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A Dangerous Game

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Izuku’s heart was not made for the kind of life he was living. Don’t get him wrong; he was in great physical shape. But the sheer amount of stress he was under on a daily basis just wasn’t meant for his poor heart to keep up with. Maybe being born Quirkless meant that his physiology was different or something. It wasn’t something that Izuku had ever been interested in looking up, although he was sure he knew someone who would give him an answer to his question. He wasn’t sure how much it really mattered now, though, considering he was no longer Quirkless. He hoped that it meant that his heart would keep up.

 

It was racing in his chest as he stared wide-eyed at the television. His thoughts flew so fast through his mind that frankly he was surprised he even had time for idle thoughts about his physiology. He was watching a replay of a fight that had been recorded earlier by some amateur news reporter for a blog that he followed. He didn’t like looking at these types of videos, but he had missed this particular fight and he needed to study it in other ways. He would prefer to have been there so he could’ve used his quirk to take in even more information, but it couldn’t be helped. It had been a busy day of preparation.

 

Mount Lady was a newer hero with a power that wasn’t particularly filled with finesse but nonetheless got the job done. She could grow to sizes that exceeded most of the buildings she was often around which meant that she was good for taking on large enemies and lifting objects that would be considered too heavy for normal people. Her quirk meant that her strength adjusted to match her new size. Izuku could only imagine how cool it would be to have a quirk like that.

 

He winced, though, as he watched the woman step on a piece of rubble that caused her to let out a curse before she had hurried to apologize. She had limped for the rest of the battle. Izuku wrote down in his notebook about Mount Lady’s suit being not just skin-tight, but lacking proper footwear. Could she not wear shoes at all? Or did the heroes not have a material that would protect her feet when she grew? Izuku was willing to bet the latter. Could be an exploitable weakness.

 

“Izuku?” Izuku startled out of his train of thoughts (his heart stuttered and then he cursed himself for being so jumpy. That was another strike against his poor heart) and turned around on the couch. His mother smiled at him when she saw that she had his attention. “Careful not to stay up too late. You have to wake up early tomorrow, right?”

 

“Ah, yeah!” Izuku nodded and closed the notebook he had been writing in. The words were a scattered but organized scrawl with how fast he had been trying to keep his notes. He had a sketch of Mount Lady along with various lines pointing out notes that he noticed about her. Weaknesses, strengths, personality quirks - anything he could get his hands on. He would do more research on her tomorrow.

 

He hopped up from the couch and turned off the game system that he had been using for the internet before shutting off the television. “Don’t worry, mom. I’ll make sure to get plenty of rest tonight!”

 

“Good!” His mother made her way into the living room and placed her hands on his shoulders. Izuku stared at her for a long moment, his heart thudding so heavily in his chest that he was trembling. Not that the trembling was completely unusual. He forced himself to stay relaxed under her touch. It was a familiar thing that he shouldn’t cringe away from. Izuku wasn’t the type to cringe away from his mother’s touch.

 

His mother was shorter than him now. Izuku remembered that he had been as tall as her a year ago. He had somehow outgrown her while he had been gone. She had more stress lines on her face and she had gained weight as well. She most likely had been stress-eating. But part of it was probably age as well getting to her. She used her quirk to attract things to her more rather than just walk over to it. Her eyes were brighter than they had been when he had first come back. She looked far less tired now.

 

He had been quiet for too long. He smiled to reassure her as her eyebrows furrowed a little with worry. She sighed and brought her hands from his shoulders to cup his cheeks. Stay relaxed. Stay relaxed. His smile softened but still felt stiff on his face. His hands itched to duck into the pockets of his sweatpants.

 

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” She asked.

 

He nodded once, dislodging her hands in the process. “I’ll be okay, I promise. I have a strong quirk. I’m sure I can do it!”

 

She gave a wary smile as she reluctantly agreed. Her worry stirred gratitude in his chest. “I know you can.” She assured him, looking a bit teary-eyed. His own eyes prickled a bit and threatened to water, so he turned and grabbed his book before making his way down the hallway.

 

“I’ll go to sleep now so I can get up early.”

 

“I’ll make you breakfast!” She promised.

 

“Thanks!” He called back with a wave before entering his room and closing the door with a sigh. His free hand dropped into his pocket to finger at the matchbook that he kept there. The temptation to put one of the matches in his mouth was there, but it was a habit that he couldn’t do when he was near anyone. At least, not without getting a couple of weird looks. He was already dealing with weird looks and second glances in his daily life and he didn’t want to worry his mother more than he already was.

 

He changed into his pajamas and put himself under the covers of his bed facing away from the door. There he stayed without moving, carefully regulating his breathing to slow his heart so it would look more natural as he relaxed. He could feel his body trembling a little, but it wasn’t from the cold. His body’s default state seemed to be in this constant soft rattle ever since his training. Izuku tried to not to think about the fact that maybe his body still wasn’t good enough to handle the quirks in his body. He preferred to think of it as trauma, although that wasn’t much better.

 

He still had much he had to research and it itched at him to be sitting there doing nothing. It was boring and it wasn’t like he was actually planning on sleeping. He had stuff that he needed to do, but he had to put up the act that he was going to sleep early. He could just play on his phone and look up videos there, but frankly he was tired of the bad quality of those too. It was tempting to bring up an old All Might video, but he liked to listen to those in all of their glory. He wouldn’t be able to turn up the volume and his headphones would make him unable to listen for his mother, so he would have to suffer.

 

His fingers dug into his sheets and he gritted his teeth as the shivers got more violent.

 

His mother always took her time to clean up around this hour from dinner. Soon she would go into the bathroom to brush her teeth and then ready for bed. Tonight was a night she was more tired than usual. She had been yawning and moving slower in her nightly rituals. She had even decided against soaking in the bath for just a quick shower. Izuku knew that meant she was going to bed particularly early. Her stress about his exam tomorrow was no doubt wearing on her. He felt a little bad about that.

 

But before she went to her bed, she would always check on Izuku one last time. Izuku had long since guessed -once he had noticed that she did this check every night- that she was making sure he was still there. It had only been a little over a year since he had been released, but Izuku understood that it had not been long enough for his mother. Izuku never said anything in the mornings about noticing her check on him at night. If he was in her place, he would probably do the same thing.

 

His door cracked open and his shivers stopped. His body was relaxed and his breathing was soft and slow. He closed his eyes and waited as his mother padded into the room on silent socked feet and brushed back his hair. A soft kiss was pressed to his temple that reminded him of when he had been a small child and the warmth of his mother’s arms as he had fallen asleep in her lap. She said nothing as she turned away then and left the bedroom. His eyes opened again with the sound of his door closing. His trembling returned and his heart rate increased. Some part of him was aware that the opposite should probably occur when he was under stress.

 

Still he waited until silence permeated the house. He could hear the hum of lights outside and the muffled sounds of life in the other apartments nearby. There was a baby crying. Most likely the one that lived in the apartment to the left of theirs. They’d had a baby while Izuku had been gone.

 

He wished that he could say he was tired. There was an exhaustion that was hanging in the back of his thoughts and dragged at his throat in an effort to yawn, but darkness rarely coaxed him to sleep anymore. His body and mind knew that he had things to do and that sleep would not be acceptable. In the privacy of his own bedroom with no eyes on him, he allowed a frustrated scowl to appear on his face. It was tedious to check in with his master, but he would rather just get it done and over with rather than deal with any possible repercussions.

 

When another long thirty minutes had passed, Izuku threw off his covers and made his way over to his bedroom closet. He clicked on the light and found his way to a box he had stored in the very back. It used to contain some of his various All Might merchandise, but he had long since moved it onto some of the shelves in his closet. Inside of the box now was a single outfit.

 

Izuku took in a deep breath and wondered how tonight would go. Hopefully he wouldn’t get any injuries that he couldn’t hide. He doubted his master would allow for anything to happen before such a big event tomorrow, but Deku wasn’t known for maintaining his temper. Not anymore, anyway.

 

He undressed quickly and with practiced movements he donned his white button-up and black slacks. He rolled up his sleeves and put on his pre-tied tie before his socks and shoes went on. The last were his black gloves. They fit his hands like a thick second skin. The material clung, but he could feel the rounded heads of the matches hidden in the tips of his fingers and the small flintstone in the palms itching to be struck.

 

Deku pulled the matches out of his sleep pants and pocketed them in his new set of clothing. He pulled out a single match and stuck it behind his ear before he exited his closet and bedroom. The silence in the house was now filled with potential. His heart had calmed down finally and the trembling had ceased as he made his way expertly through the apartment and to the front door. He didn’t bother to glance back to check on the house one more time before he left and walked quickly down the illuminated paths of the apartment building hallway.

 

Deku sighed and ran a hand into his hair and glared at the horizon in the distance. He would need to walk for a good fifteen minutes before he would get into position for Kurogiri to open up a portal for him. He had plenty of time, but he hated being on a time limit. It would be nice if he could just go to sleep, but instead he had to go visit the asshole brigade. Shigaraki would be so ecstatic to see him again. Deku was so thrilled.

 

The walk was uneventful and the small alleyway tucked away between two residential buildings was even more so. Deku glanced up at the stairwell nearby and climbed the chain link fence to hop onto it before climbing the stairs to the top. From there he hefted himself back onto the stone wall and easily lept the distance between the stairs and the next building over. He slipped his leg over the ledge and finally climbed onto the top of the building.

 

The cityscape was admittedly a beautiful one, Deku thought to himself. He still loved being able to see the sky again. He would never take it for granted again.

 

The air around him shifted and a deeper darkness materialized next to him, swirling into a portal just the size for him to travel through. Welcome home. He thought wryly to himself before tucking his hands into his pockets and entering it. The portal closed behind him.

 

It took less than the blink of an eye for Deku to arrive through the smokey darkness and into the familiar abandoned bar where Shigaraki and Kurogiri were waiting for him. The scent of wood and degradation filled his nose, although it wasn’t the wood that was degrading. Shigaraki must have touched something again recently to have caused that smell. It made Deku want to scrunch his nose as unwanted memories bloomed in his head, but he forced them down and away while keeping his face bored. Weakness was not something he would show in front of these guys.

 

“You’re late.” Shigaraki grumbled, messing with the fingers of his “father’s” hand. The metal on the stub of the wrist looked to have been recently cleaned. Shigaraki’s low glare did nothing to Deku anymore as Deku moved over to sit on the barstool two seats down from the man. Better to keep out of each other’s ranges. The scar across Deku’s forehead itched some.

 

“It’s amazing you say that.” Deku responded with a roll of his eyes. “It’s almost like I needed to wait for an appointed time for Kurogiri to open up a portal so I could get here.”

 

Shigaraki sat forward on the bar counter as Deku heard Kurogiri sigh as their bickering already started. “I meant that you should’ve chosen an earlier time.”

 

Deku didn’t bother to respond to that. His mother’s habits were his own to know. Instead he said, “I’d rather not be here either. Where is Master at?”

 

“He’s a little delayed.” Kurogiri informed him as he placed a milkshake down in front of Deku. Deku smiled at that and took the dessert to happily sip. Ash filled the air as an irritated Shigaraki gripped a nearby cup to destroy with his quirk. Deku was sure he was the only one who recognized a glare on Kurogiri as the man reluctantly went to clean it up.

 

“Why the hell does he get a milkshake?” Shigaraki demanded, but Deku ignored him as he turned his gaze to the blank black screen of the television in the room. If Master was late, it meant he was dealing with another one of his experiments or dealing with some other business. It could’ve been a range of things. Deku hadn’t had the chance to really catch up on everything that Master was doing. He had been busy with his school and his training. Deku both did and didn’t want to know what it was that Master was doing. Ignorance was bliss, but Deku was a person who gathered information. He needed to gather information. If this was any other night then he would probably have asked. As it was, he knew he needed this meeting over with as soon as possible.

 

“Dekkun.” Deku snapped to attention at the cutesy way of calling his name, his back straightening as he whipped around to face Shigaraki’s smirking face.

 

Kacchan! He heard in his own voice. He hated the insinuation.

 

Deku jumped out of his seat and grabbed the front of Shigaraki’s collar to drag him close as he asked, “Haa? What the fuck did you just call me?!”

 

Shigaraki chuckled at the action and Deku wanted to sock him in the face. Everything but his self-preservation told him to do so. “You weren’t responding, so I thought you wanted me to be a bit more familiar.”

 

Deku’s arm shook with the effort not to hurt him and he knew that Shigaraki knew it. It wouldn’t be the first time the two of them had gotten into a fight, but with Master about to appear in their presence at any second Deku couldn’t risk creating a scene. So instead he threw the man back so his back hit the edge of the bar and he brushed his hands off on his pants with distaste.

 

“Don’t be so disgusting. Don’t call me that again.”

 

“This meeting is only supposed to last a couple of minutes.” Kurogiri attempted to mediate, much to his long-suffering distain. “Can’t you two be civil for that time?”

 

“Deku is so much more fun now than he used to be, though.” Shigaraki protested. He only had the smallest frown on his face from his rough treatment. Deku sat himself back down onto his barstool and ate some more of his milkshake. “It’s boring if he doesn’t talk.” Kurogiri only sighed.

 

“Yes, I would say that Deku really has become more interesting.” A voice agreed as the television turned on by itself. Deku forced himself to stay relaxed even as that voice dripped and oozed through his ears and into his mind like poison. Master had a way of pulling every fear and self-preservation desire out from the pits of Izuku’s heart and making him struggle for air. Only the sheer amount of self-control he had developed as Deku allowed Izuku to breathe through the hatred and instinct to cringe and run. He could not show his fear even as he wondered if the rabbit-fast beat of his heart could be heard throughout the room.

 

Deku was strong, so he turned around in his seat and gazed upon Master through the television screen. The heavily-scarred man in front of him wasn’t as intimidating with possible kilometers and cities between them, but Deku knew to respect a beast when he saw it no matter how much he hated it. Master was the one who had granted him his tentative freedom. He wouldn’t risk it now.

 

“Sensei.” Shigaraki greeted almost happily.

 

“It’s good to see you all again. Sorry I was late.” Master responded. “Some things need personal touches, after all.”

 

Deku’s straw made loud slurping noises as it breached air. He adjusted it to make it sit back into the ice cream.

 

“Deku, do you have anything to report for me?” His master asked.

 

“I’m working on finishing up a report for Mount Lady.” Deku said and realized he had forgotten his notebook. Stupid! “My last make-up class made me miss her fight so I’ve been forced to watch through bad videos.” He clicked his tongue and grabbed a napkin to wipe his mouth.

 

“It’s no problem. I’m sure you’ll have plenty for me next time. I would rather you finish your classes.” He paused and then asked, “They are done, correct?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“I can’t believe you’re still taking tests.” Shigaraki muttered, scratching some at his neck. “Your exam is tomorrow, after all. Where was your summer?”

 

“My life would’ve been easier if some villains didn’t take it upon themselves to kidnap me for a year.” Deku snapped.

 

Master chuckled. “Settle down, boys. You’ve done well to catch up. As long as you can take the UA exam as planned then any delays in your mission is fine.” He smiled. Deku could tell he was smiling despite the mask. “Besides, I have a gift for you, Deku. Think of it as a congratulations.”

 

Deku eyed Master. It unnerved him how almost affectionate his master was with him sometimes. Deku knew he was treated differently from most of the villains under the man’s commands. He was treated almost as an equal to Shigaraki who Deku knew was to be the man’s successor despite his childishness. It was a good position to be in, but Deku hated how he kind of liked the praise he received and the leniency that he was granted. The fact that he could convince the man to allow his plan to go into action was astounding, even if it was taking forever to finally start.

 

“Kurogiri.” Master commanded, and Kurogiri nodded before holding out a small metal object. Deku stared at the All Might-inspired design of the zippo lighter as mixed feelings filled him. Only horror showed on his face though as he took it.

 

“What...the hell is this?” He choked out.

 

“It’s disgusting!” Shigaraki agreed angrily.

 

“A much easier way to get your flames going.” Master explained. “Your matches can easily be damaged or destroyed and your flint and charcoal aren’t always the quickest option. This lighter will help you.”

 

“I meant the design.” Deku scowled and gripped the lighter tightly. What was this? A ploy? A mind-screw? What was he intending by giving this to him?

 

“A reminder.” Master crooned and Deku shivered. “Of your ultimate goal. Despite the...gaudy design.”

 

“...Thank you, Master.” Deku muttered half-heartedly.

 

“Put it away already. I can’t stand to look at it.” Shigaraki commanded. Deku did so, placing it in his pocket with his matches. It was a solid, heavy weight added to his clothing. It practically screamed in his ears.

 

“Tomorrow you will pass your entrance exam into UA.” Master forced Deku’s thoughts away from his gift with the command as if Deku didn’t already fully plan to pass. “And I fully expect you to give me some information on what you’ve learned.” The man smiled. “After all, it’s the first time you’ll finally be able to use your quirks to ‘good’ use.”

 

Deku could remember the screams around him as flames had licked his hands and the smell of charred skin filled the air. He hadn’t been able to control it then and he was lucky that Master had been kind enough to find healing for his victim. But his quirk had been useful for many other situations that Izuku would definitely not consider “good”.

 

“If only I could go all out.” He lamented into the air, relaxing back against the counter of the bar on his elbow and tilting his head back to look at the ceiling. “The exam will be pitifully easy.”

 

“It’s certainly a shame, but it would be better to keep things as a surprise.” Master agreed.

 

“You don’t even have to use all of your power to finish an exam. It just proves that heroes are pathetic.” Shigaraki said scornfully.

 

“It really does.” Deku agreed with a wry twist of his mouth.

 

“All the more incentive to get creative and make them underestimate you.” Master pulled the attention back to him, leaning forward in his seat. “After all, you’re the next top hero.”

 

Deku thought of All Might and Endeavor and all of the heroes still on his list. He thought of Kacchan and his determination to be the number one hero. He thought of all of the people who had bullied him for being Quirkless and those who still teased him for being “weak”. He thought about how fun it would be to crush all of their expectations and how so many had deemed him unworthy so far.

 

“Of course.” Deku smiled and rested his cheek in his hand. “Everybody loves an underdog, after all.”


 

Deku returned home that night as silently as he had left. The sounds of his neighbors had died in the midst of the strange in-between hours of late night and early morning. Now that the meeting was over, fatigue clung to Deku’s shoulders like an iron cloak. He refused to let it drag on his feet as he kept his steps feather-light to the door to his bedroom.

 

His movements were slow and methodical as he removed his clothing and tossed it into his dirty laundry basket to clean. There were scorch marks on his white shirt and ash on his pants from him playing with his matches too much. He would need to buy a new pack.

 

He put his gloves back into the box and picked up the lighter from his pants pockets to really examine it. He could see the design of his favorite superhero’s outfit on it for decoration. There appeared to have been an addition of All Might’s signature hairstyle on the lid as well, but they had been broken off by someone. Izuku lamented the damage even as he knew that it would probably make it easier to use.

 

What was the point of this gift? Izuku actually appreciated the gift for its practicality, but that wasn’t why he was worried. It was the design of it. The passive-aggression and the threat was obvious. His master called it a reminder, but Izuku doubted it was a reminder of his mission. It wasn’t a call out, but rather a sinister whisper. Izuku just hoped he was overthinking what the whisper was saying even though he knew not to doubt his own observations. His master liked to remind him of his place, after all.

 

He tried to open and light it in one smooth move, but it wasn’t that easy. He tried a couple more times and failed before he realized this would take some practice. He needed to see the movement in one smooth move. So Izuku activated his third quirk as he flicked the lid open and his breath caught.

 

It was if time had briefly frozen and Izuku’s brain was able to account for all the details that were missed in the speed of an action. If he had to compare it to something, it was like the world had gone into slow-mode for all of a second. Izuku noted the exact moment he would need to open and strike the zip at the same time to get it to light upon opening. He took in the spark and the slight waiver in the air as the gas emitted from his tool. The flame flicked to life, and time sped up again. Izuku’s breath stuttered out of him.

 

With his new knowledge in mind, he tested out his theory three times with success before he decided to put the tool away in the box as well. His mother probably wouldn’t like knowing Izuku had a lighter. She hadn’t yet noticed him taking or buying all of the matches.

 

Izuku pulled on his pajamas again and crawled into his bed to stare at the wall. His trembling slowly came back starting in his hands and eventually travelling up his arms, shoulders, neck and back to his legs and feet until he had to shudder from the force of it. He felt sick, but he wasn’t sure if it was emotionally or mentally driven.

 

He glanced at the All Might clock that sat on his bedside table. Only a couple more hours until he needed to be up and ready. He sighed and closed his eyes for what would certainly be a stressful sleep. His heart did not slow for a long time.

Chapter Text

Izuku stared hard at the entrance to UA and gripped his backpack straps with shaking hands. His body was trembling with more force than usual despite the fact that he knew he was under stress. His heart was hammering in his chest. The sounds of all of the other examinees around him couldn’t penetrate through the noise in his ears. His nose and ears were freezing from the cold in the air as shaky white clouds escaped through his lips and nose. The temperature had dropped so much overnight.

 

He was actually there. He was actually about to take the exam to get into UA. How long had he always dreamt of going to the elite hero school? It felt like so long ago he had all but resigned himself to the fact that as a Quirkless person he couldn’t possibly be a hero. So much had changed since then that it was overwhelming to think about. He was no longer Quirkless, but he didn’t feel he had the right to even look at the sign let alone take steps past it.

 

He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed as sickness swirled in his stomach. A part of him -the noble part, he was sure- wanted to turn around and run far away. Forget his master’s plan and find another way. Find a way that didn’t mean betraying everything he had ever loved and all of his dreams. But he knew that was a stupid idea. It wasn’t worth the risk and it would cost him everything. It wasn’t like he wasn’t already a villain. The most he could do was continue to dig his own grave since he was already three feet down in the hole.

 

His eyes opened again as his backpack straps creaked a bit under the strain of his grip. In some ways he would call himself a hero for even coming to this place. How ironic was it that he was about to be in a place with Pro Heroes and potential heroes and not a single one of them would be able to help him? Maybe that’s what Master had planned. Deku hated his master’s psychological games.

 

“Fuck off, fucking Deku!!” Izuku tensed with a gasp as he spun quickly to see Kacchan glaring daggers at him as he made his way to the front gate. Izuku scrambled to remind himself to fumble out of Kacchan’s way even as he stuttered out a good morning.

 

“G-G-Good m-morn-ning Ka-Kacchan!” He cringed a little at his own acting. It didn’t even sound that real to him. How did he used to act in front of Kacchan? It had been too long since he had last seen the boy considering middle school had ended a while ago.

 

Kacchan clicked his tongue as he approached and pulled to a stop in front of Izuku, surprising him. He waited for an attack of some sort more out of habit than anything else. It had been a while since Kacchan had physically attacked him, but threats were still an option on the table. Izuku supposed even his childhood friend-turned-bully was nice enough not to attack someone who had been tortured.

 

“You shouldn’t be here.” Kacchan growled, sizing Izuku up. Izuku felt stronger than he had before. The shaking of his body had relaxed into something of a tremble that skated over his skin.

 

“Wh-what do you mean?” Izuku asked, purposely avoiding eye contact. Kacchan was used to a submissive Izuku. He didn’t like to be challenged and Izuku needed to maintain that status quo. Don’t act too cowardly, he reminded himself. He wasn’t supposed to remember his torturous experience. He wasn’t supposed to be too scared of Kacchan. Just enough to act like he used to.

 

“You think they’re going to let your  Quirkless ass in here?” Kacchan demanded and slammed his shoulder into Izuku’s as he passed by, making Izuku stumble. Izuku scowled at the ground in irritation. What the hell was that? He had moved out of the way for Kacchan and everything! “You can’t fake a quirk through the exams, Deku!”

 

Izuku clenched his fists and forced them to relax as he trotted after Kacchan. He didn’t care if that’s not what the old Izuku would’ve done, but he figured it was within his new role of “no longer Kacchan's victim” that it seemed likely. “You think I have a fake quirk?” He asked as he walked behind his old friend.

 

“I know for a fact you don’t have one!” Kacchan barked, whipping his head around to snap at him. “You don’t just magically develop a quirk just because you were-” He cut himself off, visibly biting back the words, before huffing and turning back around. Izuku felt a little warmth in his chest at the courtesy. He also secretly admitted to himself that he found it a little amusing that the other boy couldn’t seem to find it in himself to remind Izuku of what had happened.

 

“The doctors said that the stress caused it to manifest…” Izuku protested.

 

“People with an extra toe joint don’t have Quirks.” Kacchan stubbornly insisted.

 

“I don’t even have pinky toes anymore, so it’s not like it matters.” The words slipped from Izuku’s mouth before he could stop them. Instant regret caused his heart to seize up as Kacchan whipped around to look at him with wide eyes, gaping some. Izuku did admit silently to himself that it was a bit pleasing to have shocked Kacchan with such knowledge. The boy didn’t even have a response as he closed his mouth and turned back around.

 

The silence between them was thick and heavy enough to choke Izuku. That kind of information wasn’t something he had been planning on giving out. It was bad enough his mother had seen the various wounds he’d had inflicted on his body during Master’s experimentation. Izuku berated himself for allowing Kacchan to work him up. He wasn’t one of Master’s villains.

 

Kacchan seemed to chew on some of his words before finally cursing loudly to himself and pressing past Izuku’s loose tongue to state, “Just stay out of my way, shitty nerd, or I’ll kill you!” Izuku didn’t bother to follow as Kacchan sped up his pace, storming away from their conversation.

 

Izuku allowed a shaky breath to stutter past his lips and pressed a hand to his chest as he sighed. He still didn’t know how to handle Kacchan now. He wasn’t even sure what their relationship was. As messed up as it sounded, Izuku rather thought that he was closer to Kacchan than he had been before he had been kidnapped. After being around actual terrible people for so long, Kacchan’s shitfits and angry yelling didn’t seem nearly as threatening.

 

Izuku allowed himself to stare after his old friend with a frown, rubbing his thumb over the plastic leather of his backpack straps. Kacchan had stopped being scary to him a long time ago. Izuku could still remember the first time Kacchan had even come close to using his quirk against him again. Izuku hadn’t flinched and had stared at him waiting for the hit. He wasn’t sure what his face had looked like, but his expression had caused Kacchan’s face to twist in confusion before he had backed down. He had chosen instead to just throw Izuku away from him and abandon the conversation.

 

Kacchan had barely touched him since. There were the occasional threats, but Izuku had come to learn quickly that was just par for course with the other boy. He’d even once in a while seen Kacchan tell some bullies off for planning to harass Izuku later. Izuku wasn’t sure how to handle that kind of Kacchan. Even the conversation they’d just had didn’t make any sense. Izuku lamented the fact that he didn’t have the time to study Kacchan’s new behavior for his own notes. He was far too busy to do so.

 

“Whoa, are you okay?” Izuku blinked out of his thoughts to find a girl leaning past his shoulder to glance into his face. Izuku stiffened in surprise more from having a girl talk to him than the fact she had suddenly appeared. She was, in a single word, cute. And Izuku had never talked to a girl before, let alone a cute one.

 

“Ah- um- uh-!” He stuttered out sensibly. He wasn’t even forcing an act this time.

 

“That guy was just yelling at you.” The girl frowned as she straightened and crossed her arms. “What’s his problem?”

 

Izuku laughed a little and scratched the back of his head. His shaking worsened again as he swallowed thickly. “Ah...that’s, um, that’s just Kacchan. It’s, er, nothing.”

 

“You sure?” The girl asked with a worried look. “I know we’re all nervous, but that’s no reason to snap at someone…” Izuku attempted to respond but couldn’t bring himself to do so. The girl huffed a sigh and then brightened with a smile that illuminated the world around Izuku. Sweat formed and rolled down his face despite the cold. He felt way too hot to be standing there without even gloves or a scarf in the chill of winter. “Well, okay! Good luck with the exam today! Later!” Before Izuku had a chance to even say goodbye, the girl was already rushing off.

 

I TALKED TO A GIRL!!  Izuku screamed in his head, absolutely delighted and proud of himself. His energy restored, he ran the rest of the way to the auditorium where the entrance exam was to begin, only stumbling a little bit along the way.


 

As luck would have it, Izuku ended up getting a seat next to Kacchan due to the numbers they both had been given. Izuku believed that it had to do with the fact that they came from the same school -at least based on something Kacchan mentioned when they discovered they would be going to two completely different zones for their exams. Kacchan had only scowled at the fact that he wouldn’t get the chance to crush Izuku. Izuku decided it better to not say anything in response to that.

 

Instead he paid attention to Present Mic, absolutely starstruck to see him in person for the first time. As Izuku had always known, the man was loud and big on presentation. Izuku wished that he had his notebook with him so he could’ve written down his observations about the man. He noticed the flashy movements and the tenor of the man’s voice. He leaned forward and pressed his knuckles to his mouth as his eyebrows scrunched with thought. It was only a guess, but Izuku was willing to bet that the man’s voice had to get sore at some point. He wondered how long the man could talk and how much time was removed when he used his quirk. Izuku used to listen to him on the radio every week, but lately he hadn’t been able to do so because of his busy schedule. Not that it really mattered because he couldn’t learn much from Present Mic’s show. Even if he really  loved to listen to it.

 

Izuku noticed Kacchan side-eye him silently. Izuku’s breath caught and he activated his quirk before glancing over at Kacchan. The movement was far too quick for the other boy to possibly notice him. Izuku took in the curious frown as Kacchan seemed to be watching Izuku. If Izuku hadn’t known for Kacchan for years he wouldn’t even begin to know what that look meant. But Izuku had  known Kacchan for years and he recognized when his old friend had noticed something strange.

 

Izuku didn’t have enough time to try to figure out what it was that Kacchan could’ve possibly noticed about him before he had to release his breath. He got distracted from his observations as another examinee stood up to call out to Present Mic. Kacchan’s eyes beside him widened briefly, but Izuku didn’t get the chance to even think about it before his mind turned back to the explanation of the exam. By the time he glanced back at Kacchan his face had already returned to its frowning state, facing forward.


 

W...Wow. Izuku thought to himself as he stared up at the tall buildings of his examination area. When they had said there was a sector he had to go to, he hadn’t thought it would be an entire fake town. It was overwhelming as the sector spanned multiple city blocks on each side to form a perfect square. All of the robots he would have to defeat were within the confines of the walls in front of him.

 

He glanced around him at the other examinees and blinked at just how many of them were so confident. He supposed it made sense because they’d had their quirks all of their lives, but it was still a marvel to him. How were they not more shaken by what was basically a town in front of them? Izuku had seen a lot of shit, but this was certainly new.

 

I suppose that’s just what I should expect from UA. He told himself, tapping his finger to his lips. Not many people had seen the actual grounds of UA because the school kept it closed to the outside public and news people for both privacy and security purposes. The few times they let the public in during the year was for the sports festival and the examinees. And even then the examinees needed to have proper ID.

 

Izuku glanced down at his hands and frowned at his gloves. It was a risk to have brought his Deku gloves here and he kind of regretted doing so. It felt like a safety net for him to fall back on, but he was determined to not have to use them. He didn’t believe that he needed the gloves in order to win, but they were good to have on him in case something went wrong with his zippo. He didn’t have enough time to practice with his new tool. The gloves were something he was used to and had purposely built with the function to work with his various quirks in mind. He wanted to see how well he could do without them. He couldn’t risk anyone recognizing his technique in case Deku became more noticeable to the public.

 

Izuku had worked hard to keep his “public” quirk quiet. The news had broadcasted the shocking news that someone who had previously been Quirkless now suddenly had a quirk when Izuku had been released from the villains. However, they’d only been able to report that it was a latent quirk as most doctors had speculated that the stress and trauma had most likely triggered his quirk’s activation. Some even said that the tests done on him when he was small were wrong. There was no way of knowing anymore considering Master had removed his pinky toes.

 

The public and Izuku’s classmates had accepted the knowledge, but Izuku had still made sure not to go out of his way to show it off. The most he had shown a couple of classmates was him playing with the fire of a candle. He wanted them to think he was weak. Kacchan clearly thought he was faking. It was a little irksome to learn this.

 

Now that he was in UA, however, he would have to show off some of his skill. It grated that he knew he still would have to hold back, but he didn’t want any kind of connections being made. A weak pyrokinetic was better than a powerful one in the eyes of a threat.

 

“You there!” Izuku lifted his gaze from his gloves and closed them into fists, careful of the matches on the fingertips. It was the same guy who had interrupted Present Mic earlier. Izuku had no idea what his name was, but he recalled the boy’s number from when Present Mic had responded to him.

 

“Ah, yes?” He asked.

 

Examinee 7111 marched right up to him stiffly. His gaze was stern and focused. Izuku couldn’t be cowed by such a look anymore but he knew that in the past he might’ve been nervous. As it was he settled for being a little unnerved. “You’re shaking like a leaf! If you are not prepared for this cold or if you are that scared of the exam, then you should not be taking it!”

 

That was the second time today that someone had told him that he shouldn’t be taking this exam. Izuku gritted his teeth a little, unable to help but be annoyed. He smiled stiffly before saying, “Oh, sorry! I can’t help my trauma  causing me to shake! It’s not something I can control. Sorry if its bothering you!”

 

Examinee 7111 startled at that, taken aback by the response. Around them Izuku picked up on murmurs. Some of the other examinees had found the scene funny. Others thought themselves lucky to be going up against a “trembling chihuahua” (their words). The last murmur he heard was someone pointing out that they recognized him.

 

Examinee 7111 must have heard it too because he straightened, hands snapping to his sides, and bowed deeply. “Please excuse my words! I recognize who you are now! There is nothing to be ashamed of and I apologize greatly for my rude words!”

 

Izuku would really rather not be recognized as “that kid who had been kidnapped” but it was something that couldn’t be helped. It had been big news at the time. He allowed his smile to relax and quickly waved his hands, looking around nervously. He didn’t like all of the attention. “I-It’s okay!! Please lift your head!”

 

Examinee 7111 stood back up and opened his mouth to say something else, but he was interrupted as Present Mic’s voice rang out “ANNNND START!!” Izuku’s head whipped up to the large tower that stood taller than all of the examination sections and gaped in shock. He wasn’t the only one who gasped out a “Huh?”

 

“What’s the matter!? There’s no such thing as a counter in a real battle! Run! Ruuuuun!!” Present Mic yelled. His voice was so clear despite him being so far away. Izuku marvelled at his range and noted that there was no damage being done to his ears. Was this Present Mic’s choice? Did he have to choose to cause damage when he yelled like that? Izuku wanted to know. “Consider the baton passed!” Present Mic continued.

 

In an instant all of Izuku’s fellow examinees took off. Izuku stumbled and cursed himself for getting caught up in his questions and analyses. He had time later to study his teachers. He needed to secure a place in the school first!

 

Go!  He yelled at himself and took off after them, easily overtaking the back of the crowd with his speed. His hands itched for flames and his shaking finally stopped so his feet were steady. Izuku narrowed his eyes in a frown. It was time to prove he could be just as capable of a hero as he could a villain. Hopefully he could be even better.

Chapter Text

Izuku thanked Master for the decision to also grant him Agility for a quirk as he dodged around a couple of the other examinees before taking a hard right. Some of the others had joined him, but Izuku paid no attention to them as he allowed any of his acting and persona to fall away so he could get serious. His muscles and bones were steady. His thoughts flowed like an effortless river as the familiarity of battle flooded through him. Compared to Master’s training, this would be easy. He wasn’t even battling any humans.

 

The first robots began to appear then. They slammed to the ground as they either jumped or fell from higher up. The ground shook violently from the impact. Izuku’s first instinct was to create a spark with his flint, but at the last second changed direction and reached into his pants pocket for his lighter. He tucked and rolled out of an incoming attack and flicked open the lighter, getting it to light on his first move. By the time he had rolled back to his feet, he had pulled the flame straight from his tool. The flames stretched and thinned like a whip. It wrapped around him and shuddered like an eel removed from the water by Izuku’s chokehold.

 

Before Izuku could even begin his attack, though, another student crushed the machine.

 

“Sorry, slowpoke!” The muscular boy who ran past said with a wink and cheeky wave.

 

“Fuck.” Izuku grumbled under his breath, glaring.

 

Focus! He yelled at himself, and Izuku spun on his heel to dash between buildings to another street. His flames followed him. He concentrated and forced the flames to burn even hotter until they were bright blue. I just need one good look at these things-! Izuku skidded out of the alleyway to be confronted with a Two Pointer. He didn’t bother to hesitate in launching the flame out to attack this time.

 

His hand snapped out and the flame flowed along it and launched at the machine. Izuku activated his third quirk while catching his breath in his chest. His visual-processing skills temporarily sped up to faster than a hummingbird's wings, making the world seem like it had slowed down to a crawl. Izuku realized these robots had guns on them. He doubted that UA would use anything lethal, which meant they were most likely something like pellets or perhaps a trapping goo of some sort. Izuku had yet to see any goo anywhere, though. He also didn’t see any exhaust ports so he doubted that they ran on gasoline. That left electric. It wasn’t the quickest method, but it would work.

 

His breath released and Izuku abruptly changed the direction of his flames to launch straight up the barrels of the guns on the robot’s hands. Sparks flew from the inside of the machine as the blistering heat of his blue flame instantly melted and destroyed it from the inside until the robot exploded.

 

That’s two times now for Snapshot and Agility. Izuku counted down as he felt the beginnings of the migraine he was sure to have after the exam. He had about two more times with Snapshot before the migraine would be crippling. He couldn’t tell if his body was feeling the wear from Agility, but Izuku knew that he had plenty more of that one up his sleeve. His body was well-trained enough to handle the strain of it.

 

His hair stood on end and only a mixture of his instinct and his Agility quirk allowed Izuku enough time to dodge out of the way as a chunk of the machine flew past him. He yanked the flame back to his side and ignored the cry of pain behind him by sheer force of will. He ran forward to the next couple of machines and repeated his attack. With each successive kill, his flame became stronger as it gathered the fire from the explosions. It made his attacks faster and more efficient. At some point a broad grin had spread across his face as he began to enjoy himself.

 

These robots were ridiculously weak. Izuku could hardly believe just how simple it was to rip them apart. He couldn't even imagine if the heroes had been foolish enough to use gasoline. Izuku could’ve just transferred the explosion from one robot to the next. It would be almost effortless as he just allowed the flames to do what they did best. It would look like Kacchan was there or something. Surely they could’ve had a harder test made for future heroes?

 

“4 minutes left!” Present Mic’s voice called out.

 

26 points. Focus on the task. He was getting ahead of himself. He needed to keep track of his points. What was the minimum he needed to pass? He couldn’t allow himself to make it to the very top of the exam even if he wanted to. He needed to stay an underdog. Was 26 points low or high? He didn’t recall Present Mic explaining that. Most people were trying to get to the very top so of course they didn’t set a top limit.

 

The ground shook violently and forced Izuku to stumble to a stop. He automatically yanked his flame -now as thick as a pipe- back to his side to wrap around him protectively. His fellow examinees started running in the opposite direction while screaming. Izuku stood there frozen in shock as the biggest robot he had ever seen in his life appeared climbing over the buildings like they were a playground. The buildings crumbled and rubble fell into the streets around him. He was lucky none hit him because he could only gape in horror. He understood immediately that this was the fourth type of robot that Present Mic had warned them about.

 

How is THIS only worth 0 points?! Izuku wondered. What was the gimmick of such a stupid decision? There had to be another reason to it other than defeating it! He couldn’t think, though, as the thing continued to approach.

 

A fist came down on the building on the other street shooting a shockwave through the ground. Izuku yelped as he was thrown onto his back. The flame he had been hanging onto dropped to the ground. Izuku scrambled with wide eyes, horrified. No! He couldn’t lose his weapon! He had built it up so much!

 

He reached out to pull what flames were left, but he had to yank his hand back as rubble crushed the flames and smothered them. Izuku felt like he might vomit.

 

Run!! He yelled at himself. He turned and scrambled to his feet to do just that when he heard a familiar voice whimper over the noise. His gaze was automatically drawn backwards to see the girl from that morning on the ground. She had been knocked down by some rubble. Her leg was trapped under a few heavy chunks and Izuku could smell a bit of blood in the air.

 

His heart hammered in his ears as he stared at her. She had been so kind to him this morning even when she hadn’t needed to be. She had checked to make sure he was fine when she didn’t even know who he was. She had wished him luck on the exam unlike the other two people he had talked to today. She had encouraged him. The Zero Point robot was approaching. She would be crushed or hurt worse. The exam still had three more minutes. Izuku didn’t trust that they would end the exam over something like this.

 

He should get clear of the wreckage. The girl should save herself. She was trying to be a hero, wasn’t she? Heroes shouldn’t be weak. They would run into these kinds of scenarios all of the time. If she couldn’t even recover from this, what kind of hero would she be?

 

His feet were moving before he had made a conscious decision, rushing towards the girl. He had no plan. He needed a plan! He had two shots of Snapshot left. This would suck, but he needed both as he spotted a One Pointer robot still mostly in working order. First things first.

 

His eyes snapped to the Zero Pointer and he sucked in a deep breath to slow everything to a crawl. The thing towered over him by multiple stories. Even with his Agility he wouldn’t be able to get up the main face of that thing. Unlike with the other robots, this one didn’t have any weapons. It was purely a fighter machine. That meant no easy ports. There were plenty of joints he could take advantage of...but if he destroyed the joints then the robot would crush the girl. He scrapped that plan too.

 

The breath left Izuku and the Zero Pointer finally seemed to have noticed the downed girl. She was still trying to recover. Izuku’s head throbbed as he turned his gaze to the One Pointer and activated Snapshot again with a gasp.

 

The One Pointer hadn’t been destroyed. It was only crippled, which meant Izuku could blow it up again if he could get his fire. It was already turned his way. He just need to get a flame going again. Damn the fact that he had lost control of his weapon earlier out of something so stupid as fear! He would need to get better about that. In a real battle he couldn’t afford to lose control like that when his main offense was so reliant on outside forces.

 

His breath escaped him and his mind caught back up to the events happening around him. He had absolutely no time to even go for the lighter in his pocket. One flame would not be enough to take out the Zero Pointer. He had no choice but to show off more skill than he had wanted to in the exam.

 

Izuku gritted his teeth and scraped the head of the match on his thumb across the flint on his opposite hand’s palm while Izuku dashed towards the One Pointer. The match struck instantly and didn’t even have time to be blown out by the force of Izuku’s running before he grabbed it and whipped it straight up the One Pointer’s muzzles. Like with the previous robots, it sparked and exploded. Izuku instantly latched onto the force of the explosion, grunting as he pulled the furious flames to him to compress. They writhed and fought against his control as they wanted to expand outwards. The pressure of them only became worse the longer Izuku held onto them, clutching them to his chest as he pivoted on his heel and dashed towards the Zero Pointer.

 

His head throbbed like it was going to explode. The noises around him was making his vision white out, but his feet kept him going. The explosion compressed in his hands raged like the pressure in a soda bottle being shaken up. He only had a couple seconds before he would lose control. Izuku felt like he would pass out.

 

He jumped as high as he could with his Agility quirk, skipping himself up and off the tallest rubble he could find and finally launching the furious explosion at the center of the Zero Pointer. “SSSSMASH!!” He screamed as the explosion erupted with greater force than it’d had in the beginning. It threw Izuku and the Zero Pointer both backwards as the center of the robot impacted inward.

 

Izuku’s vision flickered and he lost sensation in his limbs as the familiar feeling of flames licked and burned at his skin. He could tell he was falling but he couldn’t get his body to respond. He wondered how much damage he would suffer through this time. Master would probably make him deal with his wounds for a couple days before he would even allow any healers to approach him. That’s what he got for being so weak. For not controlling his quirks better. He would be scolded when he woke up, he was sure. Especially so because he had shouted one of All Might’s signature moves. Shigaraki would mock him. Izuku hoped he could coax Kurogiri to give him a milkshake while he’s resting.

 

Izuku’s felt the final edge of his consciousness escaping him when a slap and the sharpest pain ripped through his mind. He was thrown to the side as all of his momentum shifted from falling down to falling sideways before all of it suddenly stopped. He was just awake enough to deliriously wonder if he was actually floating or if that was just his head before he finally succumbed to the throbbing of his skull.


 

A week later had Izuku sitting at the table and staring at his breakfast. He couldn’t get his mind or thoughts off of the exam that had occurred. He was angry with himself for how weak he had been. He kept going back and forth between if he had done the right thing by showing off so much of his power. He didn’t regret saving the girl (Izuku couldn’t find it in himself to regret saving anyone. It’s what a hero would’ve done), but he did regret that it had made him pass out.

 

He had missed out on seeing Recovery Girl’s quirk up close and in action! How could he have done that?! It was such a critical thing to learn! He needed to know what damage he had done to himself and how much the quirk had healed, but right after he had woken up in the recovery unit he had been rushed to the paper portion of his exam. The only thing he knew was that he had been burnt and cut up from debris from the explosion. He didn’t have any proof of this when he had woken up. He hadn’t had the chance to even thank Recovery Girl.

 

The report to his master had been thorough, if reluctant. He had been right to think that Shigaraki would mock him, but Deku had managed to get a swift kick into the man’s shin before Kurogiri had broken them up. Deku hadn’t been in the mood to deal with any nonsense when he was already beating himself up. He had also been admittedly nervous about what Master would say.

 

Master had only made an appreciative noise and dismissed him. That was honestly more unnerving than anything else. Izuku felt sick from having exposed so much information about UA. He hoped that they changed up the practical exam once in a while.

 

“Izuku!” His mother cried and Izuku snapped out of his daze. He realized quickly based on the distressed look on his mother’s face that she had called him a number of times. “Are you alright? You’re frowning and staring blankly at your fish!” She said.

 

“Ah...sorry! I’m okay!” He promised with a smile. He felt bad for worrying her again. He couldn’t help getting lost in his own thoughts, though. He supposed that his own mother wasn’t used to his silence even if Izuku been broken of his habit of muttering for the sake of his own safety.

 

His mother reached across the table to touch his trembling hand. “Why don’t you go rest on the couch? I’ll take care of the dishes. You must be tired. You have bruises under your eyes again.”

 

Izuku wasn’t about to be the one to tell her that it was stress. He had just woken up from a couple of hours of sleep, after all. She didn’t know he had been up part of the night training. He had to get better at using his lighter. He needed to be quicker.

 

“Thanks mom. I can help though!” He stood and grabbed his plate, but his mother shook her head with smile.

 

“I can do it. Go turn on the news for me so I can listen too. Then go get ready for your appointment, okay?”

 

Even almost a year later he was still being forced to go to a therapist. Izuku couldn’t tell anything to that person. It helped that he could fake having amnesia of his time captured by the villains. It gave him an excuse for not having to confront his problems. It was exhausting having to act so much. He needed a therapist to discuss the stress of going to a therapist.

 

“Okay.” Izuku sat himself onto the couch and flicked the television onto his mother’s preferred news channel. It was showing a repeat from one of the flashier battles from yesterday that Izuku had already analyzed. He couldn’t even bring himself to focus on it as he slumped back against the couch and stared aimlessly at the wall.

 

If he had to grade himself, he would say he had achieved the mediocrity he had intended to set out to reach during the exam. The written exam had been a lot harder than he had expected mostly because he was so behind in school. Yes he knew and could memorize enough to graduate middle school, but his retention skills were much weaker than they had been before he was kidnapped. He just didn’t have the time or drive to study. It was harder for him to memorize things like math problems now. Maybe his brain was just too full from his mission. Izuku hoped that it wasn't brain damage. With all that in mind, it meant that he probably just scraped by with a passing grade on the paper test.

 

He was certain, though, that he had managed to balance out his bad written score for a great practical score. He’d had time to contemplate the reason behind the Zero Point machine. The only conclusion he could come up with was that the robot had to have been a ploy to see who was the most heroic. Who was willing to jump in and stop a major attack even though there was no benefit to the hero who did it? The fact that Izuku had actually saved someone was only a bonus. He was willing to bet good money that the Zero Point robot actually had a better value added to it.

 

But that just made it harder for Izuku to guess for sure where his grade would land. He wanted to be middle of the road for the test. He needed to really show off his mettle later on by scrunching his way up the ladder in UA to be the top student. Or come out of nowhere to really make a presence for himself. Right now he wanted to be unnoticable. He had probably ruined that chance.

 

“Oh yeah,” Izuku’s mother called over the sound of the clinking dishes. He spotted her reflection in the screen of the television as it went briefly dark. She was watching him. Izuku eyed one of his weights on the floor and decided he might as well do something with his energy. He picked up the weight to start doing some arm curls. “The results are due back today or tomorrow, right?”

 

Izuku hummed in agreement, counting his curls. He briefly wondered how Kacchan had done in his own exam, but brushed the thought aside. He didn’t doubt that Kacchan had passed with flying colors. At least with him as a competitor, Izuku knew that he wouldn’t be at the top of the list. Kacchan was both too smart and too strong for that.

 

“You know, honey, if you don’t think you made it I think you still did an amazing job! What you’ve accomplished is amazing!” His mother continued.

 

Izuku hummed again, not particularly listening as he switched arms. If Kacchan had actually gotten into UA, that meant Izuku would get the chance to show him that he actually did have a quirk. And not just a quirk, but a powerful one. He may not be able to show off his full skillset yet, but it would be satisfying to finally prove his own worth. Izuku had a running theory that he wanted to test against Kacchan. He figured that he would have to wait until the sports festival to try.

 

“Izu...IZUKU!!” Izuku’s head snapped over at the sound of his mother’s form collapsing to her knees. She was shaking harder than Izuku was as she held out an envelope in her hand. “It...It came! It’s here! Your letter…!”

 

Izuku put down the weight and took the letter. It was heavier than expected. His heart pounded in his chest and filled his ears. He was confident he had gotten in, so why was he so nervous? This was the school he had dreamt about going to ever since he was a little kid. This was the biggest moment of his life. He could hardly contain himself. His shaking definitely had more to do with his own anticipation and nerves than anything else as he rushed to his room.

 

He gulped as he threw himself down into his chair at his desk. The door didn’t fall properly shut behind him. He could see his mother fretting and moving anxiously back and forth in front of the door. He shuddered just a little bit before ripping open the letter. The envelope split down in the middle and a circular metal object fell out of it. Izuku threw himself backwards and out of his seat instinctively, knocking the chair over violently.

 

“Izuku?!” His mother cried and rushed in. Thoughts of bombs ran through Izuku’s mind, but was discarded as a light beamed up from the device and a familiar voice spoke. Both Izuku and his mother gaped as the beaming face of All Might appeared with a loud call of “I AM HERE, APPEARING ON A HOLOGRAM!!”

 

“ALL MIGHT?!” Izuku yelped. Was he dreaming? Wasn’t that letter from UA? Why was he seeing All Might?! Why was he in a suit and not his hero’s outfit?! Izuku wanted to look at the letter but couldn’t move as the hero went on to announce loudly the results of his exam.

 

“You barely passed on your written exam,” the hero explained, “but your practical exam showed you may be a star yet!” Izuku’s mother’s hand found his and gripped it tightly. Izuku’s heart was in his ears as he squeezed her hand. She huddled close to him. “But wait!! There’s much more! Turn your attention to this screen!” The hero motioned behind him grandly to where another screen appeared when he clicked the button on a remote he was holding.

 

Izuku was already completely thrown off balance by everything that was happening to him, but the appearance of the cute girl he had saved at the exam had just added another layer on top of it. She was in her middle school sailor uniform instead of the exercise clothing he had last seen her in. There was a determined look on her face as she talked to Present Mic and asked him to give some of her points to Izuku for saving her.

 

“That boy saved my life!” She cried, and Izuku was sent reeling. Her words echoed through his ears and into his very bones. Tears immediately flooded his eyes. His heart wasn’t used to such kindness. His mother’s hand flew to her mouth and he heard her suck in a shaky breath as well. Her hand moved to wrap around his arm and squeeze it instead.

 

“More than any ‘quirk’, it is your actions that touch people!” All Might announced when the clip paused. Izuku could barely hear him as he wept over words he hadn’t expected to hear. All Might explained the hidden portion of the exam and how the examinees were graded on rescue points as well. His guess had been something on par with the announcement, but he couldn’t even bring himself to revel in the success. Uraraka-san’s (as All Might had called her name) words were still ringing in his head. He couldn’t even cheer as All Might told him his final score and how high he had placed. He could only collapse to the ground and sob.

 

“Izuku...I-I-Izuku! My Izuku! You did it…!” His mother cried with him, holding him close as the projection ended with All Might greeting him enthusiastically and welcoming him to UA as a student. Izuku curled up into his mother’s arms and wept the first tears of joy he had felt in years. His mother’s wet praises continued to fill the air, but Izuku could barely even hear her.

 

“I...I did it!” He whimpered and pressed his face to her shoulder as he clutched her to him. He didn’t even really care about getting into UA (even though he was happy about that too). The school didn’t matter nearly as much as the revelation that All Might and Uraraka-san had given him. They had given him hope . Despite reality...despite the future...despite all the odds...Izuku could still become a hero.

Chapter Text

The next couple of months passed without much incident. Izuku still needed to finish school -including his extra classes- before he could officially graduate. Just because he had been accepted into UA didn’t mean he was off the fast track to failure in his middle school. He had to work harder than he’d ever had to in order to keep pace. Between his therapy sessions, extra school classes, and the mission updates that he had to present to his master, Izuku was utterly wiped out. Everything was a blur that passed him by. The only things that had stuck out to him thus far had been both -in his opinion- very bad things. They were bad enough and striking enough to cut through even his fog of exhaustion.

 

The first was the meeting he’d been forced to go to with Kacchan.

 

His teacher had been both smug and proud to have not one, but two of his students going to UA and he had wanted to congratulate both at the same time. Izuku had only been able to stand there next to Kacchan who had glared daggers into Izuku’s face. Internally he had cursed his stupid teacher for not seeing the clear antagonism and for unknowingly encouraging Kacchan’s anger towards him.

 

It was after the meeting that Kacchan had caught up to him. He had grabbed the front of Izuku’s school jacket and had slammed him against the wall to get into his face. “WHAT DIRTY GODDAMN TRICK DID YOU USE TO PASS THE EXAM, SHITNERD?!” He’d growled furiously.

 

Izuku had grabbed Kacchan’s arms and had attempted to remove the grip on his shirt, irritated at the rough behavior even though he had restrained from showing it on his face. It had been a while since Kacchan had gotten physical with him like that. He must have been really pissed off.

 

“I told you...it was my quirk!”

 

“You don’t have a quirk!!” Kacchan had shouted. A couple of explosions had popped off in his opposite palm and Izuku had heard the hand that held him sizzling. Oh boy, did Izuku want to show him how he definitely had a quirk. Show him that his fireworks show couldn’t scare him. But Izuku wasn’t the type to put up a fight like that. It wouldn’t be good if he broke character too much in front of Kacchan. His kidnapping wasn’t supposed to have left much of a mark on his personality. Kacchan continued to yell, “It was only supposed to be me that got into UA, and you went ahead and took that dream and pissed all over it!!”

 

“I do have a quirk!” Izuku had insisted and had finally kicked Kacchan away. His foot to the other boy’s stomach was neither strong nor rough, but it was enough to get Kacchan to back off a bit with a growl and let him go. Izuku had glared at him and had felt angry that his shaking wouldn’t go away. It had made him look like he was scared. He had been more angry than scared.

 

“Fucking prove it then, fucking Deku!” Kacchan had demanded.

 

“I already did.” Deku’s mouth had twisted into a sneer and his shaking finally had come to a stop as he had stood up straight. His feet had firmly planted on the ground as he had tilted his head. “I proved it when I pissed all over your dreams, Kacchan.”

 

“YOU GODDAMN-!” Kacchan had slammed him hard against the wall again and had held a fist up to punch him. Deku had waited while staring him dead in the eye without any expression to cloud his face. He’d dared Kacchan to punch him. Deku wouldn’t take it without a fight anymore. If Kacchan had hit him, he would’ve made sure to land a few punches of his own.

 

Something had held the other boy back, though. Kacchan’s fury had blazed in his eyes and the grinding of his teeth had been loud enough for Deku to hear. Kacchan’s eyes had searched his for just a moment before finally he had just turned his head and screamed in frustration. He then threw Izuku to the ground and had stomped on the grass so close to his face that Deku had felt the bent grass brushing his nose and cheeks. Deku had met his eyes again from the ground, unaffected.

 

“STAY THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY, OR I’LL KILL  YOU, YOU HEAR ME?! NEXT TIME I WON’T HESITATE TO FUCKING BLOW YOUR ASS UP! JUST STAY ON THE GROUND, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!” Kacchan had yelled before he had stormed off.

 

Izuku had climbed to his feet and had brushed himself off, a bit mystified from the interaction. How had he managed to get out of that without getting punched? He’d felt worked up by it without any outlet. Maybe that’s how Kacchan felt all of the time.

 

What had stopped Kacchan from hitting him? Izuku was starting to doubt that Kacchan was holding back on account of Izuku’s past. He just wished that with all of his analytical skills that Izuku could just read his old friend’s mind. His life would be so much easier then.

 

The second thing that had stood out to him had been the day that Pro Hero Firefighter had been killed.

 

Izuku had been home for that fight because he had been finishing up his homework with the news on in the background. He had been trying to think past the various mathematical formulas that he just needed to memorize long enough to pass his upcoming exam. Nothing made sense and he had been once again cursing the villains that had taken away so much time from him when his mother had gasped.

 

Izuku had looked up to see her watching the television with horror in her eyes. Izuku had turned to the screen to see the news of Firefighter’s death displayed in bright red kana across the screen. Next to the picture of Firefighter’s smiling face was the image of a couple of villains that Izuku knew. His heart had plummeted in his chest as his limbs went cold with realization.

 

“Oh no…” He had whispered.

 

“Oh Izuku, I’m so sorry!” His mother had cried and lowered herself to the floor beside him to hug him. “I know you admired her!”

 

Izuku knew that she had been referring to all of the research he had been doing about her about a week ago. He had been watching videos of her nonstop and had been taking extensive notes. He had talked with his mother about the feats the woman had been able to achieve. Three nights ago he had turned in his findings to Kurogiri having concluded his research and believing he had nothing else he needed to learn.

 

Admiration was something he had definitely felt for Firefighter because of her Pro Hero status. Now all he felt was numb horror. Izuku had sealed the feeling in his heart even as tears had escaped his eyes. He had felt his skin become clammy. This was something that he had been expecting, but was still horrified to see it finally occur. He had caused the death of a Pro Hero.

 

That night he had wondered if he could ever be forgiven.


 

Izuku stood in front of the door of classroom 1-A with anxious trembling filling his limbs. In UA there were only 1 in 300 students that would pass the exams, and Izuku had learned that only 36 had passed this exam. And between two classes, that meant he would be in a class with 17 other students. He could admit to himself privately that he was nervous. It was his first real day of hero school! He would be meeting with new potential heroes and would finally get to make friends. How long had it been since Izuku’d had friends? He couldn’t remember.

 

He wasn’t hesitating outside of the door because he was scared, though. He could hear Kacchan’s loud voice through the thick door. It was muffled, but definitely there. It was just his luck that he would be in the same class as Kacchan. He didn’t know whether to be eager or exhausted with this fact. He supposed there was no more hiding his quirk anymore.

 

“Aren’t you going to go in?” Izuku startled and spotted a girl standing behind him. He immediately got the impression of a frog from her with her large eyes and mouth. Her long tongue lolled past her lips to hang a couple inches too long. Her hands were also longer than normal proportions for a girl her age. The tips of her fingers were wider and more rounded. He found himself staring for only a moment too long as he took in her various features. Multiple hypotheses formulated in his brain from the brief impression he had of her.

 

“I am!” He nodded quickly and stumbled out of her way. “Ah...um...you can go first…”

 

“It’s normal to be shy in these kinds of situations.” The girl assured him. “I’ll go in with you.”

 

That was twice now that a girl had been nice to him. Things were starting to look up for Izuku at UA. He smiled with a tinge of embarrassment and scratched at the back of his head before he joined the girl in entering the classroom. It was overwhelming immediately with all of the noise and activity. Izuku didn’t recognize any of the students who had already taken some seats in the classroom. The only exceptions were Kacchan and -surprisingly- the serious boy from the exam that had apologized to him. He watched as Kacchan was scolded for his feet being on the desk by the serious boy. Kacchan only sneered at him for being someone who had gone to a fancy private school.

 

It’s loud. Izuku thought to himself and turned his eyes away from that scene to observe a couple of the other students. He mentally catalogued faces with the hypotheses of their quirks that he made from his observations. He would need more time to get a look at all of them, though. His hands itched to write his notes down in his notebooks. He was determined to maintain his theories until he could proceed to do so.

 

“My name is Asui Tsuyu, by the way.” The frog girl next to him said by way of introduction. “My friends all call me Tsu-chan, though.”

 

“Uh, what?” Izuku asked, startled by the sudden familiarity. His face warmed and he shook his head rapidly. “A-Ah, no! I can’t possibly, Asui!”

 

“Tsu-chan.” She insisted. Her expression never waivered. Izuku wasn’t sure how to handle this new development. Had he just made a friend??

 

“You there! Midoriya!” Izuku was spun around by a hand on his shoulder to come face-to-face with Iida, the serious student. Izuku hadn’t even realized he had picked up on the boy’s name when he had introduced himself to Kacchan earlier during the fight. How had he gotten Izuku’s name?

 

“Hello, my name is Iida Tenya from Soumei.” Iida said, holding out his hand in greeting.

 

“Y-Yeah, I overhead...I’m Midoriya. Nice to meet you, Iida...” He took the boy’s hand to shake. Iida eyed his hand and Izuku pulled it back quickly, embarrassed by the trembling. The whispers of “shaking chihuahua” entered his mind again as he resisted the urge to dip his hands into his pockets. He itched to play with his matches.

 

“I’m Asui Tsuyu.” Asui (Izuku would have to figure out what to call her) said. “But I prefer my friends to call me Tsu-chan.”

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you both. Midoriya! I was impressed at how you divined the true nature of the exam!” Izuku frowned, baffled. Iida pressed a hand to his chest as his eyes squeezed in obvious self-reproach as he continued, “I...was completely blind to it! How you went in to save that girl without hesitation…! I hate to admit it, but you were the better man!” He clenched his fist.

 

This guy is intense. Izuku thought.

 

“You saved someone?” Asui asked with a tilt of her head.

 

“Oh!!” A new voice cut in from behind their little group. Izuku recognized the voice immediately as Uraraka hopped in front of him and pressed her hands together in delight. “It’s you! The curly-haired boy that saved me!! Glad I found you!”

 

“Uh…” Izuku hated how tongue-tied he got around Uraraka. She was just so cute, and in the school uniform she was even cuter. He felt his face heating up drastically. It suited her so well.

 

“It’s so cool we’re in the same class! It was so amazing what you did! You just went BWOOSH!!” She thrusted her hand out and motioned widely with both arms in the form of an explosion, hopping a little from the force of it, “And the whole robot just totally got destroyed!!”

 

Izuku covered his face with his arms unable to look at Uraraka’s blinding smile. “N-n-no...it’s all because y-you were so kind…! I couldn’t-I couldn’t possibly…!!”

 

“You’re too modest!” She giggled. “Hey, what do you think is next? Do you think it’s the opening ceremony? The guidance counselors? I wonder what our teachers will be like! I’m so excited!”

 

“I heard that we’re supposed to have Pro Heroes for teachers.” Asui said.

 

“Of course they would have the best teachers here at UA!” Iida agreed. Izuku admittedly was excited for the possibility of meeting so many Pro Heroes in person. He would get to interact with them on a daily basis and learn from them! There were still so many techniques he wanted to pick up on. If he studied hard enough, he could probably apply the same techniques to the alumni heroes and build off of them. Or figure out where they’re lacking. More than anything, though, Izuku wanted to become stronger. Once he was strong enough, he could finally free himself from his shackles and remember what it was like to be his own person. Maybe even be the hero he had always hoped to be.


 

As it turned out, their teacher was a Pro Hero that Izuku didn’t recognize and he was a man that classified things such as opening ceremonies as “frivolities that heroes don’t have time for”. Instead he had them change into their gym uniforms and immediately took them out to the sports field for a physical evaluation test. Aizawa-sensei explained how they were to complete the tasks using their quirks to the best of their abilities to really see the extent of their limits. Anyone who came in last place would be immediately be expelled.

 

Surely the teacher had to be joking, though. Izuku couldn’t believe just how harsh of a punishment that would be. There were already so few heroes being trained in his year, and now they’re being told that one of them would be expelled for being the bottom of the class physically? That didn’t sound particularly heroic to him -especially because he was almost certain that Aizawa-sensei had decided that when someone had announced how fun the practice would be.

 

Izuku shakily raised his hand as Aizawa-sensei called Kacchan up to the pitch first to test how far he could throw the ball with his quirk. “Yes?” The man asked.

 

“Um, sensei, can we use support items?” Izuku asked somewhat nervously. Aizawa-sensei looked just as tired as Izuku felt and his stare was a bit unnerving. Who was he? It bothered Izuku that he didn’t immediately know. Such a scruffy man would be memorable to him.

 

“Midoriya, don’t think that you’ll get a handicap just because you developed your quirk late.” Aizawa-sensei warned. Izuku attempted to ignore the murmurs of interest behind him. He wondered how long his past would follow him around like this. At least he hadn’t been openly stared at like he had last year in his new class.

 

Izuku shook his head quickly. “I don’t need a handicap!” He insisted with a frown. “My quirk needs an outside source for me to use it. So I wanted to know if it’s okay to use my support item.”

 

Aizawa regarded him for a few moments before tucking his hands into his pockets. “No.” He finally decided.

 

“What?” One of his fellow students -a pink girl who Izuku couldn’t for the life of him guess what her quirk was- gasped. “But you wanted us to use our quirks!”

 

“I want to test your aptitude without handicapping you. If your quirk can’t be used without assistance, then you can’t use it here.” Aizawa-sensei explained.

 

“That hardly seems fair.” The blond boy behind Izuku muttered.

 

“He can’t do anything anyway!” Kacchan mocked.

 

“‘Fair’ is hardly anything to account for if you’re in battle and don’t have your support item.” Aizawa-sensei scolded, glancing coldly at the students. Izuku felt the shiver that ran through his fellow students. Izuku was unaffected as his mind ran wild with ideas of how he could do this. It wouldn’t be the first time Izuku had been without his matches. He could find a way around it, he was sure. He didn’t know everyone’s quirks, but he was certain he wouldn’t come in last. His Agility, at least, would be able to get him through most of the tests. He was physically fit.

 

The problem was the unknown quirks of his classmates who were just as determined as he was to not be at the bottom. He didn’t know their skills or their strengths. Even if he was in good physical condition, it meant nothing if everyone else was exceptional at the tests.

 

On top of that, all of his classmates were expecting to see each other’s quirks in action. It was a physical test, yes, but it was also a way of assessing the skills that each student had with their quirks. Izuku would get to see what his classmates could do and vice versa. If he didn’t even show off his quirk even once, he could be considered a loser. He didn’t want to be thought of as someone who couldn’t do anything without a support item. He didn’t care if he was supposed to be trying to stay under the radar; he wanted to prove that he deserved to be there too.

 

He would have to be crafty, Izuku decided. Depending on his classmate’s quirks, he might be able to take advantage. All he had to do was wait for the right moment-

 

“DIE!!!” An explosion ripped through Izuku’s thoughts as Kacchan yelled and launched a ball from his hand with the boost of his quirk. Air whipped the hair and clothes of him and his fellow classmates from their bodies as heat coated the air enough to make Izuku break out into a sweat. The light of the fire blinded him only a little bit before the leftover smoke was blown away from the area. Kacchan had a delighted grin on his face that Izuku rarely saw anymore. It morphed back into a cocky smirk as he turned to regard the class while Aizawa-sensei went on to explain more of the test.

 

Izuku was not listening, though. He had his own smile that was building on his face. He didn’t need a support item, he realized. He had a perfectly combustible hot-head right in front of him that was just taunting him to steal some fire from him. Izuku decided then that he would try to have fun with this exam.

Chapter Text

The tests turned out to be much harder than expected. Not because the tests themselves were difficult, but each student seemed to excel in at least one of the tests. His classmates weren’t like the classmates from back in his middle school. Izuku’s classmates had fantastic quirks and knew how to make them work. It was admirable to watch. These were people trying to become future heroes and they took it seriously even while having fun.

 

The tension was high amongst all of the students, though. Izuku pointedly noticed the thick miasma of competition in the air. Barely anybody was chatting with each other as everyone tensed to see what their classmates could do. The only times most people spoke was to make comments or express wonder with others in the class. Izuku could feel when the group as a whole became threatened when they saw both Kacchan’s quirk and a boy named Todoroki’s quirk. Between the explosions and the field of ice, they were intimidating opponents to have. Iida, too, had an amazing quirk, if a simple one. He had engines on his legs, which meant nobody would get the chance to beat him in a running competition.

 

There were nine tests in all. Izuku just needed to get a higher-than-average score on two or three of them to ensure he wouldn’t be at the bottom. He just needed to figure out which ones to use his skills at. He hadn’t needed to use his fire for really anything other then attacks when he had been trained. And he didn’t have his relaxed fire of matches or lighters. He needed Kacchan’s fire.

 

And that was an exciting and scary thought. If the explosion from that robot had been so hard to contain, he could barely imagine what Kacchan’s would be like. Possibly less antagonistic considering they were controlled blasts. Izuku needed to get his hands on that fire.

 

“You aren’t doing so well, shit nerd.” Kacchan grumbled to him during their next test as they both lined themselves up for the fifty-meter dash.

 

“You’re planning on using your explosions, right?” Izuku asked back as he focused and refused to rise to the bait.

 

Kacchan shot him a mocking smile. “Don’t be so jealous.”

 

Izuku smiled back brightly as he turned to face his old friend. “Oh, I’m not.” He promised as Aizawa-sensei called for them to go. Izuku instantly activated Snapshot with a quick inhale and saw the moment the fire began to burst from Kacchan’s palms. Izuku whipped his arms up and latched onto that fire, pulling both explosions from both palms before his breath released. Kacchan stumbled as his first round of explosions disappeared. Izuku just managed to catch the baffled look on his face before he stuck his arms out behind him and brought the fire to curl into his palms.

 

“Stolen!” He laughed as he jumped and released the kinetic energy of the explosions. The force launched him forward as expected, but Izuku was neither trained in controlling explosions nor good at calculations. He miscalculated the angle and sent himself launching a little more upwards than he had wanted, spinning head-over-heels with a yelp. He tumbled his way to the other side to get his score right before Kacchan managed to pass it as well. The dirt in his mouth as his face hit the ground tasted like a bittersweet win.

 

He sat up and spat the dirt out of his mouth as he heard the other students around him crying out in surprise and awe at what they had just seen. He spotted Uraraka jumping up and down and cheering, “That’s still so cool!!” He also heard one of his other classmates yell, “Midoriya just stole his quirk!!” Which, frankly, was wrong, but Kacchan seemed to be in agreement.

 

“DEEKUUUU!!!” Kacchan growled and launched himself back at Izuku with another burst from his palm. “EXPLAIN NOW, SHITRAG!!” Izuku yelped and attempted to duck under the tackle. Battle instinct had him latching onto what bit of fire he could get from Kacchan before the blaze burnt itself out. It wasn’t much, but he was grateful for his reflexes when Kacchan got wrapped up in some kind of cloth and his quirk disappeared. Izuku blinked and followed the line of cloth to Aizawa-sensei, whose hair had pulled back from his face and his eyes were glowing red.

 

“Quit making me use my quirk! I’ve got dry-eye, dammit!!” Aizawa-sensei complained, glaring at Kacchan specifically as the boy struggled against the cloth. He explained only briefly that his cloth was made of metal and nanofiber material, which Izuku noted as he gaped. He was more focused on the yellow goggles around the man’s neck that had previously been hidden behind the cloth scarf. He would know those goggles anywhere.

 

“Oh my god!” He cried, finally standing. “You’re Eraserhead!! I can’t believe I didn’t notice before!!” They had underground heroes at UA as well! Izuku couldn’t believe his luck. Eraserhead -although not one of his favorite heroes- was amazing . He had a quirk that could erase other quirks during the time he was staring at them. Izuku would kill to have a quirk like that. It was more useful than any of the other quirks he had, in his opinion. He knew for sure that he needed to get as much information on possible from this man.

 

But then he would have to give the information to his master. Izuku frowned at that thought as he pressed his knuckle to his lips. He didn’t want to give away too much information about Aizawa-sensei. Eraserhead was an underground hero for a reason. Not many people knew about him, and that was how he got the drop on villains so much. Eraserhead’s quirk would no doubt be a threat to Master. Izuku didn’t want to see another headline with his teacher’s face on it.

 

“Enough!” Aizawa-sensei finally called over the chattering of the students. He released Kacchan and muttered something while rubbing his eyes. Kacchan shot a glare at Izuku, baring his teeth to let him know that he wasn’t done with him. Izuku granted him a shaky smile and silently crooked his finger behind his back. The fire that had been hovering where Izuku had last grabbed it snaked jaggedly towards him and curled up into a ball. He compressed it and had it hover above his head so that it wouldn’t burn him or anyone else. Izuku then slunk back to the rest of the class, avoiding Kacchan’s curse and gaze.

 

“Sensei!” The blond boy with electricity powers near Izuku called with a lazy raise of his hand, “I thought we weren’t allowed outside help with our quirks?”

 

“He said no support items , though.” The girl with earphone jacks for earlobes protested.

 

“It’s still fucking cheating!” Kacchan shouted. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of Izuku since he had rejoined the class.

 

“No, he used his quirk just like all of you have been doing.” Aizawa-sensei said as he tilted his head back and dropped a couple of eye drops into his eyes. He squeezed them shut and then granted Izuku a small, interested quirk of his mouth. “He took advantage of his surroundings to use his quirk. I wouldn’t call it cheating - I would call it smart.”

 

Izuku straightened with pride. He had just been praised by a Pro Hero! And Eraserhead, nonetheless! This completely made up for the fact that he had face-planted into the ground earlier.

 

Kacchan only clicked his tongue furiously and snapped his head away.

 

“We’re moving on.” Aizawa-sensei announced, and the tests continued.

 

Izuku maintained the tiny explosion he had hovering over his head for the rest of the tests. He still had one more that he planned to use it for, but he could only use it once. He doubted Kacchan would give him the chance to steal from his quirk again so soon. Izuku struggled to maintain split his focus between the ball of fire and the tests he was taking, though. He wasn’t used to holding onto fire for so long, his body was getting a bit tired from using Agility, and he already had a headache that had formed from activating Snapshot earlier. On top of that, he was still compressing the flames and focusing on making them hotter. He needed as much kinetic energy in them as possible for when he could use them.

 

In the meantime, he continued to watch his classmates. He made notes of their names and their quirks and promised himself to really think about their powers later. The ones he found the most interest in were Uraraka’s (how heavy of an item could she lift? He had only seen her use it on her clothes thus far. And maybe himself? Was that what had happened at the exam?) and Todoroki’s. It hadn’t slipped past Izuku that Todoroki only used his right side for his ice quirk and only the right side of his body seemed to suffer for it. Was he not able to use his left side? Or was it something else?

 

On top of that, Izuku knew the name Todoroki. That was the surname of Endeavor. This must mean that Todoroki was that man’s son. But Endeavor had a powerful fire quirk. Todoroki having an ice quirk didn’t make sense. Unless he was holding back like Izuku was? It was a plausible hypothesis. Maybe he was adopted? Izuku would have to do some research later.

 

Izuku spent most of the grip test and sidestepping test concentrating on compressing and (in his own mind) pissing off the fire. It was already bursting with kinetic energy from the explosion, but Izuku wanted to make sure it would be as strong as he could make it. He doubted it would be as strong as his previous explosions, though, because it had only been a tiny part of what Kacchan had used. Hence his focus.

 

The time finally came when he decided he could use it. He stood at the pitch and picked up the ball to regard it. He knew he would need to use the fire here, but there was no way of safely using it. He didn’t have his gloves with him and his gym uniform only covered arms and legs. He also didn’t know just how powerful the blast would be when he actually used it. He had completely miscalculated earlier just how strong Kacchan’s explosions were. It made him respect his childhood friend a bit more to be able to use his explosions so expertly. The gap in experience was obvious.

 

If he wasn’t careful, he could blow his hand off. But he wanted to get as much power behind the ball as he could. Maybe if he burnt himself, he would get to see Recovery Girl? Was she still working at UA, or was her help during the entrance exams a one-off type of thing? It would be exciting to meet her. Izuku’s pain tolerance may be higher than most people’s, but he definitely wasn’t risking losing anymore body parts. There had to be an alternative.

 

“Hurry up already!” One of his classmates called. Izuku startled out of his thoughts and his head throbbed in protest to the sudden jolt. He realized that he had been staring silently at the ball for longer than he’d thought. He bit down on the knuckle that was at his mouth in reprimand before an idea sprung to his head. He had a way around this!

 

“Okay…” He breathed out and in before he pulled his now-bright blue flame into his left hand. The flame was boiling and shivering in anticipation while Izuku took a step back. “Go…!” He whispered before he threw the ball in his right hand as hard as he could. He sent the ball of fire following right afterwards, tailing the toy.

 

Then Izuku activated Snapshot and the world slowed. Izuku couldn’t make his flames go very fast because it didn’t have fuel to burn. The only thing that kept his fire going -he'd learned through his own study and trial and error during Master’s training- was Izuku’s willpower, the energy in the flames themselves, and oxygen. If he made the flames move too fast, they ran the risk of blowing themselves out. But with the flame so close to the ball, Izuku just needed to wait until the ball was at its peak.

 

He was a little off on his timing with this one because he could tell the ball could’ve gone about another half meter, but he didn’t have the time to do Snapshot again without it hurting badly. He still had a few more tests until he was done. He would not be able to function well if he had a migraine eating at his skull.

 

So he released Snapshot and thrusted his hand out. The ball of flames exploded, whipping the air was lashing tendrils of flame and sent the ball rocketing even farther. Izuku had to plant his feet against the blowback, wincing as his arm ached. Definitely a better choice not to have released that bomb so close to his hand.

 

“506.4 meters.” Aizawa-sensei drawled and showed Izuku the number on the screen. Izuku gave a weary smile at that and held his head in his hand as he went back to his classmates. His head ached so badly and his body was trembling from the strain of causing two explosions. Izuku didn’t realize that all of his energy had gone to maintaining that fire. He was exhausted.

 

Three more tests. He told himself. Three more and you’re done.


 

I’m exhausted. In every sense of the word. Izuku continued to nurse his head as he dragged himself towards the school gate. Not only was he physically drained and hurting, but mentally and emotionally he wanted to collapse too. The morning had concluded with Aizawa-sensei giving them their scores. He had grinned while telling them that the expulsion threat had only been a logical ruse. Izuku should’ve trusted his first interpretation that Aizawa-sensei had been lying about expelling a student on the first day. He was glad he wasn’t the only student who had fallen for it, though.

