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Words as Weapons

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Five Years Ago

 

 

Father still isn’t back yet.

 

“I’ll just be gone for a few hours, a day at most,” Father had assured him before stepping out in the suit he saves for special occasions.

 

Izuku knows that oftentimes, his father lies, but Father has never before been gone longer than a day.

 

It’s been over a week.

 

Izuku could be worried, but instead, he finds himself filled with a sort of sick hope. He knows he shouldn’t, he knows that he should want his father to come back. But he just can’t. These past eleven days have been the calmest of his life. There’s no one telling him what to make or eat, no one proofreading every piece of his homework, no one taking him into the basement for all sorts of training at all hours.

 

It’s just Izuku and whatever Izuku wants to do.

 

He makes himself meals his father would never approve of. He eats desert without Father’s permission. He watches hero cartoons on the television instead of the news Father always puts on.

 

Despite the comfortable haze Izuku settles into, he always dreads coming home from school. What if today is the day he comes back?

 

A couple nights, Izuku doesn’t go home. He sleeps in the park on a bench or with a sleeping bag in an alleyway. He could be scared but, honestly, nothing scares him anymore. Nothing but Father.

 

On the eleventh day, Izuku goes home after school. He’s had enough restless nights outside that his back is starting to hurt. If Father is here, then Izuku might as well deal with him now rather than later.

 

He steps up to the door and silently turns the key. It swings open with less sound than Izuku makes breathing.

 

Father’s shoes are there, scuffed and so worn they’re barely usable anymore, but they’re there nonetheless. Izuku’s blood runs cold but his face doesn’t show it. He enters, closes the door, and switches into his slippers.

 

“Father!” Izuku calls. “I’m home!”

 

Silence. Nothing.

 

Izuku’s fingers twitch, nervous energy needing somewhere to go.

 

Where’s their routine? Father is supposed to respond with, welcome home, Izuku! Then, once they’re in the same room, they’ll engage in a safe conversation about how each other’s days were.

 

But, Father doesn’t say welcome home .

 

He doesn’t say anything.

 

Izuku debates, for a moment, ignoring the fact that his father should be here and just continuing on with his day. But then he considers the hours of chastising he’ll likely get later for not properly greeting him and Izuku goes in search of him.

 

The first thing he notices is the beeping. He can hear it from the hallway. It’s not particularly loud, but accompanied by the rhythmic heavy breathing, it’s sufficiently unsettling. Izuku knocks on Father’s door twice, like he always does.

 

“Izuku?” asks a voice that isn’t his father’s. It’s rough and quiet and broken and half-air and lacks the confidence Father’s voice has.

 

Izuku doesn’t want to open the door.

 

“Izuku,” the voice says again. “Come in... please.”

 

He opens the door anyway. Izuku doesn’t recognize the room. He isn’t sure how it was remodeled so quickly, but then he remembers he hasn’t been home in three days.

 

Right.

 

The wall of bookshelves has been replaced with a pair of bulky machines, both spewing an uncountable mess of tubes and wires leading into the wall and the bed. The bed, which had once been covered in a comforter and a mass of pillows, now has nothing but a sheet.

 

And a man.

 

The man is hooked up to many of the wires and tubes, but Izuku’s eyes don’t stay still long enough to catch what is leading where. The man wears an oxygen mask, which is likely what dulls his voice. Above the mask lie bandages which fit tightly against the entire top-half of his face and over his hair--or, based on how tight it is, maybe he doesn’t have any hair. Izuku’s eyes linger on the bandages, on the fact that they cover his eyes , but there’s so much new information in this room alone that Izuku can’t process everything.

 

“Where were you last night?” the man asks in that half-choking voice of his.

 

Izuku grips the doorknob a little tighter.

 

“Where’s my father? Midoriya Hisashi?”

 

The man’s entire body tenses and the beeping speeds up for a moment before settling down again.

 

“Izuku...” he sounds sad, dejected, but Izuku is the one who doesn’t know why this injured stranger in his house.

 

“Who are you?” Izuku asks, trying to hide his fear.

 

The man takes a moment to just breathe--because he needs to consciously think about the action--and then says, “ I am your father, Izuku. I am Hisashi.”

 

Izuku bites his lower lip. “You’re not,” he whispers. “You can’t be.”

 

“Here--” the man reaches out his hand slowly, the process obviously measured. “--I’ll prove it. You don’t have one right now, do you? I’ll give you one... Which do you want? Air Walk? A strength enhancer? Pull? I’ve been gone far too long. You can pick whichever you want.”

 

Izuku lets out a breath.

 

The choice.

 

His father rarely lets him chose which quirk he gets and he already knows his answer--of course he does.

 

“Pull,” he announces, trying to sound confident. “I want Pull.”

 

The man-- Hisashi? --smiles behind the oxygen mask and curls his fingers in a beckon for Izuku to move closer. “Come here and I’ll give it to you.”

 

After a moment of hesitation, Izuku lets go of the door handle and steps into the room. It smells like a hospital, which Izuku only recognizes from the time Father got paranoid over a simple cold and they went to the emergency room.

 

“You don’t have to be scared, Izuku.”

 

Izuku takes a deep breath and reaches out his hand.

 

As soon as they touch he feels it, the power which constantly buzzes under his father’s skin, the myriad of quirks which are so close but never within Izuku’s own reach. And then, like a chill running over his entire body, a part of that power transfers to him. A single quirk. More than Izuku himself has naturally, but just a fraction of his father’s power.

 

He feels the already familiar tug of Pull, his favorite quirk out of all the ones he’s tried so far.

 

“Believe me?” his father asks, withdrawing his hand.

 

“Yes, sorry, Father.” Izuku glances up at his father’s face but can’t bring himself to look for longer than a second.

 

“There was a villain attack,” Father supplies, “on my way home from the meeting. They got the car and... before I realized what had happened...”

 

Izuku swallows. In the silence all he hears is medical equipment and Father’s heavy breaths.

 

“I was in the hospital,” Father continues. “And... this had happened.”

 

“How long ago?” Izuku asks quietly.

 

“What?”

 

“How long ago did you wake up?”

 

Father cringes and looks away. “Two days ago.”

 

Izuku flinches, but keeps his voice carefully even as he says, “I see,” and leaves the room.

 

 


 

 

Present Day

 

 

“Since you’re all third years, now, it’s about time we discuss high school aspirations,” their homeroom teacher announces. There’s a moment of silence before he continues, “Who am I kidding, you’re all looking to become heroes!”

 

The class erupts into excited chatter and cheer.

 

“Midoriya-kun and Bakugou-kun,” the teacher begins, quickly getting their attention. “You’ve both already decided on trying for UA, correct?”

 

Katsuki just grunts an affirmative.

 

“Yes!” Izuku answers cheerfully, pumping a fist into the air. He deflates after a moment. “Is it just us who are applying?”

 

The teacher scrunches up his nose. “Ah, yes, as far as I know.”

 

Izuku frowns. “Why isn’t anybody else applying?” He turns to the classroom as a whole, and they know someone will have to answer.

 

“We don’t, uh, have suitable quirks, you know?” a boy answers, rubbing the back of his head.

 

“Nonsense!” Izuku answers with a clap of his hands. “First off, it’s not just the quirk that makes the hero. Secondly, all of you have quirks that could be used for heroics if you tried!”

 

They’ve all heard this speech before, but none of them interrupt him.

 

They know better.

 

“Yes, Midoriya-kun, you’re quite right,” the teacher states after clearing his throat. “Now, let’s get back to class, everyone.”

 

 

Izuku walks home alone, like he does every day. Once, many years ago, Katsuki had tried walking home with him, seeing as they only lived a block away from each other. Izuku’s father hadn’t approved and they never did it again.

 

So, Izuku walks home alone, earbuds playing energetic classical music. He takes the slightly longer route. He likes this way better; it’s less direct and more scenic. His class got out a bit early, anyways, so he can spare the extra minute.

 

As walks under the overpass, he doesn’t hear the sewer cover slide open or the animate slime crawl out. He isn’t even aware he’s in danger until he can’t breath. Liquid slides past his earbuds and into his ears, his nose and his mouth. He struggles, bites down, claws, tries to hold his breath, but there’s only so long he’ll be able to last.

 

His current quirk, Pull, is useless in this scenario, and he’s fully aware of this fact as his vision wanes and all he can hear is his heart beating much too quickly in his ears.

 

And then it’s over.

 

The villain bursts away with a gust of wind.

 

Izuku drops to his knees and tries to breath. Someone hits his back and he coughs up remnants of the slime until his lungs are free. Izuku blinks away tears and sees none other than the Number One Hero.

 

“All Might,” Izuku breathes.

 

All Might smiles down at him with the same smile Izuku has seen everywhere--the news, the internet, posters, t-shirts--except it’s here, in real life, and it’s directed at him. Izuku can’t help but smile back.

 

“How are you feeling, my boy?” All Might asks, voice echoing against the walls.

 

“Great!” Izuku answers as he pushes himself to his feet. “Wow, I seriously can’t believe you’re All Might. You are All Might, right?”

 

All Might laughs. “Of course I am! However, I am in a hurry, so if you’re alright I must be going.”

 

“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m totally fine!”

 

All Might furrows his eyebrows. “If you’re so sure,” he mutters, but still louder than anyone’s natural speaking volume. “Please get checked up at a hospital just to be safe.”

 

And then All Might leaves in a flurry of movement that Izuku’s eyes can’t track.

 

Izuku smiles at the memory of All Might and searches the underpass for his backpack. It’s soaked and a little slimy, but otherwise the contents are relatively fine. He immediately calls his father.

 

“Izuku?” his father asks, a semblance of concern riddling his voice. “Are you alright?”

 

“I’m running a few minutes late,” Izuku says, already walking. “I’m totally fine. I’m not hurt at all. I just got in a little altercation with a villain.”

 

“Really? What happened?”

 

“I’m not entirely sure myself. I can explain once I get home. I’m ten or fifteen minutes away at this point.”

 

“Alright,” his father says, not sounding very convinced. “As long as you’re safe.”

 

“I am. Love you. See you soon.”

 

“Love you too.”

 

 

Izuku doesn’t expect to encounter another villain on his walk home, but he does. So, he does what he always does when he comes across a villain attack on his walk. He texts his father he’ll be a couple extra minutes late, and steps forward to watch.

 

He knows he’s more than a bit hypocritical as he judges the civilians gawking at the event, doing nothing more than gossip and complain. He tries to convince himself that he’s different, that he’s observing for analytical purposes, to learn something, but it doesn’t work.

 

He weaves through the crowd, already making observations. The smell of smoke. Unusual silence. The heroes are normally louder, flashier. A reporter is narrating but it’s hard for him to understand over the hum of the crowd. When he finally breaks through, he realizes what’s going on before the reporter says it.

 

“The heroes are unable to interfere with the situation until someone with a more suitable quirk shows up.”

 

Unable .

 

The word weighs on Izuku, pushes him down until he can barely breath. Because there’s a victim, right there, suffocating like Izuku was just minutes before, and no one is doing anything because the heroes have unsuitable quirks. Because the risk is too high. Because the victim is fighting back the only way they know how.

 

Their eyes meet and the victim is no longer a victim, but Bakugou Katsuki.

 

Izuku is moving before he realizes it, the previous weight propelling him like a spring.

 

His father’s words echo around him, surrounding him, “Heroes are naturally selfish, Izuku. They’re only it in for the money or the fame."

 

Izuku knows the limits of his current quirk. He knows it isn’t suitable against a liquid pile of slime. But Izuku goes anyway, running past the reporter and the couple of heroes who try to stop him, reaching out with Pull and finding the villain’s two eyes. He doesn’t stop running even as he takes them in his grasp and Pulls them towards him.

 

He only tertiarily registers the villain’s screams, more focused on Katsuki. Izuku wishes he could Pull bigger things, just Pull Katsuki himself out. But he can’t. So instead he reaches out with his hands, ignoring the blistering heat, ignoring the slime tugging at him.

 

A familiar burst of air disintegrates the slime and the shout of, “I am here! ” ends everything.

 

 

“What were you thinking?” Kamui Woods asks him as he sits on the end of the ambulance, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Katsuki is right next to him, getting an entirely different speech from another hero.

 

Izuku drops his head and lets a few tears out. He wraps his arms around his chest. “I-I wasn’t,” he says. “It just--I had--and then I was running.”

 

“Hey,” Kamui says, crouching down, putting his hands on Izuku’s knees. “It’s okay. I’m sorry. We were all just worried for you. What you did was very dangerous. You could have seriously gotten hurt.”

 

Izuku nods and wipes the tears from his eyes.

 

Katsuki scoffs.

 

“I need to--to call my dad,” Izuku says. Kamui stands up and gives him a small smile.

 

“Of course, go ahead.”

 

Izuku takes his phone from his bag, which one of the heroes had placed on the ground beside them at some point, and dials his father.

 

“Are you alright?” Hisashi asks, slightly desperate.

 

Izuku sniffs. “I’m--I’ll be fine. I don’t know how much longer they’ll keep me for so I don’t know when I’ll be able to make dinner.”

 

“Don’t push yourself, please. I’ll order us something. You’ve had a long day.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“And you’re sure you’re fine?”

 

“Physically? Yeah. I got checked out by a medic and everything.”

 

“Just, promise you’ll stay safe.”

 

“Promise.”

 

“I love you. Come home in one piece.”

 

“Love you, too. Bye.”

 

“Oi, Izukun,” Katsuki grunts after the heroes leave.

 

Izuku just hums in response, turning to look at Katsuki.

 

“What was that crying shit about? We both know literally the only thing you do is think.”

 

Izuku snorts. “You know just as well as I do, Kachan.”

 

Katsuki rolls his eyes with enough drama to roll his head with them. “It was one of your ploys, sure, but how does looking like a little bitch help you?”

 

“Kachan,” Izuku begins with a little more condescension than he had intended, “Is now really the right time to talk about this? And why should I just give you the answer, anyway? You’re smart enough to figure it out on your own.”

 

Katsuki snarls and turns away. “Fine. And I hope you’re not expecting a thank you. ‘Cause you ain’t getting one.”

 

Izuku just smiles. “Of course not.”

 

 

He finally leaves after an hour of a police and a hero interview.

 

Less than five minutes into his walk, he runs into All Might again.

 

“My boy!” All Might announces as he skids to a stop.

 

“All Might?” Izuku asks, subconsciously fixing his posture. “What are you doing here?”

 

Before All Might can answer, he erupts into a cloud of smoke. When it dies down, a man with All Might’s height and hair, but who has maybe half, if that, of his weight stands in his place.

 

“Shit,” the man--who is either All Might or some sort of impersonator--cusses before coughing out a spurt of blood.

 

Izuku can’t help but reach out to support him, thinking of his father in perpetual bed rest back at home.

 

“I’m fine, young man,” All Might insists--because by Occam’s Razor he is All Might.

 

Izuku furrows his eyebrows. “If you’re coughing blood, you’re missing some internal organs. You’re not fine. My father has sustained a similar level of injuries and he’s essentially bedridden.”

 

All Might frowns ever so slightly; it’s more like a cringe. “A villain attack?”

 

Izuku nods. “Yes, a few years ago.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Izuku tilts his head. “Why? It was a villain who injured him, not you.”

 

“I was unable to protect him.”

 

Izuku pouts and is silent for a moment. “I don’t expect you to protect everyone. No offense, but you’re simply incapable of the feat.”

 

All Might jolts a bit and coughs again. “Oh!” he exclaims. “You’re probably confused. About... this.” All Might waves a hand in a gesture at his form.

 

Izuku shrugs. “I mean, no one knows what your quirk is. Mutation, although a rare theory with very little previous evidence, was still on the table.” Izuku knows. He wrote a six page paper on the mutation theory. Although it hadn’t satiated his father, it had entertained him.

 

“It isn’t... exactly mutation.” All Might somehow manages to look sheepish, an expression Izuku never would have imagined on his face before. He clears his throat. “Well, I came here today to tell you that what you did earlier was extremely heroic. It’s what spurred me to action! Who knows what would’ve happened if you hadn’t stepped in.”

 

Izuku smiles and tries really hard to bury his paranoia that All Might is just saying that to get something from him. He fails. “Thanks.”

 

“What is your quirk, if you’re willing to share?”

 

Izuku dips his head a little and rubs the back of his neck. “Ah, well, it’s sort of complicated.”

 

All Might raises an eyebrow. “You’re telling that to me.”

 

“Right. It’s weird, some sort of genetic mutation or aberration, they think. The basic function of my quirk drastically changes every six months to a year. For instance, right now I have Pull, but just a few weeks ago it was Fire Breath.”

 

All Might blinks for a few moments.

 

“It’s called Random Quirk Generator, if that helps.”

 

“That’s... weird, but I’m definitely not one to judge.” All Might places a hand on Izuku’s shoulder. “You’re going to be a great hero one day.”

 

Izuku tries not to react, but he honestly isn’t sure if he succeeds or not. The statement is so honest , so pure that Izuku can’t comprehend it.

 

“I’d like to help you, If you’ll let me.”

 

Izuku expertly ignores the offer. “Why do you think I’m going to become a hero?”

 

All Might just laughs, patting Izuku’s shoulder a couple times. “Tell me something--oh, shit, uh.” All Might blushes. “Uh, what’s your--” he clears his throat “--your name.”

 

“Oh!” Izuku smiles. “Midoriya Izuku, at your service.”

 

“Midoriya-kun, sorry. Well, tell me something, why did you interfere with the villain attack?”

 

Izuku furrows his eyebrows. “There wasn't a why . Before I knew it, I was just... there.”

 

All Might’s smile grows. “Every successful hero has a story of how their feet moved before they realized.”

 

Izuku’s eyes widen.

 

“That’s what happened to you, yes?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then you’re going to be a great hero. I’d like to offer you a proposition. My own quirk.”

 

Anyone else would have been surprised at the prospect of one handing off a quirk to another. However, Izuku has grown up with the passing on of quirks as a simple fact of life; the only weird thing about this situation is that it’s someone other than his father—and they’re asking him. It’s his choice. Or, at least, the illusion of choice is there.

 

Izuku swallows and realizes he should be surprised at this offer.

 

“Y-your quirk?” Izuku stutters, raising an eyebrow and doing nothing in particular with his hands. They flounder aimlessly, like flippers or wings.

 

He wonders if he’s going to learn what All Might’s quirk is. If he’s lucky enough to. If, after hundreds of pages of analysis which were all, no matter what, wrong , he’ll finally find out the truth.

 

“Yes!” All Might announces, then takes a moment to swallow. Izuku composes himself.  “You see, my quirk is one which can be passed down, which I myself received from someone before me. It’s called One for All.”

 

Izuku blinks, scrunches up his face in mock confusion. “Passed down... I’ve never heard of a quirk that can do that,” he lies.

 

“Well, my boy! It’s the truth! And I’m offering it to you! You have the personality and makings of a hero!” All Might extends his hand. “So, what’s your decision?”

 

It isn’t a decision. Izuku knows this. But sometimes, his father asks him as well, asks him which quirk he wants like Izuku has any say in the matter. Izuku always answers him because that’s what he wants him to do.

 

“Yes,” Izuku answers, just as much air as words. “My answer is yes.”

 

 

Izuku feels empty, like he won the lottery but he doesn’t have anything to buy with the money. He knows All Might’s quirk-- One for All-- but he doesn’t know what to do with the information. Research? Write another paper? Tell his father? No. He definitely can’t tell his father. That wouldn’t anything accomplish at all.

 

But now... after all those pages he finally has the answer. He doesn’t feel any better for it. If anything, he feels worse.

 


When Izuku gets home, he tells his father an easy lie about how long the interviewing took and doesn’t once mention All Might outside of he saved us .

Chapter Text

Toshinori finally texts Midoriya by the end of the week. He hadn’t been putting it off, per say, just... waiting for the right time. Yeah, that’s it.

 

No, he’s lying to himself.

 

The prospect of texting someone first is utterly terrifying, especially when that someone is his successor.

 

DM -- Midoriya Izuku

 

[Toshinori Yagi]

Is this Midoriya’s number?

 

[Midoriya Izuku]

Yes, it is!

 

[Toshinori Yagi]

Great! I was hoping we could begin physical training soon

When are you available?

 

[Midoriya Izuku]

I’ll have to check with my father, but I should be free for a couple hours before or after school and more on the weekends.

 

[Toshinori Yagi]

Let me know what works best!

And I was thinking we could meet at Dagobah beach if that works for you?

 

[Midoriya Izuku]

Sounds good to me!

I’ll get back to you ASAP!

 

Toshinori lets out a sigh of relief and drops his head on his desk. Before he can properly congratulate himself, he gets a text from Naomasa asking if he wants to meet for coffee.

 

 

“So,” Naomasa says over his over his tea (which isn’t coffee, but Toshinori doesn’t say anything). “You’ve picked a successor.”

 

“Ah—uh—yes,” Toshinori stammers, slinking deeper into his seat.

 

Naomasa chuckles. “There’s no need to feel put on the spot, Toshinori. I’m not judging you, just curious. Tell me, what’s he like?”

 

Toshinori sits up straight and smiles. “He’s very mature for his age. And heroic... The slime villain incident, did you hear about it?”

 

Naomasa just raises an eyebrow in judgement. “I’m a detective, Toshinori. It’s my job to know about criminal incidents.”

 

Toshinori lets out a breathy laugh. “Right, right, of course. He’s the one who tried to save the victim.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Yeah. Even though his quirk wasn’t well-suited and he’d already encountered the villain once before—“

 

Oh, “ Naomasa begins, “he’s that kid.”

 

Toshinori blinks. “What kid? Who else would he be?”

 

“Nothing—” Naomasa waves his hand and shakes his head. “Continue.”

 

“Oh...kay. I mean, he’s selfless, is basically my point.”

 

“How well do you know him?”

 

“Er... enough?”

 

Naomasa sighs and rubs his eyes. “I’m not going to tell you that this is probably a bad idea, because it is your choice but, please try to think about your actions once in a while. Please? For me?”

 

“I do!”

 

Naomasa rolls his eyes. “Sure, whatever you say.”

 

“I do, Naomasa.”

 

Naomasa doesn’t look even remotely convinced, but before he can chastise Toshinori more the buzzing of his phone interrupts them. “Sorry, I have to go. Work.”

 

“No worries! It was great catching up with you!” Toshinori says as he stands up.

 

Naomasa smiles, says goodbye, and heads out.

 

- - -

 

They meet that Saturday at nine in the morning. Toshinori shows up thirty minutes early only because he couldn’t really sleep and waiting around his apartment was giving him anxiety. He sits idly on a bench just outside the entrance to the beach, trying to look busy on his phone, when he sees Midoriya walking down.

 

“Midoriya-kun!” Toshinori yells with a wave of his hand, standing up.

 

Midoriya smiles and jogs over. “Hello, sir!” When he stops just a few feet away he asks, “Is there anything specific you’d like me to call you while you’re in this form? If not I can continue with sir and sensei.

 

Toshinori debates before answering, “Yagi is fine, my boy.”

 

The smile he’s met with is more than worth it.

 

“Yagi-sensei it is, then!”

 

Toshinori coughs into his fist at the honorific. “S-sensei? You really don’t have to.”

 

“Would you prefer shishou?” The casual way in which Midoriya asks causes heat to rise to Toshinori’s cheeks.

 

“N-no. Just Yagi is fine, I insist.”

 

Midoriya pouts, but says, “If you say so.”

 

“How about we get started?” Toshinori asks loudly, trying to change the subject.

 

“Sure! You said this is physical training, right? I already have some experience with physical activities, but not too much.”

 

“Really?” Toshinori takes in Midoriya’s brand new bright red sneakers which look like they belong on a display shelf, his half-mesh black leggings, his loose long-sleeved athletic shirt, and the bright red hair band keeping his hair back.

 

“Yup! I have two or three years of MMA—“ Toshinori almost chokes on nothing in shock, “—six of gymnastics, and I regularly do my father’s physical therapy with him so I think I’m in shape.”

 

Toshinori blinks, then realizes he’s supposed to say something. “Oh, wow. Well, this probably won’t take as long as I thought, then.”

 

“This?”

 

“Yes!” Toshinori announces and opens his arms wide. “Clearing the beach! People have always been throwing their trash here, so you’re going to drag it to the dump!”

 

Midoriya smiles and swings his backpack—a small, leather thing that rivals the price of his shoes—and pulls out a pair of thick working gloves. “I thought you might say that, so I came prepared.”

 

Toshinori watches as Midoriya puts on the gloves and stands up, feet shoulder-width apart. “Are we starting today?” Midoriya asks.

 

“You keep surprising me, Midoriya-kun.” Toshinori shakes his head and sighs. “How about this? I give you a daily exercise schedule, a special diet plan, and you work at your own pace on the beach. Try to get from... that refrigerator, with the three tires on top, to the overturned pick-up truck within six months. Does that sound reasonable?”

 

Midoriya looks at the pile of trash before saying, “Everything except the meal plan. My father is very specific about what I eat.”

 

“Alrighty!” Toshinori pulls a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket. “Here’s my original exercise plan. I’ll likely end up changing it to take into account your experience.”

 

Midoriya scans it quickly, nodding. “Yes, this is reasonable. I can probably start out heavier, though. For now, how about I just skip the first month’s plan and start on the second?”

 

Toshinori taps his chin in thought before answering. “That sounds acceptable. I’ll try to write up a new plan for you as soon as I can.”

 

“Cool!” Midoriya places the paper in his bag and starts stretching. “I have a quick question, and don’t feel obligated to answer it if you don’t want to.”

 

“Shoot.”

 

“Why are we doing physical training? I mean, I know it’s important to have both endurance and strength as a hero, but I already have above-average both of those.”

 

“Great question! Your body is not yet fit enough to support my quirk. If you took it now, you may or may not explode.”

 

Midoriya blinks up at him. “Oh. Wow. Okay, then.”

 

“Don’t worry about it!” Toshinori insists with a smile and a thumbs up. “That’s what the training is for!”

 

“Right!” Midoriya responds, pumping his fist into the air before returning to his stretches.

 

After another minute of Midoriya stretching and Toshinori scrolling through news on his phone without actually reading any of it, Midoriya speaks up again. “Oh, Yagi-san, what kind of music do you like?”

 

“Music? Oh, I like western classic rock the best, American bands you probably haven’t heard of.”

 

“American?” Midoriya smiles and pulls out his phone. “My work-out playlist is almost exclusively American. Could I play it?”

 

“Really? Yeah! Go ahead.”

 

 

Midoriya drags a mostly broken washing machine across the sand while Seven Nation Army blares from his pants’ pockets. Midoriya--to Toshinori’s surprise--is singing along easily despite both the strenuous activity and that the song is not in Japanese .

 

“Hey, Midoriya-kun?” Toshinori asks from his perch atop the washing machine.

 

Midoriya stops mid-word to say, “Yeah?”

 

“Do you know English?”

 

Midoriya chuckles. “Ish. I can understand it pretty well, but speaking it is a different story.”

 

“Impressive.”

 

Midoriya shrugs despite the weight he’s supporting. “Not really. Maybe if I were fluent.”

 

“You’re what, fourteen, and can already understand a second language? That’s impressive, Midoriya-kun.”

 

“Thanks,” he says without his usual enthusiasm.

 

“I mean it!”

 

Midoriya drops the washing machine off at the side of the road and catches his breath for a moment. “I know.”

 

Toshinori doesn’t know if he believes him or not.

 

But then Feel Good Inc. comes on and somehow Midoriya knows all the words.

 

 

Izuku doesn’t know how to handle All Might--Yagi--some times. Most times. Yagi is just so different from literally every other adult he’s ever interacted with. He doesn’t lie--or if he does he’s better at it than Father, but that seems a bit too far-fetched. And Yagi is so straightforward.

 

Whenever Izuku’s teachers compliment him, it’s because they want to get on his father’s good side. But Yagi is just complimenting Izuku to compliment him and Izuku doesn’t know what to do. Yagi doesn’t even know Father. Hopefully.

 

“You’re almost there!” Yagi cheers from the roof of the dishwasher while he holds a box of something that Izuku knows must be heavy. “You only have a few more meters to go, my boy!”

 

There isn’t any purpose to Yagi’s words other than to motivate Izuku.

 

The worst part is they’re working.

 

When Izuku stops next to the washing machine, already sweaty and short of breath, Yagi hops down and places a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Good job, my boy!” There isn’t any malice. No hidden passive aggression. “At this rate, you’ll probably finish the goal before the six months are up!” He means every word he says.

 

“Th-thanks,” Izuku says in lieu of having a real conversation.

 

“No need to thank me! It’s the truth!”

 

Izuku doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he just smiles and hopes it’s enough.

 

- - -

 

Izuku exercises for an hour every morning before school and two hours after classes at the local gym. Then he comes home, makes and eats dinner with his father, and works on clearing the beach for two or three hours. Sometimes, Yagi shows up and keeps him company, but most of the time he’s only free on the weekends, when Izuku works nine to three straight save the lunch break.

 

It’s tough. He’s up late into the night working on homework or studying. But Izuku knows it will be worth it.

 

A couple weeks in, as they take a break from hauling to eat the lunch Izuku packed (he packed one for Yagi, too. He does every day. Otherwise Yagi won’t eat.), Yagi asks, “I don’t mean to be intrusive, but what exactly is your quirk? I mean, I know it’s Random something or the other, and you said it changes every couple months. But, like, what does that mean?”

 

“Oh, sure! Well, remember when we met?” Izuku asks, setting his bento down.

 

“Of course.”

 

“I had the quirk Pull back then and I could telepathically pull small objects or parts of objects towards myself. Now, I have Empathy, and I can see emotions as colors. I don’t have Pull anymore, and there’s a chance I never will.”

 

In reality, about a week ago, Father had taken Pull back and given Izuku Empathy in turn. Father hadn't said anything, hadn't told Izuku why he switched his quirks. Izuku didn't ask because there wasn't any point. Father never told him.

 

“Weird,” Yagi says, then waves his hand, eyes wide. “No offense or anything! I’ve just never heard of a quirk like yours!”

 

“None taken, Yagi-san. It’s extremely unpredictable. I could wake up tomorrow with an entirely different quirk and I wouldn’t have any warning.”

 

That is, in a way, the truth. Father doesn't ask Izuku permission to switch out his quirks. He just does it. Sometimes he does it while Izuku is sleeping.

 

Yagi cringes. “That sounds annoying.”

 

Izuku shrugs. “I’ve gotten used to it.”

 

“What are your parents quirks?”

 

“My father’s is Fire Breath,” Izuku lies without second thought. “My mother had some version of Pull, I’m pretty sure.”

 

“Had?”

 

“Yeah. Oh, she’s dead.”

 

Yagi flinches and his aura turns a light grey-silvery color. Sadness? Or maybe guilt? “I’m sorry,” Yagi says.

 

“Don’t be. I never knew her. She died in childbirth.”

 

“Oh,” is all Yagi says, and then the conversation dies down into awkward silence until they finish eating and head back to cleaning up the beach.

 

- - -

 

Midoriya’s phone pings as they lug a wheeless van across the sand. Midoriya could maybe drag it on his own, but Toshinori had taken one look at it and gone nope, this one’s a group project.

 

“Sorry, Yagi-san,” Midoriya begins, slowing their momentum down to a stop. “I should check that.”

 

“No need to apologize, my boy! I would hate for you to worry your father!” They let go of the van and Midoriya checks his phone.

 

Toshinori has never met Midoriya’s father, but from what he’s heard, he’s a respectable man. Unlike some other parents Toshinori knows, Hisashi is still protective of Midoriya even though he’s fully independent at his age. Much of that protectiveness likely comes from Hisashi’s own experience as a victim of villains. Some may argue that Hisashi is over protective, but Toshinori much prefers overbearing parents to those who don’t care at all.

 

“It’s a HeroWatch update,” Midoriya tells Toshinori, sounding surprised. “Endeavor is fighting a villain in town.”

 

“Endeavor?” Toshinori asks, equally surprised.

 

“Yeah. I’ve never seen him out here before. I wasn’t aware he left Tokyo.”

 

Toshinori snickers at the casual diss and says, “Do you want to go check it out?” Then, remembering that Midoriya’s father has left the boy in his care, adds on, “Is your father alright with you chasing after villain attacks?”

 

Midoriya chuckles. “He... tolerates it as long as I promise not to get too close. Are you sure you’re fine with cutting our training short?”

 

Toshinori pumps a fist into the air. “Young man, the brain is just another muscle! This way we can train it, too! Also, Endeavor is the number two hero. It’ll do you some good to see him in battle!”

 

“Awesome! We should get going then.”

 

 

Toshinori drives them to the location after Midoriya convinces him that this is not a good reason for him to use his quirk. They get there within five minutes of receiving the notification and Midoriya almost throws himself out of the car as soon as he parks.

 

“Slow down, my boy!” Toshinori says with a light-hearted laugh, but Midoriya still jumps in place, obviously excited.

 

“This will be my first time watching a hero battle with Empathy!” Midoriya exclaims. “I’ll be able to collect so much more data! Let’s go!”

 

Toshinori smiles and finally pulls himself out of the car. Midoriya takes that as his cue and runs straight for the crowd of gawkers. When Midoriya moves to head into them, Toshinori pulls him back by his shirt and gives him the best disappointing parental glare he can muster.

 

“Remember,” Toshinori begins. “You can’t get too close.”

 

Midoriya juts out his chin. “Sure, Yagi-san, but the problem is I can’t see from here.”

 

Toshinori looks over the heads crowd with ease at the current throw-down, then smiles down at Midoriya. “You could get on my shoulders?”

 

Midoriya looks between the crowd and Toshinori for just a moment before nodding. Toshinori crouches down and Midoriya hastily scrambles up his back. He drapes his legs over Toshinori’s shoulders, allowing him to grab his ankles, and gently holds onto his forehead with one of his hands.

 

“Please don’t drop me,” Midoriya pleads as Toshinori slowly pushes himself to his feet.

 

“I’m a hero, Midoriya-kun. I’m not going to drop you.”

 

Around half a minute later, Midoriya tenses. “Something wrong?” Toshinori asks, wishing he could see his successor’s face. Nothing notable happens in the fight. This villain is being particularly evasive and can dodge a majority of Endeavor’s attacks. Their quirk isn’t obvious, but it may have something to do with reactions or reflexes.

 

“No,” Midoriya says, “Nothing. Just, their emotions are stronger than I was expecting.”

 

 

Red, with waves of black. He is furious and full of hate at the same time.

 

Not the villain. Endeavor.

 

That’s all he is, and his black-red spills over the area like steam, overpowering the auras of most everyone else.

