his own two feet, he feels thoroughly shaken.

“You would think they would know better,” Iida is saying under his breath, sounding irritated. “Infiltrating a hero academy during school hours...or any time, for that matter...I get that they’re the press and they’re pushy, but honestly…”

Are you okay? Kouda asks, eyes shining with concern, and Izuku manages a shaky nod.

I’m alright, he says, the movement small. Startled, but we’re all in the same boat in that case.  

Kirishima frowns at him, obviously not buying a word, but he says nothing. Izuku is glad for that, at least.

“Students, please return to your classrooms,” comes a voice over the intercom. Izuku practically jumps out of his skin, but Tsuyu’s hand on his forearm grounds him. “We will be continuing on with our final class of the day. Thank you!”

“We should go, then,” Ochako says, turning to Izuku. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Izuku says, and he is now that all the noise has stopped and he can think clearly. “Let’s go.”

They head off, but Tsuyu keeps her hand on Izuku’s arm. He’s grateful for it.


“Alright, everyone, your class president says he has a word for you all.”

Aizawa steps aside, and Kirishima hustles forward, nearly tripping over his own two feet when he reaches the front. Izuku gives him an encouraging thumbs up, as do Ochako and Kouda in front and across from him.

“Ahh, thanks,” Kirishima says, scanning the group of students before him. “So, well...I’ll keep this short and to the point.”

He takes in a breath, then slams his hands onto the desk and leans forward.

“I can’t be the class representative,” Kirishima says. “I’m flattered that so many of you believed in me and voted for me, but earlier today, when everyone was freaking out, I didn’t know what to do. I’m not level-headed enough to be able to give you guys the guidance you need, or deserve. So...it’s with great honor that I wanna pass the buck to Iida Tenya. The stage is yours, dude.”

Iida’s mouth hangs open, but everyone else claps and cheers, especially Ochako. Kouda waves his hands above his head enthusiastically, and Izuku simply claps, though he claps loudly.  

Iida rises to his feet slowly, and the cheers die down. “Well...if the class rep has appointed me, and if there are no further objections...then I suppose it can’t be helped. I, Iida Tenya, pledge my solid allegiance to Class 1-A! I will guide and protect all of you to the best of my abilities!”

“Yeah, you go, Iida!”

“Congrats!”

“Emergency exit! Emergency exit!”

Kirishima steps down, and when he passes Iida as he steps up, he holds out his fist. After a moment of hesitation, Iida knocks his own fist against Kirishima’s.


Izuku sees stars when the back of his head collides with the ground. Aizawa is standing over him immediately, holding out a hand, and Izuku takes it and lets the man pull him to his feet.

“Sorry,” Aizawa says, letting him go, but his concern doesn’t ebb. “You got distracted again.”

“Yeah, I did,” Izuku says, rubbing the back of his head with a wince. “It happens all the time, you know me.”

“Yes,” Aizawa says, crossing his arms, “but if it keeps happening, especially in the field of battle, you’re going to wind up getting yourself killed. Whatever it is that really gets to you, you’re going to have to find ways around it, Midoriya. Otherwise, your opponents are going to take advantage of that and kick you while you’re down.”

“Right, I know…”

“Okay, fire up your Quirk again. Just for a second.”

It’s easier this time. Almost natural. The thought makes him sick, and he’s glad to finally head home and collapse onto his bed with all thirteen of his cats.


While Izuku trains with Aizawa, Eijirou runs full-speed towards Dagobah beach, smile on his face. Toshinori—All Might—is waiting for him.


A little farther on into the week, during Hero Basic training—the class All Might usually teaches—Aizawa, who would appear to be substituting for some unspoken reason, informs the group that they will be taking a bus down to a training ground off-campus for some search and rescue training.

Unlike before at the battle training, the students have the option this time to wear their costumes or not. Izuku’s costume was damaged during the exercise, but he does wear his combat boots, along with his surprise-knife cat ears, his cylinders of Quirk suppressants, and several sheathes of knives, strapped around his thighs. Beneath that, he’s wearing his PE clothes; his only alternative, considering his costume is getting worked on.

“I really do like your cat ears, Izu-chan,” Ochako says, sliding up to him with a smile while they await the bus’ arrival. “They make for a nice surprise attack, too, considering they’re, y’know, knives and all.”

Izuku reaches up and adjusts them momentarily. The two ear-shaped knives of course have black sheathes over him; the moment he throws the headband, the sheathes should, in theory, fling themselves off, and judging by how it’d went during the mock battle against Bakugou, it worked.

“Thanks,” Izuku says, lowering his hands. “Your costume looks cute, too. I like the color scheme.”

“O-Oh, thank you!” Ochako fiddles with her helmet for a moment, heat rising to her cheeks. “It’s a little more skin-tight than I wanted it to be, but, the colors are great!”

“THE BUS IS HERE!” Iida announces loudly, but he’s far away enough that it doesn’t startle Izuku too badly. “Everyone, please go in single-file and find a seat! We’re doing this in an orderly fashion!”

About ten minutes of bustling and squirming later, the students are all loaded in the bus. Aizawa sits shotgun, and the bus driver starts off down the road towards their unknown destination.

Izuku isn’t scared, but he is nervous. Search and rescue training seems easy enough, but what if they have to go in pairs again? What if the pairs are random? What if he has to be with or against Bakugou—

He doesn’t realize he’s been fiddling with a knife until Ochako taps him on the shoulder with a concerned look in her eyes. After this, it doesn’t take him long to notice that everyone on this section of the bus is staring at him, too.

“Oh, sorry.” Izuku sheathes the knife at his leg again immediately and folds his hands in his lap, suddenly very tense. “It’s a nervous habit, I-I just do it without thinking sometimes, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, man,” Kaminari says, grinning, but it seems a bit forced. “We’re all nervous here, but try to relax a little, alright?”

“That kinda reminds me of something.” Sero leans forward in his seat to peer at him. “You’ve been bringing knives with you to school lately. Do you, like, have a permit or something? Are they okay with it?”

“Aizawa-sensei cleared it for me,” Izuku answers, fidgeting restlessly. He really wants to fiddle with something, but he doesn’t want to pull out his knife again for fear of unnerving his classmates. “It’s kind of—something like a source of reassurance, I guess. I’m only allowed to keep two on my person, though.”

“Ah, I get it.” Sero nods to himself and leans back, satisfied. “That makes sense. Nice.”

Izuku turns away and threads his fingers together, sinking his teeth into his bottom lip. For a while, he sits that way while the others strike up conversation around him.

Ochako taps him on the shoulder again, lighter this time, and Izuku jumps and turns to her. “Here,” she says, passing him three colorful pens—a blue one, a green one, and a pink one. “I draw on my arms sometimes when I’m nervous, maybe you can try this instead of fiddling with your knives?”

Izuku takes the pens with wide eyes, which Ochako giggles softly at before turning away. Izuku goes for the green pen first, drawing little swirls and pointless designs on the back of his hand. Somehow, it’s even more calming than fiddling with a knife.


“Man, this place is massive!” Jirou says in awe, looking around. “It’s definitely bigger on the inside, dang.”

“It’s definitely ‘extra’ if I’ve ever seen it,” Sero says, also looking around with wide eyes. “And this is all for search and rescue training?”

“Correct!”

Someone else steps forward—Izuku recognizes them as the pro-hero, Thirteen, whom he’d heard about on the news only once. Ochako beams excitedly, looking ready to burst, and Thirteen turns away from the students and towards the monstrous facility.

“Welcome to the Unforeseen Simulation Joint!” Thirteen says proudly, arms spread as though to embrace the whole of the USJ. “This is where we’ll be learning different methods of search and rescue, how to rescue a person in all different natural disasters, and everything in between!”

Some of the students behind Izuku “ooo” and “aaa.” Izuku himself is a bit more focused on the fact that although they were told All Might would be joining them, the hero is nowhere to be seen.

Maybe he used up all his time for today already, Izuku ponders, then shakes his head. Knowing him, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

“I’m sure you all know now, first-hand, what you are capable of,” Thirteen continues, and Izuku and the others give them all their attention. “With Aizawa’s Quirk Apprehension test, you saw the peak of your abilities. And in All Might’s battle simulation, you learned how it felt to use your abilities against others. Now, you will learn how to use your remarkable abilities to save those in danger. After all, at its core, that’s what being a hero is all about.”

Th r e at

It’s quiet. The instinct is barely there. But he feels something, something strong, something stronger than anything he’s ever felt up until this point. Thirteen’s voice and his classmates’ cheers turn into roars, faded as though he’s underwater. The fear inside him begins to grow.

T ̡h r̷ e a̕ t

Ţ̸ ͠h̴ ̨͘r̵͟ ̢e̡ a̛͜͡ ͝t͝

T̢ ̵҉h̵̷̛̛̕ ̴̕r̵̶̕͟͞ ̡̢͠͝͡e̕͢ ̴̵̴ą̧͘͡ ̷̵̨̧t̴̡̧͝

And then it’s too strong. He feels like he’s being dragged down by its weight. He doesn’t realize he’s stumbled backwards until he feels Kirishima’s hands on his forearms, hears Aizawa’s voice as though from far away, and all the while his chest only becomes tighter.

“A-Aizawa-sensei,” Izuku gasps out, as Aizawa’s hands grab his shoulders and they meet eyes. “Something’s, it’s—”

He sees it before anyone else. A swirling abyss of something up by the fountain in the center of the USJ, barely visible from this distance. Izuku has never felt the threat this strong before, ever, especially not from this far away. He hadn’t even picked up on Todoroki’s threat until they were literally inches away from each other.

But now is different.

Aizawa swings around to follow Izuku’s gaze, and Izuku’s classmates follow in suit. Everyone’s looking the same way. Everyone’s fearing the same thing.

A thing with beady eyes and a body made of mist is swirling and swarming by the fountain, and from the maw of darkness march—

Ţ̶̶͓̠̘̗̬͙̦̱̠̗̟͖̙̮̠͔̝͟͡ ̶̪̩̥̲͙̜̬̲̟̻͢͞ͅḨ̵̧̝̺̼̪̼͚̼͖̺͈͔̘̞͢͞ ̴̨̭̹͎̦͇͖̘̙̬͈̫̤̻̜̬͎̗͖͍͝R̶̢̛̻͓̱̱̰͍͖͇̩̲̪̰̝̦̰̖̟͇̳̕͢ ͏̻̣̝̘̗̩͙̝̤̘̪̘͈̮̜̭͕E̗͕̖͕̗̼̜̕͢͞ ̶̹͉̠͉̹͙̦̫̯̖̺̙͉̗͜͢ͅA̶̴̶̞̜͙̞̜̮͎̬͍̺̯͜ͅ ҉҉̟͍͇͇̬̩̖̬T͓̱̙̺̤̬̜̼̯̞̠̞͇̜͙͝͡

T̵̡͘͡ ̡͘͠H̨ ̶͟R̵̶̕͜ ͟͏̷E̵͘̕ ̕͏͠A̡̡̕ ̷̡T̛҉

Ţ̶̶͓̠̘̗̬͙̦̱̠̗̟͖̙̮̠͔̝͟͡ ̶̪̩̥̲͙̜̬̲̟̻͢͞ͅḨ̵̧̝̺̼̪̼͚̼͖̺͈͔̘̞͢͞ ̴̨̭̹͎̦͇͖̘̙̬͈̫̤̻̜̬͎̗͖͍͝R̶̢̛̻͓̱̱̰͍͖͇̩̲̪̰̝̦̰̖̟͇̳̕͢ ͏̻̣̝̘̗̩͙̝̤̘̪̘͈̮̜̭͕E̗͕̖͕̗̼̜̕͢͞ ̶̹͉̠͉̹͙̦̫̯̖̺̙͉̗͜͢ͅA̶̴̶̞̜͙̞̜̮͎̬͍̺̯͜ͅ ҉҉̟͍͇͇̬̩̖̬T͓̱̙̺̤̬̜̼̯̞̠̞͇̜͙͝͡

T̵̡͘͡ ̡͘͠H̨ ̶͟R̵̶̕͜ ͟͏̷E̵͘̕ ̕͏͠A̡̡̕ ̷̡T̛҉

T̵̡͘͡ ̡͘͠H̨ ̶͟R̵̶̕͜ ͟͏̷E̵͘̕ ̕͏͠A̡̡̕ ̷̡T̛҉

Izuku leaps. He breaks free of Kirishima’s hold, runs past Aizawa, draws knives before he realizes it. He hears voices yell after him, feels their footsteps shake the ground, but he takes off down the steps before they can stop him.

S̨ ͘͝͞A͢͠ ͘V̵̷̕ ̕͠E͡͞҉ ͜T̶ ͝H͠ ͏E͢͏ ͏̢M̵̛͡ ͏

He hadn’t been able to save Kowareta. He hadn’t been able to save anyone. But that was the old him.

S̨ ͘͝͞A͢͠ ͘V̵̷̕ ̕͠E͡͞҉ ͜T̶ ͝H͠ ͏E͢͏ ͏̢M̵̛͡ ͏

The noise in his ears fades into nothingness. All he sees is the growing maw of black and the approaching hoard of villains.

S̥͔͡ͅͅ ̮̭̞͉͙̣̹̩͢A̫̰̯̺͝ ͉̣̗̩͔V̢͎̯̯ ̢҉̹͎̙E͏̛͙̩͚͎̯̰̜͇̕ ̗͍̩̥͇͠T̩͡ ͏̠͙̞H̴͎̙̙̮̰̞̺̗ ̛̹̭͔̝̠͔͍E̺͎̘ ̬͡ͅM̠̤͖̹ͅ ̘̦̺͍̳

S̥͔͡ͅͅ ̮̭̞͉͙̣̹̩͢A̫̰̯̺͝ ͉̣̗̩͔V̢͎̯̯ ̢҉̹͎̙E͏̛͙̩͚͎̯̰̜͇̕ ̗͍̩̥͇͠T̩͡ ͏̠͙̞H̴͎̙̙̮̰̞̺̗ ̛̹̭͔̝̠͔͍E̺͎̘ ̬͡ͅM̠̤͖̹ͅ ̘̦̺͍̳

S̨ ͘͝͞A͢͠ ͘V̵̷̕ ̕͠E͡͞҉ ͜T̶ ͝H͠ ͏E͢͏ ͏̢M̵̛͡ ͏

He reaches the villains before they even have the chance to react.


“Stay back!” Aizawa barks, already running and leaping after Izuku. “Thirteen, protect the students!”

“Roger!” Thirteen says, nodding, and they turn back towards Eijirou and the others. “Everyone, get to the exit!”

Ochako starts forward. “What about Izuku? We can’t leave him behind—!”

“Aizawa will take care of him, don’t worry!” Thirteen says, voice rising slightly in pitch and franticness. “We don’t have much time, we have to go—!”

Thirteen is cut off. Below them forms a swirling abyss of nothingness, and they fall through with a sharp cry that could be anywhere between surprise and pain.

“Thirteen!” Ochako shrieks, and Eijirou barely manages to throw out an arm to stop her in time, all the while gritting his teeth.

“My, my, brave ones, are we…”

The abyss grows something like a shape, and its golden, beady eyes make quick work of showing Eijirou and the others that it isn’t a thing they’re dealing with, but a villain. A real live villain.

“I won’t harm your teacher,” the villain says, and its tone hints at a deep, dark amusement that Eijirou doesn’t want to think about. “Your teacher is not what I am after. I simply put them out of the picture while I dealt with you…”


“Toshinori-san?”

“I’m going to show you something, Kirishima, my boy. Please try not to freak out.”

“What are you—WHOA WHOA WHAT THE HELL.”

“I don’t know what I thought was going to happen, but I’d say that reaction is fair.”

“You’re...you're All Might!”


Eijirou grinds his teeth together. “Dealt with us?” he repeats, and the villain redirects its beady yellow eyes on him. “What do you mean by that?”


“I’ve been watching you grow all this time, Kirishima. Watching you, your friendship with Midoriya...he trusts you more than anyone else in the world.”

“Well, I mean...why are you telling me this, All Might?”

“Toshinori will do, my boy. As for why I’m telling you…”


“It’s simple, really,” the villain says, eyes crinkling in amusement. “We aim to knock down this hero society, one brick at a time. And if those ‘bricks’ come at the expense of a few students, well...then so be it.”


“One For All. A stockpile of power…”


Izuku slashes and leaps, kicks and screams, holds his Quirk back with all his might. He doesn’t want to use it until he has to. He can’t use it until he absolutely has to. He fights. He kicks. He screams.

He fights for them.


“A Quirk to carry the dreams of those who have fallen, and the hopes and futures of those who follow…”


Shouta keeps after Midoriya, but is slowed down by villains who leap into the fray. He makes quick work of taking them out, but it seems there’s no shortage of them. No matter how many he knocks out, no matter how many he injures, there’s always more.


“...Kirishima…”


“And you really think I’ll let you do that?”

The villain doesn’t look so amused now. With a wide grin and balled fists, Eijirou summons up this borrowed power. Its familiar warmth spreads beneath his skin. His natural Quirk flares.

“If I let you kill my friends...if I really let you get past me…”

He thinks about Izuku, fighting below. He thinks about Izuku’s constant battle against his own demons. He thinks about how hard his friend tries, no matter what, to do the right thing and put his best foot forward.

One For All crackles against Eijirou’s skin, hot like fire.

“...If I let you win, then what’s the damn point of any of this!?” Eijirou shouts, with courage he doesn’t have. “Me, the people behind me...we’re going to stop you!”

The villain narrows his eyes. “Very well, then…”


Izuku is fighting. A villain runs at him; he slams his heel against the villain’s head. His shoes light up with the force of the hit, but that’s the least of his concerns. He swings up a flashlight from his belt, shines it in the next villain’s face; they reel back with a shriek, but Izuku doesn’t even have time to regain his footing before there’s another one right there in front of him.

He’s fighting. He’s already exhausted, but he’s fighting. He won’t stop fighting, not until they’re gone. Not until the threat has been eliminated. Not until—

He catches sight of someone further into the crowd of villains.

The world slows to a stand-still. The noise fades into nothing. Around him, everything goes white.

Everything but a single figure, standing a little ways away from the fray, covered in disembodied hands, with lots of teal, faded, shaggy hair and a thin, almost sickly figure.

They meet eyes for a moment. The white remains. Izuku’s ears ring. The man turns to him, red eyes blown wide. Izuku’s knife slips from his hand.


“What about you, Kitten? Who do you want to be?”

The door of their bedroom opens before he has the chance to respond. “Sorry I’m late. Got held up at training, don’t worry about me.”

“You’re back!” He leaps off the bed and scrambles over, followed shortly by Kowareta. “And you’re okay!”

A hand reaches out and ruffles his hair. Gently. “Of course I’m okay. Sensei wouldn’t hurt me. Don’t worry.”


No.

No.

They hold each other’s gaze. Izuku’s knife hits the ground at his side. Through the roaring in his ears and the nothingness that overwhelms his senses, a single word spoken through a familiar tone reaches him.

“Dāku?”

There are only two people who know that name.

One of them is dead.

The other is Tenko.

Chapter Text

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

The name bounces around in Izuku’s skull for a time.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Like a broken record, it repeats itself. Over, and over, and over again.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Like a broken record, he wants, desperately, for it to stop. It doesn’t. It won’t. It can’t.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

“That’s not...my name...”

Tenko doesn’t hear him. When he approaches, arms open wide, the rest of the villains Izuku had been fighting previously suddenly disperse. Tenko is obviously their leader; otherwise, there’s no reason why they would part like the Red Sea for him.

No…

“Is it really you?” Tenko asks, approaching slowly like he expects Izuku to vanish at any given moment. “Dāku? Could it be…?”

No, no, no, no, no…

“It’s you! It’s really you!” The worst part about it is the familiarity in the voice. The worst part about it is how genuinely thrilled Tenko seems. “Dāku, I thought you were dead, you have no idea—”

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Dāku.

 

Tenko reaches out.

Izuku slaps his hand away.

The white cuts abruptly. The world returns to normal motion. Tenko flinches back, eyes wide, but he seems genuinely hurt now. Very hurt. It strikes Izuku somewhere close to his heart, but no, no, no, this is—

“That’s not my name,” Izuku says, shaking his head feverishly.

Tenko stares at him. “...Dāku, I...what’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Izuku barks a sharp, mirthless laugh, then shakes his head. “Tenko, are you kidding me? You’re asking me what’s wrong?” He points at some of the attackers when Tenko doesn’t seem to get it. “You’re with the villains. You’re leading an invasion.”

The words seem to hit him harder than they do Tenko, and a barrage of memories comes flooding back. He remembers Tenko ruffling his hair, hugging him and Kowareta at once, promising he’d be okay. They’d be okay. He wasn’t around very much. He was the oldest. Sensei’s favorite. But he loved them. He was like an older brother to them.

Izuku lowers both hands. His shoulders shake. “Tenko, I—I don’t understand. Why...why are you still with them?”

Tenko lowers both arms back to his sides. “Dāku...what are you talking about? Villains saved us, don’t you remember? When our parents abandoned us, it was the villains who picked us up off our feet. It was them who gave us a home and a future when our own parents didn’t want us.”

“They killed her,” Izuku strains, and his eyes burn. “They killed her, Tenko, or did you forget?”

Tenko takes a step backwards. His air changes. He looks hurt. “Her death…”

“Don’t pretend you don’t remember,” Izuku snaps, and his hands shake, too, though he maintains his grip on his knives. His palms are sweaty. “Don’t you dare pretend you don’t remember. You saw it, too. You were there just like I was. Did you feel nothing?”

“Kowareta…” Tenko shakes his head slowly at first, then faster at the end. The hand on his face obscures most of his expression, but his tone of voice carries a deep sorrow. “It’s...it’s terrible, what happened to her—”

“You watched her die.” Saying the words again make them feel closer. More real. He’s trembling again, but this time, it isn’t because he’s upset. “You watched her die and you did nothing!”

Tenko steps backwards again. “It’s a shame, that she had to die—”

“She didn’t have to die!” He’s burning. There’s something rising in his chest, a monster, something there and real and hot and it’s getting stronger—

“Dāku, please—”

He snaps.

“My name is not Dāku!”

The knives go flying. Several of them. Each one of them is thrown with the intention of hitting Tenko somewhere or other; not to kill, but to maim.

But none of the knives hit their mark. A blur of black something steps between Tenko and the knives, taking the blows. The knives sink into its skin with several sounds Izuku wishes he could unhear, but it doesn’t shriek or writhe in pain like he’s expecting it to. The creature is enormous, with exposed brains and bulging bloodshot eyes.

“Dāku, meet Nomu,” Tenko says, peering around the corner of the creature’s hideous body. “Nomu, this is Dāku. The Nomu is creature that has been designed and created to be the strongest there is...even stronger than the number one hero...to come with us and fight on our behalf…” Tenko meets his eyes. “If I were you, Dāku, I wouldn’t do anything to agitate it. Despite your best efforts, you don’t stand a chance.”

And then, Izuku’s knives drop from its skin, one by one, pushed out by the creature’s own mass. Its skin reforms over the gaping holes left by Izuku’s knives, and it looks so twisted and wrong. One by one, Izuku’s knives hit the ground, and once they’re all scattered on the ground, the Nomu lifts its head and releases a monstrous roar.

“There, you see?” Tenko says, stepping around it. “A bit of a present from Sensei. You know, Dāku, I think he knew you would be here. That’s why he approved of the invasion. He wanted  the two of us to find each other again.”

“No.” Izuku shakes his head feverishly and walks backwards. “No, Tenko, no, this isn’t that at all. If Sensei really thought I would come back to you after what he did, then he’s got another thing coming to him.”

Tenko blinks. “‘You...despise him?” he asks, tilting his head. “Dāku, please, don’t tell me you’re actually on the heroes’   side now. We promised we’d be together, you know? Don’t you remember?”

“I remember everything,” Izuku says, taking another step backwards. “I think it’s you who’s forgotten.”

Tenko straightens up. His demeanor changes again, into something more serious. Less careless. “I didn’t want to do this to you,” he says, shaking his head and stepping back, “but if you really won’t come with me willingly, then there’s something terribly wrong. You’ve been brainwashed.”

“I’ve been brainwashed?”

Memories are flooding back now, more than ever. He remembers the three of them chatting and laughing, talking of better times, how they’d all escape someday together. He remembers sitting with Tenko while Kowareta was treated for injuries Izuku inflicted. Izuku loved him. Kowareta loved him. They loved each other. They were always together. The three of them against the villains.

Izuku doesn’t remember Tenko being there after Kowareta was killed. Izuku didn’t look for him. He couldn’t look for him. As far as he knew, Tenko was either dead or had escaped himself and was better off.

But no. He’d stayed. He’d stayed with the villains, and he’s lost everything that once made him the older brother figure that Izuku loved and looked up to.

“Tenko, please, don’t do this.” Izuku shakes his head feverishly, but he’s pleading now. “Please, I already lost Ko-chan to the villains. I don’t want to lose you, too. Please. Come with me. We’ll figure things out, just, please, call off the invasion, before it goes on any longer—”

“I can’t do that,” Tenko says, stepping backwards. “You’ve lost yourself. I need to take you back with me, Dāku, back to Sensei. He can help you.”

“I can help you, please, please, Tenko—”

“Nomu, grab him. Bring him to me. Don’t kill him.”  

The Nomu lets out another monstrous shriek, and Izuku snatches his knives off the ground and makes a run for it. The monster’s thunderous footsteps clap the ground after him. The other villains are still racing up towards the front, where Izuku sees a swirling abyss of black and purple.

Come on, buy some time…

He swings around and pulls an arm back to throw a knife at the Nomu’s face—but then suddenly the Nomu is right there in front of him, inches away, and Izuku’s eyes blow wide.

What…?

How could he move so fast—?

“Midoriya!”

Something coils around Izuku’s waist and yanks him away forcefully. The Nomu’s gigantic fist closes around the air Izuku had occupied just a split second before. Izuku hits the ground tumbling, getting caught in lots of white strips of something firm that looks almost like bandages—

Izuku scrambles to his feet. Aizawa stands beside him, eyes red, lips drawn into a thin line.

“I told you to stay back,” Aizawa grinds out lowly, without looking at him. “I told you to stay back, Midoriya.”

The Nomu roars, thunderous and grating, and Izuku grits his teeth.

“Little late for that now,” Izuku says, shifting into a stance. “We’re surrounded. I couldn’t run even if I wanted to.”

Aizawa doesn’t deny it. “Stay behind me,” he says, shifting himself so that his body is between Izuku and the Nomu. “I know you’re perfectly capable of handling yourself, but right now...stay behind me. If you must fight...support me from behind.”

Izuku is still reeling terribly, but he forces the monster within him back and nods. “I’m with you.”


“You want to stop me, boy?” the mist villain asks, growing to its full height. “My, my, my, how mighty naive of you. See, I have my orders to scatter you abroad and let the others dispose of you as they will; I would rather not get my own hands dirty, if I can help it.”

“Sick bastards,” Bakugou growls, stepping forward. “How’s about we just blow that big head of yours right off, huh?”

“Bakugou, stop,” Iida says, thrusting out a hand to him, teeth gritted. “This isn’t the time. We need to stay together, and we need to think of a strategy, now.”

Eijirou wants to agree with Iida, but something Bakugou said sparked an idea. He raises his head towards the mist villain again, eyes wide with realization.

“...Actually...Bakugou...I think you might have a point.”

Everyone looks surprised, including Bakugou, but Eijirou doesn’t respond. He retracts his fist, golden flashes crackling throughout his skin, and he grins.

“Your body is mostly mist anyway,” Eijirou says, grinning, “which means, I can do this.”

He throws the punch with as much power as he can safely use without shattering his skin or bones. The wind pressure blasts the mist villain back, scattering him to the wind; but almost as soon as he’s gone, he begins to reform once more, swirling back into place in front of them.

“How intriguing,” the villain chuckles, fixing its beady eyes on Eijirou again. “You don’t look like much, but you’ve got quite the Quirk there, don’t you?”

“What, this little thing?” Eijirou asks, and his grin grows wider. “This ain’t nothin’, dude. That guy down there? He’s the one you really gotta worry about.”

The villain follows his gaze, looking over his shoulder, and Eijirou slides up to Iida and says, in a single, rushed breath, “I’m gonna blast a hole through the wall. Make a run for it and go get help.”

Iida rounds on him, eyes wide. “You want me to what?” he hisses angrily, looking appalled. “No, Kirishima, I can’t. I’m the class rep, it’s my job to protect everyone—”

“And you will,” Eijirou says, nodding, “you will protect everyone. You’re the fastest runner here, Iida, we need you to do this. I’m gonna blast a hole through the wall, and as soon as that happens, you need to get out of here. Run to U.A. Get help. Hurry.”

“Talking about your plans right in front of me?” the villain asks, raising itself up to its full height once more. “You seem a bit too confident for your own good.”

“Oh yeah?” Eijirou fires it up again, through his legs and through his arms. “So far I could say the same thing about you.” And then, “Bakugou! Blast him!”

“Thought you’d never ask!” Bakugou grins madly and fires off two blasts, one from each palm, straight at the mist villain. The villain, surprised and expecting Eijirou’s attack, is blown back into the air.

Eijirou knew Bakugou was impulsive enough to be able to take that last minute shout without a problem. It’s why he’d singled him out. Eijirou concentrates One For All into his legs, folds his hardened arms out in front of him like he’s diving, then grits his teeth.

“Human torpedo, part two,” he tells himself, aiming for the crack between the giant double doors. “Please don’t wreck my legs this time. I can’t afford it.”

He launches himself with One For All, grits his teeth to brace himself, and breaks the door right off its hinges. He hits the ground tumbling, legs pulsating, fists bloody and cracked, but the way is open now.

“Iida!” His voice is hoarse. “Run, Iida! Go!”

