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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. 

Chapter Text

Izuku has been living with Touya for two months now, and his routine was pretty solid. He couldn’t believe how fast he got used to this, life on pretty much nothing, full of work and harsh realities. He also had more friends than he ever had in his entire life, people connected to him in solidarity and shared fate. Many of Miyako’s girls were quirkless. Others had quirks that appeared villainous or intimidating. All of them tried to make it with what they had, and compared to others they had a lot. Miyako cared for her children, you had to give her that. A month ago, Izuku started taking night shifts as well. They needed the money, and there weren’t many options. “night shift, day job” Touya made clear. Which means he would be cleaning, washing glasses and carrying stuff. No different from his day shifts, except with the addition of having to keep the clients behaving and protect the girls.

“Midoriya, great, you’re early. Help set the tables.” Miyako called out to him, and he immediately set to work. He only cast a few glances at the man on the corner, a tired man with a long scarf wrapped around his neck. He was a weird sight, considering the night didn’t start yet, but if Miyako let him stay there he must be someone she likes. He could observe him while working then ask her about him later.

“The girls call him Hero-kun. He’s a good kid with a lot of motivation and potential. It’s a shame that it’s practically impossible to pass the entrance exam without a quirk.” He could hear Miyako sigh sadly as he got closer to clean and set the tables around them.

“There are plenty of kids like this. It really is a shame, they could probably fit better than the ones who actually did get in.” The stranger’s voice was dry and quiet, his eyes bloodshot like he didn’t sleep in a while. At first Izuku thought he was a junkie, but that didn’t fit. He was too alert, his eyes too clear and calm as they scanned the room, to be an addict looking for his next dose. Izuku kept cleaning while he thought, listening to their conversation. He tried not to make the fact that he was listening to them obvious.

“So, what conclusion did you get to?” He was startled when the stranger asked, looking straight at him. He looked like he is scanning Izuku’s soul. The kid shrunk under the intense gaze, beginning to mumble.

“W-what are you talking about? I-I mean, I wasn’t looking for-“ The stranger raised a hand to stop his panicked mumbling.

“You were looking. And listening. You did a pretty good job hiding it, but I’ve had a lot of training. So, what did you conclude about me, and the situation? Show me your train of thought as well, if you can.” His voice was quiet and calm, still not averting his eyes. Izuku gulped, taking a deep breath, before beginning to talk.“At first I considered the possibility that you are an addict, because of the eyes, but I ruled it out almost immediately. Akatsuki-san doesn’t like letting this kind of people hang around here, especially not if she doesn’t have to. She also asked if you’re getting ready to work. So I examined your clothes. Indistinct, black, looking comfortable and functional. Shoes that look a bit worn, but extremely durable. Good for climbing, running, and fighting. Not new, so whatever you do with them, you aren’t a beginner. There was the possibility that you just invested in some really good shoes, but when we add the belt and the jumpsuit it seemed like there’s something more to it. You carry a knife strapped to your back, meaning you either expect trouble or look for it. Then I looked at your scarf. At first I thought it’s just a scarf, but the way the light falls on it doesn’t make sense if it was just any fabric scarf. It’s also too thin and long to be a very comfortable scarf without wrapping it many times around yourself, which seems like the kind of hassle you wouldn’t waste energy on when there’s something more functional and easier to use. So that means it has another use beside scarf. And when you moved to lean back, I saw something yellow under the scarf. That’s when I started putting things together. Someone whose work requires comfortable clothes, extremely good shoes, a utility belt and a weapon. Someone who has scarves that can be used as something else. It took me longer than usual, since there aren’t many photos and videos of you and what little footage exists is really low quality, but I believe that you’re the pro hero Eraserhead. This also explains the eyes, since your quirk works by looking at people. That probably means that you have to keep your eyes open for long periods of time, and theoretically might have side effects on your eyes. You are here because Akatsuki-san hears a lot of things and you are looking for information.” Izuku took a deep breath as he finished, watching Eraserhead and Miyako exchange glances.

“You have good attention to details and observation skills. This can save your life one day. Your observations were surprisingly accurate. Good job.” Eraserhead’s voice appeared the same as before, but his eyes glinted with amusement and there was a shadow of a smirk on his lips, before he put on his goggles and walked out. Izuku stared blankly for a moment, before Miyako burst out laughing.

“I haven’t seen Eraser this surprised in almost a decade! That was a good one, little Hero-kun. Now go back to cleaning. No slacking off.” She smiled at him, wiping away a tear.

“Yes ma’am!” Izuku was still wide eyed and confused, but he went back to work. But he wasn’t the same. This meeting with Eraserhead changed something in him. Izuku knew he can’t be a hero like All Might. He can’t even be a hero like Eraserhead, who relied mainly on technique and acquired strength. In fact, Izuku couldn’t become a hero at all. But he still wanted to help people. Eraserhead was one of the very few heroes willing to dirty their hands with that area and that kind of people. He was doing a good job, but… he couldn’t be everywhere. So Izuku would help. He couldn’t be a hero, but he could still help people.

And thus, most nights Izuku put on a black hoodie, his good shoes, and a mask he bought for some spare change he saved one day, and took to the streets. He didn’t do too much. He knew his limits. He knew that he can’t take on big villains. But Izuku spent most of his life analysing heroes, and that meant he managed to learn something about fighting. He knew basic stances, going to the library to study more on the computers or in the books. He wasn’t perfect, but he was enough. Enough to stop a mugging or two, or a man that got handsy with a little girl, or occasionally a small villain trying to break in somewhere or hurt someone. Every time he stopped someone, he would restrain them and call the police, giving them an anonymous tip about the location of the perpetrator.

And the people started noticing. They called him Skip, because he always took the villain down and disappeared before the police or the heroes arrived. The common theory was that he had a teleportation quirk, because how else can you explain him always disappearing? The truth was, a scrawny teenager in a big hoody just didn’t draw enough attention, especially when his distinct mop of green curls was hidden under the hood or collected into a ponytail. He kept hiding in plain sight, working and living with Touya, who only got more and more worried as the days went on. He saw the kid he loved like a little brother get paler and skinnier, watched the bags under his eyes get deep and purple, and his body becoming more and more exhausted. He worked harder, trying to get more nutritious food for Izuku. He urged him to take less shifts and sleep more. He was getting more and more stressed. “You’re just like Yumi” he thought with a sigh, scoffing at his anxiety.

“Touya… you need more rest.” Izuku said worriedly one day, eyes scanning Touya’s face and body language. His scars hid the bags under his eyes, but his exhaustion was unmistakeable. He scoffed, letting out a bitter laugh.

“You’re one to talk… you look like an insomniac skeleton. I know vigilantism means a lot to you, but… you’re destroying yourself. I didn’t stop you from jumping just to watch you slowly fade until you collapse.” Touya sat him down, a hand on his shoulder as he looked at him, begging him to understand.

“I can’t just… not help people, Touya. I’m tired of seeing people getting hurt.” There were tears in Izuku’s eyes.

“You’re too empathetic for your own good, Izuku. You’re a kid. You can’t save everyone. No one can!”

“But I can try!” Izuku retaliated. “I can try, again and again, for as long as I’m able to. I can’t just accept this!” He balled his fists, shaking with anger and pain. Izuku always wanted to be a hero, ever since he was a kid. He always stood up for anyone in need. As a kid it meant standing up to a bully to protect a younger kid. Now it meant jumping villains in dark alleyways and stopping them before they can hurt anyone.

“And die in the process?” Touya asked, his voice full of despair in the face of Izuku’s self-sacrificial mentality. Touya wasn’t like that. Eight years on the streets and thirteen in the hell that was his home made him develop a healthy sense of self preservation. He was disillusioned, didn’t believe in heroes like Izuku did. He didn’t believe in that ideal. Because people were, above all, selfish. Touya cherished that selfishness and did everything he could for the few he loved. Right now, those few he loved summed up to Izuku and him. He was sure Izuku would see reason, understand that other people’s lives weren’t more important than his.

“If this is what it takes, yes!” There were a few seconds of silence, a few moments of shock, before Izuku realised what he said. His eyes widened, tears still pouring as his breath stuttered. Touya looked like he was hit in the face.

“I-I’m sorry Touya I didn’t mean this! I-I’m just so stressed and angry and I’m sorry I’m so sorry I wasn’t thinking straight please forgive me Touya I’m begging you I’m sorry I-“ His apology was cut short by Touya’s whisper.

“Do you really care so little for yourself?” His disbelief was clear. “Do you really care so little that you would throw your life away like that? What about your mum? What about me?” His voice was stifled, filled with hurt and worry.

“I… I’m trying so hard to change… I don’t want to hurt you… I’m sorry…” Izuku sobbed, his eyes cast away in shame. Touya couldn’t let the kid stew in his own guilt and pain like that. He pulled him into a tight embrace, holding him close as Izuku clutched his shirt.

“I just want you to be safe, Izuku. I’m so worried about you… Don’t throw away your life. Please. Just… look, I’ll cover your shift today, okay? So you can rest. And… I’ll try to rest too. You’re not wrong, I am exhausted. Just… Please, don’t give me more reasons to worry.” Touya sighed.

“O-okay. Promise. I can’t say I won’t be a vigilante, but I can promise to be careful. And take things a bit easier. Maybe rest a little.” Izuku hugged Touya comfortingly as the young man, barely an adult, shivered and buried his face in Izuku’s curls. Izuku, on his part, was content to be tucked against Touya’s chest, careful not to hurt his scars and staples.
After Touya went on his shift at the Night Flower, Izuku decided to actually do as he said and get some rest. Well, decided is a strong word. A more accurate description would be that Izuku’s exhaustion from days and nights of working and fighting caught up to him, and he fell into bed without even realising it. He woke up, though, with Touya asleep by his side. The scarred man looked vulnerable, tears falling from his eyes. He was tossing and turning, mumbling in his sleep, his skin dangerously heating up.

“No… no, don’t hurt them… please stop… stop it…” Touya whimpered, curling up tighter around himself. Izuku could feel the heat radiating from him, and knew he had to wake him up quickly. Touya was sensitive to heat, and the heat his quirk produced could very easily hurt him.

“Touya… Touya please wake up… it’s just a dream. It’s a bad dream.” Izuku whispered, gentle. He didn’t dare touch him, wanting to try anything possible before that. Touya was easily startled when he slept, and Izuku wanted to avoid scaring him like that. Izuku eventually touched his shoulder gently, deciding it would be better to wake him up than risk him getting hurt or burning the place. Touya immediately jumped up, throwing a punch that Izuku only dodged because of how disoriented the extreme heat made Touya.

“Touya, it’s me! It’s Izuku. It’s okay, it’s just me. No one will hurt you.” It was painful, watching his friend so vulnerable and scared. Touya slowly regained his senses, remembering where he was. He pulled his knees to his chest, resting his head on them.

“Fuck… sorry, kid. Sorry for trying to hit you. It’s… instinct.” He was breathing heavily, shaking. Izuku moved closer, not knowing if he should touch him.

“It’s okay… you didn’t hit me. And… you were scared. I don’t blame you.” He spoke gently, comforting. Usually it was the other way around. Touya was strong, Touya was confident, Touya was all the things Izuku never was. But now Touya needed support. He needed help, and Izuku was the only one there to help him. He got up, getting Touya a bottle of tap water. The young man drank fast, his shaky hands making some of the water spill on him, but he didn’t care. it helped cool his burning skin and aching scars. When he finished drinking, he closed his eyes tiredly.

“I’m sorry, Izuku… it was probably scary for you…” He spoke quietly, his voice hoarse, spreading his arm out to give Izuku a place to sit next to him if he wants. Izuku, of course, took the invitation. He leaned into Touya gently, offering him quiet support and firmly grounding him in their reality. After all, the old man wouldn’t allow something like that. The closest Touya could’ve gotten, if he was feeling rebellious, was his twin sister letting him lean on her. But Fuyumi’s broad figure and cool touch were fundamentally different from the warmth of the short skinny boy huddled into his side.

“It’s alright, Touya. Do you… do you want to talk? If you do, I’ll listen.” Izuku offered hesitantly. It wasn’t the first time. Izuku always offered, and Touya always declined. But this time was different.

“It’s been eight years since I saw my family. Did I… did I ever tell you about them?” He asked, playing with Izuku’s hair. The repetitive motion and the soft texture helped him relax, and Izuku enjoyed it. He shook his head.

“You just said you have a brother my age, the first time we met.” The answer came quietly. Izuku was curious about Touya’s previous life. Over their short few months together, Touya became like an older brother to Izuku. It was only natural for him to want to know more about him. But he would never press. It was clearly a sensitive subject, and Izuku didn’t want to cause his friend pain.

“Yeah… I had three siblings. My twin sister, she was… she was the kindest person I knew. She was always anxious, but she still did everything in her power to help others. I think you’d like her. She’s a lot like you in many ways. Her quirk was pretty unstable, not good enough for the old man, so he always ignored her. Our middle brother loved art, and wanted to be a doctor. He should be in college right now. He’s quirkless, so the bastard ignored him too most of the time, unless it was to yell at him that he’s a waste of space. Honestly, I don’t know if I’m sorry for them or jealous of them. No, that’s a lie, I’m sorry for them because this sucks. Then there’s our little brother. We… we barely got to actually know him. Before his quirk manifested, I was locked up and isolated in training, and after it manifested, he was the one being isolated from the rest of us.” Touya was staring at the wall, still messing with Izuku’s hair. Physical affection wasn’t something he was used to, but he was hungry for it, happy to let Izuku stay close.

“What about… what about your mother?” Izuku asked hesitantly, squeezing Touya’s hand.

“Mum… she used to be really great. At first, when my sister and I were really young, before the real bad shit began… we were happy. Sure, He wasn’t really involved in our lives, but that was a good thing. Mum was happy. She laughed and smiled and played with us. God, thinking back… she wasn’t much older than I am now. But after our quirks manifested… after that bastard decided to start with my training,” he said the word mockingly, “She tried to protect me. She tried to protect us, and she got hurt for it. She was afraid. She was losing it. Slowly but surely… I could see it. I don’t think my little brother realized, but the more time passed, I could see the way she was looking at us, and I knew all she was seeing was him.” Touya took a deep breath, before continuing. “A few months after my incident, the one where I got all these scars… she had a mental breakdown. She poured a kettle full of boiling water on my brother’s face, because he looked too much like that bastard.” His voice was sharp and bitter. He could hear Izuku’s breath hitch in surprise, or maybe it was horror.

“Can I ask, about… about the training? I don’t understand. What training?” He asked eventually, eyes on Touya’s face. The man didn’t stop messing with Izuku’s hair, his other hand picking at his staples until Izuku put his own hand on it, worried that his friend was going to hurt himself.

“He was obsessed. He wanted a child who can be a hero stronger than All Might. That’s why he made us.” The disgust in Touya’s voice was mirrored in Izuku’s face. He was pale and slightly green, like he was going to be sick. He hugged Touya tight, burrowing into his side.

“I’m glad you’re out of there. You’re safe here. We are safe here, and he will never touch you again.” Izuku’s words were quiet, a faint hum against Touya’s chest, but they helped settle the terror inside him. Because no matter how horrible the past was, he couldn’t drown in it. No, right now, Touya had someone else to look after. The child pressed to his side, short and thin and clinging to Touya like he was a lifeline, was something worth focusing for. He needed him. And maybe Touya failed Fuyumi, and disappointed Natsuo, and couldn’t save Shouto, but he will protect Midoriya Izuku. He wouldn’t fail him too.

“Thanks, kiddo. Come on now, we both need some more sleep, don’t you think?” Touya offered Izuku what was left of the water, and he drank it in small sips. After that they both went back t sleep, huddled close. It wasn’t for warmth, as it was July and the temperatures were getting warmer with every passing day, but it made them feel a bit safer. The two managed to sleep peacefully after that.

 

***

 

The summer vacation was about to end, not that in mattered much. He did expel his entire homeroom, after all. Still, the lack of paperwork meant that Shouta had more time to devote to his hero work as Eraserhead. That was how he found himself extending his patrol, going into areas he didn’t usually have time to check regularly. He found himself stalking a figure in a dark hoodie, the only part of their face exposed was their eyes. This was in line with someone he was keeping an eye for, the new vigilante Skip. No one knew where they came from, no one knew their gender or their age or what they looked like. They were sneaky and precise, and were rumoured to have some sort of teleportation quirk.

He watched, still silent and ready to interfere, as the vigilante tackled a man who was stalking one of the street workers returning home. Before the man could even make a sound, the vigilante threw a fist into his throat, then to his stomach, then a kick to his scrotum. The ordeal was finished with a kick to the knee, making the man fall to the ground, wheezing. The vigilante pulled out a rope, tying the perpetrator’s legs and hands, then took the man’s phone.

“This phone belongs to a stalker who was about to rape a girl. I will leave the phone open, and you can trace the call. The scumbag is tied up and ready to be picked up.” The kid (because that was a kid, maybe even younger than Shouta’s former students) spoke, then put the phone down. The call was to the police. Shouta followed, watching as the hood was shed and the mask was taken off, to reveal…

Of course it was him. Of course it would be the boy with enough observation skill to realise who he was, the boy with enough heroic spirit to rival all the students he ever taught. How did Shouta not realise that stupidity could only come from one source. He dropped behind the boy silently, using his capture weapon to slow his descent, before clearing his throat.

“Nice work, kid.”

Chapter Text

“Nice work, kid.” Izuku heard the hero behind him and jumped to turn around. Shit. That is not good. He shoved his hands in his pockets, trying to act calm.

“What do you mean? I-I didn’t do any work… it’s my free day.” He tried to keep a calm expression, smiling at Eraserhead. He couldn’t know, could he? Izuku has been so careful not to be followed. He was just guessing. All Izuku had to do was bluff convincingly enough.

“How about we get away from here then talk properly. I don’t really feel like being questioned by the police.” Izuku blinked at the hero, who seemed to ignore what he said. “And if you try to run away, I can and will stop you.” Eraserhead said lightly. Izuku followed the hero quietly, fidgeting nervously. They stopped in front of a fire exit, and Eraserhead started climbing the ladder to the roof. Izuku followed, not wanting to anger the hero.

“So,” Eraserhead started once they were both on the roof, “I saw what you did there. Impressive work for an amateur. You aimed pretty well, and I guess you put as much weight in those punches as you have.” He eyed Izuku’s thin frame critically, or at least Izuku thought it was critically. The man’s expressions were an enigma to him. Izuku lowered his head, rocking on his heels and rubbing his fingers nervously.

“Are you going to arrest me?” He asked quietly, avoiding Eraserhead’s bloodshot eyes. They seemed to burrow into his soul anyway, examining him inside and out.

“Well, that depends.” Izuku’s head shot up. “I definitely don’t want to arrest you. You’re smart, and giving you a criminal record would be a serious waste of potential. So it depends on your answers. Why did you become a vigilante?” The hero’s eyes were sharp and cold, trying to dig an answer out of Izuku. Well, he wanted answers, he will get them. After all, Izuku didn’t want to be arrested. Touya needed him.

“I want to help people, and you can’t be everywhere.” Izuku returned his gaze, trying to match it in intensity. Eraserhead raised an eyebrow, leaning on the railing.

“Why not apply to a hero school then? You want to help people, why not become a hero?” Izuku cringed a little, then let out a bitter laugh.

“What hero school would accept me? I’m quirkless. They don’t let my kind into heroics. They barely tolerate us in the regular programs. My first year in middle school, our history teacher had us write an essay about how quirks elevated humans into superior beings. Anyway, I can’t be a hero. But even if I can’t be a hero, I still want to help people. I want people to be safe. At first it was just because being a hero is cool, but now… I saw people really suffering. It’s not just in theory anymore. This is life. I see people suffering every day and there’s hardly anyone there to help. You help, but you’re human. You can’t be everywhere. I might not be able to be like you, but I can still help. If I save even one person, it’s worth it.” Izuku kept his eyes on the hero’s, just spilling his heart. His hands were balled into fists by his side, as he willed Eraserhead to understand. The expression in the hero’s eyes was unreadable. There was silence on the roof, Izuku breathing heavily and struggling against tears.

“If you had the option, would you want to become a hero?” Eraserhead asked quietly. His voice wasn’t as flat as before, and he seemed to be in deep thought. Izuku’s eyes blew wide, trying to understand the question.

“O-of course I would. That was always my dream. But…” He hesitated. His voice was quiet and unsure as he kept his eyes on the tired man in front of him. What was he thinking? What was he talking about?

“You’re smart. You can be strong. You’re driven and motivated, more so than the class I got this year, which is why I expelled all of them. If you’re willing to put in the work… I will help you become a hero.” Izuku’s eyes grew even wider, if that was possible.

“But… why? Why would you offer that?” He asked, confused. He was on the verge of tears, but didn’t want to make Eraserhead change his mind.

“Because the world could use a hero like you. Because you know some ugly truths most heroes never learn, and those who do only learn them after they’re already heroes. This is going to be hard. This is going to be exhausting. You will have to work a hundred times harder than the most disadvantaged student, and a thousand times harder than the average one. If you’re serious about this, I’ll help you. If you slack off, or if I feel you lack the potential, I reserve the right to stop this immediately. Got it?” Eraserhead’s voice was grave, deep and full of an emotion Izuku didn’t know how to name.

“Yes sir! I wouldn’t disappoint you! I swear!” Izuku promised, tears in his eyes and a bright smile on his face.

“We’ll see about that. Now, I have a few questions for you, so I can build you a plan…”

 

***

 

Shouta walked back to his house, mulling over the information he had about the kid who was now his student. Midoriya Izuku. Age fifteen. Dropped out of middle school in the beginning of the year. Lives with a twenty-one years old friend. A strictly platonic relationship, familial even. Works in the Night Flower to help pay for necessities. Can’t afford much more than the basics, and even that would be an exaggeration. Didn’t see a doctor in months. It wasn’t too bad, since it was summer, but when winter comes… Shouta shuddered at the thought of what that boy would go through in the winter, with his lacking nutrition and without enough warm clothes.

He opened the door quietly, and was greeted by his cat, a black cat missing an eye by the name of Kuro. He stroked her quietly, picking her up so she wouldn’t try to run out, and looked at the kitchen table. The directional speaker thrown on it, and the leather jacket on the chair, indicated Hizashi was home from his show, probably already in bed. Shouta put the cat down, taking off his capture weapon and his shoes, before walking quietly to the bathroom. The mess of hair products in the shower was another comforting (if slightly annoying) reminder that his husband of four years was home. After a short shower and a change of clothes, Shouta went to bed. His mind was still racing as he tossed and turned in bed, thinking what he could do and how he could get this boy into U.A.

“What’s on your mind?” Shouta heard Hizashi’s sleepy voice by his side, and felt an arm wrapped around his middle. He leaned into the touch, revelling in the physical affection in a way he usually couldn’t afford to, or simply didn’t have the time to, with his two jobs and Hizashi’s three. He sighed tiredly and turned to face him, and let Hizashi read his lips.

“Just some street kids… they always get to me, you know that. Kids with close to nothing, who have to survive on their own.” Shouta looked at Hizashi, black eyes meeting bright red that seemed to shine even in the relative darkness of their room. Hizashi slid his hand under his head, playing with his hair slowly.

“This one is just fifteen. He’s supposed to be in middle school, studying and making friends, and instead he is out on the streets, working in an attempt to pay for food and rent.” Shouta felt bad that he can’t tell Hizashi everything, but he needed this to be a secret, at least for a while. He would tell Hizashi later, when he knows where this is going. No use making Hizashi get attached to the boy and the idea if he’s not sure it would even work.

“You’re doing everything you can for them. You know you are, and I know you are.” Hizashi said quietly. He was a master of regulating his voice when he was without his hearing aids, having to learn how to in order to not accidentally blow people’s eardrums with his quirk. “And you have an idea, don’t you? I can tell. Go to sleep, Shouta. We have school in a few days, and you need to rest. It will turn out fine. And when you do decide to tell me, I’m here.” Hizashi closed his eyes, finishing the conversation, and all Shouta could do was hum quietly, wrap an arm around Hizashi’s waist, and go to sleep.

 

***

 

Tears fell from Inko’s eyes as she sat on her son’s bed. He would’ve been fifteen now. No, he is fifteen, no matter what they say. It doesn’t matter that the police officer told her they don’t have the manpower to go look for him. It doesn’t matter that it’s been four months, and she didn’t hear a word from him. It definitely doesn’t matter that some of her neighbors told her that “Maybe it’s better this way”. Her son was alive. He had to be. Izuku didn’t go and run away from home, with his money and a first aid kit and his notebooks, the notebooks he spent years slaving over, just to kill himself, and screw his classmates who came to confess to her that they encouraged him to do so. That Katsuki encouraged him to do so. It wasn’t like her son. Izuku would’ve told her. If that was the problem, he wouldn’t have come home that day. But he did come back. He came back and then he ran away, because he blamed himself for Katsuki’s death.

“And you weren’t there to notice it.” A voice in her head jabbed at her, but she ignored it, pushing it aside.

“Morning, Izuku…” She spoke softly to the air in his room. She wasn’t stupid, she knew he wasn’t there, but it helped her handle things. Just being able to sit there and talk to him like he was there, it helped her a little. She could almost hear him greet her back.

“This is going to be a long day, dear. I can’t believe I let Mitsuki drag me out on a picnic like that. I told her that it’s too hot and humid for that, and she just said that’s why we need to go to the beach. Well, Masaru was always a bit too intimidated to refuse, and… well, we both know she’s trying to distract herself from what happened to Katsuki. I guess we all have our ways to handle it, right?” She smiled softly, closing her eyes and patting the bedsheets. Cool breeze drifted through the window.

“She tried to convince me to move in with them, you know? Said it would probably help us both. She might be right, but I couldn’t do it, could I? If I leave, how would you know where to come back home to?” She chuckled, looking around at the room. There on the shelf, among the sea of All Might, was the Present Mic figurine Izuku won in a giveaway on the hero’s radio show. He was five back then, and he had her call the show as soon as he heard about it. Didn’t stop talking about him for two weeks. Over the bed was the “Top 10” poster they got on his first Hero Con, where he dragged her from merch stand to merch stand, running until he fell asleep on his feet. Everything in this room was evidence of who her son was, what he loved. The shelf with the nine neatly organised hero notebooks was evidence that her son was out there somewhere, with the missing four, unable to part with the notes he worked so hard on. Everything else he took was so practical, so detached, except for those notebooks.
She shook herself out of that mood when she heard the door open. Mitsuki had a key to the apartment since that day, so she can come to her whenever it was all a bit too much for her. Inko got a key to the Bakugou’s house for the exact same reason.

“Are you ready?” Mitsuki called from the entrance. Inko wiped her eyes quickly.

“I’m coming, just a moment!” she said cheerfully, not wanting to upset her friend. After all, Mitsuki had it worse. Her son was dead, while Inko still had the hope of getting her own son back.

“Inko…” Mitsuki sat down next to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?” Her voice was soft and quiet. Mitsuki was usually quite a loud and rude woman, but when talking to her anxious friend, especially when she was this distressed, she knew to lower her voice. Inko sniffled, smiling tearfully.

“Of course, dear. Of course. Just… just thinking.” She put her hand on top of Mitsuki’s, trying to gain her composure back. Mitsuki shook her head, squeezing Inko’s shoulder.

“You know that’s not true… and it’s okay. Why do you feel like you have to lie to me? You do it almost every time I ask you…” She didn’t let go, and what was left of Inko’s attempt at cheerfulness faded.

“It’s just… I don’t deserve this. What right do I have to pity myself near you? at least I still have the hope that Izuku would come home.” She asked tiredly, looking away.

“Every right in the fucking world, Inko. Every. Right. Pain is not a goddamn contest. Suffering is not a goddamn contest.” Mitsuki let her passion shine through her words. She wanted Inko to understand. “Besides,” she said quietly, “I think you’re having it worse. For me, what happened happened. Katsuki is gone, and there’s nothing I could do to stop it. Nothing I can do now to change it. It’s a fact.” Her voice broke, revealing her vulnerability. “But you have to live with the uncertainty. You don’t know where he is, you don’t know if he’s dead or alive. To me, not knowing is worse. So don’t start blaming yourself for being in pain, okay? And fuck anyone who tells you differently. I’ll come beat them up myself.” Inko chuckled. The threat was completely serious. Mitsuki already got into a fight with Izuku’s old history teacher, who said something about how it was “to be expected”, because his quirklessness made him “primal” and “uncivilised”.

“Thank you… you know I love you, right?” Inko smiled softly, pulling Mitsuki into a hug, the taller woman returning it and holding her even closer. After a few moments, they heard hesitant steps walking into the apartment.

“Mitsuki? Inko? Are you two okay? Do you need help with something?” Masaru’s voice was as quiet as always, soft and pleasant. The two women laughed, pulling away and beginning to walk out.

“Just let me finish something here, okay?” Inko asked her friend softly.

“I’ll go help Masaru load the food on the car. I saw you made a lot.” Mitsuki smiled, patting Inko’s back and leaving her alone.
Inko looked around the room one last time, standing at the door. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes.

“I’ll see you soon, Izuku.”

She turned back and closed the door.

 

***

 

Izuku waited for Eraserhead in the place he was told to wait, on the same rooftop he took him the first time. He was surprised to see the hero climbing the ladder with a large bag on him. Eraserhead smirked when he saw his expression, a smile that looked like Totoro, if Totoro was holding a big knife and coming to attack you.

“You thought this was all going to be just practical training?” He asked, opening the bag to expose school supplies.

“No sir!” Izuku said immediately, determined to do whatever it takes for Eraserhead to not reject him. Izuku admired the hero. Well, everyone in their part of the city admired him. He was the only hero around the city who bothered with their kind, the street rats. With every passing day, Eraserhead became Izuku’s favourite hero. Not to mention, he was Izuku’s only way to actually become a hero himself.

“Good. Now, we need to get you up to speed with school material. No hero school would accept you if you don’t have middle school level knowledge, especially not U.A., so you better be ready. I’m going to work you harder than you ever worked in your life.” Izuku was excited, eager to start, but his excitement dulled at the critical eye that scanned him.

“But first, there’s something else we need to discuss.” Izuku gulped, not sure what to expect.

“Your diet is abysmal. So are your sleeping habits. I can tell that from one look at you. I’m not blaming you,” he stopped Izuku before the boy started to protest, “I know exactly what you’re going through, and how much you struggle just to stay above the water. I bet your friend is doing the same. So I have an offer for you.” Eraserhead’s expression, as always, was completely unreadable.

“W-what offer?” Izuku asked hesitantly.

“Underground heroes are very different from daytime heroes. We usually work different types of cases, in different areas, and in different times. Part of the difference leads to underground heroes being able to – no, having to toe the line of what is legal and what isn’t. it’s the only way for us to survive and do our jobs. This means we associate with people who are… less than legal, to say the least. Some of those become our informants. An underground hero is allowed to protect the identity of their informants. They are allowed to train them for the jobs they’re going to do. They’re also allowed, and even obligated, to pay the informants. Most of us, those who can afford to, pay quite well. Certainly enough to support the basic needs of a teenager and a young adult, especially if said young adult is also working. And as someone who has been doing this work for eleven years, and very effectively, I am one of those who can afford to pay. Do you understand my offer?” Eraserhead didn’t move his eyes from Izuku the whole time, as the boy’s expression changed from hesitation to shock to excitement.

“Yes sir! I won’t disappoint you!” His smile was bright, and he was practically jumping. That energy clashed with the paleness of his skin and the bags under his eyes.

“You will, however, have to take fewer shifts in the Night Flower. I will talk to Miyako about this, so you don’t have to worry. You also have to understand that this is a serious job. Potentially dangerous. I am only offering you this because I know you will go and tackle villains whether I am there to interfere or not, and I want to make sure you are as prepared as you can be for those encounters. Am I clear?” Izuku’s energy lowered, and he balled his hands into fists. The look in his eyes was serious when he returned Eraserhead’s gaze.

“Yes sir. I understand. Thank you for this opportunity, and for agreeing to teach me.” He bowed after saying that. Eraserhead’s grin returned, a bit warmer this time, if Izuku could judge.

“Great. Now, your first lesson begins.”

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight. A hero caught you being a vigilante… and decided he’s going to train you instead of throwing you to jail?” Touya raised an eyebrow, sceptical. Izuku nodded.

“And then he bought you school supplies.” Izuku nodded again, fidgeting and glancing at the bag.

“And after all that, he offered you a legal, well-paying job.” Izuku nodded a third time. Touya ran his hand over his face and through his hair, sighing loudly.

“I have to tell you the truth, Izuku… I don’t trust it. Not at all. Not even a little. What’s his motivation? Why would he do that? Izuku, heroes aren’t always the way they look. They can be very different people behind closed doors.” He was pacing around the small room.

“Akatsuki-san knows him since he was younger than you. She said he’s okay. I trust her, and I trust him. Touya, it’s not just any hero! This is Eraserhead! He actually does it to help people!” Izuku pleases, following him in his pacing.

“Besides, it’s my dream! This is all I wanted, since I was a little kid! I’ll be able to help people, Touya! Actually help them! I can be a different type of hero. I can be the kind of hero you can trust. The kind of hero who will make you feel safe.” Izuku grabbed Touya’s hand, looking into his eyes. There was so much love and determination in them. Touya melted. Izuku wanted to help people. He wanted to help him. And out of everyone in the whole wide world… there was no one who deserved that chance more than Izuku.

“Look.” Touya returned his gaze, serious and thoughtful. “I don’t want to stop you from achieving your goals. This is your dream, and honestly… you deserve it. It’s the first time I see you think about the future, any kind of future, since we met, and I don’t want to be the one ruining this. Just… promise me. Promise me that you’ll be careful, and if anything happens that you’re uncomfortable with, you tell me. Scratch that, you tell me everything that goes on there. I want him to be the real deal, Izuku. For you, and maybe a little bit for me. But I’m not going to trust blindly and risk you getting hurt. Got it?” He asked, hand on Izuku’s shoulder.

“Wait, does that mean you’re letting me do that?” Izuku’s eyes widened, a smile stretching on his face. He couldn’t believe Touya was convinced this easily. He couldn’t believe he was going to be a hero. Tears started welling in his eyes, as he hugged Touya.

Touya’s first urge, when Izuku started crying again, was to tell him something like “Jeez, kid, calm down with the waterworks”. These words came from his years under his father, years where he learned that tears are shameful weakness, and not a valid response to emotions. Which means, of course, he stopped them before they left his mouth. He had a chance with this kid, a chance to help him grow right, or at least not as fucked up as Touya grew. So instead, he simply rubbed Izuku’s back.

“I’m glad I could make you this happy. It’s okay. I’m happy for you, kiddo.” He said softly, smiling back at his friend, his little brother. He ruffled Izuku’s green curls, and for a few moments he was allowed to be happy, without a big shadow and scorching flames over him.

And so, Izuku began a new life once again. He woke up every morning, got ready, and went to meet Eraserhead. The man only had a few classes every week, since he expelled his own students, and those were mostly in the afternoon. He spent the morning studying, catching up on his schooling. After that was done, and Eraserhead had to go to U.A., Izuku went home to eat (now able to afford more food thanks to his new job), then went to the Night Flower. There he would do his work, get some homework done on his breaks, and wait for the night. Then, three nights a week, he got a lesson from Eraserhead. He was taught how to fight, how to block, and how to dodge. He was taught how to improvise weapons from scraps, and use the environment to his advantage. He was given a training program to follow on the day he didn’t get a lesson with Aizawa, and a phone to contact him. On days he didn’t have lessons he sometimes had missions, people to follow and gather information about, people to take down, jobs he got paid for generously. He also got an extra payment for his work in the Night Flower, for listening in on conversations and keeping Eraserhead updated. Izuku had the nagging suspicion that those particular conversations contained information Eraserhead already knew, but he was looking for chances for Izuku to practice, and a way to pay him enough without harming his pride. It was very kind of him, and Izuku couldn’t complain about the extra money that allowed Touya and him a bit more room for breath with their bills and got them actual food without having to resort to stealing from convenience stores or diving through garbage.

“You’re working yourself too hard, Izuku.” Tsubaki told him one day, taking a long drag of her cigarette. Her iridescent scales rippled in satisfaction, and the fans on her neck were folded. Both Izuku and her were on their break, and Izuku was working to catch up on homework.

“It’s not too hard! I have to catch up, or I won’t be able to get into U.A.!” He groaned, leaning his head on the table. “I just don’t get this! What would I ever need pre quirk era art history for?” he rubbed his face.

“What are you having trouble with? I was pretty good at that back in school.” The gratefulness in Izuku’s eyes as he turned the book to her made her laugh. He reminded her of her ten years old daughter.

“Impressionism. Thanks, Tsubaki-san, you’re a life saver. Eraserhead would skin me if I don’t do well enough.” He chuckled, and Tsubaki ruffled his hair. He quickly became all the girls’ favourite, a part of their little family.

“I doubt Eraser would actually do anything to you.” Tsubaki looked at the book, trying to recall what she knows about the subject.

“I know, but… I don’t want to disappoint him. He doesn’t have a lot of time as it is, and he’s dedicating so much of what he does have to me. He’s training me and helping me and just… he made it very clear that if I’m not good enough, he’ll stop training me.” Izuku looked frustrated, almost to the point of tears.

“I don’t like ruining his dramatic shows and all, but I like seeing you like this even less, so I’ll tell you. It’s really difficult for someone like you to mess up hard enough for Eraserhead to kick you out. He already got attached to you, Izuku. As long as you work hard and show him you’re serious about it… he won’t give up on you. I’ve known Eraserhead for six years, since I started working here, and it’s just not the kind of guy he is. So don’t sweat it, okay? Don’t take it too easy, but don’t kill yourself working. It will be fine.” She promised, her sharp teeth showing for just a moment. Izuku smiled back, turning back to his book as Tsubaki explained the material.

 

***

 

“You must be kidding me.” Shouta groaned. He thought the staff meeting couldn’t get any worse after he came in to find out they were out of coffee. And now this. “I don’t know what publicity stunt you’re trying to pull, Nezu, but you can’t seriously think he’s qualified to teach here!” The other teachers glanced between them, feeling slightly uncomfortable.

“I don’t see how anyone can be more qualified to teach foundational heroics than the number one hero, who’s been holding the title for around thirty years.” Nezu said cheerfully, his beady eyes cold and calculated.

“He’s not a teacher! He hasn’t been a part of any educational institution, as a teacher or a student, for over thirty years. He’s an entertainer, not a teacher. I won’t disregard what he did for society, that would be illogical, but being a good hero and good entertainer doesn’t make you a good teacher.” Shouta retaliated, faced by Nezu’s smug grin.

“An entertainer, not a teacher, huh? How is that any different than Present Mic or Midnight here, Aizawa-kun?” The atmosphere got tenser and tenser by the second.

“Mic is fluent in English, and was finishing his degrees in English literature and education while he was applying. Midnight had degrees in art history and education, and began studying psychology. All of us who teach here have the qualifications to teach, and most of us got them before applying. Those who didn’t have them applied for a part time job, until they could get the proper training to do it effectively. Are you going to risk the education of an entire generation of heroes?” Aizawa was tired. So, so tired. He usually enjoyed Nezu’s games, finding them intriguing and intellectually challenging, but he was getting sick of those games being more important than the wellbeing of the students.

“Well, this is what we have the rest of our amazingly qualified staff for! Every generation of teachers has to look after the next one, and we can all make sure no harm is done to the students. They have a lot to learn from the number one hero, and any possible risks can be controlled by all of us.” The principle of U.A. smiled, exposing his sharp teeth, daring anyone to argue with him. Shouta was about to take the bait, but Hizashi put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. On his other side, Nemuri was also shaking her head. He decided to let it go for now. Nezu already decided this is what would happen anyway, so there’s no reason to bother. He slumped in defeat, listening with one ear to the rest of the conversation.

“Aizawa, you need to control yourself. Bursting out on the principle like that is, in your words, illogical.” Ectoplasm approached him later. “You have a point, and a good one, but so does Nezu. Besides… there’s something he isn’t telling us. I think we should trust him for now.” He said quietly. Shouta nodded tiredly.

“I just think he’s taking things too far. Betting a future generation of heroes on the teaching abilities of someone who didn’t even see a class from inside in thirty years…” He grumbled, going through his lesson plan.

“I agree, Aizawa-senpai. I mean, i do admire him. It’s hard not to, with everything he did for the world. We all grew up in a world we largely have All Might to thank for. But he has no experience mentoring or teaching. At all. All his sidekicks were already mature people and heroes when they came to work with him. He never took interns. Didn’t study education. I just hope he can catch up.” Thirteen offered their own thoughts, looking around nervously. They weren’t a very confrontational person, Shouta remembered. Never have been, since high school. For them to explicitly disagree with the authority figure, especially one they appreciate as much as Nezu, the issue must’ve been very serious to them.

“Eraser, can we talk for a moment?” Hizashi walked to the small cluster of people, putting a hand on Shouta’s shoulder. Shouta glanced at him, nodding and walking away with him. Hizashi slung an arm around his shoulders, the way he always did. It’s not that they hid their relationship in school, after all, most of the staff were guests in their wedding, but during work hours they maintained a more professional relationship. Or at least tried to.

“What happened to emotions being illogical?” Hizashi asked, teasing Shouta about the simmering anger he felt about the subject.

“It’s not about my emotions. It’s about the students. We’re supposed to give them the best future we can, the best education. This is why they come here, and not to another school. Giving them a teacher like All Might would be irresponsible.” Shouta insisted, pouting like he always did when he was angry.

