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Sweetest In The Gale Is Heard

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Midoriya Izuku is four when he realizes that not all people are created equal.  

He makes this discovery in the form of multi-colored bruises and hand-shaped burns marring his body, courtesy of a boy he calls his best friend. It takes him a few days to understand exactly what these new injuries mean- that Kacchan isn’t just playing around, as he was before. That Izuku is no longer welcome to tag along with them. That Izuku is quirkless, and in the minds of his classmates, that equates to worthless. This is when the name ‘Deku’ is coined.  

In another universe, Izuku continues to attempt to follow Kacchan and his gang around. He still responds to any communication from his classmates with unabated eagerness and friendliness. He doesn’t give up, still holds a single-minded determination towards becoming a hero, and eventually, his efforts pay off in the form of a lucky encounter with All Might himself.  

But this Izuku is not quite as optimistic, and not quite as lucky. Sure, he has this mindset for a while. He doesn‘t just call it quits. He still follows along behind Kacchan and his gang, laughing in response to the constant taunts they throw his way. But it doesn’t last. By the age of ten, he’s come to terms with the fact that he no longer has friends, and probably never really did, and probably never really will. This realization is come to after a particularly harsh beating, and he thinks about how stupid he’s been for years now. How could it have taken him this long to realize that no matter what he does, no matter how nice he is or how many times he helps people who have done nothing but hurt him in the past, it will never change how these people see him? Izuku manages to hold his tears long enough to chat briefly with his mom upon returning home, but the moment he reaches his room, he begins to sob. He does it as quietly as possible, because he really just needs to be alone right now, but the small package of tissues that were slipped under his door at some point indicate that his mother is not quite that easy to fool.  

Upon his return to school, although old habits and natural instincts urge him to call out friendly greetings to the people he knows, he swallows them down and trudges past without a word. Those greetings were never met with anything but scorn and mockery anyways. He spends the day quiet, withdrawn, doing his work quietly and writing in his notebooks in his freetime. He sits alone. He speaks to no one, and he doesn’t raise his hand in class anymore. If the teachers notice the change, they don’t say anything. This isn’t really a surprise to Izuku. They never have before, anyways.  

When Kacchan saunters up to him at the end of the day, Izuku doesn’t acknowledge him in the slightest, which seems to confuse the other boy. Not enough to let up on Izuku. No, Kacchan is angry enough to give him a new burn on his collarbone. This one is deep and painful enough that Izuku fears it’ll scar, but he forces himself to stick to the decision he’d made last night. He doesn’t react. Even as his shoulder screams out in pain, Izuku just stares up at Kacchan blankly. The blond gets bored soon enough, and he and his friends trot off to find some new target to torment, in all liklihood. Izuku is past caring. He just walks home, carefully pulling up his shirt to hide the still stinging burn and greeting his mother with as much enthusiasm as he can muster.  

This continues for quite a while. His new tactic works. Kacchan and his gang begin to approach Izuku less and less, considering what a boring target he now makes. The others mock him less and ignore him more, and although this hurts, it hurts less, and really, that’s the best Izuku can hope for.  

In fact, it lasts about until the end of the school year. Kacchan hasn’t bothered him in almost a month by this point. Absolutely no one has, and he’s ok with this. It’s better than before.  

Maybe it’s the weather. It is, after all, an unusually chilly March. Maybe the end of another school year just makes Kacchan more volatile. Izuku doesn’t know. Something, however, about the last day of their fifth year makes Izuku a target for Kacchan like he hasn’t been for a long while. It’s this day when Kacchan steals his notebook, yanking it from Izuku’s hands as he’s writing in it, and tosses it flippantly out the window. He spouts something about how useless Izuku is, how useless his silly notebooks are, etc. Izuku isn’t really listening. He sees red.   

He didn’t entirely mean to stand up and shove Kacchan as hard as he could, but he only realizes that after he’s done it, and now he’s standing there, Kacchan below him on the ground. The blond is staring at him in shock, and Izuku, being a sensible boy, runs. He ignores Kacchan’s angry shout and exits the building as fast as he can, only stopping breifly to grab his notebook from the pond it landed in, hoping at least part of it can salvaged. He veers from his normal route in the hopes that Kacchan won’t follow him.  

It’s new, this whole ‘fighting back thing’. Never before in his life has Izuku fought back like that. Even before their quirks came in (or didn’t, in his case), he’d never really tried to argue with Kacchan’s insults, instead just laughing under the belief that they were all under good fun. But Izuku is just so fed up, so done with sitting there and not reacting in the hopes that he will go unnoticed. He’s tired of playing by the rules that were established early on in this school. He never even agreed to play the game in the first place.  

He’s so lost in this train of thought, so consumed in the frustration building within him, that he barely even notices when he arrives home, and completely forgets about the mask he normally wears to dissuade his mother’s worry. 

A soft, concerned whisper of his name stirs him from his mood. Izuku looks up at his mother, eyes wide, and sees her take in his disheveled appearance. Right. He had to step through the mud by the pond to retrieve his notebook. The stuff is now covering his shoes and the lower part of his pants, along with a good portion of grass. His uniform is rumpled, too, probably from his hasty exit. He imagines that he doesn’t look great. 