Iida speeds past him moments later, and Eijirou could cry with relief. As he sprints onwards, back down the road from whence they’d come, they catch each other’s eyes for a moment.

Eijirou grins at him. He can’t be sure, but he thinks he hears the words, I won’t let you down flood through his ears before he’s quite literally eating Iida’s dust. Choking on it, even.

And then the ground disappears from beneath him, and he falls and lands on something smooth and solid. He sees stars when his head smacks the pavement, and Ochako and Ashido are by him immediately, but he waves a hand at them, unconcerned and dragging himself up to his aching, burning feet.

The warp gate villain is standing in the doorway, blocking off the students. The amused crinkle in the corners of his eye is gone, and he looks more dangerous than before.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he says. His mist-like body spreads around them in a circle, and Eijirou’s feet disappear from beneath him once again, and he’s falling. His classmates fall around him, but not with him.


Ochako and Tsuyu hit the solid ground of what feels like a rocky, bumpy surface. Ochako gets to her feet first, wincing and grimacing; Tsuyu follows her lead, holding her head, but she seems unharmed.

“Are you okay?” Ochako asks, swaying only slightly. Tsuyu nods.

“We got split up,” Tsuyu says, looking around. “We’re in the rockslide zone…”

“Well, whaddaya know. Guess Kurogiri didn’t fail us after all. I was worried there for a while.”

Ochako and Tsuyu spin around towards the voice. A band of villains close around them in a semi-circle, grinning madly, advancing.

Tsuyu moves to stand close to her side, feet shifted into a proper fighting stance. “We don’t have a choice, Ochako-chan,” she says, something Ochako has already accepted. “I know it’s against the law to use our Quirks against villains, but this is a life or death situation.”

“I know.” Ochako grits her teeth and copies a stance she saw Izuku use more than once. “You take the ones on the left I’ll take the ones on the right?”

“It’s as good a plan as any,” Tsuyu agrees quietly, and with nods to each other, they spring at the villains.


“Oy—Oy, Weird Hair, get up!”

Eijirou’s side is kicked harshly, and it’s just enough to bring him back to awareness. He sits up sharply; Bakugou stands a little ways ahead of him, sparks crackling on his palms. Villains are closing in on them on all sides, slowly at first, then a little faster.

Eijirou leaps to his feet and moves to stand beside Bakugou despite the pain spiking up his legs. “This looks bad,” he says, putting up his fists and picking the sturdiest stance he can think of. “We’re fighting, then, right?”

“Tch, no kidding.” Bakugou crouches, sparks flying. “I’ll pummel them. Watch my back.”

Eijirou is in no state to argue, so he nods. “I’ll leave it to you,” he says, and Bakugou launches himself at the villains. Eijirou takes off behind him, swinging and punching whoever rises after Bakugou’s initial attack. He takes Izuku’s advice into consideration, going for their noses, their faces, their eyes, whatever the most vulnerable parts of their bodies are.

Buddy…

He socks a villain in the jaw with hardened knuckles and a bit of One For All. Judging by the sound of it, something cracked and splintered.

...Please be okay.


Yaoyorozu, Jirou, and Kaminari stand by each other, back to back, approached by villains on all sides. In different zones, different groups of students face similar predicaments. Approached by villains. Alone, in a few cases. Cornered. Forced to fight.


Izuku sinks his knife into a villain’s shoulder, and they shriek and try flinging Izuku off of them. Izuku yanks the knife back and springs back; Aizawa swings his leg over Izuku’s head and roundhouse kicks another villain in the side of his face.

“You’ve gotta watch yourself!” Aizawa barks, teeth gritted. “I told you to stay behind me!”

“If the villains actually let me do that, that’d be fantastic!” Izuku snaps back through gritted teeth. There are too many of them, far too many of them. A considerable amount of them are on the ground, but they keep regrouping. There aren’t as many of them now as there were at the start, but then again, Izuku and Aizawa are more exhausted now than they’d been at the start.

And then there’s that Nomu creature standing in the background, like it’s awaiting its moment to strike. Izuku keeps side-eyeing it, knowing how fast it can move, but it doesn’t do a single thing. Tenko stands beside it, watching, and Izuku is too far away to see his expression.

“Tenko, call it off!” Izuku shouts desperately, and he doesn’t know what he’s expecting, but he can’t let Tenko drown like this. He can’t let Tenko go. “Please, you can still call off the invasion! It isn’t too late!”

Tenko stares at him, but doesn’t respond directly. “Nomu. What say we speed things up a little? Don’t kill him, but make it count.”

The Nomu screeches, and Izuku braces himself for the hit. He knows it’s coming; Tenko is definitely going to try taking him by force now, so the least Izuku can do is try to gouge out its eyes when it gets close enough—

It doesn’t go for him.

The Nomu zooms straight past him, almost like he isn’t even there, and Izuku doesn’t even have time to look over his shoulder before he hears a sickening crack.

The realization hits him like a punch to the gut.

“Aizawa-sensei!”

He swings around, and the knives fly. They sink into the Nomu’s shoulder harmlessly, but even if they did do some damage, it’s already too late.

Aizawa is on the ground. Izuku didn’t see what happened, he hadn’t turned around quick enough, but there’s blood pooling beneath Aizawa’s head, and he isn’t moving anymore.

There’s blood, lots of it, and he’s completely still.

Blood. Still.

Blood. Still.

Blood. Still.

“I’m sorry, Dāku,” comes Tenko’s voice from behind him; the Nomu stands over Aizawa, ginormous fingers shoving his head against the ground. “But it has to be like this. We can’t have him getting in the way.”

Izuku can’t breathe. His heart pounds in his ears like a wardrum. Nothing feels real, but at the same time, he sees everything with a sudden sense of clarity.

Blood. Still.

Blood. Still.

Blood. Still.

Aizawa.

Kowareta.

Aizawa.

Kowareta.

Blood. Still.

Blood. Still.

Blood. Still.

The monster springs to life.

But it’s different this time. The chains that shackled him before, the invisible ropes that tied him down…

They don’t leave.

He grabs them.

He grabs them, he holds them, he yanks them.

Words rush back at him. Scenes. Faces.

“It’s your power. It’s yours now, regardless of who it belonged to before, and...it’s going to be hard, but you’re going to learn to control it. You’re going to use it to save people someday. I know you will.”

S̵a̴̡v̛͝͏e̶ t̶̸h̢͟e͞m̧.

S̵a̴̡v̛͝͏e̶ t̶̸h̢͟e͞m̧.

S̵a̴̡v̛͝͏e̶ t̶̸h̢͟e͞m̧.

He drags up these chains. Holds them. Harnesses them.

I ̷want͟ ͠to ̵sa͡v͏e̡ th̷e͠m.̢ ̨

Something snaps within him. He can almost feel it. A very real, very painful sensation. A breakthrough. Like a wall is crumbling down.

"҉̡̨͟E͟҉̢L̢҉̵̢I̶͘͠͠͠M͏̴͜͝I҉̵͝N̴̵A̧͜͞T̨̢̧͡E̸͜ ̧͞͡T̛H̵̨̛E̴̡͠͝ ̧̕͘T̵̸̵͟͟H͏̴͠R̸̕͡E̡͜Ą̡͟Ţ̷S̨.̵͠"͘͢ ͏̢͏̛

Izuku screams, and around him, the world burns.


Shouta’s vision is blurry. His head spins. There are thick, strong fingers gripping his skull, holding him down. There’s blood in his eyes and running down his face. Everything is fuzzy and blurry, but the adrenaline kicks back in as his memory floods back at him.

Through his ringing ears, he hears someone screaming.

Midoriya is standing, fists balled, eyes a swirling storm of green and gold, but something is different. It’s not just his eyes; along the length of his scarred arms, his face, his ankles, every bit of exposed skin, are swirling tendrils of shining gold. His teeth are gritted, but his eyes are wide, emotionless. Flat. Dead.

He raises a foot, holds it, and slams it into the ground.

The Nomu lets out a horrendous roar of pain, thrashing and flailing. It releases Shouta and clamps its hands around its head instead, still roaring and shrieking in pain, like it’s being tortured.

But Shouta doesn’t feel a thing.


“Tsuyu-chan!” Ochako throws a punch at the closest villain, socking him right in the nose, and she hurries back to help Tsuyu off the ground where she’d been thrown. There’s a gash across Tsuyu’s face, but that seems to be the worst of it.

“There’re too many of them, Ochako-chan,” Tsuyu pants, scant of breath. “We can’t possibly--”

The villains begin to scream and shriek without warning, thrashing about, and Tsuyu and Ochako cling to each other a little tighter, stumbling back. They watch, wide-eyed and trembling, as the villains drop their weapons and hold their heads instead, still wailing in agony.

“What’s happening!?” Ochako gasps, pulling herself and Tsuyu back further.

“I don’t know,” Tsuyu answers, eyes wide. “Come on, let’s run for it while we can!”

Ochako nods, takes Tsuyu by the hand, and they flee the rockslide zone.

All the while, they don’t feel any of it.


The villain holding Kaminari by the throat quickly releases him in favor of screaming in pain, falling, and writhing on the ground.

“C’mon, run!” Jirou shouts, snatching Kaminari by the wrist and dragging him to his feet. “Let’s go, Yaoyorozu!”

Yaoyorozu nods and chases after them.

They don’t feel anything.


“I’ll wipe that smug look off your face,” the villain says, punching his fist into his open palm. “I think it’s about time you learn to respect your superiors.”

“Bold words from someone about to get his ass handed to him!” Bakugou snaps back, grinning wildly, but he doesn’t have the chance to do anything else. The villain doesn’t look smug anymore. He doesn’t look anything anymore. He stumbles back with a cry of shock, clutching his head for a moment. Something changes again, and he throws himself against the wall, shrieking.

Eijirou can only stare. Bakugou swears under his breath and grabs Eijirou by the wrist, yanking him back, and Eijirou can’t manage to get his feet underneath him.

He doesn’t know why, but it seems familiar. And the fact that he doesn’t feel anything is what really gets to him.

Midoriya, what are you doing?


All across the terrain, villains are dropping. Students are running. Escaping.

In front of Shouta, Midoriya stands, teeth gritted, hands shaking, while the villain stares back in terror. It seems he’s the only one here uneffected. All around Shouta, the villains with exception of “Tenko” are shrieking and wailing in pain. If Midoriya notices, he doesn’t care.

He grips his knives tighter. His eyes—bright golden—narrow into slits.

“I’m sorry,” the lead villain says, stepping backwards, and he moves his hands to clap over his ears as the roars and shrieks of villains flood forth. Shouta kind of wants to cover his ears, too. “I’m sorry, but you know I had no choice—”

"̧͘͜You͡͠ ̵d͜i̧͠d͞ h̡̧͠a̴v̕e͜͠͝ ͜͡a̸̵ ch̸̶o̷͜i̵̧͢ce.͢"̴  ̛Midoriya snarls with several voices, none of which sound like his own. "̵̡͠A̶nd҉ ņ̕o͝w̕̕͜ ̢͞y̢̕o̡̨͝u ̸͝ha̧ve̢ ͠͏t͢͟o҉ ̷̢͟o͡҉w̧n͠͠ ҉up ͢t͘o͠ ̸it!̸͝͡" ̨͝

He launches himself at Tenko and brings both of them to the ground.

They’re a tangle of limbs, fast movements, punches; Midoriya is relentless, and his tortured screams only add to the roaring din.

It’s the slime villain all over again, except Midoriya has completely lost it.

Shouta can only stare through vision blurred with blood. The noise makes it hard to think. The whole of the USJ is engulfed with the pandemonium, and conducting it all and adding to it is Midoriya himself.

Midoriya pins Tenko beneath him, one hand on his throat, the other hand pulling back a knife. Shouta sees the blade gleam in the overhead lights.

Midoriya’s teeth are gritted. His knife hand is shaking. Shouta knows he wouldn’t intentionally kill Tenko, but that’s not the point. He’s controlling the output of his Quirk, but that’s not the point either.

Midoriya has unleashed whatever monster he was afraid of. And he’s being consumed.

"C̴͠al̵̢l o͠f̷f̷̕ ̷̸͠t̶͝h̡̨͞e̵͢ ̸̶͜i͏͏n̵͟v̸̧a̧̛͠ş̷i͝o̢͞͞n҉̡͜,͝"͠ ̢ Midoriya demands with several voices intermingling with his own, but there’s a deep pain ebbed in the words that Shouta doesn’t miss. "͟Cal̵l̶͜͠ ̕it̶ ̷̕͡o̸f̧̡͢f̵̡̕, ͘͡T̨ę̷n͜k͟͜o̵."̸͘ 

Tenko looks him in the eyes. “You know I can’t do that.”

Midoriya grits his teeth. "͡Ţh̷̡͘a͢͠t̵'̶̛͝s͟ ̶y̷̢͜o̢u̡r̸͟ ̡c͢͠h͞o͞i̶̡c҉͢e̡.͝" 

Shouta doesn’t know why or how, but he finds his voice.

“Midoriya!”

There’s no way Midoriya should be able to hear him over everything else, but his head snaps in Shouta’s direction. Some sense of familiarity flickers in his dead eyes. He stills.

“It’s your Quirk, not the other way around!” Shouta snaps, voice hoarse from blood. “You have to fight it! Fight it!”

Midoriya blinks at him. The gold is outweighed by green.


D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠, his Quirk roars. He feels the urge through his entire body. M̷̧͢A̵̴͘K͟͠͡E̴͜͝ ̷̶̴͡͝T͡H̶̸EM̸̵̴͝͝ ̵P̷̕͡A͘Y͝҉̡. M̷̧͢A̵̴͘K͟͠͡E̴͜͝ ̷̶̴͡͝T͡H̶̸EM̸̵̴͝͝ ̵P̷̕͡A͘Y͝҉̡. M̷̧͢A̵̴͘K͟͠͡E̴͜͝ ̷̶̴͡͝T͡H̶̸EM̸̵̴͝͝ ̵P̷̕͡A͘Y͝҉̡.

Izuku feels like he’s being torn apart from the inside out. There’s a weight on his shoulders, punctuated by the burn in his blood. Every part of him wants to keep it up. To make the villains suffer.

But that’s not the point of it.

The realization is a softer one. Gentle. As Tenko squirms beneath him trying to break free and Izuku’s knife hand hesitates, the world is engulfed with white once more.

That’s not the point of this.

Izuku looks around. He sees the world through white, through ringing ears. He sees the silhouettes of the villains he has under his power. He’s hurting them.

...I’m just repeating what I did to the slime villain, aren’t I?

Even this is a soft realization. One he’s subconsciously accepted but is only now coming to grasps with it.

Like a broken record…

The pain fades, and he feels weightless. He feels nothing.

...But if I keep doing this...then what’s the point of anything?

What’s the point of all those months spent training with Aizawa?

What’s the point of being here at all?

...

...

...

...Why do I want to be a hero?

He sees Kowareta’s face in his mind’s eye. Not as she was when she died, but as she was when she was alive and well, smiling. Scarred, but hopeful.

...That’s right…

Her image fades, and he’s looking down into Tenko’s eyes.

...If I keep doing this…

...Then I’m really no better than them, am I?

D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠, his Quirk chants. D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠,D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠,D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠,D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠,D͏̵O̷͢͟ ̸̢͝I̸̧͠T̸̢͜͠,

No, Izuku responds, for the very first time. I won’t.

I can’t shut it off...

...But I can redirect it.


The insanity stops.

The villains drop to the ground like stones, cut off mid-shriek. There’s no dramatic finish, no final requiem, just... end. They lie there, still, unmoving, but alive. Tenko is still on the ground, pinned beneath Midoriya, and Midoriya stares down at him. A drop of blood rolls down his cheek like a tear.

And then Tenko reacts.

His hand shoots out like a snake and coils around Midoriya’s wrist. Midoriya is snapped back to reality again with a shriek, and he lets go of Tenko immediately and springs backwards, gasping hard and clutching his wrist. Blood runs down his fingertips.

“Dāku,” Tenko gasps, stumbling to his feet. “...What…”

Midoriya raises his head, teeth gritted, golden eyes narrowed. "Wh͠at͞ do yo̧u thi̕n͝k o̧f ͠m̧e͠ n͠ow͞, Tenko?͡" ͡ ̵  he asks. ̸"͝Do͝ y̧ou͜ st͟il̢l th͡in̵k ̛y̢ou҉ ͏c͢a̕n͞ c͏o̕n͜v͢ince͢ ̢me̶?͡"̡

Just like before, there are several voices. Several of them, overlapping each other, making the words hard to hear. But unlike before, Midoriya’s voice prevails through the others, louder and more confident. Demanding.

Midoriya is in control.

Tenko takes one large step backwards. “No, you can’t do this,” he says, shaking his head. “You’ve been brainwashed, this isn’t you, I know you don’t want to do this.”

Midoriya grits his teeth tighter and squeezes his eyes shut. The small splatter of blood beside his feet is growing.

"You͢ j̴usţ do͏n't̶ gęt i͏t̛,͘ d͏o͡ ͞yo̧u?̕"̨ ͟

Midoriya’s voice prevails through all the others. The golden tendrils spreading across the length of his skin shine brighter than before. When he lifts his head to meet Tenko’s eyes, Shouta sees a storm.

"Thi͟s i͏s͘ ̧w͢ho ̸I am̡,͡ T͞enko.̷"̵ Midoriya says. "͏Thi͏s is w͘h̢at I ͞am̧."͝

Chapter Text

“Nomu! Grab him!”

In the end, that’s all the Nomu knows. Following orders. Despite the obvious, tremendous pain that it’s in, it shrieks and screeches and runs at Midoriya.

Shouta watches through blurred vision. Midoriya stands there, conducting the chaos, causing the storm, but he’s calm. Confident. Completely in control.

He narrows his eyes at the Nomu further, stretches out a single hand, and it slams to a stop as though it’d crashed into an invisible wall. It reels back, clutching its head, shaking madly.

And then it charges again, and the same thing happens. It slams to a halt, shrieks for a moment, then goes again.

Midoriya raises a single hand calmly. "͟D̶̛ǫwn҉,͏ ͜͞boy̴,̕"̨ he says, voice steady, and the Nomu hits the ground in an unmoving heap. It twitches, shuts its eyes, and its tongue lolls from the side of its mouth.

Midoriya lurches forward unexpectedly, barely managing to keep his feet beneath him. His demeanor has changed. He’d been calm and collected before, but now, he heaves for breath and clutches his chest.

The villain—Tenko, Midoriya had called him—stares with wide eyes at the Nomu, then up at Midoriya. “You…”

“Yeah. I did it again.” Midoriya’s voice shakes, and it sounds wet and thick. “I forgot I could do that...or, I guess, I forced myself to forget I could do that. That’s...that’s what I did to them all, that day... w-when—”

Midoriya coughs, wet and ragged, and cups his hands around his mouth. Tenko doesn’t seem to notice.

“I didn’t know you had such control over it,” the villain says, awestruck.

“I don’t.” Midoriya lowers his hands down from his mouth. There’s blood on them, and when he raises his head to meet Tenko’s eyes, blood rolls down his cheeks like tears. “I still can’t turn it off.”

Shouta finally snaps back to reality. He places his palms against the ground and pushes himself upright, slowly, but he can’t get far. His head is killing him.

I need to shut off his Quirk, he tells himself, raising his head. Midoriya has both hands clamped over his mouth again, and blood trickles from between his fingers. He’s going to kill himself.

He tries, drawing up strength he doesn’t have and flashing his Quirk at Midoriya—but he feels like he’s beating against waves. Pushing against a flood. Fighting against warring torrents of rushing something that won’t let him through.  

He doesn’t know if it’s his current state or the strength of Midoriya’s haywire Quirk, or perhaps a combination of both, but no matter how hard he tries and how deeply he looks into Midoriya’s eyes, he can’t turn his Quirk off.

Shouta can’t turn his Quirk off.

In front of him, as he tries again and again, the scene continues to play out. “You can’t win, Tenko,” Midoriya heaves, choking around his hands. “I’m not going with you. I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“You have to,” Tenko says, starting forward. “Dāku, please, come home. Sensei is waiting for you. If you don’t come now, he might never give you the chance again. We can help you.”

He reaches out. Midoriya throws himself backwards, stumbling, but he stays on his feet. Drops of blood mark the ground between him and Tenko, and more continues to pool in Midoriya’s narrowed eyes.

“I can’t.” Midoriya sounds almost like he’s about to cry. “Tenko, I—I can’t—”

The mist-like villain materializes beside him, bright yellow eyes urgent. “Shigaraki Tomura,” the villain says, “one of the students escaped.”

Tenko rounds on him, wide-eyed. “What?”

“They ran,” the mist villain answers regretfully. “I tried pursuing them after scattering the remaining students, but they were too quick.”

Tenko’s hands shake. “You let one of them go?”

“I’m sorry,” the villain says, “but it can’t be helped now. Our best bet now is to leave while we still have the chance.”

Shouta wants to stop them, but he knows that in his current state, he doesn’t stand a chance against them. What he really needs to do is shut Midoriya’s Quirk off, before he destroys himself.

He has Quirk suppressants, he reminds himself, and it gives him a jolt. He can use his Quirk suppressants—

By the very front of the building comes an explosion. Everyone turns, including Midoriya and Tenko and the other remaining, swarming villains.

“What the hell?” Tenko breathes, staring. “What’s—?”

“Reinforcements,” Midoriya hacks, swaying on his feet and almost falling over this time. “Reinforcements, Tenko, you idiot, what do you think it is?”

It’s All Might, that’s who it is. Shouta knows it without even seeing him. In a flash, things begin to change; the villains near the front of the facility are thrown off their feet. A cloud of smoke fills that space.

“We have to leave,” the mist villain says, voice growing more urgent. He opens his gate, and the swirling abyss of purple materializes in the space beside him. “We don’t have time—”

Tenko reaches out, grabs Midoriya by the wrist with every finger but his index one, and yanks him.

“You have to come with me,” Tenko says, frantic. “Dāku, I’m not leaving you behind—”

For a second, Shouta grabs his capture scarf, ready to blow cover and get Midoriya out of there, but something else happens.

Midoriya yanks out a knife with his free hand and slices Tenko’s index finger clean off.

Tenko screams, flinging himself away and releasing Midoriya in the process. Midoriya hits the ground on his side. His knife clatters against the terrain. The mist villain moves his warp gate closer, and Tenko, clutching his bleeding hand, begins to disappear in the mist.

“T-Tenko—” Midoriya’s eyes are wide with horror and fear, but there’s something else in his eyes that isn’t blood. “I’m sorry. Please—please, don’t let Sensei control you. You have to fight back, Tenko, please—”

“My name isn’t Tenko, either.”

The villain glares at him with narrowed, bloodshot eyes.

“My name is Shigaraki Tomura.”

The gate shuts on him, and both he and the mist-villain disappear. Midoriya lays on the ground, eyes blown wide, blood streaming freely like tears. Shouta never wants to see this kind of look on his face ever again.

A loud bang nearby shakes the ground, and Shouta doesn’t even have to look to know what it means. All Might is here. That’s enough. The villains are on the ground, anyway, but even if they weren’t, the only creature that posed so much as a threat to All Might was the Nomu, and it hasn’t moved an inch since Midoriya got to it. Shouta isn’t even sure it’s alive.

With All Might drawing the attention elsewhere, Shouta is free to move without getting jumped should the surrounding villains be less unconscious than they appear. Midoriya turns to look at him this time, but his hands are hands clamped around his mouth again, knives on the ground. He looks worse now that Shouta is closer, more pale. His eyes are almost entirely gold, and there are still tendrils spreading through his skin like ribbons.

“Hang in there, kid—” Shouta’s head is spinning, but he manages to pull one of the Quirk suppressant syringes from the cylinder by Midoriya’s empty sheaths. He takes Midoriya by the wrist, pulls his hand down, and steadies his arm. “Don’t fight anymore. Drop it. It’s okay.”

“I can’t.” Midoriya drags in ragged, quick breaths through gritted teeth. His golden eyes are wide. His pupils are different sizes. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t—”

“Kid, breathe.” Shouta settles a hand on Midoriya’s shoulder, squeezing. “Breathe through it, kid. Breathe.”

Midoriya’s breathing gets worse. Harsher, more erratic. “I c-can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t—”

Shouta grits his teeth., squeezing Midoriya’s shoulder again, but he’s hyperventilating now. Shouta can’t force back Midoriya’s Quirk on his own. He tried, but he can’t. Which means—

“I’m sorry, kid.” He injects him and pushes down the plunger. “Don’t fight anymore.”

The results are almost immediate. Midoriya’s eyes flicker to green, the gold fades from his arms, and he slumps forward, hands falling to his sides. Shouta catches him, shakes him, talks to him, but he’s unresponsive. Unconscious.

It’s for the best right now.

Except, that’s when he realizes how shallow Midoriya’s breathing has become. That’s when he realizes he can’t actually feel the kid’s shoulders rising and falling.

That’s when he realizes Midoriya isn’t really breathing at all.

“Eraserhead!”

Before the horror has a chance to settle in, Shouta turns his head. All Might passes him.

“I’ll make sure the villains don’t go anywhere,” All Might says, voice low. “Take Midoriya and go. Run.”  

Shouta doesn’t argue. As long as Midoriya is injured and unconscious, they’re vulnerable to surprise attacks. There’s really nothing more for Shouta to do here. He trusts All Might with it, rises to unsteady feet, and runs as fast as he dares. Midoriya remains motionless in his arms.


There’s no battle to be fought. All he’s doing is making sure the villains stay down, but there’s no battle. Not anymore. There aren’t any villains springing up at him. There’s no attack. There’s no “final showdown.”

The battlefield is covered by the bodies of unconscious, unmoving villains, and all All Might can do is stand there, shellshocked.

All Might glances over his shoulder. He sees Aizawa running with Midoriya limp in his arms. Unconscious. There’d been blood all over him when All Might arrived—in his hands, down his face—and the inhuman creature on the ground, the thing that looks like the one villain here that did stand a chance against him, is unmoving.

Midoriya is hurt. The monster is down. The battle has been fought and won, but All Might finds himself wondering just how great a victory it really is.

As he stands over the battlefield—an onlooker, not a soldier—his balled fists begin to tremble.

The students had needed him before this. Midoriya had needed him before this. Midoriya had needed him. Aizawa had needed him. They’d all needed him.

He should have been here sooner.

He should have been able to stop the villains before the students got involved.

He should have been here.

There aren’t any more villains to fight. They’re scattered across the ground, unmoving and injured. Defeated before All Might even arrived, and now the hero stands over the battlefield with gritted teeth and shaking hands.

They’d technically “won,” but with Midoriya hurt, this is no victory.

If anything, “victory” has never felt so much like defeat.


Bakugou is somehow kind enough to help Eijirou back to the front when his legs finally give out on him about halfway back. He doesn’t carry him, but he does sling Eijirou’s arm over his shoulders to help steady him, which Eijirou appreciates, but doesn’t say simply because he knows Bakugou won’t appreciate that.

The others are arriving. Uraraka, Tsuyu, Yaoyorozu, Jirou, Kaminari...Bakugou shrugs Eijirou off him the moment they’re spotted, and he storms off in the other direction while Uraraka and Tsuyu race towards him, worried.

“Are you okay?” Uraraka asks at once, eyes flickering down to his legs. “You look hurt.”

“I’m fine, just overused my Quirk a little,” Eijirou says, shaking his head. “Where are the others? Do you know if they’re okay?”

Tsuyu shakes her head. “We saw All Might on our way over here,” she says. “He’s making sure all the villains are down. But I don’t know about everyone else.”

Kouda rushes up to them, eyes wide with worry. Behind him, Sero, Satou, Aoyama, and Ashido file up the steps, glancing around; Ashido seems to be counting under her breath.

You guys are okay! Kouda says quickly, almost too quickly for Eijirou to pick up on it. I’m so glad. Where’s everyone else?

“We don’t know,” Eijirou answers, a pit forming in his stomach. He looks up at Uraraka and Tsuyu again. “The villains, when we were fighting them, they…”

They tense, eyes going wide, and that reaction enough tells Eijirou exactly what he wanted to know. Behind him, by complete coincidence, he hears Sero and Jirou talking.

“It was the weirdest freaking thing,” Sero is saying, eyes wide. “We were fighting them off and everything, it was going really well, but then they just started screaming like they were being tortured, or something. It was super scary.”

“That happened to us, too,” Jirou says, looking equally scared. “We didn’t stick around to see what was going on, we booked it while we had the chance.”

“Yeah, same here, but I kind of wish I knew what it was. That was freaky.”

They’d experienced it, too. All of them.

“Twelve,” Ashido says, once she’s done counting. “There are only twelve of us here. Iida is getting help, which means…”

Shouji, Mineta, Ojirou, and Hagakure arrive all at once. There’d been seven missing before; now there are only three. Todoroki, Tokoyami, and...Izuku. Missing. No one knows where they are.

But it’s when Eijirou is looking toward the steps that one of those answers comes to light.

His stomach leaps into his throat. His heart stammers in his chest. His ears ring.

Aizawa is running towards them, teeth gritted. There’s blood running down the center of his face from his forehead, but that’s not what scares him.

Izuku is in Aizawa’s arms, limp, bloody. His eyes are closed.

Eijirou is aware of Uraraka’s choked gasp, Tsuyu’s wide eyes, Kouda’s hands held against his mouth. Everyone else is staring, too. Even Bakugou. But none of that matters at all.

Aizawa settles Izuku on the ground, gently, and the trance is broken. Eijirou runs forward, and following his lead are Tsuyu, Uraraka, Kouda, Yaoyorozu, and Kaminari.

“Don’t crowd him,” Aizawa says, voice sharp and demanding, as always, but there’s a waver there that Eijirou barely notices. “He was coughing up blood, give him space.”

“Blood?” Uraraka repeats, wide eyes going wider. “What happened?”

