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One Choice - Vigilante

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After shattering Izuku’s hopes and dreams, All Might left him alone on the roof. “You can’t be a hero without power” the voice of his childhood hero, his idol, echoed through his brain. He could see his emaciated form, the dark, ugly scar on his stomach and chest, the sharp blue eyes carrying so much pain and exhaustion. For the first time ever, Izuku saw All Might without a smile. And it terrified him. All Might was right. Everyone was right. he can’t be a hero.

“You better just give it up.”

“I’m sorry, Izuku!”

“Quirkless.”

“Loser.”

“I’m sorry!”

“Useless.”

“Worthless.”

“I’M SORRY, IZUKU!”

The voices swirled in his head, a loud cacophony of all the people in his life. His classmates, his doctors, his neighbours who came to give their condolences to his mother, as if he was terminally ill and not quirkless, and above all his mother, the mother he loved and admired. Even she knew he can’t be a hero. He should’ve listened to her. He should’ve given up long ago. But if he can’t be a hero, if he can’t help and save lives, what is he worth? What can he DO?

“There’s one way for you to become a hero. Close your eyes, pray that you’ll get a quirk in your next life, and take a swan dive off the roof!” Kacchan’s voice, so fresh in his mind, cleared the storm. This was the only thought in his mind now. What does he have to lose? Mum would be better off without him, not having to bear the looks and the whispers of her peers. No one in school would miss him. He was bullied and didn’t have any friends. His teachers either ignored the bullying or participated in it. He was quirkless, useless Deku. Even his first childhood friend made it perfectly clear that he wanted Izuku dead. He took off his shoes, laying them neatly side by side, and started climbing over the rail. He closed his eyes, imagining the sensation, and –

“Stop!” A voice called out, and Izuku did. He didn’t know why. Maybe it was the despair in that voice. Maybe it was his own fear. He didn’t know. But he kept holding into the rail, his eyes still closed.

“Please, just… stop. Don’t do it. Please. Come back over here. I’ll help you climb back over the rail. I don’t know what happened, but… tell me. I can listen. Maybe I can help, maybe I can’t, but I can listen. What’s your name?” The voice pleaded again. The person was asking for his name. Why bother? What made him want to answer so bad?

“Pathetic. You don’t even have the resolve to end this like you should.” He thought.

“Midoriya Izuku.” He said anyway. Because that voice in his head was right. He didn’t have the resolve to kill himself. He felt lost and confused and wanted everything to be over, but… the thought of dying scared him. So he would take the hand that was offered to him.

“I’m Touya. I’m gonna give you a hand. Just… don’t open your eyes before you’re back on the roof safely.” Izuku nodded, the stranger catching his curiousity. why didn't he give a family name? Why did he ask Izuku to close his eyes? He felt long fingers wrapping around his arm, as a pair of strong hands helped him back over the rail with his eyes still closed. When he opened his eyes, he understood why Touya told him to keep his eyes closed. Half the man’s face was covered in burn scars, the skin stapled together. Izuku decided to focus on the name instead of the scars.

“Thank you... I don't think I managed to catch your family name though.” He asked quietly, trying to give a weak smile despite how shaky his legs were. The man snorted.

“Yeah, well, I didn't throw it your way, so it's understandable. Just call me Touya.” He said, amused. He led Izuku away from the edge, sitting down and leaning against the wall with him.

“You can call me Izuku, then. We can pretend to be friends.” Izuku’s smile was sad and bitter.

“How about we actually become friends?” Touya offered, looking at the kid sitting next to him. He was small and skinny, and there seemed to be a hand shaped burn mark on his shoulder that made Touya want to vomit or punch someone or both. Izuku blinked with surprised, then closed his eyes.

“What are you even doing here? Why did you ask me to stop?” He asked tiredly. His arms wrapped around his knees as he pulled them closer to his chest. He looked so small, reminding Touya of his baby brother, curled in the corner after a training session.

“How old are you, fourteen? I have a little brother your age. I haven’t seen him in… Hell, I don’t know, eight years? Or was it ten? Seeing you like that reminded me of him. You’re a kid. You deserve better than dying like that.” Touya said softly, looking away from the kid. They sat together in silence, until Izuku started talking.

