It isn’t bad, and he’s definitely had a lot worse, but it’s enough to leave a mark—physically and otherwise. Spraining his ankle has become something of a norm for him; he’s constantly dodging (and failing to dodge) Bakugou’s hits and ending up bruised and scraped on the sidewalk (or asphalt, depending on where exactly he was cornered).
And now he’s limping. Again. He’s hyper aware of every bruise and scrape as he makes his way home, clutching one of his notebooks against his chest. The papers are frayed, and the edges of the front and back covers are charred. Bakugou treats his notebooks just as badly as he treats Izuku, which…
Yeah. Not a good thing.
The worst part of it is probably the fact that Izuku has absolutely no idea what he’s going to tell his mother—or, rather, how he’s going to hide this from his mother. She’s always had her suspicions, but she’s never been able to actually catch anything yet, and he’d rather keep it that way.
But how. That’s the problem.
He’s weak. He’s already accepted this much. But he would far rather pretend everything’s okay and keep up a persona. Try his best to make people believe he isn’t the weakling everyone thinks he is. Try to disprove Bakugou.
Regardless, there’s nothing he can do now, so he heads home. Maybe he can tell his mother that he tripped again. It wouldn’t technically be a lie. The reason his ankle is messed up now is because he’d moved it wrong when trying to dodge one of Bakugou’s punches. So technically, he could blame this on his own klutzy-ness, and chances are, she wouldn’t question it.
But then there’s the burns. He’s not sure how he’s going to be able to keep those from her.
Tears sting his eyes, and he ducks into an alley and leans against the cold brick wall. Closing his eyes, holding his notebooks tighter against his chest, he tries to get ahold of himself.
It doesn’t work. It never works.
Maybe he’s trying too hard for nothing. Maybe nothing he’ll do will ever amount to anything.
Maybe Bakugou is right about him.
Maybe “nothing” is all he’ll ever be.
He sinks to the ground and draws his knees against his chest, sandwiching his notebook between his legs and his stomach. His forehead rests against his knees, arms wound around his legs.
Once more, he tries to get ahold of himself. He’s somewhat more successful this time. Reassurances barely make a difference anymore, but nowadays, reassurances are all he has. Even if they're just from himself and even if he doesn't fully believe them.
"You're fine, you're fine," he grinds out through gritted teeth, tugging at his hair. "You said you'd prove him wrong, didn't you? You have to prove him wrong."
He raises his head, staring at the far wall of the alley. His eyes burn with tears, but he doesn’t let them fall.
I won’t be a weakling.
Izuku’s head snaps up his feet underneath him, carrying him backward. He clutches the spine of his notebook so tightly that it leaves an indent on his skin. The voice—unfamiliar, deep—had come from the shadows near the end of the alleyway. Izuku can’t see who it is, and the more time passes, the harder and faster his heart begins to pound.
“Oh, I’m sorry, child…” He hears a footstep as the figure shuffles forward. It sounds almost like they’re limping. “I didn't mean to frighten you. I apologize.”
Izuku bares his teeth against the tears burning his eyes, and he knows he should get out of here before something actually happens, but the smarter part of him knows that he can’t run. Not with the state his ankle is in. And if this is a villain, running might be just what they want him to do.
He takes a small step backward, edging towards the light. He wonders if screaming would be worth it. The stranger hasn’t moved or spoken again.
“What do you want?” Izuku asks with bravery he doesn’t have. “Who are you?”
“I want to talk,” says the weird voice in the shadows, and it triggers an immediate fight or flight response and Izuku has no idea how the stranger had ever thought he’d agree to it.
"I don't want to talk to you," Izuku says, shaking his head feverishly. "Whatever you want from me, I don't have it. No one'll care if you put me up for a ransom, I'm just—"
"Ransom wasn't exactly what I had in mind, child."
The urge to run is getting stronger and stronger but deep down he knows. The stranger has a voice like the moon holding back tides. There's power behind that voice, a controlled power, a power that Izuku has no chance against.
There aren’t many people out right now. The sidewalk had been mostly abandoned as he made his way down it, which was great at the time, because he hadn’t wanted to draw any unnecessary attention to himself with the whole “limping and bruised” thing, but now, he wishes he’d stayed in a more central part of the city. A safer part of the city. Where would he even run to all the way out here?
“My boy, are you thinking about running?”
Izuku’s head snaps up again and he blurts out, “No,” and it sounds like a lie, even to him. “I-I mean, it’s... it’s not like I can, actually, I mean—” His mind whirs and spins like a car without traction. There's nowhere for him to run, no one to hear him if he screams. He wonders where the heroes are. He wonders where anyone is.
“If you want to leave, feel free to do so any time.”
Izuku's thoughts skid to a screeching halt, but he doesn't let it show. He bares his teeth to keep himself from shaking. “How do I know you’re not just saying that?” he shoots, inching back just a little further and praying there’s someone, anyone, nearby who can help him if he called.
“I’m not trying to harm you,” the voice says, still lowly but softly. “I’m merely here to offer you a proposition. However, if you would rather not listen and aren’t interested, feel free to leave. I will not pursue you.”
"Who are you?"
It's blurted as a desperate something, anything, to stall for time. He's hoping for a tragic backstory, a dramatic spin of a tale, anything. But there is no hesitation.
“I’m a villain.”
Izuku flinches. The energy behind the voice doesn't go unnoticed, and the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “Y-You’re not even hiding it?”
“I don’t need to,” the villain says. “I do not wish to harm you. That is not my intention. If that were what I wanted to do, you would already be dead.”