“Mom, I-” Izuku cuts himself off before he can make up some excuse like he usually does when he forgets to compose himself- not that it happens often. But he’s sick of lying, and he’s sick of going through this stuff. Instead, he meets his mother’s gaze, and says, “I want to switch schools next year. And I want to take self-defense classes.” 

A long conversation ensues, which results with Izuku confessing much of what he’s endured for nearly four years. His mom isn’t mad, which is good. She rarely is, but Izuku wasn’t sure how she’d react when she found out he’s been hiding things from her. After all, that’s never happened before. That is- she's never found out he’s been hiding something before. 

The end result is that his mom agrees to both of Izuku’s requests, in exchange for a promise that Izuku won’t hide things like this from her ever again.  

Izuku spends most of his break checking out the various dojos in his area. There aren’t a lot, but there are enough, and the day before the new year starts, he’s made his decision. 

The place he chooses is the fourth place he enters. He never bothered with the last location. He’s got a feeling that this place will get him where he needs to go.  

The master of the dojo is a small, stocky woman with mousy brown hair called Ishii-sensei. She’s tough, rarely smiles, and works her students to the bone. Izuku clicks with her immediately. The dojo itself is similar to its master. There’s little decoration, but a lot of equipment, and somehow the atmosphere feels... warm. Comfortable. From what Izuku can see of the people currently training, they all seem friendly with each other. Izuku figures that he probably won’t get the same treatment due to his quirklessness, but at the very least, it seems like these people won’t bother him much. A few of them are close to his age, but he doesn’t even bother to entertain the possibility that they might want to be friends. He’s learned his lesson.  

He relays all of this to his mother upon his return, and pretends not to notice how her smile becomes sort of sad at the last part. She doesn’t vocalize it, though. Instead, she says, “I’d love to meet her!” 

The next day, Izuku has his first day at his new school, and although he enjoys the many introductions and invitations to sit at various lunch tables he gets from his new, outgoing classmates, he politely but firmly declines each one and sits alone. He knows the kindness won’t last. Eventually, word will get out that he’s quirkless. He’s not going to let any bullies walk all over him this time, though. Most of these people have probably all been going to this school together for years, and that puts him at a disadvantage. He doesn’t know anyone. But they don’t know him, either.  

He’s determined to take advantage of that fact. He doesn’t expect to make friends. But he’ll be damned if he’s going to become another victim.  

In the meantime, he goes to the dojo. Ishii-sensei is one of the first people he’s ever met who doesn’t seem to immediately change her entire opinion on him when she first finds out he’s quirkless. Public quirk usage isn’t technically legal anywhere, but a lot of schools and other facilities are pretty lax about it. Not Ishii-sensei though. She’s very strict about the no-quirk-usage rule, and maybe that explains it. She doesn’t care that Izuku is quirkless, because everyone is quirkless in her dojo.  

Izuku wonders how his tough and emotionless sensei is going to handle his mom, who cries when she has to kill a bug. He needn’t have worried though, as the first time they meet is the first time Izuku ever hears Ishii-sensei break out into a full laugh. From the startled looks other students in the dojo throw their way, it’s the first time many of them are hearing it too.  

Really, Izuku shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone likes his mom. Of course his sensei and her are fast friends. Midoriya Inko can befriend just about anyone she wants to, and Izuku berates himself for doubting her.  

He doesn’t talk much with the other students in the dojo. Most of his classes are one-on-one with Ishii-sensei, as he requested they’d be. Ishii-sensei is kind enough not to charge extra. She doesn’t say anything, but Izuku thinks she understands. Despite this, the other students always throw friendly smiles his way when they pass by eachother. Maybe that’s simply the kind of people that come here. 

He learns fast, and does well at school. For a while, anyways. 

It takes about a month before it’s revealed. Izuku isn’t entirely sure how. Maybe a teacher let it slip by mistake. Maybe someone who goes to his new school knows someone at his old school. It doesn’t matter. Izuku doesn’t have much of a reputation. All that people know about him is that he doesn’t really talk to anyone, but he’s got real good grades.  

The atmosphere doesn’t immediately turn hostile, not like it did in his first school when Kacchan first announced it to everyone. Instead, it feels like everyone is suddenly evaluating him anew. He gets a lot of looks his way all of the sudden, a lot of hushed whispers and subtle pointing in his direction. This is how he knows that they know before someone attempts to corner him in the lunchroom for the first time.  

To be fair, it’s not hard. Izuku has sat in the same small corner table, alone, since the very first day. There are three of them, and they spread out so they’re kind of blocking the exits.  

The apparent ringleader of the group speaks first. “So, what. You prance around here thinkin’ you’re all better than all of us, but you don’t actually have a quirk? That’s mad fucked up.” 

Izuku says quietly, “I don’t think I’m better than anyone.” 

She springs on this immediately. “That’s good, ‘cause you sure aren’t! Useless fuck. Tell you what, if I was some quirkless nobody, I’d have jumped in front of a train a long time ago.” 

Her two cronies snigger, and Izuku narrows his eyes. This school, he reminds himself, is going to be different.  

