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The Book of Deku

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 origin [awr-i-jin, or-]

noun

1. ancestry, parentage

2. rise, beginning

     a. derivation from a source

     b. the point at which something begins or rises or from which it derives

3. the more fixed, central, or larger attachment of a muscle

4. the intersection of coordinate axes


 

Izuku is three years old and everything hurts.

Light buzzes and makes his eyes feel like they're throbbing right out of his skull. It's burning hot on his skin, so he closes his eyes and covers himself, but the blankets over his head hurt too. Each individual thread cuts into him and slices his skin into ribbons and rubs him raw, he can swear that's what it feels like, and the fuzzy All Might onesie he once loved more than anything is discarded on the floor because it felt like hot, prickly static and needles and steel wool on every inch of him.

He can feel noise, from the knife-sharp tip-tip-tip of a fly crawling on the wall to the painful scream of a door creaking open to the crashing waves of his mother crying softly in the kitchen. Every vibration shudders and warps into his bones, and he covers his ears but that doesn't block it out.

[His mother cries a lot when she thinks he can't hear. She always smiles for him, though, like All Might. Maybe All Might cries when he's alone too.]

The smell of cigarettes being smoked three apartments over is choking him, burning his nose and eyes and mouth. He gags at the reek of his own sweat and his mother's and his father's—oh, his father. The man smells like brimstone and sulfur and spilled ink and cheap cologne and blazing alcohol and plastic and Izuku h a t e s it. He can smell the stink of sewers and the fuzzy smell of dust motes in his room and the overpowering sizzle of ham cooking in the kitchen [why is his mother cooking dinner when she's still crying he knows she's still crying he can smell-feel-taste the salt and feel-hear the shuddering heaves of her chest as she tries to breathe evenly].

He wants to go to his mother. He wants her to stop crying. He wants her to make him stop crying, because that's what a mom is supposed to do. But he can't move. When he moves, every dust mote in the room shifts and the air rolls fiery hot and storm cold and the fibers of the blankets hook into his flesh while his skin pulls and bunches and folds. So he can't move.

He is too aware of the beating of his own heart. It feels like he is being punched in the chest, again and again and again and again—

He wants it to stop.

When his mother finds him, she starts crying again, but it must be for a different reason this time because the tears smell different, sharper, and he recoils from her as well as he can because the heat of her hands on him hurts and her voice asking him what's wrong hurts and the vibrations of her panicked sobbing hurt and the beep-beep-beep noise when she calls an ambulance hurts and he screams and

    i t

          h u  r   t   s

 


 

Izuku is three years old and he has spent three days in a hospital, writhing helplessly as his back bends to seizures and his body burns through enough morphine to kill a grown man.

But those three days must be over, because it is the fourth day, and he wakes up still in the hospital, but— nothing hurts.

Well. His tummy hurts, because he hasn't eaten anything, and his arms hurt because there were shots trying to make him feel better [they didn't him feel better, they felt like he was being stabbed and filled with the cold fire they called medication], but— but— the noises don't hurt anymore. And his covers are scratchy but they don't feel like they're smothering him in papercuts. He smells bandages and disinfectant and blood… but they don't make him sick.

Cautiously, Izuku opens one eye.

It is morning. The blinds have been shut tightly and the curtains have been pulled shut to keep the light out as much as possible, but Izuku can see the faint glow of dawn seeping in around the edges and it doesn't make his eyeball tremble out of its socket.

He opens his other eye.

It still doesn't hurt.

Izuku sits up. His back twinges slightly and he loses his balance momentarily, groggy, but he manages to sit up on his own.

He doesn't feel great. He feels like he's spent three days in a hospital with a tube down his nose [oh, there's a tube in his nose, that's… gross]. But for the first time in three days, he feels… okay. And considering how not-okay he felt before, this feels really, really cool. Maybe even cooler than All Might [maybe equally cool].