Izuku would call him cocky if not for the intimidating air radiating from the shadows. Izuku doesn't even have to see him to know that this villain could kill him as easily as pulling a plug. It wouldn't be hard. But he hasn't advanced. And Izuku is still alive.
“So why would you let me run?” Izuku asks, trying to keep the waver from his voice. “I mean, if... if you’re not planning on hurting me, why stop me at all?”
“As I said,” the villain goes on. “I would like to offer some advice, and a suggestion.”
Every bone in his body is screaming to run, but there’s something deeper that tells him if he tries, the villain would kill him, promise or no promise.
“... I’m... I’m listening.”
“You wish to be a hero, my boy, is that true?”
Izuku swallows the lump in his throat. "Yes.”
“But, heroes... society as a whole... they look down on people like you, do they not?”
"How do you know that?” Izuku asks, more suspicious now than anything. “How do you know I’m Quirkless? Have…” His chest grows tight. “Have you been…”
“I couldn't help but notice,” the villain answers. “Forgive me. It was not meant to harm you, but rather so I could better help you. I call myself a villain, but only because that is how the public would have me labeled. From another perspective, who's to say who's hero and who isn't?”
Izuku bites his lip. “But you’re... why would you care about society?” The words seem surreal. The fight or flight instinct is easing, but he forces himself to stay vigilant. "
The person in the shadows heaves a heavy sigh. “Even 'villains' have their morals, their drives, their reasons. We're just like anybody else."
Izuku clenches his teeth. “C-Can you... get to your point, maybe?”
“The way you’re treated by society,” the villain continues. “Your bruises, the way you’re limping…”
“You did not. What are you trying to hide?”
He's clenching his teeth so hard that his head is starting to hurt. "What do you want from me?"
“I want you to consider joining our little band of villains.”
Izuku hadn’t really known to expect, but this throws him for a loop. He blinks twice, trying to turn over the thought in his head. It doesn’t work as well as he would’ve hoped.
“Why would you ask me that?” Izuku questions before he can stop himself. “You literally just got done monologuing about how I want to be a hero. You know my goals and motivations, so why... I mean, why even offer?”
“Because you won’t be looked down on, coming with us,” the villain answers simply. “Wouldn’t it be nice, my boy? To be able to do what you want and be who you want to be without the pressure of the so-called ‘hero society’? Wouldn’t it be nice to not be judged for things beyond your control?”
Izuku honestly can’t believe this is actually happening. Maybe Bakugou hit him harder than he thought. Maybe he’s unconscious on the ground somewhere, getting trampled by civilians. Quirkless people always were trampled by society (metaphorically and sometimes, as unfortunate as it was, literally), so it wouldn’t surprise him one bit.
It’s the pain of his bruises that prove this is actually happening. This is real.
And he’s reallybeing asked to become a villain right now.
“I don’t expect it to be a decision you can make overnight,” the villain says. “After all, with your own ideals, it would be difficult for you to make such a snap-decision, just like that. So... I’ll give you some time.”
“How... how much time?”
“As much time as you need. Just come back here when you’re ready to make your choice, my boy. I’ll be waiting.”
Oh great. That isn’t ominous at all.
It’s odd, how quickly the encounter ends. What should be a groundbreaking thing ends quickly. Easily. Simply, like Izuku had just been discussing dinner plans with someone or making a comment about the weather.
He heads home, still limping, but unlike before, he feels detached from reality. Above him, clouds gather, and he knows it’ll start raining any moment now, but he can’t bring himself to care.
Obviously, he isn’t joining the villain organization, whatever it is. Becoming a villain is something he’d never do. But now he’s trapped because he has absolutely no idea what that villain would do to him if he said no to his “gracious offer.” The villain had promised not to harm him, but he is a villain, and Izuku has absolutely no reason to trust he’d keep his word.
I mean, it’s crazy, him even asking me when he knows I want to become a hero, Izuku thinks, biting his lip and dragging himself along. But I mean, he did have a point, about society being twisted.
But people are twisted anyway. The human race is twisted. You'll have that no matter where you go. What the villains have isn’t any different than what I’ll have.
Besides, there’s no way I’ll ever become one of them.
But then he’s hit by something. A fact, a thought, a realization.
There is a villain organization out there right now, as he limps home and thinks of how he’s going to tell a convincing “I’m okay” lie that his mother will actually buy. There is a group of villains out there, and…
It’s possible that Izuku is the only one who knows about it.
Worthless, Quirkless Izuku.
Wants to be a hero more than anything else, Izuku.
Go ahead and take a swan dive off the roof, Izuku.
He spins on his heel and rushes back to the alley way as far as his bruised legs and twisted ankle can carry him (which, admittedly, is a lot slower than he’d hoped).
I’m not a villain. That much won't change.
He stops at the end of the alleyway, panting for breath and trying to ignore the constant pain of his throbbing ankle and stinging bruises. He raises his head towards the shadows, and this time, he can make out the faint silhouette of a man in the dark, barely there but also very, very present.
“Your proposition,” Izuku says, cutting straight to the chase. “I accept.”
“That was awfully quick,” the villain says, but Izuku can hear the amusement in his voice. “Are you sure about this, though? Once you’re in, there’s no getting out.”
“I’ve thought it over, and I’m sure,” Izuku says. “I’ll join your organization.”
There’s a chuckle from the shadows, dark and deep and blissfully unaware. “Well, then. Let me be the first to say welcome aboard, Midoriya Izuku.”
Izuku nods. “Thank you.”
I can be a sheep in wolf’s clothing.