“Weren’t we also pretty inexperienced when we applied? I mean, Nem was the only one of us who actually had her education degree. You started taking a rushed course when Nemuri applied for you, and I was in the middle of mine. Most of our qualification came from our experience. And in that field, he beats anyone.” Hizashi said logically. It was funny, how the same logic, coming from two different people, sounded extremely different. From Nezu’s mouth it sounded smug and taunting, cold and uncaring. From Hizashi it just sounded… straight forward. Honest, the way Hizashi always was with him. But maybe that was just Shouta’s bias that allowed him to listen to his husband, knowing the man wouldn’t play mind games on him or try to twist his words.

“But we tried, Hizashi. None of us walked into the class unprepared, expecting it to all go well. All Might can’t afford to make the preparations we made. He’s All Might. He can’t exactly go back to university.” Shouta sighed, leaning on Hizashi a little.

“If it was some young, unknown hero, I feel like you would’ve been a lot more flexible about this. And don’t argue with me Shouta, I know you. Does it maybe have to do with his contribution to the ideal of heroics being physical strength and flashiness? I’m not judging you Shou, just suggesting. That ideal put a lot of obstacles in your way, after all.” Before Shouta could answer, Nemuri walked to them.

“You look a little calmer. Lover-boy here helped you?” She winked, putting on her Midnight performance. Shouta rolled his eyes at her with fond mock-annoyance. He then smiled at the blushing Hizashi, just a small upturn of his lips, but it made Hizashi blush even more. Nemuri laughed.

“Man, you’re easy to fluster. But it’s cute. You’re lucky Shouta doesn’t take more advantage of that.” Nemuri laughed, getting a groan out of Hizashi.

“You have no idea what he does, Nem! Sometimes I think he enjoys watching me suffer!” He pointed a finger at Shouta, sticking it in his chest.

“Usually I’d be happy to make jokes about Shouta being more of a sadist than me, but he was close to tears when you lost your voice for a week, just because it was making you uncomfortable and sad. That man can’t stand you feeling even a minor inconvenience. It’s honestly kind of sweet.” Nemuri smirked at Shouta’s death glare, while Hizashi let out a shriek that rattled the windows (just a little). They all collectively winced.

“Well, we have classes to go to. See you for drinks after school? Tensei is also coming.” Nemuri asked, raising an eyebrow at Shouta. He skipped on their nights out a few times in a row now. It wasn’t that unusual for him, after all, he wasn’t much for loud, crowded places, but it was starting to get suspicious when he cancelled this many times in a row, and even tried to make an excuse. Usually he would just tell them he doesn’t feel like going.

“Yes, I have the evening off today.” He crafted a neutral expression on his face, trying not to laugh. He did have a reputation to keep in school. He decided to give Midoriya the day off, seeing the boy was overworking himself. He made sure, of course, to explain to him that this is not a punishment, but a necessary time to breathe and relax. Shouta didn’t know the situation the kid came from, but he was so eager to do anything Shouta asked of him, he was pretty sure the kid thought any minor mistake would get him expelled.

“Great! See you then.” She turned away and waved at them. Hizashi turned his face to Shouta, smiling brightly before kissing his cheek swiftly.

“See you after school.” He smiled, walking away. Only the most observant watcher would be able to see the faint blush dusting Aizawa Shouta’s cheeks as he walked to his class. By the time he reached the door, it was gone completely.

 

***

 

It felt… weird. Not that it was bad, no, on the contrary. It felt good, sitting with his old friend like that. It’s just that after this long without contact, sitting with Nighteye like that felt strange. But now they not only had their past together, full of both amazing and horrible memories, but also their shared student. With his time running shorter and shorter, Toshinori had no choice but to pass on One For All. And of course, when he needed him most, Komadori Mirai, Sir Nighteye, was there for him. Like he always was. And still, there was tension between them, tension that stemmed from words said and unsaid in a hospital corridor, from six years of stewing in regret and guilt and other hard feelings.

“If there’s something on your mind, just say it.” Mirai spoke in a cold and factual tone, enough to make most people feel like he’s uninterested or even confrontational, but Toshinori wasn’t most people. He knew his friend for quite some time, and he could see the signs of nervousness as he put down his tea on the desk.

“It’s just… why are you doing this?” Toshinori started, looking at Mirai’s confused eyes. “We haven’t talked in six years. The last interaction between us was you declaring that if I leave you won’t follow me, and me turning my back on you and walking away. And still, I didn’t even have to ask, and you already came to me with a solution. I just don’t understand. You should hate me for this. I know I do.” His last words were self-deprecating and bitter, admitting truths very few ever got to see. Mirai sighed, fixing his glasses.

“How can I hate you, Toshinori? I admire you. Always did. I didn’t follow you then not because I hated you, but because I was afraid. You were walking to your death and you didn’t even care. I… truth be told, I’m not sure if you even care now.” His voice broke a little. “I am still afraid, and I don’t… Toshinori, I don’t want to see you die again. I saw it once, I don’t want to see it again. So I tried to reach out my hand, one last time, out of desperate hope that you’ll agree. And you took it. I can’t refuse you, Toshinori, but I also can’t leave you to die. Maybe now you can finally find the resolve to fight for yourself, because I’ll be damned if I don’t fight for you.” Every time the man said Toshinori’s name, it was like a prayer, pleading and promising at the same time. This was vulnerability Mirai wasn’t often allowed. His eyes showed his fear, loud and clear for Toshinori to see, and for the first time in six years a small part of him toyed with the idea of fighting to change fate. He always accepted his death as inevitable, but what if he could change that?

“Mirai… I can’t retire. This hasn’t changed. Especially now that I have to train young Togata and start teaching in U.A... I can’t afford to retire. There’s too much at stake. But… teaching is sure to interfere with my regular hero work, especially with my time limit. I… Mirai, I will fight with you. I start feeling like maybe I don’t want to die that much.” Toshinori smiled, a small, genuine smile, and the expression on Mirai’s face, torn between shock and happiness, made him burst in laughter. He could hear Mirai laugh too, and it was freeing.

It ended with Toshinori coughing up blood, and Mirai wiping tears from his face. He looked so much more open now, his slicked hair messy, his face stretched in a smile, and tear tracks on his cheeks. He looked happy as Toshinori lay a hand on his shoulder, leaning into the familiar weight that hasn’t been there in too long.

“I was so afraid I will lose you… thank you, Toshinori. We will fight fate. I feel a lot safer doing so by your side.” He said quietly, giving one last smile before schooling his features into his usual neutral expression. He fixed his hair, and wiped the tears, but the glint in his eyes remained. It felt like the old times, and they both thought at the same time “God, don't let this end…”

Chapter Text

“Why am I doing this to myself?” Mitsuki thought as she walked in the streets of her old neighbourhood. She was going back home from Inko. It was a hard day for both of them. Why didn’t she just… go home? Masaru did. Masaru took the car and drove home, telling her to call him if she needs anything. He was a sweet man, and on days like this Mitsuki loved him even more. He understood and respected her, in a way not many did. He didn’t see her as savage, as a wild beast. He saw her passion and loved her for it. He saw her need to be alone sometimes and respected it. He had a quiet fire to him, a fire that burns low and steady, instead of her quick and large flares. She was still amazed sometimes that the wild delinquent she used to be, lashing out at anyone and everyone, found those few people who supported her and helped make her a better person.

This wasn’t an easy day. If things had gone a bit differently, both Katsuki and Izuku would’ve been taking the test to get into U.A.. She could imagine them, sitting side by side, Izuku excited and mumbling and Katsuki annoyed. Katsuki was a bit intimidated by Izuku’s determination, always had been, and it made him lash out. It made him hurt Izuku. Mitsuki felt a pang of guilt, remembering that the last thing Izuku heard from Katsuki was a call to kill himself. She should’ve done better. She should’ve taught him better. She tried, but there isn’t a lot she could do when the rest of the world told him his aggression was justified, praised him for it even.

Still.

She was ripped from her melancholy by a shout.

“Give me your money!” The man in front of her yelled, holding a knife. He was slightly shaking, pupils blown wide. He seemed more scared than she was.

“His feet are in such a bad position I could trip him with a finger.” Mitsuki thought critically. She knew that look on people. He was desperate. He was not a murderer or a bad person, just a hungry one. But he was pointing a knife at her. But before she could make a move or even say a word, another voice came from a nearby alley.

“Your posture is shit. Even a fly could trip you, and you won’t be able to scare even a kid with that stance. You’re not a robber, Kai. Give it up.” The voice said lightly, its owner still unseen in the shadows.

“W-who’s there? How do you know my name?” The robber, Kai, stuttered, swinging his knife wildly. Mitsuki didn’t dare move now. A desperate and scared man was the most unpredictable creature of all. Dangerous. She didn’t live in this neighbourhood since she graduated, but she remembered the rules pretty well.

“Come on, Kai. I don’t want to have to take you down. You’re a good man. Your son needs you at home. You didn’t do anything irreparable yet, and I’m sure the nice lady wouldn’t file a complaint about what happened here.” The voice was calm and gentle, the kind of voice you use for wounded animals, to calm them down.

“Exactly! I have a kid at home! What am I supposed to feed him? How am I supposed to get him clothes? H-he’s sick, and I can’t afford to pay for a doctor. I don’t… I don’t know what to do…” The man dropped the knife, falling to his knees, and the owner of the voice came out of the shadows. He was short and young, wearing a black hoodie and a black face mask. There was nothing distinct about him, nothing to recognise him by, but the man on the ground seemed to know who he was.

“I’ll give you an address. Climb to the roof through the fire exit. There are blankets and food there. I’m sorry that I can’t help more than that, but I can try to find someone who will treat him. I’ll find you if I do, okay?” The masked man said softly, kneeling in front of the crying would-be-robber. Mitsuki pulled out her wallet, taking all the cash she had out and putting it back in her bag.

“Take this. I grew up here, you know. I know the struggle. I don’t know if it would be enough, but it might help you.” She said, ruling the adrenalin still pumping through her veins from when the man pulled his knife. He sniffled, taking the money and thanking them both, before scrambling away.

“You handled it well, kid. I thought you’re going to turn that guy in.” Mitsuki smiled, clapping the vigilante’s back. Because he was a vigilante. She heard the name Skip among the mumbled apologies. Skip stumbled forward, quickly balancing himself.

“Thank you. I… I don’t think you should throw people in jail for having a problem. You should try help them fix that problem.” The vigilante sounded chocked up. She nodded, humming in agreement.

“You look… a lot younger than I thought. How old are you?” She asked, leaning on the wall and sliding down to sit with shaking legs. The adrenaline was leaving her body.

“I’m… I’m fifteen, ma’am.” He said quietly, sitting next to her. He didn’t look at her though, staring at his hands instead.

“My son would’ve been that age now… he died ten months ago. If he hadn’t… he would’ve been applying to U.A. now. They’re taking the test right now, actually.” She said softly. She didn’t know why she was telling him this. Maybe she needed to vent, and he happened to be the only one there. Maybe it was the crash after an adrenaline rush. Maybe it was the fact that his gentleness, his insistence to see the good in people even while they were at their lowest, reminded her of Inko. Either way, she couldn’t stop talking.

“I’m sorry for your loss…” He said gently, still looking down.

“Say, do you live alone?” She asked, looking at him.

“No, I… I live with my big brother.” He said, and his eyes lit up a little. That brother must’ve meant the world to him. She considered what she was doing for a few moments, then reached for her bag. She pulled out two boxes.

“My best friend’s son went missing the same day. It’s not an easy day, for either of us. The thing about her is… food helps her handle things. Cooking makes her feel a bit less helpless. Today she made Katsudon, her son’s favourite. She gave me some, to take for me and my husband.” Mitsuki handed the boxes to the boy siting next to her. “I want you to take them. I think you and your brother would enjoy some homecooked food.” Skip’s eyes widened, and he seemed a lot less like a shadowy vigilante, and a lot more like a tired child.

“B-but – “ he started, but Mitsuki stopped him.

“Just take the fucking food. Seriously. You’re a kid. I can always have more, Inko cooks enough to feed a goddamn battalion right now. Take the food.” She had a smile on her face, a smile that only widened when he took the boxes and lowered his head.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.” He whispered, sounding like he was trying not to cry. Man, now he was really starting to remind her of Inko.

“Don’t sweat it. Just enjoy the meal. Welp, I have to go before my husband starts sparking. Literally. He does it when he’s nervous. Have a good life. And if you by any chance see a kid called Midoriya Izuku… tell him his family misses him, okay?” She asked, turning away.

“Sure. I hope you and your friend find happiness.” The kid behind her said. When she turned again, it was like he wasn’t there. The only evidences for what happened there were the boxes missing from her bag, her lighter wallet, and the forgotten knife on the floor.

“Stupid time for rain.” Mitsuki mumbled, looking up at the cloudless sky, before walking home.

 

***

 

Izuku barely managed to reach home before falling to the floor, clutching the warm boxes to his heart like they were life itself, and beginning to sob. Touya heard the sobs, running to him worriedly. He thought Izuku got injured, but there was no sign on him.

“Izuku… what happened? Are you hurt? What is this?” He frowned, kneeling in front of Izuku. Izuku, on his part, was too overwhelmed to talk. He pulled himself into a tight ball, the warmth and the pressure helping a little. Touya wrapped his arms around Izuku. After living this close for ten months, Touya knew how to help him. After a few minutes, Izuku managed to calm down.

“I… I met Kacchan’s mum.” He whispered, not letting go of the boxes.
“Did she…” Touya asked, leaning against the wall to sit next to Izuku, arm still wrapped around his shoulders.

“She didn’t recognise me. I was… I was wearing a mask.” He paused, taking a deep breath. Touya was listening intently, holding him close. “She was being robbed, Kai was getting desperate… he pulled a knife at her. I told him to stop, and he did, then she gave him the money anyway. We… we talked. And she… she said mum made Katsudon, then she gave it to me. She gave me mum’s food and she was so nice to me and she doesn’t know I killed her son. I don’t deserve it.” He gulped, rubbing his arms.

“Hey, stop.” Touya said, guiding Izuku’s face to look at him. Izuku’s eyes were full of tears. For the past ten months, Izuku managed to push away some of his guilt, most of the time. It was unhealthy, but sometimes that was the only choice he had if he wanted to function and survive. Now it all floated to the surface, and it was suffocating him. “It’s not your fault. It never was. It was the villain’s fault.”

“And the heroes’ fault.” He added bitterly in his mind, but didn’t say it out loud. Because Izuku needed his love for heroes. It was an anchor, some hope that things will be better. That the world isn’t as cruel as it sometimes seems.

“But-!” Izuku called, but Touya stopped him with a stern look.

“No. no but’s. It was never your fault, and you deserve kindness. I’ve been trying to get you to understand that for the last ten months. I promise, Izuku, this is not your fault. Do you trust me?” He asked gently, to which Izuku nodded. “Then believe me when I say it’s not your fault.” He smiled gently, flinching when he felt sharp pain in the stitches on his cheeks and under his eyes. The cold made his scars ache and his skin break. Izuku frowned, touching the bleeding skin gently.

“I-I’ll help you get this cleaned up.” He said, shakily moving to stand up. Touya helped him get up, taking the boxes and putting them on the small counter.
“So, your mum made Katsudon?” Touya asked as Izuku cleaned the broken skin. He winced a little at the alcohol on the wound, but he was already used to it. Izuku nodded.
“It’s my favourite. Auntie said… auntie said it was because Kacchan and I were supposed to apply to U.A. and take the test today.” Izuku said sadly, putting some gauze on the wound. Touya smiled, touching Izuku’s cheek gently and wiping a tear.

“Let’s eat it, okay? We can eat it, and you can tell me more about your mum, if you want. I know you love her.” He hesitated for a second, then continued. “And I can tell you about mine.” He offered, Izuku’s eyes growing wider. Touya didn’t tend to share information about his family.

“Okay. Okay. Thanks, Touya… nii-san.” Izuku looked down, a bit nervous. He was thinking it for a while, referring to Touya as his big brother in his head for a while now, but… Touya had a complex relationship with family, and he loved his siblings very much despite the distance between them. That much Izuku knew. He didn’t want to replace Touya’s mysterious siblings. He knew he couldn’t even if he did. But Touya was family to him now. He glanced up at Touya, seeing his shock melt into a soft smile. He could’ve imagined it, but he was pretty sure he saw tears in Touya’s eyes.

“Let’s just go to eat, punk.” Touya ruffled his hair as they went to eat. As they ate the somehow still warm Katsudon, Izuku talked about his mother. Touya, in return, talked about his. He only shared the good memories, the few stolen moments of happiness they managed to get. After they were done, both calm and full, Touya suggested an interesting idea.

“How about we go to U.A.? The examinees should probably be leaving now. We should scout your competition.” He smiled mischievously at Izuku.

“They’re not my competition, Touya… I’m not in U.A…” Izuku rubbed the back of his head.

“But you will be. You’re getting in, and these kids will be in your year. You can also use it as practice for Eraserhead, if you want. Try to figure out their quirks from watching them.” The word practice sold Izuku on the idea. They left their apartment, dressed in their warmest clothes (well, Izuku was. Touya felt right at home in the cold, and was content with lighter clothing), and watched the kids walking out.

“What do you think about her?” Touya pointed at a girl with shoulder length brown hair and pink cheeks. She looked tired and beat up. Also slightly nauseous. Izuku examined her for a moment, muttering something too quiet to hear, then turned to Touya.

“She has a touch-based quirk. Probably one that works with five contact points, but that’s just my hunch. They’re more common. You see the pads on her fingers? That’s a mutative aspect of her quirk.” Izuku was excited.

“And what about him?” Touya pointed at a tall boy, with steel-blue hair and red eyes. Izuku’s eyes lit up.

“He looks like… no way, he’s part of the Iida family! He looks just like Ingenium. That means his quirk is Engines, like the rest of his family. I’m pretty sure his are in his legs. I thought he would go through recommendations, considering his family, but I guess he wanted to prove himself and get in on his own name.” Touya looked distant. He focused soon enough though. They continued like that, from the most obvious (“I mean, Touya, the dude has a tail. Of course his quirk is a tail.”) to the most obscure (“what the hell are those balls for?!”). They witnessed a lot of reactions to the test, like a girl with vines for hair praying in the middle of the street, or a blond boy with a big, flashy belt simply posing, staring intently at nothing in particular like there was a camera pointed at him, or a boy with purple hair sticking up who was sitting on the pavement, gripping his hair and crying in frustration. They were all so different, the only common ground between them being one shared dream. Out of those people, only 36 would get the opportunity to reach that dream, at least the way they want to. And even if you were one of the lucky 36, it wasn’t a guarantee that you would get to your goal. After all, Eraserhead did expel an entire class just ten months prior. Izuku only felt a little bitter about it. Seeing all those kids strengthened his resolve. He will get in. He will achieve his dream.

He just needed some more practice.

 

***

 

Shouta gave his protégé a week of vacation, while he dealt with the mess of the entrance exams. He left him a training program and instructions for his theoretical studies, sure that the boy would follow them. He took it all seriously. He wouldn’t slack off.
Shouta didn’t stop to think that the opposite could be a problem.

He walked to their meeting point, seeing Midoriya already there, training on how to use broken pipes as a weapon. He noticed that the boy’s movements weren’t as precise as usual (not too bad, they could work on that), and that his hands were clumsily bandaged (more concerning). His face was twisted in a mix to concentration, determination, and… was that pain?

“Midoriya.” He called the kid’s attention to him. Midoriya looked startled, dropping the pipes, then smiled tiredly at him. His heart felt like it was squeezing. Somehow, over the past six months, this boy turned into an inseparable part of his life.

“Oh no,” The horror dawned on him, “I’m getting attached.” He schooled his features quickly, not letting Midoriya see the realisation. Instead, he focused on the problem at hand.

“What happened to your hands?” He asked flatly, approaching Midoriya. The kid shifted, trying to keep his hands hidden.

“Well, I couldn’t get that move you showed me right, so I kept practicing, and I really need to keep practicing because I still can’t get it right, and it’s really not that bad, I just didn’t want Touya to worry, a-and anyway, I could keep training more! I just have to get this right then I-“ Shouta stopped Midoriya’s rambling with a gentle hand on his shoulder (he learned long ago that the kid had no particular problem with physical contact, as long as it wasn’t fast or accompanied with loud noises), a frown on his face.

“Midoriya, how long have you been training on this?” He asked, a slight tinge of worry making its way into his voice. These moves did cause blisters, that in turn became callouses, especially when using an unrefined weapon like pieces of broken pipes, but upon closer examination Shouta could see blood on the bandages. That was a bad sign.

“Oh, you know, four hours? Five? More? I don’t exactly remember. I tried to work more the previous days too, but I had work, and the rest of my homework, so I only managed to put in three hours. But today I have a day off work so I managed to catch up!” He said cheerfully, the smile slowly being wiped off his face at the growing frown on Shouta’s face. The hero, pre-emptively feeling the exhaustion from dealing with this mess, let out an irritated sigh.

“Let me see this.” He said quickly, ignoring the nervous fidgeting from Midoriya, who put his hands forward. After unwrapping the sloppy bandages, Shouta was faced with two irritated and bleeding hands, blisters torn. Midoriya cast his eyes down, not looing at Shouta, who pulled out a first aid kit.

“You didn’t want to worry anyone, so you just wrapped it up yourself, right?” When Midoriya nodded, Shouta hummed a little. He got the disinfectant, beginning to gently clean Izuku’s hands. The kid didn’t make a sound as he cleaned and bandaged his hands, just looking away. It was… worrying, to say the least, considering Midoriya usually talked even when he didn’t mean to. When it was done, Midoriya rubbed his arm awkwardly, trying not to hurt his burning hand. As Shouta tried to think of how to put his thoughts into words, Izuku spoke up.

“Are you going to expel me?” He asked quietly, and it caught Shouta so unprepared that he couldn’t say anything. Midoriya continued. “I-I would understand if you are, but I have to ask you to please give mw one more chance. I swear, if you allow me to prove myself, I – “ His voice was shaking, like he was trying not to cry.

“Why in hell would I expel you?” Shouta asked quietly, stopping the kid once again.

“Because I just can’t get it right. Or because I overdid it and hurt myself.” Midoriya was still avoiding his eyes. Shouta took a few seconds to come to a decision, before sitting down near his student.

“That would be pretty hypocritical of me, don’t you think? Considering it took me six years to master my capture weapon and all.” He said casually. For the first time since Shouta asked about his hands, Midoriya looked up.

“As a rule of thumb, except for extreme cases, I don’t expel students for failing to get things right the first time. This is what practice is for, and this is what teachers are for. To help you get better. You can’t be automatically good at everything. It just doesn’t happen. In fact, the level you managed to get to up until now is above average, especially considering your situation. Learning isn’t an even curve upwards. There are ups and downs, and that is okay.” Shouta stopped, exposing his palms. They were rough, covered in blisters and scars. They looked like they were repeatedly slashed. “When I was your age, I made the same mistake you did. I would constantly overwork myself, thinking it would make me better. It got to the point that my friends had to bring their parents to interfere, because my family couldn’t stop me. So again, punishing you over making the same mistake I and every other young and motivated student with a slight disregard for formalities makes.” He allowed a hint of smile, to reassure the kid. Shit, he really was going soft. Midoriya’s wide eyes were looking at him with so much relief and gratitude it was almost painful.

“I’m sorry for making you feel like you’re on the brink of expulsion. I’m not one to give compliments, but you’re doing well. I don’t waste my time on lost causes. Remember that. Alright, Izuku?” He asked, the use of his given name shocking the kid for a few moments, before he smiled brightly, more blinding and genuine than any smile All Might ever smiled.

“Yes sir!” He said cheerfully, trying to push himself up with his injured hands and flinching. Shouta pulled him up from his elbow, sighing.

“For now, let’s stick to theoretical lessons. You still need to improve your English.” He stated the facts with his usual flat composure, but now Midoriya knew what was behind it. He responded with a sheepish smile.

“Yes sir…” He looked up at him, and Shouta could just feel the amount of trouble this child is going to give him.

He didn’t regret it for a second.

Chapter Text

Silence, Masaru learned over the last year, was a weird thing. There were different kinds of quiet. There was, for example, the quiet of sitting at home and having something missing. For years Masaru hoped his wife and son could maybe calm down a little, sit down and appreciate the quiet. Now he missed the noise, Katsuki yelling insults, or blasting music, or just existing in the house. There was always something noisy at home, but for the past year, the house was weirdly quiet. Their conversations were quiet. The TV, even on full volume, was quiet. It was a heavy silence, silence that tried to drag them down. He filled it with small explosions, a nervous habit he picked of rubbing his hands until they sparked, another small memory of their dead son.

There was also the slightly different quiet of missing something together. He could hear it when they were with Inko. It had a different weight to it, a different rhythm. He could remember the first time they had that silence, the day after Katsuki died, when they were reading Izuku’s letter. All three of them were crying. Losing two children in one day was a heavy blow. Masaru couldn’t stop thinking… how? How could Izuku, the kindest, most gentle kid he ever saw, blame himself for Katsuki’s death? Then it hit him, that it was because he was kind and gentle that he believed that. Mitsuki, as always, said out loud what he thought in his heart. And then they just sat together, huddled close in Inko’s living room, and missed their children together. It felt a little lighter.

Now… now was a new silence. The silence of standing over your son’s grave, on the one-year anniversary of his death, and realising that it’s been that long, and that you have many more years left to go without him. Inko and Mitsuki were both with him, shoulder to shoulder. He loved them with a slow and steady flame. He didn’t have many loved ones. Mitsuki, with her flares and temper and burning passion. Inko, all big empathetic heart and a steady determination that was a lot like his own, both making her his closest friend, not just Mitsuki’s. Katsuki. Izuku. There were a few others, but those four were the core of his world. His family.
And in a single day, two of them were gone.

“It’s been a year, huh?” Masaru eventually broke the suffocating silence, looking at his son’s grave. Katsuki would’ve hated this. He would’ve hated seeing them all grieving. “Like a bunch of losers” he would say. No, he wouldn’t. Inko was there, so he wouldn’t dare insult them. Inko was the only person in the world Katsuki won’t curse around.

Didn’t. Didn’t curse around.

Talking about Katsuki in past tense was still as painful and unnatural as it was the first day. He was an active person, the kind of person who was always in the middle of doing something. He was present, all the time. And when he wasn’t present, he was future. Always aiming higher, going forward. He was never a thing of the past. Katsuki was never in the past, and now…

“He should be going to school right now. He should be going to U.A., yelling at people, annoying the shit out of those fancy assholes with a stick up their ass, becoming a hero. This is how it should’ve been.” Mitsuki said gently, tired eyed looking at the grave. They didn’t notice it before, but there was a single flower lying on it. A Shion, its small blue petals a stark contrast to the grey stone. There was a weird feeling in Masaru’s chest, but he shoved it aside, thinking that flower must’ve come from one of Katsuki’s old friends.

He looked at Inko, her head down and silent tears flowing from her eyes. She said nothing the whole time, rubbing Mitsuki’s back. His mind wandered to Izuku, who should’ve been here with them, or better, with Katsuki in U.A.. Because Izuku was determined and smart. He would’ve gotten in, quirk or no quirk. But instead, he was god knows where, cold and lonely and hungry.

“If he’s even alive.” He thought grimly, the idea feeling like a stab to the chest. He couldn’t lose hope. He just couldn’t because if he does, that means he lost half his family. If he loses hope, it means Izuku is gone too, never coming back home, dead in some hole without even a grave to mourn over, and the three of them will be left alone to the silence.

For the first time that year, Masaru broke the silence with his sobs. It’s not that he didn’t cry before. Of course he did. A lot. But he always did it in silence. Now, he broke. And as sobs wrecked his body, the weight of the realisation that his son has been gone for a year and he has so many more years like this and his son is gone pulling him down, two pairs of arms wrapped around him. They were crying too, with him. It was painful, and it was hard, and it was ugly, but reality was just like that. All they had left to do was hang into each other, and maintain the hope that maybe somethings are not lost yet.

Silence, Masaru learned that day, was a weird thing. There are many types of quiet, and some of them are just covers, thick layers crushing and suffocating. The silence of missing something together broke, and suddenly the world was a little louder, and a bit brighter. The sadness wasn’t gone, the pain definitely wasn’t gone, but now that the silence was shattered from around them, they could actually miss the kids together, not just around each other. They were all staying

He failed to notice the hooded figure watching from a distance, turning away and wiping a tear.

 

***

 

A year. An entire year since Kacchan died. And entire year since Izuku ran away. Time sure went fast, and things changed drastically. In just a year Izuku turned from a bright, shy student, to a runaway living from scraps, to a vigilante and an informant. He was so far away from the boy he used to be, but sometimes he still missed him. He missed Izuku who woke up every morning with the belief that the world will be kind. Izuku who went out of his comfortable, air-conditioned room to the living room, where his mother was already getting organised. Izuku who could eat whatever he wanted, and as much of it as he wanted. Izuku who didn’t have to worry about money, or about getting sick, because if he was sick he could go to the doctor.

He also never wanted to be him again.

He didn’t want to be the kid cowering in fear in front of his tormentor, flinching away and hoping to be ignored. He didn’t want to be the naïve boy who wanted to be a hero because it’s cool. He didn’t want to go back to his nice, sheltered corner of the world and ignore the pain and suffering out of it.
Needless to say, he felt conflicted. That’s why he went to Kacchan’s grave, leaving a flower. That’s why he stayed there, a bit further, watching his family. He watched Masaru start sobbing, the usually quiet and reserved man tore the silence with his cries. His mother and aunt Mitsuki joined the crying, all three holding each other close. Izuku wiped his tears, leaving the other direction when they did.

He left home when Touya was still asleep, and decided to keep walking around. He was walking on the streets, his longer messy hair collected in a ponytail and his hands in the pocket of his hoodie. It was big and comfortable, worn out. He didn’t really want to think, didn’t want to remember the difference between the life he used to have and the life he had now, so he ran. He ran through the streets, letting the wind blow and his muscles burn, before he went home.

“Hi, Izuku, what do you think?” Touya called when Izuku got inside the house and closed the door. Izuku went to their kitchen, stopping in the door in shock. At first, things looked like usual. Touya was leaning on the counter, draining a juice pack. Things were normal, but… not quite. When Izuku looked up at his head… Touya always dyed his hair. His natural hair was red, and he usually dyed it black. Now though… now I was dyed a dark green, not unlike Izuku’s. it was as spikey as usual, the change subtle enough not to notice at first, but when you did you couldn’t miss it.

“It’s been a year since we started living together, you know… of course you know, sorry. Anyway, I figured… we’ve been brothers for a whole year. I dye my hair anyway, why not match my little brother?” Touya smiled softly, wanting to cheer Izuku up. He knew how hard that day must be for him. A year since his suicide attempt. A year since his friend/bully died. A year since he ran away. This wasn’t easy. Touya remembered the first anniversary of his escape, and it was terrifying. He wasn’t going to let his little brother feel as sad and scared as he did.

“You… you’re a madman, you know that?” Izuku’s eyes welled with tears, and his mouth stretched in a wide smile. Touya laughed, putting a hand on Izuku’s head.

“Yup. But so are you, Izuku, and you know that. That’s why we’re brothers.” Izuku hugged him tight, and stayed like that for a while. He was making noises between sobs and laughter, and Touya just held him close as he muttered about his family, and the grave, and how grateful he was for Touya being his brother. It felt natural, and only a small part of him was aching at the thought of his other siblings, and how much they must blame him for abandoning them.

 

***

 

“Dodge dodge pull hit dodge dodge DODGE!” Shouta was running out of breath. There were just too many of them. Too many damn villains. Thirteen was down. They were never the most combative person, so it didn’t surprise him much. He hoped they’re going to be okay. Or at least, he would, if he had a goddamn second to breathe. He was usually calm under pressure, the adrenaline not getting to his head, but now he was surrounded, and his children were in danger. They were scattered through the facility in small groups, and he had to fight for them. The longer he fought, the more enemies he took down, the less enemies there were to hurt the children.

And that man-child Shigaraki was just standing to the side, hands covering his body, and watching. Just watching and laughing.

“Keep your quirk on dammit! Don’t blink!” He panicked, activating his quirk again. His breaths were quick and heaving. He could hear his students fighting. The kids were fighting, so how could he possibly give up? He couldn’t. he was going to win. He looked around. The low-level grunts were keeping their distance now, hesitating to attack him, so he used it to look around. He had to find a way to get this over with.

“There!” He thought, attacking Shigaraki. He was thinking about it all like a videogame, right? So ending the final boss wins the game. He had to get this over with. He activated his quirk, looking straight at Shigaraki and jumping him. Shigaraki grabbed his elbow.

“Probably has to do with his quirk.” He managed to think, before he had to blink. He had no choice. As soon as he blinked, there was a sickening feeling of crumbing in his elbow. At first it was the shirt. Then it was his skin. It took him a few moments to register the feeling. Then it was pain. He pulled away, the skin of his elbow crumbled and his muscle exposed, blood dripping from the wound. And Shigaraki kept laughing.

“You're really cool, Eraserhead, but you got it all wring. I'm not the final boss. He is.” The villain said dramatically, and right behind Shouta appeared… something. Its brain was exposed, and it had a large beak and sharp teeth. Its skin was an ashen blueish black, and its body, fairly humanoid, was huge and muscular. It seemed to be on par with All Might in terms of muscle and speed. But if this was a quirk…

Shouts erased the monster’s quirk (he faintly heard Shigaraki calling it Noumu), then felt himself slammed to the ground. The pain was immense, but he tried to keep cool. The creature was sitting on him, knee in the middle of his back and arms gripping his. Shigaraki was talking, but Shouta couldn’t hear him through the blood rushing in his ears. He could feel his right arm twisting, snapping like a twig, and roared in pain. Shigaraki kept talking, and Shouta ignored him, attempting to erase the Noumu’s quirk again. Its quirk was erased, but it simply slammed his arm into the concrete, breaking it and making him scream again. It was that strong, even without a quirk. This is a thing that has a chance to… to kill All Might. If it does, the kids are doomed.

Then his head was slammed into the floor.

He blacked out, waking up with blood on his face and the distinct feeling that the threat on him was leaving. Not the Noumu, but the menace that was Shigaraki. He managed to push his head up and saw, to his horror, that Shigaraki was running toward Asui. No. He couldn’t let him do that. He could practically see his student crumbling to dust under the pale hand. He took all his focus, and activated his quirk one more time. He stared at Shigaraki, unblinking and unyielding, his hatred and fierce need to protect glowing red in his eyes.

“You really are cool… Eraserhead.” Shigaraki sounded something between excited and pissed. As the Noumu pulled his head up again, Shouta saw faces flashing in his mind. His mother. His sister. Hizashi. Nemuri and Tensei. Izuku. The children. His children. Right before everything turned black again, he could only think one thing.

“I’m sorry…”

 

***

 

Izuku dropped the glass he was washing, barely registering the sound of breaking glass.

“Izuku, you know, I might have to make you pay for tha…” Miyako started jokingly, her voice fading in shock when she saw what he was looking at.

“We are reporting live from outside of U.A. high school, where just moments ago a breach of security was discovered. A group of villains infiltrated an off-campus facility known as USJ, and attacked a class of first year Heroics students. We currently have six confirmed injured students, but all injuries among the students are mild. On top of that two heroes, Thirteen and Eraserhead, have been critically injured while protecting the students. Their condition appears to be stable according to recent reports. The police arrested dozens of villains connected to the attack, but the culprits managed to escape.” The pictures on the screen alternated between the big dome of the USJ facility, with smoke coming out of the hole at the top, the villains being arrested by the police, the heroes, and people being evacuated out of the facility, some into ambulances. They managed to catch a glimpse of a black and red blur on a stretcher, tatters of scarf dragging on the ground as Eraserhead was being taken away.

“No no no no no not again not him I can’t lose him I can’t-“ He was stopped by Miyako, who put a gentle hand on his shoulder. He looked up at her, eyes filled with terror. She looked sad and worried, but she still squeezed his shoulder and gave him an encouraging smile.

“They said he’s stable, kid. He will be okay. The thing about Eraser is… he’s always okay. Ridiculously resilient, since he was young. You don’t know how many times he fell into dumpsters while swinging from roofs. He’s going to pull through this, because that’s the kind of person he is.” She spoke softly, looking at her watch. “Your shift is almost over anyway, so how about you go home? I’ll clean this mess. And don’t you dare show your face here tomorrow either. Take a break. Rest. Process it.” She said sternly. Izuku, still shocked and pale, with a storm in his mind, nodded numbly and walked out. He didn’t remember much of the way back home, but he remembered the distinct feeling of the world being a little bit sideways, like it was knocked out of orbit. The feeling choked him, and he wrapped his arms around himself. Memories of Eraserhead swirled in his mind, tinted with the thought of never seeing him again, of the last sight he got of him being the black and red blur of his broken body carried away on a stretcher. He frantically tried to think of a way to get to him, get to his mentor, the man who over the last six months became more of a father figure to him than his actual father. One memory in particular floated in his mind.

It was about a month into Izuku’s training under Eraserhead, that the hero brought it up.

“You mentioned, back when we first met, that you used to research heroes, watched clips on the internet, tracked fights… do you have any of that research?” He asked while Izuku was trying to figure out a math question. Eraserhead, mediocre at best in the subject, was trying to figure it out with him.

“Yes, I… I have the last four notebooks.” Izuku said hesitantly. He was ecstatic when he was told to bring them to their next lesson.
In the next lesson, Izuku brought his notebooks, and Eraserhead went through them. He stopped on his Present Mic analysis, reading it thoroughly, and Izuku remembered they were most the same year in school. They probably knew each other pretty well.

“Not just spiders.” Eraserhead said with a small smile. Izuku looked up at him, confused. “You wrote in your analysis that he’s afraid of spiders. Good observation, but not just spiders. He’s terrified of bugs. Any kind of bugs.” There was an unmistakable fondness in the hero’s voice.

“Do you know Present Mic well?” Izuku asked curiously, getting a pointed look from his mentor. When he didn’t look away, Eraserhead sighed.

“Yes. I trust him with my life, and with other people’s lives, no questions asked.” He eventually said. That was a big thing. Izuku learned the hard way that Eraserhead wasn’t extremely concerned with his own life, but other people’s lives? He wouldn’t let anyone get hurt if he could help it, and hardly trusted anyone to do that job. Hearing he trusted the Voice Hero that much… that was important information to file for later.

Chapter Text

“We have eight people incoming after a massive villain attack. Two adults going directly into surgery, and six children with mild injuries. We need every available doctor to be as ready as possible. It’s the hero protocol. We’ve got an information blockade until further notice. Doctor Aizawa, I need you to come with me for a second.” It wasn’t uncommon for doctor Aizawa Kazumi to be called separately, as the head of paediatrics, for a briefing before getting patients. She did have to organise her team.

“What is it, doctor Fujimoto?” She asked, following her co-worker.

“You might want to sit this one out. You can do it if you want, and there will be no shame in that. Your son is one of those who got hurt. The kids coming in are his students. I need to know if you can be laser focused and treat them as well as possible. You’re one of the best doctors on the team, and we’re understaffed. If you can’t do this, I’ll get someone to take your place for today.” Their voice was considerate and worried, knowing not to sugar-coat things but still do it sensitively.

Kazumi took a few seconds to process the information. Shouta got hurt. Shouta got hurt bad enough that his life is in danger and he requires immediate surgery. At first, she panicked. She was horrified at the thought of her son being hurt like that. But she calmed herself down. She had to. She had no other choice. There were kids who needed her. Her son’s students, who he loved more than his own life even though they have only been his students for a week or so, not that it mattered now. She held their gaze, steel in their eyes.

“I’m fine. I have to be. I’ll give them the best possible treatment. It’s as you said, I’m the best we have. I can’t afford to sit this out.” She said professionally. Doctor Fujimoto looked relieved, if a bit worried, and nodded at her. She left to get her team ready.

Children’s emergency rooms were always horrible, but add six terrified teens on top of the usual cacophony of babies and children in pain, and you get a mess. Kazumi walked in, wearing her doctor smile, the reassuring smile that out so many kids at ease in the past, even if it was a bit strained. Her black hair, with streaks of silver in it, was pulled back in a braid. Her first patient, a redhead with spiky hair and a hardening quirk called Kirishima Eijirou. The paramedics noted the jagged edges of his skin when he used his quirk were quite sharp, so she should be careful. He had several cuts on his body (some would require stitches), a concussion, and some fractures in his right hand and his ribs. He tried to joke with her and keep the mood light as she worked, but he was pale and slightly nauseous, on top of being extremely scared still.

“Doctor, is there any chance… both our teachers got hurt really bad. Do you… do you know how they’re doing?” The boy asked, looking at her as she finished taking care of his arm. He was hesitant, like he was afraid of the answer he was going to get.

“I have no information about how they are right now, but last I heard they were okay, and going into surgery. But I know them, and they will hopefully get through. Stubborn as mules. Right now, focus on your own recovery. I will come back later to check on you.” She said softly, patting his shoulder.

The next patient was a short girl with a frog quirk, who hasn’t stopped crying. Asui Tsuyu. She heard about her before, Shouta describing her as having great potential and being a calming presence in her class. She didn’t seem very calm at the moment, but that was obvious considering the horrible situation she just got out of. She had several lacerations, some concerning bruises, and something that looked like a bite mark. She worked gently and efficiently, speaking in a calming tone. It wasn’t strictly her job to calm her down, but this kid was crying and alone. Her parents weren’t there to help her, her friends were just as battered as her and Kazumi was the only one around who could help at least a little. Eventually, the girl started telling her what had her so shaken.