 

Izuku had ended up taking 14th place. It wasn’t a great score, but it was good enough for him. He felt that he had impressed a number of classmates by the end of the tests. He also knew that he had enraged Kacchan because he could feel every glare that was sent his way. Well, it wasn’t his fault that Kacchan hadn’t believed him about his quirk. And if he’d had a bit of sadistic fun at the sake of his angry childhood friend then...oh well! It was honestly pretty hilarious and it made Izuku smile remembering the absolutely dumbfounded look that had been on Kacchan’s face when he had first stolen his explosions.

 

But the usage of his quirks had left him burnt out for the rest of the day. It was an easy day considering he was still learning his new classes and most of it had been spent on paperwork. He couldn’t for the life of him remember most of it, though. His brain was fried and all he could think about was a nice long nap. He hadn’t even felt up to freaking out over meeting Lunch Rush when he had eaten lunch.

 

His body was shaking worse than usual with fatigue as he slumped under the weight of his own backpack and head. The noise of fellow students travelling home felt like drills to his head. It had been a while since he had felt this bad. He probably would’ve felt worse after the entrance exams if he had stayed awake long enough to be healed. He was just glad he was able to walk home on his two feet.

 

“Midoriya!” Izuku came to a stop as he heard fast footsteps approaching. Iida caught up to him quickly and greeted him. “Today has been very interesting! I still cannot believe Aizawa-sensei would threaten us with expulsion! But at the same time I couldn’t help but think, ‘So this is what it means to be in a hero school!’”

 

Izuku huffed a laugh. He had thought that Iida was a strict guy, but he was quickly reevaluating the other boy. He seemed to be more of a studious and hard-working guy. Still intense, though. Izuku wondered if he could consider him a friend. He seemed to enjoy talking to him, at least.

 

“Yeah, same. I thought for sure one of us was screwed.” He rubbed his eyes. He felt the blood pulsing through them with the thick beats of his heart. It hurt.

 

“Wait up!!” Both boys pulled to a stop as Uraraka called out to them, dashing over to join the two. “I’m glad I caught up! You’re Iida Tenya, right? And Midoriya…” she hesitated, “Deku? I thought it was Izuku when I saw the name, but that guy called you Deku.”

 

Izuku shivered hearing that name come out of her mouth. He wasn’t used to hearing it anymore from anyone but Kacchan and the people he considered enemies. “Ah...No, it’s Izuku. Deku is just a name that….Kacchan calls me.”

 

“So it’s an insult then!” Iida proclaimed, looking upset on Izuku’s part. Izuku scratched the back of his head. He felt a little irritated at how loud Iida was being even as he appreciated the defense.

 

“Uh...Y-yeah, sort of…”

 

“Oh, is it really?” Uraraka asked, surprised. “I thought it sounded cute! Almost like ‘you can do it’, y’know?” She smiled brightly, cheeks flushing.

 

“I’M DEKU!” Izuku greeted, instantly charmed.

 

“MIDORIYA!!” Iida yelled, horrified. “Don’t be so weak-willed! It’s an insult, remember?!”

 

Izuku covered his face, embarrassed own reaction. “I couldn’t help it! It’s like when we discovered the Earth was round…!”

 

Uraraka began to giggle, and Izuku couldn’t resist joining her at how ridiculous the scenario was. Eventually even Iida began to chuckle. It amazed him, really, that someone could find a positive out of the terrible name Izuku had. It was never supposed to be a positive thing.

 

A lance of pain ripped through Izuku’s skull and he whimpered a bit, dropping to hold his head again. “Ow…”

 

“Are you okay?” Uraraka asked, ducking around to look at his face. Izuku felt a cold sweat forming on his body. Sickness was seeping in. He needed sleep as soon as he could. “You look really pale!”

 

“It’s backlash from my quirk.” He said, and then instantly regretted it. What if they used this information against him? Was it safe to tell these two anything? He didn’t actually know anything about them. Uraraka may look kind, but maybe she would turn on him. Izuku had dealt with someone like that before. Smiles didn’t mean trust.

 

“Your head hurts?” Iida asked. “Do you need to go to the nurse? I could help you there! Surely they won’t be gone until all of the students have left! This is a very serious school and-”

 

“N-No, I’m fine.” Izuku cut off that before it went on for too long. “I just have to sleep it off.”

 

“You passed out after the exam.” Uraraka pointed out with a sympathetic frown. “Did you overuse your quirk?”

 

“Yeah.” Izuku scratched at his hair. He didn’t want to talk about this. Talking about his weaknesses made him feel exposed and uncomfortable. He’d always been punished for releasing such information. He hoped that he could trust Iida and Uraraka even as he cursed himself for being so hopeful.

 

He decided to change the subject, “Oh. That actually reminds me. Who told you guys my name?” Uraraka and Iida shared a look. Izuku felt a little silly for having to ask. He sighed.

 

“Well...It can’t really be helped, y’know? You’re famous.” Uraraka smiled sheepishly.

 

“I would hate to attach the word ‘famous’ to this kind of scenario!” Iida protested. “It was not a positive thing, that’s for sure!”

 

“It was positive when he was rescued, though!” Uraraka argued back. “ That’s what he’s famous for! Oh!” She gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh, wait. I’m sorry, Deku-kun! We shouldn’t talk about this…”

 

No, Izuku really didn’t want to talk about it. He never wanted to talk about it. But still he was faced with it every day of his life. Izuku was used to being a nobody, so he didn’t like being a somebody. He wanted to go back to just being another face in the crowd. Back before he had been captured and experimented on. Back when he'd had all of his toes and his body had been clean of scars. Back when he didn’t have to help attack and hurt and kill people-

 

Izuku forced a smile on his face and gave a helpless shrug. “It’s okay. I’m sure everyone’s gonna ask me at some point anyway. I don’t remember any of my time with the villains anyway.” The lie was familiar on his tongue.

 

“That’s what the news said too. You really can’t remember anything?” Uraraka asked.

 

Izuku shook his head.

 

“For the best, I’m sure!” She decided with a determined huff.

 

“Yes, I agree! The villains were captured and jailed properly too! I would say it’s a win for justice overall!” Iida added with a couple of nods.

 

Izuku could only think about how glad he was that a phone call would suffice for an update tonight instead of him going all the way down there to meet with Shigaraki and Kurogiri.

 

“DEKU!!” Izuku sighed to himself as a familiar voice called out to him. He could practically feel his migraine getting worse as Kacchan’s form loomed closer.

 

“That’s not something you should call someone!” Iida reprimanded as Kacchan got close enough. Kacchan just elbowed him out of the way, though, and grabbed Izuku by the back collar of his jacket to drag him after him.

 

“Move, shitnerd!”

 

Izuku yelped and scrambled as his tired body couldn’t keep up with the sudden change. Uraraka and Iida called after him, but Kacchan only growled at them both to fuck off before continuing on without them. Izuku resigned himself to his fate knowing that he couldn’t fight back right then.

 

“K...Kacchan, at least let go of me!!” He tried instead as two minutes later he was still being dragged by his jacket. He didn’t want to ruin his uniform when he had just gotten to wear it! He fumbled for Kacchan’s hands, trying to get them off. Kacchan’s grip tightened before finally he tossed him away. Izuku stumbled on clumsy feet before catching his balance and standing. He felt like he might vomit, but he steeled his face and turned to face his old friend. Kacchan didn’t move as he scowled and glared Izuku down. He had tucked his fists into his pockets. Izuku said nothing as he waited, noting that they were on a deserted street.

 

It didn’t take Kacchan long to break and he snapped, “Oy, what the fuck was that shit back there, huh?!”

 

“I told you I had a quirk-”

 

“That’s bullshit! ” Kacchan yelled back, hands sparking when he yanked them out of his pockets. Izuku glared back warily. What more did Kacchan want from him? He’d already proven he had a quirk. How could he still deny it? “I don’t care what those shitty doctors said - you can't just develop a quirk!”

 

“How else would you explain it, then?” Izuku challenged. His exhaustion was wearing on him emotionally now. He was on his last nerve and Kacchan was stomping on it. He spread his hands wide in a ‘go ahead’ gesture. “Please! Enlighten me, since I don’t know!”

 

“Don’t give me that sassy shit, you fucking asshole!” Kacchan ground his foot into the street. “You’re full of twenty kinds of shit.”

 

Izuku said nothing. He wanted to know where he was going with this.

 

Kacchan approached him then, getting well within his space and his face. Izuku refused to give any ground as Kacchan grabbed the front of his shirt and growled, “Ever since you’ve returned you’ve been actin’ different. And I don’t mean your shaky shit routine - I mean with the words you’ve been spouting.”

 

“How would you know, Kacchan?” Izuku responded quietly. He could feel himself closing off more. Kacchan was too close. Nobody had noticed anything different about Izuku. Maybe he had been too confrontational with Kacchan. Maybe he should’ve restrained himself more.

 

Deku met Kacchan’s eyes and tilted his head a little to the side, “How do you know what I’m like, huh?” He asked coldly.

 

Kacchan’s scowl only deepened a little, eyebrows furrowing. He didn’t respond for a long time, and a slow smile spread over Deku’s face. He knew that Kacchan was full of shit. He couldn’t even pinpoint what was weird about Izuku when it was right in his face.

 

“I know you’re a fucking liar.” Kacchan finally said, his voice low. “And I’m not gonna be fooled.” He released Deku roughly, but Deku held his ground. Kacchan moved past him instead of dragging him along this time. “Better fucking watch yourself, Deku.”

 

“I always do.” Izuku responded as his annoyance drained out of him. He watched his childhood friend leave with a frown on his face.

 

He was very, very tired.

Chapter Text

Katsuki threw open the door to his house and stomped in feeling his blood buzzing. He slammed the door shut to make sure his family knew he was home before he called out “I’M BACK!” to doubly make sure they knew he was home. He didn’t bother to stick around to see where his mother was before he kicked off his shoes at the entryway and stormed towards his bedroom.

 

“Don’t slam doors in this house, you fucking brat!” His mother shouted back as he passed by the living room. He spotted her glaring over the back of the couch, head tilted backwards to watch him with her own scowl on her face. “How was your first day at UA?”

 

“Fucking amazing.” Katsuki grumbled and didn’t stop before he was at his own door. He threw that one open and slammed it shut behind him as well, tossing his backpack onto his desk chair. He heard his mother shout at him again about the slamming of doors. “I FUCKING KNOW, ALRIGHT?! GET OFF MY BACK, OLD HAG!” He screamed back. He pulled off his uniform jacket and threw it into his hamper before stomping around a little while longer around his room.

 

He was furious and could feel the pent up urge to destroy something. He let out a frustrated scream and kicked over one of the floor chairs he had before angrily righting it and throwing himself down onto it. He allowed some small explosions to pop in his hands as he glared daggers at the single piece of paper he still had taped up to his wall.

 

It was the first official poster of when Deku went missing. At the time nobody had known that Deku had been taken by villains. Katsuki remembered that day as just being one of many. He had met with Deku while walking home from school and had been angry that their paths had crossed. Katsuki remembered yelling something at him -what it was now didn’t matter. He couldn’t even remember- before storming off ahead. Deku had fallen behind most likely so he wouldn’t anger Katsuki again.

 

That was the last time he saw Deku for over a year.

 

The thought of it still chilled Katsuki. Even now as he gazed upon the missing poster his anger was doused enough to make it simmer instead of boil over. Sometime between the ten minutes it took from Katsuki to yell at Deku and to get home -walking past Deku’s house along the way- Deku had been kidnapped.

 

It had been a cold reminder to everyone in Katsuki’s class that none of them were truly safe. That the heroes were fallible. It was a reminder to Katsuki that lives could be snatched away at a moment’s notice. It had even taken two days for Deku to be officially declared missing.

 

Katsuki remembered that his mother had rushed over to visit Deku’s mother when she’d first seen the report on the television. His father had gone after her after assuring that Katsuki had been fine to stay alone. Katsuki had seen the worry on his father’s face. Missing children were practically unheard of. Villains didn’t bother to go for children, let alone teenagers. Katsuki had told his dad to fuck off and hurry after his mother. His father had pointedly locked the door behind him.

 

Katsuki had only been able to stare at the television screen, seeing the smiling face of his idiot childhood friend with the bright kana for ‘MISSING’ right below his image. The first thing he had wondered was if Deku had been just lost, but that didn’t make sense. They had both been so close to their houses. Deku had no reason to run away either. He had a loving family at home, after all. Katsuki had figured he would be found soon.

 

But days had passed with the search parties turning up nothing. Heroes had offered their services to look for the boy. Katsuki remembered seeing Auntie Inko utterly distraught some days when his parents had coaxed her over to their house instead of staying home alone. Her sobs looked a lot like Deku’s.

 

The atmosphere of the classroom had changed when over a month had passed and Deku had still been gone. The empty desk had been like a hole in space that had sucked Katsuki’s attention in. Rumors had spread about Deku and had died away. Some had speculated he had killed himself and his body just hadn’t been found. Some had said he’d run away.

 

One day a vase of flowers had appeared on Deku’s desk.

 

Katsuki had felt rage build inside of him at the sight. He hadn’t resisted the urge to grab the vase and shatter it. It had felt good feeling the flowers turn to dust in his hands in a fiery explosion. His classmates had gasped in horror at the attack. Katsuki had slammed his foot onto Deku’s chair and screamed, “HE’S NOT FUCKING DEAD, YOU SHIT-FOR-BRAINS EXTRAS!! DON’T PUT THIS FUCKING TRASH ON HERE!!”

 

“Damn, Bakugou.” One of his idiotic friends had said while holding his hands up placatingly. “You didn’t even like the guy.”

 

Katsuki had only bared his teeth at the kid and growled, “Until the stupid police declare him dead, no goddamn flowers better touch this desk or I’ll burn them up and then kick your ass!” He whipped his head to regard the class that had been watching him warily. Even the teacher hadn’t known what to say. “You fucking got that?!”

 

Nobody had put flowers on the desk again. Not even when the television reports had moved onto more sensational news. Not even when they had declared Deku a cold case after three months had passed. Not even when vacation had come and ended with no sign of Deku. Not even when Katsuki’s father had gently brought up with Auntie Inko and Uncle Hisashi that maybe they should consider holding a funeral service for Izuku.

 

Katsuki hadn’t been able to contain his constant simmering anger. He hadn’t understood why it got under his skin so much. Deku was just another pebble in the road anyway. He was just another idiot who had gone missing. His friend was right; he didn’t even like Deku!

 

But it was an idiot he had known. Deku was someone he had grown up with. Someone he had known stupid details about like how he liked to eat his taiyaki (from the tail because he had cried when Katsuki had eaten it from the head first and thought it was cruel) or that he had been scared of the dark before Katsuki’s mother had gifted him an All Might night light for his sixth birthday (and Katsuki had broken it because he had been jealous but he thought he was too old for night lights and didn’t need one anyway because he wasn’t scared of the dark).

 

He had been right there . Deku had probably been just right down the road when he had disappeared. Had he taken a wrong turn? Did he fall down some hole? Had someone grabbed him in broad daylight? What had happened that day? There hadn’t been a trace of Deku left. Katsuki hadn’t heard a single noise that he could remember. Nothing had stood out to him.

 

But Deku had been right down the road from him.

 

By the time six months had passed and a small but quiet funeral had been held for Deku, Katsuki had started to be plagued with what-ifs. What if he hadn’t passed Izuku that day? What if he had been behind him instead? What if he hadn’t stormed ahead and had just ignored Deku instead? What if he hadn’t been such a fucking asshole and had just walked near his idiotic old friend? What if he had just looked over his shoulder -just once- and had seen what had happened? What if Katsuki could’ve saved him that day?

 

What kind of hero was he if he couldn’t even protect someone as useless as Quirkless Izuku?

 

Katsuki had been angry at the world. He had been angry at his mother and father for trying to comfort him. He had been angry at Auntie and Uncle for holding a funeral for someone who wasn’t dead. He had been angry at Auntie and Uncle for just trying to move on even though he could tell that they weren’t. He had been angry that Deku had become just a passing rumor around school (“Maybe he actually had a ghost quirk?” “I bet he’d killed himself. I would too if I was Quirkless”). He had been angry when he had passed into his final year of middle school and Deku no longer had a seat. But most of all he had been angry at himself.

 

He had put up Deku’s missing poster in his room as a reminder. He had considered it a failure. Deku had dreamed of becoming a hero just like Katsuki had. They had both looked up to All Might, although only one of them had had the means of achieving that dream. And Katsuki only became more determined to become the greatest hero. So that there wouldn’t be more Dekus.

 

“Hey!!” Katsuki glanced at the door as he heard his mother’s shout. “Go take a bath before dinner, Katsuki, or I’ll fucking drown you in there myself!!”

 

Katsuki stood up and yanked open his door. “HAA?! What are you tryin’ to say, you old hag?!”

 

Katsuki’s mother maneuvered her apron-clad self into the hallway and pointed a dripping spoon covered in sauce at him. She must have started dinner. How long had he sat there staring at the missing poster? “I’m saying you smell like smoke and teenage body odor!! I don’t want to smell that shit! The bath is already hot!”

 

“Stop dripping sauce everywhere, you idiot!” Katsuki yelled back, but nevertheless moved down the hallway to the door. He cried out as the sauce spoon pegged him in the back of the head, splattering his hair with the sauce as well. “WHAT THE FUCK-!!”

 

“DON’T TALK TO ME THAT WAY!! GO FUCKING CLEAN YOUR MOUTH WITH SOAP AS WELL WHILE YOU’RE IN THERE!!” She growled. Katsuki slammed the door shut to bathroom behind him. He heard his mother grumble something about troublesome teens before he stripped with furious gusto. He slammed his clothes on the ground and kicked them out of his way before entering the shower room, spitting curses about the sauce in his hair.

 

He grabbed the little shower stool and sat himself on it before starting the shower up so he could wash, scrubbing furiously at his hair. “Fuckinnnnnn--!” He growled before he switched to cleaning his body. He would admit that he hated how nasty he had smelled too after the hot day he’d spent outside. That was why he hadn't immediately collapsed onto his bed like he’d wanted to. He didn’t want dirt and sweat and shit all over his sleeping area!

 

He finished cleaning and then climbed into the bath. It always felt a little cooler to him than he was sure it felt to his parents due to his body temperature being higher to encourage sweat output. It still pissed him off to sit in it, though. He turned up the temperature on the bathtub so that it automatically warmed up just to spite his mother. Fuck the heating bills.

 

He ran a hand into his hair to push it back out of his face as he let his thoughts drift while he forced himself to relax and let the heat soothe his sore muscles. The bath was one of the few times he was given privacy for his own thoughts and he was determined to let himself enjoy his bit of solitude before he was summoned for dinner. He could still smell a whiff of the spices in the air. He tilted his head back against the rim of the bathtub and closed his eyes.

 

Katsuki remembered the day they’d found Deku. A year had passed and he had just been beginning to move on as well (never forgetting, though. Not until he had proof that Deku was dead. Not until he understood what had happened that day) when the news report had come out. He had been sitting in his room working on his homework when he had heard his mother scream his name. It had ripped through him and made him immediately shoot to his feet, toppling his chair in the process as he had scrambled to his door. He never heard his mother scream like that unless she had been absolutely panicked. He’d only heard it one time when he had almost run straight into traffic as a little kid without thinking.

 

Katsuki had rushed into the living room only to meet his mother’s grip as she had run to get him herself. She’d had tears in her eyes as she had pointed at the television and said, “They found him! He’s alive!”

 

Katsuki had returned to the living room to see the breaking news. It had been a live news feed. Pro Heroes had been leading off some villains in what looked to be a half-destroyed building. The walls had still been crumbling from some kind of fight, and there had been a hole punched through the ground to reveal some type of basement. Another hero and multiple police had been helping a boy with a mop of dark green curls up through the rubble and towards some paramedics. Katsuki remembered digging his hands into the material of the couch as he had watched. He had only caught a glimpse of the face, but he recognized Deku.

 

The boy had been crusted with blood from a bleeding gash on his forehead near his hairline. His green eyes had only turned to the camera once before immediately being covered by the police and heroes attempting to hide him from the onslaught of reporters. The news reporters had been shouting Deku’s name and asking the police various questions on the identity of the found boy.

 

Katsuki’s mother had immediately called Auntie Inko. Katsuki had been unable to tear his eyes away from the television even though he had seen no more of Deku. The boy had been rushed to the hospital to be checked on. Katsuki didn’t go with his parents to visit the Midoriyas. He didn’t hear anything about Deku for days. He didn’t know what he’d felt.

 

Deku’s name had been in the news for weeks following his rescue. People had been amazed that he was not only alive, but that he had, in fact, been kidnapped. That he had been trapped with villains for an entire year. It had been sensational news and everyone had wanted to talk with the boy. Nobody had gotten an interview with him, though. The police and the Midoriyas had been very adamant about keeping the news out of the business of someone in recovery.

 

But the news did manage to get two things for sure: Midoriya Izuku -previously thought to be Quirkless- had a quirk. He also had no memory of his time with the villains. Most praised these both as good things while others had been disgruntled. The villains had refused to say absolutely anything about why they had taken Deku or what they had done to him. Deku had been forced to think of his recovery first and foremost. Some had thought he should undergo a memory quirk to try to jog his memories for information. Deku himself had decided he would rather not.

 

The rest of it Katsuki had learned through his mother and father, who in turn had heard it from Auntie Inko. Katsuki never visited Deku when he had come home.

 

Deku had obviously been tortured, his father had explained to Katsuki solemnly. He had scars all over his body, and the doctors had reported he must have developed his quirk from extreme stress. It was unheard of, but stranger things had happened to humans before under such duress.

 

Izuku said he just wants to go back to normal, his mother had added quietly. Which meant he was going to be attending school again. Taking many extra classes so that he could try to graduate with the classmates he had grown up with. His parents had looked at Katsuki expectantly, as if they'd thought he would jump up and offer to help the kid or something. Katsuki didn’t fucking want to help Deku at all. If he had wanted to stress himself out with taking extra classes, good fucking luck. He had never been great with school anyway.

 

Deku did return to school a number of weeks after the event. It was by chance that he had been put into the same class as Katsuki. He had immediately been popular and assaulted with questions. Katsuki hadn’t said anything to Deku. He only remembered the way Deku had stood in front of the class to give his reintroduction. His body had been trembling like a leaf, although it didn’t look to be from fear. If anything, Katsuki could tell that Deku had just looked uncomfortable. His skin had been paler which made his freckles stand out even more. There was a darkness in and around his eyes that hadn’t been there before.

 

He’d found out later when Deku had been called up to write on the board why he shook so much. The shaking had been particularly bad that day and it had made all of the kana he wrote wobbly. The teacher had scolded him for how unclear the writing was. Deku had only apologized.

 

“I can’t control it.” He had murmured, as if ashamed. “It’s...trauma.”

 

The teacher had been mortified and had immediately apologized. Deku had only bowed and taken his seat, refusing to look at anyone.

 

The teasing started up a couple months later when the appeal had worn off. Deku may have had a quirk now, but he was still seen as the useless kid. He was even worse at school than he had been before, but Katsuki figured that’s what happened when you missed an entire fucking year of school. The other assholes didn’t seem to figure it out, though, and had mocked Deku behind his back.

 

Katsuki remembered as well the first day he’d noticed something was off about Deku. There had only been so long that Deku would choose to not be around Katsuki and vice versa. Katsuki assumed he was cursed to constantly know the idiot as Deku attempted to talk to him once in a while. Katsuki had resisted yelling at him in the beginning -mostly because he wasn’t a goddamn asshole who picked on someone who had been kidnapped and tortured for a year- but even his tolerance had its limits, small as they may be. He had snapped and grabbed Deku with the full intent of punching him in the face, but the look on Deku’s face had stopped him.

 

In the past -before the kidnapping- Deku had cowered at Katsuki’s attacks. He had shaken and cried and tried to get out of the way, looking down submissively. That was not how Deku acted now. The moment Katsuki had grabbed him, Deku had allowed himself to be dragged forward. His constant shaking had suddenly stopped. He hadn’t looked away and instead met Katsuki’s gaze. His face had been void of any emotion, which was unnerving enough, but it was his eyes that had Katsuki freezing. They had been utterly cold and accepting. It had been both a dare for Katsuki to hit him, but also the full intent to take the hit and do nothing back. There hadn't been a single gleam in Deku’s eyes. It had been as if he had seen the darkness and knew what it was like.

 

Katsuki hadn’t been able to follow through with the punch no matter the dare. He couldn’t do it. All he had been able to think about was how Deku had been tortured and most likely beaten. How he had probably dealt with that scenario before. Maybe even over a year of it. And he had been used to it enough that he hadn't even struggled in Katsuki’s grip.

 

Katsuki’s anger had turned inward then, furious at himself. He had thrown Deku aside and left instead wondering what the fuck he was doing with his life. Why was he bothering to attack Deku? What did he get out of beating up on a kid who had already been beaten up so much? What had happened to the person who had been determined to become a hero in memory of Deku? The one who had wished he had gone back to protect him instead?

 

Katsuki had cursed himself for being such a fucking idiot and didn’t bother attacking Deku again. He had refused to be part of the idiotic sheep crowd who felt the need to pick on Deku. Only shitlords bullied people, just like Katsuki had been a shitlord in the past. And he had made sure to make everyone aware of how large of a massive pile of shit they were standing on when he caught them considering tossing Deku’s notebooks in the school pond. Or hiding his indoor shoes just because. As far as Katsuki knew, nobody had bullied Deku again. Most didn’t want to anyway since they seemed under the same impression as Katsuki himself.

 

Sometimes he had come close to hitting Deku again, but no closer than he did from beating on anyone who pissed him off. He had still yelled at the stupid kid like he did everyone else, but that was just Katsuki. He had not been friends with Deku, and he had still refused to be. Despite what the news and doctors had said, there was no way that Deku actually had a quirk. It was impossible. Quirks didn’t develop past the age of 4, and Deku had told him himself when they were kids that he had the extra joint in his toe. The supposed “quirk” that he had shown the class had been him just moving the flame of a candle a bit. Katsuki had called him a fucking moron for the little magic trick. Just because he was kidnapped didn’t mean he could go around pretending he wasn’t still a Quirkless little reject.

 

God, Deku still pissed him the hell off.

 

Katsuki felt sweat rolling down his face from the steam in the bathtub and splashed his face to get rid of it. It felt weird for his palms not to have that familiar slickness of nitroglycerin on them. Water on his palms felt foreign and strange. He allowed it to pool in his hand before dumping it out, sinking lower into the tub.

 

But today proved for certain that Deku did have a quirk - and a powerful one at that. He had actually stolen Katsuki’s fire straight from his hands. He had seen that shitnerd actually use Katsuki’s own explosions to help him in the tests! If he’d had that kind of power, why hadn’t he shown it before?! Had that little shit been hiding his quirk? Was he trying to prove himself to be better than Katsuki by making him look like an idiot when he’d passed the entrance exam to UA after all?! It was infuriating.

 

Katsuki slammed the palm of his hand on the top of the water and didn’t care as it splashed out of the sides of the tub. He did it again a couple more times because he wanted to hit something.

 

And what the hell had been that cocky ass attitude when Katsuki had confronted him later? “How do you know what I’m like, huh?”  Katsuki had never heard that tone from Deku’s mouth before. As if Katsuki wasn’t worth his time. And with that shitty fucking smile on his face, gloating about it. Katsuki had wanted to punch his face in, but he had been admittedly caught a little off guard by the sudden change.

 

He had been watching Deku throughout the day. He hadn’t seemed any different from normal when he had been talking with their new classmates. But when he was around Katsuki it all felt off . It wasn’t just the dark eyes or the dark bruises under Deku’s eyes. Something about his personality was off. Cracked. Different . And Katsuki couldn’t figure out what it was.

 

He only knew one thing for sure: Deku was a fucking liar. Katsuki was certain that Deku remembered some, if not all of his time with the villains. It was the only thing that could’ve changed him so much. If he didn’t remember anything, he would still be that cowardly pebble who dreamt of being a hero. He wouldn’t have the balls to stare Katsuki in the face when he was about to get slugged, let alone smile at him.

 

But that just left one question: If Deku remembered, then why was he lying about it? What did he have to hide? The truth behind his quirk? Saving people from the knowledge of what had happened to him? Katsuki didn’t know.

 

He wanted to find out, though. He wouldn’t take being humiliated again. He wasn’t gonna take Deku laughing in his face again. He would figure out what the hell Deku was hiding. All he had to do was slip past the walls he had put up. But how?

 

Katsuki ran a hand into his hair again and frowned as he gripped it. He only had one plan in mind that could work, even if he really didn’t want to do it. But if he was going to figure out what Deku’s problem was, it meant he had to be near him anyway or risk looking like a stalker. And fuck that noise.

 

Katsuki groaned and ducked down under the water to groan louder. Nothing for it, then. He was going to have to befriend Deku again.

Chapter Text

Izuku was woken from his well-deserved nap by the sound of his phone vibrating across his desk. He cracked an eye open and let out a soft groan when he realized he was awake sooner than he had planned. He couldn’t even smell dinner cooking yet, although he could see that the sun was beginning to set. He probably had another hour at least. He flipped onto his stomach and pressed his face to his pillow. He wanted to go back to sleep.

 

His phone’s vibrations died out and then started again immediately afterwards. Izuku turned his head just enough to glare at his phone. Not many people had his phone number and of those he actually cared about none would be calling right then. Even his father preferred to video chat with him rather than use a phone call. That only meant one thing.

 

Izuku reluctantly pulled himself from the bed to lift the phone. It was an unknown caller, but Izuku knew the phone number on the screen. He brought the phone to his ear. “What is it? I was sleeping.”

 

“Sleeping this early?” Shigaraki responded with mocking amusement in his voice. “Get up and come to the address I texted you.”

 

Izuku took a breath and pulled on his irritation and thick skin like a familiar jacket. He ran a hand into his hair and sighed. “Why would I do that?” Deku demanded. He turned his glare to his mirror and didn’t recognize the person he saw standing there. The exhaustion on his face now looked more bitter and angry. The look in his eyes reminded Deku of Kacchan, which he appreciated. Kacchan didn’t put up with any kind of bullshit, and that’s what he strived to achieve as well.

 

“Because I told you to.” Shigaraki responded as if it was that simple. It rankled at Deku.

 

“I think I’ll sleep instead. I actually have shit to be doing, unlike you.”

 

“I have shit to do as well. Which is why you’re coming with me, Deku .” Deku paused at that. That didn’t sound like a simple invitation to just come out and play, or whatever other nonsense Shigaraki wanted. Was he actually needed for something that evening? Deku had assumed that since he was undercover that Master wouldn’t give him any other jobs to do. Izuku had been hoping for that, actually. But here Shigaraki was calling him up and telling them to meet.

 

Fuck . Deku thought and scratched at his hair. His curls tangled between his fingers. He ignored the impulse to wince when he yanked a few gnarls out. “What are we doing?” He asked as he moved towards his closet to change.

 

“You’ll find out when you get here. Don’t keep me waiting.”

 

“Yes, princess .”

 

“Fuck you.” Deku heard the line go dead and couldn’t help his soft laughter. It cheered him up just a bit as he pulled on a black sweater and black jeans. He grabbed his gloves next. He fingered the burnt-out tip of the thumb he had used during the entrance exam with a frown. He needed to get it replaced, but the rest of the glove was still fine. It would be a waste to do that right now. He put them into his pockets.

 

Deku exited his bedroom to just run a brush quickly though his hair and pull out the worst of the knots. He also checked the text message Shigaraki sent before walking down the hallway. His mother looked up from her laptop when she saw him and smiled. Deku smiled back at her in greeting.

 

“Are you feeling any better?” She asked. “You looked really sick when you came home.”

 

“Yeah, my migraine is finally gone. Thanks for the medicine. I really needed that nap.” Deku walked over and placed a kiss on his mother’s cheek. It was a habit he had formed when he had come back. He had missed his mother desperately while he had been gone.

 

“Where are you going?” She asked in slight alarm as she realized he was dressed. She didn’t comment on how unusual his outfit was.

 

“I made some friends at UA and they invited me to dinner.” Deku lied as he sat down at the entrance to the house to pull on his red sneakers. He really should get some other shoes, but he really didn’t want to dress in solid black. He shot his mother an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry for telling you so last minute. I just found out through text!”

 

“W-Wait, Izuku! I was going to order a pizza-!” His mother stood quickly to follow him. Deku had to hurry if he wanted to get out of this without caving to his mother’s whims. This was why he preferred sneaking out at night. He knew it scared his mother when he left at night even though he had been taken in the middle of the day.

 

“I’ll be back.” He promised her as he opened the door. His mother’s eyes were tearing up from her fear. Deku didn’t want to leave without assuaging her. So he continued to smile broadly just like All Might did to make him feel better when he had been younger. Remembering All Might had comforted him through some of his worst times. “I promise I’ll come back tonight. I’ll call if I’m any later than ten, okay?”

 

“I don’t like it.” His mother said softly. “I wish you had told me beforehand...I haven’t even met your friends yet.”

 

Deku hoped that she never got to meet Shigaraki. “I’m still getting to know them too.” He gave a small laugh. He had to hurry. There had been a time marked on his text. He still needed to take a train. “I’ll see you later!”

 

“Izuku!” His mother called as he ran down the hallway. He paused briefly to glance at her. She had a reluctantly accepting smile on her face. “Please text me once in a while, okay? Just to let me know you’re having a good time.”

 

Deku waved. “I will!” He turned and his smile dropped off his face into a worried frown as he ran for the elevator to go downstairs. Lying came so easily to him, but that didn’t mean he liked it. He had already put his mother through enough stress without adding these little things on top of it. He would have to make extra sure he didn’t cause much trouble tonight.


 

The place Deku ended up at turned out to be an indoor mall. He found Shigaraki slumped against the side of the building with a large, army green hoodie hiding his face and most of his body. His hands had been firmly stuffed into his pockets as he watched people through his hair. Deku thought he looked very out of place, but maybe it was because he could sense the man’s distaste. He could tell the people around him -though ignoring him- were going a little out of their way to not get too close.

 

Shigaraki looked up when Deku got close. The older man’s eyes dropped first to his feet and then back to his face. “What the hell are those shoes?”

 

“What a greeting.” Deku responded back blandly, a little irritated. He shoved his own hands into his pockets with a raised eyebrow. “They’re my shoes.”

 

“They’re bright red. And gigantic.”

 

“I’m a Kingdom Hearts protagonist.”

 

Shigaraki glared at him for that one. Deku smirked at his victory. He could still remember plenty of days he had spent playing video games in front of Shigaraki knowing full well that he couldn’t hold the controller properly. They’d lost a lot of controllers to his hands.

 

“What did you want from me?” Deku asked, glancing around them. He realized they probably looked like a pair of freaks standing next to each other. Deku in his black turtleneck and black jeans and Shigaraki in his oversized hoodie and messy hair. Deku supposed they could be considered worse. “Are we robbing something? Did Master want anything from me?”

 

Shigaraki scratched at his neck, tilting his head back in response. He was sulking, Deku realized. It must be the video game comment.

 

Deku frowned. “If you don’t need anything, I have to sleep for school. You know, that thing I need to do?” He snipped.

 

“Humor me, Izuku-kun.” Shigaraki finally responded, pushing himself off of the wall to head to the mall’s entrance.

 

“Don’t call me that.” Deku snapped, but did follow. “That’s not my name.”

 

“You’re not useless either.” Shigaraki shot back. “Not anymore, anyway.” He glanced at Deku through his hair. His skin looked frankly terrible. Deku wondered if he should buy the guy some lotion if they were going to be doing some kind of shopping anyway. Maybe some lip balm too.

 

“So?” Deku asked, catching up to walk beside the man instead of walking behind him. It was a bad habit he’d developed in childhood to walk behind instead of beside people like that. “Don’t be so familiar.”

 

“You call me Tomura.” Shigaraki responded.

 

“Because you threatened to kill me if I didn’t.” Deku responded blandly. The air conditioner felt good on his skin. The two of them travelled up an escalator to the next floor.

 

Shigaraki ignored him. “You don’t need to be called Deku anymore.” He eyed Deku again. “I don’t know why you want us to keep using that name.”

 

“Because it’s my name.” Deku glanced around and saw a small children’s playground. He was surprised so many parents were still out with such young children when it was getting pretty late. He could smell popcorn in the air, though. There must be a movie theatre nearby. He and Shigaraki passed the playground and entered a food court.

 

Shigaraki’s chapped lips pulled into a twisted smile. “Or is it because Bakugou Katsuki calls you that?”

 

Deku refused to rise to the bait. He had learned very early on when he first began his dealings with Shigaraki that the man liked to lord his power over Izuku. In the early days when Izuku hadn’t yet started to form his Deku persona as a survival method, Shigaraki had often used his knowledge against Izuku. He got information from Master’s various sources and had tortured Izuku with the information when Izuku had been desperate and scared. The threat to hurt those closest to Izuku had always been both oppressing and obvious.

 

It had killed him to know that there were dangerous people always one phone call away from attacking and probably killing his mother, father, and the Bakugous. The villains had found the only people that had cared for Izuku in some capacity (or that Izuku loved) and had used it against him. Was still using against him. Threatening him.

 

It had taken a long time for Izuku to build up his Deku personality enough to try to cut his emotional responses off from such threats. He had forced himself to transform that fear into anger. If he was angry, it meant he could fight back. If he was scared, he was weak. Exploitable.

 

Deku’s heart twisted a little at the reminder of Shigaraki’s power over him. It was a weight equal to shackles on his neck, wrists, and ankles. It made him wonder what it would be like if he just killed Shigaraki. Physically speaking, Deku was stronger than him. They were alone right then and there other than passersby. He could lead Shigaraki somewhere and get rid of the threat.

 

But Shigaraki was Master’s chosen prodigy. Deku knew that if Shigaraki died, Master would be furious. Or, in worst case scenario, would turn to Deku to be his next successor. The thought of the latter was almost more terrifying than the first.

 

Asshole. Deku thought as he narrowed his eyes at Shigaraki. The man’s eyes had fallen on a crepe stand and his eyes had lit up. His cruel smile had morphed into a small, but real smile. And the anger and terror that had twisted Deku’s rapidly beating heart had lessened its grip just a tiny bit. Considering Shigaraki had become distracted, Deku decided to let the comment slide. He didn’t want the man to know that he was correct anyway.

 

“What did we come out here for?” He asked as he stood next to Shigaraki. The man crouched in front of the crepe counter and stared at the displays for the various flavors. Deku’s stomach took the time to remind him that he had yet to have dinner and that those desserts looked really good. The smells of the food court were making him hungrier.

 

“What do you want to eat?” Shigaraki asked. He pointed at one loaded up with strawberries, chocolate, and whipped cream. “That looks good…”

 

Deku resigned himself to not getting an answer yet. Sometimes, unfortunately, Shigaraki was just like that. If Deku kept asking, he would only get snapped at. And if Shigaraki snapped at him there was the risk of a hand going straight for Deku’s throat. His throat was already discolored enough from the last time it’d had a run in with Shigaraki’s Decay quirk.

 

He knelt as well and pointed out the espresso and chocolate crepe. “That one would be good.”

 

“Do you want me to be up all night?” Shigaraki grumbled, glaring at Deku.

 

“You’re not going to be sleeping anyway, Tomura. You’re practically an insomniac.” Deku responded with a mocking smile.

 

Shigaraki considered that for a moment before shrugging. “True.” He stood up but didn’t call over the stand worker who was hovering nearby. He shifted awkwardly while Deku took his damn time to choose something. Just to irritate the man for not explaining anything and dragging Deku out for an impromptu night on the town.

 

After making him suffer long enough to get antsy, Deku stood and ordered for the both of them. They both took opposite seats at a table far away from anyone else who was eating there that night. Deku sighed with pleasure at being able to get some kind of food in him, even if it was only fruit and sweets.

 

“You missed it today, Deku-kun.” Shigaraki chuckled to himself. Deku shot him a glare at the cutesiness, but his mouth was full so he didn’t correct him. “Kurogiri slipped and fell finally.”

 

Deku lurched forward in excitement, a grin stretching across his face at this information. “Holy shit, did he go splat?!” He asked. He had been waiting a desperately long time to learn this information.

 

Shigaraki grinned back. “Bwoosh.” He mimicked the motion of a puddle splashing. Deku laughed hard at the mental image. “A cup fell with him.” Shigaraki continued through his own laughter while Deku tried muffle himself.

 

“Where did it go?” He demanded.

 

“I don’t know.” Shigaraki took a bite of his crepe and didn’t bother to cover his mouth as he continued to speak. “It just disappeared.”

 

“It never showed up again?”

 

“Not that I saw.”

 

They both laughed at that even as Deku cursed having to miss it. He had tried so many times (with Shigaraki’s help) to get Kurogiri to trip so that they could see if he went splat or not. He had a physical body, but his head was so smoky due to his quirk that neither of them had been sure what would happen. Kurogiri always seemed to know when they were scheming against him, though, so they never could get him to unexpectedly fall.

 

“God, I wish I had seen it!” Deku sighed.

 

“If you were around more, you would’ve seen it.” Deku scoffed and didn’t respond to that. The two of them finished their crepes and then stood. Shigaraki sucked on his fingers as he nodded towards where he wanted to go.

 

“Movie?” Deku asked.

 

“Game store.” Shigaraki corrected, though with some grumbling hesitance. Deku only smirked at that smugly. Shigaraki refused to acknowledge it.


 

The two of them spent a couple hours at the mall travelling around and buying a few things. Deku bought himself a couple of new pens, a planner, and some more notebooks for school. Shigaraki had mocked him for it, but Deku knew he needed all of those things. Especially the planner. He had way too much shit going on in his life to not be organized. And his notebooks were a necessity not only for his Heroes notes, but also for school. He desperately needed to stay on top of his grades, but his mind was not what it used to be. Deku still didn’t know the extent of his memory anymore. He feared for upcoming tests that actually mattered to him.

 

Shigaraki had ended up buying a couple of video games (where he got the money, Deku had no idea) and clothing. Deku could not even begin to describe how surreal it was to go clothes shopping of all things with someone who was technically his boss and torturer. He had even forced Deku to buy better shoes because he had hated his red ones so much. Deku personally thought the man was jealous he couldn’t be like Sora. Deku already had the crazy hair.

 

Deku, in return for being forced to get shoes he didn’t want, bought a bunch of lotions in flowery scents and some lip balm aptly named “Boy Crazy”. It was cherry soda scented. Probably flavored too. Deku didn’t want to try it. Shigaraki had refused all of his gifts. Deku planned to rub the lotion all over the hands that Shigaraki stuck on himself. Show him not to appreciate his thoughtfulness.

 

Neither of them had really talked about Deku’s first day at UA. Shigaraki hadn’t seemed particularly interested and Deku took full advantage to keep it to himself. He wanted to keep as much information as possible close to his chest for as long as he could. He knew it would be only a matter of time before he had to report everything to Master anyway.

 

They had ended the night with both of them walking to the train station and then Shigaraki simply stating, “I’m leaving” and ditching Deku in the crowd. Deku had no idea where Shigaraki lived, but he had a feeling that it was better not to know. Deku had ridden the train home while texting his mother what time he would be back. He had made sure to texted her periodically enough that she could be assured he was safe. She had promised to make sure to heat the bath for him.

 

It didn’t really sink in until he was actually soaking in the bath just how weird of a night overall it had been. It wasn’t like he hadn’t hung out with Shigaraki before, but that was the first time they had done anything like hanging out in public. In the end Shigaraki never explained why he had called Deku out. He didn’t know if the man had had some kind of hidden agenda, but he was starting to suspect that it was more innocent than that.

 

And that was the problem Izuku found himself running into. As disturbing and scary as it was, he was actually kind of- sort of friends with Shigaraki Tomura. True that more often than not Deku wanted to punch him in the dick and see him humiliate himself, but he also had some pretty fond memories of doing normal things like they had tonight. And he knew that Tomura might honestly feel similarly.

 

But Izuku didn’t hate him. If anything being trapped with the man for so long because of Master had actually made him see the humanity that was in him. It was twisted, but Shigaraki was just broken. Something had happened in his past that Deku had never tried to find out that had led him to become Master’s successor. Izuku wonders how things would’ve been different for that man in another life.

 

Izuku didn’t want to believe it -mostly because it made him even more sympathetic towards the villain- but he was probably Shigaraki’s only friend. And it was messed up because there were scars on both of their bodies that they had placed on each other. Moreso on Izuku than on Shigaraki. And Shigaraki could still make the judgement call to kill his family and the Bakugous anytime and most likely succeed. And Shigaraki was a villain .

 

What did it mean for Izuku if he didn’t want to kill Shigaraki? Did it mean he was a good person, or did it mean he was more messed up than he had thought? This is why he needed a therapist. Too bad he couldn’t tell anyone about his situation.

 

Izuku went to bed that night at a decent time. He slept dreamlessly and woke up refreshed the next morning. All-in-all he’d had a pretty good -if weird- day.

Chapter Text

Izuku felt refreshed and ready to face his second day of school. He honestly was more rested than he had felt in a while, although he knew the high would only last so long. He had still woken up with darkness under his eyes and a slight heaviness to his eyelids that indicated his fatigue. But nevertheless, he was in a great mood. Last night had been strange to say the least, but Izuku purposely chose not to ruminate too hard on it. Instead he was confronted with an entirely new strange thing the moment he had left the premises of his apartment complex.

 

He made his way through the gate and turned towards the train station only to freeze at the sight of a familiar figure leaning against the wall of his apartment complex. Izuku stared hard as Kacchan lifted his gaze from where he had been looking at his phone to meet his eyes. A small scowl appeared as he took in Izuku’s gaping face.

 

“K-Kacchan!” Izuku glanced around nervously. There was nobody else on the street other than a few students from other schools headed off to their own destinations. Yesterday’s confrontation with Kacchan came back to Izuku quickly. He could hardly believe he had forgotten it in the wake of everything else that had occurred. “What- um. What are you doing here?”

 

Kacchan pushed off of the wall and stood between Izuku and the route he needed to take to school. He wore his uniform even more sloppily than he had their middle school uniform. He didn’t even bother with his tie and his pants hung too low to be properly worn. Either that, or Kacchan had purposely chosen a size too large. He looked even more intimidating in the UA uniform than he had in their middle school gakuran.

 

For a long while Kacchan said nothing. Izuku didn’t say anything either choosing instead to wait him out. He had a feeling if he said anything that Kacchan would yell at him again. Or, rather, he would probably yell anyway. Was Kacchan still angry about yesterday? Izuku hadn’t even had time to pick apart that conversation.

 

It didn’t take long before Kacchan’s short patience wore thin and he snapped, “ Well?!

 

Izuku stared at him, baffled. “Wha-what?”

 

“Are you coming or not, fucking Deku?!” Kacchan’s scowl deepened. Izuku resisted the urge to look behind him. Kacchan had to be speaking to him considering he didn’t call anyone else by that name. “I’ve already been waiting out here for ten minutes!”

 

“Um...what?” Izuku’s brain -though faster at processing situations like this- couldn’t seem to keep up. Had he missed something? Just yesterday Kacchan had looked like he was gonna break his year-long “don’t punch Deku” streak because of the physical tests, and now he suddenly wanted to walk to school together? Izuku felt like he had missed a step or five while walking down some stairs.

 

Kacchan clicked his tongue and spun on his heel to storm off down the road. Izuku instinctively followed him, inexplicably reminded of all of those years in his childhood he had spent chasing after the other boy. Izuku made sure not to walk too close behind him, but enough for them both to be aware that they were definitely walking together. Izuku spent the first five minutes of the walk trying to dissect the conversation from yesterday to see if there were any clues to Kacchan’s sudden change in personality.

 

See, Kacchan didn’t bully Izuku anymore, but that didn’t mean they were friends. If anything, they were tense acquaintances. They were both too close and knew too much about each other to ever really be strangers, but Kacchan had continued to push Izuku away. Izuku as well had stayed within Kacchan’s orbit throughout the rest of middle school, but he hadn’t attempted to repair their relationship. Izuku’d had far too much on his mind to even think about getting close to Kacchan. And as he had suspected, Kacchan of all people would be the one to realize something was different about Izuku.

 

He hadn’t exactly talked much to Kacchan during the past year besides some of the bare minimum. He had said hello to him and goodbye. He had sometimes initiated some conversations and sometimes they had been paired up for school work. It had been tense, but Kacchan had never been as cruel as he had been. Izuku still wasn’t sure what had changed between them that Kacchan actually tolerated his presence again. His conclusion had previously been because Izuku now had a quirk. Now he knew that conclusion had been wrong because Kacchan hadn’t even believed that Izuku had a quirk.

 

It made Izuku question everything that he had analyzed about his old friend. Kacchan suddenly wanting to walk together to school was unusual for both of them. It was unexpected, and Izuku had learned to be very wary of the unexpected. Especially so with someone as volatile as Kacchan.

 

They walked in silence for a long time. They even made it to the station and stood somewhat near each other to wait for the train that would take them to the station closest to UA. Izuku fiddled with his backpack straps. He picked at the bits of string that were sewed into the plastic leather. Kacchan continued to frown and shift back and forth on his feet once in a while. Izuku’s eyes darted over to him and then away quickly when he caught Kacchan looking back. This was awkward.

 

It wasn’t until the train had pulled up and both had crowded on along with the morning commuters did Izuku finally cave and break. “Is...Um…” he didn’t want to risk pissing Kacchan off when they were surrounded by so many people. Neither of them had even been able to grab a seat. “Is there a...reason? That, um, you…”

 

“Holy shit, Deku, fucking spit it out!” Kacchan said, irritated. Izuku was surprised he hadn’t shouted. “Stop your stuttering shit. I know you’re faking it anyway.”

 

Izuku stiffened at the accusation before forcing himself to relax and shoot Kacchan a surprised and confused look. “What?” Kacchan clicked his tongue and didn’t respond. He looked to be visibly biting his tongue. Warning bells were going off in Izuku’s head. He had to try harder. Nobody could know. Kacchan especially so. He continued carefully forward, “Is there a reason you wanted to...walk together to school?”

 

Kacchan looked away, glaring out of the window. Neither said anything as the train came to a stop and people piled off and on. Izuku was unfortunately pressed closer to Kacchan in the process. Sweat formed on the back of his neck. He was nervous and uncomfortable for real now. There was no faking about it.

 

“Kacchan?” He tried again quietly. He needed to know what was so weird with Kacchan.

 

“Shut up.” Kacchan responded instead. He refused to say anything else for the rest of the train ride. The two of them walked to UA and into the classroom together in silence. Izuku was then gathered up by Uraraka and Iida to chat. He shot Kacchan a couple more confused looks, but the boy seemed to be done with him then.

 

That had been...really confusing. Izuku felt like he was on edge for the rest of the morning.


 

UA’s teaching was split into two parts: the morning general classes, and the afternoon hero training classes. The morning classes were what Izuku struggled with the most and what he knew he would continue to struggle with the most. He’d had to cram all of the information he had learned the past two years if he had been able to have any chance of graduating with the rest of his class, so he had never actually properly learned anything. Whatever he had learned had been quickly forgotten within a few weeks of taking the test on the subject. He could feel the gap in his abilities clearly between himself and his classmates. He couldn’t answer a single question, and the few he had been called upon to answer he’d mostly gotten wrong. His face felt like it was on fire the entire time. His shaking only worsened as he’d lowered himself back down to his seat and had hidden his face.

 

He had been grateful for when the morning ended and he could retreat to go eat lunch. This time he had properly made sure to get excited when he had met Lunch Rush again, but he had been yelled at by other students for holding up the line. Izuku didn’t mind, though, as he could feel his own excitement simmering. What else would they be learning today? His teachers were all Pro Heroes. Who would they be training with that day?

 

“Midoriya!” Iida was quick to match pace with Izuku and walk beside him. “Have you found a place to sit? Come join me at my table, please!”

 

Izuku gaped a little at that. “R-Really?” Had he actually made friends?

 

“This way!” Iida led the way to a table that was already occupied by Uraraka and Asui. Uraraka waved cheerfully upon seeing him.

 

“Deku-kun! Iida-kun!” She greeted as the two boys took their seats.

 

“Hello.” Asui nodded, licking something off of her fingertips. “How are you feeling, Midoriya?”

 

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked, startled by the impromptu question. He was a little surprised to see that Asui had joined them. He could understand suddenly being friends with Uraraka and Iida (well...sorta), but he hadn’t thought Asui would be interested in befriending him.

 

“In class today you seemed really embarrassed.” She explained.

 

Izuku’s face warmed again in memory. “Don’t worry about it!” Iida insisted quickly. “And Asui, it’s not polite to point out such things!”

 

“Please call me Tsu-chan.”

 

Iida turned bright red now. Izuku thought they both must have looked quite the pair together with their blushing faces. “I-I-I-I COULDN’T POSSIBLY!!”

 

“I don’t mind it. Try it.”

 

“No, I can’t!” Iida waved his hand quickly in front of his face.

 

“Try it.”

 

Uraraka giggled and turned back to Izuku as she decided to continue the conversation, “Iida-kun’s right, though. You don’t have to be so embarrassed.” She smiled and scratched at the back of her head a bit. “I’m not super great at school either.”

 

Asui nodded. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I was going to say exactly that. Sorry. I’m the type to speak what’s on my mind.” Izuku was starting to gather that. He found himself appreciating it. It was a breath of fresh air to find someone who was straight-forward like that.

 

It relaxed him just enough that he could give them a soft, awkward smile. “Thank you, guys. But...it’s not really that hard…The classes…”

 

Izuku felt more than heard Kacchan’s approach as the boy came up to the table. The four of them turned to Kacchan at once as he scowled down at them. Izuku didn’t even care that he was gaping openly this time. It was crazy that Kacchan had approached him once that day, but it was absolutely unheard of for it to happen twice. What the hell was going on?!

 

“Deku.” Kacchan’s eyes darted to him as his hands clenched a bit around his food tray. Izuku straightened immediately.

 

“Y-Yes?”

 

“What the fuck was that in class?”

 

Izuku felt like he was very much on one of those Gravitron rides. He didn’t know which way was up or down, but he was spinning too fast and was pinned to the ride. He was also certain that Kacchan was the one doing the spinning. That was what his day felt like so far. Izuku couldn’t wrap his mind around it. “What?”

 

“In class.” Kacchan snapped, clearly annoyed at having to repeat himself. “What was that lousy performance?”

 

“Don’t be so hard on him, Kacchan!” Uraraka interrupted.

 

“HAA?!” Kacchan slammed his tray onto the table, nearly upturning both Uraraka’s and Izuku’s food. Izuku managed to yank his tray out of the way in time, wincing. “What the fuck did you just call me, Chubby Cheeks?!”

 

“Chubby Cheeks?!” Uraraka gasped, hands flying to her face.

 

“Bakugou! You can’t just call your classmates by such rude names!!” Iida yelped.

 

Kacchan ignored him and pointed at Uraraka. “ Don’t fucking call me that again!”

 

“So it’s something only Midoriya can call you.” Asui said.

 

“I don’t even want that damn nerd to call me it either!”

 

This was pissing Izuku off. It was one thing to have Kacchan be weird, but it was another for him to suddenly start yelling at Izuku’s brand new friends. He decided to intervene. “Kacchan! What do you want?”

 

Kacchan turned his heated glare on Izuku. And good! Izuku could handle Kacchan just fine. He made sure to lower his head just a little bit so he didn’t look like he was challenging him too much, but still maintained his own frown and stare. Kacchan’s teeth gnashed once before saying, “I’m not fucking repeating myself again!”

 

“I-I already know that!” He pulled on his nervousness again. “I just d-don’t know what you mean!”

 

“I know you knew some of those answers, Deku.” Kacchan growled. “What kind of act are you trying to pull looking like a coward and an idiot?”

 

Izuku firmly ignored the first part. “I’m not acting at all!” He cried, feeling his cheeks heat a bit. He didn’t want to admit something like this in front of them. He hated the pity he received from people whenever he mentioned his trauma. He didn’t like exposing himself, but he couldn’t have Kacchan planting seeds of doubt into his classmates. It was crucial that nobody suspected anything.

 

Izuku clenched his fists tightly causing them to shake more than normal. “It’s...It’s just hard for me, okay?” Then he added in a mutter, “You already know I had to take repeat classes.”

 

“You’ve never been the best in class,” Kacchan argued, “but you could at least stand above a couple of these extras.”

 

“Don’t call your classmates extras!” Iida scolded.

 

Izuku lowered his head and peeked an eye out from between his fringe. He stared Kacchan dead in the eye and glared at him. Deku had to resist snapping at the other boy defensively. He didn’t like when people questioned him or how smart he was. He hated being humiliated in front of his peers. If he was back with the villains, he would’ve beaten the shit out of Kacchan. Or at least attacked him.

 

As it was, Izuku couldn’t do anything like that. If anything, he needed to restrain himself even more around Kacchan. He was too used to not having to control Deku. It had become automatic to fall back into that role.

 

“I think you should drop it, Bakugou.” Asui spoke up when Izuku didn’t respond. He broke his stare with Kacchan and lifted his head. He kept his eyes averted from his friends as well, looking ashamed.

 

“Stay the fuck out of it!” Kacchan told her. Izuku heard an intake of breath indicating one of them was about to snap back at Kacchan, but the angry boy turned back to Izuku, “Whatever! I only have one thing to say to you anyway, Deku.” Izuku finally looked at his childhood friend again. There was a frown on Kacchan’s face, but it wasn’t as severe as it usually was. If anything, he looked a little off-kilter himself. Uncomfortable. If Izuku hadn’t known Kacchan for so long, he doubted he would’ve seen it. What did he have to feel so weird about? He was the one who was freaking Izuku out!

 

“Tomorrow, don’t make me wait for ten damn minutes. Get there on time!”

 

The boy grabbed his tray back from the table and left promptly then. Izuku felt the Gravitron ride slowing, leaving his mind still spinning. He couldn’t even respond to that. How long would it be before Kacchan started the ride again? Two times was enough that day.

 

“I thought…” Uraraka started cautiously, “that you two weren’t friends?”

 

“I can’t even imagine being friends with him.” Iida agreed, motioning after Kacchan. “How can you be friends with someone who is so rude and calls you such bad things? And that language…!”

 

“We’re...not really friends?” Izuku said slowly, still trying to play catch up. He hadn’t been this thrown off in a while. Did that mean Kacchan expected to walk to school together tomorrow as well? Izuku knew that despite Kacchan being a bit of a punk, he was usually one of the first ones to class. He had always been very serious about his schoolwork for as much as he complained about it. It was just another reason why it was so shocking that Kacchan had decided to walk with Izuku who preferred to arrive at a normal time.

 

“It’s...Well.” He paused and then shrugged as he stared at his lunch. “He suddenly showed up and wanted to walk to school today.”

 

“Sounds like he wants to walk with you again tomorrow. It sounds like you might be friends.” Asui said as she pressed a finger to her mouth curiously. Her wide-eyed expression never changed, which made it hard for Izuku to understand her emotions. He was glad she was so blunt.

 

“Are you okay with that, though?” Iida asked. “He still calls you that name.”

 

“Uraraka does too.” Izuku pointed out.

 

“You call him Deku?” Asui asked Uraraka.

 

“Yeah!” Uraraka nodded. “But I mean it differently than Bakugou does. Deku-kun, who even is Bakugou to you?”

 

Izuku startled a little at that, surprised. He was suddenly overcome with the realization that he barely knew these people in front of them but he already felt rather comfortable. Maybe it was because he didn’t feel threatened? Izuku had forgotten what it was like to not have his guard constantly up around people. He had forgotten what it was like to have actual friends. It was strange to him to give out information like this willingly. He supposed that it was just another thing to be uncomfortable about today.

 

“He’s my…” What even was Kacchan to him anymore? Izuku remembered hating him for a long time before he had been kidnapped. He had hated Kacchan, but he had admired his strength so much. His determination and fire. He had hated when Kacchan had turned against him and treated him like he was worthless. When he had become ‘Deku’.

 

But now? Now that anger was all but gone. Kacchan either had matured while Izuku had been gone, or he had decided to move on. He doubted Kacchan had cared that Izuku had been missing. He knew that Kacchan’s parents had been there for his mother and father while he had been gone (and at some point he would work up the courage to visit them and thank them for that in person. It was just too weird to go over there yet), but Kacchan himself had never visited or checked on him. Even when some secret part of Izuku had hoped that he would. That he would have some kind of proof that no matter what he had mattered at least in some form to his old childhood friend.

 

Nevertheless, he and Kacchan didn’t have much of a relationship. So Izuku didn’t feel pressured to fluff up their relationship other than to say, “We’ve known each other since we were four. He doesn’t live too far from me.”

 

“You came from the same middle school too, right?” Iida asked. “I saw that you were both wearing the same uniform at the entrance exam.”

 

Izuku nodded. “We’ve just kind of been around each other our whole lives? We haven’t been friends in a long time, though.”

 

“Maybe this is your chance to reconnect!” Uraraka sat forward with excitement. “After all, both of you are training to be heroes! Just imagine the kind of duo you can make with his explosions and your fire quirk!”

 

Izuku thought of all of the times Kacchan had pushed him around and burnt his skin with his explosions. He thought of all of the rejection that Kacchan had put him through and how his old group of friends had abandoned him to follow after the brighter Kacchan. He thought of how no matter how many times he had thought of Kacchan when he had been in hell that the other boy didn’t even seem to care he had been gone. He thought of how he had been considered worthless without his quirk and how even though he had one Kacchan hadn’t even believed him. He thought about how suspicious it was that now that he had proven to have a quirk Kacchan suddenly was talking to him more.

 

And Izuku gave a half-hearted smile and a huff of a laugh, shrugging helplessly. “Thanks Uraraka, but I doubt it.”

Chapter Text

Lunch passed back into the classroom and invited Izuku to finally take his mind off of how strange his entire school life has been thus far. He sat practically vibrating in his chair as he waited to see what they would be doing with their afternoon training classes. His eyes kept darting to the door as he ignored the curious and excited murmurs of his own classmates wondering amongst themselves what the next class would be. That was why Izuku had been the one to hear rapid footsteps before a familiar voice cried out,

 

“I AM HERE!!” Izuku gasped as the door to the classroom flew open and All Might thrusted himself dramatically through the doorway, his cape flying behind him from the wind. Izuku wasn’t the only one to cry out in delight and surprise. “COMING THROUGH THE DOOR NORMALLY!!” All Might finished over the noise.

 

“All Might!!” Izuku covered his mouth to stop his instinctive muttering. He couldn’t believe it. He had forgotten about the hologram that UA had sent him of All Might because he had thought it was just some kind of recorded thing from the UA Alumni. He hadn’t known nor expected All Might to actually be a teacher at UA! What kind of luck was this? Izuku thought he might actually faint from being in the man’s presence. Would it be too weird to ask him for his autograph even though he was a teacher? They would be learning from ALL MIGHT of all people! This was something that he needed to make as many notes on as possible.

 

His rambling thoughts were pushed onto the backburner as All Might spoke then to explain they would be initiating in a battle simulation that day. Izuku gaped and saw even Kacchan in front of him sit forward out of his own excitement when they both heard the news. They were already going to be doing battles? Izuku had known it would happen eventually, but it was a surprise for it to occur on the second day. UA really was a high-tier school, that was for sure.

 

The students were introduced to their new costumes that had been built to their own specifications. Izuku had been one of the first students to leave the classroom to head down to the changing rooms (but not without staring with awe at All Might in the flesh) due to the fact that he didn’t need to worry about grabbing any kind of large case with his outfit. His mother had been kind enough to make a hero outfit for Izuku which he had kept in his backpack waiting for the day that he would need it. He just didn’t think it was so soon.

 

Izuku entered the changing rooms and pulled out the green suit to run his fingers over it for what was probably the hundredth time since he had received it. His mother had painstakingly crafted the suit just for him. She had even gone so far as to add little details that Izuku hadn’t know he had wanted such as the ears of his hood and the goggles to protect his eyes. He’d had the option of letting a professional company make him a suit based off of his quirk, but when he had seen the joy and hope in his mother’s eyes as she had presented the gift, Izuku hadn’t possibly been able to say no.

 

He began to undress before the other boys started to arrive. The only things he had ordered through the school had been mostly support items. His gloves, for example, were handmade and easily destroyed. He took full advantage of the school’s connections to request fireproof material for his gloves as well as a way to easily restock both his flint and matches. His utility belt around his hips was where he stored the zippo provided to him by Master as well as a few tricks of his own. His shoes, too, has a layer of fireproof material on them so they wouldn’t melt unless under more extreme heat. For the first time in a while, Izuku felt prepared.

 

The other boys came in while he was slipping his suit on. Some of them were chatting loudly with each other, already discussing some of the features of the outfits they’d had custom made. Izuku didn’t paid much attention to them, but he did look up when a pair of feet paused in front of him. His eyes met Kacchan’s as the boy looked him over. Izuku tried not to blush and feel self-conscious as he knew what Kacchan was looking at. Without his clothes on, the scars on his body from his training were obvious.

 

Kacchan said nothing, though, and didn’t stick around before he moved on. Izuku breathed a sigh of relief and sped up his changing.


 

It didn’t really hit until he was standing with everyone in their various heroes costumes. Izuku felt like he was having a bit of an out of body experience as he gazed upon his classmates as they stood in front of All Might. He was here . This was UA . It was the school he had always dreamt of. He was actually training to be a hero with the top hero right in front of him. He was actually meeting All Might, being trained by him, and had a hero’s costume! It left him feeling a little light-headed as he grinned. His heart felt lighter than it had in a long time. This was the hope that All Might had stored in him. He was going to be a hero.

 

He clenched his fists and startled a little when he felt the thickness of them. He looked down and was reminded of his position and felt gravity set in on him. His smile fell into a frown as he gazed upon his fantastic new gloves. The weight of his lighter was heavy in his red utility belt. Izuku’s trembling stopped. He wasn’t a hero. Everything in front of him was a fraud just like he was. He was an actor on a stage, and everyone around him was ignorant to it.

 

He stared at All Might barely aware of what was being said as his mind turned to his mission. When he had suggested being a spy for UA, he hadn’t expected that All Might would come to work there. He didn’t know if his master was aware of it or not. Was that the real reason his master had agreed to his stretch of a plan? Why he’d had his chain loosened so that he could roam just a bit farther from his master’s side?

 

Deku knew what his mission was. It was something that was on his mind at all times: to find the weaknesses of the Pro Heroes. All Might was the ultimate goal for both Izuku and Deku. He was the one he had always hoped to meet and had prayed that he wouldn’t. All Might was the one Master wanted to kill. To topple the Pillar of Hope and take the world of heroes down with it. Deku was a tool in order to achieve this goal. He was certain that Master had known. How long could Deku pretend he didn’t know in front of Master? At what point would Deku have to start betraying All Might as well? He would have to tell Master the truth or risk everything. Was it worth it?

 

“Young Midoriya!” Izuku blinked back to himself and out of his darkening thoughts to realize All Might was standing in front of him. Izuku felt like his invisible shackles were made of diamond as he gazed upon the Pillar of Hope and hopelessly understood that even he couldn’t help save Izuku.

 

“Ah...Yes?” His voice was thick and heavy. His eyes felt like they would water. He was so tired. He shook his head quickly to clear it and to pull himself back together. Be ‘Izuku’ again.

 

“Take a letter from the box, if you will!” All Might gave the box in his hand a small jostle. Izuku stared at it for a moment before his memory clicked together. Despite having been lost in thought, he had still picked up on his instructions. He had to pull a letter to see who he would be teamed up with for the trials. He realized that almost everyone around him had already pulled their letters and were waiting for him.

 

“Sorry!” He cried and quickly grabbed his own letter out. He was on Team C. He looked around to see who else was on his team as everyone else pulled their numbers.

 

“Are you alright, Deku-kun?” Uraraka whispered as she came up beside him. He glanced down at her letter and saw she was on Team A. He was a little disappointed. She was watching him worriedly. “You’re really pale. Are you nervous?”

 

“Am I?” Izuku asked, eyes skating sideways and away from her earnest gaze. “I-I-I’m just...I’m a little nervous.” He wasn’t, but it was as good of an excuse as any. He definitely felt sick to his stomach, but not because he was actually getting sick. He hoped that he didn’t have to report to Master that night. He smiled shakily at her.

 

“Don’t worry too much! You’ll do great, I’m sure!” Uraraka pumped her fist once with an encouraging nod.

 

“Don’t get me wrong! I’m excited too, but I haven’t really...used my quirk against anyone before.” The lie was harder than normal to pull out of his throat. He regretted even using such an excuse.

 

“If things become too much, I will be sure to stop the battle!” All Might interrupted, and Izuku jumped guiltily when he realized All Might had heard their conversation. “Now, everyone find your teammates!”

 

“Never give up, Deku-kun!” Uraraka said with a slightly teasing grin. The play on his nickname and her words unwound the thorny knot in his chest just a little bit as he nodded and smiled back before moving to search for his partner.

 

“Oi.” Izuku jumped as Kacchan’s hand wrapped around his wrist, yanking him backwards. Izuku froze as his arm was twisted enough to allow Kacchan to see what letter he had received. He attempted to look at Kacchan’s as well, but the boy didn’t show it to him. Kacchan dropped his wrist with a small scowl and turned around to continue searching for his partner. Izuku decided that if Kacchan did anything weird again that day he would take his time to dissect it later. He needed to concentrate on the trial rather than on Kacchan’s strange antics.

 

“Over here, Midoriya!” Yaoyorozu Momo called and trotted up to him. Izuku gaped from behind his mask before he could stop himself. His face lit on fire realizing just how much skin Yaoyorozu was showing. It took him a few seconds for his hormone-filled thoughts to clear away and allow his logical (and appropriate) side back. He quickly averted his eyes and scratched at his hair.

 

It made sense, of course, for Yaoyorozu to have an outfit that showed a lot of skin. From what Izuku had seen of their first day, she had the ability to create stuff with her body. It was unknown to him thus far how she did it or what the limits were, but she had used it readily during the practice exams. He had actually been very impressed while watching her as she had used her quirk to her advantage making sure to give herself the boosts she’d needed. She had made it to the top of the physical exam for their class this way.

 

The things he knew about Yaoyorozu were limited thus far to her creation quirk, her clear intellect, knowing that she had gotten into the school on recommendation of all things, and that she seemed more serious than some of his other classmates. It would be a good idea to get to know her better. He could use her mind to his advantage. Maybe learn how she had gotten in on recommendation. He would need to make note of the strengths and weaknesses of her quirk. He could use the test to his own advantage.

 

“It’s good to be working with you!” He told her honestly, smiling though he wasn’t sure she could see it. He pulled down his mouth guard so he could speak clearer.

 

“Likewise.” She said with a small smile. He could tell by her shifting a bit that she was uncomfortable with just how much skin she was showing (and that she was aware of the leers of some of their male classmates), but she didn’t attempt to cover herself. If anything she relaxed just slightly around Izuku. He was determined not to stare at her too much so that she would be able to focus.

 

The terms were simple: one team would be picked to be the Villains and one team would be picked to be the Heroes from a random drawing. The Heroes had to enter the Villains’ lair and either A. had to incapacitate and capture the Villains or B. touch the ‘bomb’ the Villains were guarding. The Villains, in turn, had to return the favor or wait out the ten minutes until time was called. If the Heroes did not accomplish either A or B, they would be declared the losers and the Villains would win. Both the Heroes and Villains had five minutes to prep and strategize before the trial would begin.

 

It was simplistic, Izuku thought, and not the kind of training simulations he was used to. But it would be good either way. On top of that, all of the other students would stay with All Might and watch all of the other fights via cameras to learn from their classmates. Izuku was glad that he had thought to pack away a small notepad and pencil to write with. He needed to take as many notes as possible.

 

He was grateful that he wasn’t one of the first teams to be called up. It gave both him and Yaoyorozu a chance to instead watch someone else in action and get an idea of what to expect. Instead he watched as Mineta and Ashido went up as Villains against Hagakure and Iida as Heroes. Izuku’d had the chance to see some impressive things yesterday from Ashido with her secretion quirk, but it was different to see it in action. She seemed to be able to control just how destructive it would be meaning she could use it defensively or offensively. Mineta’s purple hair balls were extremely sticky and could really drag a person down when they were covered with them. Mineta could repel himself from the balls. It made for a number of tricky traps and some quick attacks from both sides.

 

On the opposite side there was Hagakure with her invisibility quirk and Iida with his engine quirk. Iida would be able to speed around the building quickly but at the cost of leaving Hagakure behind. Hagakure, though, was good for sneaking once she took off her gloves (which were the only visible parts of her). Both of them were at a slight disadvantage with Ashido’s various acid puddles around the building.

 

Izuku spent the time not only watching carefully for any particular quirks of the other hero students, but also where their failings were. He thought about what he would do depending on who he had been teamed up with and what kind of strategy he would’ve used. He decided that Ashido’s quirk was the most versatile and useful to him out of all of them, although Iida clearly had good control over his own abilities. Both would be good teammates for him.

 

It was all over the moment one of Mineta’s balls got into Iida’s engine and left him at half capacity. He and Hagakure had gotten close, but in the end both had been unable to work their way around the traps.

 

“What could’ve gone better?” All Might asked the class over the sound of Mineta’s gloating and Hagakure’s sighs.

 

Izuku’s hand had shot up in time with Yaoyorozu’s. All Might grinned and nodded to him. Izuku decided it was time to redeem his terrible day right then and there. “The Heroes should have focused on a capture plan rather than trying to go for the bomb.” He explained quickly. His rambling habit transferred to his analysis to give it speed as he attempted to get his mouth to work as fast as his mind. “Between both Ashido’s and Mineta’s abilities, it was clear that the room with the bomb would’ve been trapped. However, Ashido’s quirk allows her to move very quickly. If they could’ve lured her out, Iida and Hagakure could’ve captured her between Hagakure’s sneaking ability and Iida’s speed. Mineta would’ve been the easier of the two to take down purely because he lacks the speed or strength to fight off two heroes at one time.”

 

He paused for a single breath as he brought a hand up to press a knuckle to his chin. His classmates stared at him, stunned by the word vomit and the analysis itself. All Might opened his mouth to speak, but Izuku wasn’t done yet. “That, or they should’ve sent Hagakure in first. In the physical exams yesterday she had proven to have decent upper body strength. She most likely could’ve scaled the wall without too much of a hassle. If Iida had worked together with her to locate the room, she could’ve snuck in and attempted to capture Mineta while he had been alone. Ashido couldn’t cover the entire floor and it would just be a matter of avoiding it. Iida could’ve been used as a distraction to help lure out Ashido and the win could’ve been made.”

 

He held up a finger and spun around to face Iida and Hagakure. “Ah! But that’s under the assumption that Hagakure could climb that far and hold out for that long. You both did very good nonetheless. Iida using his speed to run along the walls to avoid the traps had been rather brilliant! If you both had more time to get to know each other’s quirks I’m sure you could make full use of them. As it was, traps were just a bad combination for both of you.”

 

Silence followed in the wake of his ramble. Hagakure’s hands were at her mouth in surprise (from what Izuku could tell) while Kirishima let out a low whistle. “You tore them apart, man.” He said with a laugh.

 

Izuku flushed a bit. “A-Ah, was that too blunt? I didn’t mean-”

 

“Very good planning, Young Midoriya!” All Might called after clearing his throat once. “I think you’re rather correct.”

 

“I would hate to be the one to go up against Mr. Planner over there…” Izuku heard Sero murmur.

 

“I thought he was supposed to be...y’know…” Kaminari added with a thunk of his head. He was shoved for that by Jiro.

 

“You are too!” Jiro pointed out.

 

“I’ll have to try harder next time.” Iida decided, looking disgruntled.

 

“Me too!” Hagakure agreed, looking determined based on the clenching of her fists in front of her. “I’ll think it over more in the future!”

 

Yaoyorozu seemed to look at him with new interest in her eyes. “Impressive, Midoriya.” She murmured appreciatively. “I was thinking something similar.”

 

Izuku smiled a little helplessly, somewhat embarrassed. Had he gone overboard? Maybe he still didn’t quite know how to control himself. However he thought that was a rather Izuku thing to do. He couldn’t ramble nearly as much as Deku even though it was his job to know all of that. He hoped that his analysis helped his classmates in the future. Maybe he had been too blunt, though.

 

“Next teams, then!” All Might called over all of the noise to quiet everyone down. He dug into both the Villains and Heroes boxes and pulled out new letters. Izuku stared at the letter C on the Villains ball and the letter F on the Heroes one. Izuku’s eyes met with Sero’s and Kirishima’s. All Might’s smile widened. “Well then! Let’s see if your planning helps you to succeed in your own challenge! Onto the next building!”

Chapter Text

Izuku and Yaoyorozu were both given a map of their hideout that they used to navigate to where their paper ‘bomb’ would be. All Might gave them the signal to let them know their time for planning had started, and both of the students whirled on each other with mouths open to say, “Someone needs to guard the bomb.”

 

“I will do it.” Yaoyorozu decided immediately. “Your fire quirk runs the risk of setting it off- er…destroying it.”

 

Izuku nodded. He had already been all for that. “I’m a lot faster than I look too. I can guard the grounds if you can handle the bomb.”

 

“I can.” She assured him, and he watched as she pressed a hand to her chest and pulled out a long metal staff. Izuku realized quickly that it was a Bo staff and grinned at the sight of it. He could tell just by her sheer confidence in how she wielded the weapon that she was an expert at it. He was impressed.

 

“We need traps as well.” He told her. “I can fight without my quirk and can take some of the heavy hits from Kirishima if I come across him. But I would be a better match up for Sero.”

 

“With the enclosed spaces of the hallway he won’t be able to maneuver as easily.” Yaoyorozu agreed. “And your fire could probably cut through his tape. I’m not sure I can hold Kirishima off on my own based on pure strength.”

 

Izuku nodded, thinking quickly. They only had about three minutes left. “What’s the limit to your Quirk?” He asked her. “How much can you create for us?”

 

“I stored a couple of snacks in my belt.” She confessed, “But I can only do so many things before I’m tired. And anything big is out of the question right now. I didn’t have a heavy lunch because I didn’t know what I would be doing today.”

 

“That’s fine.” Izuku smiled wider. “I have some ideas that hopefully you could help me out with.”


 

Izuku found a relatively secluded corner in the blind spot of a camera and decided to take a moment for himself to take a deep breath. His heart was beating at a steady, excited pace but his trembling had yet to stop. That wouldn’t do. He was playing a Villain right then, right? Would it be so wrong to get into character?

 

Izuku smiled to himself and decide that no, it would not be such a bad idea.

 

Deku stepped back out into the view of the cameras with a neutral face as he examined his surroundings. He became aware of the depth of the hallways and the smoothness of the walls and floors. The building was made to be sturdy but to be destroyed.  He calculated the width of the hallways as he adjusted his gloves to sit a little more snuggly on his hands. He then reached into his pouch to pull out his All Might lighter and flicked it on and off.