“He overused his Quirk.” Aizawa’s fingers curl around Izuku’s wrist and press down. Eijirou hadn’t noticed at first, but Aizawa isn’t radiating his usual energy. He seems afraid. “He’s not breathing properly. His pulse is faint.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Tsuyu asks, hopping forward. Eijirou can’t bring himself to say anything. “There has to be something.”

“All his injuries are internal,” Aizawa cuts in, and his tone is harsh, but Eijirou knows now that it’s only because he’s worried. “We can’t do anything for him, not until—”

There’s commotion from outside, and through the blown-out double doors run Iida, followed closely by the staff of U.A. and a group of top-ranking pro heroes.

“I brought help!” Iida choruses loudly; everyone by the steps hear him, but Eijirou’s ears are still ringing. He can’t breathe. “Aizawa-sensei, I—”

Iida freezes, eyes locked on Izuku’s still form. He opens his mouth as though to say something, but no sound comes out.

Aizawa maintains a level-head, though he keeps his fingers on Izuku’s wrist. “All Might is securing the villains,” he informs the heroes, swinging an arm that way to point. “I’m sure he doesn’t need it, but that’s where we need the most help. We’re still missing two students—Todoroki, Tokoyami. And Thirteen is still gone as well.”

“We found Thirteen in the shipwreck zone!” Sero says, rushing forward with Mineta. “They said they were going to go see if they could find the other students!”

“We’re on it!” Snipe says, and he and the group of pros take off. Eijirou barely notices.

“Move over!”

He’s pushed aside by the school’s nurse, Recovery Girl. Ochako and Tsuyu leap out of the way to let her through, and she kneels by Izuku and begins checking him over. She and Aizawa converse in low tones as Aizawa fills her in, but it’s all noise in Eijirou’s ears.

He tears his eyes away and stares at the fountain where it’d all began. The warp-gate had formed there. Izuku had reacted first.

It should have been Eijirou. He should have been the one to move first, but when it came down to it, he hadn’t done anything.

He hadn’t done anything.

“His pulse dropped.”

Something has changed in Aizawa’s tone, and Eijirou whirls around again. There’s something in Aizawa’s eyes that hadn’t been there before, something deep. Something that strikes Eijirou right through the chest.

Recovery Girl takes Izuku’s other wrist for a moment. There’s a beat. And then, she swears under her breath and jumps to her feet.

“There’s an ambulance outside,” she says quickly, tone urgent. “Follow me. We have to hurry.”

“Wait—” Iida starts forward, wide-eyed. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“He needs more than what I can do for him here,” Recovery Girl says, and there’s something truly frightening in her eyes. Something Eijirou doesn’t want to put his finger on. “Stay here.”

Aizawa takes Izuku into his arms again, and then they’re gone. The whirring of a siren fills Eijirou’s ears. There’s still blood on the ground, Izuku’s blood. A part of him wants to say something to the others, maybe offer a word of encouragement to Uraraka or Tsuyu or Kouda, or even Iida, but—

He’s frozen.


There’s nothing. He hears nothing, sees nothing. He feels things, sharp things, dark things. There’s darkness around him, in him, suffocating. He can’t hear. He can’t see. Everything is nothing. The nothing surrounds him, and it consumes him. It hurts. It hurts it hurts it hurts, he wants it to stop so badly, he needs it to stop, it has to stop make it stop makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop—

He thinks he hears something now. Shouts. Demands. Worried voices. Frantic voices. There’s business around him. He can’t see. He can’t make out their words. He can’t breathe. The darkness is consuming him. It’s there. It’s there and it’s closer than ever.  

He thinks, vaguely, that he deserves this darkness. This darkness within him, this darkness around him, whatever darkness he creates. Tenko’s eyes are burned into the backs of his eyelids. Kowareta’s dead body is burned into his soul. So is the unmoving Nomu. Aizawa’s blood.

It’s suffocating him. It’s choking him.

You’ve become everything you hated, Dāku.

You’ve become the monster of someone else’s nightmare.

He’s drowning in darkness. It hurts so badly, it hurts so badly, but this is it. This is him. This is who he is.

D ā k u

“Kitten!”

His eyes snap open. The darkness cuts abruptly. The pain cuts abruptly. He can hear again. He can see again.

He sees her. She’s just like he remembered; long, flowing black hair, soft green eyes, a smiling face. The only difference is that there are no scars or bandages to be seen.

She beams at him a little brighter, and Izuku bolts. Around them is darkness, nothingness, but their surroundings don’t matter. She runs toward him, too, holding out her arms. They slam into each other; Izuku’s arms go around her waist tightly, and she wraps her arms around his shoulders.

“It’s great to see you again, Kitten.”


“Dammit, we’re losing him!”

A nurse had bandaged Shouta’s head as soon as they were in the ambulance, but their focus isn’t on him anymore. The sirens are still whirring, Shouta can hear them faintly through the walls of the ambulance and the business around him. Recovery Girl has both hands placed over Midoriya’s chest, teeth gritted; two other doctors cramped into the small space are dragging out medical equipment from drawers and cabinets. One of them is a heart monitor. The other is a defibrillator.

There’s nothing Shouta can do except clasp Midoriya’s hand and hope for some kind of a miracle.


Izuku steps out of Kowareta’s arms, and she releases him, too. She slides her hands up to his shoulders and looks into his eyes, still smiling brightly at him.

“You’ve grown up, haven’t you?” she murmurs, more of a statement than a question, and she brushes a stray lock of hair away from his eyes. Her smile turns sad. “I’m glad.”

Something in his chest constricts. “You couldn’t,” he chokes, and his eyes burn. “Ko-chan, I’m—I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—”

“No, Kitten, don’t.” She tilts his chin so they meet each other’s eyes, and she’s still smiling, even now, but then again, she’s always been like that. She’s always been the kind of person to smile no matter what. “Don’t. I’m not upset with you. It was never your fault. I’m glad you got away like you did.”

She lets go of his face, and Izuku can’t bring himself to keep his head raised.

“You have a good life now, don’t you?” Kowareta laughs, and it sounds very broken. “It’s the life I always wanted for you. Well, I—I wanted it for us, but...the fact that you’re here, now...the fact that you’re safe, that’s—that makes me really happy, Izuku.”

“But—” Izuku feels vaguely like he’s being strangled. “I couldn’t save you, Ko-chan. I wanted this life for us. For all three of us, not just—not just for me.”

“I know.” Kowareta takes his hands in his, and for once, her smile fades. “I know. It didn’t turn out how we wanted to at all, did it, Izuku? Things never really turned out for us the way we wanted…”

Izuku swallows hard. “Ko-chan—”

“But you’re still alive.” Kowareta looks him dead in the eyes, very serious. “You’re still alive, Izuku, and so is Tenko. You’re alive, you’re surrounded by people who love you, and...I don’t think it’s too late for Tenko. I don’t think you should give up on him.”

It’s all too much. Izuku almost can’t handle it. He feels like he’s going to burst, and the aching pain within him is worse than ever.

“...Izuku…I’m proud of you.” Kowareta threads their fingers together. “I’ve always been proud of you. Everything you are, everything you do, what you’ve become…” She smiles again, and tears well in her eyes. “You’ve got so much going for you, Kitten, so very much. And you’re going to be a hero. You’re going to be a hero, and you’re going to help so many people. You’re going to save so many people.”

Izuku chokes. He isn’t crying. He feels vaguely like he’s being stabbed repeatedly in the gut.

“I-I couldn’t save you.”

Kowareta takes his face in her hands again, gentle. “...Kitten...I don’t have time to tell you everything I want to, but...if you could do one thing. One thing. Just for me.”

Izuku nods, and she leans forward until their foreheads touch.

“Make your peace.” The look in her eyes speaks of a plea, but her voice is firm and unwavering. “Please. Find your peace. Forgive yourself. You’re surrounded by so many people now who love you, Kitten. It’s even more than what I’d hoped for you. But...if you can...somehow...someday...eventually...please.” Her voice breaks. “Make your peace. You aren’t a monster, Kitten. You never were.”

“K-Ko-chan—”

“That’s all I ask.” She shuts her eyes and squeezes his hand. “Please. Find your peace...and live your life. I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me happier.”

Izuku wants to object, but can’t. He shuts his eyes with a shuddering exhale and squeezes her hand back.

“...I’ll try.”


“Clear!”

A jolt. Overwhelming pain. He gasps. He still can’t see, he still can’t move, but he isn’t drowning anymore. He breathes.


 

And then he opens his eyes.

Chapter Text

He’s in the hospital, white walls and white ceiling and white sheets beneath him. His vision is blurry, but not blurry enough to keep him from taking in his surroundings with clarity. There’s a bouquet of flowers on the bedside table, along with his phone, and a colorful card with nineteen names signed on its front in all different print, sizes, and levels of neatness.

Izuku blinks up at the ceiling for a while longer, utterly spent. Now that some of his awareness is returning, he notices tubes against his face, up his nose, around his ears; there’s an IV needle in his wrist, a stand by the bed. Izuku squints up at one of the bags hanging on the IV stand; it takes a little while, but he makes out the words Quirk Suppressants , printed boldly.

So...we’re doing this again...

He turns to stare at the ceiling for a while longer, eyes half shut.

...Ko-chan…

The door of the hospital room swings open, and in walks a doctor Izuku has seen before on many occasions, but can never remember the name of. The doctor sees his open eyes, and some of the creased wrinkles on his face smooth out.

“Ah, you’re awake. That’s good.” The doctor crosses the room and settles his clipboard on the table, reaching for his stethoscope. “Let me check your breathing real fast, then you can sleep again, alright?”

Izuku doesn’t really feel like sleeping again, but he nods and lets the doctor do his thing. It’s hard to take deep breaths as he’s instructed to, but the doctor doesn’t seem to see anything wrong. If anything, when he steps back and slings the instrument around his neck, he seems quite relieved.

“I’ll leave you on oxygen for now,” he says, taking up his clipboard again, “but you’re lucky, Midoriya-kun. Very lucky. Although…” He lets out a long sigh and shakes his head. “I am getting tired of seeing you here. Try taking better care of yourself and not do such reckless things, alright?”

Izuku can barely manage a nod. “M-Mom,” he croaks, wincing at his sore throat. “Where…?”

“She’s speaking with someone in hospitality,” the doctor answers with a small smile. “Would you like me to get her?”

Izuku nods, and the doctor departs.

His memories of what’d happened at the USJ are foggy at best, but he does remember. It just feels like something out of a surreal dream and not something that actually happened.

With some difficulty, he sits up. His head spins a moment, but once it’s over, he’s able to think clearly again. He reaches over, takes the card off the side table, then considers the flowers. They’re all really pretty, but some of them have wilting petals. They’ve been here a while.

I wonder how long I was out…

Izuku puts it out of his mind for now and opens the card.

It’s a trainwreck of colors and doodles and a name thrown in every now and then. There are a bunch of little cats doodled at the bottom of the card, chasing after butterflies, pawing at little flowers. They’re colored in blue, green, and pink; the colors of Ochako’s pens.

There are messages, too, some in fine, careful print and others so messy it looks like they were written with their non-dominant hand. Lots of “we love you”s and “get better”s and encouragements all around, so much so that Izuku feels a little overwhelmed and bombarded. And warm.

He sets the card back on the side table just as the door opens, and Mom rushes in. Izuku barely has time to turn back around before she has him in her arms, holding him gently but tightly. He hugs her back and buries his face against her shoulder, feeling safe and secure. He knows that he’s been in the hospital enough times for his mother to take it all in stride now, but he also knows that it’s hard for her even so. He lets her hold him for as long as she wants.

She pulls away eventually, framing his face between her hands and looking into his eyes. “Are you okay?” she asks, sternly, but not without concern. “How do you feel?”

Izuku bites his lip. “I’m...okay,” he croaks, voice still weak. “How...how long have I been here?”

She lowers her hands from his face and sits beside him on the bed, taking his hand. “A little under a week,” she murmurs quietly. “Your teacher, Aizawa, he filled me in on the situation. Your life was in danger for a while. We were all so worried.”

Izuku’s first thoughts go to Aizawa, Kirishima, Ochako, Tsuyu, and Kouda. Then to the rest of his classmates shortly afterwards.  

“Is everyone okay?” Izuku asks, because that’s what he really wants to know now. “Aizawa-sensei, my classmates, are any of them here?”

“None of them are admitted in the hospital, no,” Mom answers; she wraps an arm around his shoulders, and he leans into her without thinking about it. “Aizawa had a minor concussion, but he isn’t here anymore. They were able to treat Eijirou in U.A.’s medical facility—”

“Kirishima?” Izuku’s heartrate spikes. “What happened to him? Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, calm down,” Mom assures him quickly, squeezing his shoulders. “He sprained both legs pretty badly, but he’s fine now. He’s been in the waiting room here every day, you know. And...so have a few of your other classmates. Ochako, Tsuyu, Kouji, and...Tenya, I believe.”

“Iida?” Izuku isn’t surprised that the former four would be here, worried, but Iida, too? “Are they here now, or…?”

Mom shakes her head. “They wanted to be here every day, but as soon as the doctors assured them you’d pull through, I managed to coax them to go home. They want to visit you, though. They’re worried.”

Izuku looks down at his and Mom’s joined hand. He thinks about Kowareta. About the villains. “Inko-san, I—the attack, at U.A.” Mom tenses; he doesn’t miss it. “What do you think about it?”

Mom is quiet for a time, but then she squeezes his hand. “We’ll talk about it later,” she promises, kissing his forehead. “Right now isn’t a good time. Once you’re home and rested, we’ll talk about it. Right now...there’s someone who wants to talk to you for a bit, if you’re okay with that.”

Izuku blinks.  “...I’m okay with it,” he says, nodding. “For a little while, at least. Who is it…?”

“Hold on just a second, I’ll get him.” Mom rises to her feet, kisses his head again, then turns and disappears out the door. Izuku frowns at the door for a long moment; and then, when it opens again, Mom walks in, followed by a man with sandy blond hair and warm eyes.

“Hello, Midoriya-kun,” he greets with a gentle, familiar smile. “It’s been some time since I’ve last seen you.”

Izuku blinks. “...Hello, Kagami-san.”


“He really doesn’t want anything to do with me, does he?”

Mom reaches behind her, settles a hand on Izuku’s back. “It’s not his fault,” she says as he clings to her leg. “He’s like this with everyone.”

“I understand.” The man nods, scooting backwards in his chair. “Your name is Izuku, isn’t it?”

Izuku doesn’t say anything. He buries his face against the back of Mom’s leg, squeezing tightly. She strokes his shoulder gently in response.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk to me, Izuku. You don’t have to right now. Whenever you’re ready. But, if you’ll take it, I want to give this to you.”

Izuku hears the wheels turn as he moves his chair closer again. “Izuku, look,” Mom says, tapping his shoulder. “Look, Izuku.”

Izuku pulls his face away and opens his eyes. The man has a hand outstretched towards him, though he’s still a considerable distance away, and in his hand he’s holding a fluffy stuffed bear.

“You can have him, if you’d like him,” the man says, smiling gently. In a way, he reminds Izuku of Mom; patient, calm, safe. “He’s yours.”

Maybe it’s the man’s tone of voice, maybe it’s the stuffed animal, but either way, Izuku comes out from behind his mother’s legs, snatches the bear into his arms, then retreats right back to where he’d been hiding moments before.

The man laughs softly. “It’s a start,” he says. “My name is Kagami, Midoriya-kun. If you’ll let me, I would like to help you.”


Izuku has always, always liked his therapist. Ever since he was nine years old and met him for the first time, Kagami-san has been nothing but understanding, soft spoken, and kind. He was the first male figure in Izuku’s life that he wasn’t threatened by.

Plus, Kagami-san gave him that stuffed bear, which he still has on his bed along with all the other ones. He hasn’t forgotten that moment.

“Been a little while since we last spoke, hasn’t it?” Kagami says, folding his hands. Mom is waiting outside the door, where she’s been ever since Izuku told her that he’d be okay talking to Kagami on his own. “How have you been, Midoriya?”

“I’m fine,” Izuku answers, unsure yet of whether or not he’s lying. “I made some friends. I think they like me.”

“I’m glad.” Kagami nods to himself for a moment, then shifts his chair a bit closer. “I wanted to talk to you about your Quirk for a bit, Midoriya, if you will.”

Something in Izuku’s chest flares. His heartrate speeds up, his palms are suddenly sweaty, his eyes go wide—

“Okay, none of that, then,” Kagami says quickly. His smile doesn’t fade, but the feeling in Izuku’s chest does. “I wanted to speak with you about that primarily, but since you don’t feel up to it, I’ll move to the next thing.”

“Shoot.”

“A lot of this, you’ll have to discuss with your mother,” Kagami says, “but, I spoke with her earlier, and she and I both agree that you should have an emotional support animal.”

Izuku blinks. “An emotional support animal?”

“Or a therapy animal, whichever,” Kagami answers, nodding. “It’s something that we’d have to look into a bit more, but yes. I spoke with your mother about this once before, but with recent happenings, I think it’s more important now than ever. We could even train your animal to fetch your Quirk suppressants when you need them, or go to someone for help.”

Izuku ponders this for a long time. An emotional support animal. Now that he thinks about it, he’s surprised this wasn’t something they’d thought of sooner.

He nods. “I think that’s a good idea.”

“I thought you would,” Kagami says with a smile, and he rises to his feet. “I won’t keep you from your rest any longer,” he says, “but, sometime soon, I really would like to discuss your Quirk with you. Not now, and it’s not something you need to worry about, but eventually, we do need to talk about it.”

Izuku bites his lip. No doubt, Kagami got a report from Naomasa regarding the incident, considering he is Izuku’s therapist and whatnot. Still, though, even Izuku doesn’t want to think about what he’d done at the USJ. Strapping THREAT to each villain like a target, unleashing the full range and power of his Quirk, overloading their senses until all they knew was pain…

He kind of wants to throw up, but instead of doing that, he nods shakily.

“Okay.”

Kagami’s smile turns softer, almost sad, and he retreats from the room without another word.


Izuku doesn’t get any visitors—unless you count Rainbow, who Mom smuggled in without anyone noticing. Rainbow is the smallest of Izuku’s cats aside from Shiny and Diamond, who are too young to be traveling about, so Mom was able to tuck Rainbow under her coat and get her in undetected.

Aside from the cat, Izuku and Mom are alone in the room. The card on Izuku’s bedside table is a reminder that, yes, his friends do care for him, and even though they can’t visit, that reminder is enough. He’s not upset with them. He harbors no bad feelings towards them. He misses them, sure, but he’ll see them all soon enough; when that time comes, he’ll be able to thank them in person for the flowers and the card.

Apparently, Recovery Girl had healed his body while he was unconscious, so as soon as he’s off oxygen and they doctors are positive his Quirk is stable, he’s free to go.  Mom handles the discharge papers at the front desk, and when it’s all said and done, she returns to the room, where Izuku has Rainbow tucked under one of the hoodies Mom brought him from home.

“We’re free to head out, Izuku,” she says, smiling. “You ready?”

Izuku nods, and they’re homeward bound. Izuku sits in the backseat while Mom drives; the Quirk suppressants, while not as concentrated as the stuff he has in the syringes, still leaves him dizzy and exhausted, so he’s better off laying in the backseat to try and avoid getting carsick. Rainbow is about as much help as she can be, curling against his chest and purring to her heart’s content, which isn’t much, but enough to keep Izuku occupied until they get home.  

Mom helps him out of the car, and the steps leading up to their apartment have never been such a pain to scale. Mom murmurs something about moving somewhere more accessible, then fumbles for her keys and swings open the apartment front door.

Izuku makes a bee-line for his bedroom, sets the little card from his friends on the bedside table, then faceplants the mound of stuffed animals on his bed. Rainbow squirms in his hold, and he lets her go, but he isn’t alone for long; the other cats have noticed his arrival and are welcoming him home by meowing, trilling, and eventually just climbing on top of him.

He’s smothered in them, but that’s okay. His exhaustion catches up with him in no time at all, and he falls into a dreamless slumber.


He wakes up to an annoying buzz in his back pocket.

Without opening his eyes, he pulls out his phone. He feels the weight of his cats against his back and all around him, but it doesn’t bother him. It’s comforting. He holds the phone up to his face and cracks his eyes open, squinting against the invading light.

[Kiri-chan]
Hey buddy!! Inko-san told me you were getting discharged today!! That’s awesome!! :D How’s it going? How do you feel?

Izuku blinks slowly at the phone, then rolls over on his back (mindful of the cats, of course), holds his phone above him, and swipes the keypad.

[Midoriya Izuku]
hi kiri. i’m exhausted.

He doesn’t mean anything by it. All he’s doing is stating a fact, but it seems Kirishima takes it the wrong way.

[Kiri-chan]
Oh crap dude I didn’t even think. I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone so you can rest, alright? Sorry for bugging you. Feel better!

[Midoriya Izuku]
wait no i was just answering your question
about how i’m doing. i’m exhausted but i still wanna talk.

[Kiri-chan]
Oh, uh, are you sure? You really don’t have to keep talking to me just because I wanna talk, it’s fine if you’d rather rest.

[Midoriya Izuku]
i’ve been sleeping since i got home.
i’m fine really.

[Kiri-chan]
No don’t worry about it man, just get some rest.
Logging off now, don’t worry about me. Ttyl! :D

Izuku lets out a heaving groan, drops out of his messages with Kirishima, and pulls open another conversation.

[MESSAGING: “MOM”]

[Midoriya Izuku]
hi inko-san

[Mom]
Hi Izuku! Are you okay? Do you need me to go over there?

[Midoriya Izuku]
no i’m fine i just wanted to ask if kirishima could come over.

[Mom]
That’s fine with me!! As long as you’re okay with having him over, then I don’t mind at all :)

[Midoriya Izuku]
thank you :)
i’ll let him know

[MESSAGING: “KIRI-CHAN”]

[Midoriya Izuku]
hey dude guess what you’re coming over for dinner

[Kiri-chan]
I WHAT


Kirishima arrives not long after that, a mess of hastily said apologies and embarrassed laughter. Izuku is on the couch when he gets there, having moved there from his room, and he waves Kirishima in.

“I told you it was fine,” Kirishima says, sinking down next to him on the couch. “I told you, man, it was fine.”

“Yeah sure but I missed you,” Izuku says shortly. “It was sweet of you guys to make me that card. Who originally thought of it?”

“We kinda all did, actually.” Kirishima rubs the back of his neck again, but he seems distracted. “Tsuyu was the one who first said it out loud, but we were all thinking it before that.”

Izuku nods, but watches Kirishima closely out of the corner of his eye. “...You’re not telling me something.”

Kirishima tenses, and that alone is enough to tell Izuku that he struck gold.

“Look, Kirishima...you don’t have to tell me everything,” Izuku goes on, detangling Marshmallow’s claws from the couch cushion when she gets stuck, “but if there’s something on your mind, I’d rather you tell me now than hold it back. The longer you keep it locked up the harder it is to talk about.”

Kirishima lets out a long, heaving sigh, but nods eventually. “You’re right, you’re right, I know,” he says, running a hand through his hair. “Can we...talk somewhere more privately? Alone?”

“Sure.” Izuku scoops Diamond and Fluffy out of his lap and deposits them on the floor. “Does my room work?”

“That’s fine,” Kirishima says, rising to his feet. “Do you need help or—?”

“I’ve got it,” Izuku says, pushing himself off the couch. He sways for a second, but doesn’t tip over. “Thanks, though. Should we go?”

Kirishima nods stiffly, and Izuku leads the way. He flicks on the lights before stepping into the room, and once Kirishima has joined him, Izuku shuts the door behind them and moves to sit on the edge of his bed. He pats the spot beside him, but Kirishima doesn’t accept the invitation.

“What’s the matter?” Izuku asks, frowning. It’s got to be serious; Kirishima really, really isn’t acting like himself. “If you’re still worried about what happened at the USJ—”

“No, that’s—that’s not it,” Kirishima says, shaking his head.

Izuku frowns, brows furrowing. “Then what?”

Kirishima sucks in a long breath and lets it out in a rush. “Dude, I’m...I’m about to tell you something that I really shouldn’t tell anybody. And once it’s out, I...I want you to forget we ever even had this conversation. Okay?”

“...Okay.” Izuku is worried now. Something’s wrong. “What is it?”

Kirishima takes in a long breath, shuts his eyes, then lets it out. “Dude...ever since I met you, you’ve been completely open with me. If I had a question, if I wanted to know something, you told me. Even if it was stuff you didn’t wanna share. Even if it was something personal. Even if it hurt.”

Izuku swallows hard. “Go on…?”

“I’ve been keeping something from you,” Kirishima blurts. “For the past couple of months, I’ve been keeping something from you, Midoriya, even after you told me what you went through. And then—” Kirishima’s voice rises in volume and pitch. It cracks and wavers at the end. “And then you almost died at the USJ. You almost sacrificed yourself for all of us, and I don’t know, it just reminded me of how much you meant to me. It reminded me of what it’d be like to lose you, and—”

“Kirishima, just—” Izuku almost doesn’t want to know. “Just say it.”

Kirishima drags in a shuddering breath. “All Might gave me his Quirk,” he says, then braces himself like he’s waiting for an explosion. “It’s called One For All. It’s a Quirk that can be passed down from user to user, stockpiling the strength of its past holders and cultivating it. Perfecting it. And he passed it on to me. He chose me to be his successor.”

Izuku’s lungs deflate. “Oh,” he breathes, feeling suddenly lightheaded with relief. “I already knew that.”  

He realizes a second later, when Kirishima’s eyes go comically wide and his mouth hangs open, that he should’ve gone about this more delicately.

“YOU WHAT?”

Izuku flinches, but pushes past it and nods. “Yeah, I’ve known it for a long time now. You’re not exactly subtle, and All Might had already talked to me about it, before, when he met me in the hospital after the slime villain thing.”

Kirishima looks dazed. “So I was worried about it all this time for nothing,” he breathes, finally sinking down beside Izuku on the bed. “Dude, if you knew about it then why didn’t you say anything?”

“I wanted you to be the one to tell me, when you were ready,” Izuku answers simply. “I didn’t wanna just come up to you like ‘Hey so how’s All Might’s Quirk workin’ out for you huh?’ That wouldn’t have gone well.”

“I know but, you could’ve said—you could’ve said something.” Kirishima’s tone changes again. It becomes thicker and heavier. “You almost died at the USJ, Izuku, and I—I would’ve—I would’ve thought I’d lied to you.”

Izuku frowns at him. “Kiri-chan, it couldn’t’ve been that bad—”

“You were puking blood, Izuku, freaking blood,” Kirishima snaps at him, and Izuku falls silent. “You flatlined twice, the doctors didn’t know whether or not you were gonna live, we were all so scared, none of us knew what to do, we thought you were gonna die just because you wanted to be a sacrificial idiot and none of us would’ve been able to do anything, I just—I was scared, Izuku, I was so damn scared.”

Izuku doesn’t know what else to do, so he scoots closer and wraps his arms around Kirishima’s waist tightly.

Kirishima reacts immediately, encircling Izuku with his arms and squeezing almost too tightly, but not quite. He rests his chin atop Izuku’s head and draws in a long, shuddering breath.

“You almost died,” Kirishima strains, and Izuku feels him shake his head. “You almost died and I wouldn’t’ve been able to do a damn thing about it—”

Izuku doesn’t try convincing Kirishima otherwise. For now, he lets him rant and ramble and hold him tightly, and it stays this way for a very long time.  




“Tsuyu wants to come over and see you,” Kirishima says; he’s sitting on the couch with Izuku again, maybe ten or fifteen minutes after what’d happened in Izuku’s room. “And so does Kouda. And Uraraka. And Iida. They’re really worried.”

Izuku thinks of what he’d seen, meeting Kowareta in a dark, dream-like landscape. He thinks about Kirishima’s words, about him coughing up blood, about him almost dying…

“Do you have their numbers?” Izuku asks, turning to him, and Kirishima nods and passes over his phone.

“They should be in there,” he says. “I got them when we were talking about making the card.”

Izuku makes quick work of scrolling through Kirishima’s contacts and adding Tsuyu’s, Ochako’s, Kouda’s, and Iida’s numbers to his phone. He hands Kirishima’s device back to him, then, on a whim, makes a new chatroom.

 

[MESSAGING: “GROUP CHAT”]

[Midoriya Izuku]
Hi everybody.

[Ochako]
IZUKU!! YOU’RE OKAY!!

[Midoriya Izuku]
Got discharged from the hospital today.

[Tsuyu]
How do you feel, Izu-chan? Any better?

[Midoriya Izuku]
I do feel better. Still kind of exhausted but doing better.

[Kouda]
Are you sure? Or are you just saying that so we don’t worry about you?

[Kiri-chan]
I’m sitting next to him on the couch yeah he’s fine. Kinda wiped out but fine.

Izuku glares at him over the top of his phone. Kirishima beams innocently at him and goes back to scrolling.

[Iida]
I’m glad to hear you’re doing better, Izuku. We were all very worried for you.

[Tsuyu]
Kirishima are you at Izu-chan’s house?

[Midoriya Izuku]
Apartment, and yes he is.

[Tsuyu]
Would it be too much to ask if we could come visit?
We’ve been wanting to see you for a long time. I think it’d put all of our hearts at ease.

Kirishima shoots him a concerned glance, but Izuku waves him off quickly and swipes his fingers across the screen.

[Midoriya Izuku]
I’ll have to check with my mom to make sure it’s okay,
But I’d really like to see all of you guys again too so I’m down.

[Ochako]
Oh yay!! That’s great!!
Does tomorrow work at all? Is that okay?

[Midoriya Izuku]
Unless something changes I think it’s fine.
I’ll ask Mom and get back to you guys on that.

[Iida]
Sounds good. And if you aren’t feeling up to it, Midoriya, just let us know. There’s always another day.

[Midoriya Izuku]
I’m sure it’ll be fine but I’ll keep that in mind.
Cya soon.