 

Izuku hasn’t seen an aura so dense and massive before. He can barely even see through it. But he can see through it enough to see the yellow of the villain. Fear.

 

Izuku swallows and tries to ignore the wave of black washing over him.

 

Stop--! ” Endeavor yells as he sends out another burst of flames, “Dodging, you fucking coward! Fight me!

 

The villain’s yellow pulses in response and they manage not to get burnt to a crisp by rolling out of the way at the last minute.

 

“This looks dangerous,” Yagi begins. “Endeavor’s never been known for his... control.”

 

Izuku doesn’t answer. He’s afraid to open his mouth, afraid that the black will come in if he does.

 

“Please!” the villain cries out and they don’t sound that much older than Izuku himself, maybe late teens, early twenties. “I didn’t mean to! My quirk, it--!”

 

Shut up! ” Endeavor responds, sending out a wave so wide it warms the closest of the crowd, who let out a shriek and scramble to get back. The villain tries to dodge, they really do, and it’s a valiant effort but against Endeavor’s pure power they don’t stand a chance. The villain collapses to the ground with a silent scream and their aura is riddled with white stripes before it disappears entirely.

 

Pain. Unconsciousness.

 

After a moment of confused silence, the crowd erupts into applause and cheers, but Endeavor’s furious hatred doesn’t subside.

 

“Well. That was an experience. Got to cross that off your bucket list, yeah?” Yagi asks, slowly dropping to his knees. “Off you go.”

 

Izuku complies, jumping off Yagi’s back and landing with a few extra steps to catch himself.

 

“Is something wrong?” Yagi asks.

 

Izuku shakes his head, still afraid of opening his mouth.

 

Yagi raises an eyebrow, concern radiating off him in comforting pink pulses.

 

Izuku just motions to Yagi’s car, where Endeavor’s haze isn’t nearly as thick, and they head over. Izuku doesn’t open his mouth until they’re both inside the car and both doors close, when he can finally breathe. He sucks in a deep breath of fresh, unbiased air, and smiles.

 

“Are you alright, Midoriya-kun?” Yagi asks, his pink even brighter now.

 

Izuku nods enthusiastically. “I’m fine, now, just got a little bit overwhelmed. Crowds.”

 

“I apologize, I hadn’t even considered.”

 

“No, no,” Izuku insists. “It’s not your fault at all! Just a side effect of Empathy.”

 

Yagi pouts. “If you say so. I’m still sorry, though. Do you want me to drive you home?”

 

“No, I can walk. It’s fine.”

 

“Please, it’s the least I can do. I wouldn’t want to force you to walk through crowds if you aren’t feeling up to it. I may not know much about empathy quirks, but I know enough introverts.”

 

Izuku snorts. “Can I convince you not to?”

 

“Nope. I’m already driving!” Yagi says as he pulls the car into the street.

 

Izuku sighs and pulls on his seat belt. “Wait. Do you even know how to get to my house?”

 

Yagi’s fingers tense against the wheel and he erupts in nervous laughter. “What? No! Of course I don’t know your address! Ha ha. Hah.”

 

Izuku raises an eyebrow. “I’m not going to ask.”

 

“It’s totally innocent!” Yagi insists, even though Izuku said he isn’t going to ask. “The other day, you weren’t answering your texts, and I got really worried, so I asked my detective friend to get me your address, just in case!”

 

“I said I wasn’t going to ask. I trust you, Yagi-san.” And somehow, Izuku thinks it might even be the truth.

 

Yagi just smiles, not comprehending the weight of Izuku’s honesty, and turns on the CD player. Fleetwood Mac plays throughout the entire ride. Both of them sing along to Landslide, even Yagi, who has always insisted he’s a terrible singer and will never ever sing in public ever again.

 

When they pull up to Izuku’s house, Yagi says. “Here you are. And please don’t tell your dad about the, er, Endeavor thing or that I used my police contacts to find your house. Thanks!”

 

“You should come in,” Izuku says even though it’s literally the last thing he wants. Because it may be the last thing he wants, but Izuku knows it’s the first thing Father wants. Father values social graces and traditions more than anyone Izuku knows. If he found out Yagi drove Izuku home and didn’t come in.

 

Well.

 

Then Izuku would have to be punished.

 

Yagi stammers nonsense before responding, “W-what?”

 

“Yeah! Come in, have some tea or a snack! I’m serious.”

 

When Yagi does nothing except turn redder, Izuku continues. “My father would kill me if he found out you came all this way and I didn’t invite you in.”

 

Yagi rubs the back of his neck. “I don’t know... I wouldn’t want to impose...”

 

“I’m insisting, please. My father’s been dying to meet you, anyway.”

 

Yagi wrings his hands together and stares at Izuku’s house. “Are you sure it’s fine?”

 

“It’d be less fine if you didn’t come. Let’s go.”

 

 

Hisashi feels it before they even step onto the property.

 

One for All.

 

All Might.

 

Here, at his house.

 

Wonderful.

 

“Father!” Izuku calls from the doorway. “I’m home! I brought Yagi-san, my physical trainer!”

 

“Wonderful!” Hisashi exclaims with none of the venom he thought the word with. Hisashi slowly stands up from his desk and drops his oxygen mask to his neck. He can go a couple minutes without it at a time, but sooner or later he will need it again. He throws a cardigan on over his polo shirt and jeans and heads to the living room.

 

He can feel One for All more intensely now, like a heat against his skin. It’s comforting, reminds him of his brother, and he wants it even though he knows he can’t take it.

 

Hisashi stops between the living and dining rooms, facing the house’s entryway with a small smile. “Yagi-san, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

Yagi Toshinori--All Might--eighth holder of One for All--grabs Hisashi’s hand and he feels it, so close but too far away, just outside of his reach. “Y-you too, Midoriya-san,” the man says.

 

“Please, please,” Hisashi says, relishing in the amount of power flirting against his skin. “None of that. Hisashi is fine.”

 

“Oh, well, uh, c-call me Toshinori, then.”

 

Hisashi’s smile grows.

 

“Can I get you something to drink, Yagi-san?” Izuku asks from the kitchen. “Or a snack? We have water, tea, oranges, cookies.”

 

“Oh, no,” Yagi answers, finally withdrawing his hand. “I’m fine, really.”

 

“Please, you’re our guest,” Hisashi begins, leading them to the couches. “Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Drink. Eat.”

 

Yagi swallows but sits down on the couch adjacent to Hisashi’s. “I suppose I could drink some water. Thank you for the offer.”

 

Hisashi spares a moment to breath through his mask as Izuku hands Yagi a cup of water and sits down next to him.

 

“So,” Hisashi begins after catching his breath. “Izuku hasn’t been giving you any trouble, has he?”

 

“No!” Yagi exclaims. “Of course not! Midoriya-kun has been amazing to work with. In all honesty, sometimes I fear he may be spoiling me by making my job so easy.”

 

“Don’t sell yourself short, Yagi-san,” Izuku says. “You’re a great teacher.”

 

“Yes, Izuku is right, Toshinori. Over the past four months, I have watched him improve as a person under your guidance.”

 

Yagi sputters. “I-I really haven’t done much.”

 

Not yet, Hisashi thinks. But soon you’ll give him One for All. And that’s more than I could have ever asked for.

 

“What kind of training have you been doing?” Hisashi asks. “Izuku hasn’t told me much.” Anything, actually. They’ve both properly ignored the topic since Izuku mentioned he would be doing some extra training.

 

“We’re just working on clearing the beach. Dagobah Beach. You know the one?”

 

“Is that the one people use as a trash dump?”

 

“Yeah. I’m having Izuku clear a portion of it before entrance exams.”

 

Entrance exams? Such a specific deadline. Izuku’s attempts at not reacting are compendable, but Hisashi notices the way he turns his body away, how his shoulders close up slightly. “Oh? Entrance exams?” Hisashi asks, biting the lure Yagi unwittingly dropped.

 

“Yes,” Izuku answers a little too quickly, obviously to keep Yagi from responding. “Some schools require a physical exam along with a written one. Yagi-san is helping me ensure I’m in perfect shape.”

 

“And what schools are you looking at?” Hisashi asks.

 

“UA, of course!” Yagi answers with naive enthusiasm.

 

“I had no idea you were reaching so high, Izuku.”

 

“I’ll be applying to other schools, as well,” Izuku says, but they both know it’s a weak retort as soon as he says it. “UA is the best school for heroics, Father. You’re well aware of that.” The I’ve written enough papers to prove it, is left unsaid. “I believe my knowledge of quirks, overall physical capabilities, and academics will be more than enough to get me in.”

 

Hisashi and Izuku size each other up for a silent moment before Yagi interrupts.

 

“Personally--I mean, I know this isn’t really my place--but I believe Midoriya-kun is more than qualified for UA’s hero department.”

 

Hisashi turns to him. “And what makes you qualified to make that judgement?”

 

Yagi flinches and stammers silently for a moment before answering, “I-I actually work at a hero agency. I do PR.”

 

The Symbol of Peace lying.

 

What a sight.

 

“You do? I was unaware. My apologies.”

 

“It’s fine. I didn’t expect you to know.”

 

“So,” Hisashi begins, turning his attention back to Izuku. “You’re serious about becoming a hero.”

 

“Of course!” Izuku announces with false cheer. “I’ve always wanted to be a hero,” he lies. “Anyways, who doesn’t?”

 

Hisashi smiles. “Of course. Well, Toshinori, it’s been great having you but Izuku and I must be having dinner soon.”

 

All three of them stand at the same time.

 

“Thank you for tolerating me, Hisashi-san,” Yagi says with an awkward chuckle as they shake hands.

 

Izuku walks Yagi out and then they’re alone.

 

“So,” Hisashi begins without a smile. “You’re serious about becoming a hero.”

Chapter Text

Eight Years Ago

 

 

Izuku hands in the essay with perfectly still hands. It’s ten pages of single-spaced, double-sided research on the rise of heroes two hundred years ago. His father skims it with barely a fraction of the attention Izuku put into it (six hours straight of work without break). When his father reaches the end, he drops it onto the desk and leans back into his seat.

 

“Wrong,” he says. “It’s all wrong.”

 

Izuku tenses. “Most of it came directly from dot-gov or dot-edu sites.”

 

“And you trusted them?”

 

“I didn’t see a reason not to.”

 

Father chuckles and taps his fingers against the desk. “I see. Well, there isn’t a better time to learn the reasons than today, is there? Sit down. We’ll start now.”

 

Izuku sits down and listens.

 

“Heroes were created for a single purpose. Propaganda.” Father stands up and begins slowly pacing the perimeter of the room. “When quirks developed, society feared them. Those with quirks were ostracized, considered something less than human. When people started using their quirks, no matter the reason, they were called criminals. And then villain when the term criminal wasn’t harsh enough. A group of quirk-holders in America took the law into their own hands, fighting criminal quirk-holders. Are you taking notes?”

 

Izuku is. As soon as Father said we’ll start now Izuku pulled out his phone and started a document. “Yes, Father.”

 

“Good. Of the couple hundred vigilantes in America, seven were pardoned by the government and labelled Heroes. The rest were incarcerated. After that, other nations began hand-picking Heroes out of their quirk-holders, as well. This, in effect, left the conflict only within quirks, further isolating them from those without. Any questions?”

 

Izuku racks his brain for a question because he knows, if he doesn’t ask one, it’ll look like he wasn’t paying attention. “Why only seven?” he blurts out. “Of the original vigilantes, why were only seven pardoned?”

 

Father stops pacing and clasps his hands behind his back. “Why do you think?”

 

Izuku licks his lips and stares at his phone, brain churning through the little bit of information he has. The only theory that really sticks out is, “Propaganda. They were the only ones good enough to be shown in public.”

 

“Exactly!” Father answers with a smile, returning to pacing. “Those seven had the best quirks, the best backgrounds, and were the most physically appealing. The other two hundred fifty-eight didn't cut it. Before Japan could adopt heroes, they had their own set of vigilantes. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

 

“No.”

 

“It’s rumoured their leader had a quirk quite similar to mine, in fact. It’s the reason I’m so knowledgeable on this subject.”

 

Izuku subconsciously sits up a little straighter, intrigued.

 

“Rumours say he was able to give and take quirks. He, like the vigilantes in America, attempted to bring order to Japan where there was none. The government responded by labelling him a villain and recruiting Heroes--” Father puts air-quotes around the word “--to take him out. You know why?”

 

Izuku searches for the answer for only a moment. “He was a threat?”

 

“Yup! They were afraid of his power, even though he was trying to do the right thing. And heroes, ever since, have been in the spotlight as these perfect peace-keepers. But, do you something, Izuku?”

 

Izuku raises his head to see Father looking straight at him. “No?”

 

“Heroes wouldn’t exist without villains.” Father gives Izuku a moment to write it down, so he does. Word for word. The quote stares up at him, black on white, until Father speaks again and Izuku blinks. “And without heroes, society will crumble. Without their symbols of hope, they’d have nothing. Without villains, there would be no conflict for our society to be built around.” Father pauses before continuing. “Have you heard of Georg Simmel, Izuku?”

 

“No, Father.”

 

“A shame. Write the name down, find a research article or two. Be prepared to explain his relation to this discussion to me by dinner tomorrow.”

 

“Yes, Father.”

 

“Any questions?”

 

“Just...” Izuku begins, fidgeting a bit. Father frowns so he stills. “You’re saying that villains exist for the good of society?”

 

Father watches Izuku with a blank face as he states, “Of course. Villains are just the other side of the heroes’ coin.”

 

 

“So, Georg Simmel,” Father says over dinner, setting his chopsticks down.

 

Izuku sits up, clasps his hands together, and swallows before starting. “Georg Simmel was a sociologist of the early twentieth century. His perspective on conflict theory is that a society has the strongest bonds when it has an enemy.”

 

Father nods so Izuku continues.

 

“If villains didn’t exist, our society wouldn’t have a common enemy, and there would be nothing to unite us.”

 

Father smiles. “Exactly. You understand. Villains hold our society together. After the discovery of quirks, society was weak and quirks became the enemy. Villains stepped up and people slowly stopped fearing the quirks, but instead a small group of the people who hold them.”

 

Izuku scrunches up his nose.

 

“Do you have a question, Izuku?”

 

“Well, if the only problem was that quirks weren’t normalized yet, then isn’t the problem solved?”

 

Father frowns and sighs. “Society relies on villains, now. If you take away that crutch, society will have nothing to fear or hate so it’ll turn in on itself. You’ll start seeing homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, and more. Society will start to fear and hate itself. We need villains just as much as we need heroes, if not more.”

 

 


 

 

Present Day

 

 

“So,” Father begins. “You’re serious about becoming a hero.”

 

“I am,” Izuku answers, ignoring his rapid heartbeats.

 

“I just have one question,” Father says. He hasn’t sat down yet, which is a bad sign. If they sit down, they could pretend this is a normal conversation. But with Father still standing, this is an interrogation.

 

“Yes?”

 

Why? ” He shoots the question like a bullet, and it hits Izuku with just as much impact.

 

Why?

 

What kind of question is that?

 

Izuku is nowhere near prepared enough to talk about this. He had wanted to bring it up on his terms, to prepare a speech with evidence and rhetoric. But, right now, he has nothing. He’s unarmed.

 

“Heroes are just as important as villains, Father,” he improvises.

 

Father doesn’t react. “Anyone can become a hero, Izuku. The world doesn’t need any more.”

 

“Are you telling me to become a villain?” Izuku asks, hoping it’s direct enough to draw Father’s interest.

 

“No,” Father responds dryly. He doesn't catch the bait. “I’m not telling you to do anything. I’m just trying to understand.”

 

Izuku believes that as much he believes everything else that his father says.

 

Not at all.

 

Why? ”  Father asks with that same biting intonation, like the word itself could hurt Izuku.

 

And it can, because Izuku doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to answer it to his father’s standards.

 

Izuku knows his answer. He wants to become a hero to save those who can’t save themselves, to protect others from the dangers of the world.

 

But Izuku also knows that answer won’t satiate his father.

 

His father only cares about the balance, about the idea that heroes and villains are the same.

 

So, Izuku needs a different answer.

 

“The hero industry is corrupt,” Izuku starts carefully.

 

“Of course it is.”

 

“Maybe... I think I can fix it from the inside.”

 

The weight of Father’s silence is so heavy Izuku can barely breathe.

 

“I—“ Izuku starts again to fill the silence.

 

“Izuku,” Father cuts in, “do you understand how much work that would entail? You know just as well as I do how broken the system is. You saw Endeavor up close.”

 

Izuku doesn’t question how Father knows he encountered Endeavor. It could be a quirk. He could have bugged Izuku’s phone. Izuku doesn’t care right now. It’s the least of his worries.

 

“If I don’t, who will?” Izuku asks.

 

Father rolls his shoulders, widens his stance, and stands up taller. “And what exactly is one person going to change?”

 

“U.A. has four schools: hero, support, business, and general education. There, I’ll be able to make ample connections with support and business students, which will be invaluable for my future."

 

“Do you have a plan?” Father asks, voice laced with disbelief.

 

He doesn’t. Everything he’s been saying is complete improvisation.

  

“Of course I do,” Izuku lies. “I can send you a document overview by tomorrow night.”

 

“Please do. And I expect it to make your case.”

 

“It does.” It will.

 

 

Izuku bullshits a paper in two hours, flat. His experience writing essays for Father under ungodly time constraints means he can write an essay about anything within hours, whether he has knowledge on the subject or not.

 

A paper on a subject he's actually knowledgeable about? Easy.

 

“It’s good enough, for now,” Father says over dinner. “We’ll have to work on a firmer, more permanent plan when you get closer to graduating from U.A.”

 

Izuku’s eyes widen. “U.A.?”

 

“Of course. However, I have three conditions. Primarily, you must let me know where you are at all times. Text is fine. Second, don’t get hurt. I retain the authority to pull you out if I fear you have been placed in danger. Lastly, but definitely not the least, you will continue completing my assignments in a timely manner. I expect you to do both my and U.A.’s homework to the best of your abilities. Is this acceptable?”

 

“Yes, Father.”

 

Even if it wasn’t, Izuku couldn’t say no.

 

- - -

 

Midoriya Hisashi is... complicated.

 

Toshinori can’t think of a better word to describe his successor’s father.

 

When Midoriya had said his father was injured, Toshinori was nowhere near prepared for the extent. The man is just as broken as or possibly even more than Toshinori himself. The entire top half of his head is scar tissue and he has to breath through a respirator a third of the time. And that’s just what Toshinori knows from his fifteen minute visit.

 

Hisashi had been pleasant enough, but something about the entire encounter felt... tense.

 

Then again, it’s not like Toshinori meets up with the parent of his successor every day.

 

He’s probably overreacting.

 

At least Toshinori can place Midoriya’s smell, now. Antiseptic and cleaning supplies. Their house might as well be a hospital with how clean it looks and smells.

 

The lack of personal decoration had been a tad disconcerting at first, but Toshinori writes it off as either cleanliness or a distrust of strangers. They very well could keep their photographs further in the house.

 

The only other feature Toshinori notes from the Midoriya household is the books.

 

They have so, so many books.

 

Every shelf is stuffed with them. The tops of every dresser is stacked high with paper-backs, hard covers, and even leather-bounds. Under the television, where one might find a gaming system, is instead more books.

 

It’s like they ran out of space and turned to storing books wherever they can.

 

Toshinori finds it endearing and, along with the hospital-like smell, one more personal factoid he knows about Midoriya.

 

Because, no matter how much they talk, Midoriya never seems to really say anything about himself.

Chapter Text

“In six months you cleared almost twice the area I assigned! Congratulations, Midoriya-kun! You’re now ready for my quirk!”

 

They both stand in the center of the area Izuku has cleared. Izuku smiles up at him. Yagi smiles back and plucks a strand of hair from his head.

 

“Eat this.”

 

Izuku raises an eyebrow. Not what he had been expecting. Father’s transfers just require physical contact but, then again, Yagi does have a different quirk.

 

Izuku takes the piece of hair and swallows it. It’s extremely uncomfortable. Moments after, his throat still remembers the awkward sensation.

 

“Now!” Yagi announces. “You still have some time, yes? Let’s get ice cream!”

 

“Before dinner?” Izuku asks.

 

Yagi laughs and the sound is so happy it tears down any restraints Izuku has. “Why not? We’re celebrating!”

 

Ice cream. Before dinner. Without his father’s permission.

 

“Sure!” Izuku exclaims.

 

 

Yagi takes him to a small ice cream parlor halfway between the beach and Izuku’s house. The brightly colored sign reads Frozen Delights and More and the window displays plastic, intricate desert replicas that almost look real.

 

“This is one of my favorite places to eat,” Yagi says as they enter. The little bell above the door dings. “They’re extremely accommodating to diets and allergies. It’s probably the healthiest dessert place you’ll find in the city, if not the entire country.”

 

“Wow,” Izuku responds, honestly impressed.

 

The interior of the store is just as colorful as the outside. A collage of random pictures cover every inch of the wall. Izuku sees everything from a cat to a hero to a newspaper clipping to a pie chart to a child’s crayon drawing. Along with the couches and plush seating, the place has a casual, inviting atmosphere.

 

“Welcome! Oh--Yagi-san!” the barista, an older woman with bright neon pink hair, announces with a kind smile, waving emphatically at them. “Who’d you bring with you?”

 

“Ah, Yuuma-san, this is Midoriya-kun, my...” Yagi drifts off with a cringe.

 

Izuku steps up to the counter with a smile and extended hand.

 

“I’m his nephew,” Izuku says as Yuuma shakes his hand. “My parents are out of town so Toshinori is looking after me for a couple days.”

 

“Really? I didn’t know you had such a cute nephew, Yagi-san!” Yuuma exclaims. “You should have brought him in sooner!”

 

Yagi just blinks, mouth agape a tad, and stares at Izuku.

 

“I’ve been really busy with high school applications, recently,” Izuku continues, smile unwavering. “He’s been suggesting it for a while but I haven’t had the time until today.”

 

Yuuma nods. “No, no, dear. Don’t worry about it. High school is extremely important. So, what can I get for you?”

 

“Oh, goodness gracious,” Izuku begins with a light laugh, taking in the three boards worth of menu behind her. “I have no idea.”

 

Yuuma’s smile makes Izuku think that’s her intention. “Well, let’s start cutting things off. Any dietary restrictions?”

 

“Not particularly? But I don’t eat sweet things very often so something lighter would probably be better.”

 

“We could go with a sherbert or sorbet,” she offers, tapping her chin and staring off into the distance. “Or shaved ice.”

 

“Shaved ice sounds good. What flavors do you have?”

 

A light dances across her eyes. “All of them.”

 

Izuku swallows. “All of them. I-I see. How about you pick something for me and I hope I like it? Yeah, that sounds good.”

 

She laughs. “I’m joking with you, dear. Here’s a list.” She hands him a piece of paper with over two dozen flavors on it. Izuku scans it until he finds one in particular.

 

“Mint?” he asks.

 

“Yup! You want that?”

 

“Please. Thank you.”

 

“Yagi-san, you want your regular, I’m guessing?”

 

After a moment, Yagi replies with a delayed, “Huh? Oh, yes. Sorry.”

 

Yagi is pink, but his color shifts erratically. Concern, with underlying confusion.

 

What does he have to be concerned and confused about?

 

Yuuma turns from the counter to make their orders, so Izuku steps closer to Yagi. “Are you okay?” he asks quietly.

 

Yagi smiles at him, but his aura doesn’t change. “Of course, my boy. I’m perfectly fine.”

 

Izuku doesn’t push the subject, yet.

 

- - -

 

Midoriya lied.

 

Just--like that. So easily with that same smile on his face that Toshinori has seen countless times before. Toshinori doesn’t know what it means.

 

It’s a small lie, really, just a white lie. But it’s not the content that matters, it’s the fact that he did it at all.

 

“Yagi-san?” Midoriya asks. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

 

Toshinori nods his head and returns to reality. Midoriya sounds concerned enough--no--Midoriya is concerned. Midoriya is his successor, the boy who ran head-first towards a villain to save his classmate. That’s who Midoriya is. “I am. Just... a bit distracted, is all.”

 

See? That’s a lie, Toshinori. How is that any different?

 

Midoriya doesn’t look at all convinced.

 

Maybe it feels different because Midoriya was totally, completely convincing. Maybe it’s because, for half a second, Toshinori questioned whether or not he actually was Midoriya’s uncle. Maybe Toshinori is worried because Midoriya didn’t even hesitate before lying.

 

“I was asking if your hours are going to change now that we’ve done the... transfer.”

 

Toshinori swallows and tries to bury his stupid paranoid conspiracy theories. All Midoriya did was cover Toshinori’s own fuck-up. That’s the fact. “Yes, they will. By the end of this month I’ll be working half the time I used to and by the start of next school year, I’ll only really be on-call.”

 

“Are you okay with that?” Midoriya asks, idly stirring his shaved ice.

 

Toshinori shrugs. He won’t be doing hero work as much as he is used to, but teaching at U.A. should keep him busy, at least. “I don’t really have a choice.”

 

Midoriya pouts. “I can’t imagine you’ll survive sitting around at home all day.”

 

Toshinori tries to chuckle, but it sounds fake even to his own ears. “Yeah, me neither.”

 

“Maybe you could get a new job? Something that doesn’t require your quirk?”

 

Toshinori wonders where this train of conversation is going. He knows he shouldn’t tell anyone he’s teaching at U.A. next semester. But... is he really going to lie here and now? Set that example? Toshinori swallows and glances up at Midoriya, who watches him with calm, waiting eyes.

 

“I--“ Toshinori starts, then stops, clamping his jaw shut. Before he can talk convince himself not to, he blurts out, “I’m teaching at U.A.

 

Midoriya’s eyes light up like Toshinori just admitted to being Santa Claus. “Really?” Midoriya asks, with that smile on his face that--no, Toshinori can definitely, 100% trust it. “That’s amazing! Would you be teaching any of my classes?”

 

“Most likely, yes. I don’t know much yet, but I do know I’ll be teaching some hero course classes.”

 

“Awesome!”

 

- - -

 

Izuku fucked up, somewhere.

 

Toshinori’s aura is shifting between pink and lime, now, which Izuku recognizes all too well from Katsuki’s aura.

 

Distrust.

 

He doesn’t know what he did wrong, which is the worst part. He flips through his memories for anything that could have made Yagi lose trust in him, but he can’t find anything and he’s afraid to ask Yagi because then it’ll become real. Because even though he (probably, maybe) trusts Yagi, there’s always the fear that Yagi will throw the accusation back to him, that it will become a Conversation.

 

Izuku despises Conversations.

 

In his family, Conversations are different from conversations. “Conversations” are high-speed battles of wit and charisma and passive aggression and sarcasm where one wrong word means a loss.

 

And a loss means a punishment.

 

But oftentimes, winning is worse.

 

Izuku despises Conversations, so he doesn’t ask Yagi what he did wrong. Yagi doesn’t bring it up, anyways, so it can’t be that bad.

 

Right?

 

- - -

 

Hisashi feels the transfer of One for All happening from across the city.

 

It’s slow. It isn’t incredibly efficient. But by this time tomorrow, Izuku will have enough of the quirk to call it his own.

 

Hisashi feels like celebrating.

 

One for All is finally back in the family, where it belongs.

 

 

“What are you doing?” are the first words out of Izuku’s mouth, which Hisashi supposes is justified.

 

“We’re celebrating!” Hisashi announces from the kitchen, where he’s been attempting to make Inko’s infamous chocolate chip cookies for the past two hours and failing miserably.

 

“Are you... cooking?” Izuku asks with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Baking, actually. Inko’s cookies that, I guess, are yours now. It isn’t really working out.”

 

Over two hundred years of being alive and Hisashi never took the time to learn how to bake, or do anything kitchen-related, honestly. He tried, once, over a hundred years ago, but it ended with him getting frustrated and literally burning the entire culinary school to the ground. He hasn’t tried since.

 

“I can see that. What are we celebrating?”

 

Hisashi smirks and rinses the flour off his hands. “Why don’t you tell me, Izuku?”

 

Hisashi feels Izuku tense, the muscles in his body going rigid, and wishes for the umpteenth time that he could see what expression he’s making. It’s probably carefully neutral, but if Izuku has kept any tells from when he was younger, his smile is too tight and he’s flaring his nostrils.

 

“Why don’t you let me finish the cookies?” Izuku counters, already stepping into the kitchen and rolling up his sleeves. “I’ll make them just like Mom did.”

 

Hisashi tries not to react to the casual title-drop. Hisashi himself never gets anything other than Father and it’s impossible not to be offended by the Mom Inko gets. Izuku has never even met the woman! She’s dead!

 

“You do that,” Hisashi begins, ridding himself of the half-scorched apron. “But while you do, tell me why we’re celebrating.”

 

“I don't know why you’re celebrating, Father. I just got home.”

 

“I’m sure you can at least make a guess.”

 

“I’m not comfortable guessing.”

 

Hisashi frowns. “Are you really going to ruin my day like this, Izuku? And it was going so well.”

 

Izuku doesn’t respond for a moment, distracting himself with cleaning up from Hisashi’s mess. “I apologize that my reluctance to make a guess without any evidence is ruining your day,” Izuku states with measured cadence.

 

“Don’t contort your words like that. I know you’re trying to manipulate me.”

 

Izuku lets out a breath through gritted teeth. “I have no intentions of--“

 

“You’re doing it again. All I wanted was to celebrate you finishing your training but no, you have to go and make everything into an argument, because you’re Izuku.”

 

“Father--”

 

“No. I’m done. You make your cookies or whatever. I’m going to my office to work. Don’t disturb me.”

 

- - -

 

Izuku despises Conversations.

 

- - -

 

Izuku gets One for All that night.

 

It wakes Hisashi up with a lightning bolt of energy jolting through his body.

 

Immediately after, Hisashi notices something else.

 

Empathy is gone. No, not quite gone. He can still feel an echo of it, quiet and weak, hidden underneath One for All.

 

It’s almost like...

 

No, that’s impossible, right?

 

- - -

 

“Izuku?” Hisashi asks over breakfast. “You still have Empathy, right?”

 

Izuku manages not to be surprised by the question. “Of course. Why?”

 

“No reason.”

 

Izuku only has one quirk. Hisashi is sure of it. Even if he still has the functions of Empathy, he doesn’t have the quirk anymore. He only has One for All.

 

Which means...

 

“Give me your hand.”

 

Izuku does flinch, this time. His chopsticks bounce against the edge of his bowl. “Why?”

 

Hisashi doesn’t answer the question, instead tilting his chin up and extending his hand.

 

The safest quirk is Regeneration, Hisashi knows. Even if it backfires, it will still try to heal him.

 

Izuku, after a moment, reaches out, leaving his hand a couple inches above Hisashi’s. Hisashi calls Regeneration to his fingertips, and places his hand on Izuku’s.

 

Izuku receives Regeneration without complaint. It’s nothing like the Nomus. The transfer goes so smoothly it could rival Hisashi’s own receival, which doesn’t make sense because the purpose of his quirk is to take others. But Regeneration leaves Hisashi with no resistance, finding an easy residence in Izuku’s own quirk factor.

 

“W-what?” Izuku asks, slowly withdrawing his hand, not hiding his surprise. “That... shouldn’t be possible.”

 

Regeneration disappears almost immediately. Just like Empathy, all that remains within Izuku is One for All.

 

One for All ate them.

 

- - -

 

Izuku has three quirks. At the same time. One for All and Empathy, he can understand. Yagi told him One for All is some sort of stockpiling quirk, that it’s safe to use with another. But a third?

 

“What did you give me?” Izuku asks, voice cracking despite his best efforts.

 

Father withdraws his hand and smiles. “Why don’t we test it? I’m excited to see if it responds differently under these circumstances. Get a knife, would you, please? The utility one should work.”

 

Izuku stands up. His mind is completely blank.

 

“Oh, and meet me in the bathroom. I don’t want to stain the table.”

 

He doesn’t want to. Izuku doesn’t want to but Father is already moving and he knows what happens if he refuses.

 

Izuku takes the knife out of the block and walks to the bathroom, focusing more on trying not to shake than the walk itself.

 

 

“Less than five seconds,” Father states without hiding his glee, “and it’s already scarred. Impressive.”

 

Izuku still holds the knife. Blood drips from the blade and lands on the thin, pale scar that had formed on his thigh before his eyes.

 

“This is good data,” Father continues through his oxygen mask. He leans against the door, blocking the only exit. “When I had it, without any other healing quirks it took at least a day to get a wound of that level to scar.”

 

Izuku barely hears him, entranced by the red liquid pooling around him onto the floor of the shower.

 

“You did good, Izuku,” Father says quietly and it almost sounds honest.

 

Almost.

 

“I’ll give you Pull, in a couple days, as a gift.”

 

And then he’s gone.

Chapter Text

Izuku would have arrived an hour early to the exam, but Yagi had purposefully delayed him, so now he only has fifteen minutes until it starts.

 

Katsuki leans against the wall surrounding UA, idly browsing his phone and tapping one of his feet emphatically against the pavement.

 

“Yo,” Izuku greets with a small smile and wave.

 

Katsuki huffs and pushes off the wall, simultaneously pocketing his phone in a fluid motion. “You’re late,” he grunts out.

 

“Sorry,” Izuku responds with an awkward chuckle, rubbing the back of his neck. “You didn’t have to wait for me, you know.”

 

“My dad insisted.” Katsuki’s almost constant lime of distrust is overlayed by flickers of yellow. Uncertainty. He turns away from Izuku to U.A. and grumbles, “You don’t have to be fake around me."

 

Izuku skips up to Katsuki’s side and says, “I’m never fake, Kachan!”

 

Katsuki rolls his eyes. “Sure you aren’t.”

 

Then, Izuku trips on a loose brick.

 

He never reaches the ground.

 

“I’m so sorry!” someone exclaims as Izuku is righted to his feet. All his weight comes back in a single moment. “I used my quirk without asking. I’m super sorry! I just didn’t want you to fall. It would be really bad luck right before the exam, right?”

 

A student just a little bit shorter than Izuku with a brown bob stands before him, wringing her hands in a nervous gesture.

 

“There’s no need to apologize,” Izuku says with a soft smile. “I should be thanking you, actually.”

 

She blushes before exclaiming, “Ah! Well, I should be going! Don’t want to be late! Good luck!” Then she runs off.

 

“God,” Katsuki snorts, “did you seriously fucking flirt at her?”

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Kachan.”

 

- - -

 

“You’re allowed to cheat unless I catch you doing it,” the proctor--Eraserhead, he isn’t even trying to hide it; he’s literally wearing his hero costume--announces. “Make sure none of your electrical devices go off. Or, if they do, that I don’t hear them. If you use your quirk I’ll know about it, so don’t. Use a number two pencil if you want your answers to be scored. If you don’t want your answers to be scored, leave now and stop wasting my time. Is all of that clear?”