“Why don’t you go ahead and get to your point, or else get the hell out of my way?” Izuku says. His voice isn’t any louder than before, but it’s a lot more venomous.  

“You little bitch!” spits the girl. Her hair, a bright fiery red, becomes even more so, until it’s literally glowing with heat. “You fuckin’ quirkless loser, telling me what to do?” 

“Get out of my way,” Izuku repeats simply, his gaze not leaving the girl’s. She’s got nearly a foot of height on him, but hell if he’s going to back down now. “I’m not going to say it again.” 

“I think we oughta show this bitch where he belongs,” spits the girl, and the other two nod, stepping slightly closer. She swings first, and Izuku decides that this is enough.  

About twenty minutes later, he’s sitting in the principal’s office, and he can’t bring himself to care all that much. He gets assigned to clean the classroom himself for the next week. This was expected. What he didn’t expect is that the girl- Maeno Airi, he learns her name is- gets the same punishment. Even though she never landed a hit on him, she doesn’t deny that she swung first. This is enough to land her a spot mopping the floors of their shared homeroom alongside him that day after school.  

Izuku figures that they’ll interact as little as possible- that's certainly his intention, anyways. But Maeno speaks for the first time just before they finish up.  

“You fight pretty good for a quirkless dude,” she says, and though her tone is a bit hostile, the words are quiet, and she doesn’t make eye contact. Izuku wonders if this is meant to be a peace offering.  

“Kinda have to, when I meet people like you,” Izuku replies evenly. She turns to look him in the eye, a pensive expression on her face. Izuku waits, but she doesn’t say anything. She just gathers her things and leaves. 

The next day, whispers are still following Izuku around the school, but he ignores them, for the most part. No one confronts him, and when he sees Maeno in homeroom, she gives him an unexpected nod. The swelling on her eye has gone down a bit. They don’t speak much after that, but there’s some sort of mutual understanding between the two. She doesn’t bother him again. Neither does anyone else.  

Ishii-sensei, when she learns what Izuku had done, seems displeased at first. She’s glaring even harder than usual when he comes in for his lesson. He figures his mom must’ve called her.  

“I don’t train people to pick fights,” she says, when Izuku has changed out of his school clothes and into his workout attire.  

“I did nothing more than defend myself,” Izuku replies, meeting her eyes. She considers him for a moment, but then simply nods, and that’s that.  

At least, that’s what Izuku thinks.  

He continues his training. He’s among the most fit in his class, and by the time he turns twelve, he’s begun sparring with others his age at the dojo. They still don’t talk much, but the others are friendly, and congratulate him when he wins. At first, it’s not often. He still has a lot to learn, and he’s still just a kid, anyways. But slowly, so slowly, he learns. He analyzes. He’s small, but he’s clever, and he learns how to use his smaller stature and usually greater speed to his advantage. By the time he’s ready to enter junior high school, he can last near five minutes in the ring with Ishii-sensei herself, and this is no small feat.  

Izuku had stopped writing in his journals after he switched school, but on the news one night, he sees a new hero making his debut. His costume is batlike, which fits his quirk- he's got giant leathery ears like a bat’s, and can emit sonar pulses that let him see things very far away.  

Izuku is fascinated by the new hero, calling himself Radar, and it’s only after he’s snatched up a brand new notebook from the supply in his desk and begun writing an analysis that he realizes. He almost stops, for a moment. Almost puts the pencil down and the notebook away. But he doesn’t, and he keeps writing, and for the first time in a long time, he feels his dream rekindled.  

Fuck them. Fuck them. He can fight, now. He’s physically fit. He’s clever. There are plenty of pro heros who don’t have physical quirks. Hell, some of his favorites don’t even have quirks that can really be used in battle. Take Eraserhead, for example, who’s quirk is less of an ability and more of a way to even the playing field. Or Nighteye, All Might’s famed sidekick, who can fight just fine without reading the future of every single villain he encounters. Who says a quirkless boy can’t be a hero? Wasn’t the whole point of him switching schools and going to a dojo to defy those who kicked him and become stronger? 

Midoryia Izuku decides that’s he’s going to become a hero after all, and absolutely nothing is going to stop him.  

He doesn’t tell his mother, or his teachers, or his classmates. His mother would worry, his teachers would fret, and his classmates would probably start making fun of him- he doesn’t need that, now that he’s finally gotten them to leave him alone.  

But he does tell Ishii-sensei. She nods, accepting his declaration, and then does something he doesn’t expect. She grins at him, and says, “Someone with your determination? Quirk or no, you’re gonna shake the world.” 

He stares at her in wonder, but as fast as it came, the smile disappears, and training goes as usual. Until the end, that is.  

“Midoriya,” Ishii-sensei calls as he’s preparing to leave. “Come early next time.” 

She doesn’t offer more explanation, and he doesn’t ask for any. When Ishii-sensei gives an order like that, people follow it, and Izuku is no exception.  

It’s spring vacation, a few weeks between the school years, so with no classwork to do, Izuku goes to the dojo every other day. Ishii-sensei knows this, although they only have actual scheduled lessons twice a week. When he steps foot into the building two days later, arriving nearly an hour earlier than he usually does, something feels off.  