 

Deku could feel a sense of calm wash over him as he walked through the hallways listening carefully for any kind of sound. He had already memorized the layout of the floors and knew that at some point Team F would have to come his way if he kept walking the way he was headed. Unless they took another route, but he doubted it. The hunt was a familiar game to Deku, but it was unusual for him to be the hunter instead of the hunted. It made a thrill roll down his spine as he smiled and ran a hand into his hair to brush it out of the way.

 

“I’m set, Midoriya.” Yaoyorozu reported softly into his ear through the small headset they both had as part of the training. “The room will be ready in three minutes.”

 

“Good. Thank you.” He told her before dropping the communication. He’d heard voices just a moment ago. Deku tested out the grip of his new shoes and found himself impressed by their grip. It was exactly what he had wanted when he had ordered them. Time to begin the hunt.

 

He was silent as he ran and ducked around a corner and slunk into the soft shadows of the building. Kirishima and Sero weren’t bothering to be too sneaky as they glanced briefly around corners and moved forward without pressing to walls. Deku agreed it was the better method. Kirishima was a good defense and offense from what Deku had noted about his hardening quirk and Sero would be good for a quick capture.

 

Many different battle tactics ran through his head about how he would normally use his three Quirks together to take down both of his enemies at once. Instinct had him deciding deaths quickly before dismissing them from his mind. This was a non-lethal mission. All Might probably wouldn’t be able to stop him before he finished them off, but it was still something Deku decided to push aside. Still, he couldn’t help his training.

 

He had to limit his options even further when he remembered his instructions given to him by his master before he had started school. No more than 20% of your power, Deku. Master had commanded.

 

That’s so boring. Deku had responded with a half-whine. He was used to being able to go all out even if almost a year had passed since his last real training session.

 

Master had chuckled with appreciation and patted his head. Remember your role as an actor. You’re supposed to be an inexperienced first-year. It would be strange if you were so in control of your Quirk.

 

20% maximum. Deku reminded himself as he silently opened his lighter again and pulled deeply from it to have his flame snake around his body. He liked how calm and how responsive the flame was. Deku adjusted his mouth guard and pressed a small button on his goggles to make them darken before he charged in for a sneak attack from behind.

 

Sero whirled around first because he was in the back. He bent his arm and immediately shot a line of tape at Deku. Good reflexes. Deku noted as he dropped to his knees and used the momentum to slide across the smooth floor. He resisted the urge to activate Snapshot because he realized he didn’t need it. In a split moment’s decision he slashed his hand out and his flame sliced the tape flying over his head. He then grabbed the broken tape and attached it to Sero’s ankle as he slid past and yanked it. Sero went down with a surprised yell.

 

“What the hell!” Kirishima yelped as he dodged backwards from a swing of Deku’s leg. “Surprise attacks are so not manly, dude!”

 

Deku said nothing in response but was amused by the outburst. However he didn’t have time to think on it as he was yanked backwards off of his knees and his momentum interrupted. He had underestimated how strong of a glue was on Sero’s tape and the boy had used it against him by yanking his own taped leg back. Deku was still stuck to the boy by the hand still stuck to the tape.

 

Kirishima’s skin roughened as his Quirk activated and he aimed a punch at Deku while he was off-guard. Deku allowed the hit to hit him, throwing him off even further and causing his cheek and jaw to smart. Before Sero could land a kick at his back from his own downed position, Deku got his feet under him and kicked off of the ground to flip over Sero’s prone form and slice the tape from his hand. He landed and backflipped one more time out of the way of Kirishima charging again before he turned and took off down the hallway.

 

As he predicted, both Sero and Kirishima followed after him. Deku wrapped the loose bit of tape still clinging to his hand around his palm. It made it so that he couldn’t use the flint on that hand, but he didn’t need it. He could study the properties of the tape later this way. It was a good collectable.

 

He heard the zip of Sero’s tape again coming at him and dodged right to avoid it. Sero seemed to predict that as a second zip came right afterwards. Deku grinned a little and planted his foot against the wall to flip backwards over it as he used Agility to enhance his movements. He saw the shocked faces of his classmates and laughed in response.

 

“Come on!” Sero cried. “What's with the parkour?!” Deku’s foot hit the ceiling and he thrusted himself downward and into a roll before coming back to his feet.

 

“You Heroes are nothing!” Deku yelled back. He kept his feet moving just to taunt them and smirked. “You can’t even keep up with me, you losers!”

 

“Jeez, Midoriya!” Kirishima said with a grimace.

 

Deku scoffed. “Even hurt by my little insults.” He mocked before he turned and ran off again.

 

“Go!” He heard Kirishima call behind him. They weren’t following him anymore. “I’ll take Midoriya! He’s just trying to lead us around!”

 

“You sure?” Sero asked. Deku smirked to himself and spun a corner to circle back around to get behind them. Deku brought his fire into his palm and lit his matches on fire to add fuel to his flames. They didn’t thicken, but their durability was extended. He removed the matches to let the thin wood burn in the fiery snake.

 

“Yeah! Go!”

 

Deku jumped out behind them, but they had heard him coming this time. Kirishima jumped and grabbed a hold of Deku’s arm, surprising him. He bit back his instinctive moves as Kirishima spun and threw him down the hallway. Deku rolled and focused on keeping his fire going rather than stopping himself. It was enough time for Sero to have disappeared down a hallway by the time Deku had hefted himself to his feet.

 

“Midoriya, are you okay?” Yaoyorozu asked, but Deku didn't respond. Kirishima stood in front of him in a boxer’s stance. Deku noted that he had clearly had hand-to-hand combat experience, but he was all about keeping the defensive right now. Deku knew that with the right kind of training he could become more than the tank that he was at that moment. Did his hardened form slow him down? Did he become a wall? Was he heavier? Or did his skin only become just as strong as stone? It was time to test out a couple of theories.

 

“I doubt I can capture you,” the red-headed boy in front of him admitted with a grin, “but I can take you in a fight. Your fire won’t have much effect against my Quirk!”

 

Deku clicked his tongue and glared a little disdainfully. “What are you doing bragging to a villain?” He asked as he stood up. His fire encircled his waist and snapped angrily as it finished consuming its fuel. There was the temptation to light Kirishima’s hair on fire. Surely all of that gel was flammable, right? Or did his Quirk extend to his hair as well? Deku spread his arms with a sneer. “What would you have done if I had known nothing about your Quirk? Are you really going to be so idiotic?”

 

“Harsh!” Kirishima didn’t stop smiling though, but he did lower himself in preparation. He had too much build up, Deku noted. He really was fighting against first years. He was too used to dealing with adults who had more years of experience with their Quirks.

 

He’s waiting for an opening . Deku decided as he bit his tongue to stop from spewing more insults. He didn’t want to completely distance himself from his classmates. ‘Izuku’, after all, was a nice guy. He wasn’t the type to insult his friends so much. And besides, Kirishima wasn’t rising to any of the bait. Deku added ‘easy-going’ to the list of traits he had for Kirishima.

 

Well if he wanted an opening, Deku would give it to him. He pressed a finger to his microphone and made a tiny hissing sound into it. “Got it.” Yaoyorozu responded, catching on that Sero was headed for her right as Kirishima took the bait and charged. Deku threw his fire at the boy’s face. As Kirishima had said, his flames had done nothing. They were probably not hot enough to even distract him because Kirishima just charged through them. His hair didn’t even light on fire either. He noticed immediately that Kirishima’s arm temporarily lost its hardening so the face could take it instead. A sign that he required concentration. Possibly couldn’t move well while activating it. Automatic response took away from his attack.

 

Deku swiped his hand to maneuver the flame behind the other boy and out of the way before using the same motion to grab Kirishima’s arm. The move surprised Kirishima, who planted his feet to stop his momentum, but Deku already had a hold on him. He felt the arm harden again in his hold. The bare stone skin dug into Deku’s body through his jumpsuit but didn’t pierce. He winced but still grappled the arm and hefted him over his shoulder to flip him. He toughed out the feeling of the stone no doubt bruising him as it scraped and tore a bit at his suit. He was glad he anticipated the additional weight the stone skin had added because he threw Kirishima down a little harder than necessary, knocking the breath from Kirishima’s body as the boy let out a pained gasp.

 

“Your defense is strong against my fire.” Deku acknowledged as he made the “foolish” mistake of letting Kirishima get his bearings back. Deku stared down at the boy disdainfully and smirked. “But you forgot that I’m fast and you are not. Don’t underestimate your opponents just because you have a strong defense. Especially if you can’t maintain it over a little unexpected move.”

 

Kirishima stared at him from his downed position frowning seriously before he put on a rueful grin. “God...I can’t believe you, dude. You talk crap, but I like your balls!” He rolled his body and hopped to his feet while Deku was thrown off-guard by the how cheerful his enemy was.

 

“That’s gay.” He threw back automatically, a little dazed.

 

“It’s whatever.” Kirishima responded and pounded his fists together to have his hardening quirk spread up both arms to his shoulders. “You won’t get me a second time! Come on!” Deku decided in that moment he liked Kirishima.

 

“Here!” Yaoyorozu suddenly called over the receiver in his ear.

 

“Nah.” Deku responded to Kirishima and instead turned tail and ran. Kirishima yelped out a shocked, “HEY!” but Deku didn’t stop. He didn’t go as fast as he could so that Kirishima could follow him as Deku led the way back to where Yaoyorozu and Sero no doubt were. He hoped that she was fending him off well. Considering All Might hadn’t stopped the fight, he figured she was just as good as he had predicted.

 

It was a risk dragging both heroes so close to where their prize was, but Deku trusted the plan both he and Yaoyorozu had come up with. He refused to lose his first real battle with his classmates. He wanted to make up for earlier in the day. He would make sure none of his classmates thought he was an idiot like some of them already did. He would prove his worth. He would be victorious in his mission.

 

He ran into the room where Yaoyorozu was holed up to find her holding her own against Sero. The girl was wet with water she had made to try to keep the tape from sticking to her and was fending Sero’s movement off with her Bo staff. He was holding himself a little awkwardly and Deku realized that his one elbow was injured. He internally praised Yaoyorozu.

 

He activated Snapshot so he had just a second longer to take in the room. He held his breath as he noted the gasoline and wood on the floor. The fumes from the gas were a little heavy in the air, but some of the windows were open to the room. Sero and Yaoyorozu were near the circle, but not within it. She was clearly trying to drive him back. A few of the pieces of wood had been strewn around the room with tape on them. Sero was in on the idea. But Kirishima behind Deku had no idea. He would use the element of surprise one more time.

 

His breath left him and a few seconds later a couple things happened at once. The first was that Yaoyorozu noticed that Deku had arrived. The second was that Kirishima slammed into Deku’s back, launching him into the room and sending his lighter flying from his belt. Deku needed a stronger clasp. The third was that his flame disappeared by the sudden attack. Kirishima had been closer than he had thought.

 

“Kirishima-!” Sero called and Deku knew he was about to warn the boy of the impending trap. Yaoyorozu knocked his feet out from beneath him before he could, though. Deku took that time to roll out of the way of a kick aimed at his ribs from Kirishima, who was focused on Deku. The kick, however, didn’t go for Deku only. It hit a piece of wood and sent it skittering across the ground where it pushed Deku’s lighter even further away.

 

“Fire’s out!” Kirishima yelled triumphantly. “Talk to me about surprises, Midoriya!” Deku added “single-minded” and “calculating” to his deductions of Kirishima as he reached into the sleeve of his jumpsuit and pulled out the capture tape both teams had been provided before the test. He unspooled it and wrapped it around his hands before spinning on his back and looping the tape under Kirishima’s foot.

 

Accounting for the possibility of Kirishima hardening his body to add weight, Deku twisted and yanked the foot. Kirishima stumbled but stayed standing while Deku pulled himself to his feet to get a firm grip on Kirishima’s ankle with his hands.

 

“Surprise!” He cried with a grin. He relied purely on his strength and spun the boy off of his feet and sent him to the ground to slide directly into the circle of wood. He broke the circle, but Deku didn’t care as he turned his attention to Yaoyorozu and Sero.

 

She’d gotten him close enough. Deku jumped in quickly to assist. He grabbed Sero from behind and Yaoyarozu did the rest by grabbing his legs. “WHOA WHOA!” Sero cried and struggled, but Deku made sure the Hero's elbows were pointed uselessly away before the Villains threw him at Kirishima. The boys recovered quickly and scrambled to their feet, pausing one moment to gather their bearings while Yaoyorozu ran towards the bomb to protect it.

 

“You don’t have any fire left, Midoriya!” Sero called, motioning to the circle. “Your little trap won’t work.”

 

“You can’t produce flames without your lighter!” Kirishima added. His eyes darted towards the bomb that was tantalizingly close.

 

Deku stood up straight and smiled at that. It seemed to throw his enemies off. “I can't.” Deku pointed a cocky thumb towards the bomb. “But she can.” Yaoyorozu chose then to drop the lighter she had produced herself onto the line of gasoline on the floor. Deku thrusted his arms out and took control of the flames, encouraging them to eat up all of the fuel and surrounded the Heroes before they could move. He saw Kirishima begin to harden, but Deku knew this was the end. He lifted his arms up and encased them both in a dome of searing flames. He reminded himself to spread the borders a little farther so neither boy was at risk of getting burnt.

 

“Shit!” Kirishima yelled. Deku focused on keeping the fire going, but his concentration wasn’t as necessary with all of the fuel for his fire to eat at. Yaoyorozu smiled with delight where she still stood at ready in case either boy broke through. “I can-”

 

“Don’t do it, Kirishima!” Yaoyorozu warned. “You’ll get burnt.”

 

“It’s our win.” Deku agreed.

 

“That doesn’t matter!” Kirishima called back. “What kind of hero would I be if I don’t risk getting a little hurt?!”

 

“Nah, they’re right.” Sero said with some reluctance. “Besides, we’re out of time.”

 

“Come on, dude!”

 

“It's the truth. Just our luck that we go against the two planners.” Sero sighed as All Might finally called time and Deku pushed fire away so the boys could exit. They were both covered with sweat, but otherwise unburnt. Both of them looked disgruntled but in good humor.

 

Izuku sighed and finally relaxed. The adrenaline of the moment still felt good in his veins. Yaoyorozu approached Izuku and held out the All Might lighter with a pleased smile. She was wearing a towel now to try to dry herself off and she was eating a snack. She looked a little pale and definitely a little bruised, but overall okay. “Here you are, Midoriya.”

 

“Thank you.” He told her and then turned to all of them, “You guys did really well!” He praised with a bright smile. The four of them worked together to put out the last of the fire. The floor and ceiling were a little scorched, but the bomb was perfectly fine. Izuku was proud for that one. Both Yaoyorozu and Izuku had been determined to cause as little damage to their “Villain Hideout” as possible.

 

They all walked together as they went to find the exit to the building. Izuku felt his trembling come back little by little as Deku wore off and he pulled on Izuku again. He smiled a little bashfully at them. “Sorry about earlier. I was pretty rude, huh?

 

“It’s fine. I was just shocked, y’know?” Kirishima said.

 

“Yeah, I didn’t think you had that kind of mouth on you Midoriya.” Sero added. “Telling off your enemy like that…” He laughed.

 

“I thought you made a good point, though.” Yaoyorozu said. “Although...it did make me unwilling to talk.”

 

“Right?” Sero nodded. “All I could think was ‘I’ll be scolded next’!”

 

Izuku laughed with them at that and sighed with relief that nobody seemed mad. He had done well to rein in his tongue. If he hadn’t, he was certain he would’ve ended up sounding like Kacchan. Habits were very hard to break.

 

It’s just a shame, Deku thought to himself ruefully as he exited the artificial light of the building and out into the daylight again, that 15% was all I had needed for this test.

 

Oh well. Middle of the road was what he wanted anyway.

Chapter Text

It was one thing for Deku to have a Quirk that was actually pretty decent. It was an entirely different story that Deku was so good during a fight. Katsuki had barely been able to focus for the rest of their afternoon classes because of the confusion and burning fury in his chest and throat. His own trial had not been nearly enough to release some of his pent up frustration because absolutely nobody was questioning how fucking Deku could move like that.

 

Katsuki sat in front of Deku so he wasn’t even able to look at the boy through the rest of their classes together. He had taken to gripping his desktop hard, but he ended up getting scolded for the burning that had started to char the wood. He spent the rest of his classes focusing more on reining in his emotions.

 

What the hell had that been in class? Deku was Deku. He shouldn’t be able to move like that! And what were those muscles that Katsuki had seen in the changing rooms? Deku was a scrawny kid who couldn’t fight back, but suddenly he could hold his own in a fight? And not only that, but hold up well in a fight? He had easily out-paced two of their classmates in a fight. Katsuki had been able to see it - Deku had been holding back.

 

It infuriated him. Katsuki felt like he was gathering all of these puzzle pieces, but none of them seemed to fit together. What kind of fucked up puzzle was he making? The questions he had for Deku and about Deku just kept piling up. This picture made no sense!

 

It was why after class he had waited despite his own urge to just kick a tree until his foot bled. He wanted to go home and punch his punching bag, but he knew it would only let his mind continue to form questions. Those questions would just become fuel to the fire in his stomach and thus he wouldn’t be able to burn through it all just by punching something. He had to try to get some kind of answers out of Deku again.

 

Katsuki took a breath and glared at his feet. No...Just confronting Deku wasn’t going to work. He could tell from the short conversations they’d had that day that Deku would continue to play dumb. Even though Katsuki was actually attempting to be friendly with him of all things. It wasn’t much consolation, but at least Deku was lying to Katsuki just as much as all of the other “friends” he had. But Katsuki wasn’t just any other “friend” and he would dig all of Deku’s secrets out if he had to blow the fucker up himself.

 

Katsuki looked up as Deku left the school building. He had been almost completely unharmed by the trials earlier other than a hard hit to the cheek. He had a bandage over it but nothing else. Katsuki noticed him before Deku had noticed him. He was walking and reading over whatever weird little notes he had been taking when he had been watching the trials earlier. It seemed that no matter how weird Deku was now, at least he had kept that aspect of himself.

 

Deku lifted his head when he finally came within Katsuki’s orbit and blinked in surprise. “Ah! Kacchan!” Deku glanced around him as if Katsuki wasn’t looking right at him. What a fucking idiot. “Are...are we walking home together too?”

 

Katsuki decided not to answer that hesitant question. “When did you start training?” He demanded instead and waited for the effect that he had come to start expecting. It was the same thing every time and Katsuki was certain that he was the only one who had noticed it. The moment Katsuki mentioned something that was off about Deku, his eyes would twitch just the slightest and darken. His expression became just the slightest more guarded even as his eyebrows, mouth, muscles - they all continued with their performance. But Katsuki knew what Deku really looked like when he made those expressions with full intent. Like it was natural and not just another show. He refused to be fooled.

 

Deku’s voice stuttered a bit before it strengthened and he shrugged a little. “When I knew I had a Quirk, I started training myself in preparation for the entrance exams for UA.”

 

Direct confrontation would get him nowhere, Katsuki decided, but that didn’t mean it didn’t grate at him to not just grab Deku and shake the truth out of him. It went against his instincts not to snap. He was sure his body was visibly shaking with his restraint. “And...And those moves?”

 

Deku scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “Parkour videos? Haha, I had wanted to try them.”

 

Lies! All you do is fucking lie!

 

Katsuki forced himself to turn away from Deku as his nails bit into his palms. His jaw hurt from gritting his teeth so much. That level of skill wasn’t gained by one’s self over the course of a year. When would Deku have even had time to train? He had looked exhausted over the course of the school year. Too much so for heavy training, right? Katsuki’s mother had also told Katsuki about all of the extra classes and therapist visits that Deku’d had to go to. Unless he was getting absolutely no sleep, Katsuki doubted the other boy had a proper training schedule.

 

When Katsuki started walking to the gate to head home he realized that he couldn’t hear footsteps following him. His heart jumped unpleasantly in his chest as he remembered the day Deku was kidnapped. How silent it had been as Deku had disappeared.

 

He turned around quickly and saw Deku staring after him. Honest surprise lit up the other boy’s eyes as Katsuki’s eyes met his. Katsuki quickly morphed whatever face he was making into a scowl. “Hurry up!” He barked before turning back around. He would tell nobody about how his ears were trained for the footsteps of those stupid bright red shoes as he started walking again. This time those shoes followed him. It reminded him of years ago when Deku would determinedly follow Katsuki everywhere with his friends. Back when Deku had forced his presence on Katsuki no matter how he hadn’t wanted it. Now it was Katsuki’s turn to return the favor.


 

The next two days passed in this fashion. Katsuki would wake up and get ready just a little bit earlier than usual. He would eat a quick breakfast, possibly argue with his mother, and then head to go wait for Deku outside of his apartment complex. After the first day Deku had started meeting Katsuki at the gate. He had been surprised to see Katsuki actually show up on the second day, but by the third and fourth day of them walking together in the mornings Deku seemed to understand that this was going to be a common thing.

 

More often than not they didn’t talk to each other. Deku would follow behind Katsuki and never next to him. He was always close enough for Katsuki to be aware of him being there, but he never breached some unknown border they had both unconsciously agreed on. Katsuki couldn’t decide if he was relieved or angry about this.

 

He didn’t walk to school with friends. He liked his privacy in the mornings before he would have to deal with a day full of morons and annoyances. He didn’t even really want to be friends with Deku. But he needed the other boy to be more comfortable around him. Deku only really opened up to his friends, but he also was well aware that it would take a lot of digging to get Deku to say anything. Katsuki doubted that Auntie Inko even knew.

 

Katsuki paid attention to Deku and his interactions with the rest of their classmates. There was already a distinct difference between how he acted with them than he had with their middle school classmates. He was already livelier and friendlier. Their classmates seemed to genuinely enjoy and marvel at Deku and his skill. Katsuki remembered how after Deku had first come back he had made sure nobody had gotten too close to him. He hadn’t even tried to become friends with Katsuki and their old group again. Katsuki couldn’t decide if his friendliness with the classmates was an act or not.

 

Well let it not be said that Katsuki couldn’t play the same game that Deku did. He smirked behind his hand and decided to see how far he could stretch this fake’s acting.

 

“Oi, Deku!” Katsuki called as he threw open the door to the classroom. Deku jumped where he was gathering his books and talking with Chubby Face and Four Eyes.

 

“Bakugou! Don’t throw open the classroom doors like that!” Four Eyes scolded, but Katsuki ignored him as he shoved his hands into his pockets and moved to stand in front of Deku. Deku’s constant shaking made him look nervous as he gazed at Katsuki with wide eyes.

 

“Wha-what is it, Kacchan?” Deku asked, looking around nervously. He wasn’t sweating, though, so Katsuki recognized it as him faking. Just another fucking act. It was irritating. This loser better not try to be a fucking actor in the future if his Hero career failed, the fucking idiot.

 

“Eat lunch with me.” Ugh, that took more out of him than he had expected. The absolutely floored expression on the Nerd Trio’s faces wasn’t helping either.

 

“What?” Deku asked with a weak voice and there, that was real.

 

“Is...Is this some kind of trick?” Chubby Face asked hesitantly, glancing between Katsuki and Deku. Katsuki glared at her. What the fuck has Deku told her about their relationship that she was reacting like that?

 

“You got some kind of fucking problem with me?!” He growled at her.

 

“Well...The entire class can tell you and Deku don’t get along…” She tried, not backing down from his glare. He didn’t like that so few people in this class were affected by it. He would admit she had a decent backbone, though, for a girl. Most girls shied away from his anger.

 

Katsuki met Deku’s eyes and he watched as the other boy pulled on that mask again. Katsuki could see him thinking rapidly. It made the way he faked being an idiot in class all the more a sin. Deku -for being worthless at school- was not an idiot. He was a nerd with a nerd brain to match. And Katsuki had read some of the hero analysis books the boy used to (still?) keep. Deku had a brain hidden in there. Why was he acting like such a vapid idiot then? Katsuki wanted to punch his stupid fucking fake face in.

 

“Do I suddenly need your goddamn permission?” Katsuki demanded, shooting a glare at both of Deku’s stupid friends. Then he turned his look back to Deku who he could see was itching to say no. He was wary, Katsuki could tell. Katsuki had already thrown down the gauntlet of his challenge. The shitty nerd had to know what Katsuki was doing, right? It was a game between them, and Katsuki was determined to win.

 

Katsuki knew that he had caught Deku in his trap. It was enough to make him smirk in amusement. What was Deku to do? His friends didn’t know Katsuki and Deku well, but they clearly knew that he and Deku had a relationship previous to coming to UA. He was acting like such a sweet -if nervous- guy. The old Deku would cave to all of Kacchan’s wishes whether he wanted to or not. It would be weird for Deku to turn down Katsuki’s “kind” invitation.

 

Or would he prove Katsuki’s theory correct that it was all a fake? Deku could try to slip his way out of it, but Katsuki held all of the cards. The old Deku can’t turn Katsuki down. The new Deku doesn’t want to accept his “offer of friendship” that eating lunch together implied?

 

“Well?” He asked lowly to Deku, waiting. Deku glared at him, his green eyes flashing sharply. He knew he was in a Catch-22. Katsuki waited for him to cave one way or the other.

 

Instead, Deku lifted his head and smiled brightly, his fake mask solidifying more as he said, “Really? You really want to? Ah, Iida, Uraraka, is it okay for Kacchan to join us?”

 

Katsuki’s smirk fell into a frown, horrified even more at the prospect.

 

“Of course!” Chubby Face looked delighted. “I want to get to know Deku-kun’s friend!” Katsuki’s head snapped to her. Since when had she called him Deku? How had he missed that?

 

“I’m fine with it too.” Four Eyes reluctantly said, glaring with a little distaste at Katsuki. Katsuki only scowled back at him, no less upset about this situation. He had been tripped right at the finish line. He couldn’t even question Deku or rub his success at his trap in Deku’s face because his stupid friends would be there. This was the worst. He spotted Deku’s smirk as well from the corner of his eye before it disappeared. He was going to fucking destroy that nerd the first chance he got.


 

The first week of school at UA ended without much affair. Katsuki refused to eat lunch with Deku again because he couldn’t stand the thought of being around Chubby Face with her bubbly personality and Four Eyes who had a stick shoved so far up his ass that a tree was probably growing there. He still forced Deku to walk with him to and from school, though, although they still didn’t really talk.

 

Katsuki had gathered a number of things over the course of the week unrelated to school itself. The main thing that pissed Katsuki off was that...maybe Deku hadn’t actually been lying about the classes thing. That weird determined look that appeared in Deku’s eyes was becoming commonplace enough that Katsuki didn’t think that the nerd would purposely make himself look like an idiot in front of the class. That could only mean he really was struggling in class, right?

 

Katsuki frowned as he stood at the train platform with Deku beside him. Deku was shifting back and forth like he wanted to run or something. It was really distracting. Maybe he was hurt from hero training earlier or something. Whatever. Katsuki glanced over at him and narrowed his eyes when he found Deku watching him as well. The other boy’s eyes skittered away but there was a frown on his face as well. He looked less tired than he had in the past couple days, Katsuki noted.

 

“Hey.” Deku actually startled when Katsuki broke the long-standing silence between the two of them to talk. He met Katsuki’s gaze. Katsuki quirked his head a bit to the side and asked, “Are you actually struggling in class?”

 

Deku’s frown deepened and his face shuttered off. Katsuki wanted to grab him and slam him into a wall. Why was he bothering to hide?! They both were already aware that Deku was playing this stupid goddamn game! It was only the two of them, so why the fuck was he acting like that?!

 

Deku looked at his shoes, hiding his face behind his hair. “...Why are you asking, Kacchan?”

 

“To see if you’re lyin’ about that shit too.”

 

“I’m not lying!” Deku snapped somewhat desperately. Katsuki scoffed and grabbed the front of Deku’s shirt to yank him close. He was tired of this shit. An entire week of this bullshit!

 

“STOP FUCKING PRETENDING!!” He yelled into his face, gathering a number of shocked stares from nearby people. Deku grabbed Katsuki’s hands and struggled to get away.

 

“K...Kacchan! Stop! We’re in uniform-!”

 

Katsuki just dragged him closer until he was right in the nerd’s face. Deku couldn’t look away now. Katsuki wouldn’t let him hide. The fierce glare he received in response made his anger burn brighter with satisfaction. Finally he was getting a reaction that wasn’t his shitty acting!

 

“Answer me, Deku.” He growled. Deku kept yanking at Katsuki’s grip until he finally got him to let go. Katsuki released him and caused Deku to stumble back a couple steps. The bitter look he received in response to that was gratifying. The fact that he determinedly kept his mouth shut, however, was not. Katsuki opened his mouth to shout at him more, but their train pulled up then.

 

“Fuck!” Katsuki made sure to kick the bottom of Deku’s foot as he attempted to walk on the train. The boy yelped and stumbled because of it, but didn’t turn to face Katsuki as they both climbed onto the train and found places to stand.

 

Deku stubbornly refused to talk to Katsuki the rest of the way home, which meant Katsuki was left to stew in his own anger. That fucking nerd wanted to be stubborn?! Katsuki could be stubborn too! He would win this stupid motherfucking game if it was the last thing he did!

 

He ran into his room and emptied out the contents of his backpack to fill it with other supplies. He grabbed some clothes, refilled his bag with books he would need, and then went into his bathroom to grab some supplies.

 

“What the HELL are you doing in here?!” His mother demanded. “Are you throwing a fucking temper tantrum?!”

 

“Shut the hell up!” Katsuki yelled back. He was seeing red and he needed to burn this off quickly. He wouldn’t give that fucking asshole Deku a single chance to breathe! Nobody fucking ignored Katsuki, and he would make damn sure to show Deku that! “I’m going to the fucking Midoriya house!”

 

“God, what got you so angry about that?” Katsuki’s mother asked with a confused frown.

 

“FUCKING DEKU!” He shouted back, pounding his fist on the countertop of his bathroom. Literal smoke was coming out of his clenched fists.

 

“Oh, are you actually going to visit him finally? Well if you’re going to see Inko, take a gift over for her.” Katsuki’s mother left and Katsuki stormed after her. Soon enough he was receiving some money that he reluctantly shoved into his pants. Katsuki’s mother slapped him over the head. “And be nice!!” She commanded him as he growled at her.

 

“THAT FUCKING HURT, YOU BITCH!”

 

“IF I HEAR ONE BAD THING ABOUT YOU FROM INKO, I’LL COME STRAIGHT OVER AND KICK YOUR ASS!” She yelled back.

 

“I’M NOT COMING BACK HERE ANYWAY!!” Katsuki yanked his shoes back on and threw open the door to the house. “I’M SPENDING THE NIGHT!” He slammed the door before his mother could respond to that.

 

"FUCKING DEKU!!" He screamed into the air since he didn't have any other way to vent. "YOU THINK YOU'RE FUCKING BETTER THAN ME?! I'LL SHOW YOU!!" He ran the entire way to the nearest bakery before it could close so he could get a gift quickly. He would be the winner of this fucking game! 

Chapter Text

Izuku arrived home so stressed out and angry that he wasn’t even shaking anymore. The entire week had been a mixture of the best and weirdest days of his life. And this was coming from someone who had been to hell and back and had seen that some demons had stupid sides too.

 

Izuku had been able to meet many new heroes and had been able to learn many techniques from them already. He was thorough in his notes and had already filled an entire notebook on just notes on his classmates. He had been able to learn about the more human sides of some of his teachers rather than the fronts they presented to the public. Izuku had gotten the chance to stretch his legs and practice with people his age that hadn’t been out to beat him down. He had received valuable feedback and had made some friends along the way.

 

But on the weird side of things, Kacchan was onto Izuku. It was obvious that Izuku had slipped up at some point and Kacchan had noticed that not everything was right with Izuku. He was like a shark with Izuku bleeding in the water no matter how much he tried to cover his wound. Izuku still didn’t know what he had done to give himself away, but he had been a fool to underestimate Kacchan. He had forgotten during the time he had been gone that his old friend was a genius for as much as he was an asshole. There was a reason he always had great grades. And he knew Izuku as well as Izuku knew him. He just hadn’t needed to take notes.

 

Izuku had been too caught up in maintaining his front in front of all of new classmates that he had forgotten to take into account Kacchan who knew how the old Izuku had been. Izuku had forgotten his part and hadn’t been able to contain the personality he had developed as a villain. He had slipped up too many times and now Kacchan knew.

 

How much he knew, though, was still up for debate. Izuku could tell that Kacchan was playing Izuku’s game of cat and mouse. Unfortunately, though, Izuku was the mouse. He would have to out-maneuver Kacchan if he was to maintain his role. If Kacchan found out, then it was the end.

 

It was enough to make him so stressed that he might actually explode from it. He felt like his every move was being watched by Kacchan. He had to maintain his façade around everyone so nobody would realize that something was wrong with him. He was Midoriya Izuku who was traumatized from scars and losing a year of his life to villains. But apparently he was worse at it than he had thought.

 

His temper was loosened the moment Izuku had been able to ditch Kacchan. The other boy had been furious with Izuku and had yelled at him the entire time they had made their way back from the train station. Izuku had broken into a sprint as soon as Kacchan was inside of his own house and let out a roar of frustration on his own.

 

It was bad enough that Kacchan seemed to have sunk his teeth into the meat of Izuku’s act, but now he was attacking the stuff that Izuku didn’t want to talk about. Why had he asked if Izuku was struggling with school? Why did it matter? They weren’t friends. Izuku knew that Kacchan was only hanging around him to get him to slip up more. He didn’t actually care if Izuku was struggling or if he was hurt or stressed. Kacchan just kept pushing himself into Izuku’s space, and Izuku was on edge because of it.

 

If it wasn’t for the fact he thought that if Izuku didn't know it was a game to Kacchan, he might actually think the jackass wanted to be friends with him.

 

As it was, Izuku had gotten home and felt frustrated tears in his eyes as he took off his shoes. “I’m home!” He called.

 

“Welcome home!” Izuku felt a little better seeing his mother relaxing on the couch with some sewing. It looked like she was making some kind of quilt. Her smile soothed something that ached in Izuku’s chest. His mother shifted with a frown to gaze at her son more properly. “Izuku, what’s wrong?”

 

“Ah, nothing.” Izuku shook his head and dropped his bag by the entrance before joining his mother on the couch with a heavy sigh. “Just a rough day at school.”

 

His mother patted Izuku’s shoulder sympathetically. “I imagine it would be. Did you get hurt at all from training?”

 

“Nothing like that.” Izuku waved his hands in front of his face and shook his head. “It’s just tough adjusting.” He scratched the back of his head with a soft smile.

 

His mother nodded. “High school is a different experience for sure! And a hero school too!”

 

Izuku opened his mouth to tell his mother about his day (excluding what happened with Kacchan) when his phone began to vibrate in his pocket. He blinked and put on a surprised face before he dug out the device. He recognized the unknown number and felt anxiety spike in his throat. What could they want?

 

“Oh, sorry mom. I’m gonna go take this, okay?” He stood and moved around her to his bedroom.

 

“One of your friends?” She asked curiously.

 

Izuku smiled at her. “Yeah!” The relief and joy in his mother’s eyes hurt to see. He hated lying to her. He had to turn away and lock himself in his room quickly as he swallowed down the guilt.

 

Deku answered the phone and he allowed his annoyance from his stress to fester. “What?” He demanded.

 

“You’re to come tonight, Deku.” Kurogiri responded promptly. Deku was glad that it was Kurogiri. At least he would keep the conversation short and wouldn’t work Deku up even more. He wasn’t sure he could handle much more stress at that moment.

 

He frowned and pulled out his desk chair to plop himself in. He stared at one of his All Might posters as he crossed his ankles and lounged back. “Why?”

 

“You’ll find out when you get here.”

 

“Ugh, you all always say that. Why bother calling me if you won’t tell me anything?”

 

Kurogiri’s voice took on an exasperated tone and relaxed into something a little less formal. It always made Deku smirk. Kurogiri was arguably the most mature between him, Deku, and Shigaraki. It was funny to upset him. “Texting leaves a trail.”

 

“I could be busy.”

 

“You don’t have a choice.”

 

“Ooh, I’m so scared.”

 

“I could just pull you away.” Kurogiri threatened mildly. Deku bit at the nail of his thumb and sighed, tilting his head back.

 

Would save me a trip. Deku thought, but he didn’t say it out loud. He would never risk any of the villains coming anywhere close to his house if he could help it. He would travel across half of Japan first before he would let Kurogiri in his house. It was bad enough knowing he could appear there at any time. Or bring Shigaraki or Master there at any time.

 

“Don’t bother.”

 

“I thought not.”

 

“Just text me the coordinates.” Deku grumbled. “I won’t be able to leave until late.”

 

Kurogiri was silent for a moment and then his voice came back, “Be prepared to have to stay.”

 

His anxiety spiked a few more notches. Stay overnight with Shigaraki? What was happening? Did Master have a mission for him? Did Shigaraki? The thought was terrifying.

 

Deku’s hand clenched around his phone and responded with a hum. Kurogiri didn’t bother with goodbyes and neither did Deku. He hung up and placed his phone aside. This wasn’t good. The few times Deku had been commanded to go back and spend long periods of time with the villains he had been forced into doing more work. Work that he never wanted to do but had to because he was a villain.

 

Izuku wished that he never had to be Deku. He wished that he was just Izuku who was being forced to do dirty work for the villains by spying. He wished that he had no hand in anything else that Master did. He wished he was just a toy and bodyguard to Shigaraki.

 

But Deku wasn’t a just a boy who was threatened into doing villain work. He was someone who actively enjoyed the freedom of being a villain. An act of a person who hated heroes as much as he hated humans. A person who cared only for himself and very few others. Who destroyed things and made fun of pain and acted terribly. He was a mixture of some of the worst aspects that Izuku could give him.

 

He was also Izuku’s shield and guardian. He had been created with the strengths of the strongest people that Izuku had known during the year he had been forcibly trained. Deku was the reason Izuku had survived. But now Izuku had to keep Deku alive to lessen the chance the villains had to kill his loved ones. If they believed he had been legitimately converted to be a villain -and a strong one at that- then his family and friends were safe.

 

Deku was a villain. Izuku just needed to hold out a little longer. Play his parts correctly. Dance to the beat. Even if that meant stomping over and killing others to make sure he stayed at the top.

 

Izuku was tired.

 

His phone buzzed with an incoming text message. Izuku glanced at it and saw that he wouldn’t have to travel too far. It was only a short train ride away. He would have to leave early enough that he would be able to catch it. Or he would have to take a cab. He might get some strange looks if he did that, though, at his age.

 

He exited his bedroom already trying to think of an excuse to give his mother. He didn’t like the idea of dropping a sleepover on her out of nowhere. She didn’t even know his friends and she had been worried enough when he had just gone out for “dinner” with them. He couldn’t even use the Bakugous as an excuse because she might bring it up with Auntie Mitsuki when they talked.

 

Why can’t you be my friend for real, Kacchan, so I can have an excuse for a sleepover?  Izuku thought bitterly to himself. His irritation for earlier bubbled nauseously in his gut.

 

There were a couple heavy raps at the front door then, which startled both Midoriyas. Izuku looked to his mother in confusion wondering if she had friends coming over, but his mother looked just as confused. “I’ll get it.” He told her and then called a little louder over the sound of louder, impatient knocks, “I’m coming!”

 

He opened the door part way hesitantly and gaped at the sight of a fuming Kacchan still dressed in his uniform and carrying what appeared to be a bag from a bakery. “Ka-Kacchan?” Izuku gasped quietly.

 

“Open up, Deku!” Kacchan demanded and thrusted his hand out to pull the door open further.

 

Izuku reflexively tried to yank the door shut as his mind flew with all kinds of questions. Why was Kacchan there? Wasn’t it bad enough that Izuku’d had to deal with the torment earlier?! Now he was at his house and trying to come in?!

 

“HEY!” Kacchan yelled and grabbed the doorknob on the outside to fight back. “What the hell are you doing?!”

 

“Go away!” Izuku hissed as he began to panic. He couldn’t have Kacchan there. It was easier to fend off his weirdness when they were in front of people who didn’t know Kacchan and Izuku well, but not in front of his mother! If Kacchan started spouting stuff about Izuku faking and hiding and stuff, then Izuku was screwed to hell. His mother would get worried and suspicious as well and Izuku couldn’t handle that in his home life! He was fine with his tenuous equilibrium!

 

“HAA?!” Kacchan shouted back and dropped the bakery bag to grab the edge of the door. “WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU SAY TO ME, YOU SHIT?! JUST LET ME IN!!”

 

No way in hell! Deku growled in his mind. “Shut up and go away, Kacchan!” Deku growled back as he leaned his weight backwards to try and fight. Unfortunately Kacchan was still clearly physically stronger than him. He could see the whites of Kacchan’s eyes as he spotted the other boy’s face through the opening in the door. A familiar furious fire burned within them. A rough growl was rumbling out of his chest as he tried to pry the door open. The door creaked loudly in protest. Deku pressed a socked foot against the doorway and shoved his other foot into his shoe for grip on the tiled entrance way.

 

“Izuku?” Both boys froze in their fight as Izuku’s eyes widened. His eyes met Kacchan’s in horror as he remembered he was home with his mother right then. She couldn’t see him acting like this!

 

Kacchan immediately noticed his panic. A quick, devious grin stretched across his face then. His red eyes glittered with his delight. Game over, loser! They screamed at him.

 

“No-!” Izuku hissed desperately, but Kacchan cut him off to call, “Oi, Auntie!”

 

You fucker! Izuku barely bit back the urge to curse a few more colorful curses.

 

“Is that Katsuki? I thought I heard his voice!” Izuku could hear her standing, so he scrambled to straighten himself out. Kacchan quickly took advantage and ripped the door open. His backpack on his back looked a lot fuller than it had been when they had walked home earlier. Izuku also noticed that he had sweat coating his face and he seemed to be breathing just a bit harder than normal. Had he been running?

 

“Yeah, it’s Kacchan.” Izuku sulked a little at the smug look on Kacchan’s face and where his mother couldn’t see. He cleared it into something more tolerable and less violent than he was feeling as he turned so he could look between his mother and Kacchan. His mother lit up and smiled brightly when she saw Kacchan standing there. Kacchan grabbed the bakery bag.

 

“Katsuki! This is unusual. You never visit. How are you? Please come in!”

 

“Thanks, Auntie.” Kacchan made sure to brush past Izuku as he stepped inside and toed off his shoes.

 

“You can borrow the pair of slippers in the cabinet there. Your parents use them enough when they come over.”

 

Izuku moved out of the entryway and put his own slippers back on feeling on edge. Kacchan pulled out the pair of slippers his father uses whenever they came to visit, tossing them onto the floor before slipping them on. He then held up the bag he was carrying with a neutral frown on his face.

 

“Mom said to bring a gift over, so here.” Izuku’s mother took it right away.

 

“Oh, a cake! You didn’t have to. Thank you!” Izuku was a little confused but nonetheless relieved to see that Kacchan was still at least polite to Izuku’s mother. From what Auntie Mitsuki and Uncle Masaru said Kacchan and his mother shared a rather loud and violent relationship. Izuku had yet to see it in person, though, because he hadn’t been to the Bakugou household since he was a little kid and Kacchan had still been rather attached to his parents.

 

“What are you doing here, Kacchan?” Izuku asked with a slight tilt to his head and a curious look on his face. Kacchan glared at him for that. Izuku clenched his jaw and didn’t react. He really wasn’t fooling Kacchan, was he?

 

“Wait, let’s have some of the sweets first.” Izuku’s mother interrupted with a wave of her hand. She motioned for both boys to follow her and pulled out the box with the cake in it. It was a strawberry shortcake that Izuku remembered having enjoyed with the Bakugous years ago. It startled him that Kacchan still remembered it. He had completely forgotten about that bakery!

 

Izuku grabbed some plates and the silverware to set out for the three of them while his mother divvied out a slice for each of them. “Thank you.” Kacchan muttered and speared a strawberry. It was interesting to watch his mother and Kacchan interact. Izuku’s mother asked Kacchan what he thought of UA and the new schooling. She asked how he had been since she had last seen him and encouraged him to come over more often. Kacchan responded with short but polite answers through his eating, but it was easy for Izuku to see his heart wasn’t in the conversation. Izuku could feel the tension in the air, though at least it wasn’t as suffocating as it had been on the train ride home.

 

“So to what do we owe this visit? Were you the one who called Izuku a little earlier?” His mother asked and Izuku managed to bite back his flinch.

 

He managed to dodge a bullet as Kacchan didn’t seem to notice. “No. I’m here to tutor De- Izuku.” It was strange to hear his real name come out of Kacchan’s mo- Wait .


“WHAT?!” Izuku yelped, and his mother jumped at his outburst. “W-W-Wait a minute! What d-do you me-mean, Kacchan?!”

 

Kacchan rolled his eyes and crossed his arms on the table to lean on them and glare at Izuku. “Tutoring, idiot. I’m gonna tutor your dumb ass.”

 

Izuku’s eyes darted to his mother to see if she would react to Kacchan’s insults and cursing, but she seemed unaffected. Izuku lamented that she was too used to fiery Bakugous. “But I don’t need-”

 

“Really?” His mother interrupted, delighted. “That’s great!” She turned to Izuku, who had a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Mitsuki always said Katsuki was good at school. It’ll help a lot if you have a friend to tutor you, Izuku!”

 

“Yeah.” Izuku hated that Kacchan could sound so smug and so casual at the same time. He wanted to punch the other boy in the dick. A real friend wouldn’t use his mother against him like this. This absolutely had to be cheating!

 

“R-Really, I’m fine!” Izuku insisted, waving his arms rapidly in front of his face. “It’s only the first week of school! We don’t have much-!”

 

“You’re doing shitty in class, nerd.” Kacchan interrupted him. “You can’t answer a single question that’s asked of you.”

 

Kacchan!” Izuku cried seeing his mother’s distraught face.

 

“Clearly whatever classes you took were terrible. I’ll teach ya for real.” Kacchan pushed his chair back and stood, picking up his plate and placing it in the sink. “Thanks for the snack, Auntie.”

 

“Kacchan-”

 

“Are you staying for dinner, Katsuki?” Izuku’s mother asked. “You still like your food spicy, right?”

 

“Mom-”

 

“Yeah and yeah.” Holy shit, why wasn’t anyone listening to him?! Things were spiraling out of control!

 

“It’s going to be a little late.” His mother said. “I need to go buy a bit more ingredients, then.”

 

“No problem.” Kacchan shrugged. “I’m spending the night anyway.”

 

“WHAT?!” Izuku yelled again, stumbling quickly to his feet from his chair. “You can’t!”

 

Kacchan’s smile this time was downright sinister as he lifted his backpack. “Too late, shitnerd. I already packed.” Izuku’s ears began to ring as he stared in horror at Kacchan. He couldn’t even hear his mother’s next words. Shigaraki would cackle at Izuku if he knew.

 

THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEANT ABOUT A SLEEPOVER! Izuku wailed internally as he heard the door to Kacchan's trap snap shut.

Chapter Text

Izuku wasn’t quite sure how he got there, but eventually he and Kacchan ended up dragging out one of the low tables and placing it in Izuku’s room. His mother left to go shopping with the promise she would be back shortly. Izuku and Kacchan pulled out some pillows to sit on and when Izuku blinked himself out of his stupor it was to realize he was finally alone with Kacchan.

 

“O...oh my god…” Izuku’s hands clenched as he stared at Kacchan. Kacchan raised an angry eyebrow. “Kacchan…”

 

“What?!” The other boy snapped.

 

“What the hell!” Izuku finally yelled, slamming his hands on the table. Kacchan leaned back with some surprise but recovered quickly. Izuku only glared at him. “What are you even doing here? Isn’t it enough to cause me trouble at school? Now you have to force yourself into my house too?”

 

“You wouldn’t freaking tell me anything when we were walking back, so yeah!” Kacchan yelled back.

 

“You can’t spend the night here! Go home!” Izuku stood up and pointed towards the door. Heat filled his chest and burned him inside. He wanted to scream while he had the chance. He still needed to think of a reason to tell his mother as to why he was leaving that night. With Kacchan there all of his plans were ruined. How the hell was he supposed to go meet the villains if Kacchan - who already was suspicious of Izuku - was here?!

 

“HAA?!” Kacchan slammed his own hands and stood up sharply. His rage only cooled Izuku’s glare further. “DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!”

 

“It’s my house! I don’t want you here!”

 

“Too late, shitrag!!” Kacchan grinned, but it was too tense to be anything joyful. Izuku noticed his jaw twitching a bit as he clenched his fist. “Your mother already said I could stay!”

 

Izuku hated that he was right. He hated that Kacchan was so low as to use his mother against him. He also hated that Kacchan had figured out that he could use his mother against him. Izuku had to keep up his act around her and he was certain that Kacchan knew that now.

 

Izuku gritted his teeth and then said, “We’re not even friends! Why are you bothering?!”

 

“Because I want to, okay?!” Small explosions popped in his palms.

 

“ISN’T IT ENOUGH TO KNOW YOU’RE RIGHT?!” Izuku finally yelled. Kacchan paused at that. Izuku’s fury ran rivers beneath his skin, but his body held strong. He saw Kacchan’s eyes scanning him before their eyes locked. Izuku took a shaky breath and then said in a lower tone, “You’re right, okay? I’m a liar. I’ve been a liar. Are you satisfied yet?”

 

Kacchan’s own anger simmered, but the tension was still there. “No.” He said after a long pause, which startled Izuku. The look in his face was one that Izuku hadn’t seen before. It was calculative and almost careful. He was so used to seeing Kacchan angry now that it came as a surprise that he had expressions other than displeasure and rage. This cooled version of Kacchan was just another weird Kacchan that Izuku didn’t know about. What had happened to make him this way?

 

“No?” Izuku asked.

 

“I’m not satisfied!” Kacchan snapped. “I don’t need you to fucking say you’re a liar - I already know that, Deku! I want to know why you’re lying!”

 

Izuku’s heart stuttered at that. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known that. From the moment Kacchan had confronted him and then decided to force his presence in Izuku’s life again, he knew it was for this kind of reason. Kacchan never did anything half-assed, so Izuku was screwed from the moment Kacchan became curious.

 

“I won’t tell you.” Izuku responded.

 

Kacchan bared his teeth at that. “I don’t need you to tell me.” He said. “I’ll figure it out on my own!”

 

And Deku couldn’t help but laugh at that. How could Kacchan possibly figure out what he was up to without Izuku telling him? In what possible scenario would he be able to come up with the idea that Deku was a double spy? That he was the one giving away hero secrets and that was why there were more deaths of heroes recently? That Kacchan and his family were standing so close to the snipers that could kill them at any moment that Izuku screwed up? That Izuku was trapped in hell even though he had already been released to go home?

 

Deku laughed and laughed and then wiped the tears that had formed in his eyes. Because this was the closest anyone was going to get. Because of all people, it was Kacchan who was determined to figure Izuku out. The moment Kacchan found out, it was the end of the road for Izuku either way. Maybe Kacchan would do him a favor and kill him. Then nobody else would have to suffer. Then the villains would no longer use Deku. The heroes would be a little safer without trash like Deku amongst their ranks.

 

Kacchan said nothing as Deku calmed down and finally looked him in the eye again. Izuku continued to wipe his face of tears and shook his head with tiny, disbelieving huffs. The look on the other boy’s face was honestly pretty hilarious because of how perturbed he looked. Another new face that Izuku wasn’t used to.

 

“Are you mocking me?” Kacchan finally growled warningly.

 

“Mocking?” Deku asked with another huff of a laugh. “Why would I mock you? You’re the only one who has noticed that I’m even faking, Kacchan. Why would I mock that?”

 

Kacchan didn’t respond to that.

 

Izuku motioned down to the table where Kacchan had laid out some books. “Figure me out then, Kacchan. But you said you came over here to tutor me?”

 

That snapped Kacchan out of whatever thoughts he had and he threw himself back down onto the pillows. “Yeah, I am. Sit your ass down!”

 

Izuku did so and glanced at the books. They didn’t look like the stuff they were learning in class. They were their middle school textbooks. Izuku frowned at the familiar pages as he recognized them. “Why are you using those?”

 

“Because I need to see where the hell you’re failing at.” Kacchan pushed the textbooks to Izuku and pointed at the page. “Get your stupid notebook and do that problem.” Reluctantly, Izuku began to write.


 

Kacchan was a terrible tutor. His focus was too sharp and his patience was as short as his ego was large. He didn’t handle Izuku’s various questions well because he couldn’t understand what Izuku wasn’t comprehending. He would explain it twice and then yell when Izuku would need another explanation. He would rip up Izuku’s paper when it was wrong and demand he start from the beginning with a new equation. He would call him an idiot for getting their own Japanese history wrong even as he claimed it was bullshit himself to have to learn history at all.

 

To make matters worse, Izuku was also at his wit’s end. Between the stress of the day, the fact that he hadn’t had time to breathe or think about his mission later, and finally Kacchan’s terrible tutoring, Izuku was ready to lose his mind. He envied Kacchan’s various shitfits because at least it wasn’t unusual for him to do it. On top of it, it wasn’t like Izuku didn’t realize how frustrating it all was. He was well aware of the fact that he couldn’t understand anything and it only made things terrible.

 

It all boiled under his skin, frothing up through his stomach and chest and burning his throat. His head was filled with steam and his eyes watered from the pressure of a headache that was throbbing there. The words in his books became blurs and the numbers would swirl in front of him. He focused too hard on trying to remember what he learned about each subject the first time he had dealt with it, but he couldn’t drudge up the memories no matter how hard he tried. He could remember learning it and memorizing the stuff. He could remember some of the tests he took, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember any of the answers or how he came to his own conclusions.

 

It was enough that finally Izuku had to scream. “STOP FUCKING YELLING AT ME!!” Izuku swiped his arm across the books in front of them and threw them to the floor. His heart hurt in his chest from where it was pounding, and even Kacchan looked shocked at his outburst. “STOP IT!! JUST STOP IT!! I DON’T UNDERSTAND, OKAY!? I CAN’T HELP IT!”

 

“I know that you know it, Deku!” Kacchan slammed his hands on the table and leaned into Izuku’s space. “I saw you do these answers easily in class!”

 

“That doesn’t mean I remember!” Izuku shouted back at him.

 

“Then fucking figure out how to remember it!!”

 

“Boys?” Izuku and Kacchan turned their heads quickly towards the door to Izuku’s bedroom (where they both had had to eventually move because they were being too noisy) as Izuku’s mother opened the door. She stared at them both with wide eyes, but her eyes immediately turned to her son. Izuku panted as he tried to contain his frothing emotions. His body was shaking under the strain of it. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

 

“It’s okay, mom.” Izuku hurried to reassure her.

 

“We’re just pissing each other off!” Izuku could appreciate that Kacchan was accepting his silent request not to involve his mother in his problems. Kacchan ran a hand into his hair as he let out a frustrated growl before pointing at Izuku. “Fine, nerd! We’re taking a break!”

 

Izuku couldn’t stay in the same room suffocating anymore. He pushed past his mother with a quick apology and slammed the door to the bathroom. He slid down onto the tile and tucked his head into his arms and knees and clenched his jaw against the sobs that ripped through him. He was used to this, he told himself. He was used to hiding his crying. He had become very good at breaking down alone and silently. It didn’t mean the pressure of holding back his frustrated wails hurt any less, though.

 

He had to remind himself, though, that he wasn’t with the villains anymore. He didn’t have to bury his pain or risk looking weak. He used to never be good at stopping his tears. Kacchan had always called him a crybaby for it. Neither his mother nor Kacchan would hurt him if he started crying then. And he needed some kind of release. Izuku only moved to grab a couple of the towels to muffle himself before he released his tears.

 

His mother knocked on the door a couple of times and asked to see him. Izuku ignored her and everything else. He had no outlet for any of his stress. His therapist often to him that at times like these it would be best to go for a run. Get some air. Escape what was suffocating him. But Izuku couldn’t risk leaving Kacchan in the house with his mother, and Izuku had already worried his mother enough.

 

Izuku cried hard until he had emptied himself out. He allowed his worries and thoughts to spin and blur in his head until it was just a cloud of white cotton that muffled everything else. He gripped that cotton and wringed it as much as he could until the noise wasn’t so bad and life wasn’t so overwhelming. The pain in his chest was still there, and reality still hovered at the door, but the pressure was softer. He felt that he could breathe again and not choke on every breath.

 

He had a better grip on himself as he gathered some tissues and blew his nose. He rinsed his face off in the sink and glanced at himself in the mirror as he dried his face. He looked terrible. The red of his eyes made his green irises stand out more. His cheeks were blotchy and his eyes were swollen. If he had anything left in him, he might have laughed at how stupid he looked. As it was, he didn’t have the strength.

 

It felt like hours had passed when he finally opened the door. He was surprised to see a covered bowl on the ground waiting for him. His weak heart swelled a little bit as he looked down the hallway but didn’t see anyone. He picked up the bowl and chopsticks and napkin before he went to find his mother. She was sitting silently at the dinner table with her own meal half-finished. Kacchan was nowhere to be seen, but Izuku noticed there was another dish already in the sink. The heavy scent of spices was in the air indicating that Kacchan had came and gone. Izuku could still see Kacchan’s shoes by the door, so he was still in the house.

 

“...Thank you for the food.” Izuku whispered when his mother finally looked up and noticed him. Her own eyes watered as she stood and came over to immediately wrap him in a warm embrace. A few more tears leaked out of Izuku before he placed his food aside to hug her back. She pressed her face to his shoulder as he was wrapped up in his memories of warm hugs he had received as a child. The comforting scent of his mother’s perfume and the loving and strong touch of her hands on his back and pressing to his head from behind.

 

“Izuku, I’m so sorry.” She whispered with a thick voice. “I should’ve intervened earlier.”

 

Izuku shook his head and sniffled. “No...It’s fine. That’s just...that’s just Kacchan, you know? Always yelling…”

 

His mother leaned back and took his face into her hands. Despite the tears on her cheeks, her face was determined and serious as she asked, “Do you want me to ask Katsuki to leave? If he’s upsetting you this much, I will do it.”

 

The temptation was there. It would resolve a part of Izuku’s problem if Kacchan was forced to leave the house, but it left Izuku with many other problems he would have to eventually deal with. He had learned one thing from the villains and from dealing with Kacchan and that was to face things head on. He would rather deal with the consequences now rather than later.

 

Izuku shook his head and wiped a tear from his face. “You don’t have to. Kacchan is...He’s trying. It’s just...Today was a bad day.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

No, he wasn’t. “Yes.”

 

His mother’s face softened and she wiped his next couple tears with her thumbs. Izuku had missed how much comfort she could give him when everything hurt like this. He loved her. “You two should stop studying for tonight, then. I think you’ve both had enough.”

 

Izuku glanced at the table and nodded. “Did Kacchan eat?”

 

“Yes. And I scolded him as well.”

 

Izuku wished that he had seen that. He had heard his mother say more than one time that Auntie and Uncle hadn’t reprimanded Katsuki nearly enough for his behavior in the past. It would’ve been hilarious to see his face.

 

“Okay. I’m going to finish my food in my bedroom, okay? I...I’m gonna talk to Kacchan. And then set up the futon for him.” He pulled away from her hands to pick up the bowl.

 

“Izuku,” he paused while walking back towards his bedroom and glanced at her. She opened the door to the fridge quickly and passed him a water bottle. She had a worried frown on her face, but she smiled encouragingly at his look, “I’m here if you need me, okay?”

 

He smiled back at her, grateful, and took the water bottle. The chill felt good on his heated skin. He wanted to press it to his eyes. “I know.”

 

Kacchan was staring at some of the All Might merch he had in his bedroom when Izuku entered. He turned his head to face Izuku as he frowned. Izuku couldn’t read him at all, but he wasn’t sure he could even think straight right then as he took a seat at the table instead. Neither boy said anything as Izuku said his thanks and started eating his food little by little. His mother had made katsudon. It did wonders to fill him with warmth even as his stomach churned from lack of appetite.

 

Kacchan hovered around the room and kept his hands shoved into his pockets. If Izuku had to guess, he would say the boy was rather awkwardly speechless. Izuku was exhausted emotionally and physically. He couldn’t even focus properly if he wanted to. He didn’t have the strength to play round two of his game with Kacchan. Maybe giving half-truths would be better than nothing. If he lied it only made Kacchan upset anyway. At this point Izuku didn’t know what all he would lose except a little pride.

 

“I was never acting like an idiot on purpose.” Kacchan paused but didn’t turn away from the All Might poster he was staring at when Izuku spoke. “I really can’t retain information like this anymore.”

 

Kacchan slowly turned to face him. His expression was still unreadable as he took his seat at the table again. Izuku noticed then that all of the books he had tossed aside in his fit were picked up and stacked. The boy said nothing and waited.

 

Izuku took another couple of bites and didn’t offer anything else.

 

Reluctantly Kacchan said, rather than asked, “So your memory is shot.”

 

Izuku nodded. “I only passed middle school because I can memorize stuff for a short period of time. I had to binge studying before a test. After a while, the information just...fades away.” He glanced at the books and bit back the urge to sigh. “I can remember learning everything...but I can’t remember what I learned. And it’s difficult for me to comprehend complicated formulas. It’s like...trying to shove a square block into a round hole.”

 

Kacchan frowned and tapped his fingers on the table. Izuku waited for the inevitable follow up of “is this a result of your memory erasure?” but it never came. Instead Kacchan said, “You’re not stupid, though.”

 

“Despite what you always say?” Deku couldn’t resist snarking.

 

“Shut the fuck up.” Kacchan snapped back, but it had no bite to it. Izuku huffed a laugh. “I mean that I’ve seen you fight. I saw your moves. You plan your attacks and execute them well. Your higher processing isn’t completely bad.” He paused for a moment to think and then asked, “How much do you still remember from your stupid hero notebooks?”

 

Izuku blinked in surprise. “You know about those?”

 

Kacchan scowled but didn’t respond to Izuku’s question. “In book number 7, what was something you noted about Endeavor and his flame quirk?”

 

The answer was instantaneous, “That he could control if it burned his hair because he still has facial hair under his fire beard. But his hair isn’t immune to being burned off because it was singed during one of the rescues he made during the collapsing of a building when we were ten.”

 

Kacchan knocked his fist against the table. “It’s not your memory.” He said, nodding as if to indicate what Izuku had just said, “You’re just not learning the right way.”

 

Izuku blinked. “Do you think I just need to figure it out, then?”

 

Kacchan shrugged. “I don’t fucking know. Do I look like I’m an expert on learning problems?”

 

“No.”

 

“We’ll find a different method to get your stupid brain to remember shit. Even if half of it will be useless in the future. You’ll need to at least remember it for longer than a damn day.”

 

Izuku popped another piece of pork into his mouth and chewed in lieu of a response. He realized that this was as close to an apology as he was going to get from Kacchan. He also understood that apparently Kacchan was serious about tutoring him. He didn’t get it, but he didn’t have the emotional strength to even begin to comprehend it anyway.


 

That night Izuku and Kacchan settled in early. Kacchan had mocked him for going to bed when it was barely eight, but Izuku’s obvious exhaustion kept the mocking to a minimum. Izuku had told him that he didn’t need to go to sleep when he did, but the other boy ignored him and settled into the futon Izuku spread on the floor.

 

Despite just wanting to sleep so that he could get as much of a nap as possible before he had to wake up again to leave, Izuku couldn’t fall asleep. He knew Kacchan was still awake because he could see him playing on his phone. It was some kind of article with words, from what Izuku could tell, but he was too far away to read the tiny wording to know what he was looking at.

 

There was a lot that had happened that day and Izuku wasn’t sure what was the most prominent. Kacchan may have learned a number of things about Izuku that day, but Izuku had also gotten to know Kacchan a bit too. He just wished that he could make sense of the changes in his childhood friend. He didn’t understand why he acted the way he did if he was just trying to get information out of Izuku. There was no point in tutoring him. He was still shocked that Kacchan even wanted to. There must be a greater motive.

 

But what got him the most was how much Kacchan avoided bringing up anything that might be related to his trauma. He didn’t mention the panic attack, he didn’t bring up the scars he had seen in the locker rooms, and he didn’t even ask what was the cause of his memory problems. Most people assumed, of course, but Kacchan obviously didn’t want to assume anything. He had said it himself that he wanted to know.

 

It was bothering him too much. Izuku had to ask just to get it out of his head and let him rest.

 

“Kacchan?” He whispered. He rolled onto his side to face him.

 

Kacchan grunted and his finger paused in its scrolling.

 

“Why didn’t you ask what caused my memory problem? You already know I didn’t have it...before.”

 

Kacchan shifted on his elbows to get more comfortable. “...Fine then. I’ll ask.” He looked at Izuku, and even in the dark his red eyes seemed to glow. “When did you remember your time with the villains?”

 

Izuku’s eyes widened as his breath caught. Kacchan stared him down, waiting. Izuku forced the air to leave his lungs and closed his sore eyes before he rolled over to face away from the other boy. He couldn’t stand looking at him, but he could still feel Kacchan’s gaze on his back.

 

“I never forgot.” He confessed quietly. He waited for a guillotine to come down on his neck.

 

Kacchan was silent before he let out a scoff and shifted noisily on his futon. The light of his phone turned off and Izuku heard the blanket rustling as Kacchan got comfortable. “Obviously.” Neither boy said anything for a long while after that. Then, quietly, Kacchan muttered, “At least you’re not fucking lyin’ to me anymore.”

 

Izuku pretended he didn’t hear that and slipped an earbud into his ear and set an alarm on his phone. He would only have a few hours to nap. He would need as much sleep as he could get. Hopefully Kacchan would be fast asleep by the time Izuku had to wake up.

Chapter Text

Izuku woke at the first note of his alarm with his eyes popping open. He was hit with a confusing wave of grogginess before he shook it off with the beats of his alarm. He quickly turned it off and pulled out his headphones. The darkness of the bedroom was heavier with the weight of the late hour and the silence of sleep. He risked rolling over onto his other side and letting his eyes focus on the sleeping figure on the floor. Kacchan didn’t stir at the sound of Izuku’s rustling blankets. Izuku listened. The other boy’s deep and steady breaths remained undisturbed as Izuku carefully climbed out of bed and lowered socked feet to the floor at the edge of the futon.

 

His body quickly adjusted to the adrenaline beginning to permeate throughout it. It heightened his senses as he crept across the floor to his closet. He kept one ear on Kacchan as he went into his closet and silently opened the chest with his clothing in it. He would change in the bathroom instead of there. Less chance of waking Kacchan. He also picked up a dark bag stored in the back of his closet and shoved a couple of extra clothes into it.

 

He silently opened his door and glanced back at Kacchan. The boy still hadn’t moved. Izuku had no idea if he was a lighter sleeper or not. He didn’t have the data on when Kacchan liked to wake up or if he would wake up early since they both had slept early. He had no excuse in mind for why he wouldn’t be back in the morning. He would have to make an effort to convince Master that it was in the best interest to let Deku return home so as to not raise suspicions. Goddammit, Kacchan.

 

Izuku closed his bedroom door and changed in the bathroom. He slipped his gloves on (his good ones from school. He had asked for two with the excuse of one being back up) and wore the black shoes Shigaraki had forced him to buy. They were tighter, but admittedly they were better suited for Deku’s outfit than the red shoes.

 

Deku exited the house with a single text message to the unknown number that he was on his way. He had to run if he was to catch the train to where he was going. They would be stopping soon. Kurogiri didn’t respond, but Deku didn’t need him to. As long as the man arrived on time, Deku couldn’t care less how little he talked.


 

Deku strolled out of the portal that Kurogiri had opened up to find himself in a place he hadn’t seen before. Kurogiri was the only one waiting for him as Deku’s shoes stepped onto bare concrete floors. The air was saturated with the scent of chemicals that was enough to make his nausea worse than it was to begin with. There were tall metal tanks throughout the room and eerily enough he could hear some splashing. The room felt dead but every one of his nerves were on end.

 

Deku only raised an eyebrow at this and turned to Kurogiri. “Where are we?” He asked as he joined the man.

 

“You’ve been here before.” Kurogiri said as the two of them walked through what was some kind of factory. There were some low security lights that were on, but other than that there was nothing to see by. Deku glanced around at the shadows they passed and wondered who could be splashing around in some of the tanks. Or was that water lapping?

 

“Have I? I think I would remember.” He shoved his hands into his pockets to resist the urge to touch the tanks to feel if they were cold or hot.

 

“You were in the underground portion. We’re headed there now.”

 

“Why bring me here, then? Unable to do it down there?” He asked with a twist of his mouth to hide the fact that he was suspicious. Kurogiri was prompt about where they arrived unless harried. There must be a reason Deku was to see this.

 

“Tomura is upset.” Kurogiri explained with a heaviness.

 

“Aah…” Deku sighed in understanding. That meant something downstairs was being destroyed.

 

They exited the warehouse and entered through a secret doorway into what must be the underground portion. It was a crudely made hole dug underneath the warehouse with a number of chains and cages. The floor was flat, compact dirt and there were a few pillars to support the structure above. It spanned about the size of two of Deku’s apartments in diameter and had a few lights built into the walls for sight. It had low ceiling that were too close for comfort, but too far away to touch. It was like the earth was pressing in on you slowly. Deku recognized it immediately and felt a Pavlovian dread enter his system. It only became worse when he saw the figures standing in the room.

 

The most grotesque thing Deku had seen to date was the first thing he focused on. It was a monstrous thing of black muscle with a beaked face. Its eyes stared unseeingly ahead but rolled around once in a while as if to look at something. The beak had sharp teeth within it. Worse of all was the exposed brain that sat at the top of it. Its body was littered with scars. It was hunched over and breathed like a gorilla. Deku noted as well the sharp, piercing claws on it.

 

Next to the beast was Shigaraki who was scratching furiously at his neck and pacing a little. He was clearly agitated but at least containing himself because of the final person in the room. Deku had been nervous to see the threat of the monster in the room, but it paled in comparison to the overwhelming terror that filled his chest with smoke at the sight of Master.

 

Master was a tall man much like All Might was, although one couldn’t tell as much when he was sitting down. He had to wear machinery to breathe forcing him to sit in a wheelchair. But Deku knew well that just because his master was frailer that he wasn’t any less of a threat. Deku had made the mistake of underestimating him during the first few months of his training. He knew much better now. It was instinctive to be scared of him, although that was Izuku’s reaction. Deku let none of his fear show on his face as he and Kurogiri approached the group.

 

“Hello, Deku.” Master greeted. Deku nodded back.

 

“You took too long to get here!” Shigaraki snapped. “You should’ve been here immediately!”

 

“Now now, Tomura. Good reason or not, Deku has his own mission he has to maintain.” Master’s words were an immediate dousing of Shigaraki’s flame, but the other man still didn’t calm down. Deku noticed that he had a rolled up newspaper clutched in his fist, just barely being kept from being destroyed.

 

“Did you have another mission for me, Master?” Deku asked. “Kurogiri said that I might have to stay-”

 

“Deku.” Master interrupted, and Deku shut up. He narrowed his eyes slightly and waited. Master had no expression that he could read due to the scarred skin that covered his eyes and the mask that covered his mouth and nose. Deku could only read the little quirks of muscles that moved in his face and the tone of his voice. It was still that light, slightly chiding voice that he always used. “You’ve been keeping secrets from us.”

 

Alarms went off in Deku’s head and he bit back his internal screaming to demand coldly, “ What ?”

 

“This!” Shigaraki threw the newspaper at Deku, who caught it from the air. He opened it up and took a moment to search for what they were talking about. Each second seemed to drag on, pressuring him more and more. It was intense. The sound of the monster breathing so close to Deku didn’t help.

 

Then he found it. An article that said that All Might had taken up a teaching job at UA. Deku frowned at it and tossed the newspaper aside. “Yeah.” He said.

 

“You knew?” Shigaraki asked lowly.

 

“Of course I knew about him.” Deku glared at him and then looked to Master. “I figured you already knew.”

 

“I knew he was in town.” Master admitted. “I was unaware that he was teaching at your school. You should have told me.” Deku hated being scolded by Master. He was never angry with Deku anymore. Only disappointed and disapproving. That was worse.

 

“You’ve been going to school with that bastard. ” Shigaraki added with a growl. There were wounds opening up on his neck now from scratching. It made Deku himself want to scratch at the sight of the blood.

 

“I was hoping to get more information on him before relaying it back. I’ve only had one class with him so far.” Deku spread his hands and shrugged.

 

Master hummed. It was a neutral noise. Then, “We have our own plans for All Might.”

 

“You do?” Deku asked with a little surprise.

 

Master motioned to the beast. “Meet Noumu. It’s Tomura’s new toy.” Deku stared at the creature. “Go on.” Master crooned, leaning forward a little. “You can touch it. It doesn’t think on its own.”

 

Deku knew a command even when it sounded like a suggestion. He walked forward and reached a hand out to touch the beast. Its skin was smooth to the touch -like a bald human- but slightly damp. Its teeth looked more like stones upon closer inspection. The sick urge to touch its brain was there, but he didn’t. He didn’t like this at all. It didn’t even react when he waved a hand in front of its unfocused eyes.

 

“What...is it?” He asked as he took a step back from it.

 

“A creation of mine. Something I’ve been working on for a while.” Master let out a little chuckle. “You don’t have to look so worried, Deku. It can’t think for itself. It’s not human. Or...at least it’s not anymore.” Deku felt his stomach roll. “It’s been built to be the downfall of All Might.”

 

Deku’s head snapped to face his master. “What? Are you serious?”

 

Master grinned then, and Deku could tell by the way the muscles pulled upwards. “Yes. Just like you, I’ve given it a number of quirks that it can use to destroy the Symbol of Hope himself. Can you guess what it has?”

 

“I haven’t seen it in action.” Deku said warily.

 

“Let’s change that.”

 

It was the only warning Deku got before Shigaraki commanded, “Noumu, attack!” Deku gasped as the eyes of the beast rolled and suddenly focused on Deku. He didn’t get the chance to move before its large arm swiped at him with a speed that didn’t match its bulk and launched him across the room. Pain ripped through his back and head as his body slammed into the wall and then to the floor. All air escaped him and his chest burned. Bile rose to his mouth and he coughed up some vomit onto the floor as he gasped for air.

 

The attack had been more powerful than anything he had felt before. Just shifting a little he couldn’t tell if he had broken any bones, but Deku didn’t have time to catalogue his various pains. It was by pure instinct alone that he managed to dodge Noumu’s next attack. He heard the rush of air and spotted the claws coming at him, so Deku rolled himself to the side and scrambled to his feet to run. He yelped as he was struck again in the back, the claws gouging through his shirt and slicing skin. Deku gritted his teeth at the agony of it.

 

“Don’t kill him.” Shigaraki called. Deku spun around to see the Noumu’s aura of death had relaxed into something less volatile. The large hand of the beast grasped his leg in a crushing grip and yanked him into the air. Deku kicked at it with his free leg, but it was like punching rubber. His attacks did nothing. He didn’t even hear the sound of his foot hitting skin.

 

“You motherfucker! I’ll kill you!” Deku shouted at the creature and activated Snapshot with what little air he had. The beast’s eyes and brains were exposed. Possible weak points. He had no chance of winning in terms of strength. He would have to be resourceful this time if he wanted to win. Shigaraki and Master didn’t want him dead. They wanted him to figure out Noumu’s Quirks. Fine. Deku would give them a goddamn show!

 

He released Snapshot and struck all five matches across his fingers on the flint of his opposite hand. He pushed as much energy as he could into the fire as he gathered it into his fist. He could feel it burning through the cloth of his glove, ignited by his fury and desperation. “DIE!!” He screamed and punched his fist outwards. The flame roared into a fireball bigger than Deku himself and encompassed the Noumu’s head. It dropped him, but Deku focused harder to make the flames burn brighter. He could see the Noumu’s head melting as the heat boiled the thin skin of its eyes and brain. Deku forced himself to his feet and backed away from its reach.

 

“Interesting.” He heard Master say. Deku felt his energy draining rapidly as his fire took everything from him. His head throbbed and his body wept with agony as he pressed his back to the wall and pulled his fire back to him. The charred head of the Noumu was grotesquely unrecognizable as it collapsed, defeated.

 

Deku panted. Each breath hurt so badly. He could feel the blood running down his back and soaking into his pants. His legs trembled with the effort to stand. He wasn’t sure, but he guessed that he had a couple of broken or at least cracked ribs. He pressed a hand to his side for support. He would be black and blue from this.

 

His eyes landed on his master and Shigaraki. Shigaraki looked furious, shaking as he contained himself. Deku bared his teeth at him and tasted copper in his mouth. “Fuck you.” He growled.

 

“Noumu.” Shigaraki responded, and Deku’s head snapped as the Noumu moved. To his horror, the skin and eyes were growing rapidly back on the creature. Noumu stood and seemed to grin as its cornea and irises regenerated enough to focus on Deku’s form.

 

Deku activated Snapshot again just to give himself a few extra precious moments to think. He had fought someone who could regenerate before. He could still picture the woman’s face in his head even as Deku had beaten her by sheer overwhelming force. It had been a battle he had lost five times before he had succeeded. Now Noumu had that Quirk. But Deku couldn’t take it out the same way he had taken Regrowth out. It was too strong to beat. Burning it would only keep it down for a short period of time. Deku didn’t have the mental or physical energy to burn the entire thing alive. He needed another method.

 

Noumu couldn’t think. Master had said that from the start. It hadn’t even awakened properly until Shigaraki had commanded it. It was Shigaraki’s new toy. It responded to him. Shigaraki was the weak point.

 

Deku released Snapshot. Noumu threw itself at Deku. Deku launched his fireball at Shigaraki then. He had full intent to kill the man if it meant that Deku would win the battle. Damn all of the consequences. It was his fault that they were in that situation. He wouldn’t care if he had another death on his hands that night-

 

“Noumu, defend.” Master commanded, and Noumu turned on its thick legs to take the full fireball to its chest. It practically absorbed the attack and instantly began to regenerate. Deku had no choice but to release the scattered flames. “That’s enough.” Master said, and the Noumu fell back into its neutral hunched stance.

 

“You were going to kill me?” Shigaraki asked darkly as he and Master moved around Noumu to face Deku.

 

“Yes.” Deku revelled in the dark satisfaction of hatred that bloomed in his chest.

 

“You did well, Deku, as always.” Master praised. Deku only shot him a cold glare and said nothing. Master motioned him over. Deku reluctantly walked closer to him. His body shook with fatigue and it was hard for him to see straight. He refused to pass out, though, even though his body was cold and everything hurt. The sensation of pain was starting to become faded, though. Deku knew from experience that wasn’t a good sign.

 

Master lifted his hand and placed it on Deku’s bowed head. Blood rushed to Deku’s cheeks even as his heart stuttered as his head was touched so gently. He hadn’t received a head pat from his master in a long time. It made it easier to believe the man’s words of praise.

 

The patting didn’t last long and soon the hand was removed. “Your deduction skills are just as wonderful as ever. You noticed where to attack. Always go for the weak point.”