[Tsuyu]
See you. Rest well.

[Ochako]
Talk to you later!

[Kouda]
Tell Rainbow I say hi. Give her a really big hug from me.

[Kiri-chan]
I’ll make sure he takes care of himself. See you guys later.


“Please. Find your peace...and live your life. I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me happier.”

Izuku doesn’t sleep at all that night, and around three in the morning, he throws off the blankets, slips on a hoodie, and treks down the hallway to his mother’s room. He hears the small pitter-pattering of his cats following after him.

She leaves the door unlocked, always, for whenever he needs her, and he pushes it open and shuffles inside, a lump in his throat and knots in his chest. She’s sleeping, it seems, and he hates to wake her, but she’d told him to get her if he needed anything, and right now, he feels like there’s a gaping hole in his heart.

“Inko-san.” He shakes her shoulder. “Inko-san?”

She’s awake in an instant, sitting upright and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Izuku?” she asks groggily, blinking at him. “What’s wrong? Is it another nightmare, or…?”

“N-Not...not exactly.” Izuku bites his lip. “I...I wanted to know if you still have the...the location. For that place.”

Mom’s eyes widen. “Izuku, I—yes, sweetheart, I have it, but—are you sure? Do you want me to go with you?”

“I’m not going now,” Izuku says, shifting his weight, “and...and I’m sure. Please.”

Mom chews on her bottom lip for a moment, but nods and slides out of bed. “Here, I’ll get it for you,” she says, crossing the room towards her dresser, and Izuku waits. She presses a folded piece of paper into his hands moments later, closing his fingers around it.

“Whenever you’re ready,” she says, kissing him on the head, and he thanks her, tucks the paper in his hoodie pocket, and goes back to bed. He still doesn’t sleep, and the hole in his heart feels bigger than ever.


She doesn’t mention it the next morning, but when he asks her if he could have a couple friends over, of course she’s down for it. He’d always known she would be. She loves when Kirishima comes over to spend time with him, so when Izuku asks her the next morning if he can have an additional four friends come to visit, she’s positively ecstatic.

Izuku is worried, at first. He loves these new friends he’s made, but he isn’t sure how his mental state is going to cope with them all together here in a small space. He thinks about it all day, and along with that, he thinks about what Mom gave him last night, and about Kowareta, about whether or not the vision he’d seen was really her, or just some fabrication of his own makings.

He wastes the entire day thinking about it, and then the doorbell rings.

“I’ll get it,” he calls into the living area, making his way down the hall. He takes a breath, holds it to steel himself, then swings the door open.

They’re all there; Kirishima, Ochako, Tsuyu, Iida, and Kouda, and they smile at him the moment he opens the door.

“Izu-chan,” Tsuyu says, hopping forward. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Thank you,” Izuku says, looking at each of them in turn. “I’m glad you’re all okay, too.”

He invites them inside after that, and he shuts and locks the door behind them.

He’d made curry earlier that day for all of them; it was the one thing he’d actually done productively. There aren’t enough chairs in the dining area, so once everyone has their bowls, they take it to the living room and sit in a circle on the floor.

“Oh my goodness, Izuku, you made this?” Ochako gasps, wide-eyes staring at her steaming bowl of curry.

“Erm, yeah,” Izuku says, stirring his curry around, embarrassed. “It’s okay if you don’t like it, that’s fine—”

“It’s amazing,” Ochako cuts in, shocked. “I am so stealing your recipe for this, oh gosh.”

“I think it’s some of the best curry I’ve ever had,” Iida says, and Izuku turns to him. Coming from Iida, born of an upper-class family, this is high praise. “I’ve never been a proficient cook myself, but this is magnificent.”

Tsuyu, Kouda, and Kirishima nod their own agreement.

“I—t-thank you,” Izuku says, shifting. “It’s really easy, once you get the recipe down.”

“I definitely want your recipe,” Tsuyu decides firmly with a nod of her head. “No question about it.”

The others nod at that, too, and Izuku can’t help but feel incredibly happy, despite the slip of paper in his pocket that feels like lead.


The cats take a special liking to Tsuyu, which surprises Izuku for no reason in particular. Ochako always tries to hold the cats, but Snickers is the only one that lets her pick him up for more than ten seconds. Kouda is also a cat-favorite, although that might simply be because he speaks their language better than anyone.

They’ve declared Kirishima your big brother, Kouda tells Izuku, smiling at him. And apparently they’ve adopted Tsuyu, too.

“Aww, I’m honored,” Kirishima says, holding a hand to his chest. “I will remember this day forever.”

“What did he say?” Ochako asks, eyes twinkling with curiosity, and Kirishima fills her in quickly. Tsuyu says nothing in response, but smiles just a little brighter.

“So, what else should we do?” Tsuyu asks after another moment. “Do you know any good card games, Izu-chan? If not, I could teach you some.”

“Oh, wait a second.” Kirishima nudges Izuku’s shoulder. “Hey buddy, do the scary thing.”

Izuku turns to him, frowning. “What scary thing.”

“You know.” Kirishima lowers his voice. “The real scary thing.”

Izuku squints. “No.”

“C’mon, dude!”

“Ooh, I wanna see what it is!” Ochako proclaims, shooting her hand into the air. Kouda shakes his head feverishly and cups his hands around his ears, but she doesn’t seem to notice. “I love scary things!”

“I’m...morbidly intrigued,” Iida says, but he seems unsure. “What is it?”

“I kind of want to know what it is, too,” Tsuyu says, tapping a finger to her chin. “Kouda, just look away for a while. Or I’ll cover your eyes.”

“It’s really not that bad,” Izuku says, pulling a knife from the sheath at his belt. “Kiri-chan likes making things dramatic but it’s really not that bad. Kiri-chan, can you grab a clipboard from my room?”

Kirishima nods, hops to his feet, and returns moments later with said wooden clipboard. Izuku thanks him and sets it on the ground, them splays his hand down flat on its surface. He holds the knife in the other hand.

“Wait,” Iida says, wide-eyed, “you’re not going to—”

“Oh, I have all my fingers—”

“NO, NONONONO.”

“—The knife goes chop chop chop—”

“I DO NOT CONDONE THIS BEHAVIOR, MIDORIYA!”

“—If I miss the spaces in between my fingers will come off—”

“STOP OH JEEZ PLEASE DON’T—”

“Oh, chopchopchopchopchpochopchop I’m picking up the speed—”

“MIDORIYA NO!”  


No blood is spilled in the end, but everyone has sore throats from shouting (except for Kouda, who probably sprained a wrist or something trying to Sign Izuku out of it). It’s all in good fun, at least; Izuku reminds them all not to attempt it, of course, and says that he only learned it himself by accident when he was bored one day, but even so; they’re all eager to play the card game now that the “scary thing” is done with.

The card game goes well, but Izuku is incredibly distracted through all of it. Every so often, he reaches into his pocket, and his fingers graze the slip of paper from his mother. Directions to a place he’s never been before.

“Hey, uhh, Izuku?” Kirishima nudges Izuku’s shoulder. “It’s been your turn for about a minute now.”

“Has it, now?” Izuku asks, shifting his cards around. “Sorry. Iida, give me your sevens.”

Iida sighs, but hands over three of them. Izuku adds his own seven to the deck and leaves them on the floor by his knee.

“...Is something the matter, Izu-chan?” Tsuyu asks, looking worried. “You’re usually pretty quiet, but you don’t usually zone out like this. Is something wrong?”

Izuku swallows hard, bites his lip, then resigns himself and sets his cards down. “There’s...there’s somewhere I need to go,” he says, rising to his feet. “I-I’m sorry, but I really need to go now.”

“Oh...could we go with you?” Ochako asks, also setting her cards down and getting to her feet. “It’s getting pretty dark out, it’s not good to be alone.”

“I agree with Uraraka,” Iida says, also rising to a stand beside her. “If you don’t want us to accompany you, I understand, but if that’s the case, then please wait until morning.”

This can’t wait until morning. Izuku can’t spend another day feeling like this. Kirishima moves beside him and squeezes his forearm, and Izuku swallows hard and nods shakily.

“Okay,” he agees. “Okay, we’ll—we’ll all go. But only if you really want to.”

The others respond by making for the door and putting their shoes on, while Izuku heads into the kitchen to tell Mom. Kirishima follows him.

“Hey...Inko-san?”

She looks up, hand on the handle of the fridge. “Y—” She stops when she sees the look on his face, and something in her expression softens. “You’re...you’re going?”

Izuku nods shakily.

“He won’t be alone,” Kirishima steps in, moving to stand beside him. “We’re going with him, wherever it is. We’ll look after him.”

Mom doesn’t object. She shuts the fridge door, hugs both of them tight, then lets them leave. As soon as Izuku and Kirishima have their shoes on, they join the others outside and set out.

The sun begins to set as they make their way down the sidewalk. Izuku finally manages to drag the slip of paper from his pocket and read the coordinates. A small spot located atop a hill near the beach. That’s where they’re headed. It isn’t a long walk, but chances are, they won’t make it there until long after the sun sets. Izuku is glad he’s not alone.

“Hey, dude, check this out.” Kirishima nudges him again, and when he has Izuku’s attention, he whips a flashlight from his pocket and flicks it on. The light is bright blue. “Pretty nifty, right?”

“That’s actually really cool,” Tsuyu says, sliding up to him. “Where did you get it?”

“The hardware store down the street,” Kirishima answers, throwing her a grin over his shoulder. “They have ‘em in all sorts of colors, too. I could get some for all of us. Together…” He shines the beam straight into the sky with a grave look on his face. “We make...a rainbow.”

“Or I can just do this.” Izuku hops, and slams both feet into the sidewalk; multi-colors flash across the cement.

Kirishima points. “Or, or you could just do that.”

“Or we could do both,” Ochako suggests.

“Both is good.” Iida nods, then looks to Izuku. It’s getting darker now; the sun is beginning to dip over the horizon, and the lights on the streets begin to glow. “Where exactly are we going, Midoriya?”

“A spot by the beach,” Izuku answers simply. “You’ll—you’ll know when we get there.”

Iida doesn’t push for further details, and the group heads on.


It feels like it takes an eternity to finally make it there, and Kirishima shines his light while everyone else pulls out the lights on their phones. There’s a steep incline, going up near the shoreline of the beach, dropping off to a rocky cliffside.

“I think it’s up here,” Izuku says, but the pit in his stomach already knows that they’re in the right spot. He starts up the incline, and the others shut off their lights and follow.

Izuku’s eyes adjust around the same time they make it to the top.

In the moonlight, as the soft crashing of waves fills Izuku’s ears, he sees a stone shrine. It looks abandoned, covered in sand and dust, but there’s a small bouquet of flowers placed in front of it. Mom comes here often; she never clears away the sand, though.

Maybe she’d waited for Izuku to do that.

Izuku takes in a breath. The others are silent behind him, now that they’ve realized the situation, and Izuku steels himself and steps forward.

When he reaches it, he kneels and stretches out his hand, tentatively, and brushes away some of the grime and dust. There’s no surname. No date. Only a simple KOWARETA is carved into the stone’s surface.

The others gather closer. Kirishima and Tsuyu sit on either side of him in the sand, Ochako and Iida sit behind them, and Kouda kneels directly behind Izuku, tentatively settling a hand on his shoulder. Izuku doesn’t flinch away. It’s nice.

“...Is this…?” Kirishima’s voice is hushed, and Izuku swallows thickly, then nods.

“...My sister,” Izuku says thickly, balled fists shaking. “Kowareta. I always called her Ko-chan. She died...six years ago.”

The group is dead silent. They don’t even gasp. As waves crash below and the moonlight shines on the surface of the ocean beyond, Izuku drags in a long breath through his teeth.

“...I was raised by villains,” he says, without looking at them. “Ever since I was born, I was raised and trained by villains to become one of them. I always hated it, I always knew it was wrong, it just took one final push before I...” Izuku’s hands are shaking harder now. He can’t finish that thought, so he moves on “...The police buried her here, gave my mom directions to the place. She always tried coaxing me into coming, but...I never could. Until now.”  

“Izu-chan…”

Tsuyu settles a hand on his shoulder, gently, lightly, and Izuku’s breath gets stuck on the lump in his throat for a long moment.

“...My name wasn’t always Izuku, either,” he says quietly. “‘Izuku’ was the name I chose after Inko-san took me in. We talked about it for a long time. She helped me pick it out. It was the beginning of a new road for me, and...and I’m really glad to have met all of you through it. So...thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for accepting me.”

He doesn’t know what he’s expecting, but when Tsuyu squeezes his shoulder a little tighter, he doesn’t pull away. He’s just a little shorter than she is, and when he scoots a little closer to her, she wraps an arm around his shoulders. Kirishima does the same on his opposite side. Ochako settles her hand on Tsuyu’s, Iida shifts a bit closer to Kirishima, and Kouda rests his hand on Izuku’s head.

It’s more physical contact than Izuku is used to, but for some reason, it’s perfect. These friends he’s made, these people he trusts...it’s like Kowareta told him, back in that scape of nothingness. He’s surrounded by so many people now. Friends he’d never even dreamed of having.

Kowareta had told him to make his peace. To find his closure. To stop blaming himself. To live his life. To be happy. To find his freedom from himself.

And he’s going to try.

If just for her sake—if just for the sake of his friends—he’s going to try.

Chapter Text

[Aizawa-sensei]
Hey, Problem Child. This is probably the last thing you want to hear right now, but as soon as you’re feeling up to it, meet me at the usual place. Rest well.


Izuku goes there the next day, to the abandoned city where he and Aizawa have been training. He’s not entirely sure what to expect. Maybe a scolding, but that’s the only thing he can think. Maybe Aizawa would want to talk about his Quirk again, like Kagami-san. He doesn’t know.

Aizawa is waiting for him, wearing his incognito clothing, which happens to be a gray shirt and a pair of slacks of the same color. He raises his head when Izuku jogs toward him, straightening up.

“I made it,” Izuku says, skidding to a halt just a little ways from his mentor. “Sorry I’m late. I didn’t wake up ‘till nine.”

“That’s fine,” Aizawa says, but there’s something in his tone that says he isn’t really paying attention. “I wasn’t expecting you here so quickly, anyway.”

Izuku tilts his head at him. “Then what are you doing here?”

Aizawa turns to face forward instead of looking at him. “Thinking.”

“About what?”

Aizawa looks at him again, but doesn’t answer. “I’ve been worried,” he says instead. “I’m sorry for not being able to protect you at the USJ. What happened to you...as your teacher, not just at U.A. but as your mentor as well, your well-being falls on me, and I couldn’t protect you. I’m sorry.”

Izuku has half a mind to tell him that there’s no need to apologize, but he knows Aizawa won’t take that. He says nothing.

“I spoke with the principal,” Aizawa goes on, “and we’re cancelling school until this Monday. Giving everyone some down-time, as well as ensuring your recovery. It’ll also give us time to up the security. We’re having the students come in tomorrow to gather their things, and we’ll be informing all the parents of it later on today.”

“That makes sense,” Izuku says, nodding. He thinks briefly of his mother’s words, her telling him that they’ll talk about it later. That conversation hasn’t happened yet. “So...what did you want to talk to me about?”

Aizawa’s brows furrow. “You seem very okay with the whole ‘almost dying’ thing. I wanted to ask if you were actually alright.”

“Oh—yeah, I’m fine,” Izuku answers simply. There’s a beat. “...Are you?”

Aizawa lets out a long sigh and shakes his head. “The way you used your Quirk was...concerning, to say the least.”

Izuku doesn’t want to talk about his Quirk (his Quirk, huh—he wonders when he started calling it that…), but he’ll have to talk with Kagami-san about it eventually anyway, and Aizawa is helping him learn to control it, so there’s really no reason why he shouldn’t aside from his own discomfort.

“I figured out how to ‘work around the broken parts,’” Izuku begins, shuffling his foot against the ground. The neon flashing lights make him feel a little better. “I don’t really know how I did it, but by smacking mental targets on people...I mean, by labeling them as ‘threats,’ I can channel my Quirk to hit them.”

“Hmm…” Aizawa mulls this over for a while. “That could be it, but there’s something else I’ve been thinking about, too.”

Izuku stops shuffling his foot. “What’s that?”

“It could be more like you avoided the people you marked as ‘not threats,’” Aizawa explains, leaning against the side of one of the crumbling buildings. “By placing shields around these people, you’re free to let your Quirk spread to everyone else.”

Izuku thinks about this for a moment. “That could be it, too,” he says, “but I can’t really tell, and I wasn’t really coherent enough back then to remember exactly how I felt when using it.”

“That’s fine, don’t worry about it. While we’re on the topic, I think it’s primarily the range of your Quirk that damaged your body like it did. You took out all the villains in the USJ, and the USJ is no small training grounds.”

“Yeah.” Izuku looks down at his shoes and has half a mind to stomp, just to see the light. “I guess it was pretty crazy, now that I think about it...that was that ‘wall’ I’d put up that you mentioned, right? The thing that blocked out the true extent of my power?”

Aizawa nods, but looks away. “That villain. The one leading the whole operation. You two have history.”

Izuku is slammed with everything—Tenko, though, specifically.

“Yeah…” Izuku shifts his weight and rubs his forearm. He has half a mind to pull out a knife, but holds back. “There were three of us. I was the youngest, my sister was in the middle, and Tenko—Shigaraki—he was the oldest. We both looked up to him a lot. He was like our big brother.”

Aizawa is quiet for a time. “I imagine you’re...torn.”

He nods.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’m still figuring things out myself,” Izuku says, shifting his weight, “so, right now...no, definitely not. Sometime, just not right now.”

“No rush,” Aizawa says, “but keep in mind, Midoriya, he is a villain. The police are looking for him now as we speak.”

“Yeah, I know.” And oh, how he knows. He doesn’t want to think about it anymore than he absolutely has to, so he changes the subject. “Aizawa-sensei...about me almost dying and all…” Aizawa frowns, but doesn’t stop him. “You never really answered my question. About how you felt.”

Aizawa is quiet for a while. “It’s like I said.” He looks Izuku in the eyes, but his gaze is softer than before. “I was worried.”

Izuku doesn’t know what to do, but he thinks about Kirishima, and their conversation, and—

“Do you want to hug me?” he asks, because he knows Aizawa won’t lay a finger on him without his consent. “If you do, I don’t mind.”

Aizawa stares at him for a long while.

And then, moments later, Aizawa has him in his arms, and Izuku hugs him back.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Problem Child,” Aizawa murmurs, holding tighter. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Izuku nods. “I’m glad you’re okay too.”


The students are called back the next day to gather their things, and then, they have a four day weekend while the school completes their new security detail and everyone finishes recuperating. Izuku knows that it’s more for the students’ sakes, these days off; it won’t take U.A. long to finish the new security system, so he reckons the off-days are specifically so the students can rest and revamp.

“Izuku, here!”

Izuku shuts his locker, slings his backpack over his shoulder and turns to Ochako as she races over. She’s carrying a plastic pack of something with a small, blue ribbon tied around it.

“I didn’t have time to actually wrap it,” Ochako says, looking embarrassed, “but after that thing on the bus, I wanted to get these for you. You know. Something to maybe help if you’re fidgety?”

Izuku takes it from her hands. It’s a pack of multi-colored, vibrant pens. Izuku holds them close, then raises his head and meets her eyes.

“Thank you,” he says. “...I’m smiling on the inside, I promise.”

Ochako beams. “That’s all that matters, then!”

“Hey, that’s right.” Ashido leans over, eavesdropping. “I’ve never seen you smile before, Midori-chan.”

Izuku shrugs. “You and me both.”

“Well that won’t do,” Hagakure says, bouncing up to them. Izuku wonders if everyone in his class is a stalker. “You can’t go your whole life not smiling, Midori! We have to fix that!”

“My face is broken,” Izuku says, pointing to his eyes. “Can you imagine a smile here. Can you.”

“I can,” Satou says, raising a hand embarrassedly, “and it’s kind of scary.”

Izuku gestures at him. “Thank you. I’m telling you, it won’t work—”

“We should go to the amusement park!” Sero leaps into the conversation with a wide smile. “We’ve got some off-days, and I can’t think of a better way for us all to get to know each other, y’know? Plus, after the USJ, I think we could all use some laughs.”

“Awesome!” Kaminari says with a smile and a thumbs-up. “Operation ‘Find a way to get Midoriya to smile’ is go!”

“It’s gonna backfire on you so bad,” Izuku mutters while everyone else whoops and cheers. “It’s gonna end up being the most terrifying thing you’ve ever seen. And then my face is gonna be stuck like that forever.”

“Awe, don’t be like that!” Hagakure says, shaking her head—at least, that’s what Izuku thinks she’s doing, judging by her swaying headband. “I’m sure you have a lovely smile!”

“Mmm. Doubt.”

Kirishima laughs and shakes his head, and Izuku glares at him. “Do you think this is a game.”

“On the topic of an amusement park,” Iida says, bringing everyone back to the original subject, “I’m all for it. As long as everyone else would like to go, then I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

“Yeah! Class rep!”

“This is gonna be awesome!”

“Midori, do you like roller coasters?”

“I’ve never been on one,” Izuku says.

“WHAT!?”

“Okay, we’re changing that!”

“You’re gonna love it, Izu-chan. It’s really fun.”

“There’re lots of fun games over there, too! You can win prizes and stuff!”

While everyone makes their plans, Izuku watches, unsure. He thinks it’ll be fun, maybe, going with everyone else, but at the same time—

Kirishima taps Izuku on the shoulder, and Izuku turns. Kirishima jerks his head in the direction of the exit, and after a second, Izuku follows his lead, out of the locker room.

“What is it?” Izuku asks, voice a harsh whisper; his classmates’ cheers and laughter fade as he and Kirishima start down the hall. “Is something wrong, or?”

“I got a text from Toshinori-san,” Kirishima answers, pulling out his phone and double-checking. “He wanted me and you to meet him in the teacher’s lounge. He said he had something to discuss with us.”

“Huh.” Izuku frowns, thinking. “You think it has to do with your Quirk?”

He doesn’t need to clarify which one.

“Maybe,” Kirishima says, “but it could also be about your Quirk. It’s weird that he wants to see both of us…”

Izuku hasn’t really spoken much with Toshinori-san ever since he started training with Aizawa. He’d joined him and Kirishima every now and then on Dagobah beach when Aizawa was busy, but it wasn’t like they went out of their way to meet or even sit and talk.

They reach the teacher’s lounge, and Kirishima reaches out to knock. Toshinori’s voice from within beckons them, and Kirishima swings open the door and heads inside, Izuku hot on his heels.


Toshinori looks very drawn and exhausted, Izuku thinks, even more so than usual. He’s sitting on a stool across from where Izuku and Kirishima are seated on the couch. Izuku wonders how long Toshinori has been in here alone.

“So…” Kirishima breaks the silence first, with a small glace in Izuku’s direction beforehand, “Toshinori-san...what’s going on?”

Toshinori’s shoulders slump a little further, which Izuku hadn’t thought was possible, and he folds his hands loosely in front of him.

“I wanted to apologize to you two,” he begins heavily. “Though specifically to you, Midoriya. I couldn’t get to you and your classmates when you all needed me the most, and you both suffered for it.”

“The leg thing was kinda my bad,” Kirishima says, raising a hand with a smile that looks far more like a wince. “I human-torpedoed myself with One For All again to break a hole in the wall and let Iida escape. I knew it was dumb but I did it anyway.”

“I’m sure you looked fabulous,” Izuku says flatly.

“Thanks, dude! I like to think it looked pretty cool, too.”

“Regardless,” Toshinori says, and they look at him again, “you wouldn’t have even needed to act whatsoever if I had been there when you needed me. Kirishima, Midoriya...please accept this. I’m sorry.”

Izuku and Kirishima look at each other for a long moment, nod, then turn back to Toshinori.

“I know you won’t accept us saying not to apologize,” Kirishima says, speaking for the both of them, “so we’ll just accept it this time.”

“Thank you.” Toshinori smiles faintly, then sighs. “I thought you would like to know that all the villains, with exception of the ringleaders, were successfully apprehended.”

Izuku’s first thoughts go to Tenko—no, Shigaraki. That’s the name he picked for himself—and he’s struck with a sharp pang in his heart. He doesn’t let it show for now.

“Did they ever find out what the Nomu was?” Izuku asks.

Toshinori tenses. “...I need to speak with Naomasa about that,” he says, but something in his tone has changed drastically. “For now, don’t worry about it, kiddo. The Nomu is being restrained somewhere secure, it won’t hurt anyone again.”

Izuku decides to let Toshinori’s discomfort slide for now, but he does make a mental note to ask him about it again sometime.

“I’m glad to see you’re doing well, Midoriya,” Toshinori says, changing the subject. “I’m sorry for not contacting you sooner. Things have been rather crazy as of late.”

“That’s fine,” Izuku says simply. “Is...that all you wanted to talk about or is there something else?”

“Ah, no, that’s it,” Toshinori answers, waving a hand dismissively. “I would like to speak with Kirishima a while longer regarding One For All, but you’re free to go.”

“Alrighty.” Izuku rises to his feet. “I’ll meet you outside on the steps, Kirishima.”

“Sounds good.” They do their weird little “not-handshake” that Kirishima came up with, and Izuku heads off, shutting the door behind him.


Eijirou watches him go, and as soon as the door closes behind Izuku, he turns back to Toshinori, concerned. “...What do you want to talk about?”

Toshinori looks very weary, Eijirou thinks, and he folds his hands together and rests his forehead against his hands.

“...Kirishima, my boy...how much has Midoriya told you about his situation?”

“Oh, um, not much,” Eijirou answers, thrown for a bit of a loop by the change of subject. “I think he hit all the key points, though. He said his Quirk was forced on him, that his sister was...murdered...and that he was raised by villains.”

Toshinori looks even more uncomfortable. “...Kirishima...the villain who killed Kowareta...who gave Midoriya his power...I fought him. Many years ago.”

“You what?” Eijirou sits forward. “You fought him? Is he gone? Imprisoned?”

“I thought he was dead,” Toshinori says heavily. “At least...until the police ran their DNA samples on the Nomu. It would seem that the Nomu was once a human person whose body was overloaded with Quirks until it became a monster.”

There’s a beat.

And then, things begin to click. Slowly. Faster. Then all at once.

“Wait, you mean—the Nomu, that—the villain who did that to Izuku, he’s—he’s still alive?”

Toshinori doesn’t answer for a long time. He nods.

“I was under the impression that I’d defeated him,” he says, “five years ago, but...in light of recent events...I think it’s right to assume that he’s still out there, somewhere.”

Eijirou feels nothing. Nothing yet. “That’s why you didn’t tell Izuku about the Nomu.”

Toshinori nods stiffly. “I know the truth will come out, eventually,” he says, “but, right now…”

“It isn’t a good time,” Eijirou finishes, shaking his head. He thinks of the night he, Izuku, and the others sat at Kowareta’s grave. He’d never seen such a torn, devastated look on Izuku’s face before. “He’s still just trying to recover from—from everything. Throwing this on him right now, I…”

“That’s why I’m not telling him this, yet,” Toshinori says. “There’ll be a better day, a better time, I know it. For now…”

“Yeah.” Eijirou is still reeling, but his resolve is set now. “...I’ll look after him. And if the villain tries coming back for him, he’s going to be sorry.”

It’s not just him. The entirety of Class 1-A, All Might, Aizawa, everyone. He knows they’ll all be on board.

“I know you’ll look after him,” Toshinori says, and he smiles softly. “Thank you.”

Eijirou is sure his horror will sink in sometime soon, but until then, he’ll keep smiling and looking after Izuku like always.


I wonder if we have time to stop by the soda shop before it closes, Izuku muses to himself, skipping down the hall from the teacher’s lounge. His light-up shoes send colors along the wall to his right and the floor below him. Maybe Kiri-chan will finally let me buy him something, for once…

Something invisible slams into him, and Izuku skids to a halt, eyes blowing wide. It hadn’t been a real, solid thing; it’d been a feeling, a torrent of something. He’s holding a knife before he even thinks about it. There’s a presence here that he...doesn’t like. There’s a presence here that reminds him too much of the presence he’d felt at the USJ.

“...days off, Aizawa? Is that so?”

Izuku presses his back against the wall and peers over the corner. He sees Aizawa’s back; standing across from his mentor is the tall, looming figure of Endeavor.

Izuku isn’t close enough to sense a definite threat or empty threat or the likes, but the vibes he’s getting are bad. He feels too hot and lightheaded. Nauseous. The same way he’d felt when the villains first arrived at the USJ.

Endeavor.

Todoroki’s father.

Izuku clutches the knife tighter, teeth gritted behind his lips and cold sweat rolling down his neck.

“I don't know why you thought you could do this, storm in here,” Aizawa says curtly. He sounds angry. “You received the memo, just like everyone else did.”

“Of course,” Endeavor says. “Which is why I arranged to be here, just in case I’d heard wrong. You’re really letting these students take this long of a break?”

Aizawa’s tone doesn’t change. “They almost lost a classmate. A friend. They need time to recuperate.”

Endeavor rolls his eyes. Izuku feels sick.

“And I was under the impression that this was the most prestigious hero academy in the region,” Endeavor jabs. “You’ve gone soft, Aizawa.”

“No.” Aizawa glares, and if Izuku hadn’t known the man personally, he might actually be frightened by it. “I’m keeping in mind that these kids are people first and students second. You’d do well to remember that yourself, Endeavor.”

Oh.

The realization hits Izuku like a train.

Aizawa leaves, fed up, and Endeavor follows him down the hall. Once he’s sure he won’t be spotted, Izuku takes off in the opposite direction from whence he’d come, feet barely touching the ground.


Todoroki is leaving the classroom when Izuku comes blazing down the hall.

He skids to a halt just in front of Todoroki in the nick of time, before they collide, then breathes heavily to catch his breath. Todoroki frowns at him, pulling his satchel further over his shoulder.