“A-Aizawa-sensei was fighting for us, keru. He-he’s not used to fighting this many people for this long and he was fighting for us and I-I thought I can help, I thought maybe I can take down a few villains from the side so he has less enemies to fight but I-I couldn’t move! I couldn’t move as that-that thing slammed him to the ground and broke his arms a-and even when he was injured and hurt he-he used his quirk to save me because I was too slow to move away and run and I couldn’t help and…” She started crying. Kazumi closed her eyes for a second after bandaging the cleaned out and stitched bite mark (caused by a person with a shark quirk).

“That sounds just like him to do that… Asui-san, this is not your fault. This is who he is. What happened to him happened because he made the decision to protect you kids, and he wouldn’t regret the decision for a second. When he wakes up, the first thing he’s going to ask is if the kids are okay.” She rested a firm hand on the girl’s arm. She looked up at her.

“Because he’s a hero?” She asked quietly, and Kazumi laughed.

“No, because he’s Aizawa Shouta.” She said softly, adjusting her nametag. Asui’s eyes darted to it, widening a little.

“You’re family, keru.” She said, rubbing her bruised arm.

“Yes, he’s my son. Don’t tell him you met me though, he tries to keep us as far away from his hero work as possible. But right now, since he can’t look after you himself, I will. I’ll come to check on you later.” She promised, squeezing the girl’s hand and walking away. She quickly checked on the rest of the children who got there. An extremely short boy with purple balls sticking from his head, who the female nurses and doctors tried to get as far away from as possible. A kid with red and white hair, split right in the middle, who came in with severe hypothermia (quirk overuse), and carried way too many scars for any child his age to bear. Iida Tensei’s little brother, strikingly similar to the boy who spent so much of his high school years in her home, worriedly asking for information on his classmates and on Shouta. A boy with an electricity quirk, whose brain short-circuited so hard he was currently unconscious. Luckily for that boy, bioelectricity was Kazumi’s specialty. Her hair started floating as she locked her now red eyes on him, and she slowly balanced the electricity in his brain. He woke up as she blinked, letting her hair fall, and reached for her pocket where she always kept eye-drops. Her quirk made her eyes terribly dry. Shouta had the exact same problem. As soon as all the students were checked on, she got a patient suffering from epilepsy, and had to run to them.

She was whisked from patient to patient, both those who were in the ER and those who were already hospitalised. Until the end of her shift that very evening, she didn’t get to stop, didn’t get any update about her son. She knew it must be a good thing. If the worst happened, her friends would’ve let her know. But still, she was filled with nervous energy as she finally washed her hands one last time and changed out of her scrubs. In the waiting room, the first person she met was Mia. She got up immediately, running to Kazumi and hugging her tight.

“It’s okay, Mia. Shouta will be okay. I didn’t hear anything yet, but that has to be a good thing. It’s okay.” Kazumi rubbed her eldest daughter’s back, gentle and soothing. Mia might’ve been a thirty-three years old woman, but she was still her daughter, waiting for news about her little brother’s condition.

“Yeah nee-san. Shouta’s always fine, right? You told us that yourself.” Nemuri came closer to them, putting a hand on Mia’s back reassuringly. She looked tired and messy, not even out of her hero costume. She instead put a slightly too large sweater on it, that functioned as a very short dress. She turned to look at Kazumi.

“Tensei took Hizashi to get some water. They should be back soon.” She said quietly, leading the way to where they sat before. “How are the students?” She asked when they sat down.

“They will be fine. Maybe a few scars, but nothing life threatening. I would keep an eye on Todoroki. He has way too many scars for a kid this young.” Kazumi’s eyes darkened, and so did the other two’s. at that moment, Tensei walked to them, leading Hizashi. Kazumi examined her son in law, studying his pale face and tired expression, before getting up and pulling him into a hug. The thin man was slightly shaking still, hugging her back. They stayed quiet like that for a few moments, before sitting down.

“Tenya is okay, by the way. He spent the whole time asking me about Shouta and the rest of his class. Certainly a lot more responsible than you were at his age.” Kazumi said softly, trying to ease the mood. Mia was there, still holding her hand. Hizashi on her other side looked down, frozen. Tensei was fussing around everyone, the worried friend he always was despite his laid-back nature, and Nemuri was also attempting to keep everyone calm. In that moment, it didn’t matter that they were in their thirties. They were her kids, one way or the other, and they needed her support.

News came eventually. Shouta was out of surgery. His arms were both in casts, and his entire body was in bandages. His face was hurt really bad. There was a chance he wouldn’t be able to see again.

That last part stunned them into silence. Shouta, blind? Shouta relied on his sight more than most people. He remembered by seeing things. He made his living with his sight, both as a teacher and a hero. His quirk relied on sight. Taking Shouta’s sight would be taking a big part of his core as a person. Kazumi wasn’t sure her son knew who he was without saving people.

“We need to go home. They won’t let us see him anyway now, and we all had quite enough on our plates. Get your brother released, Tensei, and we could leave.” She eventually said, breaking the silence. They did as she said. During their stay there, Mia gained the edge of her voice back, and now she was pushing them all gently with her jokes.

“Mum, could I stay over? My apartment is pretty far, and... I want to stay close.” She asked quietly, while Tensei, Nemuri and Hizashi were getting Tenya.

“Of course you can. You don’t even have to ask.” Kazumi had to stand on her toes to kiss her daughter’s forehead. Most people wouldn’t allow things like that from their parents after a certain age, but Mia, Shouta and her were always very close, and right now they both needed the comfort.

As she lay awake in her bed that night, listening to her daughter’s breaths in the next room, Kazumi thought about the things Asui told her, about a bird-like abomination slamming her son into the concrete, and cried.

 

***

 

The day after the attack on USJ, Hizashi left school early. Nezu didn’t give him any trouble, knowing the situation, which allowed Hizashi to go home and change out of costume before walking to the hospital. He couldn’t stop thinking about it all. About Tenya running to school in panic, his engines hot enough to cause blisters around the exhausts, calling everyone to come help the students who are fighting for their lives against dozens of villains. About getting there, as fast as possible, and finding the mess they found there. About the first thing that caught his eyes when they ran in, Shouta’s broken and bleeding form carried to the entrance by a pale and bleeding Asui. How he screamed there, knocking out so many of the villains with the sound of his voice alone, the rage that filled him only barely contained enough to not go stronger, sharper, and irreparably harm those people, those villains who hurt his students, who hurt his husband. The main thing keeping him from doing it anyway, and to hell with the consequences, was his friends behind him. He couldn’t afford to hurt them, and even with his directional speaker that kind of notes would hurt them.

This train of thought was the only reason he only noticed it five minutes after he left his home. The feeling of someone following him. He angled his hand, looking behind him through the small metal plates on his bracelet, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The streets were pretty crowded. Usually Hizashi would chuck this feeling to paranoia, but…

As Shouta always said, it’s not paranoia if someone is actually following you.

So Hizashi evaded as best he could. He kept his regular pace and posture, turning into back alleys and dark corners, checking behind him every now and then to see if he can identify the person following him. He led them away, into a small back alley, then stopped.

“You do know who I am, right?” Hizashi said quietly, sounding a mixture of confident and angry.

Silence.

“You can cut the crap. If you try to run away, I scream. If you try to attack me, I scream.” He was angrier now. Whoever it is was stalling him while he was going to see Shouta.

“No you won’t.” The voice came from behind him, and Hizashi turned to it, back to the wall, bracing for an attack. A needle stabbing him, injecting him with a sedative. A gun, filled with one of the quirk nullifying drugs Shouta just started hearing rumours about, or just a simple and deadly one.

But nothing came.

“And why’s that?” He asked, knowing the person following was somewhere close.

“Because there are people living in the apartments around us, and you’re not wearing your directional speaker. You’re smart. Really smart. You know using your quirk here would risk them, and you care about them too much. You care about people. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have followed you.” The person’s voice sounded weird. Really weird. Were they trying to change it, to make themselves harder to recognise?

“And why did you follow me?” Hizashi was on edge, preparing for whatever may come.

“To find out where Eraserhead is.” Hizashi’s blood ran cold. This person was after Shouta. Shouta, who was unconscious in the hospital. Vulnerable. And they were after him.

“Why would you want that? And why follow me for it?” He asked coldly, tense.

“I am going to move now.” The owner of the strange voice ignored his questions. “I am going to get out of the shadows so you can see me, then I am going to take off my mask. I am unarmed. This is an act of trust. This is me, putting my secrets and my life in your hands. Please, don’t attack me.” Okay, this was something Hizashi didn’t expect.

“And why would you do that?” He asked, put off. A shape started moving in the shadows of the alley, slowly stepping into the light. The figure was wearing a dark hoodie, that might’ve been black at some point earlier it its life, and a dark medical mask. He removed the hood and the mask slowly, exposing curly dark green hair pulled back, and the young face of a child, not older than their students. The skin around the boy’s eyes was red and puffy, like he’s been crying.

“Because he does. Because when I asked about you, Eraserhead told me he trusts you with his life, and with other people’s lives, without a single question.” Hizashi realised, all of a sudden, why the boy’s voice sounded so weird. He was trying not to cry.

“Could he be crying for Shouta?” Hizashi thought, examining the boy. He looked like a street kid, even if slightly better fed. But what sold him on the idea that it was more than just the hero worship Shouta gained from some of those kids were his movements. They were slow and careful, cat-like in nature. The tone he used before, the way he said certain words, the way he carried himself…that was Shouta. This kid was closer to Shouta than just catching glimpses of him while he was on patrol. Close enough for Shouta to actually talk about him in front of the kid, in a way that was more than just a classmate or co-worker.

“I will ask again, kid. Why do you want to find Eraser?” Hizashi asked. He couldn’t allow himself to be fooled. It could be a coincidence. It could be a trick.

“I’m worried sir. He-he mentored me for the last six months. He gave me a job as an informant and helped me find purpose and taught me and… he protected me. He cared. And I care too. I-I just want to know if he’s okay and where he is. Please, I’m just worried.” There were tears coming from his eyes, and he furiously wiped them away. Six months… Shouta did start acting a bit strange six months ago. He spent more time away from home outside of patrols, and bought notebooks and books he would never use, with middle school material. When confronted about all that, he asked Hizashi to trust him. Said he can’t talk about it right now, not yet, but he would tell him when the time is right. Was the time right now? Was this kid what Shouta was hiding from him?

“You said he mentored you. Taught you. Mentored how? Taught what? Besides, Eraser isn’t one to send a child into the battlefield as an informant.” Hizashi asked. He was still guarded, but not as confrontational. He wasn’t attacking now. How could he, when faced with a crying child?

“He-he said he would help me become a hero. I-I dropped out of my last year in middle school, since I had to work and help my big brother with rent and bills and food, so he taught me the things I need to know. He taught me how to fight too. And how to analyse others. He said I’m good as it is, but that I could use refinement. That it would be illogical to not work on my strengths. He made me his informant because I… I was a vigilante anyway. With or without him, I would’ve gone after villains this way… he said this way he could look after me to make sure I’m not doing anything stupid, and also pay me enough that I don’t starve.” Hizashi softened. That sounded like Shouta. But…

“So why didn’t you apply to U.A. this year? You said you dropped out of your last year in middle school, and that was last year, so you should be about the right age, right?” He asked curiously.

“I’m a street rat. Not just that, I’m a quirkless street rat. The system doesn’t like people like me. Eraserhead said if I take more time, I can get good enough to really impress the principle and get in. but right now, no one would want me in. The exam doesn’t work for people like me, and even if I got into Gen Ed and won the sports festival, I would be too controversial to put in the hero course.” Yup, definitely Shouta. There’s no way Shouta would look at an aspiring hero with a lot of potential in a dire situation, who has all of society against him, and not think “Welp, he’s mine now, I’m going to get him into heroics even if I have to fistfight Nezu in a back alley”. Besides, the way the kid said it sounded so much like Shouta it was painful. Hizashi smiled, relaxing completely. He wanted to establish trust.

“Thank you. For trusting me. Sorry for freaking out earlier, but I’m a pro hero. Being followed usually isn’t a good sign for me. What’s your name?” He asked, looking at the boy. He seemed hesitant, eyeing the hero with hesitance, suspicion and worry, before speaking.

“Midoriya. Midoriya Izuku.” He said eventually, and Hizashi was shocked. This was his real name, had to be. He didn’t give Hizashi just any alias or fake name, he gave him his real name. it was in the way he said it, careful, and in the hesitance to share it.

“I’m Yamada Hizashi. I prefer to not be Present Mic when I’m out of costume. He’s a pretty high-maintenance guy, you know. Lots of energy.” Hizashi laughed, deciding to share a little something with the boy. Even if he knew it already, which he probably did, since his name was on public records and he wasn’t trying to hide it, it meant something. It gave him something closer to call Hizashi, not an anonymous hero alias but an actual name. Midoriya gave him a small smile, and Hizashi’s heart melted. Yup, he definitely knew what got Shouta to keep this one.

“Okay, now for the serious stuff. I can’t tell you where Eraser is. It would be illegal, and would get us both into trouble. Especially if you plan on trying to get in and see him, and don’t tell me you weren’t planning that, it’s exactly the kind of stupid thing Eraser would teach his students if he didn’t have the limitations of school.” Hizashi laughed a little, running his fingers through his hair. “Anyway, if you give me a place to meet you in, say… six hours, I’ll come there and tell you how he is. Last I heard he was unconscious after a surgery. He will live, that’s for sure, but… we don’t know in what condition he’ll be when he wakes up. So I’ll keep you updated, okay? Don’t worry. He’s a strong guy, and too stubborn to let this stop him.” He said softly, resting a hand on Midoriya’s shoulder.

“Thank you. Really.” The kid was wiping tears again. It must’ve been really stressful for him. “How about… the Night Flower? On the roof? Do you know the place?” He asked hesitantly, and Hizashi had to laugh.

“Man, no surprise he decided to train you. You’re just like him. Why on the roof and not inside? It won’t be the first time I visit there to have a chat with Miyako.” Midoriya smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Miyako may or may not have told me not to show my face there today, after the way I reacted to the report about what happened on the news.” He looked down, and Hizashi’s grin widened.

“Alright. Eight pm, on the roof of the Night Flower. I’ll see you there.” He smiled, shoving his hands in his pockets and leaving.

 

***

 

The first thing that came to Shouta was the smell. The smell of disinfectant and latex that Shouta knew so well since he was a child, going to the clinic his mother worked in after school.

“Good, I’m not dead.” He thought groggily. His head felt like it was full of cotton.

“Concussion or drugs? How bad was it?” He continued, not exactly remembering what happened to him. He still felt fuzzy. The next thing he noticed was pressure. There was pressure on his face, pressure on his chest, pressure on his arms. Memories flashed in his mind, red hot pain and a knee on his back and Shigaraki storming Asui with his hand reached out…

“The kids!” He snapped fully awake, thrashing in the bed. His blood was rushing, his heart beating in his ears. It took a few moments for him to register the voice near him.

“- are okay Shouta, you have to lie down! The kids are safe but you’re hurting yourself, please lie down!” Hizashi begged, worried. Hizashi. Hizashi was there. He was there and the kids were safe. It was okay. Shouta went limp, leaning back on Hizashi’s arm and allowing himself to be lowered back to the pillow.

“The kids are safe?” He rasped, looking up at Hizashi. Hizashi nodded, touching Shouta’s cheek gently through the bandages.

“Yeah. They’re safe. Six of the kids got injured, but it wasn’t too bad. They’re all out now.” He spoke slowly and calmly. Shouta appreciated it, Hizashi’s quiet voice soothing his nerves and his aching head.

“And Thirteen? The Warp Gate said they were out of commission.” He asked, focusing on Hizashi. Golden hair and red eyes and the gold and ruby wedding ring Shouta bought him with the money he saved for such a long time, because even though Shouta thought wedding rings were stupid and illogical, Hizashi loved them and he deserved nice things.

“They’re still healing, but they’re going to be okay.” Hizashi promised, and Shouta sighed in relief. They both knew the Space Heroes since high school, when Thirteen was a first year they mentored and helped teach how to control their quirk properly. He was glad they made it.

“How… what’s the damage? What do I have to deal with now?” Shouta tried to assess his situation. How bad was he injured? Hizashi tensed, hesitant. It must’ve been bad.

“You… both of your arms were practically snapped. Your right elbow had no skin on it either, so it’s going to scar big time. You’re expected to gain full mobility and function in your arms once the casts are off, so that’s… that’s good. You had a bunch of broken ribs, and your spine was pretty badly bruised, but Recovery Girl took care of that.” Hizashi’s voice faded a little, and Shouta could see him tugging on his hair, almost too strong. Nervous. Hizashi was nervous.

“Zashi… What else?” Shouta asked quietly, gentle. His arm was in a cast, and felt so heavy, but he made the effort to clumsily raise it and lay it on top of Hizashi’s. Tear filled red eyes locked on him. Hizashi was usually pretty good at controlling his emotions and putting on a smile. This is what he would’ve usually done. It’s only then that Shouta realised exactly how much pressure was on Hizashi since the attack.

“When that Noumu thing pushed you to the ground… your orbital floor was damaged. They got you straight into surgery as soon as you were brought here, but there was a chance that you’d lose your sight, and…” Hizashi gulped. “There’s a chance that your quirk won’t work, or work differently. Don’t try to test it!” Hizashi’s eyes widened in response to Shouta’s attempt to sit up. “You’ll have to test it later with the doctors. After you’re completely healed. Please, just… don’t rush stuff. You’ll just hurt yourself.” Shouta slumped back down, breathing heavily from the effort. He really was badly injured if a small thing such as getting up was taking so much effort from him.

“Okay. Okay. I won’t. I promise.” He sighed, eyes locking on Hizashi’s face. “It’s alright. We’re safe, right? The children are safe, and Thirteen is safe, and we got out of it. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it.” He promised, revelling in the feeling of Hizashi’s warmth on his chest as he lay his head down, crying and listening to Shouta’s heartbeat. He needed to let out the stress of the last… twenty-four hours, if the watch on the wall showed the right date. Shouta hoped it did.

“By the way, when were you going to tell me we’re adopting?” Hizashi asked after he finally calmed down, making Shouta cough a little. He would’ve raised an eyebrow, but his face didn’t feel good enough for that.

“What are you talking about, Zashi?” He asked quietly instead.

“I’m talking about the quirkless kid you were secretly training for the last six months, who tried to follow me here because he was worried about you. Midoriya, that was his name.” Hizashi smiled up at Shouta, who groaned quietly.

“He actually told you all of that, and his real name? I’ll have to drill some safety into him once I’m out of here.” He said tiredly, making Hizashi chuckle.

“To be fair, Shouta, you did tell him you trust me with your life, and with other people’s lives. At least, that’s what he said. He took this to mean that he can trust me, I guess, since you gave me your seal of approval. Honestly, it’s kinda sweet how devoted he is to you. He was crying at the thought of you being hurt, and I mean really crying. He apparently reacted so bad that Miyako kicked him out for two days to rest and collect himself.” He sounded amused. There was a stunned silence as Shouta’s perspective changed. Midoriya took something Shouta said five months ago, absentmindedly, and deemed it important enough to keep for so long and pull out in a time of distress. Midoriya, based on that one sentence from him, told his secrets to a person he never met before, just because Shouta said he trusted that person. Midoriya cried because he was hurt. Not because his chance to be a hero was in danger, but because Shouta got hurt. Midoriya crying was nothing new, the kid was really emotional, but reacting bad enough to earn Miyako’s pity and worry and actually accept it? Apparently, he wasn’t just a tool for the kid to achieve his dream. Not even just a teacher, it seemed. Someone he trusted without questioning. Someone he cared about, truly and wholeheartedly.

Okay, maybe Hizashi wasn’t exaggerating when he talked about adopting.

 

***

 

Izuku waited on the roof of the Night Flower, legs crossed. Touya was pretty pissed that he ran off, trailed a hero, then told him so much about himself. It was the first time Izuku heard Touya actually raise his voice. It was only a few moments, then he turned pale and started begging for forgiveness. Touya hated yelling. He hated aggression in general. Izuku knew that being aggressive or violent, even just in the way he spoke, made him sick to his stomach. Reminded him of his father, he told Izuku one day. And he never wanted to be anything like his father.

“I’m sorry, Izuku… I’m sorry… I was just so worried, I was afraid you’re going to get hurt, but that’s not an excuse.” Touya said, in tears, and Izuku knew he was beating himself up. He knew Touya was thinking something along the lines of “You destroy everything you get close to” and “you can’t get close to someone without hurting them” and “You’re just like Him and you’re going to hurt Izuku like He hurt you”. He couldn’t have that. He apologised too, saying he should’ve talked to Touya before he went out, and that he didn’t blame him or hold anything against him. Because Touya was a good big brother and a good person. He deserved to be happy. He didn’t deserve to think he was like his sorry excuse of a father, because he wasn’t. He was not, even if he yelled this once, even if Izuku flinched because of the surprise. Touya wasn’t abusive, Touya wasn’t violent, and Izuku promised him that. Izuku reminded him of that over and over, because Touya deserved to know it.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by the noise of someone climbing the ladder, and soon Present Mic – no, Yamada Hizashi – was smiling at him from over the edge. He climbed up quickly, sitting down next to Izuku.

“Yo, Midoriya, sorry I’m a bit late. Paperwork in the hospital is even worse than hero paperwork.” He leaned back on his arms, looking over at Izuku.
“Eraser’s okay. The bones under his eye were broken, but the doctors fixed them so he can still see. We have to wait and hope for the best with his quirk though.” He sighed. “Besides that, his arms are in casts, he’s covered in bandages, and they had to drug him, not only because he’s in pain but because he is a pain. Keeps trying to get up and get out of the hospital.” He smiled fondly, and Izuku chuckled. He had so many things he wanted to ask, but…

“You know, you can ask me stuff about him. I won’t answer something he wouldn’t be comfortable with, but you’d be surprised how much he cares about you. He basically told me to tell you whatever I want.” Yamada glanced as Izuku gaped, shocked. Eraserhead was the most private person Izuku knew. He was more private than Touya even, and Touya spent a year with him without telling him his family name.

“You’re very close.” Izuku noted, looking away from Yamada and into the city. The dark, filthy streets he grew to call home over the past year were familiar to him. Yamada chuckled.

“Yeah, we are. Would’ve been weird after all those years.” He smiled up at the sky, playing with the ring hung on his neck from a chain. “We did get married five years ago, so you could say we’re close.” Izuku was shocked. Married? Eraserhead was married, and… to Present Mic? The loudest hero ever in the whole wide world? He quickly tried to compose himself.

“Surprised? Trust me, so was I. For an entire year I was pretty sure he hates me. Took a bit of convincing from our friends to get me to realise that we were even friends.” Yamada ran his fingers through his long hair (it looked even longer than it did gelled up, Izuku noted) and laughed, when a small, reptilian head peeked from the edge of the roof.

“Ha! I knew it! Knew you’re here, Izuku! I’m going to tell mama!” Mika grinned and Izuku jumped up.

“No, come on, don’t tell Tsubaki! She’ll take me to Miyako, and you know she told me not to show my face!” He laughed a little as the ten years old girl stuck her tongue out, hurrying down the ladder. He chased her, then threw his head back with a smile.

“Thanks, Yamada, really!” He called, answered by clear and loud laughter.

“Meet me here tomorrow! Eraser asked me to help you with English, so you don’t slack off!” The hero waved. Izuku’s grin widened as he hurried down the ladder to chase Mika, and for the first time in the past two days things were okay.

Chapter Text

“Mirio, you gotta loosen up a bit! Seriously, you’re going to get yourself sick. Live a little! Have some fun!” Nejire leaned on the wall of the gym, smiling at her two best friends. Tamaki was there, sitting in the corner with his homework, and Mirio was practicing. He lit up in glowing, yellow light, testing the limits of his second quirk. Tamaki and Nejire knew, of course. He couldn’t hide anything from them. They were practically his family now. Besides… All Might had Sir, and a few other people, who knew about his quirk. Mirio was allowed to let them know, and he knew they would keep it a secret. As chatty as Nejire was, she wouldn’t expose him to danger. Ever.

“I have to train, Nejire! All Might expects me to say I AM HERE! And all that. Sorry Tamaki.” Mirio chuckled a little, apologising to Tamaki who was startled when he called out like All Might. Tamaki looked up at Nejire and Him, then turned back to his book.

“So blinding…” He mumbled, shrinking. Mirio and Nejire laughed a little, Nejire poking his cheek a little with her finger and Mirio continuing with his practice.
“Besides, I’m not just doing this for All Might. It’s also for Sir. He helped me so much, I want to show him how strong I got in the last year, since I started interning with him!” He smiled, sinking his glowing fist into the punching bag. Literally. He was trying to practice using both his quirks at the same time. Things must be pretty tough for people born with two quirks. Like that kid from Aizawa-sensei’s class. Mirio only had to learn how to properly control one quirk as a child, and it wasn’t a really destructive quirk. This kid had two, and really strong ones.

“It’s really cute how you’re more excited about Sir Nighteye suggesting that All Might makes you his successor than you are about actually being All Might’s successor.” Nejire smiled at him, sending a tiny shockwave to send his punching bag flying to the wall and sipping from her juice pack, trying not to let it get to her nose as she laughed. Tamaki smiled softly at the two of them, both laughing as Mirio tried to get up, changing his arm into an octopus arm and wrapping it around Mirio’s leg to trip him again. The touch startled him enough to make him fall halfway through the floor. He laughed, launching himself out of the floor and back to the training room. A knock on their floor and a scream of “Seriously, Toogata?” sent all three of them laughing, Tamaki in quiet giggles, Nejire in loud snorts, and Mirio in a belly laugh that left him folded and wheezing for air. There was nothing particularly funny about the situation, but the energy in the room was so contagiously happy they couldn’t help but laugh.

“Okay, okay guys, I have to go now. Sir is trying to get me to do more field work so I can properly practice.” Mirio was catching his breath, beady blue eyes looking lovingly at the two people most close to him.

“See you later! Movie night is on and you are not cancelling it on me again!” Nejire said, hanging from his neck for a short moment and puking his cheek. Tamaki got up to hug him too, and Mirio wrapped him in his arms tightly. Tamaki mumbled something no one could hear before letting go, allowing Mirio to go to his internship.

“Don’t go into Sir’s office yet.” Bubble Girl warned him as he walked through the door of the agency. Mirio turned to sit down next to her over the neatly organised yet extremely cluttered desk.

“What’s the matter?” He asked, opting to start filling paperwork he had left over from his last shift. He got a bit hurt on that one, so Sir sent him home and told him to fill it later. And then the attack on USJ happened, and things were put on the back burner.

“He’s having a private conversation. With All Might. I don’t know what happened but All Might seems to be having a mood, like the ones Sir used to have last year.” Bubble Girl worked her own paperwork, visibly worried. Mirio understood her worry.

“All Might, in a mood? That sounds… bad. How do you even know? He always smiles.” He turned to the slightly older sidekick. Over the past few months, Mirio saw All Might many times, and grew quite close to him. He knew Yagi Toshinori didn’t always smile, but All Might?

“It was really stiff, and his eyes looked weird. You can’t usually see his eyes, and when you do they’re usually glowing, but now they looked… dull.” She said sadly. “It probably had to do with the attack. Those poor first years…” Bubble Girl sighed, signing another form. Mirio nodded, working on his own form. As he was almost finished with the last of the paperwork, Sir Nighteye walked out of his office, flexing his neck.

“Toogata, why didn’t you come in as soon as you arrived? You know I appreciate punctuality.” He said in his usual business tone.

“Sorry Sir, I just had to finish that leftover paperwork from my last shift. And your door was closed, so I didn’t want to interrupt.” He smiled, showing Sir a stack of neatly filled papers. Bubble Girl sent him a relieved look from behind Sir. She was always afraid Sir would fire her if she didn’t do well enough, and Mirio didn’t want to draw the attention to her. Sir scoffed, fixing his glasses on his nose.

“Well, put on your costume, Lemillion, you have a patrol. Might be more eventful than usual, considering the delay. After that I need to talk to you.” Sir Nighteye instructed, and Mirio ran to change. He patrolled, like always, catching one purse snatcher and handing him over to the police, before wrapping up the patrol and going back to the agency.

“Oh good, you’re here. Have a seat.” Mirio walked comfortably into the office that was practically a shrine of everything All Might. Many might find it weird, considering Sir was All Might’s former sidekick, but Mirio knew how much all those trinkets meant to Sir during their time apart.

“So, how was your patrol?” Sir was typing on his computer, not looking at Mirio.

“Caught a purse snatcher. Can you believe it? All this trouble, to end up caught by a student who popped out of the ground.” Mirio made the rest of his report in the same casual tone, sprinkling a few jokes here and there, drawing small huffs of laughter from Sir Nighteye. Making Sir laugh was easier these days, since he had All Might back in his life. It wasn’t an easy task in any way, but Sir seemed more willing to laugh than he was in the beginning of Mirio’s internship.

“I need to talk to you about the sports festival.” Nighteye shut his computer. “I know All Might gave you this big speech about how you need to tell the world you’re there. And for the most part I completely agree with him. But I think I finally realised what bothered me with that statement.” He adjusted his glasses as Mirio waited expectantly. “You are not All Might. As much as you look like him and sometimes act like him, you are not him. Any attempt from you to be him or try to copy him will be misguided, and frankly quite insulting. To both of you. I have to admit, at first I thought if you as nothing but a worthy successor, but I learned very quickly that you are a strong and important person in your own right. So while All Might tells you to say “I am here”, I think it is more important to present yourself as a unique person. Your connection to All Might can open a lot of doors, but it will also leave you with the burden of comparison. And you cannot compare, nor will you ever be able to. Nostalgia and loyalty are stronger than any quirk.” The usually stren hero seemed noticeably softer, and Mirio smiled.

“Sir is more kind than I deserve. I will take your advice. Thank you so much.” Mirio smiled brightly, and Sir gave a tiny smile of his own.

“Go back home, Toogata. Take the rest of the week off to focus on your preparations.” He said, returning to the computer. As Mirio left the agency, he felt as light as one of Bubble Girl’s bubbles.

 

***

 

“Use it, Shouto!” Shouto felt sharp pain as his father’s flaming fist collided with his stomach. Early signs of hypothermia made him disoriented and slow. This session has been going on for too long, and even the proximity to Enji’s flames wasn’t enough to lift the chill that set deep in his bones, spreading from his right side to his entire body. He fell down, immediately scrambling to get up. Failing to get up meant a kick, and a kick meant another bruise to his growing collection from today’s session. Or worse, cracked ribs. He couldn’t afford cracked ribs in the middle of a session. He could go to Recovery Girl tomorrow, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was he would have to go the rest of the session with his ribs broken.

Shouto wanted to react, he wanted to say something, something sharp and clever like “No” or maybe “Fuck you”, but he couldn’t. His world narrowed down to biting cold and warm numbness and searing heat and a desperate attempt to block, dodge and attack. This far in, it was mainly blocking. It was all he could do not to get knocked to the ground.

“Don’t use fire. Don’t you dare. Don’t give that bastard the satisfaction.” He gritted his teeth as he sent another ice wave.

“Pathetic.” Enji sneered, as the glaciers became smaller and moved slower. Shouto was losing focus, losing ground, getting hit again and again and again. With one final blow, in the full force of the number two hero, Shouto was heaving on the ground. He made sure to swallow back his bile. Enji hated it when he threw up. Called him weak. Have been calling him that since he was five. He was about to order another round, Shouto knew, when the phone rang.

The change seemed physical. The man Todoroki Enji and the hero Endeavor were two very different people, and for the residents of the Todoroki household… Endeavor was the safer variation. Endeavor couldn’t hurt them. He wasn’t allowed to. He needed public opinion on his side. Enji needed no such thing.

“Yes? I’ll be on my way.” Endeavor shut the phone, turning to Shouto with a look of near-disgust.

“A case came up. We will practice more tomorrow.” He said in a voice so cold it didn’t seem to belong to the flaming giant who towered over him.

“Yes Father.” He responded, not wanting to risk angering him this time around. He couldn’t even summon the weakest defence at the moment. Endeavor, at least, looked about as pleased as he would get with that response, and left the house. As soon as Endeavor left, Fuyumi ran in and knelt next to him.

“Let’s get you warmed up.” She sighed, seeing the frost that creeped on his skin. She helped him stand up, cool fingers soothing skin irritated from fire and punches. He showered, got dressed, and went back to his room. Fuyumi was already there, with the practiced ease they developed lately, where he finished his training and she helped treat his wounds. She told him one night she used to help Touya with his burns too when they were young, and Shouto held into that scrap of information about the brother he was most close to growing up, and hardly had any memories of now.

Fuyumi iced his bruises (her ice was a lot less cold than his, so there was no real risk of frostbite), and treated the burns with patience Shouto knew was learned from their mother, and from years of trying to move around without being seen or heard. He let his mind drift off, feeling safe with his sister there. He knew she would warn him if He came. His thoughts wandered to the first time he made an actual connection with his older siblings since he got burned.

Teal eyes meeting teal eyes. Angry disbelief glaring down at quiet determination that struggled not to give way to fear.

It started with Natsuo. First year in high school, filled with so many emotions burning like a flame, so bright it was a surprise that he had their mother’s colouring. Shouto didn’t even remember what they were fighting about, but he remembered the screaming pulled him away from his studying. He walked quietly down the hall, knowing exactly where and how to step so he doesn’t make noise.

“Father, please!” He saw Fuyumi stepping between Natsuo and their father. Trying to calm him down like she always did. Fuyumi was so much like Mother, trying desperately to keep the peace in this hell as much as she could.

“Step away.” Enji looked bored, not even bothering to look at her. Because he knew Fuyumi was afraid of him. So very afraid. Shouto sometimes saw his older sister as a small mouse, sneaking around, so quiet and anxious it was easy to forget she was almost as tall as Father.

“No!” Fuyumi stood her ground, and Shouto’s heart beat fast. Natsuo and Enji both seemed about as shocked as him, only Enji’s shock turned to anger, and Fuyumi was the target. An eighteen years old girl facing the number two hero, and Shouto knew what was going to happen next. He saw it happen to his mother as he was heaving on the floor after a hard training session.

“Move away, you insufferable child!” Endeavor yelled, moving his hand for a backhand slap that would no doubt throw Fuyumi halfway across the room no matter how tall or strong she was. She yelped and stumbled backward, falling to the floor, but before the slap connected, a wall of ice grew between them.

The room fell silent except for the cracking of ice. Three pairs of shocked eyes, two children on the floor and an adult standing threateningly, looked to the source. Shouto was standing with his right leg forward, the ice creeping from it, panting heavily and glaring at his father with all the power his eleven years old self could summon.

“Don’t.” He hissed. It would’ve sounded ridiculous in the voice of a child, if not for the look in his eyes and the fact that he erected a wall of ice in the middle of the living room.

“What did you just say?” Enji growled in anger, taking a step toward his son. He probably expected Shouto to step back, to back up on his words and actions, maybe even beg for forgiveness. But Shouto suffered his father’s wrath for seven years now. He watched his mother take it for him too many times. He knew that pain, if he could make sure no one else felt it then by god he will do whatever it takes.

“I said don’t. Don’t touch her. Don’t touch any of them.” He maintained his glare as the flaming giant towered over him, standing firm in his resolve to protect the siblings he hardly knew. Enji evaporated the ice wall with a quick swipe of flame, then dragged Shouto by the shoulder to the dojo, for hours of beating disguised as training.
After the session, when Shouto was sitting in his room and getting ready to patch himself up, the door opened quietly. He tensed, even though he knew it wasn’t Enji. The man never bothered with quiet. He looked up, seeing Fuyumi there.

“Can I come in?” She asked, her voice small and soft. She was holding her own first aid kit. Shouto nodded quietly, and Fuyumi walked into his room. She sat on her knees in front of him.

“I can help you take care of those.” She said gently, looking calmer than Shouto ever saw her. But maybe that was just because he only saw her around their father.

“I can take care of them myself.” The hint at his incompetence set him on edge. Not being able to do something wasn’t something he was allowed. Was she suggesting he’s weak? Incapable? What was she saying?

“I know you can.” She assured him, spreading her hand forward. She had short fingers in relation to her palm. “But it doesn’t mean you have to. You’re allowed to get help from others, Shouto. I… I wish this life didn’t teach you that you can’t. And I’m sorry I didn’t teach you that myself. A-and… I’m sorry for not being able to protect you all these years. I can’t fight him… but the least I can do is be there and help take care of you after.” She said sadly, then looked up at him. Her eyes were determined, and for the first time since Touya disappeared, teal eyes didn’t only mean pain and anger, and towering height didn’t only mean a threat. Shouto nodded hesitantly, giving her his hand. Her small smile was bright and hopeful, so out of place in that house.

“Let’s be family, Shouto.” She whispered, looking in his eyes. He knew what to answer.

“I would love that, nee-san.”

“Shouto? Are you there?” Fuyumi’s joking tone was laced with worry. Sometimes he allowed his mind to escape for a little, and it wasn’t always good. He nodded.

“I’m fine, nee-san. Just thinking.” He said quietly. She hummed in agreement, bandaging his arm. They were quiet for a while, before Fuyumi spoke again.

“It’s been nine years, huh?” She mused, almost to herself but not quite, and Shouto knew exactly what she was talking about. Nine years since Touya disappeared. Shouto nodded, sitting back when Fuyumi was finished. She joined him on his futon, both of them leaning their backs on the wall.

“You know, he used to sneak into my room sometimes.” Shouto started, and Fuyumi looked at him. “When I was really young, and Father just started training me and isolating me. He would sneak in sometimes, reading me stories, or bringing me some chocolate. The ones with snowflakes on the wrapping paper.” Shouto wondered why he remembered these small cubes of chocolate so clearly, when so much else has been lost to time and trauma. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was a small moment of kindness in the middle of the brutal reality of his life.

That night, Shouto snuck out of the house. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last either. He sat on a park bench, spacing out under the street light. The rest of the place was dark and downtrodden, small pieces of nature gone wild integrated with carousels and swings that haven’t been tended to in years. So it took him a few moments to realise a stranger was sitting next to him. He looked around the same age as Shouto, freckles dotting his face and curly green hair pulled back in a ponytail. He was glancing at him every once in a while, smiling a little when he realised Shouto noticed him.

“Here, take this.” He reached out his closed hand. It wasn’t quite a fist, too slow and limp for that, and Shouto realised he was holding something. “Holy shit that probably sounds really fucking weird, I swear I’m not a drug dealer these are not drugs.” The stranger realised, laughing and blushing and rubbing the back of his neck.

“What is it?” Shouto asked, distrustful, as he reached his hand to take the mysterious object anyway.

“A small moment of kindness. A reminder that the world is horrible only most of the time. You look like you need it.” The stranger’s green eyes were soft and intense as he put the object in Shouto’s palm, closing his fingers around it with the other hand. When the stranger let go, Shouto stared at his hands for a few seconds, disbelieving. The scarred, calloused hands that were wrapped around his own felt warm and stable, sending shivers through Shouto’s spine. He raised his head to thank the stranger, only to find him gone. The only thing left to convince him that this encounter wasn’t some hallucination was the small object in his hand. He opened his fingers and looked down.
It was a small cube of chocolate, with delicate snowflakes drawn on the wrap.

 

***

 

Hitoshi didn’t actually plan to go challenge the hero course people. Hell, he didn’t even need to do it. There were two open spots, after all, since two students were pulled out of the school by their parents after the USJ attack. So why did Hitoshi decide to do that? Nobody knows.

“It’s cause you’re jealous.” Said a logical part of his brain.

“Shut up.” Yelled the rest in protest.

Hitoshi had to admit, they rubbed him the wrong way. None of them had to actually see any difficulty because of who they are. They didn’t have to claw their way in like he has to, like he will. A few of them, he knew, came from rich families, generations into the business of heroics. Their spots were practically guaranteed. Scratch that, their spots were literally guaranteed, since two got through recommendation, and the other one had his whole life to train professionally, aided by his entire family. And even those who didn’t come from families like this simply had the edge of a quirk that happened to suit the type of test U.A. insisted on. If the test was against people, Hitoshi knew he could’ve gotten in. He knew he could be a hero, but the system was rigged against him.

He had a plan though. He knew he would most likely not get into the hero course through the exam. But he did some digging, and it turned out that fifteen years ago, a student was transferred from Gen Ed to the Heroics department. He did so by fighting his way to the first place in the sports festival. And on top of that, that same student now taught heroics class 1-A. The class that just had two spots opened in. This was more perfect than he could’ve ever hoped.

So he started training. It wasn’t much, only what he could learn from videos and train on his own, between school and homework and his after-school job. That job wasn’t a life-and-death necessity, but Hitoshi was trying to save some money to get out of home the moment he graduates, or for the just as likely chance of his parents kicking him out.

He got to the small grocery store he worked in, put on his nametag and work uniform, and started organising boxes. His job was a boring one, but that was okay. Once he finished with the boxes, he may be able to do his homework. He took a later than usual shift, because he had to stay later at school for a project. Around the middle of his shift, a guy walked in. He looked really shady, so Hitoshi decided to pay attention to him.

He was fairly tall, thin man, with dark green spikey hair and a lot of piercings. The worst thing about him was the scars. They covered so much of his skin his original skin tone between the wrinkly, scarred, purple patches. He walked around the store, picking stuff out and checking the price tag. He moved his fingers, probably trying to calculate what he can afford. In the end he took some rice, beans, and cheap toothpaste. He hesitated a little before picking up a few cubes of chocolate.

“Could you give me a pack of the cheapest cigarettes you have?” He asked, putting his stuff on the counter for check-out. Hitoshi scanned it all, adding the cigarettes, and giving him the total. The man started searching for his money.

“First time working this shift? I never saw you around.” He asked. Weird. Most customers, especially the shady kind, didn’t try to start small talk. But Hitoshi loved talking, and didn’t get much chance to at home since his parents were afraid of his quirk, so he took the opportunity.