 

When no one says anything, Eraserhead begins walking through the aisles dropping paper folders on their desks. “Don’t open it yet. I’ll tell you when it’s time. You can fill out the back. It’s just your name and information. If you have any questions, ask now. I won’t be able to answer them during the test.” He drops the folder on Izuku’s own desk as Izuku mutters out an almost-silent thank you.

 

 

The written test is almost suspiciously easy. Save for two or three obviously trick questions, Izuku answers them all with ease. The written response portion isn’t as engaging as he had hoped. The questions are all ones Izuku has seen before, like, Please explain the history of quirks and Who is your favorite hero and why? He answers Eraserhead--not because Eraserhead is his favorite hero, but because Izuku can write the most impressive essay on Eraserhead. Eraserhead is a cult, little-known hero. Just by name-dropping him, Izuku can already raise his application above the average. Also, someone will likely be able to connect Izuku’s exam with his proctor--Eraserhead himself. Izuku doesn’t write it outright in his short essay, but he hopes someone will catch the fact that he recognized Eraserhead. Finally, Izuku has mountains of theories on Eraserhead. Well, he has theories on every hero, but nothing about Eraserhead has ever been verified, so Izuku can show off his analysis skills, as well.

 

To write about Eraserhead is a careful, tactical decision.

 

By the time Izuku finishes the entire exam, he’s only a third of the way through the time allotted for the test. Even after triple-checking all his answers and rewriting most of his short essays, he still has an hour left.

 

His hand is in the air for two whole minutes before Eraserhead comes over.

 

“What?” Eraserhead grunts. “I said no questions.”

 

“Ah. It isn’t about the test, actually. I was wondering if I’m allowed to leave once I’ve finished.”

 

Eraserhead‘s eyes widen minutely. “What, did you guess on all the questions?”

 

“No. And I checked all my answers, as well.”

 

He huffs. “You’ll have to sit here, silently, until the testing session is finished.”

 

Izuku smiles and nods. “Alrighty. Thank you.”

 

 

Izuku sits in silence for the remaining hour until Eraserhead dismisses them all to the large auditorium.

 

The assigned seating places him next to Katsuki, who only grunts in acknowledgement.

 

“How’d your test go?” Izuku asks him.

 

“Fine.” Katsuki scowls. “It was too fucking easy. The essays were annoying as shit, though. I hate timed writing.”

 

Izuku nods. “The trick is you outline first—“

 

Katsuki rolls his eyes and Izuku would continue, but then Present Mic struts up to the podium.

 

“Examinees!” Present Mic yells into the microphone which, accompanied with his quirk, results in a high-pitched squeal. Present Mic mutters under his breath (but it’s still modulated by the microphone), “That happens every time!” He clears his throat and continues, “Welcome to the U.A. entrance exam! Everybody say hey!

 

Nobody says hey.

 

“Wow, tough crowd. No worry! That won’t stop me! Now, you should have grabbed a pamphlet outlining the practical portion of the exam on your way in. I’m going to go over it anyways!”

 

The screens behind him light up, and simple animations help him throughout his speech.

 

 

Partway through Present Mic’s explanation, a student just a few rows in front of Izuku shoots his hand in the air.

 

“Yes, Examinee twenty-one oh-two?” Present Mic says.

 

The student jumps to his feet and, during his entire questioning, chops his hands through the air in robotic-esque movements. “This pamphlet includes a list of no less than four robots. However, you have only addressed three. If this is a mistake of U.A.’s, I will be incredibly disappointed. Do you care to explain?” The student announces, sounding more like a lawyer a teenager.

 

Izuku had also noticed the same thing, but was waiting to see if Present Mic was going to address it or not before bringing it up.

 

“That’s a good observation!” Present Mic answers cheerfully, unperturbed by the interruption. “In fact, that fourth robot is not an opponent, but more like a road block. It’s worth zero points. If you come across it, there’s no point in fighting it. It just takes up time and space. Does that answer your question?”

 

“Yes! Thank you!”

 

 

Katsuki and Izuku are separated for the practical exam, which doesn’t surprise Izuku but annoys Katsuki to a dull orange.

 

“This is stupid,” Katsuki grumbles as they all file out of the auditorium.

 

“They’re afraid that if we’re in the same arena, we’ll work together, Kachan. It makes perfect sense.”

 

Katsuki just huffs out through his nose. “Like you need my help.”

 

“Well, then why do you want us to be in the same arena?”

 

Katsuki never answers the question, instead using an excuse about finding his testing location to escape. Not like it matters. Izuku knows the answer, anyway. Katsuki is just as lime as he ever is.

 

Izuku wonders if Katsuki will ever trust him.

 

 

There are twenty of them to one arena. In Izuku’s arena are both the girl who saved him from falling, who has some sort of anti-gravity quirk, and the boy who interrupted Present Mic’s explanation who, based on the unusual fit of his pants, has a mutation quirk in his legs. Most of the students distance themselves from each other to do their independent warm-up techniques.

 

Present Mic said they have around five minutes between arrival and the start of the exam.

 

Five minutes is more than enough.

 

“Hello, everybody!” Izuku announces to the crowd with the brightest tone and expression he can manage. He waves and makes eye-contact with everyone who looks his way. The only person who waves back is the gravity girl. “We have roughly five minutes until the exam starts. I was hoping we could go around and state our names and quirks!”

 

“The fuck? Why?” one of the closer students asks.

 

“There’s nothing in the rules against forming alliances,” Izuku answers.

 

- - -

 

“There are two types of battles. Those you can win by talking through them, and those you can’t," Father always says.

 

As soon as Present Mic had announced they’d be fighting robots, Izuku was afraid this battle would have to be the latter.

 

Then, Izuku remembered there are other examinees.

 

- - -

 

“What do you mean, alliances?” someone else hisses.

 

“I mean,” Izuku begins, finding as many eyes as he can, which is easy because he has everyone’s attention now. “We all work together to get the highest scores possible.”

 

“We’re opponents, dude. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen.”

 

“I think that’s a great idea!” the girl who saved him earlier announces, jogging over to him and extending her hand. “My name’s Uraraka! I can make anything I touch zero-gravity!”

 

Izuku shakes her hand. “I’m Midoriya,” he says loud enough for everyone to hear. “My quirk is Pull. I can telepathically draw things towards me. I’m also exceptionally strong, although that isn’t quirk-related.”

 

He could, maybe, try and explain Multi-Quirk, the new cover for the mess Father has caused, but that comes with too many variables.

 

Uraraka giggles. “It’s nice to meet you, Midoriya-kun!”

 

“I suppose you are correct,” the boy who interrupted Present Mic announces, adjusting his glasses. “It technically isn’t against the rules. However, I do not see how it would benefit us, as it would also increase the scores of the people who we are working against.”

 

“Think about it like this,” Izuku begins, turning towards him. “Let’s say I would, on my own, naturally get twenty points, which isn’t enough to get in. With a team, I instead get fifty. Although most everyone else in this arena also gets fifty, the average of the other arenas will remain twenty. That means a majority of people from this arena pass, rather than other arenas. Does that make sense?”

 

"So your argument is that working as a team would increase our individual scores in relation to testers in other arenas?"

 

"Exactly! Have you ever heard of coopertition? It's collaboration in the face of competition. Essentially, nothing is saying we can't work together while still being opponents."

 

The boy blinks for a couple seconds before almost yelling, “My name is Iida, Midoriya-san! As I cannot find any fault in your logic, I will form an alliance with you and Uraraka-san! I have engines on the back of my legs that allow me to run extremely fast!”

 

After that, everyone else falls in line.

 

 

“Okay, so,” Izuku says, looking over the groupings before him. "Uraraka, you're going to get Hano and Anda to a high place as soon as possible. The next group is Iori, Tamasa, and Kurenai. You all have range, but not as much control, so try to distance yourselves from everyone else as much as possible."

 

“Will do, boss!” Kurenai exclaims. They twirl in place and snap their fingers into a pair of finger guns. “Tamasa and I will do our explody stuff with Iori’s back-up.”

 

“Great. Saza-chan and Kobo-kun, your group is even more volatile, so please be as careful as possible.”

 

“Oi,” Saza responds, crossing her arms and furrowing her eyebrows. “That’s literally my entire purpose. We’ll be fine, weirdo.”

 

“I’m just double-checking everything, Saza-chan. Hotari-kun and Kamon-kun, you both know what to do.”

 

“Yup!” Hotari replies as Kamon simultaneously says, “Of course!”

 

“Koizumi-chan, you do you.”

 

“Wouldn’t have it any other way!”

 

“Hitamoro-kun, Uchiro-kun, Maeno-chan, and Nakagawa-chan, you all are closer combat, so please be careful. And someone have an eye on Hitamoro at all times. If they get injured at all, pull them out.”

 

“I’m not a child, Midoriya. I can take care of myself,” Hitamoro complains.

 

Izuku just rolls his eyes. "Moving on, we have Iida, Suda, and Wakita. Iida-kun, watch your corners. Suda-kun, don’t overuse your quirk. Wakita-chan, don’t forget you have other limbs, too.”

 

“Yes, Midoriya-kun!” Iida exclaims as Suda throws a thumbs up and Wakita says, “I won’t!”

 

Before Izuku can cover the last group, the intercom buzzes to life. “This is it, everyone! Go, go, go! The exam has started!” Present Mic announces.

 

Only after a couple seconds does anyone move.

 

 

Ochako runs through the exam with Anda and—aw, darn it, Ochako’s already forgotten his name. She knows his quirk, though, Metal Discharge, and his hair is this pretty silver color, so she thinks that’s enough information. Anda and Silver aren’t her teammates for the entire exam, but Midoriya tasked her with getting them to the top of the tallest building as quickly as she can, so they run. They run past robots and past other students, not wasting any time.

 

“There!” Anda exhales, stumbling to a halt. She points to a building just a couple blocks away. “That one!”

 

It’s definitely the tallest building Ochako can see, and if they’ve estimated the size of the arena accurately, it is in a central location.

 

“Looks good to me!” Silver notes with ease like they haven’t just run half a mile.

 

They start running without saying anything else, all of them fully aware of the rush Ochako is in. When they stop in front of the building, Silver asks with that same effortless tone, “How good is your aim, Uraraka?”

 

Ochako catches her breath, then pants out, “G-great.”

 

“I hope so.” Anda holds out her hand. “Please don’t throw me into the sun. I haven’t turned in this week’s homework yet. I’d hate for my last grade to be an F.”

 

“There’s a ceiling, don’t worry,” Ochako answers with a weak smile, grabbing Anda’s hand and activating her quirk.

 

“That really doesn’t make me feel any better.”

 

“Too bad!” Ochako yells. She lightly tosses Anda at the building, who hits it with light oomph and latches onto the closest windowsill.

 

“You ready?” Ochako asks Silver.

 

“Always.”

 

Soon, Silver is with Anda on the side of the building.

 

“Don’t take it too fast!” Ochako calls through cupped hands. “You’ll start getting nauseous!”

 

It takes them less than thirty seconds to propel themselves to the space above the roof. Ochako drops them the short distance to the roof.

 

“You good?!” she yells up.

 

“Yes, ma’am!” Silver calls. “Now get going to your real job. We’re set here.”

 

Ochako waves up even though she can barely see that far before running back the way they came.

 

- - -

 

“How is Uraraka-chan going to find us?” Dokuro asks in between prying the arm off a one-pointer and using it to beat a two-pointer to death.

 

“I told her we’d be between her and the entrance,” Izuku answers as he carefully Pulls the chip with the three-pointer’s programming out of its delicate positioning. The three-pointer loses power immediately.

 

Dokuro frowns and then startles. Without warning he chucks the arm at something behind Izuku and says with a smirk, “Two-pointer.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Uraraka jogs up with a group of four three-pointers chasing behind her. “M-Midoriya!” She yells with a wide smile. “I brought you both gifts!”

 

“Oh, hell yeah!” Dokuro exclaims. “Do the thing, Uraraka!” Dokuro runs up to meet her halfway. “Toss me!”

 

Without hesitation, even though neither of them have practiced the move before, Uraraka grabs Dokuro by his arm, simultaneously activating her quirk so Dokuro goes weightless, and swings him once around like a baseball bat before flinging him at the hoarde. At some point, Dokuro had gotten another piece of robot, and he now wields it like a club.

 

“Aw yeah! Drop me!” Dokuro screeches seconds before hurtling into the robots. Uraraka drops her quirk’s hold on him and he hits them improvised-club first with more than enough momentum to send all four of them to the ground.

 

After a moment, Dokuro pushes himself to his feet, relatively unharmed. “That was the best, Uraraka! Like a roller coaster but a million times better! Let’s do it again!”

 

“Yeah! I’m super happy it worked out! Usually, my quirk makes people nauseous, so I never get to use it like this.”

 

“Internal Regulation, baby!” Dokuro exclaims, jogging over. “Temperature, pressure, everything you can think of. A little zero-g can’t hurt me.”

 

Izuku, just to be safe, Pulls the chips out of those four robots, as well.

 

“Let’s keep moving,” Izuku says, already scouting another road that looks to have more robots.

 

“Yeah!” Dokuro and Uraraka say simultaneously.

 

- - -

 

“Thank you for the save, Suda-san!” Tenya announces for what feels like the hundredth time. For what feels like the hundredth time, Suda responds with a small bow before turning back to the fight.

 

“How’s it going, Iida?” Wakita asks while simultaneously digging her fingers underneath the casing of a two-pointer, ripping it off, and tearing out a fistful of wires. The robot never stood a chance.

 

“Wonderful, Wakita-san! I think I’m somewhere around thirty, not taking into account points for assistances!”

 

“Suda?” Wakita asks as she jogs over to the next-nearest robot with the full intentions of tearing that one apart as well.

 

Tenya sees Suda nod out of his peripheral and hold up some fingers, but he’s too distracted by a three-pointer to try and figure out what they mean. If Tenya’s been paying as much attention as he thinks he has, Suda hasn’t said a single word this entire time.

 

“You know morse code, my guy?” Wakita yells over the sound of bending metal, which Tenya feels behind his teeth. Suda must respond because she continues, “Are you deaf? No? Mute? Or that other thing? Selective? Yeah? Cool!”

 

Tenya, in an attempt to drown out the terrible creaking, turns his engines back on to kick the head off the three-pointer.

 

“How about binary?”

 

Tenya can’t help but be impressed by Wakita’s multi-tasking skills. He can barely listen to her and fight at the same time, let alone speak himself.

 

“Not binary either? Darn. Uh, Iida-dude, you know any non-verbal languages? Sorry, Suda, but I don’t know sign.”

 

Tenya, after a moment of recollecting his bearings, grunts out, “No. Although, if we were not in the middle of a test I would be able to efficiently communicate through the text function of my phone.”

 

Wakita finishes with her robot and Tenya hears two different chuckles.

 

“Suda!” Wakita exclaims, turning towards him and away from a one-pointer.

 

Suda pulls her out of the way of the one-pointer's attack with impeccable timing and aim that can only be his quirk, Reflexes. Tenya had initially doubted the usefulness of Reflexes, especially when paired with two strength-heavy players like him and Wakita. But Suda has been keeping them both out of trouble every second of the way.

 

“You laughed!” Wakita says, completely ignoring the incident. “Your laugh is so cute!”

 

Tenya may not be able to understand what Suda is signing, but based on his furrowed eyebrows and exaggerated movements, Suda is probably chastising her.

 

“Please try to be more careful, Wakita-san,” Tenya tells her. “We shouldn’t make Suda-san use his quirk too much. He gets bad backlash, remember?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Drop the san’s, Legs. We’re both the same age.”

 

Legs? ” Tenya shrieks. “My name is Iida Tenya, if you’ve forgotten!”

 

“Suda agrees with me. Legs fits you much better.”

 

“Wha--!” Tenya would continue his rant, but he sees a one-pointer down another alleyway, and remembers they’re in the middle of an exam. “We should be getting a move on. We still need to score more points.”

 

- - -

 

“What in all twelve thousand episodes of One Piece is that?! ” Dokuro screams, falling to his knees as buildings collapse around them.

 

The hulking robot is bigger than the road. Every step it takes knocks down more and more buildings.

 

“That--that wasn’t in the pamphlet.”

 

But there’s a giant zero painted on its chest and Izuku knows it was. The zero-pointer. A road-block. That’s misleading advertising if Izuku’s ever heard it.

 

“Run,” Izuku tells Dokuro, who barely waits for the word to leave Izuku’s mouth to shoot off in the opposite direction.

 

Uraraka is standing a couple meters down, closer to the zero-pointer than either of them.

 

And then a building collapses and Izuku can only watch as a chunk of cement falls atop her.

 

It lands on her legs, but it's heavy and unwieldy and Izuku doesn’t think he’ll ever forget her cry of pain.

 

Izuku closes the distance between him and Uraraka with measured steps while simultaneously reaching out to the zero-pointer with Pull.

 

It has so many pieces and they’re all large but Izuku doesn’t care.

 

He needs to stop it.

 

“M-Midori—“ Uraraka whispers from underneath the wreckage. “I’m sorry.”

 

Izuku doesn't respond. He grabs the edge of the block with his hands as he takes hold of multiple pieces of the zero-pointer from yards away.

 

A bolt in its left knee.

 

A wire running down its spine.

 

The lense of its eye.

 

And then he Pulls the pieces with his quirk and pulls the block with his muscles as One for All courses through his body.

 

Chapter Text

“Oh?” Nedzu starts with a tone that Shouta nor none of the other teachers in the monitoring room can ignore. “That’s interesting.”

 

Interesting.

 

Everyone freezes. Conversations die mid-word. Not even All Might’s usual heavy breathing can be heard.

 

The practical exam hasn’t even started yet and Shouta’s already just one more cup of coffee away from a heart attack.

 

“They’re actually going to work together,” Nedzu says. He enlarges one of the ten feeds: Arena F.

 

“They’re cooperating?! ” Nemuri exclaims, shooting to her feet with such speed that she knocks her chair down. “That’s what you’re telling me, right?”

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

Before Nedzu can continue, Nemuri lets out a shriek. “Shouta! Shit, Shouta, you owe me two hundred bucks! Two hundred!

 

Shouta groans and sinks deeper into the couch in an attempt to ignore her cries.

 

“Remember?!” Nemuri yells, leaning over the back of the couch so her face is just inches away from Shouta’s. “Remember? The first time we proctored, you were all, no one’s gonna make use of Nedzu’s stupid loophole.” Her impression of him is terrible, but Hizashi still laughs, the traitor. “And I was like, oh, wanna bet? And then we did and now you owe me two hundred bucks!”

 

Shouta exhales through his nose. “Yes. I remember. Unfortunately.”

 

She squeals and claps her hands together. “Yes! This is great! The best year ever! 

 

“It’s just two hundred,” Shouta groans like he isn’t living paycheck to paycheck.

 

Just two hundred?! Just?!

 

“Kayama,” Nedzu says, silencing her. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I must ask you to quiet down.”

 

“Sorry, Nedzu.” She skips back to her own seat, still smiling.

 

“So,” Snipe begins. “They’re seriously working together.”

 

“Yes!” Nedzu exclaims. “I’ll turn on the audio.”

 

Normally, Nedzu is the only one with access to the audio of the ten arenas. The others don’t need it, as their only job is to ensure the examinees stay safe. All they need to do is watch the screens and be ready to interfere at a moment’s notice.

 

“Painless?” a short kid with fluffy, dark green hair says. Based on where he’s standing, a bit in front of the rest of the students of his arena, he’s taken some sort of leadership role. Shouta thinks he looks somewhat familiar, but doesn’t recognize him. “That sounds dangerous. You could seriously hurt yourself without even realizing it, Hitamoro-kun.”

 

“That’s the point,” a tall, lanky kid with glowing blue eyes snaps. “I’m the tank. No matter how much damage I take, I can keep going.”

 

“Midoriya Izuku,” Nedzu notes, pointing to the leader.

 

“We don’t have time to argue, Midoriya says with a sigh.“If you’re comfortable with your hand-to-hand skills, join Uchiro and Nakagawa.”

 

“What are they doing?” Hizashi asks, leaning forward with his chin on his hands and his elbows on his knees.

 

Nedzu smiles and the image is straight out of Shouta’s nightmares. Literally. Shouta has had multiple nightmares in which Nedzu gives him a pop quiz, Shouta fails, and Nedzu smiles exactly like that. “He’s splitting them up by skill set. Ranged versus close combat. Volatile versus contained. But, more importantly, he’s organizing them based on how their quirks will interact.”

 

“Er... what do you mean?”

 

“Well, for instance--” Nedzu stops mid-sentence, which Shouta doesn't think he’s ever done before. “Just listen.”

 

“Anda-chan, would you feel comfortable using bullets Hano creates?” Midoriya asks.

 

The girl in question startles and glances at another student.

 

“It’s completely sanitary,”  the other student, most likely Hano, says.

 

When she doesn’t answer immediately, Midoriya speaks up again, “Just a yes or a no, please. We’re on a time crunch.”

 

“S-sure. It’s fine.”

 

“Anda Satoko can spit small items from her mouth at high velocities rivaling a rifle. However, her aim depends highly on the shape of the item,” Nedzu states. “Since we don’t allow students to bring in outside materials, in its natural state, her quirk would be useless.”

 

“This Hano kid can create bullets?” Snipe asks. “How?”

 

“Metal Discharge. He can release the metal within his body through his pores and solidify or mold it to his desire. It’s fairly useful for close combat, as it has the potential to be used for both offense and defense. However, with Hano creating bullets for Anda, his effectiveness is incredibly increased.”

 

“You’re telling me that in... two minutes, this Midoriya kid analyzed their quirks well enough to basically create hero duos? ” Vlad King interjects.

 

“They aren’t only duos. There are groups of threes and fours, as well.”

 

Shouta, in all honesty, doesn’t know what to think. He’s impressed, definitely. No examinee has ever gone the teamwork route before and cooperation is completely underrated. But, Shouta still can’t help but think this is all too good to be true.

 

“What’s his quirk?” Shouta asks.

 

“Whose?” Nedzu replies with naivety he doesn’t have.

 

“Midoriya’s.”

 

Nedzu smiles back at him. “I’m happy you’re interested in an examinee, Aizawa, but that’s cheating. You’ll have to wait and see.”

 

Shouta clicks his tongue. He isn’t interested. He’s curious. Curious. There’s a difference.

 

“Oh?” Hizashi starts, leaning closer to Shouta. “You’re interested in someone? Really? Who is it?”

 

Shouta doesn’t answer, instead hiding his face in his sleeping bag.

 

“Midoriya Izuku,” All Might answers from the other side of the room. “I think you’d be a good teacher for him, Aizawa.”

 

Shouta doesn’t ask why All Might thinks that because Shouta doesn’t care.

 

“Seriously?!” Nemuri screams at the screens. “He knows sign language, too? Who the fuck is this kid, the next prime minister?”

 

All Might’s eyes widen. “He does?”

 

“Hey, walking megaphone, what are they saying?” Nemuri asks, raising her eyebrows at Hizashi.

 

“Don't call me out like this,” Hizashi grumbles as Nedzu zooms in on the two testers’ hands. “They’re talking about the blond’s quirk, now, Retry. It--goodness--it lets him rewind time back to the last time he blinked. Oh, alright, that makes me feel better about myself. He can only do it once per blink and overuse of it gives him pretty bad migraines.”

 

“His name is Suda-kun,” Midoriya says to the crowd. They all say hellos back. “Did I pronounce that right?” he asks Suda, who nods. “Great. His quirk is Reflexes--”

 

Not Retry, Reflexes.

 

The room of staff and Suda tense simultaneously.

 

“--he can react to situations extremely quickly. Suda-kun, you can work with Iida and Wakita. You’ll be able to provide them backup.”

 

Everyone is silent until Nedzu says, “That seems to have caught you all off-guard. I don’t know why. It was the best solution.”

 

“Solution?” All Might asks quietly. “Where was the problem?”

 

“You have a naive perspective! The examinees currently have less than a minute until the exam starts, and that’s just assuming U.A. sticks to the timeline Yamada casually implied. Midoriya is incapable of explaining Suda’s quirk to eighteen others and also completing his task of creating a united team within that timeline. In addition, how did you all initially react when learning what Suda’s quirk was?”

 

“Personally, I was intimidated,” Ectoplasm says.

 

“That is the correct answer! And we are mature adults. How do you think teenagers would respond when hearing about a potentially powerful time travel quirk?”

 

“They wouldn’t trust him,” Shouta answers. “Suda would be ostracized."

 

“Exactly! Midoriya bypassed the entire situation by simplifying Suda’s quirk down to what it accomplishes.”

 

Shouta finds it hard to believe that a fifteen year-old made such an educated decision in just a few seconds.

 

“Are you justifying lying?” All Might suddenly asks.

 

“Yes, in fact, I am! In some situations, a lie is better than the truth,” Nedzu answers.

 

All Might doesn’t respond and Hizashi announces the start of the exam.

 

- - -

 

Nedzu is both physically and mentally capable of watching all two hundred live feeds (one for each applicant) at once. And usually he does. It isn’t his fault that during this particular exam, some feeds are more eye-catching that others. For once, Nedzu actually has expectations. Arena F is actually competent.

 

Never before has he seen examinees go through the exam so effortlessly, like actors in a Broadway-ready performance. There aren’t any loose ends. When a mistake happens, it's immediately patched up. 

 

For instance, Kobo Yakukazu and Saza Cho.

 

Kobo's quirk, Bubbles, is impressive on paper. Bubbles which explode when they pop? A classic hero quirk. Unfortunately, he lacks any control over the quirk, so practical use is actually more dangerous than anything else.

 

But...

 

“Tell me when, Saza-san,” Kobo says calmly as three two-pointers wheel up to them.

 

Saza sighs and adjusts her glasses. “We’re close. One-one,” she states.

 

Kobo breaths in and puffs out his cheeks.

 

“Alright,” Saza starts when the robots are less than ten feet away. “One-seven. Probably as good as it’s gonna get.”

 

Kobo burps out five small, translucent bubbles which float in the air.

 

The robots run straight into them and explode upon impact. All of them, dead.

 

Kobo smiles and holds out his hand. “Nice one! Midoriya-san was right, we make a great team. Thanks for your help with my quirk, Saza-san.”

 

After a couple seconds of hesitation, Saza lazily high-fives back.

 

Saza's quirk, Risk Versus Reward, tells her the probability of any situation ending with a negative or positive outcome. It doesn’t have any physical applications on its own. Unless she has years of special training in hand-to-hand combat (which she doesn’t), she shouldn’t have any chance at passing the practical exam.

 

In any other arena, neither of them would score more than ten points. But, with the two of them working together, they’re both already above thirty.

 

Nedzu can hardly believe it.

 

- - -

 

“It’s time,” Nedzu announces as he hands the microphone to Hizashi.

 

Hizashi clears his throat and takes the mic. Nedzu--somehow, he doesn’t even have hands, he has paws--holds up three fingers and counts down silently. Nedzu hits the button right before Hizashi yells, “Only five minutes remaining, boys, girls, and other gender or agender teens! Good luck!”

 

The ground shakes even from the safety of the monitoring room. There are, after all, ten zero-pointers out at once.

 

Shouta groans and drinks his coffee. They have another three weeks of this crap. They are the best hero school in the world and, therefore, get a shit-ton of applicants. He seriously debates finally suggesting that they outsource the process, because it’s a nine-to-two job during these four weeks and then a straight day or two of solid arguing during the actual decision making. The entire process, despite supposedly being designed by Nedzu himself, takes five weeks in all and Shouta hates every minute. It makes him actually look forward to teaching which, in hindsight, might be the purpose.

 

“No one’s gonna do it,” Shouta grumbles.

 

“C’mon,” Hizashi whines. “You never know. There are more than a couple good ones this batch.”

 

Arena F doesn’t even need mentioning at this point.

 

“The chance is--what is it again, Nedzu?” Hizashi asks.

 

Nedzu’s ears perk up at the sound of his name. “Oh? For an examinee to take on the zero-pointer? Based on past data, one in every three hundred thousand, four hundred sixty seven. Less than ten percent of those who try will actually stick with it long enough to get rescue points.”

 

Shouta narrows his eyes at Hizashi. See?

 

Hizashi just huffs, crosses his arms, and pouts. “There’s still a chance.”

 

For a couple minutes examinees run around with their heads cut off.

 

Then, Hizashi cringes. “Oof,” he whispers before nodding to one of the monitors. “That looks bad.”

 

One of the examinees managed to get stuck under a piece of rubble so heavy she can’t get out from under it. And she’s trapped right in the path of the zero-pointer.

 

“It’s now or never, Hizashi,” Shouta grunts. He really has no trust in teenagers these days. No, he needs to clarify that. He’s never had trust in anybody. Humans are terrible creatures.

 

It ends up being now, rather than never.

 

Before Nedzu can finish saying, “That’s Arena F, Aizawa, I’d seriously reconsider,” someone takes out the zero-pointer.

 

Shouta can’t follow what happens. The examinee--Midoriya something, of course--struts calmly up to the girl and lifts up the large block while, in the background, the zero-pointer just collapses to the ground, powerless.

 

“What. The. Fuck,” Shouta deadpans, eyes wide with shock.

 

Nedzu chuckles and the sound fills the room, silencing everyone else. “Midoriya Izuku,” he says, dropping his chin on his paws. “He’s interesting, indeed.”

 

A shiver runs down Shouta’s spine.

 

Nedzu calling a living human being interesting cannot be a good sign.

 

Someone clears their throat and another person sputters.

 

“Interesting? Are you sure?” All Might inputs, voice cracking at every other syllable. “He looks pretty normal to me.”

 

Nedzu doesn’t look away from the screen. “Normal? He united nineteen strangers into near perfect hero squadrons and, if the computer’s initial calculations are accurate--” They are. Nedzu programmed it himself. “--none of them scored below sixty points.”

 

Everyone is silent. Even Shouta doesn’t have an answer.

 

All he knows is that Midoriya is going to be a problem student for whichever teacher gets stuck with him.

 

- - -

 

“So,” Nedzu begins from the head of the table. “Everyone has had a chance to look over the tentative class rosters?”

 

There’s a chorus of yes’s. Shouta just grunts.

 

Now, it's the decision making part. Also known as: everyone sits around a table and talks at each other for eight hours straight.

 

“Any questions or concerns?”

 

Snipe raises his hand and waits until Nedzu gestures to ask, “Why didn’t you admit more January Ten kids into the hero course? Most of them at least doubled the scores of almost everyone else, especially when you take into account rescue points.”

 

January Ten kids is the nickname they all gave the examinees in Arena F on that day, when Midoriya broke the exam.

 

“We were forced to weigh their scores differently. Otherwise, all of them would be admitted into the hero course, and we all know that would not have been the case if Midoriya had not interfered as he did.”

 

“I believe that some did make it into gen ed,” Ectoplasm starts. “I know at least one is in business, now.”

 

“That is correct. Three were admitted into the hero course, three into general education, one into business, and another into support,” Nedzu answers. “On that note, we will be prohibiting explicit team-ups for future exams.”

 

“Why do we need to illegalize team-ups?” Hizashi asks. “They weren’t illegal before.”

 

“It was unnecessary to make them illegal when no one considered them an option. Now that they’ve been put on the table, we need to take them off.”

 

Hizashi grumbles something incomprehensible, but doesn’t continue.

 

After a moment of silence, Cementoss asks, “I have a question,” without raising a hand.

 

“Go ahead,” Nedzu prompts.

 

“Mineta-kun has a disciplinary record. He has numerous complaints of lewd behavior and verbal harassment from his middle school. Even though no disciplinary action came from them, this would usually disqualify someone for admittance, let alone the hero course.”

 

Nedzu taps his pen against the table a couple times before answering. “Yes, Mineta-kun is a special case. I have decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. He did score high enough in the practical exam to qualify for the hero course and his written exam scores were of the top ten percent of the applicants.”

 

“You’re going to let a possible sexual predator into the hero course because he scored well? ” Nemuri hisses.

 

Nedzu doesn’t flinch. “Yes.”

 

“Fuck this shit,” Nemuri announces, fists clenching. “Let’s vote on it.”

 

“I apologize, Kayama,” Nedzu starts, his expression unchanging. “But we cannot vote on this issue. It comes from above me.”

 

“Above you?

 

“The funding committee,” Shouta deadpans, the even tone of his voice not at all reflecting his anger.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Fuck!” Nemuri yells, shooting to her feet. In a hurry, she packs her bag, stuffing papers in without care. “I won’t be a part of this, Nedzu.”

 

She storms out. After looking between Nedzu and her, Hizashi runs after her.

 

“Anything else?” Nedzu asks like the entire confrontation never happened.

 

All Might raises his hand, obviously shivering with nerves.

 

“Yes, All Might?”

 

“Er, I know it’s my first time at U.A. and all, so this is probably a stupid question, but why exactly do we need to enroll Mineta-kun?”

 

Shouta grunts to claim the answer. “Mineta-kun’s family is a big donor. If we don’t admit Mineta-kun, they’ll stop donating, and U.A. will lose that portion of their income.”

 

“Aizawa is correct,” Nedzu continues. “Although we are required--”

 

“Required is a strong word,” Shouta interrupts quietly.

 

Nedzu continues like Shouta never spoke, “--to admit him, we will be able to expel him during the school year if it comes down to it.”

 

“I would like to say,” Vlad King begins, tone carefully even, “although I understand why you feel the need to admit him, please consider the image this presents to our students.”

 

“I have,” Nedzu states.

 

No one can say anything to that because they all know it’s the truth.

Chapter Text

“How’d the exam go?” Toshinori asks even though he knows exactly how the exam went. He watched the recordings at least three times.

 

“I think it went really well! The written exam wasn’t too bad and I think I made some friends during the practical. I discovered I can use One for All’s strength enhancing and another quirk at the same time, which is pretty cool.”

 

Strength enhancing.

 

Midoriya’s been treating One for All like any other strength enhancement quirk, which Toshinori supposes is fine. However, it means he’s stagnated at less than one percent of One for All’s potential. Midoriya could be so much stronger, if only Toshinori knew how to change Midoriya’s perspective.

 

On the plus side, Midoriya's caution with the quirk means there’s very little, if any, possibility of injury.

 

“We all exchanged numbers,” Midoriya says, probably to fill the silence. Midoriya’s never been comfortable with silence. “We have a group chat with all twenty of us. It’s sort of crowded, but it’s fun.”