“What do you want?” Todoroki questions.

Izuku’s head snaps up, and their eyes meet.

“Take this.”

Izuku holds out his hand. There’s a folded pocketknife in his palm. Todoroki narrows his eyes at him, and for a second, Izuku thinks he might not take it, but then he reaches out and snatches the object from Izuku’s hand.

“What’s this for?” Todoroki asks; the odd, unnatural threat to himself still surrounds him. “I’m not here to play at being friends, Midoriya. If that’s what you’re trying to do, then I’m really not interested.”

“Good,” Izuku says. “I’m not here to play at being friends, either.”

He walks straight past Todoroki and heads down the hallway. He doesn’t look back.


“There you are!” Kirishima hollers, waving him down. It’s not just him; Ochako, Tsuyu, Iida, and Kouda are there, too, standing on the last step leading up to U.A. “What took you so long, man?”

“Had to do some backtracking,” Izuku answers, taking the steps two at a time until he reaches them. “You guys didn’t have to wait up for me, but thanks anyway.”

“You bet,” Ochako says, pulling her backpack further over her shoulders. “Are you guys ready to head out?”

The answer is a collective yes, and shortly thereafter, the group departs as the sun begins to set beyond the horizon. It’s a nice sight, Izuku thinks. He loves the sunlight, but as of recent—and just as of recent—he’s been enjoying the sunsets, too.

“We could make a run by that soda shop, if y’all are in on it,” Kirishima offers, spinning around and walking backwards so he can still face the group. “There’s this one flavor that Izuku and I really like but no one else really does.”

“That’d be fun,” Tsuyu says, tapping a finger against her chin. “If everyone else is game for it, I am, too. I could pay for my own.”

“Nah, I’ll buy!” Kirishima assures her with a grin. “I’ve got this!”

“I’m dead set on treating all of you,” Izuku says flatly. “Change my mind.”

In the end, when they actually make their orders, as they’re still arguing over who takes the bill, Kouda quietly slides some change to the barista and covers everyone’s drinks. Kirishima swears that he’s buying next time, and then so do Tsuyu, Iida, and Izuku. Ochako laughs at all of it.


Shouto manages to make it home before Father, who for some reason thought it was a good idea to demand company with the U.A. staff regarding the students’ off-days. Shouto doesn’t know why he even bothers.

He says hi to Fuyumi on his way in, but then he retreats into his room, shuts the door, and tosses his shoulder bag on the bed. He flops over beside it, draping an arm over his eyes with an exhausted sigh.

And then, when he thinks about it, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the folded knife Midoriya had given him. He holds it up to the ceiling lights, examining it. It’s a smooth wooden surface with a black stripe running across in a spiral. It’s simple, but that’s part of what makes it stunning.

While Shouto had never had a single conversation with Midoriya up until today, there are lots of things Shouto wonders about him; the reason for his scars, why his eyes have a surreal sense of death attached to them, but they aren’t unkind. He doesn’t get it.

He’s about to toss the knife onto his desk, but that’s when he notices what looks like a piece of paper stuffed beneath the blade. With a frown and spiking curiosity, Shouto sits up and pulls open the knife.

There is a slip of paper, folded between the knife and the hilt, and Shouto takes it and unfolds it.

There are coordinates to a location, and the sentence, Time: 6:00pm is written in bright purple cursive.

Shouto glances at his clock. It’s 5:19pm right now. After a second of mentally warring with himself, Shouto tucks the slip of paper in his pocket, closes the knife, and sets out. He doesn’t know what’s waiting for him at the location or why Midoriya thought to give it to him, but his confusion is too great for him to not find out.


Shouto has to keep double-checking the slip of paper to make sure he’s going the right way, because he sees no reason why Midoriya would want to meet him this deep into a forest all the way on the other side of the city.

It’s 6:14pm now; he’d had to take the train, and since then, he’s been walking non-stop towards his unknown destination. The forest is thick, but he keeps walking even so, and just when he thinks he’s being an idiot and that this is pointless, he sees Midoriya a little further ahead, leaning against one of the trees.

Midoriya notices him around the same time Shouto does, and he kicks off the tree and straightens up. “I was starting to think you got lost,” he says, turning to him. There’s a knife in one of his hands.

Shouto stops a little ways away from him. “But you were sure that I’d come.”

“Pretty sure,” Midoriya answers, shrugging, “but that was more of a guess on my part.”

Shouto narrows his eyes, then looks around for a moment. “So. What do you want?”

Midoriya pulls a flashlight from his pocket. It’s not too dark out yet, but the sun is definitely setting. “Look at the trees a little closer.” He tosses the light to Shouto, and Shouto catches it, mentally sighs, then flicks it on.

He notices it now. The trees surrounding Midoriya are covered in deep gashes, some old and some brand new. Wherever Shouto shines the flashlight, more slices show themselves. They’re all over the trees, like scars.

“...Call this my ‘vent’ forest,” Midoriya says shortly; Shouto turns off the light and lowers his arm back down to his side. “I only started it about two months ago. It’s nice practice.”

Shouto frowns. “And...you brought me here...why?”

Midoriya stares at him for a time, and Shouto feels vaguely like his soul is being sucked out of his body. There’s something about Midoriya, something Shouto can’t quite put his finger on. Midoriya’s overall demeanor is frightening, but there’s kindness in those dead eyes. Somehow.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Midoriya begins slowly, looking at him, “but you strike me as the kind of person who’s had everything good in their life taken away from them.”  

Subconsciously, Shouto balls his fists at his sides.

Midoriya lets out a long, exhausted sigh. “...I hate them. The people who hurt me.” (Shouto doesn’t ask; Midoriya’s numerous scars speak for themselves, just like he’s sure his own scar does.) “I always hated them, and I know it won’t change. I’m going to keep hating them for as long as I live.”

“So?” Shouto questions, but this is all hitting a little too close to home for comfort.

“I don’t let it control me, though.” Midoriya looks at him, and there’s nothing accusing in his tone or in his eyes, but Shouto still feels like he’s being dissected.  “I don’t let my hatred towards them control me, and I don’t think you should, either. In the end, the only person who’s hurt by your hatred and resentment is yourself.”

Shouto is beginning to regret coming out here. He doesn’t even know why Midoriya’s words are hitting him so preciscely. He doesn’t know anything about him. They don’t know each other. This is only the second conversation they’ve ever had.

“But—” Something in Midoriya’s demeanor changes, becomes lighter. “In the end, we’re still human. We’re gonna be angry and mad and we’re gonna hate people. It doesn’t stop, but sometimes venting makes it better. This,” He gestures to the trees, more specifically to the gashes on the trees, “is just a nice way to take that out without hurting anyone else. You can come here whenever you want. It’s secluded enough that no one’ll sneak up on you or anything, and you’ll have time to yourself.”

Shouto doesn’t know what to feel. The pocketknife Midoriya gave him is still in his pocket, though he notices the weight now more than ever.

“I don’t know what to say,” Shouto admits.

Midoriya nods. “Same hat.” Shouto frowns, but Midoriya doesn’t seem to notice. “Are you going to the amusement park with all of us?”

“Probably not.”

“You should.”

Shouto doesn’t know what it is about Midoriya’s tone.  There’s nothing accusing there, nothing demanding, nothing that guilt-trips Shouto whatsoever. His voice is very raw. Very real.

“I think it’d be good for all of us,” Midoriya continues, unaware of Shouto’s thoughts. “I think we need this downtime. Just something to help keep in mind that we’re people first and students second.”

Shouto looks down at the flashlight still in his hand. He thinks of Endeavor’s words to him that morning, almost the direct opposite of what Midoriya just said.

“...Fine,” Shouto relents, “I’ll go, but...I’ve never been to an amusement park.”

“Me neither,” Midoriya replies, and there’s a new light in his eyes. “Guess it’ll be a learning experience for both of us.”


When Izuku tells Mom about their plans to go to the amusement park—everyone, as a class, all twenty of them —she looks at him like he’d just brought home another box of thirty cats.

And then, when she’s over her initial shock, “Really?”

Izuku nods.

“You’re...you’re okay with that big of a group?”

Izuku nods again.

“If you’re not okay with it, Izuku, that’s okay too. You don’t have to go.”

“I know I don’t.” (Mom rises from her spot on the couch and moves to stand in front of him.) “I want to. I really want to.”

She takes his hands in hers, silent, and he goes on.

“Inko-san, I think...I think things are getting better,” Izuku stammers, looking down. “Lately, I...ever since I met Kirishima, ever since I started working with my Quirk, I—things, they’ve...things have been easier. I really think things are making a turn for the better, Mom, I really do—”

He only realizes what he’d said when he hears her inhale sharply, and his head snaps up to meet her wide eyes. It’d slipped. He hadn’t even thought about it, just—

She lets go of one of his hands, then touches his face gently. “Izuku.”

“Mom.”

Her eyes fill with tears, and he realizes, with a jolt, that it’s the first time he’s actually seen her cry. She kneels down, and he dives into her arms, squeezing tightly. She returns the gesture with equal ferocity. It’s such a simple thing, but Izuku feels like he’s had some kind of a major breakthrough. Maybe he has.

Izuku is exhausted for the rest of that day, but it’s a good kind of exhausted, if that makes sense. He sleeps in Mom’s room that night with her and all thirteen cats, and while Mom frets about the cat hair at first, she eventually sighs and relents.

Izuku is content, and he sleeps better that night than he has in a long while.


Iida handles the planning, since he’s the only person in the class who has everyone’s number in his phone; they’ll meet at the train station at 7am on Friday morning, arrive at the amusement park, spend the day there, then take the train back home at 5pm. He’s insistent on getting everyone home before it gets dark, which makes sense, but dismays Ashido and Kaminari, who would rather stay at the park until sunset.

Izuku sets out earlier that morning, not for the train station, but for his venting forest. He’d given Kirishima a knife with a slip of paper in the hilt, but he has yet to actually see Kirishima here or even hear about it from him, so he assumes he hasn’t found the paper yet.

Either way, when Izuku steps into the forest and heads further in, he notices new slashes on the trees. Slashes that he didn’t make.

He doesn’t know anything about making friends, and he’s still learning what it’s like to be a friend, moreover a good friend, but he hopes he did right by Todoroki. He doesn’t know everything Todoroki is going through, aside from Endeavor, but if Izuku can help in some way, even in a small way, then he wants to.

Todoroki still has those words attached to him, the threat to himself, and Izuku thinks that, now, he kind of understands what that means. And it’s very real, and very scary.


Todoroki is at the train station, along with the rest of Class 1-A, when Izuku arrives. It seems he’s the last one there, and he’s 5 minutes late, according to Iida, who tells him this the moment he walks up to the group.

“My bad,” he says, shaking his head. “Got caught up with something this morning. Is everyone else here already?”

“I think so,” Kaminari answers, nodding. Izuku catches Todoroki’s eye, and they hold each other’s gaze for a long moment before promptly looking in different directions.

“Okay, I have a mission now!” Ashido proclaims, hopping forward with a long slip of paper. “First order of business, we have to find some way to get Midori-chan to smile, so we’re gonna ride all the funnest roller coasters—”

“Did you just say ‘funnest’—”

“—and we’re gonna get lots of amusement park foods, too! I brought some yen out of my savings! The cotton candy is so good, oh gosh!”

The train arrives shortly thereafter, and they set out together. Most of them end up standing, since lots of the seats have already been taken and they’re no small group, but that’s alright. Izuku has two knives with him, tucked underneath the soles of his white light-up shoes, but as far as blades go, that’s all he has. He brought no knife to fidget with while on the train; instead, he has the blue pen Ochako gave him, and he doodles little spirals and flowers over the scars on his arm.

“Hey, I didn’t know you were a lefty,” Sero says, watching him.

Izuku shakes his head. “Ambidextrous,” he answers shortly, switching hands and doodling on his other arm to help prove his point. “Self-taught ambidextrous, I think. I don’t remember which hand I used primarily before, but anyway.”

“That’s pretty cool,” Kaminari says, grinning, and then, he mutters something to himself under his breath that sounds suspiciously like, “What the heck is an ambidextrous.”

Izuku pretends he doesn’t hear it and keeps doodling on his arms until the train brakes at their stop, and they disembark.

From the train station to the amusement park, it’s not a long walk. That’s what Satou told Izuku, anyway. It isn’t long before their destination is in sight, and some of them—namely Ashido, Kaminari, Sero, Hagakure, all the more “spunky” members of Class 1-A—rush forward excitedly.

“We’re almost there, you guys, come on!” Hagakure calls encouragingly. “Don’t be poor sports, hurry up!”

“Don’t run!” Iida hollers, but it barely does any good against a group of excited teenagers. Tokoyami mutters something about it being a “mad banquet of darkness,” which Izuku has half a mind to ask about.


Iida and Yaoyorozu had agreed beforehand that they would compensate for anyone who didn’t have all the funds for the trip, and while this did stir up a bit of complaints and protests from those in need of extra funds, in the end, they lost out to Iida and Yaoyorozu’s insisting. After everyone has their tickets, they’re free to enter the park.

“OH IT’S EVEN COOLER ON THE INSIDE,” Ashido squeals, spinning ‘round in circles. “And it’s not even super busy right now, too! Which means there won’t be any long lines, which means that this—”   She whips out her checklist, “will be super easy to do!”

Izuku is a bit overwhelmed, actually. The park is a lot bigger than it’d looked on the outside, and while there isn’t a tremendous amount of people on the grounds, he still can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable.

You okay? Kouda asks, and Izuku snaps back to reality and nods shakily.

Fine, he answers, just taking everything in. Adjusting.

“We should hit some of the roller coasters first,” Sero says, pointing out one of them on a map he grabbed from somewhere. “Unless you guys wanna do something else?”

“ROLLER COASTERS!” Kirishima says enthusiastically, and if Izuku hadn’t known him so well, he probably would have jumped. “Hell yeah, let’s do that first!”

Kouda cups his hands around his ears and shakes his head feverishly, but Izuku reaches out and touches his arm.

It’ll be fine, he says simply. We can sit next to each other if you want.

Kouda nods, and they follow Sero, who hopefully knows how to read a map, toward the first roller coaster.

There are only a few people in line in front of them, but the carts only seat ten at a time, so they have to split in two groups no matter what. Izuku and Kouda of course go in the same group, and since Izuku is there, Tsuyu, Ochako, Iida, and Kirishima also go with that group. Kaminari and Ashido join them, then Todoroki and Sero; the others will go on the second cart.

It’s hard to tell exactly what Todoroki is thinking, as Kouda and Izuku sit behind him and Iida. Todoroki’s face isn’t one that holds much expression, so reading him is difficult, but he doesn’t seem angry, at least. That’s worth something.

The bars come down over their legs, Kouda takes Izuku’s hand, and the roller coaster starts off slowly up a steep incline in the tracks.

“Ooooh, man, oh man, oh man, why did I sit in the front,” Kaminari is chanting over the clicks of the track and the rattling of the cart. “This was a terrible idea, this was a terrible idea—”

“If you get sick on me, you’re gonna be sorry,” Sero says lowly.

The cables pull the cart further up the incline, until the front cart nearly reaches the top. Ashido throws her hands into the air and shrieks, almost madly, “C’mon, everyone! Lemme hear your war cry!”

The cart tips over the other side of the incline, and Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if the entirety of Japan heard their screams.


When they finally get off the ride, Izuku can’t feel his legs.

“Your face,” Kirishima wheezes, clutching his stomach, laughing so hard there are tears in his eyes. “Your face, holy crap dude you look so confused.”

Izuku has nothing to say. He’s not sure he could say anything if he tried.

“Pictures!” Ashido shouts, sprinting in the opposite direction. She nearly bumps into Kaminari, who looks like he’s going to be sick, but dances around him before there’s a collision. “C’mon, I wanna see if we got Midori to smile!”

Izuku really doesn’t see the point in it. He’s sure if he had smiled, he’d know, but it’s whatever. It’s endearing that Ashido is trying so hard.

He sees Todoroki a little ways off as they move down the steps and to the photo booth, and he cuts across the group toward him.

“Did you have fun?”

Todoroki glances at him for a moment, then faces forward again. “...I think so. It’s...hard to process, right now.”

Izuku nods.

They don’t say anything else to each other; Ashido is the first to make it to the booth, looking like a giddy little kid on Christmas morning.

“OH, DANGIT!!” are the first words out of her mouth, and the others redouble their pace to see what’s wrong.

“I told you, I can’t smile,” Izuku says, hanging back. “It’s just one of those things.”

“No, look!” Ashido grabs his hand and pulls him forward; on the screen is a picture of their cart, except… “Iida is blocking you! We can’t see your face!”

Ohhhhhh boy.

“Uhhh, it’s really fine,” Izuku says, holding out a hand. “Don’t even worry about it, I’m—”

“We have to go again!” Sero declares, making a fist. “We will stop at nothing to get him to smile!”

“Yea verily!”

“Here we go again,” Izuku intones, but that’s the only thing he has time to say before the second half of their class meets up with them, and Ashido presents her plan.


“DAGNABBIT AGAIN!? SATOU I TOLD YOU NOT TO SIT IN FRONT OF HIM.”

“I didn’t mean to! I felt awkward because we were all taking so long to get situated and I just didn’t think about it!”

“Ugh, okay, this time for sure!”


“FREAKING.”

“We’re all taller than him!” Kaminari wails, digging his hands into his hair dramatically. “This’ll never work!”

“We can’t give up hope!” Kirishima declares, slinging an arm around Izuku’s shoulders. “There has to be something else, right?”

“Guys, there’s really no need,” Izuku insists, shaking his head. “I’m more likely to grow horns than I am to smile, there’s really no point to keep going on like this.”

“Nonsense!” Iida says, and honestly he was the last person Izuku expected to jump in this conversation. “There has to be something we can do…”

“I can’t believe you’re all getting so into this.”

“Why don’t we just have Izu-chan sit in the front row?” Tsuyu opts, tapping her cheek with a finger. “That would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?”

Silence.

“RIGHTO!” Ashido proclaims, snapping her hand against her temple in a cheesy, lopsided salute. “Here we go! This time for sure!”

Izuku only sighs. It’s endearing, really, it is, but it’s also becoming incredibly tedious.

“Maybe we should do something else for a bit and come back to this later,” Yaoyorozu suggests, stepping forward. “We could ride something else or play some games for a while, that way we don’t spend all our excitement on one thing.”

Oh thank goodness for Yaoyorozu. Ashido, Ochako and Kirishima seem bummed at first, but they’re quick to agree to a change of pace. Besides, they have plans to return to it later and try one more time, so it’s a win-win.


There’s an entire street in the park dedicated specifically to carnival-esque games; not that Izuku has ever been to a carnival. He’s just going by pictures he’s seen in magazines and what his friends told him beforehand. Lined on either side of the street are several booths housing several vendors and games; the employees running the games seem to come to life when they see Izuku and his classmates come down the way, and they all start whooping and wailing at once.

“Come on, try a ball throw! We know you can do it!”

“Think you’ve got what it takes? Balloon darts is the thing for you!”

“Hey, you there, with the red hair! You seem like a free-spirit, try the bean bag toss!”

“Maaaaan, I suck at this kinda stuff,” Sero moans, shoulders drooping. “It’s rigged, I swear.”

Bakugou, who has been silent and sulking during this entire trip so far, scoffs. “Stop complaining just because you suck at it.”

“Ahh, you there! The blond!” Someone singles Bakugou out, and he and the others turn; one of the game hosts is smiling and holding several rings. “Care to try a simple ring toss? Or maybe you don’t have what it takes.”

Izuku doesn’t know how the guy knows exactly how to get under Bakugou’s skin, but this does it. “OH YEAH!?” Bakugou demands, storming over and slamming a small stack of yen down on the table. “GIMME THOSE RINGS, I’LL SHOW YOU HOW IT’S DONE!”

“I’m gonna try the balloon darts,” Izuku murmurs to Kirishima, who gives him a thumbs-up. Half the group goes to follow Bakugou; the other half takes Izuku’s side and watches him.

Izuku hands over a couple yen, and the host grins and gives him five darts. Izuku inspects them for a few moments, brows furrowed.

They heated the tips so they aren’t as sharp, he thinks with a frown. And they’re not weighted properly, either…

“You can do it, Midori!”

“Yeah! Go for it, Izuku!”

“I believe in you, Izu-chan.”

“Show ‘em how it’s done!”

“Don’t let Bakugou beat you!”

“Pop those balloons!”

“Go for five outta five! Or at least three outta five!”

Izuku takes aim, adjusts to compensate for the dart’s lack of weight, then throws as hard as he can.


Izuku has already won three games by the time Bakugou finally gets a ring on one of the pins. The poor host lost his smug grin after the second round, and now he looks vaguely mortified after Izuku’s third, consecutive win with all five darts popping five balloons.

“I’m sorry,” Izuku tells him, bowing shortly; behind him, Ochako, Tsuyu, and Kouda each have a different stuffed animal, which was Izuku’s winnings. Ashido and Hagakure are gushing over them. “I’ve had a lot of practice, it really wasn’t fair.”

The host throws up his hands. “It’s not like you’re cheating,” he says helplessly, “and it’s not like you’re not paying. If you wanna go again you can.”

Meanwhile, the ring-toss host looks both mildly terrified and extremely smug.

“STUPID RING, STAY ON THE FREAKING PIN WHY DON’T YOU!? I’LL BLOW YOU STRAIGHT TO HELL!”

“That’s alright,” Izuku tells the balloon dart host. “We should probably move on before that guy,” he jabs a thumb over at Bakugou, “blows up the entire booth. But thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, I’m impressed,” the guy answers with a grin. “Enjoy the rest of the carnival.”

Izuku bows one last time, then departs with the others. Bakugou has to be dragged away kicking and screeching by Kirishima.


They eat lunch, walk around for a bit to take in the sights, and then decide that it’s time to return to their plight: that being, “operation get Midoriya to smile,” according to what Kaminari keeps saying.

“I’m telling you, it’s not gonna work,” Izuku says as he and the others wait in line for their turn. “My face is broken. I haven’t smiled since I was—hell, I don’t even know. It’s been years.”

“The time is nigh, then!” Ashido says seriously, beaming. “No time like the present to finally laugh again!”

“Hey, Todoroki, you can sit in the front row with him!” Satou says with a snap of his fingers. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile before, either, so if we can get two in one go then that would be great!”

Todoroki and Izuku exchange glances, and Todoroki shrugs. “I don’t really care either way.”

And so, after ten minutes of waiting in the short line, Izuku and Todoroki are filing into the front row while their classmates pile in behind them. It’s later on in the day now; the sun is setting, and Izuku is already anticipating the view at the top of the incline, right before they really launch into the ride.

“Wellp,” Izuku says as the bars lower over their knees. “This is a thing.”

Todoroki doesn’t say anything. Izuku waits a second, then goes on;

“...You wanna do a dumb pose at the camera with me?”

Todoroki side-eyes him. “Why?”

“Because if we don’t do something to satisfy everyone else, we’re gonna be doing this forever.”

Todoroki sighs heavily, but nods just as the coaster begins to move.

It’s not that the ride isn’t fun, Izuku is just 100% convinced that he’s incapable of smiling. They take off up the incline, then down, down, down, down, down, then up and over, then down, then around, then up, then down, down, down, then up—and it is fun, Izuku is having fun, here with everyone else, feeling the wind in his hair and the setting sun on his face. He’s happy, he really is.

He’s really, really happy, being here with everyone, goofing off, having fun—


“Well, it’s not a smile, but oh my gosh that’s hilarious.”

“You have the same face,” Jirou says, wide-eyed. “It’s the exact same face, holy cow.”

“AND YOU’RE LOOKING DEAD AT THE CAMERA, TOO!” Kaminari cackles, holding his stomach, and Izuku can’t tell if it’s because he’s laughing, or if it’s because he’s still queasy from the ride. “Oh my gosh that’s one for the album, I’m totally spending the rest of my yen to get a copy of that—”

Izuku and Todoroki have the front row in the picture, of course, and they’re both looking straight into the camera and holding unenthusiastic peace signs sideways by their eyes. Izuku has to admit, they look so done in the picture, with the exact same pose and the exact same face, that it’s hard not to find it humorous. Todoroki’s face doesn’t change, but he doesn’t seem angry, which is good.

“Well, we won’t put you through it again,” Ochako says, turning towards Izuku. “I’m sorry if that was kinda, y’know...annoying.”

“No, it’s fine,” Izuku says, shaking his head. “I think it’s sweet you guys really wanna make me smile no matter what, but it’s not happening anytime soon. It might never happen.”

Iida straightens his glasses, and Izuku has realized, as of late, that it’s more of a nervous habit than a necessity. “I wouldn’t say that, Midori—oh. I’m sorry, Izuku. I wouldn’t say it’ll never happen.”

“I have an idea.” Tokoyami steps forward out of the shadows; Izuku had forgotten he was there. “Since we badgered Midoriya so, how about we let him choose the last ride of the day?”

“Hey, that’s an idea!” Hagakure bounces over, and before Izuku knows it, invisible hands shove a map against his chest. He takes it, then looks at Hagakure again. “You pick the place! None of us will argue with it!”

Izuku looks down at the map again. Nothing really sticks out to him much; not until—

“We could go on the ferris wheel,” Izuku says, pointing to the location on the map. “The sunset is really beautiful tonight. It’d be fun.”

“Ooh, I love ferris wheels!” Aoyama says with a smile and a dramatic spin. “We could watch the sunset together!”

“That sounds like a great idea,” Shouji interjects, nodding. “Where is it from here?”

“It’s all the way on the other side of the park,” Yaoyorozu muses, looking over his shoulder, “so we should go ahead and get a move on, everyone.”

They do. Izuku hands the map to Iida, who takes over as navigator, and they set out for the ferris wheel. Izuku drops to the back of the pack for a few moments of quiet to himself; he sees Kirishima look at him over his shoulder, and he flashes a quick I’m fine, to which Kirishima nods and gives him a thumbs-up before facing forward again.

It’s a really nice afternoon. The sun is setting, which bathes the entire amusement park in a mixture of dying orange-yellow light and shadows. Up ahead, Izuku can see the silhouetted structure of the ferris wheel, set on the horizon. In front of Izuku, voices barely audible, his friends laugh and talk and beam, and—

He feels something.

It isn’t pain, but it could be. His throat goes tight, his chest feels like there’s something stuck in it, trying to break free. He hears their laughter, feels their joy like it’s a tangible thing. Like it’s something he could reach out and touch.

He feels weightless. His stomach feels like it’s full of butterflies but he isn’t upset, he isn’t angry, he isn’t sad, he’s not—he’s the opposite of all of that.

What…?

...I don’t get it…

...Why…?

...This feeling, what…?

What is it…?

They’re laughing. His friends are in front of him, and they’re smiling. They invited him here. They tried to make him smile, even when he discouraged it. They wanted him here, even though he’s... him.

They wanted him here.

They wanted him here.

...They wanted him here.


“Hey, y’know, we’re passing by the balloon darts table one last time,” Eijirou says, looking back over his shoulder. “We could hit the booth one last time if you—”

He freezes.

Izuku has stopped walking. The look on his face is the same as ever, simple, straightforward, without emotion—

But his eyes are slightly wider.

And there are tears streaming down his cheeks.

“—Izuku!?” His shout draws everyone’s attention, and when he doubles back, the others spin around. He reaches Izuku and stretches out a hand, grasping his shoulder. “Hey, buddy, what’s wrong? What happened? Dude, talk to me.”

Wordlessly, Izuku touches his face with his fingertips, then pulls them away and stares. The tears are still falling, hard, and beneath his hand, Izuku’s shoulders shake.

“Izu-chan, what happened?” Tsuyu asks worriedly, moving to stand by him. “What happened? Whatever it is, I’m sure we can fix it—”

“Oh no he’s crying,” Satou says, eyes wide. “He’s crying, oh no, this was the opposite of what we wanted—”

“He was right, it did backfire!” Ashido cries, and tears gather in the corners of her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Midori-chan, w-we didn’t mean to upset you—!”

“What’s wrong?” Ochako stands by Izuku, too, but he doesn’t seem to acknowledge it. “Izuku, what’s wrong?”   

Izuku finally does something else. He takes in a sharp, shuddering breath, then crumbles further. The tears fall harder.

“I don’t know,” he chokes, then brings both hands to wipe at his face. “I-I don’t know. I don’t know. I d-don’t know.”

And suddenly, Eijirou thinks he knows. He’s unsure at first, but when he begins to put the shattered pieces together...

“C’mere, dude, c’mere.” He pulls Izuku into his arms, and Izuku buries his face into his chest. “It’s okay, you can cry. We’ve gotcha.”

Izuku breaks even further, squeezing Eijirou in a death grip and not letting go. The others have calmed down, realizing that yelling isn’t the problem, and they gather around tentatively. Iida is the first to reach out, and although he flinches back a few times, warring with himself, he eventually settles his hand on Izuku’s shoulder. Those who know Izuku best—Kouda, Tsuyu, Ochako—follow his lead.

It doesn’t end quickly.


They go on the ferris wheel in groups of two, and considering how hard it’d been for Izuku to let go of him, Eijirou decides it’s best for him to go with Izuku this time.

Which is where they are now, sitting together on one side of the ferris wheel cart, watching the sunset out the window. Izuku is leaning against Eijirou’s side, and Eijirou has an arm around his shoulders. His eyes are bloodshot and swollen, but he leans heavily against him, relaxed. Unafraid.

“...Are you okay, dude?” Eijirou asks softly.

It takes a while before Izuku answers, and he nods shakily, wiping his eyes again. Izuku is strong, he’s always been, Eijirou has always known this, but right now he seems very small and vulnerable.

“I’m okay,” he croaks, his voice nearly gone. “It’s...it’s been a long time, s-since—since I last cried.”

Eijirou falls silent for a time. “...How was it?”

