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“I’m sorry,” the doctor said, aiming his small smile at Izuku’s mother. “I don’t think I can be of much help to you at this point.”

Izuku’s mother nodded, pressing a hand to her mouth. There were tears bubbling up at the corners of her eyes, but that was nothing new. Izuku knew just how easy it was to make his mother cry, and that it could happen from just about any emotion under the sun. After all, he was the same way. “Do you think he’s…” Her voice wobbled, and she trailed off, but the doctor seemed to know what she was asking, even though Izuku didn’t.

“It… Seems unlikely. He’s only got one joint in his little toe, so the chances of him having something are almost certain. While it is strange that his quirk hasn’t yet manifested itself, it is possible, theoretically, that he’s simply a late bloomer. It’s also possible that… Well, what did you say your and your husband’s quirks are?”

Inko grabbed at the air a couple of times, and a pen from the doctor’s desk made its way through the air toward her. It was a simple quirk, and not particularly strong, but Izuku had always been captivated by it. It was like magic, really. “I can pull small things toward me, and my… my husband can breathe fire.”

Husband seemed like a strange word to Izuku. His father rarely ever visited, and when he did, he and Izuku’s mother hardly acted like any married couple he’d ever seen. Granted, his experience was limited mostly to Kacchan’s parents and the ones he saw on TV, but still.

The doctor just nodded and jotted something down on the clipboard balanced on his crossed legs. “Well, even so, it’s entirely possible that Izuku has already developed a… more subtle quirk. Mutations like that are rare, but hardly impossible. Something mental, perhaps, or just so weak it’s hard to notice. Or, as we discussed, perhaps he really is simply a late bloomer. I advise you keep an eye on him, as you have been, and if nothing comes up soon…” He held his hands out in surrender.

“Is— Is there anything, o-or anyone…?” Again, his mother trailed off, but the doctor had no trouble understanding her. Izuku wondered how often he had conversations like this one.

“You could see a quirk specialist, if need be. I would give it another couple of years, though, just in case it really is taking its time to manifest.”

His mother nodded and gathered up her purse onto her shoulder. “Th-Thank you, doctor. I’ll… I’ll keep watching, and let you know what happens.” She stood and took Izuku’s hand. He still didn’t fully understand what was going on— he knew it had something to do with the fact that everyone in his preschool class had gotten their quirks but him— but he let her drag him out of the office without trouble. She seemed upset.

It wasn’t until they were safely home that Izuku was hit with the pressing question he’d been trying to form since they left. As they stepped through the front door, he gave his mother’s hand a gentle yank to get her attention. “Mom? Can… Can I still be a hero?”

The tears that had faded in the car welled up in her eyes again, and her face crumpled at the sight of her son’s wide eyes. “...I-I don’t know, Izuku. I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

Slowly, like he was afraid he might break her, Izuku pulled his hand out of hers, trying to process this new information as he carefully removed his shoes. He could tell, this time, that his mother’s tears weren’t the happy kind, which probably meant his chances weren’t good. But… “That’s okay, mom! That’s not a no, so I’ll just try really hard and do it anyway.” And when he aimed that self-assured grin up at her, she couldn’t find it in herself to argue.

###

Izuku was six years old when it happened for the first time. He and Kacchan were on their way home from the park, and his friend was in one of his particularly bitter moods. Kacchan would never admit it, but Izuku secretly knew the boy was just embarrassed; he’d been trying to carefully balance himself on top of the monkey bars and had toppled off at the last second. Izuku had rushed to his side to make sure he wasn’t injured, not even thinking as he brushed a bit of mulch off Kacchan’s shoulder, and that had done nothing but solidify the new sourness. He’d stormed off immediately toward their homes, leaving Izuku to trip over himself to catch up.

And, as always, Izuku did catch up, putting a couple of extra inches between himself and his friend and eyeing the blonde’s crackling palms warily. Kacchan had only had his quirk for a little over a year, but Izuku was already healthily aware of the pain those miniature explosions could cause. He knew better than to bother Kacchan when he was in these moods, but the silence weighed heavily on him and only got heavier with each step. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He forced a big smile and turned to Kacchan. “H-Hey, Kacchan! Mom promised to take—”

He didn’t get to finish the thought before Kacchan’s hand shot out to shove at his shoulder with a growled, “Shut up, Deku.” The push itself wasn’t very harsh, but a tiny explosion added the extra oomph needed to pitch Izuku forward. He winced, anticipating the pain of his knees and palms on the asphalt, but… It never came.

Izuku blinked his eyes open. He was, in fact, on the ground. Kacchan hadn’t bothered to stop when Izuku fell, and he’d already put a couple of feet between them. He shot a look— a glare, really— back at Izuku, and the green-haired boy found himself chattering nervously under it as he scrambled to get back to his feet. “D-Don’t worry, Kacchan! I’m okay! I-I’m coming, see?” He brushed his palms over his shorts to clear them of gravel, once again waiting for the dull pain of irritated scrapes and once again surprised that it didn’t come. Shrugging it off, he picked up the pace to return to Kacchan’s side.

Kacchan, who was still glaring behind him. Who opened his mouth and, much too loud, yelled, “Get up, you useless baby! I know you’re not really hurt, so come on! I’m not taking the blame for you being late for dinner.” The statement was punctuated by a scoff as Kacchan stopped looking back. He still didn’t acknowledge Izuku, walking right beside him.