It’s not until he’s laced his shoes and stepped into the training area that he realizes why it feels off- it's quiet, quieter than it’s ever been before, and it’s immediately clear why.  

There are only three people present in the entire dojo. Him, Ishii-sensei, and an unfamiliar man. It’s never been this empty before while Izuku’s been here, and he can only guess as to why.  

“I told everyone who’s usually here at this time to come later or on another day,” Ishii-sensei says by way of explanation. She looks to the man at her side, as if expecting him to continue.  

He’s tall, this man. Not overly so, but anyone standing next to Ishii-sensei (Or Izuku himself, really) looks tall. His hair is long, messy, and black, and his eyes have heavy bags under them. A silver scarf is wound around his neck.  

“I’m Aizawa,” the man says, and his voice sounds as bored and tired as he appears. He gives Izuku a once-over, and narrows his bloodshot eyes. “Sayua says you want to be a hero.” 

Izuku starts. He’s never heard Ishii-sensei's given name before. He frowns, staring at Aizawa, wondering why Ishii-sensei has called him over to meet this man, and why the dojo has to be empty for it.  

It isn’t until he notices the yellow goggles hidden in the folds of Aizawa’s scarf that it really clicks.  

“You’re Eraserhead,” Izuku says quietly, eyes wide. “You’re one of the heroes who made me realize I could be one too.” 

“Told you he was quick,” Ishii-sensei mutters. Aizawa only glances at her briefly before fixing his gaze on Izuku again.  

“That remains to be seen,” Aizawa says matter-of-factly. “Why do you want to be a hero, anyways? You’re quirkless. How are you going to help anyone? Seems to me you’d be more a burden than a help out in the field.” 

Izuku can’t help but flinch a bit at the harsh words, but he doesn’t back down. “Quirks are fallible. Heroes even more so. A hero who wields fire would be at the mercy of a villain with a water quirk, and a hero who can make the earth swallow someone up would be basically useless against a villain who could brainwash them. No powerful quirk is helpful in every situation, and there are many situations where a hero’s quirk is rendered essentially useless and they have to find some other way to fight. I may not have a quirk at my disposal, but neither do a lot of heroes in a lot of situations. I’m quick, and I’m clever, and I want to help people. That’s all I need, and I’ll prove it eventually.” 

He finishes his speech with a glare aimed in Aizawa’s direction, and realizes perhaps a little bit belatedly that maybe he should’ve been a tad bit politer to this professional hero passing judgement on his potential. Too late. Whatever. He stands by what he said, even if he wishes he’d thought a bit more about his delivery.  

Ishii-sensei and Aizawa are both staring at him, and both of their faces are utterly expressionless and unreadably. He has no idea what they’re thinking. That is, until Aizawa grins widely in a way that’s honestly kind of creepy, and says, “I see. So you do have potential after all.” 

These words change just about everything.  

 

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. 

 

Aizawa Shouta has been a teacher for four years at this point. His first year was hell. It wasn’t the students’ fault, of course, except it kind of was, and Shouta earned a pretty harsh reputation that he wasn’t all that fond of. He expelled half his class before summer break, and another four students before the year was out. He felt bad, at first, but the guilt disappeared fairly quickly. After all, the hero business was tough. If a student doesn't have potential as a student, then they won't succeed as an actual hero. It’s as simple as that. It was better to crush those dreams early then to let them go through years of training only to be confronted with a harsh truth upon their debut.  

The second year was easier in some ways, and harder in others. UA worked in such a way that every class would have the same homeroom teacher for all three years. He knew his homeroom kids better, but expelling the two he had to that year was also far more difficult. Admitting that he’d made a mistake, and that neither of them really had what it took despite having come that far, was not easy. But he’d done it, and he didn’t regret it.  

The third year, all of the students that remained in the course (of which there were only four that had been in class A from the beginning, and five that had transferred from general studies at various points) were strong, determined, and clearly had the dedication required to be excellent heroes. Seeing what these students had served to highlight what all of the students he’d expelled had been missing. He couldn’t regreat his choices, and when he got an entirely new class of students the next year, he was even less lenient.  

The first year with his second batch of homeroom kids is over, and out of the twenty that had started, there remain 9 that will be invited to continue their studies at UA next year. It’s a better number than the first time around, although not by much, and Snipe, who’s the homeroom teacher for one of the general studies classes, has reported that he has six students who he thinks could make the cut to get transferred over. Shouta plans to see the kids that Snipe recommended a few days into the new school year.  

In fact, he’d intended to spend the weeks in between the years preparing for his classes second year, and thinking of curriculum change recommendations to give to Nedzu at the meeting they’ll have before the year starts. But then Sayua called in a favor, and considering how rarely he sees his former classmate, despite her being one of the few he would’ve called a friend by graduation, he couldn’t refuse.  

Sayua hasn’t changed much, over the years. She’d decided, much to the chagrin of basically everyone who knew her, to switch to the general studies department after her first year at UA. Shouta understands her decision perfectly, although he can’t say he wasn’t a bit disappointed at the time. She would’ve made a fantastic hero, there’s no doubt about that. It’s clear, however, that teaching suits her. She’s still as blunt and emotionless as she was back then, but she’s also got a way of telling people what they need to hear.  