The nurse looks very surprised to see him sitting up and looking not like he's dying. She drops something and it breaks because glass does that when you drop it on a hard floor and Izuku winces at the sound, but— everything's okay. The noise of broken glass doesn't feel like the shards are slicing into the core of him, and he'd say that's pretty good.

"Where's my mom?" he asks.

He hopes this didn't make her cry a lot. [He knows it did.]

 


 

Izuku is three years old and he thinks he did pretty okay at answering all the questions the doctors asked him. They say it wasn't a test, so he's not worried about it, and for some reason, it's easier to think about things than it was even before he got sick. It feels easier to talk, too, even though he has a sore throat. He can figure out what words he wants faster than he could before, so it's pretty easy. The doctors ask his mom and dad much, much harder questions, so Izuku thinks that he's just glad he's not his parents. He doesn't know the answers to any of those questions [well… well, actually, maybe—].

Kacchan visits him. Mitsuki brings him and scolds him when he jumps on the hospital bed, but Kacchan doesn't care and Izuku doesn't mind. He's just glad that it's all over. He has never, ever, everbeen so grateful for anything, and he's usually pretty grateful for everything. To be fair, though, his is only three years old. Maybe he'll be more grateful for something else later in life.

[After burning for three days, he might live to be a hundred, and he doesn't think he will ever be more grateful for anything than he is for the burning to have stopped.]

"Izuku!" Kacchan shouts, bouncing on his knees on the edge of the bed. Mitsuki's scoldings fall on deaf ears. "Izuku, why'd you go and get sick, huh? That was stupid. You weren't there to play and I had to play with stupid kids."

"Calling people stupid is mean, Kacchan," Izuku says, because everybody isn't stupid [well,], and Kacchan shouldn't be cranky just because he has to play without Izuku for a few days. But it does feel nice, Izuku thinks, to be missed, especially by Kacchan, who doesn't miss anybody.

"Whatever," Kacchan huffs, crossing his skinny arms. "Just get better faster."

Izuku promises to get better faster.

 


 

Izuku is three years old and he stands outside the hospital for the first time in seven days. His arms are outstretched, and he takes deep, dizzying breaths as the sunlight tingles pleasantly across his skin.

"Somebody sure feels better!" Hisashi laughs. His hand ruffles Izuku's fluff of curls and, although Izuku doesn't move, something in his gut twists.

[brimstone and sulfur and spilled ink and cheap cologne and blazing alcohol and plastic and smoke and burning burning burning burning burning burning burning]

"Yeah!" Izuku says, smiling even though he wants to march right back into the hospital and be sick again, because every single one of his muted senses snaps back into alertness and suddenly the sun is scorching, the fresh air is crowded, and his father reeks of burning.

He smiles wider when he looks at his father, even as a headache begins to swell in his brain and he sees the orange flickers of fire in the man's eyes.

[He can smile for everybody else and only be sad for himself, just like his mom. Just like All Might.]

He puts his arms down and tries to take smaller breaths through his mouth so that he's pulling in less of the smell [the scent of burning is so strong in his nose]. He wishes he had a jacket to hide his bare arms and neck from the sun, but everything is so hot that another layer of clothing might kill him.

His father takes him to have ice cream. The chill racks his body, but the smell of smoke and burning is muted by mint chocolate chip.

 


 

Izuku is four years old and he likes to think that the terrible incident that the doctors never did come up with an explanation for is over now. He knows that it's not, because he can still smell and see and hear and feel so much that it is almost too much, and sometimes he gets headaches that are so bad he throws up, and he still doesn't want his father touching him, but— he doesn't tell anyone. And as long as he doesn't tell anyone, it's not so bad.

[Smile like Mom. Smile like All Might. Tears are for when no one can see.]