“Yeah, I usually take an earlier shift. Do you usually come here around this time?” He asked, taking the money the guy gave him and returning the change. To Hitoshi’s relief, the guy didn’t seem like he was in a hurry to leave.

“Yeah. It’s this time, or around dawn. When I finish a shift. I saw you keeping an eye on me. Hey, not blaming you here, I know I look shady.” He shrugged, and Hitoshi looked down, running his fingers through his spikey hair.

“Sorry about that. I should know better than doing this kind of shit. How about we start over? I’m Shinsou.” He looked up, reaching his hand for a handshake. The man smiled warmly, his blue eyes practically glowing.

“Call me Dabi. Nice to meet you.” He shook his hand, smiling. They talked for a little while, about school and about life in general, before Dabi said he has to go home. When his co-werker came in, Shinsou asked him about Dabi.

“Oh, he’s a real mysterious guy. Good man though. He’s been getting better lately.” Ashikaga smiled. Hitoshi looked at the thirty years old man, confused.

“Better?” He asked curiously.

“He was a street kid since he was twelve. Used to steal premade lunches when he thought no one saw. But whenever he made some extra money, we’d find the price of the food in the cash register. He was pretty depressed and jumpy, and I don’t think he had a lot of human connection back then. About a year ago though, he started getting much better. Got happier, started talking a bit more… I heard he adopted another street kid as his little brother. Good for them, I say. And lately he said they got a second job that pays really well, so he doesn’t even try to steal anymore. He leaves people extra cash when he can, or buys stuff for some of the other customers. He had practically nothing, and now that he has some more, he’s trying to give a little to others.” Ashikaga told the story, and Hitoshi started feeling a little less bitter. If this guy got out of the gutters, Hitoshi can find a place too. It was a pretty shitty thing, he knew, to ride on someone’s life story to inspire himself, but Hitoshi didn’t have much in the way of role models or inspiration, and the cool guy who was nice even after being treated like shit for years was as good as any.

When his shift was over, he walked out to the alley, to where he left two small bowls. He filled one with water, and one with cat food, and soon cats started coming over. They knew Hitoshi already, knew he left them food and water and treated them kindly. He wrote a reminder to himself that day. Wrote it on his hand with a pen, wrote it in his phone and in his notebook and in a small piece of paper folded into the pocket of his uniform.

“Be kind.”

Chapter Text

“Come on, put your back into it!” Tensei laughed, holding the punching bag. Tenya was almost as tall as him, and about as broad, but most of his strength was focused in his legs, just like Tensei’s was in his arms.

“I’m trying, nii-san!” Tenya called, giving a stronger hit. Tensei braced himself, pushing forward to counter the hit.

“Alright, time to switch to legs. How long can you maintain your Respiro Burst?” Tensei leaned back, watching Tenya gulp orange juice in preparation to work his engines. Tensei adored his little brother. Ever since Tenya was born, he filled Tensei’s world. Becoming a big brother at fifteen was a weird experience, but it was amazing. Up until then, he was an only child, the one maintaining the family legacy, all the responsibility on his unwilling shoulders and too much emptiness in the big house with only two aging parents. Having Tenya there helped the usually laid back Tensei embrace the responsibility. This baby, so small and helpless the first time his parents allowed him to hold him, was his responsibility. And as the years passed, and Tenya grew, he became even more. Tensei had to become a role model, someone his little brother could look up to with pride.

“Ten seconds before my engines need to cool down. I can push for a bit longer if I really try, but…” Tenya’s face twisted at the thought of the remains of the healing blisters around his exhaust pipes. Tensei’s face scrunched in sympathy. He burned his hands the same way when he was a bit younger.

“No need to push more than that in the Festival. It’s just a school festival, not a life or death situation. The results are important, but don’t get yourself seriously hurt if you don’t need to.” Tensei smiled, taking a can of orange juice and drinking it quickly as Tenya nodded eagerly. They both stretched, preparing to race like they did so many times before. Tenya was young and unscathed, never had to suffer the grinding pressure of hero work, but Tensei had years of practice. When Tenya was younger there was not much question about who would win their races. But now? Now it was a tense chase, where even small distractions could change the results.

They went full speed. Tensei had access to his full speed from the beginning, because of the way his engines were built, while Tenya needed time to change gears and build up speed. When he did that though, his consistent speed was better suited for those types of races than Tensei’s bursts.

“Remember to turn, baby bro!” Tensei called out as Tenya passed him before the curve in the road. It was an inside joke, about how as a child Tenya had a difficulty in turning while using his quirk, and often hit trees and walls.

“Nii-san, this is not the ti-!“ Tenya’s lecture was cut by the need for a sharp turn, pulled off successfully before he hit a tree. The delay allowed a laughing Tensei to pass him quickly, winning him the match. Both of them barely paid any attention to time, so it wasn’t surprising that the sun was low and orange by the time they finished.

“Nii-san, do you really need to pull such dirty tricks in our races?” Tenya’s head hung low in tiredness and defeat, as Tensei handed him a bottle of water and a can of juice. The older man smiled, sitting down next to his little brother and ruffling his hair.

“It’s to keep you vigilant. You can’t let yourself get distracted like that in a real chase, right? Especially not to try and lecture a villain about the proper etiquette of being chased.” He allowed the fondness in his voice to show, hardly containing it. He didn’t want to. His was proud of Tenya. Admired him. That kid was everything Tensei never was. He was strict where Tensei was laid back, responsible where he preferred goofing around. They both had something the other lacked, and both looked up to each other. As Tenya sent him a sceptical look concerning his last comment, Tensei laughed.

“It’s true, Tenya. Better not start lecturing the villains until after they’re captured. Besides,” Tensei looked at his brother proudly, “you’ve been getting pretty good. And I really mean it. It’s getting harder and harder to actually beat you. You’re going to be a way better hero than me.” He ruffled Tenya’s hair again. The kid looked shocked, a determined smile spreading on his face.

“Boys, go wash up! Your father almost finished cooking!” Tensei heard his mother calling from the door.

“We’re coming!” He answered, getting up and offering his brother a hand.
They walked home, going upstairs to wash (after a stern “no quirks inside the house” reminder from their mother as Tensei tried to rocket up the stair. It was part of the routine since he was younger, so ingrained that their mother seemed to have a hard time suppressing her smile as they left). When they came back down, the food was ready, and their father informed them it’s their turn to wash the dishes. They all sat together to eat, Tenya and Tensei hardly remembering their manners as they started devouring the food.

“This is no way to eat, boys.” Their mother chided them, earning a head shake from their father. “Something to say, Tenrou?” She asked sweetly, dangerous.

“Mariko… Mari… let them have their fun… they’ve been working hard, and Tensei has to leave for that case in Hosu first thing tomorrow morning, right?” Tenrou smiled fondly at his wife and sons, and Mariko gave in and smiled back. They continued eating.

“By the way, how is Shouta doing? He refused to tell us anything when we asked, as usual.” Tenrou spoke worriedly. Tensei knew that to his parents, Shouta was like another child. So were Nemuri and Hizashi. Of course Shouta wouldn’t want them to worry. He always tried to keep his family away from hero work. All of his families. Well, except for those who were heroes themselves, and even then he didn’t see a point in making others worry.

“He’s healing well. Hizashi says his quirk still works, even if it takes some more effort and he can’t last as long as he did. But that might be a matter of needing to practice it again. Like physical therapy, but for his quirk. His hands are still in casts, and he’s still covered in bandages. Recovery Girl wouldn’t let him take them off.” Tensei informed his family as they ate, and Tenya nodded.

“I heard her yelling at him between classes. I know it’s awfully rude to eavesdrop on conversations that weren’t meant for you, but it was hard not to overhear them when Recovery Girl was losing her temper about him trying to go on patrol before he’s fully healed. She had Hizashi forcibly drag him home. One of the Management course classes had a break instead of an English lesson.” He added on the story. Everyone sighed in unison. That was very much like Shouta.

“Well, god bless Recovery Girl. We should send her a gift. How about some chocolate?” Tenrou asked, looking at his wife. She shook her head grimly.

“Add a bottle of liquor with that. From what I heard, All Might somehow became a thorn in her side too, according to Hizashi. Besides, with the way things are going now… she’s going to have a long year.” Everyone’s mood darkened slightly, thinking about the last attack, and the rise in criminal activities, and the mysterious Hero Killer Tensei was leaving to chase in the morning.

“Please stay safe, both of you. Especially you, Tensei. Come back home safely.” Tenrou said, putting a hand on Tensei’s shoulder, as Tensei nodded grimly.

That morning, Tensei left on the train. Before he left, he hugged his parents, and wished his little brother good luck on the Sports Festival that day. As he was running through the alleys in Hosu, he pushed the thought away. He couldn’t afford to be distracted. Besides, he’ll come home today. He will capture the Hero Killer and be back home to congratulate Tenya for whatever place he got in the Festival. He would hear all about his day, and his classmates, and they will all laugh and cheer on him. Yes, this is what would happen.

As he was lying on the ground, his legs not obeying his command and his sidekicks’ voices in his earpiece, he thought about his family.

“I should’ve hugged them harder.” He thought, hearing screams getting closer.

“I should’ve told them I love them.” He could hear footsteps now, and the voices became more urgent. He felt so heavy, and the world was going darker and blurrier. Before he swam into unconsciousness, he thought one last thing.

“I’m sorry, Tenya…”

 

***

 

“ALLLLLLL RIIIIIIIGHT!!!!” Hizashi called into the microphone in excitement. “We will come back to you after a short break for the final showdown!!!! Todoroki versus Tokoyami!!!!!” He turned off the microphone (as any professional knows to do once they finish their performance), and turned to face Shouta, who was still injured and wrapped up. He refused to take his painkillers that day, wanting his mind to be fully clear so he can commentate properly (as if being in pain wouldn’t hinder his ability to think clearly. But Shouta was stubborn, and once he decided something nothing could change that), so now he was clearly gritting his teeth against the pain. He seemed to also be deep in thought.

“Something on your mind, Shouta?” Hizashi asked softly, laying a gentle hand on Shouta’s leg. Usually he would touch his arm, but with his arms being in casts, and the memory of them snapped still too fresh in Shouta’s mind, it was probably not a good idea. Especially not when he wasn’t focused.

“That Shinsou kid. I’d like to see more of him. It’s a shame he was paired up against Todoroki for his first match.” Shouta looked at Shinsou’s file on the table, thinking. “He has an interesting quirk, and a lot of drive, it seems. I might reach out to him later, see what he has to offer.” He turned to Hizashi.

“You’re going to help him get a transfer?” Hizashi smiled at the determination in Shouta’s tone, if not in his words. Shouta felt for that boy, Hizashi knew. After all, Shouta himself took the same path. He wasn’t accepted through the entrance exam, so he took it to the Sports Festival. The difference was, Shouta won. His quirk wasn’t conditioned by his rival’s actions (at least not in an open arena), and he was training physically for quite some time. Shinsou was inexperienced and the conditions of his quirk were limiting, especially when faced with Todoroki’s ice wall, both the physical and the emotional one. Before Shouta could answer, however, his phone started ringing.

“Mind getting that for me?” He asked, and Hizashi reached for his pocket. He frowned when he saw it was Mariko. Why would Tensei’s mum call Shouta in the middle of the Festival? Then again, she was also Tenya’s mum. Maybe it was about him.

“Hi Mariko, is everything okay?” He asked as he answered, trading a glance with Shouta, who was just as confused as Hizashi.

“Hizashi, is Shouta there with you?” She asked, choking back tears. Hizashi’s frown deepened.

“Yeah, he's right here. He can’t really get his phone out of his pocket with those casts. Are you okay? What happened?” His voice was soft and worried. What could possibly happen to make the strong-willed Mariko break like that?

“I’ll need you two to let Tenya go. Now. He’ll be coming to you to ask. Tensei… he got hurt. The Hero Killer got him.” Mariko sobbed, shading the horrible light on the mystery. Hizashi paled, and he could see Shouta’s eyes focused on him, worried.

“Of course we will. We’ll come as soon as we can too, I promise. How… how is he?” Hizashi asked gently. Shouta’s eyes widened, seeming to understand what the conversation was about.

“He’s in the ICU. We… we don’t know much. Don’t rush here immediately, okay? You have a responsibility for your students, after all. We… we will update you. Just… we will talk later. I have to go.” She finished before hanging up.

“Tensei…?” Shouta asked, as if hoping that Hizashi could give him a different answer. One that didn’t involve their friend hospitalised after being attacked by a serial killer.

“He’s in the ICU. They don’t know much yet, but Mariko already called Tenya and we’ll need to let him out early. She said he’ll be coming to us soon.” Hizashi said quietly, and Shouta nodded. They heard a knock on the door, before it was pulled open. Tenya’s eyes were red and puffy, completely understandable in the situation. Before he could say anything though, Shouta spoke.

“Go, Tenya.” He said, his voice soft. This wasn’t his teacher voice. That was the voice he used to calm a five years old Tenya after he hit a tree because he couldn’t turn yet.

“T-thank you, sir, I-“ Shouta stopped him, getting up.

“No sir, and no thanking me. There are times when we’re your teachers and this isn’t one of them.” He awkwardly placed his casted arm on Tenya’s shoulder for a moment.

“Go to your brother. We’ll go there as soon as your classmates leave school. Nemuri will probably be coming too.” Shouta took a deep breath. “I’m not going to tell you he will definitely be okay. It would be an ugly lie. But I am going to tell you that your brother is a stubborn bastard with more fighting spirit than most people, and he will do his absolute best to make it, just for you. Now go.” Shouta’s voice was calm and quiet. It was something Tenya needed. The boy leaned his head on Shouta’s shoulder, just for a few second, then whispered another “thank you” and left.

Shouta and Hizashi turned to each other. They immediately knew, without being asked the pain the other feels. Hizashi got up, and Shouta walked closer to him. Hizashi pulled Shouta closer, and Shouta did his best to put his arms around Hizashi despite the ridiculous position of his casted arms.

“You said it best, right? Tensei is stubborn. He’ll make it, just for Tenya. You know him.” Hizashi tried to lighten the mood, cheer both of them up. It was an instinct for him, burying everything and trying to make everyone feel better.

“We have ten minutes before you have to be Present Mic again.” Shouta said quietly, and with those short words he said so much more. Those words meant “you’re allowed to feel sad and express it”. They meant “there’s no need for masks. Not with me”. They meant “we’re safe”. And that was enough for Hizashi to hold into Shouta, take a deep, shaky breath, and close his eyes.

“I’m afraid. Tensei is strong, but… what if he’s not strong enough?” Hizashi whispered. Friends dying was always a big fear for any hero. Two of their classmates were already dead, one within three months of graduation and one dying just three years back. Another one was forced into an early retirement after losing both hands in a fight. And Tensei was their friend. A close friend. Family even. Tensei was Shouta’s best man. He opened his home to them. He was the friend you went to if you wanted advice and help, and he was also the one you went to if you wanted to prank someone and needed a partner in crime. Losing Tensei was… unimaginable.

“I know. I hope he is strong enough. He doesn’t deserve to die like this. Life isn’t fair, I know, but just this once I want it to be. I want life to be fair so Tensei can stay alive like he deserves.” Shouta admitted quietly. He wasn’t one for great hopes or wishing the world would be more fair. He abandoned those things a long time ago, as the years hardened him, showing him the truth of the world. Or so he claimed, at least. Shouta, openly admitting he hopes for something unattainable that he can’t control, wishing for something he knows can’t be achieved… it was almost heartbreaking.

When the ten minutes passed, Shouta and Hizashi sat back in their place. They glanced at each other before Hizashi took a deep breath, wiped his eyes one more time, and turned on the microphone.

AAAAAAND WE’RE BACK!!!! Thank you for the waiting folks, and now, for our final showdown!!! TODOROKI versus TOKOYAMI!!!!! BEGIN!

 

***

 

“So, who are you betting on? They both look really strong.” Tsubaki asked Izuku during the break. Izuku has been mumbling to himself the whole time, writing in his notebook.

“That depends. Based on what happened so far, I think Tokoyami will win. But…” he hesitated for a moment. “Todoroki didn’t use his fire so far. At all. If he does, he will win. No question. Tokoyami’s quirk is amazing, but I noticed, during the cavalry battle event, that it’s sensitive to light. If Todoroki uses his fire quirk, Tokoyami loses his long distance advantage, and loses at that moment. If he doesn’t though… I think Tokoyami’s Dark Shadow can take on his ice.” Izuku was deep in thought. Something wasn’t right with Todoroki. Izuku noticed it since the first one on one match. No, he noticed it earlier, in a chance meeting on a park bench.

“He won’t use his fire.” Touya said, in a voice that was so final no one bothered asking him what made him say that or how he knew. Izuku just accepted it as a fact, they way he did a lot of the cryptic things his brother said.

“Then he’s going to lose. His ice has been getting weaker between rounds. He’s tiring himself out with these huge ice walls, and I’m pretty sure he’s also freezing himself. Okay, break’s over!” Izuku got ready again with his pen and notebook. Eraserhead has him analyse whatever he can from the Festival, wanting him to practice his perception and analysis skills.

AAAAAAND WE’RE BACK!!!! Thank you for the waiting folks, and now, for our final showdown!!! TODOROKI versus TOKOYAMI!!!!! BEGIN! Present Mic’s voice echoed, ringing loud and clear through the speakers. It was very distinctly Present Mic and very distinctly not Yamada Hizashi. Izuku learned to know the two are extremely different.

The match began with crawling ice. The moment the word came out of Present Mic, Todoroki was in action. But, just like Izuku predicted, it was slow and weaker. Dark Shadow shattered it with no effort.
Every move Todoroki made from a distance was countered easily. When he tried to get closer, Dark Shadow shoves him away, almost pushing him out of the ring. Frost was feeling over his right side, making his movements slower and his breathes heavier. It was clear that he was getting tired. The cameras panned to Endeavor for a second, showing him scoffing at his son’s difficulty. Izuku didn’t like that look. When the cameras returned to the fight, Tokoyami was in his fighting stance, and so was Todoroki, but… something seemed wrong. As the two-toned boy charged one last time, he fell to the ground, unable to get up. Eraserhead explained, from his place as the commentator, that he most likely lowered his temperature so much his body couldn’t take it. In the background, Touya shook his head sadly. Izuku was frowning, and Tsubaki just looked at him wondering how much empathy is too much empathy.

The next day, things were just getting worse. On the news, they saw an article about the Hero Killer claiming the hero Ingenium as the latest victim of his murder and mutilation spree. The hero was, luckily enough, still alive, but according to his sidekicks the injuries were grave. Pictures of the alleyway covered in blood filled the news sites and newspapers, along with pictures of Ingenium. The internet was full of video scraps of the Hero Killer, and some even admired the man. Izuku noticed, with worry, that Touya took a liking to the man’s ideals.

“Touya, you can’t be serious! He’s a murderer!” Izuku argued, sitting with his brother. He was shocked, and slightly appalled.

“Hey, I’m not saying I completely agree with him, but maybe he has a point. Hell, he has a point, period. Heroes are full of shit, Izuku. They’re greedy and corrupt and the system is broken. Maybe weeding them out isn’t so bad.” He said defensively. Izuku could practically see the dark thoughts swarming his mind.

“Yeah, things need to change, but murdering people isn’t the answer!” Izuku protested.

“What if it is, Izuku? What if this is the only way to make a change?” Touya pushed, looking at his little brother and willing him to understand.

“There are good heroes, Touya! Would you be okay if he murdered Eraserhead?” Izuku asked, invoking the hero Touya learned to eventually trust and respect in the hope that it would stir something.

“He wouldn’t.” Touya maintained his conviction. “Eraserhead doesn’t look for fame or compensation. He just does his job because he wants to help people. He’s a true hero. And so will you be, so don’t try to guilt me by asking what if he kills you.” Izuku was getting angrier and more afraid by the second.

“What about Yamada? He’s working three jobs and barely sleeping, but he still took the time to help me out. He genuinely wants to help people. But Stain would murder him without thinking twice, just because he’s famous. And you know that. Touya, I just… I can’t understand how you’d fall for something like that! Yes, things are broken and need changing. I know that. But Stain is wrong. He’s just a bloodthirsty murderer. I can’t see how you, one of the most caring people I know, can’t see that.” He was pale and quiet now, tears in his eyes. He’d never tell Touya that, but he was afraid of him at that moment.

Not that he needed to say anything. The way he looked, his stance, it was extremely clear to Touya that Izuku was terrified. He reached out a hand to Izuku, gentle and hesitant, hoping that Izuku won’t flinch away from his touch.

“Izuku, I… I’ll think about what you said. It’s… you make sense, but… things are confusing for me right now. This world… it’s a lot darker than you know. It’s darker than you saw, darker than I’d ever want you to see. So I don’t… I don’t know if things can change any other way. I don’t always believe they can change at all. But… I’d never want you to be afraid of me, okay? Please… I’m sorry. I’ll think about what you said.” He said softly, feeling relieved when Izuku walked closer, pulling him into a hug. He gently wrapped his arms around his little brother, pain and fear and darkness swirling away at the simple touch, simple connection. They were not alone. Touya wasn’t trapped in his father’s home under the shadow of the corrupt number two hero. He was safe.

A few days later, Touya brought the subject up again.

“You know… I think you were right. About the Hero Killer.” He said quietly, putting his food down. Izuku did too, looking at him.

“What made you change your mind?” He eventually asked, hesitant. He didn’t know what he was supposed to say, but he was relieved Touya thought about what he had to say.

“Well… I knew Ingenium as a kid, you know? He… He was a really cool guy. The old bastard dragged me places like I’m some kind of trophy he can brag about, but… Iida was always pretty nice. Tried to talk to me and get me to have fun. He talked about how he wants to be a hero to help people, and how he thinks people who help others are the best. I don’t think he’s a bad person. I don’t think he deserved this, and… well… while I can’t say I never thought about killing the old bastard… I don’t enjoy thinking about other people dying. Lots of them have families. People who love them. People waiting for them to come home.” Touya said sadly, looking at Izuku. In reality, it wasn’t just Iida Tensei he was thinking about. It was Izuku. Despite what he said, Touya couldn’t stop thinking what he would do if Izuku was hurt like that by the hero killer. Wondered if this is what Iida’s little brother was feeling at the moment. Wondered if they deserved it. He got to the conclusion that no, they didn’t. Izuku smiled at Touya, relieved.

“You’re not losing me to any villain ideology any time soon, okay? Just… be careful with your vigilante work. Not everyone has someone like you to remind them what really matters, and times are getting dangerous.” Touya asked, worried.

“Okay, I promise, I’ll be careful.” He agreed, rubbing the back of his neck.

For some reason, it didn’t calm Touya up at all.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi was so frustrated. All his hard work, all his dreams… gone. It’s all gone now. He was sulking behind the counter, hoping that no customer would show up. But of course, someone walked in. He sighed, getting up and getting ready to put on his customer service face (just a blank face instead of his current angry and heartbroken expression), when he saw who it was and sank back into the chair.

“Hi Dabi.” He greeted, the corner of his mouth stretching, just a little. Dabi gave him one glance before moving near the counter. He was that kind of guy. Of course he would come over instead of just going on with getting whatever he came there for.

“Hey. Saw you on the tv. You did a good job, all things considered.” Dabi’s words only made Hitoshi roll his eyes.

“I’m serious. It’s just your rotten luck that the first person they put you against is a kid who’s been trained his whole life for this. I saw you in the first two events, and you were doing pretty well.” Hitoshi looked defeated, closing his eyes.

“There’s no chance in the world that I’m ever going to get in the hero course now. I didn’t get any chance to show what I’m actually worth. I can’t… it was my dream since I was a little kid. Become a hero and show them that I’m better than what they think I am. That I’m not some villain just because of my quirk.” He said quietly, miserable. Before he realised it, Dabi was behind the counter, sitting next to him and putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Whether or not you become a hero doesn’t say shit about being a villain, okay? You’re not a villain, no matter what those assholes out there say.” His voice was kind and warm, making the piece of paper in Hitoshi’s pocket feel heavy and warm, just a reminder that it’s there.

“Thanks.” Hitoshi smiled at him weakly. “Really. I mean it. But… I still want to be a hero. I don’t know what to do now.” His voice was miserable, but he was glad for Dabi’s company. When did that happen? When did the scarred man who came to his workplace become such a big presence in his life? And a comforting one at that.

“Don’t lose hope, okay? Eraserhead was watching, and I have to admit, the man has an eye for potential. He comes to the bar I work in during his patrols, and he knows his stuff. I bet he noticed you.” Dabi said encouragingly, and Hitoshi looked up.

“You really think that he noticed me? I… I was aiming to impress him. He’s the last person who transferred into the hero course, and I was hoping he might be able to help me get in too.” He explained. Maybe there was hope for him after all? It sounded a bit too good to be true, but he had to be hopeful.

“I could snoop around for you, if you want. Tell me how it goes.” Dabi smiled, resting a hand on Hitoshi’s shoulder shortly, before walking away from the counter and into the shop to get what he needed. Hitoshi was amazed that he thought about this guy like somewhat of an ally. Or a brother. When he asked his older coworker about this, he only laughed.

“Yeah, that’s how it is around here. The more time you spend on the street, the more people you’ll find would take you in with open arms. That’s how Dabi got that little brother of his. Good kids, both of them. A little bit of kindness goes a long way here. You’re not going to regret being friends with that boy.” The man took another drag of his cigarette, then started coughing. “Sorry kid, I really should get rid of this rotten habit. Drains my wallet dry and makes me cough out a lung.” He laughed, crushing the cigarette with his heel and throwing it away. Hitoshi shook his head, knowing quite well that the man isn’t going to stop any time soon (after all, he said the exact same thing every time for the past few months), and left, as usual, with some cat food and water. He filled the plates in the alley, then sat on the ground with the cats.

“Good to see someone else feeding them too. I have a few spots like this around the city, but I can’t get everywhere.” Hitoshi jumped when he heard the dry voice, turning around to see Eraserhead, on the ground, playing with a cat.

“Sit down slowly, you’ll frighten them.” He said, not even looking at Hitoshi. He nodded, sitting down and going back to paying attention to the cats who rubbed on him. He didn’t know what to say, so he stayed quiet. It took a few minutes before Eraserhead started talking again.

“It’s a shame you were paired with Todoroki on the first round of the finals. I really did want to see what you have to bring to the table.” He said quietly, and Hitoshi looked at him. He was out of the bandages already, a new scar under his eye, and he was dangling a bit of his capture weapon at the cats.

“It is what it is.” Hitoshi shrugged, answered with a raised eyebrow from Eraserhead.

“I didn’t take you for the defeatist. I thought you wanted to be a hero.” He said, and something rose in Hitoshi. Something ugly and angry.

“Of course I want to be a hero, but why does it matter? I didn’t get the chance to show what I have. I didn’t even get a word out of my mouth before he froze me in a goddamn iceberg. I don’t… I don’t know what to do anymore. I know it sounds whiny and stupid but the system is rigged and I don’t know how to fight against it.” Hitoshi’s face twisted in anger and frustration, and the cats were staring at him. He didn’t yell, but he did raise his voice. It was silent for a while, before Eraserhead spoke again.

“The system is rigged. It’s rigged against people like us. It’s rigged against other people too. It’s rigged against anyone who isn’t society’s ideal, flashy hero. It’s unfair, but then again, the entire world is unfair. Did you have a plan?” He asked, calm. It was… strangely validating, to hear the hero he admired agreeing with his complaint. And when he said “people like us”, Hitoshi became almost giddy.

“I planned to… to get as far as I can in the Sports Festival. I wanted to show you what I can do, show everyone what I can do, then apply for a transfer. But… I was eliminated in the first round of the finals. I never got to show what I can do. Is there… is there still a way in for me?” He asked, looking at Eraserhead. The hero didn’t look at him, still playing with the cats around them.

“Yes. It will be unusual, and you will have to work ten times harder than most people who get in. I will personally train you. If you aren’t up to my expectations, I will cut you loose. I don’t waste time, and I don’t let unattainable dreams drag longer than necessary. So what do you say?” Hitoshi’s mouth gaped in shock.

“Thank you, Eraserhead. Thank you so much.” He bowed his head, looking down. Eraserhead’s expression, hard to read even on the best of days, was practically impossible to understand.

“I will be leaving the city soon. I will return in a little over a week. In two weeks we will have your first lesson, and you will meet my other outside student, who will help guide you. I will see you then.” Eraserhead got up, walking out of the alley and leaving a shocked Hitoshi alone in the street, with more questions than answers.

 

***

 

Unlike Shouta with his obsessive (yet understandable) worry for his students, and Hizashi with his three regular jobs, Nemuri could afford to take a few days off. Shouta and Hizashi got to visit Tensei on the two days break the kids got after the Sports Festival, But Nemuri had too much to do in school. She would’ve dropped it all off too, if not for Tenrou’s insistence that Tensei was barely conscious anyway, and she shouldn’t get in trouble with her work just to sit near the ICU and do nothing. She could never say no to him. He was more of a father to her than her own father, with his caring attitude and constant laughter. He wasn’t laughing now. He tried, but it sounded… wrong.

That’s how Nemuri found herself on the train to Hosu, alone. She was glad for her relative anonymity, not in that she wasn’t famous, but in that no one would recognise Kayama Nemuri, who wears a white sweater and jeans, with her hair in a ponytail and her glasses on, as Midnight, the 18+ hero, with her dominatrix outfit and her red mask. Hizashi and her were the same that way. While Shouta was practically inseparable from Eraserhead, and Tensei was recognisable as Ingenium whether he was in costume or not, Nemuri and Hizashi crafted their alter egos carefully, leaving enough of them in for the mask to be natural and comfortable, but not enough for it to be them. The moment they were out of costume (which includes the mannerisms, poses and voices), even their students had trouble recognising them.

She mused these thoughts instead of thinking about one of her best friends, paralysed from the waist down. Tensei relied on mobility. He relied on speed. This… only weeks ago they were afraid of Shouta losing his sight, and now the hit fell on them from a different place entirely. She made a decision to not fuss about it. Knowing Tensei’s parents, they were worried enough for all of them. Tenya, too, must’ve been terrified and upset. Tensei didn’t need the pressure of everyone pitying him on his head right now. What he could use, however, was a friendly distraction. Just something to take his mind off things.

“You look like shit.” Nemuri said affectionately as she sat next to Tensei. He laughed tiredly, using his arm to push himself up.

“Feel like shit, honestly. Can’t even sit up myself.” His voice was grim. Nemuri sighed, putting a hand on his head, and spread in the chair.

“You would not believe the day I had today.” She started, and Tensei looked a bit confused. Nemuri suppressed a smile. He was expecting pity. Well, he wasn’t going to get any. She wasn’t going to contribute to his spiral of dark thoughts, fed by people tip-toeing around him like he was made of glass. He had a worse expression than Shouta in his worse days, which was honestly understandable, but wallowing in how useless he feels now wouldn’t help him. He was still their Tensei, and he seemed to need a reminder. She handed him the remote to move the bed up.

Then she told him about her day. She talked about the students (“can you believe Todoroki just went with his given name?”), she talked about her colleagues (“Nezu tried to play his mind games with Ecto, it was the funniest thing!”), and she talked about hero work (“man it’s been a while since I had a partner as good as Hawks on a takedown”). Slowly but surely, the conversation became less one-sided. Tensei added his own opinions, teased her, and started telling stories of his own, that he heard from his sidekicks who came to visit. He was looking better now.

“Oh, Hizashi’s show should be on! He told me to put it on for you. Seems like he has a surprise for you on this one.” Nemuri smile slyly. Of course she knew what the surprise was. Hizashi didn’t keep secrets from her (or at least, not many). But she preferred to let Tensei stew in speculations, which he seemed to be doing if the cringe on his face was any indication at all. She laughed and turned on the station on her phone.

At first, the show went as usual. Present Mic was excitable and funny, loud and charming. He yelled and sang and answered phone calls with the same enthusiasm he did ten years ago, when he just got on air for the first time. And then…

“Well, dear listeners, I have an announcement to make.” His voice turned more serious than usual, but never losing its lighthearted happiness.

“You see, I have that friend, who is currently recovering from a serious injury. So from today, until he’s out of the hospital, every show would feature a special song dedicated to him. I hope you’re listening, pal, because you’re going to LOVE this song!” He laughed, and the laughter was Hizashi’s, not Present Mic’s. As soon as the song started, Tensei paled.

“No.” He said quietly, and Nemuri couldn’t stop laughing. “He didn’t just put that song on his show.” He looked at Nemuri for sympathy, and got only wicked laughter. It was an old pop song Tensei secretly listened to when they were in high school. Nemuri couldn’t help herself when she saw Tensei’s expression. Her careful chuckles became full snort-laughter, the laughter only her close friend and family would ever be allowed to catch her in.

“You should see your face!” She wheezed, and Tensei made sure to wear his most offended face.

“I’m injured! You should be on my side!” He called out, trying to sit straighter but wincing in pain.

“You okay, Tensei?” Nemuri asked softly, putting a hand on his shoulder and helping him settle back. He nodded, and his eyes looked full of tears. Okay, now was time to talk, not distract. She lowered the volume on the phone, leaving the song on as a background noise.

“I can’t feel my legs, Nem. I just… I’m terrified. My whole life, and I mean my entire fucking life, I was meant to be a hero. That’s my legacy. That’s not just what I do that’s who I am. There’s no Iida Tensei without heroics. It’s even in my name, I got my name to inherit the goddamn hero agency properly. Who am I if I’m not Ingenium?” Tensei asked, hands gripping the blanket on his legs and hitting them weakly, trying to get any feeling at all.

“You’re Iida Tensei. A great friend. A great big brother. You’re the one person in the world who managed to teach Shouta math. You’re the friend we turn to when we need someone stable, but also the first one we look for when we want to go crazy. You love shitty Korean dramas and kitschy pop songs and you’re a lightweight drinker. You always try to use your quirk around the house and your mum still lectures you about it, even though you’re thirty and she should probably stop. You cheat when you race against your little brother cause you don’t want to lose to him. Tensei, you’re more than Ingenium.” Nemuri spoke softly, putting a hand on her friend’s balled fist. He looked up at her, tears in his eyes.

“I don’t feel like someone very stable right now, Nem.” He admitted in a whisper, scared. Nemuri moved to sit on the bed next to him, and he pushed himself a little to give her place. She then pulled him into a hug, one hand on his back and another one in his hair, and pressed her lips to his forehead. It was a simple comfort, not anything romantic. Nemuri was always close to her friends, always affectionate and physically intimate. It was who she was, and at that moment it was who Tensei needed.

“You don’t have to be. We can be stable for you this time.” Nemuri whispered, holding her friend close. Screw the world. Screw what people would think. He was her friend, and he needed comfort and help. They stayed hugged until they were told visitation times were over, and Nemuri was forced to leave.

 

***

 

Touya was finishing his shift, when he heard someone clearing their throat behind him. He turned around quickly, seeing Eraserhead.

“Good to see you out of those bandages. Itchy as hell, aren’t they?” He asked, leaning back on the counter. Eraserhead became someone Touya tolerated. Trusted even. He was a hero, but he wasn’t that kind of hero. And he cared about Izuku. Absurdly so.

“Definitely. There’s something I need to talk to you about.” He said, his expression serious. Touya sighed, walking out with him.

“Straight to the point as always, right, Eraserhead? What is it?” He asked as they walked through the streets. Most of Eraserhead’s face was buried in his scarf, which doubled as a weapon. The new scar under his right eye didn’t seem to particularly bother him, though he did itch it every now and then.

“This is concerning Midoriya’s education.” Touya’s cheerful attitude dropped almost immediately. What was Eraserhead going for? Was he dropping Izuku? Was he putting him in U.A. now? And why was he talking to Touya about it? Eraserhead continued. “As you probably know, U.A. heroics students will be leaving on their work experience week soon. I figured it would be beneficial to Midoriya as well. I will be leaving on a patrol mission in a few days, and if he comes with me on this mission, it will both allow him to gather experience and continue with his education uninterrupted. My injury set him back with it enough.” He finished, and Touya raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t you think Izuku has plenty of field experience? You know, he’s been on the field for a while now.” He commented, hands in his pockets. So Eraserhead wasn’t dropping Izuku. That’s good. Touya didn’t know what he would’ve done if he was. Heroics was Izuku’s dream after all, and Eraserhead feeding it for so long only to drop it was… cruel. Too cruel for the man.

“He does have quite a lot of experience.” Eraserhead nodded. “But it is very limited to a small area. Midoriya has been operating in a certain type of terrain, with a small amount of people, most of which he personally knows. It puts him with an advantage he can’t afford to get used to.” This ticked Touya off.

“So you’re taking a kid who is already at a disadvantage, and taking the one advantage he does have?” He asked angrily, and Eraserhead stopped. He turned to Touta fully, his eyes burning with something Touya found hard to recognise or understand.

“Yes. Yes, I am. Because if I don’t do it now, in a time and place where I can supervise him and teach him how to handle that situation, the world will do it when he becomes a hero, and Izuku will have to deal with the consequences alone. He would have to adapt or die, and I would much rather keep him alive. I know you would too.” Oh, now Touya saw what it was. It was protectiveness. It was worry. It was care and even love. This man won’t let Izuku get hurt if he has any say about Touya took a deep breath, running his fingers through his hair.

“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Just… you know…” he didn’t exactly know how to explain what got him to react so illogically. Eraserhead seemed to know though.

“You're his brother. It’s natural that you want him to have all the advantages he can get. You want him to do well and be safe. There’s no shame in that.” He said, as a matter of fact. He was always like that, and it was something Touya could appreciate.

“Thanks, Eraser. And thanks for sounding so sure when you say Izuku would become a hero. You really think that? You really believe he can become a hero?” He asked, being more honest and open with Eraserhead than usual. He wanted to know something, and honesty demanded honesty in return. Eraserhead nodded.

“If I had serious doubts about it, I would’ve cut him loose in the beginning.” He stated earnestly. “Feeding a dream just to cut it halfway is one of the cruelest things you can do to a child, in my opinion. It’s better to cut it in the beginning. Hurts less. This is why I have a reputation for early expulsions. Besides… I don’t waste time on lost causes. If he was one, you can be sure I wouldn’t have kept training him. I would’ve kept paying him as my informant, because this is something I can do to help make sure you two don’t starve. But I wouldn’t have spent so much time training him.” Touya nodded at that. It made sense. And Eraserhead… he was a true hero. He actually cared. Even if he couldn’t make Izuku a hero, he would’ve given him a chance to not starve.

“Got it. Well, see you around. I gotta tell Izuku the good news.” Touya smiled, going into the building they lived in. Izuku would be happy, and Eraserhead would keep him safe.

So why did Touya have such a bad feeling about this?

Chapter Text

Izuku’s jaw dropped.

“You… you’re serious? A work experience week?” He asked, eyes wide. He was practically vibrating with excitement. Touya smiled softly, nodding.

“Yup. I was just talking to Eraserhead about that. He wants to take you to the big city on a new mission. So, what do you say?” He asked, and Izuku answered with a grin.

“This is amazing! I-I can’t believe it! I can’t believe I’m actually going to do that!” He was jumping around the apartment, running to collect his notebooks and muttering in excitement. Touya laughed. Izuku wasn’t going to calm down until he actually was on the mission

“Ok, got everything you need?” Touya asked at the train station. Izuku nodded, holding a bag with his possessions. He didn’t have much, just a few books and notebooks, some clothes, and his mask. He smiled brightly at Touya, hugging him. Touya returned the hug, gentle and loving.

“Please be careful, Izuku. Don’t take stupid risks.” He begged, and Izuku nodded against his chest.

“Promise. Besides, Eraserhead won’t let me do anything stupid, you know that!” He looked up at Touya, who shook his head. Eraserhead looked at them from a few meters away, and Izuku has the suspicion he was hiding a smile under his capture weapon.

“Alright, alright, don’t let your mentor wait too much, Izuku. See you in a week, okay?” Touya said warmly, and Izuku smiled. As he walked to Eraserhead, he waved back at his brother.

“See you in a week, nii-san!” He was beaming. He was walking backwards, so he didn’t see the woman he was walking into.

“Oh god I’m so sorry!” She said, kneeling to the ground to collect her scattered things. Izuku immediately dropped next to her, helping her pick her things.

“No, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going. Are you okay?” He asked worriedly. The tall woman smiled, pushing white hair with small red streaks from her face. Her bright teal eyes were kind and calm.

“Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry. Thank you so much for your help. Now go, you don’t want to miss the train, do you?” She stood up, offering him a hand. Her strong grip pulled him up effortlessly.

“Thank you! I’m sorry! Have a good day!” He smiled, waving, and ran to Eraserhead, who looked irritated. His arms were crossed over his chest. Izuku rubbed the back of his neck.

“Sorry sir… I wasn’t looking…” he looked down, smiling sheepishly. Eraserhead hummed, rolling his eyes.

“Well, if you plan on not looking like that again, I should probably leave you here, don’t you think?” He mused. But Izuku learned to understand when Eraserhead was serious and when he was brandishing his dry, witty humour. He decided to play it safe though, even if Eraserhead was, in fact, joking about leaving him there.

“Sorry, Eraserhead… I’ll be more observant…” he looked down, holding his bag tight. Eraserhead seemed pleased with the answer, nodding and leading the way to the train. He already purchased their tickets. Izuku was excited, and just a little bit nervous. It would be the first time in over a year that he left the city. He didn’t know where they were going, Eraserhead promising to debrief him on the train. They boarded, Eraserhead presenting his hero license when asked about the knife strapped to his back, and sat down. Izuku sat near the window, pressing to look at the view, and Eraserhead rolled his eyes.