“I’ve got this boy who wants to be a hero,” is how she greeted him over the phone, as they spoke for the first time in two years just yesterday.  

She’d explained the situation, how this boy was quirkless, but had a spark that she thought could make him something great. How if he really went down this path, he was gonna need guidance from someone besides her.  

Teaching one of the hundreds of young wannabe heroes before they’d properly earned the chance to do so generally went against Shouta’s code. But he decided he’d meet the boy, at least. Sayua wasn’t the type of person to ask favors without need.  

And now. Well, well, well. He’ll be lying if he says he’s not impressed by the kid. Midoriya Izuku, despite being a short, scrawny kid with no power to speak of, has the sort of determination burning in his eyes that can only be found on true do-gooders like All Might himself. And he’s clearly got no shortage of wits.  

Shouta doesn’t technically have a quirk that gives him much advanatage in actual brute fighting. If he’s up against some giant who’s got bones made of steel, even his quirk can’t do anything. He fights on his own merit- exactly like the boy talked about.  

Shouta thinks he can work with this kid. All the boy’s gotta do now is prove he deserves it.  

 

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Izuku shows up early at the small gym that Aizawa had told him to go to. He’s already wearing his workout clothes, like his new teacher had instructed, and he’s curious to see what’s in store for him.  

A week ago was when he met Aizawa. Ishii-sensei and him had done their usual training and sparring. The only difference was the mostly empty dojo and the spectating pro hero. After, as Izuku was cooling down, Aizawa had simply told him to meet in one week, at the same time. He’d given Izuku an address, and that was that.  

Now, as he pushes the door open, he sees a gym that is... not what he’d expect from a pro hero’s training center.  It’s small, for one. Sure, the outside had made it look tiny, but he’d thought maybe there was a basement, or it was bigger than it looked. But no, the entire thing is about the same size as Midoriya’s apartment- not big at all. The equipment couldn’t be described as ‘state of the art’ either. A single treadmill, weight-lifting machine, and punching bag sit towards one of the corners, all looking old and very well-used. Four battered training dummies are arranged on the opposite wall.  

Aizawa is there already, and he’s wearing black workout clothes this time. His hair is pulled back into a messy sort of bun. From the sheen of sweat on his forehead as he beats the shit out of one of the unfortunate dummies, he’s been here a while.  

He glances towards Izuku when the younger boy steps in, but that’s all the acknowledgement given. Izuku decides to sit in one of the uncomfortable metal folding chairs that line the walls and wait.  

Aizawa doesn’t make him wait long. It’s only about ten minutes, which is fair, considering Izuku was fifteen minutes early. The older man dabs a towel on his face, then wraps it around his neck and approaches Izuku.  

“Your performance yesterday wasn’t bad,” Aizawa says, in lieu of a greeting, “But it’s not enough. Sayua only teaches self-defense. She doesn’t teach combat skills that future heroes might need. I invited you here as a favor to her, and because your potential is nonzero. I have no qualms about asking you to leave at any point.” 

He pauses, as if to make sure Izuku is still listening. Izuku definitely is.  

“I’m going to teach you some basic forms today,” Aizawa continues. “If it’s too much for you, you’re free to leave at any time, with the understanding that you will not be invited back if you do.” 

“Ishii-sensei taught me some of the stances already,” Izuku says, already making up his mind that he wouldn’t walk out that door before Aizawa dismissed him even if he was at death’s door.  

“That’s a start. Show me what you know,” Aizawa orders briefly. Izuku hurries to comply.  

The lesson lasts nearly three hours, far longer than Izuku’s usual workouts. Izuku is absolutely exhausted from all of the stances Aizawa made him hold and the drills Aizawa made him run, but he couldn’t be happier. He feels like he’s on the path he truly needs to be for him to become a hero.  

Aizawa walks him home. The sun is almost completely set, and Aizawa says he wants to speak with Izuku’s mother as well. Izuku isn’t going to argue about spending even more time with pro hero Eraserhead. He can see why the man is a teacher, too. Although he acts gruff, he’s answered almost of all of Izuku’s questions about both his past exploits and teaching career at UA. Plus, as Izuku is chattering away on the way home to fill the silence, he assumes Aizawa will be tuning him out, and is therefore very surprised and gratified when Aizawa actually cuts in to add a point about quirk theory.  

When Izuku’s mother opens the door, she becomes immediately flustered upon seeing Aizawa. Izuku had told him that the pro hero was trainging him now, and she’d been as excited as he was. She very clearly was not expecting to meet him tonight, but to her credit, she adjusts fairly quickly.  

“Aizawa-san. It’s lovely to meet you,” Izuku’s mom says after she’s calmed a bit. She invites him in graciously, offering tea and refreshments, which Aizawa politely declines.  

“I only came by to walk Midoriya home, and introduce myself,” he tells her calmly, bowing slightly and declinging her invitations to come in. “Your son shows a lot of potential. I’m happy to help him how I can in his journey to become a hero.” 

Aizawa bows slightly to Izuku’s mom, making her blush slightly, and that’s that. He politely says his goodbyes and turns to walk away.  

“Aizawa-sensei!” Izuku calls, making the man turn slightly, an inquisitive eyebrow raised. “When should I come back to the gym?” 