“I-I just want to be a hero… To be able to help people… but I’m quirkless. I’m quirkless and useless and even All Might said I can’t help and the only way I can be a hero is if I pray to have a quirk in the next life and die.” He stuttered, stumbling through his words as tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Who told you that? Who said that you can only be a hero if you die?” Touya was angry, but he kept his voice down.

“K-Kacchan… He’s my childhood friend, we know each other since we were born, but I-I guess he isn’t really my friend, is he?” Izuku’s smile was sad as he grabbed his burned shoulder weakly. So this Kacchan guy is the one who hurt him like that. The cutesy nickname didn’t fit a person that was apparently cruel enough to burn someone and tell him to kill himself.

“Well he sounds like shit.” A surprised chuckle burst out of Izuku. “My advice? Live your best life, just to spite him. Him and All Might too. You have a lot of different ways to help people, and honestly? Heroes are overrated.” Touya put a gentle hand on Izuku’s uninjured shoulder, surprised when the boy clung to him in a hug, laughing and sobbing at the same time. He hugged back, gentle. His big brother instincts awakened for the first time in a decade, and he wondered how he didn’t miss it all these years.

“Now, you gotta get home. I didn’t hear any complaint about your family, so I get they’re good?” Touya asked. He won’t assume, but he could hope that for some people family would be better. Izuku nodded, sniffling.

“Yeah… mum is the best… I… you’re right. I should go. She must be really worried…” it was starting to get dark, and Izuku pulled away, rubbing his eyes to clean the tears.

“I’ll tell you what. Give me your number, and I’ll give you mine. If you ever need help, or just want to talk, text me. Okay?” Touya’s smile was warm and genuine, for the first time in a long time. Izuku nodded, a small, tearful smile on his face, and Touya couldn’t help but reach out and ruffle his hair. They exchanged phone numbers, hugged one last time, and went their separate ways.

 

***


“IZUKU!!!” Inko stormed her son in tears, pulling him into a tight hug the moment he walked into the house. He looked horrible, sludge on his clothes, burns on his shoulder, and red eyes swollen from crying.

“Hey mum… sorry I’m late... W-what happened? Why are you crying?” He had his arms wrapped around her, worried.

“There was a villain attack in the city, not far from your school… some sludge villain looking to make a mess… and… Katsuki got trapped in there. He… Mitsuki just called me… He’s gone, Izuku.” Inko was fully sobbing at the thought of her best friend’s son dying. Izuku was in shock, his body frozen and his mind racing, the colour draining from his face. He looked like he was going to vomit. he pulled away from his mum, going to his room and locking the door before collapsing.

“It’s your fault it’s your fault IT’S YOUR FAULT YOU DID THIS” His mind was buzzing as he sobbed on his bed, memories flooding him.

Three years old Katsuki presenting Izuku with a colourful notebook that has the words “hero notes” written on it in a shaky handwriting for his birthday. They spent days, weeks even, drawing heroes in that notebook. Mainly All Might, of course.

Four years old Katsuki spending more time with him in his house than in his own house, playing and laughing and joking and smiling with actual joy on his face, talking about how he wants to be a great hero just like All Might.

Five years old Katsuki doesn’t play with him anymore. He laughs at him, and ridicules him, and gives him mean nicknames, but he still lets him join on their little “adventures”. And Izuku would take it, because Izuku loves Kacchan. He loves his childhood friend who he grew up with, who he admired his whole life.

Ten years old Katsuki doesn’t let him even play near his group of followers anymore. He wouldn’t even let him tag behind. He spreads rumours about him and encourages people to bully him. It becomes more physical too. When Izuku comes home with burn marks on his body, he cries to his mum that he doesn’t understand why Kacchan is so mean to him now. He asks what he did wrong to deserve losing his friend like that.

Just this afternoon, Katsuki was all big and confident, calling people names and talking about going to U.A. Just this afternoon Izuku heard him laugh, a laugh that stopped holding joy in it a long time ago. He heard him yell like always, talking over everyone and commanding their attention as he spoke about his passions and his determination to become a hero.

Just this afternoon, Kacchan was alive and well, and now he’ll never do any of that.

And it’s all Izuku’s fault.

He heard his mother telling him that she’s going to Mitsuki’s house, to support her. It makes sense. Kacchan’s mum is her best friend, and she would need help dealing with all this. He’s still sobbing, rushing to the toilet after his mother left to vomit everything he had left in his stomach. He heaved over the toilet, still crying, still blaming himself. Then he made a decision.