“Kacchan, I’m right here. What are you talking about?” But the blonde boy didn’t respond, didn’t even glance in Izuku’s direction. “K-Kacchan. Hey! Look, see, I didn’t even get hurt!” He held his palms out to show his friend, a wobbly smile tugging at his lips. He still got no response. Brows furrowing, he finally chanced a glance behind them, and… Oh. Oh .

There, so far away now thanks to Kacchan’s rapid pace, was Izuku himself, still on his hands and knees on the sidewalk. Izuku frowned and looked down at his own hands. Now that he thought about it, they did look a little off. There was no gravel biting into his skin, no scrape from the concrete. That in itself was strange enough, but his skin was also a little translucent, and the light coming through them was tinted a peculiar misty green color. He stopped in his tracks and looked back at the body— his body. It wasn’t moving, not even a gentle rise-and-fall of breathing. Was he dead? No, he couldn’t be… could he? The fall wasn’t that bad, and he hadn’t even hit his head or anything! But he couldn’t deny that this out of body experience was scarily similar to the way a lot of the weird TV dramas his mom watched sometimes depicted death.

His gaze darted between the body and the still retrieting form of Kacchan a couple of times, and then he hesitantly took a step toward the body. As he did, he became suddenly aware of a strange tug in his chest, like he was holding one end of a rubber band being stretched to its limit. He took another step, and the pull lessened just a bit. Behind him, it sounded like Kacchan’s steps faltered, slowed just a little. Maybe he was looking back again, wondering why Izuku wasn’t chasing after him like usual. Maybe he was wondering the same thing Izuku himself was.

But Izuku couldn’t let himself focus on that right now. He was too worried about this strange development. His feet kept carrying him forward, toward the collapsed body, and the tugging sensation weakened and weakened until finally, as he stood over his own body, it was gone. One shaky hand reached out to prod at the boy— at himself— but his hand went right through. Ghost , his brain supplied, but Izuku shook the word off. He wasn’t dead! If he was, he doubted his body would be able to keep kneeling like that. Unfortunately, with death out of the running, he was left with far too few explanations.

He was jolted out of his thoughts by another set of hands reaching toward his body, going right through Izuku himself to do it. Startled, he looked up to find Kacchan there, muttering under his breath about how much of a worthless crybaby Izuku was as he lifted the boy onto his back. The words would have stung, had Izuku not been so captivated by just how easily his body was moved. For a second, it almost looked like it was helping . Definitely not dead, then, but hardly reassuring.

Kacchan was still grumbling as he started back toward their homes, leaving Izuku to stare after the pair. His brows furrowed even more, but he trailed after them. It wasn’t like he had much choice, anyway; he couldn’t just not go home, after all. Besides, he really didn’t want to learn what would happen with that tugging sensation he’d felt if he wandered too far from his body.

He also didn’t want to see the look of worry he knew would cloud his mother’s face when Kacchan presented his mostly-lifeless body to her. Even if he wasn’t actually dead, there was no denying that the dull, soulless look in his body’s eyes was scary.

Soulless.

Just as they turned the corner onto their street, Izuku lit up. That was it! This must be his quirk! He couldn’t begin to describe the details of it, but it must have something to do with throwing his soul out of his body. It would certainly explain the look in his body’s eyes, and the apparent lack of physical presence his current form had, and probably even the strange pull he felt toward his body when he got too far away. Excitement thrummed through him suddenly, bright and full of energy, and his quirk theory was only reinforced when the muted glow of his form brightened along with his mood.

“Hey Auntie!” Kacchan’s gruff shout once again dragged Izuku away from his own thoughts and firmly grounded him in reality. The reality that they’d arrived at Izuku’s home, and that any second now his poor mother would open the door to discover his soulless body. Who knew what she would do then? She had no way of knowing he was actually okay, that this was just a quirk (if Izuku’s theory was right). She’d probably panic and rush him off to the hospital. That was no good at all— he doubted there was much a doctor could do for him in this state. He wasn’t even hurt.

So his only option was to very quickly figure out how to return to his body. It was easier said than done, considering the way he couldn’t even touch the thing earlier. That little frown reappeared as he thought, but he didn’t need to think for long. Some instinct unburied itself for him, shaking itself free of the tangled webs of his brain, and he let it guide his hand up to his body. He still didn’t touch it, not really, but the glow around him shimmered and shifted as his hand disappeared into its chest.

He blinked, and had to blink again as his brain tried to make sense of the sudden perspective change. Kacchan let out a weird huff, shifting Izuku on his back like he’d just gotten suddenly heavier. “K-Kacchan?” His voice was soft, hardly more than a whisper, but it was enough for the blonde to drop him, only stumbling a little when Izuku didn’t unlock his arms from around his friend’s neck quite fast enough. When he whipped around to settle that familiar glare on him, Izuku couldn’t find it in himself to be bothered, even though his eager grin did nothing to soothe Kacchan.

It worked! He was in his body again! Kacchan could obviously see and hear him now, and Izuku had finally uncovered his quirk! He was just opening his mouth to tell Kacchan the good news when his mother opened the door. Kacchan glanced back at her and barked out a caustic, “Nevermind, he’s magically fine now,” before storming off toward his own home next door.

Izuku didn’t let his friend’s anger faze him. Instead, he aimed that smile at his mother and rushed inside to tell her the good news: he could be a hero .