 

Toshinori pauses eating his sorbet to contrast Midoriya’s experience at U.A.'s entrance exam with his own. In short, his had been chaos. He doesn’t remember it very clearly, anymore, but he does recall the mad rush of adrenaline during the fight for points. He remembers the feeling of competition, like every other examinee is there just to take points away from you. He remembers punching so many robots that he bruised his knuckles.

 

Midoriya’s exam had been nothing like that if he was able to make friends during it.

 

Toshinori wants to ask Midoriya what drove him to make an alliance out of his entire arena, but he can’t.

 

There’s another question he has to ask, first.

 

“Midoriya-kun,” Toshinori starts, looking above his successor’s head, “about what happened, after I gave you... it? When we were here, at Frozen Delights and Yuuma-san asked who you were...”

 

Toshinori’s throat tightens shut and he can’t force himself to ask the question.

 

“Yeah?” Midoriya asks like nothing’s wrong.

 

“You--” Toshinori swallows and tries again. He doesn’t know why he feels so nauseous. Midoriya is Midoriya. It isn’t like Toshinori is asking anything bad. It’s just a question. “How did you lie so easily?” he finally squeezes out.

 

Midoriya’s eyes widen and, for a moment, that’s his only reaction. “What do you mean?” he asks quietly.

 

“When you told her... you’re my nephew.” Toshinori tries to read Midoriya, but he just looks confused with his wide eyes and parted mouth.

 

“I mean...” Midoriya says, “I just did it?” He shrugs, but doesn’t say anything else.

 

Toshinori frowns. “I suppose a better question would be, why?”

 

Midoriya straightens his back and looks at nothing in particular. “I didn’t see any other option,” he answers almost immediately.

 

What drove Midoriya to believe lying is the only option? When and where did this happen?

 

“Um...” Toshinori coughs into his fist as a placeholder and glances around the shop in hopes he’ll find the answer. “You could have told the truth, or a version of it.”

 

“I wasn’t aware what she knew about you,” Midoriya says without inflection. “If I told her you were my physical trainer and she had no idea about your connections to the hero industry, that would just raise more questions.”

 

Toshinori frowns at the effortless rebuttal. “You could have avoided the question. Told her your name and nothing else.”

 

Midoriya just shakes his head. “She’d be intrigued by the mystery. The longer we avoided the question, the more desire she’d have for an answer.”

 

Toshinori sinks into his chair, defeated. “You could have... let me answer it?”

 

“And what would you have said, Yagi-san?”

 

“Er...”

 

Midoriya smiles--finally--and the atmosphere is normal again. “Yes, that would have gone so well.” He rolls his eyes. “We’re in agreement, then? Lying was the safest way to handle the situation?”

 

“I’m not happy about it but... I can’t argue.”

 

There are still so many unanswered questions, but Toshinori supposes he can save those for another time. Or maybe never.

 

“Have you gotten your quirk re-registered, yet?” Toshinori asks, instead.

 

“Yeah! Just before the exam. They named it ‘Multi-Quirk’ and told me it’s level Silver. Random Quirk Generator was only Blue. That’s six whole levels higher.”

 

Toshinori startles. Silver? When he had One for All, it was Bronze. Silver is an entire Metallic higher. “Did they give you the whole Metallic speech? About the increased regulations?”

 

Midoriya nods. “I got an entire folder of information. I haven’t finished reading it yet, though.”

 

“I could summarize everything I remember. I’m sure it’s not everything, but I have to know quite a bit as a hero. I’ve also been Bronze since I got--since my quirk came in, so I have that going for me.”

 

“That would be helpful, thank you!”

 

Toshinori thinks for a moment about where to start, then asks, “I’m assuming you know the basics about the quirk power classification system? The differences between Rainbow and Metallics?”

 

“Of course! The main difference is regulations and repercussions for illegal quirk usage. Quirks under a Rainbow threat, ranked Purple to Red, all face the same base-line punishment. Metallics, as they have an incredibly higher threat level, face harsher, more individualized punishments.”

 

Toshinori nods along as Midoriya speaks, but stalls by the time he finishes. “Threat level?” Toshinori asks. “I was always taught quirks were classified by power output, not threat level.”

 

Midoriya shrugs. “Power, threat. What’s the difference?”

 

Toshinori can’t think of an argument, so he continues. “Well, the process for getting a hero license is different for someone with a Metallic quirk versus a Rainbow quirk.”

 

“Really?” Midoriya asks.

 

“Well, not really different, just, slightly longer. You have to go through a couple extra steps.”

 

“Do you know about the Black or White levels?”

 

“The whats?” Toshinori asks before his brain catches up. “Wait, are those the levels above Metallic?”

 

“Yup. It goes Blank, Rainbow, Metallics, Black, White. I actually don’t know if any quirk has ever been classified under the White code.”

 

That’s probably for the best. Toshinori’s One for All is at the lowest Metallic level. He can’t even begin to comprehend what a White-leveled quirk would look like.

 

“I don’t know about a quirk at the Black or White level, unfortunately,” Toshinori answers. “If you’re really interested in it, I’m sure Nedzu knows.”

 

“The principal of U.A.?” Midoriya asks and it’s only then that Toshinori realizes what he’s said.

 

Oh. Oh no.

 

Now Toshinori is imagining Nedzu and Midoriya in the same room.

 

That’s definitely a recipe for disaster.

 

“Uh,” Toshinori starts, but he knows it’s too late.

 

“Maybe I will ask him,” Midoriya says with a smile much too innocent to actually be innocent.

 

 


 

 

A Number of Days Later

 

 

The Midoriya household doesn’t get mail.

 

Hisashi set it up this way specifically, years ago, when it was just Inko and him.

 

Where other houses get bills and advertisements and magazines, the Midoriyas don’t get anything.

 

So, when a thick paper folder falls through the never-been-used mail slot, it can only be one thing.

 

Izuku’s acceptance letter.

 

Izuku is, right now, still at school.

 

Hisashi opens the folder, hoping he won’t have to pull out the text-to-speech app on his phone.

 

“I am here!” the letter announces in All Might’s voice, “as a hologram!”

 

Ah. Of course it’s a hologram. At least there’s audio.

 

“Surprise! I’m teaching at U.A.! Oh, wait, you already... what? I need to get to the point? Alright! Congratulations, Midoriya Izuku! As you probably already guessed, you made it into U.A.’s Hero Course! Class 1-A, in fact! And, you got the highest score in record with thirty-two villain points and seventy-six rescue points. I’m sure you can figure out what rescue points are if you haven’t already. Right! The point! Your total is one hundred nine! And that’s not all! Uraraka-chan was so moved by your heroic deeds she came to us with this request!”

 

The audio fizzles, but that’s the only warning Hisashi gets before a girl’s voice replaces All Might’s. “He probably got enough points but... he saved me, you know? I want to make sure he gets in and he deserves them more than me, anyway. Could you--could you please give half of my points to him?”

 

“Welcome to your hero academia, Midoriya-kun! Plus Ultra!”

 

The audio cuts off into silence.

 

The highest score in record.

 

Hisashi’s smile is more a smirk, and befits a villain more than a father.

 

- - -

 

When Izuku gets home, Father calls him into the living room. “Come listen to this!” Father announces.

 

“What is it?” Izuku asks as he drops his backpack by the stairs.

 

“Your results for U.A.”

 

Izuku is only surprised by Uraraka’s message. He may not have known that he got in, but Izuku had a pretty good idea. He was confident enough in his own ability to keep track of his points and ability to read Yagi to make the assumption.

 

“Congratulations, Izuku,” Father says. “We should celebrate, don’t you think?”

 

Izuku doesn’t want to do anything with his father right now. He wants to tell Yagi and the Arena F group chat that he got in. But, Izuku knows what the right answer is, “Yeah! What do you want to do? I could make that steak you like.”

 

“No, no. This is a special occasion, Izuku. You got into the most selective hero school in the country. Let’s go out.”

 

Out.

 

Izuku freezes. He fixes a neat smile on over his face and asks, “Out? Where?” They never go out. Or, more specifically, they haven’t gone out in roughly five years.

 

“Why not Arakawa? You used to love that place.”

 

“Do we have a reservation?”

 

“Don’t worry about that, Izuku. Let’s go! Celebrate! This is your day!”

 

If it really was Izuku’s day, fate or some higher power would just let Izuku rest.

 

 

While Izuku is changing into a suit and a green tie, his phone buzzes.

 

Group Chat -- Hero Hopefuls and three more (20 Members)

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!

I GOT IN GUYS

HERO COURSE!!!!!!!!! asdhfjkldahdf

 

[Wakita Ori]

nice dude! congrats!

im in support!

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

HOW MANY

Oops sorry

How many pts did u get?

They told me this confusing stuff about "weighting"?

I don't really understand it

 

[Wakita Ori]

uhhh sry babe, support

i dont even think they looked at my hero apps tbh lmao

 

[Suda Saneatsu]

Good job, Uraraka! I got in the general education course!

And Uraraka, they told me the same thing

My final score was 23, but supposedly my original was higher

I'm not sure, it's weird

 

[Wakita Ori]

Baaaaaaabe

Suuuuddaaaaaaaaa

You made ittttt

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

Hmmm

Yeah idk

Thx for sharing your score Suda! That was nice!!

I got 73 myself

Sorta wanna know how many I got before the weight or whatever

 

Izuku debates responding. He really, really wants to. But, he has priorities. Dinner.

 

 

“Did you really get reservations to Arakawa?” Izuku asks during the drive.

 

“Are you doubting me, Izuku?”

 

“Of course not.” It’s just that Arakawa is one of Tokyo's top ten hardest places to get in to and we just found out about my acceptance today.

 

“Arakawa?” the driver asks. He lets out a wolf-whistle. “Shi--shambles. I feel under-dressed just driving up to the place. Why didn’t you buy Uber Black if you can afford it?”

 

“I may waste money on good food,” Father begins, “but I don’t succumb so far into the scam which is capitalism that I would waste it on a slightly more expensive car.”

 

“Uh, right, of course... sir. Fu--fudge the patriarchy and all that, right?”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“So, Arakawa? Y’all celebrating something?”

 

“My son got into U.A.’s Hero Course.”

 

U.A.?! ” the driver exclaims, almost swerving the car out of their lane. “Holy--holy shit. Fuckin’ hell! I’m--I’m driving around a celebrity! A celebrity! You’re gonna be a hero one day! Could I get your autograph, kid?”

 

“It’ll cost you a hundred bucks,” Father says without missing a beat.

 

“Huh?” is all the driver responds with.

 

“I’m joking.” Father chuckles and shakes his head. “I was being sarcastic. I don’t care what Izuku does.”

 

Izuku has to hold himself back from snickering at such a blatant lie.

 

“R-really? Great!”

 

“Have you decided on a hero name, yet?” Father asks Izuku.

 

“No,” Izuku lies.

 

“That’s fine! Your given name is totally cool, too. There should be a notebook and pen in one of the pockets on the back of the seats.”

 

Izuku finds it, signs a page, and puts it back.

 

When the driver drops them off, Father tips him an extra twenty bucks.

 

 

“Name, sir?” Arakawa's hostess asks.

 

“Midoriya,” Father answers. The portable respirator hanging from his neck is the loudest noise in the whole restaurant.

 

After a moment of scanning the tablet, her eyes widen and she bows slightly. “P-please excuse me.”

 

“Of course,” Father says even though she’s already halfway across the restaurant.

 

Izuku tries to look comfortable, like he belongs with this scene. But, honestly? The candle chandeliers? The gold silverware? The quiet opera you can hear just well enough to identify, but not well enough to appreciate? Izuku doesn’t like any of this.

 

“Midoriya-sama,” a different woman starts with a deep bow. She's wearing a nice, dark suit. The skirt and lack of apron implies she doesn’t do a lot of walking around or work in the kitchen. “It’s an honor to be serving you. I’m one of Arakawa’s managers, Koyanagi. We’ll have a table ready for you in just a couple minutes.”

 

Izuku startles. It’s an honor. A couple minutes. What is this? Did they seriously just walk into Arakawa without a reservation?

 

“Thank you, Koyanagi-san. And Midoriya-san is fine. I appreciate your hospitality.”

 

“If you don’t mind the intrusion,” Koyanagi starts, “is there any special occasion to your visit? We haven’t seen you in years.”

 

Father drops a hand on Izuku’s shoulder and pulls him to his side. “My son got into U.A.”

 

“Really?” she glances at Izuku for just a moment before looking back to his father. “Congratulations. I’m happy for you.” The smile plastered on her face is obviously fake, and her words are even less honest.

 

Izuku is used to it, though, the pandering.

 

Two patrons pass by them silently. After the door closes behind them, Koyanagi says, “Your table is ready, sir.” She takes them to a small, two-person table in one of the corners and tells them Takei will be their waiter before she leaves.

 

“So, Izuku,” Father starts, holding the menu like he can read it. “You got first place. Are you happy?”

 

“Definitely,” Izuku answers because it’s what Father wants to hear.

 

It still hasn’t sunk in yet. Izuku doesn’t know if it ever will. He can hardly believe he actually got into U.A. He probably won’t until he walks into class.

 

His first place is probably a mistake, too.

 

“My name is Takei,” their waiter says with a bow of his head. “May I get either of you something to drink? An appetizer?”

 

They both get water. No appetizer.

 

“Why don’t you tell me how you beat U.A.’s record?” Father asks.

 

“Do you know what you’re ordering?” Izuku answers.

 

“Of course, beef. Do you?”

 

“Not yet,” Izuku says, scanning the single-paged menu.

 

“How about the beef? It’s what you always used to get as a kid.”

 

Izuku doesn’t even consider something else. “You’re right. I forgot. I’ll go with that.”

 

“Great.” Father sets his menu down. “Now, the exam. I want to know all the details. How did my own son beat the previous record?”

 

Izuku crosses his legs at the ankles and pulls them under his chair. “I didn’t really do anything special...” Izuku pauses as the waiter drops off their drinks and they order their meals.

 

“Nothing special,” Father picks back up. “I’m sure you’re underselling yourself, but continue.”

 

Izuku shrugs. “I mean, I did what I always do. I talked. I convinced a couple of the other applicants to work with me, and I’m pretty sure U.A. gave me some extra Rescue Points for it. I used Pull to take out a number of the robots, but I don’t think I got an impressive amount.”

 

“Most of your points did come from Rescues,” Father notes. “You think that’s due to the alliance you built?”

 

“Probably.”

 

Father hums for a moment. “That doesn’t sound accurate. I'm sure they give out Rescue Points for actively protecting others or putting yourself in the line of danger, not something passive like that. Yours could be a result of your team, but I don’t think it’s a direct correlation.”

 

There isn’t a question in there. But, Father is expecting a response. “That does make sense.”

 

“But?” Father asks.

 

Izuku shakes his head. “There isn’t a but.”

 

“I’m definitely hearing a but.” Father says it with a smile. It sounds light. But, he isn't going to give it up. 

 

Izuku bites his lower lip before saying, “Another applicant in my alliance only got seventy-some points, and the only difference between our performances that I can think of is that I’m the one who organized us.”

 

“Another student?”

 

There’s a reason Izuku didn’t want to go down this train of topic. “Yes, Father.”

 

“So you’ve been in contact with another student... why didn’t you tell me? You know I love hearing about your friends.”

 

“It just never came up and I ended up forgetting. Sorry.”

 

Father frowns. “Forgetting? You two must not be very close, then. Or did you just not want to tell me?”

 

Izuku doesn’t have a choice in his answer. “We only met through the exam, Father. We aren’t close at all.”

 

Father clasps his hands together and places them on the table. He leans forward to say, “So you can’t even make a friend. I see. Maybe you aren’t good enough for U.A. after all.

 

Izuku tenses. His heart pumps blood through his body at a speed fast enough to make him boil. He should be used to it by now. He should know better than to let what Father says get to him. But... it still hurts.

 

Neither of them say another word until the food arrives.

 

“This really is delicious,” Father remarks like nothing happened.

 

“It is,” Izuku responds with a small smile that probably doesn’t reach his eyes. “Definitely worth the money.”

 

“I agree. There are some things you just have to pour money into to get the full experience. Food will always be one of those.”

 

 

After their plates have been cleared, Father frowns and says, “I’m sorry, Izuku. Sometimes I speak before thinking, you know that. I went too far earlier.”

 

Izuku smiles and uncrosses his legs. “No, don’t worry about it! It really isn’t a big deal.” It really isn’t. Izuku should be used to stuff like that by now. It’s just how Father communicates.

 

Father’s frown deepens. “Are you... going to forgive me.”

 

“Ah! Sorry, of course! I forgive you.”

 

Father smiles. “Let’s get desert, then. Today is your day, after all.”

Chapter Text

Izuku finds his classroom with reasonable ease. The maps pinned in various locations around the campus, although convoluted, offer all the information he needs to find 1-A.

 

He’s thirty minutes early, so he expects no one else to be there, but after opening the door he finds three other students.

 

“Midoriya-san!” Iida calls from the other side of the classroom, already stalking towards him. “It’s a pleasure to see you again! How have you been these past few weeks?”

 

Izuku recognizes one of the two as Todoroki Shouto. The other, a young woman with a dark ponytail, he doesn’t know.

 

“I’ve been great! How are you?” Izuku replies.

 

“Pretty good! Let me introduce you all! Midoriya-san, this is Todoroki Shouto and Yaoyorozu Momo. Todoroki-san and Yaoyorozu-san, this is Midoriya Izuku.”

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Midoriya-san,” Yaoyorozu says, walking up and extending her hand.

 

“And you, Yaoyorozu-san.”

 

When Todoroki doesn’t move to repeat the gesture, Izuku steps up to him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Todoroki-san.”

 

Izuku is met with nothing but the orange-red of suspicion and hostility and aggression.

 

Todoroki doesn’t say anything, but his glare and aura convey paragraphs.

 

After a moment of awkward silence, Iida exclaims, “Midoriya-san!” When Izuku turns around, Iida is in a bow bent at his waist. “I want to offer my most sincerest gratitude!”

 

Izuku doesn’t trust what Empathy is telling him.

 

There is no way Iida is being serious.

 

“I received an extra thirty points in Rescue Points and, even taking into account U.A.’s weighting, I got sixty one points! Thank you very much for your assistance!”

 

He isn’t lying. Isn’t he lying?

 

He has to be lying, but Empathy is saying Iida’s telling the truth.

 

Izuku opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again. Then, he does what he always does. He smiles and says what Iida wants to hear, “You’re welcome.”

 

“Did you help Iida-san during the entrance exam?” Yaoyorozu asks as Iida straightens his back.

 

“Not really,” Izuku answers as Iida exclaims, “Definitely!”

 

Iida shoots Izuku a raised eyebrow, but just clears his throat and continues. “Midoriya-san convinced our entire testing arena to cooperate. Due to the nature of Rescue Points, it greatly increased many of our scores.”

 

“Wow,” Yaoyorozu starts. “That’s impressive.”

 

Izuku just smiles and lets the words wash over him.

 

 

Katsuki arrives with ten minutes to spare.

 

Izuku, after much debate, pretends Katsuki doesn’t exist.

 

It’s hard. Not saying hello or waving makes Izuku physically nauseous. It goes against everything his father has taught him.

 

But he knows it’s what Katsuki wants.

 

Katsuki ignores everyone else, even the kind Kirishima who's been introducing himself to everyone.

 

 

Izuku gets a text message three minutes before class starts. Iida does, too.

 

“It’s from Uraraka-san,” Iida says. “She has gotten lost and cannot find the classroom. She is requesting assistance.”

 

Izuku jumps to his feet. “I’ll help her!”

 

“Would you like me to come with you?” Iida asks.

 

“Only if you want to. I can’t promise we’ll make it back on time.”

 

“I shall remain here, then. Good luck, Midoriya-san.”

 

“Thanks!” Izuku says before leaving the classroom.

 

Izuku picks a random direction to walk and calls Uraraka.

 

“Midoriya! Thank you so much! I’m on the third floor somewhere!”

 

“Do you see any signs?”

 

“Uh... oh! Support, 3-H. Is that good?”

 

“It is! You’re in the right building, Uraraka-chan! That’s great. Take the nearest stairs down. I’ll meet you there.”

 

Uraraka sighs. “Wait, what time is it? What if I make you late?”

 

“It’ll be fine. It’s the first day of class and U.A. is a big campus. The teacher is bound to be lenient during the first few days.”

 

Izuku stands at the bottom of the stairs and hears Uraraka ask, “Are you sure?” through both his phone and up another floor.

 

“I’m sure!” he yells and hangs up the phone.

 

Uraraka jogs down the last flight and greets him with a smile. “Alright. If you say so.” After a moment of walking to their room, Uraraka asks, “Does everyone else seem nice?”

 

“Yup,” Izuku answers. “I don’t know them too well, but they seem pretty cool.”

 

“That’s good.”

 

They stop in front of the door. “Okay,” Uraraka exhales. “The moment of truth.”

 

“You nervous?”

 

Uraraka chuckles. “Just a little bit. The first days are always the worst, you know? New people, new...”

 

Uraraka keeps talking, but Izuku doesn’t hear her, anymore.

 

He’s distracted by the sound of intentionally shallow breaths, by the light grey aura illuminating the hallway, by someone trying to sneak around.

 

Izuku is back in his kitchen at two in the morning, trying to steal a handful of cereal because he hasn't eaten in three days, and Father is sneaking down the stairs. He instantly scans his environment for somewhere to hide. When he finds nothing but a door he doesn't recognize--too risky, he doesn’t know how loud the hinges are--he falls back on his last resort. He’ll find him first.

 

- - -

 

They make eye-contact from across the hallway.

 

Shouta has nothing against eye-contact, but he is currently deep in stealth-mode--as deep as he goes for his hero missions. Like this--silent, barely breathing, slithering across the floor in his sleeping bag--he doesn’t have a presence. He barely even exists.

 

So, the fact that a fifteen-year-old just found Shouta’s eyes while in the middle of engaging in a conversation is more than a little disconcerting.

 

Shouta doesn’t know how to react. Before he’s forced to, the student (fucking, Midoriya Izuku, the kid who broke the entrance exam and got Shouta two hundred dollars in debt) raises an eyebrow and signs like he knows Shouta will understand him. It’s just two words, but those two make the situation even more complicated.

 

“Eraser,” and “head.”

 

It’s a question, if his raised eyebrow and shrugging shoulders are anything to go by, but Midoriya shouldn’t even really know who Eraserhead is, let alone be able to recognize him by nothing but his face.

 

Shouta swallows and tries not to let his worry reach his face. As an underground hero (The Underground Hero), stealth and anonymity are his two strongest suits. In less than five seconds, Midoriya, an untrained teenager, has surpassed both of them.

 

Shouta slides up to his feet and signs back with his usual sloppy motions (if they’re a little more stilted than usual, at least Hizashi isn’t around to notice), “Midoriya Izuku.”

 

Midoriya just smiles and returns to his conversation.

 

What. The. Fuck.

 

How is Shouta supposed to make a dramatic entrance now?

 

It doesn’t look like Midoriya has broken his cover yet, so Shouta can at least sneak up on his other student--Uraraka, another examinee from January 10’s Arena F, unfortunately. It’s not the grand first impression he had been hoping for and the one he pulls off literally every other year, but he can live with it.

 

He slinks back to the ground and inches over to the pair, back in stealth-mode. He weaves through the occasional legs and feet which roam the hall. At less than a meter away he calls out, “If you have time to be chatting, you have time to be getting to class. Hurry up before you’re late.”

 

Uraraka jumps and lets out a shriek, hands coming up to her face. Midoriya just giggles and pulls her into the room after waving to Shouta.

 

This is going to be an interesting year, indeed.

 

- - -

 

Izuku is still on edge even after they change into their gym uniforms, head out to the field, and Eraserhead announces the activity.

 

What was that? Why was their own teacher sneaking around the place? Why was a hero?

 

“You’ve all had to do the MEXT tests before,” Eraserhead grunts. “You’re going to do them again, but with your quirks, this time.”

 

The class erupts into excited chatter. When Uraraka says, “This is going to be fun!” and Kirishima exclaims, “Hell yeah! I’m excited!”, Eraserhead huffs out and narrows his eyes.

 

“Fun?” he asks, lowering his voice an octave. “This isn’t fun. You’re all hero students, now, you don’t get fun. Fine, whoever gets the lowest score will be expelled.”

 

Everyone silences.

 

Izuku, equally on edge, just smiles wider. He’s fine with this. Izuku was already going to win, anyways.

 

“Midoriya,” Eraserhead begins, tossing a tennis ball at him. He catches it without blinking. “You got first on the entrance exam. Show us an example of the ball throw with your quirk. But first, what did you get without your quirk in middle school?”

 

“Fourty two meters!” Izuku exclaims, already skipping up to the circle. “Are there any rules?”

 

“Just don’t leave the circle.”

 

Izuku nods, steps into a shoulder-width stance, and pulls back his arm. His arm tenses in the moments before he throws, and then he chucks the ball with a sharp exhale.

 

After a couple seconds, Eraserhead announces, “Four hundred nineteen meters.”

 

It won’t be first, but as long as he scores high enough in the other tests, Izuku can still win.

 

- - -

 

Izuku is plotting something. He has to be, with all that talking he’s doing. Sure, Izuku talks, it’s basically all he does. But this is on a whole other level.

 

He moves onto the one with the laser like he’s trying to pick them off one by one.

 

“I’m Midoriya,” he says with that thing he somehow passes off as a smile.

 

“Aoyama Yuuga,” the blonde replies with a flip of his hair before they shake hands. “So you’re the one that got first place?”

 

Izuku chuckles. “Yes, I suppose I am.”

 

“What’s your quirk? Super strength? That’s a tad cliche, don’t you think?”

 

“You could say, that, yeah. But I don’t mind.” Izuku puffs out his chest and smiles wide. “It’s still my quirk! I don’t have any other!”

 

Katsuki doesn’t snort. Definitely not.

 

“What’s funny?” the kid who had been bugging him earlier asks him.

 

Katsuki just raises an eyebrow and turns to watch the active testers: invisigirl, octoman, and birdman.

 

C’mon,” the redhead says, knocking their shoulders together. “Tell me. I wanna know.”

 

“Fuck off,” Katsuki growls under his breath.

 

The dude just chuckles. “Your quirk is pretty cool, man.” He wraps an arm around Katsuki’s shoulder. “Let’s be friends!”

 

Katsuki pulls away. “Not gonna happen,” he insists as he distances himself.

 

“Sounds great! My name’s Kirishima! Let’s exchange numbers later!”

 

- - -

 

“I don’t want to go through twenty individual scores so here’s the final lineup,” Aizawa says, flipping his screen around. All twenty of them huddle around it, trying to find their names. Ochako finds hers in eleventh place, which is pretty good! She could have done better, of course, but it isn't bad at all.

 

In first place is Midoriya, which is only surprising because some of the others definitely stood out more than him. The kid with the explosions and the icy one--who she’s pretty sure is Endeavor’s son but doesn’t want to make assumptions--were both flashier than him, as was the girl who could create things from her own body.

 

Last place is someone named Mineta-kun and is likely the boy with the purple balls for hair if his crying is anything to go by.

 

“You can’t expel me! I passed the entrance exam!” he pleads, hands clasped together. He’d be begging if only he were kneeling.

 

Aizawa sighs and, after another solid minute of Mineta’s sobbing, finally grunts out, “No one is getting expelled. It was all a logical ruse to ensure you put in maximum effort.”

 

Mineta lets out a cry of relief and collapses at Aizawa’s feet, muttering out platitudes.

 

Ochako jogs over to Midoriya and shoots him a smile. “Congratulations, Midoriya! You got first place! That’s really cool!”

 

He smiles back at her. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around the infinite score you got on the ball throw, Uraraka-chan.” He shakes his head fondly. “That was beyond my expectations.”

 

“It wasn’t really that much...” Ochako drifts off.

 

“Midoriya-san!” Iida interjects, clomping towards them with sharp, jerky motions. “Congratulations on receiving first place in the quirk apprehension test! You have more than proved that you are well prepared for the hero course, and for that you have my utmost respect!”

 

“Thank you, Iida-kun. You did well, too. Don’t sell yourself short!”

 

“Of course not!” Iida replies. “I am simply acknowledging your own accomplishments! You too, Uraraka-san! Eleventh place is commendable!”

 

Ochako spins around to better look at Iida. “Right back at ya’!”

 

“Now,” Aizawa drawls, somehow managing to steal their attention despite being the quietest of all of them. “Hurry and get back. It’s lunch time.”

 

- - -

 

“There’s barely anyone in the cafeteria!” Uraraka exclaims. “Are we sure this is the right place?”

 

“Yes, Uraraka-san. Only the hero course students are required to show up today, which is why attendance is lower than you might expect.”

 

“Ah, that explains it, thanks Iida!”

 

As they walk up to the counter, Izuku says, “I’m sort of sad we won’t get to see the others, though.”

 

Uraraka pouts. “Yeah, same.”

 

“Do not fret!” Iida announces. “We will have ample opportunities to interact with them in the near future!”

 

“That’s right! Maybe we’ll even get to see them tomorrow!” Izuku replies.

 

“I hope so!”

 

Uraraka and Iida both order their lunch and the three of them find an empty table.

 

“You aren’t eating Lunch Rush’s food?” Iida asks.

 

“Nope,” Izuku answers. “My father’s a sort of health nut, so I have a fairly strict diet.”

 

Fairly is a weak word to describe Father's attitude towards food, but it's not like Izuku can just tell them the truth.

 

Uraraka and Iida coo as soon as Izuku opens the lid to his homemade meal.

 

“I have to say,” Iida begins, adjusting his glasses. “That is an incredibly well-balanced meal. You have proteins, vegetables, and grains. I have no complaints.”

 

“It’s so fancy!” Uraraka exclaims, squirming in her seat. “Did your mother make it for you?”

 

“Ah, no,” Izuku begins, cracking his chopsticks apart. “I made it myself.”

 

“Really? I had no idea you were good at cooking!”

 

Izuku shrugs. “I wouldn’t say good. I get by.”

 

“Why don’t we test Uraraka-san’s theory?” Iida asks. “Would you be willing to let us taste your cooking, Midoriya-san? We can directly compare it to Lunch Rush’s!”

 

After a moment of consideration he says, “I suppose there’s no reason not to.” He places a dumpling on each of their plates.

 

“This is really good!” Uraraka exclaims, mouth still half-full of food.

 

Iida at least waits until swallowing to speak. “This is definitely above-par, Midoriya-san. Good job.”

 

Izuku smiles, says his thanks, and goes back to eating.

 

“What do you think about Aizawa-sensei?” Uraraka asks. “I thought all of U.A.’s teachers were heroes, but I don’t recognize Aizawa-sensei at all.”

 

“I’m in the same boat as you, Uraraka-san. It may be that either that rumour was incorrect, or we are simply unable to match him with his hero identity,” Iida answers.

 

“You think he might be a hero?”

 

Izuku swallows his bite of food before saying, “He is.”

 

“He is?” Uraraka asks, leaning forward over the table. “Which hero is he? Tell us, Midoriya!”

 

“Ever heard of Eraserhead?” Izuku asks, already pulling out his phone.

 

“Who?” Iida and Uraraka say simultaneously.

 

Izuku smiles. “Here, it’s a good introductory paper. He’s an underground hero, so there isn’t that much information on him.”

 

Uraraka takes Izuku’s phone and holds it so Iida can read it, as well.

 

As Izuku is finishing his meal, Iida asks, “Is this legitimate?”

 

“Scroll to the next page, there’s an annotated bibliography.”

 

Iida nods along as he scan it, then his eyes widen. “Goodness. I wouldn’t have ever considered a dot-net forum a reliable source, before, but this has convinced me.”

 

“It depends on how you use it,” Izuku adds. “If you use it by itself, it’s unreliable. If you have dot-org’s or edu’s to back it up, you should be fine.”

 

Iida adjusts his glasses. “I’ll have to reconsider my entire approach to writing research papers, now. Where did you find this one? It’s extremely well-written. I would love to read more pieces by the author.”

 

Izuku hesitates for less than a second before answering, “I don’t remember, unfortunately. If I ever find more, I’ll let you know.”

 

“I’d appreciate it.”

 

“You really think Aizawa-sensei is Eraserhead?” Uraraka interjects like she’s been holding the question back. She hands Izuku his phone.

 

“I really do!”

 

“It is a reasonable assumption,” Iida says. “They have comparable physical appearances and that scarf is unique.”

 

“I really hope Aizawa-sensei is Eraserhead! He sounded so cool in that paper. Like a sort of secret vigilante, but legal, y’know?”

 

“Not really, but feel free to continue,” Iida answers.

 

Uraraka chuckles. “I mean, most heroes do big jobs with lots of media attention, right? But Eraserhead does the shadowy, smaller stuff that the other heroes don’t want to do. Isn’t that cool?”

 

“Yes, I think it is... cool.”

 

Izuku smiles.

 

Whether it reaches his eyes or not... well, Izuku doesn’t think his smile ever will.

 

 

After classes are over, Eraserhead--no, he should probably call him Aizawa, now--says, “Midoriya, stay behind for a minute, if you can.”

 

Izuku freezes. His mind derails to the myriad of possible reasons why Aizawa might want to speak with him alone. Did Izuku accidentally cheat on the entrance exam? Did Aizawa find out that essay was his? Did someone discover the lockpicks in his bag (which are both illegal and against school policy)? Have they finally realized he actually has no right to be a U.A. student because he’ll never be good enough?

 

Even a minute after everyone leaves, Aizawa doesn’t say anything.

 

“Did you need something?” Izuku asks, managing to keep his voice steady through experience alone.

 

“Two things,” Aizawa finally starts from behind his desk. Two? Which two could they be? “One, you owe me two hundred bucks. Two, tell me more about your quirk.”

 

“Two hundred dollars?”

 

“Yup. Two hundred. Pay up.”

 

Izuku’s heart rate skyrockets. “Exactly how long do I have to get this to you?”

 

Aizawa watches him for a moment before sighing. “It’s a joke, kid.”

 

“Right, sorry.” He doesn't feel any better.

 

Aizawa waves a hand. “Don’t worry about it. I deadpan.”

 

Izuku smiles because he has nothing else to do. “Well, why don’t you explain it to me? So I understand it."

 

“Years ago, I bet that no one would ever form a team during the entrance exam. Then you happened.”

 

“Oh." Izuku frowns. "Sorry.”

 

Aizawa narrows his eyes. “You don’t have to apologize. I made the bet.”

 

“Two hundred is a lot of dollars,” Izuku notes.

 

“Not really.”

 

Oh. “What if I design modifications to your hero costume?”

 

Aizawa hesitates, then his eyebrows raise. “Don’t tell me... you designed the modifications to Present Mic’s costume, didn’t you?”