Izuku stands on the sidewalk outside their apartment building. Kacchan is a ways off, poking at bugs, but Izuku tilts his head back and he can hear, five stories up, the soft, muffled cries of his mother. Today is one of those days, it seems. There haven't been as many of those lately, but there are still more than he likes. He would like for there to be none, please and thank you. But he thinks his mom feels a little bit better after she cries, so he lets her.

[She does not cry when Hisashi leaves on business trips, but she cries when he comes home.]

"Can we go to your house for dinner?" Izuku asks Kacchan.

Kacchan nudges a beetle and frowns. "Why? Your mom makes better food."

[Not anymore. Izuku's gut rolls every time his mother cooks, and he knows that the food is still as good as it always was, but he can't taste or smell anything the way it was before. Mitsuki's food, whether it is as good as Inko's or not, will make him sick just the same.]

Izuku bites the inside of his cheek. "I think my mom needs a break. She's been working really hard."

And because Kacchan might love Inko even more than his own parents, the blond boy says, "Whatever. Maybe Mom can get take-out."

Izuku smiles.

 


 

Izuku is four years old and he knows he has had a quirk for almost a year. Which means that, of all his classmates [if he can call them that? This is preschool, it's hardly a class], he is the first to manifest a quirk. He's pretty sure that none of them would trade places with him to get theirs first, if it meant that they had to go through the same thing that he did.

He tells no one, not even his mother to whom he has lied to over and over again, telling her he feels better even though the smell of smoke and embers chokes him out of his own apartment every day. He can't tell her about the headaches or the vomiting or the fact that his own father makes him feel sick.

He's not exactly sure what his quirk is, but he knows that it's getting stronger. He knows that he doesn't have to pay attention his class to know everything the teacher said. He knows that he can count all six-hundred-thirteen ceiling tiles in the nurse's office with a glance. He knows that he doesn't have to think about math, and he knows more kanji than most adults, and he knows that Kacchan is developing a quirk because it smells like nitroglycerin. He knows that he is too smart for the other students, and maybe even for the whole school. But he doesn't want to leave Kacchan, or bring more attention to himself.

[He doesn't want to do this. He wants everybody to know that he has a quirk and that it is amazing and unique and useful, but his quirk has already revealed one of its crippling drawbacks: paranoia.]

So he will not be telling anyone anything.

Pure nitroglycerin is cotton-candy-sweet, and Izuku doesn't need enhanced senses to smell it. He thinks that everybody notices the sugary smell clinging to Kacchan for a good three months before it actually happens.

Three seconds before Kacchan pops the first weak spark from his palm, Izuku feels the air around his friend move. So Izuku is not surprised by the abrupt manifestation. And he always knew it would be something explosive. And he's not surprised when everybody gathers around Kacchan and starts telling the boy how wonderful he is, how this is the best quirk, how Kacchan will get to be a hero one day with a quirk like that.

Izuku sees something in Kacchan's red eyes that looks like grand realization and orange fire, and all that Izuku can see is his father, and that sugary-sweet smell burns to a hot, sickly crisp.

 


 

Izuku is four years old and in a doctor's office. He's glad that he's not in a hospital again, but this, somehow, is worse. This isn't going to hurt for a few days and then be done. This might ruin him forever, and the worst part is that he's going to let it happen. On purpose.

The x-rays show this: there is no extra toe joint in Izuku's foot. Therefore, he should have a quirk.

He fails test after test after test, sometimes because he really can't do what the test asks him to do, and sometimes because he fakes it. The whole time, he feels sick in the pit of his stomach, guilty because he has never lied so much in one sitting, and also because he can feel his mother getting more and more nervous. He knows all her tells better than he knows himself, and he can see her starting to panic as test after test turns up negative.

"This happens sometimes," the doctor assures his mother. Quirk specialists who deal with worried parents day in and day out say the same thing to all of them. This one is no different, except that, Izuku thinks, for a doctor, he is not too bright. The fact that Izuku got through all of those tests without slipping up is a miracle that can only be attributed to this man's incompetence. "Sometimes more complex quirks don't develop until later, especially combination quirks. Your son is probably just a late bloomer. It's perfectly natural."