Aizawa lets loose another smile- only the second one Izuku’s seen on him, the first being the almost manic grin that he’d seen at their introduction. This one is quieter, more subdued. “Tomorrow. Same time.” 

Aizawa walks away, and Izuku walks inside.  

This is only the beginning, Izuku thinks to himself. 

 

. 

. 

. 

 

They train almost every single day. When Aizawa isn’t too tired from teaching and hero patrol, they spar and learn new moves and forms. Otherwise, he simply watches Izuku practice the old ones and gives tips and advice when needed. It’s an effective regimen, and over time, Izuku has noticed the physical results. Simply put, he’s jacked.  

Aizawa has been training him for nearly two years now. He’s been calling Izuku by his given name for almost one. It makes Izuku far happier than he cares to admit.  

Izuku has been studying and training for long enough that he feels like he could take the entrance tomorrow, and he would do fine. He’s easily the most fit kid in his current school, and actually gets a special pass (curtesy of Aizawa) to work out on his own during gym class rather than doing the far too simple activities that all of the other students do.  

He doesn’t get bothered at all. Everyone knows he’s quirkless, but everyone also knows he’ll fight back, and can kick the shit out of just about anyone in their class. He keeps to himself, and his classmates let him. He doesn’t have friends, but that’s nothing new. He does have a mother who cheers him on constantly, and to whom he can tell just about anything. His mother is his best friend, and he knows that some people think that’s something to be ashamed of, but Izuku’s not. His mom is awesome.  

It’s about ten months before the UA entrance exam when he has his first encounter with a villain.  

Izuku is on his way to Aizawa’s gym after school, and, enjoying the nice day out, decides to take the longer route there. This path takes him along a lovely little park, and under a small underpass. It’s there that Izuku is ambushed.  

The slime creature seems to come out of nowhere. One second Izuku is walking along, clutching his backpack and muttering to himself about a new debuting hero who calls herself ‘Mt. Lady’, and the next his entire body is being engulfed in a disgusting green film with eyes.  

“Don’t worry, kid,” the creature gurgles, its voice echoing around the underpass, “It’ll only hurt for about forty seconds.” 

Izuku claws at his throat, desperately trying to get free. The thing is utterly unaffected at his fingers raking through it, as the liquid simply reforms the moment he tears it apart. It's like trying to tear through water.  

His lungs are screaming, and his vision is beginning to blur. In a last-ditch effort to keep the villain from going down his throat and filling his lungs, he strikes out at the one spot on the villain that seems different from the rest of it- the eyes.  

His nails connects. The villain screams, its eye seeping a thick green fluid that Izuku assumes is its version of blood. Izuku hopes for a precious second that the villain will release its grip enough to allow him to take another breath, but no- it sees what he’s trying to do, and fortifies its hold on him.  

Just before Izuku’s vision goes dark, he hears a gurgling hiss in his ears of, “You’ll regret that, boy.”  

Then a loud crash, a familiar laugh, and Izuku loses consciousness.  

 

. 

. 

. 

 

“Young man!”  

Something is slapping his cheek. Izuku registers this blearily, and then it all comes back to him, and he sits up abruptly. His forehead slams into something very solid, which makes him swear, and a familiar voice above him echoes the sentiment with a loud and pronounced English, “Shit.” 

Rubbing the sore spot on his head, Izuku peers up at the person above him, and it takes a great deal of effort to not scream.  

“All Might!” he breathes, eyes wide, and scrambles to his feet. All Might is rubbing his jaw, and it doesn’t take a detective to figure out what Izuku had hit his head against. “Uh, sorry?” he offers tentatively.  

“No problem, my boy, no problem at all,” All Might declares loudly. Izuku can hardly breathe. All Might, his hero, his idol, is standing right in front of him. He’s not in his hero costume- rather, he’s wearing a very tight-fitting white t-shirt and jeans. He’s also carrying a shopping bag. Izuku idly wonders where All Might shops, but quickly decides it’s not important.  

“I apologize for allowing this villain to evade me, thus thrusting you into the conflict,” All Might says briskly, “As you can see, the villain is contained.” 

He shows Izuku a soda bottle, filled with familiar green slime and a couple of floating, conked-out eyeballs, one of which has a long scratch on it. 

“Anyways, now that I know you’re all right, I really must be going,” All Might says, and, caught unawares, Izuku only has time to do something very stupid- he grabs All Might’s leg.  

In all fairness, there was no way for Izuku to know that All Might was going to launch himself into the air. Izuku’s expecting him to just run, or maybe walk very briskly. Izuku isn’t expecting to be launched up a few hundred meters into the air with only his grip on the number one hero’s leg to keep him from falling to his death, anymore than All Might is expecting his trip to the police station to be delayed by the unexpected realization that a teenager is clinging to him.  

All Might lands on a roof, and Izuku lets go immediately, scrambling back, panting heavily.  

All Might opens his mouth to say something, but before he can get a word out, he’s enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Izuku chokes back a cry of alarm as his hero disappears, and when the smoke clears, it’s an entirely different man standing on the roof with Izuku.  

Except... it’s not.  