“It was…” Izuku rubs his eyes with his knuckles again, “...nice. I-It was nice. Maybe...m-maybe I’ll do it more often.”

Eijirou smiles, his own eyes burning, and he pulls Izuku closer. When Izuku rests his head against his shoulder, Eijirou leans his cheek against the top of Izuku’s head; he can’t help but notice that, when Izuku shuts his eyes, another tear rolls down his face.

“Whenever you need to, buddy,” Eijirou murmurs, closing his eyes. “Whenever you need to.”

Chapter Text

Izuku is a wreck.

Kirishima takes him home that day, hands him off to Mom at the door without explaining exactly what’d happened. She’s worried; Izuku isn’t sure his eyes are swollen or red anymore, but his silence and the stunned, exhausted look on his face is enough to concern her. She thanks Kirishima for bringing him home, then bids him goodnight and guides Izuku into the living room.

His cats are on him all at once, of course, but their presence isn’t one he exactly recognizes. He collapses onto the couch, barely noticing when Mom tugs one of his fluffy blankets over him and his cats snuggle closer.

He’s a disaster. His dreams are fitful and nothing makes sense in them; they vary between visions of his past, good visions at that, ones of him and Kowareta and Tenko sitting around playing pick-up-sticks with Izuku’s knives—but then he has surreal dreams that he’s never experienced before, like getting gunned down by armed rats—no, literal armed rats, with muscles, and human-hands, it was scary—and he doesn’t want to wake Mom so he does the next best thing.  

“Kiri-chan? You there?”

He calls Kirishima at around two in the morning, snuggled up with blankets and cats and squinting against the light of his phone.

He hears rustling on the end of the line. He has it on speaker. “Heck, what time is it—”

“Are you up?”

More rustling. “Ah man, hey, yeah, I’m up what’s wrong? Do you need me to come over?”

“No.” A long pause. “...Probably not. I don’t know.”

“Oh boy, don’t like the way that sounds, nu-uh. What’s up? You sound okay...what’s bothering you?”

“I had this dream.”

“Oh, like, wait, a nightmare? Something from that time?”

“No. There was a duck in it. It was trying to sell me ice cream.”

Kirishima is silent for a time. Then, he starts laughing.

Izuku doesn’t find it nearly as amusing. “You think this is funny.”

“Dude, dreams are just weird like that sometimes.” Kirishima’s laughter stops, and a more serious tone overtakes his voice. “Are you sure you’re okay, though? I know yesterday was pretty rough. How do you feel?”

“I’m…” That’s the thing, he doesn’t feel anything. “...Kinda...zoning out a lot? And I feel hot.”

There’s a beat.

“...Crap, you don’t think you’re getting sick again, do you?”

“I don’t...think so?”

“Yeah, no, we’re not doing that again. You either go wake up Inko-san or I’m coming over.”

“Kiri-chan, it was just a duck.”

“Fever dreams are freakin’ trippy, dude.” More rustling. Footsteps. “Either way, yesterday was really hard, and you could stress yourself into getting a fever if you’re not careful.”

“Do you really think the duck holds significance. Really.”

“THE DUCK’S NOT THE POINT!” More rustling, more footsteps. Faster this time. “Dude, if you get sick again I don’t want you to be there alone. Even right now, even if you’re not sick, you shouldn’t be alone.”

Izuku tightens his jaw. “Don’t come over.”

“Yeah, no, I can’t do that. I’m not going to sit around here and let you hurt yourself.”

“Kiri-chan. I’m serious. Please don’t.”

The footsteps on the other line stop, and there’s a long pause. “...Okay, something changed there. Your voice cracked. What happened?”

It shouldn’t be a problem. It really shouldn’t. Izuku doesn’t know why, but the thought of seeing Kirishima again, just—

Yeah. He’s a mess. He’s the living personification of an emotional trainwreck and he doesn’t even know what’s wrong.

That’s it, though, there’s nothing wrong. He’s better than he’s been in a long time but he still feels like a total wreck.

Something in him had broke yesterday night, at the carnival with his friends, because now, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of holding them in before the tears start to fall again.

“Are you crying?” Kirishima’s tone is different now, more urgent. Worried. “Dude, talk to me, are you crying again?”

“I don’t know why,” Izuku chokes out, wiping at his eyes with his free hand. “I don’t know why, K-Kiri-chan.”

Kirishima swears under his breath. “Okay, okay, dude, just, calm down, you’re gonna make yourself sick. I won’t come over if you can’t handle it but you really need to tell your mom, you shouldn’t be alone right now.”

“I-I have my cats.” They’re crawling closer to him, climbing into his lap, and he wraps his arms around Fistfight in particular and hugs her tight. “T-They’re here.”

“That’s great, I’m glad, but there needs to be someone else over there with you. Right now. Either me or Inko-san, it doesn’t matter who, but you’ve gotta be with someone.”

Izuku doesn’t want to be with anyone. He doesn’t want to be with Kirishima or Mom or anyone else but at the same time he wants someone to hug him. He wants to be with someone. He wants to watch Kirishima play dumb games on his phone and he wants to go and lay down with Mom in her room instead of being alone here on the couch but he also wants to crawl under his bed with all his cats and sob and never come out again and he wants to hide in his closet and he wants to lock the door and he wants Kirishima here or Mom or anyone—

“Hey, heyheyhey, dude, calm down.” Kirishima’s voice snaps him back to reality; he hadn’t realized how hard he’d been breathing until now. “Sorry, I shouldn’t’ve sprung all of that on you at once. Just—wake your mom up, okay? I won’t come over, but you can’t be by yourself right now.”

Izuku takes in a sharp breath, then nods shakily. “Okay, I-I’ll—I’ll get her.”

“Thanks. And, Izuku, if you do happen to be sick, don’t you dare go running off anywhere.”

“Okay.” He doesn’t mean it, but he’s not going to say that to Kirishima. “Okay, I—I’ll go get Mom.”

“Yeah, you do that. Call me again if you need me.”

“Okay.”

“I’m gonna hang up now. Tell Inko-san as soon as I’m gone.”

“Okay, I will.”

Kirishima hangs up, and Izuku darkens his screen and sets the phone on the coffee table. His tears splash on his knuckles, and it is the weirdest thing he’s ever felt up to this point. He doesn’t get it. A part of him is scared but the rest of him is content. For some reason.

He gives Fistfight one last tight hug, buries his face in her fur for a few long moments, then sets her down and swings himself to his feet. He’s lightheaded, and he doesn’t know if it’s because he really is coming down with something, or if it’s just because he’s been crying. He doesn’t know.

He patters across the hall to Mom’s bedroom, trailed by all thirteen cats of his, including Diamond and Shiny who are probably more following Fistfight than they are following him. He pushes the door to Mom’s bedroom open and peers in for a moment, then shuffles forward.

She’s asleep, it would seem. He feels bad for waking her, he always does, but it’s part of their agreement. She’d made him promise to always wake her when he needed her and he definitely needs her now.

“M-Mom. Mom.” He reaches out and touches her shoulder, voice trembling over his sobs. “Mom. I need you.”

She stirs and sits up, rubbing her eyes. “I’m awake, Izuku, what’s—” She catches sight of his face, and it hasn’t occurred to Izuku until now that she’s never seen him cry before. “Izuku!?”

She fumbles for the bedside lamp, and light floods the room. Izuku squints against it, but his eyes adjust quickly, just in time for Mom to take his face in his hands and wipe away some of his tears with her thumbs.

“What happened?” she asks, and there’s a stern, worried edge to her tone. “Izuku, tell me what happened.”

He dissolves further and the worst part about it is he doesn’t understand why the hell this is even happening.

She pulls him to her when he’s incapable of answering. He doesn’t even remember lying down, but the next thing he knows, he’s curled up with her in bed, small weights dipping the mattress as the cats bounce to join them. Mom doesn’t murmur a single word of protest.


Izuku wakes up sick the next morning. It isn’t the “fever over 39.5, spontaneous Quirk activation, time to hit the trail” kind of sick; it’s the sore throat, coughing up a lung, someone’s-bashing-my-skull-in-with-a-hammer kind of sick.

He’s sitting on the couch again, wrapped in blankets and surrounded by his cats. Mom is in the kitchen fixing soup. He hasn’t said a word to her since last night, Sign Language or otherwise, and she hasn’t asked him what’s wrong a second time.

Yet.

Mom returns to the living room shortly thereafter with a bowl of soup, which she settles on the coffee table before sitting beside Izuku on the couch. Izuku barely acknowledges it.

“Okay.” Mom turns to him, but doesn’t touch him. “What is it.”

Izuku doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t know how to respond.

“Is it something someone did?”

He shakes his head.

“Is it something you did?”

He shakes his head again.

“Then— what?”

Another shake. He doesn’t know.

Mom’s eyes soften, and so does her tone. “Izuku—can you please try explaining it to me? Please. Even if it doesn’t make any sense in your head, Izuku, I—please, try.”

Izuku takes in a shuddering breath. “I-I just—Mom, when—at the USJ, when I almost—y-y’know, I...I saw Ko-chan.”

He hears Mom’s breath hitch, but can’t trust himself to look at her.

“I don’t know if it was really her or if it was just my imagination,” Izuku says, running a hand through his hair, “or, maybe some kind of a dream, but she said that she wanted me to find my own happiness. She said she wants me to let her go, or, to let go of my guilt, and—and make my peace with what happened.”

Mom takes his hand, but doesn’t stop him.

“And, I guess—I-I just—ever since then, things have been—everything’s just been up here,” He levels his hand above his head, “and things have been getting better, a lot better, and I feel—I feel better, but, I just—I don’t—when I visited Ko-chan’s grave, and then when I was at the amusement park with everyone, I just—I was happy. I was really happy. And, I don’t know if this is just me kind of... realizing? Maybe it’s just me kind of coming to grasps with everything that happened, and how things are now, and just realizing how messed up everything was before, and—”

He stops and sucks in a breath. He doesn’t think he’s ever talked this much before in his life.

“It was so messed up before,” Izuku strains, throat tight. “It was so messed up, Mom, the things the villains did to us, the things they made us do—I hit her so many times before I could aim. They made me switch hands when I was injured on one. The only breaks we got was when we were too sick to move, and even then we weren’t actually given what we needed to heal—”

His eyes are burning again. Great.

“And I always knew it was messed up, I always knew, but it’s only sinking in now how messed up it really was. Things are better now and they’re only going forward from here but it’s just a bigger contrast to how things were before and I can’t—I can’t do it. Things are better than ever now and I can’t stop thinking about it—”

He’s pretty sure he’s crying again but he can’t be sure.

“And now, I just, I’m happy, I’m happy and things are better and I’m getting better but it was so messed up, the stuff they did to us was so wrong and twisted—we were kids, Mom, we were little kids like Yatchi and we just wanted to live, we just wanted to be happy, we didn’t ask for any of it.”

He chokes on something caught in between a sob and a laugh.

“And I don’t even know what’s wrong with me,” he struggles. He’s torn between wanting to laugh or scream. “I don’t know why I feel like this, Mom, things are better now and things are good and they’re fine and it happened so long ago, it happened years ago, Mom, I don’t know why this is happening.”

Mom squeezes his hand, then tugs him to her, and he accepts the invitation and hugs her tightly. His head pounds when he sobs harder, and he’s probably the biggest mess on the planet right now, but he’d long since accepted that he’s royally screwed up. Mom knows it, too. So it’s okay.

“Izuku...it’s not stupid,” Mom murmurs, close to his ear. “It’s not stupid. You went through things no one should ever endure, let alone a child, and if now’s when it’s all catching up to you, even after all these years, then it’s okay.”

And that’s it. He thought he’d already passed his breaking point. He’d thought he couldn’t sob any harder than this. He was wrong.

He’d cried for Kowareta.

He’d never cried for himself.


Izuku is sleeping on the couch now. Inko had taken the soup back, dumped it in the pot from whence it’d come for him to have later, and now she’s standing with her phone in her hands, glancing over at Izuku on the couch every now and then.

With her occupation, she’s seen lots of cases. Moments when the victims’ shock finally catches up with them and their walls come crumbling down. She’d hoped Izuku wouldn’t have to deal with it, but it’d been inevitable. She should’ve been more prepared for it.

She dials a number on her phone and brings the device to her ear, still looking over at Izuku. He’s sleeping soundly, it would seem, being smothered by his cats and multiple blankets. He isn’t feverish; it’s mainly a head and chest cold, but still, if things continue to go like this, it won’t be long before that changes.

The other line picks up. “Hello?”

“Hi, Kagami, it’s Inko, Izuku’s mom. I wanted to ask if we could go forward with the emotional support animal.”

“Ah, alright, sounds good to me. How soon?”

Inko glances over at Izuku on the couch.“As soon as possible.”


[MESSAGING: “FRIENDS”]

[Tsuyu-chan]
Hi Izu-chan. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.
Did you have fun at the amusement park?

[Knife Knife Baby]
Yeah I did, it was great

Why is my name like that.

[Kiri-chan]
*cues innocent whistling*

[Snow White]
I can’t be positive but I think it’s Kirishima’s fault.
Nooooo my name ((´д`))
Definitely blaming Kirishima here.
Will fight (ง •̀_•́)ง

[Kiri-chan]
How RUDE. >:(
haha srsly tho it was Uraraka :P

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
Bwahahahaa

[Knife Knife Baby]
-_-

[KNIFE KNIFE BABY has changed KIRI-CHAN’s nickname to “NO BONES ABOUT IT”]

[No Bones About It]
OY.
I broke my arm once. ONCE.

[Knife Knife Baby]
-_-

[Vroom Vroom]
Come now, it can’t be that terrible.
...
Well. I’m leaving.

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
IIDA NO COME BACK.

[Knife Knife Baby]
What a mad banquet of darkness.

[No Bones About It]
YOU’RE NOT HELPING

[Tsuyu-chan]
You’ve been hanging out with Tokoyami too much.

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
Hold on I’m just gonna

[HOUSTON, WE HAVE MANY PROBLEMS has changed TSUYU-CHAN’s nickname to “THE SENSIBLE ONE”]

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
There we go.

[The Sensible One]
I don’t think this suits me.

 

[KNIFE KNIFE BABY has changed THE SENSIBLE ONE’s nickname to “FROGGER”]

[Frogger]
:)

[Knife Knife Baby]
:)

[Vroom Vroom]
You’ve all completely forgotten the reason why we messaged Midoriya in the first place. Everyone. Please.

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
Oh yeah, Izuku. The amusement park. Did you really have fun?

[Knife Knife Baby]
I did. I had a lot of fun.
Thank you guys for inviting me.

[No Bones About It]
Glad to hear it :) How’re things going now?

[Knife Knife Baby]
Oh I’m sick.

[No Bones About It]
YOU’RE WHAT

[Snow White]
Oh no (´°ω°`)
How sick???

[Frogger]
Oh no. I hope you feel better Izu-chan.

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
Sending love and well-wishes.

[Snow White]
(⊃• •)⊃ ♡♡♡♡♡

[Vroom Vroom]
THIS IS WHY WE SHOULD HAVE STARTED WITH THAT.
Midoriya, I encourage you to get off your phone and go to sleep.

[Knife Knife Baby]
I’m not that sick. It’s mainly the headache that’s annoying.
And the cough. It’s pretty bad.

[No Bones About It]
THE WHAT

[Knife Knife Baby]
I’m home Kiri-chan don’t worry about it. Mom’s taking care of me.
Anyway I probably won’t be at school on Monday so. A d i e u .

[Frogger]
Now I’m thinking you’ve been around Aoyama too much.

[Vroom Vroom]
We’ll leave you be, Midoriya. Get some sleep.

[Houston, We Have Many Problems]
Feel better!!

[Snow White]
^^^ (o゚▽゚)o

[No Bones About It]
^^^

[Knife Knife Baby]
See ya.

He closes out of his messenger and leaves the phone on the coffee table, shutting his eyes. Barely five seconds pass before he gets another text, this time from Kirishima specifically, not through their group chat.

[Kiri-chan]
Are you really okay?
Do you need me to come over?

[Midoriya Izuku]
I’m fine, I promise. And Mom’s taking care of me.
I’m probably contagious right now so I’d wait a few days.
If you really want to you could come see me Monday after school.

[Kiri-chan]
Wow you’re...pretty talkative right now, huh.

[Midoriya Izuku]
It’s been a long day.

[Kiri-chan]
Right, well, get some sleep. See you Monday!

[Midoriya Izuku]
See you then.


The rest of Saturday ticks on almost excruciatingly slowly. Izuku is fine when he’s talking with his friends, and he felt better since talking to Mom about everything, but about an hour later, when he wakes up from a short rest, he’s back to feeling completely overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of everything that’d happened and everything that’s happening now.

He manages to eat something that night, but it’s not much, and then he’s sleeping fitfully again. He has foggy, sick-dreams of his past; they aren’t memories, and they don’t affect him like they usually do considering they’re mere fabrications, but still, it’s hard. He wakes up from them every time feeling like there’d been a physical part of him torn out of his chest. Along with the pounding in his head and the ragged cough he’s developed, he’s a disaster.

Emotional trainwreck, indeed.

If this is the beginning of the breakthrough, the start of his “making peace” with everything that’s happened, he’s almost scared of what comes next.

On Sunday, he feels better. Sort of. His body finally shut down long enough for him to get a few hours of undisturbed sleep, and his chills aren’t as bad now. He still wears a hoodie like he always does and his cats are constantly curled around him, but he’s okay. Mom tries getting him to eat something whenever he’s awake, and he only complies for her sake.

It would seem he’s past the worst of it, but he’s thought along these lines before and found himself disappointed, so he doesn’t do it again. His head doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did before, which is nice, but the cough is still lingering and annoying. Sometimes he fears he’ll never be over it.

On Monday, he sleeps straight through breakfast and has a late lunch that might as well be dinner, considering the time of day. He hadn’t heard from Kirishima whatsoever, but he assumes he’s still coming over.

Sure enough, just as Izuku thinks he might drift off again, the doorbell rings.

“I’ll get it,” Mom says, getting up from the couch and crossing towards the door. She knows Izuku is expecting people over, so she’s not surprised. Izuku hears the door open, followed by bits and pieces of conversation; “Oh, hi there! Thanks for coming over, you two—Izuku is in the living room, he’s been waiting—”

...Two?

Iida and Ochako step into the living room behind Mom. Ochako is carrying a small gift bag, and it seems Iida is carrying both their school bags. There’s no sign of Kirishima, though.

“Hi, Izuku!” Ochako greets with a smile; she crosses the room first and sits down next to him on the couch, and Iida follows in her lead, sinking onto the couch on Izuku’s other side. “Sorry, Kirishima wanted to be here, but he kindaaaa failed all the pop-quizzes today and had to stay after school for a while.”

“Oh.” Izuku looks down at his hands, thinking. “...Do you think it was because he was worried about me?”

“He did seem distracted all day,” Iida murmurs, straightening his glasses, “but I wouldn’t worry about it. He said he would drop by once he’s finished at school. Until then…” Iida reaches over, and Ochako settles the gift bag in Izuku’s lap. “He wanted us to run by and get you this.”

“Oh.” Izuku blinks, then removes the tissue paper to reveal the contents. There’s a can of raspberry soda and a post-it note that says Raincheck :). Izuku exhales sharply through his nose and shakes his head (though he stops quickly when his headache is further fueled by the movement).

“Thanks,” he says, lifting his head to look first at Iida, then at Ochako. “Do you guys...want to hang out for a little while?”

They look at each other for a moment, then come to a silent agreement. “If you don’t mind us being here,” Iida says, turning towards him, “I think we’d like to stay.”

“You don’t have to if there’s somewhere else you’d rather be,” Izuku murmurs. “Plus, I’m not gonna be much company right now. I’m not contagious anymore but I still feel like crap, so.”

“It’s alright,” Ochako says, nodding firmly. “It sucks being sick anyway, maybe we’ll be able to cheer you up.”

That’d be nice. They aren’t Kirishima, but they aren’t enemies, either, or even strangers. Iida is stern and serious, and sometimes he can be a little scary, but that’s just how he is. Iida would never hurt any of them, and Izuku knows he can come across as scary himself, too, so he’s not one to talk. Ochako is bubbly, and she’s a bit more enthusiastic than Izuku can handle sometimes, but again, that’s just her. That’s who she is, and honestly, sometimes her enthusiasm is much appreciated.

They aren’t Kirishima, but they don’t have to be. They’re Izuku’s friends either way and he loves them individually.

Once the cats recall their prior meeting with Iida and Ochako, they warm up remarkably quick. Iida doesn’t seem to know what to do when they begin climbing on him, while Ochako giggles endlessly and strokes their fur.

“Hi Icy, hi Rainbow, hi Snickers, hi Kittles, hi Diamond, Shiny, Marshmallow, Fluffy, Fistfight, Fiddlesticks, Hamburger, Sharpie, aaaaand…” She looks around, puzzled. “Where’s Teacup?”

“Here.” Izuku raises an arm; said kitten dangles from it. Teacup has always been a runt, like Rainbow, and is much smaller as a result.

Iida’s eyes are wide with what seems to be a mixture of awe and horror. “You actually remembered all of them?”

“Of course!” Ochako answers brightly; Fiddlesticks is currently trying to get her attention by crawling into her arms and bumping his head under her chin, at which she laughs softly. “Took a little while, but I remembered all of them!”

That look on Iida’s face doesn’t leave for a solid ten minutes—long enough for Mom to bring a blanket from the spare room and set up Izuku’s laptop for a movie.

It’s kind of weird, Izuku thinks. This time last year, it’d been hard just to drag himself outside to take a walk. It’d been hard just to talk himself down from panic attacks when he bumped into someone else or someone brushed him by accident.

Now he’s sitting in between two actual friends of his, a shared blanket around their shoulders, watching dumb videos on Izuku’s laptop, surrounded by cats and warmth and comfort and it’s weird. It’s only been a year. A little under a year, actually, since he met Kirishima, and his life has already made so many changes for the better.

A part of him kind of wants to cry again, while the rest of him really longs for a smile.


“What do I do?”

“Just move your arm, it should be fine—”

“I don’t want to wake him up, Uraraka, he’s sick.”

“He’ll be fine, don’t worry. He looks like he’s pretty sound asleep.”

“Are you sure he’ll be alright?”

“I’m sure, but we can always come back tomorrow and check on him if he still can’t come to school.”

He feels himself being shifted, slowly, and then he’s laying down on his side, and the blanket is being pulled further over his shoulders. It’s one of those things where he’s aware of what’s going on, but he isn’t nearly conscious enough to react to it; besides, the terrible pounding in his head has finally subsided, and for once he doesn’t feel like he needs to sit up and let a coughing fit pass, so there’s really no reason for him to even bother.

He hears Mom’s voice, then Iida’s and Ochako’s, all whispers. He can’t make out anything they’re saying, but their tones are soft and light, so he assumes nothing’s wrong. Right now, he’s too content to bother putting much thought into it. He thinks he hears Iida and Ochako murmur quiet goodbyes to him before the door clicks shut, and he takes the memory down with him as he drops off to sleep once more.

He doesn’t dream. He doesn’t relive anything. He sleeps, and for once in his life, it really is just as simple as that.  


Tuesday afternoon is when he wakes up, still on the couch, with his pink laptop on the coffee table and a fluffy blanket over his shoulders. He sits up, and his cats take turns stretching and repositioning themselves around him as he moves. He doesn’t feel sick anymore, and it’s one of those rare moments when he actually feels rested, which is a miracle and a blessing both at once.

“Good to see you up!” Mom says, swinging around the corner with a smile on her face. Already, Izuku can tell that the air around her is more chipper, which isn’t weird or bad, but it’s a tad bit out of the ordinary. “How do you feel?”

“I feel...good?” It’s posed as a question because he really doesn’t know what “good” feels like. “I mean...I don’t think I’m sick anymore.”

“That’s good news!” Mom says, disappearing back into the kitchen. “I called the school today and told them you were taking today off and that I’d let them know how you’re feeling. They said that with your grades, they aren’t worried about you taking off-days. They were all really understanding.”

Izuku remembers what Aizawa said, about debriefing the teachers on his situation. He wonders how much they actually know.

“Anyway…” Mom makes her way back down the hallway towards him, carrying a small tray with her. She settles the tray down on the coffee table (cinnamon rolls, hallelujah), then sinks onto the couch beside Izuku. “...There’s actually something I need to talk to you about, Izuku.”

Izuku turns to her and waits.

“...I was speaking with Kagami-san regarding an emotional support animal,” Mom begins, wringing her hands together. “He’s on-board with it, and he’s willing to send a trainer here to help us train whichever ESA we pick. He even said that we could eventually get it certified as a service animal, too, if we can train it to bring you your suppressants when you need them, the likes…”

Izuku nods. “He told me a little bit about it, too,” he says, recalling. “So...what’s the problem…?”

Mom draws a breath. “...I have a mixture of good news and bad news. And they’re pretty heavily intertwined, so it’s not the kind of situation where I could tell you one or the other first.”

“...Okay...so…?”

“Kagami-san thinks it’s wisest for you to get a dog,” Mom begins simply. “Which I agree with. I know you love cats, Izuku, but training a cat to bring you suppressants would be...next to impossible, let alone certifying a cat as an service animal down the line is. You can see where we’d run into problems.”

Izuku had already been expecting this from the moment Kagami brought it up, so he’s not surprised. “Okay,” he says, nodding, “so...the bad news…?”

“Well, I was looking around for some of the breeds he suggested,” Mom continues, still wringing her hands together. “You know, at adoption centers, if people have them up for adoption, the likes...and I found one of the breeds he recommended. And the dog’s in the age-group he recommended, too. A little over one and a half.”

No bad news so far. He’s just waiting for the ball to drop. “...And?”

Mom takes in a long breath. “Our neighbors, Misaki and Daichi. It’s their dog. They’ve put him up for adoption.”


The ties between their families have been cut for years. Literal, solid years in which neither family spoke to each other, or even so much as gave indication that the other existed. Misaki gets that it’s mostly her fault; it’d been her tendency to stick her nose in places it didn’t belong that drove Inko to sever the ties between them. It wasn’t that they hated each other; Inko simply didn’t want her or her husband anywhere near her household, which, now that Misaki thinks about it, makes sense.

So you can imagine Misaki’s surprise at receiving a phone call from Inko now, several years after the incident, completely out of the blue.

“Hello? Is this Misaki?”

“Yes,” Misaki says, leaning against the doorframe. “It’s been a long time, Inko-san. I wasn’t aware you still had my number.”

“I didn’t. I saw your ad online. For the dog.”

“Oh.” Misaki blinks twice in rapid session. “...You want to adopt him, is that it? He’s a brilliant dog, really smart, too. He’d be an easy dog to take care of, I reckon, for your line of work.”

“Not for me. For my son, Izuku.”

For her son, she says. The son Misaki never met. She’s seen the boy several times, walking to school, coming home from school, but they’ve never spoken. They’ve never actually been in the same space together at the same time.

“...Well...why don’t the two of you come over for tea? You can meet him, hang out for a bit, see if he’s the right dog for you two. What do you say?”

There’s a long pause, then Inko’s small, “Yes. That sounds perfect.”

They arrange for a time later that day, and that’s that. Misaki is left tapping her foot and doing needless chores around the house to distract herself from the impending doom of three o’clock.


The doorbell rings, and Misaki practically flies across the room to answer it as quickly as she can. She regains her composure shortly before swinging the door open, of course, and the she’s looking into the eyes of Inko Midoriya, who hasn’t changed a bit over the years, it seems. If anything, she looks better than she used to, less frazzled and more relaxed.

“Thank you for having us, Misaki,” she says, bowing shortly. Beside her, her son mirrors the gesture.

Izuku is...not what Misaki had been expecting. She’d seen him several times from the window, as he headed downtown or went to school in more recent days, but he has a completely different air about him in person. He’s very small considering that, if she recalls correctly, he should be fifteen now, and his demeanor is more like that of an eleven year old lost in the grocery store than a young adult. Not to mention his apparel; a bright blue sweatshirt, light up shoes...it looks like he drew a little blue heart on his cheek, too.

Except, there’s something in his eyes that looks very old. Very drawn. Very weary and exhausted. If he has the body of a ten year old, he has the eyes and the scars of someone who’s lived well beyond their years.

It’s only now when the boy meets her eyes that she realized she’s been staring. “Ahh, I’m sorry, please come in,” she says, stepping out of the doorway to let them through. “Please make yourselves at home. There’s tea on the stove, I’ll fix some. Unless you’d like to meet the dog first.”

“Does he have a name?” Izuku asks, and Misaki will be honest, that voice is not one she’d expected from that face. The boy has one of the most gentle, soft voices she’s ever heard before in her life.

“He does,” Misaki answers with a nod, “but I thought I’d just leave that up to you. He’s used to the name he has now, but he’s smart, and it won’t take long for him to get used to a different one.”

Izuku and Inko both nod, and Misaki leads them down the hallway towards the bedroom. “I’ll warn you, he’s a big dog,” Misaki says, reaching for the doorknob, “but he’s a sweetheart. Really mellow.”

She opens the door. The dog—a Bernese mountain dog, big but gentle—raises his head immediately, tail swishing the floor. Izuku is the first to react, stepping forward and stretching out his hand. The dog responds by getting up and tapping his muzzle against Izuku’s palm.

“My sister in law dropped him off with us about a month ago,” Misaki explains, mainly to Inko, but to Izuku, too, “but it was really short notice, and she only gave him to us because she didn’t know who else to hand him off to. My husband and I work, and we talked about it, and we just don’t think it’s fair to him just to keep him cooped up. He deserves a better life.”

Izuku looks at Misaki over his shoulder. “And you said I get to name him?”

“If you and your mom decide to take him, yes,” Misaki answers with a smile and a nod. “You can hang out with him a while if you’d like while your mother and I discuss it, Izuku-kun. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Izuku glances over at Inko briefly, and when she nods, Izuku nods toward Misaki. “Thank you.”