They'll be coming in for another appointment later, of course. With no extra joint, no self-respecting doctor will give up on his quirk development until he turns six, at least. But he faked it this time and he'll fake it again. He is the smarter than every other kid in his school combined, and he can do this. He can hide this.

His quirk has listed every possible outcome of revealing the truth. He doesn't like most of them.

When they go home, he smells alcohol and fire on his father. This is not unusual, but he's already had a headache for most of the day. [And there is some sort of danger there, not of violence but of something other, something that should not concern a four-year-old but does because he is not just four and his quirk speaks a language of terrifying possibilities.]

Izuku locks himself in the bathroom and vomits.

 


 

Izuku is four years old and when Kacchan smiles at him, and it is not a pretty smile. Kacchan, unlike his mother, is not pretty at all. It's sort of a shame, not to mention a genetic oddity, for someone as pretty as Mitsuki to have a child as utterly unappealing as Kacchan. Most people don't notice that, because Kacchan is all of the things that this society wants from their children: strong, intense, promising. Everything that Izuku is not. Being cute will not save Izuku, just as much as being unattractive will not condemn Kacchan.

"Quirkless, heh?"

No. Not Quirkless. But Izuku won't say that.

His quirk, which he has yet to give a name since he doesn't plan to register it anyway, is getting stronger and more efficient in overtime, chugging away inside his brain without pause, even when he sleeps, and it tells him that he can do so much more if people underestimate him. And what better disguise for his quirk than the label of Quirkless? Nobody thinks that Quirkless people can do anything.

It also tells him that if he ever reveals his quirk, ever reveals the all-encompassing genius developing inside his brain, that he will be used as a tool for the rest of his life, coveted for his mind but never for his smile, and that they will make him do things, and that they will never, ever, allow him to waste his quirk on being a hero. His quirk will keep him safe only if he keeps it secret.

So he will smile like his mom and like All Might and play dumb.

"That's no good," Kacchan says, top lip curling into a cruel smile that is not a smile but a sneer, and it is ugly, ugly, ugly, but not as ugly as the fire in his eyes. "You're useless without a quirk."

"Maybe it's just late, Kacchan," Izuku says, and it's a misleading suggestion [he's mastered those] more than it's a lie, but it is still essentially a lie. He had gotten his quirk before Kacchan could even produce a spark.

He doesn't like this. This isn't what he thought would happen. His quirk had taken Kacchan's confidence and short temper into account and foreseen this, but he hadn't believed it, because it was Kacchan. Kacchan wants to be a hero too, and heroes don't do this. Heroes don't call other people 'useless.' Heroes don't hit just to hurt or use mean words to make other people feel bad.

"Useless," Kacchan repeats, looking even more pleased with himself than usual.

Kacchan is smart. Kacchan has the best grades in class. Kacchan knows enough kanji that he can make a very cruel connection between Izuku's name and useless, which is—

"Deku. That's what you are. A Quirkless Deku."

I don't think I like you anymore, Kacchan—Bakugou .

Bakugou is not a hero. He might never be, even if he gets his license, because there's a difference between getting licensed to use a quirk to do heroic things and actually being a hero. Izuku wants to tell him this, but he's four years old, and that's not something that normal four-year-olds say. And Izuku needs to be normal. He needs to be painstakingly normal, so simple and plain that people's eyes will drift right over him and forget he was there in the first place.

[the best camouflage is mediocrity]

So when Bakugou takes a swing at him, and his quirk tells him that all he had to do is take a small step to the left if he wants to dodge, Izuku lets the punch hit him. Thankfully, Bakugou is only four, and doesn't have much practice in his swing, but unfortunately, Bakugou now has a quirk that blisters Izuku's skin without even having to make physical contact. The action of the punch itself is completely unnecessary to anything but Bakugou's violent satisfaction.