 

“Don’t call me that, Sensei.” Shigaraki half-grumbled, half-whined. Deku wanted to punch the man but didn’t have the strength. It felt both horrid and nice to have Master’s attention only on him right then. He had earned that. That praise was his.

 

“Tell me what you learned, Deku.” Master said.

 

“Its strength and speed rival All Might’s.” Deku recited mechanically, his voice as empty as he was beginning to feel inside. His mind was swimming, high on his own pain. “It has some level of shock absorption. It will be able to take All Might’s hits and deal them back. If All Might’s power is too strong, Noumu can use Regrowth’s quirk to regenerate at a speed of twenty seconds from even critical damage.”

 

“Do you believe it will fair well against All Might, then?”

 

Deku knew a lot about All Might from his years of watching video after video of the man. He had seen him get damaged, but never be taken down. He wanted to instinctively say no, but Noumu faired a good chance. Noumu was created specifically to take down the Symbol of Hope. But Deku knew that All Might had a tendency to find a way to come out on top. He couldn’t believe 100% that Noumu would win. He didn’t want Noumu to win.

 

“Yes.” Deku finally said, and his voice sounded too far off. He couldn’t feel the pain anymore. He felt so tired. He could barely keep his eyes open. Whatever Master said next was lost on him as he collapsed and everything went dark.

Chapter Text

Izuku recognized the familiar scent of blood before he was fully aware and made the decision to just keep his eyes shut. Blood coated his tongue and his body wasn’t in nearly as much pain as it used to be. Master had gotten someone to heal him, then, but Deku could still feel various aches and pains. Master never let Deku get healed all of the way. The pain was used as a learning method. But he didn’t want Deku inhibited. He still had a mission to do.

 

“Wake up already, Deku-kun.” Deku struggled a little to open his eyes and shot an unfocused glare at Shigaraki. He wanted to hate the man for what he had done to him, but couldn’t really. Shigaraki was childish and cruel, but he had grown past attacking Deku like that. That had all been Master’s decision. This must be what Kurogiri had meant when he said to expect to stay until morning. Deku needed that time to heal.

 

“Don’t look at me like that. You know what happens when you hide stuff.” Shigaraki said as he relaxed back in his wooden chair. Deku was on some kind of thin bed on his side. Probably so as to not aggravate his back wounds. They itched like crazy.

 

Deku pushed himself to sit up and hated every second of it. Nonetheless he persisted and panted from the effort. His eyes begged to close and for him to rest. This entire day was arguably one of the shittiest days of his life, and he was running on about four hours of sleep for it. Deku kind of wished that he had killed someone just to take his frustration out on something, but that was counterproductive.

 

“Water.” He told Shigaraki.

 

“Please?” Shigaraki mocked. Deku scowled at him. Shigaraki huffed a laugh and got up to yank open the door. Deku heard him call out to Kurogiri. Deku ran a hand over his face and licked his lips only to shudder at the taste of blood. He didn’t like being healed by Master’s healer. He felt like a vampire because he had to drink their blood. It made his stomach churn again to know the only thing in it right then was blood.

 

He had learned a terrible thing tonight. It was something that Deku didn’t even want to begin to process. It was terrifying to think that creature would be going after All Might. When, though? Deku needed to find out more information. He would wait until Shigaraki was back.

 

Deku closed his eyes but saw the melting head of that Noumu again. A shudder ran through him and for the second time he almost vomited. He forced the bile down knowing that he needed the blood there to keep healing.

 

Don’t think about it.

 

It had been so long since he’d had to see something like that. That he had only more to add to his nightmares…

 

Don’t think about it.

 

Regrowth was gone. Maybe she had outlived her usefulness. Maybe her usefulness was best given to a monster. Izuku hadn’t liked her, but he hadn’t wanted her to die either. When had she been killed?

 

Don’t think about it!

 

Shigaraki came back as Deku grabbed his thoughts, bundled them up with twine, and shoved them into the back of his mind to take apart when he wasn’t already about to fall apart. If he didn’t do that now, he would break down again. He wasn’t sure his body could handle anything more than it had already suffered today. Thank god he had tomorrow off from school as well. He needed an entire day to sleep. But he had to see his therapist too…

 

A cold glass of water was pressed into his hands. Deku took it and didn’t look at Shigaraki. He didn’t want the man to think he had forgiven him as he forced himself to drink. The water did wonders to clear the disgusting taste of his mouth. He wanted more.

 

“You should’ve told us right away.” Shigaraki said as he sat himself back down in the chair and crossed his arms over his knee.

 

“Pointless information.” Deku choked out against the rising urge to cough. He had drunk too fast and it had gone down the wrong pipe. He shook his head and regretted it as his migraine reminded him that getting rid of it was easier said than done. “Fuck. Do you have any pain pills?”

 

“None for you.” Shigaraki frowned, but it was hard to tell when he was wearing all those stupid hands again. From what Deku could understand, he put them on whenever he felt particularly vulnerable or in need of comfort. The hands squeezing him possibly gave him comfort, but probably not in a healthy way. Izuku’s therapist would have a field day with this one. Deku just thought he liked to look creepy too.

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I hate this shitty fucking family.” Deku grumbled. He took another long gulp of the water and spotted Kurogiri coming into the room. Deku held out the glass to the man. “Refill, please.”

 

“Drink slowly.” Kurogiri warned as he took the glass. “Are you hungry?”

 

“I can’t eat anything right now. My stomach is still recovering from being punched.”

 

“At least most of the damage is healed.” Shigaraki commented lightly as Kurogiri went to get Deku a refill.

 

“Love the consolation prize. ‘You were nearly killed for the thousandth time in two years, but at least your damage is almost healed from tonight’s beating!’” He bit out sarcastically. He did quick jazz hands and then sighed as he dropped his hands back into his lap. He held his head so that his cooler skin might soothe some of the pain. “What time even is it?”

 

He heard more than saw Shigaraki shrug. “You were out for a couple hours.”

 

“Is Master still here?”

 

“No.”

 

Good. That increased Deku’s chances of leaving significantly. “I have to start heading back soon, then.” He stared down at his lap and noticed finally that he was wearing the extra clothes he had packed. His shirt was still probably in the bag considering he was shirtless and his gloves were missing as well. He looked at Shigaraki. “Where are my gloves?”

 

“You’re supposed to stay tonight.” Shigaraki said instead, sounding irritated. “I’m not done with you yet.”

 

“My gloves .” Deku repeated testily.

 

“They’re in your bag.” Kurogiri said as he came back and handed Deku a larger glass of water. This one had ice in it. Deku couldn’t wait to suck on the ice. It wouldn’t help his headache, but it would make him feel better emotionally.

 

“Thank god someone answers questions.”

 

“You’re not leaving yet.” Shigaraki insisted, hands clenching on his legs as he sat forward.

 

“What more do you want from me, Tomura?” Deku snapped. His irritation hurt his head even more. “Didn’t you have your fun siccing your monster on me?”

 

“That was fun.” Shigaraki admitted with little care. “Until you tried to kill me.”

 

“Amazing. You took the words out of my mouth. Are you a mind reader and a rotten bastard?”

 

“Deku.” Kurogiri warned.

 

“Shut up!” Shigaraki hissed. “Sensei wanted me to pass on another mission for you since you were too busy being passed out. Sensei had to leave because you were taking so long!”

 

“I’ll try to avoid the mini coma next time.”

 

“Do that.”

 

Fuck, Deku hated this guy. “What’s the mission?” He demanded.

 

“There’s a plan in the works for attacking All Might.” Shigaraki explained. He sounded excited at the prospect. “Now that we have your confirmation of the theories, we’re going to attack. We have an army ready.”

 

Dread was cold on Deku’s spine. “I won’t be in that army.”

 

“Obviously.” Shigaraki said scathingly. “You’re to know nothing of it. You’ll just be another idiot student caught up in the fire.”

 

“It will be at the school?”

 

“No. We already have you in the school. You’re going to find us the plans for U.S.J.” Deku stared at him. “We have enough knowledge to know they take first years there as a test to see how well they do.” It was obvious that at some point his class would be going to the Unforseen Simulation Joint, but he didn’t think it would happen so soon. “You’re going to get us the security plans of the place.”

 

“What’s the point?” Deku asked. “There’s no guarantee All Might will be there. You don’t even know when we’ll be going.”

 

“We do.” Shigaraki’s grin was wide enough to see even under the hand on his face. Deku could see the man’s eye through the space between the fingers.

 

“When?”

 

“You’ll need to be surprised, Deku.” Kurogiri interrupted before Shigaraki could say. Deku glared at him furiously at that.

 

“I don’t like being kept in the dark.” He looked to Shigaraki expecting him to tell him.

 

“...Kurogiri’s right. You stick to your mission.” Shigaraki finally said and sat back in his chair. Deku cursed internally. How could he prepare for an attack when he didn’t know it was coming? What kind of army were they talking about? Did Master know about this? Who was leading it? His classmates would be caught up in the attack. All Might might die that day. It was scary.

 

“Fine.” Deku bit out to show his displeasure. “Where are the plans at?”

 

“Kurogiri.” Kurogiri reached into his pants pockets and passed over a sheet of paper. Deku opened it up and scanned its contents. It was a mixture of instructions that fully relied on his position of knowing the school. Anybody else wouldn’t be able to read it, but he could. “Memorize that and destroy it. We want the plans by Monday night.”

 

Deku glanced up from the sheet and narrowed his eyes a bit. “How many times am I going to be tested?” He asked as he lowered the sheet.

 

Shigaraki pointed at the paper. “You’re the only one who can do this without suspicion. If you fail, I will have to take matters into my own hands.”

 

Deku scowled at the thought of failing. He would never fail. He would be the winner of this game of life and death. Even if it meant betraying his own school and heroes. It wasn’t like he wasn’t aware that he was constantly being tested, but Shigaraki didn’t seem to notice it. Why did Deku always have to prove himself? Where was he on Master’s list?

 

Deku crumpled the paper and shoved it into the pocket of his sweatpants before standing. He placed aside his now-empty glass of water and didn’t bother with the ice. It wouldn’t help him in his current state anyway. He still felt terrible, but he could at least move. This level of pain was familiar. It wouldn’t even hinder him. “I’ll take care of it. Expect me Monday night, Kurogiri. I’ll text you.”

 

“I will.” Kurogiri agreed.

 

Deku grabbed his bag and pulled on his sweat jacket. It covered all of his wounds enough. Last night’s clothes were ruined, but they weren’t anything that couldn’t be replaced. He was glad he had brought a second pair. “Drop me off at the station.”

 

“No goodbyes?” Shigaraki asked. Deku ignored him and stepped forward to fall through the portal and appear at the train station. He kept his head down as the beginnings of the sun illuminated the sky. He peeked up to marvel and take in the different colors and to breathe in the fresh air. The oppressing atmosphere of the villains was finally gone. He could breathe again.

 

He had so much shit he had to do now. He needed to get back home as soon as possible and hope that nobody would be awake. He wanted to take a shower if he could first. He could make up an excuse for being awake so early. His lack of rest wasn’t unknown. It was obvious by his face whenever anyone looked at him.

 

The crumpled paper in his pocket stabbed him through his pants. He would do his mission and do it well, but he was risking himself to do it. The gravity of his new mission was nearly crippling. He had to break into the offices of heroes and steal information straight from his school. Could he do that without getting caught? He would have to move quickly. Lunch time would be a terrible idea. It would have to be another time when the teachers would be gone. In the middle of classes would be better.

 

Izuku pressed a hand to his forehead and tried not to let the sounds of the train station slowly coming to life for the first rounds get to him. He wished that he had headphones or something to block out the noise. He wanted to go home, shower, and sleep. Pretend everything was just a nightmare and that he hadn’t needed to go see the villains that night. That he hadn’t once again almost died.

 

The image of the Noumu was still in his brain. He had never seen his fire do that to anyone or anything before. The feeling of dark satisfaction as he had sent that same fire after Shigaraki still echoed in him. Deku rarely attempted to kill anyone. Izuku hadn’t realized he was so far gone that he would murder someone to save himself. When had that happened?

 

Don’t think about it.


 

It was dawn proper when Izuku returned home and entered his house. It was still silent and he didn’t smell any food, which meant his mother was still asleep. That was good. He would need to check on Kacchan to make sure he was still asleep as well. Hopefully hurry the boy out of the house as fast as possible so that Izuku could shower and go back to bed. He was disgusting.

 

Izuku pulled off his shoes and carried them with loose fingers as he pulled on his slippers. He let his backpack fall from his aching shoulders and to the floor with a sigh. He was exhausted.

 

“Hey.” Izuku screamed and jumped so high he briefly wondered if he had activated Agility. He spun around and nearly fell but caught himself. Kacchan stood behind him fully dressed and with a confused frown on his face from Izuku’s shout. Izuku slapped his hands over his mouth and looked worriedly towards his mother’s room. He hoped he hadn’t woken her.

 

“What the fuck.” Kacchan said.

 

“What are you doing awake?” Izuku hissed, pulling his hands away from his mouth just enough to speak.

 

“I went to bed at an early hour. Why the fuck do you think I’m awake so early?” He growled. Izuku bit back the urge to remind him that he did tell Kacchan that he didn’t need to go to sleep when he did. “Also I went to my house to grab a couple things.” He motioned to the bag he was carrying. He narrowed his eyes at Izuku. “Where the hell were you?”

 

“Running.” Izuku lied effortlessly. “I woke up and couldn’t sleep, so I went for a run.” Kacchan’s eyes searched him and then landed on the shoes in Izuku’s hands. The moment those red eyes narrowed and a growl echoed in his childhood friend’s chest, Izuku realized his mistake. Those shoes were definitely not for running.

 

Kacchan’s hand snapped out to grab his collar and his mouth opened to yell, but both boys heard the movement in Izuku’s mother’s room. They both cursed at the same time and Kacchan was forced to let him go. Izuku hurried down the hallway to get away from Kacchan with a quick, “I’m gonna shower!”

 

“Deku-!” Kacchan hissed, but Izuku shut the door to the bathroom. Kacchan couldn’t risk causing a scene without disturbing his mother. Thank god. Maybe his mother’s scolding of Kacchan yesterday had actually affected Kacchan’s respect of her. Izuku would have to apologize for screaming later. He hadn’t been expecting to be caught coming home. Goddammit, Kacchan.

 

Izuku stripped with careful movements and then turned to check himself in the mirror. His face was dirty with sweat and grime. Most of the dirt had been wiped off, but there was a bit of blood crusted in the corner of his mouth. He winced at that. There was no way he managed to get away from this without Kacchan having more questions. Izuku was determined not to answer a single one of them.

 

His torso was mottled with bruises. The darkest one was around Izuku’s lower ribs and stomach where he had taken the brunt of Noumu’s first punch. He gingerly touched his ribs but didn’t feel any of them shift unnaturally. The blood must of healed that at least. That was good. That wasn’t a quick heal. It explained why he was still so painted in colors.

 

His leg where Noumu had grabbed him was also bruised up, but not nearly as bad as his torso. Parts of the circular marks were turning green with age from the healing. It didn’t hurt enough to limp, at least. Izuku needed his legs for sure.

 

He turned around to see the slashes across his back. His back was already covered with various scars and now it looked like he had more to add to it. His back looked like the door of a monster horror movie. The skin was pink around the edges and all but healed. There were already a few scabs forming. He would need to be careful while washing so as to not reopen them. He hoped none of them get infected. He would have a hell of a time hiding from his mother why he got sick from inflammation. He couldn’t go back to the doctor.

 

The last was his hand which was pink from burning it. Kurogiri had said that Deku’s gloves were in his backpack which meant that he hadn’t destroyed his other glove with his fire. It had been hot enough to give him first degree burns, though. He would have to really check the damage later when he had the chance.

 

Izuku finished his inspection and finally just stared at himself in the mirror. He looked terrible. He wanted the world to just fade away for a while. He wished that he could go back to a time when things had been simpler. At this point he would rather be Quirkless than deal with this mess. He wished that Master had never targeted him. A part of him wished that Kacchan would just go back to being disgusted by his presence. Life was so easy back then. He didn’t even feel like the child he physically was. What was it like to be a kid?

 

The face in the mirror was one that Izuku recognized. He couldn’t remember what he looked like without the darkness under his eyes. He wondered what kind of face he used to make when he was truly happy. Was it like how the stories always described it and his eyes were brighter? Full of stars? Sparkling like emeralds? Izuku couldn’t imagine that him looking back through the mirror.

 

Maybe it would be easier to just die. That would solve all of his problems, after all. He couldn’t become a hero if he was the cause of death of All Might. His family would be safe. Kacchan would be safe. The Bakugous would be safe. The villains couldn’t use him anymore. They wouldn’t have a reason to kill those Izuku loved. He wouldn’t have to live to see lives destroyed because of him.

 

Don’t think about it .

 

He was probably just tired. Some more sleep would be nice.

 

He wondered if there was a time travel quirk out there somewhere. If there was, he would beg for them to reset everything for him.

Chapter Text

Izuku didn’t get the chance to get all of the rest that he wished he could’ve gotten. He had taken a long time to shower because the heat felt good on his clammy skin. He had scrubbed until his skin stung from the hot water. He wanted to make sure all of his blood was off of his body. Shigaraki (or Kurogiri?) had only given him a brief wipedown before they had changed him, but it hadn’t been done well. Then he had turned it to cool to wake him back up again when he had started to drowse. He admittedly took too long in the shower, but if he was avoiding the world at the moment he doubted that anyone could blame him.

 

There was blood on Izuku’s clothes which he should’ve grasped earlier. He had already learned how to handle blood and hoped that it was still fresh enough that it would rinse out. He turned the sink to cold water and squirted some hand soap onto the various spots before beginning to scrub them out. Thanks to the material of the inside of the clothing, the stains came out relatively easily. Anything else could be washed out in the laundry.

 

Embarrassingly enough he realized too late as he got out of the shower that he didn’t have a change of clothes. It would look ridiculous for him to put on his jogging wear again when he had supposedly “just come back from running”. His towel wouldn’t be enough to cover his entire body. He had to risk rushing to his bedroom.

 

He peeked out of the bathroom hesitantly with his towel wrapped around his torso. At this point he was more concerned with hiding the evidence of his night than any kind of decency. He didn’t see anyone in the hallway, but he listened carefully. He could hear low voices from the kitchen as well as the movement of dishes. Izuku didn’t hesitate and dashed into his bedroom and shut the door to breathe a sigh of relief that for once things had gone his way.

 

The adrenaline had drained from him completely by the time he had dressed. He made sure his loungewear would cover any of his new wounds, although he left his arms exposed. He didn’t have anymore long-sleeved loungewear for the time being. He gathered up what clothes he had and decided to start his laundry immediately. He didn’t even bother to separate anything and set everything to warm to begin washing.

 

The next couple hours were a blur for him. His exhaustion weighed heavily on him and he knew that he was probably still anemic. He remembered getting some type of food in him and having both his mother and Kacchan ask him some questions, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember the answers he gave. He could only think about crawling back into bed and never waking up again. His bed always accepted him and he never needed to hide from it. His bed was his best friend.

 

He vaguely recalled that Kacchan had stayed with him and didn’t immediately leave the house in the morning. The two of them had retreated to Izuku’s room and Kacchan had placed books in front of them as if to study. Izuku retained absolutely nothing. Even Kacchan snapping at him couldn’t wake him properly.

 

They must have given up on any kind of studying because Izuku vaguely recalled sitting in the living room with his mother and Kacchan and watching some kind of movie. There had been bright colors and All Might laughing, so he figured it must be an old video of the hero. All Might’s laughter was comforting to him. A part of him tried to perk up and focus on the video, but that part gave up easily under the pressure of fatigue.

 

He caught snippets of a conversation between Kacchan and Izuku’s mother, but he couldn’t remember the words. He recalled being coaxed into taking some pills and drinking some juice. He remembered feeling small fingers combing through his curls and soothing him even further. He faintly recognized his mother’s perfume and some monkey part of his brain registered “ safety” . It had been enough to cause his eyes to water just a tiny bit, but not enough to cry.

 

It was like being in a dream state. Nothing felt real and his mind found nothing to latch onto. His worries about his mother or Kacchan were very far away. Time was relative and escaped him just as easily as air passed through his fingers. He couldn’t even begin to grasp anything. He didn’t have the energy to even try.

 

At some point he must have finally succumbed to blissful sleep because the next thing he registered was being woken up. He was tucked into his bed with his covers over him. He frowned in confusion and wondered if maybe everything had been a dream after all. But when he shifted he hissed at the pulled of the scabs on his back. Reality came back into sharp focus after that.

 

“Wake the fuck up.” Izuku opened his eyes to meet Kacchan’s frown. It reminded him of being woken up by Shigaraki earlier. The comparison was almost funny. “Your mother sent me to wake you, Deku.”

 

Izuku pushed himself to sit up and this time did not react to his own wounds. He was warm and comfortable and felt significantly better than he had before. When he blinked he was actually able to think rather than just react to what he saw. Kacchan was wearing different clothes from this morning. The light that peeked through the curtains of Izuku’s room was higher and brighter than the last time he had seen it. Kacchan had his backpack on and his school uniform jacket thrown over his shoulder to keep it from wrinkling in the bag. He was packed to go.

 

“Are you leaving?” Izuku asked. His voice was thick and heavy with sleep. He must have slept a long time, he realized. He was also dreadfully thirsty judging by the cotton mouth he had.

 

“I don’t have time to spend just sitting around your damn house.” Kacchan told him. “What were you hissing about?”

 

Izuku blinked at the sudden change in topic. “I must have slept wrong. My shoulder hurts.”

 

“You were pretty freaking unconscious.” Kacchan agreed. Izuku wondered how he had gotten to his bed.

 

“How did I get here?” He asked as he glanced at the bed. “Weren’t we watching a movie?”

 

Kacchan grumbled something under his breath but didn’t respond to his questions. “Get up already and get dressed.”

 

“Why?” Izuku asked, already climbing out of bed. He had regained some of his energy. His head still kind of hurt, though. He needed more pills, he thought. His pain was getting worse.

 

“Auntie said you have an appointment.”

 

“Oh.” Izuku rubbed at his eyes and mumbled, “Right...the therapist...forgot…”

 

Kacchan said nothing and shifted his bag on his shoulders. Luckily Izuku didn’t have to make up an excuse to get the other boy to leave so that he could change because Kacchan left himself. Izuku hurried to change into something more suitable for outside before following behind.

 

His mother looked relieved to see him. “Good afternoon, Izuku. Are you feeling any better?”

 

Izuku blinked and understood that, yes, it had to be afternoon if he was going to see his therapist. He had slept the entire morning away. “Ah...Yeah, I am. Sorry for worrying you.”

 

“You went to bed so early last night but you were still so tired. Katsuki said you went running this morning?”

 

Izuku’s eyes met Kacchan’s from where the boy was putting his shoes back on. Kacchan looked away quickly with a scowl. Izuku wondered why Kacchan was covering for his lie when they were both well aware of the fact that he had lied. Kacchan didn’t seem to have reservations about calling out Izuku’s lies in front of other people before.

 

“I...woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep.” Izuku scratched at the back of his head nervously. His mother watched him with a sad face. She said no more, though, and briefly touched his cheek to end the conversation. Izuku felt like it wasn’t quite over, though.

 

“I’m headed out, Auntie.” Kacchan announced as he stood.

 

“Oh! Not yet, Katsuki! Let us walk you back.” His mother insisted and hurried over to go slip her shoes on. She motioned for Izuku to join her, which he did.

 

“You don’t have to.” Kacchan responded stiffly, looking uncomfortable. What had Izuku’s mother said to Kacchan to get him to act like that? Or was that how he had started treating his mother during Izuku’s absence? There was still so much that Izuku needed to learn.

 

“I insist.” Izuku’s mother responded. She was smiling, but Izuku could sense the tension in her. The worry that extended to Kacchan as well. Izuku hated that he was the cause of that paranoia.

 

“We’re headed that way anyway, Kacchan.” Izuku decided to back her up. “So we’ll walk with you.”

 

Kacchan glared at him but relented at that. Izuku was starting to recognize that glare as constantly screaming “ LIAR” at him. He pointedly ignored it.

 

The three of them left the house together and walked the ten minutes to Kacchan’s house. Nobody was there to answer the door because both of Kacchan’s parents were probably out at their jobs. Kacchan barely gave a goodbye as he separated from the Midoriyas and entered his house. Both Midoriyas turned down a side street and backtracked in the other direction to head for the therapist’s office.

 

They didn’t talk about much along the way. Izuku’s mother seemed to be caught up in her own thoughts, and Izuku didn’t really want to talk at that moment. His thoughts were filled with his upcoming mission and what Shigaraki was planning. He thought about Kacchan and how he had been a little too open with the other boy. He thought about how he needed to shut down anymore inquiries from Kacchan. He forced aside the memory of Noumu.

 

Going back to his therapist was a good way of putting himself back into the act of being “Izuku”. He had been so thrown off by Kacchan this week with his constant attacks on the act he put forward. In front of his therapist who had no concept of who Izuku was before he had been kidnapped it was so easy to just tell them whatever. He just needed to make up some shit about how he was coping and how much fun he was having at school. How he was having nightmares that he couldn’t remember and that he’s been studying heroes again. He went on from there to spend the rest of the time rambling about how heroes are amazing and his teachers especially.

 

It was another pointless meeting, but Izuku felt more solid afterwards. Like his armor had been repaired from the barrage of Kacchan’s explosions.

 

His mother surprised him when the two of them left by not immediately heading to the station to go home. “Why don’t we go out to eat?” She asked with a soft smile. She had stress lines on her head and cheeks. Izuku could count which ones were given by him.

 

“Okay! Where at?” It had been a long while since he had gone out with his mother. The two of them didn’t spend much time out of the house. Izuku had spent all of his break either in extra classes or training or therapy, and his mother had been busy with her orders. A day out with his mom sounded like a good idea to him.

 

“How about that café where they used to have an All Might dessert? The one that was special edition-”

 

“To commemorate that time he managed to save two hundred people in one go?” Izuku finished excitedly. His mother laughed. “Let’s do it!”

 

It was about half an hour’s trip from the therapist’s office to the café and Izuku admittedly felt happier than he had in a little while. He and his mother didn’t talk about much on the train ride over other than little things. When they got to the café both of them ordered some food with the full intention of also getting a dessert at the end of it. Izuku’s stomach still hurt a bit from Noumu’s attack, but he was determined to eat as much as he could. Especially since he would get a dessert at the end of it. Something sweet would probably do wonders for him.

 

He had a wonderful time reconnecting with his mother. Izuku repeated many of the stories about what was happening at school and went on to finally talk about his new friends. His mother gasped and grinned in all the right places as Izuku motioned to explain his plans and his attacks. He rambled about his teachers again even though his mother had already heard everything he could tell about All Might and Eraserhead. He spent maybe far too long telling his mother about all of the amazing Quirks of his classmates and which ones he was certain would be heroes, but she didn’t seem to mind. His mother had always listened to his rambling.

 

They drifted onto other topics such as how her work was going and when she had last heard from Izuku’s dad. Supposedly he was to come back in a couple months for a visit for the holidays. Izuku was excited to see his father again considering he hadn’t seen him in nearly a year, but he couldn’t say he was too happy. At least he was safer overseas. Or, at least, Izuku hoped so.

 

The two of them ordered desserts that both of them had wanted to try and decided to share with each other. It was amazing, Izuku thought, how just chatting with his mother bolstered his spirits. He still felt tired and sore, but he didn’t feel as emotionally beaten down. He didn’t feel that he had to fake too much with his mother because he could just be her happy son. The pressure wasn’t as there as it was with Kacchan. Izuku didn’t have to show off his powers and his mother already knew about his various scars. Playing ignorant was so easy with her.

 

Izuku’s mother smiled tenderly when Izuku finished giggling to himself over a story she had finished about a terrible client. He took a bite of his cake and sighed with pleasure at the sweet flavor. He was full, but wanted to eat just a bit more sugar.

 

“I’m so glad you’re smiling again.” She said and threw Izuku for such a loop that all he could do was cough on his dessert. She quickly handed him a napkin even as she laughed a little. Izuku only stared at her in surprise as his eyes watered from coughing.

 

“What?”

 

“Well…” His mother glanced away and down to smile sadly. She let out a small breath before lifting her eyes back to his. They were shimmering in the sunlight. “You mentioned that yesterday was a bad day for you...And then this morning Katsuki mentioned that you went running...You didn’t have much sleep did you, Izuku?” Izuku opened his mouth, but she cut him off gently, “You don’t have to lie.” He closed his mouth. “It’s okay to feel upset, Izuku. You’re still recovering. You don’t need to be ashamed.”

 

This was something he could take advantage of, Deku realized. His mother thought his behavior and lying were because he was embarrassed by his slow recovery. He could strengthen his own act by covering it in another believable layer. If he did that, she would be less likely to be suspicious if Kacchan brought up how Izuku was lying and hiding all of the time. It was a reasonable excuse.

 

Izuku dropped his eyes and bit his lip. His fingers tugged on his other fingers. He glanced at her and away. “I…” He gave a nervous huff of a laugh. “Is it that obvious? I thought I was hiding it pretty well…”

 

His mother reached across the table to hold one of his hands. Her eyes were wet now. “You don’t have to lie to me, Izuku. You can tell me anything. You know that, right?”

 

It was one thing to know and another to act upon it. Izuku nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

 

“If anything is bothering you and I can help in some way...please just come to me. I can’t do much, but I can try my best!” She pumped her other fist, smiling encouragingly. Izuku returned the smile, touched.

 

“I’m trying to get better.” He voice choked up some. Her hand tightened around his. “It’s...it’s hard. But I’m really trying.”

 

“That’s good.” She said honestly.

 

“I just don’t know if I’m going about things the right way.” He confessed. It was the smallest bit of pressure released off of his heart for that. The tiniest pinprick. But it helped to say it.

 

“You can take your time.” She reassured him. “And when you’re ready you can ask for help.” She hesitated before adding, “You’re...You’re not alone anymore, Izuku. You have people who are here for you.”

 

Izuku thought back to dark days locked away and in pain. Chained to the walls and gasping for air as the room pressed too much in on him. His breathing labored as he tried to even inhale around the crushing agony of his own broken body. Crying into his knees and wishing for someone to help him. For a hero to save him. Realizing that he could only trust himself. That he would have to crawl out of hell on his own bloodied hands and knees.

 

His mother’s grip felt foreign in his hand. He resisted the urge to clench around it. He wished that he had the strength and courage to tell her everything. He wonders if she would take him far away from there. Maybe live with his dad overseas. Maybe the villains wouldn’t bother attacking his loved ones then. He could become a hero in America or something like All Might. He would be free of his shackles and could start over. He wouldn’t worry about being caught or being a villain. He could be ignorant of anything Master and Shigaraki might cause. Maybe he would be left alone. He could be a kid again. Fantasies were so easy to indulge in as long as they remained in his head.

 

“I’ll remember that, mom.”

Chapter Text

Something dark and disgusting had taken to roiling in Katsuki’s stomach ever since he had made the split decision to spend the night at Deku’s house. It was obvious that the boy hadn’t wanted him there, but Katsuki’s persistent attacks on Deku’s armor throughout the week had exposed chunks of his truth. He now had confirmed his theory that Deku remembered his time with the villains and that Deku was well aware that he was lying to everyone. It explained why he had rejected the offer for a memory quirk to force him to remember for the sake of the police. He also confirmed that Deku really was just struggling at school and that Auntie Inko didn’t actually know what was going on with her son.

 

But with the success of discovery came the flipside of the coin. It was where the dark and disgusting thing in Katsuki’s stomach had come from. It had crawled down his throat leaving a freezing trail behind it that chilled his entire body until not even the fire of his indignation and anger could warm him again. It continued to writhe there with each new piece of the puzzle that Katsuki picked up in the Midoriya house.

 

Deku didn’t just remember his time with the villains - he had never forgotten. That explained many things as to why Deku was clearly different from before. Katsuki had always suspected, but he had assumed the boy had remembered later. The fact that he had never forgotten just opened up a field of more questions. Why was he hiding it? What had he actually gone through with the villains? Did he remember getting his quirk? What was the point of hiding it from everyone? Why was he so against Katsuki finding out?

 

Deku wasn’t faking his struggle with school. Katsuki had thought that he was just slow because he had missed school. It made the dark thing swell in his stomach to realize that Deku had permanent brain damage from his time with the villains. Was it from the torture? Or was it something worse? Did that account for the change in his personality as well? Katsuki kind of hated himself even more for being so harsh with Deku while trying to tutor him. He should’ve told Katsuki from the beginning that he couldn’t understand properly. Katsuki didn’t like that Deku had a learning disability now. He also didn’t like that Auntie Inko had no idea. Why was Deku hiding that information as well?

 

The thing that had frozen him from the inside out and had choked the breath from him had been when Deku had broken down. His anger was a familiar sight to Katsuki, but he had never seen it outside of himself or his mother. The look on Deku’s face had been the fire that burned through Katsuki’s own veins. Katsuki had responded instinctively at the time to snap back, never one to back down from that fire, but it had only made things worse. The crumpling of Deku’s anger the moment his mother arrived was like watching a bridge collapse. Everything had caved in and Deku was gone to be replaced with the cracked and chipped armor that he always wore. A mask that had barely been clinging to his face before he had run out and locked himself in the bathroom.

 

Katsuki had been angry after that for a while too. He had blamed everything on Deku and his lies. It wasn’t his fault that Katsuki didn’t know he wasn’t understanding! And both of them were used to his yelling, so Deku couldn’t have blamed Katsuki for that either! But Auntie Inko’d had a different idea.

 

After she had failed to get Deku to respond to her, she had returned to the bedroom where Katsuki had been furiously kicking around the school books. Deku’s notes from what he could see were thorough but useless. All of the wrong answers just infuriated him more. Why was Deku so goddamn useless?!

 

Auntie Inko had entered the room and shut the door quietly, but the look on her face was one that he had never seen before. Her face was dark with her anger and her eyes were a little wet. She had pointed sharply at Deku’s bed. “Sit!” She commanded.

 

“What?” Katsuki had bit back, more surprised by the command and the look on her face than anything else, but his voice was still laced with his frustrations and confusion.

 

“I said sit, Katsuki Bakugou!” Every single childhood instinct filled him as he responded to the tone of a mother who had been pushed too far and had enough of her children. He sat himself quickly on the bed and felt on edge from the unknown. He was used to his mother’s anger and his father’s occasional disappointment-filled scolding, but he had never had to deal with the anger of Auntie Inko. She had always been the quiet and nice one. It honestly terrified him in a way he hadn’t felt since before he had reached puberty and had fought for more independence.

 

Auntie Inko had gathered herself shakily, her body vibrating much like Deku’s did now. But Katsuki knew it wasn’t for the same reason. He fought the instinct to make himself smaller and held himself proudly instead as he waited for his sentence. “You went too far with him.” She finally said with controlled words.

 

“It’s not my fault!” Katsuki immediately yelled back. “Fucking Deku-!”

 

“I don’t care!” Auntie Inko cut him off with words sharper than a blade. Katsuki reeled a little as his rant had been snapped loose, blowing in the wind without an anchor. What was this? “I have sat by for many years and saw how you have treated him before in the past, Katsuki. I have let it go because Izuku had insisted he was fine and that it wasn’t my place to scold you because you are not my child! But I will not sit by anymore and let you hurt him anymore than he already is!”

 

He didn’t know what to do with this. How was it that this was worse than when his parents yelled at him? When his teachers had occasionally scolded him? Everything hurt so much more.

 

“I didn’t do anything to him-!” Katsuki tried again because he hadn’t done anything! Deku was to blame for all of his stupid fucking secrets!

 

“Izuku is not the same boy you knew!!” Auntie Inko shouted, and it was enough that even Katsuki could only stare at her. It wasn’t louder than his yelling, but it was more poignant. The tears fell for real down her face now. She let them go without making an attempt to hide them. “Izuku is hurt , Katsuki. He’s still healing from his trauma. He’s struggling every day. Do you understand?”

 

“He doesn’t need me babying him.” Katsuki argued.

 

“It’s not about babying. It’s about sympathy. And that’s something that Mitsuki seems to have failed to instill in you.” She responded coldly. Katsuki’s chest felt like it had turned concave at those words. He opened his mouth to speak, but the furious rush of blood to his cheeks almost made him want to tear up as well. Inexplicably he was filled with a self-loathing he was used to but hated nonetheless. It took all of his willpower not to cry as he gritted his teeth against the rush.

 

“You weren’t here from the beginning, Katsuki.” Auntie Inko continued when he didn’t respond. “You never once came to see him. Mitsuki told me that it was because you were…” Katsuki glared and dared her to say it. To tear out even more of his chest when he was already bleeding. It wasn’t like he couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t like he wasn’t aware . But she didn’t and moved on, “But because you weren’t here you haven’t seen what he’s been like when he’s not in class.” She took a breath and calmed herself more. Her blaze of a fire was fading out now.

 

“I’m glad you’re trying to be friends with him again. I really am. Izuku needs friends and I think your presence in his life could be a good one. But I’m only saying that because I have seen the change in you, Katsuki. I know that you’ve changed as well since before Izuku’s disappearance.”

 

She approached him then. Katsuki instinctively flinched as she reached for him because his skin was too bare. He was too exposed. Her hands cupped his cheeks and her anger was gone to be left with her own sympathy for him. And Katsuki fucking hated it because he knew those eyes. They were the same goddamn eyes that Deku had used on him that day at the river. The day that Katsuki decided that he hated Deku too for looking down on him.

 

And he hated that Auntie Inko was looking at him with those eyes, but those eyes didn’t have the same effect as that younger Deku’s did. He saw through his own disgust to see someone who saw his self-loathing and wished to help him. Katsuki would never accept the help, but he didn’t stop the furious tears that dropped from his eyes when she cupped his cheeks and his skin burned .

 

“I’m not asking you to be someone you’re not, Katsuki.” She murmured and wiped the tears on his cheeks. He couldn’t look her in the eyes. His mother had never done this. She wasn’t the touchy type just like he wasn’t. Her comforts were always in firm hugs or kisses on the head. Not these soft hands holding him like he was precious and fragile. Katsuki hated it and craved it at the same time. It felt like how he felt when he was with Izuku.

 

“I’m just asking that you give Izuku some time to adjust. Just be a little sympathetic to him and understanding. If you want to be his friend again, you’re going to have to allow him to set the pace. He needs help and a hero knows when to help, right? Just like All Might.”

 

Katsuki said nothing, and Auntie Inko released him. He wanted to hide away for a while. Maybe blow a hole in the wall. He wanted to scream and yell, but mostly he felt drained and beaten down. He wondered if Deku had overheard anything. He wondered if he was still in the bathroom. Auntie Inko left and allowed Katsuki to recover.

 

He ate dinner with Auntie Inko and Deku didn’t join them. They had Deku’s favorite katsudon and Auntie Inko had provided enough hot sauce and spices to add to his own. The tension between the two of them was palpable. Auntie Inko charged him with the job of knocking on the bathroom door and trying to get Deku to eat. She handed him a bowl with chopsticks and a napkin.

 

Katsuki had stood in front of the door to the bathroom and heard the gasping sobs of Deku on the other side. He felt drained just listening to him. The dark mass in his stomach writhed in agony as he felt no pride in making Deku cry again. Deku had always been a crybaby, but never like this. Never the type to just sob for a long time. His had always been waterworks that he couldn’t help. How many times in the past had Katsuki made Deku cry like this when they were younger?

 

He thought of the missing poster on the wall at home and his promise to himself in the wake of Deku’s funeral. He left the food by the door without knocking and retreated to the bedroom.

 

He took his time to clean up his mess and really take a look at Deku’s bedroom without him in it to distract him. He still had some All Might merch everywhere, but it wasn’t as much as it used to be. He could see some stains on the walls from where posters had hung for years but were now removed. The hologram that Deku received from UA was still on his desk even after all this time. Katsuki felt like an outsider in a box that should be familiar to him.

 

Deku came in sometime later while Katsuki was still looking at the All Might posters and was reminded of the last time he had been alone in Deku’s room after Deku’s funeral. The boy looked haggard and the worst that Katsuki had ever seen him. Which was saying something considering he had seen what the boy had looked like when he had been rescued. Deku offered information more readily than he had before, too drained to be ashamed in admitting his learning disability. Katsuki was transported back to that day in class when his teacher had scolded Deku for his tremors. He remembered how he had scoffed at what an idiot that teacher had been when it was obvious Deku couldn’t help the shaking. He was cold with the understanding that he was that teacher now, scolding Deku for something he couldn’t control. Unknowingly mocking him for something that embarrassed him and that he didn’t want to talk about but now had been forced to.

 

It was then that he realized maybe he really hadn’t grown up at all. Maybe he really was still that shitlord who bullied Deku for being Deku. Auntie Inko was right; he needed to try something different. Katsuki had been determined to become Deku’s friend again only as a means of finding out answers, but he didn’t like that anymore. The other boy was wearing that armor for a reason that he was determined to keep. Deku was fighting back with all of his force to make sure that Katsuki didn’t learn anymore than he already did because Deku didn’t trust him. Because Deku realized from the beginning Katsuki’s real intentions for wanting to be his friend. That Katsuki had been lying too.

 

Deku didn’t need a friend like that. Deku needed an actual friend. Someone he could trust and someone who could help him. Katsuki wasn’t so certain he could be that, though. Wasn’t sure if he was the right person for that job. But he wanted to be better. He had already gone this far, so Katsuki was determined to finish what he started. He would become Deku’s friend and he would earn the trust. He would find out Deku’s secrets and he would get the boy to tell him himself.

 

Later that night Katsuki had been researching learning disabilities because Deku wanted to go to bed early and Katsuki still felt raw from his talk with Auntie Inko, so he had gone to bed too. Deku had hesitantly lifted his mask just a tiny bit to answer Katsuki’s question. And Katsuki could only stare into the darkness and understand that this hole was far deeper than he had originally anticipated. And that he had to be prepared for the long-haul.

 

Well, Katsuki was nothing if not determined to win. The stakes had changed and positions had altered, but the game wasn’t over yet. It was time for some new tactics.

Chapter Text

His couple of days off from school were definitely not as relaxing as Izuku had hoped they would be, but he still felt prepared to take on school again by the time Monday came. His talk with his mother had restored some of his fragile heart and Sunday had allowed him to spend the day planning for his mission. He had only cried once when he thought too hard about it and remembered that he was going to have a hand in the possible fall of All Might (making his room even more difficult to be in).

 

Monday morning had Kacchan waiting for him outside of the gate again to walk with him. Izuku straightened and held him a little stiffly. He wasn’t going to bother to fake around Kacchan when they were alone, Izuku had decided. That would not mean he would tell him everything, but it seemed to keep Kacchan calm when Izuku wasn’t faking in front of him when they were alone. Rather, that observation was based on the last time they had walked home together. As it was, Izuku didn’t bother to trail behind Kacchan like normal. He took great strides forward and didn’t wait to start walking away from Kacchan.

 

“What the fu- Wait up, Deku!” Kacchan called when he realized that Izuku was just walking off without him. Izuku said nothing and Kacchan hurried to match his stride. He moved a little bit faster so he was walking a little ahead. Izuku sped up to be a little faster than him , annoyed by the action. Kacchan growled lowly and walked even faster, practically jogging. Izuku’s eyes met his and a current of competition ran through both of them. Izuku was the first to break into a sprint with Kacchan immediately starting afterwards. There was some shoving along the way and some shouting from both as they attempted to reach the train station before the other. Kacchan crowed his victory as he barely beat Izuku to the entrance to the station when he had given a pointed shove to the other boy right before the end.

 

“Jerk.” Izuku muttered as they both stood on the platform and panted from the race. His uniform was sticking uncomfortably to his skin from his sweat, but he was certainly more awake.

 

“You’re still slow as shit, Deku.” Kacchan responded with that smug aura of victory still clinging to him. Izuku was whipped right back to hot summer days in their childhood chasing after Kacchan. Back then he had never been fast enough to beat the other boy. Now he was certain that he could do it. He just needed his quirk.

 

“You were shoving me half of the time. I almost ran into someone because of you!”

 

“Get better at dodging, then.” Kacchan sneered and shoved his hands into his pants. He looked away at the incoming train, and Izuku took the chance to plant a foot into his ass and force him to stumble to the side. Kacchan let out an instinctive curse and regained his footing quickly to spin on Deku.

 

“Get better at dodging.” Deku mocked.

 

“I’LL KILL YOU, YOU LITTLE-!!” Whatever insult he was about to throw at Deku, though, was interrupted by the station guards. The two of them were briefly scolded for screwing around on a train platform before they were left alone. Kacchan scowled after the guard. Izuku bit his lip to resist the small smile that threatened to form.

 

Their trip to UA was uneventful after that up until they reached the school gate. It was crowded with reporters who were trying to talk to multiple students. Izuku blinked. He hadn’t taken into consideration that with the breaking of the news that All Might was working at the school reporters would flood in to try to talk to the hero. He watched as both Uraraka and Iida were stopped and briefly interviewed. He wondered if there was a way around the crowd.

 

Kacchan was the first to move forward. Izuku could tell just by the deadset expression on his face that he wasn’t even going to humor the reporters. Izuku followed after him this time as he weaved through the crowd. Questions about All Might were thrown at them left and right. They wanted to know about the hero’s teaching methods and the students’ opinions on him.

 

One microphone was thrusted into his face by a news reporter who asked, “What do you think of All M...Wait, aren’t you the kid from that villain kidnapping?!”

 

“Is it really?!” Another asked.

 

“Midoriya-kun! That’s your name, right?!”

 

“Did you decide to become a hero after everything that had happened?”

 

Izuku opened his mouth nervously, sweat forming on his skin as words refused to come out of his mouth. There were too many people around him. He didn’t like it. There were so many microphones being pushed into his face. “I…”

 

A hand found the back of his uniform and yanked him away from the crowd. Izuku glanced up at Kacchan as the boy turned his dark face on the reporters. “Screw off!!” He growled, and a couple of the adults actually flinched back at the anger in his voice. Izuku only stared at Kacchan in surprise before he was dragged off, yelping at the rough treatment. Kacchan didn’t release him until they were both past the gate. The reporters couldn’t come in through there without a student ID or allowance to be there.

 

Izuku watched as the school gate automatically closed so that they couldn’t follow after the students. It was a heavy, multi-layered door that could handle most quirks. Izuku remembered reading up on it when he had been studying the school and the various security systems that were available for the public to know. He was sure that there were more outside of the gate, wall, and sensors around the school, but those secrets were kept by the teachers.

 

“Thanks, Kacchan.” Izuku sighed now that he could breathe again. The gate was opening to allow more students in. The reporters turned to preying on them instead.

 

“Just tell them to leave you alone next time, idiot.” Kacchan scolded and turned away from him to keep walking. Izuku glanced back at the gate one more time before following him.

 

“It doesn’t work for you, so I doubt it would work for them.” He responded dryly. Kacchan shot him a glare at that. Izuku sent him a sly smirk before he heard his name called by Uraraka. He pulled on “Izuku” and smiled brightly at the sight of her. Kacchan made a mildly disgusted sound next to him and wandered off.

 

“Deku-kun! Did you get stopped by the reporters too? Isn’t it so exciting? I might be on TV!” She said in a rush, hopping excitedly next to him. Izuku blushed a little at how close she was. She was a ray of sunshine that he couldn’t stare directly at even though he wanted to admire how cute she was.

 

“I did, but I didn’t talk with them.” He scratched at the back of his head with a short laugh. “They started asking about my past rather than All Might when they realized it was me.”

 

Uraraka gasped in offense. “How could they?! I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah. Kacchan -surprisingly enough- got me out of there.”

 

“I guess you guys really are becoming friends!” Uraraka leaned around Izuku to peek at Kacchan’s retreating back before straightening again. “I’m happy for you!”

 

Izuku wished that he was the type of person that could tell her that Kacchan wasn’t actually his friend and didn’t want to be. Friends don’t try to force secrets out of you. “Haha, I don’t know.” He shrugged.

 

“Shall we walk to class together, then?” She asked as they both began their trek to the classroom. Izuku didn’t know why she had to ask, but he liked it. Unfortunately he had other things to take care of. He had to make a revision to his plan now that he had the new factors added in. Good; that meant his job would be a lot easier.

 

“You can go ahead. I have to actually use the bathroom first.”

 

“Oh, okay! I’ll see you in class, then!” He waved as she joined the stream of students entering the school. Izuku then turned and walked quickly towards one of the bathrooms away from the entrance to the school. Luckily there weren’t too many students loitering in the area near the gym since it wasn’t too close to the classrooms. He entered the bathroom and checked the entire place before he locked the door and pulled out his phone.

 

Deku dialed a familiar number and tucked himself into one of the corners. He kept an eye on the gap at the bottom of the bathroom door for any kind of shadows. The phone rang for a little while and then reported that there was no voicemail before ending the call. Deku called once more to the same result. He frowned in irritation as he tried a third time. This time the phone was answered.

 

“What.” Shigaraki grumbled. “I was sleeping.”

 

“Now you know my pain.” Deku responded, feeling some satisfaction in his petty revenge. “I need your help.”

 

“With what?” Deku could practically hear the man oozing self-satisfaction.

 

“If I’m to get the information we need, we need to make it look like an outside job. I want you to destroy the school gates and allow the reporters that are outside to enter the school.”

 

“You can’t do it yourself?”

 

“Your quirk is better suited for it, and that will make it look like someone broke in. Better than having the heroes suspect that a student from the inside took the plans when you invade.”

 

Shigaraki was silent for a little bit. Finally he said, “Text me the time.”

 

Deku smiled at that. “Give me a few minutes and I will.”


 

He didn’t expect it, but his teacher suddenly decided they needed a class president and vice president. Izuku felt his heart spike with excitement because this would be good leadership skill. Any class presidents would be respected and it would look good on a hero resumé. But Izuku couldn’t take the role even if he wanted it. That would take up even more of his time in the day as well as put him in too high of a position. He still needed to maintain his mediocrity in class.

 

Despite that, he had screwed himself. He received the most votes in class even though he didn’t vote for himself. Most of the class had voted for themselves, but a couple of them had voted for Izuku with Yaoyorozu coming in second. He supposed that he should’ve seen this coming considering how they had both done in the test with All Might. Both had proven to be valuable tacticians. If this was literally any other day, Izuku might have been glad.

 

“You’ve gotta be shitting me! Who voted for Deku?! He didn’t even raise his hand!” He heard Kacchan growl at one point.

 

“I guess it’s my loss today.” Yaoyorozu sighed with a reluctant smile. Izuku felt even worse stealing the win from her considering she had actually wanted it. But looking over at Iida he felt the pressure of guilt increase at the boy’s over-dramatic defeat. Even though he had voted for Iida, three people had somehow ended up voting for him instead.

 

He decided that he would have to find a way out of it later, maybe. It was low on his list of priorities at the moment. He just wanted to get the morning done and over with so he could go back to his normal life. He had to admit that the lapse into such a normal school activity was good at throwing him off.

 

On his best days Izuku struggled to grasp what he was learning in class, but today was worse than usual. His mind wasn’t on class at all because he would soon need to risk everything. He believed that his plan was fine enough, but there was still a lot of information he lacked. He wished that he hadn’t been so cocky and had told the villains he would have the information by tomorrow. He had been foolish for not doing some reconnaissance first. He had to follow through now no matter what. With Shigaraki’s help it should be easier.

 

He was antsy, but at least his lack of focus was shared amongst the class. They were all heroes, but they were still teenagers who grew more and more anxious as lunch time approached. Izuku could tell that Aizawa-sensei was choosing to ignore all of the shifting around while he was teaching. Izuku waited until his teacher turned to face the class again and shot his hand up.

 

“You want to answer this question, Midoriya?” Aizawa-sensei asked.

 

Izuku quickly shook his head. “A-Ah, no! I just...I need to use the bathroom.”

 

Aizawa-sensei didn’t look impressed. “You can’t wait until lunch?” He glanced at the clock. It would be a few minutes until the bell rings.

 

Izuku shook his head and tried to look nervous. The only time his shaking ever helped him was when he needed to act particularly pathetic. Maybe it was some kind of instinct ingrained in humans, but a trembling person always evoked either sympathy or scorn in people.

 

“Sorry, but I don’t feel good.”

 

Aizawa-sensei sighed with the weight of a teacher who has heard all of these lies before from students but still had no real reason to deny it. Nor the will to follow through on it on that particular day. Izuku considered himself lucky. “Fine. But leave your stuff here so you can pick it up before you go to lunch.”

 

“Yes, sir!” Izuku hurried to stand and ignored the rest of his class to rush out of the door with the impatience of someone who has been holding their piss for too long. He waited until he was a good distance away and broke into a sprint to head towards the bathrooms nearest to his target. He slowed down as he spotted the office of his aim and peeked through the door with all the appearance of a curious student. He saw a few teachers lounging inside and chatting. A single receptionist. He tucked himself inside of the bathroom and then proceeded to wait.

 

He used the restroom properly and washed his hands and face. He lifted his gaze to stare at the water dripping off his skin and into his own eyes. His normally bright eyes were darker with the weight of his thoughts. He touched the mirror and tried to figure out what was different from this face and the past Izuku’s. Maybe it was the scar on his forehead? Maybe it made him look tougher. Izuku only thought that it was rather ugly to look at.

 

The bell for lunch rang then. The patter of various shoes and the chatter of students filled the halls outside. Izuku found a window in the bathroom and checked it again. He could easily open the window and with some shuffling he could get through it. There was a tree outside that was too far for a normal jump, but if Izuku could get his foot on the ledge right, he was certain he could at least grab a branch. Hopefully nobody would hear the tree over the sound of the alarm later. It was a risk, but the fall wouldn’t be enough to kill him if he didn’t make it anyway.

 

He waited a few more minutes, pacing the bathroom. At one point someone came in, but he ducked into a stall to not be seen. He glanced at his phone to see the time. It was one minute past the time he had given Shigaraki. Anxiety spiked because he wasn’t sure if Shigaraki had succeeded. He didn’t have a way of checking from his angle in the building.

 

The alarm blared then, making him jump from his seat on the toilet, but he instantly went into action then. He whipped off his shoes and socks and opened the window to toss them outside. His bare feet had better grip on smooth flooring of the school. He pulled on a set of gloves as well so that he would leave no fingerprints. He opened the bathroom door to see the teachers rushing from the entry point to Deku’s target. He counted each of them and glanced around the hallway before rushing to the door. He only had a few moments to do this.

 

It was his luck that all of the teachers had left. As he had suspected, Shigaraki’s unique quirk was enough to set off an alert so high that all of the staff was responding to it. Downstairs Deku could hear the rush of students all yelling at the same time over the alarm. Deku steeled himself and entered the room. He activated Snapshot and took in everything he would need from the room.

 

There were no cameras. He was sure that any kind of information on U.S.J. was probably in the filing cabinets back there. The room was slightly messy from the rush of all of the staff running to leave and find out what was happening. The room would not allow for him to leave footprints due to the flooring, which was good considering he had a unique footprint. He gave himself three minutes at most and breathed out to release Snapshot.

 

Deku rushed forward to the filing cabinets and yanked them open. His eyes scanned the labels with a speed he had developed from training time and again under a time constraint. His brain was barely registering the words before he was moving on to the next cabinet. He spent a solid minute searching before he found what he was looking for.

 

He pulled out the plans and immediately spread them on the desk. He pulled out his phone and took multiple snaps while also briefly reading the contents himself. He knew that U.S.J. had some good security systems, but this was something else. Did UA also have this stuff, or was it unique? Deku wished that he had time to also look for more information, but he couldn’t. He doubted he would have a second chance, but this was a sacrifice he had to make.

 

He used his last minute to make sure everything was exactly as he had left it before he dashed out of the room and shut the door. He ran back into the bathroom and was out through the window in the next moment. He paused on the tiny edge of the windowsill to judge his strength and angle before launching himself at the tree.

 

Deku didn’t quite reach it. Not enough to land in, anyway. However, he did get far enough for his hand to grab the tree branch. Reflexes had him barely hanging onto it with the tips of his fingers. His body swung with momentum and he followed through with it. He released the branch to flip backwards as he fell and grabbed a second branch properly. He was low enough then that he just flung himself off and landed on the ground.

 

He took a breath and activated Snapshot for a second time to scan his surroundings. There were some reporters passing by, but nobody was looking at the student who had just appeared from above. Deku didn’t doubt that they were all rushing to find All Might as soon as possible. Deku was plain enough to not stand out as he released Snapshot and ignored his migraine before grabbing his shoes and socks. He ducked into the nearest entrance to the school and yanked his footwear back on.

 

Deku was riding his adrenaline high and grinning at his success. He had just done that! He had just managed to steal information! It was amazing how easy UA was when you were already on the inside! Heroes could be so easy to fool if you were smart enough. And Deku had to thank his training to be able to have pulled that off so easily. Now he just needed to finish the day and steal away at some point to text all of the pictures over.

 

Izuku ran to go find the other students. They were all around the cafeteria trying to push each other in the rush to evacuate as instructed. However, they all came to a stop when Izuku heard Iida shout about the reporters triggering the alarm. He couldn’t see Iida, but his voice was loud enough for all of them.

 

Izuku only grinned wider as his plan worked. The reporters were a useful distraction. He would consider it revenge for that morning. On top of that, he believed that Iida had just resolved his second problem. He would see if he could convince his class if maybe Iida wouldn’t be the better class president.

Chapter Text

Izuku made it through the day without any kind of suspicion being placed upon him. He had texted the pictures of the plans to both Shigaraki and Kurogiri while he had been changing out of his gym uniform. He planned to read them on his own as well once he was home, and then he was going to delete all of the evidence from his phone. He had already researched how to do such a thing a few months back.

 

He was relieved when the day’s end approached so he could go home. He was ready to escape the school for a while. He couldn’t help but think about what was to come in the future. When would they be going to USJ? How was Izuku to prepare for it? Izuku pressed his knuckle to his mouth in thought.

 

Shigaraki said he was supposed to remain ignorant. Probably just to help keep his cover. He had said that he had an army on hand for the job as well as the Noumu for All Might. Would All Might be the one to take them to USJ? Was there some way Izuku could warn the heroes before it happened? Delay it somehow?

 

No, he couldn’t. Shigaraki would know or at least suspect Izuku if he did that. The heroes definitely had cause to be suspicious after what happened today, but he severely doubted that there was any clues left behind that would set the heroes off. He would have to keep his mouth shut.

 

The thought of All Might being killed, though...Izuku was terrified at the thought. He still didn’t know for sure why Shigaraki hated All Might. He wasn’t even sure what Master had against him either except that he was the enemy of all villains. Izuku had sensed that there was some kind of history between the three of them, but he didn’t have nearly enough clues to even begin to figure it out. Maybe he could ask Shigaraki next time he visited him?

 

“Oi, Deku!” Izuku pulled himself out of his thoughts to see Kacchan glowering at him. Did the bell ring? He must have missed it.

 

“Ah, sorry Kacchan!” He grabbed his bag and stood up.

 

“Don’t make me wait next time.” Kacchan grumbled but still waited for him to finish packing his stuff up. Izuku waved and said goodbye to his classmates before leaving. He was feeling buoyed between the high of his successful plot and the weight of his guilt that threatened to drag him undersea. He decided not to think of it for the time being considering he had the rest of the evening to do so.

 

Most of his walk with Kacchan was still filled with silence. Even after spending the night at his house, neither boy had anything to say to each other. Or, rather, Izuku had nothing that he really wanted to say to Kacchan. He was waiting for the other boy to bring up the other morning and what he had saw considering Izuku knew that his lie had been seen through. But Kacchan had yet to bring it up. It set Izuku on edge wondering when the other shoe was going to fall.

 

They both made it out of the school gate and through the crowd of students leaving. Izuku’s thoughts had turned towards how he was going to handle his homework tonight and if he should stop by the convenience store for something to snack on before dinner. He would have to text his mother first to see if she would want anything.

 

“What the hell?” Kacchan muttered next to him. Izuku glanced at him and spotted a confused frown on his face as he looked at something past Izuku’s shoulder. Izuku looked too as he realized he heard someone calling his name for a second time. He looked around for the voice, but didn’t find it until arms suddenly wrapped around his shoulders.

 

“Izu-kun~!” Izuku’s entire body stiffened as he recognized that voice and found his arms full of a familiar blond.

 

“Wha-What?!” Izuku quickly pushed her off and stumbled backwards. His body automatically moved between Toga Himiko and Kacchan as she straightened herself. Her slitted eyes were bright with joy and a big grin across her face as she spread her arms widely.

 

“Izu-kun, I was hoping to catch you! I haven’t seen you in foreeever!” She crooned.

 

“Who the fuck are you?” Kacchan demanded. Izuku’s eyes darted over Himiko to double check what was in her hands. She was dressed in her school uniform with no sign of her needles or her butterfly knife. It was enough to relax Izuku enough that he could breathe a sigh of relief. It didn’t mean the two of them were safe from her, but at least she wasn’t preparing to attack either of them.

 

“Ah! Is this, like, the famous ‘Kacchan’?” Himiko asked, ducking in close to lean on Izuku to stare at Kacchan. “He’s so tough looking! Hey, let’s be friends too! Any friend of Izu-kun’s is a friend of mine!”

 

“I don’t want to be your freaking friend!” Izuku had to admit that it was a little hilarious to see Kacchan so thrown off like this. He had even taken a step back. His eyes darted over the contact between Izuku and Himiko as Himiko continued to hang off of him. Izuku shifted her in his grip and tried to put a little bit of space between the two of them.

 

“Can I call you Kacchan as well? I’m going to, okay?” She responded despite Kacchan’s denial.

 

“You can’t!” Both Izuku and Kacchan responded, although one of angrier than the other.

 

Himiko looked to Izuku in surprise, mouth opening a little. She fully turned towards Izuku and allowed some space to form as she tilted her head to the side and grabbed her own wrists. “I can’t? Is it special to you? It can be special to me, too!”

 

Deku rolled his eyes and stared at her a little coldly. “His name is Bakugou Katsuki.”

 

Himiko blinked once before her smile broadened. “Bakkun, then!” She decided.

 

“Don’t just give me some shitty nickname, you stupid bun girl!” Kacchan yelled. He spun on Deku and pointed at the girl. “Hey fuckmunch, who is this crazy bitch?”

 

“He’s pretty funny, Izu-kun.” Himiko whispered in his ear with a giggle. Deku finally ducked out from under her arms and pushed her a little aside.

 

“This is Toga Himiko.” He finally introduced. “She’s…”

 

“Izu-kun’s my best friend and future boyfriend!” Himiko declared, clapping her hands together once cheerfully.

 

What .” Kacchan asked, voice going hard with his own shock. He was dumbfounded for just a moment before glaring at Deku. “You don’t have any friends, shitty Deku!”

 

“Ooh, he calls you Deku still!”

 

“Himiko, shut up.” Deku grumbled. “I’m not going to be your boyfriend. Why are you here, anyway?” Was she sent to fetch him? She wasn’t a famous villain, but nobody should know of his relationship with her. She was dangerous to have near Kacchan. She was too dangerous to be seen with him. What was she planning?

 

“We haven’t seen each other in so long.” Her hand found his. Deku allowed her to because that meant he had a grip on her at all times. He made sure she was always on his other side away from Kacchan. “I wanted to see you~ And I know you had school today so...I, like, waited for you!”

 

“Are you serious right now? What the hell is this bullshit?” Kacchan demanded. “Since when do you know people from other schools?”

 

“We train together!” Himiko told him. “Izu-kun, let’s walk home together!”

 

“No.” Deku immediately denied. “If you wanted to hang out, you should’ve texted me.” If we’re supposed to train tonight, why didn’t you message me? He meant.

 

Himiko’s smile didn’t dim as she swung her hand in his. “I claimed your time first!” You’re coming with me.

 

“I’m walking home with Kacchan.” Go away now.

 

Himiko was up against him in the next moment. Deku resisted the flinch and the instinct to dodge away from her as his grip on her hand tightened to painful levels. Her tongue glanced his cheek before she brought her hand up to block her mouth as she whispered in his ear, “You...owe...me...Deku~” Her lips brushed against the shell of her ear with her every slow, punctuated word.

 

“Fine.” He murmured to her because honestly the thought of hanging with her was exciting. Either it would end up being a fun time, or a crazy time, or both. Either way, he was willing. Maybe he could get some information out of her, then. “I’ll text you later.” He promised.

 

“Okay! I’ll hold you to it!” She released Deku finally and backed away with a couple skips. She spun on her heel and waved to them both. “Bye bye, Izu-kun! Bakkun!”

 

“Don’t call me that shit!” Kacchan yelled back. Izuku could practically feel him vibrating with anger next to him. Deku only waved back as Himiko disappeared between the buildings. A few moments later he felt a buzz in his pocket from his phone. He didn’t doubt it was already from her.

 

Kacchan whirled on him immediately as Deku started walking again, wiping off his cheek with a grimace. “What the fuck was that?”

 

“Arguably a better nickname than what she gave me.”

 

“That stupid nickname better die before I kill her!” Kacchan snapped. “I meant, are you seriously training with that crazy girl?”

 

Deku frowned, disgruntled at Himiko for giving so much away. Kacchan really didn’t need to know anything more about his life or Izuku’s life. Especially Deku’s life. “Yes. She’s been teaching me some skills.”

 

“Like what?” Kacchan demanded. Deku recognized the shift in focus from his offended anger to serious curiosity. Izuku wondered if that meant he had impressed Kacchan with his moves during their practical training.

 

Deku rolled his head on his shoulders. He didn’t bother to hide his distaste from his face to show how little he wanted to talk about this as he said, “Speed and agility.”

 

“Oi, you don’t have to look like someone shit in your cereal!” Kacchan growled as they both entered the train station. “Is she the one who taught you your moves, then? What’s her quirk?”

 

Deku turned cold eyes on Kacchan then because he was tired of the questions. “I remember telling you that I wouldn’t tell you anything.” Kacchan sneered and Deku smirked without feeling behind it. “What happened to you figuring it out on your own?”

 

Kacchan looked irritated at that. Deku saw his jaw move as he grinded his teeth together. This kind of information was even more fun to hide from Kacchan because the other boy loved to fight. People underestimated Himiko, and Deku was still just glad to be learning her skills as well.

 

Finally the boy commanded, “Train with me, then.”

 

“What?” Deku laughed, surprised. “Seriously? What part of any of our conversation sounded like I was going to train with you?”

 

“Fuck you! I’m tutoring you in school, asshole!”

 

“We both saw how well that went last time.”

 

“Next time you’ll learn so much that your shit nerd brain will explode from it, you ungrateful son of a bitch!!” Kacchan shoulder-checked Deku as they both climbed onto their train. The crowd of students going home meant that they were once again left with no seats. Deku reached up to hold onto a hand grip. His shoulder smarted a bit. His head was still hurting despite his pain pills and his back was starting to sting from when Deku had accidentally ripped open wounds again. He would bandage them again when he got home.

 

“I don’t have time to train with you.” Deku told him. “My days are busy enough without that added on top of it.”

 

“What, going out and getting bloodied up at ass o’clock in the morning you mean?” Deku should’ve expected that. He knew that Kacchan wouldn’t let that go so easily. He met the red eyes of his companion with steely green ones of his own. Kacchan had that curious frown back on. That blank face that Deku hadn’t yet learned to see through. What kind of thoughts were going on in Kacchan’s head for him to be able to make that kind of face? Kacchan had always been somewhat easy to read because of his expression-filled face, but this was new. This was territory that Deku didn’t know. He needed to learn what it meant.

 

“Exactly.” Deku said slowly. Pointedly.

 

“In those stupid dress shoes you’d been wearing?” Kacchan glanced down at Deku’s shoes, but they were his usual red ones today. Kacchan’s eyes fell back on him.

 

“They have better grip.” Deku said, and it was surprisingly true.

 

“You had blood around your lips too.”

 

“That happens.”

 

“Why the fuck are you training that hard so early in the morning?!” Kacchan yelled, and they both received a number of glares and disapproving looks in the quiet of the train. Deku decided he was done with answering questions. He had been generous thus far. “Deku!”

 

However, Deku refused to speak to him anymore. Kacchan threw a shitfit next to him, hissing threats and the desire to kill him. Deku was unaffected by Kacchan’s anger anymore. He looked like a toddler next to the true threats he had received over the past couple of years. He pulled out his phone instead and texted Himiko to plan a meeting time with her. It had been too long since he had hung out with her, after all.


 

Izuku snuck out that night to go to the beach. It was a once-beautiful place that was now filled with trash because people had used it as a dumping site. It had started with just trash from the ocean winding up there, but humans had a tendency of ignoring their responsibilities for convenient excuses. Izuku liked to go down to that beach for the sound of the waves, but also because he entertained himself training amongst the trash. In the darkness of the deep night, the hulking figures of cars, tires, refrigerators, and other miscellaneous nonsense was rather creepy.

 

Nobody liked to go down to this portion of the beach because it was so unappealing to look at. Tonight, however, there was a figure swinging their legs from atop a fridge. Izuku approached and climbed up on top of a car to jump to a seat next to her. Himiko’s smile was easy to see even in the low light.

 

“There you are, Izu-kun! You kept me waiting!”

 

“Took longer than usual for my mom to fall asleep.” He looked at her. She was still wearing the same uniform as earlier. He wondered if she had gone home at all. Or if she even had a home. She seemed to prefer her school uniform in the time he had known her. He wasn’t even sure if that was her actual school uniform or not.

 

“What are you doing back in town so soon?” He asked. She stood up on her fridge and did a twirl on one foot. She wobbled like she would fall, but Izuku knew that she would be fine either way.

 

“Tomura has plans! Did you know about them? Are you part of them?” Himiko crouched so quickly and was in Izuku’s face before he could blink. Her speed was still incredible to him. Some preservation instinct said that he should be on his guard as her breath smelled of blood and her presence of death, but it was something he was used to.

 

He was never sure about any of the other villains he knew, but he was certain that Toga Himiko would not kill him. She might try to maim him, but not kill him. At least, not in moments like these. It was only when he was beaten and bloody did he run the risk of reminding her of her desire to “become” him. Deku would never allow it. Deku was strong enough now that he didn’t have to worry about her so much. He had bigger enemies.

 

“I’ve heard some, but Kurogiri stopped him from telling me everything.” Izuku frowned and pulled his knees to his chest. “I’m supposed to remain ignorant, apparently.”

 

“What a sourpuss!” Himiko hopped to the spot next to him and sat down. Her scent only became stronger, but a breeze from the ocean filled the air with salt and made it manageable. Izuku didn’t want to know where she had been during the hours they had been separated for her to smell like that. “Not that I can say anything. I’m not participating either.”

 

That was a surprise. “I thought he was bringing an army?” Why would he leave behind one of his strongest people?

 

“I didn’t want to go.” She said succinctly.

 

“It sounds like the kind of bloodbath you’d like.” Deku dropped his legs and leaned back on his arms instead. He couldn’t see very many stars due to light pollution, but looking at the sky was still such a pleasant experience. It reminded him that he was out of his prison, even if he wasn’t exactly free.

 

“I’m not really, like, into the thought of killing All Might.” She waved her fingers.

 

“Since when?”

 

Her bright smile turned bigger as she spun on him. In a quick movement she had him pressed down flat, sitting on his stomach and blocking his head with her two arms. She licked her lips as she salivated more, and Deku instantly put up his guard. His hands were free to punch her if he needed them. He could twist out of their position as well.

 

“Since I met Stain .” She moaned. She leaned closer to him and Deku felt sweat break out on the back of his neck. “You would love him, Izu-kun! He likes heroes as much as you do!”

 

“Who is that?” He asked somewhat hesitantly.

 

“The Hero Killer .” She whispered back excitedly. It was no longer safe to have her so close to him.

 

“Get off, Himiko, or I’ll remove you.”

 

“Aww, Izu-kun~ Don’t be jealous!” She giggled but did sit up. She didn’t get off of him, but the immediate threat had lessened if she was willing to get out of his face. Her hands came up to her cheeks and she wiggled with glee. “He’s so sexy , Izu-kun! I saw him in action tonight! I stalked him and saw him covered in blood and hnng !”

 

Deku made a face, uncomfortable at her making those sounds on top of him. Usually she was much more aware of the fact that she was a girl and he was a boy. He hoped she would get a grip soon.

 

“A hero killer who likes heroes?” He asked, pushing her off of him. She fell to the side, but caught herself. Deku rolled out from under her and scooted back a bit to get some space.

 

“Yeah!” She laughed and straightened herself, pulling herself back onto the fridge and patting it quickly with her hands. “I talked to him after one of his kills! He told me about how he only kills fake heroes!” At Deku’s confused look, she leaned forward and raised a finger in explanation, “There are a ton of heroes out there, right? But only some of them are real heroes! The heroes that are out there to actually help people and risk their lives to do it!”

 

“Isn’t that all of them?”

 

Himiko shrugged. “No, not from what I’ve seen.” She didn’t explain. Deku would have to think on it later.

 

“What does that have to do with All Might, then?”

 

“OBVIOUSLY…” Himiko shouted cheerfully and then lowered her voice. Her eyes had that crazed look in them that set Deku on edge, “he’s the truest hero! Stain thinks he’s the definition of a hero, and I, like, agree!”

 

“So...You don’t want All Might dead?”

 

“Nope!” She popped the ‘p’ of the word. “Besides, I’m more interested in talking more with Stain. I want to know everything about him. I want to drink his blood and become him, y’know?”

 

“I’ve heard that before, yes.” Deku responded dryly.

 

“Jealous~” She sing-songed, rolling onto her stomach and kicking her feet in the air. “I love you more, Izu-kun!” Izuku was perfectly fine with Himiko turning her affections elsewhere. Ugh. “So tell me,” her manic gaze suddenly became sharp and unyielding with her wide eyes staring at him. That look, more than any kind of manic look, made Deku tense in preparation. She always looked that way before she attacked. He made sure to keep his attention solely on her, “what about you, Izu-kun? Do you want to be a true hero?”

 

Deku was frozen, realizing he was trapped. If he said no, he was almost certain Himiko would attack. He could fend her off, but not without some damage. He needed to keep his adventures outside and his training as hidden as possible. It was bad enough that Kacchan now knew that he trained with Himiko. If her own bloody tendencies became known to the public eye, then Kacchan would learn he was still in contact with the villains.

 

But if he said that he did want to be a proper hero then Himiko might tell Shigaraki. And if Shigaraki learned that Deku wasn’t faking his training to become a hero and wasn’t actually a villain, then Izuku and his loved ones were screwed. It would be just like Master and Shigaraki to kill off one of the people Deku loved as a true threat. He had too many weak points. Taking out one would only increase the risk of the others.

 

This was a matter of immediate threat on Deku’s life. He needed to be careful. Playing with Himiko was often like walking a minefield.

 

“You know that I’m only in that school as a spy, right?” He asked her.

 

“Is that so?” She asked curiously, tilting her head.

 

Deku smiled mockingly. “You really think that I can become a hero?”

 

Himiko only smiled back. Her smile crinkled her eyes as she murmured, “Do you?”

 

And Izuku didn’t respond because he honestly didn’t know anymore.

Chapter Text

When Izuku had passed on the plans for USJ to Shigaraki and Kurogiri, he hadn’t expected his class to be going to USJ the next day. He didn’t think that the teachers would do that considering the destruction of the front gate the day before. It was the main reason he had decided to hang out with Himiko and train the night before. He regretted that now because he was a little sore, although he did manage to get some interesting information about the villain Stain. Izuku had yet to do any research on him, though.

 

When Aizawa-sensei told them Tuesday that they would be leaving campus for the afternoon training, Izuku’s heart rate spiked even more. He kept his face with slack curiosity while his classmates questioned their teacher and then got excited at the prospect of rescue training. Izuku couldn’t join in with them, though, as he gathered up his hero uniform and joined the boys in trekking to the changing rooms. His mind was filled with static.

 

All Might is going to die. All Might is going to die. All Might is going to die.

 

Was there any way he could prevent this? Izuku felt like he was going into a war zone with nothing but the clothes on his back. His entire body felt too stiff and rigid even as he walked with ease. A part of him wanted to scream at Aizawa-sensei to cancel to lesson. He wanted to blow his cover and just confess everything. Beg for him to stop the trip so All Might would live. All Might couldn’t die for Izuku. Izuku wasn’t worth it. He wasn’t worth the Symbol of Peace’s life. He couldn’t be the reason All Might died .

 

Izuku found his breath coming too quickly. His body was cold and the back of his neck was numb. He felt like his stomach was going to turn inside out as tears rolled down his cheeks. He told himself to get it together, but it only freaked him out more that he was losing it. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t go there. He had to tell someone. He had to put a stop to this. He wasn’t worth it. He wasn’t worth it!

 

“Midoriya!” A hand touched his back, and Izuku’s entire body rejected the sensation. He jerked away and backed up against the lockers. It was clatter of his body hitting the lockers loud enough to attract the attention of his nearby classmates. Kaminari was the one standing near him, his hand extended and looking shocked at the reaction. He immediately held up his hands. “Whoa, are you okay?”

 

Izuku couldn’t respond. He could barely breathe. Where was the door? Where was Aizawa-sensei? Where was the nearest window so he could throw himself out of it and run far away? He wanted to pound his fists against something to bring some sensation back to them. Make himself bleed and hurt so he could regain control. He couldn’t be freaking out like this. He couldn’t think!

 

“He’s having a panic attack.” Todoroki’s voice was far away. Izuku eyes followed the movement of his classmates as Todoroki motioned for them to move back. His heterochromatic eyes were watching him with more sympathy than he had ever seen the boy display, although his face didn’t change much. “Give him room.”

 

“What happened to you, Midoriya!?” Iida asked. “Do you need me to get a nurse?”

 

“Someone should call Recovery Girl!” Mineta suggested.

 

“I will-!”

 

“He said stand back, dumbasses!” Kacchan shouted, pushing his way to the front of the crowd. Izuku felt shame mix into him as his legs gave up on him and he was forced to sink to the floor. Kacchan stared at him for a moment before whirling around on their classmates. “What the hell happened to him?!”

 

“I just saw him start freaking out!” Kaminari said. “He sounded like he was breathing weird, so I touched him and…” He motioned to Izuku.

 

“I’m going to get Recovery Girl.” Tokoyami announced.

 

“I-I-I-I’m fine!” Izuku shouted quickly, and his classmates paused. They were all watching him warily, shuffling with the need to help but unsure how. Izuku tried to clench his jaw and stop his hyperventilating. His chest hurt. He gripped it tightly and forced himself to stand. He wanted to be away from all of the eyes watching him. “I just...Just give me a minute. P-Please.”

 

“Are you sure?” Shouji asked, forming a hand on one of his appendages to speak.

 

Izuku hated himself. He hated that he had worked himself up to this point. This was too often. He shouldn’t be having panic attacks this often. His therapist had warned that sometimes panic attacks can trigger another faster, but he thought he was better. He didn’t realize how much stress this was putting him under.