“The job we’re doing in mainly a surveillance job. You most likely won’t be a part of the raid, but you should know what it’s about. We are tracking a human trafficking ring based in Hosu. We have their general area, from the local underground hero, Sting, but they need fresh eyes to look at the case. They will meet us to review the details. Go over the file for now.” Eraserhead debriefed Izuku, handing him the case file.

“Us?” Izuku asked, looking at his mentor. He wasn’t expecting to be directly in contact with heroes other than Eraserhead. The hero nodded.

“Us. It’s not unheard of for an informant to be involved in these cases, and Sting wants to make sure they won’t mistake you for part of the ring. You don’t have to identify as anything you’re uncomfortable with, but since you aim for heroics, I would suggest finding the name you’d want to use as a hero. Base your connections. Do you have a name in mind?” Eraserhead asked the gaping Izuku.

“I-I do, but…” he hesitated, and Eraserhead put a hand on his shoulder.

“Spit it out, Midoriya. It can’t be more ridiculous than mine. Whatever it is, it’s not like you want to be known. You’re going to work underground, aren’t you?” Eraserhead said logically, and Izuku nodded. He still didn’t say anything.

“I personally think that letting a fifteen years old choose the name they will be recognised by for their entire career is… utterly illogical. But technically, you’ll be able to change that. So don’t be nervous.” Eraserhead continued.

“I was thinking… Mist? It’s a misdirection, you see? Someone hears the name, thinks I have a quirk that suits the name. Then I don’t.” Izuku explained, looking down.

“Well, I’m not very good with picking names. I let Mic pick mine, actually, and he’s equally bad with names. But I think it sounds good enough.” Eraserhead encouraged, in his own way. He was a matter of fact, honest, and Izuku always appreciated it. Eraserhead wouldn’t hide things from him just to not upset him. He could count on what Eraserhead says to be true.

“Thank you!” Izuku smiled brightly, then went back to the case file detailing known members of the ring, suspicious locations and other such information. Eraserhead seemed pleased with that, and Izuku put all his energy into memorising and developing links and analysis.

“Jeez, Eraser, you said you were bringing a rookie, but I didn’t think you mean an actual child.” Sting said, eyeing Eraserhead critically. Eraserhead just rolled his eyes at that comment.

“He’s an intern, Sting. With more experience and training than most first years that go on their work experience week this week. He’s a useful informant, and his particular skill set is appropriate for the mission.” He said, looking at the other hero. They smiled fondly, turning to Izuku.

“Well, if Eraser has this much faith in you, I’ll have to trust you as well. He always had an eye for people. We interned together, y’know?” They said, still with a smile. They continued without giving Izuku the chance to talk. “So, what’s your name? And your quirk? Gotta be something special if Eraser has you out here this early. He’s not a fan of sending kids into the battlefield.” This time they stopped, allowing Izuku to speak.

“Call me Mist. I’m quirkless, but I have skills that don’t require a quirk.” Izuku looked down. As soon as he said he’s quirkless, Sting turned to Eraserhead angrily.

“Eraser, what the hell?! You bring a quirkless child into an operation like that?! That’s not right. Using a kid’s naïveté to gain work force is wrong and dangerous, and I do not approve of this.” They called, poking his chest with their finger.

“I’m not naive. I’m not stupid either. I know my skills, and I know my limits. Wouldn’t have survived this long without knowing them. No one is using me, least of all Eraserhead. Please allow me to prove myself before casting judgement like that on me, hero.” Izuku interrupted, standing as tall as his meter and sixty four centimetres allowed him in front of the tall hero. Only his eyes were visible, earnest and serious. Sting measured him with calculated eyes, before sighing and shaking their head.

“You do understand why I don’t like this, right? Both of you. Mist, I can’t even arm you properly with Support items, like I would a hero with a non combative quirk. You’re in a tight spot there. I don’t try to insult your skills, but I want to make sure your blood doesn’t end on the pavement before this mission is over.” Sting’s words, laced with concern, surprised Izuku. They didn’t think he was inferior for being quirkless. They just didn’t know how he would protect himself. He could work with that. This wasn’t senseless prejudice like he faced before.

“Mist is capable of protecting himself. I wouldn’t have taken him if I wasn’t sure of that. He knows how to improvise weapons, and has several useful and completely legal items on his person that can be used, if he has to, as weapons. Besides, as we discussed over the phone, he would most likely not be a part of the main raid. His strength is his mind. He’s a strategist and analyst.” Eraserhead chimed in, his voice as calm and neutral as usual. Sting nodded, offering Izuku their hand for a shake.

“Welcome aboard then, Mist. Show me what you got, and I’ll see what I can do for you.” Their grin, with a hint of sharp teeth, made Izuku return one of his own under the mask. He shook their hand, grip as firm as he could.

They spent the next two hours reviewing details and maps. Izuku managed to raise a few ideas, and seemed to gain some of Sting’s approval with his thinking. They set their nightly rout, and Sting took Izuku to the Support lab.

“Tachibana, what’s the closest we can get to decent Support items for an informant? He’s a young one, too.” They asked the blue haired Support mechanic. She didn’t even take her eyes off her current project.

“Let me guess, one of Eraser’s? Can’t say I’m surprised.” She pushed herself away from the table, her metal prosthetic leg making a noise of protest. “Shit, gotta oil that. Anyway, show me your hands.” She ordered, and Izuku complied. She examined his calloused hands for a few moments, then turned away to her tools and projects.

“You were trained to dual wield. Good choice, all things considered, as expected from Eraserhead. Gives you coordination and balance. He didn’t give you his capture weapon. Also a good choice. Don’t think it would fit your style. You got a bit too eager with training, didn’t you? Those scars on your palms give it away. You can learn a lot about someone from their hands. For example, whatever you trained with wasn’t balanced well. You tried to balance the effects by switching hands. Smart kid. What were you training with?” She tinkered with some machine as she talked, finally giving Izuku room to answer.

“Broken pipes. Metal rods from construction sites. Whatever I could find and turn into a weapon. I also used a yo-yo sometimes, to trip people. Or get a hit on them when they didn’t notice. Caltrops and marbles for setting traps or slowing someone.” He answered, hoping it would allow her to find him something good to use while he’s there.

“Scraps and children’s toys!” She roared with laughter. “Man, you’re definitely Eraser’s. No doubt about that. He’s the only one both dumb and genius enough to encourage things like that.” She searched through a pile of miscellaneous parts, pulling out a long, thick wire connected to two handles.

“How about this? It’s a less deadly version of a garrotte. You can use it to restrain people.” She handed him the weapon, and he took it in both hands.

“Take it to the testing room, Mist. I don’t feel like having another fire here.” Sting warned, sending a sharp look at Tachibana.

“Hey, wait a moment! I’m not done yet! You want him equipped, right? Wait patiently! Sorry kid, you won’t have much time to rest before your patrol, but it would be worth it. Eraserhead’s making you a hero, isn’t he? Well, you’re getting a small taste of what’s to come.” She laughed, and Izuku got excited. He spent the next few hours testing weapons and additions to his (rather unimpressive) costume, and some things he would never be allowed to touch without license but she needed a test subject and Izuku loved to help and bombard her with questions. He left with cut resistant gloves and body suit (won’t do much against stabs, but slashes wouldn’t affect it), a pair of wooden rods (a lot lighter than the ones he was used to), reinforced rope, and the weird garrotte-like tool (only after he practiced with it in the testing room). He was also offered a switchblade, but refused it. A knife, even one allowed by all regulations, would make him even more of a suspect of anything, and Izuku really didn’t want to get in more trouble than he already was with law enforcement. Everything he got was on the legal side of things, as expected from a hero, but very close to the line, as expected from an underground hero.

His first patrol, that same night, was uneventful. He walked the route he was assigned, going off route at times to check strange noises or trail confirmed and suspected traffickers. He had an earpiece on him, and gave reports to Sting’s agency in set periods of time. He knew that slightly to his west, Eraserhead was patrolling his own route. Once the patrol was over, and the needed information was gathered, Izuku returned to the small, cheap hotel, and fell on the bed, his clothes still on. He was asleep before he hit the mattress.

Around noon the next day, he had lessons with Eraserhead. It was hero ethics and history and maths and some sparring and training in between. Hero ethics was his favourite, and also Eraserhead’s expertise. History wasn’t too bad either. And training, especially with his new equipment, was interesting and exciting. That night he had patrol again, but the night after that was free for him. Eraserhead told him it would be more healthy for him, especially since he was still growing, and would also allow him to run a few errands. Izuku quickly remembered how distressed Eraserhead was when Ingenium got hurt (not very visible for an outsider, but for Izuku, who’s been imitating Eraserhead for months and was very sensitive to body language and changes in atmosphere, it was very clear), and figured he was probably going to the hospital to visit him.

Second night patrol went better than the first. Izuku was the first to make visual contact with the victims, and confirmed the location of the base. He completed the last part of the patrol with Eraserhead and Glide, Sting’s sidekick, who came to take control of the situation as soon as he got the information (“standard procedure” Eraserhead called it later, assuring him that it doesn’t have to do with his quirklessness, but with his relative lack of experience, and with the tense situation itself. “You didn't think we’ll leave anyone alone on the field and risk them having to deal with a whole ring alone, did you?” Sting added later). It was decided that they would use the next day to devise a plan and prepare, then start the rescue operation the day after.

“You can leave the hotel if you want, but be careful. Walk in the main streets only, and stay alert. If there’s any trouble, you call me. The Hero Killer is loose in the streets, so I don’t want you in any alleys, got it, Problem Child?” Eraserhead looked at Izuku sternly. Izuku nodded seriously, smiling at his mentor. Eraserhead sighed, wearing his long suffering expression. “And put the cut resistant suit under your clothes. I trust that you won’t actively search for troubles, but they have the unfortunate tendency to find you.” He said, before leaving on his own errand late afternoon. Izuku left too, deciding to just learn the city, and maybe catch sight of the local heroes. Manual worked in the area, and with the whole city on high alert in the wake of the Hero Killer, He was bound to be patrolling.

Izuku could feel the strange, cut resistant fabric on his skin, smooth and cool. He wore it under his shirt, his hoodie, and Touya’s old leather jacket (“too hot for me to wear that,” he said when he gave it to Izuku, “But it might be useful to you. Leather is good against cuts.” His words echoed in Izuku’s head. As Eraserhead said, Izuku wasn’t planning to chase a serial killer. He wasn’t stupid. But trouble always had a way of finding him, and he wasn’t going to risk it). The wooden rods were strapped to his arms under the hoodie, and the garrotte was wrapped around his waist, above the thick leather belt he salvaged from the trash a few weeks earlier. He had his mask and gloves in his pocket. Just in case.

He walked down the main streets after dark, blending in with the crowd around him, when an explosion was heard. Terrible crashing and screeching noises filled the air, as people ran away.

“Noumu!” One of the escaping civilians screamed, legs shaking in fear as he stumbled away from the source of the noise. He was holding his girlfriend, as if he was shielding her from the Noumu when they ran. Izuku tensed. That was bad. That was really bad. The thing that almost killed Eraserhead in the USJ was a Noumu. And that one could only be defeated by All Might. From the sound of it, there was more than one. How will the heroes do?

“Stay behind me!” A voice called as a hero with a fin on his helmet ran through the crowd toward one of the sources of panic. Manual. Right behind him ran a tall figure in armour. The armour was very distinct, something that could only belong to a member of the Iida family. The Iida costumes were designed to be easily recognisable as theirs, and this one was no different. Iida Tenya. An impressive fighter with a one track mind, who would charge head first into the problem. The kind of person to always follow the rules to the letter, a suspicion Izuku had that was soon confirmed by Yamada’s stories.

That’s why Izuku was surprised at first, when Iida broke from his supervisor, stopping in his track and staring at something Izuku couldn’t see. He hesitated for only a few moments before walking into an alley. Izuku frowned. What was he doing? That was against anything Izuku managed to gather about him. It’s not like him to abandon his mission.

Unless, of course, that wasn’t his mission.

Quickly, the pieces put themselves together. Iida’s strange apparent diversion from pattern. Hosu. The alley. Ingenium. The Hero Killer. Horror dawned on him when he realised that fifteen years old is going to try and serve vigilante justice to an experienced and ruthless serial killer. The horror only deepened when he realised Iida doesn’t stand a chance, especially with his stubbornness and headstrong attitude. Anyone who wanted a slight chance against Stain had to be sneaky and smart. It wasn’t that Iida was stupid, but the moment he locked on a target…

Izuku quickly put on his mask and gloves, cursing quietly as he followed Iida. He wasn’t even trying to hide himself. What was he thinking? He decided to call after Iida before they got to the point of no return, before they were too close to Stain to stop.

“Don't do it.”

 

Chapter Text

“Don’t do it.” A quiet voice called after him, making Tenya spin in his place and turn to look at the source. In front of him was a short person, wearing a jacket way too work for this spring night, and a simple black medical mask on their face. The sight was so foreign and surprising that all he could do was stare. At least he was wearing a helmet, so his face was hidden.

“I know what you’re going for. Don’t. Please.” The person said again, taking a step forward. A gloved hand reached to him as the figure took a step closer. “I know what you’re going through is horrible, Iida, but don’t do this.” They begged. Their eyes were full of worry. Why? What did this person have to worry about? It was none of their business and it’s not like they actually knew what he was going to do.

“Who are you?” He took a step back from the outstretched hand, that retreated back as soon as he moved. “I assure you, whatever you’re thinking, it’s far from the truth.” Tenya tried to maintain his calm voice.

“You’re going after the Hero Killer, to avenge your brother’s injury. Don’t tell me you aren’t. Don’t bother lying. Please reconsider this. He’s too strong for you. Let’s tell the people who can actually do something about it. I got a few-“ Tenya decided to stop him there.

“Do you think it’s smart to bother the heroes right now? With Noumu filling the city? You didn’t see what these things can do. I did.” He said quietly.

“So did I. I work for Eraserhead, of course I did. And yes, I think it’s smart. Some heroes aren’t fit to fight a Noumu, but would be very effective against Stain. Please, just… stop.” The figure begged. Some small part of Tenya wanted to agree, wanted to go with them and call the heroes, but it was swiftly shoved away. This was his revenge. His brother who can never be a hero again.

“This is none of your business, whoever you are. Goodbye.” Tenya turned and walked away, surprised to see the shadowed person following him. Their movements were cat-like, calculated and flowing.

“Well, if you can’t fight them, join them. I’m not letting you storm the Hero Killer alone. Call me Skip. And don’t try to make me go away. If you’re about to serve vigilante justice, it would be better to have an actual vigilante with you.” They said easily, falling into step. Their steps flowed like mercury, silent and soft. Tenya couldn’t stop them, and… he did appreciate the backup. Something about not doing this alone felt relieving. They found the hero killer standing over a bleeding hero. Bleeding, but not dead. Tenya was ready to charge when a hand gripped his wrist.

“Are you crazy?! There’s an injured person there! You’ll both die!” Skip whispered angrily.

“He hurt my brother!” Tenya whispered back, seeing red. This was his chance! What was this vigilante not understanding.

“You’re trying I be a hero, aren’t you?! Prioritise. The rescue. It’s the basic of hero ethics. You want to be worthy? Then act worthy. Save him first. Don’t charge head first. I’ll distract Stain from the other side of the alley, and you grab Native and run. You have a better chance of escape. Get every available hero here, cause I don’t think I can hold Stain back for long.” Skip’s voice was urgent, and Tenya’s rage drained slowly at the logical words. What was he thinking? Tensei would be ashamed. He had to make it up to him. Tenya nodded at the vigilante, who sent something on his phone, before nodding back and running somewhere. Soon, noises came from the other side of the alley. It sounded like multiple people talking, even though Tenya knew it was just Skip.

Stain tensed, looking at the hero on the ground with disdain, before running to see who came to hunt him. As soon as he was out of sight, Tenya rushed to Native’s side.

“I’m getting you out. Can you walk?” He asked worriedly as the hero looked at him in confusion.

“No. It’s his quirk. Since he cut me, I couldn’t move. You’re an intern, aren’t you? You shouldn’t be here. Run.” Native whispered, a worried look in his eyes. Tenya pulled him on his back, holding tight so the paralysed hero wouldn’t fall.

“My… partner, he called for help. And as soon as we’re out, I’ll get more help. Hold tight.” He said, activating his quirk and zooming away from the alley. Tenya didn’t dare activate his Respiro Burst, not wanting to stay unable to run once the ten seconds are over. Instead, he changed gears quickly, going faster and faster. He could feel the barely healed skin around the exhausts heat up again, but he didn’t care. “Prioritise the rescue” the mysterious vigilante reminded him, and he was going to do just that.

“Help! Injured hero!” Tenya called, carrying Native to one of the ambulances that gathered to treat the injured from the attack. He left him there, running to search for more help. He reached Manual.

“Wherever you been, Tenya?! There’s a fight going on! What were you - wait is that blood?! What happened?!” He asked, trying to keep the fires under control with his quirk.

“It’s not mine. The Hero Killer, I have a location on the Hero Killer. A hero was injured. Native. I got him out. There’s currently a vigilante engaged with Stain. They need help.” Tenya explained, kicking a piece of building that was thrown at them away, so Manual can focus on the fire.

“A vigilante? Shit, that’s not good. Which vigilante? Some of the local vigilantes work in teams, and in cooperation with heroes. Who did you encounter?” Manual asked, trusting Tenya and the sidekicks to watch his back. They didn’t try to engage with the Noumu, knowing they don’t have the strength. For now, they just tried to contain it.

“They’re not from here. They’re from Musutafu. They’re called Skip. They said they work with Eraserhead, but I don’t think he’s around.” Tenya rushed away then, pushing a civilian from the way of a thrown car. He took them to safety, returning to Manual’s side.

“No, he is. He’s working a case here, something about human trafficking, with a local underground hero. Sting. I can give you Sting’s number. I want you to get out of the fight and tell them that Eraserhead’s informant is in trouble. Give them the location. They’ll be able to help.” Manual ordered.

“But-“ Tenya protested, wanting to stay and fight.

“Tenya, we don’t have time! Whoever that vigilante is, technically they’re a civilian. There’s a civilian in danger and I need you to call help for them. After that I want you to help direct the civilians to evacuate from here. Got it?” Manual called, spraying water at another exploding car.

“Yes sir!” Tenya ran away, doing as he was told. For the next hour or so, Tenya was running around as fast as he could. He lifted rubble and carried injured and directed the people who were running away from the disaster. He was helping, and people answered him with a smile, and that was worth the growing pain in his calves. He almost managed to forget that he did, in fact, leave a civilian, and one around the same age as him, at the mercy of a serial killer.

Almost.

 

***

 

Izuku hoped with all his might that his message reached Eraserhead, Sting and Glide. If it didn’t… oh god, if it didn’t, he won’t see Touya again. He won’t ever become a hero. He will die in this alley, bleeding out like a fool because he bit off more than he can chew.

“I think I saw him there! I’m going in alone, don’t worry! I’ll get him for sure! You’re gonna see me on the news tomorrow!” He forced his voice to sound cheerful and cocky, the way Tsubaki taught him. Laid back, but not too much. Excited, but not anxious. This act was useful for asserting dominance, and now it would be useful to draw the Hero Killer. After all, it was all that Stain hated. A cocky hero with more confidence than skill, seeking fame instead of justice.

Izuku heard Stain, footsteps quick and heavy and intimidating. Strong boots. The caltrops won’t do much good. But the marbles might. He set them on the ground, and Stain ran into them, unable to stop. As he stumbled, his grip on his sword was lost. Izuku used that to his advantage, disarming him from the sword.

“Can’t believe you took the bait.” He breathe out, his stance ready for a fight, at the shocked and angry Stain.

“A child? Never mind. I heard you. You’re a fake. I will end you quickly and go back to him.” He said, pulling a knife. Izuku laughed.

“Go back to who? I tricked you. Native isn’t there anymore. I was just the bait so you wouldn’t notice. Native is most likely getting treated already.” He smiled under the mask, gripping his rods. “I called the other heroes. They’ll stop you. I’m not going to let you hurt anyone else.” He said, determined. Stain smiled.

“Interesting. Let’s see if you have the power to back it up.” He challenged, then charged at Izuku. Izuku dodged, using his rods to block the blade coming dangerously close to him.

What followed was a complex series of hits and dodges, Izuku on the defensive the whole time. Stain was strong, quick and well equipped. Whenever Izuku managed to disarm him of one knife, he produced two more.

“I’m going to die here!” Realisation dawned on Izuku as he was with his back to the wall, Stain’s blade closing in on him, before…

“There! An opportunity!” He thought, diving under Stain’s legs and punching him in the scrotum with one of the rods. Izuku was panting, tears in his eyes.

“Not now not now not now this isn’t the time for crying you have to keep going or he’ll kill you!”   Izuku thought as he dodged another, angrier attack.

Or so he thought.

Right as he dodged to the a knife strike, Izuku felt a sharp pain in his side. The spike in Stain’s boot was buried in his side. Not too deep, luckily (thank goodness for a good leather jacket and a thick hoodie). And still, it hurt. Izuku staggered, jumping backward as far as he could, breath heaving. He was in pain, and hoped that the hoodie will absorb the blood well enough for Stain not to get to it. Because of course Izuku knew Stain’s quirk. Living on the streets, meeting other vigilantes, he knew Stain's quirk, but more importantly, he heard the stories of Stain’s past. Of an idealist who became an extremist.

“Not bad, but you will need more practice than that if you want to beat me. Still, you show resolve. Run, and I will let you live.” Stain spoke, spreading his arms. There was no lying about it, Stain was charismatic.

“As if. As if I can run away and let others get hurt. No. You are a warning. You are the worst end of what us vigilantes can become. I won’t let you hurt others. I might not be a hero, but that doesn’t mean I can allow you to hurt more people. Even pathetic, quirkless me can do something good.” Izuku’s eyes were blazing, bright green and full of determination.

“So full of conviction. You of all people should know what I’m talking about! Hero society abandoned you. They ridicule you. Cast you aside like something broken. You are better than many of them, of those fake heroes with their flashy outfits and craving for fame and glory, and yet they wouldn’t even give you a chance to try. Why do you still believe in those false idols?” Stain asked. He didn’t move to attack, and neither did Izuku.

“Because hero society is broken and ugly and wrong, and I want to change it. From the inside. I have to believe that it’s worth salvaging, because heroes saved me. A hero saved my life, and another saved my soul. And I will keep fighting. Because I know what you are doing is wrong.” Izuku pulled his rods up again, scared, but still standing his ground. Stain shook his head.

“Then so be it.” His cold voice pierced the darkness, before he charged in.

“He is coming from your right you should-“ Izuku started analysing, cut by the dull ache of a cut blocked by his special costume.

“Now from-“ another hit, this time a stab that was about to cut his neck, getting caught in the loose fabric of the hood.

“You have to-“ a throwing knife pierced his arm, and Izuku had to pull it out, wiping it on his sweatshirt and throwing it aside quickly. He couldn’t afford letting this blood reach Stain.

“Just-“ Stain was about to lick Izuku’s wound. Without thinking, Izuku gripped his tongue and pulled as hard as he could. Stain, surprised, doubled over, before stabbing Izuku again, landing a mass of attacks on him.

Izuku, the strategist, was overwhelmed. His greatest strength, his mind, was nothing when he couldn’t master the time to think. Stain’s movements were fast and precise, not leaving Izuku any time to breathe. He lost his rods as they shattered under Stain’s fierce blows. The caltrops were a risk Izuku couldn’t take, when every drop of blood was dangerous. The garrotte was gone too, with only the satisfaction of the breaking wire accidentally cutting Stain. Izuku ended up on the floor, tears welling in his eyes as he desperately attempted to get up and keep fighting, before Stain licked his knife and Izuku was paralyzed.

“I’m losing I’m losing I’m bleeding out I’m not going to make it Touya I’m sorry, mum, mum, I’m so sorry, Eraserhead, I didn’t mean to disappoint you, I-“ he was shaking in the ground, waiting for the final blow to arrive and hoping that at least it would be swift, as a voice cut the darkness.

“I don’t think so.” The voice said, full of fury and heat and worry. Izuku could move now, theoretically. Stain’s quirk wasn’t working. That could only mean…

And yes, Stain was restrained by Eraserhead’s capture weapon, the hero himself standing in the end of the alley, hair floating around him. He handed Stain over to Sting and Glide, running to Izuku.

“Midoriya, Midoriya, can you hear me?” He knelt near Izuku, quickly supporting his neck with his arm and . Izuku looked up at Eraserhead, shaking and in tears. Safe. He was safe now. Eraserhead will take care of it. He closed his eyes slowly, despite the urgent voice.

“Sting, get a medical team. Izuku, listen to me. Don’t close your eyes. I still need your help. Eyes open, got it?” Eraserhead’s voice was stable, deep and slow. Izuku nodded. He will try. He tried to open his eyes, but things were blurry. He could feel himself picked up.

“Sorry, Eraserhead… I’m just really tired…” Izuku thought as he closed his eyes again.

 

***

 

Shouta was sitting near Tensei’s hospital bed, talking quietly, when he got Midoriya’s text. He set a special ringtone, specifically for him, so he knows when that child got in trouble. He opened the phone to find a location text, with a simple caption.

“Got location on Stain. Injured hero on scene. I’m w/ Iida. Send help.”

Shouta paled, shuttling the phone immediately and shoving it in his pockets. Tensei’s smile was wiped off his face as he looked at Shouta.

“What happened?” He asked, watching his friend adjust his capture weapon around himself and put his goggles on. Shouta was talking business. This meant war.

“Stain. I’m going. There’s a kid there. I’m taking Sting and Glide, so don’t worry about me.” He said, leaping out of the window onto the short roofs under. He jumped between roofs, calling Sting and Glide as he went.

“Eraser, we’re a bit busy! There’s a Noumu here! We need help!” Shouta froze mid-jump, barely managing to catch the edge of the roof and climb on top of it. Sharp red pain hand in hair crashing danger bad bad BAD -

“Eraser? Eraser do you hear me?” Sting called through the phone worriedly. Their voice forced him back to reality. There were people who needed him. He can fall apart later.

“I got a location on Stain. You have to come. Mist is engaging him, along with another intern. I’m running there. Not much I can do against a Noumu.” He told them, standing back up and continuing his run toward where he knew Midoriya is. With a serial killer.

“Shit, we can’t - GLIDE WATCH OUT! Eraser we need to - oh thank god, what is he doing here?” Sting sounded all over the place, confused and awed and scared at the same time.

“Who is there?” Shouta asked as he ran. He refused to acknowledge the shakiness in his legs. He can deal with those memories later. In that moment, he needed to focus on running.

“Endeavor is here, we’re okay to go. Where is Stain? Where are you? Send us the location and we’ll be there.” Glide took over the line, and Shouta gave them the location.

“I’m on my way there from the hospital, meet me there.” He leaped to a slightly taller roof, using his capture weapon to pull himself up there. He was less quiet and precise than usual, more erratic. He wasn’t sure whether it was the worry for his students, or the throbbing phantom pain he was still feeling, but he couldn’t remain calm.

“Endeavor is there. He took out that Noumu. Meaning these ones aren’t as strong as the one that attacked us. There are plenty of heroes here.” He thought rationally, looking through his goggles and seeing the smoke coming up from several locations in the city.

“Got news, Eraser! The other intern isn’t there! He returned to Manual after evacuating an injured hero!” Glide called at him as they caught up to him. Their large brown wings were spread as they closed the distance. He nodded, indicating that he heard them. Sting was using their six arms to climb to the roof with them, their tail curved up with the stinger at its end ready. Shouta cursed quietly, running faster. When they got to the location, all they could see was a bloodstain on the wall. But there were sounds of fighting in an alleyway nearby, so the heroes concluded that the fight must’ve been taken there.

When they got there, it was Shouta’s worst nightmare. There was blood on the pavement and the walls of the buildings. Izuku was on the floor, seemingly unable to move, cowering away from Stain and looking up at him with terrified eyes. The serial killer himself was raising a knife, ready to strike the child in front of him.

“I don’t think so.” Shouta spoke, furious and worried. He immediately activated his quirk, despite the difficulty it caused now, and sent out his capture weapon. Stain, previously unaware of Shouta’s approach, was caught off guard as the stiff fabric tightened around him. Shouta handed the strand of weapon holding Stain to Sting, running to Izuku. The boy was trembling.

“Blood loss and fear.” Shouta thought, analysing the situation. Arm under the boy’s neck, hand checking if he has any head injury. He seemed okay, so at least there was that.

“Midoriya, Midoriya, can you hear me?” He asked worriedly, focusing his attention on the child. His eyes stopped darting around, focusing on Shouta as relief spread on his face. It looked like he lost a lot of blood. His hands were shaky and cold, and he looked extremely pale. Shouta’s panic spiked when Izuku slowly closed his eyes. “Not good not good not good” he thought, worried.

“Sting, get a medical team. Izuku, listen to me. Don’t close your eyes. I still need your help. Eyes open, got it?” Despite his stress, Shouta made sure to maintain a calm and calculated voice. Blood loss could cause heightened anxiety, and that was the last thing that kid needed. Shouta knew that the best way to keep Izuku awake was not worry for his own life, because that idiot had almost none of that, but knowing he can help someone else. Izuku opened his eyes, but they were unfocused. He won’t be able to stay awake for long.

Shouta picked Izuku up, hands oddly stable. It was always like that. When push came to shove, Shouta was stable enough to help. He can process everything later, the feeling of a child’s blood on his hands and the crushing anxiety for his fate, mixed with flashes of memory stubbornly pricking his mind, of a monstrous screech and crumbling flesh and and bones snapping like twigs. Izuku’s eyes closed again, right before Shouta handed him to the paramedics.

Once Izuku was in an ambulance, taken to the hospital under a blackout protocol (identity protection of at-risk individuals), Stain was shipped off to prison, and an incident involving the last surviving Noumu (it attempted to take Sting and fly with them, an attempt that was quickly stopped by a venomous sting under the ribs) was solved, Shouta found a quiet corner to sit on, a tall roof where he could feel the wind blowing.

“You okay, Aizawa?” Glide asked, flying over to sit next to him. Their long crane legs folded in a way that made Shouta’s instincts scream broken , as he reminded himself that they had crane legs, not human legs, and yes their knees are supposed to go that way. The use of his actual name, not his hero alias, was an invitation for a conversation. One he would rather decline at the moment.

“I’m fine. Thank you.” He said quietly, looking at the city. The last of the flames were doused. Manual called him, telling him Tenya was okay, but was sent to the hospital because of quirk overuse. No other injuries. Shouta would have to talk to him later.

“With all due respect… you’re lying. I see the look on your face.” Glide, Watanabe Tsubasa, looked at him worriedly. They tilted their head, their long, feathered neck making the movement more pronounced. “I bet you just want to go home and talk to Yamada about this. I understand, really. And if you choose not to take the offer, really, I’m fine with that too. But please don’t lie to me. I just want to keep an eye on you, make sure you don’t fall apart. Or at least… don’t fall apart alone.” They eyed him, wings wrapping around themself.

“I appreciate it. Truly. It’s just…” Shouta took a deep breath, still looking out into the city. “It never gets easy. I know a lot of people eventually get desensitised, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing children bleeding and injured like this. This job might’ve been easier like that.” He said quietly.

“Probably. But… I admire that about you, you know? That you still care just as much as you did when we were in school. I’m sorry that it hurts you, of course I am, but… You are someone people need. The world needs more heroes who don’t see it as just their job.” Watanabe said quietly. Shouta remembered them as a student, standing quietly in the corner. They were quite insecure back then. Shouta was happy to see his junior doing this well, a sharp and hardworking hero, with a loving family and the appreciation of their peers. Well, those peers who bothered to appreciate underground heroes (which were mainly other underground heroes). “That Noumu must’ve brought some nasty memories too.” Watanabe added.

“Getting straight to the point, aren’t you?” He sighed tiredly, taking a few moments to not think, and just letting himself stare at the horizon. “How did you know?” He asked quietly.

“I heard you gasping a little when we talked about the Noumu on the radio, and your movements weren’t as organised. You… it affected you, Aizawa. It’s natural that what happened affected you. You were hurt, bad.” They spoke gently, looking directly at him. ”What are you going to do now?” They asked. Shouta finally turned to them.

“Go back to the hospital. Update Tensei. See that Tenya’s okay. Get an update on Mist.” He listed, slowly pushing himself up.

“Call Kohaku if you need a ride. I have to go file reports about the whole thing, and talk to the police. I’ll tell Tsuragamae that you’ll talk to him tomorrow and give him the report, okay?” They used their wings to pull themself into the air, landing on their feet.

“Sure, thank you.” Shouta smiled, just a little, leaving to the hospital and dreading the damages.

Chapter Text

Shouta pulled out his phone while he was going to the hospital, starting to dial Touya’s number. Right before he pressed the dial button, Touya called him himself.

“Please tell me Izuku wasn’t involved in this.” Was the first thing Shouta heard as he answered. Touya sounded stressed and worried, and Shouta knew he was probably watching the news at this very moment.

“He wasn’t involved with the Noumu situation, but he was involved with Stain. He is being treated at the moment. According to the paramedics, he should be fine. No irreversible damage.” Shouta said tiredly. He felt horrible, both physically and mentally. the conversation with Watanabe earlier helped a little, but it mainly forced everything closer to the surface. And it showed.

“You sent my fifteen years old undernourished little brother after a serial killer?!” Touya raised his voice a little, anger and fear filing it in equal amounts. Shouta fought hard to smother his own anger. Touya had every right to be angry. Shouta failed him. He failed Izuku.

“I didn’t send him anywhere. It was his free day. He has a tendency to walk right into trouble.” He said quietly. He couldn’t raise his voice. Didn’t want to either. Touya had every right to yell. “He texted me immediately, and I ran to him. I got there on time. He’s alive and safe. I am on my way to the hospital right now.” He explained. Touya was quiet for a few moments.

“You okay?” He asked eventually. It surprised Shouta. Why would Touya ask if he was okay?

“Yes, I’m fine. I barely had to fight. I’m more worried about Izuku.” Shouta’s voice was dry. and he forced his tone and expressions into their usual neutrality. He couldn’t afford to freak. Not now. Not with Izuku injured and Touya on the line.

“Should I drop everything and go to Hosu? You’re probably going to be pretty busy, and I don’t want Izuku to be alone.” The young man asked, his voice slightly shaky. Shouta took a deep breath.

“You could, but it won’t be necessary. I’m not going to leave him alone. I’ll most likely stay in the hospital for a while, even if I’m not in the same room as him the whole time. I understand if you feel the need to come. I did fail rather miserably to protect him.” There was silence on the line for a few moments.

“You know… you didn’t break my trust yet. You should’ve. I shouldn’t trust you the way I do, but…” a wet laugh was heard through the phone. “You sound about as messed up about this as I am. I learned how to recognise that. Izuku copies you, You know?” Silence again, as Touya took a deep breath. “My point is… I believe you. And I believe in you. That’s the only reason I don’t say screw it all and come get Izuku right now. So… keep me updated, and please bring my brother home safe. I’m still counting on you, Eraserhead.” Shouta stayed silent. After everything this guy went through, despite how hard it was for him to trust others, he still trusted him. This trust meant a lot to him.

“Thank you. I’ll keep him safe, and make sure he gets back home. I’ll call you the moment I have more news.” He said quietly, hanging up. The next call he got was from Hizashi.

“Are you two okay, Shouta?” His voice was worried, and Shouta could practically see him pacing around the room, hands pulling strands of hair out of the gelled up tower on his head. He probably just came back from the radio station.

“The kid is in the hospital. He… he got involved with Stain while I was visiting Tensei. Luckily he texted me immediately and I ran straight to him.” Shouta ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it away from his face before letting it fall back where it belonged.

“God, he fought Stain?!” Hizashi’s voice rose, and Shouta’s ears rang a little. “Sorry, but… fuck. What about you? Are you doing okay?” He lowered his volume again, worried.

“I’m going to visit him in the hospital. Also Tenya. He overused his quirk while he was rescuing people, and got burned again. I should really talk to him about it. I should also probably go see Tensei. I didn’t explain much while I jumped out of the hospital window.” Shouta tried to distract both of them with this, hoping to make Hizashi forget what it was that he actually asked. A foolish attempt.

“This isn’t what I asked, Shou… Are you okay? There were Noumu out there…” Hizashi’s voice was gentle. Shouta groaned in response.

“Why does everyone keep asking that? I’m fine. Really. I didn’t even see the Noumu. I was in the hospital, and then I ran straight to Midoriya. I didn’t even fight Stain. I ambushed him when he was too focused on trying to kill a fifteen years old boy.” His hands were slightly shaking.

“This is just as bad, Shouta. I know it’s not easy for you, and you should stop trying to make me think that it is. I know you.” Hizashi took a deep, shaky breath, and Shouta realised that he was probably terrified for him. “But it’s okay if you don’t want to talk now. We can talk when you get home.” Hizashi’s voice was gentle and soft, and Shouta was swept in an overwhelming wave of gratitude.

“Thanks, Zashi. I love you. We… We’ll talk about it when I’m home. And really, I didn’t get hurt. It’s not easy, but I didn’t get hurt, and I’ll be better once I see the kids and make sure they’re okay.” He said quietly. They said goodbye and hung up. Shouta kept walking to the hospital. First stop, Tensei. He had a lot to explain.

“Oh thank god you’re alive.” That was the first thing Tensei said when Shouta walked into the room. He pulled himself up as Shouta sat next to him.

“I didn’t even fight him. I ambushed and restrained him while he was… distracted.” He said quietly. Tensei looked relieved, putting a hand on Shouta’s shoulder.

“You said something about a kid… they didn’t mention any kid on the news. What happened?” He asked worriedly, looking at Shouta, who suddenly remembered he still had blood on him. He took a deep breath, and told Tensei what happened. He kept his sentences short and neutral, not putting to much emotions behind them. He couldn’t afford that.

“Fuck, that sounds… that sounds bad. But he got out, right? He’s alive and safe. He’ll be fine. You have to remember that.” Tensei said quietly, knowing what was going through his friend’s mind was not good. He went through too many nights like that with Shouta, nights of misplaced guilt and pain. Shouta only nodded, staying quiet.

“I think he saved Tenya’s life.” He eventually said. Tensei looked at him, confused. “When he texted me, he said he was with Tenya. Manual said Tenya came back to him not long after, and said the kid distracted Stain so he would be able to rescue Native. I think… I think Tenya went after Stain. I don’t know for sure, won’t know until I talk to both of them, but… I think that’s what happened.” He finished, looking at the ground with dull eyes.

“Well, then I gotta thank the kid myself. For saving my little brother. When he’s better, could you bring him by here?” Tensei asked shakily, smiling a little as he tried to not think too much about the fact that his brother might’ve been found dead in that alley if not for this anonymous kid, who was willing to sacrifice his own life to prevent this. Shouta nodded, and after saying goodbye, went back to the hotel. He scrubbed himself clean of the blood with mechanic efficiency, detaching himself from the situation. He had to be as neutral and unphased as he could. He had a raid tomorrow night. He can’t think about bleeding children in dark alleys when he’s trying to save others from the same fate, or from an equally bad one. And still, when he went to sleep, it was haunted by crying children and red blood and hot pain.

He’s going to need a lot of coffee tomorrow.

 

***

 

“So, do you mind telling me what the fuck happened there?” The dry voice Tenya knew all too well asked. When the door opened, he thought for a moment that it might be his mother, but… no. There was Shouta, arms crossed over his chest like he already knew what Tenya did, like he was judging him for it. Tenya looked down, ashamed, and Shouta sighed.

“You’re worried about him, aren’t you?” Shouta’s voice softened, and Tenya answered with a short nod. “Well, he’ll be fine. He lost quite a lot of blood, and he’s exhausted from the healing, so he won’t wake up until tomorrow morning, but he should be fine when he does. I need to know what happened, Tenya. First as your friend, and then as your teacher. I need you to tell me the truth, because one way or another, I will find out. So it would be better if you tell me.” Tenya swallowed thickly, looking up at Shouta. It’s time to take responsibility.

“I went after Stain. I wasn’t actively looking for him, but I did see him and decided to just follow him alone. I wanted… I wanted revenge. I wanted to make him pay for what he did to nii-san. While I was following him, Skip showed up. He asked me not to do it, told me to reconsider it, said I’ll die if I try confronting Stain head on. He practically begged me to just go call the heroes. When I refused to listen, he said he would at least come with me. He said if I want to serve vigilante justice, it would be better to have an actual vigilante with me. I think… I think he wanted to make sure I wouldn’t die. When we caught up to Stain, he was standing over Native. I was going to just… run in and attack him. I know it’s stupid, but all I could think about was revenge. Skip wouldn’t let me though. He stopped me, and reminded me to prioritise the rescue. He said he would distract Stain, because I have a better chance of getting out of there with Native. He told me to go call for help because he doesn’t think he would be able to hold him back for long. Then he left, and I got Native out. I went back to Manual and called for help, then continued to get civilians away from the Noumu.” Tenya finished, looking away in shame. Shouta sighed.

“Yes, that sounds like him.” He said tiredly. “I hope you understand how much danger you were in. You could’ve died. I’m not even talking about what you did being heroic or unheroic, I’m talking about the effect it could’ve had on your family. Do you think Tensei would want you to do that? Do you think your parents can handle something as horrible as losing their youngest son? You can’t go and throw your life for senseless revenge. It’s dangerous and wrong. If you want to be a hero, you have to look after yourself. You have to take care of yourself. Which includes, by the way, not overusing your quirk and knowing when to step to the sidelines before you cause yourself serious harm.” He glanced at Tenya’s bandaged legs. Tenya suddenly felt very small under his gaze, just like when he was a child. Some things never change.