 

“I did draft something for him, yes, as a supplement to my application.”

 

Aizawa groans and runs his hand down his face. “Of course that was you. I should have guessed. Power Loader keeps complaining about how the hero course stole you from him, or something. If you go into a support classroom, I don’t know if you’ll ever return.”

 

Izuku chuckles. “It’ll be fine. I’m a hero at heart.”

 

After a moment, Aizawa continues, “You really don’t have to do it. It was just a joke.”

 

Izuku shakes his head. “I already had plans to reach out to the other departments. This just gives me an excuse.”

 

“If you insist. Don’t go telling people I blackmailed you into anything, though.”

 

Why would he? Did Izuku give Aizawa the impression he was of the blackmailing kind? Or is that another one of his jokes? “Of course not.”

 

“Now, your quirk. I just want a short clarification. The description on your application wasn’t clear at all.”

 

“Oh, sure! I mean, Multi-Quirk gives me the ability of multiple quirks. I can’t control what abilities I’ll gain or when, but once I gain it, it’s permanent. Currently, I have four “quirks” within Multi-Quirk: Empathy, Pull, Regeneration, and Strength Enhancement. Is that clear?”

 

“So, you could wake up tomorrow with another “quirk” or it couldn’t be for another ten years?”

 

“Yup!”

 

“Alright. You can go. I’ll let Power Loader know about your extra credit project.”

 

“Thanks!” Izuku takes a step towards the door, but stops. "Extra credit?" he asks.

 

"Yeah," Aizawa answers.

 

When Aizawa doesn't make a move to clarify further, Izuku says, "Okay, cool. Thanks," and leaves.

 

That was close.

  

Fuck.

 

Izuku made way too many mistakes.

Chapter Text

Ochako skips up to Midoriya and Iida as soon as they step into the arena they’re using for All Might’s supposed battle trials.

 

“I love your costumes, guys!” she exclaims even before she’s gotten the chance to actually form an opinion on either of them. She doesn’t need to see them to know she loves them. Iida is wearing a mecha-inspired suit of armor and Midoriya is wearing what looks like... just, normal street clothes--a maroon knit turtleneck, dark pants, a vest, and leather boots. The only items that don’t particularly belong on the street are the knee and elbow pads.

 

“Thank you very much, Uraraka-san!” Iida announces. “I like yours, as well.”

 

Ochako pouts and pulls at the fabric of her costume. “They made it a little too tight.”

 

Midoriya frowns. “We could probably get someone in the support department to fix that, if you want.”

 

Ochako waves her hands. “No, no! I don’t want to put you out of your way or anything, it isn’t that big of a deal!”

 

Midoriya smiles and shakes his head. “It isn’t an issue at all, Uraraka-chan. I’m sure at least one support student would be happy to help you.”

 

“Oh right,” Ochako begins, eyes widening. “We have connections.”

 

Midoriya giggles. “Yes, we do. Text Wakita-chan later.”

 

“I will... Wait!” she exclaims. “Aren’t you like, really good at design, Midoriya? Wakita was saying something like that the other day!”

 

Midoriya flushes and turns away a little bit. “Um, not really good.”

 

“Tell me about your costume!” Ochako says, leaning forward and giving him her biggest smile. “Please? I’m sure it’s awesome!”

 

Iida clears his throat. “If Midoriya-san does not wish to disclose the details of his costume, he is not required to. However, I am curious myself, as it is fairly unconventional in design.”

 

Midoriya smiles that sad smile he gets whenever someone says anything nice about him.

 

“I really like it!” Uraraka insists, not letting him getting away with wherever his mind is going. “And Wakita won’t stop talking about how the support kids are all gushing over you!”

 

Midoriya sighs. “Alright, alright. I’ll tell you. Bottom to top.” He sticks his foot out. “The boots can magnetize. It isn’t super strong, yet, but they can also do this--“ Two spikes stick out of his boot: one from the bottom of the sole and one from the tip of the shoe, where his toes go.

 

“Wow!” Ochako exclaims. She crouches down to get a better look. The spikes are roughly two inches long, and start at a little less than an inch in diameter until they taper to a sharp but thick point.

 

“That looks very dangerous, Midoriya-san,” Iida notes.

 

“They’re for climbing,” Midoriya answers but now Ochako is imagining him kicking someone in the head with that.

 

They wouldn’t survive.

 

Ochako swallows and stands back up.

 

“Moving on!” Midoriya continues cheerfully, setting his foot back down on the ground after the spikes recede. He pats his pant leg. “Feel,” he offers.

 

Ochako raises an eyebrow. The charcoal, off-black pants have a single stripe of dark green fabric running down the outside of his legs. They look more like dress pants than something a hero would wear, especially with the leather belt. If he took the black knee pads off, Ochako could see Midoriya wearing those same pants out to dinner or a job interview.

 

She runs her hand across the fabric and lets out an exclamation of surprise. “Iida! Feel this! They’re so soft.”

 

Iida complies and Midoriya laughs.

 

“They look like business pants, right?” Midoriya asks. Ochako nods as she pulls away. “They’re actually made from a fabric that’s a mix between activewear and leggings.” He bends his legs at the knees. “Maximum comfort, fashion, and movement.”

 

“You really thought of everything,” Iida says. “I just told them to make me a suit of armor and something to protect my exhaust pipes.”

 

Midoriya chuckles again. “That’s fine, too. I’m sort of particular about this stuff. It isn’t everybody’s thing.”

 

“Keep going!” Ochako says, eyes wide. “I wanna know everything! Oh, crap, I feel like I should be taking notes. Do you think you could help me with modifications to my costume?”

 

“Oh!” Iida exclaims. “That’s a great idea, Uraraka-san. I do believe that at the end of this semester, we’ll have an opportunity to redesign our costumes. If you’d be willing to assist us, Midoriya-san, we’d very much appreciate it.”

 

“The students in the support department will be better help, I’m sure,” Midoriya answers with that smile that isn’t actually a smile.

 

Iida frowns.

 

Ochako opens her mouth to argue who cares, we want you, Midoriya, but All Might picks that exact moment to announce the start of the activity.

 

- - -

 

They’re doing some sort of Heroes versus Villains rip-off. Katsuki has played this game hundreds of times before. It isn’t anything new, although All Might’s rendering is slightly more complicated. Still, someone is the hero and someone is the villain. You use your quirks to win.

 

Katsuki feels pretty good about the entire exercise. He has both experience and a powerful offensive quirk backing him up.

 

“The first hero team is...” All Might pauses for dramatic effect as he pulls two names out of one of the paper bags. “Uraraka-chan and Midoriya-kun!”

 

Katsuki crosses his arms and smirks. He feels bad for whichever losers have to battle Izuku. And by bad, Katsuki means he doesn’t feel anything at all. Whoever they are, they have it coming.

 

“And the villain team going against them... Bakugou-kun and--“

 

Katsuki doesn’t even hear who his partner is. Not like it matters, anyway. He’s fucked.

 

 


 

 

Eleven years ago

 

 

“Who left Mic’s cage unlocked yesterday?”

 

It was Izuku.

 

Katsuki knows it was Izuku because they were both on duty yesterday and Katsuki left first.

 

“Izuku-kun?” the teacher asks, “You were on duty with Katsuki-kun, right? Do you know who left the cage unlocked?”

 

It was Izuku, but Izuku doesn’t even hesitate before turning to Katsuki, frowning, and saying, “Ah, I’m sorry, Kachan.” Izuku takes a deep breath and turns back to the teacher. “It was Kachan, sensei. I left a couple minutes early, so Kachan was supposed to close it. I’m sorry, I should have stayed longer.” Izuku bows his head.

 

“Bullshit!” Katsuki yells, shooting to his feet.

 

“Katsuki!” The teacher responds. “Watch your language and your volume. Sit back down this instance.”

 

Katsuki collapses back into his seat, but still growls out, “He’s lying.”

 

The teacher rolls his eyes.

 

“I’m--I’m not lying,” Izuku says, already on the verge of tears.

 

“You are! I’m the one who left first!”

 

“Katsuki!” the teacher hisses again. “Come out into the hallway with me.”

 

Katsuki follows because he has nothing else to do, each of his steps stomps against the thick carpet.

 

The teacher closes the door behind him and lets out a long sigh.

 

“Look, Katsuki-kun, I understand you feel bad about letting Mic escape--”

 

“Izu-kun let it out--”

 

“Let me finish, please.”

 

Katsuki exhales, but doesn’t say anything else.

 

“I understand you feel bad, but how do you think Izuku-kun feels now that you’ve accused him of lying?”

 

Katsuki raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t accuse him of lying,” he starts, crossing his arms. “He is lying.”

 

The teacher rubs the bridge of his nose. “Katsuki-kun, you’re going to be held responsible for your own actions. That’s how the world works. Since you left Mic’s cage open--“

 

I didn’t leave the fucking cage open! ” Katsuki yells, slamming his hands to his sides. “Izu-kun did!

 

“Yelling at me isn’t going to make me believe you.”

 

It’s in that moment that Katsuki realizes for the first time,

 

They aren’t going to believe him.

 

It won’t matter what he does or what he says because,

 

They aren’t going to believe him.

 

They already believe Izuku’s lies.

 

All because of a fucking pet cuckoo bird named after Present Mic.

 

- - -

 

Tsubasa collapses to the ground, panting. “Izu-kun wins again? What is this, time six? Seven?”

 

“Eight,” Izuku corrects casually.

 

“The game isn’t fun anymore,” Tsubasa whines, fluttering his wings against the ground. “It’s only fun if we have a chance.”

 

Katsuki huffs out and crosses his arms. He steps up to Izuku and stares him down. “Are you cheating?” he asks. Katsuki may not know of a way to cheat in tag, but if anyone is capable of it, it would be Izuku.

 

Izuku just smiles up at him. “No, Kachan. Why would I cheat?”

 

Katsuki glowers and doesn't quite believe him. But, then again, Katsuki doesn’t quite believe anything Izuku says, anymore. “Let’s play again.”

 

“I don’t wanna,” Tsubasa whines.

 

“We’re playing again.”

 

Tsubasa groans. Izuku smiles.

 

 

It takes Katsuki three more games to figure out how Izuku--essentially quirkless, unathletic, the smallest of the class--keeps fucking winning. Distractions. That’s it. Izuku takes a step one way, but runs the other. He looks to the left, but jogs to the right. He warns Katsuki about something in his way when there isn’t anything. He tells Katsuki to stop because he’s twisted his ankle, but when Katsuki does, Izuku reaches forward and fucking tags him.

 

Distractions. Lies.

 

Ka-chan,” Tsubasa groans. “That makes ten or something. We obviously can’t win.”

 

Katsuki ignores him and grabs Izuku by his collar. “You’re cheating,” he hisses through clenched teeth.

 

Izuku just blinks up at him, unfazed. “Am I, Kachan?”

 

“Yeah, you fucker. You do this--” he waves his free hand in the air “--this shit.”

 

Izuku smiles up at him and says like Katsuki’s teachers do whenever he can’t find the right words, “It’s okay, Kachan, take your time.”

 

Katsuki throws Izuku on the ground and Izuku’s smile fades. Tsubasa lets out a shriek and scurries away. “You lie. That’s cheating. And cheaters don't win, that’s what sensei always says.”

 

Izuku stands up slowly. When his eyes find Katsuki’s, Katsuki has to take a step back at what he sees there. “Are you telling me, I can’t win?” Izuku asks, voice unusually flat.

 

Katsuki swallows. “Y-yeah.”

 

Izuku frowns. “The problem is, Kachan...” He takes a step forward. “I can’t lose.”

 

Katsuki believes him.

 

Even if it’s the last thing Katsuki believes from Izuku.

 

 


 

 

Present day

 

 

“We need to come up with a plan,” the Suit of Armor says as he paces around the fake bomb. “Midoriya-san’s quirk, Pull, will be able to greatly assist him in obtaining the bomb. And Uraraka-san’s anti-gravity is a good counter to my own speed.”

 

Katsuki leans against the wall and inspects his nails. “There isn’t any point,” Katsuki states. “Izuku is going to win.”

 

The Medieval Cosplayer frowns. “The heroes definitely have the advantage. My quirk would be better suited for offense. However, there isn’t any point in giving up now.”

 

“You’re not understanding me, Sonic,” Katsuki hisses, “Izuku can’t lose. He literally can’t. He doesn't even need a quirk to win. The fact that he has two or three or however many the fuck he has by now just means that he can win better.”

 

Katsuki’s “partner” blinks in disbelief for a moment before adjusting his glasses. “Apologies, Bakugou-san, I am not understanding you. What do you mean by Midoriya-san can’t lose?”

 

Katsuki screams through gritted teeth and slams his fist against the wall. “I’ve been saying the same thing over and over again, Fast and Idiotic. Izuku. Can’t. Lose. He never has. He never will. It’s just a fact of life.”

 

The Two-Legged Car opens his mouth like he’s waiting for someone to stick a hook in there and fucking reel him in. “You... you really believe that,” he finally says.

 

“I don’t need to believe it when it’s Newton’s Fourth fucking Law, Sailfish.”

 

The Sailfish opens his mouth and sighs. “It appears you are completely convinced of this.” He clears his throat and taps the communication device in his ear. “All Might-sensei! Am I allowed to request a change of partner?”

 

After a moment of silence, All Might answers to both of them, “No, Iida-kun. Team-ups are assigned randomly to simulate real-world situations! The roster may not be changed after selections!”

 

The Whirry-in-Denial looks like he was expecting that answer. “Understood!”

 

“We’re going to lose,” Katsuki says again.

 

“There is no harm in trying!”

 

But Katsuki knows that there is harm in trying.

 

If you try, you can fail.

 

If you don’t try, you can’t fail.

 

- - -

 

“You think it’ll really work?” Uraraka asks, hopping from foot to foot, smiling wide.

 

Izuku nods. “I do. Iida-kun won’t expect it and I doubt Kachan will be a threat.”

 

“Alright!” She pumps a fist into the air. “We got this! Oh, oh! Why don’t we create codenames?”

 

Izuku claps his hands together. “That’s a great idea!”

 

“I’ll be Fourteen! Like the hero Thirteen, but a number higher. Get it?”

 

Izuku smiles. “I get it! Why don’t I be Fifteen, then? Just to keep it simple?”

 

“That’s perfect!”

 

And then Yagi announces that the heroes can begin.

 

“You ready?” Izuku asks Uraraka.

 

She extends a fist. “Yup.”

 

Izuku knocks his knuckles against hers and says, “Just remember, if you find their location, don’t initiate, just let me know. And no matter what I say on the comms, don’t react unless I say the keyword, fourteen.”

 

Uraraka nods enthusiastically. “Got it.”

 

 

They split up to search for the “villains”. Izuku takes the odd-numbered floors, one and three, while Uraraka takes two and four.

 

“Hey, Mido--sorry, Fifteen?” Uraraka whispers through the communication devices in their ears.

 

“Yes?” Izuku whispers back. He checks the next room, finds it empty, and moves on.

 

“You’ll tell me about the rest of your hero costume later, right?”

 

Izuku frowns at the question. “Of course I will. I said I’d tell you, didn’t I?”

 

Uraraka is quiet for a moment before she says, “I just--no, it’s fine.”

 

“What is it?” Izuku asks.

 

“No, it isn’t important.”

 

Izuku doesn’t like leaving things unsaid, but he isn’t going to push her. “Alright. I’ve cleared the first floor. How’s the second going?”

 

“Almost done.”

 

“I’m moving onto the third.”

 

“Cool!”

 

 

Uraraka finds them in a room on the fourth floor. Like Izuku predicted, both Iida and Katsuki are playing defense. Uraraka meets Izuku in the hallway and silently gestures at the room.

 

Izuku signs, “Do you know exactly where the bomb is located in the room?” Uraraka just stares at him. Realizing she can’t understand sign language, he drags her a down the hallway a bit and asks her the question verbally.

 

She nods. “It’s in the center. Iida is guarding it pretty well. I didn’t see Bakugou.”

 

“Alright. There’s another entrance, right?”

 

“Yeah, that side door.”

 

Izuku smiles. “You’ll use that one.”

 

“You’re sure you can do this?” Uraraka asks with tight lips. “We can always try something less... finicky.”

 

“Don’t worry, Fourteen. Planning and talking are my two strongest suits. Anyway, if it comes down to it, I can always use my quirk.”

 

Uraraka nods at that. “Right. Yeah, you’re right.” She exhales and puffs out her chest. “Alright! We’ve got this!”

 

- - -

 

“What do you mean the hero team wins?” one of them asks. Shouto doesn’t know, or care, which one its is. However, Shouto does want to know the answer to that question. He’s wondering the exact same thing.

 

“Er,” All Might begins sheepishly, looking between the screen and the sixteen expectant students. “They won?”

 

Someone else exclaims, “That’s not an answer! How’d they win?! What happened?! Tell us! All we saw was Midoriya enter the room, somehow draw Iida away, and did Bakugou even do anything, and then Uraraka just walked on in and won! What is that?”

 

All Might clears his throat. “Well, why don’t we just ask the four themselves to explain it?”

 

Shouto had watched the whole trial (only because he didn’t have anything better to do and Midoriya got first during the quirk aptitude tests). However, without audio, he was unable to discern the nature of their... “battle”.

 

Shouto knows what a battle is. It isn’t whatever that was. A battle is fists against flesh, knives against knives, quirks against quirks, fire against ice. That was two minutes long and nothing. No contact, no quirk usage, no pain. That, in no shape for form, could be called a “battle”.

 

But, Midoriya got first in the quirk aptitude tests. What Shouto can’t understand is, why didn’t he use it? If Shouto didn’t already know that his quirk is some sort of strength enhancement or telekinesis (he wasn’t paying enough attention during the aptitude test to figure out which it is), he would have guessed it was one of those invisible quirks. But Midoriya’s quirk isn’t invisible, which means he just didn’t fucking use it.

 

“We’re back!” Midoriya calls as they step through the doors. “What’s the next team-up?”

 

The room stares at him until a girl with pink skin and horns--Shouto thinks she might have been the same one who interrogated All Might just a minute ago--runs up to Midoriya and essentially attaches herself to his vest. “Midoriiiiiii,” she whines, tugging at his hero costume. “What happeeeeened? You have to tell us.”

 

Midoriya stands stock still for a moment with wide eyes before he smiles and gently peels her off of him. “Are you asking about the battle trial?” he asks her like adults have asked a four year old Shouto if he knows how to read, yet.

 

“Of course,” the girl whines. She pouts. “All Might kept the audio off and it was over before it even started. C’mon. Tell us.”

 

Over before it even started. That sounds about right to Shouto.

 

Yaoyorozu steps up--second place in the quirk aptitude test, another recommended student. “We’d just like an account of what went down,” she asks, much more reserved than the previous student.

 

Midoriya nods and smiles. He turns to one of the students next to him. “Iida-kun? Would you like to take it?”

 

He straightens his back and takes off his helmet. “I’ll do my best, Midoriya-san!” The room silences and listens. “In short, Midoriya-san distracted me so Uraraka-san could “disarm” the bomb. It was an unpredictable and extraordinary plan. I didn’t see it coming at all.”

 

Shouto takes a step forward. Then he takes another, and another. He takes enough steps forward until he’s only a meter from Midoriya. “What?” he asks. He thinks he might be glaring, or maybe his eyebrows are furrowed in confusion. A trivial detail. “That’s it?”

 

The student wearing a whole--goodness, the impracticality--suit of armor nods. “Yes, from my point of view, that is all that went down.”

 

“Is something the matter, Todoroki-kun?” Midoriya asks. Despite being a head shorter than Shouto, somehow Midoriya is still looking down on him.

 

“That’s not a battle,” Shouto answers. He tilts his chin up, refusing to let Midoriya get the upper hand.

 

Midoriya just smiles, again, and turns away a little bit. Giving up? No, Shouto can still feel that Midoriya’s attention is on him. “All Might-sensei?” Midoriya asks. “Exactly how long from the start of the timer did it take for us to clear this activity?”

 

After a moment, All Might says, “Three minutes and fourteen seconds.”

 

“And were there any injuries?”

 

“No, Midoriya-kun.”

 

Midoriya turns back to Shouto. “There are two types of battles, Todoroki-kun. Those you can win by talking your way through them, and those you can’t.” His voice is sweeter than honey, he’s smiling, but there’s something in his eyes that’s darker. A threat.

 

Shouto opens his mouth to respond, to say something, anything, but Yaoyorozu speaks up instead, “I was curious. Couldn’t you have easily passed with your quirk, Midoriya-san? Why didn’t you use it at all? I mean, your more pacifistic route is definitely an option, but what made you decide to take it?”

 

Midoriya’s eyes leave Shouto, and Shouto knows he’s lost his attention. Just like that, like he never really had any of it to start with.

 

“That’s a great question, Yaoyorozu-san! I don’t like relying on my quirk or physical combat--“

 

Shouto blinks as he tries to comprehend what Midoriya just said. Not relying on his quirk or physical combat? What else is there? Ranged combat? Wait, that’s still physical, isn’t it?

 

“--If you immediately start with combat,” Midoriya is continuing, unknowing to Shouto’s inner turmoil, “you have to end with combat. You don’t have any other options. However, if you start with talking--“

 

What? That’s his alternative? How is talking an alternative to quirks?

 

“--your fallback option is the combat. Does that make sense?”

 

No, Shouto wants to say, but he doesn’t.

 

“Sort of,” Yaoyorozu answers. “I understand it in theory, but I don’t see how you can use talking in replace of combat. I believe you, definitely, especially after watching your battle trial, but I don’t understand it. I apologize.”

 

Shouto doesn’t understand or believe him.

 

“No need to apologize, at all! All Might-sensei, if we have time and everyone is cool with it, could we watch the trial again, but with audio?”

 

“That’s a great idea, Midoriya-kun! We can check after everyone else has completed theirs. Now, let’s start the next trial!” All Might announces.

 

 

Shouto finishes his battle in sixty two seconds and with his quirk.

 

No, he isn’t proving a point or trying to spite anyone.

 

But when he comes back and Midoriya smiles and congratulates him, maybe then Shouto starts trying to prove a point and spite him.

 

 

When they’ve all finished, it’s the girl with horns who brings it up, again. “All Might-sensei! Can we watch Midori’s trial, now?!”

 

“Out of curiosity,” Midoriya begins, raising an eyebrow at the girl. “When exactly did I become Midori?”

 

“Just now! Well, like two hours ago, since the trials have taken a long time, but it was definitely recent!”

 

Midoriya nods. “Good to know, I suppose.”

 

All Might checks his watch. “Is anyone opposed to this?” When no one says anything he continues, “Uraraka-chan? Iida-kun? Bakugou-kun?”

 

“Go for it!” Midoriya’s partner exclaims.

 

“It is fine with me,” the student in a suit of armor answers.

 

“Just don’t stream my own audio,” the blonde grunts.

 

All Might nods and says, “I’m going to skip the planning phase, for timing purposes, and go straight to the interactions.”

 

They all huddle around the screens and stare expectantly until it starts.

 

On screen, Midoriya walks into the room with both the villains and the bomb. When the student in a suit of armor and Midoriya notice each other, Midoriya jolts and jumps almost a foot into the air.

 

“Ur-Uraraka-chan!” Midoriya exclaims, a hand at his ear. “I’ve found the villains! Fourth floor, northeast corner! Come quick!”

 

The kid in a suit of armor belts out a cheap evil laugh.

 

Some students in the class snicker or laugh. If Shouto was the kind of person to snicker or laugh, he probably would. He hears better evil laughs from his father on a daily basis.

 

He points a finger at Midoriya. “Hah!” he exclaims. “You may have discovered our location, but it’s currently two against one, hero! Good luck!”

 

Midoriya’s smile fades into a worried frown “Uraraka-chan?” he asks quietly. “Are you there?” Midoriya slowly sinks into himself, arms first, then shoulders. He looks up a little bit and says, “She-she isn't responding, Iida-kun. I’m... I’m scared.”

 

The kid in a suit--fuck it--Iida takes a step forward.

 

“Wait,” Yaoyorozu says. “Can you pause it, All Might? Do we have time to analyze this?”

 

All Might pauses it and looks like analyzing is the last thing he wants to do. “Uh, if you all want to, I suppose we can.”

 

Yaoyorozu nods. “Where is Uraraka-san, right now?”

 

“Here!” The girl exclaims, shooting a hand in the air.

 

Midoriya chuckles and says, “She’s waiting outside the other door, completely safe.”

 

“So, this is all acting?” Yaoyorozu asks.

 

Midoriya nods. “Yes.”

 

Someone lets out a wolf-whistle. “Shi-it. Maybe you should have gone into pro-acting instead of pro-heroing, dude. I seriously thought Uraraka was in real trouble.”

 

“As the person on the receiving end of Midoriya-san’s phenomenal acting, I vouch one hundred percent for his skills,” Iida says.

 

“Ah,” Midoriya starts. “I’m not really--“

 

His partner slaps the back of his head playfully. “Stop underselling yourself, Midori!” She exclaims with a pout.

 

Acting, huh?

 

That’s all it took?

 

After a moment, All Might starts it back up again.

 

Iida says, “I’m sure she’s fine, Midoriya-san! Your communication devices may just be malfunctioning.”

 

Midoriya lets out a breath so heavy it rattles his entire body. “It’s just--what if something happened to her? What if she got--“ Midoriya flinches and wraps his arms around his torso. “What if she got crushed, like what happened--like what happened during the entrance exam?”

 

Shouto feels the room tense. Someone lets out a quiet, “Oof”, and someone else whispers, “You three were were in the same arena, weren't you. Way to hit the heartstrings, bro.”

 

Iida sets the bomb down and steps up to Midoriya, his hands out in a pacifying manner. “It’ll be fine, Midoriya-san. We’ll get in contact with her. U.A. will keep her safe.”

 

Midoriya’s smile is a frown. “You--you think so?”

 

Iida nods emphatically and places a hand gently on Midoriya’s shoulder. “I do.”

 

“But--but if she’s trap--trapped somewhere, she only has fourteen seconds--“

 

Midoriya’s partner silently steps through the other door. She’s shaking a bit, but she manages to sneak over to the bomb and tap it as Midoriya says, “--of a lack of air before she falls unconscious. What if--what if she’s already--”

 

“The--the hero team wins!” All Might announces.

 

All Might stops the video, there.

 

Midoriya really did it.

 

He actually talked his way through the entire battle, without using his quirk once, without a single move of hand-to-hand combat.

 

Someone starts clapping. It’s some guy with blonde hair and an over-the-top sparkly get-up. He steps up to the front of the room, clapping with exaggerated motions. “Encore! Encore!” he announces, sparing a moment to flip his hair. “An amazing performance from our own Midoriya! Le talent! Let’s all give him a round of applause! Applaudissements! Encore!”

 

There’s a moment of hesitation before the room slowly joins in on the applause.

 

Shouto expects Midoriya to eat up the praise, to step into the spotlight with a smile on his face. Maybe he’ll even bow. It wouldn’t surprise Shouto.

 

What does surprise Shouto is that Midoriya is doing none of those things. Instead Midoriya is standing stock still, a perfect smile on his face, staring at no spot in particular.

 

He almost looks like a doll.

 

Once the applause has died down, Midoriya says a careful, “Thank you.”

 

“Yeah!” the horned girl exclaims like nothing happened. “Have you taken any acting classes, Midori?”

 

“Oh, no, I haven’t.”

 

“Well!” All Might booms. “This has been an enlightening conversation. However, you all must get changed and to lunch!”

Chapter Text

Uraraka takes one step into the cafeteria and stops in her tracks. “I can’t believe this. Again?”

 

“Again, what?” Iida asks, then follows her into the cafeteria. “Ah, yes. I do recall Aizawa-sensei saying something this morning about an adjusted schedule due to the battle trials. It looks like we won’t have a chance to meet with our friends in the other departments, quite yet.”

 

“I think we have a normal schedule tomorrow, so we should be able to see them!” Uraraka exclaims as they walk over to Lunch Rush.

 

“That’s great!” Izuku answers. They step into line and he continues, “Uraraka-chan, would you want to stay after school today to meet with the support department? Iida-kun, if you’re free, you can come too.”

 

Uraraka claps her hands and smiles. “I think that’s a great idea, Midori! Oh, I can call you Midori, right?”

 

“Of course! Let me check with my father.”

 

Izuku pulls out his phone as Iida announces, “Unfortunately, I already have plans, but I appreciate the offer! If you see Wakita-san, please tell her I say hello.”

 

DM -- Father

 

[Midoriya Izuku]

Could I please stay late after school, today?

It will likely only be for an hour, at the most.

 

[Father]

Of course! Just be home by dinner.

 

[Midoriya Izuku]

Will do! I’ll be home by 5:30.

 

Uraraka and Iida get their meals and then the three of them sit at the first open table they find. Uraraka seats herself right next to Izuku and Iida sits across from them.

 

“Did you have plans with your father?” Iida asks.

 

“Oh, no. He doesn’t have the best health, so I like being home for him. I do a lot of work around the house and make sure his medical equipment stays up and running, so I can’t stay out too late.”

 

”That is a valiant undertaking, Midoriya-san!” Iida exclaims.

 

“Wow! That’s so sweet of you! Does your mother work evenings, or something?”

 

“Oh, er.” Izuku hums for a moment, trying to think of the softest way to put this. “She passed away when I was born.”

 

Uraraka looks at Izuku with this frown on her face and wide eyes. When her eyes start to dampen, Izuku extends his hands and smiles. “It’s fine, Uraraka-chan. I never knew her. And my father was around a lot when I was a kid, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

 

“I’m sorry for bringing it up,” she pouts.

 

Iida clears his throat. “If Midoriya-san says it’s fine, I think we should believe him! Also, Uraraka-san, you may be making a bigger deal out of this than is necessary! I don’t think Midoriya-san felt bad until you did!”

 

Izuku smiles at Iida. Honestly, sometimes Iida is just what Izuku needs.

 

Uraraka nods. “Sorry, yeah, sorry, you’re right. I just couldn’t imagine living without my mom, you know?”

 

“I actually don’t know--“ Izuku starts.

 

Uraraka playfully punches him in the arm and chuckles. “That was actually funny, Izuku. I had no idea you had a sense of humor.”

 

Izuku tries not to overthink that, but suspects he’ll find himself lying in bed at two in the morning studying ways to have a better sense of humor.

 

Iida lets out a contagious, barking laugh and soon all three of them are laughing.

 

After they’ve settled down, Iida asks, “If you haven’t had any acting training, Midoriya-san, how did you learn to act so well?”

 

Truthfully, Izuku is acting all the time--right now, an hour ago, an hour in the future. He’s acted all his life and he’ll continue acting until he dies. Depending on how everything works out, he might even continue acting after that.

 

But, Izuku can’t just tell Iida that, so instead he says, “My father’s sort of a film nerd. I’ve been watching movies since I was a child. I probably just ended up picking up some things.”

 

Iida nods like he accepts that answer.

 

Uraraka says, “You were able to learn acting just by watching movies? That’s so cool! If you watched, like, a martial arts film, could you learn martial arts, too?”

 

Izuku hums for a moment, like he’s seriously considering the proposal, before he answers, “Most films involving combat are highly choreographed, so I think I’d need a more accurate example. Now, if I watched enough real fights, I might pick up a couple skills.”

 

Uraraka smiles. “That’s super cool, Midori!”

 

“I agree. On a slightly different note, I had never considered communication to be an important skills for heroes before this, outside of interacting with the press, of course,” Iida says with his hand on his chin. “The fact that it’s always been an option available is extremely eye opening.”

 

Uraraka claps her hands. “You’re right! You know how, like, some hero fights end with people getting hurt--even innocent civilians get hurt, sometimes! If heroes were to just talk to the villains instead of going straight to the--” she punches the air a couple times and makes dramatic sound effects “--maybe everyone could be a little safer!”

 

“Well,” Izuku starts slowly. Fuck. He’s spoken to soon. He fixes a smile over the worry that had started encroaching on his face. “I think that’s a great idea!”

 

“Yeah?” Uraraka asks with bright eyes.

 

Iida frowns. “However, I do know for a fact that I cannot act as effectively as Midoriya-san can. Either that would not be an option for me, or I would need additional training before I could execute that plan of action successfully.”

 

Izuku silently lets out a breath. That is exactly the point he had wanted to, but had been unable to make.

 

“Ah! You’re right!” Uraraka exclaims.

 

Izuku clears his throat, sits up straighter, and turns his body so he’s facing both of them, casually gathering both of their attention. “Words are powerful,” he starts, moving his hands with his syllables for emphasis. “They can do just as much, if not more, harm as help. It’s a careful sort of teeter totter. Just as easily as you could talk a villain down from killing a hostage, you could talk them up to killing themselves, as well.”

 

Uraraka and Iida both sit up straighter.

 

“But, you face this same danger with using quirks, as well. Words are just another type of tool. You yourself choose to either use them for good or bad.”

 

Iida adjusts his glasses. “You are extremely wise, Midoriya-san.”

 

Izuku flinches. “This is just my opinion, of course. I could get you a paper to back it up, if you--”

 

“Midori!” Uraraka exclaims with a pout. “You’re, uh, underselling? Yourself again!”

 

“Demeaning, might be the word you’re looking for, Uraraka-san,” Iida says.

 

Uraraka snaps her fingers. “Yes! Demeaning! You don’t have to do that whenever someone says something good about you! We’re saying good things about you because they’re true, Midori!”

 

“It really isn’t that big of a--”

 

Uraraka’s glare and the pulsating pink-blue of compassion emanating from her stops him in his track.

 

“Midoriya-san,” Iida says, more reserved than Izuku has ever heard from him before.

 

Izuku settles on smiling softly and saying, “Sorry.”

 

Uraraka opens her mouth, but just lets out a sigh. “Don’t--don’t worry about it, Midori. We just want you to be happy.”

 

Izuku doesn’t understand.

 

The only time he’s ever heard words even close to these are from his father, but then they were thrown at him--knives carefully aimed for maximum damage.

 

These words--these are honest.

 

It’s almost like they actually, seriously want him to be happy.

 

No, that’s impossible.

 

They’re probably lying, even if Empathy says otherwise.

 

Izuku smiles and says, “Of course. I understand. Thanks.”

 

They both smile back, and then Iida clears his throat and says, “Oh, Midoriya-san, I am curious about something.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“During the battle trials, Bakugou-san mentioned something about you having two or three quirks. I brushed it off, but I was wondering if you have any idea what he meant. As far as I am aware, a person can only have a single quirk.”