Along with his muscles, Izuku has been honing his mind as well, and that includes his analysis and observation skills. The man is emaciated, bone thin and absolutely swamped in the white t-shirt and jeans. But it’s the same outfit All Might was wearing, and the hair, the eyes, even the facial expression is very similar to All Might’s. Izuku is no fool, and he recognizes his hero, muscles or not.  

“All Might?” he asks hesitantly, and can’t hold back a shout of alarm as the hero tries to speak again, and coughs up blood instead.  

He waits, very alarmed but trusting the number one hero to know what’s best, until All Might’s coughing has subsided.  

“That was a very foolish thing you did,” says All Might, reprimanding, “Grabbing onto me like that. Had I not noticed, I could’ve accidently killed you upon my landing.” 

“Sorry,” Izuku offers, “I didn’t exactly know you were going to jump.” 

“Yes, well, all the same,” All Might sighs. “I suppose you’re curious about my appearance, hm?” 

Izuku listens as his idol explains his past, a gruesome villain battle and the even moreso injury that resulted from it. He keeps his face carefully neutral as All Might explains his limits, and informs Izuku that he’s running on borrowed time.  

By the end of the story, Izuku is holding back sympathetic tears, well aware that it would likely only embarrass All Might if he let loose. All Might seems to be studying his face for a reaction, but Izuku is determined not to let his show.  

“I’m sure you understand, of course, that this information absolutely must be kept secret, my boy,” All Might says, and Izuku nods immediately.  

“Of course. I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me,” Izuku reassures him immediately.  

“Go ahead and knock on the door. I’m sure someone will let you down,” All Might orders him- but Izuku isn’t about to let this opportunity slip through his fingers.  

“Wait!” he says, stepping forward. All Might pauses, looking back at Izuku.  

“The reason I grabbed onto you,” Izuku says quickly, “I needed to ask you something. It’s important.” 

All Might makes a motion with his hand, clearly indicating for Izuku to go on. 

“I’m quirkless,” Izuku says, and tries to ignore the immediate surprise and slight pity that appears on All Might’s face. “But I’ve been training, so I’m strong, and I’m good at analysis. I’m clever. Do you think I can be a hero anyways?” 

All Might considers, and Izuku waits with baited breath. He’s waited a long time for this chance, and he’s been imagining what inspiring words All Might could give him in response. In his wildest fantasies, All Might tells him he can, and offers to personally train him. In his more realistic imaginings, All Might tells him it’s possible, with a lot of work, and a lot of heart. He knows whatever All Might says next, it’ll be critically important to Izuku’s development as a hero.  

He doesn’t expect the words that All Might says next. In every scenario he’d imagined, never once did he think All Might would echo the words of his childhood classmates and teachers, and say, “No. I do not believe a quirkless person can become a hero. It is simply too great a disadvantage.” 

Izuku feels his breath catch in his throat. He stares at All Might, not quite comprehending what his greatest hero is saying.  

“There are other, safer careers for a young man such as yourself to pursue that would still help people,” All Might continues, and begins to lift off examples- police officers, paramedics, firefighters, etc. Izuku has stopped listening by this point.  

He barely even registers when All Might claps him on the shoulder, resumes his muscled form, and leaps off the roof.  

He figures he must knock on the door at some point. Someone probably lets him down. He probably starts walking to the gym. To be honest, he doesn’t really remember doing any of that, but considering he’s now standing in the gym, still clutching his backpack, hands clenched so tightly he’s not sure he’s physically capable of releasing it anymore, he figures it must’ve happened.  

“Izuku?” Aizawa’s voice makes him look up, but awareness doesn’t fully return.  

“Izuku, what’s wrong?” These words, for whatever reason, trigger the flood, and the tears spring into his eyes. His lets out a strangled grasp, drops his bag on the floor, and suddenly he’s not quite sure how to breathe anymore.  

He’s vaguely aware of Aizawa clutching his shoulders, instructing him to breathe, Izuku, breathe with me. He makes himself measure his breaths, timing them with his teacher’s, until his heart isn’t racing quite as fast and he can see Aizawa in full clarity again. The tears peter down.  

Aizawa waits until Izuku has fully regained control of himself before he lets go of Izuku’s shoulders, looks the boy in the eye, and says gently, “Tell me what happened.” 

Izuku describes the villain attack in as short of terms as he can manage, not wanting to relive the trauma. He absently reaches up to massage his throat as he describes it.  Aizawa’s eyes follow the motion.  

Then he gets to the encounter with All Might. The moment he mentions the name, Aizawa’s expression darkens. When Izuku tells his teacher what All Might told him about being a hero, Aizawa scoffs out loud.  

“You shouldn't listen to someone like All Might, who has a perfect quirk for this,” Aizawa tells him firmly. “He has no frame of reference for your situation. How could he possibly give you reliable advice?” 

Izuku blinks, surprised. “Y- you don’t think the advice of the number one hero matters?” 

Aizawa shakes his head. “Nah. He doesn't know you, but I do. Take my word for it- you'll make a fine hero.” 

Coming from someone like Aizawa, this is extremely high praise, and Izuku can’t help it- he throws his arms around his teacher. Aizawa stiffens briefly, before letting out a small sigh and giving in to the hug. As they break apart, Aizawa pats his shoulder a bit. It’s a little awkward, but Izuku appreciates the gesture.   