“I didn’t mean to make anyone worry. I think… I think I understand. I won’t do anything like that again.” He whispered, looking down. “God, I almost got him killed.” The realisation suddenly hit him.

“What could you have done differently? How would you achieve a different outcome?” Shouta asked, his voice reverting to that of a teacher, snapping Tenya out of the spiral he was falling into. This was a lesson, and if there’s something Tenya is good with it’s the stable structure of a lesson.

“I could’ve come back to him as soon as I got Native out.” He suggested, wiping tears he didn’t realise he shed from his eyes.

“Both of you would’ve gotten hurt, as well as the civilians you directed away from the chaos. Not to mention, help might not have arrived on time if you were there.” Shouta -no, Aizawa sensei- countered, his voice factual and calculating.

“Then I could’ve not gone after Stain in the first place then.” Tenya looked down, knowing this is probably what he should’ve done. He was surprised to hear his teacher counter again.

“In which case, Native would’ve been dead, and Stain would still be roaming the streets, ready to kill more heroes.” He noted, and Tenya looked up. His confusion must’ve been clear, because Aizawa continued. “Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone what you did. But this is a situation where every single choice would’ve had a negative consequence. What happened happened. Learn from your mistakes. Do better next time. Get stronger so you can help more people. Take care of yourself better, so you don’t end up in the hospital every time. Got it?” He looked at Tenya with piercing eyes, digging deep into his soul.

“Yes sir. I’ll do my best. I’ll become worthy of the title hero.” Tenya lowered his head in a short bow, then looked up. He could pinpoint the moment where the man in front of him stopped being Aizawa sensei and turned back to Shouta. He put a hand on Tenya’s head, ruffling his hair shortly.

“I have no doubt of that, Tenya. Not a single one.” He said, his voice warmer than he usually allowed these days. Tenya gulped, pushing down his tears. Shouta wasn’t good with tears.

“And… my punishment? I did disobey my mentor and run off…” he looked down.

“Since You didn’t use your quirk on anyone, and what little you actually used your quirk was for the sake of evacuating an injured person and not for fighting, you’re getting off with a light warning. Manual’s agency is fined for minor negligence, because he let you wander off for a while. Had you done anything worse or got hurt while away from him, he would’ve probably had his teaching license revoked. But considering the circumstances… nothing too bad. Everyone is just glad no one died.” Shouta informed him, and Tenya let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

“I’m glad Manual didn’t get into too much trouble because of my foolish actions. And… what about Skip?” He asked with a frown. It suddenly occurred to him that a vigilante getting caught fighting would probably be at a serious risk of imprisonment. Even bigger if he used his quirk, which he probably did if he managed to survive Stain, since that would count as a villainy charge, not just vigilantism.

“Since there was no sign of any quirk being used, any villainy charge that might’ve popped up was immediately dropped. And since no severe harm was done, and no weaponry was involved, or at least nothing that classifies as weaponry in the eyes of the police, it all falls well within the realms of a civilian defending himself. Besides… no one is going to imprison a child who risked his life to save someone from a serial killer. Officially, he was just another victim, whose name isn’t published due to his age and anonymity.” Tenya was relieved to hear that.

“When he wakes up… could I see him? I want to thank him. He saved my life.” He hesitated to ask, looking up at Shouta, who nodded.

“He’ll probably be happy to see you. Now, I have to go. I still have my own mission. But I’ll come to see you later. Take care of yourself, kid.” He said, going out and raising his hand in a wave. Tenya was left in the room, with a new appreciation for life and a new perspective on the world and on vigilantes than he had before.

 

***

 

Izuku woke up feeling… off. He felt like his tongue was covered in fur, and everything was a bit fuzzy. He opened his eyes slowly, blinking to block the too strong fluorescent light from his sensitive eyes. He could hear something moving near him, and immediately tried to sit straighter as a wave of fear washed over him. Stain. He fought Stain, and he was dying, and -

“It’s alright. You’re safe in the hospital. It’s just me.” The warm, deep voice came to his right. Yes, that’s right. Eraserhead was there. Eraserhead shows up on time and saved him. He was safe. Izuku sank back, feeling Eraserhead’s hand supporting his back. There was pain in his side, and in his head, and in his… well, everywhere. He remembered blurry images of being kicked and stabbed and sliced, panic making the edges seem fuzzy and pain ringing them with red.

“Sorry… I promised not to get into trouble…” Izuku whispered, looking at Eraserhead blearily. The hero sighed, reaching to grab a bottle of water and handing it to Izuku. When he saw Izuku was in no shape to hold it himself, he held it to his lips himself.

“You need to drink. You lost quite a lot of blood, and it’s not like you have a lot of it to spare, kid.” Eraserhead spoke softly as Izuku drank. “I’m not mad at you. I heard what happened there from Iida. You walked into the wrong place at the wrong time, but you were just the right person there. You saved his life. Native’s too, it seems. I don’t condone you clashing with a serial killer, and we will definitely add some lessons about fighting against a blade wielding opponent to your curriculum, but… for what it’s worth, I’m proud of you. And I’m glad you made it through.” His voice was stable, but the stress was just beneath the surface. Izuku could hear it. And yet, hearing that Eraserhead was proud of him, that he did good, that he saved a life, maybe too… it made him feel warm.

“Thank you… I’m sorry for burdening you like that… I caused a lot of trouble, didn’t I…?” He looked up tiredly at Eraserhead. He seemed even scruffier than usual, and he had a thin cut on his forehead, held together by a line of butterfly bandages. Izuku frowned, trying to remember. Was it from when he rescued Izuku from Stain? It didn’t seem right. Even in his dazed and panicked state at the time, he remembered that Eraserhead didn’t fight much. He tried to force his brain to figure out the problem it was presented.

“Not a lot more than usual. You were careful and smart, which means in the end, everything that happened there either looked like complete self defense, which isn’t entirely false, or something I could take on myself. And since no permanent or severe damage was done, and you are an informant, thus granted certain protection within the limits of law and common sense, you would be mentioned as nothing but a bypasser who got attacked for seeing too much. Without any names or images, of course.” Eraserhead explained slowly, allowing Izuku to process. Izuku was glad, as he was pretty nauseous and just a little distracted. “What is this frown about?” Eraserhead asked, studying the expression on Izuku’s face.

“This cut… it’s not from Stain, is it? How… what happened? I don’t… I don’t remember…” Izuku mumbled, trying to figure it out. Eraserhead let out a small, surprised huff of laughter, one he probably wouldn’t have allowed himself under normal circumstances.

“It’s not from Stain. You were unconscious through the raid. It was successful, before you ask. All the victims are alive and recovering. Your intel was quite important for the mission. It saved some lives, and saved us some injuries. Your… unusual hiding spots and vantage points also came in handy. All in all, good job. You followed your directions well, observed carefully, analyzed the situation and came to important conclusions. Even without participating in the raid itself, you were quite a lot of help.” He explained to Izuku, hand resting on his shoulder gently, careful not to touch any injury. It was a nice feeling. Grounding.

“I… I thought I’ll die.” He whispered, emboldened by the comforting feeling. “I thought I’m going to die and I’ll never see Touya again and never become a hero and my mum will never know and she’ll have to keep not knowing forever, and-“ he gasped for breath, his heart rate picking up at the thought. The terror hit him in waves. “I couldn’t stop him, I tried but he was so fast, and I’m fast but I’m not that fast and I couldn’t think, I couldn’t-I didn’t have enough time to breathe or think or anything and I was so scared, I-all I couldn’t think about was how sorry I am and how scared and how Touya will be sad and how it would be trouble to you and I-I don’t want to die I don’t I-“ Eraserhead cut him by getting closer, moving to sit on the side of Izuku’s bed. Instead of one hand, he now placed both of his hands on Izuku’s shoulders, strong and stable, practically surrounding him.

“You're safe, Izuku. You hear me? You are safe. You’re not dying any time soon. I’m not letting you. You’re going to grow stronger. You’re going to become better at fighting. Hopefully, you’ll never have to face anything like that alone, okay? What you went through there, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. You faced an enemy disproportionately better than you, but you won. And yes, in this situation, surviving counts as winning.” Eraserhead looked down at the boy, catching his darting eyes. “Breathe, okay? I need you to breathe. Look at me, and follow my lead. Take a slow breath through your nose. Hold it for a few seconds. Then release it through your mouth. Now repeat that.” Izuku gripped Eraserhead’s arm weakly, doing as he was told until he managed to calm down. When he did, he averted his eyes from the hero.

“I’m sorry for being trouble again… I know you don’t normally do this…” he mumbled, embarrassed, trying to wipe the tears from his eyes and cheeks.

“You are not being trouble, Izuku. Quite the opposite. You’re handling this a lot better than I’d expect anyone to, especially a child.” Eraserhead said, and Izuku was surprised once again by how soft his voice was. And he used Izuku’s given name. It wasn’t a constant, but it seemed to not be an accident either. It was… comforting. “Besides, while you’re right I don’t normally do this, this situation isn’t normally . You aren’t normally either. I am your mentor. Looking after you is part of what I do. Got it?” Eraserhead continued, still holding Izuku’s shoulders. Izuku nodded weakly, giving Eraserhead a tired smile. He was exhausted, both from dehydration and from anxiety.

“Now, after yourest, we can-“ He was cut by his phone ringing. “-well, it appears we’re doing this now. Your brother is calling.” The hero helped him lean back, picking up the phone.

“Hello, Touya. Yes, there are news. He just woke up a few minutes ago. I’m giving him the phone, but he’s exhausted, so don’t expect too much energy.” Eraserhead kept things short and simple, handing Izuku the phone.

“Hi nii-san…” Izuku started, hearing a shaky breath from the other side of the line.

“Hey Izu… it’s… it’s good to hear you. How are you feeling?” Touya sounded about as tired as Izuku felt. Izuku felt guilty, realising how horrible Touya must’ve felt.

“Sorry for making you worry…” Izuku said quietly, and Touya laughed on the other side of the line.

“It’s alright, Izuku. It’s not your fault. I promise. I’m just… I’m really glad you’re okay, kiddo. How are you feeling?” Touya was quiet and gentle, clearly worried.

“I’m okay. A bit tired, and a bit overwhelmed, but I’m fine. Don’t worry nii-san. I’m fine.” Izuku smiled tiredly, tightening his grip on the phone so he wouldn’t drop it. His hand was shaking.

“I’m glad. You sound like you’re gonna drop any moment, honestly. You know what? I’ll call you later, okay? When you’re not that tired. Rest. I trust Eraser to look after you, so if he doesn’t, call me and I’ll come get you.” Touya seemed to hear how exhausted Izuku was through the phone, and decided to wait until he was a bit better.

“Okay… thanks, Touya-nii… I’ll see you soon… bye…” Izuku hung up, letting his hand drop to the bed with the phone. He was so tired he could just fall asleep any moment. Eraserhead, who already moved back to the chair, saw that. He took his phone back, looking down at Izuku.

“Get some more rest. You’ll need to eat once you wake up again, but right now you should get more sleep.” Eraserhead said quietly, sitting back in the chair. And Izuku did exactly as he was told. It was weird, but he didn’t dream of a dark alley covered in his blood, but of homes. He dreamed about his old him, and his mother, the smell of her cooking in the air, her shampoo in his nose as he hugged her. He dreamed about the small apartment he lives in with Touya, the smell of smoke on his clothes, and the comforting warmth as he hugged him through a nightmare. He also dreamed of a deep voice, calm and stable, he was vaguely surprised, in the way surprise works in dreams, that Eraserhead’s voice was home for him.

Chapter Text

Izuku looked around the train station, balancing with his arm crutches and looking for Touya. He found his brother pacing nervously near the wall. He glanced to Eraserhead for permission silently, and when he received a small nod, he ran to him. Well, more like limped quickly. Even with the doctor’s healing quirk, his wounds were still a bit painful, and he was cautious around them. When Touya noticed him, he moved forward, pulling Izuku into a tight hug. Izuku hugged back, careful not to hit anyone with this crutch, revelling in the feeling he wasn’t sure he would get to feel again.

“Hey there, Izuku… I got you. It’s okay. God, I’m just… I’m just so glad you’re home. You’re safe.” Touya murmured, kissing the top of Izuku’s head. Izuku smiled, hugging his brother a bit tighter.

“I’m glad to be home. I really missed you…” He whispered softly, eyes shut. He took in a deep breath, letting the smell of cigarettes and woodsmoke wash over his senses, before pulling away to look at his brother.

“You didn’t sleep again.” He said quietly, examining Touya’s pale and exhausted face. Touya smiled, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Can you blame me? I got the scare of a lifetime.” Izuku lowered his head and opened his mouth. “Don't you dare apologise again, Izu. I swear. I promise, it’s fine. You’re doing good, and that’s what matters. Everyone’s waiting for you.” Touya smiled at Izuku, earning a smile back. “Now I see Eraser has something to say, so let’s hear him out.” He added after a glance at the hero's direction. Eraserhead pulled a package out of his bag.

“You’re going to need a new costume, since yours was destroyed. I took the liberty to get you this. It’s functional outside your work as well, just like your original one.” Touya opened the package for Izuku, finding a warm black hoodie, and two leather jackets. “Since the one that got destroyed was Touya’s, I figured you would need one for yourself as well. You had the right idea, wearing it with your regular outfit for protection. I also talked to Tachibana, and she made a few modifications, to make all of these more resilient. For protection. She can’t give you gear like what you got for the mission, except these. So take good care of them.” He handed Them two dark wooden rods. Izuku gawked at the things he received, shocked.

“I can’t… I can’t accept that, Eraserhead! It’s-it’s too much!” Izuku protested weakly. Touya, begins him, was too stunned to say a word. He wasn’t used to this kind of generosity.

“It’s only logical.” Eraserhead shook his head. “Your gear was destroyed on a mission, and replacing it is my responsibility as your employer. This is without even mentioning the fact that I am also your mentor. As I said before… looking after you is part of what I do. Got it?” He asked quietly, and Izuku nodded,bowing as best he could.

“Thank you. Thank you so much.” He whispered, quickly wiping his tears. There were enough tears in the hospital, while he was dazed and recovering. Eraserhead didn’t need to be burdened with more of his tears.

“It’s alright, Midoriya. Really. Your next week is free. In fact, no jobs at all. Not even easy solo ones. After that, you will have a special lesson, so get some rest so you can be your best. Now go. You have quite a lot to catch up on.” The hero turned back, hands in his pockets, and left. Touya put the gear in Izuku’s bag, taking it away from him before they started walking home, his arm around Izuku. Izuku wasn’t sure if it was just an affectionate gesture, or if he was trying to keep him balanced, but either way, Izuku appreciated it. When they walked into the apartment…

“Welcome home!” Mike jumped on him as soon as he opened the door. He dropped the crutches, struggling to keep himself stable, even more glad for Touya’s arm around him than before. He hugged Mika close, smiling.

“It’s good to be home!” He chuckled, balancing her in his arms and looking around. Tsubaki was crossing her arms over her floral dress, leaning on the wall with a soft and relieved smile. Miyako approached him with a smile, ruffling his hair. She picked up his dropped crutches in one hand, then gently pried Mika away from him.

“Come on now petal. Izuku’s a bit dizzy, remember? Come to me, let him find his feet.” She said softly, taking Mika in her arms. The girl was supposedly too old to be held like that, but none of them believed in things like that. Affection was something freely shared in the family, and Mika grew up with that. She hugged Miyako, getting off Izuku’s arm and allowing him to take back his crutches.

“How about we let Izuku sit down? We shouldn’t overwhelm little Hero-kun.” Tsubaki teased, making Izuku blush. He sat down on the tattered and patched up couch (they found it in the garbage), and felt calm at last. He was at home, with the people he knew and cared about, safe and loved. Mika sat near him, leaning her head on his shoulder and chatting about her week.

“Also mama brought someone home with her once. She was really nice!” She informed Izuku, who looked at Tsubaki in surprise. If she brought her home, it wasn’t a client. Which meant…

“Yes, I started seeing someone. Stop looking so surprised, you little brat, I’m not that old.” She smiled, making Everyone in the room laugh. “Her name is Faust. She’s a chemist. Has a rattlesnake quirk. She’s really smart too. And I’m not telling you any more than that until I know it’s serious, you nosy dumbass.” Tsubaki said, answering Izuku’s silent question. He stuck in his tongue out in retaliation, and she spread her fans laughing.

“And now, for the surprise!” Miyako called from the small kitchen, walking out with a small cake. Izuku’s eyes widened, tears forming in them. Touya hugged him, smiling lightly.

“Why the tears, Izuku?” He asked softly, squeezing his shoulder, letting him know that if he wants to be left alone for a while, all he has to do is say. Izuku shook his head.

“I’m just… I’m so happy that I have all of you in my life… it’s just… it was really hard this week and I’m-I’m so grateful that you-“ He smiled through the tears, wiping them. It was a bit overwhelming, but he didn’t want them to leave.

“We love you, Izu!” Mika called, wrapping her arms against him before deciding to just climb into his lap and wrap around him. He hugged her close as he was hugged by Touya, vaguely noticing Tsubaki joining the pile and Miyako putting down the cake to hug all of them.

After they all ate, and everyone left, Izuku was left with Touya. He curled up into his big brother’s side, sapping the warmth as he hugged him tight. It didn’t matter that it was hot, or that summer was close, or that he still had cake crumbs all over his face (it was , after all, the first time he ate actual cake in over a year).

“I was really scared, nii-san.” He whispered, letting Touya thread his fingers through his hair. “I was afraid I won’t see you again. I’m really glad I’m back home now.” He kept going, focusing on his breaths. Slow. Deep. In through the nose, and out through the mouth. Match rhythm with Touya.

“You're home. You’re safe. It must’ve been so scary, but it’s over. And if you need help, I’m right here, okay? Whatever you need.” Touya’s voice was calm and slow as he let Izuku cry into his shoulder and tell him everything. As Izuku calmed down, Touya lead him to the futon. He held him close, keeping him stable as they sat down, and kept hugging him as they slept. They both had nightmares, but a lot milder than they could be, as they protected each other through the night from the night terrors.

 

***

 

Shouta knew Hizashi would be home. It was the weekend, after all, and Hizashi’s free day from the station. So Shouta wasn’t surprised to find Hizashi in the kitchen, humming to himself, as he crept in silently. It wasn’t intentional, the creeping part. Shouta just moved silently all the time. He touched Hizashi’s shoulder, to draw his attention. Hizashi jerked from his daydreaming, startled, then smiled at Shouta.

“I missed you.” He said softly, kissing him gently.

“I missed you too.” Shouta answered as they pulled away, accompanying his words with signs. “How was your week?” He asked, going to make them both tea. Hizashi walked with him, leaning on the counter as he talked. They both knew that they had a lot to talk about, but for now… for now they could drink hot tea and talk about small, mindless details. Hizashi spoke about his radio show, and their colleagues, and small, funny details he could think up. Shouta let himself relax slowly, handing Hizashi his tea. They sat down together on the couch, hot mugs in their hands, drinking quietly.

“So, how’s Midoriya?” Hizashi finally asked, taking a sip of his tea. Shouta sighed, delaying the answer by taking a sip as well. It was a fairly easy question, nothing too pushy, but Shouta knew where Hizashi was leading the conversation, and he was dreading it.

“He’s… he’s doing better. He went through some pretty intense healing, so his injuries aren’t troubling him too much. He’ll be good to go in a week. For now he’s on crutches.” Shouta felt a pang of guilt. It’s your fault he thought grimly. He wished he could save him this pain, wished he could get him out earlier, or not have him involved at all.

“Must be a pain for this kid. He’s always so energetic. But he’s fine, and that’s what really matters.” Hizashi examined him, and Shouta knew he was being read like an open book. Hizashi was smart, observant, and knew Shouta like the back of his hand. Shouta nodded tiredly, looking away for a moment. He returned his eyes back to Hizashi.

“Just say it. You don’t have to dance around it.” Shouta set down his tea, signing along with his words. Hizashi set down his tea as well, running his fingers through his hair. He looked like he was searching for the right words.

“How are you feeling, Shou? You look… Exhausted. I think you slept even less than usual lately.” He eventually chose, eyes steady on Shouta. He looked concerned, and Shouta didn’t have the heart to lie. He didn’t want to, not to Hizashi. He even allowed himself, for a second, the selfish thought that he can have support. That maybe he doesn’t have to shoulder everything on his own.

“I feel… Tired. And worried. And guilty. The simple truth is, I failed this kid. I failed his brother too. By some miracle these two kids with trust issues don’t feel that way, but I know the truth. I know that I failed them.” Shouta confessed. His signing was almost robotic, just like his voice. He was going through the motions. Hizashi frowned, worried.

“Shouta… you did everything you could for them. You saved his life. As soon as he needed you, you came running. That’s not called failing him.” He said softly, putting a hand on Shouta’s knee.

“Didn’t change the fact that I didn’t get there soon enough. I came in the last second, Zashi. I barely managed to save him. When he woke up… I helped him through a panic attack over the fact that he already felt his death coming. That he was so close to dying he said his goodbyes and apologies in his head. I let him feel that terror of watching death as an inevitable. He’s a child, he should never be this close to dying. This isn’t something any child should feel.” Shouta’s quiet voice was full of pain, his hands shaking slightly as he formed the signs. He ran his fingers through his hair, tugging on it. He tried to pull harder, like he used to, but Hizashi put a hand on his, lifting it away from his hair. Hizashi kept Shouta’s hands in his as he spoke.

“This… I won’t lie, this is horrible. It’s a horrible thing what happened to him, but it’s also a horrible thing what you’re forcing yourself through. Shouta, what happened to him was Stain’s fault, not yours. It was never your fault. If you ask Midoriya, he wouldn’t blame you either. In fact, you are the reason he survived. Your training, you insisting on him getting gear, these are the reasons he managed to hold Stain back for long enough for you to save him.” He insisted, letting go of Shouta’s hands so he can sign an answer.

“My training is the reason he got into this situation in the first place!” Shouta’s voice rose, and his motions were bigger and sharper. “If it wasn’t for me deciding to involve him in this, If it wasn’t for me training him, he would’ve been safe at home, instead of running into Stain and almost getting killed!” His anger and self hatred boiled. Hizashi’s eyes became stern and serious.

“If not for your training, he would be dead in an alley here, after biting off more than he can chew. Or he would’ve starved because he couldn’t feed himself and do vigilante work, and he would never stop that. Or he would’ve frozen to death in the winter because he couldn’t afford actual heating or clothes. Shouta, don’t you dare start thinking that he’d be better off without you caring about him. I won’t allow that.” He said, still as quiet as before. Hizashi, as a person, wasn’t quiet. But when he got quiet, when his voice dropped into ice cold water, no one else could raise their voice around him. The anger drained from Shouta as fast as it rose, leaving bitter pain, guilt and sadness.

“You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry, I… I’m fine. I’ll be fine. There’s no need to worry.” He said quietly, his almost blank face exposing how utterly drained he was. Hizashi groaned in frustration, flinching guiltily when Shouta rubbed his ear, signalling to him that he accidentally activated his quirk.

“Sorry… It’s just… You’re not fine! There are things to worry about! We talked about this. You don’t need to lie to me like this. I… I talked to Mia amd your mum. I talked to Nem and Tensei. I talked to my parents. Shouta, we’re all worried about you. I’m here for you, you know that. I’m always here whether you want me to listen quietly, or talk about it, or even just distract you from it all, and I will always keeo doing this, but you need help. professional help. Help that I can’t give you, as much as I want to.” Shouta looked in shock at Hizashi, taking him in completely. This outburst wasn’t like him, but the more Shouta looked, the more he noticed. Dark shadows under his eyes, barely hidden with smearing makeup. Messy hair that looked like it was tugged on and played with way too much lately, an anxious habit Hizashi only fell back on this heavily in his worst days.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I really stressed you out, didn’t I?” He asked sadly, cupping Hizashi’s cheek gently. Hizashi leaned into it. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I’ll do my best to not hurt you again. I… I love you too much to want to hurt you.” He pulled away so he can sign with his words, making sure Hizashi was looking. Hizashi started to protest, then stopped.

“If I want honesty, I guess I have to answer it with honesty, don’t I?” He chuckled, taking a deep breath. “Truth is, yes, it hurt me when you insisted on lying to me, back when we were on the phone. I understand why you did that, I don’t blame you for doing that, and it’s all pretty selfish of me, but it hurt me. Doesn’t mean you have to tell me anything. You have every right to keeo it to yourself. But please… just be honest with me, okay? Say you don’t want to talk about it. Don’t say you’re fine when you’re not. Frankly… it’s a little insulting.” He ended with a small joke, not wanting Shouta to take it all on himself too hard.

“Thank you.” Shouta said simply. “I’m sorry I caused you so much stress, Zashi. You deserve better. And I think… I think I’ll try to listen to you on the… help thing. I’ll try to find time for this.” He promised, then kissed his husbad softly.

That night, Shouta told Hizashi bits and pieces of what happened, only what he was ready to talk about. Hizashi took it in, what little of Shouta’s voice he could hear along with the intonation coming from his movements and body language. He didn’t say much, just allowing Shouta to speak his pain and fear. As they went to bed that night, Hizashi traced Shouta’s scars with gentle fingers. Stomach, chest, arms, neck, face… Shouta’s scars held his life story, and as Hizashi recounted it, he spoke of love, and care, and support, leaving Shouta with one option only: listen, hand in Hizashi’s hair, and maybe, just for a moment, believe.

 

***

 

Hitoshi waited in the alley, a week later than he was supposed to. The first time he arrived, Eraserhead told him that the other student needed to deal with something, so for the first week, they will focus on theory. Hitoshi wondered what kind of person that student was, and what kind of thing he had to deal with that even Eraserhead saw as a valid excuse to not show up for a whole week. He showed up ten minutes before the lesson, beginning to stretch and warm up. Right on time, Eraserhead showed up, looking around.

“Whoever your other student is didn’t show up yet. Is he still… dealing with something?” Hitoshi asked, his tone neutral but clearly exposing his disapproval. He was good at expressing a lot with few words and a carefully neutral expression.

“You have a lot to learn, Shinsou. Here is one lesson. It’s okay, you can come out.” Eraserhead said blankly, as Hitoshi heard something land behind him. He jumped, turning around, to see a guy around his age. His hair was pulled back in a ponytail, keeping it out of his eyes. He had freckles covering his face, only overshadowed by the bags under his eyes, rivaling Hitoshi’s. And his arms… he wore a short sleeved shirt, a few sizes too big, exposing only his forearms. He might’ve been thin, but he was clearly strong. His arms were all lean muscle and scarred skin. The impression of his arms was completely different from that of his face, that showed him as a happy, if a bit tired, innocent boy.

In short, he was a roll of contradictions that for some reason terrified Hitoshi.

“Midoriya, this is Shinsou. From this point forward, you will help him get up to speed with fighting, analysing, and other skills. You two will spar together, so please adjust the level of difficulty as you see fit. Remember, he is a novice.” Eraserhead examined Midoriya, and Hitoshi grit his teeth. He didn’t like feeling that he was being pitied. He didn’t need anyone to go easy on him.

“Shinsou, this is Midoriya. He’s been my student for the past nine months, and he never disappointed me this far. You will soon learn what this means, as I have quite high expectations. He has plenty of field experience, as well as theoretical knowledge. Learn whatever you can from him.” The hero continued, looking at both of them with sharp eyes that seemed to fuel Midoriya’s determination. Hitoshi was pleased to find that he too felt his determination growing stronger. Eraserhead left them both to do their stretches, and Hitoshi was surprised to see Midoriya approach him.

“Hey, I wanted us to introduce ourselves properly. You know, since we’re going to be training together. So, I am Midoriya Izuku. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Midoriya had a bright smile on his face, that made Hitoshi inexplicably bitter. He looked like he had no worries in the world. Like he had everything in his pocket. Didn’t he understand this was a competition now?

Still, if he was going to be stuck with him, better learn him. Learning your rivals is an important skill for an underground hero, after all.

“Shinsou Hitoshi. Pleasure.” He said coolly. Midoriya’s eyes… changed, for a lack of a better word. The happy, friendly enthusiasm cooled down, as if reacting to Hitoshi’s feelings. Was that his quirk? Was he an Empath? Either way, it felt like the temperature dropped. Hitoshi could’ve maybe imagined the glint of disappointment in those dark green eyes, but he definitely did not imagine the next expression. He didn’t have it in him. It was hard and cool like crystal, promising… something. It was determination incarnate, and Hitoshi didn’t know what goal this stranger had in mind. Needless to say, he started feeling uneasy.

“Now that you’re done stretching, start with a sparring session. I want to see your level, Shinsou. Remember, Midoriya, he’s a novice, and you’re still recovering, so don’t do anything stupid. No quirks. Are we clear?” Eraserhead was sitting in the corner, looking at both of them.

“No quirks? But why?” Hitoshi asked, confused. Wasn’t the whole heroics program focused on strengthening quirks?

“You will have lessons about your quirk, but not now. Right now we check your physical level. Ready? Go.” As soon as Eraserhead ordered the beginning of the match, Midoriya struck. Hitoshi barely had time to balance, or to get into fighting position. He flailed around, trying to defend himself and remember the positions he studied alone.

Less than a minute after the match started, Hitoshi was on his butt.

“Not fair.” He mumbled, cleaning the dirt off his shirt.

“Well, fighting isn’t fair. Most of the time, you’ll have to fight enemies that are bigger, stronger and smarter than you. You won’t make it without technique. Good job for a newbie, though.” Midoriya reached out to him, stretching his hand out to help him get up. It was an olive branch, and Hitoshi recognised it for just that. An offer of friendship and comradery. He hesitated, feeling the small piece of paper in his pocket and Dabi’s words seared into his mind. Be kind.

He took Midoriya’s hand and let him pull him up.

“You started not too bad, but you didn’t manage to adjust to the pressure I applied. Keep close to the ground. Wide stances, but not too wide. You want stability, but you can’t sacrifice your mobility. Now, what did you learn about my fighting.” Midoriya seemed… professional. Hitoshi decided to go with him, and tried to remember what happened during their mess of a fight.

“Well… you’re absurdly fast, for starters.” Midoriya chuckled, and Hitoshi grinned. “And… I think you’re defending your right side a lot? Like you’re afraid of it getting hurt more than you are other places.” He was unsure about that last observation. Midoriya examined him, before a bright smile showed on his face.

“Great job! So I wasn’t overestimating you!” He seemed happy, and that was confusing for Hitoshi. When did he have time to estimate him at all?

“What do you mean?” He asked, confused.

“I was watching you in the Sports Festival. You seemed smart. Observant. Now, let’s fight again. Use what you observed.” Midoriya instructed. Hitoshi went into fighting stance immediately this time, before they started. He fought hard, aiming for Midoriya’s right. He managed to land a hit, and his rival hissed and folded, clutching his side.

“Are you okay?” Hitoshi asked worriedly, taking a step forward. This didn’t look good. He didn’t mean to actually hurt him.

Before he realised it, he was on the ground.

“Here’s a rule.” Midoriya was panting, still holding his side. “Unless we agree that the fight is over, it’s not over. Got it?” He smiled, reaching the hand that wasn’t holding his side to Hitoshi. Eraserhead was looking at them now, seeming ready to interfere.

“Got it. But seriously, are you okay? It looked like it hurt. Or was this just an act?” Hitoshi asked, suspicious.

“No, not an act. It hurts like a bitch.” Midoriya smiled, face slightly twisting in pain as he pulled Hitoshi up. He lifted his shirt, exposing more scars, including a fresh looking one on his side. “But I’m fine. Nothing opened up. I’m okay.” He assured, smiling.

“Midoriya, take five. You’re no use if you’re overworking yourself and getting hurt again. Shinsou, to me.” Eraserhead stepped forward, and Midoriya nodded and went to the side. Hitoshi approached Eraserhead.

“Tell me, why do you think I set you up with Midoriya?” He asked, and it seemed like a test. Hitoshi stopped to think.

“So I have someone closer to my level to spar with? So I can learn from his skill?” He asked, and Eraserhead nodded.

“Yes, but there’s more. You both have disadvantages that will hinder you in your attempts to become heroes. The system, as you once pointed out, is rigged. And it’s rigged against both of you. You need allies, both of you. I want you to become allies. You can help one another.” He explained, and Hitoshi nodded. The wheels in his head were spinning. The system was rigged against both of them. What did it say about Midoriya? What did it say about his quirk? Did he, too, have a mental quirk? One considered villainous? Or was his disadvantage just the place he came from? Hitoshi decided to find out at some point.

When the lesson ended, Hitoshi went home. He snuck past his father, who was passed out in the living room. He snuck past his mother’s room, making sure not to wake her up. She would scream if he woke her up. He snuck into his room, closing the door quietly, and lay on his bed. Allies. Eraserhead said he would need allies. But could he see Midoriya as an ally? Midoriya, who was full of contradiction. Soft face and hard hands. Carefree attitude and scars all over his body. Friendliness, then the cold and smooth crystal Hitoshi couldn’t figure out. Midoriya was an enigma, a mystery that Hitoshi was determined to uncover.

An ally? Hopefully. Either way, this is going to be interesting

Chapter Text

Alice always took extra care with her attire when going to work. After living in Japan for four years, she learned some of the subtleties of the meetings and the dress codes, those that are never explicitly stated but always expected. Being a foreigner got her some leeway at first, but the judging was still there. She wasn’t the only foreigner in the company, not the only american either, but she always felt that her foreign colleagues weren’t as… professional as she’d like, and it affected everyone’s opinion of her.

Her white shirt was ironed, without a single wrinkle. Her dark blazer and skirt were impeccable. Her hair was collected neatly behind her. Her makeup was neutral and professional. Everything about her appearance was perfect. She made sure of that before leaving her apartment.

Hosu was still a mess from the attack of the League of Villains a week earlier. Construction workers were fixing the roads and buildings that were damaged during the fighting, and Alice could hear their complaints about Endeavor’s recklessness with collateral damage when she passed a building that was completely scorched. She couldn’t help but agree with them. In her four years in Japan, she already had the misfortune to see a few villain fights (though surprisingly, a lot less than in her home country. Well, not that surprising. All Might, since he started focusing on his home country alone, brought the crime rate down drastically. Those who would dare risk the chance of crossing the number 1 hero of Japan were few and far between). Of those fights she witness, and those she heard of on the news… Endeavor’s always seemed to get the bloodiest and most damaging to the surrounding. His fans, mostly men, claimed it can’t be helped, because his power is so extreme. Most people just nodded and moved along, and Alice knew most of her American colleagues were perfectly content with this explanation, but… if All Might, a man so strong he can change the weather by punching the air once, can cause less damages… what’s Endeavor’s excuse?

She continued walking, looking at the large screens in the square, where the same news story about Hero Killer Stain was broadcast over and over. This was the talk of the country (and of foreign news, but to a lesser degree). Debates about his ideology were all over the news and talk shows and internet forums. His identity and methods and moral justification were dissected and rehashed in every possible place. Speculations about his connection to the League of Villains were rampant, and the police and heroes seemed on high alert, looking for sympathisers who would decide to take things into their own hands. Unfortunately, there appeared to be quite a lot of sympathisers to Stain’s ideology. So many, if fact, that those who only two weeks earlier cried over Ingenium’s tragic fate, were now brandishing scarves or masks like his, claiming that “hey, maybe the guy has a point” .

The train ride was as silent as usual, and Alice used it to scroll through news sites and text her brother.

“When will they be over this?” She thought tiredly, scrolling through article over article about the League and Stain, Stain and the League, more and more of the same thing. It was bad, sure, but he was caught already. It’s over. But the japanese weren’t used to this kind of crime. Not since All Might. And to be fair… Alice started feeling the safety too. She was less tense about villains than at home, where every boy with a half decent quirk and a smidge of an excuse could go off trying to hurt someone. Sometimes she wished for her brother’s Barrier quirk, but instead she got a Sketch quirk, allowing her to sketch things in perfect proportions and perfectly straight lines. Great for a graphic designer, not so great to protect yourself from a villain.

“Hey there Al, how’re you doing?” One of her colleagues, Daniel, called at her in English as she was walking away from the train station and toward the office. Her heels clicked on the pavement as she tried to ge away from him. She did not want to draw attention to herself like that. She didn’t want to be the rude foreigner people whisper about behind her back, shaking their head. Besides, she never allowed him to call her Al. No one called her Al. Especially not her culturally unaware, careless colleague who tried to hit on her way too many times. Not that it was unusual in any way, Daniel hit on most of the staff on a regular basis, but she repeatedly made it clear that she wasn’t interested.

“I told you. Stop this. I don’t like it when you yell at me outside. I don’t like it when you try to draw my attention, or draw attention to me. I don’t even like you.” She spoke in Japanese, her words quiet and sharp. She didn’t even realise she wasn’t speaking English, but that’s what happens when you use a language for most of your day, almost every day, for four years.

“Come on, Al, I was just being nice!” He objected, making her grit her teeth. She raised her head, cold eyes looking straight at him. She was five centimeters taller than him, ten with her heels, and she now used every last centimeter she had to the fullest.

“You aren’t nice, you are creepy and invasive, and don’t call me Al.” Their co-workers were staring now. Alice could feel her heartbeat picking up, whether it was from anger or anxiety, she couldn’t tell. Luckily, before anything could happen, her friend Airi caught her hand.

“I’m so sorry, but I need her for a few seconds. There’s a project due soon and we really need to get going.” She smiled, bowed, and pulled Alice out of the situation. “Are you okay?” She asked worriedly once they were out of earshot. Alice nodded.

“I’m fine. Thanks.” She smiled gratefully. She wasn’t this free around most of the people, but Airi had something about her that made everyone feel comfortable. Maybe it was because she could read the atmosphere in the room really well, or because of her short, unintimidating appearance, but she was everyone’s friend and everyone was her friend.

“Did you see that horrible video?” She asked, a few minutes into their conversation. She sounded shaken, and Alice remembered sadly that Airi’s mother was one of the heroes murdered by the Hero Killer.

“I did… it’s terrifying, how quickly people flock to his ideals just because someone put them in nice words.” She answered quietly, glancing at her friend who was walking by her side. Airi looked quiet, a distant expression in her eyes.

“You know, I saw a show once. About how you can convince people to follow ideas they wouldn’t usually follow. I never really believed it’s that easy to make people see murder as the only option. I think… I think now I believe.” Her voice was sad, disappointed. Alice couldn’t help but shake her head.

“I wish things were different… it’s terrifying to think about it. People actually following him…” She shuddered at the thought. History taught that when people found a cause, they flocked to it. Now anyone who is unsatisfied or hungry for power would flock to the villains, even those who would usually scoff at the idea.

“Well, there’s no need to worry, is there? The police and the heroes are on it. I bet it would all be just fine!” Airi smiled, trying her best to smile and act like she was fine. Alice wanted to disagree, wanted to argue and insist, but… that was not the way. if Alice tried to argue or insist, Airi would shut her out. Especially in a public space like their workplace. If she wants to get anything out of her, she would have to do it after work, privately.

“Right. It would be fine.” She smiled weakly, trying to mimic Airi’s confidence. They will be fine. If there was anything people were good at, it was persevering.

 

***

 

Eijirou was in the gym, hitting the punching bag with force. he alternated between hitting it while using his quirk and without using it.

Thump he saw his failed attempt jumping at Kurogiri, an attempt that might’ve cost thirteen and Aizawa-sensei greatly.

Thump he saw the darkness swirling around him, swallowing him before he was transferred, all alone, into a building crawling with villains.

Thump the villain with the chameleon quirk jumped him when he didn’t see, surprising him and throwing him at the wall. He could feel his arm breaking.

Thump Thirteen on the ground, their back torn open and exposing the dark, swirling void that was their flesh.

Thump Aizawa sensei, beaten and bloodied, carried away on a stretcher.

Thump Todoroki, pale and shaking, frost covering his body as he collapsed from the effort.

Thump Iida’s legs, covered in blisters.

Thump Asui, curled on her -

“Keru, I didn’t think I’ll see you here, Kirishima-kun.” And there she was, Asui, ripping him away from the thought about the things they went through.

“Asui-san! It’s nice to see you! What are you doing here?” He asked, a bit happier than he actually was. Make no mistake, he really was happy to see her. Asui Tsuyu was a really cool person, smart and kind, always a rational voice. She said what she thought, when she thought it. Eijiro liked that honesty. It was really manly.

“Call me Tsu. It’s nice to see you too. I came to train, keru.” She smiled a little. Stupid question, Eijirou. She’s in the gym. Of course she came to train. She was very short, but she was toned, full of lean muscles that Eijirou knew from experience were ridiculously strong.

“Cool! Do you want to train together? We could spar, if you want.” He jumped a little on the balls of his feet, throwing a few consecutive hits at the punching bag. Asui - no, Tsu’s smile widened.

“I would like that very much.” She answered, beginning to do her stretches. Eijirou decided to stretch as well, glancing at Tsu every now and then. They were classmates, but they didn’t usually hang around the same social circle. Kirishima collected a group of friends around him, Kaminari, Ashido and Sero. They were the jokesters, the ones who run every prank war and never manage to study unless they begged Yaomomo for help cramming the material into their heads. Tsu, on the other hand, usually hung around Iida and Uraraka (who looked like a really cool person, they just never really had the chance to talk). Eijirou hoped that they can become better friends.

They sparred, banting as they went. They talked between rounds and between punches, teaching each other new moves and joking around and talking about their interests. Tsu talked about her siblings, and how she enjoyed hiking. Eijirou told her about his mums, and how he liked Crimson Riot. They both sat down on the ground when they were done, breathing heavily and drinking their water. Eijirou watched Tsu with a new appreciation, really examining her for the first time that day. She was wearing a tank top and shorts, comfortable clothes for the heat and the activity. as she sprawled back, her shirt rode up, exposing jagged scars. She saw his glance, covering it again.