Misaki’s smile grows, but it also turns softer. She and Inko head into the living room and leave Izuku to it.


“I suppose my first question should have been whether or not he gets along well with other animals,” Inko murmurs once she and Misaki are on the couch with their tea. Just like old times. “See, Izuku has a bad habit of...bringing home stray cats.”

“Ahh…” Looking at him, Misaki wouldn’t have thought he was the type. “He’s an animal person, huh…well, my sister in law told me that Bailey—or, I suppose, whatever your son decides to call him—he grew up with cats. I don’t know why she thought it was a good idea to adopt a dog, considering she has no time for him, but that’s neither here nor there.”

“We’re looking into an emotional support animal for Izuku,” Inko tells her, and Misaki isn’t surprised, not really, but even so. “His therapist suggested a Saint Bernard, considering how jumpy Izuku can get, but there weren’t any nearby, and then I found your ad online…”

Misaki nods, stirring her tea idly. “Inko-san...I am truly sorry. About before.”

Inko is already shaking her head before she finishes speaking. “I get that you were curious,” she says, “and, honestly, I don’t know who wouldn’t be, but...it wasn’t personal, Misaki. I didn’t cut ties with you because I resented you, it was just...at the time, it was just one more thing that we couldn’t handle.”

“I understand,” Misaki says, setting her tea down. “I shouldn’t have gone snooping where I didn’t belong, I knew better.”

“Well, either way, what’s done is done.” Inko nods again and sips her tea as something of a silent way of saying she’s done discussing this. She settles her teacup on the table shortly thereafter and meets Misaki’s eyes. “On the topic of the dog—Bailey, you called him—”

“Yes, but of course, he can relearn a name.”

“Right,” Inko nods. “On that topic, how trainable is he? Does he accept direction well, what does he already know—of course, we’re having a professional trainer work with him, but, you understand.”

Misaki mulls this over for a bit. “Well, like I said, I’ve only had him for a little over a month,” she answers, leaning back, “but he’s a well-behaved dog. Good manners. I’m not sure how trainable he is, because I’ve never had time to put towards training him, but he’s definitely very smart.”

“Hmm…” Inko ponders this. “Well, I do need to discuss it with Izuku before making a final decision…”

“Of course,” Misaki agrees, nodding. “Of course, yes, it’s definitely not something you wanna make an impulse-decision on. Take your time. And don’t be afraid to give me a call once you make up your mind.”

“Thank you.” Inko rises to her feet, and Misaki does the same across from her. “We’ll get back to you on that as soon as we can.”

“Like I said, no rush,” Misaki assures. “Take your time, take your time.”

They retrieve Izuku shortly thereafter; he’d found one of Bailey’s toys and is trying to play tug-a-war with him (although he doesn’t stand a chance against the dog). Inko calls Izuku back, and Izuku pats the dog on the head before rejoining his mother. There’s something in Izuku’s eyes that hadn’t been there before. A newfound life.

“Don’t be a stranger, either of you,” Misaki says as they make to leave. “Anytime you wanna come over, feel free to come over. And lemme know about the dog, I won’t let anyone else come take him until you get back to me first.”

“Thank you.” Inko bows, and Izuku does the same beside her. Misaki can’t help but smile.


Izuku is a nice boy. There’s a lot about him Misaki doesn’t know, a lot she’s almost afraid to know, but after meeting him officially for the first time, seeing him play with Bailey—he’s a good kid. Well-mannered. Gentle. He lacks a few social skills, of course, but that’s okay. He’s obviously working and trying his best, and that alone tells Misaki a lot about his character.

She goes to the bedroom, where Bailey is asleep again, though he raises her head when she approaches. She kneels by him on the ground and scratches him behind the ears. In her heart, she already knows; it won’t be long before she gets a call from Inko confirming that, yes, they do want to take him. The thought doesn’t upset her. She’s glad.

“That boy’s gonna need you,” Misaki says, and Bailey looks at her, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. “You take good care of him, okay?”

The dog licks her, which Misaki assumes is about as good an answer as any.


[MESSAGING: “KIRI-CHAN”]

[Midoriya Izuku]
I have a surprise. You’re never gonna believe it.

[Kiri-chan]
Ohhh boy, I’m scared.
You’re gonna send me a picture of like 200 cats aren’t  you.

[Midoriya Izuku]
As fantastic as that would be, no.
[attachment.photo]

[Kiri-chan]
HSDFKJLSDF
A DOG??
YOU GOT A DOG???

[Midoriya Izuku]
no he’s a ferret

[Kiri-chan]
I THOUGHT YOU WERE A CAT PERSON
OH HOLY CRAP DOES YOUR MOM KNOW
STRAY CATS ARE ONE THING BUT A FREAKING DOG

[Midoriya Izuku]
No Mom knows.
He’s going to be my emotional support dog and maybe a service dog further down the line if we get him trained and certified. :)

[Kiri-chan]
O H
THAT’S GREAT THEN!! I’M HAPPY FOR YOU THAT’S AWESOME
What’s his name? Did you pick one out yet?

[Midoriya Izuku]
Cat.

[Kiri-chan]
KOPKDFLKDL:FKGOPF:L
YOU NAMED
THE FREAKIN DOG
C  A T

[Midoriya Izuku]
^ . . ^

[Kiri-chan]
ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW

[Midoriya Izuku]
Nope
^ . . ^
Cat

[Kiri-chan]

honestly I don’t know why I even bother being surprised by you anymore.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Me neither

Chapter Text

It’s almost scary, Izuku thinks, how well Cat already seems to read him.

Izuku has never particularly liked dogs. The few he’d met on the streets or in the park always barked at him and they never seemed very thrilled to see him, which was disheartening because he truly did love animals—specifically cats, but yes, animals in general. Plus, dogs have always unsettled him. It’s not even as though he’s had a bad experience with them, he just doesn’t interact with them well.

Or, he didn’t. But now Cat’s here, and Izuku absolutely loves him to pieces.

It is a bit scary, though, how Cat already seems to know the ins and outs of him.

Izuku has been eating meals consistently, and eating good meals at that, but every now and then—maybe twice a week or so—he can’t force himself to eat. One of these times come right after Izuku and Inko bring Cat home.

They'd bought supplies ahead of time; a big dog bed to compensate Cat's size, food and water bowls, a leash, dog food, the likes. Misaki told them that Cat was already housebroken and would scratch on the door when he needed to go out, in which case Izuku would take him out on his leash.

Cat is very well-behaved, considering he was just given to a brand new family and barely knows either of them. He doesn't even beg when there's food at the table; he seems perfectly content laying in his dog bed while the cats prowl around him, curious.

(That's something else. True to Misaki's word, Cat doesn't mind the actual cats, and so far, the resident cats don't seem to mind him either.)

It's only been about eight hours since they brought Cat home and Izuku already loves him just as much as he loves the actual cats.

And so, dinner. Izuku's day has been going spectacularly, but it's just one of those nights when his body betrays him and the thought of food makes him nauseous.

Mom notices the second he hesitates, chopsticks held between his shaking fingers. She reaches over and settles her hand on his with a reassuring smile.

“You've been eating well this week so far, Izuku,” she says gently, meeting his eyes. “If you can't eat right now that's okay. It’s not worth trying if you know you’re going to bring it up again later. Just let me know if you’re hungry, okay?”

The relief crashes over him in a wave, and he sets down his chopsticks at once. Mom smiles again, then returns to her own dish while Izuku pulls one of Ochako's pens from his pocket and begins to doodle over his scars. He loves his knives, but it’s nicer to doodle than it is to fiddle with them. Plus, he recently figured out how to draw little cartoon cats inspired by the embroidery given to him by Tsuyu.

Except, that’s when Cat suddenly reaches his side and shoves his head into Izuku’s lap. Izuku doesn’t jump, but it does surprise him, and judging by Mom’s wondering eyes, it surprises her, too.

“...That’s...odd,” Mom says, blinking several times, chopsticks still between her fingers. “You didn’t call him over…”

Izuku shakes his head. “I didn’t.” As weird as it is, and as big of a cat person as he is, Cat’s weight is comforting, and he settles the pen on the table and digs his fingers into Cat’s thick fur.

So.

That was something.


Sometimes in the end it just boils down to Shouta wondering why he even bothers being surprised by this kid anymore. It's not ten more cats he shows up with for training this time, no; it's a big, fluffy dog that looks twice—no, maybe even three times the kid's size. 

Shouta stares. He can't help it. The cats are curveballs enough, but a dog? “...I hope to God your mother knows about this.”

Midoriya snorts like it's a joke, but really, the implications could mean anything. “No, she knows,” he says, and Shouta lets out the biggest sigh of relief he's ever given. “This is Cat. He's going to be trained more as my emotional support dog and maybe a service dog later on. Y’know, so I can bring him with me everywhere and stuff.”

Oh. That makes, so much sense. “Alright,” Shouta says with a nod. “And is... Cat okay with us training, or is he going to resent me?”

“He'll be okay,” Midoriya answers, but he doesn't sound completely confident in that. “It's just Quirk training today you said, right?”

Shouta nods. "Right, yeah. And you can control the output now. You made that breakthrough."

Midoriya nods and looks down at his hands. “It's...weird,” he says, fiddling with Cat’s leash. “At the USJ, for the first time...I actually felt like I had complete control of Glitch, and not the other way around.”

Shouta digests this. Nods. “But you still can't turn it off.”

Midoriya shakes his head without hesitation. "No. Not even a little bit. Even being able to control the output like that is...it's hard. My Quirk is definitely broken; I just figured out how to work around some of the broken parts for it to work."

“Right. Well, you'll get there. You've made a great deal of progress already.”

Midoriya nods stiffly. Shouta eyes the dog for another long moment. "Cat," as Midoriya called him, has a gentle face and soft eyes—the complete opposite of Midoriya's many—many—cats. And Midoriya himself.
"There's something else I wanna talk to you about, Problem Child," Shouta says, moving aside, "before we start training." He sits atop a fallen beam that'd once held up one of these buildings, then pats the spot beside him.

Midoriya blinks, confused, but obliges, and he sinks down next to Shouta, holding Cat's lead in his lap. Cat sits right beside him.

"The sports festival is coming up in a few weeks," Shouta says, threading his fingers together loosely. "I don't know if you've already been informed of this, but you placed first in the entrance exam."

Midoriya frowns. "Really?"

"Yep, really." Shouta nods. "And, as such, it befalls on you to give the opening speech for the first year segment."

Shouta doesn't see it happen, but there's suddenly a pen in Midoriya's hand and he's drawing little swirls on his arm. "Is that so."

Shouta's brows furrow. "...Midoriya."

"Is that so."

"You don't have to." Midoriya stares at him, swirling the pen across his skin lazily, and Shouta continues; "I'm giving you an out, if you want one. The next student down could do it."

The pen doesn't stop. "Who's the next student down?"

"That would be Bakugou."

Midoriya's hand stills for a full second, and then it continues. "I don't know. I don't mind giving the speech, not really, I just...don't know right now."

As if on cue, Cat flops his head across Midoriya's lap, and Midoriya doesn't even stiffen, he just buries his fingers in the fur of Cat's neck. He still doodles with the other hand.

There’s nothing left to talk about, and deeming the conversation finished, Shouta rises to his feet. "Well, you've got time to make your decision," he determines, walking away. "Just try getting back to me on it by the end of the week, yeah?"

Midoriya swallows, but nods and gets to his feet. “As for Cat, about him and school…”

“I’ll talk to the rest of the teachers,” Shouta answers simply. “You said he’s your emotional support dog and gearing up to be a service dog later on. Granted he's behaved, there's no reason for them to say no.”

Midoriya nods. “Thank you.”

“Now.” Shouta turns toward him and meets his eyes. “Want to fire up your Quirk?”

Midoriya nods, though the movement is slightly more frantic than before. He pockets the pen, then looks down at the leash in his opposite hand. "Erm, would you mind...?"

Shouta replies by stretching out his hand. "Give it here."

Midoriya passes the leash to him, and Cat sits beside Shouta patiently while Midoriya steps away. The kid takes in a breath through his nose, leaves his eyes shut, and moments later, he calls his Quirk from within him.

Shouta lets it go for a total of three seconds. It doesn’t affect him as much now as it used to, especially considering that Midoriya is more comfortable and has a bit more control over it than he used to. When those seconds are up, Shouta focuses and forces back his Quirk.

Midoriya releases his breath and opens his eyes. The gold flickers away to green, although some speckles remain. Shouta meets his eyes and holds his gaze for a long, silent moment.

“...That was the easiest time I’ve ever had turning off your Quirk,” Shouta says.

Cat had made an effort to comfort Midoriya earlier when he was worried about giving the speech, but the dog stays where he is now, content.

Which means Midoriya must also be content.

The thought sends a spark through Shouta’s chest, and Midoriya’s eyes shine at the revelation. This time last year, just trying to get Midoriya to willingly turn on his Quirk took a lot of mental effort and emotional strain; but now he’d done it as easily as though he’d been born with it.

It’s progress. There’s only forward.

“...Let me know your final decision on the festival,” Shouta says, handing back the leash, which Midoriya takes readily. “The sooner you get back to me on that, the better.”

“I will,” Midoriya says, nodding. “Anything else?”

“Yeah, actually. I think it’s worth mentioning that you’re in the clear to bring your Quirk suppressants with you to the sports festival. Except, considering how hazardous they are in large doses, you should probably only use one for the entire duration of the festival.”

Midoriya blinks down at his hands. “...So unless you turn it off...I can only use my Quirk once.”

“Yep.” Shouta nods, settling a hand at his hip. “It’s not something you have to worry about, though. You never want to overthink stuff like this. You’ll be fine.”

Midoriya nods, but he seems distracted. For a long moment, he does nothing—and then, to Shouta’s surprise, he bows lowly.

“Thank you,” he says, and his voice breaks. “For everything.”

“Hey.” Shouta reaches out and nudges his shoulder, just enough to coax him out of the bow. “Don’t mention it, kid. I’ve got the easy job, here; I’m proud of you for the progress  you’ve made so far, even though it’s been hard. Let’s keep going like this, yeah?”

Midoriya blinks, long and slow, then nods eagerly. “Yeah. Let’s.”


[Kiri-chan]

Hey dude i’ve been thinking.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Fear

[Kiri-chan]
C’mon don’t be like that man. :(
Listen, I come to your house all the time, but I just realized that I never once actually invited you over to my house.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Suppose you haven’t.
To be fair, though, when you met me I barely wanted to go outside, let alone to someone else’s house.

[Kiri-chan]
Yeah but still I should have thought about it.
Do you wanna come over? Like, today?
Like maybe even right now?

[Midoriya Izuku]
I think Cat’s trainer is coming by either tonight or tomorrow.
I’ll ask Mom and get back to you on that.

[Kiri-chan]
Alrightee, sounds good.
Cya!

[Midoriya Izuku]
:)


Cat’s trainer is scheduled to come by that afternoon—but, on Mom’s advice and Izuku’s discomfort, he decides to accept Kirishima’s invitation.

“I heard from Kagami that Saito is a calm woman,” Mom had said when discussing this with him, Cat lying lazily on his dog bed, surrounded by kittens, “but I don’t know for how long she’s planning to be here. If you want to go over to Eijirou’s, if you think that’d be less stressful, then feel free.”

And that marks his final decision: he’ll go to Kirishima’s place until the trainer, Saito, is done with Cat’s first session. As beneficial as Izuku thinks it’d be for him to be there, he’s certain Mom can fill him in on Saito’s practices.

So he texted Kirishima back, and once Kirishima sent him his address, Izuku set out alone. Kirishima meets him about half-way, even though Izuku has directions; according to him, the neighborhood can be tricky to navigate, so it’s better to have someone there who already knows the way.

And now he’s on the front porch of Kirishima’s family home and he’s thinking that maybe he should’ve stayed home with Mom, trainer arriving or not. Kirishima is right beside him, sure, but he’d forgotten about one key aspect that he should’ve considered before.

Kirishima’s parents.

The house is small but the neighborhood is a good, well-kept one. It’s very homey and welcoming, so Izuku doesn’t know why he feels like he just swallowed rocks.

“It’s fine,” Kirishima says with a grin, fishing a set of keys from his pocket and unlocking the front door. “I told my parents a little bit about you. They ain’t gonna jump you or anything, so don’t worry about it. Except, there is something you need to know…”

Izuku is so stiff and tense at this point that someone could use him as a hat hook and he wouldn’t even think twice. “What is it.”

“I have...four dogs,” Kirishima answers, pulling the keys back and pocketing them. “Golden retrievers. They’re really sweet, but they’ll knock you on your butt if you aren’t careful. Is that okay, or...?”

Oh. Dogs. Dogs are the least of his worries. Give him wolves, those’ll be easier to interact with than Kirishima’s parents. Izuku doesn’t know why he feels so self-conscious about this all of a sudden; he’s never liked people, sure, but he’s so tense right now that someone could probably mistake him for a detailed mannequin.

“...Dude.” Kirishima pokes his shoulder. “It’s really okay. Just calm down a little, alright?”

Izuku doesn’t move. “Okie dokie.”

Kirishima raises an eyebrow at him, unconvinced—but then, he turns the knob and pushes the door open, heading inside. When he finds feeling in his legs again, Izuku follows him.

The front door leads straight into the living room, where dark, crimson-colored rugs cover bits of a smooth, hardwood floor. There’s a threadbare couch facing a widescreen TV on the far wall; an extinguished stone fireplace makes up part of the wall beside the couch. The house is well-lit. Pictures line the walls and sit on the fireplace’s mantle. It’s very homey.

“Mom! Dad! I’m back!” Kirishima hollers into the house, already yanking off his shoes by the door. Izuku follows his lead. “I brought Izuku!”

Izuku goes rigid again, and when he hears a set of quick, approaching footsteps, he contemplates how hard it would be to use his knives to dig his way to the other side of the world.

A woman steps from the hallway and into the front room, big, circular spectacles resting on the bridge of her nose. She has short, shaggy red hair and sparkling blue eyes, and her demeanor is easy-going and welcoming. She looks like she’s in her early twenties, but there’s no way that’s the case. Izuku’s shoulders go slack the moment he doesn’t pick up a sense of a threat from her.

“Hey, Mom!” Kirishima says immediately, beaming. He swings an arm around Izuku’s shoulder, no doubt sensing some of his discomfort and wanting to ease it. “This is Izuku, I told you and Dad about him before.”

The woman’s eyes flicker over to Izuku, who swallows hard and bows. “Thankyouforhavingme.”

“Oh, look at you!”

The woman’s voice is not what Izuku expected from that face. While the air she gives off is laid-back, her voice carries a sort of gentle, worried urgency that Izuku has never heard the likes of before.

By the time he raises his head, she’s approached, and she sizes him up, settling her hands on his shoulders and gazing into his eyes.

“You’re really pale,” she says, brows pinching together. “And you’re skin and bones, my goodness—come with me, I just made a batch of cookies. Eijirou, you too. Your father should be home soon, he took the dogs out...”

She spins on her heel and stalks off with this new purpose in mind, and Izuku turns wide eyes to look at Kirishima, who shrugs helplessly and smile-winces. They follow Kirishima’s mother into the kitchen, where they’re told to sit at the dining table (it’s huge compared to Izuku’s and Mom’s), and she brings over the entire plate of cookies and sets it in front of them.

“Take as much as you want!” she beams, standing back and putting her hands on her hips proudly, as though admiring her handiwork. “I’ll be in the study, give me a holler if you need anything!”

“Got it!” This is obviously very normal, because Kirishima grins with a thumbs-up. “Thanks, Mom!”

Izuku nods, fidgeting restlessly. “T-Thanks, Miss.”

“Ahh, none of that, dear,” she says, waving a hand with a soft smile. “Call me Haruka, please. Or even Aunt Haruka, if you’d like. Any friend of Eijirou’s is family to me!”

Izuku has no idea how to respond to that, so he nods, thanks her one final time, and she leaves them to their devices—namely, the plate of cookies that no two people should be physically capable of consuming on their own.

“...Your mom is nice,” Izuku says, and when Kirishima takes the first cookie, Izuku follows his lead. “She looks like she could be your big sister.”

Kirishima laughs and shakes his head. “She hears that all the time,” he says. “My parents were pretty young when they got married, and I came into the picture a little while after that.”

Izuku nods. “So, did you and your mom just...really like red hair, or…?”

Kirishima actually blushes and rubs the back of his neck. “Actually,” he says, sliding out of his chair to his feet (though he grabs a decent stack of at least seven cookies), “c’mere, there’s an entire story to that.”

Izuku takes a smaller amount of two cookies and follows Kirishima out of the kitchen and down the hallway. Doors line either sides of the hall, and Kirishima takes the third one on the right. A nameplate—spray-painted red on black wood—reads “Eijirou.”

“Welcome to my paradise,” Kirishima says, spreading wide his hands. “Or, as Mom likes to call it, my own little corner of hell.”

It certainly looks the part. Kirishima had never been a neat person, even slightly, and his room is the prime example. Clothes, books, a water gun, even, chess pieces, personalized cards to a game Izuku doesn’t recognize, are strewn across the room in disarray. The bed is unmade. There are pencils, pens, and open notebooks sprawled across the desk. Izuku doesn’t think it’d be possible to intentionally recreate such a mess, ever.

“Sorry about…” Kirishima gestures vaguely. “...Yeah.”

Izuku can only stare, completely discombobulated. He’s never been a neat-freak, but he isn’t sure he won’t start compulsively cleaning Kirishima’s room the second he turns his back.

“...This is fine,” Izuku intones.

“Well, I’m assuming the mess distracted you from the posters.”

Izuku turns to him, frowning, and Kirishima reaches over and hits the overhead lights. Izuku hadn’t even noticed how dark the room was at first; the mess had distracted him from that, too.

The walls are lined, almost floor to ceiling, with posters of the hero apparently named Crimson Riot. He certainly looks the part of “hero,” with a flowing cape and the kind of face that says a reassuring, “I’ve got this.” Just pictures of the hero ooze confidence and bravery on every bend.

And he has a head of bright red hair.

“He was...a huge inspiration to me,” Kirishima says embarrassedly, blushing again and rubbing the back of his neck. “Ever since I first saw a video of one of his fights online, I wanted to be just like him. So, I asked my mom about dying my hair, but I was super worried about it at first since, y’know, I’d never done it before. So she offered to do it with me, and, well, here we are.”

“That’s really sweet,” Izuku says, any last bits of tension finally leaving his shoulders. “That was nice of her to do that for you.”

“Yeah…” Kirishima smiles, looking up at one of the posters on the wall again. “She was supportive of me, no matter how crazy my hero obsession got. Man, Crimson Riot...he was so cool. I would’ve loved to meet him.”

Izuku blinks. “...‘Was’?”

“Well…” Kirishima deflates, and he looks up at one of the pictures sadly. “He’s been missing for years now. I never actually saw a live fight of him, just replays people put online. A lot of people think he’s dead, others say he’s just missing, but...y’know. Either way.”

Izuku steps up beside Kirishima, walking around a pile of laundry to do so. He looks up at the poster for a long moment, matching Kirishima’s gaze.

“Y’know, Kiri-chan, you’re an amazing hero already.”

Kirishima whirls around to stare at him, wide-eyed. “You’re kidding, man, c’mon.”

“No, I mean it,” Izuku says, turning to face him likewise. “I think you’re fantastic. Really brave.”

Kirishima doesn’t blush. He looks away; the look on his face goes from utterly mortified to doleful again. “I...disagree,” he says, meeting his gaze, “but...thanks, Izuku.”


Kirishima may have bested him at the endless run game, but Izuku is somehow better at Mario Kart, despite never playing the game before in his life. This frustrates Kirishima to no end, and Izuku hears him constantly murmuring to himself, wondering what it is about Izuku that makes him proficient at the game.

“There’s no way you can be that good at Rainbow Road!” Kirishima finally explodes when he’s had enough. “You said you never played it before, is that really true!? You can’t be a beginner and be this good at it!”

Izuku frowns at him. “What about beginner’s luck?”

Kirishima seems absolutely beside himself. “Beginner’s luck can’t beat Rainbow Road!”

Except, for some reason Izuku can. Rainbow Road is his favorite track out of all the ones they’ve played so far, so it’s thrilling to be good at it too.

Outside Kirishima’s tornado-aftermath of a room, Izuku hears a door open and shut, followed by a muffled voice hollering “I’m back!” into the house. Kirishima pauses their race and gets to his feet.

“That’s Dad,” he says, making for the door. “He’s been wanting to meet you for a while now, if you’re okay with that.”

“Uhm, okay.” Izuku sets down the controller and follows Kirishima toward the door, then out of the room and down the hallway.

Izuku doesn’t even have the chance to see Kirishima’s dad before he’s met by four huge, energetic, 50-some-pounds-each fluff balls that immediately run at him.

Izuku doesn’t even think about it; he leaps onto Kirishima’s back, just to be off the floor, and Kirishima laughs but calls the dogs off anyway.

“C’mon you guys, knock it off,” he says, shoving the first of the golden retrievers back. Izuku doesn’t let Kirishima go. “My friend’s kinda skittish. Go on, shoo.”

The dogs back down, and now that they aren’t nearly as crazy before, Izuku slides off Kirishima’s back. “My hero,” he murmurs; Kirishima replies with a goofy wink and a thumbs-up.

“Ahh, I’m real sorry about that.” A man steps towards them in the hallway, shoving off and shooing away the golden retrievers when they linger. “They always get excited about new people. I apologize.”

“It’s alright,” Izuku assures. “I like dogs, they just surprised me.”

The man smiles. He has an angular face, shaggy brown hair just a little longer than Haruka’s, and has a pair of rectangular glasses resting on his nose. He’s shorter than Kirishima, but still taller than Izuku.

“Dad, this is Midoriya Izuku,” Kirishima introduces, stepping aside. “He’s the friend I told you about.”

“Ahh, Izuku.” The man reaches out a hand, and Izuku tentatively shakes it. “It’s nice to finally put a face to the name, son. Eijirou never stops talking about you.”

Izuku turns to him; Kirishima grins and rubs the back of his neck. “What can I say,” Kirishima says. “You’re my best friend.”

It’s always been obvious, but warmth floods Izuku’s chest regardless.

“Well, it’s nice to finally meet you,” Kirishima’s dad says with a warm, welcoming smile. “Feel free to call me Takeda. Welcome to the family.”


Whether by coincidence or Kirishima’s planning, that night, Haruka calls the boys to the dinner table for katsudon. Izuku gives Kirishima a suspicious look the moment they’re sitting at the table, their bowls in front of them, and Kirishima pretends he doesn’t notice and instead takes up his chopsticks.

Haruka and Takeda join them at the table moments thereafter, and dinner begins in silence. Izuku isn’t sure whether or not it’s his place to break it; he’s only had dinner at his and mom’s house, and he really doesn’t know how to behave. Should he say something? Are they expecting him to say something? If so, what?

“So, Izuku, dear,” Haruka says, turning to him, “I hear you’ve been helping Eijirou with his studies for quite some time now.”

Oh, good, he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. He nods. “For the past year, almost,” Izuku replies. “Kiri-chan is...well, he’s trying his best.”

Kirishima sighs. “You can say I’m dumb, dude, it’s fine.”

“You’re not dumb.”

“Well, we appreciate it, son,” Takeda says warmly, smiling at him. “Eijirou has definitely learned a lot from you, we can tell.”

Izuku doesn’t know why, but he kind of feels like crying again. It seems ever since that breakthrough at the amusement park, his tear ducts have been raring to go. It’s frustrating, but also kind of relieving. Cathartic.

He holds back and nods. “Yeah. I’m really glad to have met Kiri-chan. And you two, also. You’re both…” He looks down at his hands. Scarred. Haruka and Takeda hadn’t looked at him like he was a walking disaster. They hadn’t even asked. “...You’re both very kind.”

Haruka and Takeda look at each other for a long moment, then turn back to him with soft smiles.

“We’re glad to have finally met you, dear,” Haruka says. “I hope the katsudon is alright. I don’t make it often, but Eijirou tells me it’s your favorite, so…”

Izuku side-eyes Kirishima, glowering. “I knew it.”

“What can I say!?” Kirishima shrieks, voice two pitches higher than it should be. He waves his hands about, ever the drama queen. “She asked if you had a favorite food, I just—!”

Izuku pokes Kirishima on the shoulder with the tip of one of his chopsticks. “Dude. I’m kidding. It’s fine.” And then, to Haruka, “Thank you. It’s delicious.”

She beams. “I’m glad!”


Eijirou had told them a lot about Izuku. From his skittish personality to his cat obsession, from his intelligence and determination to his pure heart and good intentions, Haruka thought she was prepared for when Eijirou finally wanted to have him over.

Except that’s when Eijirou began to act a bit odd. It was subtle, but Haruka caught all of it. Every nervous habit, every small stutter in his voice, every void moment when he thought of something to say. She caught it all.

“There’s, ahh, there’s one more thing you guys need to know about him, before he comes over…”

Haruka had dropped what she was doing, focusing all her attention on him. “What is it?” she’d asked, not overly concerned. If Izuku was friends with Eijirou, there couldn’t be anything terribly wrong with him.

“He’s, ahh…” Eijirou’s nervousness was showing more than ever, in the way that he shifted his weight, rubbed his neck, smiled nervously. “...He’s got a ton of scars. All over him. And he kind of...ugh, there’s no way I can put this nicely. He looks like he’s dead on his feet.”

Haruka hadn’t known what he meant, but she’d done her best to be prepared when the moment came. She’d thought she was ready.

She was wrong.

From the second she laid eyes on the boy, her heart ached. She’d never seen that many scars on heroes, or even on villains on TV before, and she’d watched a lot of TV with Eijirou when he was growing up. And this boy is sixteen, according to Eijirou. He’s the same age as her and Takeda’s boy.

It’d hurt to think about it, so she’d put it out of her mind.