 

He was exposing himself. Izuku shouldn’t be having panic attacks over seemingly nothing. A hero shouldn’t be freaking out like this. He was looking weak in front of his classmates. They could use this against him in the future. They could tell people that he wouldn’t be a good hero. That he wasn’t strong enough. This was blackmail material. Izuku couldn’t let anyone have anymore blackmail over him.

 

“Come here.” Kacchan grabbed his bicep. Izuku flinched at his touch and tried to pull away, but Kacchan wouldn’t let him. His grip wasn’t too tight, but it was firm enough to keep him there.

 

“Bakugou-” Todoroki and Iida both tried, but Kacchan cut them off with a sharp, “Shut the fuck up.”

 

Against his will, Izuku was dragged away. Kacchan led him to the bathrooms that connected to the locker rooms and shut the door behind him. He locked it and then released Izuku, who was still only in his undershirt with the top of his hero costume hanging around his hips. He hugged himself and shivered as he gasped through his sobs. He didn’t stop staring at Kacchan.

 

Kacchan only met his eyes before frowning and looking away. “Finish letting it out, Deku. It’ll hurt you more if you try to fight it.”

 

“H-How would you kn-know?” Izuku challenged, trying to fight his fear with anger instead. It was like slipping on a second skin in a situation like this as Deku easily pulled forward. Deku bared his teeth at Kacchan.

 

“Common sense!” Kacchan responded, gaze snapping back to Deku at the hostile tone.

 

“Liar.” Deku snapped.

 

“Real fuckin’ ironic coming from you!” Kacchan automatically countered angrily. Deku attempted to wipe the tears from his face, but more quickly replaced them. It was hurting his chest more to bite back his gasps. “ Breathe , moron!” Kacchan scolded, but his voice was just a shade softer. Less angry, but still tight with discomfort. “Breathe through it.”

 

“F-Fuck you.” Deku gasped.

 

“I’m trying to help you, motherfucker!” Deku couldn’t help but laugh at that. It was a little crazed sounding, but it helped to relieve a bit of his tension.

 

Don’t think about it . Deku told himself. He repeated it in his head as he hid his face in his arm so Kacchan couldn’t see it. He didn’t want Kacchan to see him then. The darkness helped to soothe him. The ringing in his ears didn’t seem so loud. He could hear Kacchan breathing louder than normal. Deku was tempted to fight him more about this (why the hell was Kacchan helping him? He didn’t get it. To get on his good side? This wouldn’t work) but instead he matched the other boy’s breathing. It only took a couple minutes for him to grasp some semblance of control again and his panic receded in slow increments.

 

Only when he was feeling well enough did he drop his arm. Izuku was still shaken and was a little more drained than before. This was a short one. He reluctantly opened his eyes to look at Kacchan who wasn’t looking at him anymore. The boy had turned around to give Izuku some privacy. Against his will, Izuku appreciated that.

 

“...I’m good.” He murmured.

 

“...What happened to set you off?” Kacchan asked in a soft voice that Izuku hadn’t heard before.

 

He stared at Kacchan’s back and thought about how he wanted to expose himself. How he had wanted to give up his cover and risk everything for All Might. How he couldn’t actually handle the pressure he was being put under. It would be so easy to just talk and let it all out.

 

But looking at Kacchan only made him think of long summer days during his childhood. The fun times he’d had despite how mean Kacchan had been. He thought of the funny and sweet ways that the Auntie Mitsuki and Uncle Masaru had shown their affection to Izuku and his mother. Izuku thought of his mother waiting at home for him and how much he had cried when he had first seen her again after his kidnapping. He felt his resolve harden again.

 

Izuku wasn’t worth All Might’s life, but they were worth it. Even if it would probably tear out more of Izuku’s already wrecked heart if All Might really and truly did die. He wouldn’t forgive himself if anything happened to them. It would end him for sure. He couldn’t let it happen if he could help it.

 

“Just…” He had to make up a lie. Just something to tell him. Kacchan deserved that for helping him, as much as he hated to admit that. “The...the thought of the rescue...just triggered some things in me...memories.”

 

“Of the villains?” He asked in that same soft tone. He glanced over his shoulder at Izuku. His eyes fell to some of the scars on Izuku’s shoulders and exposed chest. The discoloration of his neck.

 

Izuku grabbed his arm and rubbed it. “Yeah.”

 

Kacchan said nothing in response to that. Instead he nodded and unlocked the door to leave. He closed it behind him to leave Izuku alone to gather himself up. He had escaped that relatively unscathed. He stayed in the bathroom to finish changing and washing his face before joining the others back in the locker room. A couple of them came up to ask him if he was okay, but most of them didn’t know him well enough to have the confidence to ask. They all watched him a little nervously. He could sense their desire to help and regretted his thoughts from earlier that they were going to somehow use his panic against him. He hated exposing his trauma. Izuku lost himself in finishing getting ready to leave.

 

Nobody bothered him after that. Aizawa-sensei had scolded them for the delay, but everyone covered for Izuku. Kirishima claimed they were having too much fun talking. Izuku stayed quiet and focused on not losing it again.

 

When Iida led the way onto the bus and instructed everyone on how to sit, Izuku had to pull himself back to reality. The loud static in his ears became the white noise of all of his classmates chattering with each other. He looked around but didn’t see All Might. He frowned at that.

 

“Did Aizawa-sensei say that All Might was joining us?” He asked, looking to his neighbor. He was a little surprised to see Kaminari, although the boy was spun around and kneeling on his seat to talk to the people behind them.

 

“Yeah, man. Weren’t you listening?” Kaminari straightened his back in a stretch. Izuku was glad that he didn’t seem to be treating him any differently after that fiasco earlier.

 

“Where is he?” Izuku wanted to keep an eye on the hero. There had to be a way he could help.

 

“Probably coming later.”

 

“Dude, could you imagine All Might on a bus with us?” Kirishima asked, leaning forward so his spiky red hair was in Izuku’s vision. Izuku turned so he could see the seats behind him. It was Ashido and Kirishima sitting together, although Sero was also leaning forward from his spot behind them. “He would be huge!”

 

Ashido burst into excited laughter. “He would take up the entire back half of the bus on his own!”

 

“That guy is all muscle. The bumper of the bus would drag on the ground!” Sero said with a grin. Izuku pictured that and couldn’t help his own puff of laughter, covering his mouth.

 

“He probably doesn’t take the bus. He can just jump to where he needs to go!” Kaminari said with a wave of his hand.

 

“But still! ” Ashido laughed more. “The image of it!”

 

Izuku listened to his classmates’ laughter and wished that he could join in more. He wished that he knew more about Shigaraki’s plan so that he could feel more in control, but he also wished that he had no idea about it either. He would’ve rather been caught completely off-guard. Now all he could picture was how scared his classmates would soon be. Unlike them, Izuku was used to the terror. He had fought in real battles and had survived. Even if Shigaraki ordered the villains to attack him as well, he would be fine. He hoped none of them blew his cover. Master would probably kill them if they did.

 

His eyes drifted over to Kacchan, who was ignoring everyone with his arms crossed. Izuku felt a familiar fear coat his tongue. Were the villains ordered not to hurt Kacchan? Or kill him? He doubted that Shigaraki had given that order. He doubted the villain army even knew who Kacchan was. He also very much hoped they didn’t know what he looked like. There was a possibility that Kacchan could die today as well.

 

Deku would make sure that if Kacchan died, he would burn the entire place to the ground himself.


 

USJ was a gigantic place full of simulated destruction. Izuku marvelled at the complexity of the building just as he had when he had read over the security plans for the place. There were different zones to represent different kinds of destruction. And Pro-Hero Thirteen was there to explain everything.

 

Izuku didn’t have to fake his excitement as he and Uraraka vibrated together while the gentlemanly hero spoke. Thirteen had one of the coolest quirks that Izuku knew of with their quirk Black Hole. They could suck up anything into a void through the fingers of their suit, and anything that entered the black hole turned to dust. It made rescue operations much easier and faster, which is exactly why Thirteen was a rescue-primary Pro-Hero.

 

Izuku had studied the hero extensively, but he hadn’t been able to go to any of the sites that Thirteen appeared at for obvious reasons. He had attempted in the past to find a destroyed building during an attack in hopes of seeing Thirteen in action, but the Pro-Hero was usually dragged towards more extreme scenarios. This was the excuse Izuku had for not gathering as much information as he could on Thirteen. His master had yet to ask for the hero’s information, luckily, so Izuku continued to slack in his study. He didn’t like passing over information on rescue heroes. Plus the thought of his master with the Black Hole quirk was so frightening that Izuku tried not to think about it too much.

 

Before they could even be told what they would be doing that day, the pressure in the air changed in a familiar way. Izuku’s eyes quickly found the dark portal that materialized at the bottom of the large staircase that led towards the center of USJ. He saw Aizawa-sensei tense immediately when he saw it as well. Then the pale hand and hand-covered face of Shigaraki appeared. Izuku would wonder later what his day would have been like if he could’ve been able to do the rescue simulation like normal.

 

“Huddle together and don’t move!!” Aizawa-sensei commanded as he spun towards Class 1-A. The class all froze having been startled. None of them had noticed the portal yet. “Thirteen!! Protect the students!”

 

All at once the rest of his class saw the portal. Izuku could only watch with horror as villains poured out of the portal Kurogiri had opened up. Some of them were horrifying to look at. Most villains tended to have quirks that would modify their bodies and make them more monstrous. They were the ones society rejected because they didn’t fit the standards of society. There were so many to look at (and a few he recognized) but his eyes fell on Noumu as the creature stepped through the portal and to Shigaraki’s side. His stomach howled with the echo of pain from only a few nights ago. It made him sick to see it again.

 

“What is that?!” Kirishima asked, lifting a hand to his eyes to shield them from the light above to see better. “Is this like that training pattern at the entrance exam?”

 

“Don’t move!” Aizawa-sensei yelled. “Those are villains!!!”

 

Izuku glanced at Kacchan as he stepped up next to him. His face was tense with his teeth bared at the enemy. Izuku could’ve sworn he had been on the other side of the class a moment ago. He was glad that Kacchan was in his sights, at least.

 

“Motherfuckers…!” Kacchan hissed under his breath. “How did villains get here ?”

 

“This is school property!” Yaoyorozu said, eyebrows drawing together as she looked back and forth between the two adult heroes and the villains. “Sensei, aren’t there security systems-?!”

 

“There should be. They must have someone who can short it out.” Thirteen said.

 

Izuku could hear the commotion going on around him, but he filtered it out. He ducked his hands into his pockets and pulled out his gloves and All Might lighter. He hated how soothed he felt at the metal digging into his fingers when he squeezed it. He pulled on the gloves.

 

Kurogiri began to partially reform enough in a swirling mist to have a human shape near Shigaraki. It was impossible to tell where he was looking because he lacked pupils as he stared at their group. It was deadly silent despite the roar of the different danger zones and considering how many villains had invaded. They had been trained enough to not speak or attack quite yet. Or they just knew who was really in charge. It really was an army.

 

“...Eraserhead and Thirteen…” Kurogiri said. “According to the teachers’ curriculum we procured before, All Might-san was supposed to be here, and yet…”

 

“I knew it. So yesterday was the doing of you louts.” Aizawa-sensei responded, clenching his jaw. Izuku bit his tongue.

 

Shigaraki was practically oozing with his own fury. Izuku recognized that same crazy aura from many different times he had infuriated Shigaraki. It was instinctive for Izuku to flinch. His eyes darted nervously to the Noumu.

 

“Where is he…” Shigaraki’s voice was rough and bubbling like oil waiting to be lit. Izuku was surprised they could hear it from as far away as they were. “We went through all of this trouble and rustled up so many of us to bring along. You can’t tell me All Might...the Symbol of Peace…” it was said like it was a disgusting thing in Shigaraki’s mouth, “isn’t here .”

 

Izuku’s shaking stopped and he pulled down his goggles over his face. He lifted his mouth guard as well. Kacchan tensed further seeing Izuku’s preparation. Shigaraki’s head tilted back as a wave of murderous intent filled the room. The villains vibrated like hungry wolves realizing the slaughter of lambs was in front of them. Izuku gritted his teeth. Aizawa-sensei pulled down his own goggles and whipped the ends of his neck cloth. His hair rose away from his face in preparation.

 

There was a grin in Shigaraki’s voice as he said, “I wonder if he’ll show up if we kill the kids?”

 

The next few moments were a blur. His classmates were somewhat panicked as they turned to their teachers for help. Aizawa-sensei didn’t stick around after a few short commands as he chose to deal with the group of villains on his own. Izuku worried for him immediately, but also knew that Eraserhead’s specialty was in large groups. The man would most likely be able to fend for himself for now, but that depended on if Shigaraki sent the Noumu after him. Every part of him urged him to chase after his teacher to grant him back up, but that would mean his classmates would have less protection.

 

Izuku needed to set goals for this mission right away. He needed to get his priorities straight because for once he was a hero and not a villain. He wasn’t fighting just for his survival right then. In this case, his classmates were all but civilians. Izuku was all but a pro at surviving.

 

Priorities, Izuku! He mentally yelled at himself. List them!

 

Number 3: Help the teachers.

 

He felt more than saw Kurogiri materialize behind the group of his classmates. He had memorized the sensation of the air shifting as his portals opened up. He barely heard the polite way Kurogiri mentioned their desire to kill All Might and him questioning where the hero was.

 

Number 2: Protect my classmates.

 

Izuku spun on his heel and snapped his lighter open in one smooth, perfected move. The fire responded instantly to his pull as he stretched it taut for a whip. He heard the caps of Thirteen’s suit fingers pop off. Kacchan was already leaning forward. Izuku knew what he was planning to do.

 

Number 1: Don’t let Kacchan die.

 

Izuku, Kacchan, and Kirishima all launched themselves at Kurogiri at the same time as the man’s quirk began to spread through the air. Izuku knew that physical attacks like what the three of them were known for wouldn’t work well on Kurogiri’s mist, but he pretended he didn’t. Kirishima struck out with a hardened kick as Izuku spun and slashed down with his fire whip, catching it in Kacchan’s explosion as the three of them hit Kurogiri together. The explosion was enough to scatter Kurogiri away from his body a little.

 

“Bet you didn’t think we’d be able to do you in before you got the chance!” Kirishima yelled.

 

“Bragging again...” Deku muttered and yanked his flame back to him with a swipe of his arm. It was more powerful after gathering up some of Kacchan’s explosion in it.

 

Kurogiri was unaffected, though. He just gathered himself back to his body with a small noise of interest. “That was quite perilous.” He said. “To be expected. Though you may be mere students, you are also the hero world’s ‘golden eggs’.”

 

“It’s no use!” Thirteen shouted, catching the attention of the three students. They pointed their open fingertips at Kurogiri in preparation to use their quirk. “Run, you three!”

 

Kurogiri didn’t even give them a chance to even move before his body basically exploded outwards. His black mist surrounded them in a cold roar as his voice echoed without a mouth to project it. “ You will be scattered. ” Izuku stared into the familiar darkness without fear. “ And tortured. ” Kirishima tried to shout something, but Izuku couldn’t hear him as Kurogiri’s mist swallowed up all sound but his own.  “ Just as you once were, Midoriya Izuku .” Izuku stumbled at the sound of his own name.

 

You son of a bitch! Deku thought as he glared into the darkness hoping that Kurogiri could suddenly hear his thoughts. Kacchan’s eyes met his own then. There was an emotion there that Izuku never thought he would see in Kacchan’s eyes. Desperation. It made Izuku’s heart skip a beat in his chest. Izuku reached towards Kacchan without thinking, determined not to be separated. Kacchan reached back and grasped his forearm before the darkness swallowed them all.

Chapter Text

Izuku blinked the darkness away to see a cracked and uneven floor appear beneath him. His grip on Kacchan’s arm was tight and he felt the other boy gripping him in return. Izuku fell with Kacchan right behind him. They released each other the moment they were both free of Kurogiri’s portal and landed on the ground. Kacchan’s eyes locked onto the various enemies waiting for them while Izuku turned his attention to Kirishima. He was relieved to see the other boy had made it just fine and was on his feet as well.

 

“Look at the brat students!” One of the cronies sneered, pulling back the nose of his pig face. Izuku turned his eyes to the man and did a quick head count. There had to be at least fifteen people. Five for each of them. It would be easy.

 

“Shit, how did we get here?!” Kirishima said. He jerked his arms and his hands sharpened into sharp rock in preparation.

 

“He scattered us.” Izuku said. Kurogiri hadn’t brought Izuku’s fire with him, so he needed to make a new one. The villains were hovering around them already muttering and bragging. They honestly thought they could defeat three aspiring heroes? Let alone Izuku? It was hilarious. He pulled out his lighter again and pulled a new whip of fire from it.

 

“Easy.” Kacchan said with a ferocious grin.

 

That seemed to be the trigger the villains needed. They charged as a group, throwing themselves at one hero or another. Izuku heard the explosion go off next to him, and he aimed a kick to the knee of the villain nearest to him. They went down howling with a dislocated kneecap as Izuku pushed his fire snake through Kacchan’s explosions to gather up the fire. He didn’t need his whip yet anyway. He would need it later.

 

20% He reminded himself.

 

He ducked under the spit attack of another enemy and hit him with an elbow to the nose instead. He then grabbed the two protruding appendages on the villain’s face and yanked him forward to toss into another villain that Kirishima had just knocked his way. Kacchan launched himself over the both of them and shot another explosion upwards to spike himself down sharply. He mercilessly slammed his feet straight into the backs of two downed villains.

 

“Whoa!” Kirishima called. He didn’t notice the villain preparing a net behind him. Izuku spun on his heel and pulled his fire to him before launching it at the villain. He sliced through the net and sent the flames into the villain’s face. They shrieked, and Izuku darted forward to grab onto the villain’s belt. He could use that net, he decided as he spun to roundhouse kick the man. He went down with a flat thud as Izuku sent the fire towards Kacchan’s next victim for more power. He pulled the second net out of the downed man’s hands and threw it to tangle two more enemies.

 

Izuku threw himself back into the fray and joined Kirishima’s side to brawl with the villains. Kacchan seemed content to blow everyone away, so Izuku would leave him to it. Better than getting caught up in his attacks. He could feel the sweat rolling down his back, but a delightfully familiar burn ran through his chest as he fought. He was in his element and moved where his classmates did not. These people were easy to fight. This was a simple day of training. He had bigger things to worry about. He couldn’t even focus on his fights, although he did end up having a lot of fun and grinning.

 

It was over before they knew it. Izuku hadn’t even had to take a hit just to look weaker than he was. He would feel insulted with himself if he let these trash touch him. Shigaraki may have brought an army, but they were a shitty one. Was he trying to overwhelm the heroes with numbers? He needed to do better than that. He could’ve told Shigaraki that was a bad idea himself. These guys could barely use their stupid quirks.

 

Izuku needed to figure out where they were and get out of there immediately. Kacchan’s immediate safety was fine, so he needed to help his other classmates. They wouldn’t be able to beat Kurogiri by themselves, but they had Thirteen with them. What about the rest of the class that was also scattered? He doubted he had to worry about them if all of the villains were of this level. There were only a few of them that Izuku had to worry about.

 

“Is this all of them? Man, they were weak.” Kacchan said with a sigh, dropping the last of the enemies. Izuku lifted his goggles to his forehead and glanced around. They all seemed downed.

 

“Yeah.” Izuku said. Kacchan seemed to realize his presence then. His face shifted from calmer to angry again as he grabbed the edge of Izuku’s mouth guard and yanked him forward. Izuku couldn’t help his yelp.

 

“How the hell did that mist bastard know your name, Deku?” He demanded in a low growl. Izuku blinked and tried to find any kind of hint of that desperate look on Kacchan’s face from earlier, but it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he had imagined it? Kacchan never looked like that. “Is he a villain you know?”

 

Izuku shook his head quickly. “No! I don’t know him!”

 

Kacchan bared his teeth. Izuku really hated that Kacchan had caught onto his tells for lies. He needed to figure out what they were and get rid of them immediately. “He sure fucking seems to know you!

 

“The villains probably just know about me just like everyone else does!” Izuku held his hands up placatingly. His fire hovered behind him bloated with kinetic energy. Deku wanted to build it even more by burning the clothing of the villains around him, but a hero wouldn’t do that.

 

“Or he helped .” Kacchan’s anger no longer seemed focused on him. Izuku was just a convenient outlet.

 

“C’mon, guys!” Kirishima yelled to attract their attentions, pushing the two away from each other. Izuku readjusted his mouth guard. “We can think about this later. We gotta focus on saving the others! If we’re here, then everyone else must’ve been warped to around the place. I’m worried about the ones without many battle moves!”

 

“They’ll be fine.” Izuku assured him. “Most of these villains don’t seem very strong. Most of us were crowded together, so everyone is probably with someone.”

 

“That’s not the only problem.” Kirishima argued. “We all rushed forward and left Thirteen-sensei to play the rearguard when they’re better suited against that villain. If Sensei had been able to suck up that black mist, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” Kirishima wiped a hand over his face to rid it of some sweat. He looked a little disgruntled with himself. “As men, we have to take responsibility!”

 

“If you wanna go, then go!” Kacchan clenched his hand. “I’m gonna go murder that warpgate motherfucker!”

 

“HAAH?!” Kirishima yelled, shocked.

 

“Kacchan, don’t! Your attacks won’t work on that type of guy-” Izuku tried, but Kacchan cut him off with a snarled, “SHUT IT!!”

 

“No, dude, stop saying stuff like a kid would! Now’s not the time to do that! Midoriya’s right, man!” Kirishima agreed.

 

Kacchan shook his head with a scowl. “That guy somehow knows Deku. He probably has information.” His voice was unexpectedly dark with a sense of false calm. Izuku blinked in surprise. “Plus he’s the villains’ ticket out of here. He was their entry and will be their escape hatch when things go wrong for them. So when the chips are down, I’ll pin his ass to the ground!”

 

“How?” Izuku asked, honestly curious on how Kacchan would go about it. Izuku may be well aware of Kurogiri’s weakness (and had considered many times over how he would go about defeating him), but Kacchan certainly didn’t.

 

“There’s no way there isn’t something to counter him.” Izuku saw Kirishima react to something behind them and realized too late that he heard someone coming up behind them. “I mean,” Kacchan didn’t even cut his sentence off as he turned and grabbed the attacker’s head and caused an explosion in his palms. The villain was knocked out by the force, his knife dropping from his loose grip. Kacchan pushed him to the ground with one more explosion for good measure, “if he assigned these useless mooks to us, then it oughta be fine.” He finished like he didn’t just take out a would-be killer effortlessly.

 

Izuku found himself smiling even as he made a mental note that Kacchan’s reaction time had definitely increased since before. He would need to start an entirely new page on Kacchan soon with all of the information he was learning. Izuku was impressed. Judging by Kirishima’s grin, he was as well.

 

“You mean that’s why you’re so calm?” Kirishima asked. “I mean, usually you’re all like ‘DIE DIE’!”

 

“I’M ALWAYS CALM, YOU FUCKING HAIR-FOR-BRAINS!!” Kacchan shouted at him, immediately pissed off at the generalization. He made sure to flip him the bird for good measure. Kirishima only laughed a bit.

 

“There it is!” The added sigh of relief was hilarious to Izuku.

 

“I agree with Kacchan, though.” Izuku said despite the fun. He dropped his smile and pressed his knuckle to his chin as he spoke his thoughts aloud, “That mist villain is definitely a big problem. He should be taken down because he could just scatter the heroes again. But Aizawa-sensei is fighting alone. Despite his skill in crowd battles, his quirk only works on emitter- and transformation-class quirks. That could be a disadvantage. I’m more worried about that monster thing that was with the main villain.” He could try to plant the idea into his classmates’ heads. He would go for it. “Why would they think they could kill All Might with these kinds of villains? It seems off-”

 

“Oi, I thought you had quit your stupid fucking muttering shit.” Kacchan grabbed Izuku’s goggles and snapped them to his head. Izuku yelped at the pain and grabbed his head.

 

“Kacchan!” He whined.

 

Kacchan ignored him though and turned back to Kirishima. “Just fuck off already, Hair-for-Brains. See ya later. Me and Deku will go after Mist Bastard if you wanna go help the extras!” He adjusted the one gauntlet he was wearing and stormed towards the door of the broken building. Izuku knew his cue to follow when he heard it. He wasn’t going to protest about sticking with Kacchan to make sure he didn’t get killed in this clusterfuck.

 

“Wait up!” Kirishima called and followed them. He pounded his hardened fists together while grinning eagerly. He looked as he did when he had fought against Deku. “I believe in my buddies! Besides, you’re starting to sound real manly! I’m with you guys now, Bakugou, Midoriya!”

 

Izuku didn’t doubt Kirishima’s abilities, but he was a little glad to have the boy on their side. His defensive skills would probably be a great help to them. He wouldn’t do much against Kurogiri, but a distraction was just as good. He may also be able to stand an attack or two from Noumu if Izuku could survive a hit without dying immediately. And he hadn’t even had armor to help him.

 

They moved at a quick pace to get through the crumbling building. Izuku could feel how unsteady the building itself was even though he knew that it had to be purposely made that way. Maybe by Pro-Hero Cementoss? He didn’t know for sure. It was tough and required them to sometimes take longer routes around fallen debris though.

 

It was clearly irritating the already impatient Kacchan. “I’m just gonna blow my way through this!!” He yelled as they had to stop dead in their tracks and make another turn around.

 

“The building could come down if you do.” Izuku reminded him. “This area is the ruins area.”

 

“We need to get outside of this stupid building! There has to be a path.” Kacchan stormed over to the window where Kirishima was already peeking out.


“Shit, dude. We’re so high up.” He muttered.

 

“The other side of the building is tilting towards the ground. We might be able to jump out there.” Izuku suggested. He didn’t actually think the ground looked too far.

 

“No time.” Kacchan punched out the cracked glass of the window with his gloved hand. Both Izuku and Kirishima jumped back to avoid the shards. Kacchan used his hard gauntlet to destroy the rest of the glass and then climbed onto the window sill. He looked back at them both. “I can get down from here with my explosions. What about you, Shitty Hair? Can your quirk let you survive the fall?”

 

“I can make it just fine!” Kirishima grinned. “Good idea, Bakugou!”

 

Kacchan looked to Izuku. “What about you?”

 

“Um…” Izuku glanced around him again and looked around. There were a couple of spots he could swing down to, but would it look believable without his Agility quirk? He already told the class that he was good at parkour. He could see a viable route from there. “Yeah. I can do it.”

 

Kacchan didn’t wait then. He launched himself outside and set off his explosions to descend quickly to the ground. Kirishima was after him in a moment. He jumped out of the window and hardened his hand to slow his fall as he scraped it against the building. His feet and legs hardened before he hit the ground to take most of the impact. Izuku followed last. He pulled his goggles back down over his eyes and grabbed the window sill to lower himself to the next window below it. From there he jumped from rubble and wall-bounced until he could roll to the ground. He didn’t even need his Agility. The terrain had to be made easier on purpose for first year training.

 

“That is still so freaking cool to watch!” Kirishima grinned with his hands on his hips. “You gotta promise to teach me your moves, Midoriya!”

 

Izuku gave a bashful chuckle. “Haha...sure. Maybe later.”

 

“Oi, you still owe me some fucking training time.” Kacchan said.

 

Izuku wished that he could glare at him for that. Kacchan still hadn’t let it go. “We can talk about training later. We have a real situation to deal with.”

 

“Right!” Kirishima nodded seriously. The three of them took off in a sprint. There was a pathway through the middle of the rubble that led back towards the middle of USJ. Luckily the zone didn’t appear to be too big, but they were deep enough into it that Izuku couldn’t immediately see the gate that separated the zone from the central plaza. The three of them stumbled a bit over the rubble, but could catch themselves without a problem before they were on the path. From there they took off into a full run.

 

“I hope the others are okay.” Kirishima said.

 

“They can handle themselves.” Izuku reassured him. Hopefully . He added mentally. He still didn’t know what all Kurogiri might do and Shigaraki planned to kill students. He still didn’t know why the hell Kurogiri had mentioned him by name. All he did was alert his entire class that Kurogiri knew Izuku. Was that on purpose? Kurogiri wasn’t the type to slip up like that. Was this Master’s plan? Or Shigaraki’s? Deku would need to find out later.

 

“Shut the fuck up and speed up!” Kacchan barked at them both. A new wave of determination ran through him as he ran even faster and they attempted to catch up to him.

 

It was a relief to exit into the central plaza of USJ. “Look!” Kirishima pointed towards the top of the stairs. He could still see Kurogiri up there, although he was more mist than man. He was disappearing. Izuku then turned his attention to the central plaza and felt his blood go cold. Noumu had moved from his position and had a hold on Aizawa-sensei. Kurogiri materialized next to Shigaraki. Whatever words they exchanged was lost to him, but he felt Shigaraki’s fury from there. He suspected that Kurogiri had not brought good news. They turned to Aizawa-sensei and Noumu. Izuku didn’t have time to think.

 

No! ” He gasped and took off. He heard Kacchan curse behind him, but his footsteps were following closely behind. Izuku could only pay him half a mind. All he could think about was how he couldn’t let Aizawa-sensei die. But how could he possibly help? He couldn’t take on the Noumu. He could try to fight it knowing he couldn’t win, but he was supposed to be a novice hero. He wasn’t supposed to be skilled. He couldn’t give himself away.

 

But he could go after Shigaraki. Noumu’s weak point. He wouldn’t kill him, but if he could get Noumu to abandon Aizawa-sensei for Izuku instead, then at least he would be able to rescue his sensei.

 

He coiled the fire downwards and into his palm, lighting all of the matches on his fingers to fuel his flame. He gritted his teeth and charged Shigaraki as he shouted, “LET HIM GO!”

 

Shigaraki turned on him then. His speed wasn’t greater than either Deku’s nor Himiko’s, but his speed wasn’t to be underestimated. This time Shigaraki was expecting his attack on him. Shigaraki didn’t need to predict his attacks, though. Izuku was a novice. And Shigaraki took advantage as he grabbed Izuku’s wrist with one hand, thrusting it to the side away from him, and was in his face in an instant. His other hand reached towards Izuku’s face and he said, “Let’s take the Symbol of Peace’s pride down a notch!” Primal fear filled Izuku’s bones as all five fingers touched his goggles. He thanked his goggles and face mask for their protection. He waited for the ash to blow into his eyes and the burn of his wrist as the skin and muscles decayed.  

 

But it didn’t come. Izuku opened his eyes wider as Shigaraki sneered. He could see the hatred in Shigaraki’s eyes through the gaps of the hand on his face. Izuku could only stare at him, baffled at the lack of pain.

 

“Eraserhead…” Shigaraki growled darkly, “Man...You really are a cool hero.” Izuku understood then what had happened. Despite Noumu pinning him to the ground, Aizawa-sensei was still able to look at Shigaraki. Izuku took a shaky breath and then saw Kacchan and Kirishima jump for a sneak attack behind Shigaraki. He opened his mouth to warn (who?), but Shigaraki merely said, “Noumu.” Noumu was on both boys in a flash. Kirishima and Kacchan cried out as they were both crushed to the ground by a force as strong as All Might himself.

 

“KACCHAN!!” Izuku yelled and activated Snapshot instantly to take everything in.

 

Kacchan and Kirishima were pinned, chests to the ground, by Noumu’s huge hands. Izuku already knew that neither of them would be able to escape. Kacchan -their best chance against Noumu- could try successive explosions, but he couldn’t twist his arms to aim for the face like he needed to. Any attacks to Noumu’s arms would be useless. Izuku had to get Noumu off of his classmates by getting Noumu to let go by command, not by force. If Shigaraki was as smart as Izuku gave him credit for, he wouldn’t let Noumu kill Kacchan. Kirishima, though, was definitely at risk. Attacking Noumu was not an option. It would be a pointless gesture.

 

Aizawa-sensei was down. What little bit he had been able to see of his teacher, it was obvious that Noumu had hurt him badly. There was blood in the air and Aizawa-sensei’s arm had been bent and crushed. He had seen Noumu holding the man’s head and arm. It sickened Izuku. Aizawa-sensei’s quirk must have done nothing to Noumu. Could he cancel out Noumu’s healing factor? He didn’t have an accurate time for how long Aizawa-sensei would still be conscious. He couldn’t rely on him.

 

Shigaraki still had a grip on one of his hands. The one that his fire was in. He would have to pull his fire over to his other hand which was still free. He could aim a punch at Shigaraki. Or a knee to the stomach. That was the better option. Izuku could piss off Shigaraki and have him sic Noumu on him instead. Knowing Shigaraki and the state he was in, though, Izuku didn’t know for sure if that plan would work. He gave it a 75% chance. He would have to attack Shigaraki either way, though. It was his only option. He only had a split moment before Shigaraki’s quirk would activate again with Noumu almost blocking Aizawa-sensei’s sight. If Noumu moved even a little bit forward, the quirk would be blocked. He had to act.

 

Snapshot ended. Izuku used Shigaraki’s grip on his arm to yank him forward and kneed him straight to the stomach. Shigaraki coughed as the air rushed out of him, and Izuku slammed his free elbow into the crook of Shigaraki’s arm to break his hold on him. The moment he was released, he kicked off the ground in a backflip. He aimed to hopefully kick the man in his backflip, but Shigaraki dodged backwards.

 

Kacchan screamed with fury. Izuku saw him grab Noumu’s hands and set off explosion after explosion while Kirishima attempted to kick the beast with a hardened foot. Noumu was unaffected by it.

 

“It’s regenerating!” Kirishima yelled, horrified.

 

“What kind of fucking quirk is this shit?!” Kacchan’s explosions only increased. At this rate he would burn the fingers off of Noumu if he did it fast enough. Noumu retaliated by pressing down harder on the students. The floor indented and cracked beneath them. Kacchan’s next yell was much more pained. Kirishima called his name in fear. His back was stone now to protect himself. Izuku felt his blood grow cold with his terror and anger. What was Shigaraki doing?!

 

“Little brat!” Shigaraki growled venomously, grabbing his own arm and scratching at it in his fit.

 

Leave them alone .” Deku responded in the same tone, eyes flashing behind his goggles. He doubted Shigaraki could see his anger, but he was certain Shigaraki could feel it. They both knew each other too well. Shigaraki met his eyes directly and spat out a little blood.

 

“Noumu.” He commanded. Izuku tensed as Shigaraki stepped back. Noumu released Kacchan and Kirishima and turned towards Izuku. Izuku felt the blood drain from his face and yanked his fire back to his hands, separating the flame into both hands and burning the balls of fire hotter. He was prepared to fight if that was what Shigaraki wanted. He could play.

 

In an instant Noumu was at his side and grabbed both of his hands despite the fire, effectively snuffing out the weapon. Izuku regretted not activating Snapshot. He could’ve dodged in time. He could only stare in horror as he was lifted into the air.

 

“Midoriya!” Kirishima yelled as another of Kacchan’s explosions went off. He couldn’t see him, but then he spotted Kacchan as he flew above the Noumu.

 

“DIE, YOU FUCKING BASTARD SPAWN!!” He shouted and slammed an exploding fist into the exposed brain of the Noumu. Noumu shuddered a little under the impact, but didn’t buckle or release Izuku. Izuku kicked and struggled, but his strength was nothing against the creature. Kacchan landed on the hunched back of the Noumu and punched him a couple more times, but not enough to beat the healing quirk. Noumu barely seemed to acknowledge Kacchan with its eyes focused only on Izuku.

 

Shigaraki turned to Kirishima then and opened his mouth, but whatever he had been about to say was cut off as the doors to the building burst inwards. It was as if the very air itself had changed as All Might’s hulking form appeared. He was unsmiling as he said the line that sent hope through Izuku’s heart even after all these years,

 

“Have no fear, for I have come!”

 

“Ahhhh…” Shigaraki crooned with horrible delight, “We got a continue.”

Chapter Text

When Izuku was a little boy -long before the reality of how close villains were to him and before he and Kacchan had come to hate each other- he had admired All Might. He had always been wowed and amazed by the hero and everything that he was. The Symbol of Peace was strength, kindness, and the embodiment of everything that Izuku strived to be. He was the strongest hero, and his smile never failed to cheer Izuku up when he watched his videos online. No matter how desperate the situation was, All Might would power through.

 

When he was older he learned that not everybody thought of All Might the same way. Just as he had inspired future heroes, he had inspired future villains. When Izuku had been captured, he had quickly learned that All Might’s name was taboo. As Deku he had learned to suppress his admiration for All Might. He had to pretend that the villains had convinced him of the man’s taint. Deku was someone who had no love for All Might and saw him as just another hero that had failed to abandon him. Between the pressure to hate All Might and his ingrained love of the hero, Deku fell somewhere around “apathetic” towards the hero.

 

But when All Might appeared before them all at USJ prepared to fight, there wasn’t a single drop of that apathy anywhere in him. He could only gape in amazement at his teacher. His very presence was a sight to behold and sent shivers down Izuku’s body. Hope flooded his chest as the thought of winning finally appeared. All Might could save them!

 

Shigaraki’s voice brought Izuku back to reality. “We were waiting for you, hero. Or should I say, you ‘hero’ trash.” Izuku’s eyes darted over to him and then to the Noumu still holding him. That hope fell to the pit of his stomach as his eyes met the empty eyes of the creature holding him in place.

 

All Might is going to die.

 

He heard the last few villain mooks standing cry out. He couldn’t see past the hulking form of Noumu, though, to tell where All Might went. The hero no longer stood at the top of the stairs. Above Izuku Kacchan was still attempting to get Noumu to let go. The anger in his face was sharpening as he stood to full height and aimed a gauntlet down at the back of the beast. His smile was ferocious as his finger latched onto the pin of the gauntlet.

 

“DIEEEEE-!!”

 

“All Might!” Kirishima yelled. Between one blink and the next, Izuku’s surroundings changed. He recognized an arm wrapping around his stomach before suddenly he was freed and being placed on his feet away from Noumu. Kirishima and Kacchan were beside him now. Izuku had to take a moment to let his brain catch up to the fact that he was now by Aizawa-sensei after all four of them had been moved a significant distance away from the villains. The hand had been knocked off of Shigaraki’s face, causing the man to shake and talk to himself. Deku resisted the urge to go over to him. He didn’t like when Shigaraki was like that.

 

“Eh?!” Kirishima stared at All Might in shock as well. “Holy shit, so fast!”

 

“I had it fucking handled!” Kacchan protested, clenching his fists. One of his hands came up to hold his side. His face was pale with some pain. Noumu probably broke something.

 

All Might ignored them both. His voice was laced with heavy seriousness as he commanded, “Head towards the entrance, you three! I have to leave Aizawa with you! He’s unconscious, so hurry!!”

 

Izuku couldn’t stop staring at All Might’s back. He had known the hero was fast, but he couldn’t believe just how fast he really was. It was the first time he was seeing All Might move in person. A war was raging in his chest between hope and despair. He wanted to cry out and warn All Might, but he couldn’t say anything. He had to remember that to Shigaraki and the villains he wasn’t Izuku. He was Deku. He was only pretending to be Izuku in front of everyone.

 

But it still hurt not to say anything, because Izuku realized that All Might was shaking. It was the tiniest tremor, but Izuku recognized suppressed pain when he saw it. Was All Might injured? Had something happened to him? No no no no, he needed to be at full strength for fighting Noumu…!

 

Then he caught the words Shigaraki was saying. He could just barely hear him announce that they had intel that All Might was weakening. And suddenly it all made sense. The sudden decision to lure All Might out and attack him with Noumu. How had he missed the signs? He had been reporting about All Might back to Master for the past year and a half. He had never noticed the trend before, but now that he thought about it Shigaraki was right. All Might was doing less over the past couple of years. He didn’t do as many rescues. For a time he was even MIA. Izuku had thought nothing about it at the time, but Master or Shigaraki must have put the pieces together.

 

It was like punching a hole straight through Izuku’s stomach. He had given them the intel of All Might’s weakening.

 

Static rang in his ears. He could feel it coming on again. His stomach churned. He wanted to throw up. All Might was going to-

 

“Midoriya, my boy.” Izuku looked at All Might through tears in his eyes. The man beamed at him, holding up a peace sign confidently. Izuku could only stare. “It’s all right!” All Might then turned and charged back at the enemies.

 

“C’mon!” Kirishima grabbed his shoulder and Kacchan’s and spun them both to face him. His eyes darted back and forth between All Might and them. “We gotta get Aizawa-sensei out of here!”

 

“Fuck no!” Kacchan ripped his shoulder out from Kirishima’s grip. “I’m not leaving!”

 

“Dude!”

 

“My attacks were doing nothing on that muscle beast.” Kacchan gritted his teeth. “I’m going to find a way to take that thing down!” Izuku turned his gaze back to All Might. His attacks really weren’t working on Noumu. Even his super strength did nothing to the shock absorbtion.

 

“Aizawa-sensei needs us!” The impacts of All Might’s hits were powerful enough that Izuku could feel the shockwaves from where he stood. Shigaraki claimed a better way would be scooping the guts out of Noumu than trying to beat it with brute force. While a viable option with someone like All Might, Deku highly doubted that the hero would do something so gruesome. An emitter-type quirk would still be the better of the options. It just depended on the strength of the quirk.

 

“Then you take him, Shitty Hair!”

 

“Midoriya!” Kirishima turned to Izuku for help. Izuku startled and looked at him with wide eyes. He wanted to go back to watching the fight. He wanted to analyze how All Might would take down an enemy like this. Or how someone would take down All Might instead. The man was a powerhouse, but what does a powerhouse do when his power is useless? He wanted to know.

 

“Midoriya!!” Kirishima yelled again. This time even Kacchan was looking at him with a frown. “We need to get Aizawa-sensei out of here!”

 

“I...I can’t.” He said quietly. “I need…” He couldn’t finish. He didn’t know what he needed.

 

“We’ll take him.” Like a blessing, Asui and Mineta appeared. Both of them were soaked to the bone with more than a couple of scrapes and bruises on them. Mineta was bleeding from his head. Most likely from overuse of his quirk.

 

“We saw what you guys were doing, ribbit.” Asui said. “Bakugou seemed to be doing the most damage to that thing...and Midoriya-kun was fending off that other villain decently as well.”

 

“We can get Aizawa-sensei out of here!” Mineta slid under Aizawa-sensei’s legs to lift them with his shorter height. “Besides...I need to get away from that!

 

Kirishima moved to help put Aizawa-sensei onto Asui’s shoulders when Kacchan cursed loudly next to them. An explosion and a tremor shook all of them nearly to their knees, but they steadied themselves. Izuku spun around and felt cold fear run through him.

 

It was easy to tell what All Might’s plan had been. He was going to do a backdrop slam on Noumu and force it deep into the asphalt of the building to bind its movement. But just as Kacchan had predicted, Kurogiri had been trouble. What they were left with was a portal that Kurogiri had opened up right as Noumu was to be slammed into the ground. All Might was bowed in a bridge position with the top half of Noumu now beneath him digging sharp claws into the torso of the hero. Even as he watched, All Might was being dragged slowly through Kurogiri’s portal. Izuku knew that Kurogiri could rip people in half with that technique if he wanted.

 

Izuku couldn’t breathe. He could hear his heart in his ears. This was it, he realized. This could be the end of All Might. Izuku was standing right there and doing nothing. But what could he do? He couldn’t help. If he helped, he would give himself away to the villains, wouldn’t he? It would go against all of their plans. Master had given him a gift to remind him of their ultimate goal: to kill All Might. He couldn’t interfere. Master would be furious.

 

But he wasn’t Deku then. He was Izuku. He was training to be a hero. Heroes rescued people despite the odds. They risked everything to protect, and all Izuku was doing was standing around. Izuku should be helping. Damn any future consequences!

 

You really think that can become a hero?

 

Do you?

 

Izuku was running before he could think of an answer.

 

“ALL MIGHT!!!!” Izuku screamed and charged. His hand found his lighter and lit it. He pulled the flame from it quickly and burned it wildly in his hand. He allowed it to eat up the last of his matches as he aimed his fireball towards Kurogiri

 

“Fool!” Kurogiri scolded and began to form a warp gate in front of him. Izuku’s flames began to spread around him-

 

“GET OUTTA THE FUCKING WAY, DEKU!!” Kacchan screamed as he blew past Izuku with his explosions and slammed an exploding fist into Kurogiri’s real body. His hand grappled the metal neck brace that Kurogiri always wore and that contained his real body before he slammed it to the ground. He heard Kirishima’s yell as he swiped at Shigaraki, but the man dodged his attack. Noumu had ice suddenly forming on half of its body as Todoroki appeared as well. Izuku stumbled to a quick stop, his attack cut short.

 

“Shit!! I had him!” Kirishima cursed.

 

“No funny business outta you, you shadow-ass mobling!” Kacchan growled at Kurogiri with a sinister smile on his face.

 

“The Symbol of Peace won’t go down as easy as you clowns.” Todoroki said.

 

“Kacchan...everyone!” Izuku breathed, relieved. In an instant, the tables were turned. Izuku already knew that Kurogiri was effectively pinned with Kacchan holding him down. Todoroki had managed to freeze the Noumu partially with his emitter quirk. All Might managed to slip away from the beast’s grip then and darted back to join the kids. The immediate threat was over. Two villains were pinned. All that was left was Shigaraki.

 

Shigaraki’s eyes met Izuku’s. They radiated fury. Izuku stared at him back and felt something terrible slip into his throat. The villains were defeated. Shigaraki couldn’t handle all of them on his own, and Kurogiri couldn’t get them out of there with Kacchan’s threat to his physical body. They had taken a risk and failed. Deku worried for them. Would they be arrested? He fought the conflicting desires of who he wanted to help.

 

Kacchan was cackling a little too happily as he sneered at Kurogiri, pointing out all of the tells the man had given them to expose his weakness. Honestly Deku didn’t understand why giving away weaknesses was still such a thing. He thought Kurogiri knew better than that.

 

Kurogiri twitched and Kacchan warned, “Dooon’t you move! One twitch outta you and I’ll load you with a nice little explosion right here and now! I still have some questions for you, motherfucker!”

 

“That doesn’t sound very heroic, buddy.” Kirishima commented with a laugh.

 

Shigaraki folded his hands together and stood up straighter. Izuku pulled his fire close to his body and waited. Shigaraki had yet to take his eyes off of Izuku. “We’ve been cornered, and what’s more, you’re nearly unscathed. Man, I really have to hand it to kids these days...At this rate the villain alliance will be a laughing stock.”

 

That’s because you didn’t bring some of your strongest fighters . Deku thought. He knew why Himiko didn’t come, but what about Dabi? With his power he could’ve gotten the ice off of Noumu immediately. Maybe even burned All Might at the same time. Shigaraki hadn’t brought his strongest forces with him. He itched to return to Shigaraki’s side and help him.

 

“Noumu.” Shigaraki commanded, “Go ahead and finish off Izuku there. We’re rescuing our escape hatch.”

 

What? Why would they attack Izuku if they wanted to rescue Kurogiri? Kacchan wouldn’t give up his position to help him-

 

But he didn’t have time to contemplate that decision. Noumu pulled his body back up through the portal and completely ignored as half of its ice-covered body fell off in chunks. Within two seconds he had regenerated everything that was lost.

 

Izuku wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. He activated Snapshot.

 

Noumu was fast enough that Izuku could still see him moving with Snapshot. All Might was the same, already reaching towards him. What he didn’t expect was Kacchan on his other side already leaping at him. That same desperate look from before was mingled with fury on his face. Kacchan would be in the line of fire. He could think later as to why Kacchan came after him when All Might was right there to help. He had people coming at him from all sides. Self-preservation said he just needed to drop to the ground to avoid Noumu. All Might could grab Kacchan from the angle he was coming at. But both of them would be hit.

 

All Might could handle the hit better than Izuku or Kacchan could. He trusted All Might to rescue Kacchan.

 

Snapshot ended and Izuku dropped to the ground with Agility, only feeling a hint of claw at his face before he was blown away by the combination of air from All Might and Noumu’s combined speed. Izuku rolled and pushed himself off the ground with a yell of “Kacchan!” only to realize that Kacchan was suddenly on the ground beside Todoroki with a blank, shocked look on his face.

 

“How did you get here?!” Kirishima asked him, shocked as well, as Todoroki asked Izuku with wide eyes, “How did you dodge that?!”

 

Izuku pushed himself to his feet quickly and looked back towards who Noumu had hit. All Might was still standing, as Izuku had predicted. He had taken the attack, but he was coughing blood.

 

“Do you not know mercy?” All Might asked.

 

“We had no choice.” Shigaraki said without a care. “We had to save our ally. Not long ago one of your kids...Ah, which one?” Shigaraki didn’t hesitate and pointed to Izuku. “Midoriya Izuku there.” Kacchan twitched at his name, and then his scowl deepened. “He tried to beat me up with all of his strength, see? He was even going to set fire to Black Mist. Who do you think he mustered those acts of violence for, hm? Doesn’t sound very heroic to me…”

 

Shigaraki spread his arms wide. “Now listen here, All Might! I’m very pissed off! Everyone categorizes us as either ‘heroes’ or ‘villains’, but at the end of the day violence is still violence! We all do it! Who judges which violence is right, and which is wrong? Society does!” Shigaraki lowered his arms and his voice darkened a bit. “‘Symbol of Peace’? What nonsense. You’re just a tool of violence, only you’re used for ‘good’ so that makes you ‘good’! Violence only breeds more violence! Once we kill you, that will be known to the world!”

 

Izuku frowned. Was that really the reasoning behind this? Did that make Deku a tool for violence as well? It felt weird to be compared to All Might in such a way.

 

“You’re mad.” All Might responded. “You oughta keep your anti-social viewpoints to yourself.” Izuku would laugh if he could. He would also have to use that line against Shigaraki later, if they all got out of there and if it wouldn’t kill him. “Besides, you’re just getting your kicks out of this.”

 

Shigaraki grinned. “You saw through me.”

 

“It’s 3 vs. 5.” Todoroki said.

 

“And Bakugou exposed the shadow guy’s weak point! If we work together with All Might, we can take them easy!” Kirishima agreed.

 

“No!” All Might yelled, thrusting a hand out sideways to stop them. “Please escape!” Izuku stared at the wounds in All Might’s sides and the blood on his lips. Those fingers pierced deep. Izuku knew from experience that being able to move so much with that kind of damage hurt like hell. His admiration for All Might only grew.

 

“But if I hadn’t come to support you earlier it’d have been bad.” Todoroki argued.

 

“Right you are, Todoroki, my boy!” All Might agreed passionately. He clenched his fist. “But now I’ll be okay!! All you need to do is sit back and watch how the pro work is done!”

 

He’s lying . Izuku knew. All Might wouldn’t last long in this condition. Noumu was at full strength. All Might came here weakened to begin with, right? He couldn’t last long like this.

 

“Noumu, Black Mist, do your thing. I’ll take care of the kids.” Shigaraki said. He spun and launched himself at Kacchan, Kirishima, and Todoroki. Izuku flinched, wanting to go help, but was caught between his conflicting desires. He needed to help his classmates. He didn’t know for sure if they could take Shigaraki. But he also needed to watch All Might. He needed to study the hero and make the notes. It was his mission. This was his chance.

 

His head throbbed viciously with a migraine. He was left frozen.

 

No matter what action he would’ve taken, the decision was stolen from him. All Might charged Noumu, and the force of his attacks whipped the wind around all of them so hard that they were gale force. Nobody else was able to even move except to hold their ground. Izuku’s fire was blown out again. All Might’s attacks were fast enough that Izuku couldn’t even see all of them. If he risked using Snapshot, he didn’t doubt All Might would still be moving. His sheer power was overwhelming.

 

Wow… Izuku thought as with one final punch he sent Noumu rocketing through the ceiling and far away into the sky. Izuku could do nothing was stare. How did we ever think we could beat him ?

 

Kirishima was the only one who had anything to say. All Might stood there, torn up, bleeding, and trembling slightly. But he was steady as a pillar. The grin on his face was blinding. The light shined down on him and practically illuminated the area through the smoke and dust in the air of the rapid attack. Izuku felt tears roll down his face. It was almost too much for him to be as close to All Might as he was. This was the world of a hero.

 

All Might turned to face Shigaraki, head held high and his back straight. The dust obscured him briefly in its movement as he said, “Now then, villain...Shall we finish this?”

 

Deku wanted to tell Shigaraki to run. He wanted the man to leave and give up the lost cause. Their forces were defeated. Kurogiri was still currently free. They could leave and try again another day. If All Might was here when Aizawa-sensei had said he wasn’t supposed to be, that must mean that one of his classmates had escaped and had run back to the school. He was willing to bet it was Iida. Which would mean reinforcements would be coming. There was no way they would be able to beat All Might before the other heroes came. And if they showed up and took down Kurogiri, Shigaraki would be captured.

 

Despite everything, Deku didn’t want Shigaraki captured. He didn’t want the man to succeed in what he wanted to do, but he didn’t want Shigaraki to be taken away. He would miss spending days playing games with the man. He could still remember laughing at Kurogiri’s expense and how Shigaraki had occasionally treated Deku’s wounds after training they’d both had. Shigaraki was his friend.

 

Shigaraki needed to give up and leave. Deku tried to tell him with his eyes, but Shigaraki was breaking down again. He was losing it quickly with the loss of Noumu. Noumu had been their trump card and now the creature was gone. Deku didn’t doubt that Master would be upset as well to learn this information. Kurogiri was arguing, though, and insisting to continue. To take advantage of All Might’s clearly-weakened state. Deku wanted to punch the man.

 

“It’s no use!” Deku yelled, and pretended to be Izuku telling the villains to accept their fates. His eyes were desperate and he thanked the situation for covering for him believably. “You can’t win!” Retreat. Try again.

 

Shigaraki’s eyes met his again. His neck was bleeding from scratching at old scars. The hands around his neck covered the worst of the wounds. “You think so?” He asked scathingly, but Deku knew he had heard his message.

 

Deku didn’t respond but he did tilt his head down a little in a sharp, pointed movement. He didn’t lift it again.

 

“He’s right.” All Might called. He was still standing tall. Izuku could feel waves of heat coming from him. There was a strange smell in the air that was nothing like dust or blood. “Give up now!”

 

“C’mon, let’s get out of the way.” Kirishima said to Todoroki and Kacchan. He motioned to Izuku as well. “Let’s leave this to the pros before we become hostages he needs to save.”

 

No .” Kacchan growled, and Izuku’s head snapped to him. Kacchan’s eyes were furious as he took a step forward. Izuku felt his stomach sink again as he recognized that face and tone. He hadn’t seen it in a long time, but he knew when Kacchan was at his breaking point for his temper. He had seen it a couple of times when they had been younger and he’d had an even shorter temper than now.

 

Kacchan pointed a single finger at the villains. His breathing was harsh. “You fuckers better open your goddamn mouths and start spouting answers instead of the shit you were saying before!”

 

“Bakugou, my boy-” All Might tried while Kirishima asked, “Bakugou, what are you doing man?”

 

Kacchan only shouted over both of them, “How the hell do you know Deku’s name?!”

 

Shigaraki’s mouth twisted into a mocking grin. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

 

That seemed to be the final straw for Kacchan. The sound of his final nerve snapping was practically audible. He let out a roar of anger and set off multiple explosions in quick successtion that launched him so quickly across the field towards Shigaraki that nobody could move quickly enough to stop him. Not even All Might reacted in time before Kacchan was rearing back for a furious punch with his right arm. His face was murderous and blinded to the threat in front of him as Kurogiri immediately moved between them and formed a defensive cloud of mist. Shigaraki simply reached through Kurogiri and his hand appeared right at face level with Kacchan. Kacchan couldn’t possibly dodge from that close and he was heading straight for the hand of decay.

 

NO! Izuku almost screamed as his body jerked into a sprint. He wouldn’t be able to make it in time, but he could help somehow. He had to do something .

 

But then a bullet struck straight into the hand. Izuku pushed a burst of Agility into his legs and tackled Kacchan right before he landed his attack on Kurogiri. They both fell to the ground in a tangle with fire around them from the explosion and Kacchan shouting expletives. With Kacchan out of the way, Deku was already back on his feet and automatically moving to protect Shigaraki from the attackers. His only thought was making sure Shigaraki received no more damage.

 

“Aaaaahhh…” Shigaraki muttered as he pulled back his bleeding hand to his chest. He barely even reacted to the pain. “They came, they came. It’s our Game Over screen. Back to the drawing board, eh Black Mist?”

 

Three more gunshots rang out then. Kurogiri moved instantly and blocked the hits and tried to pull Shigaraki through the warp he was making. Deku felt relief before he saw Kurogiri’s mist being pulled away.

 

“That would be…!” Kurogiri hissed, but didn’t need to finish. Izuku could feel the air being pulled back as well towards Thirteen. Even this far away their quirk was working. It really was a Black Hole with all of that power. Deku made a mental note of it.

 

“For the time being, we’ve failed…” Shigaraki growled as he melted into Kurogiri’s portal. Only his head remained as he threatened, “But we’ll get you next time, Symbol of Peace All Might!” With that, both Kurogiri and Shigaraki disappeared.

 

“FUCK!!” Kacchan yelled and slammed his fists on the ground. “MOTHERFUCKERS!! I ALMOST HAD THEM!! THEY-!!!” He couldn’t even finish as he just bellowed at the ground in his own frustration with no outlet. Izuku would worry for him considering he was still pretty sure Kacchan had a broken rib, but he couldn’t because his eyes were elsewhere and so was his mind.

 

Through the dust and the steam Izuku saw something that he understood immediately he was never supposed to see. It was a turn of fate, and pure luck on his part that he was close enough to see it. He doubted that any of the others could see him through the clouds in the air, and Kacchan was too distracted by his shitfit to even notice. But as the wind blew a cloud from his sight, Izuku stared at the vision of All Might with half of his body almost like a skeleton. Their eyes met, and Izuku imagined he might have heard the sound of a Game Over screen.

Chapter Text

The sight of All Might before him that day was one of the few memories that Izuku knew he would never forget. It was almost gruesome to look at the hero as his body positively deflated into a skeleton of what he used to be. His muscles disappeared and his eyes were wide and too large for his thin face as he stared into Izuku’s eyes. His torn and ragged clothes hung off of him. He looked frailer than a twig. There was blood dripping from his mouth. This was not the hero he had thought All Might to be.

 

In another life, Izuku would’ve screamed. The mixture of shock and horror and confusion would’ve been enough to easily set off his old, jumpy self. As he was now, Izuku couldn’t even muster up much more than his own wide-eyed stare. His voice was gone, stolen by the billions of thoughts that rushed through his head. He couldn’t even begin to process any of them. Everything was still too much to handle.

 

So he turned away from All Might and faced Kacchan who was still beating the ground to get out his anger. It was amazing what the red haze of his fury did to block him from his surroundings. Izuku made a note that Kacchan was dangerous to himself in this state.

 

“Midoriya, my boy…” All Might said over the sounds of the heroes hurrying down to meet them and Kacchan’s rage.

 

Izuku couldn’t look at him. He didn’t have the energy. His head already hurt so badly from using Snapshot twice. It was hard for Deku to fight the temptation to use it a third time to really get a good analysis on All Might this way. It was almost worth fainting over.

 

Instead Izuku moved to put himself on the side of Kacchan opposite of All Might. He could see the hero still watching him. He knelt down and called Kacchan’s name, pulling up his goggles and his mouth guard down. Kacchan immediately whirled on him and grappled the front of his jumpsuit. Izuku yelped as Kacchan yanked him and pushed their foreheads together to snarl in his face, “DEKUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!”

 

“What?!” Izuku grabbed Kacchan’s hands and tried to get him to let go. His ears rang and his head screamed at Kacchan’s loud voice. Oh god, he was going to be sick.

 

“YOU DUMB SHIT!! I HAD THEM AND YOU HAD TO GET IN THE GODDAMN WAY!!” Kacchan yelled. He ground his own skull into Izuku’s, forcing his head back some. Izuku had to squeeze his eyes shut and try not to focus on his own pain. He wished nobody was around so that he could force Kacchan off of him, but “Izuku” wasn’t that kind of person.

 

“Th-that hand guy was going to do something to you!” Izuku opened his eyes but could only see the whites of Kacchan’s eyes in front of him. He heard Kirishima call out to both them.

 

“I DON’T-” The ground rumbled then and both boys tumbled away from each other as a wall of concrete formed behind them. The shifting of the molded concrete had them rolling a little bit and luckily broke them apart. Izuku gave himself a moment to lay there and breathe a sigh of relief from being released before he sat up. Kacchan hopped to his feet with a curse, ready for another fight, but stopped when they both saw Pro-Hero Cementoss.

 

“Sorry about that.” The hero apologized. Kirishima finished his jog over to them and came to a stop. He held a hand out to Izuku to help him to his feet. Izuku wavered a bit, but held his ground and his head. “You three should go back and join the other students. We teachers will handle everything else.”

 

“Yeah, you’re right!” Kirishima nodded. Kacchan’s teeth grinding together was audible, but he didn’t put up anymore of a fight. He was back to holding his side again. Kirishima noticed as well and moved over to him. “C’mon, Bakugou. You should get looked at. I heard that snap when that Noumu thing-”

 

“Shut up!” Kacchan barked, but did turn to head back towards the stairs. “I already know!” Kirishima sighed good-naturedly and shot Izuku a wry grin before joining Kacchan. Izuku blinked. Had Kacchan somehow made a friend after all of this?

 

He looked back towards the wall that Cementoss had made and disappeared behind. Izuku could still picture the skeleton man. His head throbbed harder and stole his ability to think. His eyes pulsed with each beat of his rapid heart. His trembling had yet to return. Izuku wanted to go home and sleep the rest of the day away. Maybe not wake up for a while. Although he also wanted to talk to Shigaraki and Kurogiri and find out what the fuck this all was. He wanted to make sure Shigaraki was okay. There was still so much to do.

 

“DEKU!” Izuku jumped at Kacchan’s yell. Kacchan scowled at him, standing with Todoroki and Kirishima. “Hurry the fuck up!”

 

Izuku glanced once more back at the wall before turning and joining the other boys. He would deal with everything else later.


 

It was almost surreal rejoining the rest of his classmates. He was relieved to see all of them and that most had made it out of their fights relatively unscathed. Of the students, Kacchan had received the most damage. He had a broken rib and bruised multiple muscles. Kirishima, who had been subjected to the same treatment by Noumu, had escaped without much more than a little bruising due to his quirk. The worst injuries of the lot were definitely on Aizawa-sensei, who the police reported had sustained multiple fractures and a shattered eye socket. It was unknown if it would affect his vision. Izuku shuddered to himself. Aizawa-sensei was lucky to be alive. He might have saved his teacher’s life today, he thought.

 

All Might as well disappeared to go be treated by Recovery Girl without any of the class being able to see him. Izuku couldn’t get the image of the man out of his head even as he spent the entire time holding his head. Eventually it was enough that the teachers and police sent Izuku off to go see Recovery Girl as well. Some worried he might have a concussion, but Izuku already knew it wasn’t that. Nevertheless he went anyway at their insistence. It was only when he was actually brought to Recovery Girl’s office and he saw the skeleton man bandaged and lying in one of the beds did Izuku understand.

 

The man turned his head when Izuku entered the room. He was unsmiling, but not in the same angry way from USJ. If anything his face was grim, and Izuku felt the weight of the same knowledge upon him. Somehow he had stumbled across something he shouldn’t have, and now he had to take on that burden as well. Izuku still kept up his appearances, though, and shifted nervously in front of the door. He avoided his eyes and bit his lip. The air was tense.

 

“My, my. No need for that, Midoriya-kun.” Izuku looked to Recovery Girl as she spun on her tall, wheeled stool. “Come sit down. Don’t mind him there. Where are you hurt?”

 

“O-Oh, you know...my name?” Izuku asked as he shuffled hesitantly to sit on the bed next to the skeleton man. He could still feel the weight of the man’s stare on him.

 

“Of course. I treated you when you passed out at the entrance exams, remember?” She gave a friendly laugh and pushed her chair so that she wheeled over to Izuku. “Have some candy.” She popped a few pieces of candy out of a portable dispenser and passed them to him. Izuku popped two of the chalky, fruity candy into his mouth.

 

“I don’t remember.” He admitted with a bashful smile. “But I know you treated me, so thank you very much.”

 

She nodded. “You’re welcome. Now, what’s wrong? You’re very pale.”

 

“Ah…” Izuku’s eyes darted to the skeleton man. His eyes were sunken into his face. Unlike All Might’s normal face, his cornea seemed to almost glow in the darkness of his shadowed eyes. It only added to his skeleton appearance. It was a little disturbing to look at.

 

The man cleared his throat then. “I, uh, suppose I should interrupt, then.”

 

“Oh, is this the boy?” Recovery Girl asked.

 

“...Yeah.”

 

“Wait!” Izuku held up his hands, startling both adults. “Wait, please.” He lowered his hands as his eyes darted around the room without being able to stop and focus on one thing. “I...I know you want to talk to me about this. But I can’t even think right now, let alone comprehend what I’m about to hear.” He looked to Recovery Girl and half-begged, “I know it’s probably below what your quirk should be used for, but I have a severe migraine from my quirk. It won’t be going away until I have a long sleep at least. Can you…?”

 

“That explains the skin tone.” Recovery Girl frowned sympathetically. “Tell me, Midoriya-kun, was it your quirk that caused you to pass out at the exam?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You’ll need to be more careful then.” She scolded. “You don’t know what kind of effect overusing your quirk can have on your brain if you suffer like this. But I suppose it couldn’t be helped this time.” Izuku didn’t respond before suddenly Recovery Girl’s lips extended and kissed him on the forehead with a loud smack. In an instant his migraine faded and even the stinging of his cheek disappeared. He also felt his back tingle, and he knew those wounds would be healed as well. He felt more fatigued than he had when he had first come in.

 

“Wow, thank you!” Izuku smiled, amazed. It was nice to be healed in a way that didn’t require him drinking any kind of blood.

 

“Mind you, I only use your own body to heal you. I’m only speeding up your own healing ability. Your stamina gets used every time, so you’ll feel more tired.” Izuku made a note of that.

 

“That’s nothing new.” He said with a wry smile. He bit back that smile when he realized his slip up as Recovery Girl shot him a stern stare. He quickly turned his gaze to the skeleton man instead since he didn’t want to face the maternal disappointment of Recovery Girl anymore. “Um...I’m ready, then.”

 

The skeleton man shifted himself a little more upwards in his bed with a wince. Izuku climbed off of his bed and instead took a chair next to him. “I suppose I’ll just dive into it.” The man sighed. Izuku nodded and was silent as All Might went on to explain his current state. He told Izuku the tale of a battle that history would not remember because All Might had pulled every string he had to make it disappear from record. He had motioned to his stomach that was now wrapped with bandages and told Izuku about the twisted wound he had suffered and how nothing would allow him to fully recover from it. He explained how he was weakened and had a time limit every day with which he could use his power. Everything he said was with an air of wariness and reluctant acceptance as Izuku was filled with information that he was never supposed to have learned. There was guilt and sorrow and anger, and Izuku knew this was a man who wasn’t ready to let go of his hero career yet.

 

When All Might had finished, Izuku didn’t really know what to say. The number one hero was in a state of decline. The villains were aware of this, and it was Izuku’s fault. All of All Might’s story explained the gaps in time he was missing and the reasons behind why he wasn’t as active anymore.

 

Izuku had time now to process everything. And as he did, so many puzzle pieces slid together. Connections flicked and sparked in his head at a rapid pace until only one question rang louder in his head then any other. A dreadful suspicion was filling his stomach with bitter acid to the point that he was scared that if he opened his mouth the acid would destroy his throat and tongue with his words. But he had to ask, because Izuku could not withhold his thoughts.

 

“Who was the villain you fought, All Might?” He whispered. He lifted his head to stare into the solemn face of the weakened hero. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears, nearly deafening him with how fast it was. He was calm despite the unease in him.

 

“A terrible evil.” All Might responded. He looked down at his own lap and clenched his fists.

 

“Who?” Izuku pressed.

 

“Young Midoriya-”

 

“Please, All Might.” Izuku sat up straighter and removed his mask. He could feel the edge of knowledge pressing its knife against his back. He grabbed the edge of All Might’s bed with white knuckles. All Might gave him a confused look at his insistence. “I know when to keep a secret. I need to know.”

 

All Might was quiet for a long time, eying him. Izuku tried not to let his desperation show too badly. He needed some kind of name. It was probably a villain he knew. He needed to know who was strong enough to damage All Might like that, and he was terrified that he knew.

 

All Might breathed in deeply and let out a sigh. “Tell me first why you need to know, and then I will give you a name.”

 

Izuku’s face was stricken at that. He pushed backwards away from All Might with the force of the rejection that arced through his body. His chest howled with nightmarish fear and black hatred because why couldn’t All Might just tell him ? Why was it always information for information? Why was nothing in Izuku’s life easy? Why did he always have to tear himself apart to make even a little headway?! He couldn’t give All Might anything.

 

But he needed to gather more information from All Might. He now knew the man’s weakness and needed as much information as possible. All Might might even have the key to Izuku’s freedom. He just needed to wrestle it from the man.

 

But that required giving up a piece of his secret that he wasn’t sure he could bear to part with. It was bad enough that he had given it away to Kacchan during his weakened and foolish state. But Kacchan didn’t seem to even want to mention the time that Izuku was gone. He had no idea if he could trust All Might with that information.

 

He couldn’t trust anyone. Every person who knew was a possible leak. A weakness in the dangerous game Izuku was playing with his own life.

 

He grabbed his own arms and turned away from All Might even when the man called his name. He needed to think this through.

 

All Might had trusted him so far with this information, but that didn’t necessarily mean he had wanted to give it away. If Izuku gave him information, he could threaten the hero back with his own knowledge. Their shared trust in each other could be tentative, but useful.

 

Izuku loathed the thought of blackmailing All Might. It made him physically ill to even think about. But if he gave All Might any information, he technically held that card in his hand. Deku could find use for that. He already had the knowledge in his hands. But he could get more. It might be worth the risk.

 

Izuku walked over to the door to the room and locked it. He turned back to All Might and felt his body shaking under the strain of his own stress. He was antsy and felt something in his sternum vibrating. He was sweating as he took a seat again and tried to breathe through the hysteria and back-and-forth of his thoughts.

 

“Midoriya-kun.” Recovery Girl called gently and Izuku flinched.

 

He was being a coward. He couldn’t be like this. He didn’t like that his mask was still down. He wasn’t used to being this exposed. It was too many times in so few days.

 

Recovery Girl was frowning seriously as she gazed at him. “Please, try to calm down. You’re working yourself up into a frenzy.”

 

“My boy, what are you so frightened of?” All Might asked with his own concern. He reached out for Izuku, but didn’t touch him when Recovery Girl motioned for him not to. Izuku was glad for that. His skin might actually start shredding and he might explode if anyone touched him then. He felt very brittle and on edge.

 

Izuku let out a shaky laugh. “What don’t I have to be scared of?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

It was taking the rest of his strength not to fist his words and fight them back or to vomit. “You...Are you aware of my...history?”

 

All Might frowned and then shook his head. That was a surprise to Izuku, but then he realized that maybe All Might hadn’t been in the area at that time.

 

Izuku didn’t look away from All Might’s eyes. “When I was thirteen, I was kidnapped by villains. They kept me for over a year.” All Might’s eyes widened at that. Izuku felt no pride in shocking a hero like him. “My parents held a funeral for me...but then I was found and rescued. Before I was captured, I was Quirkless...but when I was rescued, I had a quirk.” Izuku swallowed. The story felt like a fairy tale he was repeating: familiar, but separate from his own reality. Fake and unrealistic. “The doctors said it was from extreme stress. I had no memory of my time with the villains, though, so there was no proof. My doctors also suspected that was from repression of my time there because...because I was probably tortured.”

 

“Stop, Midoriya, my boy, you don’t need to rehash your pain-” All Might tried, but Izuku powered over him to cry, “Can you both keep a secret too?!”

 

Recovery Girl and All Might looked to each other. Izuku was shaking much more violently now. He knew that it had nothing to do with his usual tremor. He couldn’t control his shaking. He could feel his fingernails digging into his palms. The acid burned stronger in his stomach. Part of him was screaming to stop because he couldn’t trust them, but the other part of him was willing to bet on it. It wasn’t like he was giving everything away. He was only giving a little bit. He was willing to lose even more of his body parts if it meant he could have even a little bit of hope. He could trust in heroes, right?

 

“I will tell no one of what you say here.” All Might finally said, and despite not being in his full hero form Izuku could hear the power in his voice. It was the voice of his childhood and all of his dreams. It was the voice of the one congratulating him and telling him that he could be a hero. All Might didn’t know him personally, but he was Izuku’s hope. The one he had always aimed for. One of the few lights he’d had in the darkness of his hell to look up to and hope to live another day to meet. The one who had told him not to worry and had beaten the odds by defeating Noumu and Master’s plan.

 

“I won’t either.” Recovery Girl said. “I am a doctor first, and I never give away information about my patients. I will not repeat anything you tell us, Midoriya-kun.”

 

Izuku felt tears roll down his cheeks. He wiped the tears away quickly. He looked out the window from his spot and spun around double-check the door. He couldn’t see any shadows moving under it and couldn’t hear any voices. They were alone for now. Even so he kept his voice quiet as he choked out,

 

“What I told you...Is the story that everyone knows. But it’s...it’s not the full story.” His eyes darted between the two of their faces. Neither of their eyes strayed from him. Izuku was close to hyperventilating. It was taking all of his willpower to keep himself under control even as he shivered violently. “I...I...I remember. I remember who kidnapped me.”

 

“I thought they had been captured?” Recovery Girl asked with a tense voice. “All of the villains who were involved.”

 

Izuku shook his head. “No...They were underlings. They took the fall.”

 

“Your kidnapper is still out there?” She asked with shock.

 

Izuku nodded and bit the inside of his cheek until it bled. The taste of blood was nostalgic. He could remember many nights spent with blood in his mouth.

 

He stared All Might in the eyes. The man’s face was paler with whatever thoughts were in his head. “He’s a powerful man.” Izuku whispered breathlessly because he couldn’t speak any louder. “A...terribly evil man.”

 

“Are you suggesting…” All Might asked as his own body began to tremble a bit, “that you think the villain I fought...is the one who kidnapped you?”

 

Izuku couldn’t voice the words, so he just nodded.

 

All Might took a breath, “...Do you know All for One, Midoriya Izuku?”

 

And then Izuku felt whatever courage he’d had drain out of him. It was like the bottom half of his feet just dropped out and everything inside of him had rushed out in a flood. He could only sink in his seat a bit as if his strings were cut. His strength was gone.

 

He didn’t know that name.

 

“...No.” He confessed.

 

All Might seemed to deflate as well. “Are you sure?”

 

Izuku nodded silently. Had he been mistaken? There was always the possibility that there was another powerful person out there, but it was horrifying to even think about. It was bad enough knowing that there was a villain who could rival All Might and injure him. It was worse knowing there was another villain out there that could be just as powerful as them both. Two villains and one hero that was fading away. It was a future Izuku didn’t even want to contemplate.

 

“I see. That...is probably for the best.” Izuku had enough on his plate without meeting another evil person. “Then who is the villain who had taken you?”

 

The door handle wiggled, and Izuku startled like someone had electrocuted him. His hands found the arms of the chair and he clenched them so tight that he could feel the skin of his hand stretched to the breaking point. He looked at the door with abject terror.

 

There was a knock. “Recovery Girl? All Might? May I come in?” It was the voice of one of the police officers. Izuku recognized it from after USJ.

 

“Uh, wait!” All Might called, and then lowered his voice to address Izuku, “Young Midoriya, you can tell us. We can ask the police to wait.”

 

“...It doesn’t matter.” He stood up with shaky legs. He couldn’t even look at All Might anymore. He was barely holding himself together with bits of tape and he felt like he was walking on shards of glass. Home was very, very far away. He wanted to leave, so he headed straight for the door. He ignored the calls after him and opened the door. He caught the surprised look on the officer’s face before he brushed past him and left. He made it through two hallways before he had to burst into a bathroom and vomit up what little contents he’d had in his stomach.

 

Izuku couldn’t stay at the school any longer. He couldn’t go home either, although he knew his mother was waiting for him. She had probably been called after all of this. He just needed some time alone. He just needed time to pull himself together. A place to cry and break down without anyone around him and no pressure to hide who he was. Because right then he felt as if his freedom had been dangled in front of him, and it had been snatched away again. He was back at square one, only now the amount to lose was even greater. The shackles around his neck and limbs felt heavier than ever.

Chapter Text

After USJ, Katsuki had been dragged away from the rest of his classmates by teachers who had insisted he needed to see Recovery Girl to treat his broken rib. Normally Katsuki wouldn’t give a shit about going to get healed (especially since his rib hurt like a motherfucker), but he didn’t want to leave yet. He wanted to stay and hear what the hell the police were doing. What the teachers were hearing from the students. He wanted to watch Deku’s face to see what he told everyone.

 

But he hadn’t been allowed to do that. He was instead put into a separate car while Aizawa-sensei, Thirteen, and All Might had been taken away as well. Katsuki was sure they would’ve just sent him to a regular hospital, but he figured the school wanted their students in fighting condition at least. The entire ride there had been spent with Katsuki scowling and glaring out the window and trying not to wince at the movement of the car on his rib.

 

Recovery Girl had barely spent any time with him. She hadn’t even let him into the recovery room. She had simply given him a kiss on the forehead (gross) and a couple pieces of shitty candy before she had given him back to the police. Whatever. At least he wasn’t in pain anymore. Even his throat wasn’t as raw from screaming so much.

 

He was brought back to rejoin whoever was left of his classmates. Some of them had already been released from police hands and given back to their parents. His father had been waiting by the time Katsuki got back. He was dressed in his work uniform which meant he'd come from work. Katsuki wasn’t given back right away and had instead been told to wait to give a witness report.

 

Katsuki looked around but didn’t find Deku anywhere. It sat uneasily in his skin. Was the idiot being questioned right then? Katsuki couldn’t remember him sustaining many injuries during the events. Of the three of them, he thought Deku had gotten off the easiest. Even if he had come close to being swiped by that Noumu thing.

 

Katsuki looked around until he spotted a familiar redhead. At least he could ask someone he knew. “Oi, Shitty Hair.” The fact that Shitty Hair responded to his name by turning to face him even though he was talking with others just proved that he wasn’t as stupid as Katsuki had previously thought. Plus he had held up decent in battle.

 

“Bakugou! They released you already?” Shitty Hair grinned and slapped him on the shoulder. Katsuki bared his teeth at him but didn’t grant him a response.

 

“Where’s Deku?” He demanded instead.

 

“He kept holding his head, so they sent him off to Recovery Girl. Thought he had a concussion or something.” Deku wasn’t hit hard enough to have a concussion. Did Deku get headaches now? Katsuki had seen him holding his head before as well after training on some days. An effect of his quirk? Or result of brain damage? Natural causes?