“You’re afraid, aren’t you? Keru.” She asked, looking down. Eijirou didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He didn’t want to admit it, not out loud. He was there to be a hero, right? He wanted to be a hero, he couldn’t afford to- “It’s okay, I’m afraid too.” She cut his frantic thoughts with her quiet and clear voice, only a hint of shakiness in it. He looked up at her, seeing her glancing down with a weird expression.

“I just… I couldn’t do anything. It’s like everything I did only made things worse.” He admitted, touching his arm. “I’m afraid something like that happens again, and I’m useless. Or worse, I’m a burden.” He looked back at Tsu, biting his lip.

“I’m afraid of that too. I was… I was taken out of commission pretty early, keru. He… I rescued Mineta out of the water, but the villain bit me.” She seemed to gain confidence slowly as she spoke. “I saw Aizawa-sensei kicked into the ground by a Noumu. Shigaraki, he… He touched me, Kirishima-kun. He had his hand on me, and-and the only thing that stopped him from disintegrating me was Aizawa-sensei. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t move. But…” She took a deep breath, stopping the shaking in her hands. “But we’re going to get stronger. We… we’re going to be stronger, so it won’t happen again.” She returned his gaze, confident and calm now. He noticed her determination looked different from hers, but it was determination.

“Yeah! And we’re not going to be alone either. We’re going to be together, all of us! Thanks, Tsu, you’re really amazing. You made me feel a lot better.” He smiled brightly at her, genuine this time. He liked her a lot. He reached out a hand to her, and she grasped it, letting out a happy croak.

He still thought about that encounter the next day, when the lesson ended and they all went to lunch.

“Hey, bro, what’s going on? You’re not with us!” Kaminari asked, slinging an arm around Eijirou’s shoulders. Ashido chuckled, poking his back.

“Yeah, it’s like you’re floating around! What’s the matter with that?” She linked her arms with his and Sero’s, grinning widely. They knew each other since middle school, and he always admired her courage

“Just… thinking. Hey Tsu, want to join us?” He called out, waving at her. Tsu turned around, smiling a little. Uraraka and Iida were with her. She looked a little torn between coming with them and staying with her friends. “Iida, Uraraka, you two can join too!” He added, and the three looked at each other before smiling and walking over. It almost felt like a new era.

 

***

 

Hitoshi couldn’t believe he still didn’t find out what Midoriya’s quirk was. Midoriya seemed to know everything Hitoshi thought, but Hitoshi couldn’t read him at all. They were sparring, and Midoriya kicked him down. Again. It was getting tiring.

“Okay, change of pace. We’re going on a run.” Midoriya stretched again, taking a gulp of water and tossing Hitoshi his own bottle. Hitoshi caught it, drinking like he just finished running in the desert. He looked at Midoriya, watching him.

“Cool. Thanks.” He breath out after a gulp of water. The more he trained with Midoriya, the more he learned to appreciate him. Every one of Midoaiya’s movements in a fight was cat-like, fluid and calculated until it looked effortless yet full of power. Hitoshi didn’t mean to wax poetic, but… well, there was no other way he could describe the enigma that was Midoriya. He got up, stretching a little and running near Midoriya. They found their pace slowly.

“So. Are you ever going to tell me what your quirk is?” He asked after a while, glancing at Midoriya. The green haired boy chuckled in malicious glee.

“If you have enough air to pester me with questions, we can go faster.” He suggested slyly. Hitoshi groaned, falling into step once again as Midoriya adjusted the pace. It was harder, but still manageable. Say what you will about Midoriya, but he knew his stuff. Not once did he ever overwork Hitoshi more than he was physically capable of, even if sometimes it felt like he did at first.

“I’m serious! You know a lot about me, and the only thing I know about you is your name. At least give me a hint!” Hitoshi complained. Midoriya looked like he was contemplating something for the rest of their run. When they were done, they were both panting, hands on their knees as they leaned forward.

“Listen. You want a hint? Fine. I’ll give you a hint. But you’ll only get my answer when you beat me. I’ll tell you if you’re right, but other than that, this is your only hint. Got it?” He asked, grabbing his water and chugging half the bottle at once.

“Okay. I’m in. What’s the hint?” Hitoshi asked, curious, drinking his water and wiping the sweat off his face.

“It’s not what you think it is.” Midoriya said, making Hitoshi frown.

“Then what is it? What’s the hint?” He asked, confused.

“That’s it. That was your hint. My quirk is not what you think it is.” Midoriya looked smug and satisfied with himself. Well, as smug and satisfied with himself as one could look when they were red, sweaty and panting.

For the next two weeks, Hitoshi guessed almost any quirk he could think about. From intelligence boosting quirks to a quirk that allows him to change the colour of things with a touch to super strength to any other quirk possible. They grew closer in those two weeks, training and joking and working on their theoretical homework. The more Hitoshi got to know Midoriya, the more he admired him. His kindness, his strength, his wit and resolve… Hitoshi wanted to be like him.

“Is it Empathy?” He asked during their break. Midoriya raised an eyebrow.

“What do you count as an Empathy quirk? And what makes you think I have it?” He asked curiously, looking at Hitoshi intently. He always looked like that whenever Hitoshi suggested a new quirk for him. Intrigued. It probably meant Hitoshi was wrong with this guess, but he was willing to try anyway.

“A quirk that allows you to feel what other people feel. Possibly even alter someone’s feelings for a limited amount of time.” Hitoshi thought a little about his justification for that quirk. “You’re extremely good at reading situations and relationships between people. You know when to let go of a conversation and when to push for it despite resistance. You stay away from crowded places.” He offered.

“I understand how the first two relate to an Empathy quirk, but how does the last one?” Midoriya asked curiously. Hitoshi looked at his hands, moving in something that was very clearly half formed signs. He filed for later the fact that Midoriya could sign, ad continued.

“In crowded places, there are a lot of different people with different emotions. I think… I think a person with an Empathy quirk could easily get overwhelmed in an area like that. I mean, sometimes feeling just your own emotions can be too overwhelming to function, so a whole crowd of people with a lot of different feelings? It has to be a nightmare.” Midoriya nodded at that, eyes lighting up as Hitoshi explained himself.

“You’re getting good at that! Great job! It’s not my quirk, but you did a really good job analysing it.” The compliment took a bit of the sting from the fact that he failed again. Midoriya seemed to notice though. Midoriya always noticed.

“You know what? I… I think I’ll tell you the real answer. My quirk.” He took a deep breath, looking at Hitoshi like his quirk was a horrible secret, a burden he’s been cursed with. “I’m… I’m quirkless.” He said, and Hitoshi… Hitoshi didn’t know how to respond to it. He never met a quirkless person before, not that he knew of at least. He didn’t know what you do in that situation.

“I’m… I’m sorry?” He asked hesitantly. Nope. Wrong thing. That was the wrong thing to say. Midoriya’s eyes flashed with anger, sadness and disappointment. All feeling he never wanted to evoke in the person who was at the very least his ally, if not his friend.

“Sorry? Sorry for what? I hate it when people act like it’s some kind of horrible, terminal disease, or something I suffer from! Do you want me to tell you I’m sorry about the quirk you got? Cause trust me, I know how much of a shity hand you were dealt. I know they called you a villain. I know they would whisper behind your back, mocking you. I know they were terrified of you. Does that give me any right to feel sorry for you for having the quirk you do? No! It doesn’t! Then why do people feel like they need to pity me or feel sorry for me?!” Midoriya’s hands were clenched into fists. He looked angry and hurt and vulnerable, furiously wiping tears from his eyes. Note for later: Midoriya is an angry crier.

“You’re right. I was speaking without thinking it through, and it was rude and wrong of me.” Hitoshi decided to bow. Midoriya deserved the apology. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I know I did anyway.” He was looking at Midoriya’s shaking fists, hearing his deep breaths.

“I… I forgive you. It’s just… It’s frustrating, you know?” He asked quietly as they both sat down. Hitoshi looked at him questioningly, waiting for him to continue. “My whole life, people either looked at me with pity or disgust. When I was diagnosed as quirkless, our neighbours came to comfort my mother, like I was dying and not just quirkless. The only place you see quirkless people is in those sort of feel-good inspirational stories, about how the poor, quirkless person didn’t let their condition stop them, published to make people with quirks feel better about themselves. Because if even the quirkless person can do it, then of course you can!” He said that last part in a mockingly cheerful voice, looking down in defeat and anger.

“That sounds like it sucks. I’m sorry people are like that. I.. I never actually thought about it like that.” Hitoshi said quietly. Midoriya wiped his tears again, putting on a smile.

“No one does. Well, what can we do? Nothing much really, except living our lives.” He said cheerfully, getting up and walking away. Hitoshi got up, walking after him.

“Midoriya, wait.” He called out, making Midoriya stop in his tracks and turn back. Why did he do that? Why didn’t he just let it pass? No, he couldn’t. He had to say that. “You know… I know that the first time we met I said I’m not here to make friends, but… I do want to be your friend. It just sort of… happened? But I really do care about you, and I want to be your friend.” He looked down, rubbing the back of his neck. He hated admitting his feelings, afraid of rejection, but… he had to say it. Answer vulnerability with vulnerability. Midoriya blinked, a soft smile spreading on his face slowly.

“I… I appreciate it. I care about you too, Shinsou-kun. I’d love to be your friend.” He spoke softly. It was unusual. Midoriya didn’t usually use an honorific for him. He wasn’t that kind of polite to most people. Hitoshi smiled back as Midoriya waved at him. “See you around!” He called as he disappeared around the corner.

Hitoshi snuck home, making sure to be completely silent and avoid confrontation with his parents. They were fighting now, and there was a smell of alcohol in the house. They were probably both drunk. He clung to the warm feelings in his heart for dear life, closing the door to his room silently. He took another piece of paper, scribbling down on it. He folded it into his uniform breast pocket again, right near the one that said “Be kind” . This one said “He cares” . It sat there, right over his heart, adding some more warmth and weight there.

He fell asleep with a smile on his face that night.

Chapter Text

Hitoshi took a late shift in the shop. He couldn’t afford the earlier shifts most of the time nowadays, with his training with Eraserhead and Midoriya. The positive side of it was that Hitoshi now finished his homework a lot faster before the shift, and could drift off in the mostly deserted shop to compensate for his usual lack of sleep. Both Eraserhead and Midoriya tried to convince him to sleep more, but it was pretty hypocritical of them, hitoshi thought. It’s not like they sleep any more than he does.

“Hey there, kid, haven’t seen you in a while.” Dabi greeted him as he came in. Hitoshi, who was in the process of falling asleep, abandoned the futile attempt in favour of a conversation. He had more and more opportunities for those now, with Midoriya being his friend (the thought still made him giddy).

“Yeah, had to cancel a few shifts. Finals are closing in, and training with Eraserhead is killing me.” Hitoshi stretched his aching muscles s little. He was slowly getting better, but the pain was still there no matter how well he stretched before and after training. Dabi smiled.

“And how’s that going for you? Learned anything interesting so far?” He looked deeply amused for some reason, if Hitoshi could read his expressions right (which he was pretty sure he could).

“I barely learn anything from Eraserhead except the theory. I’m mainly working with his other student. He’s been there for almost a year, and he’s trying to, in his words, get me in shape.” Dabi chuckled, and Hitoshi glared at him. “You’re supposed to be on my side!” He pretended to be offended and annoyed. In all honesty, he enjoyed it. The laughter between them was genuine, and Hitoshi was happy that his friend was in a good mood.

“What’s that student like anyway? He sounds pretty strict.” Dabi was smiling and leaning on the counter, deeply amused like he was telling some kind of joke that Hitoshi couldn’t understand.

“He…” Hitoshi hesitated, before groaning in frustration and dropping his head in his hands dramatically. “He’s amazing... I hate it so much. He’s just so good at everything!” He looked up at Dabi with a miserable look. “It’s like… he fights perfectly, he could kick my ass in three seconds flat if he actually wanted to, he’s so observant it’s scary, on top of being an absolute genius and an analysis expert, and you want to know what the worst part is?” He ranted, looking at Dabi who raised his eyebrows questioningly. “I can’t even hate him for it, because he’s also one of the kindest people I ever met!” He slumped down in defeat, and Dabi burst into laughter.

“Don’t tell him you see him that way, he’ll probably pass out from embarrassment. One time one of the girls called him cute, as a joke, and he looked like a cherry for fifteen minutes. That kid can not handle compliments, so you might want to start a little easier.” He wiped his tears as Hitoshi blinked at him silently.

“Wait, you know him?” He asked, confused. How did Dabi know Midoriya? What was the connection between them?

“Of course I know him. Izuku is my little brother.” Dabi’s eyes were soft and proud as he thought about his little brother, but Hitoshi paled.

“Oh god please don’t tell him I talked about him like that!” He pleaded. “This is so embarrassing… I can’t believe I actually said all that…” he mumbled, to Dabi’s still amused face.

“You do have a chance with him, if this is what you’re worried about. Gender isn’t what would make him reject you. And in this field, he’s about as inexperienced as you seem to be.” He was only half taunting, looking at Hitoshi affectionately.

“It isn’t, thank you very much. I’m not interested in this kind of relationship.” Hitoshi said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking down. He always did it when he was nervous. His parents usually said he’ll grow out of it, but Hitoshi didn’t think that was it.

“With him, or in general? You don’t have to answer me, by the way. If I’m prying too much, just tell me to go to hell and I’ll shut it.” Dabi spoke softly, probably seeing Hitoshi’s nerves.

“In general.” He said quietly, not sure how Dabi would react to that. Logically, he knew that the poor gay man with the scars covering most of his body would most likely not judge him too harshly. But his more emotional side wondered what happens if he does, and Hitoshi loses the respect of this person who was an important part of his life. What if he laughs at him, and Hitoshi is left feeling even more broken than he did. Still, he wanted to tell him. As mentioned before, Dabi became a meaningful part of Hitoshi’s life. He wanted him to know. “And if you lose him,” he thought, “at least you know he wasn’t worth it in the first place.”

“Cool.” Dabi’s reaction surprised Hitoshi, and he blinked with confusion at his friend. “Still, if you want to compliment him, take it slowly. He doesn’t know how to handle it, especially not from people he’s trying to impress, which he seems to be doing with you.” Dabi was smiling softly, and Hitoshi was confused. By many things. The first being that Dabi accepted it so easily, but that filled him with too much relief to push his luck at the moment. The second though…

“He’s trying to impress me?” He asked, confused, and Dabi looked like he was about to start laughing again.

“It seems like it. Izuku is a pretty huge mess, honestly. That boy is amazing, sure, but he’s definitely trying to impress you. He wants you to like him, cause he cares about you a lot.” His voice was affectionate. He left Hitoshi to sort his thoughts out, grabbing cheap toothpaste and a hairbrush before returning to the counter.

“Thanks, by the way.” Hitoshi managed to gather the courage to say it. Dabi looked a bit confused. “For accepting me. It’s… most people I told about it just said that I’m a child and I’ll grow out of it.” He admitted, a hand on the back of his neck. Dabi smiles softly, catching his eyes.

“Thank you. For trusting me. I’d never break your trust like that. Now…” He seemed to be hesitating, I sure of whether he wants to speak or not. “When it’s just us, you can call me Touya.” He eventually said, walking toward the door.

“Why?” Hitoshi asked curiously.

“Cause that’s my name. I only use it with my family.” Dabi - no, Touya, smiled. He waved back at Hitoshi and left the shop, leaving the teen to wonder if he just got adopted into another family. If he was, he didn’t really mind.

There are worse families to fall into.

 

***

 

Izuku was working to compile the evidence he collected for the League of Villains case. Since the USJ attack, Eraserhead has been visibly tense about them. Quite understandably so, considering what happened every single time they were involved. So Izuku wanted to give him quiet in return. He wanted to give him something that would allow the heroes to win. He wanted a location.

When he wasn’t working or training, he was working on this case. Eraserhead still didn’t let him do too much physically, even though it’s been a month since Stain. He kept insisting that a proper recovery was more important than whatever job he could try and do, and that he shouldn’t risk re-injuring himself. A little hypocritical, all things considered. Eraserhead was, after all, the one who went back to teaching merely days after being bashed into the ground. So in Izuku’s eyes, he had no room to judge.

“Izuku, you really need to leave it. We’ve been through this same section fifty times. If you didn’t find the answer here by now, you won’t find it.” Touya sighed, putting a hand on the paper Izuku was working on. He’s been using Touya to bounce ideas off of when he thought out loud, and Touya seemed to get worried with his obsession.

“Touya, I swear I almost cracked it. I can do this! I almost got it!” He insisted, tring to pull the paper away only for Touya to tighten his hold on it. He shook his head, and his expression got Izuku to put the papers aside. “Okay, fine. But… why?” He looked at Touya tiredly. “I’m just trying to do something good…”

“And you are doing something good. But you shouldn’t let it cost your life and your health. I’m worried about you, kid. You need to relax a little.” Touya was speaking softly, moving to sit near Izuku. “So, how about you tell me what’s going on with your studies with Eraserhead?” He asked softly, trying to guide Izuku’s mind off the too-ambitious project.

“He barely lets me do anything.” Izuku grumbled, crossing his arms. Touya gave him a pointed look.

“Good. He shouldn’t. You’re still injured.” He said shortly. He lost ten years through the mess Izuku got into in Hosu. Izuku pouted at Touya, not entirely serious.

“It’s been a month, nii-san! I’m fine already! You’re both too worried.” Still, he was glad for that worry. Knowing that there were people who genuinely cared about him made him feel good. They were his family. His home.

“Anyway, what do you do? You study, and you teach Eraserhead’s other student, right? How’s that going for you?” Touya changed the subject, looking affectionately at his little brother. Izuku’s expression lit up

“It’s going great! He’s really smart, so this is great, and he’s also a lot nicer now. He was kind of a dick at first, but he’s a lot better now. I… He asked me if we can be friends.” His smile widened. “I can’t believe we’re friends now! I told him that I was quirkless, and it went pretty bad, because he said I’m sorry , of course he said it that’s what they all say, but he wasn’t annoyed that I got mad at that. Instead he apologised and said he never thought about it like that and he’ll learn better from now on.” Izuku’s words were fast, and Touya listened with interest.

“Weren’t you friends before?” He asked curiously. He was under the impression that Izuku and Shinsou were already friends, from conversations with both of them.

“Not really? I mean, first time I tried to be his friend he told me he’s not here to make friends . Then Eraserhead told him he needs allies, and that I can be a good ally, so that’s sort of what we were. But it wasn’t… friends. At least, I don’t think it was friends. But now it is.” Izuku explained, and Touya nodded. “He’s really smart and nice and funny, it’s great to be around him.” He added, looking down.

“You know, if you were aiming to impress him… you succeeded. Big time. I just talked to him before going to work, and he’s about as excited about being your friend as you are. Maybe even more.” Izuku’s eyes lit up at that.

“Really? I wasn’t really trying to impress him, more like… show him who I am! Yeah, I just wanted him to get to know me so he wouldn’t judge me based on assumption! That’s all!” Izuku stuttered, defensive, and Touya chuckled.

“Get some sleep now will you, Izuku? You got a lot to do, and you need rest.” He said softly, looking at Izuku’s tired face.

“You need rest too, nii-san… I kept you up after work too, trying to work on this.” Izuku realises guiltily. Touya shook his head, yawning.

“Don’t mention it. Let’s just both go to sleep, okay? You need all the energy you can have, so you can kick Shinsou’s butt in training next time again.” He teased, making Izuku stock out his tongue. They went to sleep hugged, like they always did when they went to sleep at the same time. This particular night though, there were no nightmares to chase back. Izuku dreamed about friendships and family, and Touya… Touya didn’t dream. And by god, that was one of the most restful sleeps he had in a long time.

 

***

 

Touya was cleaning a glass behind the bar. It was that weird space between the day and night shifts, when the bar was closed and everyone was preparing for the metaphorical play, rehearsing their roles. Izuku, on his day off, was in the back room with Shinsou. Tsubaki was helping too, teaching art history at a neck breaking speed, if touya could be the judge of that (he couldn’t. He didn’t have an actual lesson since he was twelve, and his homeschooling wasn’t that good a frame of reference to begin with, all things considered). Mika was probably there too, draped around Izuku’s body for all the warmth she could get. She did that a lot.

“We’re closed.” He said in a bored voice, not even bothering to raise his head, when the door opened. He heard heavy footsteps walking toward him, and turned to look at the source. They were two police officers.

“How can I help you, officers?” He put on half a smirk, not standing too tense but ready to defend himself if he needs to. Police weren’t usually the nicest people around. Especially not to suspicious individuals like him.

“We have reports of a suspect in domestic abuse regularly entering this establishment. Himura Katsuo.” Touya frowned. He knew most of the regulars, and while most were scum, they were not abusers. Miyako had a very strict policy on that, considering the lives her girls had before they came here.

“That’s weird. I don’t know anyone by that name, but he might’ve used another name. The boss really doesn’t like abusers, so we'll be happy to help. Do you have any description?” He asked, curious. Maybe they’re about to do something actually good this time. If there were good police officers they were never sent to places like this before, but maybe. Just maybe.

“We have a picture.” They handed him a photo. “He might be wearing women’s clothing and disguising himself as a woman. His victim reported that he was beginning to act a bit deranged before he ran away with her stuff.” And… of course they weren’t up to any good. The picture was old, but there was only one person he knew with scales like these. It was a picture of Tsubaki, before she came out. Touya schooled his features. He didn’t want them to see anything suspicious on his face. His scars, at least, made his expressions harder to read.

“I’m sorry, I haven’t seen any man like that. I could ask the girls though.” He said, keeping his voice neutral and polite. “Hana, come here for a second! These officers are looking for this man, have you seen him?” He handed her the picture, and she shook her head. Hana never talked. They weren’t sure if she can. But she could communicate well enough without verbal speech.

“We don’t have time for this bullshit. Call the owner of this filthy place over here, right now.” One of the officers sneered, impatient. His head was a ball of fire, and the heat made Touya tense. He turned to Hana.

“Could you tell Mama there are a few officers here, asking for her? Boss would want to know.” She nodded, going into the back room. Touya knew she would tell Tsubaki to take Mika and get out for a while before calling Miyako in.

“What’s your name?” The other officer asked, a bit more polite than his flaming partner. Touya didn’t trust him one bit. It’s the ones that try to make a good impression that are the worst.

“Dabi.” He answered shortly, not trusting himself not to do something stupid. The officer who was on fire stepped closer intimidatingly, and Tōya started feeling small and cornered. He didn’t like being cornered, and he didn’t like fire shoved in his face.

“Your real fucking name, scum.” He shoved Touya toward the shelves behind him, and he barely managed to stabilise himself before crashing into the bottles.

“You’re new to the area, aren’t you? A lot of us don’t have proper names. That’s the name I have.” He said, and the officer only looked angrier.

“Stop messing around, you-“ He was cut by the sound of steps down the stairs. Miyako was walking down the stairs slowly, her tall figure as impressive as always.

“I must warn you, officer, I do have security cameras in this establishment. Please stop harassing my employee.” The officer stepped back, grumbling. His partner flared at him, and stepped forward.

“Allow me to apologise in my partner’s name, Akatsuki-san. He’s new to the area, and isn’t used to the role. Transferred from an area closer to the centre of the city.” He spoke formally, not quite apologising.

“Probably demoted for his violence. Like we’re his punishment and not the other way around.” Touya thought bitterly, knowing Miyako would be able to hear that. “Be careful.”

“I understand, of course, but please control your partner from here on out. Now, what did you need my help for?” She asked, tilting her head. Of course, she knew perfectly well what they wanted, but as any good card player knows, you don’t expose your cards too early. And Miyako was the best player around.

“We have reports of a domestic abuser frequenting this place. He might be working here.” The officer handed her the picture. She pursed her lips into a thin line, disapproving.

“I’ve never seen a man who looks like this in my life.” She said, handing him back the photo. “I have a very strict policy against violence here. I promise, if I ever see this man here, I will report to you immediately.” Her deep voice was regal and full of authority, her towering figure elegant and confident.

“He’s very dangerous ma’am, and quite deranged. Dresses up as a woman sometimes. Would you mind if we check the back room? The reports were pretty specific.” The officer pressed, hand hovering over his weapon. Touya was angry now. This was wrong. Twisted. Tsubaki wasn’t an abuser. She was a victim. Her ex girlfriend manipulated her, invalidated her, and abused her and her daughter. She didn’t deserve to be hunted down like this for escaping. She never hurt that woman, yet the abuser was believed, and Tsubaki was seen as deranged. Miyako was tense, not exactly happy to let him in.

“Is everything alright here, officers?” The deep, dry voice made everyone freeze. Relief was washing over Touya, and probably Miyako as well.

“And who do you think you are, interrupting a police investigation?” The short tempered officer asked, stepping toward Eraserhead as his partner still blocked Miyako’s way, hand over his weapon. Eraserhead wasn’t phased, pulling out his hero license.

“Ah, Eraserhead. It’s good to see you. Could you please kindly tell the officer to take his hand off his gun? I don’t like weapons in my establishment, and I don’t enjoy being threatened.” Miyako asked, the smile on her face not as confident as she would like.

“Of course. I’m sure there’s no reason to threaten these people. What exactly are you looking for?” Eraserhead asked, and Touya tensed. He would expose her. He would say it looks like her and put suspicion on her. He would expose her and Mika would be alone and -

“I’ve never seen a man who looks like this in my life.” Eraserhead’s voice was quiet, with only a slight hint of hatred that was in no way aimed at Tsubaki, but at the officer. “I’ve been coming here for twelve years during my patrol, and I have never seen any man fitting this picture or description. Now please stop harassing innocent people and go do your actual job at protecting them.” His voice was cold, leaving no room for argument. His words were to be listened to and respected. The officers soon left, and everyone let out a sigh of relief.

“Thank you, Eraserhead. It can’t be easy to lie to the police.” Miyako smiled, walking toward him. He still looked angry, which made Touya instinctively stay away.

“I didn’t lie. I didn’t tell them a single lie. I don’t know any man who looks like the picture. I also don’t know anyone named Himura Katsuo. I know a woman named Tsubaki, who had the misfortune of being in a past relationship with an abusive liar.” Eraserhead spoke quietly, taking one glance at Touya and visibly calming his body language and swallowing his anger down. Then he turned to look at something behind Touya. Of course, Izuku and Shinsou were peaking through the door.

“I hope you didn’t do that while they were here.” He said coldly as the two boys walked out. They shook their heads immediately, almost in unison.

“No sir. We just listened through the door.” Shinsou added, with Izuku lightly elbowing him to stay quiet. Eraserhead shook his head, his expression softening only a little. Shinsou probably wouldn’t be able to see it, but Izuku would for sure.

“Here is a lesson for you two. If we were in school I wouldn’t have been able to teach you that, but since we aren’t, here is something to think about. In the clash between what is lawful and what is right… you need to consider very carefully what you are willing to compromise on and what you will stand up for no matter the consequences.” He spoke softly, eyes piercing his students’ souls.

“My, Eraser, that’s one inspirational speech.” Tsubaki walked in through the back door, smiling warmly at the hero. It wasn’t as confident and stable as her usual smile, but it was genuine “Thank you, for standing up for me. I don’t think you know how much that means to me.” She spoke softly, and Eraserhead shook his head.

“You don’t need to thank me. I know you didn’t do anything wrong, and people like us need to stick together and support each other.” Understanding lit on Tsubaki’s face as she thought his words through. Her smile widened, and she laughed.

“I’ll thank you as much as I want, Eraser. Don’t test me. But you are right. People like us need to stick together. Come on, won’t you accept a drink just this time? It’s on me.” She asked, giving him an exaggerated wink. He rolled his eyes, shaking his head.

“I have work to do. I just stopped by to check if everything is okay. You two.” He turned back to Izuku and Shinsou, who stood straighter immediately. “Behave yourselves. Keep studying. Get some sleep. Especially you, Shinsou. You need your grades high if you want to transfer, but it would be no use if you kill yourself studying too hard in the process. ” The two boys nodded, and Eraserhead left.

The night shift went about as you’d expect, the usual crowd coming and going. But there were some changes. All the girls were a bit closer to Tsubaki, keeping an eye on her, making sure to protect her if she needed help. Miyako seemed to have a light headache, as she was scanning everyone’s minds to try and figure out who dared report her girl to the police. In general, everyone appeared tenser and more suspicious.

As Touya went home in the early light of dawn, yawning and stretching, he was thinking about the bonds that create a family, and wondered when his became so big.

Chapter Text

Eijirou sat next to Satou in the back of the bus, as Cementoss sat at the front. He tried to keep the mood with his partner light, tried to make sure neither of them worries too much. The end of term exams were brutal as they were, and with the surprise change in the last moment… 

“Man, don’t you think it’s really unfair? I mean, these are the teachers…” Satou hesitated, glancing at Cementoss. The square grey man had earbuds in his ears. With his calm demeanour and slow, deep voice, he didn’t seem very threatening. Even so, he was a hero with immense powers. 

“We’ll be fine!” Eijirou smiled, nudging Satou’s shoulder with his fist. “We got this! Cementoss is a nice guy, he wouldn’t be too bad. I’m more worried about Todoroki and Yaomomo. They have to go up against Aizawa-sensei.” They both winced sympathetically. Their homeroom teacher, while not a cruel person in any way, didn’t pull any punches. Even with all their power as two of the strongest students in the class, they would probably come out of the fight bruised and exhausted. 

“Guess you’re right… good thing All Might isn’t one of the teachers we have to fight.” Satou smiled, clenching his fists and smiling. 

“Yeah, it really is lucky. I mean, can you imagine? Someone having to fight All Might ? That would be insane. And even if they could reach him… who in our class do you think can actually hit All Might? I mean, emotionally. Everyone admires him.” Eijirou thought, focusing on these speculations instead of on his anxiety for the upcoming test. 

“Todoroki might. You know, sometimes I think that guy is made of ice.” Satou mused, looking at Eijirou. 

“No way! Todoroki is more a fan of All Might than anyone else in class, I think. And he’s not made of ice, he’s just a bit cold around the edges. He’ll warm up eventually!” Eijirou insisted in return. True, Todoroki wasn’t very close to anyone. The closest relationship he had among the students was with Yaomomo, who mentioned one time that they were childhood friends. But still, Eijirou thought there’s something else about him. That the cold, harsh act was just that, an act, hiding something else.

“We are here. Get ready, the exam starts in five minutes.” Cementoss stopped them, getting off the bus. The two students followed him, going to stand in front of their training ground. An urban area. Cementoss will be at the top of his game, that’s for sure.

When they were told to begin the exam, Eijirou and Satou stormed right forward. They broke block after block, but…

“He’ll just keep sending blocks until we crash! We have to change tactics!” Eijirou called out to Satou. It was a hard lesson he learned sparring with Tsu. Storming straight forward wasn’t always the best solution. It almost never was, in fact, when fighting Tsu. He looked around, trying to find a solution to their problem.

“The buildings! Satou, we gotta try and climb the buildings!” He nudged his partner, who nodded and jumped toward the building. The two boys started scaling the buildings, searching for a different way to get to Cementoss. Satou started slowing down, his energy rush coming to an end. 

“I distract. You run.” He managed to mumble, attacking Cementoss head on again. Eijirou felt horrible for it, but he ran. He ran, knowing this way he will get help, and they will pass the test. But… what kind of hero will he be if he leaves a friend behind?

Eijirou ran right back, and saw his opportunity. Cementoss was sure he’s running, and would just need to be picked off after Satou is dealt with. He didn’t count on him coming back.

“Gotcha!” He called out, locking Cementoss’ thick wrist in the handcuff. The buzzer was heard, and a mechanical voice called “Kirishima Eijirou and Satou Rikido passed the exam!” Cementoss let Satou out of the cement trap he put him in, helping him to his feet. He was smiling proudly at the two of them. 

“That was a very good job. You both overcame your first instinct to run forward, and adapted your plan to the situation. Satou, you knew your limit and understood where and when you were most helpful.” He looked at the sleepy student just as Eijirou went to stand by his side, supporting him. Once the rush the sugar gave him was over, Satou got really sleepy, to the point of actually passing out sometimes. “On a second thought, I will give Satou my evaluation in a different time. But I was surprised by you, Kirishima.” Eijirou looked at his teacher, confused. “When Satou came to attack me, I expected you to make a run for the exit.” Ah. That. 

“I started doing exactly that. But I had to come back.” He smiled sheepishly. Cementoss looked curious 

“And why was that?” He asked as they walked to the buss, both supporting Satou. 

“I just couldn’t leave him behind. I thought what kind of hero that would make me, and what kind of person. It’s not manly at all to leave someone in danger while I run away!” He declared what his heart told him. 

“Sometimes running away is the better option, and you will need to learn that, Kirishima. You can’t win every fight, and sometimes you’ll need backup. Or you’ll need to preserve yourself. You are allowed and encouraged to protect yourself and try to keep you safe. As Aizawa would probably tell you, a hero who doesn’t save themself can’t save others. So you still have a lot to learn, but off the record, I am glad that your first instinct was to come save your friend. You will be a good hero.” Eijirou looked at Cementoss with a bright smile. 

U.A. was a weird place. After one term, it was still a bit confusing to remember that his literature teacher, who enthusiastically talked about his favourite authors in class, was also a formidable hero who could snap him like a twig without making an effort. He thought about this quietly on the bus ride back to the main campus. 

After he left Recovery Girl, who nodded at him approvingly as she examined him and decided that the scrapes on his knuckles weren’t too bad and he can do with a healing gummy bear instead of a full dose of her quirk, Eijirou called home. 

“Hey sweetie, how was your exam?” His mum answered, her voice excited. She was clearly waiting for that call. Eijirou grinned. 

“They changed the format last second. Instead of destroying robots we had to fight the teachers. It’s so weird mum, I had to fight my literature teacher! Who is actually a really strong fighter. It was so manly! I was paired up with Satou. He’s still in the infirmary.” He sat down on the ground. 

“That sounds really hard, Ei. How did it go?” She asked, pulling a chair back. She was probably on her break. Eijirou grinned, beginning to walk toward the train station. 

“I passed! I managed to handcuff Cementoss so we both passed!” Eijirou punched the air, and his mum clapped happily. 

“Congratulations! We’re going out to a restaurant to celebrate tonight!” Eijirou could hear her grin through the phone. 

“Kirishima-san, send your son our congratulations, but this is a bit too loud for the office.” A deep, amused voice came through the line. Eijirou could hear her smile through the phone. 

“Sorry! I’ll be more quiet.” She apologised, then went back to the phone. “Tokoyami-san is a nice guy. I think his eldest son is in your class! Anyway, we’ll talk when you come home. Love you sweetie, see you tonight!” She said cheerfully. 

“Love you mum, see you!” He answered, hanging up the phone. Eijirou loved his mums, and he wasn’t ashamed of that. He knew most kids his age were embarrassed by the sort of affection he shared with his mums, and wouldn’t tell them half as much as Eijirou did, he enjoyed spending time with them and was proud of them. He spent the ride home with his earbuds in his ears, listening to a podcast with a smile. He had a lot to wait for at home. 

 

***

 

Shouto was quiet. This is a fight, and if there was anything Shouto was good at, it was fighting. And yet… Aizawa-sensei. He was stronger than him, more experienced than him, more versatile than him. He was the opposite of his usual opponent. Where Father stormed forward, Aizawa-sensei went from the side. Where Father used broad, brutal attacks, Aizawa-sensei was precise and calculated. 

“Should we plan a strategy, Todoroki-san?” Yaoyorozu asked, hesitant. Yes, there was Yaoyorozu too. An ally in this fight. Intelligent, versatile, cooperative. Reliable, in more than just this exam. Shouto remembered, when they were two children brought to events to be shown off as trophies, feeling a sense of kinship with her that he didn’t feel with anyone else. But as they grew older, as Mother was sent away and training got worse and his entire life focused on survival and spite, a rift was opened between them. So much so that he hardly recognised her at first.

“It won’t do us much good, if we don’t know where we’re going to fight.” He said shortly, and returned to his thoughts. He managed to catch Aizawa’s disapproving glance though. What exactly was it that he disapproved of? Them not planning? What did he want them to do? Shouto knew he only had limited time in a fight, until the hypothermia symptoms get too bad for him to focus and fight. They’ll just have to finish quickly.

When they ran into the arena and saw a suburban neighbourhood, full of low houses and empty spaces.

“Yaoyorozu!” He called, looking back at her. “Are you nervous?” She seemed to be less confident than usual. It didn’t suit her. It could affect the test. She shook her head. 

“N-No Well, considering who we're up against…” She mumbled, looking down. No time for that. They had to focus.

“I have an idea. Yaoyorozu! It doesn't matter what you make. Just keep creating some small objects. When you can't make them anymore, that means Aizawa-sensei is close.” Shouto started running forward. He couldn’t afford to care at the moment. “Once we can see him, I'll draw him to me. Then, you should run to the escape gate. Stay with me until then.” He ordered. After a few moments, he noticed she was still stuck. “What's wrong? Hurry up and make something.” Shouto was impatient. They were on a time limit, and every second she was stalling they could be attacked.

“Right. Okay.” She stuttered, starting to make… something. 

“Yaoyorozu, I said to make something, but what're those?” He asked, confused.

“Russian matryoshka dolls.” She answered, looking down.

“I see. Well, let me know if you notice anything strange with your quirk.” He nodded, beginning to run. She was slightly behind him. He will do it. He had to do it. He will draw Aizawa, and overwhelm him. 

“I expect nothing less from you, Todoroki-san.” Yaoyorozu said all of a sudden, confusing Shouto.

“What is this about?” He asked, hiding in the shadow of a building. Yaoyorozu looked down.

“You were able to come up with a plan to use against Aizawa-sensei so quickly, and you were able to determine what would be best at once.” She seemed ashamed. What was this all about? It wasn’t anything special.

“It’s nothing special.” He told her, his face a perfect mask. It was the truth. There was nothing special about what he did. He just did. 

“Nothing special? As students who got into U.A. through recommendations, we started from the same place, but in terms of the practical skills a hero needs, I haven't done anything that stands out. During the cavalry battle, I just did what you said. In my own fight, I lost before I could do anything against Tokoyami.” Yaoyorozu looked stressed. That confused him enough to not realise what was wrong at first. And then he did.

“Yaoyorozu, your matryoshkas - he's coming!” Shouto called out.

“Sorry!” Yaoyorozu cried.

“If you realize that, then you should immediately start acting!” Aizawa-sensei spoke as he attacked them from above. His goggles were covering his eyes, and his capture weapon around him. Always the teacher, even in the middle of an exam. Shouto tried to freeze him, but of course it didn’t work. “In this case, you should prioritize evasion since I stole a march on you.” Aizawa-sensei instructed.

“Yaoyorozu, go!” Shouto called behind his back, happy to hear her run, before returning his attention to the fight. It wasn’t long before he was caught by the capture weapon, and sent dangling over the street from a streetlamp. 

“Is that what your plan was? Then it was perfect.” Aizawa-sensei started, as he tied the strand of capture weapon to the lamp securely. “Either way, I'd been planning to catch you first since you're the offense.” His voice was cold and calculated, the way it always was. 

“You think you've caught me? I can freeze these restraints in an instant.” Shouto scoffed, struggling against the bindings. Aizawa-sensei smirked, in a way Shouto didn’t see him smirk since he looked at the villains in USJ and dared them to come attack him. 

“Just be careful of where you fall.” He said as he emptied the content of one of his pockets on the ground beneath Shouto.

“Caltrops? What are you, a ninja?” Shouto wasn’t entirely surprised. Their teacher always seemed like that kind of person. It fit his image, and the kind of work he did. These unpleasant countermeasures were completely in line with his way of thinking.

“I know the Quirks and numbers of the heroes. I'm perfectly prepared to intercept you. Your plan places the burden pretty heavily on yourself. It's nice to try and be considerate to the girl, but maybe you should've talked it over more.” Aizawa-sensei ignored his comment.

“Talked it over?” Shouto frowned. All he could do, as Aizawa-sensei left to chase his partner, was think about what happened. Now that he thought about it… she looked like she wanted to say something. Before he could think about it too much, Yaoyorozu returned.

“Todoroki!” She called out to him. She seemed insecure, hesitant. 

“Yaoyorozu! I'm sorry, I couldn't - Aizawa-sensei’s coming!” Shouto called out to warn her as he saw their teacher approaching. She looked from him to Aizawa-sensei to the street she came from, like she was panicking trying to decide what to do. “Sorry, I should've asked earlier if the plan was okay. You have an idea, right?” He asked, hoping it would let her focus on the test. They didn’t have time.

“But your plan didn't work, so how could my idea?” Her voice was small and scared, so unlike the Yaoyorozu he remembered. He should’ve noticed something earlier. 

“It's fine, just spit it out! I'm saying that you're the one more suited to this stuff! When we were voting for class rep, you had two votes, right? One of those votes was mine! Because I thought you'd be good at it!” He tried to snap her out of it, push her to act.

“Are you done?” Aizawa -sensei asked, attacking Yaoyorozu. 

“Todoroki, close your eyes!” Yaoyorozu yelled, before throwing the matryoshkas from the ground at Aizawa-sensei. Shouto trusted her, closing his eyes immediately. Even behind closed eyes, he could feel the flash of blinding white light. For Aizawa-sensei, whose quirk relied on sight and who was staring right at the flash-bangs, this must’ve been hell. 