He ran back to his room, taking a bag (big enough to contain things he would need, small enough that he can carry it around without too much trouble or hide it if he needs) and began packing. He took clothes, warm and comfortable and plain. He took his phone and charger. He took his good shoes, strong and comfortable and durable. He hesitated for a second before taking his last four full notebooks and an empty one, with his pencils, sharpener and eraser. He grabs the first aid kit they kept under the sink (always fully stocked), all his savings (it’s not much but he won’t steal from his mother), some food and water, and starts writing a note to his mother. It’s covered with tears, explaining that what happened to Kacchan was his fault and he can’t stay at home when he knows that. He writes her that he loves her a lot, and always will, before getting out and texting Touya.

Izuku: I need help.

Izuku: I messed up really bad and he’s dead and I really need you I don’t know who else to turn to.

Touya: Okay. Okay. Breathe. Where are you? I’ll come get you. Or you can come meet me. Then you can tell me everything that happened.

Izuku shared his location with the chat.

Touya: I’m coming to you.

When Touya got Izuku’s messages, he got worried. He knew the boy for only a few minutes, but he felt responsible for him. He wanted to see him okay. And what was it about someone dying? Did Izuku murder someone? He would have to figure out what to do later. But first, he needed to go get the kid.
He found Izuku in a park, sitting on a bench under a streetlight, clutching a duffle-bag and sobbing into it. He sat near him, worried.

“Hey… Izuku, what happened?” He asked, waiting for Izuku to lift tearful eyes up to him.

“K-Kacchan is dead. I-it’s all my fault. I couldn’t stay at home, not when It’s my fault that he died. His mum is my mum’s best friend. How could I look her in the face? How could I look any of them in the face? I-it’s all my fault. He’s gone forever and it’s my fault.” The fourteen years old kid was bawling, and Touya pulled him into his arms. This kid was very different from Shouto. This kid trusted easily and grew up with the permission to show his emotions. Maybe he was even encouraged to do so. He was hurt in very different way from him, but he was a hurt child, and he was alone and scared.

“Slow down, Izuku. Breathe. So the kid who bullied you died. How is it your fault? What exactly happened?” Touya’s voice was calm as he ran his fingers through Izuku’s hair.

“A-All Might already captured that villain. He was going to deliver him to the police, but I was stubborn. I had so many questions. I wanted to ask him if I can become a hero. I accidentally made him drop the bottle the villain was in, a-and wasted his time so he couldn’t be there to save Kacchan. All because of my pathetic delusion of being a hero.” Izuku sniffled into Touya’s chest, clinging to him. Touya didn’t understand what he did that earned him this kid’s pure, unadulterated trust, but he would do everything in his power to keep that trust and be worthy of it.

“I’m sorry that he died. You clearly didn’t want him to. But this isn’t your fault. Mistakes happen. Not even All Might can possibly save everyone. If he wanted to, he could’ve left you without talking to you. He could’ve run off as soon as he told you no, or as soon as he dropped you on that roof. But he didn’t. That’s not your fault. But if you’re serious about… about wanting to get away from your home… it won’t be easy, but I’ll look after you. Come live with me. I live in kind of a shithole, but it has four walls and a roof that almost never leaks. We can get by.” Touya offered. What was he thinking? He could hardly scratch out a living as it was. Another mouth to feed, especially a teenage boy, could be disastrous. They would both be malnourished and uncomfortable. He should send Izuku back to his home. But… the kid didn’t seem like he could stand it, being reminded of everything that is, in his mind, his fault. After all, just a few hours ago Touya had to stop him from throwing himself off a roof. And that was before he started blaming himself for the death of someone who used to be his friend.

“I-I’ll just burden you. I’m not stupid, I know it… you don’t have to offer me this just because I’m a pathetic mess right now.” Izuku chuckled sadly, slightly self-deprecating. He wondered if the whole thing wasn’t some cosmic punishment for something he did. Then he figured it would be extremely self-centred of him to think the universe would kill someone just to punish him.

“Maybe it wasn’t punishment. Maybe it was a reward. Or his punishment.” Izuku shook his head quickly at that thought, his sniffling growing louder. That was a disgusting, ugly thought and he felt instantly ashamed that it popped in his mind. As mean as Kacchan was, he didn’t deserve this. The memories of the villain’s attack on him flooded him, as he thought what Katsuki might have felt.