 

Izuku nods. “Research has proven that, at this moment in our evolution, we can only hold a single quirk. However--” Izuku smiles softly, “--research has also proved that a single quirk can act as multiples. The hero Dawn, for instance. She inherited the traits of her great-grandmother’s quirk and her mother’s. Her great-grandmother’s quirk was Aura. She could create small orbs of light. They weren’t incredibly powerful. Dawn’s mother could control the intensity of lights within her eyesight. Since Dawn inherited a combination of both these quirk called Light Control, she now has almost complete control of light. It is, of course, limited to her own line of sight and she doesn’t have any natural safeguards against it, so her hero costume is mostly support. She has many fighting styles her most unique and challenging being completely darkening the area and fighting blind. It requires immense skill and effectively incapaci--“ Izuku freezes and bites his tongue.

 

Fuck.

 

He was just supposed to answer the question, not go on a rant.

 

He can feel both Iida and Uraraka staring at him, judging him.

 

He can feel his heart yelling at him.

 

Uraraka smiles. “Wow, Midori! I don’t think I’ve ever heard you speak so much at once before!”

 

Izuku cringes. He hadn’t meant to. He just--got distracted--got caught up in his head.

 

“I’ve never heard of this Dawn, before, but her quirk is interesting,” Iida says. “Light creation and control.”

 

Izuku looks down at the table, waits for the but.

 

“Hey, hey,” Uraraka starts, “do you think Aizawa-sensei knows her? He’s an underground hero, right?”

 

Izuku looks back up. They aren’t going to... chastise him? “Uh...” Too ineloquent. He swallows. “He might, actually. Dawn works nights sometimes, so it’s highly plausible.”

 

Uraraka smiles kindly at him. He tries to convince himself it’s real. “You seem to know a lot about heroes, Midori! You knew about Aizawa-sensei, too, when no one else did!”

 

Izuku clears his throat. “Yes, well. To answer Iida-kun’s initial question--”

 

Uraraka shakes her head. “Why don’t we talk about heroes?” she asks.

 

Izuku blinks dumbly.

 

Uraraka cringes and asks, instead, “Do you want to talk about heroes?”

 

- - -

 

Tenya waits in silence for Midoriya to answer the question. He’s buzzing with energy, wants to push it, wants to know.

 

Does Midoriya want to talk about heroes?

 

What does Midoria want to talk about?

 

Who is Midoriya?

 

But Midoriya just stares at Uraraka for a solid couple seconds, face completely unreadable--like always.

 

Tenya opens his mouth to say something encouraging but Uraraka silently stops him in his tracks.

 

Right.

 

He shouldn’t ruin the moment.

 

“I--” Midoriya starts, then swallows.

 

Uraraka places a hand gently on Midoriya’s arm. “It’s okay, Midori,” she starts quietly. “You can tell us the truth.”

 

Midoriya’s eyes scan Uraraka like he’s looking for something. What that something is, Tenya doesn’t know. After another moment, Midoriya exhales, closes his eyes, and says, “Sure, we can talk about heroes. I’d like to answer Iida-kun’s question, first, though.”

 

Uraraka sighs and drops her hand away.

 

Tenya just frowns a tad and adjusts his glasses. Midoriya was close, he thinks, to opening up. Which means there’s a chance.

 

Uraraka shoots Tenya a look and he knows she’ll be texting him about this later.

 

Tenya doesn’t approve of talking behind Midoriya’s back, but they’re worried about him.

 

Midoriya doesn’t even really talk in front of their backs.

 

“Well,” Midoriya starts, “my quirk. It’s sort of like Dawn’s in the sense that it has multiple functions. Pull, you already know.”

 

Uraraka nods.

 

“The second is strength enhancement.”

 

Tenya remembers back to the entrance exam, back to Midoriya saying something like, I’m pretty strong, too, but that isn’t my quirk.

 

So it was his quirk?

 

Based on Uraraka’s frown, she’s thinking the same thing. She opens her mouth, and for a moment Tenya thinks she might bring it up, but then she just smiles and says, “That’s super cool, Midori! Sounds impressive! And really helpful!”

 

“The third and fourth,” Midoriya continues and Tenya’s heart drops, “Empathy and Regeneration.”

 

Tenya ignores the pit in his stomach, the burning feeling of acid eating away at what little of his meals he’s already swallowed. He ignores it, and instead asks Midoriya who his favorite hero his.

 

It’s Ignemium.

 

Why does that just make Tenya feel so much worse?

 

- - -

 

A few minutes later, Uraraka leans over the table to whisper, “Todoroki has been staring at you this entire time, Midori.”

 

Izuku glances at Todoroki. Izuku was aware of the fact, but had been attempting to ignore it. Todoroki’s been doing a crap job of hiding his staring, if he’s been trying at all. “Should I go talk to him?”

 

“No!” Uraraka answers, aghast. She leans backwards with wide eyes. “Todoroki is scary! You can’t just talk to him!”

 

Izuku looks back at Todoroki and raises an eyebrow. Scary? Scary is one of the last words he’d use to describe Todoroki. If anything, Todoroki is the one who’s scared. Every time Izuku’s seen his aura, he’s been some sort of worried or anxious or on-edge. Whenever someone moves too quickly or there’s a loud noise, Todoroki’s aura spikes bright enough that Izuku can feel it as long as they’re in the same room. Also, just today, whenever Todoroki turns a little too far to his left, a ribbon of white stabs through his aura: pain. He’s had it since he arrived to school this morning, which means it happened sometime before.

 

Izuku checks the time on his phone--there’s only a couple minutes left in lunch, anyway--and shrugs. “I suppose you’re right. He is sort of intimidating.”

 

“Sort of?” Uraraka shivers. “He’s been glaring icicles at you this entire time! He didn’t even have to look at his food to eat it! That’s hella intimidating, Midori!”

 

Izuku smiles at her and finishes eating.

 

Right.

 

That’s intimidating.

 

- - -

 

Mei is halfway between about-to-pack-up and starting-another-project when someone knocks on the door. Thinking it’s Power Loader (who else would it be at this hour?), she hastily cleans up her work station (by clean up, she means she tosses everything in her plastic bin, shoves it under the table, and slams her computer shut). “I’m just finishing up!” she yells.

 

She does one last scan-through of her station, finds nothing left but a couple loose bolts and scraps of fabric, and hurls herself over the rows of desk and to the door. Mei throws the door open and startles when she sees not Power Loader, but two first-year students. One is a boy with curly dark green hair and a polite smile.

 

“Izuku!” she exclaims, grabbing him by his wrist and pulling him through the door. “I wasn’t expecting you, but this is perfect! We have so much to talk about! Your costume! Present Mic’s--actually, wait, that isn’t my project, fuck--that Eraser-dude’s project! The fact that you aren’t in Support!”

 

Izuku doesn’t resist as she leads him to her station and drops him off indelicately on a stool. “Ah! I’m Hatsume Mei! I’m sure Ori has told you all about me! Oh, here,” she turns in circles aimlessly until she finds another stool. She drags it next to Izuku with a little too much force. “You can sit here!”

 

“Th-thanks,” the girl says with a weak smile. She sits down awkwardly, partially hiding herself behind Izuku.

 

“I’m Midoriya Izuku, although it sounds like you already knew that,” Izuku begins, extending his hand. Mei shakes his hand enthusiastically. “This is Uraraka Ochako-chan. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mei-chan.”

 

Mei brightens at the use of her given name and slides over to Ochako. “Ori told me about you too, Ochako!” Mei says, shaking her hand. “All three of you are sort of famous--especially you, Izuku!”

 

Mei drops Ochako’s hand and lunges over to her computer in three long steps. “How do you like your costume?” Mei asks him, already pulling up a blank document to take notes. She doesn’t particularly need it, seeing as she keeps most information in her head, but Power Loader said it’s best for “documentation purposes” to write stuff down.

 

Mei’s fingers dance across the keys without clicking any of them, energy needing to go somewhere.

 

“It’s great!” Izuku answers. “The magnets in the shoes could be stronger--” Mei writes that down, of course “--but I was expecting that. Strong magnets are fairly expensive.”

 

Mei frowns. “Not necessarily. The harder part is figuring out a mechanism to turn them off and on and somehow integrating them into the bottom of your boots...” Mei drones off to pull up the shared folder of the first-year costume schematics all the support students have access to. She stares at Izuku’s, pondering the challenge for a couple seconds before he interrupts her.

 

“Actually, Mei-chan, we’re here for a different reason.”

 

“Oh?” she asks, eyes widening with intrigue. She turns to them and leans forward. “What’s that? Ori did tell you I’m the engineering lead, after you--the design lead, for Eraser-dude’s costume, right?”

 

“Ah, she didn’t, actually. We were wondering if the support department could make some modifications to Uraraka-chan’s costume.” Izuku leans to the side so Mei can see Ochako.

 

“Uh--” Ochako takes a deep breath. “Yeah! Well, it isn’t super important, but the costume I got is a lot more form-fitting than I’m comfortable with. What I wanted is something more like a space suit, if that makes sense?”

 

Mei nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, totally! We can definitely do that! Isoshi is my class’s resident fashion and runway specialist, his words. I’m sure he’d love to help!”

 

Ochako smiles and claps her hands together. “Really? That’s awesome! I’d be so happy.”

 

Mei smiles at her and says, “Isoshi is actually the one who designed and crafted your vest and jacket, Izuku.”

 

“Really?” he asks. “Did they have support students come in before the semester started, or did he do it all the first day?”

 

“A bit of both. There were optional workshop days over break we could attend. I, of course, went to all of them.” Mei puffs out her chest and smiles wide. “Which means I got to work on all of your hero costumes! Bow down to me as you don the babies I birthed with my own two hands!” She lets out a haughty laugh. After a moment, Izuku joins in, and a moment after that, so does Ochako. Once they’ve finished, Mei dramatically wipes tears from her eyes and says, “Now, I can either give you Isoshi’s number or talk to him myself, Ochako. Which would you prefer?”

 

“If you’re willing to ask him, that would be great!” she answers.

 

“Now...” Mei steps up on top of her own stool and crouches on it. She places her elbows on her knees, her chin in her hands, and leans forward to make eye-contact with Izuku. “Izuku, let’s talk about our project.”

 

Izuku smiles up at her, not intimidated at all--good. Some people are, which isn’t good. Mei would be properly disappointed if he were.

 

“I can only stay until five, and I’d like to show Uraraka-chan my hero costume before I leave, but for now I can email you my rough design and we go over that for a bit,” he says.

 

Mei smirks. “Awesome.”

 

- - -

 

They spend an hour talking about Aizawa-sensei’s project, using words Ochako doesn’t understand but sort of recognizes, and complicated diagrams she can’t really wrap her head around. Ochako does, however, come out of it with the knowledge that they’re planning on making his goggles more protective and getting Wakita to program some sort of fancy screen for them. Oh! And they’re going to do something to his suit, while keeping it light-weight and casual. They said light-weight and casual a lot.

 

Midori finally convinces Mei that they’ll have ample time to design later--Ochako thinks Mei is going to find them during lunch tomorrow, but she isn’t positive, it’s all a blur--and Mei goes with them to the locker rooms, where their hero costumes are being stored. Mei walks up to locker number eighteen without hesitation and opens it up.

 

“Mei-chan...” Midori starts, a small pout on his face. “Why do you know my seat number?”

 

Mei just lets out a laugh. “Why wouldn’t I, Izuku? Well here it is, the rumoured costume-that-isn’t-a-costume. Made fifty-percent by Isoshi and me, and the other fifty-percent by a professional. He isn’t important, though.”

 

Mei starts laying out the costume piece by piece, side-by-side. “What are we doing? Just an unboxing? Ooooo--welcome to U.A.’s support channel, in which I, Mei, and my trusty assistants, Izuku and Ochako, unbox and analyze various students’ costumes! Now, let’s start with Izuku’s costume himself! Izuku, would you like to take the lead?” Mei announces the entire bit like she’s actually being recorded and then passes an invisible microphone over to Midori, who takes it with deft hands.

 

“Why yes, Mei-chan, I would love to. In our previous video, we covered my boots and pants--” Midori points at the two items with his non-invisible-microphone-holding hand. “However, we have yet to see the belt!”

 

Mei claps her hands a couple times. “The belt! Of course!” Mei picks it up. It’s just a black, sort of thick leather belt with a buckle resembling that of an airplane’s. Mei brings it up to Ochako. “See this button here?” She points at a small button on the inside of the buckle with her thumb. Ochako nods. When Mei clicks it, the beginning of a rope gently pops out of a small opening in the belt.

 

“The belt,” Midori begins, still pretending to hold the microphone, “has a thin, but strong rope threaded within it. With the click of a button, the rope is unlocked and you can pull it out. There is very minimal friction, so extraction is easy. Also, returning the rope to its storage is automated, so if you want it back in the belt, it will only take two seconds.”

 

“On average,” Mei begins with a finger in the air, “two point one seven, actually.”

 

Midori smiles and checks his phone for a second before continuing. “The turtleneck is interwoven with protective material. It doesn’t stand up to kevlon, but it’s close.”

 

“Ex-cuse me?” Mei exclaims. She picks the turtleneck up off the floor and cradles it to her chest. “This baby has my heart and sole interwoven into it! Don’t just dismiss her like that!”

 

“I apologize, Mei-chan, would you like to explain it?”

 

Mei smiles. “Well, this baby is interwoven with protective material, of course! It may not be as strong as kevlon, but it’s way more comfortable and it’s hella close!”

 

“Wait, but--” Ochako starts, face scrunched up in confusion.

 

Midori just laughs.

 

“The vest!” Mei exclaims, still hugging the turtleneck. “Do the vest, next!”

 

Midori clears his throat. “Well, the vest, as you can see, is fairly normal, however--”

 

“The inside layer of fabric,” Mei interrupts, eyes lit up with excitement, “uses a similar technology to the camouflage older military fighter jets use. It won’t make him completely invisible, but it’ll confuse the fuck out of anyone trying to find him.”

 

“The outside does the opposite,” Midoriya adds on. “It has subtle, reflective pieces here--” he runs his hand across the slightly shinier cuts of the vest--the shoulders and a stripe down each side.

 

Ochako asks, “What if you don’t want to draw attention or go sorta-invisible?”

 

Midori smiles. “Take the vest off.”

 

Ochako snorts and Mei laughs.

 

“You’d lose all those pockets, though,” Mei says.

 

Midori shrugs. “You gotta do what you gotta do... The pads are just pads. Light-weight, flexible, removable. I’m considering getting an even thinner set, maybe something that will fit under my clothes.”

 

Mei shakes out the turtleneck and furrows her brows. “Yeah Isoshi was complaining about that, if I remember correctly. The elbow pads don’t really go with the turtleneck, or something.”

 

Ochako chuckles, imaging some kid sewing a shirt and complaining about how it looks underneath elbow pads. Support department problems, she supposes.

 

“The jacket!” Mei exclaims. “I actually don’t know anything about it at all. Isoshi wouldn’t let me touch it.”

 

Midori reaches into the locker and takes out an item Ochako hadn’t realized was left--a dark suit jacket--by the hanger. “It’s just a jacket,” he says with a shrug.

 

Mei frowns and carefully places the turtleneck back onto the ground. “Just a jacket,” she mocks. “Isoshi spent three entire days making that, bitch. It isn’t just a jacket. Give it here.”

 

For a moment, Midori looks like he’s going to put it back into the locker, but then Ochako makes eye-contact with him.

 

She tries to convey, through her entire being, silently, that you told me you’d tell me about your costume.

 

Midori smiles at her, takes off his U.A. jacket, and puts on his costume jacket. It fits him perfectly. It’s almost more like he was born for the jacket than the jacket sewn for him. “It isn’t too special,” he starts, spinning in a slow circle so they can see all sides. Even like this--with his grey, school uniform underneath it, he looks sharp enough to be All Might’s lawyer himself. Midori runs his fingers through his hair and Mei gasps.

 

“Izuku, that’s illegal. I may be gay as fuck but you should not legally be allowed to wear that jacket without a warrant or something,” Mei says, covering her eyes with her hand and peering in between her fingers. “Take it off this instance.”

 

Midori raises an eyebrow but compiles.

 

Ochako blushes.

 

“It’s made out of a similar protective material as the turtleneck,” Midori explains as he hangs it back up, “and the entire piece is semi-reflective. It’s definitely supposed to be eye-catching.”

 

“Well you caught my eyes,” Mei notes.

 

Ochako tries not to choke on her next breath.

 

Midori just smiles. “I’m happy to know it works. It has hidden pockets, within the sleeves and the torso and the back, as well.”

 

“Is that everything?” Ochako asks looking at the pieces on the ground instead of at Mei or Midori.

 

“I mean, I have gloves, too, but they’re just gloves. They have some extra grip on palms and you can use them on a touch-screen, but that’s it.” Midori checks his phone. “Oh, it’s almost five, I need to be heading out.”

 

Mei pouts. “Already?”

 

“It’s been two hours, Mei-chan.” Midori smiles. “It was fun hanging out with both of you. Thanks.”

 

- - -

 

DM -- Iida Tenya

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

Bleeeggghhhhh

Iida idk what to do

Like Midori is so nice and sweet but

 

[Iida Tenya]

I don’t think there’s anything for us to do.

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

He lied about the thing at the arena remember?

 

[Iida Tenya]

Yes.

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

Bleegggghhhhhh

 

[Iida Tenya]

Do you want to talk to him about it?

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

No no

We’ve only really known him for a couple days really

Maybe hell open up??

 

[Iida Tenya]

Maybe he will.

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

It could just be that he isn’t super comfy with us yet

Idk

 

[Iida Tenya]

That is a reasonable hypothesis!

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

Hhhhhhh maybe

Like he’s so nice and he sacrificed himself for me during the exam and

I think he’s a really good guy!!

 

[Iida Tenya]

I do agree with you. Despite his flaws, Midoriya has always, in the general scheme of things, done what is good.

Or, at least, that is what I would like to think.

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

The battle trials were a little

But he just did that to make sure we won!

 

[Iida Tenya]

Yes, his methods were unique, but he succeeded.

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

I just hope hell be alright

 

[Iida Tenya]

Me too.

Chapter Text

Shouta sits on the couch in the teachers’ lounge, forcing down hours-old black coffee that’s no longer hot nor cold and watching this morning’s battle trials from his laptop.

 

All Might steps into the room while Sero is taping the bomb to the ceiling and Ashido is setting traps with her acid. Shouta thinks they make a near-perfect defensive team. He’ll probably partner them up again in the future.

 

“Ah, Aizawa-sensei,” All Might says, interrupting Shouta’s already slippery concentration.

 

Shouta sighs and pauses the video. “Yeah?”

 

“You wouldn’t happen to be watching the battle trials, would you?”

 

Shouta blinks at him and answers, “I am.”

 

All Might chuckles awkwardly, just as awkwardly as he does everything in his... thin form, or whatever he’s calling it. “Have you, er, watched Midoriya-kun and Uraraka-chan’s yet?”

 

Shouta narrows his eyes. Why the favoritism? “Yeah.”

 

When Shouta doesn’t elaborate any further, even after a minute of extremely uncomfortable silence, All Might asks, “Uh, what did you think about it?”

 

“Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been better.”

 

All Might clears his throat and looks everywhere except Shouta. “That’s... it?”

 

Shouta raises an eyebrow. “What more do you want? A speech of every pro versus con? An in-depth character analysis? Ask Nedzu if you’re that interested.”

 

All Might flinches and holds back a cough. “No--no thank you.”

 

Shouta sighs into his coffee. “Your choice.”

 

“It’s just...” All Might looks to the side and rubs the back of his neck. Sometimes Shouta cannot comprehend the fact that this man is All Might. They’re almost polar opposites. “Do you think it was weird?”

 

“I don’t have time for this,” Shouta grunts. “If you want to unpack Midoriya’s performance, do it with someone else. Hell, do it with Midoriya himself. I’m busy.”

 

All Might turns to leave, but stops in the doorway. “I just...”

 

Shouta grunts. “Not everyone solves their problems by punching them, All Might.”

 

“So, he’s fine?”

 

Shouta visibly cringes.

 

Midoriya’s solution was wonderfully thought out. Unique, hard to catch, subtle. But Shouta doesn’t know how Midoriya was capable of successfully pulling it off. Midoriya, the kid who formed an alliance out of his testing arena, the kid who noticed Shouta while he was stealthing, who smiled at the threat of expulsion, who didn't hesitate when Shouta asked him for two hundred dollars.

 

Something feels off... Shouta just doesn't know what.

  

“I never said that,” Shouta answers.

 

All Might leaves after a quiet, almost dejected, “I see.”

 

- - -

 

Izuku sees their collective aura before he sees them. Greed. A pulsating purple. The press.

 

Izuku takes a grounding breath, glances at his reflection in the nearest window, runs his fingers through his hair even though he knows the action is useless, and walks up to the gates of U.A.

 

“Excuse me!” the closest reporter yells, sticking a microphone in his face like they’re afraid he’s going to run away. Honestly, he wants to.

 

“Yes?” he asks, batting his eyelashes and smiling up at the reporter. He doesn’t look at the camera, he looks at her.

 

She smiles a fake smiles and asks, “What’s it like having All Might as a teacher?”

 

All Might. Of course.

 

The question is extremely presumptuous--how does she know he's ever had All Might as a teacher? There are over thirty classes at U.A. There's no way All Might has managed to teach all of them in such a short period of time.

 

Two possible responses fly through Izuku’s mind immediately. The first one is a snarky, condescending: Unfortunately, U.A. has only been in session for two days, and as All Might isn’t teaching my homeroom, I haven’t gotten a chance to learn under him. I apologize. And then he’d bow and walk off. He doubts she’d try to stop him.

 

Izuku goes with his second option, “Ah, well, I’m not a hero student, you see.” He rubs the back of his neck and looks down a little bit, his smile fading. “I’m only in the general education course, so I don’t think I’m going to--going to ever get All Might as a teacher.” He holds his arm with his other hand, bites his lower lip, and lets tears well up in his eyes.

 

The reporter flounders for a couple seconds before sighing and setting a hand on his shoulder. “Sorry, kid,” she says curtly.

 

Izuku shakes his head and shuffles off. He hears the reporter whisper a harsh delete that footage to her cameraman. As he’s walking away, she asks someone else, “Are you a hero student?”

 

They reply with a confused, “No,” and she lets them go without interviewing them. 

 

 

Aizawa starts the class with a short, “We have another activity, today.”

 

The entire class tenses in anticipation.

 

“Class representative elections,” Aizawa says.

 

A majority of them erupt into excited cheering about something normal, for once.

 

“Now,” Aizawa starts, silencing them. “I don’t care how you decide, but by the end of this period, you need one or two representatives. I’m going to take a nap. Have fun.”

 

- - -

 

Shouta climbs into his sleeping bag and collapses into his favorite corner. Why is it his favorite corner? Simple. It’s relatively comfortable and it gives him a perfect view of the entire classroom. He can lay here, pretending to be asleep, and spy on them. It’s perfect.

 

The class is chaos for a solid thirty seconds until Iida stands up and announces, “Why don’t we handle this rationally? A vote is the obvious solution, isn’t it?”

 

“But we’ve only known each other for two days!” Kaminari exclaims. “We’re all just going to vote for ourselves!”

 

Midoriya says, “We could each give a speech. Maybe half a minute long?”

 

Ashido and Uraraka simultaneously exclaim, “That’s a great idea!” And the decision is made.

 

 

Aoyama starts first. He spouts some words about how he’s perfect and sparkly and if they vote for him, he’ll give them all a small jar of glitter.

 

The next two rows pass roughly the same way, no one really saying anything about policies or what actually makes them a good candidate. Bakugou doesn’t say anything other than, "Vote for me," while glaring intensely at everyone except, oddly enough, his own column of seats.

 

It’s so boring Shouta is tempted to actually fall asleep.

 

Asui’s speech is decent. She states that she has no experience, but that her policy of honesty makes her a good candidate. Kirishima’s charisma and energy might win him a vote or two.

 

And then Midoriya steps up.

 

“My name is Midoriya Izuku. I was class representative each year of junior high, so I do have some prior experience.” He does a good job of projecting his voice and making eye-contact with every member of his audience. He definitely has experience, at least with public oration. “As your representative, I’ll ensure to listen to all of your comments and requests and keep an open line of communication between the students and the council. I will act as your voice--not as some sort of dictator or external body. My job will be to make sure everyone in this class feels comfortable and has the same level of knowledge as everyone else. Please vote for me.” He smiles and bows. “Thank you.”

 

Uraraka stands up and cheers enthusiastically. “That was great! You have my vote, Midori!”

 

Midoriya turns red and shuffles back to his seat.

 

Iida’s speech is much like Asui’s, but louder.

 

Midoriya translates for Kouda and Tokoyami goes up there just to say he doesn’t want to be representative.

 

Mineta sort of skips up to the podium, a hop to his step.

 

“I’m Mineta! My quirk is this--“ he pulls one of the spheres off his scalp and sticks it to the surface of Shouta’s desk. “I can control how sticky they are! Now, my policies. As representative, my first order of policy will be to improve U.A.’s dress code! We’ll start by making the girls’ skirts shorter!”

 

- - -

 

Izuku has always been conscious of the dark lavender aura surrounding Mineta, swirling like a series of ropes knotted around each other. Sometimes it’s lighter--almost pink--just a single rope. Other times it isn’t even there at all.

 

But today?

 

It’s so thick the ropes are threatening to entangle Izuku, threatening to tie him up and pull him into the lavender haze of perversion.

 

“And I’ll make Yaoyorozu my vice-representative,” Mineta continues with a wide smile like he’s proud of the fact.

 

Izuku feels her startle. He knows she’s turning yellow with anxiety or fear.

 

“W-what?” she asks from two rows behind Izuku, her voice shaky and a little higher than normal.

 

The lavender only gets thicker. “Of course!” Mineta announces, hands on hips. “There isn’t a better candidate!”

 

Izuku slowly raises his hand, having to physically push through the cloud.

 

“Yes, Midoriya?” Mineta asks like he couldn’t care less.

 

Izuku turns to Aizawa, where he’s currently watching the interaction silently from the corner of the room. “Aizawa-sensei?” Izuku asks. Aizawa doesn’t stir. Izuku continues, “May I be excused to use the restroom?”

 

Aizawa grunts out a barely audible, “Fine,” which receives a shriek from Hagakure, who insists he’s supposed to be asleep.

 

Izuku doesn’t listen. He dodges Mineta’s aura and makes a beeline for the bathroom.

 

- - -

 

When Izuku finally comes back, he manages to hear the tail end of Todoroki’s speech through the door.

 

“Vote for me,” Todoroki says. “I’ll raise our class to the top.”

 

Everyone claps politely and Izuku sneaks to his seat while Yaoyorozu glides over to the podium. Despite some underlying anxiety, she still has the confidence of someone who’s comfortable being at the front of the class. She places her hands on the desk and raises her head. “My name is Yaoyorozu Momo. I was president of my middle school’s book club, so I have experience organizing a group, events, and coordinating with a school’s administration.” She smiles softly. Her eyes never reach Izuku’s--Mineta’s--column of seats.

 

Izuku knows Mineta is watching her, even if his back is to him.

 

“I will take it upon myself to keep communication lines open between us and administration. It will also be my duty to ensure everyone feels safe at all times. I will draw upon my prior experiences and all the knowledge I have gained throughout my life to make this a wonderful year for us all.” She bows her head. “I hope you’ll allow me the honor of serving as your class representative. Thank you.”

 

Mineta says something so close to Uraraka’s kind, sweet, “You have my vote, Midori!”, except lavender and twisted, that Izuku almost throws up again.

 

After Yaoyorozu takes her seat, Iida shoots to his feet. “Well! If that’s everyone, let us commence the voting!”

 

 

Jirou reads the votes aloud while Iida writes the tallies up on the board.

 

When they’re finished, Izuku is surprised.

 

He tied with someone.

 

Now, he voted for Yaoyorozu himself, so he isn’t that surprised, but five votes each is enough to get them both elected. No one else got more than two.

 

After discussing it with Aizawa, Yaoyorozu gives Izuku the representative position, taking the vice-representative position herself.

 

- - -

 

“Congratulations, Midoriya-san!” Iida announces as soon as the class is over.

 

Iida’s already told him congratulations four or five times--at the end of every class of the day--and Izuku’s starting to wonder why.

 

“Thank you, Iida-kun,” Izuku answers with the same smile he’s given him the previous times.

 

Iida places a hand on Izuku’s shoulder and makes eye-contact. Izuku pauses packing up his desk for lunch. “Honestly, Midoriya-san,” Iida continues with a soft smile that reaches his eyes. “You’ll make a great class representative.”

 

Izuku opens his mouth to say something about how Iida shouldn’t raise his expectations too high, but then Uraraka skips up from behind Iida and slams her hands on Izuku’s desk, smiling wider than Izuku’s ever seen from her. Iida pulls back in a sharp motion.

 

“It’s lunch!” she exclaims, her gaze switching between them faster than Izuku can keep track.

 

“Yes, it is,” Iida states simply.

 

“We can see Hano and Wakita and everyone else!”

 

Iida’s eyes brighten in recognition.

 

They’ve all kept in fairly constant contact through texts, except for Saza, who’s only been online once or twice, and Izuku himself. Izuku didn’t consciously distance himself from them, but there were many days when he was too busy to check in, and a number of conversations he felt too... personal for his input.

 

“That’s great,” Iida says, already turning to the door.

 

Izuku finishes packing up his stuff and stands up. “I’m excited,” he remarks offhandedly. He thinks he means it.

 

Uraraka smiles at him and hooks her arm through his elbow while the three of them walk to lunch.

 

- - -

 

As soon as they step into the cafeteria, a familiar voice yells, “Midoriya! Iida! Uraraka!”

 

“Wakita-chan!” Izuku exclaims.

 

Wakita barrels into him and hugs him so hard he struggles to breath for a moment. “You have no idea how pissed I was when I heard you showed up at Support yesterday and I wasn’t there! You should’ve called me or something! I would’ve run over!”

 

Izuku smiles up at her. “I just wanted to meet some other Support students. I already knew you, so I didn’t think about it. I apologize, I’ll reach out to you next time.”

 

Wakita pulls back and smiles a wide smile. “That’s great. Mei told me you met. How’d you like her?”

 

“She’s awesome! I’m really happy she’s my partner! She seems really enthusiastic about it.”

 

Wakita nods. “Yup, sounds like her.”

 

Izuku raises an eyebrow. “How long have you two known each other?”

 

Wakita laughs. “Like three days and change? Yeah, three days, babe. Sorry, time flies when you program until four in the morning. Ah! Iida! Uraraka!” Wakita wraps the two of them in hugs in turn and then asks, “Have you all said hi to Suda, yet? And Saza? Hano? Hitamoro? Come on, we have to go.”

 

Ochako chuckles. “We just got here, Wakita! We haven’t had time to get our food yet, let alone find all of them!”

 

Wakita smiles and takes one step back. She spins around, cups her hands around her mouth, and yells, “Oi! Arena failures! The three losers are heeeeeere!”

 

Half the cafeteria silences and stares at them; the other half ignore her.

 

“I’ll go save y’all some seats at Suda’s and find Saza and Mei,” Wakita tells them. She gives them a small mock salute and heads off.

 

“I’ll help her out,” Izuku says. “You guys get your lunch.”

 

Izuku jogs up to Wakita’s side. “Saza-chan doesn’t eat lunch with you all?” he asks.

 

Wakita eyes him for a moment before shaking her head. “Nah. She likes to sit alone and get homework done, the nerd.”

 

“And Mei-chan?”

 

Wakita waves a hand. “Different every day. She’s trying to make connections, I think.”

 

Izuku nods in approval. “Hitamoro-kun eats with you?”

 

“Yup.” Wakita smirks. “Surprised, ain’t ya’? So was I. Apparently Hano and they made some sort of bet. Hitamoro lost. And now--” she holds out a hand, showcasing the table of the three students. Suda and Hano wave at his arrival. Hitamoro raises an eyebrow in some sort of move of appraisal and immediately turns back to their plate of...

 

Izuku can’t even comprehend what it is. He thinks, just maybe, if his eyes aren’t playing tricks on him, it might be fried rice with chocolate syrup and bananas on top.

 

Hitamoro had sent pictures of their meals to the chat before, when no one believed them. But Izuku still hadn’t honestly believed it.

 

Hitamoro was serious.

 

“Midoriya-san!” Hano greets. “Have you gotten lunch yet?”

 

Izuku holds up his packed lunch.

 

“Ooo, traditional. I’m pretty sure Hitamoro tried to pack their own lunch, once, but the police arrested them for disturbing the peace.”

 

Hitamoro snickers and Suda chuckles. “That was a good one, Hano,” Hitamoro says as Izuku sits down. “But you’re totally ignoring the fact that you’re constantly arrested because the police mistake your big-ass ego for public quirk usage.”

 

Hano hides his laugh behind a hand. “You should take that back, before you regret it,” he says without any weight.

 

“Fuck you, pretty boy.”

 

Suda looks to Izuku and asks quietly, “How’ve you been?” Hitamoro and Hano silence at the sound of Suda's voice and immediately go back to eating.

 

“I’ve been pretty good. How about you all?”

 

“I told them about my quirk,” Suda says, “so it’s okay. You don’t have to lie for me.”

 

Izuku looks at Suda, tries to remember when exactly he lied for him, and can’t.

 

“Found Saza!” Wakita announces, dropping Saza on the bench next to Izuku.

 

“This is completely unnecessary, Wakita. Is there any reason for me to be here?” Saza grunts out.

 

“You’re our only friend in business, so yes!” Wakita exclaims. “Off to find Mei!”

 

Saza huffs out and pokes her food with her chopsticks.

 

“You gonna eat that?” Hitamoro asks.

 

“Gross. I’m not going to sacrifice my food to you, Hitamoro.”

 

Hano snorts. “She said sacrifice.”

 

“I’ll sacrifice you,” Hitamoro hisses. “Someone get me the chalk. I can kill him with a chopstick if it comes down to it.”

 

“Bet,” Hano says.

 

Please,” Saza groans, dropping her head in her hands. “Sacrifice me.”

 

Uraraka plops down next to Hano and Iida sits down next to Suda. “Hano!” Uraraka exclaims. “It’s been--”

 

She’s interrupted by a loud siren along with the message by a pre-recorded Nedzu, “This is not a drill. Entering Lockdown Procedure C-twenty-nine. Please calmly make your way to the underground shelter. This is not a drill. Entering Lockdown Procedure C...” The message continues on repeat.

 

All of them except for Hitamoro and Suda shoot to their feet.

 

C-29.

 

Lockdown.

 

Izuku has a set of lockpicks in his hands before he realizes it.