Izuku is a sweetheart. She could tell he’s socially awkward, but he really does try his best. When they finish with dinner, he offers to help her clean up, asks if she needs help, and oh, whatever this boy had been through, he didn’t deserve a lick of it.

“It’s fine, dear,” she assures him with a smile, taking their bowls into the kitchen. “I’ll take care of it. Eijirou, don’t worry about your chores for tonight. I’ll handle it.”

“Really!?” Eijirou exclaims, shooting up from his chair with wide eyes, and Takeda chuckles while Haruka only shakes her head. “Oh cool! C’mon, Izuku, I’m so beating you at Rainbow Road, just you wait—”

He takes Izuku by the hand (hesitantly, Haruka notices) and leads him away.

“Thank you for dinner, Haruka-san,” Izuku says to her over his shoulder as he’s dragged off, and Haruka smiles right up until Eijirou and Izuku turn the corner and disappear from sight. After that, she drops her smile, but waits until she hears the bedroom door close before speaking.

“...Takeda…”

Her husband sighs longly and shakes his head. He, too, has dropped his smile. “That poor kid,” he says, glancing at the hallway. “I’m glad he and Eijirou have each other, but…”

Haruka swallows hard and nods, the ache returning to her chest. Despite her fear of knowing, she can’t help but wonder what Izuku actually went through.


“Oh, boy—come on, you guys, you know you’re not supposed to be in here!”

“Maybe this is half the reason why the room is such a mess,” Izuku says. The four golden retrievers are being pushed out of the bedroom by Kirishima, and judging by Kirishima’s exasperation, this has obviously happened before. “Y’know. The dogs keep invading it.”

“That’s not it, man, it’s all me,” Kirishima says. “They’re just—Fetch, no, gimme that!”

The golden retriever in question had snatched up one of Kirishima’s shoes and is trying to make a break for it, but is blocked by the other three dogs trying to make their way out. Kirishima wrestles the shoe from the dog’s jaws, then shuts the door behind all four of them and leans against it with a heaving sigh.

“That was fun,” Kirishima says dryly, his tone of voice suggesting it was anything but. He tosses the shoe aside again and wipes the slobber on his jeans. “Sorry about them.”

“It’s fine,” Izuku says, then frowns. “Did you really name one of them Fetch?”

“I was six,” Kirishima answers, crossing the room. Izuku follows. “My dad named Rocky, I named Kazoo—I was little, stop looking at me like that—you have a white cat named Rainbow I’m taking no crap from you—and my mom named the fourth Max.” He pauses, frowns. “Stop looking at me like that.”

“I like the names,” Izuku says, “I was just trying to imagine a six year old you naming two dogs ‘Fetch’ and ‘Kazoo.’”

“DON’T DO THAT!” Kirishima swings a pillow at him in disdain, and Izuku doesn’t see it fast enough to duck. The pillow hits him square in the face, and when it falls, Izuku narrows his eyes.

“So that’s how it is.”

Izuku yanks a second pillow off the floor and smacks Kirishima with it. Kirishima’s howl is muffled by the hit, and with a grin, he swings his own pillow at Izuku’s face again.

“You can never win!” Kirishima shrieks, but he’s still grinning. He pulls back the pillow, ready to swing again. “Give up or face the wrath of the pillow!”

Izuku’s eyes blow wide. “Kiri-chan, wait—!”

His sudden change of tone is enough to make Kirishima stop dead in his tracks. He lowers his arms back down to his sides, suddenly worried. “Crap, did I trigger something? Are you oka—”

Izuku smacks Kirishima in the face with the pillow. Kirishima shrieks and flails backwards, landing on his bed.

“THAT WAS DIRTY!” Kirishima cries, glaring, and Izuku laughs.

It surprises them both. It isn’t quite a laugh, not like Izuku’s heard from his friends, and it doesn’t last more than about three seconds, but it’s still a laugh. Kirishima stares at him, wide-eyed, and Izuku stares back.

“...You…” Kirishima’s voice carries as much shock and wonder as his face, and Izuku nods, dumbfounded.

“...I...think I did?”

A beat. Izuku stares, wondering, disbelieving. Slowly, Kirishima’s face splits into a wide, brilliant smile.

“BUDDY!!”

Kirishima lunges at him, and Izuku had kind of seen it coming, but that doesn’t prepare him for the impact. Kirishima tackles him in a hug, and when Izuku shifts a foot back to compensate for the added weight, he slips on a pen on the floor, and they both wind up in a heap on the ground.

The wind is gone from Izuku’s chest, but he doesn’t even care. Kirishima moves quickly, getting off him, and Izuku sits up beside him, staring out at nothing.

“Sorry about that, dude, but—I think you actually smiled for a second,” Kirishima says breathlessly, and the grin doesn’t fall from his face. “Dude. Dude do you have any idea how happy I am right now?”

“You just tackled me,” Izuku says, “so I think so. But...I’m...I’m pretty happy, too. I think. I’m...kind of weirded out, to be honest.”

Kirishima lets out a rush of breath. “Yeah me too. But it’s a good kind of weirded out, right?”

Izuku looks down at his hands, at his scars. “...Yeah. It’s a good kind of weirded out.”

Kirishima goes silent for a time. “Hey, Izuku...I think you should stay the night. And you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he adds quickly, “I just thought it’d be nice. Y’know. To hang out some more.”

Izuku ponders this. He likes Kirishima’s parents, and he doesn’t get any bad vibes from them. “I’ll ask Mom,” he says, nodding. “I don’t think she’ll mind. If she’s okay with it, and of course if your parents are okay with it, then...I’ll stay the night.”

Kirishima’s smile returns in an instant. “Awesome!” he says, a bit too loudly. “Aw, yeah, sleepover! I’m gonna beat you at least once on Rainbow Road, I promise you that.”

Izuku exhales sharply through his nose and gets to his feet, dragging his phone from his back pocket. “I’m gonna call Mom real quick. I’ll be right back.”

“Alrighty,” Kirishima says, nodding, and Izuku turns to leave. “Hey, dude, one second.”

Izuku looks back over his shoulder. “What’s up?”

Kirishima bites his lip for a moment, uncertain, but when a smile makes its way to his face once more, it’s soft and genuine. One of the realest Izuku’s ever seen.

“I only saw it for, like, a split second,” Kirishima says, “but you have a really nice smile.”

A lump leaps into Izuku’s throat, one he can’t swallow back. “...Thank you.”

As he leaves to call Mom, Izuku only wishes he could do it again.


It’s an immediate yes from her. That’s the information Izuku returns to Kirishima with. Kirishima had done his part, too, clearing it with his folks, and they were in the all-clear. A full-blown sleepover was in order.

“You can borrow some of my clothes,” Kirishima offers, dragging down a ton of blankets from the top shelf of his closet. “I have a couple hoodies, I think. Everything else would probably look huge on you, but hoodies kinda always look like that anyway.”

Izuku nods, but that’s not what’s on his mind now. “Umm...where are you gonna put the blankets?”

Kirishima turns around, arms full, and only realizes now that there isn’t a clear patch on the floor where he could get Izuku settled. “...Oh,” he says, setting the blankets down. “Uhh, I could probably clear a space or something…”

“You said your dogs invaded the room all the time,” Izuku remarks. “I think I’d sooner sleep in the closet than on the floor.”

Kirishima side-eyes him in a very “are you serious” kind of manner. “You’re not sleeping in the closet, Izuku. We could share my bed. It’s not like we haven’t done it before.”

That’s a more preferred idea. With their sleeping arrangements settled, Izuku beats Kirishima at Mario Kart a couple dozen more times before they decide to crash for the night. Izuku ends up accepting Kirishima’s offer at a hoodie—one that’s a shade of red twice as dark as Kirishima’s hair, with a white, meaningless 15 on the back of it.

“Found it at a thrift store,” is Kirishima’s explanation as he tosses a couple extra blankets onto the bed. “Dunno what it means. Some sports team, probably.”

Probably. The hoodie is huge on him, but that’s also part of what makes it nice. Before long, he and Kirishima are settled on opposite sides of the bed, covered in blankets, and it’s only when the lights are out that Izuku looks up at the ceiling and notices the vast array of glow-in-the-dark star stickers.

He snorts. “You weren’t kidding when you said you had a lot of them.”

On the other side of the bed, he hears Kirishima shift and groan. “What can I say, man, they look cool.”

“They do.” Izuku stares up at them a while longer. It’s so different than the pattern of the stars in his own room, which he’s sure he’ll have ingrained in the backs of his eyelids forever, and the atmosphere of the room is odd and different and there’s not a cat in reach, but Kirishima is here. Kirishima is here, and something about that makes everything okay.

“Oh, uh, real quick—”

Kirishima shifts again, and when Izuku’s eyes adjust, he sees Kirishima’s silhouette in the darkness. He’s sitting up. “I hate to ask this, but...your Quirk suppressants, do you have them on you…?”

“They’re in the pocket of my other hoodie,” Izuku answers. “On your desk chair.”

“Okay, good to know.” Kirishima settles down again. “Sorry, I just, y’know—I’m not saying I think you’ll have an episode, but—just in case—”

“Yeah, I getcha. Thanks. Goodnight, Kiri-chan.”

“Night, dude.”

Izuku looks back up at the stars again, organized much differently than his own, and when the wave of contentedness hits him, it drags him down into a peaceful slumber.


Eijirou isn’t sure what wakes him up at first. He’s always been a sound sleeper; Mom has joked several times that he’s practically a corpse once he falls asleep. Alarm clocks don’t work. They never have. He doubts they ever will.

Except, he does wake up in the middle of the night, blinking at his star-covered ceiling. There’s no loud noise, no one shaking him or yelling in his ear. Izuku isn’t screaming. The dogs haven’t burst into his room to clammer into bed with him (this has happened at least a dozen times. Eijirou still has no idea how they got through the closed door), so there’s no reason why he should be awake right now.

But he is, and a second later, he realizes that Izuku is trembling beside him. His half asleep mind registers this as a passing thought, like a pass the salt kind of comment. But then the thought sinks in a bit further, penetrates that exhausted haze, and then suddenly he’s wide awake and sitting up.

His first thoughts go panic attack, which wouldn’t surprise him, and he reaches around, finds Izuku’s shoulder in the darkness, and gives him a soft but firm shake. “Hey.” He keeps his voice low; one thing he’s realized over past experiences is that if Izuku is in the thralls of some kind of nightmare, the last thing Eijirou should do is raise his voice. “Hey, buddy. Are you okay?”

“Y-Yeah.” Something isn’t quite right about Izuku’s voice, though. “I-I’m fine, d-don’t worry.”

It’s only when Eijirou stops and listens closer that he hears quiet chattering in the darkness—very quiet, but very much there.

“Dude, are—are you cold?”

“K-Kinda,” Izuku says, but he pulls one of the blankets tighter around himself. That, and his chattering teeth betray him tenfold. “I-I didn’t r-realize how m-much the c-cats h-helped.”

A wave of relief washes over him and soothes his fear. This is okay. This is something he can fix. “You should’ve said something sooner, man, c’mere.”

He lifts his arm, and Izuku immediately curls against his side, resting his head on Eijirou’s shoulder. Eijirou settles his arm around Izuku again and shuts his eyes. “Man, you’re really shivering, huh. I could grab some more blankets…?”

Izuku shakes his head. Eijirou feels it more than sees it. “I-I’ll be f-fine,” he says, and already, his tremors have began to dissipate. That’s good. “T-Thanks.”

“It’s fine,” Eijirou assures him, smiling softly. “Don’t even worry about it.”

Izuku falls asleep before him, once he finally stopped shivering, and it’s only after that that Eijirou finally allows himself to return to his own sleep.


Izuku goes home the next morning, after thanking Haruka, Takeda, and Kirishima profusely for their hospitality. Kirishima waves him off while Haruka and Takeda say that it’s no trouble at all and they’re glad to have him anytime. With a final bow and one more thank-you—and plans to go down to the soda shop with Kirishima later that day—Izuku heads home.

“Mom? I’m home.” Izuku pulls off his shoes by the door before heading further into the apartment. The weirdest thing so far is perhaps the fact that he hasn’t been greeted by any of his cats yet. Cat—the dog, yes—is nowhere to be seen as well.

It concerns him. “...Mom?”

“I’m in the living room, Izuku.”

There’s something about her tone that makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. She doesn’t sound angry or frustrated. He doesn’t know how to describe that tone of voice. But she definitely doesn’t sound like herself, and that alone is worrisome.

He reaches the living room. She’s sitting on the couch, like she’s been waiting for him this entire time, and she certainly doesn’t look happy. “Izuku, please. Sit down for a moment. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“...Okay.” Izuku sits down beside her. “What is it?”

Mom takes in a deep breath. “I don’t mind you keeping cats, Izuku, I really don’t,” she says, shaking her head, “but you need to tell me about it first.”

“...Alright?” Izuku blinks twice in rapid session. “...I do tell you? I haven’t brought a cat home that I haven’t told you about.”

Mom takes in a deep breath, lets it out slowly, then rises to her feet. “I’m not saying you’re lying,” she says, “because I know you aren’t like that, but...take a look at this.”

He follows her, and she swings open the door of his room. He peers inside.

He doesn’t even want to count how many cats are in his room. There are the thirteen resident cats, but aside from them, there are at least ten brand-new ones that Izuku has never seen before. Except, “ten” is a nice estimate; there are probably more like fifteen new cats. They turn to greet the moment they see him, a chorus of mrrows in harmony with each other, all different tones and pitches.

“Izuku.” Mom looks him dead in the eyes. “I don’t know where they keep coming from. I know I said we could keep the strays you find, but this is just too much.”

Izuku is dragged out of his holy crap there are so many cats high by the strain in Mom’s voice. “Mom, I promise you, I didn’t bring in the other cats,” he assures her, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t do that without telling you first, you know I wouldn’t.”

“I know,” Mom says, shaking her head again, “but I really don’t know what else to think, Izuku. It’s just you and me here—and I don’t bring home stray cats.”

Izuku opens his mouth to plead his case again, but that’s when he notices the front door creak open, slowly. Mom has her back turned to the door, so she doesn’t see Cat sneak through the crack silently, with three tiny blobs curled in the fur of his back.

Izuku stares. “...Mom.”

She doesn’t notice. “I know how much you love cats, Izuku, but you could always take them to the shelter. You don’t have to bring them here—”

“Mom.”

“—And I’m not trying to blame you, sweetheart, I just don’t see how else the cats could have gotten here—”

“Mom.”

“—And I don’t mind you bringing home cats, really, I don’t, but you have to let me know—”

Just when Izuku thinks he’s getting absolutely nowhere, Cat walks between them. Mom falls silent, staring. Izuku stares, too. Cat ignores them and walks through the door of Izuku’s room, lays down to let his three feline passengers disembark, then gets up once more and leaves the room, just like that.

Mom raises her head, and Izuku meets her eyes.

“...There is no way,” Mom says, eyes wide. “What is it about us and cats recently, Izuku?”

“Ask him,” Izuku says, pointing at Cat as he makes for the front door again. “He’s the one you really need answers from.”

While Mom spins on her heel and dashes to lock the front door before Cat leaves again to return with more strays, Izuku can’t help but feel elated. Even though he’s sure a lot of the new kittens will wind up at the local shelter, well, he’ll at least have a few days in which his room is filled with thirty-some cats.

When he thinks about it, he whips out his phone and snaps a picture at the inside of his room. There’s no way Kirishima would believe him otherwise.

Chapter Text

Naomasa is the only member of the police force that Shouta genuinely gets along with. Everyone else is either too scared of him, or he has a personal dislike of them. Which is why, when he receives a call from Naomasa the week leading up to the sports festival, he doesn’t groan or heave at the thought of having a long conversation over the phone and instead picks up.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Hey, Aizawa,” Naomasa greets, but he sounds very drawn. “Sorry for calling you out of the blue like this. You know it’s not my style.”

“Sure. What’s the problem?”

Naomasa sighs. “Well, I’ll just cut right to the chase. You mentioned that Midoriya Izuku and the villain, ‘Shigaraki Tomura’ shared a history, right?”

“Yeah,” Shouta answers simply, not beating around the bush either. “I don’t know much, though, so if you want the full story you’re going to have to go to the kid. But don’t pressure him into it. He doesn’t respond well to pressure.”

“No, it’s fine, there’ll be none of that,” Naomasa says quickly. “I just wanted to confirm something with you.”

“Alright.”

“You said he called the villain Tenko, correct?”

“Yep. The villain corrected him and said his name was Shigaraki Tomura, but you already know that.”

“Alright, thanks. He didn’t mention a surname?”

“No.”

“Alright, thank you.” He hears something like a pen scratching paper on the other line. “I might bring Midoriya-kun in later to ask him a few questions—the more we have to go by in this investigation, the better—but thanks for your time. Just wanted to confirm that with you.”

“No problem,” Shouta says. “Is that it?”

“Ahh, nearly. The only other thing I wanted to mention is that we ran a DNA test with Shigaraki’s finger, but there weren’t any results. It was like the time we tried running Izuku’s DNA through it. It’s like he doesn’t exist.”

“...Huh.” Shouta frowns. “That’s odd. Do you think it’s been tampered with?”

“We’re looking into that,” Naomasa says, “but it’s going to take some time either way.”

“Alright. Is that it, now?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Thanks for your time. Be sure to let me know if you find anything else.”

“Vice versa,” Shouta says. “Goodbye.”

He hangs up without another word and sits back with a sigh. Midoriya’s situation is too damn complicated for its own good.


“SPORTS FESTIVAL!”

Izuku has half a mind to slap one of his post-it notes over Kaminari’s mouth, and refrains only because he needs those post-it notes and if he wastes one every time Kaminari says something stupid, he’d be out within the day.

From the moment Aizawa announced the U.A. Sports Festival to the rest of the class, everyone was in a state of joyous, anxious panic. Some whooped and cheered, some declared war on each other, some determined to be the best. Others explained the whole thing to those who didn’t know how it worked.

Aizawa’s words are still fresh in his mind regarding him giving the opening speech, and he’s had plenty of time to think about it since they discussed it. He’s sure that, by the end of the day, he’ll have a concrete answer for his teacher.

Izuku doesn’t have Cat with him today; there’s still a lot his trainer wants to teach him before officially deeming him Izuku’s emotional support dog, and while Cat will be able to stay with Izuku over the Sports Festival, leading up to that, Saito—Cat’s trainer—wants to work with him as much as she can. Which is perfect; the teachers are still working on their official permission slip for Izuku, so he has to wait on that as well.  

Kirishima arrives late to lunch that day, sliding into his usual spot on the bench long after the rest of the group arrived. He mutters something about “getting held up,” but the words are said so under his breath that Izuku can’t really make them out clearly.

“Is something the matter, Kirishima-chan?” Tsuyu asks, tapping a finger against her cheek. “You usually aren’t this quiet.”

“Oh, I’m fine,” Kirishima says, taking up his chopsticks as though to prove it. “All Might wanted to talk to me about the Sports Festival for a sec, but that’s all.”

“I’m super excited about the Sports Festival,” Ochako says with a smile, chopsticks held between her fingers. “I’m gonna do my best!”

Me too, Kouda agrees, nodding, and while the others aside from Kirishima and Izuku can’t understand him, the smile on his face makes his intentions clear.

“Hey, that reminds me.” Kirishima nudges Izuku’s shoulder with his own, and Izuku turns to him, curious. “Aizawa said something about you giving the speech, didn’t he?”

Izuku turns back and stares at his plate. “Yeah. I came first in the entrance exam, so…”

“You did?” Tsuyu asks, leaning over to look at him. “That’s pretty amazing, Izu-chan. Good job.”

“Thanks,” Izuku says, “but I’m not sure I wanna give the speech…”

“It’s fine if you don’t want to,” Iida says, then takes up his chopsticks as though to say he won’t argue his point further. “If it makes you uncomfortable, then let Aizawa know. I’m sure he wouldn’t force you to do it. On the other hand, if you do decide to do it, we’ll all be behind you.”

The others agree with nods of their own, and Izuku feels like a weight is lifted from his shoulders. It’s amazing how such simple words could have such big impact.

“Thanks,” he says, lifting his head to regard each of them in turn. “I’ll do my best not to let you down.”

Kirishima ruffles his hair, and the others mirror each other’s smiles and continue their lunch.


“So it’s a yes, then?”

Izuku nods. Aizawa studies him for a long moment, looking into his eyes; on the couch of the teacher’s lounge behind him, Rainbow, Teacup, and Muffins (one of the new kittens) explore the area.

“I’ve thought long and hard about it,” Izuku says, “and I think I do want to give the speech at the Sports Festival. I might not really know what to say, right now, but...I want to do it.”

“Alright.” Aizawa doesn’t question him or ask for further clarification. “Just let me know if you change your mind at the last second. Now hurry back to class. Come get me if you need me."

Izuku nods and leaves with a bow.

The walk back to Classroom 1-A is uneventful; they still have some time before their next lesson, so he's in no hurry.

Except, when he gets there, his classmates are—unknowingly—talking about him.

"I'm still trying to figure out just why the villains at the USJ just dropped like they did," Sero is saying, forehead creased. His frown and confusion reach his eyes. "Was it someone's Quirk? Kaminari?"

Kaminari puts up his hands. "Don't look at me, I was brain dead half the time we were fighting," he says. "Besides, my Quirk wouldn't've been able to reach everyone in the USJ anyway."

"So, who—?"

"That was my fault."

Everyone turns to look at him, wide-eyed, and Izuku replies with a careless shrug.

"My Quirk has a long range when I push it past its limit," Izuku explains simply, and finds it odd that he's able to do so. "And it's hazardous to my health, too, unfortunately."

"Wait, so that's why you were in the hospital for so long?" Ashido asks, eyes wide.

Izuku nods.

"Wow," Jirou says, looking at him with what seems to be a mashup of awe, respect, and terror. "Your Quirk is pretty amazing, Midoriya. Why didn't you use it before during training?"

"It's broken," Izuku replies simply, finally crossing over to his desk. He can feel everyone's eyes bearing into his back. "I can't turn it off once it's on, so I try not to use it unless the situation is dire."

"Oh, that makes sense," Shouji says, nodding. "Still, the fact that you were hurt so badly by your own Quirk is...concerning, to say the least."

"That's why I try not to use it," Izuku intones as he slides into the desk chair. "If I can avoid turning it on, at least."

The others don't have time to say anything else; their teacher has arrived, and they launch into their next class.


A full week before the Sports Festival, Izuku take that picture of his room and forwards it to Iida.

[Midoriya Izuku]
[attachment.photo]
Know anyone who wants a kitten

[Iida Tenya]
Midoriya I'm sorry but why in the name of sanity do you have so many cats.

[Midoriya Izuku]
I brought 13 home and my dog brought the other 18 when we weren't looking.
I'm trying to find homes for them amongst my classmates before just throwing them to the shelter.

[Iida Tenya]
...
Alright, I'll forward it to the others. In fact, let me make a special group chat for this cause.

[Midoriya Izuku]
Okie dokie

True to his word, moments later, Izuku gets a notification saying he's been invited to join a chat room titled "Cats For Adoption." He quickly accepts the invite and hops into the chat.

[MESSAGING “CATS FOR ADOPTION”]

[Iida Tenya]
[attachment.photo]
This is Midoriya’s doing, not mine.

[Ashido Mina]
SWEI:OASDLSAD;ALSD:SD
C A T S

[Midoriya Izuku]
I’ll edit the photo and draw circles around the ones that are mine but the rest of them are up for adoption.
Any takers?

[Ashido Mina]
A L L

[Hagakure Toru]
OH MY GOSH
LET ME ASK MY DAD REAL FAST
I’M
SJKLSDJFKLSDF

[Sero Hanta]
uhh, if the girls don’t take all of them my family and I have been wanting a cat for a while. we have a horrible mouse problem.

[Kouda Kouji]
I love cats!! I’ll take one!! ^ . . ^

[Midoriya Izuku]
You can take more than one if you want. ^ . . ^

[Kouda Kouji]
^ . . ^  ^ . . ^

[Midoriya Izuku]
^ . . ^  ^ . . ^ ^ . . ^

[Jirou Kyouka]
The cats are taking over.

[Kaminari Denki]
^ . . ^

[Uraraka Ochako]
^ . . ^

[Ashido Mina]
^ . . ^

[Kirishima Eijirou]
^ . . ^

[Tsuyu]
^ . . ^

[Yaoyorozu Momo]
^ . . ^

[Jirou Kyouka]
Asjdklasd, why did I think saying that was a good idea.

[Midoriya Izuku]
^ . . ^

In the end, amongst his classmates, Izuku is able to find good homes for each of the stray kittens brought in by Cat. They're nothing more than strays—no shots, unfixed kittens. But the classmates who wanted them don't seem to mind; they said they'd make sure the kittens got their shots and that Izuku could come visit whenever he wanted.

It's nice to know they're getting good homes amongst people Izuku already knows. And of course Izuku keeps the resident 13 cats, and that's nice, too.

The week leading up to the sports festival flies by like an arrow. Izuku and Kirishima bump into Yatchi again, who has grown considerably since they last played catch with her. Instead of throwing a frisbee around, she wants to tie little braids and ribbons into their hair, and of course, Izuku and Kirishima could never say no to that face. Cat, who is with Izuku at the time, also goes home with a bow on his collar.

There's something else leading up to the sports festival that concerns him. He goes to his vent forest every so often, but there are more new scratches than ever. Gashes through the bark in the tree that Izuku didn't put there.

Kirishima's knife has a piece of paper in the hilt leading him here, but it would seem he hasn't found it yet, which leaves only one other person.

When Izuku sees Todoroki at school, the day before the sports festival. The “threat to himself” is stronger than ever.

And when the day of the festival actually arrives, it's even stronger than that.


The stadium is packed when Izuku and his classmates wait in the prep room for their class to be announced. To his knowledge, they have ten minutes before go time. Ten minutes to collect themselves and soothe their frayed, anxious nerves.

Izuku especially is glad for Cat’s presence. He can’t take Cat with him on the field and will be leaving him with Aizawa shortly before going out with the others to face the audience. Mom is in the audience watching, along with Kirishima’s parents, who, according to Kirishima, said that they “wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

While having Mom in the audience is comforting, and Cat’s head against his leg is equally so, Izuku still can’t shake his jitters. He’s been shaking almost non-stop since sitting down, and while Cat’s presence has helped, it hasn’t fixed the problem altogether. He’d been confident while talking with Aizawa a week prior, but now that the day has finally come, he isn’t sure.

“Hey.” It’s Tsuyu who pokes him on the shoulder, and Izuku regards her with a tired scowl. She knows him well enough to not take personal offense to it. “You gonna be okay?”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” Izuku says, nodding, but he says it like he’s asking a question. “Slight chance I’m gonna make a run to the bathroom and throw up.”

“Ohh boy.” Satou grimaces. “Y’know, I wouldn’t be so worried about it. I know you’re giving the speech to thousands of people, not to mention all the people watching at home—”

Jirou kicks him in the shin before he can finish speaking his mind, and Satou howls and holds his offended leg. “You’re making it worse,” Jirou hisses through her teeth, not apologetic at all. “Just, shut up for now.”

“No, it’s fine,” Izuku says, shaking his head. “I’m sure I’ll be okay once I get out there, but my mind is going a million miles an hour right now.”

The others leave him alone after that—no one else wants to face Jirou’s wrath—and a part of Izuku wants them to keep talking to him. It’s a nice distraction from his thoughts, at least.

“Midoriya.”

And that’s when Todoroki walks up to him, his demeanor screaming “threat to himself” like a broken record. Izuku lifts his head, fingers buried in Cat’s fur, doodles and scribbles drawn in multi-colored ink up the length of his forearms.

“Yeah?”

Todoroki’s face doesn’t change. “I appreciate what you’ve done for me,” he says curtly, “but I don’t want you to get it in your head that we’re friends. I’m not going to pull punches or give you special treatment.”

It’s actually kind of relieving to hear this, and it gives him something else to focus on that isn’t his speech—which is due in less than five minutes. “Good,” Izuku says, nodding shortly. “Don’t expect me to pull punches, either.”

Todoroki turns away, and Izuku turns Todoroki’s words over in his head a few times, fully digesting them.

It’s a good thing he’s not pulling punches. Izuku would be truly insulted if he did.

A whirring buzzer calls the students to the stadium moments later, and led by Iida, they disembark.


As much as Izuku absolutely loves warmth and light, the sun seems to beat down on him like one gigantic spotlight as he and his friends step out of the corridor and onto the field. The rest of U.A.’s students have already been announced as Class 1-A files through. The roaring of the crowd makes Izuku’s ears ring, and he has to remind himself that Mom’s in the crowd, Kirishima’s here, Cat’s with Aizawa, it’s gonna be okay, it’s gonna be okay —holy crap there’s a lot of people—

Kouda slides up to him and pats his shoulder, and it gives Izuku just enough of a reality check to derail his spiraling train of thought.

They file in and stand in line with the rest of the students. Izuku is immediately intimidated by the sheer amount of people here. Walking down the street is one thing, but it’s like the whole of Japan has showed up to watch the event. It makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and his skin crawl.

The pro hero, Midnight, steps onto the stage before them and announces the first years once the crowd finally stills. Her voice is loud yet lively, perfect for an event such as this, but it’s all pointless noise to Izuku’s ears. He can’t make out anything she says.

—Or, he can’t, right up until he hears his name, followed by something about a speech.

It’s his cue.

Kirishima gives him a small, encouraging bump on the shoulder, and it urges Izuku forward, towards the stage. He’s small enough to be able to squeeze between students without stopping or asking them to move, and then he’s making his way up the steps toward the stage, with the eyes of thousands upon him.

“Good luck, kid,” Midnight says with a grin, and she steps back to let Izuku take the glory. He wishes she wouldn’t. He doesn’t really want to be left alone in this spotlight with the crowd staring him down. <