“He was probably so scared… he was choking. That villain forces his way into your lungs, he was choking Touya and he was alone and the heroes just stood there and they couldn’t do anything and Kacchan is strong but he was probably so scared he died scared and I wasn’t there and no one was there to help him and – “ Izuku’s frantic, stifled words were cut by Touya.

“Breathe. Match your breathing to mine. You can do this.” He instructed, forcing Izuku to look him in the eye. He took Izuku’s hand and placed it on his chest, so he can feel his slow, calm heartbeats. The boy’s eyes slowly focused on him, as he swallowed and nodded. He looked horrible, and when Touya put a hand on his shoulder, he winced. Right. He was also injured.

“I know it will be hard. I’m not stupid either, Izuku. But I’m offering you this because I want to. I don’t know if you’ll be okay going home, with the way your mind seems to be going right now. You definitely won’t be okay if you stay on the streets alone. So the only option is you coming with me. It might not be easy, but we’ll find a way to make it. I can call in a few favours and even get you a job, since you don’t look like the type that wants to live on other people’s money.” Touya was quiet and gentle, cool hands keeping Izuku grounded. Izuku nodded, leaning on him.

“I-I have some money. It’s not much but it’s all my savings. I’ll work. I don’t want to be a burden on you…” He said quietly.

“We’ll manage together. Come on, now. Let’s go get you out of here.” Touya hugged Izuku as the two of them got up, taking Izuku’s bag. When they were in the hole Touya called home, they opened it. It was full of functional things, like good clothes and shelf stable food and money. Everything was functional except for five notebooks, a sharpener and an eraser. All the notebooks except one said “hero notes for the future”, numbered from ten to thirteen. Number thirteen looked singed and slightly damp. The fifth notebook was empty. Izuku seemed embarrassed when Touya got to the notebooks.

“I-it’s just a hobby of mine! I like analysing heroes and their quirks and techniques, so I used to watch all the footage I could find on the internet and go searching for villain fights so I can see their strategies, I thought it would help me if I ever get into U.A. but I guess that’s not happening any time soon but I couldn’t get rid of these I’m sorry it’s so – “ Touya cut him again.

“I think it’s cool. I’ll never really understand worshipping heroes that way, but from what you say it sounds like you put a lot of effort into it.” He said, and Izuku beamed. Touya remembered how the old man scoffed at Natsuo’s interests, and how happy he was when Fuyumi and Touya listened to him. Touya liked this kid, but he made the memories of his painful past float to the surface. He set the notebooks back in the bag. Izuku started talking, clearly trying to get his mind off things. His words were fast, and his hands flapped animatedly as he talked about the Wild Wild Pussycats and why they made such a good rescue team. He looked truly alive for the first time that day, and it made Touya happy. Happiness wasn’t an emotion Touya got to feel a lot since he ran away from his father’s house. Or before that, if he was being entirely honest. Happiness was something he had to steal, carefully carve a space for under the looming shadow of an abusive father and a mother who slowly lost her mind under the abuse until she snapped and poured a kettle of boiling water on her youngest son’s face. When he found happiness, he had to huddle around it with Fuyumi and Natsuo and very rarely Shouto, to try and keep their father from seeing it. He smiled fondly at Izuku, who stopped talking, looking down at the floor with tears in his eyes.

“What?” He asked, trying to figure out what made Izuku stop all of a sudden.

“Thank you… for everything… you’re so kind to me and you barely even know me… I don’t deserve this… I’ll do anything I can to deserve your kindness…” He whispered, bowing his head. Touya’s heart ached. It was sealed. This kid was his responsibility now. He will look after him and earn this trust he was given.

“You deserve it. You deserve kindness, Izuku. And I don’t know what I did to earn your trust, but I will do my best to deserve it. Now, you had a long, shitty day. You should get some rest.” He said softly, putting his hand on Izuku’s head and ruffling his hair. The boy gave him a tearful smile and nod. They were going to live. There was no other possibility.

 

***

 

Akatsuki Miyako, as she was known, was organising her establishment for the switch between the “day job” and the “night job”, when someone walked in. She looked up, ready to tell them to go away, before relaxing when she saw who it was.