 

“Lockdown?” Uraraka asks, having to yell over the siren, the announcement, and the chaos which has taken over the cafeteria. “What’s going on?”

 

Iida adjusts his glasses and says, “Code C-twenty-nine means that someone has broken into the property, but that it is a low-level emergency. The heroes have likely already taken care of the issue.”

 

Uraraka visibly calms down.

 

“Aw, darn,” Hitamoro says, still eating their lunch, “I was hoping for some real drama.”

 

Lockdown. Locked.

 

Izuku grips the lockpicks tighter as the crowd rushes around them to the nearest exit.

 

“Why is everyone still freaking out?” Hano asks.

 

Iida huffs. “Not everyone has memorized the student handbook, unfortunately.”

 

Closed door. Lockdown. Lock.

 

“Midori? Are you okay?”

 

Izuku tries to breathe. Everything is fine. It’s a low-level emergency, just like Iida said.

 

“We should let everyone know,” Izuku manages to say over his pounding heart. “They’re panicking. Someone could get hurt.”

 

The metal picks dig into his palms hard enough to draw blood, but Izuku doesn’t care.

 

“That’s a great idea!” Uraraka exclaims.

 

“It isn’t, really,” Saza says, looking Izuku right in his eyes. “Your risk is over fourty percent and the reward is minimal, assuming you mean using the P.A. system in the teachers’ workroom.”

 

A majority of the students in the cafeteria have already evacuated.

 

Izuku nods. “I do.”

 

Iida nods. “You would have to travel against the flow of the crowd. It sounds dangerous.”

 

“We split up. You all try to settle the ones over here and I’ll make my way to the workroom.”

 

Saza frowns. “This is stupid, Midoriya-san.”

 

Hitamoro steps up. “Did someone say high risk? That’s literally my vigilante name, guys. I’m in.”

 

Saza glares at them. “No.”

 

Hitamoro sticks out their tongue and grabs Izuku’s wrist.

 

“We’ll do it.” Izuku is sure. He’s sure he’ll do anything to avoid going to the lockdown shelter, even if it means this.

 

Iida places a heavy hand on both of their shoulders before they go and says, in all sincerity, “Good luck. Godspeed.”

 

“Don’t get hurt, Midori! Hitamoro!” Uraraka calls.

 

“Give me a cute nickname, Urachan!” Hitamoro calls out.

 

“Uh... crap, uh... Hitakun!”

 

Izuku power walks out of the cafeteria, Hitamoro half-dragging him, Izuku half-dragging Hitamoro, entire body jittery with nerves.

 

 

There are people. Too many people. All he can see is yellow. The yellow seeps into and past his skin, through his muscles and bones, into his bloodstream until he’s just as yellow as everyone else.

 

Fear.

 

He’s afraid.

 

Is he afraid or are they? He doesn't know anymore.

 

He has to--he has to get to the workroom. He can’t remember why. He can’t even remember why he’s afraid. All he knows is that he’s supposed to get to the teachers’ workroom.

 

Izuku is only semi-aware of pushing his way through the crowd, of trying to move against the flow.

 

The yellow suffocates him until he breathes it in instead of air.

 

The workroom is--it’s only a few doors away, Izuku thinks.

 

An elbow jabs into his face, but he feels the pain in his hands, instead, which is weird but he can see the room now so he doesn’t care. He shoves his way past another blob of yellow and slams into the door. People continue rushing past him, but he tries the handle regardless.

 

It’s locked.

 

Locked.

 

Lockdown.

 

Afraid.

 

Izuku chokes on nothing, bracing himself against the door, when he feels cool metal against the palm of his hand. He freezes and turns his hand around. Lockpicks. Of course.

 

He shakes as he picks the lock and someone jostles him every other second and he can barely see anything past the yellow and the knob turns and he pushes the door open, collapsing into the room.

 

The yellow is duller here, but just barely. It still weighs him down.

 

Now that he’s here, he’s sure he needs to do something. His brain races through what he knows, but all he knows is fear and I don’t want to be trapped and lockdown.

 

Lockdown. U.A. is in a lockdown. Low-level emergency. Panicking. Yellow. Fear.

 

Izuku rushes for the wall and opens the small P.A. box. He finds the controls easily, and turns it on. Instantly, the sirens stop and Nedzu’s voice cuts out.

 

“This is Midoriya Izuku of class 1-A,” he begins, the words falling out. “This is an announcement. Please calm down. Nothing is wrong. Everyone is safe. I repeat: you are safe. Nothing is wrong. Please--” his voice cracks, but he keeps going, “--please calm down. You don’t have to be afraid.

 

His message echoes throughout the building for a moment before he’s encased in silence.

 

The yellow slowly seeps out of the room, but his skin still flickers with the color.

Chapter Text

Nine Years Ago

 

 

The first time, Izuku is six.

 

He wakes up like it’s any other Saturday morning, none the wiser. He browses news headlines on his phone for five minutes before getting dressed in a sweater and jeans. Then, he heads out of his room to make coffee and breakfast.

 

Well, he tries to leave his room.

 

He can’t turn the doorknob.

 

At first, Izuku just thinks the door is stuck. Their house isn’t particularly old, but it’s still a possibility. Maybe the wood warped during the night? Yeah, that makes sense.

 

But, minutes later, the door still won’t open.

 

“Dad?” Izuku calls, panic rising into voice.

 

Izuku hears him walk to the doorway and stop in front of it. “What’s wrong, Izuku?”

 

“The--the door. It won’t open.”

 

“What do you mean? Are you sure you’ve tried?”

 

Izuku is sure he’s tried, but he tries again, jiggling the knob with enough force to rattle the entire door.

 

Dad hums loud enough that Izuku can hear it through the door. “Let me try,” he says. After a short jingling noise, the knob turns and Dad pushes the door open a couple inches. He frowns through the three-inch crack. “Look, Izuku. It opened just fine for me. Why don’t you try again?”

 

Before Izuku can protest that he doesn’t want to try, I just want to go downstairs and have breakfast, Dad closes the door and the knob jingles once again.

 

Izuku tries the door.

 

“It won’t open,” he whispers.

 

“Are you sure you’re doing it right?” Dad asks like there’s a wrong way to open doors. “It opened just fine for me a second ago.”

 

Izuku opens and closes his mouth for a couple seconds in disbelief. Then he finally places that jingling noise.

 

A key.

 

“Did you... did you lock me in?” he asks, voice cracking at every other word.

 

Dad is silent until he scoffs. “Lock you in? And why exactly would I do that, Izuku? Are you locking yourself in?”

 

“No!” Izuku cries out.

 

“Really? I can’t see any other explanation to this.”

 

But Izuku knows. He knows Dad is the only one with the key. He knows he can’t lock himself in.

 

“The other explanation is that you locked the door!” Izuku yells, pulling at the knob with frantic force.

 

“Don’t raise your voice at me, young man,” Dad hisses and Izuku cowers under his intensity. “I’m trying to have a civil conversation here and all you’re doing is yelling baseless accusations. Fine. If you aren’t going to discuss this with me like a mature adult, I’m not going to cater to your attention ploys.”

 

Izuku doesn’t say, I’m not an adult or this hasn’t been a conversation. Izuku is too overwhelmed by the thought of being left alone in a room he can’t get out of. Instead, Izuku says, “Don’t! Don’t leave me here, please!”

 

“I’m not going to indulge your temper tantrum, Izuku. I thought you were better than this,” Dad says as he walks away.

 

 

Izuku cries for three hours, maybe. After another hour, he accepts the fact that the door isn’t opening.

 

He tries passing the time on his computer, but it’s hard for him to focus knowing the door is locked and, for a reason Izuku doesn’t know, his dad is probably still angry.

 

When dinner time rolls around, Izuku tries calling out again.

 

Dad doesn’t respond.

 

 

By the time Izuku wakes up the next morning, the door is unlocked.

 

Dad doesn’t mention it over breakfast, so Izuku asks with a quivering voice, “What--what happened?”

 

“Hm?” Dad begins. “What do you mean?”

 

“Yesterday? With the--the door?”

 

Dad tilts his chin up and says, in a voice completely neutral, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Izuku.”

 

“It... wouldn’t open.”

 

Dad raises an eyebrow. “Are you alright, Izuku?”

 

Izuku blinks up at him. No, he isn’t alright.

 

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dad continues.

 

“The door--you locked--“

 

Dad sets his silverware down. “I’m starting to worry for you, Izuku. Did you get enough sleep last night?”

 

Izuku stares at him, breaths shallower and shorter than they’ve ever been, trying to understand what’s going on. “But, yesterday--”

 

Dad narrows his eyes and Izuku reflexively flinches. Dad clears his throat and adjusts the positioning of his silverware. “Did you get any good studying done, yesterday?”

 

“What?” Izuku asks, not comprehending the question.

 

Dad sighs, but a small smile makes its way onto his face, even if it looks a little tense. “I asked if you got any good studying done, yesterday. I know you got a B in your most recent history quiz, so I was wondering if you got yourself caught up.”

 

Izuku freezes. “No, I--”

 

“No?” Dad frowns. “Then what were you doing all of yesterday, holed up in your room? You didn’t even come down for dinner. I assumed you were making up for that B.”

 

“I was...”

 

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

 

Izuku takes a deep breath and looks down at the table. “I was--I was pre--preoccupied. My door got... stuck.”

 

Dad hums for a moment. “I see. Well, hopefully you’ll make a more productive use of your Sunday than your Saturday.”

 

Izuku doesn’t respond.

 

- - -

 

The second time is four weeks later, another Saturday morning.

 

He doesn’t expect it, which makes it that much worse.

 

When he turns the knob and it catches instantly, Izuku’s heart drops.

 

Dad? ” he yells out, already pulling the door hard enough to shake the frame.

 

“Yes, Izuku?” he responds from the bottom floor.

 

“It’s locked!”

 

There’s a moment of silence before his dad says, “Why don’t you finish that paper I assigned you, then? The one you were supposed to turn in yesterday after dinner?”

 

Izuku’s face flushes and he lets go of the door. “I--” his voice cracks. He takes a moment to keep himself from crying. “I had a test on Friday I had to study for. I told you.”

 

“I know. That doesn’t mean I changed your deadline.”

 

Izuku struggles to breathe. “You can’t--you can’t do this.”

 

From the other side of the door, Dad asks, “Do what, Izuku?”

 

“Lock--lock me in here. I need to eat breakfast... and lunch, and dinner.”

 

“I’m not locking you in there, Izuku, you are.”

 

 


 

 

Present Day

 

 

Etsu lost Midoriya. Fuck.

 

Saza had said there was high risk, but they hadn’t thought she was being serious.

 

Etsu doesn’t even know where the teacher’s workroom is.

 

And then Midoriya’s voice comes on the speakers and Etsu knows they’ve really fucked up.

 

- - -

 

Please--please calm down,” Midoriya announces through the speakers. Shouta freezes at his tone--distressed, rushed, pained--and then everything falls into place when Midoriya continues with, “You don’t have to be afraid.

 

Midoriya has an empathy quirk.

 

Shouta is up the stairs within moments, not wasting time giving an explanation to Vlad King, who’s in the middle of trying to coral his class. 1-A has Yaoyorozu, and Iida if it comes down to it. They’ll be fine.

 

Shouta knows where the P.A. system is--the teachers’ workroom--but he doesn’t know how Midoriya got in because the room locks during an emergency. Shouta doesn’t care. Not right now.

 

What’s important is that Midoriya has an empathy quirk in a school of seven hundred students that was just thrust into a lockdown. That’s seven hundred kids panicking, seven hundred kids worth of emotions for Midoriya to absorb.

 

Shouta makes it to the workroom within a minute. The door is cracked ajar but Shouta resists the urge to immediately burst in. First, he takes a moment to calm his breathing and (hopefully) his emotions. Then, and only then, does he step through the doorway.

 

Midoriya sits under the PA box, back to the wall, knees pulled up to his chest, head buried. Every so often he jolts, like a dog having a nightmare.

 

“Midoriya,” Shouta starts quietly.

 

Midoriya’s head whips up, eyes wide with fear. The expression doesn’t falter.

 

Without wasting a moment, Shouta Erases Midoriya’s quirk.

 

Midoriya immediately deflates, the tension in his body dissolving away. His legs fall slowly to the floor, his eyes relax, and his fists unclench. Two metal pens--utensils? Knives? No, lockpicks--fall out of his hand, caked with blood. Shouta keeps his quirk active as he takes another step and sees the blood on Midoriya’s palm.

 

“Midoriya,” Shouta starts again. He’ll have to blink soon. He doesn’t want to, but he can already feel his eyes burning.

 

Midoriya takes a deep breath and wraps his arms around his torso. “I--I’m fine, Aizawa-sensei,” he whispers. “Thank you.”

 

Shouta blinks--just for a moment--but Midoriya's entire body flinches so he reactivates his quirk instantly.

 

“You’re not fine,” Shouta says, taking a seat on the floor a couple meters away, giving Midoriya space.

 

Midoriya frowns and shakes his head. “It’s alright. Really.”

 

Shouta tries to get a read on him, to understand what Midoriya is thinking behind his mask. But even like this, even with Midoriya half-broken and completely overwhelmed, Shouta still doesn’t understand him.

 

Shouta doesn’t understand why Midoriya is lying about being fine, why he feels a need to.

 

Midoriya slowly pushes himself to his feet and deftly picks up the lockpicks in one motion. “I just got overwhelmed,” Midoriya says with a shaky smile.

 

“If you need to go home--“ Shouta starts but Midoriya shakes his head and interjects, “I don’t,” a little too quickly.

 

The reaction makes Shouta frown, but he sets it aside for another time. Priorities.

 

Shouta stands up, temporarily dropping his quirk out of necessity.

 

Midoriya tenses, but he seems to be adjusting.

 

“Are you injured?”

 

“Ah,” Midoriya starts. He turns his palms over. “No, they’ve already healed.”

 

“We’re going to Recovery Girl,” Shouta says as he turns to the door, not giving Midoriya any opportunity to argue.

 

- - -

 

“Are you going to turn me in?” Izuku asks during the walk to Recovery Girl’s office.

 

“For what?” Aizawa asks without missing a step.

 

“The lockpicks.”

 

“Oh. No.” Aizawa reaches into the folds of his hero costume and pulls out a lockpick. He blinks at it for a moment before muttering, “Shit. I have the other one somewhere in here.” After roughly ten seconds of patting himself down, Aizawa pulls out the other one. He presents them to Izuku on his open palm.

 

Izuku looks at them with wide eyes. “You’re a hero,” Izuku says, something between a question and a statement.

 

“Doesn’t mean I don’t need them.”

 

“They’re illegal.”

 

Aizawa shrugs. “So are a lot of things. Guns. Tattoo parlors. Public quirk usage.” Aizawa closes his fingers around the picks. “Just don’t get caught, alright?”

 

Izuku watches Aizawa for a moment longer, looking for any trace of a lie, of a trap.

 

He knows Aizawa is analyzing him back. Izuku doesn’t mind; he’s used to it. He doesn’t know what Aizawa is looking for, which would usually concern Izuku. But for whatever reason, it doesn’t.

 

When he finds no hint of a lie, Izuku turns back to the hallway.

 

“You don’t have to be fine,” Aizawa says without any prompting.

 

Izuku opens his mouth to respond, but Aizawa cuts in, “Don’t say anything, just think about it.”

 

Izuku doesn’t understand, but he nods once anyway and commits the phrase to memory.

 

 

Recovery Girl is already in her office, a disappointed frown ready on her face, when Izuku and Aizawa step in.

 

“Oh dear,” Recovery Girl starts, stepping up to Izuku. “What happened to you?”

 

Izuku scrunches up his nose. “I scratched my hands when I fell during the evacuation.” He smiles. “But I have a self-healing quirk, so I’m fine!”

 

Recovery Girl shoots Aizawa a look over Izuku’s shoulder which can only mean something along the lines of what kind of self-destructive student have you gotten yourself this time, Aizawa?

 

Aizawa just says, “He also has an empathy quirk.” And he walks off without another word.

 

Recovery Girl clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “Not one for social pleasantries, is he?”

 

Izuku chuckles and shrugs.

 

Recovery Girl cringes. “Let's get you cleaned up, at least. It looks like you fell on your nose, too.”

 

 

Izuku’s phone starts dinging almost non-stop just as Recovery Girl is getting ready to dismiss him. The check-up hadn’t been long, seeing as all his injuries were already healed.

 

“Do you mind if I check this?” Izuku asks.

 

“Not at all,” she tells him with a sweet, albeit tense smile.

 

He wonders what she has to be tense about. It throws him off for a moment, but he pulls out his phone and ignores it.

 

 

[Group Chat -- Arena F is for Failures]

 

[Hitamoro Etsu]

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck

I’m a terrible human being I regret all my life choices

 

[Saza Cho]

Yes.

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

Midoris fine!

probably!

our teacher just said he is!!!

 

[Hitamoro Etsu]

Saza I’ll never disobey you again

You own my soul

 

[Saza Cho]

I’m going to hold you to that, you know.

It’s even in writing and everything.

 

[Midoriya Izuku]

Hey guys! :D

I’m alright! Thanks for your concern!

 

[Hitamoro Etsu]

Oh thank quirks

 

[Uraraka Ochako]

!!!!!!!!

woooooo!!!!

 

- - -

 

“Midoriya-kun,” Chiyo starts from her seat at the desk.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Are you seeing a quirk therapist?”

 

“No,” he answers with an eyebrow raised.

 

Chiyo frowns and glances at the paper on her desk--Midoriya’s file, or what part of it she has access to. She clasps her hands together in her lap and looks back at him. “Usually, people with empathetic quirks see therapists to help them balance their emotions versus those of others. I understand you just recently developed this quirk, so the oversight is understandable.”

 

He smiles, but it looks a little too cheery. After all, she doesn’t really know what he has to be happy about.

 

“I see. Is this something that should go through the school, or my father?”

 

“Your parents, preferably. But if, for any reason, you’re unable to find adequate care outside of school, we’d be happy to provide it.”

 

Midoriya nods. “Will that be all?”

 

After a moment of hesitance--she isn’t sure what holds her back, because it’s gone almost instantaneously--she smiles back. “Yes, Midoriya-kun.”

 

- - -

 

“I heard there was a break-in,” Father says.

 

“It was just the press,” Izuku notes as he silently tugs off his shoes.

 

After a beat, Father states, “Was it.”

 

Izuku knows instantly that it wasn’t just the press--that, somehow, that was the wrong answer. He freezes, still gripping his second shoe, vision unfocused. He needs to--he needs to respond, to say the right thing. But Izuku doesn’t know what the right thing is, so he’s silent for a second too long while his brain attempts to sort through everything that happened today.

 

“You’re naive,” Father bites out.

 

Izuku squeezes the shoe and shrinks closer to the ground.

 

“Look at me.”

 

Izuku doesn’t want to--the last thing he wants is to meet his father’s disappointed frown--but he does. He finishes taking his shoe off, slowly stands up, and looks at him.

 

“You really believe the press are capable of breaking into UA?”

 

Izuku finds the answer Father wants. “No, of course not. UA’s defenses haven’t been breached in dozens of years. It would take a coordinated, well-planned attack and, seeing as there have been no reports of anything malicious happening, the press was probably a diversion.”

 

Father is silent for a moment, judging. And then his frown lifts into a soft smile.

 

Izuku lets out a silent breath.

 

“I’m sorry, Izuku, ever since I heard about the break-in I’ve been a little on-edge. I’ve been worried about you, is all.”

 

“It’s fine, Father. I understand. I never should have assumed it was just the press in the first place. That was my mistake.”

 

“Come here.” Father opens his arms. “You’ve had a long day.”

 

Izuku relaxes into his father’s hug, relieved--relieved that Father’s in a good mood, that Izuku won’t be banished to his room, that he’ll probably get dinner tonight. Maybe Father will even let them order dinner, instead of Izuku cooking it.

 

“Oh!” Izuku exclaims, bending his head to get a better look at his father. “I almost forgot! I got elected class representative!”

 

Father’s smile widens. “That’s great, Izuku. I’m so proud of you.”

Chapter Text

Tomura lays sprawled over the couch, stretching out the gunshot wounds he was specifically ordered to rest. He stares at the handheld game he's been holding without playing for the last hour.

 

“Tomura,” Sensei’s voice abruptly cuts through the silence. The monitor in the corner crackles to life.

 

Tomura drops the device to the ground without a care and glides up to a seated position, eyes fixed on the monitor like there is nothing else in the room. Subconsciously, he leans forward towards it.

 

“Kurogiri,” Sensei continues. “You too.”

 

Kurogiri warps himself onto the loveseat, not wasting a second.

 

“I expected more from you both.”

 

Tomura flinches as the air fills with a silence so heavy it threatens to suffocate them. He clenches his teeth and his eyes fall to the wood floor, a thick shame settling into his gut. He wraps his arms around his torso in an attempt to make himself smaller.

 

“Of course, I’m disappointed that you failed to kill All Might, since that was the point of attacking USJ,” Sensei starts. Tomura just wilts closer to the ground. “But I’m more disappointed that you disobeyed direct orders. Tell me, Tomura, why did you think it was acceptable to try to kill a student?”

 

- - -

 

“My name is Midoriya Izuku.”

 

Tomura skids to a stop, his hand centimeters away from the... the child’s face.

 

His fingers twitch. Half of him craves placing them on flesh, to destroy. But the other half of Tomura knows better. The other half of him has made eye contact with Midoriya Izuku.

 

It has to be a trap--it can’t be anything less with Midoriya’s sharp, calculating look--so Tomura slowly draws his hand back, buying time for his mind to come up with a plan.

 

In response, Midoriya extends his own hand in some sham of a handshake.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Shigaraki-san.”

 

Tomura flinches and, before he can think better of it, takes the chance so graciously offered, grabbing the student’s hand with all five of his fingers.

 

Or, he tries, at least.

 

The world spins in a flurry of colors. Tomura lands on his back. The air knocks out of his lungs.

 

The grip on his wrist slides to his forearm, forcing his hand to the ground.

 

Midoriya’s bright green eyes bore into him. Fearless. Deadly.

 

“Nomu!” Tomura screeches. “Get him off!”

 

The child doesn’t have time to react.

 

- - -

 

“He wouldn’t stop,” Tomura groans, digging his nails into his thigh, scowling. “No matter how many times the nomu hit him, he just kept getting back up. And his quirk--” Tomura lets out a harsh noise from the back of his throat, something between a scoff and a growl. “--its level is high enough to counter the nomu.”

 

“You still haven’t answered my question.”

 

Tomura’s eyes dart over the coffee table while his mind runs like some cheap, old engine that’s almost out of gas. He can’t disappoint Sensei--not any more than he already has. But the honest answer? Tomura’s honest answer would be unacceptable. The words stick to the back of his tongue, and he almost says them for lack of a prepared excuse, but he knows better.

 

“Shigaraki-san,” Kurogiri whispers, a reminder and warning in one.

 

Tomura analyzes the chipped coffee mug, the television remote, the book on war tactics he still hasn't read. None of them give him the answer.

 

What does Sensei want him to say?

 

“He--he tried to take on the nomu before All Might even got there,” Tomura tries, bringing his eyes up to the monitor, watching for any tell of approval, or disapproval. “He was just supposed to be some random NPC, but he kept getting in the way. I needed--the nomu was for All Might, not him.” Tomura's eyes are those of a man waiting for judgement, wide and unblinking.

 

“I see...” Sensei starts, voice echoing throughout the bar. “So, you're saying the nomu was inadequate, that it was my fault.”

 

Tomura pauses for a moment, trying to rationalize how Sensei got that from what he said. After a moment, he gives up. “N--no! Of course not. I never said that!” His nails dig further into his skin. “If--if All Might had showed up when he was supposed to or--or if the child wasn’t so fucking OP,” Tomura growls, the last of his flimsy composure completely gone, "then none of this would have happened."

 

- - -

 

Tomura watches, his wide smirk hidden only by Father, as the nomu pummels Eraserhead into the ground.

 

It’s therapeutic. They aren’t allowed to kill the kids, but the heroes are free range, so he takes out his pent-up bloodlust on the only hero here.

 

The nomu draws its fist back for another punch but then it stutters, fist slamming into empty air feet above the target.

 

The nomu lets out a screech that has Tomura slamming his hands over his ears. It skids backwards, digging its feet into the ground, and lets out another shriek. The movement slows, but the Nomu stills inches backwards. No, something still drags it backwards.

 

Tomura flicks his gaze in the direction.

 

The child--the child who should be unconscious, who just took a hit from the nomu barely half a minute ago--is struggling to his feet, one hand extended out.

 

“Nomu,” Tomura orders. He points to Midoriya. “That one.”

 

The nomu doesn’t hesitate, and its enhanced speed combined with... whatever Midoriya is doing has Midoriya in the air before Tomura sees it happen.

 

Tomura smiles and turns back to Eraserhead. “Now back to the current boss,” he tells the nomu.

 

The nomu lets out a keening whine and a creaking noise that sounds like one of the older stools in the bar. The nomu moves in the wrong direction, despite digging both its feet and hands into the ground, leaving a trail of destroyed concrete.

 

Midoriya is on his feet--he shouldn’t be, it’s impossible, a fucking pro-hero was knocked out with one hit and this kid has tanked two--drenched in blood, his costume barely more than shreds. His smile is a threat, a feral baring of teeth that has Tomura’s quirk squirming under his skin.

 

“Shigaraki-san.” Midoriya’s sickly sweet voice hits the back of Tomura’s neck, right between his shoulder blades. Despite his tone, Midoriya's eyes are even sharper than before. “I would really appreciate it if you stop.”

 

“Kill him,” Tomura tells the nomu before he can think better of it.

 

- - -

 

Tomura forcibly bites down his honest answer: I wanted to destroy him, along with everything else.

 

Sensei hums--a placeholder. Then, in that tone Tomura dreads the most (fake, a pitch higher than usual that makes Tomura's back tense, passive aggressive), Sensei says, “You’re lucky you didn’t actually kill him.”

 

Tomura swallows and grunts out, “Yes, I am,” because there probably isn’t anything else he can say without making it worse.

 

“How do you think we should punish you, Tomura?” Sensei asks him.

 

 


 

 

Izuku jolts awake, having to literally bite down a scream from an already forgotten nightmare before it wakes up his father.

 

“Midoriya-kun?” someone asks. Someone who is not his father.

 

It smells like his home but--

 

It isn’t his room. Izuku’s in a hospital.

 

Yagi half-stands, half-sits on a plastic chair beside the bed.

 

Izuku doesn’t know what to do in this situation, how to act. He hasn’t been in the hospital before--not as a patient himself.

 

“Are you alright?” Yagi asks, still frozen in his half-position, in between deciding whether to move or not.

 

“I’m fine,” Izuku answers with a small smile. “A little bit disoriented, though.”

 

Yagi watches him for a moment longer before sinking into the seat, his aura pink with concern.

 

“You’re at the hospital,” Yagi says.

 

Izuku’s smile turns into a different smile. “I got that much. What--” his voice catches in his throat, and he has to swallow the words down unless he wants to throw up.

 

Yagi’s pink brightens in intensity. “Should I call a nurse?”

 

Izuku shakes his head. “No, I’m fine.” It was just a stupid question--too obvious--he should know the answer.

 

“It’s been eight hours since...”

 

Izuku nods in understanding, then freezes when the words sink in. Eight whole hours? Why was he unconscious that long?

 

Yagi must discern his confusion, because then he drops his eyes, wringing his hands. “They said your healing quirk--it tired you out, I think. You didn’t need surgery, or anything, but they wanted to keep you here to monitor your status... or something.”

 

What happened afterwards? Izuku needs to know. Is Aizawa okay? Katsuki? Todoroki? Kirishima? Thirteen? Everyone else? What happened after he passed out? After All Might dealt with the... nomu?

 

He stares at his lap, at his once scar-free hands that now might as well be checkerboards. He wills the question to his lips, but the responding nausea fights back--chains tying his tongue down.

 

If you hadn’t passed out--if you had been better--you’d already know the answer.

 

Something brushes up against his forearm and Izuku tenses, not expecting it. The something turns into a hand--Yagi’s.

 

Izuku lifts his eyes to meet Yagi’s, only to find he can’t see them past the thick pink aura.

 

“I’ll let the nurse know you’re awake,” Yagi says quietly before standing up to leave. He stops before the doorway and turns around. “If you ever need someone to talk with... I’ll always be here, Midoriya-kun. Or you can reach out to a professional. What you witnessed... what you had to go through...” Yagi falls into silence, squeezing his lips together in a tight line. “I’m--I'm sorry.” He leaves without another word.

 

 

After a nurse, another nurse, a trauma specialist who tells him everything he already knows about caring for scars, and a doctor who says Izuku is perfectly healthy but will have to stay an additional thirteen hours anyways, a man in a tan suit enters his room.

 

“Midoriya Izuku?” The man looks kind enough. His soft eyes remind Izuku of Yagi or Recovery Girl. His hands aren’t hidden--open body language. And his aura is a muted pink.

 

“That’s me,” Izuku answers with a short wave.

 

“I’m Detective Tsukauchi, the lead on the USJ case. If you don’t mind, would you be willing to answer some questions? Just to help us get a better picture of what exactly happened.”

 

“Sure.” Izuku beckons to the chair. “Please.”

 

Tsukauchi accepts the offer with a nod. After sitting, he pulls out a small notebook from his messenger bag. “Before we begin, I have to let you know that my quirk allows me to detect lies.”

 

Izuku places a smile on his face. “That sounds really helpful for detective work.”

 

Tsukauchi chuckles. “It is, definitely.” After a moment, he asks, “Is it fine with you if we start at the beginning? Or is there someplace else you’d rather?”

 

“The beginning’s fine.”

 

 

The detective flips through his notebook. “I’m told you were aware of the villains’ arrival moments before they appeared. Is this true?”

 

After a moment, Izuku answers a careful, truthful, “Yes.”

 

“How were you capable of this?”

 

- - -

 

Uraraka swings Izuku’s hand back and forth, practically jumping up and down. “Thirteen’s my favorite hero!” she whisper-yells.

 

Izuku smiles back at her.

 

Aizawa says something to Thirteen before they introduce USJ.

 

All Might isn’t here, which Izuku notes, but doesn’t dwell on. He probably ran out of time, or got caught up hero-ing.

 

“Our quirks can be weapons, used for harm,” Thirteen announces. “Just as easily as I can save a group of people, I can kill them.”

 

The group goes silent. Uraraka squeezes Izuku’s hand a little tighter.

 

“So, today, we are here to use our quirks as tools of protection, not as...” Thirteen keeps talking, but Izuku stops listening.

 

He smells... something in the air. Iron. Heavy. Blood.

 

A blood-red haze, so dark it’s almost black, ripples out in waves from the center of the plaza.

 

It starts slow, like a calm tide, but then it pushes up and grows and crashes over the steps and hits Izuku so hard he drowns for a few seconds.

 

He chokes on the aura. He chokes on it and he breathes it in and he swallows it down. He consumes it.

 

Izuku’s smile sharpens to expose his teeth. His eyes narrow. His back snaps straight. He clenches whatever is in his hand with a newfound strength.

 

Izuku takes a step forward. He knows what he has to do.

 

Before he can, before he can stride down those steps and kill every last--

 

Izuku takes a breath of air, choking on the emptiness, on the lack of blood-red haze, breathing in nothing but air.

 

His eyes meet red ones. Aizawa’s.

 

“Villains,” Izuku croaks out, finally back in control of himself. “Villains.”

 

- - -

 

“A part of my quirk, Empathy,” Midoriya starts, “it lets me see emotions as colored auras. The villains’ auras were so... potent that I was able to pick it up before they completely appeared through the portal.” Naomasa doesn't detect a lie.

 

Midoriya hasn’t yet mentioned what happened next, and the two witness accounts from Aizawa and Uraraka are both vague and concerning.

 

“What emotion, or emotions, were the villains feeling?” Naomasa asks.

 

Midoriya sits up a little straighter and he draws his hands tighter into his lap. After almost an entire minute, he meets Naomasa’s eyes and says the truth, “Bloodlust.”

 

Ah.

 

That explains quite a lot, actually. Aizawa and Uraraka’s accounts. The villains from the flood zone.

 

Naomasa makes a few notes before continuing, “I have a pretty good picture of what happened on the stairs next. You distracted the warping villain--Kurogiri--with a conversation. After Thirteen tried to use their quirk you, Bakugou, and Kirishima, attempted to hold the villain back. Then, a majority of the students were warped to various locations. You, as far as I know, were warped alone to the flood zone. Is this correct?”

 

“I believe so, yes.”

 

And this is where it gets tricky.

 

Because all Naomasa knows about the flood zone is what the villains have told him.

 

And what the villains have told him...

 

Naomasa clears his throat. He’s a neutral detective. The villains’ accounts don’t matter here.

 

“Do you have any idea why Kurogiri would have warped you individually? Everyone else was warped in groups of two or more.”

 

- - -

 

“Get back!” Thirteen yells. “I need space for my quirk!”

 

Izuku hesitates, his mind reciting back an analysis of Thirteen’s quirk.

 

Large area of effect. Uncontrollable. Constant.

 

Izuku turns to the warp villain. The warp villain.

 

His mind is working too fast--too many theories--too many options.

 

“We are the League of Villains,” the villain announces. “Apologies for our abrupt entrance. However, we thought All Might was going to be here. His absence is quite unfortunate.”

 

“All Might?” Izuku asks, clasping his hands behind his back, smiling, and taking a step forward. “He’s probably at U.A. We could take you there, if you’d like. Or send someone to get him.”

 

The villain eyes Izuku with wariness--the only reason Izuku recognizes the emotion is by his aura. He doesn’t really have a face or a body.

 

“Thank you for the offer, but I believe the plan is to pick off a number of you until he shows up.”

 

Izuku shrugs his shoulders and pouts. “Ah, that’s unfortunate. You don’t think we could come to some sort of compromise, do you?”

 

The villain is silent. He’s confused and suspicious--a shifting lime.

 

“Oh!” Izuku exclaims, smile widening.

 

The villain flinches, the purple haze which is his body spiking upwards for a short moment.

 

“Where are my manners!” Izuku extends his hand. “My name’s Midoriya. What’s yours?”

 

After a moment, the villain reluctantly answers, “Kurogiri--”

 

Izuku is barreled to the ground by something heavy, hard, all edges.

 

Kirishima.

 

Thirteen yells. The air turns cold, and then for a moment Izuku can’t breathe at all.

 

Someone screams. More than one someone.

 

Thirteen is on the ground. Kurogiri is on the other side of the platform.

 

Kirishima lifts Izuku to his feet right as Kurogiri moves.