 

“You didn’t pass him?” The tape guy next to Shitty Hair asked. “He went not long after you did.”

 

“No.” Katsuki looked around them. Most of the class was gone by now. They had no reason to stay after the police questioned them considering their teacher was out of commission. It was practically the end of the day anyway. Katsuki wanted to get his stupid interrogation done and go home. He needed to talk to Deku without others around. He doubted he would get any truthful answers from him with that stupid mask on.

 

“Weird.”

 

“What was he sent for? He wasn’t injured anymore than you.”

 

“It’s from overusing his quirk.” Round Face butted into their conversation without any kind of warning. Her eyes were red, Katsuki noticed.

 

“What?” He demanded. What did she mean ‘overusing his quirk’? Since when did he have that kind of drawback to his quirk?

 

“He gets really bad headaches when he overuses it.” She explained. “I was with him at the entrance exam. He used it so much that he passed out there.”

 

“What the fuck. He never told me that!” Was that another possible cause for Deku’s brain damage? Did forcing a quirk at an age older than four maybe add that kind of problem? He didn’t know.

 

“Dude, I thought you and Midoriya didn’t get along.” Shitty Hair said with a confused frown. “Why are you so worried?”

 

“I’m not worried!” Katsuki snapped at him because he wasn’t worried. He wanted answers!

 

“It’s because they’re childhood friends.”

 

Katsuki scowled at her. “Shut the hell up, Round Face!”

 

She looked a little shocked, but not by much. She had suffered through two lunches with him by now, and it seemed that was enough to get used to his coarse behavior. “I like Chubby Cheeks better, I think. It’s cuter.”

 

“That’s not exactly a compliment either way, Uraraka…” Tape Head muttered.

 

“Whoa! You’re Midoriya’s childhood friend?” Shitty Hair asked with a grin.

 

“I suppose that explains what happened in the locker room.” Tape Head noted. Katsuki turned his own glare on him.

 

“What happened in the locker room?” Round Face asked.

 

“That also explains why you and Midoriya stuck together at USJ even though you told me to leave-”

 

He was getting irritated. “Did you not hear those villains?” Katsuki demanded somewhat coldly, cutting off the chatter that he was tired of. He had attracted the attentions of the other students loitering as well. “They knew him.” There was an uncomfortable shift. Katsuki knew his classmates weren’t the brightest, but all of them had to have heard that warpgate asshole and his threat. Half-and-Half and Shitty Hair had also been close enough to hear that hand guy as well.

 

“...So that’s really him, then?” Earphone girl said. She rubbed her arm as the few students that were left shifted a bit closer to each other.  The conversation suddenly involved them all. Stupid eavesdroppers. “He’s the one who was...kidnapped for a year, right?”

 

There was a tension in which Katsuki could feel the realization dawn on those there about his relationship with Deku and the shift in understanding the context of their conversation. He wanted to throttle them for butting their noses into things that weren’t their fucking business.

 

“Isn’t that obvious?” Big Tit- no, Big Hair Girl responded. She turned to Katsuki. “You’re his childhood friend, right? Does that mean you were-”

 

“Shut up!” He barked at her. He didn’t want to talk about their past, dammit. Especially not with these extras!

 

“Do you think all of the villains knew him?” Pikachu asked. “I mean, did they say exactly what they were there for?”

 

“They wanted to kill All Might, remember?” Shitty Hair told him.

 

“Oh, right.”

 

“Did the other villains say anything, Bakugou?” Round Face asked. It was a little weird to talk to her without her usual annoying peppiness. “When you were all fighting?”

 

“They wouldn’t tell me anything.” Katsuki said. It still infuriated him what that hand bastard said. They all definitely knew something. Although Deku had a point that maybe the villains just knew about it as well as the common people did. Why would Deku’s kidnapping be famous enough for villains to care, though? The people who had been captured hadn’t even been big name villains. They were just small time people, although a decent group of them had been charged for the kidnapping and torture. It didn’t sit right with Katsuki.

 

“They all seemed to know something, though.” Shitty Hair pointed out.

 

“I’m worried.” Round Face admitted. “Maybe the police know something?”

 

Eventually the group had been split as they were all taken away at different times to be questioned. Katsuki was forced to sit through the stupid questioning and answered what he could. He told his part of the story and demanded some answers of his own, but the police didn’t have much to give him. The teachers present also were sketchy with their answers. Katsuki would have to try again at a later date since everything was too fresh.

 

He was then also forced to sit through being scolded by said teachers. Apparently one of the other students (or All Might himself) ratted out about his last aborted attack on the villains. He was told he had been reckless and should’ve left when All Might said to do so. If Katsuki hadn’t already gotten most of his rage out while still at USJ, he might have blown another gasket. As it was he could only grind his teeth and then storm off when they were done.

 

He stomped over to his father and glared around him to see that they were one of the last ones there. Half-and-Half was the only one actually left, loitering a little ways away. He hadn’t seen any sign of Deku.

 

“All done?” His dad asked, putting away his cell phone.

 

“Fucking finally, yeah.” He grumbled. He shoved his hands in his pockets. He looked around and waited for his dad to give the say so to leave, but Katsuki didn’t want to leave yet. Deku had been gone a lot longer than he had. Was he being questioned still? Had he already left? He asked his father.

 

“I haven’t seen him.” His dad said. Something nasty swirled in Katsuki’s chest and threatened to climb his throat. He swallowed it back with force. He found himself digging his foot into the ground and glaring at Half-and-Half. His father sighed and placed a hand in Katsuki’s hair, giving it a fond ruffle. “How about we wait for Izuku-kun, huh?”

 

Katsuki shook off his dad’s hand and didn’t mention the way his chest didn’t feel as tight now. He didn’t like that he hadn’t seen Deku since USJ. He still remembered how Deku had acted after that panic attack the other night, and then he’d had one in the locker room just a couple hours ago. He’d read that they were extremely exhausting. And then the villain attack had occurred and Deku had overused his quirk. Could he be having another breakdown somewhere?

 

“Katsuki,” His dad called, “we’ll be bringing Izuku-kun back to our place. Inko-san just texted me.”

 

“We can do that?” Katsuki asked with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Apparently we’re listed under the people that can take Izuku-kun out of school.” Even his father sounded contemplative about that. Katsuki wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He knew that his parents were definitely a lot closer with the Midoriyas after Deku’s kidnapping, but he hadn’t realized they were close enough for this kind of thing. He wondered what Auntie Inko was doing that she couldn’t pick Deku up herself. Was it a trust thing, or was it that she couldn’t get away from work? He didn’t bother to ask.

 

He spent a couple of minutes chatting with his dad when he was prompted to tell him what all happened, but he didn’t feel like rehashing the details again so soon. He was sure his mother would want to hear everything too. His dad could hear it then.

 

Instead he turned his attention to Half-and-Half. The other boy was still hovering around watching the school building as well. Where was his mother? Or his father? All of their parents had been contacted before they had been released, so surely his were too. Who the hell was he waiting for?

 

Katsuki wasn’t one to start conversations with people he didn’t give a damn about, but he didn’t like that Half-and-Half was just standing there doing nothing. He had an air of anticipation that both Katsuki and his father had. It was grating on his nerves.

 

“Why the fuck aren’t you going home?” He finally called out.

 

“Son.” His father reprimanded gently. Katsuki ignored him.

 

Half-and-Half arched one of his stupid eyebrows at Katsuki. “What does it matter to you?”

 

Katsuki didn’t like this guy. He didn’t like many people in the class, but he didn’t like this guy in particular. He was clearly competition and admittedly really fucking strong. It enraged Katsuki to think that his explosions did nothing on that Noumu thing (even when he had aimed for its head. He couldn’t get it to let go of Deku), but his little ice could freeze that thing in half. Like it was nothing. He had frozen the entire building during the battle trials as well. Katsuki wanted to beat the shit out of him.

 

“It doesn’t.” Katsuki snapped at him.

 

“Then don’t ask.”

 

“YOU WANNA FUCKING GO, HALF-AND-HALF!?”

 

“Katsuki!” His father cried. Katsuki ignored him again, seething. Half-and-Half only gave him an annoyed look.

 

“I’m waiting for Midoriya.”

 

“What for?” He narrowed his eyes at him.

 

“It’s none of your business.”

 

“THE HELL IT AIN’T!”

 

“Katsuki, enough!” His long-suffering father sighed. “Look, there’s Izuku-kun now.” Katsuki’s head whipped to where his father was pointing and saw Deku himself coming towards the gate. He wasn’t coming from the school buildings, though, and he held himself like he had no energy left. Katsuki felt himself sober up a bit at the sight. He remembered that weak appearance from the other night. “Izuku-kun!” His father called and waved. Deku’s head raised up and his eyes widened a little at the sight of them standing there. Katsuki’s dad motioned him over. Deku only hesitated for a moment before beginning to drag himself over.

 

“Ah...Hi, Uncle.” Deku smiled somewhat weakly. Katsuki could taste the other boy’s exhaustion on his tongue. His face was pale and the usual darkness under his eyes looked positively bruised. Deku was looking wane and haggard, but he still tried to slide that mask into place. He really didn’t want people to think much was wrong with him, did he? But what had happened to him?

 

“Are you alright, son?” Katsuki’s dad asked, clearly picking up on the same things Katsuki did.

 

It was strange watching Deku interact with someone like this, Katsuki decided. This was the first time he was seeing it again and really coming to face the reality since his decision that Deku was definitely going through Some Shit. Katsuki didn’t even feel that offended anger at the sight of him acting again. Like how he had felt in the locker room upon actually seeing Deku breaking down into a panic attack, Katsuki could only see someone who was tired. Broken.

 

The dark disgusting thing made a reappearance, much to Katsuki’s distaste.

 

“Oh...Yeah, I’m just tired.” Deku confessed and rubbed his eyes. “Recovery Girl healed me and it took more out of me than I was expecting.” It sounded like the truth, but he had barely been hurt and Katsuki had been healed of a broken rib. He should feel more tired than Deku did. But the truth was obvious. “Where’s my mom?” Deku looked around.

 

“She’s at our house.” Katsuki’s father said. “We’ve decided you both will be staying with us tonight.”

 

“What?!” Both boys cried.

 

“Since when?!” Katsuki demanded.

 

“Since Inko-san texted me.” Katsuki’s dad gave a warm chuckle and then sobered a little bit. “I can explain on the way.”

 

“You’d better!” Katsuki grumbled. It wasn’t like his parents to make snap decisions like this. Auntie Inko had stayed the night before on a couple of occasions, but Katsuki had assumed it was so she didn’t have to go home to an empty house since Uncle Hisashi was more often than not abroad. What was the point of tonight, then?

 

“Wait, Midoriya.” Katsuki shot a glare as Half-and-Half joined them. Deku blinked in surprise to see him.

 

“Oh, Todoroki.”

 

“We have to go.” Katsuki growled.

 

Half-and-Half ignored him. “I just have a question for you first, Midoriya.”

 

“Okay...What is it?” Deku’s head twitched a little in a confused tilt.

 

“During the fight with the villains today,” Katsuki noticed his dad stiffen beside him, “you managed to dodge an attack from that creature. How?”

 

Katsuki only vaguely remembered that moment because everything had happened so quickly. He’d heard that hand freak order that Noumu monster to attack Deku, and everything in Katsuki had violently rejected the idea. His body had been moving to get Deku out of the way before he had given it any kind of command, much like he felt when he was battling. It was purely driven by instinct and the knowledge that Deku would probably not be able to survive a hit from Noumu. It was a creature that All Might had struggled against. Katsuki had just needed to grab Deku.

 

But now that he thought about it, he did recall seeing Deku drop to the ground right before All Might had thrown Katsuki out of the way of the Noumu attack. At the time he hadn’t been able to think about it because All Might had once again taken another brutal hit and because his brain had been trying to catch up. Now, though, he realized Half-and-Half was right. Deku had dodged that attack. An attack Katsuki hadn’t even been able to see.

 

He stared at Deku waiting for an answer as well and knowing he was going to get a lie.

 

Deku gave a bashful laugh as the toe of his shoe dug into the ground. He crossed his arms over his chest and shrugged. “Luck and good reaction time? I don’t know...I just heard him command the Noumu thing and knew that it would try to punch me or something, so I just dropped. I was lucky to escape the hit with only a scratch.”

 

“Can you teach me?” Half-and-Half asked and what? Since when is suddenly everyone wanting to learn from Deku?!

 

“I-I don’t know if it’s something I can teach!” Deku waved his arms quickly in front of him, shaking his head.

 

“Training, then.”

 

“OI!! Deku is training with ME, you shit!” Katsuki yelled.

 

“Kacchan…” Deku muttered.

 

“You can go screw yourself, Strawberries and Cream!” Katsuki flicked him off and grabbed Deku’s arm to pull him backwards. “Fucking figure it out for yourself!”

 

Half-and-Half glared at him. “It’s not your decision, Bakugou.”

 

Katsuki sneered. “I have first dibs, idiot!”

 

“That’s enough.” Katsuki’s dad grabbed him by the back of the neck like Katsuki knew he had picked up from the old hag when she was actually tired of his shit. His three warnings were up as he was steered away from Half-and-Half. “I’m sorry, Todoroki-kun. But I need to get these two home. Their mothers are waiting.”

 

Katsuki growled angrily at the handling but knew better than to force his dad off then. He didn’t like having hands on his neck like this.

 

Half-and-Half looked a little disgruntled. Deku only gave him a small wave. “Sorry, Todoroki. We can talk about it later? Although there’s not much to say…” He added in a softer, weaker voice. His fatigue was laced deep into all of his words. Half-and-Half’s eyes seemed to soften just a bit at that (motherfucker!) before he reluctantly nodded.

 

“Fine. I’ll see you in class.”

 

“Get home safe!” Deku added as the boy turned and left. Katsuki ripped his dad’s hand off and ducked away from him, avoiding the reprimanding gaze. Honestly, his mother was easier to deal with. His father knew way too well how to handle his and his mother’s shit.

 

The three of them left after that as well. “Why are we staying over, Uncle?” Deku finally asked considering Katsuki was busy angrily tearing at the bits of lint in the pockets of his pants.

 

Katsuki’s dad sighed a little. “Well, to be honest, it was police suggestion.” Both boys heads shot up to look at the man then. Katsuki felt his heart rate jump into a faster beat. His dad made a ‘calm down’ motion with his hands. “There were multiple witnesses to the villains implying they knew of Izuku-kun and his past...so the police suggested staying somewhere else for the night. Just in case.” Deku was tense beside him. “So Mitsuki offered our house. Izuku-kun, you’ll stay with Katsuki, and Inko-san will be taking the guest room like usual.”

 

“Th-That’s not necessary!” Deku shook his head. “I can share with my mom-”

 

“Shut the fuck up, Deku!” Katsuki snapped at him. What was wrong with sharing his room?! Katsuki didn’t really want to share his room, but what was Deku’s goddamn problem with sharing? It wasn’t like they hadn’t just spent the night together two nights ago! “What kind of nerd still shares a room with his mom at your age? Grow the hell up!”

 

Deku sulked petulantly. “I was trying to be nice, Kacchan…”

 

“Just fucking take the futon!” Katsuki kicked Deku in the hip, making the boy yelp and stumble. His dad sighed beside him.

 

“Kacchan, there’s a footprint on my uniform now!”

 

“Get over it!”

 

The train ride after that was uneventful. Deku dozed next to him with Katsuki’s dad on the other side of Deku. His father met Katsuki’s eye. Katsuki scowled and raised an eyebrow to demand for him to voice his question. His dad double-checked Deku before asking softly, “Is Izuku-kun okay?”

 

Katsuki wondered how much his parents knew about Deku. How much did Auntie Inko know and how much did she tell his parents? Katsuki muttered truthfully, “Probably not.”

 

His father gently coaxed Deku to relax on his shoulder and petted the boy’s hair. Katsuki looked away from the display to glare out the window at the passing scenery instead.

 

The cut Deku had received from Noumu was gone, which meant he really did go to Recovery Girl. He must have had another break down at some point to look as god-awful as he did now. It would explain why he had been gone for so long, although the knowledge sat badly in Katsuki’s stomach. The articles that Katsuki had read implied just how much energy would be taken out of a person after an attack. Deku had suffered through two, a battle, and a healing from Recovery Girl. No wonder he looked like shit. It led more credibility to the thought that Deku might actually know those villains...or, rather, had encountered them before. It would explain the negative reaction. And Deku had been lying to him earlier when Katsuki had confronted him.

 

Katsuki’s teeth gnashed together at the memory and he let out a harsh breath. His father glanced at him but said nothing. Katsuki continued to glare out of the window.

 

Those villains may have been involved with Deku’s kidnapping. Maybe not directly, but they knew about it. And Deku knew about them. They must have met at some point. Deku had told him that he remembered his time with the villains, but Katsuki already knew it would be harder to get more answers out of him then it was to get Katsuki to admit his classmates better than him (which they weren’t). Didn’t mean Katsuki didn’t want to try, though.

 

The train station wasn’t very far from where Katsuki lived, but Katsuki still called out next to a convenience store, “Hey old man, get us something to drink!”

 

His father and Deku paused. The immediate wariness on Deku’s face was obvious to anyone who looked. Katsuki’s dad only raised an eyebrow at that. “We have drinks at home.”

 

“It’s been a long day.” Katsuki argued with a scowl. “Don’t be a stingy bastard!”

 

“Watch your mouth.” His dad scolded, but it was done half-heartedly. Hard to tell a kid to watch his language when his mother cursed just as much. His dad’s eyes darted between the two boys before smiling a little and giving in. “Alright. I’ll get you both something since you deserve it.”

 

“Damn right.”

 

“I’ll take that as a thank you.”

 

“O-Oh! Thank you!” Deku added. “I’ll go with you-”

 

“I know what you want.” His dad ruffled Deku’s hair good-naturedly unaware that he had ruined Deku’s attempt to flee.

 

“But-”

 

“Let him treat us already, dammit!” Katsuki grabbed Deku’s shoulder and manhandled him over to the side of the store and out of the way of the doors. Katsuki’s father ducked inside.

 

Deku deflated like a balloon the moment they were alone. His exhaustion became more prominent, but more sadness and annoyance showed. He fell into a crouch and crossed his arms over his knees before hiding his face in them. Katsuki stayed standing in front of him, but all of his questions seemed to flee. Deku was in a vulnerable state and Katsuki finally had him alone. He could probably get some answers out of him. He no longer knew what he wanted to ask, though.

 

The only thing that came out of his mouth was, “Deku.”

 

“Please.” Deku responded quietly. It was so quiet that Katsuki almost didn’t hear it. It gave him pause.

 

“Haa?” He asked.

 

Deku lifted his head to look him in the eye, and Katsuki felt his heart plummet. This was the face of someone who couldn’t bear anything more than what they already had. “Please, Kacchan...” It was begging, pure and simple. He didn’t need to add anymore words to know what Deku was asking.

 

Auntie Inko was wrong about Katsuki: he did know something about sympathy. Someone without sympathy would be unmoved by what was in front of them. They would’ve reached into the bleeding chest of the person in front of them and torn apart the little bit of bandaging they had managed to put over their wound. A younger Katsuki might have done that. Katsuki from two days ago might have even done that.

 

Today, Katsuki said nothing. He just crouched next to Deku and looked away from him, much like he had done earlier in the locker rooms. He gave Deku his space for himself while still offering his support silently. He let Deku choose the pace of their relationship...whatever this relationship was between them.

 

Deku just buried his face back into his arms and heaved a shaky sigh that whispered words in a language Katsuki did not yet understand of the weight Deku carried. Katsuki would give him tonight. His questions could wait until morning at least.

Chapter Text

Izuku was wrung out. He didn’t even care if he was being obvious about his lack of attention to anything or anyone; he just wanted to sleep. Loud noises grated on him and chatter tried to get his panic to rise again, but it was like trying to get a pot that barely had any water left in it to boil over again. The feeling was never overwhelming, so he could just swallow it back down.

 

He hadn’t been able to feel too much even as Kacchan managed to get Uncle Masaru to leave them alone for a little bit. Dread had been primary, but his mind couldn’t cling to anything. That was why he had begged Kacchan not to ask him anything. Not to make him think anymore when he knew he would have to confront the future sooner rather than later. He was so tired as it was. He couldn’t even begin to play another round of Kacchan’s dangerous game with him.

 

To his surprise, Kacchan had backed down. Izuku wouldn’t be able to think about that until later. He had only revelled in the relief until Uncle Masaru had come back with drinks for both of them. His was a sweet and creamy drink that he hadn’t had for years. It had done wonders to soothe his tattered soul.

 

Izuku could vaguely remember the rest of that night, although his mind had been preoccupied with animal needs like food, shower, bed. It was all he could think about, although he did join Kacchan with recounting what happened at USJ to their families when dinner was made and they had sat down to eat. Izuku had been able to read his mother enough to know that she could tell he’d had another attack. She didn’t force him to talk and mostly encouraged him to put more food into his stomach. Every time his cup of tea emptied, he was given more. Auntie Mitsuki had filled the bath and told him to go first. Izuku wondered what they had talked about when he had left to shower, but didn’t feel like dealing with that then either.

 

By the time he was finished with his shower, the futon was set up in Kacchan’s room. It was dark in there already, although Izuku didn’t know how late it was that night had fallen. Izuku just placed his stuff aside and crawled into the futon with a sigh as he buried himself into the blanket. It smelled of a childhood that was long past, although Izuku had no memories of spending the night at Kacchan’s house. He had never been allowed. Kacchan had either always stayed at his house, or there was no spending the night at all. He had only been allowed to visit when he was younger.

 

The bedroom was constantly cold due to Kacchan’s quirk, but under the thick futon he was nice and warm. His fingers pressed into the soft fluff of the futon and the pillow as his eyes drooped. He had forgotten what those childhood days had been like, but the scent was bringing it back again. Of days he had spent in Kacchan’s room either alone or with some of the other boys playing pretend or with action figures. Watching TV because Kacchan had his own TV in his bedroom. Fighting over who would be All Might and Izuku ultimately always losing because it was Kacchan’s house, so Kacchan got to make the rules (although he would’ve found a way to be All Might no matter the situation anyway).

 

Things had changed so much since then. Even through the gloom of the darkness, Izuku could spot some of the major changes around Kacchan’s room. Namely the bed was so much bigger, and the furniture was rearranged. He couldn’t see much All Might stuff, although he couldn’t see very well to begin with. He wanted to look a bit harder when he had the energy to turn the light on. Maybe he would finally be able to understand this new, foreign Kacchan better then.

 

The door opened to the bedroom and Izuku’s eyes immediately fell upon it. Kacchan entered with a wide yawn and kicked the door shut behind him. “Move, nerd.” He said as he didn’t bother to avoid Izuku’s futon and stepped directly onto it. Izuku had to react quickly to roll out of the way to not get Kacchan’s full weight pressing down onto his sternum. Kacchan then stepped up to climb onto his bed and lay down. The air was heavier with the humidity of the bathroom still clinging to him.

 

Izuku chanced speaking, “You’re...going to bed early again?”

 

“It’s not that early.” Kacchan muttered. “Plus I had to get a fucking rib healed today by that old bat.” Izuku could see him scrolling through his phone again. He remembered that he should probably shoot off a text to Shigaraki to ask him how he was doing. He didn’t want to start up a conversation, though, so he would text in the morning. Explain his silence since he’d been busy and surrounded by people pretty much since he had last seen the villains.

 

“What time is it?” He asked.

 

“Look at your phone and figure it out.” Izuku pouted a bit and didn’t bother. He pressed his face further into his pillow and sighed again. It was nice to not have his back stinging anymore. He had seen in the bathroom mirror that his back was healed, but scarred more. That was nothing new, though.

 

Now that he wasn’t being constantly barraged by the presences of other people and now that he had silence around him, Izuku felt his nerves calm. He didn’t feel in danger here, surprisingly. He didn’t feel the need to be on edge. It was...nice. Almost like it was just a normal sleepover with his old friend. Kacchan even seemed to be treating him better than he had in their childhood.

 

But that was still weird for him. Kacchan backed down earlier before he could even begin to question Izuku. Even now they were completely alone but Kacchan was keeping to himself. What was this? Was this a new kind of tactic? Or had his panic attacks been deemed a neutral zone where the game would be put on pause until he had recovered? That seemed unlikely. Why wouldn’t Kacchan take advantage of a weakness? Deku would’ve. He had been taught to take advantage of weaknesses.

 

But...he appreciated it.

 

“Kacchan…?” Izuku called out softly. Kacchan grunted. “I just wanted to say...thank you. For, uh, you know. Not...asking me. About what happened today.”

 

Kacchan was silent for a few long minutes. Izuku thought he wasn’t going to respond at all, especially as the light of his phone turned off. But then he said, “Whatever. You’re not answering my questions anyway. I don’t need your help with those villain fuckers.”

 

Izuku thought that definitely wasn’t true. He was pretty sure Kacchan didn’t know nearly enough to figure anything out. The fastest way would be for Izuku to answer how the villains knew him. Even how Izuku himself knew the villains. Not that he would give it away.

 

“Besides,” Kacchan lifted himself up onto his arms so he could look Izuku in the eye. He stared him down as he said, “I already figured it out.”

 

Izuku gave him an amused twist of a smile. “What did you figure out?”

 

“Fuck off and stop laughing, shitty Deku!” Kacchan scowled at him. “I already know you know that mist bastard. You never forgot your time with the villains.” That much must have been obvious. What was not obvious, and was very weird, was when Kacchan’s voice darkened as he asked lowly, “Is he someone who helped but got away?”

 

Izuku blinked at him. He sounded angry, just like he had when he’d asked Izuku similar questions back at USJ. Izuku didn’t really get why he was so angry about it, though. Possibly because the heroes didn’t do their jobs right?

 

Izuku wasn’t giving him anything. “I’m not giving you any answers, remember?”

 

Kacchan scoffed and rolled back so Izuku couldn’t see him anymore without sitting up. Izuku didn’t have the energy to do that. “You just confirmed my theory, dumbass. Don’t need you to agree to shit when you get so cagey.”

 

Fuck. Izuku could kick himself.

 

Out loud he didn’t resist saying, “Fuck you.”

 

Kacchan let out a sound that could’ve been either another scoff or a laugh. It was hard to tell without seeing his face. “Go the fuck to sleep already.” Izuku did, but only because he was actually exhausted and not because Kacchan had ended the conversation.


 

He woke up briefly later the moment he heard significant movement. His eyes popped open to see Kacchan climbing from his bed and dragging his phone behind him. The house was quiet, which was weird because Izuku was used to living in an apartment where he could hear the neighbors. If Izuku strained his ears, he could very faintly hear the sounds of a TV going.

 

He watched as Kacchan pulled off his night clothes and grabbed his uniform from his closet. It still felt too early to be up, let alone getting ready for school. Izuku wondered if he should start getting ready too, but his eyes were distracted by Kacchan’s skin.

 

It was...somewhat surreal not to see his back littered with scars. Izuku was used to seeing people with scars. With injuries that never healed right but shouldn’t be there at all. Even in the low morning light Izuku could see that the other boy’s skin was different. Proof of a different past from Izuku’s own. Unwillingly he felt a little jealous. His body shouldn’t look like a warzone.

 

Kacchan finally felt his eyes on him and he glared. “Stop fucking staring at me, you perverted shit.”

 

“I’m not impressed.” Deku snarked back without intonation. That only made Kacchan bare his teeth at him.

 

“I’m not looking to impress you, asshole!” He pulled on his undershirt and shucked on his button-up shirt. “Go the fuck back to sleep already! Goddamn, having to deal with your shit this early!”

 

“You’re the one who always wants to walk to school together.” Izuku pointed out as he wiggled out from the futon and looked around for where he had thrown his uniform. It looked to be on Kacchan’s desk. He got up to grab it, not caring that it was dirty, but received a pillow to the back of his head. He gasped as he realized just how hard that pillow was thrown. Pillows shouldn’t hurt like that! He spun around with a shocked look.

 

“I said, go the fuck back to sleep!” Kacchan growled. He looked ready to fight Izuku even though he was only half-dressed.

 

“What? School, though-”

 

“Did you not hear a single fucking word Auntie said last night, idiot? You’re not going to school today!”

 

Izuku paused and felt his heart skip a beat. He didn’t remember any of the conversation last night. When had his mother decided this? Was she taking him out of the school after one villain attack? Izuku could go to school. He didn’t want to miss any.

 

“What? Why?”

 

Kacchan yanked on his pants and pulled on a belt, even though he left the belt so loose his pants hung a bit like usual. Iida would get on him again. “I don’t know. Probably because you look like shit and she’s worried about you?” He said it with a mocking sneer in his tone, like it was obvious.

 

“I...No, I’m fine! I’m going too!”

 

“Good luck getting past that old hag.” Izuku knew he was talking about Auntie Mitsuki. “Crazy old woman won’t let you leave the house if she’s determined. Even if you fight her.” That definitely sounded like personal experience.

 

“Auntie has work, though.”

 

“She’s working from home today.” Kacchan walked over to the mirror and ruffled his hair a bit so it looked somewhat more normal. He turned as he walked towards the door and pointed at the futon. “Just go back to bed, fucking Deku. You still look like shit warmed over.”

 

Izuku glared at him but reluctantly did climb back into the futon. Kacchan left the room right after that. Izuku was tempted to just get ready anyway and leave, but he had a nervous feeling that the TV was on because Auntie was already awake. Izuku was well-aware that Kacchan got his temper from Auntie, and Izuku couldn’t fight back with her. He was stuck in the house whether he wanted to be or not.

 

He would have to talk to his mother about it later, though. He couldn’t miss school every time something like this happened. He needed to be in class as much as possible. For his sake and hers.


 

When Izuku woke again, it was much later. He could feel the heaviness of the late day in the air as the sun was stumbling its way downwards again already. Izuku had to take a minute to shake off his warm lethargy from sleeping in before he got up to leave the bedroom. His mouth tasted disgusting, so he went to brush his teeth. He was relieved to see his bathroom supplies by the sink in the bathroom. His mother really had packed everything for him.

 

He used the bathroom and his stomach growled furiously as he exited the bathroom. It was weird to wake up in someone else’s house. He felt misplaced even as he passed familiar pictures hanging on the walls. He walked downstairs and looked in the kitchen but didn’t see anyone. The living room, too, was empty. Was everyone gone?

 

“Izuku-kun? Is that you?” Izuku turned around to hunt down the voice of Auntie Mitsuki. He found her in the small study at the back of the house. Izuku had to stare for a moment because he was suddenly assaulted with memories of playing in that room years ago. It was empty of any toys. A mannequin stood there with Auntie Mitsuki sewing something onto the pants it was wearing.

 

“Oh good, it is you. You slept a long time.” She said when she spotted him.

 

“Haha, yeah...Good morning.”

 

“More like, good afternoon.” She shot him an amused look. “You slept most of the day. It’s nearly time for Katsuki to get his butt home.” God, he really had slept in late. Auntie Mitsuki placed her stuff aside and walked over to him to look him up and down. He was nearly as tall as her now, although she was definitely still taller. Kacchan got his height from his parents as well. “Well, you look a lot better now! You really needed that sleep!”

 

Izuku ran a hand through his hair. “I feel better.” He confessed.

 

She nodded. “Inko said to just let you sleep it off. She was worried you would have nightmares, but Katsuki said you slept just fine.” Had they asked Kacchan to watch over him? That grated on Izuku’s nerves to think about. Auntie Mitsuki laughed a little. “I assume the brat gave you The Warning?”

 

Why did Izuku feel like that should be capitalized? “Um...About how you wouldn’t let me leave the house?” He guessed.

 

“You got it!” She slapped him on the shoulder and then spun him around. “C’mon then. I got some food we can reheat for you!”

 

Izuku joined her as she reheated what looked to be leftovers. Izuku wasn’t going to complain because his stomach felt like it was eating itself. He had definitely regained his appetite. He had to satiate himself with water while the food heated up and with idle chatter with Auntie Mitsuki. They talked about how his mother had gone off to work as well and got much more information on them having to spend the night with the Bakugous. They were able to go home today. The spending the night thing was a ‘just in case’ scenario.

 

“Thank you for helping us so much, Auntie.” Izuku said, and felt a little bit of his gratefulness pass to her as he finally got to thank her for everything. “Especially my mom during…” He didn’t need to finish.

 

Auntie Mitsuki shook her head with a soft smile. Izuku wondered if that was what Kacchan would look like if he ever smiled like that. “Don’t worry about it. We were glad to help. Besides, I think it made us all feel better to do something, y’know?” She placed down the finished food in front of Izuku and refilled his water before sitting down beside him.

 

“What do you mean?” Izuku asked after he thanked her for the food and began to eat. He tried not to scarf it down.

 

“I mean that all of us wanted to do something, but none of us knew what to do.” Auntie Mitsuki sighed and leaned forward on the table. Her voice softened in recollection as she said, “When I saw the news...I just had to go see Inko. I knew we hadn’t been as close since you and Katsuki had grown up and Katsuki started acting like even more of a punk, but…” she cupped her cheek and gave him a sad smile, “But I’m a mother too. And I couldn’t even imagine the pain if it was Katsuki. So I wanted to help where I could.”

 

Izuku couldn’t look her in the eye. The pressure was too much. He might cry again. His eyes teared up. “Still...thank you. I’m just...I’m glad my mom wasn’t alone since dad is always gone…”

 

“It was as much of a selfish endeavor as it was to help her.” Auntie Mitsuki attempted to be humble, which was weird to hear from a Bakugou. “But I think it did something to relieve the guilt all of us had.” Izuku frowned. “What’s that face for, kid?”

 

“I just...you…” Izuku swallowed and made sure his mask was on right before looking at her with confusion, “You keep saying ‘all of us’. Do you mean…?”

 

“Do I mean Katsuki too?” She asked knowingly with a wry smile. “Yes, him as well.” Izuku didn’t bother to hide his shock. She laughed at that. “What’s with that? I thought you two were friends again? Is it really such a surprise?” More than she could possibly know. There was no way Izuku could burst her bubble. It’s not like he could give away the actual reason Kacchan was pushing himself back into Izuku’s life.

 

Auntie Mitsuki let out another wistful sigh. “I was happy to see Katsuki going to spend the night at your house, you know?” He watched her. “I mean, he was acting like the little shit he is, but it was the first time he was willingly going to visit your house. He hadn’t been there since…” She thought for a bit and then, “well, since your funeral.”

 

It still chilled Izuku to hear those words. To know that a funeral was thrown for him. He didn’t like bringing it up.

 

It must have shown on his face because she gave him an apologetic smile. “He refused to go over to your house the entire time you were gone. I don’t think he could really believe you were gone. He even got in trouble with the school and fought some of the kids who kept insisting you were dead.”

 

Izuku couldn’t even eat. His every fiber was focused on her words and absorbing this information. More information about Kacchan and what had happened while he had been gone. What had made Kacchan so different. Nobody talked about what had happened while he was gone, and Kacchan kept avoiding even bringing it up. It was hard to imagine Kacchan fighting people over him, though.

 

“I don’t even think he fully believed it after the funeral.” She went on thoughtfully. “But that kid…” She met Izuku’s eyes and he recognized a mother’s pain there. He saw it in his own mother’s eyes all the time. The eyes of a mother who didn’t know how to help her child. “It really affected him, Izuku-kun. Even though he doesn’t really show it now, you’ve noticed it right? How differently he treats you? I could see it much clearer last night.”

 

Izuku really wished he could remember more of last night so he knew how Kacchan had treated him, but he had a feeling it was similar to this morning. Of course Izuku had noticed how different Kacchan was being. He was...kind of gentler. In his own way. The bullying had stopped of course, but there were other things too. He couldn’t put them all into words.

 

“That’s why I’m glad to see him becoming friends with you again, Izuku-kun. If there’s one silver lining to the shitty thing that happened to you, its that I think it caused Katsuki to mature a little.” She stood up then with a stretch. “Not to say he isn’t still a little shit! He’s still my pain in the ass!” She laughed. Izuku allowed a smile to quirk onto his mouth at that. “I hope you two stay good friends.”

 

“Yeah.” Izuku smiled to hide his conflicting feelings. “I hope Kacchan and I can become really good friends again!”

 

She ruffled his hair and left him then so she could finish her work. Izuku finished eating in silence and washed his dishes before returning to Kacchan’s room. This time he took the time to really look around. Kacchan’s room definitely looked more mature than his own. The All Might posters were gone, but there were still two figurines from his past. He had a punching bag shoved into the corner to make room for the futon and there were textbooks stacked neatly on shelves above Kacchan’s desk. There was one poster for a movie that Izuku had never seen. Izuku was left reeling as he tried to put together the two images he had of Kacchan’s room: The then and the now.

 

A small piece of paper stuck to the wall caught his attention then. He stepped over the futon to approach it and stared with shock as he saw it was a missing poster. His own younger, smiling face stared back at him. It was the notice for when he had gone officially missing. The edges were a little charred. The paper was slightly yellowed with age. Izuku lifted it and saw that the wall was a slightly different color behind it. He realized this picture had been hanging up for a while now.

 

Why would Kacchan have this hanging up in his room? Kacchan avoided everything about Izuku’s kidnapping. He had been visibly uncomfortable and silent with the reminders of it that Izuku had seen. Why would he purposely subject himself to seeing that missing poster every day? It was right next to his closet, so he had to see it every morning.

 

The house rattled a bit as the door was thrown open. He could hear Kacchan yell out how he was home and he heard Auntie Mitsuki scream at him back about the door. Izuku only gave it part of his attention while his mind whirled.

 

But Auntie Mitsuki had said that Kacchan had  been affected by Izuku’s kidnapping. To the point that he had fought people over it. He had even continued that when Izuku was back because Izuku had seen him telling people off who had tried to bully him. Kacchan had stopped bullying him when Izuku had come back, but that had just been because even Kacchan wouldn’t be that big of an ass.

 

Right?

 

But what if Kacchan had been horrified by Izuku’s kidnapping just like everyone else? Wasn’t he just avoiding remembering it? After all, Kacchan had been the last one to see him that day. Was it guilt? Izuku doubted it. Kacchan didn’t feel guilt like that. Besides, Kacchan had nothing to do with Izuku’s kidnapping.

 

And then Kacchan had started shoving his way back into Izuku’s life. Izuku already knew the reasons, of course. He just wanted to dig out Izuku’s secrets. And whatever ‘friendship’ people were seeing was false. Kacchan was purposely making his life harder. The roles felt reversed and now Izuku was the one who didn’t want Kacchan near him. It was better if there was distance. Izuku needed to get his mission done without Kacchan finding out.

 

But Kacchan still had this missing poster hanging on his wall.

 

“You just left the futon out? What the fuck, asshole, clean up after yourself!” Izuku blinked a couple of times to leave his own thoughts to find Kacchan scowling at the futon still on the ground. He glared at Izuku.

 

Izuku could only stare back.

 

“What?” Kacchan demanded. “What the hell are you looking at me like that for? Clean up!”

 

“Kacchan.” Izuku had to know. He stepped aside so Kacchan could see the poster. “Why do you have this?”

 

Kacchan tensed. His face did that thing where it blanked out in that irritating expression Izuku still didn’t know how to read. That softened look that Izuku couldn’t understand on Kacchan’s face. Then it hardened again into a stern glare. “What does it matter?” He asked defensively.

 

“You don’t like being reminded.” Izuku took off his mask and pointed at the poster. “So why is this here? You don’t like remembering that year.”

 

“Fuck you.” Kacchan spat at him and kicked the door shut. Izuku didn’t react to it. “It’s none of your goddamn business!”

 

“It has my face on it. I think it’s my business.” Although Izuku felt a bit of a disconnect between that Izuku and who he was now.

 

“Continue to spout shit! Go on!” He was avoiding answering by getting angry. He didn’t want to answer him. Izuku wouldn’t get answers out of him like this. He could spout shit, though.

 

He thought about how Kacchan had been acting recently. How much nicer he was. They were both playing this game with each other of cat and mouse, but Kacchan had backed down yesterday. He never backed down. But he did yesterday. Because he could recognize when Izuku was exhausted? He had seen Izuku have a breakdown before. He had seen how he had been afterwards. He had even gotten Izuku to open up at that time a little bit.

 

Yesterday’s behavior was different from the last time a similar situation had occurred. The sleepover had only even happened because of Kacchan wanting to force his presence on Izuku to get answers. This time, though, he didn’t force any answers. Kacchan’s behavior had changed towards Izuku in the short time they had been spending time together.

 

Izuku had thought it had been a tactic. Be friendly and get him to open up. Force the secrets out when his guard was down. But Kacchan didn’t take advantage when his guard had been down. He hadn’t used his weakness to his advantage. Not even last night when Izuku had given him another opening by showing his gratefulness. Kacchan had left him alone. Kacchan had let him recover. Kacchan never let anybody recover.

 

“Kacchan…” Izuku whispered and gazed at the missing poster again. He then turned back to Kacchan with wide eyes. “Do you...are you actually trying to be my friend?”

 

Kacchan glared, but his scowl disappeared. He was still tense, but not like he had been. His own eyes darted over to the missing poster and back to his face. He said nothing for a time. Izuku couldn’t speak either. Finally Kacchan bit out with as much reluctance as possible, “So?”

 

“You’re just trying to get information out of me, though.” Izuku continued quietly. “Friends don’t do that.” Kacchan gritted his teeth. “You don’t want to be my friend.”

 

“Try again, dick.” Kacchan snapped at him. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not trying to get shit out of you because your dumbass won’t speak.”

 

“So you’re sneaking around instead.” He accused.

 

“I’m just picking up what you’re putting down!” Kacchan argued. “I’m not an idiot like most of the people around us are. Just because I’m not fooled by your fake bullshit doesn’t make me the sneaky bastard! That’s ALL you!”

 

“So why are you hanging around me so much if you’re not looking for information and you don’t want to be my friend?!” Izuku stepped closer to him, feeling his own anger rising. “Is it because I have a quirk now? Am I suddenly worth your fucking time because I’m not Quirkless anymore?!”

 

“Go fuck yourself!” Kacchan snarled and closed the distance to shove his shoulders. “I don’t give a shit about that!”

 

“Oh really?” Izuku waved a hand. “Because you didn’t seem really interested in being near me until you realized I did have a quirk.” He scoffed an incredulous laugh. “Hell, you thought I was faking this entire time! And then suddenly you started this walking home bullshit after seeing my quirk!

 

And now you’re walking to and from school with me everyday! And you’re trying to force me to study with you! And you want to train with me too! You’re acting like we’re-”

 

“FRIENDS?” Kacchan yelled. Izuku paused. “Is that what you were going to say, Deku?! That I’m acting like we’re FRIENDS!?”

 

Izuku said nothing.

 

Kacchan grabbed the front of his shirt and yanked him closer. He lowered his voice and growled, “You listen to me, you dumb piece of shit, because I’m only going to say this once since it seems like it’s not getting through to you and I’m not willing to sit here while you accuse me of sketchy bullshit!” He pointed at the missing poster, “That thing right there is a reminder . Things have changed, and that’s the goddamn proof of it. I don’t give a shit what you want from me. I don’t do friendships. I don’t even like people most days. But you? You need a goddamn friend because you’re the biggest fucking garbage fire I’ve ever seen. But nobody else around you even seems to notice that you’re on your guard every day. Nobody but me knows that you’re a lying sack of shit, so nobody is going to be your friend because of it. Because friends don’t hide that kind of stuff.”

 

Kacchan released his shirt. “Except me. I’m the only one who knows, so I’m the only one you can’t lie to. If anyone is going to be your friend, it’s me. And you’d better get fucking used to it. Because I ain’t going anywhere, Izuku.”

 

Izuku could only stare at him with wide eyes. He felt flayed apart and every piece of him ripped open to expose him. Kacchan stood there before him and saw through every illusion Izuku had. Because he knew that Kacchan was right. Izuku had always needed friends. It was why he had followed Kacchan and his friends all of those years. It was why he had been so lonely when they had reached middle school. It was why the villains were able to use Kacchan against him. It was why even now Izuku couldn’t hate Kacchan even after everything.

 

Because whether Izuku liked it or not, Kacchan had somehow become his friend when he wasn’t looking. His only friend who wasn’t insane, or a villain. Someone who he didn’t have to be as on guard around, even though he still wasn’t going to give everything up. But it didn’t matter, because he was stuck now. Kacchan didn’t give up, and now he was determined. He couldn’t let Kacchan know everything, but the younger, still childish part of Izuku was so happy.

 

Izuku could do nothing but cry bittersweet tears. Because he finally had Kacchan back after so many years. Because Kacchan was right: everything had changed. And Izuku had once again lost another round.

Chapter Text

Not long after Izuku had finished crying and Kacchan had berated him for being a crybaby over stupid shit, both boys ended up sitting down at the table downstairs in an attempt to study again. Izuku had actually just wanted Kacchan to tell him everything that he had missed that day in class, but when Izuku couldn’t understand how yesterday’s lessons had interconnected with Kacchan’s messy notes, Kacchan had forced them into another study session. He hadn’t expected anything to really come of it, but Kacchan was noticeably easier on him. His patience was still short and he still yelled at Izuku a lot, but it had usually only ended up with Kacchan more determined to find a different way to explain the lesson.

 

Izuku would not admit that part of the reason he wasn’t understanding was because he was still trying to wrap his mind around their argument earlier and what it meant for their relationship. He still didn’t really get Kacchan’s reasoning behind suddenly wanting to be his friend. He had made it sound like it was because Izuku needed a friend, but Izuku could survive without one. He didn’t need emotional support. It’s not like he could share his burden anyway.

 

But he had to reevaluate a couple of Kacchan’s old actions. Some of them made a bit more sense with the new context, but it still left Izuku without answers as to why Kacchan wanted to be his friend. He hadn’t wanted to be Izuku’s friend back before his kidnapping. What was it about his kidnapping made Kacchan decide to become his friend again? Why wait so long when Izuku had been back for a year? He still suspected it had something to do with his quirk even though Kacchan had denied that. Sometimes Kacchan was just too hard to read.

 

The study session didn’t go too badly, though. Izuku ended up understanding just a little bit once Kacchan had changed tactics a couple of times. He applied some of the concepts to real life and Izuku was able to picture them. With the picture in mind, he could understand better. The breakthrough had been exciting enough that he actually rejected his mother’s offer to go home to stay and try to study more. He was eager to see if the tactics would help him. He really needed a new method for studying anyway. His mother had only smiled with joy and allowed him to stay as she went home without him, wishing him good luck in his studying.

 

(He would admit to nobody but himself that he enjoyed spending time with Kacchan and seeing that excited and successful grin on his face when they both came to the realization they were onto a breakthrough had brought him back a ghost of his childhood memories.)

 

They continued to experiment with older lessons until Auntie Mitsuki ordered dinner and they all ate together. It was admittedly the happiest Izuku had been in a while. He got to ride the high of not feeling like an idiot and feeling normal for once. He didn’t have to even try to put up a front as “Izuku” came more naturally for him than he was expecting. He only needed to be careful to watch his mouth and act more like “Izuku” and less like “Deku”, which was a habit he fell into when he was too comfortable sometimes.

 

It was during dinner Izuku received a text message. He checked it and felt his smile disappear as he saw the coordinates on it. Dread filled his stomach as reality crashed down again on him. He had forgotten to call Shigaraki this morning because he had slept all day. He had been distracted by Auntie Mitsuki and Kacchan after that. He had been bad. He hoped he wouldn’t be punished.

 

“Who’s that?” Kacchan asked through his chewing. Izuku blinked and looked up. Kacchan motioned to the phone with his chin. “Your mom?”

 

Izuku couldn’t say it wasn’t her. He could still remember Kacchan’s accusation of him not actually having any real friends. He might not be wrong, but he wasn’t correct either. Himiko was his friend. And technically so was Shigaraki and Dabi. But Kacchan couldn’t be told he was going to hang with Himiko. He was already suspicious of the girl and Izuku wanted to make sure Kacchan forgot her as soon as possible. With her following Stain around so much, it was only a matter of time before she became a known villain. With her having been missing for a year, he was surprised she wasn’t already.

 

It wasn’t like Kacchan didn’t already know he was a liar. And Auntie and Uncle were still nearby. “Oh.” Izuku smiled easily and sent back a quick text to let them know he had seen it. “Yeah, it’s my mom. I forgot to tell her I was eating here.”

 

Kacchan’s eyes narrowed angrily. Izuku’s smile loosened into a nervous one even though he knew Kacchan wasn’t fooled. He dared him to call him on his lie. Kacchan slammed his spoon down on the table and opened his mouth, but received a sharp rap to the back of the head from his mother.

 

“Be careful, you brat!” She snapped at him.

 

“OW! Watch where you’re putting your hands, you abusive old hag!” Kacchan immediately yelled back.

 

“Don’t slam your fucking hands on the table!”

 

“Don’t slam your fucking hands against my HEAD!”

 

Both mother and son growled at each other while Uncle Masaru turned to Izuku and asked, “Is it time for you to head back, then?”

 

Izuku nodded. “Thank you for dinner! I’m gonna head out, though.” He pushed back from the table. Kacchan whirled on him and opened his mouth again to try to call his bluff, but Izuku only ignored him and went to clean his dishware before rushing upstairs. He wanted to be quick so he could check on Shigaraki and maybe get some answers for what the hell happened at USJ.

 

His phone buzzed again while he was stuffing his backpack with his uniform and double-checking the bedroom for anything he was missing. He eyed the missing poster one more time before he pulled out his phone to go downstairs.

 

 

Himiko: We’re being called~ ❤❤❤ Let’s meet and go together!

 

Izuku really needed to hurry. He couldn’t have Himiko showing up at his house. Especially if he wasn’t there. It would be just like her to show up right at his front door.


 

He made up a lie to his mother about spending the night again at Kacchan’s house. He figured that if their parents were going to believe they were proper friends then he could take full advantage. He only changed into his other outfit before slipping his shoes on by the door and waving as he left. He pulled on his gloves as Deku pushed part of his hair back.

 

It felt nice to be Deku again. To not have to hide behind some kind of front. It was freeing in a way to be Deku because as long as he wasn’t around anyone he knew, he could be whoever he wanted to be. It was a freedom he needed after the pressure of being Izuku for so long. He didn’t have Kacchan on his back, he wasn’t having to fake being a hero in front of his classmates, and the only thing he needed to worry about at that moment was Shigaraki.

 

He ended up feeling Himiko’s presence before he saw her. It was a snap sensation of pure instinct as he dodged out of the way of a knife flying at him. He spun around to glare into the darkness as he heard Himiko’s giggling. Deku went over to pick up the knife imbedded into the opposite wall and yanked it out.

 

“You caught me again.” Himiko said as she crawled out of darkness. She had blood on her face, but her eyes held a manic gleam to them. She couldn’t stop smiling. Deku would have to be careful with her.

 

“You’re usually better than that.” He told her, handing her back her knife. She happily stored it up her sleeve and linked her fingers with Deku’s. Deku scowled at her and ripped his hand back. “Don’t do that. You just tried to hurt me again.”

 

“You’re so much fun to practice with, Deku! You don’t die like everyone else does.” Himiko wiggled her shoulders flirtily and licked her lower lip. “But you’re so much cuter bleeding.” Her hand reached up and she brushed her thumb along the scar on his forehead. “Just like then…”

 

“You have blood on your face.” He told her, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket to hand to her. She shrugged and just used her sleeve to wipe it off instead.

 

“Do you think we’ll get bloody tonight?” She asked him eagerly. “Master called me in as well! I’m so excited! He hasn’t given me a mission in a long while!”

 

“I can tell considering you’ve been missing.” Deku glanced around before ducking into another alley as a shortcut. No train hopping tonight. Kurogiri wanted them there quickly. It was unnerving how close Himiko had been to Deku’s apartment. “Have you just been following Stain this entire time?”

 

“Nope!” She popped her ‘p’. “That’s a newer thing. Only in the last month or so. I’m surprised he’s only just starting to be on the news!”

 

“Have you been passing any of my information on to him to help him?” He asked. Mostly as a way of asking “Is Stain part of the Villain Alliance?”

 

“Nooo, that’s boring!” Himiko tried to hold his hand again. Deku pulled his hand back again with a glare. She threw herself at him instead, wrapping her arms around his waist. “It’s much more fun to watch him work! You should come with me one night! Come meet Stain, Deku!” She nuzzled into his arm. Deku pushed on her head to get her away, irritated.

 

“Get the fuck off of me, already!” He snapped at her. “And I don’t want to meet him. I have enough shit going on in my life.”

 

“Ooh!” She released him and stood up quickly with bright eyes. “I can hear it! I can hear Bakkun in your voice!”

 

Deku’s glare sharpened and dropped in temperature. He bared his teeth. “Just because I curse doesn’t mean I sound like fucking Kacchan.”

 

“But you do! Ooh, now I wanna hang around with Bakkun more. He’s an influence on you, Deku! I want to see how much.”

“Stay the hell away from him or I’ll kill you.”

 

“Burning alive looks like it sucks.” She confessed with a disappointed sigh. Deku snorted at that. He could think of worse ways, but he had seen that fate for himself and had to agree with her. “So, like, what happened with Tomura’s mission?” She asked. “I saw the news, but I don’t like watching it.”

 

“I have a feeling we’ll find out soon.” He told her. Anxiety bubbled in his gut and he violently bit it back down.


 

Himiko was clinging to Deku’s arm as they both exited Kurogiri’s warpgate to enter his bar again. It was fuller than usual with not only Shigaraki, but Dabi as well. Himiko let out a little excited squeal at the sight of the latter, releasing Deku’s arm to throw her hands up.

 

“Dabi~!” She cried.

 

“Oh god, you’re here too. I should’ve known.” Dabi grumbled around the alcohol he was sipping at. Deku looked him over but noticed that the older man hadn’t really changed since he had seen him months ago. He didn’t know where Dabi had been either, but it wasn’t Deku’s concern to keep track of him. Nevertheless Deku smiled at the sight of him as well. He hadn’t seen him in too long.

 

He waved a greeting. “Good evening.”

 

“Deku.” Dabi greeted back as he kicked Himiko away from him. She dodged backwards with a laugh.

 

“You didn’t call me.” Shigaraki responded with irritation, glaring at him through his hair. He had a bandage around his hand, but otherwise was unharmed. Deku was a little relieved at that. He hadn’t been sure if Kurogiri had managed to stop the other bullets from hitting Shigaraki because Deku couldn’t get there in time.

 

“I’ve been sleeping all day.” He confessed and took the open seat between Shigaraki and Dabi. He patted the counter and stared Kurogiri down. Kurogiri matched his gaze and waited. He stared longer. Kurogiri didn’t move. Deku gritted his teeth and refused to ask, instead looking towards Shigaraki. “I’ve been watched by someone ever since you guys escaped yesterday. I haven’t had the chance to call.”

 

“I heard shit went down.” Dabi added. “News says most of your army was captured.”

 

“We didn’t care about them.” Shigaraki clenched his hand on the counter. “We cared about Noumu and All Might.”

 

“And then Noumu went flying.” Dabi smirked, leaning forward to look around Deku. “Heard whatever that thing was got captured too.”

 

“Shut the hell up!” Shigaraki snapped at him.

 

“My milkshake.” Deku raised a finger at Kurogiri. He was ignored. Deku kicked the wooden bar beneath him and glared.

 

“You didn’t even join us, Dabi!”

 

“Me too, me too!” Himiko called, lifting her hand towards Kurogiri. “I brought the boys to the bar!”

 

“It’s yard.” Dabi drawled at her.

 

“And you only brought one boy.” Deku added.

 

“You were supposed to have been part of that mission, Dabi.” Kurogiri informed him. “Where were you?”

 

“I was too far away to arrive in time. Traffic was terrible.” Dabi shrugged and took another sip of his scotch. “Besides, I didn’t feel like getting arrested. You two seemed to have it handled.”

 

“I wondered why you didn’t actually bring anyone decent with you to the fight.” Deku eyed the alcohol behind the bar. He might be able to grab some before Kurogiri got him if Himiko distracted him. If he couldn’t get a milkshake, he was fine with something heavier. Kurogiri stared him down sternly with narrowed eyes, daring him to try it. Deku didn’t even like alcohol anyway. He turned his gaze lazily back to Shigaraki. “My reason was obvious and Himiko told me hers. Your mooks were really pathetic.”

 

“They were a distraction.” Shigaraki waved a hand. “They were supposed to keep the kids off while we took care of All Might.”

 

“With orders to kill.” Deku pointed out.

 

“If the little hero kids died, then who cares?”

 

“You tried to kill Kacchan.” Deku bit out, leaning forward angrily.

 

“Ooh, not his precious Kacchan.” Dabi clicked his tongue. “Your poor boyfriend almost died?”

 

“He’s not my boyfriend any more than Tomura is yours.” Deku glared at him. Shigaraki and Dabi both made disgusted faces at that. Deku grinned mockingly.

 

“I met Bakkun!” Himiko added in. “He and Deku are, like, a lot alike!”

 

“Where is my fucking milkshake?” Deku called loudly.

 

“Please ask me nicely instead of ordering me. I do not work for you.” Kurogiri said.

 

“When did you two meet?” Dabi asked.

 

“I almost got to touch him.” Shigaraki added.

 

“That sounds so wrong, Tomura.”

 

“Yeah, don’t be a pervert!” Himiko agreed, making a face at Shigaraki.

 

“Why the fuck would I ask nicely?” Deku growled at Kurogiri. “You nearly got Tomura killed.”

 

“Me?!” Kurogiri reeled back a little, shocked at the accusation. It got the other three to shut up about Kacchan quickly. “What gives you the right to make such an accusation?!”

 

“The fact that I was there!” Deku slapped his hand down on the bar. “The moment All Might defeated Noumu, you both should’ve retreated! Because of you, Tomura not only got hurt but almost shot up in other places!”

 

“Our plan failed because of you and your classmates!” Kurogiri shot back. “If you had not gotten in the way, we could have done away with Eraserhead at the very least!”

 

“You didn’t exactly tell me your full plan.” Deku accused. “Maybe give me some idea of what you want me to do instead of leaving me in the dark!”

 

“Why would you leave one of the only smart people in this hellhole Villain Association out of the planning stages of an attack? Sounds like an idiotic move.” Dabi said. And then he added as an afterthought, “Sounds like something Tomura would come up with.”

 

Shigaraki clenched his fist so hard the knuckles popped. Deku could feel the killing aura coming off of him. “Come over here and talk that trash to my face.” He warned.

 

“It was actually the idea of Master.” Kurogiri said.

 

“Deku.” Shigaraki commanded.

 

Deku reached out and slapped Dabi’s drink out of his hand, sending it crashing to the floor. Dabi glared at him for the wasted alcohol while Kurogiri sighed in frustration. Deku only smiled. Double revenge. Shigaraki flicked Dabi off.

 

“Didn’t need to waste perfectly good scotch. I didn’t know I had insulted the master.” Dabi rolled his eyes. He didn’t bother to try to clean up the floor. “The plan was still bad to not include Deku.”

 

Kurogiri went to go get a broom and dustpan. Himiko immediately hopped the bar and pretended she was Kurogiri, picking up a clean glass and wiping it down with a towel. Deku snickered and ordered a soda instead.

 

“Speaking of which,” He spun to face Kurogiri as the man came to their side of the bar. “What the fuck was that at USJ? Why did you both let the heroes know that you know me?” He demanded.

 

“It was also part of Master’s plan.” Kurogiri said.

 

Deku gave him a baffled look. “Why would he do that?” What was the point of name-dropping Izuku’s name? It only made the actions of the villains look even more suspicious. It also gave them a connection to Izuku that shouldn’t exist. Kacchan was suspicious about it too. It had only enraged the boy. He didn’t need more puzzle pieces.

 

“In case Noumu failed.” Shigaraki admitted begrudgingly.

 

“What’s the plan? Or am I not allowed to know that one either.”

 

“I doubt we would all be called here for only you to be left out of the loop.” Dabi said. “Oi, get me another scotch!” He called to Himiko.

 

“Sir, I need you to ask nicely. Blades seem to find a way into drinks of people who treat me badly.” Himiko warned him with a smile. She did spin around to look at the different bottles, though.

 

“Do not!” Kurogiri called to her. “You’re not licensed to serve!”

 

“Oh please, it’s not an open bar.”

 

“Put a blade in my drink and watch as I use it to stab you.” Dabi said.

 

“There’s a lot of stabbing threats going on here tonight.” Shigaraki muttered while glaring at his own water.

 

“I’d like to see you try!” Himiko responded as her smile sharpened cheerfully.

 

“Holy shit!” Deku growled. “I would like someone to answer me please! Himiko, shut up!”

 

“I love it when you’re all commanding, Deku-sama~” She smiled and leaned on the counter.

 

“Fuck off!”

 

“Can everyone please calm down? This is supposed to be a meeting, not a social gathering!” Kurogiri pointedly tossed the broken glass away before going to wash his hands. Himiko scrambled out from behind the bar as Dabi complained about her not getting him his scotch.

 

“Which is why I want answers.” Deku gritted his teeth in annoyance. He needed to know why Master wanted his name out there. He didn’t want his name circulating in the media again. He was supposed to be moving past that time in his life when it came to the media. He hated all of the noise and the cameras.

 

“Calm down, Deku.” Shigaraki crossed his leg and rested his hands on it as he watched Deku with a bit of amusement. “We don’t know Sensei’s plan yet. He hasn’t even told me.” His voice darkened. “The next plan is one that I will make sure you’re aware of.”

 

“Good.” Deku nodded.

 

“What exactly are we meeting for?” Himiko asked.

 

“We have a mission for you three.” Shigaraki smiled a little. Himiko, Deku, and Dabi all fell silent. They hadn’t worked together in a long time on a mission. Deku was glad that he had told his mother he wasn’t coming home that night.

Chapter Text

Izuku woke up suddenly and feeling groggy. The darkness in front of his eyes seemed to swirl, which only set him on edge. He froze and didn’t move at all until he could register where exactly he was at. He couldn’t see anything in the murky darkness, so he had to rely on his other senses. The room smelled of wood and the thick cloying scent of the bar, which did much to relax Deku a little bit. He was still at the bar then. Most likely in the back room considering he could tell he was laying on a bed. However he could hear breathing in the room other than his own. He had to strain his ears a bit, but he definitely recognized three distinct breathing patterns other than his own. There was a warm weight beside him and slung over his waist.

 

Okay, so he was still at the bar and must have fallen asleep on what was probably the spare bed. Someone was laying next to him, and they were too small to be the older men. It had to be Himiko. He didn’t bother to look. The others must be Dabi and Shigaraki. He doubted that Kurogiri would be anywhere near them if he could help it, and it wouldn’t be the first time the four of them had passed out together.

 

Deku inhaled silently and released the air in a soft rush as his heart calmed a bit. He couldn’t sense anybody else in the room with him. But that didn’t explain what had happened to him. His head was swimming, making him feel like his body was swaying a tiny bit back and forth with each beat of his heart. The edge of a headache loomed but didn’t quite manage to start forming in his head. He really had to pee.

 

He sat up slowly and removed Himiko’s arm from his waist. He also tossed the blanket further over her when she whined and rolled away from him. It was definitely her. How did he end up in bed with her?

 

Oh god. Oh god, please no-

 

Deku touched his chest and sighed. He still had a shirt on. It didn’t feel like his shirt though. It was too silky. What was he wearing? He couldn’t see. Also, was he missing his pants? His legs were definitely bare.

 

He shifted. Nope, that wasn’t his underwear. God help him.

 

Okay, first things first. Bathroom.

 

Deku climbed out of the bed and moved on memory to make his way to the door. It was about two steps in and when he had stopped focusing on the way it felt like his brain was sloshing just a little bit in his skull did he feel the brush of fabric against his thighs. Uncomfortably high on his thighs. He felt around his legs and tugged on the hem before understanding with dread that he was wearing a skirt. Worse, it was probably Himiko’s skirt. When the hell did he put that on?!

 

Okay, so now he knew he wasn’t wearing his own clothes. Waking up is appearing to have been his worst idea at the moment.

 

He walked with shame to the bathroom and had to cover his face when he saw the outfit he was wearing and the underwear he had on. He had no idea how he had ended up in girl’s clothing, but the underwear was the last straw. This kind of shame only came from one thing.

 

He had no idea when he'd had any kind of alcohol, but it was the only thing he could think of. That, and he must still be a little drunk. Considering he hadn't planned on drinking (other than using it to upset the strict Kurogiri), someone must have spiked something he drank last night. It was too bad he didn’t have any memory of it.

 

He recalled receiving his mission from Shigaraki and then promptly deciding that there wasn’t much that he could do at that moment. Shigaraki wanted all of them to recruit villains. A set of people they considered worthy of working together with as an elite group.

 

“You mean instead of the trash you sent at USJ?” Deku asked.

 

“This will be a smaller force.” Shigaraki confirmed.

 

“Why not just call on your master’s forces?” Dabi asked with a wave of his hand. “He has plenty of connections.”

 

“Sensei wants me to have a group of my own. Those loyal to me.”

 

“Does that include us?” Himiko asked with a grin. “Are we loyal to you, Tomura?”

 

“I don’t really have much of a choice.” Deku muttered.

 

“No, you don’t.” Shigaraki grabbed Deku’s chin between two fingers and tugged him sharply to look him in the eye. The grin on his face was a little twisted as he said, “You’re mine after all, Deku. You’re my most loyal friend.”

 

Deku said nothing.

 

There really wasn’t much that Deku could do about the villains, though. He didn’t have any connections or knowledge of actual strong villains. He had been focused on heroes the past couple of years, so he only knew of the villains that were captured. And if they had been defeated so easily by the heroes, then they weren’t worth the time to recruit them. Dabi and Himiko would have to do most of the heavy lifting.

 

“I realize this.” Shigaraki agreed when Deku pointed out how he didn’t know any villains. It wasn’t like he had the time to go hunting through the dark for people either. “I don’t need you for that part. You’re going to be our judge of character. They will not even be able to see me until you give the okay, Deku. Anyone you deem unworthy isn’t worth my time."

 

Deku had to admit, the trust in him burned hot with pride in his chest.

 

Did he manage to hash out some kind of plan with Himiko and Dabi last night? He couldn’t remember at all. He only knew that after the meeting somehow the five of them had agreed to go to dinner. They had gone to some kind of seedy restaurant, which is where Deku’s memory started to get a little shoddy. His drink must have been spiked there. He only had hazy memories of going with Shigaraki, Himiko, and Dabi to an arcade as well. From there, his memories ended. Somehow the night had ended with him drunk enough to black out, dressed in women’s clothing, and back at the bar.

 

Thank god he lied to his mother about spending the night with Kacchan.

 

Deku made his way back to the spare room with no idea what time it could possibly be. The bar’s windows were boarded up and all of the lights were off. At what point did Kurogiri abandon them that he hadn’t been there to stop things from progressing to this point? What kind of state were the others in?

 

Deku felt around the bed first and procured his phone. To his relief it still had battery in it. He checked it to find that it was still pretty early in the morning. It was before his alarm would normally go off.

 

“Wait...Shit!” Deku hissed to himself as he did some mental calculations. He needed to somehow make it back to his house before Kacchan showed up to walk with him to school. Even though he felt like crap, he was glad he had woken up. At least he had a fighting chance of making it home before then.

 

He turned on the light of his phone and looked around him for his clothing. His spare uniform should be in his backpack if he could figure out where he had left it. He flashed the light over the bed first to see Himiko dressed in his old clothes from last night. The main difference was that the tie was actually tied correctly. Screw her. He really hoped that the underwear he was wearing wasn’t hers, but the odds weren’t looking good. She was cuddled up to some weird, vampire-looking stuffed bear with bleeding fangs. Deku was struck with the faintest of memories of Shigaraki destroying a UFO catcher machine and stealing the doll for the girl. He had a feeling that wasn’t a dream.

 

Deku moved to a different part of the room, still wobbling a little bit. He wasn’t sure he liked how vulnerable alcohol made him. He hoped he sobered up properly before he met up with Kacchan. He still needed to make some plans with Himiko and Dabi about their mission. How the hell did he end up like this?

 

He found Shigaraki collapsed half on and half off the couch. His lower half was fully on the couch with one of his long legs strung up over the top of the couch. He had mannequin arms duct taped to them, which Deku had to admit was hilarious. He was about to take a picture before he noticed Shigaraki’s face. He was wearing his “father’s” hand, but it looked absolutely disgusting. Upon closer inspection, he could smell the lotion he had bought for Shigaraki coating the hand. He gave himself a mental pat on the back for remembering to do that even while drunk. Someone had added a ridiculous-looking face to the back of the hand as well. He was glad he wouldn’t be around to see the results of that discovery.

 

Still no backpack, but excellent blackmail material. Deku took a picture and held his breath to see if the flash would wake anyone. It didn’t. Speaking of which, he needed to check his phone’s pictures to see if there were any pictures from last night. If so, he either needed to delete them or store them where they couldn’t be found. Some pictures were worth getting caught over.

 

He kept his search up and came across his bag with Dabi. The man was using it as a pillow where he was dressed in Hawaiian wear. Deku had to squint against the assault of colors on his eyes. What the hell? Did they all rob a clothing store or something? Dabi never wore stuff that bright, and frankly he was insulted to even see it. He took another picture before pressing a foot to Dabi’s side and shaking him.

 

“Hey.” Deku pressed down and shook him harder. “Let go of my backpack. I need that.”

 

Dabi blinked blurry eyes open and frowned. It took him a couple of moments to gain his bearings before his eyes dropped from Deku’s face to his skirt. Deku realized too late that he could see right up the skirt and quickly brought his foot back down to hide everything. Dabi only snorted and smirked at him.

 

“Didn’t take you for a crossdresser, Deku. Nice strawberry panties.”

 

“Didn’t take you for a paedophile either, yet here we are.” Deku snarked back, and then aimed a sharp kick into the vulnerable man’s stomach. Dabi let out a sharp curse and curled in on himself, allowing Deku to pull his backpack out from under Dabi’s head.

 

“What the hell, Deku! Fucking dick.”

 

That was for fucking spiking my drinks, you dick! I have school and you were forcing minors to drink!”

 

“You weren’t complaining at the time.” Dabi grumbled and sat himself up on one arm. He sounded a lot more sober than Deku felt.

 

“I’m still tipsy, asshole!”

 

“Lucky bastard. Where are the others?”

 

“Still asleep, so lower your voice.” Deku stripped off his shirt. Dabi snorted at the matching bra Deku was wearing. Deku quickly pulled that off (with some struggle. How did girls work these things?!) before Dabi could take his own pictures. He pulled out his undershirt as Dabi snatched his cell phone from him to shine the light around the room. He began snickering to himself as he saw Shigaraki.

 

“Please tell me you got a picture of this.”

 

“Feel free to text it to yourself.” Deku responded as he finished pulling on the top half of his uniform. He pulled off the skirt and panties with great disgust and pulled on a pair of boxers blind while Dabi was turned away. He didn’t care if he had them on backwards or not. He noticed the light pointed at the floor as Dabi texted himself.

 

“Do you remember anything from last night?” Deku asked as he pulled on his pants. “I blacked out thanks to you.”

 

“Yeah, I still remember because I’m not a light-weight like you three.”

 

“Fuck off! Where was Kurogiri?”

 

“Gave up after we left the restaurant and heard we were going to the arcade. Figured we would be fine.” Kurogiri had made a terrible decision. He would be pissed when he saw this. That also meant the man wasn’t anywhere in the bar. Shit, Deku was going to have to travel by foot and train back to his apartment. He would barely have time.

 

“You’ll need to catch me up later.” Deku stumbled and fell, but caught himself on the arm of the couch. He really didn’t like feeling tipsy. He felt weak and exposed. He had to hurry. “That, and we need to actually discuss our mission.”

 

That seemed to sober Dabi up a little bit. “Yeah, we do. Meet tonight?”

 

“I can’t do much on school nights.” Deku yanked on his backpack and reached for his phone. He turned off the light, plunging them into darkness. He left his borrowed (stolen?) clothing on the floor. “If we’re going to do anything, it needs to be on the weekend. I don’t have a reasonable excuse for being out all night on school nights.”

 

“Oh that’s right. You were telling me you were in that hero school UA.” His voice was laced with contempt. Deku opened the door to head back into the bathroom. Dabi followed him and leaned against the door frame as Deku attempted to fix his mess of hair. He wished that he had a toothbrush as well, but he had forgotten it. “How did that happen? You wouldn’t go into details last night since we were out in public.”

 

“It was my plan.” Deku twisted a curl back from his head and then straightened bits and pieces of the hair. It fell back again over his scar. He shook his head a bit. “Spying for the enemy.”

 

“Fun.” Dabi drawled. “You need to catch me up as well.”

 

“Where have you been, anyway?” Deku asked before dipping his hands under running water to finally rinse the dryness out of his mouth. He would grab a bottle of water from the bar before he left too. He slipped forward and almost slammed his head against the mirror while leaning down and cursed in irritation as he straightened himself. “I’ve been planning the UA invasion since I had been returned from Master’s training, after all. It’s the only reason I got out of there.”

 

“I’m not kept on a leash like you three are to your master.” Dabi reminded him. “I was around.” Deku rolled his eyes and then frowned.

 

He looked Dabi in the eyes and asked, “Why do you bother coming back, then? If you have the option.”

 

Dabi tucked his hands into his stupid board shorts’ pockets. His eyes were shrewd as he said, “Because I want to.” It wasn’t an answer and both of them knew it. Dabi, of the four friends he had with these villains, was definitely the most conniving. Deku had great respect for his ability to form and implement plans. If Master had managed to get a hold of him, Deku was sure that Dabi would be the one who was Shigaraki’s second-in-command, not him. Deku also envied his ability to come and go as he pleased. He may be part of the Villain Alliance, but he wasn’t under Master’s control. It was a position to covet.

 

Deku could tell that Dabi was watching him closely. Now wouldn’t be the time to ask the question he really wanted to ask the man. So instead he pushed past him to go grab the water bottle. “Have fun dealing with the hangovers of the other two. And Kurogiri.”

 

Dabi frowned at the door to the backroom. “I’m gonna be out of here before Kurogiri shows up.” He looked to Deku. “We’ll plan later, then?”

 

“Yeah. I still know your number. I’ll call you sometime soon.” Deku twisted open the water bottle and double-checked the time. He needed to leave immediately. He headed for the door and chugged some of the water. “You and Himiko know about the villains around better than me. Start thinking and we’ll go hunting together.”

 

“Himiko seemed pretty set on this Stain guy.”

 

Yeah, Deku had been considering him as well. He supposed that it was about time he met the villain. If he had been good enough to get even Himiko to change whatever her opinion had been about heroes, then he was definitely worth looking into. Deku was curious to talk to him anyway.

 

“He’s on the list. And she’s already an expert at finding him.”

 

“She’s a stalker, you mean.” Dabi responded blandly.

 

“Don’t point out the obvious.” Deku snarked before he shut the side door to exit the building. He had to turn his attention to school.


 

Izuku managed to arrive home in time for the sun to be rising. Kacchan would be showing up soon. Izuku could only thank whatever kind of being there was above that for once things were going his way. Although he did end up vomiting into the bushes after running while his world was spinning. The vomit was an oddly bright color that told some kind of story of what he had ingested last night.

 

Considering he had a bit of time to spare and because now not only did his mouth taste disgusting but also smelled disgusting, Izuku went to the closest convenience store and purchased a light breakfast. He felt significantly better after eating and drinking another bottle of water as he watched the morning news on the television in the corner. There was a report of a store that had caught fire the night before as well as questions about the disappearing glass at an arcade machine a few towns over. Deku couldn’t help his amusement. He wondered if it was him or Dabi that had burned down the clothes store as he made his way back to his apartment. Kacchan was standing there waiting for him.

 

The look on his face was priceless. He almost seemed offended. “You look like shit. Again.”

 

“Maybe that’s just my default look.” Izuku suggested as he rubbed his eyes and finished off his water. He stuffed the bottle into his backpack.

 

“Are you doing that late night training bullshit again?” Kacchan demanded as they both began their walk towards the school.

 

“No.” He was actually telling the truth this time. Kacchan still eyed him with irritation as if he was lying.

 

“You’re going to get your ass beat in training if you keep coming to school like you’re drunk on exhaustion.” He warned.

 

Izuku doubted that. Even at 20% he was still better than 90% of his class. He knew this for a fact. He’d had enough time to judge everyone’s abilities. “I’ll be more careful.” He tried to promise but knew it was a rather hopeless cause. Especially since he would be spending the weekend with the villains. He would have to find a way to convince his mother to let him “spend the night” with one of the hero friends she had yet to meet. It had been risky claiming he had stayed at Kacchan’s last night. His luck was holding out for now. But he knew it was a matter of time before that ran out. He had never been a lucky person.

 

They both fell silent as Izuku allowed Kacchan to naturally pull ahead and walk in front of him. It seemed that Kacchan had reached the limit of his vocal worry for Izuku (and now Izuku was starting to tentatively recognize it as worry. Was Kacchan really his friend?), so there was nothing left to say between them.

 

If Kacchan really was trying to be his friend, though, he wasn’t very good at it. Izuku was hesitant, but he wasn’t fully against the idea of being friends with Kacchan again. He could still remember days of buying hero cards and exploring in the woods when they were younger. He wondered if maybe there would come a day he could go shopping at a mall or go to an arcade with Kacchan like he’d done with Shigaraki and the others just last night. Well, except without all of the damage.

 

So Izuku glanced at Kacchan and ducked his head a little bit. Call it what little liquid courage he had left in his system, but he wanted to try. So he asked quietly, “So...What was that movie poster you had on your wall?”

 

Kacchan eyed him from the corner of his eye, glancing back at Izuku as Izuku trailed after him. The boy then spun around and planted his feet in annoyance. “If you’re going to talk to me, then you’d better fucking come over where I can hear your mumbling, Deku!” Izuku blinked, but then did move to stand beside Kacchan. The boy clicked his tongue and started off again. This time Izuku kept pace with his thug walk. Kacchan had stuffed his hands in his pants again.

 

“Now what did you say?” Kacchan snapped when Izuku didn’t repeat himself immediately. Izuku let out a squeak at the snap, but Kacchan swatted at him with a bark of, “Stop your fake shit!” Izuku would have to think on it later, but maybe he had exposed too much of the gaps between his façades to Kacchan if he could notice even that had been forced. For now, he hit him back in the shoulder and glared.

 

“I asked what the movie on your wall was about. I haven’t seen it.” He dropped his irritation and asked with honest curiosity, “Is it good?”

 

“Of course it’s fucking good. I wouldn’t have the poster if it wasn’t!”

 

“So what happens in it?”

 

The rest of their walk to school was spent with the two of them discussing movies. It was honestly the most normal conversation he’d had with Kacchan in years.