“Hey there, Eraser. You started your round early today. How come?” She asked, cleaning the counter. The tired hero leaned on it, rubbing his face. After almost a decade of knowing him, she recognised that expressions.

“I officially have no students anymore. That means more time for patrol.” He sighed, and she offered him a glass of water. She knew better than offering him alcohol. He thanked her quietly, drinking the water as she started talking. Eraserhead was as much a regular of hers as she was of his. She was one of his most reliable informants, and he was around quite a lot, coming through every few patrols and making sure her girls were safe. She talked about the area, about different villains or vigilantes whose activities increased or decreased. She gave him information about the power struggles between different groups of villains, and about the street kids and how they were doing. She had a lot of information of many kinds, and Eraserhead was grateful for all of it.

“So, now that you’re up to date, what about you? How come you don’t have students anymore? It’s been what, two weeks? They couldn’t all drop out this fast.” She asked, amused at the groan he gave.

“They were morons. They didn’t treat heroics seriously. They would’ve gotten themselves or someone else killed. It’s for the better.” His voice was tired and disappointed. It was always painful when a promising class refused to listen.

“The entire class? That has to be hard. Do they actually not understand?” She was surprised. How could someone not understand the dangers of that kind of world? Miyako was in no way a hero, but she knew villains. She saw them and their power and ruthlessness.

“None of them even got close to seeing it. All they see is the fame and glory. They don’t try to understand the ugly truth. They think a flashy quirk is all they need to make it big. There was no hope for them. That’s why the entrance exam is so illogical. This batch is just an example of the worst.” Eraserhead seemed angry now. Or at least, he did to her. To most people, he would just seem tired and indifferent, but Miyako knew the hero since he was in his early twenties, and she could see through his apathetic mask.

“Yeah, we know, Eraser.” She rolled her eyes. Eraserhead has been complaining about the entrance exam for years. She sat down across from him, her expression changing from the teasing, mocking one she wore to a sadder, more tired one.

“The world isn’t logical, is it, Eraserhead? Half of my girls can’t get a house or even a different job because of their quirks. They didn’t choose it. It says nothing about their personality. They’re stuck here, because of something they were born with and can’t control.” Eraserhead shook his head sympathetically. She knew if any hero would understand it, it’s him. They sat in a comfortable silence for a little while, before he got up.

“Thank you. I’ll be off now.” He put on his goggles and walked to the door.

“See you around, Eraserhead.” She waved as he left, then kept cleaning. The girls will be coming soon, and shortly after them the clients. There was a lot of work to do.

 

***

 

Aizawa Shouta, also known as Eraserhead, walked around the streets on his usual patrol rout. His patrols were either completely uneventful, or extremely hectic. He would later take to the rooftops, to watch from a bit further up and get a better view of everything. Patrols cleared his mind, focused him on the here and now. On patrol, he didn’t have to worry about cocky students who waste their potential, or nightmares that darkened the bags under his eyes more and more with every sleepless night. On patrol there was only the night, the streets around him, the villains that needed arresting and the civilians who needed help. Eraserhead wasn’t your everyday hero. He didn’t do the clean, flashy, glorious jobs of the daytime heroes. His world was very different to theirs. His were the dark streets with the streetlamps broken, the people cast away by society. The addicts and the prostitutes and homeless and all combinations of the three were the ones he dealt with, people of the night and the streets. That also meant the crimes he dealt with could get grimier, more twisted. Human traffickers weren’t an abnormality in his line of work. Rapists and murderers too. But that night was quiet and calm by his standards, only a few stores broken into that were dealt with quickly and easily, and Shouta was glad for that. He would be happy if every night could be like that one, but he knew not to expect that.

His heart pounded as he took to the roofs, perching to watch the city under him. It’s been eleven years since he officially became a pro, eleven years of his life spent like that, but he still couldn’t get over the rush that filled him when he climbed there. The cool air of a mid-April night surrounded him, filling his lungs as he jumped from roof to roof on his rout, using his capture weapons to swing or just the power of his own legs, his sharp mind and strong limbs the only things keeping him from falling and crashing to the ground. He had his fair share of dumpster falls as a student or a young hero, but not anymore. The movements were ingrained in his bones, the calculations almost making themselves in his mind. Maybe he’ll actually be able to sleep tonight.