Izuku can dodge at any time. Izuku lets the punches hit their mark.

And again, and again, and again.

 


 

Izuku is five years old and when he closes his eyes, he knows that it is exactly twenty-five degrees Celsius, seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit, 12:30 PM on a Friday afternoon. July 25th. His birthday was ten days ago. When summer ends and school starts up (real school, not preschool, but they'll just be learning silly, basic things that Izuku already understands), Izuku knows that he will be getting funny looks for not having manifested his quirk yet. He knows that this will be hard, but not, he thinks, any harder than letting his mom cry and worry while his father's frown grows deeper and more displeased.

An hour later, when Midoriya Hisashi leaves for a "business trip" abroad [Hisashi takes many business trips and Izuku is grateful], Izuku knows that the man is not coming back [people who plan on coming back don't completely empty their closets and strip every single one of their personal belongings out of the house]. And, at this moment, staring at the door where his father just was but will probably never be again, Izuku wonders if this is a good time to cry. His mother is crying, after all, and she's not even bothering to hide it this time. She can get away with that, he supposes. It's perfectly expected to cry when your husband leaves you and lies about it and you're all alone with a child and no job.

But if he cries, then his mom will feel bad, and what has Hisashi ever done to deserve Izuku's tears?

[don't cry, be like mom, be like All Might, don't cry]

Izuku will not cry. He has better things to do. He pretends that he's a five-year-old who believes that his father is coming back soon and there's nothing to worry about.

He sits in the living room, turns on the TV, and becomes fluent in English before dinner.

He knows that his quirk must be settling in if he doesn't even have to try anymore.

In his room, he used to have so many toys and posters and— things. He had a lot of things. But hero merchandise is always so intense with color that he had to take all the posters down and put all the toys in the storage boxes in his closet and turn over his All Might covers so that the white sides were facing up. Now his room looks oddly muted, with bright zaps of color around the edges that he couldn't cover up, but it doesn't make his head buzz anymore.

He misses the color, sometimes. Maybe, if his quirk is getting better, he'll be able to look at bright colors without getting a headache. But not yet. Now, he still wants to throw up whenever he looks outside on a sunny day.

Even if he gets to have color back one day, he doesn't think that he will ever be able to abide the intense clash of color that was what his room used to be, covered in bright, shining posters and scattered with painted toys. He'll have to bring color back slowly and softly. Nice and easy. No orange or red or pink. But mostly just no orange.

There sure is a lot of stuff in his closet that he can't bear to use again.

 


 

Izuku is five years old and he doesn't have friends anymore. Bakugou is the most popular kid in school (real school, now, not preschool, but it's still just… kindergarten, so, it's preschool with basic kanji and useless to Izuku either way), something of a celebrity, even though nobody actually likes him. But nobody likes Izuku, either, because even if Bakugou is pushy and arrogant, Izuku is Quirkless and weird.

His mother gives him a notebook after he refuses to go to quirk therapy, and she tells him that he can write in it. He can write whatever he wants and keep it secret. She won't look. She just thinks [because a therapist told her] that it might help him to write down what he's thinking so it's all… out there. Somewhere. So he can talk about things without actually having to tell anyone, if that makes him feel better.

Well. It makes sense. And he knows that she knows he needs something, because she has noticed his colorless room with the blinds shut tight all day.

What he needs is for his quirk to stop pushing him so hard. He needs Bakugou to be Kacchan again. He needs to be able to look at his old All Might posters without getting a headache. He needs to not be overwhelmed by every single awful noise and smell in their apartment complex.

But he can't have those things. He can hope that his quirk will actually start working soon, but that may not happen, so… he takes the notebook. He stares at it for awhile, at the pale green cover that is surprisingly easy on his eyes, and the tight blue lines inside that are not hard or vivid. He grabs a pencil from his desk.

When I was three years old, I got a headache.