Chapter Text

“Midoriya!” His name was called the moment he walked through the door to the classroom, still finishing up a furious debate over what genre of movie was superior to the other with Kacchan. He had to bite back the snap of irritation at being interrupted mostly because Kacchan was wrong and Izuku needed to lay down the reasons why even though Kacchan was getting just as riled up next to him. He had to remind himself that he was back in the presence of others and Izuku wasn’t like that. Izuku didn’t get so worked up. He had to pull on Izuku again properly.

 

“You’re back!” Uraraka called cheerfully, rushing up to him with a joyful clap of her hands.

 

“OI!” Kacchan sent a swift kick to his ass, sending him stumbling forward. Uraraka had to dodge out of the way as Izuku allowed himself to fly to the ground with a groan. Kacchan made sure to stomp down near Izuku’s face as he yelled, “I’M NOT DONE WITH YOU YET!”

 

“Kacchan, we’re in class!” Izuku argued, pulling himself to his feet.

 

“Bakugou, stop it!” Iida called, jumping in between the two “fighting” boys.

 

Kacchan just leaned around Iida, too worked up to be talked down yet even as Iida waved a strict chopping hand in his face. “You honestly think your shit opinion is better?! I’LL KILL YOU!”

 

“What were you two talking about?” Kaminari pushed his way into the conversation. Asui drifted close as well with a curious finger to her lips. Izuku was pleased to see both of them looked better than the last time he had seen them.

 

Izuku laughed and scratched the back of his head before fiddling with his fingers. “It was nothing important.”

 

“DEKU!” Kacchan yelled, small explosions popping in his hands. Izuku sent him a nervous look before choosing to ignore him. He still needed to figure out how to interact with Kacchan now that his acting had been properly exposed. Instead he turned back to his friends while Kirishima made his way over to Kacchan. Maybe he had really made a friend too.

 

“It’s good to have you back, Deku-kun.” Uraraka said with a bright smile. Maybe she had gotten too used to Kacchan too. “We were worried when you didn’t come back to school yesterday.”

 

“Oh, really?” Izuku asked, honestly surprised as the couple of classmates nodded around him. His old classmates at best tolerated him and at worst despised him. It was...strange to experience actual companionship with his classmates. He would have to think about it more later.

 

“We tried to ask Bakugou, but he kept telling us to mind our own business and shut up.” Asui said. Izuku gave a sheepish smile and nod. That sounded like Kacchan. He appreciated his privacy being kept, though. “He’s not a very agreeable guy, is he?”

 

“FUCK YOU, I CAN BE AGREEABLE!!” Kacchan yelled.

 

Izuku felt a genuine grin on his face then. Kacchan being teased by someone was a new experience. His old classmates had either adored Kacchan or put up with his tendencies. None had dared to tease him if only because he was clearly the top dog of the class and eventually the school. To think that he would get to see this in real life was amazing. Also it was so worth teasing him about again later.


 

Aizawa-sensei had yet to return to class either and that worried Izuku. His injuries were definitely bad, but were they so bad that Recovery Girl couldn’t heal him? Even All Might had been healed by the woman, although he was still walking around with bandages. Izuku had seen him only in passing with one of the senior classes outside of the window while he had been switching classes. He’d had to lock away the emotions his full, heroic form had invoked in him.

 

They were things that he both couldn’t and didn’t want to process. All Might’s secret was now another burden on Izuku’s plate and he had been steadfastly avoiding it. If he had to be honest with himself, that was probably part of the reason he had been fine with drinking the night before even if he didn’t remember it. There was just too much he could do with knowing who All Might really was. They were revelations that only pressed down harder on him the longer he thought of it.

 

He had training with All Might that day considering all of the teachers were filling in for Aizawa-sensei’s absence. Izuku had to mentally prepare himself while he had gathered his things to go eat lunch. He would rather wonder to himself if Kacchan would sit with them for lunch again with the new information about his friendship.

 

“Um...Midoriya.” Izuku looked up to see Uraraka and Iida waiting patiently for him, but they weren’t looking at him. He turned his head to spy Sero standing next to him instead. He had a smile on his face like usual, but he seemed a little confused and nervous.

 

“Yes?” Izuku asked.

 

Sero pointed behind him to the classroom door. “Uh, I think All Might is looking for you.” Izuku’s eyes immediately darted to the door and he let out a yelp of surprise to see All Might peeking around the corner of the doorframe and holding a bento.

 

“A-A-All Might!!” Izuku scrambled out of his chair as his heart went into hyperdrive in his chest. He had so many questions running through his mind, but the blinding one was the question of why All Might was acting like a high school girl waiting for her crush. It was a ridiculous thought. Mostly because he had bigger concerns if All Might was calling him out. “Sorry, Uraraka! Iida! I’d better go…” He told his friends.

 

“No worries!” Uraraka waved him off.

 

“Go, Midoriya! It must be important if All Might is calling you!” Iida agreed.

 

Izuku would rather just spend lunch with them. He really wished that he could just feel normal for one day. Especially a day he could remember.

 

So Izuku finished gathering his stuff and approached the door. He caught Kacchan watching him with a frown on his face, but nobody stopped him as he exited the classroom. All Might gave him a bright, cheerful salute as he called, “Good afternoon, Midoriya, my boy! Would you mind accompanying me for lunch?”

 

If he was still bandaged up and damaged, Izuku didn’t know. He hid it under his usual school suit and he didn’t show any signs of pain. Izuku gave him a shaky smile as his trembling added to the appearance of being nervous. He tried to look as starstruck as he still kind of felt in the face of his hero and drew upon it. Izuku still adored All Might even through everything.

 

“Y-YES!” He cleared his throat and looked around at a couple of the passing looks he got. He lowered his voice and nodded quickly. “I’ll eat lunch with you!”

 

All Might’s smile didn’t change as he motioned and said, “Wonderful! Follow me, then!”

 

They ended up going to one of the teacher’s lounges, separated from the noise and the passing of students. There Izuku could only start as before his eyes All Might deflated in a poof of steam and smoke (it was surprisingly scentless) into the thin skeleton he remembered. Any errant wishes for his memories of post-USJ to be wrong instantly evaporated. He supposed that would be just too easy.

 

All Might sighed in relief and massaged the place where his neck met his shoulder. “Thank you for joining me, Young Midoriya. I had looked for you yesterday, but you weren’t in class.” The unspoken worry in the man’s tone was obvious. Every syllable hit Izuku’s body like arrows and stuck uncomfortably to his skin. He shifted with honest nerves, avoiding the man’s shadowed gaze.

 

“Yeah...I needed rest after everything.”

 

“For the best.” All Might nodded. It felt wrong to think of him as All Might in this form, though. “You look a bit better, at least.”

 

Izuku smiled awkwardly and didn’t respond.

 

The atmosphere was filled with unsaid words that neither male knew how to even begin to voice. Izuku knew that All Might had called him there for a reason, but he didn’t know what it could possibly be. Nothing good, he was sure. With the way their last conversation had ended, he would probably be asked about his past. Izuku wanted to just run away, but at the same time this was an opportunity.

 

He could learn more about All Might. Become close to the hero and figure out more of his secrets. Why he was able to transform like that. Get more information on this ‘All for One’ villain and the fight the two had experienced. If it was so drastic that All Might had to cover it up, it had to be important. Could Deku maybe get All for One to join their group? It was a terrifying possibility. Did Shigaraki or Dabi know about who that person was?

 

The silence dragged on for too long and Izuku began to sweat. All Might eventually cleared his throat and tried again, “You seem nervous, my boy. Is it…” He stopped, apparently reluctant to call attention to arguably the second biggest secret that Izuku had to carry against his chest. He tried something different, “Are you better?”

 

“Huh?” Izuku asked with a frown, startled.

 

All Might sighed a little. Izuku’s need to run increased. “This is going badly.” The man muttered to himself. Then, louder, he said, “I brought you here to apologize.”

 

“Huh?” Izuku asked again, even more baffled than before. What did All Might have to apologize to him about?

 

“The other day was stressful for everyone involved-” Understatement . Izuku thought. “-but I feel it was made moreso for you by me.” He scratched his hair with a grimace. “Admittedly it was for me as well, but that’s beside the point. You were extremely distressed before we had even began discussing my...situation...but I think I made it worse when we began to discuss your past. You had frightened quite badly, my boy, when Tsukauchi-kun appeared, and fled.” Who? Oh, the police officer. “As your teacher I should’ve realized when it was too much. So I wanted to apologize.”

 

“You…” Izuku shook his head quickly. “You don’t have to apologize. It wasn’t your fault. Everything that happened was…” My fault , he wanted to say but managed to hold his tongue. Instead he gestured with his hand as if it was all just circumstance instead of taking any of the guilt onto himself. His smile was wane as he added, “But yeah, it wasn’t fun.”

 

All Might huffed a small laugh. “No, it certainly wasn’t. So, are you feeling any better?”

 

Izuku gave a dismissive shrug. “I’m used to stress.”

 

“You shouldn’t be.” All Might told him gently, and Izuku instinctively recoiled at the sound.

 

“It’s fine.” Izuku smiled more. “I just needed some rest.”

 

All Might was a hard man to read, Izuku decided. His face didn’t change very much whether as his hero form or this skeleton form. Izuku wasn’t sure what kind of response he had elicited as All Might watched him.

 

“Then,” the man finally began, “allow me to ask you a question. Oh, but first!” All Might reached for the large bento that Izuku had actually forgotten about in the wake of the awkwardness and discussion. All Might untied the cloth around box and opened it up to a small feast of simple foods. “Please eat. I’m taking you away from lunch after all.”

 

“Isn’t this yours, though?” Izuku asked with worry. His stomach did rumble a bit.

 

“I was hoping to catch you, so I made more than necessary. I don’t eat very much anyway since…” He trailed off with a vague motion to his stomach. Izuku sobered a bit as he remembered the damage to All Might. He remembered Noumu sinking his claws into the man’s sides. He must have been in agony and had still persevered. He was reminded of his admiration of the man in front of him again.

 

“Th...Thank you.” Izuku picked up the offered chopsticks and gave his thanks before beginning to eat little by little. All Might seemed a little relieved to see it. After he ate a couple of pieces of meat he prompted All Might to continue.

 

“Young Midoriya, if you are fine with it I wanted to ask you some more about the villains who took you.” Izuku froze and stared at All Might with wide eyes. The understanding that All Might was just another person who held more information than Izuku felt safe with revealing came crashing down on him again. That was now three people outside of the villains who had knowledge that Izuku remembered more than he had let on. He was still conflicted that he could trust the man in front of him.

 

Deku put his guards up again swiftly, sitting up a bit straighter. “Why do you want to know?”

 

All Might held up his hands placatingly. “I wish to help you.” He said with a tentative voice that Izuku recognized that his therapist used sometimes when Izuku got a little riled up. It was a sign that he was being out of character. He tried to reel it back in. All Might explained, “You said that the true villain that had captured you is still out there. We can change that.”

 

No, you can’t. “How?” Deku asked. “I don’t know their name.”

 

“You don’t?” All Might asked with surprise, and then he frowned. “Why did you ask me for a name, then?”

 

Deku held himself stiffly. “Is this an interrogation?”

 

“No, Young Midoriya.” He assured him quickly.

 

Deku gripped the edges of the bento box. He could feel the wood of the chopsticks straining a bit. “How would you begin to capture a villain that could be long gone?” He asked seriously. “I’ve been back for almost two years. The villain may not even be in this country. There’s no point.”

 

“But they could still be.” All Might countered with caution. He could tell that Deku was on edge again. Deku had to fight against the urge to narrow his eyes and yank more at “Izuku” and his comfortable cloak. He was not Deku right now, even though he had fallen into his habits out of defense. “It doesn’t hurt to look.”

 

“I don’t know their name.” Deku repeated. “I never knew the name.”

 

“Did you meet them yourself, then?” Deku filled his mouth with food to avoid answering. “What was the name they gave you, then?”

 

It felt like an interrogation. Deku wanted out of there. He wouldn’t gain the upper hand this way. He couldn’t even begin to flip the tables because Izuku was too nervous. It would be suspicious if he started asking his own questions. The conversation needed to end as soon as possible.

 

“I never got a name. I only called them Master." All Might looked grim and alarmed. Deku finally stood and left the rest of the food on the table. His smile was pleasant, but tense. “I’m sorry All Might, but I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I never have.”

 

All Might was watching him, but it was with a shrewd and gentle look in his sunken eyes. Deku couldn’t sense any malicious intent from him, and that was honestly scarier than if he had actually been interrogated.

 

“All right. Then we’ll leave the subject.” All Might agreed with a nod. Deku itched to get out of there. “I didn’t mean to make your lunch unpleasant. We can discuss other things.” He motioned to the food in offering. “You can ask me some questions instead, if you’d like. I’m sure you have some.” Izuku was reluctant to leave even if he was nervous.

 

His first thoughts were to question more about the villain he had faced. To ask him about his wound and his powers. But his next thoughts were much more innocent as all of his childhood dreams returned to him. Greatest enemy or not, this was still All Might he was talking to and there was a lot he could ask. There was a lot he definitely wanted to ask.

 

So Izuku sat back down and shyly began to ask him some of the burning questions he’d always had when he was little. He wanted to know about the hero’s life and some of the choices he had made in his battles. He could tell his questions had honestly surprised All Might, especially as his inner fanboy began to strengthen with excitement at the answers he received. It was enough so that Izuku could tell he was making the other man a bit uncomfortable, but Deku kind of thought he deserved a little bit of revenge.

 

They spent the rest of the lunch talking about this. Izuku’s trembling gradually came back to him as he relaxed and gladly let their previous conversation drift away. He realized too late that he had forgotten to ask about All for One and about All Might’s quirk by the time the bell rang to dismiss him. It was a pity, and one that Deku scolded himself heavily for. It was his mission, after all, to study heroes and their weaknesses. Analyze them and report back to Shigaraki and Master. All Might had to be defeated.

 

But Izuku ignored that and left with a light heart and his mind brimming with the new information. None of it would be useful for the Villain Alliance, but it would be good for future strategies and his books on All Might. He couldn’t wait to write all of it down in his notebooks. It left him feeling rather excited for the rest of his day at school. He hoped that the practical training for the afternoon would require some actual battle because he really felt like stretching his muscles.

Chapter Text

The day ended without anymore incidents. Izuku was glad to return home and already had plans for what he needed to do for the night. This time he was expecting Kacchan as the boy stood from his own desk and hovered impatiently in front of Izuku’s desk. Izuku studied him surreptitiously as he gathered his books into his bag. Now that he thought about it, Kacchan waiting for him was definitely unusual. The old Kacchan would have probably just gone on ahead without him. It was odd that Izuku had now grown used to Kacchan waiting for him. It...wasn’t unpleasant.

 

Izuku took the time to say goodbye to his friends before he and Kacchan departed together. Neither of them spoke as they travelled through the crowd of students flowing down and out the front doors. There were some students out front that seemed to be advertising various afterschool activities and clubs. Izuku eyed them with wistfulness as he considered what he might have done in another lifetime. He had always been part of the Going-Home Club through middle school because nobody had wanted a Quirkless person in their clubs. Also, he had preferred to go find scenes of heroes and villains facing off. Actually, he probably still would’ve done that in high school. It was something he still wanted to do.

 

A leg whipping out and kicking him behind his thighs caused Izuku to yelp and snap out of his contemplation. He nearly stumbled from the force of it as he turned a shocked glare at Kacchan. The boy had a devious grin on his face that suited his angry features.

 

“Kacchan, why?!” Izuku demanded as he rubbed at his thighs.

 

“Pay attention when I speak!” Kacchan commanded, as if Izuku was his to command. Izuku bit his tongue because he was still too close to the school and pouted instead. “I asked you a question!”

 

“What did you ask, then?”

 

“Stop making me repeat myself all the goddamn time!” Kacchan continued to fume, clearly in some kind of snit. “You’re just fucking Deku!”

 

Izuku gritted his teeth at that. Kacchan didn’t know what those kinds of words did to him.

 

“Then why don’t you speak clearer?” Deku snapped back in irritation. Kacchan appeared a little stunned before he reared on Deku and pulled him close by his tie.

 

“What the fuck did you say to me?!” He growled dangerously.

 

“I said,” Deku repeated himself slowly as he tilted his head to the side. His hair shadowed his wide eyes as he said, “clear the shit that you like to spout so much out of your mouth and speak clearer.”

 

“HAA?! YOU’VE GOT SOME GODDAMN NERVE!” Kacchan shouted, but he released Deku suddenly as if burnt. Deku spotted some of the usual tells of Kacchan wanting to attack him like he did everyone else who talked to him like that. The shaking fists, the tension in his jaw that was so strong that his nerves were clear against his skin, and the flexing of his right arm wanting to swing. But Kacchan’s face was doing something complicated, like he didn’t know whether to attack or not. Like he didn’t know how to react to the sudden change in Izuku. It was hilarious to Deku.

 

Izuku decided to pull back again. He frowned with disgruntlement at himself for snapping at Kacchan. He didn’t understand why he had reacted so viciously and defensively at Kacchan calling him Deku. Kacchan always called him Deku. It had gotten on his nerves this time. Maybe he was getting a little too comfortable with Kacchan, but that didn’t warrant having to pull on Deku’s defensive armor in his own anger. Perhaps it was a bad habit.

 

Either way, he needed to calm down. Kacchan had seen through his mask, but that didn’t mean he would be allowed to meet all parts of Izuku. The less he saw of Deku, the better. Kacchan didn’t even need to meet Deku. With the exception of occasionally putting him in his place. At some point Kacchan’s unusual unwillingness to punch him would run dry, Izuku was sure. He doubted there was much he could get away with as Kacchan’s “friend”.

 

“...Sorry.” Izuku somewhat reluctantly murmured. “That was harsh.”

 

Kacchan’s jaw worked against the words he was clearly trying to form. They had both pulled to a stop on a side street that didn’t have many people passing by. Izuku fiddled with the strap of his backpack nervously, glancing at Kacchan to see his reaction before looking down. Kacchan finally reached forward to grab Izuku’s hair roughly and shake him before pushing him away. Izuku yelped at the pain and blinked back the automatic tears as he rubbed his sore head. Kacchan was already turning away from him and storming away. It wasn’t his outraged stomping, but rather just his normal irritated slump.

 

“Whatever!” He grumbled. Then louder, when Izuku hurried to follow along feeling a swirl of complicated emotions in his chest at Kacchan’s reaction, “I asked you what All Might wanted with you earlier. At lunch.”

 

“Oh.” That was an obvious question. Honestly Izuku was rather surprised nobody had asked him before while they had been changing. He supposed it had to do with him not having really talked to anyone that day. He had been too busy riding the high of chatting with All Might as a hero.

 

“What did you talk about?”

 

“His career.” Izuku admitted freely, and was relieved that he could say it with full honesty. A smile slipped onto his face. “I got to ask him all kinds of questions, Kacchan! You remember the things we used to talk about as kids? I wrote some of them down and remembered them! I can answer some of those questions for you if you want?”

 

Kacchan scoffed. “I don’t give a shit. I’m going to be better than All Might anyway. I don’t need to hear about him.”

 

“I thought you were still his fan too?” Izuku asked, a little surprised. Hadn’t he seen some All Might merch in Kacchan’s room too?

 

Kacchan turned his head away sharply in disgust. “I grew out of that!”

 

“Why?”

 

“Shut up already!” Kacchan barked at him instead, which only made Izuku curiouser.

 

“Don’t be like that!” He admonished. “Tell me!”

 

“Why the fuck would I do that, haa?! There’s nothing to tell anyway, dipshit!”

 

“You’re always trying to get stuff out of me. Maybe it’s my turn to return the favor!”

 

“And you answer precisely jackshit of my questions! Get your head out of your ass already!” Izuku noticed that Kacchan seemed to insult him more and get more defensive when there was something significant he wasn’t telling him. Was it something maybe related to the missing poster? Related to Izuku’s kidnapping?

 

It caused Izuku to come up short at the idea. That couldn’t be it, right? He couldn’t even begin to comprehend that.

 

“Don’t stop in the middle of the road or I’m leaving your ass behind!” Kacchan yelled at him as he entered the train station and scanned his Suica card. Izuku scrambled to follow after him and discarded the idea that had been forming. Chances were that Kacchan had really just outgrown his love of heroes that Izuku hadn’t managed to completely escape. Kacchan was already looking forward to the future when he would be a better hero. Izuku was still struggling in the present.

 

He supposed that he would always be the one trailing after Kacchan. It was either that, or he would have to forge an entirely new path. Both possibilities were too terrifying for him to contemplate and far too heavy for his gaze.


 Izuku spent the ride on the train sitting and writing notes from his talk with All Might in his notebook. Kacchan didn’t seem keen to talk about All Might anymore and Izuku wasn’t willing to wait anymore, so their conversation ended there. He wrote absolutely everything that he could remember down including some observations he had made as well. Obviously he wasn’t going to write about All Might’s weakened state in public, but he did make other observational notes. Such as his inability to read the man very well besides basic expressions.

 

Was All Might going to continue to try to chat with him? Izuku doubted that their conversation was completely over. All Might was a hero first, after all, and Izuku was a key witness and victim. Izuku would have to make sure to play up his more paranoid and nervous traits in front of the man so that he wouldn’t ask so many questions. All Might seemed hesitant to stress Izuku out too much. It was better for him to think that Izuku was too scared to even try to find the villain who had captured him. He had a means of escape to use whenever he needed to in case All Might pressed too much or Izuku couldn't maintain his persona in front of his hero.

 

However, he didn’t want to scare All Might off. Not completely, anyway. If All Might wanted to spend time with him because All Might was his “teacher” and “wanted to care for his student” (or whatever), then Deku would have to take advantage. He could play up his nervous Izuku self, but also try to wiggle some answers out of All Might in return. He still wanted to know more about the other evil villain, after all. He wanted to know what had defeated All Might. He would have to sneak back at least a little information to his master to satisfy him considering he was supposed to be spying on all of his teachers, after all. Especially All Might. But he needed to know all of the information first. He could filter his information as he needed from there.

 

“Oi.” Kacchan nudged him in the ribs, causing Izuku to sit straight up in surprise. He fumbled his notebook before catching it and slamming it closed as his heart raced in his chest. He stared at Kacchan with wide eyes. Had Izuku been writing his train of thoughts in the book? He couldn’t remember. Had Kacchan seen? What did he want?

 

“Wh-What?”

 

Kacchan rolled his eyes in annoyance at the antics and pointed at the notebook. “When did you stop your muttering?”

 

“What?” That was honestly one of the last questions he was expecting. He had to screech his brain to a stop and back up quickly.

 

“What did I just fucking get done talking to you about with the repeating of shit?!”

 

“No, I heard you!” Izuku shook his head and finally got his brain on track. “I just...I don’t know? I just...don’t?”

 

“Yes you do.” Kacchan denied, but it wasn’t with his typical anger. He had that face on again. Izuku was starting to connect that face to what Kacchan might be thinking about now. He only wore it whenever he thought he was touching upon possible information that happened during Izuku’s kidnapping. Or something relating to it. The Kacchan that could use that voice and have such a gentle expression might be one that Izuku could begin to believe was his friend, even as he cringed a little away from it.

 

Izuku was also starting to find by the pain in his chest that he might be a little weak to it.

 

He weighed his options and decided he wasn’t releasing anything crucial to the puzzle as he confessed quietly, “I had to stop muttering. It would make them angry. It made me a target.” He didn’t have to explain who “they” were.

 

Kacchan continued to stare at him, but Izuku had to turn his gaze away to look out of the window. It caused him to miss the stricken expression that crossed Kacchan’s face.

 

In the silence that fell between the two of them after his statement, Izuku packed away his notebook. By the time he had looked up again from his bag, Kacchan was climbing to his feet while the train came to their stop. Izuku followed the boy off and into their station.

 

The crowd was thinning when Kacchan asked, “Do you wanna go to my place or yours for homework?” It sounded forced and awkward coming from him. Izuku wondered just how off-kiltered the other boy felt. Still, he admired Kacchan for trying despite it. He was nothing if not stubborn and determined.

 

“Oh, I can’t today.” Izuku said, glancing at his phone. He hadn’t received any text messages today. He would have to call Shigaraki and Dabi later to check in with them. He also needed to think about which hero he needed to research next. Maybe Master would have an opinion. “I have to go to therapy today.”

 

Kacchan scratched at the back of his head, baring his teeth at some thought. He muttered something that Izuku couldn’t catch and finally just sighed. Whatever thought had been rolling around his head he decided not to voice.

 

They went their separate ways when they arrived at Kacchan’s house, but Izuku’s thoughts didn’t leave the boy. Kacchan had said that the missing poster was a reminder that things had changed. Why did it bother Kacchan so much when Izuku brought up little things though? He didn’t think his lack of muttering was such a big deal, but Kacchan looked bothered by it. He had reacted similarly about his toes and now about his therapy too.

 

He really didn’t understand Kacchan.


 

The next day he was grabbed at school before class began by Todoroki. The boy had called his name and approached him, which was surprising in and of itself. Todoroki always felt like a separate entity of the classroom. He was very aloof. Izuku wondered if it was because his father was a Pro Hero that he was unaffected by all of the hero training. He had probably received some when he was younger.

 

“Good morning, Todoroki.” He greeted with a smile. Kacchan made an irritated noise and brushed past Izuku roughly. Izuku ignored him. He didn’t understand Kacchan’s problem with Todoroki.

 

Todoroki eyed Kacchan briefly as the boy plopped down in his desk before returning his gaze to Izuku. “I wanted to ask you again about the training.”

 

“What?” Oh shit, Izuku had forgotten about that. He could barely remember Todoroki talking to him before Izuku had gone home with Uncle Masaru and Kacchan. “Oh, that.” His smile turned a little strained as sweat broke out on his skin. “I-I still don’t think I can help...”

 

“We haven’t had the chance to really go all out in class.” Todoroki continued despite Izuku’s protests. “If it was a fluke, then we can ignore it. However, I want to test myself against you. I think training will help both of us, Midoriya.” He was really serious and Izuku was starting to get legitimately nervous. If Todoroki was going to actually fight him, then things would get rough. He was one of the people Izuku had decided he would need more than 20% to defeat.

 

“Whoa!” Kirishima called and practically vaulted over the desks to scramble over to Izuku and Todoroki. He was lucky Iida wasn’t there yet to yell at him. “I heard ‘training’ and ‘Midoriya’! I’m in if Midoriya’s doing some training!”

 

“Back up, Shitty Hair!” Kacchan growled as Izuku began to feel very cornered. He now had someone on every side of him. “Deku’s not training with anyone but me!”

 

“Oh c’mon, Bakugou! You can share him!” Kirishima complained.

 

“I didn’t agree to-” Izuku tried, but Todoroki interrupted to address him directly,

 

“I have already begun to fill out the rental form for the gym for training practice. If you can give me a date and a time, I can finish it.”

 

“Wa-wait a minute, Todoroki-”

 

“I’m coming too! I’ll make some time for whenever you guys decide! I wanna learn some of those sick moves you have, Midoriya!”

 

“Kirishima-”

 

“DEKU I SWEAR TO GOD IF YOU TRAIN WITH THESE ASSHOLES WHEN YOU SAID NO TO ME THEN I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!” Kacchan yelled, kicking over his desk and jumping to his feet. A number of the classmates around them were watching now as all three boys closed in on Izuku. Izuku could only hold up his hands as a flimsy defense.

 

“I can’t teach anything!” He protested again.

 

“Your reaction times-” Todoroki tried, but his voice was barrelled over by Kacchan’s declaration of, “I want to see your real skills, Deku! Show me your goddamn training!” Todoroki glared a little at Kacchan, but Kacchan only flicked him off.

 

“The parkour!” Kirishima added enthusiastically.

 

Izuku was realizing that he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He was far too busy to train with anyone. He couldn’t even use his full skill like Kacchan was implying he wanted. Izuku was stuck at a handicap. But he knew he wouldn’t be left alone. Especially now that the others wanted his time and attention as well. Kacchan was like a shark with blood in the water, and Todoroki was even being surprisingly insistent.

 

Izuku wouldn’t be able to say no. He wasn’t the type to do so, and he didn’t have a legitimate excuse. After all, he was a hero that was both trying to make friends and to get better. He was supposed to be a beginner who could use all of the training he could get. It was something to take advantage of.

 

Well if anything, he would get to see his classmates’ quirks up close and personal. Maybe learn a trick or two along the way. He needed to study Kacchan’s new moves anyway since he had only seen bits and pieces in training. Kirishima could use some help as well that Izuku was sure he could provide, and he also had a theory that he wanted to test with Todoroki. He supposed it wouldn’t hurt too much. He had time to kill until tomorrow anyway when he would be going to be with the villains for the weekend. He didn’t know what his schedule would look like next week.

 

“Okay.” He finally agreed. “I can do it if it’s today.” He highly doubted that they would be able to get it, though.

 

Todoroki nodded. “I’ll put in the form, then.”

Chapter Text

“Oh my god, I can’t believe he managed to reserve a training ground on such short notice.” Deku murmured in disbelief next to Katsuki as the two of them arrived at one of the various training grounds across the school. They were the last two to arrive because Deku had been dragging his feet after the bell had rung for the day. Katsuki had attempted to hurry his ass up, but Deku could be a stubborn dick. Now they stood with Shitty Hair and Half-and-Half out on one of the training grounds dressed in their gym uniforms once again.

 

Katsuki couldn’t help his eager grin as he stretched his arms and legs. He had been waiting impatiently all day for this the moment Half-and-Half and Shitty Hair had managed to convince Deku to do some training. He was still kind of irritated that it took their pressure as well to get the other boy to cave, but at least they had succeeded in helping Katsuki get what he had wanted.

 

“There you are, Midoriya!” Shitty Hair greeted with his stupid enthusiasm and a wave. “I was thinking you were gonna skip out on us!”

 

“Haha, I wouldn’t do that.” Deku said nervously. Katsuki bit back the instinctive urge to growl at him for the blatant lie. He didn’t really get why Deku was hiding his true personality behind such a weak exterior. It was a strange façade that reminded Katsuki of how Deku used to act before he had been kidnapped. But the Deku he was now was clearly someone very different. After all, the old Deku wouldn’t have the balls to talk to Katsuki like he had yesterday. (And Katsuki had to admit, he had been a little impressed once he had gotten over the shock of it).

 

But Katsuki knew that Deku wouldn’t be able to keep up that persona while training. He had seen that mask slip and the other Deku (the “real” Deku?) come out during the battle trials and the other afternoon class training they had done in the past. He would’ve preferred to have Deku completely to himself so that he didn’t have to try to maintain that weird-ass mask of his, but Katsuki would take what he could get for the time being.

 

“Um...So how long do we have?” Deku asked as he glanced at the three boys that were waiting for him. Katsuki could see the reluctance dripping off of him, but he was covering it well to make it look like he was just unsure.

 

“Two hours.” Half-and-Half said. “After that we have to leave the school grounds.”

 

“Let’s get started already, then!” Katsuki called, impatient to move. He could feel his palms itching as more sweat secreted in anticipation. He let off a few small explosions to heat up the air around him more. Deku shot Katsuki a wary look as Shitty Hair pounded his fists together with his own excitement. Katsuki could feel the boy’s own anticipation from there. Half-and-Half didn’t even react other than to tense himself a bit. The air felt a little bit chillier near him.

 

“Wait, wait!” Deku waved his arms quickly in front of him. “I haven’t even figured out what we’re doing!”

 

“Obviously we’re gonna train, idiot!” They just needed to launch and start. He wanted to see Deku’s speed and skill up close. The fact that they hadn’t yet faced off against each other even for basic training was a fact that pissed him off.

 

Deku shook his head. “No, I mean,” he sighed. Shitty Hair and Half-and-Half relaxed seeing as Deku wasn’t putting up a guard. It only made Katsuki want to attack one of them instead. Why was Deku holding back?!

 

Deku closed his eyes and brought his hand to his mouth like he did when he was thinking. Katsuki abruptly remembered that Deku had stopped muttering, but he had come to recognize that this had replaced it. It still chilled his heart to remember the reason Deku didn’t do his stupid muttering anymore. Katsuki had hated the muttering, but he preferred it to the slimy dark thing that slithered painfully in his chest.

 

When Deku’s eyes had opened again, something a little more solid had appeared in his eyes. “All of you wanted to train with me for different reasons, right?” He asked. He pointed in each boy in turn as he said, “Todoroki, you just want to learn how to increase your reaction time. And maybe see if I’m as fast as you think I am.”

 

“Yes.” Half-and-Half agreed without hesitation and with a nod. Katsuki scowled at him.

 

“Kirishima, you want to practice parkour with me, right?”

 

Kirishima let out a bark of a laugh. “Yup! Those moves are super manly, dude!”

 

Deku quirked a smile and then pointed to Katsuki, “And Kacchan…” He paused, but both of the boys could feel an answer hovering between them. Katsuki narrowed his eyes at him a bit and stared him down. He didn’t know why Deku was holding back, but if he was going to be Deku’s friend then he wasn’t going to try to out him anymore. He was making better progress by not threatening to expose him to others. Katsuki would play his game and pretend this was all there was to Deku in front of other people. There was some kind of saying with honey and flies and such about this. Deku continued, “you want to see what I’ve learned over the years for yourself.”

 

“Yeah.” Katsuki responded simply, and noted that he had used the term “years” instead of just a “year”. Deku should’ve only had a single year of training his quirk. Unless...Did the villains train Deku?

 

It was a dizzying thought and something that Katsuki had to hold back his reaction upon thinking it up. He couldn’t let Deku know he had slipped up again. It would explain how Deku had become so good over such a short period of time. Deku had said that he remembered his time with the villains, after all, so if they had trained him then he would remember. But what would be the point? Why train someone they had kidnapped?

 

He didn’t have time to think on it further and hurriedly stored it away in the back of his mind to digest later because Deku was speaking again. “So all three of you want something completely different out of this.”

 

“We should focus on one thing, then.” Kirishima recommended. “Since you said that you don’t know how to teach.”

 

Deku scratched the back of his head in thought. “...How about this, then.” He glanced around the area they were in. Half-and-Half had managed to reserve an open rocky area surrounded by trees. It wasn’t the best place for Katsuki’s fire quirk, but he had practiced in forests before. He knew how to put out the fires he started. If he kept to the large stones as well it should be fine. They would probably be destroyed, though.

 

Deku motioned to the area around them. “No quirks!”

 

“WHAT?!” Katsuki immediately yelled. “What the fuck!”

 

“None at all?” Half-and-Half asked with a raised eyebrow.

 

“I kinda figured it would be something like that.” Shitty Hair admitted.

 

Deku raised his hands placatingly at Katsuki’s shouting. “It’s my choice for the training, right? Well I think this will be the best way to satisfy everyone.” He lowered his hands and his face turned serious. “You all told me your reasons for being here, but other than Kacchan you haven’t exactly said what you wanted. Kirishima, you actually want to increase your mobility, right? You’re a tank, but that also means you’re slow because you know you can take the hits. But that also makes you an easy target if you’re just a shield all of the time and decreases your range of attack. If you were more mobile, it would help with your close-range attacks and make you less predictable.”

 

Kirishima nodded, thinking it over. “You were really slippery during the battle trials. I couldn’t even really land a hit on you. Even when I did, it was barely a punch. I just couldn’t keep up.”

 

Deku nodded. Katsuki watched curiously as the other boy analyzed them. It was further proof to Katsuki that Deku wasn’t an idiot and his brain still worked well. “And Todoroki, you also have pretty much the same problem.”

 

“I do?” Half-and-Half asked, a little surprised but also annoyed. Katsuki smirked a little at that. Half-and-Half thought he was so damn good just because he got into the school on recommendation. It was funny to see him knocked down, even if it was in a minor way.

 

“Yes. You’re a long-range fighter, but you mostly stay in one place while attacking.” Deku made motions with his hands as he explained. “Your control over your ice is amazing for both attacking and defending, but you don’t move yourself at all. What do you do if you come across an enemy that isn’t affected by your ice? Like, say, the warp guy from USJ?”

 

Both Katsuki and Shitty Hair watched Half-and-Half think about it with a frown on his face. He ended up saying, “So you believe that if I learn to parkour as well, it would be an escape method?”

 

Deku held up a finger. “I’m saying that if you learn it, your reaction time will increase, which is what you want. You can dodge attacks better. Parkour requires extreme hand-eye coordination and reaction time needed to make split-second decisions.” He backed up a few steps while pulling on the gloves he had as part of his hero outfit. “For example!”

 

Deku turned then to the nearest stone. He didn’t hesitate as he ran over and launched himself at it. His hands found purchase after sliding only a little bit, and then he was scaling it like he was sticking to the wall. He twisted his body and sometimes flipped upside-down completely to get a foothold. Katsuki found himself approaching to get a better look as Shitty Hair next to him cheered. The rock had to be almost three stories tall. Deku climbed up about halfway before he kicked off of the thing to launch himself at a separate rock. Katsuki had tensed in surprise as Deku somehow managed to span a ten-foot gap even at a sheer angle. He managed to grab onto a small outcropping on it and hung from there with only a foot planted for extra support.

 

“See?” He asked, barely sounding out of breath.

 

“Amazing.” Half-and-Half murmured next to Katsuki.

 

“I can fucking do that!” Katsuki claimed. It looked easy enough, after all. The rock wasn’t exactly smooth, but it was sheerer than a natural rock. There were chunks missing from some of the other stone towers from various attacks during training. He could take advantage of those.

 

“God, those moves are so cool !” Shitty Hair called and clapped once. Deku finished climbing up the rest of the way and motioned.

 

“Of the three of you, I already know Kacchan will have the easiest time with this bit.” He said, crossing his legs and staring down at them. Katsuki felt a grin appear on his face because it was obvious he could handle it. Even Deku was pointing it out. Deku continued, “Due to the nature of his quirk he already has strong shoulders and tougher palms. Climbing in this kind of environment needs a strong grip and stronger upper body strength. I would give you gloves, but I only have these.” He shrugged. He looked to be more in his environment here with his mouth rambling like usual.

 

He continued with his analysis, “Kirishima as well will have a better advantage for similar reasons. Todoroki, you have the body to climb here but not necessarily the grip. It comes from not being a close-range fighter.” Half-and-Half said nothing in response to that. “We’ll practice some simple and maybe intermediate moves first. Parkour is meant more for a city environment, though, so feel free to practice it whenever you want. Where the police can’t see, anyway. Climb this thing and then all of you get over here like I did. If you can manage to copy my moves three times before the end of this, we’ll move onto part two.”

 

“What’s part two?” Shitty Hair asked as Half-and-Half ran his hand over the rock with a thoughtful frown.

 

Deku grinned then. “You’re going to try to catch me without your quirks.”


 

Katsuki had been only a little invested in Deku’s decision of how their training would go for the day, but Katsuki had gotten fired up quickly when he realized it was definitely harder than it looked. Whatever foot and hand holds that Deku seemed to find were mysterious to him. When he was actually on the rock, climbing it wasn’t a problem. It was finding the footholds first. His fingers ached from the strain of holding all of his weight when he couldn’t find a bigger hand hold. Sometimes he was left dangling by his fingertips while Deku could scramble up like he was a fucking spider.

 

The worst part was the jump from the first rock to the one that Deku’s smug, judging ass was sitting on. It was difficult to judge both the power he needed to make the jump and react in time to find the grips he needed. If he crashed down to the bottom, Deku forced him to start over. Katsuki wanted to blow all of the fucking rocks up and punch Deku in the face and he made sure to voice his desire.

 

“You have to get up here first.” Deku had mocked, temporarily removing that mask enough to peek from behind it. It had only made Katsuki more determined to make it.

 

He had never climbed anything so tall before with his bare hands. He had climbed trees and statues when he had been younger, but they were never very tall and he had never made it too far. When he was older and training, he had relied on his quirk to get him to new heights. He hadn’t used climbing as a training exercise. He had never been up so far by his own body strength.

 

If anything he definitely did better than Shitty Hair and Half-and-Half. Half-and-Half had a thinner frame that was built more for quick combat, similar to Deku’s lithe figure. He didn’t have the grip strength like Deku had predicted, but even Katsuki had to give Half-and-Half props because he didn’t stop trying. Maybe he wasn't quite as much of an entitled asshole who didn't earn his way into the school like Katsuki had thought. 

 

Shitty Hair definitely had the best stamina of the three of them as well as strong hands. He could climb the rock the easiest of the three after a couple of tries, but unlike Katsuki he didn’t have the power to make the long jump between the two stones. He usually fell a bit short, but he occasionally did make it. During those times he would slip without a grip and fall like Katsuki did. The three of them were cursing up a storm while Deku just watched.

 

The hardest part was having to work around each other. With all three of them trying the same things they either needed to move around the others or push them out of the way. Sometimes they risked slamming right into them during a leap. It was frustrating for all of them to the point that even Shitty Hair’s cheer was being made a bit bitter. Especially so when Katsuki had crashed into him and sent the two of them falling. Katsuki almost ended up wrecking his shit because he was so pissed by it.

 

“FUCK!” He finally screamed and this time didn’t resist blowing something up. “Goddammit, this shouldn’t be SO FUCKING HARD!!”

 

“I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong.” Half-and-Half scowled as he wiped sweat from his head and glared up at Deku, who had continued to watch them with those curious eyes. “Midoriya, explain.”

 

“Yeah, man, give us a hint. What are we doing wrong?” Shitty Hair panted, leaning on his knees. Then he winced as he examined his torn up hands.

 

“I don’t want his fucking help!” Katsuki yelled at them. “I don’t need no motherfucking hint! I’m gonna climb that thing and beat his ass on my own!!”

 

“Do it, then.” Half-and-Half challenged.

 

“YOU THINK I FUCKING WON’T?!”

 

“You’re finally asking for help.” Deku said, sounding surprised. “I didn’t think you all would think to do so.”

 

“I don’t want it!” Katsuki didn’t need his help. He would figure it out on his own, even though he itched to just get a good launch with his explosions. But if Deku could do it, Katsuki could do it.

 

Deku shrugged and looked at Shitty Hair and Half-and-Half then. “You’re exhausting yourselves at this point which means you’ll have less of a chance of getting up here. You’re running out of steam.”

 

“Exactly! But we haven’t even finished one round of this. What the heck is wrong with our technique?” Shitty Hair asked.

 

“Other than not being able to move like you do.” Half-and-Half added. Katsuki backed up and threw himself at the stone again. He found now-familiar holds as he climbed. His muscles ached from overworking them and he could feel the blood on his fingers. But he still climbed furiously.

 

“Look.” Deku pointed at Katsuki. “Kacchan is on it.” Katsuki ignored him and dug the toe of his shoes deeper into the handhold and turned his glare to the other rock. He had thrown himself at it so many times now that he felt he could do it in his sleep. He just needed actually grab the little outcrop that Deku had used.

 

Judging distance and angle was second-nature for Katsuki because he always had to automatically account for his movements with his explosions. It frustrated him to have to hesitate to search for places to land. He could feel how slow he was. Deku had moved with speed and agility even though this was his first time in the training area just like them. It pissed him off.

 

Katsuki climbed higher instead. He didn’t need to leap upwards like Deku did. He didn’t have the other boy’s maneuverability. He decided to just shout “FUCK IT!” and threw himself across the gap. His body slammed against the stone, but his hand found the outcrop. His grip was true, but his feet scrambled against the rock. He let out a yell and yanked himself upwards with all of his strength, grasping desperately with his other hand until he found another spot. His knee locked into another place, and then he was hefting himself upwards by winding his body around. His only thought was getting to the top even if he had to use his goddamn teeth to do it.

 

So when he ended up actually coming to the top and seeing Deku grinning at him, he was a bit stunned. His mind had blanked of anything but the task ahead of him. It reminded him of the times when he would get so angry he could only attack. His instincts had driven him.

 

“Whoa!!” Shitty Hair cried from down below. “Bakubro, how did you do it?!”

 

Katsuki only stared at Deku for a long moment and thought back to what he did differently this time. Deku blinked at him and said nothing. “You have to use everything.” Katsuki finally said, but the words felt foreign to him. It was more hypothesis than anything. He still needed to try it a few more times. “You have to use everything and trust that your body can handle following through.”

 

“Otherwise you’ll fall.” Deku agreed with a pleased grin. It looked good on him, Katsuki thought, to see Deku genuinely happy. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen that kind of smile on him.

 

Katsuki’s eyes dragged on Deku before he turned to his classmates still below and called, “You have to fucking stop thinking so hard!”

 

“What does that even mean?” Half-and-Half growled, looking frustrated.

 

Katsuki only grinned, still feeling exhilarated and riding the high of actually climbing up with his own damn strength and nobody’s help. His head was filled with Deku’s proud grin and the need to test out his theory. He had to prove to himself that what had happened wasn’t just a one-time thing.

 

He threw himself off of the rock and lit off of a few explosions to slow his descent before he landed. His hands were screaming at him and his body ached like crazy. He was sweating like a motherfucker, but he was actually having a bit of fun. “Watch and learn, you dumb fucks, cuz I’m about to show you up once again!”

Chapter Text

Deku stood outside of a convenience store and leaned against the windows there staring down at his hands. Out of every part of his body, he would say his palms were the most damaged by his training. The skin was different shades of pink from various burns. The palms and undersides of his fingers were thicker than they had been when he had been younger because of all of the scar tissue. Even as he traced some of the scars on his left palm, he could barely feel it. His left palm’s nerves were wrecked from the damage to them. He always had to be careful with his fire because it took longer for him to notice when his skin was burning.

 

The training from that afternoon with his classmates had done nothing but brought back memories for him. He’d had the choice of wearing gloves to protect his damaged hands from the rough rock this time, but in the past he hadn’t been granted that luxury. His classmates had all expressed various levels of anger and frustration towards the training and how harsh it actually was, but Deku thought that he had gone pretty easy on them. After all, they had all managed it in the end anyway. He still considered them the lucky ones. When they fell, they only had to deal with hitting the hard ground. Deku had been punished for his failures during his training.

 

He was so lost in his thoughts that he almost didn’t hear Himiko approach him until she was in front of him. Deku tensed and waited for an attack, but she didn’t try this time. She just smiled broadly at him and greeted him cheerfully.

 

“You were staring at your scars.” She pointed out as if it wasn’t obvious. Deku pulled his gloves back on.

 

“I was.” Deku looked her up and down. She was wearing her uniform once again. Deku wished that he could be wearing his usual outfit as well, but she hadn’t returned it to him. Deku was stuck with his turtleneck and long pants. It was a little hot to be wearing them, though. “I was remembering our training.” He confessed to her as he made his way into the convenience store. He wanted to grab some snacks and drinks before they went to their meeting place. He doubted that Dabi remembered to bring anything.

 

“Which part?” She asked curiously as she made a beeline to the snack aisle. Deku kept close to her in order to be able to talk quietly. Other than the strange jazz version of English music playing over the store sound system, it was quiet.

 

“The climbing exercises.”

 

“Ooh, those weren’t fun!” She shook her head and made a tsking noise as she took a couple boxes of Pocky. “My hands always hurt soooo badly!” Her slitted eyes sparkled with manic delight as she looked at him and said, “You were always so sexy afterwards.”

 

“That’s because I got punished so much for falling.” He told her blandly. He had ended up bloody for the first chunk of climbing training. It had taken him a long time to start really building his muscles because he’d never trained before in the past. He moved away to grab a hand basket and came back with it so she could put the snacks in it. “For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to make the jump.”

 

“You think too much.” She told him, kneeling down to examine the different bags of chips. Deku went over to the fridge section right nearby for drinks. “You still do. It makes your movements slow.”

 

“I’ve gotten better!” He argued, a little embarrassed.

 

“You have!” She agreed.

 

“I’m going to have to be careful. I’ve been allowing myself to think a lot more during my battles for the sake of my notes and to handicap myself. I can’t let myself fall back into the habit.” He grabbed a couple of drinks and returned to her.

 

“Come back and train with me, then. We could both use the practice!” She seemed to decide on what she wanted and threw them into Deku’s basket. They made their way to the counter.

 

“Training with you leaves too many obvious marks.” Deku placed his basket on the counter and pulled out his coin purse.

 

“We can practice stealth.”

 

“I might take you up on that.”

 

They finished buying everything that they wanted and headed out into the darkness of the evening. They were in a rather busy part of this town at the moment, but soon enough the streets began to clear as Himiko led Deku towards their current base set up. It was in a relatively rundown section of the town, but it wasn’t terrible. There was plenty of housing currently being used.

 

“Speaking of Master and his training,” Himiko finally spoke up after an unusually long silence. Deku thought she looked kind of tired. Maybe she had been staying up late as well. Or she was busier during the day than he thought, “I was thinking about some of the other experiments.”

 

“What for?” Deku asked, surprised that she was bringing them up. They so rarely talked about the other Quirkless experiments because of how few of them survived. That, and Deku didn’t keep in contact with any of them. He only knew Himiko anymore, and frankly he would rather leave it that way. They may have all tried to kill each other at one point or another, but he hadn’t become friendly with any of them except Himiko.

 

“For our mission.” She stated like it was obvious. “I was thinking they could be helpful.”

 

“No.” Deku shook his head with a frown.

 

“Why not?” She whined with a pout. “I thought it was a good idea!”

 

“They’re all Master’s. Master wants Tomura to have his own people.”

 

“We’re Master’s too.” Himiko pointed out.

 

“Yeah, but not in the same way.” Deku knew his role, although Himiko wasn't quite in the same position. Master was like a parent who had given a smartphone to Shigaraki. It was in Shigaraki's possession, but Master ultimately owned the phone. Deku was the smartphone. Himiko was never Shigaraki’s possession, but through her friendship with Deku and her skill she had been granted the freedom to come and go. She didn’t need to be controlled in the same way Deku did. She did what she was commanded because the training had worked on her and because she actually liked it.

 

Deku shook aside the depressing thoughts and the imaginary feeling of his shackles, “Besides, most of them would be useless to us. Otherwise Tomura would’ve paid attention to them before. They don’t have the firepower that Tomura wants.”

 

“He wants firepower?” Himiko asked.

 

“He wants to destroy All Might.” He pointed out simply. “He’ll need stronger people for that. Most of the other Quirkless probably aren’t even alive anymore.” And if they were alive, they were probably in similar states to Noumu.

 

“True.” Himiko made an exaggerated face of disgust as she kicked her feet out playfully and skipped over a few cracks in the sidewalk.

 

They arrived at a small door to a building shoved between two much bigger buildings. Himiko knocked on it before pushing inside. Deku followed after her into the gloom of the house. It smelled unused and dusty. He didn’t even bother to take off his shoes as he entered and found Dabi lounging on a tattered couch in the living room. There was a single low table in front of him, and that’s where Deku dropped his bags. He tossed his backpack into a side room and away from the sight of anyone who would enter.

 

“Oh good, you brought food.” Dabi said as he leaned forward to open the bags. He frowned at it. “It’s all junk.”

 

“It’s a sleepover!” Himiko said happily as she threw herself down to sit at the small table. “We need to have looots of junk food at a sleepover!”

 

“You could’ve brought some real food too.” Dabi accused.

 

“Or you could’ve, ungrateful asshole.” Deku countered as he returned to the living room and snagged some chips and his favorite drink before either of the other two could. “You were here long enough.”

 

“You don’t know how long I’ve been here.” Dabi accused, grabbing a tea while Himiko went for the Pocky immediately. Deku didn’t respond to him and joined him on the couch. He pulled off his gloves to start eating. “Your mom cool with you being here, by the way?”

 

“She thinks I’m staying with a friend from school.” Deku hated lying to his mother almost more than anything else that his missions required. He didn’t like how often he had been pulling the “spending the night at a friend’s house” card on her recently. He was certain that she was starting to lose trust in him no matter how many times he smiled at her. It was an unusual trend for him and she could see through it. The only reason she had yet to stop him was because his therapist had recommended to her that she let him spend more time with people his age.

 

At some point she would refuse him, though, and he would have to break her trust. He knew that she was just worried about him, but he couldn’t reject his missions. He could only use his mother as an excuse for being late, but never for failure to do his missions. If his master or Shigaraki ever thought that his mother was holding him back, they wouldn’t hesitate to remove her from the picture one way or another. They had been very clear about that before they had released Izuku back into her care. Deku would rather have his mother think he was a troubled youth than the alternative. Even if it would hurt to see how her heart would break.

 

“Well, you are staying with friends.” Himiko pointed out, offering him some Pocky. He took it gratefully.

 

“Nothing like rationalizing your lies.” Dabi agreed sardonically.

 

“That’s basically all I’ve been doing since I was returned anyway.” Deku muttered. “You should see the kind of shit I have to make up while I’m at school.”

 

“Oh yeah. Tell me about school and your little mission. You said you would.”

 

Himiko scooted closer eagerly. “Yeah! Tell us about UA High and Bakkun!”

 

“I’m not telling you shit about Kacchan.” Deku growled, laying down that line immediately. He hated that Himiko kept pressing him for information about his personal life like that. He would never stop being defensive about it either. He would guard his family and friends as much as he could considering their lives were already under threat.

 

“Always so defensive about your boyfriend.” Dabi mocked.

 

“He’s not-!”

 

“Yeah yeah.” Dabi waved him off. Deku’s glare sharpened as he scowled. His hands itched to light a fire and use it on Dabi, but fire wouldn’t do much against the man. Maybe yanking those staples out of his face would do something. “I don’t care about that kid anyway. I wanna hear about your mission.”

 

“Answers for answers.” Deku bargained. Himiko’s head quirked to the side curiously. Her eyes snapped to Dabi. The man watched them both back before shrugging.

 

“Fine. I don’t have much to tell, though.”

 

“I heard rumors around my school that there might be someone as strong as All Might.” Deku lowered his voice as both Himiko and Dabi’s eyes sharpened and focused on him. Deku wouldn’t trust this kind of information with anybody else, but he could with these two. “Sound familiar?”

 

“Are you referring to your master?” Dabi asked with a raised eyebrow. He twisted his body and slumped sideways against the back of the couch. “He’s the only one that I know of so far who can supposedly rival All Might.”

 

“What makes you think it’s him?” Deku asked with a tilt of his head. He tried to recall if Dabi had ever actually seen what his master looked like. Master didn’t show himself to many people and preferred to work from the shadows. They had known Dabi for a couple of years, but maybe he hadn’t actually met the man. Deku knew that his master was as strong as All Might, but anyone who has only seen Master and not his quirk wouldn’t know it.

 

“Anyone close enough to the sources know of your master’s strength and power. And not just in reference to his connections.”

 

So Dabi hasn’t heard of anyone other than Master and All Might. Someone so powerful wouldn’t be able to escape the sight of so many people, and Dabi would at least have heard rumors about him. Deku had a sinking feeling in his stomach. Was it possible that his Master was the one that had fought All Might? Was the damage to Master’s body from All Might himself? And All Might was damaged from the same battle?

 

It would make sense, he realized to his own shock. He was surprised he hadn’t started forming this theory earlier. If there really wasn’t a third person out there, then that would just leave his master and All Might. Deku didn’t know Master’s true name, though. He had always assumed everyone called him Master and that was the name that he went by. Dabi had never done that, but Deku had assumed that was just because he was showing he wasn’t under the man’s control. Shigaraki was also an exception because he was the successor.

 

Maybe Master’s name was All for One?

 

Deku could confirm it right there, but he couldn’t go hunting for that kind of answer without appearing suspicious. He had never tried to see if Master had a different name before. Dabi and Himiko were both too sharp and would notice. He would have to ask Kurogiri or Shigaraki. They would give up the information a little more freely. Maybe even Master himself. Besides, he had enough evidence to have a pretty solid idea, but that left a lot more questions. Deku would have to reexamine his conversations with All Might at a later date.

 

“Was that it?” Dabi asked, pulling Deku from his thoughts.

 

Deku gave a shrug and nodded. “Just wanted to know if the rumors had any foundation.” Deku needed to distract them, so he decided to recount his mission for Dabi. He told them both about some of the little things they’ve been doing in class and a couple of the heroes he had met. The three of them continued to eat while Deku told them all he could remember from USJ, including why he had been so pissed. He still wanted to know why Master wanted the heroes to know that the villains knew his name.

 

He was about to ask Dabi what he thought when another question appeared in his mind first. “How much time do we have left?” He asked.

 

“About ten minutes is when a few guys are supposed to show up.” Dabi said as he looked at the clock on his phone.

 

“A few?” Himiko asked.

 

“Figured Deku could interview them all at once.”

 

“Interview.” Deku scoffed. “Like it’s some kind of job position?”

 

“It’s basically what it is.”

 

“Are any of them good?”

 

“They’re villains, Deku.”

 

“Oh my god.” Deku glared at him. Dabi’s smirk was irritating. “You know what I meant.”

 

“They’re pretty handy.” Dabi admitted with a shrug. “Not many, though. There isn’t anyone that’s decent.”

 

“Most of the stronger villains are in prison.” Himiko agreed.

 

“That, or they’re already hooked up with your master. Which you already said you don’t want.”

 

“Actually,” she spoke around her fingers as she sucked some chocolate off of them, “that’s because a lot of villains are following Stain.”

 

Dabi rolled his eyes. “We already know you want us to meet him.”

 

“Because he’s perfect!”

 

“Himiko,” Deku interrupted, “do you know where Stain is tonight?”

 

Himiko smiled, clearly delighted at the thought of finding him again. Deku was almost nervous to go meet someone who had her attention that much, but he also really wanted to meet him. What kind of hero killer didn’t actually want to take down All Might? Himiko had told him a little bit about his ideology, but these kinds of things were better heard from the preacher rather than the choir. Deku had yet to meet a villain that actually admired All Might rather than loathed him. Maybe he could find an ally.

 

“I don’t. But I can find out! I can contact him.”

 

“What, do you have his number?” Dabi asked with a raised eyebrow, scratching at the staples on his cheek.

 

“Nope! But I do know his hunting grounds and his contacts.” The flash of her eyes reminded Deku of far too many nights training with her. It was nice to have her obsession on someone else. He wished that Stain was more in her age group, though, so she would turn her affection on Stain as well.

 

“How long will it take?”

 

Himiko tapped her chin as she thought. She didn’t respond for a few moments, so that’s how Deku knew for sure she was actually thinking about it. Finally she said, “I’m not super sure.”

 

“Didn’t you just say you know his hunting grounds?” Dabi shifted on the couch, crossing his legs.

 

“I do, but I have a feeling he’ll be changing it up soon. He’s getting more popular.”

 

“Do that, then.” Deku commanded. “We’ll content Tomura with a couple other possibilities first.”

 

“If we can get Stain to join us, his followers will come as well.” Dabi added.

 

“Exactly. That should be enough to appease him.”

 

“Yes sir, Deku, sir!” Himiko saluted playfully. Dabi snorted a laugh.

 

“Oh, that actually reminds me.” The man stood up and left the room. Deku and Himiko shared a curious look before getting up to go follow him. The house itself wasn’t anything special and definitely seemed abandoned. There was a staircase to head upstairs, but the wood looked rotten and not worth risking. Dabi entered what looked to be where they would be sleeping, judging by the single bed and the old futons on the floor. Dabi found a duffel bag and pulled out some long piece of clothing and something that was round-shaped.

 

“Here.” Dabi held out the items to Deku, who took them with surprise on his face. “Wear those.”

 

“It’s too hot for more clothes.” Deku argued as he examined his new items. The clothing was a jacket that hung like a cloak. It had a hoodie that could be pulled up with only the bare minimum of decoration on the chest of it. It looked like a symbol that matched the face of the mask Deku was also given.

 

The mask had red, slanted plastic eyes for seeing through. They were tinted enough that they would darken everything just like how Deku liked his eyewear for battle. Other than the eyes, the mask was black and white with a gigantic grin on it that covered the entire lower half of the piece. It was simple, but sturdy plastic. It would stay attached to Deku’s face by a thick leather strap. Deku was reminded again of All Might and his mood soured.

 

“Did Master put you up to this?” He asked darkly.

 

“No.” Dabi pointed at Deku’s face. “I thought of it. Your face is too recognizable. Even villains will remember you from the news a couple years back. That’s to hide your face and your hair.”

 

Deku felt his rage calm a little as he considered it. He decided to slip on the cloak and zipped it up. Only the torso portion actually zipped though, leaving the ends to hang almost like a cape to blow while he walked. He slipped on the mask and pulled up the hood as well. The already-dim room took on a red tint but didn’t detract from his sight. He worked better in darkness anyway. It would take some getting used to for breathing with the mask on and his more limited range of vision. It would be good for meetings. It was a great idea. 

 

“Ooh~!” Himiko bounced to stand in front of him and look him up and down. “That’s a good look on you!”

 

“It’s a good idea, Dabi.” Deku agreed, examining himself. He should've thought of it before. He would be more part of the villain society now. He needed to keep his identity secret. “Thank you.” 

 

“So polite.” Dabi joked, but his face softened at the appreciation. Then it transformed into a smirk as he said, “You’ll need it considering Himiko won’t return your other clothes.”

 

What.” Deku spun on her. “What does he mean?”

 

She grinned. “I’m not giving them back. They’re mine now! You gave them to me!”

 

“I was drunk. I need my clothes back, Himiko!”

 

“No! I’m keeping them.” A blush lit up her face, darkening her cheeks so even Deku could see it through his mask. Her expression became longing as she sighed, “It has your scent on it still. I’m keeping them!”

 

Dabi choked beside him and Deku was glad his disgusted face was hidden behind his mask. “Gross.” Dabi muttered.

 

“You can keep them.” Deku sighed and steadfastly ignored the thoughts of what she might be doing with his clothes. “I’ll just buy a new set.”

 

“We still have your skirt and panties-” Deku punched Dabi in the stomach before the man could finish. Dabi grunted in pain, going down with a curse. Himiko covered her mouth to stifle her giggle.

 

Deku turned from them both to exit the room. Now that he was dressed and hidden, he felt much more confident and ready. He pulled his gloves back on. “Pull yourselves together. We’ve got villains to interview.”

Chapter Text

The weekend passed far too quickly. Izuku was kept busy on both sides of his lives, which only made things pass faster. After Friday night had drifted into midday Saturday, he returned home. His new villain outfit had been firmly stuffed into his backpack and hidden away for his eyes only as he returned from his life as Deku to take up his life as Izuku again. He would have to be especially careful to make sure that nobody would see the outfit, so he made sure to store it away where nobody could just stumble across it.

 

His Saturday was spent with his mother to help soothe down any fears she may have about Izuku distancing himself. He didn’t know if that was how she felt, but his paranoia and anxiety warned him nonetheless until he made efforts to calm them both. He went to his therapy session and then hung out in the living room to work on his homework. His mother had sat down to help him where she could while a movie played in the background.

 

Saturday night he snuck out of the house late at night to meet up with Shigaraki and Kurogiri to pass on more information about Present Mic. Deku didn’t like that he hadn’t seen his teacher in battle in a long time, but that was also the reason why he thought it was okay to pass over Present Mic’s information. After all, the teacher most likely wouldn’t be in battle any time soon. He would be less likely to be killed. It didn’t make the betrayal any less bitter, though. It was enough to make his stomach hurt.

 

Sunday Izuku spent the day tracking down hero fights where he could. The heroes that lived in his area were all people he had taken plenty of notes on, though. Most of them he had already finished fully researching and had passed on to his master. Izuku had to move onto the interns and sidekicks of the heroes instead.

 

He had been used to studying his surroundings enough and had been on enough missions to get a feel for where villains would strike. Izuku had even come to recognize some villains on the streets as well as petty thieves. He kept a police scanner on his phone and headphone in his ear as he walked around searching for places to go. When he heard something, Izuku made sure to rush his way over. Usually that meant scaling buildings for height advantages or freerunning his way across parks. It was great exercise and kept his skills up. He loved the thrill of the chase.

 

Sunday night he stayed in and got as much sleep as his heavy mind and body would allow him. He ended up waking up after tossing and turning for hours around two in the morning. To spare him the struggle of his guilty thoughts that liked to rise and inflate in his mind by drinking in the darkness, Izuku played video games on mute. He played as All Might on a fighting game he’d had for years. It didn’t make him feel any better, but it distracted him enough to get one more hour of sleep before his alarm for school went off.


 

Monday came with the return of Aizawa-sensei. Izuku hadn’t realized just how much he had been worried about his teacher until then. He had been so caught up in everything that it felt like a breath of fresh air to have some sense of normalcy return. Aizawa-sensei may have been covered in bandages and looked like a mummy, but he seemed to be in his usual spirits. He didn’t hesitate to announce the upcoming UA High Sports Festival.

 

Izuku could only clench his jaw as he realized just how deep into his mission he really was. The UA Sports Festival was basically the Olympics of Japan and every kind of hero would be there to scout. Izuku’s job as a hero student was to try his best to get a strong mentor figure of a hero to take him under their wing. He hadn’t even really thought of the sports festival as something he would actually be participating in.

 

His classmates seemed a little hesitant in the wake of the villains having attacked on school grounds. Aizawa-sensei had been quick to reassure them though saying that the school wouldn’t go forward with such a large event if they didn’t think they could handle it. Izuku wasn’t concerned about that, though.

 

It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. This was his chance to really see if he had the true ability to be a hero. What kind of hero would choose him? Was he strong enough to face off against all of the other heroes in his grade? Would he be able to come out on top at only 20%? Did Master want him to come out on top, or did he want him to continue with the middle of the road?

 

If Izuku was honest, he wanted to win. He didn’t want to hold himself back so much that he was forced to lose the UA Sports Festival. He wanted to prove to himself that he was good enough. It had always been his dream to compete. He had so many strong competitors to face as well. He wanted to crush it.

 

He wasn’t the only one, either. To his own surprise and the surprise of their classmates as well, Uraraka began to get really worked up. She looked ready to take on the world, and it threw Izuku for a loop. Nevertheless, it only made him more excited. His classmates were just as stoked for the sports festival as he was, after all. He would have some good competition. If anything, it would definitely be more fun than running around town.

 

He walked together to lunch with Uraraka and Iida that day and discussed with them the reasons for wanting to become heroes. To his further surprise, the happy-go-lucky Uraraka wanted to be a hero for money. Izuku was in the middle of completely reevaluating her character when she explained about her family’s financial situation and the life she wanted to provide her family. Izuku had been struck dumb by it because in a way he understood her. She just wanted her family to live a comfortable life. He admired that kind of reason. He admired Iida’s reason as well to follow in his family’s footsteps.


Izuku’s eyes dropped to the floor as Iida was praising Uraraka’s reasons. They had such noble reasons. What reason was Izuku becoming a hero? To protect himself and his loved ones, yes, but at the cost of others. Lives had been lost because of him. He wasn’t even sure he was fit to be a hero. At this point it was a charade he was acting in. It hurt.

 

You really think I can become a hero?

 

Do you?

 

He was starting to think that no, he couldn’t. But if he couldn’t be a hero...if he couldn’t be good...did that mean he had no reason to pretend? Did that mean he had to accept his fate as a villain? Succumb to it just as Himiko did, as Shigaraki did, and as Master wanted him to?

 

If he did, then maybe his family wouldn’t be threatened anymore. If the villains had no reason to think they had to control him, maybe he could be free like Himiko was. He wouldn’t need a leash anymore because he had learned how to walk by his master’s side. He would get a choice again. A little bit of freedom would be better than none at all.

 

But he didn’t want to give up. There had to be a way out of this life, wasn’t there?

 

“OOHH! THERE YOU ARE!!” All three of the students jolted as All Might skidded around the corner. Izuku could only freeze as the man grinned and held up a bento. All Might looked at Izuku directly and asked boldly, “Would you care to...eat your rice with me?”

 

“You sound like a teenage girl!!” Uraraka cried before her hands flew to her mouth to try to block her giggles.

 

Izuku frowned in confusion but nodded. This was the second time he was doing this. Was this going to become a weekly thing for them? Was All Might that determined to chat with him? Well, it wasn’t like Izuku wasn’t a little grateful. He had some questions of his own.

 

He split off with his friends once again and followed All Might to the same room they had eaten lunch in last time. This time there was tea set up and ready. All Might allowed himself to shrink and poured them both cups before he coughed into his hand. Izuku stared with a sinking feeling in his chest when he saw the man wiping blood from his mouth. He quietly took the tea. He didn’t drink, though. His stomach hurt too badly.

 

Izuku could feel his guilt eating into his chest. This was his hero in front of him. He was the definition of what Izuku had always wanted to be. Izuku didn’t feel like he deserved to be in the man’s presence with how tainted he was. He wanted to leave the glory that All Might exuded. Even in his deflated, skeletal state he was still All Might. He was someone that Izuku could no longer be.

 

“Eat up, my boy.” All Might offered, opening the large bento for them to split again.

 

“All Might…” Izuku murmured, not wanting to beat around the bush, “why did you call me out again?”

 

All Might took a sip of his tea and eyed Izuku. Izuku couldn’t lift his eyes to even look at him. It didn’t matter since he couldn’t read the man’s reactions anyway. “For much the same reason as last time.” At least he was being truthful. Izuku appreciated honesty, for all that he was a liar. People who were straightforward with their desires were people that could be trusted more to be honest, Izuku had learned.

 

“So to ask me questions about Master.” Izuku murmured.

 

“Do you still call them that?” All Might asked quietly.

 

Izuku swallowed thickly. His shaking had stopped. The tea was warm in his hands, which meant it was probably burning. He couldn’t bring himself to put it down, though. He had been thinking about his discovery from Friday night and felt more and more that his Master and All for One were one and the same. If anyone had information on his master, it would be All Might. The burning desire to tell All Might everything was there. The hopeful part of him that refused to die even under the crush weight if reality reasoned that he could possibly find someone he could rely on with the man. That maybe All Might would be powerful enough to take him down. He could maybe get the heroes on his side. Maybe Izuku could be freed from his chains finally with the help of All Might.

 

But there were still flaws in the idea that made Izuku hesitant to move. For one thing, All Might was already significantly weakened. The hero had confessed himself that day after USJ that his time limit was significantly shorter now. Master was crippled, but he was just as powerful. Could All Might even take him down?

 

He didn’t even have 100% confidence that All for One was his master, either. Nobody had given him confirmation, and Deku had decided it would be better not to ask any of the villains. But if he really was All for One, then only a select few people would know his identity. All Might would be one of them...if Master really was All for One. Was it a risk Izuku was willing to take?

 

Izuku couldn’t risk exposing his position either. He couldn't guarantee that All Might would help him. Even if he told All Might the truth, he would probably be expelled from the school. Probably jailed. He doubted All Might could save him from that. Izuku wasn’t so sure he would like an All Might who wouldn’t do that to someone as terrible as Deku.

 

“Midoriya, my boy?” All Might called, and Izuku blinked. He lifted his gaze briefly to meet All Might’s eyes with wide eyes.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Eat.” All Might insisted, pushing the bento forward. “Are you alright?”

 

Izuku scratched at the scar on his forehead and sighed heavily. He placed the tea back down and shifted on the stool he was sitting on. “All Might? Can I ask you a question? Answers for answers.”

 

“Ask away.” All Might motioned graciously. Izuku could feel the gentleness that All Might was caring for him with. He didn’t deserve the care. All Might was probably just using him for information anyway. He had no other reason to be interested in Izuku. If Izuku hadn’t stumbled across his secret, then All Might would probably just see him as another student in the crowd. That was fine, though. Izuku wanted to be just another face. He could use All Might as well. They could be useful to each other.

 

“Even if a person has done terrible things...can they still become a hero? Even if they only did those bad things to save others?”

 

Izuku lifted his eyes when he was met with silence. He didn’t bother to hide the misery on his face. It hurt to even ask that question, but it had always swirled inside of him. Ever since he had first made the deal to escape from his hell. Ever since the first blood on Izuku’s hands. Ever since he had started doing everything he could to survive at the cost of too much. It was a question that he had to bear, and he didn’t think he could hold it unasked any longer. If there was anyone who could give him an answer, it was All Might.

 

All Might took a deep breath and let it out in a rush as he scratched at the back of his neck. “That...is not an easy question, my boy. Why do you ask?”

 

“Answers for answers.” Izuku repeated weakly.

 

“All right, then.” All Might took one of the onigiri from the bento and held it as he met Izuku’s eyes. “Heroes must make many difficult decisions over the course of their careers. There are sometimes terrible consequences to these actions regardless of their intentions. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of stories where heroes have failed to rescue people, or have accidentally caused more harm than good.” Izuku nodded. “And yet, they are still heroes.” All Might motioned with a sweep of his hand. “It is not their deeds that define them, but their attempts for a better future.”

 

All Might pointed at Izuku. “My boy, if a person wishes for nothing but a brighter future, I don’t see why they cannot be a hero.” Izuku felt his eyes water. All Might lowered his hand and tapped his finger against the onigiri. “Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean one should forget their deeds. Actions speak louder than words, Young Midoriya. Never stop striving towards what is good against all odds. That is part of what being a hero is.”

 

Izuku covered his face and began to cry then, feeling something within him break. Or, to put it differently, he felt as if finally the weight of his guilt had been lifted ever so slightly off of him. He was so unused to it that he felt like he had lost a part of himself in the process. He could only weep, because All Might believed he could still be good. Even after everything he had done...But there were still so many more terrible things he would do. At what point would he be unforgivable? Izuku didn’t know.

 

A hand landed on his shoulder and rubbed it. Izuku didn’t flinch away this time. All Might didn’t try to force him to talk while Izuku wept a bit longer and then tried to pull himself together. It took a couple of minutes before he could straighten up and wipe at his eyes. He sniffled and wiped his face on the back of his sleeve.

 

“All Might…” He tried, and had to hiccup another sob before finally saying, “No, I’m not alright.”

 

All Might sat down on the edge of the table in front of Izuku, but still towered over him. Izuku could only look up to him and feel so much smaller. The man’s face was tired and filled with sympathy as he huffed a soft laugh. “An answer for an answer.” He murmured, understanding then. “What can I do to help you, my boy?”

 

“Answer another question for me.” Izuku said, feeling something resolve in him.

 

“An answer for an answer?” All Might asked. Izuku nodded. “Then yes.”

 

“What is All for One’s quirk?”

 

All Might’s eyes flashed as his face darkened. He opened his mouth as if to ask Izuku something, but then paused. It was smart of him. Deku would only answer if it was a trade of information. All Might tried again and said, “He has a quirk that allows him to steal and use other quirks.” Izuku’s very skin jumped. “I have also known him to give quirks to other people if he wishes to do so.”

 

That was the confirmation, then. It was impossible for someone else to have that power. That terrible, horrible power. Izuku could feel his trembling return, only this time it was from his fear. His master had been the one to damage All Might. It would explain the feud between them, then, if All Might had managed to damage his master so badly in turn. He was caught in the middle of a battle of the two strongest men in the world. He was trapped by shackles to one, and hoping desperately for the other to save him. But he could not speak to ask for help.

 

All Might’s eyes searched him while Izuku was struck absolutely incapable of speech. Izuku could tell the man could see his terror. Izuku could do nothing to hide it even if he tried. He couldn’t pull Deku on. He couldn’t be brave here. Not in the face of this terrible and possibly hopeful future in front of him. “Let me ask you again then, Young Midoriya.” All Might’s face turned grave. “Do you know All for One?”

 

Izuku could only nod shakily.

 

All Might dropped his head into his hand. “Damn.” He said to himself before he hefted himself to his feet and moved back to the couch. He seemed a bit shaken up himself as he covered his mouth to cough again. Izuku wiped more tears from his own eyes.

 

Izuku knew what would come next. The questions that would no doubt form in All Might’s mind. But Izuku couldn’t let things go any farther. Not today. Maybe not ever. He needed to speak. He needed to say something, but he couldn’t even talk around the clenching of his trembling jaw.

 

All Might leaned forward and motioned to the tea. “Drink, my boy. Eat something. I won’t ask anything more of you today.”

 

Izuku let out a sob of a laugh and thought himself insane. He wanted to run far away from everything. He wished that he could crawl under his covers like he had done when he was little and never come out to face the monsters in the night.

 

Nevertheless, he ate a little.

 

All Might didn’t push him and the two ate together in silence. Izuku’s growing panic began to calm after some time, although he kept waiting for All Might to ask. He was waiting for the shoe to drop. He was still waiting for someone to ask him what he had experienced with his master. What he had undergone. Why he had been taken. But All Might didn’t ask. For that, Izuku was grateful.

 

The bell rang to signify the end of lunch and Izuku stood. All Might stayed seated as Izuku finished gathering himself and took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure how much longer his courage would last him, so he decided to just jump. He always did think too much.

 

“All Might.” Izuku couldn’t turn to face his teacher as his fists clenched so tightly that he could feel his nails digging into his palms. “For a while now, I’ve been asking myself if I can really be a hero. I’ve...I’ve always had doubts, but recently they’ve been worse. I’ve been thinking...that maybe it would be better to give up. To...To give into my fate.” He ran a hand into his hair, distressed. He felt sick for speaking. He was regretting his words even as they continued to tumble out of him. His eyes watered as he sweated.

 

But then he clenched his jaw and finally felt Deku rising to the surface again. Deku, who had always been the strong one. Izuku could be strong too. So he spun around and faced All Might with shaking limbs and a determined glare. “But you’re the first person to believe I could be a hero. And I...I don’t want to let you down! S-So…! I do want to try. I want to try to be a hero. I want...I want to be a hero!”

 

All Might stood and puffed up into his full form. “That’s the spirit, my boy!!” He declared, startling Izuku, before the man deflated again in a poof of steam. He coughed and wiped some blood away before giving Izuku a thumbs up. “I wish you luck, Young Midoriya. And when you are ready, I will be here!”

 

Izuku gave him a shaky smile, feeling better than he had in a little while. For just these few moments, it was just him and All Might. No villains, no secrets, no pressure. Just him and his hero encouraging Izuku to become the hero he had always wanted to be. He had almost forgotten what his dreams had tasted like because he had been so chained to the present. There was a future ahead of him where he was finally free. He could see it in the light shining off of All Might.

 

When Izuku left to return back to his class, he could only look towards the future and plan. He knew what he wanted, he just needed to figure out the way to get it. The first couple steps would require him to take on the sports festival with the same passion all of his classmates we're feeling. He would win the sports festival whether or not that was what has master wanted. It was something that Izuku wanted, and Izuku hadn’t asked for much in so long. He would try to define his own future. He wouldn’t be a hero yet, but he felt that he had finally chosen a path. He just hoped he could stay on it.

Chapter Text

Deku took the courage he had gathered after his talk with All Might and put it to full use that night when he snuck out and demanded Kurogiri bring him to the bar to speak with Master. Deku never requested any kind of meeting with Master unless it was of great importance, and even then it was rare that his master would respond. Deku knew that nobody ordered his master to do anything. But Deku had been sure to voice to Kurogiri that it would be in his best interest.

 

Deku arrived through the warp of Kurogiri’s gate wearing his newly-bought white button-down shirt and tie similar to the outfit that Himiko had stolen from him. He glanced briefly at Shigaraki and Kurogiri before he took a seat at the bar. He couldn’t sense anyone else in the building with them. He supposed that Shigaraki wasn’t going to meet with anyone that day other than him. That was good.