They resume training, and Aizawa gives him advice as to what he should do if he’s caught in a hold like he was before again. Izuku is a lot shakier than normal, but Aizawa goes a little bit easy on him, which is uncharacteristic. Normally, Izuku would protest and insist he give it his all, but after today’s events? He doesn’t protest.  

As Izuku leaves, Aizawa ruffles his hair a bit, and Izuku smiles gratefully at him. If he didn’t have a teacher like Aizawa to turn to, Izuku doesn’t know how he would’ve taken the words of All Might. He doesn’t know how he would’ve handled it. He might’ve made some drastic decisions. It doesn’t bear thinking about. 

It isn’t until the next day that Izuku learns about the slime villain’s escape, and his subsequent attack on Kacchan, through whispers and rumors circulating about the boy’s powerful quirk and what a strong hero he’d make some day.  

Izuku considers dropping by the Bakugou household to check in on him, but decides against it.  

 

. 

. 

. 

 

“You want me to what now?”  

“Clean the beach,” Aizawa repeats. His tone leaves no room for argument, but Izuku considers it anyways. It’s nine months to the exam now. The beach is a mess, covered in piles and piles of garbage. Anything from broken computers to shredded couches to entire broken-down cars can be found here. Cleaning up the entire beach in a span of nine months? It’s... a hell of a task, that’s for sure.  

“The... entire beach,” Izuku says weakly. Aizawa nods resolutely.  

Well. Izuku isn’t exactly one for giving up halfway. He heaves a sigh, cracks his knuckles, and hoists two nearby rubber tires onto his shoulder to lug them towards the rusty truck Aizawa has brought.  

Aizawa watches for the first hour or so. Then, apparently deciding that Izuku has it under control, says, “Wake me when the truck is full.” 

Then he pulls out his yellow sleeping bag and prompty goes to sleep.  

Izuku feels like he should be annoyed, but instead he just huffs a laugh, and lifts a microwave with some effort.  

He manages to fill the truck five times over the course of eight hours. It’s not exactly the way Izuku had expected to be spending his Saturday, but he actually kind of enjoys the work. He gets into a rhythm after a while. Every time the bed of the truck becomes too full, he calls for Aizawa (who wakes weirdly fast), who drives the truck off, presumably to some landfill. By the time he returns to promptly crawl back into his sleeping bag, Izuku has hauled over some heavier peices of garbage to load up.  

By the time Aizawa returns after dumping the last load, Izuku is exhausted, and his muscles are burning. He doesn’t mind, truth be told, and feels like he could keep going for a bit more, but Aizawa firmly tells him to go home, eat a large and healthy supper, and go to bed immediately. Too wrung-out to argue, Izuku does just that.  

It becomes routine, after a while. On weekends, Izuku works from basically dawn until dusk. Aizawa sometimes sleeps, sometimes leaves until Izuku texts him that he’s filled the truck, and sometimes works on paperwork. On schooldays, Izuku goes directly to the beach, and usually manages about five hours before Aizawa tells him to go home. Aizawa always sleeps on the weekdays.  

Izuku does his homework in class when he can, and spends all of his freetime at home studying vigourously for the upcoming exam. His sleep suffers a bit for it, but Izuku, cursed with insomnia since childhood, has long since learned how to make do on three hours of sleep or less.  

Izuku’s mother is supportive as ever. Occasionally, she’ll stop by on weekends and bring lunch for Izuku. Usually, she’s all too conveniently brought too much, and Aizawa begrudgingly accepts the food that Izuku’s mom basically forces at him. She always makes something healthy, but delicious. Izuku wishes he could cook as well as her. The lunches he brings along for himself on weekdays are healthy, but subpar in regards to taste. She used to let him help, and she’s offered to do the same recently, but Izuku simply doesn’t have the time for cooking lessions alongside everything else.  

Aizawa drives off with the last truckload of garbage the day before the UA entrance exam. Izuku waits for his return on the now clean beach, watching the ocean in the morning light. It’s not even noon yet.  

Upon Aizawa’s return, he drills Izuku for about an hour on all of the forms and stances he’d been taught, to ensure that Izuku still remembers them for the exam tomorrow. He does, of course. He wouldn’t let himself forget something that important.  

“Alright, kid,” Aizawa says once the training is finished, “I’d say you've done as much as you can. You should rest for the rest of today, and actually sleep a full night for once.” 

Izuku nods, and thinks that Aizawa probably knows as well as he does that he will likely not be sleeping very much at all, caught up in last minute studying and preparations. He turns, grabbing his lunchbox, and then pauses when Aizawa speaks again.  

“I’ll likely not be able to see until after the exam,” Aizawa says quietly, “So I’ll say it now. I’m proud of you, kid. Regardless of the results.” 

Izuku turns, unable to help the tears that spring up. Aizawa is fairly used to how emotional Izuku gets at times, so he only rolls his eyes, ruffles Izuku’s hair, and makes a pointed gesture for the boy to go away.  

He obeys, but he can’t quite keep the bounce out of his step as he walks home.  

He’s gonna make it to UA if it’s the last thing he does.