 

Izuku reaches out with Pull, searching for any part of the villain that’s corporeal. He doesn’t find it fast enough. But then Katsuki is there, and Todoroki’s ice follows shortly.

 

Izuku Pulls Kurogiri towards him, just far enough to let the villain know he has him.

 

Kurogiri turns yellow with fear and then envelopes Izuku with his quirk.

 

- - -

 

Midoriya shrugs and purses his lips, lost in thought for a moment.

 

“No,” he lies. “I can’t think of a reason.”

 

He lies.

 

Naomasa almost drops his entire notebook, because if it weren’t for his quirk, he would have had no idea Midoriya is lying. No idea. Absolutely none.

 

Midoriya met his eyes. His hands never twitched, nor did his eyebrows or mouth.

 

He has zero tells --at least none of the generic ones that Naomasa is able to notice in passing.

 

Naomasa has never met someone with zero tells.

 

He seriously considers asking the question again, giving his quirk another shot, but he knows he’d just get the same answer.

 

Midoriya lied.

 

Naomasa scrawls down, reason for solo warp?--lie in his notebook as quickly and discreetly as possible.

 

“Moving on,” Naomasa starts, ignoring the bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. “Would you please tell me what happened at the flood zone?”

 

- - -

 

Izuku stumbles to his feet. A combination of disorientation, unstable footing, and even thicker bloodlust leaves him nauseous for a couple seconds. Then a yell of “Finally, the show’s begun!” shocks him into clarity like an alarm clock.

 

He’s on a boat. The flood zone, then. Villains litter the water, each and every one emitting the same aura.

 

Izuku closes his eyes and imagines Aizawa turning his quirk off, cutting the connection between Izuku and them.

 

When he opens his eyes, the aura is still there.

 

Fuck.

 

“Hell yeah!” another villain yells. “Now for the fun stuff!”

 

Even aware of it, fully knowledgeable that the feeling isn’t his own, Izuku can do nothing to stop it.

 

He steps atop the edge of the boat, wearing a wide smile he hasn’t seen on anyone but his father. “Fun?” Izuku asks in some sick parrot of Aizawa he’s only half-aware of. “This isn’t fun, now is it? This is very, very serious.”

 

He Pulls the unlucky villain into his grasp. With One for All spread through his muscles, Izuku is more than strong enough to hold up the villain with one arm. The villain squirms, eyes wide. Izuku taps his shoe against the boat, drawing out the spike.

 

“I’ll show you just how serious this is.”

 

He moves to kick the villain, with full intentions of kicking somewhere lethal, but he freezes halfway through the action.

 

“That looks very dangerous, Midoriya-san," Iida said.

 

Yellow. Fear. Uraraka.

 

“They’re for climbing," Izuku insisted.

 

Izuku clenches his teeth. He simultaneously slams his foot into the boat and his fist into the villain’s face, hard enough to knock them back into the water, but just not hard enough to kill them.

 

“Who’s next?” he asks, eyes flitting between the various villains, fists tight at his side, Pull already latching on to a dozen of them.

 

 

It gets a little tricky when the boat starts sinking, but it isn’t anything Izuku can’t handle. There are only six villains left, anyway, so it’s not like it really matters.

 

Something stabs through his left shoulder. A thick needle, made of some material in between ice and glass. Izuku removes it without hesitation, cringing when the wound starts stitching itself back together.

 

“This is impossible!” one of them yells. Their red has long turned into yellow, but the aura in the center plaza is stronger, anyway.

 

“Let’s retreat!”

 

That’s impossible! At least this kid probably won’t kill us! Shigaraki definitely will!”

 

Izuku ignores their chatter and Pulls one into a One for All-infused punch. They collapse to the ground, unconscious.

 

Five.

 

“Whatever! We have a chance back there!”

 

One turns to go--slight mutant quirk, gills, scales, wearing a breathing apparatus, probably can’t breath oxygen, removing it would--

 

Izuku replaces the idea with that of Uraraka--frightened, dyed a permanent yellow in his presence.

 

He Pulls the villain to him and knocks them out.

 

The remaining four don’t put up a fight.

 

- - -

 

At least it’s a nice lie, Naomasa thinks, but he stops absorbing any of it after the first sentence, more motivated to scan Midoriya for any signs of the lie--for any tell.

 

But no matter how hard Naomasa looks, he can’t find any. Midoriya looks just the same as earlier: a little bit tense (but just the right amount of tense for someone in their first police interview), back perfectly straight (but just as straight as a rich kid, or someone often in the public eye), hands perfectly still in his lap, and often eye contact (but not too often, and not too little).

 

It’s almost, dare Naomasa think, too perfect.

 

“Tsukauchi-san?” Midoriya asks.

 

Naomasa clears his throat, eyes dropping to the notebook for lack of anything better to do. “Sorry. Where were we? After the flood zone, right. You fought with the big creature for quite a bit--the boss, Shigaraki, as well. Are you comfortable talking about that?”

 

Midoriya adjusts his seating position for the first time in the entire meeting. He intertwines his fingers and squeezes his lips together before answering. “Yes... After escaping the flood zone, I approached the center, the area around the fountain,” Midoriya states simply, without emotion.

 

It isn’t that unusual. Some people respond to trauma by distancing themselves from it, or who find it doesn't sink in for days, weeks, or even months later. Naomasa will respect it. At least for now.

 

“Why didn’t you retreat back to the entrance?” Naomasa asks.

 

“I had to save Aizawa,” he answers immediately--and it’s the truth, which might be the oddest part of this interview. Even odder than his zero tells.

 

“You had to save... a pro hero?” Naomasa clarifies, one eyebrow raised, pen tip bleeding onto his notebook.

 

“Yes.”

 

Naomasa stares at Midoriya for what doesn’t feel like that long, but then Midoriya starts speaking again.

 

“I hid behind a boulder. Just a couple seconds, maybe half a minute, after I got there Kurogiri warped to Shigaraki and told him one of us got away. Shigaraki--he said something about--” Midoriya takes a deep breath and squeezes his hands together. “--that maybe All Might would show up if he killed a hero student or two. He sprinted up to me. We fought.” Midoriya scrunches up his face. “I think. It’s sort of a blur. Everything after that is just... nomu.”

 

- - -

 

“Kill him,” Shigaraki bites out, the command echoing over the plaza.

 

A small part of Izuku knows the order isn’t for him.

 

That small part of Izuku is quickly drowned under the blood-red waves rushing off Shigaraki.

 

Kill him.

 

Izuku stares down the nomu as it rushes him, One for All crackling through his limbs.

 

He needs more--more strength--more everything.

 

One for All burns, screams (or is that him screaming?), and red lightning sparks across his skin, into his muscles and into his bones.

 

Kill him.

 

The Nomu doesn’t stop but that’s fine. Izuku doesn't need it to. Izuku pulls his fist back (tendons snap, his shoulder dislocates, but Regeneration is quick) and slams it directly into the nomu’s punch. The shockwave tries to push the Nomu back but Izuku holds it there with Pull. The creature gets sandwiched between the conflicting forces.

 

Izuku’s arm, from just below his elbow to his fingertips, weaves itself back together with the same lightning that helped destroy it.

 

The Nomu screeches and goes for a kick.

 

Izuku responds with one of his own, but the knee on his balancing leg shatters and he collapses to the ground.

 

Regeneration doesn’t have enough time.

 

The nomu kicks.

 

His ribs s h  a tt e r

 

His spine c  r a ck s

 

He tumbles feet, or yards, or miles, or inches, or hours, or gallons.

 

His knee snaps back into place.

 

His ribs creak, complain, boil, stretch until the pieces find each other and hot glue themselves back together.

 

His spine cracks itself back in place.

 

And then the nomu kicks him again. Stomps him straight into the ground.

 

He wants to be unconscious. He tries his best to let go, but Regeneration drags him back.

 

And then the nomu kicks him again.

 

And again

 

And again

 

And it doesn’t matter how powerful the sparkling of his body is because

 

Then the nomu kicks him again

 

And Regeneration pulls him back.

 

Then, without warning, it stops. Or at least Izuku thinks it stops. It’s hard to tell, with Regeneration still stitching him back up, trying to fix wounds that it had never gotten the opportunity to before.

 

He smells fear, concern, anger, bloodlust, and more fear.

 

Something touches him and Regeneration jumps at his skin--no, it’s the other quirk, the fancy one, One for All. He’s being lifted up, moved. One for All spikes with his anxiety and something breaks--maybe an ankle, or just a muscle sprain--Regeneration doesn’t give him time to figure out.

 

Someone says something in not-Japanese and then Izuku is placed carefully on the ground.

 

Aizawa lays next to him, red. Angry? Murderous?

 

No, Izuku realizes, it’s blood.

 

He reaches out--to check for a pulse or, maybe just to reassure himself that Aizawa is really there.

 

“Midoriya,” someone says quietly, taking his hand before he can finish the action.

 

Kirishima. Katsuki’s friend. Izuku shouldn’t get to close, Katsuki wouldn’t like that.

 

And then he feels a shock white pain worse than the minutes he spent with the nomu. He loses his breath for a moment and tracks the aura to the fountain.

 

To All Might.

 

Izuku Pulls the Nomu--just enough to buy time--before he can think better of it.

 

 

- - -

 

After a moment of silence, Midoriya continues, “The nomu didn’t have any emotions. None at all.”

 

“I... see,” Naomasa answers for lack of a better answer. He checks his notes for the missing information he needs. “Before Todoroki, Bakugou, and Kirishima showed up, you managed to hold off the nomu for an extended period of time. Do you have anything to add about that?”

 

This is the last question Naomasa wants to ask, but he has to, legally.

 

He knows how Midoriya... held off the thing. They all do.

 

Self-healing quirk.

 

Midoriya smiles sadly and shakes his head. “No, I don’t think I do.”

 

Naomasa smiles back and closes his notebook. “Well, unless there’s anything else you think I should know, that’s all I have.”

 

“Nope.”

 

Naomasa stands up and gives Midoriya a deep bow. “On behalf of the Musutafu Police Department I thank you, Midoriya-kun, for your help during the attack. I sincerely hope, if anything like this happens before you graduate, you’ll be able to leave the situation to the pros.”

 

When he rights himself, Midoriya is blushing. “Me--me too,” he says.

 

Naomasa gives him another short bow. “Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, today.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Naomasa raises an eyebrow at that, but doesn’t comment, instead heading to leave.

 

“Tsukauchi-san?” Midoriya asks, voice restrained and tense.

 

Naomasa stops in the doorway. “What is it?”

 

Midoriya opens and closes his mouth a few times before asking quietly, “Aizawa? How is he?”

 

Naomasa startles. “No one’s told you?”

 

He shrugs. “I asked a nurse if I could visit, she just said that only family is allowed for now.”

 

Naomasa frowns before stepping back into the room. “You passed out after All Might defeated the nomu, right? Do you... Has no one told you what happened after that?”

 

Midoriya rubs the back of his neck and shrugs. “No, not yet. I’ve only been awake for three or four hours.”

 

Naomasa flinches and grips the back of the chair. “All the students are safe and healthy. Thirteen received some injuries, but nothing they won’t heal from. Aizawa may have some lasting damage, but it definitely could have been worse. He’s fine, Midoriya-kun. They all are.”

 

Naomasa watches the tension dissolve from Midoriya’s body. He leans back into the bed, resting his head against the wall. He lets his hands lay relaxed in his lap.

 

“You might be able to visit Aizawa now,” Naomasa says. “They took him out of the ICU quite a few hours ago. They even let me interview him, albeit reluctantly.”

 

Midoriya’s eyes light up, but then something immediately douses it. “Thank you for the offer, but I wouldn’t want to impose.”

 

Impose? Who would he be imposing on? The hospital staff? Or--?

 

Naomasa frowns. “Aizawa isn’t doing anything. He’s been stuck in a bed for hours longer than he’s used to. I’m sure he’s bored out of his mind.”

 

Midoriya just smiles up at Naomasa. “Thanks, but really, it’s fine.” A lie. Not that it matters. Naomasa doesn’t need his quirk or tells to gather that one. All he needs is common sense.

 

“He would appreciate it if you visit him, Midoriya-kun,” Naomasa tells him, trying to convey as much honesty as he can. He isn’t the most expressive person--he trained it out of himself for detective work--but he can do this much. “He asked about you, as soon as I stepped into his room. The first thing he did, actually.”

 

Izuku hesitates, humming quietly, then lets out a quiet, “I’ll think about it.”

 

Naomasa takes that as a win.

Chapter Text

The next knock on Midoriya’s door is not a nurse, nor a doctor, nor the detective.

 

“Hey, kiddo,” Nemuri whispers from the doorway. Her smile is sincere, but simultaneously sad. “I’m Kayama-sensei, also known as Midnight. Shou--Aizawa sent me to check in on you. He's still tied to his bed.” She chuckles quietly, then nods to the room. “Is it cool with you if I come in?”

 

“Sure,” Midoriya answers as he adjusts his seating.

 

Nemuri pulls the chair away from the wall--the exact same chair that’s in Shouta’s room--the exact same chair she’s been sitting in for the past nine or so hours. Her mind quickly cycles through every position she’s tried--”normal”, backwards, perched, sprawled over it in an attempt to lay down. Oh! There’s at least one left she hasn’t tried yet. She sits down on the chair, criss-cross applesauce. “I’m not gonna ask you any of that how are you doing crap, because we both know what that answer is. But Aizawa wants proof that you’re alive, so I’m gonna text him real quick.”

 

“Alrighty!”

 

Nemuri takes her phone out and hums a random tune as she sends, ur kids alive and talking. idk about the kicking part yet tho.

 

“How’s Aizawa-sensei doing?” Midoriya asks.

 

“Honestly, this is probably the longest he’s ever spent in bed. He’s getting a little stir crazy, but otherwise he’s fine.”

 

“Yeah, I understand,” Midoriya starts. “I think I still have another ten hours before they let me go.”

 

Nemuri ignores the buzzing of her phone to suggest, “Well why don’t you come hang out in Aizawa’s suite for a bit? Hiza--Yamada's in there now. We've sorta been rotating in and out.”

 

Something in Midoriya... shifts. He tenses minutely, nothing more than a tightening of his jaw and fingers, really. It’s unlikely that many others would notice it--Nemuri only does because she spent her childhood training herself to notice her mother’s near-spontaneous mood flips.

 

“Thank you, but I think I should stay in bed. My quirk has left me pretty tired.”

 

“That’s fine,” she answers, hoping her smile is reassuring. “If it’s alright with you, I could just stay here for a bit? Get away from Aizawa's stuffy room and Yamada's constant rambling.”

 

“Yes, that's alright.”

 

She leans back in the chair and reads the message Shouta sent.

 

Thanks

 

His parents giving you any trouble?

 

Nemuri freezes, fingers wrapping around her phone in some excuse of grounding. She swallows, steadies her breathing, and reminds herself not to jump to conclusions.

 

“Hey, kiddo,” she starts, propping her elbow on her knee and resting her chin on her palm. “Where are your folks?”

 

Midoriya leans forward slightly. He looks her over for one second, two, then answers, “My father has a chronic illness, he can’t leave the house. My mom passed away when I was young.”

 

The words sound... Nemuri isn’t sure, but something feels wrong about the whole situation.

 

A fifteen year old left alone in the hospital? After a fucking traumatic villain attack?

 

What kind of father lets that happen? The bad kind, obviously. Or, Nemuri can trust the kid’s words at face value, and assume it's just the unhealthy kind.

 

“Well, I’ll be here from now on!” Nemuri exclaims with forced cheer.

 

He smiles and nods. “Thanks.”

 

Nemuri texts Shouta a quick, nope no one’s here. should i worry??

 

It doesn’t matter what Shouta tells her. She’s already worrying.

 

“Aizawa tells me you’re designing him a new costume,” she says just to say something. “How’s that going?”

 

Midoriya shrugs. “I only started a couple days ago, so it isn’t really going anywhere quite yet. I’ve met with Cementoss and all the support students I’ll be working with so we’ve gotten some brainstorming done, but that’s it.”

 

“You designed something for Yamada, too, right?”

 

He nods.

 

Nemuri throws her head back and lets out a quiet groan. “Luckies,” she whines. “I haven’t gotten an upgrade in years.”

 

Midoriya cringes, but quickly places a smile over it. “I could design something for you, if you want.”

 

Nemuri frowns in response. She watches Midoriya, the upturn of his lips that’s just barely a smile, the movement of his hands that would lead her to think he’s enthusiastic. But she also takes in the furrowing of his brows, the tension of his shoulders, the fact that he cringed.

 

He’s accommodating to her.

 

The realization makes her want to throw up.

 

“No,” Nemuri squeezes out, fixing on a smile. “You don’t have to.”

 

“I’d be happy to,” Midoriya tells her.

 

You wouldn’t, she wants to say, but instead says, "No, really.”

 

“It’s fi--”

 

No," she snaps.

 

Midoriya tenses backwards. He completely closes himself off from her within a second. He purses his lips, brings his hands into his laps, draws his shoulders in even tighter.

 

Nemuri opens her mouth to apologize, to say something, anything, but Midoriya beats her to it.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says, eyes wide with--

 

She thinks it’s desperation at first, but no, it’s fear.

 

And there goes her backup theory, that it was just high empathy all along. No. This isn’t high empathy.

 

“Midoriya,” she starts, weaving as much honest emotion into her voice that she can. She uncrosses her legs and leans forward slowly. “I’m sorry.”

 

His eyes narrow after a beat.

 

“I’m sorry,” Nemuri repeats. “I let my emotions get the best of me and I snapped at you, that’s one hundred percent my fault. You did nothing wrong.”

 

He watches her silently--reading her. And in that moment, it all really sinks in. He’s been reading her, ever since she walked in. Reading and responding.

 

“You did nothing wrong,” she says again, quieter, hoping he’ll believe her.

 

A couple seconds later, his face falls into a perfectly neutral expression. “Thank you, Kayama-sensei,” he says with the most fake smile she’s ever seen. “I accept your apology and forgive you.”

 

He doesn’t forgive her--no, it isn’t that. He probably doesn’t believe her.

 

Nemuri smiles back--just as fake. “Thanks, kid. Right back at you.”

 

- - -

 

Shouta thought he'd be happy to be out of the hospital and, in some ways, he is. But in other ways this is worse. He's only been out a couple hours and Nedzu already has everyone gathered around his stupidly long conference table.

 

Nedzu doesn’t need to make a sound to catch Shouta's attention. All he does is tighten his shoulder blades, adjust his smile, and clasp his hands together in front of him.

 

Shouta must react somehow, because Hizashi breaks off mid-sentence, his rant about shitty hospital food ending much, much too late.

 

“USJ,” Nedzu starts, managing to sound cheerful, disappointed, and aggressive within the span of three syllables, “was a disaster.”

 

The silence in the room is heavy, likely out of respect for those heroes who were present at USJ.

 

Shouta wants to adjust his seating into anything more comfortable, but the head-to-toe bandages restrict his movements and leave him in a straight-jacketed state.

 

“But, we’ve all heard enough about USJ,” Nedzu says, tapping the inches-thick official report sitting on the table in front of him. “What we need to talk about now is how we allowed the attack to happen.”

 

An incomprehensible murmur rises quietly around the table, side conversations maintained to whispers. Then Hizashi’s face scrunches up in confusion and he blurts out, “What do you mean, allowed? No one allowed this to happen, it just... happened.”

 

Shouta sighs, the movement sending a rattling pain through his rib cages. He wants to tell Hizashi that nothing happens without cause, but in group environments like this, Shouta rarely speaks up. Another staff member is sure to do it for him.

 

“That’s where you’re incorrect, Yamada. These things don’t “just happen”--” Nedzu actually uses his paws to put makeshift air quotes around the words “--not at UA. Our security is supposed to be the tightest in Japan, second only to Tartarus. I helped design it myself.”

 

Hizashi purses his lips, but makes a surprisingly wise choice and doesn’t respond.

 

“So,” Nedzu continues, smile widening, “does anybody have any ideas as to how a new villain group managed to learn classified scheduling details as well as the teaching roster, break into USJ, and completely negate all of our security measures?”

 

Ten seconds go by, then thirty. When a minute passes, the silence is so awkward and suffocating Shouta starts debating saying something himself, even though he doesn’t have any substantial ideas.

 

“Maybe they hacked something?” Nemuri suggests, lacking any confidence.

 

Nedzu laughs. “If they’re capable of hacking into my system, USJ would have gone much differently.”

 

The silence returns, even heavier than before. Something has settled there... a realization. The realization that these villains were--are--competent. The realization that attacking UA is nowhere near an easy feat. The realization that, somehow, they got classified information.

 

Shouta glances around the table, at dropped gazes and shifting eyes, at clenched jaws and nail biting.

 

Snipe slowly leans back in his chair and takes off his hat in a dramatic, attention-grabbing motion. “We have a mole,” he states with such finality that for a single moment, everyone is the mole.

 

Shouta, himself, succumbs to the panic. To the blind paranoia that it could be anyone. Instantly, the people sitting next to and across from him--they aren’t heroes anymore, but potential spies, professional villains, planted here to tear down UA from the inside out.

 

But that’s idiotic. If--if --there is a mole, it’s unlikely to be a pro-hero. What kind of pro-hero is going to suddenly switch sides? Anyway, Shouta decided years ago--if he’s going to trust anybody, it’s going to be the people in this room. Save All Might, maybe. Not that he’s a fucking traitor.

 

Shouta snorts quietly, the thought of All Might being the traitor so improbable it completely shuts down the remaining panic.

 

“You can’t be serious,” Nemuri scoffs, rolling her eyes. Her arms are crossed against her chest--a defensive reaction, but right now everyone is attacking everyone else with their eyes, so she has an excuse to be defensive. “Who would ever betray UA--hell, who could betray the heroes? That’s a dangerous spot to be in.”

 

Nedzu probably has an answer, but he isn’t the one to speak.

 

Cementoss stands up, a calculated, respectful movement, and waits until everyone’s attention is on him before he starts. “I’m against putting any names out there without solid evidence, but before we start pointing fingers at each other, I want to suggest the possibility that it isn’t a staff member, but a student.”

 

Shouta tenses intuitively, jaw clenching down tight enough to make an uncomfortable click.

 

It’s logical. Children, teens especially, are a vulnerable demographic. But as a teacher... the accusation just doesn't sit right.

 

Vlad King nods a couple of times--of course he does--and flips through the police files like he’s looking for something. “That makes sense. Detective Tsukauchi wrote something about a student who lied multiple times during the--”

 

All Might erupts in a choking fit so intense his face turns red. It lasts at least half a minute. When he’s finished coughing into his napkin, he manages to squeeze out, “You don’t, uh, need to worry about him.” Which is the most vague and non-committed rebuttal Shouta has ever heard that All Might may as well have stayed silent.

 

Cementoss is still standing, and he uses his height to his advantage as he announces, “Midoriya Izuku.”

 

Shouta scowls and his entire body tenses like he’s preparing for a car crash. He really shouldn’t be surprised at Midoriya's name being thrown out there, but he still is. After USJ? It feels like a waste of time to even consider the possibility. Logically, Midoriya is the last of his students who would ever betray them.

 

But Cementoss doesn’t stop. “I’ve seen him. When he’s with Hatsume Mei--one of my students--he’s an entirely different person than when he’s with the other kids, or the teachers. It’s unnatural.”

 

All Might draws his shoulders back and narrows his eyes. Nemuri uncrosses her arms and places both hands on the table, fists. Thirteen sits perfectly still, save the tight wringing of their hands. Nedzu...

 

Nedzu’s smile is a threat, a promise that his teeth are weapons and he isn’t against using them to bite open your neck.

 

“Did you hear about 1-A's Battle Trials?” Snipe adds, ignorant to the silent war breaking down around him. “All the first years were talking about it. And he was in the workroom during the break-in on Tuesday. That’s pretty suspicious.”

 

“Yeah,” Cementoss answers quickly, and Shouta knows it’s almost too late, “Hatsume convinced herself the Bat--”

 

“Wow!” Nemuri exclaims, shooting to her feet, an obviously fake smile plastered on her fake. Her passive aggression is so biting it scrapes at Shouta’s ears. “Look at all this naive ignorance in one room! I just love it when we jump to conclusions without knowing anything! ” She claps her hands on her hips and then swings over to face Shouta. “Hey, Shouta, out of curiosity, did anyone ever visit Midoriya during his twenty-four-hour stay in the hospital? Like, oh, I don’t know, his father, maybe?”

 

Shouta blinks up at her, temporarily overwhelmed by her toxic energy. “No.”

 

“And, everyone! Care to tell me why Midoriya had to be hospitalized?”

 

Silence.

 

“Anyone know what went down at USJ? No? Did no one read the file?”

 

“Thank you, Kayama,” Nedzu interrupts. “I can take it from here.”

 

It takes Nemuri a moment to stop shivering, but when she does she collapses back into her seat, as tense as Shouta.

 

“What Kayama is trying to convey, is that Midoriya sacrificed more than any other student at USJ, and more than many of the heroes. It is unlikely that a spy would go to such lengths.”

 

“What about the lying? The Battle Trials?” Vald King asks.

 

Nemuri exhales, slams a fist down onto the table, and exclaims, “Have you ever talked to the kid for longer than ten seconds?”

 

After a moment, he reluctantly answers, “No?”

 

“Kayama,” Nedzu sighs, extending a placating hand. “How Midoriya presents himself is irrelevant to the issue at hand--”

 

“It’s not only that,” Cementoss interrupts, still standing. “His positioning during the break-in is shady enough--”

 

No,” Shouta snaps, done with all the finger pointing, the arguing, the misunderstandings, the blame game. He pushes himself to his feet, which is a painful process, but he does it nonetheless. If he doesn’t, Cementoss will still be above him, and if he’s going to make this argument (which apparently he is) then they need to be on even ground.

 

Shouta meets Cementoss’ eyes.

 

Cementoss flinches and looks away.

 

“Everyone just shut up and listen,” Shouta starts, trying his best to keep his voice even, neutral, emotionless. “Midoriya went to the workroom to help dissuade the chaos, which he did. His announcement calmed the students down.” Shouta takes a breath between gritted teeth. “I found him there in the middle of an anxiety attack. Whenever I asked him how he was doing, he just told me he was fine. He was--fucking--in the middle of an anxiety attack and--” Shouta growls and takes a moment in an attempt to collect himself. “He spent entire minutes getting--stalling time for you lot to show up and save us. He only survived because his fucking quirk constantly healed him. Constantly. For minutes. So fuck you. I trust Midoriya over any of you idiots.”

 

Shouta collapses back into his seat with a grunt.

 

After a moment, Hizashi places a gentle hand on his knee, and Nemuri exhales sharply, something between a chuckle and a sigh.

 

“Well,” Cementoss whispers as he sinks into his seat. “If it isn’t Midoriya, then who?”

 

The silence is just as thick as before.

 

“Who knows!” Nedzu answers with a clap of his hands. “But now we have a theory! And one less possibility!”

 

- - -

 

“How do you think we should punish you, Tomura?” Sensei asks him.

 

Tomura gnaws on his bottom lip--not out of worry, but thought. He needs to decide on something Sensei will find suitable. Something harsh enough not to disappoint him, but not so harsh that Tomura can’t take it.

 

He’s gone days without food, but he’s healing, so that probably isn’t the best idea. He’s spent weeks locked in his room, without any outside contact. It’s... acceptable, but Sensei doesn’t seem to like it as much. He could do training, but he is injured. He--

 

His stomach churns just thinking about it, and something crawls under his skin. It’s the only option Sensei is sure to approve of that Tomura is sure to survive.

 

He digs one of his hands into his neck and holds the other in front of him, palm up. “Take it,” he chokes out.

 

Sensei’s smile is honest--approval --and Tomura relaxes instantaneously, the anxiety at losing his quirk melting away at the realization that Sensei approves.

 

Sensei places his hand on Tomura’s.

 

Tomura feels it in his skin first--a burning pain not unlike being flayed alive. Then it digs deeper, reaches under his skin, under his muscles, under and inside his bones until he's being pulled apart from the inside out, emptied like a pumpkin an hour before trick or treating, no time to waste.

 

Even when it's over, even when Sensei pulls his hand back and pulls Tomura out with him, the pain doesn't stop.

 

Tomura manages to stay conscious only because this isn’t his first time losing his quirk--it’s closer to his tenth. And even now it’s a close thing. He collapses to the ground, body shivering, cold despite the still-burning pain. Spots fill his vision until he can barely see anymore and the throbbing in his head drowns out most of the noise.

 

“It still feels insufficient,” Sensei notes casually, like they’re discussing the interior design of the bar, not Tomura’s redemption. “Any ideas, Kurogiri?”

 

If Tomura had any energy left, he’d probably react, but he’s too exhausted to do anything other than breathe and listen.

 

“Maybe room arrest, sir?”

 

After a moment, Sensei answers, “No, no. We’ll go with the opposite. You haven’t been to Australia yet, have you, Tomura?”

 

Australia? He wants to laugh, but he can't.

 

He’s quirkless. Sensei can’t seriously--

 

No. He seriously can.

 

“I don’t believe he has,” Kurogiri answers for Tomura.

 

“Perfect. Two weeks, then? Kurogiri, you can handle transportation.”

 

Fucking. Australia.

 

- - -

 

“Are you alright, Izuku?” Father asks before Izuku’s even closed the front door. “I meant to call you, but I was so busy coordinating with the hospital and the school and the police I never got around to it. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t visit you, but you know how it is with my injuries.”

 

Father reaches out a hand.

 

He knows Father’s intentions are good, but Izuku’s jaw still clenches and his muscles tense in apprehension.

 

Father places a hand on his shoulder, then pulls him in for a tight hug.

 

The contact makes Izuku’s skin boil, unwanted memories of USJ clawing at him for attention.

 

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Father tells him, but the words fall especially flat. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”

 

No,” Izuku sputters out without thinking, even though the right answer is, indisputably, yes.

 

Father’s breath catches--surprise. “No?” he asks, taking a step back but leaving his hands on Izuku’s shoulders. “Why not?”

 

Izuku notices the gloves on his hands--only covering two of his fingers. They aren’t routine, which is the only reason they stick out. But he doesn’t have time to worry about gloves, of all things.

 

Izuku swallows and attempts to steady his heart rate. He shouldn’t have said no. He’s tried before. It never ends well.

 

“I just got back from the hospital,” Izuku says, hoping Father will accept a logical argument but not getting his hopes up. “I’m pretty tired.”

 

Father hums. He’s considering it. “You’ll at least tell me why you were hospitalized, won’t you?”

 

Won’t you?

 

He has no out for this one.

 

“It was just a legal precaution,” Izuku answers with a small smile. “I’m completely healthy now, and I was when I arrived at the hospital. They just needed to do some check-ups.”

 

“And the scars?”

 

Izuku spares a single moment to wonder how Father knows he has scars when he’s blind, but Father always knows things he shouldn’t, so the moment passes.

 

He can’t think of a passable lie, which sucks, because that means he’ll have to tell Father the truth. And telling Father the truth is one of the most dangerous things he can do. After a second of steeling himself, he whispers, “Regeneration.”

 

Father’s smile is a sight that makes Izuku's whole body tense in apprehension.

 

“So,” Father says, “you got hurt.” He sounds so pleased with it that Izuku knows he’s missing something.

 

“I--” Izuku starts too soon, before he even has any thoughts formed. “Yes?”

 

Father’s smile only widens. “You broke one of the three conditions.”

 

What three--?

 

Oh fuck.

 

Izuku’s heart rate spikes so quickly he gets dizzy and his vision loses focus.

 

This can’t be happening.

 

There were only three rules and he went and broke the second one.

 

No.

 

Father can’t pull him out of UA.

 

Izuku takes a breath so deep it almost leaves him coughing. He meets Father’s face. In the steadiest, strictest voice he has (some mix of Aizawa, Iida, and one of his middle-school teachers) he declares, “No. I was never in any danger. Regeneration was more than strong enough to instantaneously heal me. Even if it had only been me versus the entirety of the villains I would have been fine.”

 

It’s a lie. There were multiple close calls with Regeneration struggling to keep up. But Izuku isn’t going to give up his spot at UA just because of one villain attack. Father will have to kill him before that happens.

 

“You sound so sure of yourself, Izuku,” Father starts, smile unwavering. “Which makes sense, I suppose. That creature you kept at bay was supposed to be able to take down All Might, so it’s reasonable you’ve gained some confidence in yourself.”

 

Confident? Izuku? The idea is so unprecedented that he doesn't have a response. The thought of him ever being confident in himself is just... preposterous.

 

“But just because you survived doesn’t mean you succeeded.”

 

The words make Izuku’s chest tighten, his stomach churn.

 

It’s a directed attack, perfectly aimed right where Father knows it’ll hurt. And he doesn’t stop with just the single strike.

 

“All you did was waste time.” Father’s fingers tighten around Izuku’s shoulders--not enough to hurt, but a reminder of their presence. “You couldn’t attack, could you?”

 

If anyone else was asking it, it would be a rhetorical question. But no, Father wants him to say it out loud.

 

Izuku opens his mouth but nothing comes out, the weight of everything crashing down and constricting his throat.

 

He can’t.

 

Father erupts into laughter, which only makes Izuku crumble more.

 

Pathetic,” Father spits. “You can’t even admit it to yourself.”

 

Izuku’s breaths come shallow, too shallow. He can barely breathe anymore. But he stands there, face perfectly expressionless, body as still as possible when he’s suffocating, knowing Father can feel every centimeter of his movements--every single one of his tells.

 

Father lets out a sharp exhale and lets go of Izuku, stepping away.

 

“Fine,” Father drawls as he drops onto the living room couch. “Since I'm such an understanding dad, I’ll give you a second chance. Depending on the quality of your written report of the event. I want a detailed analysis of all the villains. Heroes, too.”

 

Izuku should say, yessir, but he’s too busy trying to breathe.

 

“UA is giving you a four day weekend, so I’ll give you a week and a half to write it, until next Saturday. But add an event-by-event timeline to your report.” Father hums for a second. “Yes, that should be good. Until then, I expect you to be in your room, working, when you aren’t at school.”

 

Father doesn’t say the words exactly, but he doesn’t have to.

 

Izuku understands.

 

He’s grounded.

 

"You're lucky to have me," Father tells him. "A worse parent would have pulled you out of UA without a second thought. Or I could have used any number of quirks to hurt you. But I care about you, Izuku, and I know how important this school is to you. You should be thanking me."

 

He reaches for his lockpicks, for any form of comfort, of independence, of freedom.

 

But--

 

they

 

aren’t

 

there.

 

"Thank you," Izuku wheezes before stumbling off into his room.