 

“When will Master be here?” He asked as his eyes fell on the dark television that had been placed on the end of the bar. The camera light was on showing that it was recording, but not that his master was on the other line. Deku’s eyes drifted away to meet Shigaraki’s. The man was chewing on his nails.

 

“Shortly.” Kurogiri informed him before he left the room. Deku watched him go before returning his gaze to Shigaraki.

 

“What’s so important that you have to bother Sensei?” Shigaraki asked. He seemed to be in a good mood despite the nail-biting. Deku took it that Shigaraki was fine with the progress that they were making. “Do you have more information for us?”

 

“In a sense.” Deku shrugged and checked the television again. “I need guidance on what to do moving forward.”

 

“Oh? On what?” Shigaraki leaned forward with interest.

 

Deku saw no reason not to tell him. Chances were that someone was watching them through the camera anyway. He heard a blender going in the other room and perked up. Oh good, Kurogiri was back to willingly giving him treats. Deku must be either doing well, or he looked shitty.

 

“The UA Sports Festival is coming up.”

 

Shigaraki clasped his hands together over his crossed legs. It was hard to read his expression with his “father’s” hand over his face. Deku had gotten better at sensing his moods, though. The air had shifted a little. “You couldn’t ask me for guidance?” The man asked lightly.

 

Deku leaned on his elbow on the bar top. “Why would I ask you?” He challenged lowly.

 

Shigaraki let out one of his discontent growls. His hands squeezed together a little tighter. “Because you are mine, Deku, to command. Sensei said so himself.”

 

It enraged him. Shigaraki may have power over him, but nobody owned Deku. He didn’t want to be owned by anyone. He was about ready to say it too, no matter what consequences would come, but Kurogiri returned then. Deku had to bite his tongue and remember his place for the time being. He was more courageous than before, but he couldn’t be stupid. He had to play the long game. He couldn’t just start fights with Shigaraki just because he said something that made Deku angry. If he did, then he would always fight with Shigaraki.

 

Kurogiri placed down a milkshake for Deku, who thanked him shortly and proceeded to drink some before he did something that he regretted. Shigaraki tapped his fingers impatiently, still waiting for an answer. Deku decided to ignore him just to be petty.

 

Shigaraki looked ready to snap when the television finally turned on. The words displayed “Audio Only”, which meant Master wasn’t going to bother with his own camera. It wasn’t unusual for him. Deku and Shigaraki both fell quiet instead of escalating their argument as Kurogiri greeted their master.

 

“Deku. It’s unusual for you to call upon me. What could be the problem?” His master began. Deku repressed the shiver of fear that instinctively tried to zip down his spine. Even without the visual, that voice brought back too many memories. It was ingrained in him to fear that voice. The voice of the man who had nearly killed All Might.

 

All for One.

 

Deku licked his lips to clear them of his ice cream before he spoke, “The UA Sports Festival is coming up.” He gathered his courage and then said, “I plan to win it.”

 

There was silence that followed his declaration. It was the first time that Deku had made such a decision on his own. All of them were well aware of Master’s instructions to stay in the middle of the pack. It was an act of rebellion, for how small it was. Deku didn’t care, though. He would make up whatever reason he needed, but he was going to win the sports festival.

 

Finally Master said, “Interesting.”

 

“Winning the sports festival will make you stand out.” Shigaraki argued, but not with his usual anger. It was a mere statement of a fact.

 

“I will stand out no matter what if I want to progress past the first round. And I will.” Deku responded in the same tone.

 

“This is a decision you have made on your own?” His master asked. Deku nodded, watching the camera and knowing his master was looking directly at him. “You’ve never acted out like this before, Deku.”

 

Deku tensed, waiting for the verbal scolding. Possibly even a commanded attack upon him much like what happened with Noumu. He was intensely aware that Shigaraki was right behind him and Deku was within reach. Same thing with Kurogiri. If he dodged an attack, he would be punished more severely.

 

“I approve.” Deku straightened in surprise at the smile in Master’s voice. He actually liked it? His master laughed a little then. “You’re surprised? I appreciate you showing some initiative in your mission. I don’t dislike that.”

 

Deku had heard something similar to this before with Shigaraki. Deku had seen his master praise Shigaraki when the man would think of his own plans and followed through on them. He had come to learn this was how his master mentored Shigaraki. It was a different learning style from how Deku had seen his teachers at school teach the students. He didn’t realize how good it felt for Master to praise his ideas. It made him feel more confident.

 

“Good.” Deku nodded, pleased. “I plan to win everything, Master.”

 

“If that’s what you want to do, then I expect you to be the best.”

 

Deku could feel himself grinning. The eagerness to fight and bleed and win was burning through him. He suddenly felt he had way too much energy. He wanted to compete right then and there. He was ready.

 

“What about the mission?” Kurogiri asked after a moment of hesitation.

 

“And why did you have to go to Sensei for this?” Shigaraki added, apparently still annoyed that Deku had circumvented his command to go straight to the bigger boss.

 

“This is his mission.” Master told them both. “Let him decide when to show off. Deku knows what he is to do.” Deku shot a smug look to Shigaraki, who kicked the back of his stool. Deku bit back a yelp and wanted to kick him back but knew better than to follow along with Shigaraki’s childishness in front of Master.

 

Besides, he already had what he needed. He had the security of mind that he wouldn’t infuriate his master. He also learned that he had a lot more slack on his leash than he had previous thought. This was good information. His master trusted him more than Deku had known. It was a good position to be in. He would certainly show off.


 

The next couple days proved to be ones filled with excitement for Izuku’s life. The physical training was filled with the passion of students that all wanted to prepare for the sports festival. Izuku got the chance to focus solely on his school life because Himiko hadn’t gotten back to him with the status on Stain and Dabi hadn’t checked in for a while. He had an excuse to slack in his mission as he studied and trained instead.

 

Class was called to a break while the teachers were switching out. Izuku was trying to write down the last of the notes from the last class before he forgot them or the bits that he could understand. He would need the notes to remind him of just what he had managed to comprehend otherwise he would forget by the time he would study later. It was frustrating for him. He wondered if maybe he should ask Kacchan for help. What was the trick they had been kind of discovering?

 

Hands came down on the side of Izuku’s desk and made him start violently. He looked up into the grinning face of Kirishima. “Hey Midoriya!” He called, and Izuku resisted the strong urge to tell him off for scaring him. Instead he gave Kirishima a shaky, confused smile while he attempted to calm his heart. Fuck, he couldn’t remember what he had been thinking about now. “So listen, when can you do another training session?”

 

“What?” Izuku asked, honestly surprised. He had thought one harsh training session would be enough to satisfy any curiosity on the part of his classmates. Wasn’t tearing their hands up and falling repeatedly enough for them? Kacchan stood up and spun his chair around to face Izuku's desk. He plopped himself back down in it again.

 

“Yeah, man. Me and Bakugou were talking about it at lunch the other day-” Izuku stared at Kacchan as the boy scowled at him. Izuku was trying to process the fact that Kacchan had willingly spoken to Kirishima as the red-headed boy continued, “-and we both applied for another reservation. Apparently the more people we have, the more likely we’ll get it cuz everyone is training. Anyway, we got it finally! It’s only for an hour, though. Are you coming?”

 

“You reserved a field without asking me first? What if I had been busy?” Izuku asked.

 

Kacchan scoffed. “You don’t have anything going on.” Izuku would’ve glared at him for that if he could without it looking out of character for him. Kacchan had no idea what kind of shit was going on in his life. Kacchan kicked Izuku’s desk, shoving his hands into his own pockets as he slouched in his seat. “You fucking said you would move onto part two. When the is that supposed to happen, hah!?”

 

“Um...I didn’t think that you guys wanted to…” Izuku muttered as he played with his fingers. Kacchan gave another pointed kick to his desk and stood up sharply. He whipped his hands out of his pockets and fired off a couple pops of explosions.

 

“YOU’D BETTER NOT SKIP OUT, SHITTY DEKU, OR I’LL KILL YOU!!”

 

Kirishima gave Kacchan an exasperated look (and wow, how did Izuku miss this? Someone was actually tolerating Kacchan!) before he nodded at Izuku. “I’m still totally down for learning more!” He clenched his fist -which still had some bandages around it- with a determined look on his face. “I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface because it took so long to do the jump. I’ve been practicing it a little around my apartment complex, but I want to continue with you!”

 

Izuku was rather impressed, and surprised. “You’ve been practicing?”

 

“Of course, dude!”

 

“Of course we’re freaking practicing!” Kacchan pointed at him. “Don’t you dare look down on me!”

 

“I’m not!” Izuku shook his hands in front of himself. He didn’t really know what he had thought. He had known his training was useful, but he wasn’t so sure that the others would like it. It felt a little nice to know that both Kacchan and Kirishima had found something they liked about it enough that they had been practicing the skill.

 

“So what d’ya think?” Kirishima asked again, leaning forward on the desk to get in Izuku’s space. Izuku leaned away and scratched at the back of his head.

 

“Um...Does Todoroki know?”

 

“Who cares?” Kacchan grumbled.

 

“Don’t be like that, man. Todoroki wants to learn too.” Kirishima scolded, nudging Kacchan. Izuku could only stare again as Kacchan didn’t immediately hit him back, but Kacchan did shoot a rather fierce glare at him and growled. This time Kirishima held up his hands in defense.

 

“I couldn’t give two shits what Half-and-Half wants! That fucker can train at home!”

 

“Unfortunately I heard Bakugou’s voice and got the gist of what was happening.” Todoroki said as he came close. He shot a cold glare to Kacchan that Kacchan returned with a vengence of fire. Izuku wished he wasn’t used to being around so much hostility. Todoroki turned to Kirishima. “Are we having another training session?”

 

“Yeah, tomorrow. Are you in? We’re going to the same place as last time. We have an hour.”

 

“Are you coming, Midoriya? I want to continue.” Todoroki asked as he turned his cold gaze on Izuku.

 

Izuku didn’t feel as pressured this time to follow their requests, but actually found himself kind of looking forward to it. He would need proof first that they could really perform the trick again. They wouldn’t be able to even try part two unless they were at least decent at the previous skill.

 

He had a couple of things that he also wanted to confirm. He very rarely got to see how his classmates worked without their quirks because the school was so intent on training up their various abilities. It was fascinating to see his classmates struggling with something Izuku had been trained to do as second nature. He didn’t even need to use his quirks to do it. That, and it would be nice to get to know Kirishima and Todoroki more. Todoroki was at the top of the class and his quirk was amazing. However, the boy had been distant and cold thus far. Kirishima was friendly and easy to befriend. He was also Kacchan's friend(?), so it would be good to get to know him more as well.

 

“Okay, I’ll join.” And Izuku smiled because he was actually a bit excited. It had been a long time since anyone had given him a good chase.


 

The end of the day came. Izuku said goodbye to his friends and joined Kacchan at the front gate in order to walk with him like usual. The usual anxiety and inability to relax did not come this time as he walked beside Kacchan. He waited to be reprimanded for walking beside him, but Kacchan said nothing. It made Izuku feel good. The doubt in their relationship was fading quicker than he had thought it would.

 

Kacchan was his friend. It was still so surreal for him to think about considering Kacchan had loathed his presence throughout most of middle school and barely tolerated his presence through elementary school. But ever since their conversation (fight?) in Kacchan’s bedroom, the tension between them had noticeably shifted. What Izuku had always taken as mere ploys to get closer to him, he was starting to look twice at. He couldn’t quite convince his more cynical self that had difficulty trusting, but he felt more comfortable with possibly giving Kacchan the benefit of the doubt. Maybe walking home together was just meant for them to walk home together without an ulterior motive. Maybe their game had ended a while ago? Izuku could only huff a laugh to himself at that thought. Maybe Kacchan not hitting him was because he actually kind of liked Izuku? That was probably a stretch.

 

“Deku.” Kacchan broke their mutual silence first. He had a pensive frown on his face that Izuku was starting to become a little familiar with. Kacchan had calmed down at some point over the past couple years. Not a whole lot, of course, but he was different enough for Izuku to notice.

 

“Hm?” Izuku responded.

 

Kacchan seemed to roll the words in his mouth for a moment before his eyes met Izuku’s. His brow was soft but his mouth was tense. “Your training…” He paused. Izuku tensed, waiting for what he could possibly ask. Was it the kind of training Izuku had gone through? Was it something he’d made up? Was it the training he did with Himiko? Kacchan already had too much information. Izuku didn’t want to give him any more.

 

Kacchan just grunted instead and his frown became more pronounced. Instead of relief, Izuku felt frustrated at the lack of the question. He would rather know than guess what Kacchan wanted. He was usually so straightforward.

 

“Just ask!” Deku commanded, allowing his irritation to shine through. Kacchan studied him, but Deku couldn’t read his face. Kacchan just dropped his face back into a scowl.

 

“Don’t tell me what to do, shithead!” He barked before he asked angrily, “What do you have to do today?!”

 

“What?” Izuku asked, thrown by the subject change.

 

“YOU MAKING ME REPEAT MYSELF AGAIN?!”

 

“I don’t have anything to do today!”

 

Kacchan’s fury dropped to his usual anger instead and he growled, “Good! I already know you didn’t fucking understand anything in class. We’re studying today!” When had Kacchan become good at recognizing Izuku’s struggle? Actually, he probably had seen it for a while. He had only mistaken his struggle for faking before.

 

Izuku glared at him for the principle of being able to do so before he sniped back, “Fine!” He took a breath to relax his hackles a bit. He couldn’t always respond to Kacchan’s anger with his own anger, but it was so instinctive now. He had been letting himself relax his guard too much. Kacchan had yet to snap at him about it, though. He wasn’t hitting Izuku like he did when he was faking in class. It was a bit disturbing.

 

“I was...kind of hoping I could get some help anyway.” He admitted quietly. “I don’t remember what our breakthrough was the other day, so I didn’t know how to recreate it.”

 

“At all?” Kacchan asked, his voice void of the anger this time. It was strange to hear him talking normally.

 

Izuku hesitated and then shook his head. “I remembered the breakthrough and what I learned, but I can’t remember what the method was.” His voice dropped to a murmur, “I should write it down this time.” Kacchan led the way into the train station and the two stuck close together as they maneuvered through the crowds. Neither of them could speak during the time because of the rush of students and civilians attempting to get onto the platforms.

 

They had to wait until they were actually at the platform before Kacchan said, “You seem to have a problem remembering information in the long term because you can’t properly process the information you’re reading or hearing.”

 

Izuku blinked and looked at him. Kacchan wasn’t looking at him, though, and was instead seemingly studying the station sign that said when the next train was coming. Nonetheless he was still speaking to Izuku.

 

“Um...Yeah.” Izuku responded, kind of lost.

 

“It’s not the same when it’s just everyday stuff, though. You remember all that shit just fine. So it’s just for school. Possibly the environment, but definitely the content.” Kacchan finally looked at him. His face was back to being pensive as he continued, “We tried applying our studies to real life instead. If you’re able to put yourself mentally into a situation where you need the information, or you can think of a reason why you would need the information, you remember it better.”

 

Izuku gasped and then gaped. “You're right!” He tapped his fist against his hand. “Wow, I never thought of it like that before! That’s amazing, Kacchan!”

 

Kacchan’s mouth quirked a little, but his eyes were sad. Izuku blinked, feeling his stomach twist at the sight, but before he could process if he had actually seen what he thought he saw, Kacchan turned his face away to watch the train that passed through the station. The sound of the train over the tracks and through the enclosed station was loud, but Izuku swore he heard Kacchan say softly, “You said that last time too, nerd.”

Chapter Text

“You’re going to train with Todoroki-kun, Kirishima-kun, and Bakugou-kun?” Uraraka asked with a surprised gasp at lunch the next day. “I didn’t realize all of you were so close!”

 

“We’re not.” Izuku explained as he mixed the sauce from his meat in with his rice. He continued to stir as he continued, “I guess they really liked my moves and wanted me to train them?”

 

“Wait, you’re training them?” Uraraka sat forward more. “Even Todoroki-kun?!”

 

Izuku nodded. “I was surprised too!”

 

“Todoroki is at the top of our class currently.” Iida said, tapping his fingers against the table with a curious frown. “What could you have to teach him?”

 

Izuku tried and succeeded in not getting offended by that. It wasn’t like Iida knew of his true skill. He had only shown off a tiny bit of it. “We’re just practicing agility movements right now. It’s our second training session together.” He took a bite of his food and chewed before swallowing and saying, “You’re welcome to join if you want. But I don’t know if you’ll be able to actually join in on the training.”

 

“Why not?” Iida asked, straightening with mild offence.

 

Izuku held up his hands with a tentative smile. “I don’t mean you guys can’t handle it. I just mean...well, you’ll have to see.”

 

“I’ll definitely come!” Uraraka decided with a couple of excited nods. “I wanna see Deku-kun’s moves up close as well! Maybe I can learn something!”

 

“I will join as well!” Iida agreed with a quick raise of his hand. “If they are agility movements, I’m certain I can keep up!”

 

Izuku chewed his food and said nothing. They would see what he meant when they got there.


 

“What the fuck is this?!” Kacchan shouted as Uraraka and Iida followed Izuku and Kacchan towards the training grounds. Kacchan was growling and glaring over his shoulders at them like he was some kind of guard dog. “Who invited you extras?!”

 

“Midoriya did.” Iida said. “And please watch your language! We are still on school grounds!”

 

“Shove it up your ass!”

 

Iida let out a horrified and offended noise. He took a breath and even straightened his hand as he prepared to scold Kacchan proper,

 

“We want to see what kind of skills Deku-kun is teaching you guys.” Uraraka cut him off as she tugged on the hem of her skirt to straighten it. Both her and Iida stood out what with the two of them still in the school uniform while both Kacchan and Izuku were in their gym uniforms again. “After all, we’re all competing in the sports festival.” Her smile sharpened with her competitive spirit. “We should scope out the competition!”

 

Izuku raised his eyebrows. He wasn’t even really considering the competition, he realized. He was too used to going against opponents blind. Figuring out their quirks and how to win against them. For a majority of his competition this would still be go-to technique, but he would be fighting his classmates as well. It was only natural that all of them wanted to see the extent of each other’s abilities. They were probably planning their own strategies.

 

Kacchan scoffed. “Like you could even come close to beating me!”

 

“I’m stronger than I look!” Uraraka argued.

 

“Strength isn’t necessary to win every battle.” Izuku added.

 

“You saying she can beat me?” Kacchan demanded. Uraraka puffed up with pride.

 

Izuku just sent Kacchan a look but didn’t respond as they approached the waiting Todoroki and Kirishima. Both of the boys appeared a little surprised to see their extra guests. They were all once again back at the training grounds they had used last time. Kacchan and Kirishima had probably applied for it specifically.

 

“Oh shoot, are you joining us today?” Kirishima called with a wave and a grin to their classmates. He was wearing gloves today. Actually now that Izuku looked, Todoroki was also wearing gloves. That amused him greatly and he wondered how much it would affect their grip. It was one thing to protect their hands, but the thick gloves would also make it harder to feel the handholds.

 

“Just observing.” Iida crossed his arms as he looked over his classmates. “We heard from Midoriya that he was training you and we were quite curious.”

 

“Plus I always love watching Deku-kun move!” Uraraka added with a bright, delighted smile. Izuku felt his cheeks heat and had to look away. Kacchan moved past him with a scoff and joined Kirishima and Todoroki to face Izuku. Izuku looked up in time to see him pulling on some gloves as well. He had included some knee pads to his protection today. Izuku approved. Kacchan had knee guards on his hero outfit, so he would need to get used to moving with those on him.

 

“Um…” Izuku glanced around at all of his classmates and shifted awkwardly, unsure of how to start. He tried, “Todoroki...Have you also been practicing?”

 

“When I could.” Todoroki said with a nod.

 

“Good.”

 

“We’re moving onto part two, right?” Kirishima asked, jogging excitedly in place while Kacchan busied himself with stretching. Kirishima and Todoroki must have already stretched while Izuku had been waiting for his friends.

 

“What’s part two?” Uraraka asked.

 

Izuku didn’t need to stretch. He pulled on his own pair of gloves as he spoke, “I’ll explain depending on if they can prove they’re ready.” He straightened with a grin and nodded to the rocks behind them. “You said all of you have practiced? Then show me.” With that, Izuku immediately darted towards one of the rock towers and began his climbing. It was a different one from the one the others had repeatedly used the last time. This would really show if they had the skills necessary.

 

He was halfway up the rock when he saw Todoroki, Kacchan, and Kirishima making their way up at a slower pace but definitely with much more confidence than their first lesson. They really were getting the hang of it, he realized, if their bodies were adjusting to climbing even something new. He didn’t have time to pause as he braced his feet and then threw himself over to the nearest pillar. This one was a bit farther away than the one they had trained on. He didn’t doubt they could make it, though.

 

“Whoa!!” Uraraka yelled with awe as Izuku focused on climbing the rest of the way. He heard Todoroki let out a curse, and then there was the telltale sound of rock crumbling.

 

“Careful, Todoroki!” Kirishima called.

 

“I’ve got it.” Todoroki responded. Izuku didn’t look back and pushed himself up with extra strength to grab onto the top ledge and haul himself over it. He felt exhilarated much like he always did after climbing so far. He loved the sensation of standing so far up and knowing he got their by his own power. He didn’t need a quirk. He took the time to examine how the others were doing.

 

Kacchan was the farthest ahead, but that didn’t surprise Izuku. The other boy had grasped onto the point of part one of training faster than the others had. Kacchan was nothing if not great with his own instincts and he was allowing them to lead him. He was still significantly slower than Izuku and still had to occasionally test his footholds, but unlike last time he didn’t hesitate as he threw himself across the gap to the second rock. He recognized that he didn’t need to judge the power behind his jump and knew it was better to slam bodily against the rock than to risk undershooting it. Izuku couldn’t help but marvel at how far Kacchan had come from the first time.

 

Kirishima had no trouble with the gap this time. After Kacchan had shown them the way to go about it, Kirishima had no worry with hitting the stone. His body was probably used to handling plenty of hits. His grip was sure as he wrapped his legs around the stone and clenched. He looked kind of a like a monkey clinging to the side of the stone, but it impressed Izuku. He was using everything he had and succeeded in gaining him valuable time to find a grip with his stronger hands.

 

Todoroki was last, but Izuku was sure that was because he had slipped down a little. His weaker grip strength was again a setback. Izuku could see where he didn’t trust himself and hesitated on his jump. He didn’t manage to find a hand hold until he had slipped down and had almost plummeted to the ground. Iida and Uraraka made shocked noises, clearly concerned considering how far the fall was, but Todoroki’s focus sharpened and he caught a bit of the rock at the last moment. He slammed his foot hard and created his own foothold against the softer stone. It was just sturdy enough that he could thrust himself upwards to reach a second hand hold.

 

All three of them were panting as they made it to the top and stood with Izuku overlooking everything. Kirishima let out a whoop of victory. “Look at that view! Look how high up we are!”

 

“You did great!” Izuku praised, honestly thrilled for them. It was amazing watching how people with a history of training achieved this type of trial. Izuku could remember how he and the other Quirkless had done on their first few tries. It hadn’t been nearly as pretty or as easy as his classmates’ tries. It was almost enough to make Izuku envious.

 

“Get your shit together, Half-and-Half.” Kacchan ended up scolding Todoroki as the boy checked his foot. Todoroki glared coldly at him while Kacchan stood above him gloating. “What was that weak attempt?”

 

“Shut up, Bakugou.” Todoroki responded, standing.

 

“Is your foot okay?” Izuku asked.

 

“I’m fine.” Todoroki seemed disgruntled with himself. Izuku knew to let it go. “Are we moving onto part two?”

 

“Yeah.” Izuku nodded and glanced around them. His eyes danced around the rocks and made quick evaluations. “We’ll move to part two. Follow me back down.”

 

“Without quirks, right?” Kirishima asked with a wry grin. Izuku returned it.

 

“Yup!” The climbing down part could be done in many ways. Izuku could show off some more of his moves, but he knew he would be doing that soon enough. He already knew that they wouldn’t be able to finish part two today. He had trained for far too long and had too high of expectations to even dumb himself down for his classmates.

 

Izuku ended up climbing down normally with the others following after him. He definitely noticed that Todoroki’s foot was a bit injured, but it didn’t stop him. Izuku had to dodge a bit of spray from rocks crumbling when one boy or the other would slip while figuring out how to climb down. It made Izuku laugh a little because they had been so focused on climbing up that they hadn’t learned how to get down.

 

They all made it down without any injuries and met up with Iida and Uraraka as they ran up to join them. “That was amazing!” Uraraka motioned widely in her excitement. “None of you used your quirks for that? I can’t believe you could do all of that on your own!”

 

“It took a lot of cut up hands and bruises everywhere.” Kirishima admitted with a laugh. “You should’ve seen the first time we tried this!”

 

“I understand what you meant now, Midoriya. This certainly does not look like something one can achieve without practice.” Iida was frowning and gazing up at the rocks. “What is the purpose of this, though?”

 

“Parkour!” Kirishima responded.

 

“Speed and agility. Reaction time.” Todoroki added.

 

Kacchan crossed his arms. “It’s to fucking get stronger, obviously!”

 

“I want to try!” Uraraka decided, looking determined. “Can you teach me as well?”

 

“I will try as well!” Iida agreed with a sharp nod.

 

“Wait your damn turns!” Kacchan yelled and then spun on Izuku. Izuku gave them a helpless smile as Kacchan pointed at him. “Deku! Fucking get started with part two! Your stupid friends are just tagalongs today. We’re the ones training!”

 

“He’s right.” Todoroki agreed. “I want to move on.”

 

Uraraka pouted some. “Can’t we do it at the same time?”

 

“Sorry, Uraraka, Iida.” Izuku scratched at his cheek. “It really will have to wait this time. Part two requires my attention.” He hesitated a moment. The right thing to do and the thing that Izuku would do next should be to offer his assistance to his friends in the form of a next time. But he didn’t know if he had so much time. But he really kind of liked helping out his friends. It was rather thrilling to see his classmates achieve a goal. He didn’t mind helping Iida and Uraraka as well. Besides if it helped them in their hero careers, then it was a relief for Izuku.

 

“Next time, okay?” He told them. Izuku then put his hands on his hips and turned to face Kirishima, Todoroki, and Kacchan. “Okay, so part two! Think of this like a game of Tag. The rules are simple:” he held up his fingers as he listed each rule, “No quirks. Everything else is fair game. All one of you needs to do is touch me once with your hands and you win. It has to be a proper tag, though. Brushing clothes or hair doesn't count.”

 

“So we’re on a team.” Kacchan stated. “Three versus one.”

 

Izuku loved when it was summarized like that. He made it sound like it was so easy. Izuku would absolutely not go easy on them. “Exactly so.”

 

“Why can’t we use quirks?” Todoroki suddenly asked, surprising Izuku with the amount of quiet bitterness in it. Was he that frustrated? Izuku didn’t even realize that Todoroki showed so much emotion. Maybe he hadn’t been paying enough attention.

 

“What would be the point of training like this if we’re just going to use our quirks as crutches?” Kacchan demanded with a scowl.

 

“He has a point, man.” Kirishima agreed. “It would be too easy for you guys considering your maneuverability with your two quirks. Me and Midoriya would be at a disadvantage.” Izuku bit his tongue because he was sure he could still avoid being tagged even if Kacchan and Todoroki used their quirks. However it would take more than his 20% and it would definitely be a challenge between the three of them. It would certainly be unfair for Kirishima, though.

 

“It’s simple, really.” Izuku examined the tips of his gloves in an unconscious movement to check his matches even though he didn’t need to. He dropped his hand again and regarded them all seriously. “You guys are here because you wanted to learn something from me. I’ve only had my quirk for a little over a year that I can remember. What could I possibly teach you about your quirks that you haven’t learned since you were four?”

 

None of his classmates responded to that, but Izuku spotted Kacchan’s eyes regarding him with suspicion. Izuku couldn’t help his small disappointment that this had to be pointed out to them. He thought it was pretty obvious, after all. Although he was lying, of course. He could think of one or two things that he could possibly teach them about their quirks or to be more efficient with their quirks.

 

“That, and that’s what we’re going to school for: to learn how to use our quirks better.” Izuku let out a huff of a laugh. “I’m not sure I can teach you guys that better than Aizawa-sensei can.”

 

“Good point!” Kirishima grinned, tucking his arms behind his head.

 

“This kind of training is to show you how far you can push your own limits.” Izuku added as his gaze drifted to the sky with a frown. “All your lives you’ve been training with your quirks. I know you all have also trained your bodies in preparation for getting into UA. This is obvious just by looking at you.” He dropped his gaze to look at each of his classmates in turn. They were all watching him as if enraptured. “But all of your training is probably just to enhance your quirks. Everything is about making sure your body can keep up with your quirks. Your body is merely a support item.”

 

Izuku’s gaze darkened as he remembered his own training. The way his body had screamed at him. How he had broken himself to pieces so that he could survive. The way he had cried bitter and terrified tears not knowing if he had screwed up enough that he would be the next Quirkless to never return to training. Not knowing why he was training in the first place but believing the villains when they told him that they would not kill him if he succeeded in his training. How he had burned with envy towards anyone who had a quirk. How he knew that his training would've been so much easier if he had some type of quirk to rely on. He would've taken anything. But he’d only had his body to rely on.

 

“Take it from someone who was Quirkless for a majority of his life when I say that your body is not a support item. It is your main weapon. Sometimes it will be your only weapon. What if you run into a situation where you can't use your quirk? There are people who won’t even give you a chance to use your quirks. There are people your quirks will be absolutely useless against.” His throat tightened, “...There are people out there that can take away your quirks.” He swallowed back the tightness and his voice strengthened again as he straightened. “At those times, what will protect you? Will you just run? What do you do when you can’t flee? You will be Quirkless. In a life-or-death situation, are you confident that you will be able to help anyone, let alone yourself? Sure, you’ll know how to fight...but do you know how to survive without your quirk?”

 

Izuku turned away from them and pressed his hand to the stone. He could still hear the sounds of bones crunching. The screams of children as they ran for their lives and were brought down because they weren’t fast enough. Villains laughing as they heartlessly hunted Izuku and the other Quirkless. His fingers dug into the rock.

 

His breath was coming a bit harder. He had to blink rapidly to bring himself back to the present and away from that time. The harsh sunlight startled him because he half-expected to be back in the darkness. The lack of sound from his classmates had him glancing back at them with wide eyes, terrified that he had exposed too much when he had been lost in the past.

 

His classmates only stared at him back without a word. Todoroki lowered his eyes with a frown as he thought. Kacchan’s fists were clenched so tightly that Izuku could see his arms shaking. His face was pale and his eyes were unreadable for Izuku. Kirishima, Uraraka, and Iida all looked grim as his words reached them and they understood. Uraraka was biting her lip and her eyebrows were pulled together with worry. Izuku wondered what his face looked like.

 

Izuku had to force a smile onto his face, trying to lighten the mood and cover for the slip of his mask. “So that’s why I don’t want you to use your quirks.” He laughed and felt how it echoed hollowly through his chest. It sounded real enough as he gave them all an embarrassed smile as a way of apologizing for getting too dark. “I want to make your bodies stronger!”

 

“Midoriya…” Iida glanced at his classmates and then back to Izuku. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, and Izuku felt his chest constrict with fear. He waited to be called out. “You’re...Yes, you’re absolutely right! Our bodies should be trained with the intention of mastering them before our quirks! A true hero should know how his body works without fail!”

 

“Right!” Kirishima agreed with a flex of his arm. He grabbed his own bicep with determination. “I don’t want to ever be caught unable to help! Especially if my quirk ends up being useless!”

 

Kacchan and Todoroki said nothing. Kacchan had lowered his head so Izuku could no longer read his face. Izuku's heart was racing in his chest with the knowledge that he had let more slip to Kacchan. It’s not like Kacchan didn’t know that Izuku remembered his time with the villains, but this was further knowledge. This was Izuku confessing to something he had experienced for himself. His fear and desperation. He would give anything to know what the boy was thinking.

 

But he couldn’t and Izuku wasn’t sure he was courageous enough to ask later. He had to push it aside as he finally gave a shaky smile and asked, “Are you guys ready for part two now?”

Chapter Text

It felt like Izuku was fumbling mentally with himself as he attempted to regain equilibrium and pretend that he hadn’t just had flashbacks to a terrible time in his life. He put his focus into beginning the second part of their training and tried to get back the excitement that he had previously held. It didn’t help that Kacchan’s eyes were dark and there was a grimace on his face. He had yet to look at Izuku again even as their group moved towards the middle of the training grounds.

 

Izuku closed his eyes and took a breath to center himself before he let it out slowly. He looked to his classmates and tugged on the bottoms of his gloves to make sure they were snug. “Are you all ready?”

 

“Yes!” Kirishima called while Todoroki nodded sharply. Kacchan finally lifted his eyes and met Izuku’s before he nodded as well. Izuku didn’t miss how all of their other classmates shot Kacchan varying forms of confusion at his silence. Usually the boy was a lot more passionate about these kinds of things. Izuku quickly decided to pull their attentions from him.

 

“Uraraka! Can you please set a timer for fifteen minutes? Or you, Iida?”

 

“Got it!” Both Iida and Uraraka pulled out their phones and began to type on them.

 

While they were working on that, Izuku said, “You all have fifteen minutes to tag me. When the timer goes off and you haven’t tagged me, then it’s my win.”

 

“Pretty cocky there, Midoriya.” Kirishima’s grin was bright with his eagerness. “You’re so sure we won’t catch you?” Izuku did some mental calculations of their speeds from earlier as well as their general running speed and gave them a small, smug smile back. He said nothing, though.

 

“On my call!” Iida said, and all four of the boys tensed. Izuku’s heart rate picked up in preparation. He already had a couple of routes and ideas planned. “And...GO!”

 

The instant time was called, the three boys charged Izuku. Kacchan was still the fastest of the bunch and swung out with his right arm. Izuku had to get out of the way of all three of them and gain some distance. They would expect him to turn tail and run in the opposite direction. He would use that against them.

 

Izuku ducked around Kacchan’s attack and leaned towards Todoroki. The other boy attempted to tag his arm, but Kacchan got in the way with a yell. Kacchan instinctively tried to go after Izuku and ended up crashing into Todoroki, causing them both to stumble. Izuku twisted his way out of the wreckage and dropped into a roll as Kirishima also dodged the pile up and aimed for him. Kirishima only ended up getting tangled as well as Kacchan spouted furious curses. Izuku took the time to run past them and gave a jaunty wave to Uraraka and Iida along the way.

 

“Get the fuck back here!” Kacchan yelled and Izuku heard the sound of three different pairs of feet. He could run so much faster than he was currently, but he decided not to give them the runaround too much. They were supposed to be learning how to use their skills just like how Izuku had shown them. He wanted to see what all they could do.

 

“Hurry hurry!” Izuku mocked playfully, glancing over his shoulder at them. He was surprised to see that he had lost Todoroki, but he spotted movement from the side. He was separating from the pack. That was fine. Izuku wondered what kind of technique he would use.

 

“GO!!” Uraraka cheered. Izuku spun around and came to an abrupt stop in the shade of one of the rocks. He tensed and widened his stance as Kacchan and Kirishima separated to attack from either side. Rapid footsteps from behind him told him that Todoroki was circling around. Izuku waited and spotted the moment he needed. As soon as Kacchan and Kirishima threw themselves forward, Izuku tossed himself to the rock beside them. Kacchan spun quickly and his hand came close to Izuku’s leg, but Izuku yanked it up and away to press to the rock. He flipped off and over their heads, barely dodging the fingertips of Todoroki who was reaching upwards, and landed on the ground.

 

“Close!” He yelled, but didn’t even give them the chance to turn before he was already onto the next rock and climbing. He knew this was where he would gain his most advantage. None of them could climb as fast as he could. He had to slow down some so that they could have a chance.

 

“Fuck!” Kacchan shouted in frustration.

 

“We need to work as a team!” Kirishima said as Izuku paused partway up the rock. He was surprised that the others didn’t immediately come after him, but maybe they realized that they would have no hope of catching him by climbing. He was too fast. What would they come up with to catch him?

 

“Would it help if I pretend to be a villain?” Izuku asked.

 

“No!” Kacchan snapped at him, glaring. Izuku only blinked at the anger in his voice. He turned to Kirishima. “You! Come here!”

 

“Huh?” Kirishima approached nonetheless. Before any of them could blink, Kacchan grabbed the front of the boy’s jacket and hefted him upwards. “WHOA WHOA!!” Kirishima yelped as Izuku could only gape in shock. He hadn’t realized that Kacchan was that strong!

 

“DIE!!” Kacchan screamed and spun in a circle before launching Kirishima at the rock. The boy flipped in the air as Izuku let out a cry. Kirishima’s shocked face quickly turned to a grin as he twisted himself just in time to grab the rock. Izuku understood then that Kacchan had used Kirishima’s grip strength to his advantage. Kirishima was scrambling the last foot and a half after Izuku in the next moment. Izuku fled.

 

“Holy shit, Bakugou, you’re insane!” Kirishima called down as he kept thrusting his hand out to try to tag Izuku’s foot. Izuku just climbed up a bit faster and tried to judge when he could leap. He couldn’t go back to the ground yet because both Todoroki and Kacchan were waiting for him. They had someone on each side just waiting to see if he would jump down. Izuku and Kirishima were almost fully to the top of the three-story rock tower.

 

“There!” Kirishima cried, and Izuku had to swing himself out of the way as Kirishima almost got a solid tag on his calf. His heart jumped in surprise. He had been too distracted looking down to pay attention to just how close Kirishima had gotten. Izuku was only just barely clinging to the rock by his fingertips by this point with his feet against the side of the rock for support. It was a precarious position.

 

“FUCKING TAG HIM, YOU IDIOT!!” Kacchan yelled back furiously. “HE’S RIGHT THERE, GODDAMMIT!!”

 

“Shit, dude, you’re slippery!”

 

“I’ve been told that.” Izuku confessed, and then lost his grip. Kirishima let out a shocked noise, this time grappling widely to catch him. Uraraka and Iida yelled his name as well in terror as Izuku plummeted downwards headfirst. Izuku felt the air grow cold and called, “No quirks!” before he flipped himself upright and dragged his hand down the stone before he found a grip. He winced as the stone ripped through his glove and stabbed his hand. He didn’t let it slow him down as he jumped down in a much more controlled way to land on the ground.

 

“Midoriya.” Todoroki was watching him with wide eyes, but Kacchan didn’t let himself get distracted. Izuku had to dodge two grapples from the boy before Todoroki also attempted to tag him. Izuku felt Todoroki’s hand swipe his hair as he ducked downwards and then threw himself through the gaps between his classmates’s legs.

 

He was panting from his effort and had to roll back to his feet. He stumbled backwards on clumsy legs and felt his back hit the stone as Kacchan and Todoroki closed in on him. Kirishima called something from above and Izuku could only gape a moment before he jumped to dodge the falling body of Kirishima. He landed right where Izuku had been as Kacchan got a grip on Izuku’s jacket.


“AHA!” He yelled victoriously. Izuku immediately unzipped his jacket and slipped from it with no effort, leaving it hanging in his grip. “YOU SON OF A BITCH!!”

 

“Get good!” Izuku yelled back with a laugh as he took off into another sprint. This was the most fun he’d had in a while. It was honestly so much fun. It was almost like training with Himiko, but a lot less deadly. He liked frustrating his classmates and stretching his legs like this. He liked not having to rely on his quirks and the pure thrill of using only his skills to win. It was something that he hoped he could teach the others. There was nothing more powerful than knowing that you could trust your body to persevere no matter the odds.


 

It went much like that for the rest of the training. Izuku would allow them to get very close to him and then dodge at the last moment. It was exhausting but thrilling work knowing just how close he was to losing, but Izuku didn’t lose. He couldn’t afford to lose, and so he wouldn’t allow it. He would admit, though, that the three of them definitely got better with time.

 

Just as Kirishima had said, working as a team was their best bet. Whenever they were all trying to just go for him, Izuku was able to use them against each other. He would get them to crash into each other or stumble on the feet of another. They landed as often on their butts or faces as they came to almost tagging him. Izuku made sure to count how many times they fell.

 

When they worked as a team, though, there wasn’t nearly as much stumbling. They eventually fell into some kind of pattern based on their skills. Todoroki always stayed on the ground because he was fast and had slowest climbing speed. Kirishima got faster at climbing over the course of the training. Kacchan would usually be the one to fling himself after Izuku during jumps. It meant that all of them had good shots at Izuku and kept him on his toes.

 

When the timer finally went off, all four of them had to collapse gasping for breath. Sweat had soaked into Izuku’s undershirt an made his pants cling to his legs. His hands smarted from where he had injured them and he definitely had a lot more cuts and bruises on him. His arms ached like crazy and he felt like his heart would never slow. Nevertheless, he felt fantastic.

 

“I win!” He called breathlessly as Uraraka and Iida were kind enough to bring over the water bottles all of them had brought with them. Izuku resisted the urge to chug the drink and instead drank slowly.

 

“That was insane!” Uraraka threw herself down next to Izuku with a bright smile. “I can’t believe you can move like that! It was a constant motion! I couldn’t look away!”

 

“It’s still not good enough, though.” Todoroki said. He froze his hand and opened his bottle to drop a few pieces of the ice into it. Izuku watched on jealously. “We couldn’t catch you at all, Midoriya.”

 

“What was that stunt where you fell?” Iida demanded. He waved with his hands in his usual chopping motion and pointed to the rock. “You could’ve seriously hurt yourself! That is too far of a drop without a quirk to support you! What would you have done if you hadn’t caught yourself?”

 

“Get hurt?” Izuku gave a bashful smile.

 

“You motherfucker!” Kacchan threw a loose stone at Izuku’s head, causing the boy to have to yelp and dodge it. Kacchan pushed himself to his own feet with some trembling in his muscles from the intense training and pointed a furious finger at him. “Four Eyes is right; you can’t pull those kinds of stupid stunts!”

 

“I could handle it.” Izuku responded with some annoyance. After all of that, was his skill really being questioned? It was irritating. He frowned. “I knew I could catch myself.”

 

“But how were we supposed to know that?” Kirishima asked as he unzipped his own jacket. He pulled that off and yanked off his soaked undershirt as well, tossing both to the ground. Uraraka blushed a little and looked away at the sudden display. “Dude, it looked like you were just falling to your death. I was hoping Todoroki would catch you since I'd missed!”

 

Izuku opened his mouth to argue, getting angrier, but had to bite back on that anger. These guys weren’t the villains who knew he could handle himself. These were his classmates who didn’t know the full extent of his abilities. They didn’t know he had survived higher falls. They didn’t know that he knew how to land from a tall height in order to survive the fall with as little injury as he could get. They were just worrying about him. He couldn’t help how offended he felt, though.

 

He decided not to respond and dropped his gaze. His pride wouldn’t allow him to admit that he was in the wrong, but he had no way to respond that would suit “Izuku”. So he said nothing and drank his water instead.

 

It felt nice to just sit and relax after everything. Izuku wasn’t sure he would be able to stand yet anyway. Kacchan and Todoroki unzipped their own jackets. Kacchan dumped a bunch of the water onto his face and shook his head, throwing water everywhere. Uraraka and Kirishima cried out as they were splashed, but both laughed at it. Izuku tugged on the front of his shirt repeatedly to try to get some air flow going through the material to cool and dry him off.

 

“I would like to try this kind of training with our quirks at some point.” Todoroki said after a long silence between all of them.

 

“Yeah?” Izuku asked. Todoroki nodded with a contemplative frown. Izuku wondered if he should take a risk. He had a theory and he wanted to confirm it, but he wondered if it would be too much to ask. Would it be rude? Todoroki looked the most relaxed that Izuku had ever seen him, though. This may be Izuku’s one chance to ask. He would like to say that Todoroki was tentatively his friend.

 

He leaned forward and rested his chin on his arms as they laid across his knees. “Would you use your fire quirk too?”

 

Izuku had never seen someone stiffen and shut down so quickly before. The very atmosphere seemed to turn heavy as Todoroki narrowed his darkened eyes at Izuku. Izuku only blinked at the sudden chill in the air but wasn’t intimidated. What was that reaction?

 

“No.” The boy finally said when his glare wasn’t enough of an answer. “I don’t ever want to use that half. I refuse.”

 

“Pfft, why?” Kacchan scoffed. “Too weak?”

 

Todoroki’s cold glare turned on him instead. Kacchan was also unaffected. “Not in the slightest.”

 

“You have a fire quirk, Todoroki-kun?” Uraraka asked, somewhat nervously as she sensed the tension. “I mean, I knew you could warm things up...but is it really a fire quirk?”

 

“Is it like Endeavor’s?” Kirishima asked. “That’d be really cool if you could have those wicked flames and your ice! You’d be unstoppable!”

 

That seemed to be the wrong choice of words. Todoroki climbed to his feet swiftly and looked away from them. “This is none of your businesses.” He growled and decided to go grab his backpack.

 

“Todoroki!” Izuku called, climbing to his own feet. Todoroki paused and glanced over his shoulder at him. There was hatred burning in his eyes that chilled Izuku. Izuku recognized hatred for what it was and knew he had seen that look elsewhere. Where had he seen it, though? Todoroki’s blue eye reminded Izuku of Dabi and his blue flames. Dabi hated Endeavor as well. That hero had really made a lot of enemies. Even his son seemed to hate him, it looked like. He made a mental note not to mention Endeavor around Todoroki, but decided it would be worth looking into. Endeavor was Todoroki’s weakness.

 

Izuku gave the boy a small smile. “We don’t need to practice with our quirks. We’re more than that, after all. I’m sure you won’t have to rely on your quirks at all in the future if you didn’t want to.”

 

The darkness pulled back from Todoroki’s eyes a bit. His frown softened, but his brows furrowed. "...Thank you for your time." He responded instead, and then left the training grounds with his stuff.

 

Izuku sat back down. “He’s still a pretty mysterious guy, huh?” Kirishima commented as he watched Todoroki’s departing back.

 

“Who cares?” Kacchan grumbled. He got up to grab his own stuff as well from where they had stored their bags, but he rejoined the group afterwards. He sat down to play on his phone.

 

“Wanting to be a hero after growing up in a household with a hero…” Iida said quietly, frowning, “can be hard for some people.”

 

“Is it hard for you, Iida-kun?” Uraraka asked.

 

“Not at all! I loved watching and learning from my brother! I just feel Todoroki has probably experienced something vastly different from my own experience.”

 

Izuku thought about how Todoroki had reacted when Izuku was having a panic attack. He had recognized immediately what it was and had taken steps to help him. It was the only time Izuku had seen sympathy in his eyes, and he had displayed it again later that day when they had met up again to first discuss training. He thought of his anger at the mere mention of his fire quirk and his sudden departure as soon as Endeavor’s name was mentioned.

 

Izuku had assumed that growing up with a Pro-Hero would only be good for future heroes. It was obvious that Todoroki had received quite a bit of training by how toned his body was and how capable he was in battle. However, Izuku recognized trauma easily and knew that type of darkness and anger by heart. Endeavor had hurt something deep in Todoroki and it was enough that he was rejecting half of his quirk. Izuku wondered how deep that wound went. He wanted to help him, if he could. Maybe Deku should focus his research on Endeavor next.

Chapter Text

The sun was setting quickly over the horizon of the buildings, but Katsuki still felt way too hot after his workout. Chugging water wasn’t doing enough for him because he felt like he couldn’t stop his thirst. His hands and feet hurt from grabbing and running for the past couple hours and he needed a break finally. He would have to head home soon before his father started calling his phone wanting to know where he was.

 

At least he wasn’t the only one exhausted as Shitty Hair, Chubby Cheeks, and Half-and-Half were all panting as well. Today Shitty Hair’s hair wasn’t actually too bad because he hadn’t spiked it up in his usual shitty hairstyle. He’d simply pinned back his fringe and had given himself a small ponytail. Half-and-Half needed some of those hair pins as well because his stupid fringe was sticking to his face everywhere. Katsuki was glad his hair stayed mostly poofy and out of his way no matter what. Chubby Cheeks had left her hair loose because it was too short to put up at all, but she did wear a headband to keep part of it back.

 

Katsuki wanted to make it very clear that he didn’t really like any of them. Hell, he really didn’t like Half-and-Half. He barely tolerated Shitty Hair and Chubby Cheeks. However, he would admit to himself that they were decent training partners. They all had very similar passions when it came to training, and that was the only reason why Katsuki had agreed to meet up with them during the weekend. Even Chubby Cheeks had managed to figure out how to keep pace after the first hour and with some coaching from Shitty Hair. 

 

It had originally been Shitty Hair’s idea. After their first training session, he had made the suggestion to Katsuki that they could meet up even without Deku and practice in a city environment. After all, Deku had encouraged them to do so. Shitty Hair had claimed that he knew the perfect area of a city to practice without too much police or hero attention. Katsuki had agreed because he had been planning on doing something similar anyway and he would admit (if only to himself) that having someone there in case anything went wrong was preferable to getting injured alone. It was where the two of them had met up one day to practice last time.

 

It had been Shitty Hair’s idea again to gather everyone this time. Four Eyes had been disappointed because he’d wanted to come, but had a family thing that day and couldn’t. That had left the original three boys and Chubby Cheeks to join. Katsuki had been surprised that Half-and-Half had decided to join in, but then again he didn't really care. Chubby Cheeks had been excited to finally learn some of the moves that she had seen, but she had been a lot slower than the rest of them. She could leap pretty high and had some good dodging skills, but she clearly wasn’t used to freerunning. She had a smaller amount of stamina, but her determination had kept her going to keep pace. It helped that Shitty Hair was willing to give her tips because Katsuki had been focused on Half-and-Half.

 

Ever since their last training session, Half-and-Half was acting different. He had always been willingly isolated and didn’t interact with anyone, but apparently when they had touched on whatever weird daddy issues he had he shut down. He had yet to talk much despite how long they’d all been together. He barely even acknowledged that he was training with anyone. If it wasn’t for the fact that Katsuki could feel Half-and-Half’s silent challenge towards him, he would’ve thought that Half-and-Half should just fucking leave. As it was he tolerated his irritating cold presence because there was nothing like lording his better skills over Half-and-Half.

 

Katsuki didn’t give a shit about Half-and-Half’s daddy issues. He wouldn’t bring them up again. He didn’t like the fact that the other was holding back on his quirk, though. If Deku would permit them to use their quirks, Katsuki would beat the shit out of Half-and-Half until he got him to use whatever flame abilities he had. As it was, he left it alone. It really wasn’t any of his business unless they were going against each other anyway.

 

It was strange for Katsuki to take a step back and really think about this training that Deku had them doing. He had seen the logic behind Deku’s reasoning for teaching them this kind of training method. It was certainly harder than the daily training that Katsuki had put himself through for months leading up to the UA High entrance exam. After every work out he could feel his body burning all over because he had needed to use everything in him to get where he wanted to go. It felt amazing.

 

It was sensational to test these new limits to himself, although it was hard for him to break the habit of using his quirk to catch himself if he messed up. All of them had agreed without saying that even when training without Deku they wouldn’t utilize their quirks unless they were in a dangerous situation. More than once had Katsuki crashing to the ground when it would’ve been so easy to just use his explosion to stop himself or slow his fall. He forced himself to take the damage, then get up and keep going. Everyone else seemed to be of the same mind, although there were a couple of slip-ups here and there. Deku was right: their quirks should be their support item.

 

But Katsuki didn’t want to think too long about Deku's training because it ripped the air from his lungs and made him feel like someone had aimed one of his explosions right into his chest. Deku had gone through this type of training in the past. It was obvious by the way he moved and the way he spoke. But what he had said at the last training session...it haunted Katsuki. He had heard it in Deku’s voice as he had spoken that whatever training he had gone through had not been like how he was teaching them.

 

At those times, what will protect you? Will you just run? What do you do when you can’t flee? You will be Quirkless. In a life-or-death situation, are you confident that you will be able to help anyone, let alone yourself? Sure, you’ll know how to fight...but do you know how to survive without your quirk?

 

The villains probably didn’t train Deku. It had to have been some type of torture. Katsuki could easily see how it could be used as a form of torture. Whatever he had gone through, he'd had to survive in order to even be standing with them that day. The realization had caused that dark thing to swell and boil over until Katsuki hadn't been able to think. He'd had to shut that thought down and had forced himself to focus on training with Deku. Because the alternative would have left him paralyzed. 

 

He couldn’t even imagine what kind of quirks Deku must have gone against. He doubted that the villains hadn’t used their quirks. Not all of those scars he had seen on Deku’s body had been clean. What kind of people had he gone against? What kind of torture had Deku had to have gone through in order to move the way he did? Why did they do that to him?

 

When did you remember your time with the villains?

 

I never forgot.

 

How much torture had Deku had to have gone through before he had gotten his quirk? How long had he only had his body to rely on? Katsuki had heard about how “extreme stress” had probably caused Deku’s quirk to manifest, but it was starting to hit Katsuki what the extent of extreme stress could mean. He was realizing he was only scraping the tip of the iceberg. No wonder Deku had a tremor.

 

Katsuki’d had a nightmare that night. While Deku had been missing, he’d had a lot of nightmares. His nightmares didn’t come as often as they used to since the boy’s return. Often Katsuki didn’t even remember the nightmares, but he would wake with a painful feeling in his chest and usually either fury or throat-clenching terror circulating through his veins.

 

The night after the training with Deku, Katsuki had the first nightmare he’d had in a long time. Just like with their training earlier, he had been chasing after Deku. Only the Deku he had been chasing hadn't been the confident and teasing Deku he was becoming familiar with. He had been the Deku from middle school who had looked at Katsuki with terror and had run screaming ahead of him. His moves had been clumsy and untrained and he had kept falling when he had tried to climb. Katsuki had run as well feeling the pressure of some dark, horrible thing following them. Katsuki had chased Deku because he hadn't been able to stand the idea of losing him. He had wanted to grab Deku’s wrist and drag him after him because Katsuki was strong and could do what Deku was failing to do. He would be able to rescue them both from whatever was chasing them.

 

But every time Katsuki had gotten close, Deku would sob and would try to run faster. He had begged Katsuki not to hurt him and not to kill him. Katsuki had tried to yell back that he was trying to help him, but he couldn’t recall what words had actually escaped. Instead his dream had skipped forward and he and Deku had been instead climbing up an endless rock. Deku had been in their middle school gakuran again and his hands and face had been bloody. He had looked as he had when Katsuki had first seen him on the news after the rescue.

 

“Go faster, idiot!” Katsuki had yelled at Deku while knowing full well that whatever had been behind them had been gaining on them. He had been able tell it was going to catch them with that strange ability dreams and nightmares sometimes allowed. It had only made the terror worse knowing that it was a sealed deal. Katsuki had kept climbing nonetheless. Deku hadn’t been fast enough. He hadn't had a quirk to help him. Katsuki could've rocketed ahead of him at any time, but Deku couldn’t. Katsuki hadn't even considered using his quirk to help save Deku either. Soon enough he had even forgotten he'd had a quirk. He had been just as Quirkless as Deku was.

 

“Kacchan…!” Deku had sobbed. His eyes had been wide and wet. He had looked positively gruesome and had somehow seemed to glow even in the darkness. “Don’t let it get me! Please don’t let it get me!” He had screamed as the rock in his hand crumbled and had left him hanging with one hand. He had swung dangerously, so very far from the bottom. Katsuki hadn't been able to even see the bottom of the mountain anymore. He had known instinctively that only death awaited them there.

 

Katsuki had frozen at the sight. Deku had reached for him desperately as his other fingers had slipped. Katsuki hadn't been able to get himself to remove his hands from the wall because he had been scared he would fall too.

 

In a life-or-death situation, are you confident that you will be able to help anyone, let alone yourself?

 

“Please…!” Deku had whispered. His fingers had been close enough to grab. Katsuki had been reminded of that day so long ago of the two of them in that stream in the woods and he had fallen. That same offended rage had filled him and he had slapped Deku’s hand away instead of grabbing it. Deku’s face had contorted from terror and betrayal into that sad, scared acceptance that he had worn the day he had been kidnapped and after Katsuki had yelled at him. His head had dropped as Deku’s grip failed him and he had fallen while Katsuki had only watched.

 

The worst nightmares had him waking suddenly with nothing but tears on his face and an overwhelming sense of loss that he could only irrationally think was his fault. That was how he had awoken after that nightmare. He had only been able to stare into the darkness of his bedroom as tears had unconsciously slipped down and into his ears. He had gripped his covers and trembled in the darkness with his chest filled with thick, slimy black tar. He had barely been able to breathe around it.

 

“Bakugou.” A hand landed on his shoulder and Katsuki jolted out of his thoughts. He instinctively slapped the hand away and glared at Shitty Hair. Shitty Hair blinked at him and frowned with worry. “Whoa, are you okay? You’re super pale, dude.”

 

“Sit down.” Chubby Cheeks recommended. The four of them were standing in the same park they had decided to finish their freerun in. The sun was no longer setting and was mostly gone from the horizon. Katsuki felt sick. He felt like the water he had just drank was honey and it was filling him with disgust and coating his throat and stomach. He hated the sensation. He shouldn’t have thought of Deku again.

 

“Get off!” He pushed her away as well and stubbornly refused to sit down. “I’m fine! I don’t want your fucking worry!”

 

“Okay, okay. Calm down.” Shitty Hair motioned for Katsuki to calm, which only made Katsuki angrier. He didn’t have the strength to continue yelling, though. He could barely breathe against the honey and tar.

 

“You zoned out there for a bit.” The boy continued. “We were talking about stopping to get something quick to eat before we headed to the station. Did you want to come with?”

 

Katsuki ran a hand through his disgusting hair. He wanted a shower to get rid of his sweat and he wanted to sleep. He would sleep dreamlessly tonight after such an intense workout. He would need to rest tomorrow because the sports festival was on Monday. He couldn’t overwork himself before then.

 

“...Fine.” He decided. He needed something else in his stomach just to prove he wasn’t full. He knew he wasn’t. He felt nauseous as the four of them left the park together.

 

“Ohhh, my legs hurt…” Chubby Cheeks whined and rubbed at her hands. “I wasn’t expecting the police to come after us. We almost got caught!”

 

“Yeah! Midoriya did say to watch out for them.” Shitty Hair laughed a little. “It was pretty fun, though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you run so fast, Todoroki!”

 

Todoroki had that stupid blank look on his face, but it was at least calmer than it had been all night. He seemed to at least calm down when he was tired too. He spoke with reluctance as he admitted, “I didn’t want to get caught.”

 

“Well yeah, none of us did! That wouldn’t look good before the sports festival! But holy crap it was so funny!”

 

Chubby Cheeks was giggling too and wiped her forehead on her arm. They were all cut up and bruised. Katsuki was willing to bet they’d all run at least ten miles that day, if not more. And that wasn’t including all of the climbing. It had been admittedly really fun climbing up the sides of buildings knowing that he could and had the confidence. The four of them had even run on top of some of the taller buildings as well despite the drop that they’d risked.

 

“You looked like an idiot when you hit that fire escape.” He told Shitty Hair, grinning at the memory. He chuckled as he remembered the metal clang as Shitty Hair had fallen onto it.

 

Shitty Hair winced. “Ugh, don’t remind me. I’m gonna be feeling that for the next couple of days. I hope it doesn’t affect my performance on Monday…”

 

“I’m glad we got to do this.” Chubby Cheeks said as she stretched her arms upwards. She let out an adorable little sigh that had Katsuki scowling. He didn’t understand why Deku would blush over this girl any time she did something that would be deemed “cute”. He thought she looked better when she had that determined look on her face like she’d had earlier. Everyone looked better when they were ready to square up. Confidence was definitely sexier than cuteness. “It feels good to train with others. I hope we can get Iida-kun and Deku-kun to join us next time.”

 

“Why do you call him that?” Katsuki asked suddenly because he had the chance and it was starting to grate on him. Chubby Cheeks blinked at him in surprise.

 

“What?”

 

“Why the hell do you call him Deku? You realize it’s a fucking insult, right?”

 

“We could ask you the same thing, Bakugou.” Half-and-Half suddenly interrupted.

 

“Yeah! Why do you insult Midoriya all of the time?” Hair-for-Brains agreed with a nod. “Well, I mean, not like you don’t insult everyone. But it’s towards Midoriya the most.”

 

“Keep your shitty fucking noses out of my business! You don’t know jackshit about me or Deku! Go die!” Katsuki snapped at them before returning to Chubby Cheeks. “Why the fuck do you call him Deku?”

 

“He said I could?” She said. “I told him that it sounded like ‘you can do it’, and he seemed to like that.”

 

Katsuki frowned, irritated. That would be just like something shitty Deku would do. He didn’t doubt the idiot had also just caved to the whims of a cute girl as well. What a fucking loser. It made Katsuki scoff.

 

“That’s stupid.”

 

“It’s better than the alternative!” She argued, glaring a little. “After all, Deku-kun isn’t useless! You shouldn’t call him that!”

 

“Fuck off, Chubby Cheeks. You think I don’t already know that? Die already!” Chubby Cheeks only gave him a smug look that made him want to punch her face in. He didn’t give a shit if she was a girl -if she deserved a punch, then she deserved a punch. It was irritating that she wasn’t bothered by him anymore. It was really irritating that these people didn’t take his threats seriously.

 

It was night time proper by the time they found some fast food place that didn’t have only disgusting junk in it. Katsuki wanted some real food and hated all of the greasy shit, but he could suffice with a salad until he got home. He’d received a text from his dad that there was food waiting for him anyway.

 

Half-and-Half had regarded the food with some mild confusion, as if he had never been to a shitty McDonald’s before. He ate it without much hesitation, though, so Katsuki didn’t get the chance to mock him for it. It was a surprise that he had even joined them. Shitty Hair and Chubby Cheeks did the most talking out of the four of them. Katsuki focused on stomaching the terrible salad.

 

While they were eating, Katsuki spotted a familiar strange hairstyle. It was that bitch with hair buns that was one of Deku’s friends. Or at least claimed to be his friend. She had also claimed that they would be dating, but Deku had looked opposed to that as well. Katsuki had seen a strange side to Deku that day with how he had interacted with that girl. He didn’t blush or get shy like he did with Chubby Cheeks. Instead he had been frowning, yet gentle with her touches. He had let the girl hold his hand.

 

Who was she again? Katsuki tried to remember. He could mostly only remember her unusual touchiness with Deku and that shitty nickname she had given him.

 

She was standing across the street texting on her phone. She was clearly waiting for someone. Katsuki had half a mind to go over there and confront her because he wanted to know how the fuck she knew Deku. Katsuki couldn’t recognize what school her uniform was from. When would Deku have time to even meet someone from a random school? Was she someone from his therapy? Just a random friend? It seemed unlikely.

 

Then he remembered that she had said she was someone who trained with Deku. Something clicked in his mind and his eyes widened a little in realization. Was it from that training? That was impossible, though. That would make her a villain. But when else did Deku train? Was she the one he had gone to see the night he had come back bloody? Why had he been sneaking out so late to train anyway? Katsuki didn’t have an idea.

 

No, she couldn’t be from that training. If she was one of the villains that had captured Deku, she would’ve been arrested that day as well. Deku wouldn’t let her that close to him. He had seemed uncomfortable and angry that day when she had shown up, but not scared. She couldn’t have been one of the villains.


Then she was just someone he trained with? He had said it was agility and speed...Was he also training this girl? Or was that girl the one training him more? Was Katsuki wrong to think that he had been trained by the villains?

 

His head was starting to hurt. The lack of real food and exhaustion weren’t helping.

 

“Who are you looking at so intensely, Bakugou?” Shitty Hair asked. He leaned around Katsuki to look out the window as well. Katsuki paid him no mind as the Bun Bitch lifted her head as she spotted someone. A broad smile broke across her face and she raced over to throw herself at some person wearing a weird jacket with a hood. Who the hell was wearing that kind of jacket in this heat?

 

Bun Bitch chatted with the hooded figure before grabbing their hand. The figure yanked their hand away and looked around them. That’s when Katsuki spotted the grinning face and red eyes of the mask they were wearing. Katsuki knew instinctively that wasn’t a face to be trusted. They were suspicious. A villain?

 

“What a creepy mask…” Half-and-Half murmured, and Katsuki realized all of them were staring now. The masked figure didn’t look their way and instead turned to continue down the street and disappeared into an alley. Bun Bitch moved to go after them, but her eyes caught Katsuki’s. Her smile widened and she wiggled her fingers in greeting before she ran off. Katsuki felt a chill run down his spine.

 

“Do you know that girl, Bakugou-kun?” Chubby Cheeks asked with a frown. “She definitely waved at us.”

 

Katsuki didn’t know her, but he didn’t like her. There was something off about her. Maybe she actually was crazy. Why would Deku train with someone like her? “Nah. Just some weird chick, I guess.”

Chapter Text

It was the day of the UA High Sports Festival. Izuku would be lying if he said he was fully prepared for whatever he might face that day. If he was to be totally honest, he wasn’t sure he would be able to contain himself. The problem with the festival was that the events were random for the students so they could never be fully prepared. Izuku had seen various ways that the sports festivals in the past had played out and had even tried to do some odds for them, but they were truly random and Izuku wasn’t that great at that kind of math.

 

And so Izuku had to go into the event blind. But that was exciting, so he didn’t actually mind. He had faced worst odds in the past and had survived and thrived in them. He would make sure that he would come out on top for everything. He knew for a fact that Shigaraki and his master would be watching the event today. He would prove that he knew what he was doing. If he succeeded, Master might even give him more slack on his leash.

 

Winning the sports festival meant more to Izuku than just proving himself as a capable villain. Depending on how he did in the festival, he would have various heroes vying for his internship. If he had a lot of them, did that mean he was more suited to be a hero? Izuku wanted to prove to himself that the hero world would want him and his disgusting skills. He would show people that he could use his quirks for good. If he won the sports festival and started interning, he would finally be able to do some true good. He would need that to look forward to in the next coming days with whatever Shigaraki was planning with the Villain Alliance.

 

Izuku had woken up too early because he had been eager to start the day, so he cooked breakfast. He wasn’t as good as his mother was, but he managed a decent and humble meal. It was ready by the time she had woken up and joined him. His mother looked surprised but thrilled to see him awake and already dressed and ready.

 

“Good morning!” She greeted. Izuku approached her and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

 

“Morning, mom!” He busied himself with plating the food while his mother glanced around him to take in the spread. He had gone a little overboard with his nervous energy, but he could always leave the leftovers for a later date. He brought the food over to the table for them.

 

“Are you nervous?” She asked as they both sat down to eat. “You’re up very early, after all.”

 

Izuku gave her a bashful smile and scratched at his cheek. “I think I got too excited. I couldn’t sleep.”

 

“You did go to bed awfully early last night.” She said with a laugh. Izuku nodded in agreement, but he had only gone to bed early so he could make a phone call to Shigaraki. The man had wanted him to call him because he had further instructions for him, apparently. He would have to remember to pack his small notebook for today to put into his clothing. Shigaraki wanted notes on his classmates.

 

“Yeah, I did. But at least I got a good night’s sleep!”

 

“That’s very good!”

 

The food ended up sitting heavily in Izuku’s stomach so he couldn’t eat too much. He was too nervous and worried that running around too much or whatever else the festival would have them do would make him vomit. He would eat a bigger lunch later if he could. He could work off of only a little food.

 

“I’ll be watching today.” His mother promised as Izuku finished tugging on his shoes. He made sure to wear his familiar red shoes because they were both comfortable and reliable. “Be careful not to get hurt!”

 

Izuku stood and gave her a smile. Getting injured during any school training or event like this just meant he was taking it seriously. He understood the sentiment. He doubted the school would be cruel enough to risk a student dying during this. Especially so when it’s broadcasted everywhere. Izuku had to show how strong he was. Everyone would be watching.

 

“Okay!” He told her and then waved. “I’ll be bringing home a medal today!”

 

“Good luck!” She cried with a familiar look of determination on her face that Izuku knew he had inherited from her. He left the apartment and felt nervous energy coursing through him. He was already going to be limited today because of the rules of the festival. He already knew that costumes and support items weren’t allowed for the heroics course so as to level the playing field. That limited Izuku to being essentially Quirkless for the sake of the event unless he could acquire fire from someone.

 

Just like every morning, Kacchan was waiting for him at the front gate to the apartment. Izuku could immediately sense that something was off just by the atmosphere he was giving off. It wasn’t until he approached did he see the darkness under Kacchan’s eyes when he looked at Izuku. That was shocking in and of itself. Kacchan always made sure to get enough sleep. There was no possible way he was nervous about today. Was he sick?

 

“Are you okay, Kacchan?” He asked after greeting him a good morning. “You look tired.”

 

Kacchan scowled in response and glared. “Shut the fuck up, shitty Deku! I don’t want to hear that kind of shit from you!!” Izuku sighed through his nose. It seemed that even now that they were friends Kacchan wouldn’t let Izuku worry about him.

 

Izuku gave a wry smile. “At least I have an excuse for looking like crap.” Kacchan’s face softened from his glare at the honesty in Izuku’s voice. Was he really so easy to read now that Kacchan could tell immediately when he wasn’t putting up a front? It was frustrating. What was giving him away? Was Kacchan just more aware of how he was when he wasn’t acting like the old Izuku? Was the difference that stark?

 

“Midnight training, you mean.” Kacchan muttered as the two headed out and down the street. Kacchan had a Pocari Sweat in hand. He was already working to make sure he had his fluids for later. He would need his sweat.

 

“No. I actually went to bed at a normal time last night.” Izuku argued casually. He stared at some flowers that were growing in a nearby garden as he continued, “I’m just always tired.”

 

“Then fucking sleep more, you dumbass. It’s not that hard.”

 

“Pot calling the kettle black.” Kacchan glared at him and crushed his bottle in his hands. Izuku held up his own hands so as to not start a fight. He needed to be at full strength for today and he didn’t need Kacchan to break his “don’t punch Izuku” rule right then and there. He lowered his hands and pointed at Kacchan, “Why couldn’t you sleep last night?”

 

“It’s none of your goddamn business.” Kacchan grumbled.

 

Izuku wanted to push it, but he had no idea how he would even go about getting Kacchan to admit what was wrong. Izuku recognized that kind of face from when he had nightmares, but Kacchan wouldn’t have nightmares. There wasn’t anything Kacchan was scared of that Izuku knew about. Maybe it had just been an off night last night. That was poor luck on Kacchan’s part.

 

They walked in silence until they were almost to the station. Kacchan pulled to a sudden stop that had Izuku stumbling to stop himself as well. Kacchan was glaring at the ground with that thoughtful and frustrated frown before the frustration cleared and he lifted his gaze to meet Izuku’s. He stomped forward and twisted so that he was standing in front of Izuku, legs spread in a power stance and his clenched fists shoved into his pockets. His red eyes glowed with an inner fire that always made Izuku’s heart rate pick up no matter how much time had passed. It had been the part that Izuku had admired most about Kacchan since they had been barely older than toddlers, and it was that same fire that he had tried to replicate as Deku. It was breathtaking to have it aimed at him.

 

“Deku.” Kacchan’s voice was heavy with intent. Izuku swallowed the heat that threatened to sear him from the inside out. “I will be number one. So you’d better watch out.”

 

It was a spectacular emotion that Izuku would never be able to explain to anyone. There were no words to describe the pride of a victory Izuku hadn't even known he had been waiting for anymore. Kacchan had just acknowledged him. Izuku might actually tear up. Instead of crying, however, Izuku managed to grin back shakily because he couldn’t control the flames that had erupted from his heart and coursed through his bones and muscles and blood stronger than any possible explosion Kacchan could make.

 

Izuku took that declaration and held it close to his chest. It was nothing different from what he had essentially said to the crowd of other students that had stood outside of their classroom the other day, but Izuku understood the words that were not said. The unspoken words that more than anything caused the flames of competition to burn in him hotter than any before. In the way that only Kacchan could do for Izuku because Kacchan was the very embodiment of victory for Izuku. The past Izuku might have actually wept to be seen as someone worthy enough that Kacchan felt the need to even voice his challenge directly to him.

 

“You’ll have to get past me first.”

 

Kacchan’s returning cocky grin was filled with the confidence and resolve and fervor that Izuku had always adored in him as he gave a bark of a laugh. “You were never ahead of me in the first place!”

 

Izuku would show him that he had grown strong too.


 

His entire class was dressed in their gym uniforms and gathered in a waiting room before the festival was supposed to start. Everyone was either relaxing, chatting, or trying to calm their own nerves. Izuku was the latter of the bunch and he was shaking crazier than ever because of it. He’d already had a couple classmates come up to him and give him encouragement because they had thought he was that scared. Some of his male classmates had even given him concerned looks and Izuku just knew they were remembering his breakdown. It was as humiliating as it was touching that they were concerned for him.

 

Izuku stuck mostly to himself and wrote in his notebook instead to get his thoughts straight and to think of plans on how to combat against his classmates’s quirks. No matter what events would come, Izuku already knew that everything would boil down to a one on one tournament between the top sixteen students. Izuku was fully anticipating that both Todoroki and Kacchan would be in the finals purely because they were the top students of 1-A. Izuku would be the third. Everything else was up in the air because Izuku hadn’t actually seen the quirks of anyone from the other first year classes. Plus his class had so many good candidates. He needed to account for all of them. It helped that it coincided with his mission from Shigaraki.

 

They weren’t allowed to use support items, which narrowed the field a bit more for Izuku’s calculations. Everyone’s strengths and weaknesses would be on full display because the spirit of competition flowed through every single student. Nobody wanted to lose, which meant Izuku would get to see them at their very best. He was a little bothered that he couldn’t do the same, but he was still supposed to be a first year student. It didn't help that he couldn't use his support item.

 

Izuku was sure he could’ve tried to exploit the loophole in the rules about support items, though. Homemade items -as long as they could be worn as a costume- were still allowed. It was a rule mostly in place for the Support Department to show off their tech every year, but Izuku had his own homemade invention. As long as he could’ve shown the crude craftsmanship of his gloves, he would’ve been allowed to have them. He’d had a feeling that Todoroki would be using his cleats for the event so his ice wouldn’t hinder him.

 

But Izuku had chosen not to take advantage. The lack of his gloves would be poignant and show off his true skill. How would the heroes react to watching someone who was essentially Quirkless? Izuku didn't know if he would have the chance to get any fire. Izuku might’ve gone overboard if he’d had access to his fire at any time and he needed to limit himself. He wasn’t even completely sure his gloves would be legal for the event either, so he would go without. Besides, it would be more fun if he needed to get creative.

 

He also needed to be aware of the fact that he was becoming more active with the villains. He would definitely need his Pyrokinesis if he was going to be dealing with criminals. If he appeared in the eyes of the public as a villainous figure, then the less they saw of his fire the better. Fire quirks were not as rare as some quirks, but Izuku’s Pyrokinesis was rarer than most. He would have to be careful.

 

These were the things he was thinking of when he’d heard his name called. The voice didn’t actually register right away as to who had called him, so Izuku had to look around with a confused frown. It was only when Todoroki moved to stand in front of him did Izuku realize it was him. The grim and serious frown on his face was worse than it usually was. It made Izuku wonder if someone had mentioned Endeavor around him or something.

 

“Sorry. What is it, Todoroki...?” He asked tentatively.

 

Todoroki pulled his hands from his pocket and stared Izuku down. “From an objective standpoint, I’m above you in terms of my quirk.” Izuku blinked. “I also believe I’m stronger than you in a physical aspect as well.”

 

Where is he going with this? Izuku wondered, frowning.

 

“You’ve managed to get All Might’s eyes on you, right?” Izuku stiffened at that. Damn; of course All Might inviting him to lunch twice didn’t go unnoticed by his other classmates. Although only Iida and Uraraka had witnessed the second one.

 

“Um-”

 

“I feel no need to pry into that.” Todoroki interrupted him before Izuku could come up with an excuse, “But...I’m going to beat you.”

 

“Oho?” Kaminari called while Izuku just stared. “What’s this? A declaration of war from the strongest kid in the class?”

 

“What’s with this belligerence all of the sudden?” Kirishima asked as he came up behind Todoroki and put a hand on his shoulder as if to pull him away. “Don’t spring this on him right before-”

 

Todoroki shook him off sharply. “I’m not here to play nice and make friends, but whatever.”

 

“But we are friends!” Kirishima argued.

 

Todoroki gave him a cold stare that made the boy frown and flinch back a little. “Nobody is anybody’s friend today. We’re all competitors trying to win a competition.”

 

The class fell completely silent at his words and the atmosphere shifted. The friendly, gentle atmosphere had turned stiffer as everyone acknowledged Todoroki's words. They were true, of course. They were all classmates and most of them were friendly with each other, but they couldn't afford to be friends. They were all aiming for the top, after all.

 

Izuku had to force back his competitive spirit for this conversation. It wasn’t like with Kacchan earlier where he could be honest. He was “Izuku” right then and there, and he couldn’t be as confident. But he had shown some of his confidence to Todoroki and Kirishima already when he had trained with them. How was he supposed to respond to this?

 

Also, what was with today? Izuku was thrilled inside. He had been acknowledged and challenged by the two strongest people in their class. Possibly even in their entire year. It made him eager for the festival to start so he could face those challenges head on.

 

But as he was, he needed to put on an act.

 

He lowered his gaze much like he did in the past when Kacchan had yelled at him. He could practically feel the fury coming from Kacchan as Izuku muttered, “I have no idea what you’re doing telling me all that…” He clenched his trembling fists. “I think you’re stronger than the vast majority of people in our grade, even just looking at it objectively…”

 

“C’mon, Midoriya!” Kirishima tried to reassure him, “Don’t be so negative-”

 

“Even so!” Izuku interrupted because he wasn’t finished. “Everyone -even kids from other departments- are aiming for the top with all of their might!” He lifted his head and met Todoroki’s gaze head on. He fought with himself, but in the end he chose Kacchan's common method of "fuck it"! His pride overran his urge to stay humble and quiet even for the sake of his act. He refused to be looked down upon if he could help it.

 

Only a few people could see him as Deku grinned and felt the same flames Kacchan had stirred in him earlier blaze through his core. “Be prepared to use your flames, Todoroki,” He pointed at Todoroki’s scar briefly before he clenched his fist, “cuz you’re gonna need everything you have if you even want to think of surpassing me.”

 

Kirishima openly gaped as Todoroki’s head lifted in offence. His eyes were steely with withheld rage as Deku sneered. He didn’t care if his classmates were seeing him like this anymore. “Izuku” could be confident too. Maybe it was time to start showing off his Deku side more.

 

After all… Deku caught Kacchan’s fiery gaze as his own eager and furious sneer settled into place. Those eyes turned on Todoroki next. Kacchan, at least, seems to appreciate and respect strength more. Maybe the others will as well. Izuku’s heart jumped again as he felt the tension between the three of them sharpen and solidify.

 

 

“They’re calling us now!” Iida yelled as he opened the door to the waiting room. The tension was thick as he motioned for them all to gather. “It’s time for the sports festival, everyone! Please follow me!”