“I do have an idea, Todoroki! I have a plan! A special operation just to beat Aizawa-sensei!” Yaoyorozu called as she was lowering him down from the pole, leading him away from their currently almost blinded teacher, who was still attacking them, which forced Shouto to make an ice wall between them to escape. She explained the plan to him quickly once they were out of Aizawa-sensei’s sight, pulling the items she needed out of her body with her quirk. 

“One problem. I can’t use fire.” He said quietly, pointing the one flaw in her plan. It was a great plan. One that made Shouto appreciate her intelligence more than he did already. But he couldn’t use the old bastard’s quirk.

“Todoroki-san, our victory depends on it. Why won’t you do it?” Yaoyorozu asked, a lot more collected than before. He could see more of her old self in the way she spoke.

“I can’t. If I could, I would. But I can’t. I don’t ever use fire in a fight.” He insisted, unable to explain his convictions to her. He didn’t want her to know. This was a private matter that didn’t concern her. She studied his face, then nodded.

“Alright. I’ll make you a flamethrower then. But that will leave me weaker, and I won’t be able to fight as well or make much of anything else, So I’ll need you to watch my back. Hopefully, we wouldn’t need to fight much.” She said, pulling a flamethrower out of her stomach.

“I’ll watch your back. Let’s do it.” Shouto nodded, determined, ready to act on the plan. He took his mannequin and flamethrower, waiting for Yaoyorozu to take the loaded catapult and the mannequin before pulling the cloth over them. They ran close to the ground, holding the mannequins up as if they were their upper bodies. Aizawa-sensei took the bait, using his capture weapon to grab them and pull them away. Yaoyorozu then removed the rest of the cloth, revealing it, before attempting to fire it.

But nothing happened. In a panic-fuelled moment, Shouto realised that she missed the trigger. Still, Aizawa-sensei dodged backwards, and Yaoyorozu got the chance to fire again. The strands of fabric, resembling their teacher’s capture weapon, surrounded the man.

“Now, Todoroki!” Yaoyorozu called, and Shouto used the flamethrower to create a stream of fire under their teacher’s legs, the remembering alloy in the weapon returning to its original form and tightening around their teacher, as Yaoyorozu explained it with pride and victory in her voice. Shouto handed her the handcuffs, so she can officially win them the exam. All he could see, as she did, was Aizawa-sensei’s disapproving look at the flamethrower in his hand.

 

***

 

Ochako was uncertain. Of course she was, she was forced to fight a teacher, who she knew was insanely powerful, alongside a classmate she barely knew and didn’t seem to take the task too seriously. Well, nothing much to do about that. The worse part about the situation was that she couldn’t, for the life of her, think of ways to avoid Thirteen’s quirk. Black Hole was a terrifying quirk, and Ochako was very glad Thirteen decided to become a rescue hero and not a fighting type, or worse, a villain . Only the thought of it terrified her.

“Don’t be nervous, but prepare to give your all! I am not going to go easy on you!” Thirteen said cheerfully, their voice echoing in the bus. Aoyama, by her side, was still smiling. He was posing and staring intently at… something. What was his deal? There was nothing there, so why was he acting like he was in front of a camera? Ochako didn’t hang out with Aoyama a lot. She hoped he wouldn’t. 

The bus stopped in front of a training facility that was located under a dome, much like USJ. That thought sent chills down her spine, remembering the terror of that particular training gone wrong. No time to think about that! She had to be ready!

She wasn’t ready.

Ochako knew, of course, that Thirteen was a really good person. She knew that they weren’t going to hurt them for real. And yet, as she was clinging to the railing in an attempt not to be sucked into a void that swallowed and disintegrated even light (making Aoyama’s naval laser ineffective), she was afraid. She couldn’t afford to be. 

“Think!” She told herself, looking at Aoyama. Both of them staying there would be no good. Thirteen would just wait for them until the time ran out and they had to split. So they had to move. Maybe she can make Thirteen focus on just one of them?

“Aoyama-kun, we have to split! I go that way, you to the other!” She pointed with her head. Aoyama seemed worried. 

“What then?” He asked, looking at Thirteen with fear. Aoyama probably wasn’t used to his quirk being ineffective. Even if he could only use it for one second at a time, Aoyama’s naval laser was powerful, and he was good at aiming it and not wasting his limited shots. Thinking about it, Ochako could see he was already in pain. She was feeling nauseous too. 

“They’ll have to focus on one of us, then the other can attack! We don’t have many options, and we’re almost out of time!” She explained, her hands shaking from exertion. This was bad. This was really bad. 

Oui! ” Aoyama nodded, beginning to pull himself away from her on the railing. His hands were shaking too. Ochako started pulling the other way. She knew all her friends are fighting too, and she wanted to do it. She wanted to be better, for them. Because of them. Everyone was fighting so hard to get better. Even Aoyama, who seemed to not take things seriously at first, was now hanging with all his strength and fighting forward. She couldn’t fail. She had to do it right. 

Thirteen seemed to hesitate, and just for a second neither of them was in the gravitational pull of the black hole. This was their chance. 

“Now, Aoyama-kun!” Ochako called out, and Aoyama turned himself toward Thirteen, firing off a shining laser beam. There was no hesitation anymore, Thirteen immediately pulling their black hole toward Aoyama. That was exactly the chance Ochako needed. She used her quirk on herself, pushing herself from the wall. She released her quirk right at the last possible second, making her impact the strongest it could be. Thirteen was trying to turn to her, but she used the basic martial arts training she got from Gunhead, which she continued developing since the internship, to pin the rescue hero down and handcuff them. The mechanical voice declared their victory. 

“That was good work, Uraraka and Aoyama!” Thirteen called. They sounded proud. Ochako smiled, trying to calm her breaths so she doesn’t vomit. Aoyama staggered over too, clutching his stomach. Thirteen released the handcuffs, standing up. “We can go over this battle later, but for now, let’s get you to Recovery Girl.” They were pretty cheerful for someone who was just kicked, pinned to the ground and handcuffed. They helped Ochako and Aoyama to the bus, encouraging and supportive. It was a hard fight, but it was worth it. Ochako couldn’t wait to call her parents and tell them she passed.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe that we all failed!!!” Mina moaned, slumping over the table. She cushioned the fall with her hands, so her horns wouldn’t hit the table.

“Not all of us.” Sero noted. “Kiri managed to pass.” He was looking right at Eijirou, slinging an arm over his shoulders. Kaminari looked at him, mirroring Sero’s actions on Eijirou’s other side.

“Yeah man, how did you do that?” He smirked. Both of them leaned on Eijirou’s shoulders heavily. It only got worse when Mina got up from the table and slung herself over his back.

“Yeah Kiri, how did you do that?” She smirked, using the opportunity to cheer up.

“It was just luck, guys. Besides, how come you failed, Sero? I mean, Mineta passed.” Eijirou asked, smiling at his friends. Their combined weight didn’t really bother him. He took it as a challenge. But he was confused about how the hell Sero managed to fail when his partner passed. Sero looked embarrassed.

“Well… I was pretty useless in the exam. Midnight-sensei knocked me out the first minute.” He avoided their eyes. Kaminari chuckled, looking at him.

“That’s Midnight-sensei we’re talking about. No shame in that.” He pat Sero’s back in sympathy.

“I still can’t believe we’re going to miss camp!” Mina groaned, bumping Eijirou’s head with her horns.

“Ouch, watch out!” He rubbed the back of his head.

“Have fun without us!” Sero said dramatically, and Kaminari wiped an exaggerated tear. Eijirou rolled his eyes, smiling at them. 

“Who knows? Maybe there will be a plot twist and Aizawa-sensei would let everyone who failed come too!” Uraraka called from the other side of the room, trying to comfort the heartbroken group.

“As if! It’s Aizawa-sensei, he doesn’t do plot twists!” Kaminari scoffed, leaning forward, defeated.

“Plot twist! Everyone is going to camp!” Aizawa-sensei smiled when he walked into class. Everyone was in awe, both because of his horrifying, Totoro-but-oh-god-he-has-a-knife smile, and because of the fact that he actually allowed them to join.

“No one failed in the written exam, not even those who failed in the mid-term. You’ve all shown improvement and I would like to see more of that throughout the year. And as for the practical exams… those of you who failed are the ones most in need of improvement and training. It would be illogical of me to not take you. You will, however, have extra lessons with me until I am absolutely certain you are up to speed and at the same level as your classmates. Got it?” He glared at the three who failed the exam as they nodded, promising to do their best. 

“Training camp! Training camp! Training camp!” Mina, Kaminari and Sero cheered, joined by Uraraka. Eijirou couldn’t help but grin, sharp teeth exposed, and cheer with them. He was really pumped up for camp. How could he not be? They were going to train their quirks, and their bodies. Aizawa-sensei also mentioned other heroes joining to help with the training. It was really amazing to think about it.

“Class 1-A! Please organise in pairs and prepare to board the bus in an orderly fashion!” Iida’s boisterous voice boomed over everyone else, and Eijirou could see him chopping through the air like he always did. The more he got to know Iida, the more he liked the guy. He didn’t look like it at first, but Iida had a really big heart. And speaking of people who aren’t what they look like…

“Yo, Todoroki! Do you have a pair?” He waved, walking toward his classmate, who was standing to the side. Todoroki always stood apart from everyone else, not expressing much or saying much. But Eijirou was sure, a hundred percent, that he wasn’t just some jerk who thought he was better than everyone else. It was the small things that made him think that. How guilty he looked after he obliterated that General Studies kid in the Sports Festival. How he didn’t actually radiate superiority and smugness like Monoma liked to say, but more… lack of knowledge. It wasn’t like he thought everyone was beneath him, it was like he was surrounded by some wall that separated him from everyone else, and didn’t know how to break it. He just needs some help to break it .

“No.” Todoroki looked at him, answering short and to the point. It was like he didn’t understand what Eijirou was going for. And maybe he actually didn’t understand. Eijirou grinned.

“Then maybe we can sit together! What do you say?” He asked, looking at Todoroki hopefully. His classmate’s face remained expressionless as he examined Eijirou. Honestly, Eijirou had no idea what was going in Todoroki’s head, but he wanted to find out. Wanted to get to know him better.

“Sure. Don’t you have anyone else to sit with?” Todoroki eventually answered. Eijirou cheered internally, glad that it worked. He waved the question off with a smile.

“Nah, Mina said she wanted to sit with Aoyama-kun. He brought glitters she wanted to try. Anyway, I wanted to sit next to you! That’s why I asked.” He did his best to be as open as possible. He enjoyed it. It was part of who he was. Besides, If he wanted honesty and openness from someone as closed off and guarded as Todoroki, the best way he knew was by being as open and honest as he could.

“Thank you.” Todoroki nodded at him, then seemed to drift off in thoughts, so Eijirou just stood close by and talked to other people. He saw that Iida decided to sit next to Mineta, to make sure the girls feel safe. He silently thanked him, knowing how uncomfortable he made the girls in class. He blocked Monoma when he tried to poke at his classmates, watching as Kendou dragged him away, waving at Yaomomo on her way to the bus.

They sat in the third row, to the left. In front of them were Tsu and Uraraka (Iida took front row, like the diligent Class Representative he was), behind them Sero and Kaminari were laughing and looking at something on their phone, and to their right sat Aoyama and Mina. Todoroki took the window seat, looking through it and avoiding conversation. Eijirou didn’t press, though he sometimes tried to include him in the conversation. Todoroki’s answers were short, straight to the point, but not unpleasant or annoyed. They were always serious, using the same tone he used for almost everything. Not as much uninterested or bored as it was distracted.

“Never have I ever… been an only child.” Sero declared to start the game. Most of them took down a finger, grumbling. Eijirou was surprised he managed to drag Todoroki into the game, after he confessed to never playing it before. Todoroki didn’t take down a finger.

“You have siblings? Cool! How many? Are they older or younger than you?” Eijirou couldn’t help himself. He was curious, okay? He wanted to know more about his classmate. Todoroki looked confused, an expression that only got deeper once Mina, Kaminari and Sero joined the pressure.

“I have two siblings, a brother and a sister. They’re all older than me.” He said quietly, his expression softening just a little when he mentioned his siblings, then quickly returning to his usual frozen expression. 

“Man, I’m so jealous! I have two little sisters, and it’s hell. Being the youngest has to be so cool!” Sero smiled. 

“What are they like?” Eijirou asked. Talking about his siblings softened him a little. Maybe it would help him connect to the rest of them. He hoped so. That expression was something none of them ever saw on Todoroki before. 

“They are… very kind.” Todoroki looked away, like he was uncomfortable with something. Eijirou decided to stop pressing, but Sero didn’t seem to get the hint. 

“That’s all you can tell us about them? I mean, they’re your family! You gotta know them better!” He looked at Todoroki, whose face turned angry. Not good. Not good at all. 

“Your experiences aren’t universal, Sero, and you better remember that. Family means something different to every person, and it would be better for you to not shove your nose into matters that aren’t your business.” It was almost a growl. Todoroki looked like a wounded animal trying to defend itself and just get away from the situation. They fell into shocked silence at the quick switch. Eijirou cursed silently in his heart, watching Todoroki’s expression returning to its usual, frozen self. He didn’t usually lash out like that. 

“I’m sorry about that. Sero didn’t mean to insult you, I’m sure.” Eijirou said quietly, and Sero nodded, apologising too. Todoroki only nodded quietly, turning away from them to look through the window. Conversation slowly resumed, but without Todoroki this time. They got off the bus after a short while, in an observation point. 

 

***

 

Shouta went off the bus tiredly, making sure all eighteen students left. In the observation point, Sousaki and Tsuchikawa waited for them with their usual enthusiastic Wild Wild Pussycats act. Tsuchikawa was always the more enthusiastic and excitable of them (second only to Shiretoko), and Sousaki was the calmer, more responsible one. 

“I can’t believe it! I’m a huge fan!” Uraraka whispered excitedly to her friends. “There aren’t many rescue heroes around, and the Wild Wild Pussycats are the best group around! I always wanted to be a rescue hero, so I looked up to them a lot…” She sounded embarrassed at the confession. 

“Now now, no time to talk, kittens! Look over there, at the base of the mountain.” Sousaki directed their attention to the site of the camp. “This is where we’ll be training! We own the camp and the surrounding forest, so you can use your quirks all you like! To get there you’ll have to cross… the forest of the beast. I think until lunch will do?” Sousaki lowered her voice, beginning to grin and looking at her teammate. Tsuchikawa wore a matching grin, as the students slowly realized what was going on.

“Oh yeah, I think it will do. So, if you want lunch, you have to get there quickly!” She giggled, pulling out her claws. They were mechanic, part of her costume, but that didn’t mean she didn’t look dangerously cat-like. 

“I think we should go back to the bus…” Kaminari dragged his words, then started running toward the bus with most of his classmates. Not that is was any use, with Tsuchikawa’s Earth Flow. The children were all swept off their feet and spilled off the observation point into the forest below. 

“And I am the cruel one.” He spoke dryly, watching as Tsuchikawa started creating giant monsters with her quirk, to fight the kids. Sousaki laughed warmly. 

“I don’t think anyone calls you the cruel one, Aizawa. You’re too soft for that. Don’t think I didn’t see you wince when Ryuko washed the students down in a landslide. You’re not that scary tough guy you’re trying to be.” She glanced at him with a smile, to which he rolled his eyes. She learned not to elbow him in the ribs when he accidentally flipped her (and also started bleeding from a particularly nasty wound). 

“If they get injured, talking to their parents will be a pain. I was wincing because of the future parent calls and paperwork.” He lied smoothly. Sousaki and Tsuchikawa both laughed. 

“You’re such a comedian, I think Joke is influencing you. How is she, really?” Tsuchikawa asked absentmindedly while sending another earth beast at the students. They had time until they needed to get on the bus. The kids would probably take a bit longer, from the look of it. He watched, on Tsuchikawa’s monitor, as Iida saved Mineta and took one of the beast’s legs. The students split into smaller groups they were comfortable with, switching as needed, to take on the challenge. And while the one who seemed to take the most beasts was Todoroki… he was acting alone. Always alone. And never with fire. No matter what Shouta did, he couldn’t get him to use that part of his quirk. 

Shouta had suspicions, horrible suspicions, but he didn’t know how to address them. He couldn’t just go and accuse the number 2 hero of child abuse. Especially not when it seemed like he might have to become the number 1 soon. But more importantly, if he started a mess now, Todoroki might not be able to reach out for help at all. Abusive people tended to keep their victims silent at all cost, and if Endeavor was abusive, and thought that someone might be onto him, he would tighten the figurative leash. It would be harder for Todoroki to get help. And that was the last thing Shouta wanted to do. Besides, there was always the option that Endeavor wasn’t abusive. There was the option that this is something else entirely, and he’s building on something that isn’t there. The best course of action, he decided, would be to offer Todoroki himself help, being as subtle as possible. 

Outside of Todoroki, Shouta could see some great teamwork. Asui, Uraraka, Kirishima and Sero teamed up very effectively (Sero and Asui providing mobility, Kirishima providing strength and Uraraka managing to do both). Kaminari worked with Ashido and Aoyama mainly, and the three formed an absurdly efficient team considering their low ranking in class (it’s a shame, really, since they’re all quite powerful. Hopefully the training camp would help teach them to use their strengths better). Jirou and Yaoyorozu worked together, with Yaoyorozu creating a canon and ammunition, and Jirou covering for her as she got more and more tired from using her quirk, destroying monsters with her powerful sound waves. Maybe Hizashi should try and take her as an intern. She has a lot she can learn from him. Kouda too could use some coaching. He joined Tokoyami, Shouji and Satou in locating and destroying monsters, using his Anivoice to lead the animals of the forest to attack. 

But most surprising was Iida. When the challenge was set, Shouta was sure the boy would storm forward to attack the monsters. Which he did, sometimes, but it appeared that defeating monsters wasn’t his prime goal. He used his mobility to run the perimeter, offering help to aid to his classmates and rescuing them when they got into trouble. He prioritised rescuing over fighting, and that was impressive. Admirable even. 

“Hey, Aizawa, I asked you a question! Did you hear from Joke lately?” Tsuchikawa asked, snapping him out of his thoughts. He was too tired to even think about Joke. 

“Not since the Sports Festival, no. I will probably start hearing from her soon, though, since we’re trying to get these kids through the provisional license exams.” He sighed, getting a chuckle from Sousaki. 

“Well, the kittens are getting close to my radius. Let’s get on the bus. Shino, tell Tomoko and Yawara that we’re on our way, okay?” Tsuchikawa asked, answered by Sousaki’s nod. Shouta could feel slight pressure on his brain as her quirk, Telepath, swept the area. He only knew to notice it because he was prepared for it, and knew her for quite some time. Enough to recognise her quirk at work. 

Out of the team, the person who terrified him most was Shiretoko. Under her enthusiastic, over the top attitude, an attitude that made everyone around her underestimate her, she was a terrifyingly smart individual. The nature of her quirk allowed her to notice weaknesses, and her wit taught her how to exploit them. She could sense his weakness before he could lay his eyes on her. A terrifying force to be reckoned with. Her going into hero work, and being a rescue hero at that, was a blessing. But truly, she was too kind to be anything else. She was the one who came up with the idea of forming the group. She even tried to convince him to join. And truth be told, it was a pretty tempting offer (if only for the cat theme). 

He was glad Chatora took the offer instead. He was a lot more suited for the job. Chatora and him were pretty close in school. The shared experience of coming out at the same time pushed them together into a close team. Shouta learned to appreciate Chatora’s strength and fighting spirit (they were one hell of a pair in practices, Shouta incapacitating enemies and Chatora evading and taking them down), and also his kindness and gentleness. Shouta, in his turn, did his best to protect his more emotionally sensitive friend, and support him when he needed. They had the type of comradery not often found but always appreciated. 

When they arrived, the campsite was a mess of preparation. After quick greetings, all of them (except for Tsuchikawa, who kept putting obstacles in the kids’ way) set to work on the camp. Even Kouta, Sousaki’s five years old nephew who she was given custody over after his parents’ tragic death two years prior, did what he could (though not without grumbling and complaining about stupid heroes and their stupid attitude they’re all so stupid ). It pained Shouta to see that kind of attitude, and the effect it had on Sousaki. He only met Water Horse a few times, but he knew how much Sousaki loved her little sister and brother-in-law, and how heartbroken she was when they died. Watching their son hate them and their legacy, hate her for what she does… it couldn’t be easy. As they worked, Shouta hoped that he’d eventually be able to help this kid. Kouta deserved it. 

 

***

 

Tenya limped out of the forest, zigzagging between his classmates to check how they were doing. Todoroki was heating himself up, his face blank and limbs still violently shaking. He only agreed to do it after they left the forest. Kouda’s throat apparently hurt, if he was understanding his signing right. Satou was exhausted and hazy, as he crashed out of his sugar rush Jirou seemed to be struggling to both support Yaoyorozu (way too thin and pale, must’ve overused her quirk) and leading a drooling Kaminari the right direction (the problem was solved quickly when Kirishima came over to guide him in her stead). Uraraka leaned heavily on Tsu, looking pale and sick. Tenya’s calves felt too hot for comfort, and something in his engines would definitely need checking (most likely the cooling system. He hated tweaking with that), but other than that he was pretty much okay. 

When they arrived at the campsite, there were six people already there waiting for them. There was Aizawa-sensei, with his perpetually exhausted look. There was a small child that Tenya didn’t feel like he had the right to ask about, as he clearly seemed to not want to be there. And of course, there were the Wild Wild Pussycats, now all together. Pixie-Bob was still grinning wickedly, and Mandalay’s smile was a bit on the warmer side. With them were also the goofy, excitable Ragdoll, and the intense Tiger. Tensei told him about them, back when he was younger. They came to Shouta and Hizashi’s wedding too, he remembered. After another bit with their catchphrase (Tenya could appreciate those, even if they weren’t usually quite fitting for his taste), Pixie-Bob turned to them all. 

“I think the most impressive ones were… you five! Great job, kittens!” She smiled, pointing to Uraraka, Tsu, Kirishima, Sero, And Todoroki who stood behind them. They all seemed surprised (well, except Todoroki, but Tenya suspected this might just be his image). “You fought great! Even if it took you all longer than we expected, you did a really great job! You can congratulate yourself!” She cheered, and Tenya felt pride swell in his chest. He might not have been praised, but his friends were. Uraraka has been working so hard for this, and Kirishima seemed so excited. Todoroki accepted it with his usual blank expression. He must not have been a stranger to praise. 

“Iida.” Aizawa-sensei cut in, silencing the group. Did he do something wrong? Why would sensei call out attention to him? His performance wasn’t stellar by any means, as he was more busy trying to look out for his classmates. “Good job today. I noticed you focused more on supporting your classmates and getting them out of trouble. This is also an important part of hero work. Your priority is not solely to defeat your enemy, but to make sure the civilians and your teammates are safe.” He looked solely at Tenya, who was filled with warmth. His efforts were noticed. His teacher, a man he greatly appreciated, understood what he did and why. It meant a lot to him.

“Great job, Iida-kun!” Uraraka clapped on his back. She was stronger than she appeared, sending him stumbling forward. 

“Yeah, great job man!” Kirishima cheered, throwing his fist in the air. 

“It really is impressive, Iida-san.” Yaoyorozu said softly, clapping her hands. By her side, Jirou gave him a thumbs up. 

“That’s our class representative, keru.” Tsu smiled. This praise from his classmates wasn’t something he was used to. He noticed Todoroki nodding at his direction too. The expression on his face wasn’t quite a smile, but it seemed… approving, somehow. 

“Now now now, kittens, eat up! Eat well, because this is the last time we’ll be taking care of you like that!” Ragdoll said excitedly, pointing at the food on the tables. He didn’t even try to maintain any semblance of order as everyone ran over. He was hungry and tired too, and the food was great for morale. 

After they ate (and solved the fistfight started by Sero comparing Yaoyorozu’s quirk to pooping and Jirou jumping to her defense), they all went to the hot springs. It felt great, washing the dirt and sweat off his body, and he allowed himself to just lean back and relax for a while. The idle chatter was broken by… Mineta. Truth be told, Tenya didn’t like his short and perverted classmate. He made Tenya’s friends feel uncomfortable and unsafe with unsolicited comments about their bodies and attempts to look up their skirts and down their shirts. Since in the end he was stopped every time before anything happened, his parents applied pressure to keep him in the school and their teachers couldn’t actually expel him. But now…

“Do you know what’s over this wall? Everything we ever wanted.” Mineta presses his face to the wall separating their bath from the girls’ bath, and - dear god was he drooling?

“Mineta-kun, this is highly inappropriate! Stop this immediately!” Tenya shot up, arms swinging around him and gesturing. 

“Yeah, not cool, Mineta. You have to stop.” Kaminari said hesitantly. Out of their classmates, Kaminari was always the most understanding of Mineta’s thoughts, even if he didn’t agree with his actions. If Kaminari thought even the idea was going too far, that meant something. 

“Walls are made to be climbed on!” He called out, and began using his balls to climb the wall. Tenya was about to jump forward and stop him when a head popped over the top of the wall. The child, Kouta, was sneering at Mineta with hate. 

“You’re disgusting. Maybe before you try to become a hero, try to be a decent person first.” His voice was angry and hateful, more hateful than a small child like him should ever be. Tenya wondered what happened to him. Then the boy pushed Mineta…

Who fell right on him. 

Tenya immediately pushed him off his face and into the water, disgusted and mildly horrified. He did not plan to have his face inside one of his classmates’ butts, and even if he ever planned to have it there it would definitely not be Mineta’s butt. 

“Thanks, Kouta-kun!” He heard Ashido call through the wall. He was glad the girls were safe, at least that. He looked up just in time to see Kouta looking over at the other side of the wall, then stumbling over his feet and falling toward them. He immediately sprung into action, running to catch him (without his quirk - his engine still needed checking). Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Kirishima doing the same. They both reached the boy at the same time, Tenya catching his head and Kirishima his legs. The boy was unconscious. 

“We need to take him to Mandalay.” Kirishima said, worried. They both noticed, at the same time, that Kouta was bleeding. Kirishima accidentally activated his quirk as they landed, and one of the sharp edges of his quirk-hardened skin cut him. It didn’t seem like anything serious, but he still needed help. 

“I’ll take him. It’s my responsibility, as class president. I’ll see to it that he is taken care of, then come back to update you.” He said, his voice calm and confident. He couldn’t afford to lose his calm, not when he was responsible. Kirishima looked stressed as Tenya took Kouta. “You did a good job, Kirishima-kun. If not for your quick thinking and instincts, Kouta-kun would’ve been hurt a lot more.” He encouraged his classmate, who nodded and smiled a little. 

He carried Kouta to the main building, explaining what happened to Aizawa-sensei, Mandalay and Pixie-Bob. Sensei listened quietly, a dark expression on his face. 

“When you return to your classmates, tell Mineta to get dressed and come to me.” He said coldly, and Tenya could see he was angry. Very angry. He would talk to Mineta, and hopefully something would finally be done about him. 

“Yes sir. Is Kouta-kun going to be okay?” Tenya asked hesitantly, looking at the child worriedly. He was so young and small. “I promised Kirishima-kun that I would update him.” He explained. 

“He’ll be fine. But the leg seems like it would need some rest. He wouldn’t be able to wander off in the next few days.” Mandalay said softly, touching Kouta’s cheek gently. He was her nephew, Tenya heard. He remembered how, two years back, Tensei went to Water Horse’s funeral. When he came back, he talked quietly to their parents about the heroes’ young child who remained with his aunt. Tenya nodded, going back to the baths to inform everyone of the developments. 

By the time they all had to go to sleep, Mineta was already packed up and waiting for the bus back home. They were all informed that he would not be returning to class the following semester.

Chapter Text

Shouta looked at the leaving bus, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He hated expelling students. He put his heart and soul into every new class, doing his best to give them all the tools and support they need to be good heroes, and more importantly, good people. And every time, it went wrong in some way. And this class survived fully for so long, and through so much… It was even more heartbreaking to part with a student after an entire semester. But Mineta’s actions proved that despite his potential, he wasn’t fit to be a hero. Truth be told, Shouta wanted to expel him many times throughout the semester, for many instances of attempted assault on his female classmates, but technically nothing ever actually happen, so his hands were tied.

“You look tired, Eraser.” Kan came over to stand near him. The Blood Hero crossed his arms over his partially bare chest. Shouta never liked the man’s costume, finding it too tight and not protective enough, but Kan liked it, saying it doesn’t limit his movement, or distract him by rubbing on his skin. Well, the man trained in ballet and gymnastics since childhood, he was probably used to that. 

“It’s not easy to expel a student. Especially not when he does have potential.” Shouta sighed, eyes set on the horizon. Kan huffed quietly, his fangs making it sound a bit foreign.

“Seriously? You hold the record for most students expelled in the history of U.A.. You expelled an entire class last year.” He stated the fact so simply, as if there was anything simple in it. It made Shouta’s blood boil, that someone would think he took this agonising decision lightly.

“And every single one of those expulsions was heavily considered, and definitely not something that was easy for me to do. Besides, I weed most of the students in the early stages of the semester, usually. To have a student pass an entire semester and then get expelled… it’s even worse than usual. Especially with this particular class.” Shouta’s voice was deep and tired, as he worked on maintaining his calm and not bursting out on Kan. His colleague didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. It wasn’t his fault that Shouta never quite let people see through him and understand his feelings.

“You’re right. I should’ve thought about that. I know how you get attached to those kids.” Kan apologised, neither of them actually looking at the other. They knew each other in school, sure, but they were in different classes and only spoke occasionally. It was only when they were both adults, both teachers, that they actually got to know each other. “Say, what did he even do to get you to declare he’s expelled before even talking to Nezu about it? I mean, He pretty much gives you free reign when it comes to expulsions, but usually you at least check with him first.” He sounded curious. The rumour would travel fast, no doubt, even among the students, but that would be inevitable. Better put the speculations to rest before they started.

“Mineta tried to climb the wall separating the girls’ baths from the boys’ to peep on them. He didn’t succeed because of Mandalay’s nephew, who was sitting on top in case something like that happened. But the kid fell, we’re still not sure if it was because Mineta pulled him or because of some other reason, but the fact stands that Mineta’s actions endangered and caused harm to a child, on top of being extremely offensive toward his female classmates.” Shouta closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and preparing to tell him the worst part. “When I confronted him about that, he didn’t even seem to care that he hurt a five years old child, choosing to focus instead on the fact that his plan failed because of that stupid little brat .” He finished with a quote. “A student who doesn’t see wrong in causing harm to a child, doesn’t show remorse for his wrongdoing and expresses no willingness to learn from his actions isn’t one I can teach. If it was up to me, he would’ve already been expelled earlier for harassing the girls, but his parents pressured the school.” Shouta finished, crossing his arms. Kan nodded, understanding. 

“That sounds… if we’re being honest, I’m relieved that he was expelled. My students reported him a few times too, and… well, I don’t want any of the students to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in school.” He said quietly. “Well, I’m going to bed. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, and we still need to beat you. Good luck, Eraser.” He now had a smile on his face, accenting his fangs. Shouta nodded, raising his hand to wave goodbye.

“Thank you, Vlad. But we’ll see who beats who tomorrow. Goodnight.” He had a slight smirk in the corner of his lips, not much but enough for Kan to notice it. The Blood Hero laughed heartily as he left for the cabin. Well, he could laugh all he wanted. Shouta had absolute faith in his students. Whatever happened through the semester, whatever distractions and troubles they had between lessons… those kids had drive. They had potential. They had the kind of real life experience that no first year student should ever have, but that gave them an edge over class B. They knew the world outside, they tasted its danger, and if the stark improvement that students like Kirishima and Asui went through meant anything, that danger didn’t paralyse them, but push them forward. Made them push to be better.

Instead of going to sleep, Shouta decided to review the special quirk-strengthening programs for each student one more time. He adjusted some programs, making sure they all fit the students they are meant for and allow for enough supervision from the heroes. There were now 37 students, divided between six heroes. Shiretoko would supervise everyone, obviously, and so would Sousaki. Tsuchikawa would be walking around, adjusting terrains for the training students. Chatora would give one on one lessons for the students with more physical quirks (he should ask him to work with Kirishima and Ojirou, and maybe with Iida too. That boy needed some more agility training). Shouta and Kan would be focusing each on his own students, with Shouta giving extra attention to the three who failed the practical exam in his class. He went to sleep knowing there will be a lot to do the next day.

The next morning all students were ready at 6:30 am, listening to their instructions. After a demonstration of how little their quirks actually improved, they sent each to their own training exercise. The only one left standing there, not moving to his designated exercise, was Todoroki. Shouta pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly, already feeling the headache coming. 

“Yes Todoroki? Is there anything you wanted to say?” He asked tiredly, watching his student. Todoroki’s face was a blank slate, like it was most of the time. When he didn’t lose his temper, that is. But Todoroki didn’t seem like he was about to lose his temper now. He seemed like a tired child who is mustering all his power to stand up to something or someone. 

“I can’t do the exercise. I don’t use fire.” He said quietly, face not betraying anything. Shouta sighed, shaking his head and signing Todoroki to come with him. 

“You’re putting me in a tight spot, Todoroki, when it comes to your training. Now, I recognise that you have your reasons not to use your full potential. I don’t know them, and I won’t pry, but it you ever do want to share them you’re more than welcome to tell me. The point is, for some reason or another, you refuse to use half of your quirk. I have no way of forcing you to use it except maybe the threat of expulsion, which I am not going to use. I won’t threaten you into doing things. But your refusal means I can’t send you out on the field.” Shouta looked down at his student, whose face wore a confused expression. It was the first emotion he expressed that day. 

“Why? Sensei, I’m competent enough with my ice to -“ Shouta had to stop his objection. 

“You are competent with your ice, that’s true, but that’s not enough. I can’t, with a sound heart, send a child on the field if I don’t know that they can control their quirk properly. All of it. Because your refusal to use fire both means that you lower your ability to defend yourself from enemies and from the side effects of your own quirk, and that if you are pressed and have no choice but use fire, you aren’t trained in controlling it. That makes you a danger both to yourself and to everyone around you. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how dangerous uncontrolled fire can be. Or even controlled fire. I can’t send you out knowing that you can’t use and control that aspect of your quirk. Do you understand me?” His voice was quiet, and he tried to help Todoroki understand. The boy nodded, averting his eyes. 

“I still won’t use it.” He said quietly, standing up for himself. Shouta have to admire his conviction, even if it was put in the wrong place. He nodded, thinking his next words carefully. 

“Very well. Your new exercise would be creating ice while regulating your inner temperature. This is a use of your quirk that I will not compromise on. You have to know that. You will also vaporise your ice. I’m coming towards you, so this exercise is non negotiable. Got it?” He asked, pinning his eyes on Todoroki until his student finally nodded. “Good. Now, there’s something else. Until you start training to control both aspects of your quirk, you will not be allowed on any outside work. That means no internships, no work experience weeks, nothing like that until I know that you won’t be risking yourself like that. This is not a punishment, Todoroki. This is a precaution I’m putting to keep you safe. Is that clear?” Shouta asked, confirming again. He wanted it clear that he wasn’t punishing Todoroki. Because he wasn’t. The concern here was the kid’s health and safety. 

“I understand. Thank you, sir. For your consideration.” Todoroki said quietly, lowering his head a bit before walking away to his training area. Shouta started walking to the remedial students. They indeed had a lot of work to do. Shouta hoped what he did would be a first step toward figuring Todoroki out and helping him. 

 

***

 

Fumikage wasn’t particularly happy with the exercise he was tasked with. It was a silly thing for a fifteen years old, to be afraid of the dark. Especially one who revelled in it and used it. And still, the darkness terrified him as much as it did his eight years old sister. As much as it did their father. Darkness, for them, was the constant battle for control. If he lost focus, for just one second, his own quirk would turn on him. His closest friend, who grew up with him and protected him by day, could easily become his worst enemy and a terror to his friends at night.

Dark Shadow wasn’t a malicious force, not really. He was threatening at times, darkness incarnate springing out of his stomach, but he wasn’t bad . It was just… he grew stronger in the dark, so strong that Fumikage couldn’t properly control him, and his emotions grew so powerful that they consumed them both. It was a horrifying feeling, to know that if you ever lose control, even for one second, you might wake up to discover your friends dead and their blood on your hands. 

He could remember, when he was still young and just manifested his quirk, the first time he lost control. He had a nightmare, something silly from the kind little kids dream of. He didn’t remember exactly what it was about, but he remembered the terror of the situation. He called on Dark Shadow, who he grew to trust, but the Shadow-being’s fear for his well being fed into his own terror, which in turn was amplified by the Shadow. The circle of fear was so overwhelming that Fumikage blacked out, waking up under a streetlight with his father’s arms wrapped tight around him. His father’s pajamas were slashed and torn where the small but powerful and very, very scared Shadow hit him, trying to defend himself. When they returned home they sat with the lights on in the living room, Fumikage and his father wrapped up in soft, heavy blankets, and Lilith, dad’s Shadow, explained what happened and why.

And now he was sitting in a cave made specifically for him, completely darkened, trying to control his anxiety before summoning Dark Shadow. The Shadow was huge, a swirling darkness with bright eyes. It screeched and tried to hit the cave’s walls, remove the source of anxiety. Fumikage could feel his own anxiety and frustration grow, fed by Dark Shadow’s. But he stayed, sitting cross-legged on the floor, hands clutched together. 

“No!” Fumikage called, focusing on the part where the Shadow was connected to his stomach, and pulling . The Shadow was dragged back from the wall, screeching.

“LET ME GO LET ME GO LET ME GO I HAVE TO DESTROY I HAVE TO BREAK THIS LET ME OUT-” The Shadow sent the jumbled words through their mental link. Especially in the dark, Shadow-beings were creatures of pure emotions. Dark Shadow struggled against Fumikage’s control, pulling on his stomach.

“No. Calm down. We’re safe. You will listen to me.” Fumikage was still clutching his hands, focusing on the mental link between them, and pulling the screeching Shadow back from the walls. “Listen to me. Listen to me. I am the one in control. I am the one in control. I am the one in-” His chant was cut in the middle by sharp pain in his hands. He lost control, and Dark Shadow started running wild once again, now not only scared but angry . He had to pull back, He had to pull back before he hurts someone, before something bad happens, before he blacks out and-

“Tokoyami, calm down.” A flashlight shining on them, and a deep and tired voice speaking. The change in Dark Shadow was almost immediate as he shrunk, becoming timid and ashamed.

“Sorry, Fumikage. I messed this exercise for us.” Dark Shadow lowered his head in shame. Fumikage absentmindedly pet his head, comforting.

“It’s also my fault. We have to get the hang of this together.” He thought, getting up to meet his teacher. “My apologies, sensei. We failed.” He said quietly. Aizawa-sensei shook his head, leading the way out of the cave.

“This is why you’re here. To fail in a place where your failure would have less devastating consequences. This is the only way you can learn. Now, show me your hands.” He said when they were outside. Fumikage was confused.

“My… hands?” He asked, spreading his hands out. He didn’t realise it before, but the pain he felt, the pain that made him lose control, was his own nails digging into his flesh. He was bleeding now, small crescents of blood in his palms.

“This is what alerted Ragdoll that I needed to go stop you. Sit still.” Aizawa-sensei took out a first aid kit, spilling disinfectant on a gauze pad and cleaning Fumikage’s hands. It was strange. Aizawa-sensei always seemed rough and uncaring, but he moved carefully and professionally as he cleaned his hands and wrapped a small gauze bandage over the cuts. “It’s nothing serious so you can take this off tomorrow morning, but this kind of cuts getting infected is an unpleasant business that will hurt your efficiency. I need to ask you a few questions, so we can start working on your control differently.” He said when he was done.

“Of course, sir. I will answer to the best of my ability.” Fumikage turned his eyes from his hands to his teacher, who examined him critically for a moment before nodding.

“Alright, first of all. Is Dark Shadow a separate entity from you, or a different part of you?” Sensei got straight to the point.

“A different entity. Shadow-beings have their own opinions and feelings, some of which contradict those of the people connected to them.” Fumikage explained, calling Dark Shadow back into himself. The Shadow didn’t object, wanting to retreat from the blinding sunlight and from the shame of losing control again. 

“I take it that others in your family have a similar quirk?” Aizawa-sensei asked, not questioning the disappearance of Dark Shadow. Fumikage appreciated it.

“Yes. I inherited my father’s quirk, and my sister also has a similar quirk, though it isn’t exactly the same.” He explained, looking at his classmates training. Uraraka seemed to be struggling with terrible nausea, Iida was only a feint cloud of dust in the distance, the rhythmic waves of cold air must’ve been Todoroki in the distance, and every now and then a scream echoed from the woods, signaling where Kouda was training on his voice.

“Does he feel the same things you feel? Do you feel what he feels? To what extent do you share each other’s knowledge? If he is a separate entity, how much control do you actually have over him?” Aizawa-sensei seemed to be in deep thought as he asked, trying to form some sort of plan. 

“Dark Shadow and I share a mental link, both telepathic and empathic. I feel his feelings and he feels mine. When he isn’t present, he has access to my senses. For example, now he can hear this conversation if he so chooses. My control on him depends on how strong he is at the moment. I can keep him close to me, for example, but I can’t always control what he does. Most of our cooperation is built on trust. We grow and develop together, so we trust each other. When in the light, he does what I say because we trust each other. In the dark the problem is that his emotions are so strong it’s overwhelming. Blinding. Sometimes to the point of blacking out, though that didn’t happen in a long time.” Fumikage looked away as he explained the last part, but Aizawa-sensei only nodded.

“Alright. You have physical training with Tiger now. Your close combat skills are not cutting it.” He criticised, leaving to work with Ashido and Kaminari. Fumikage left to see Tiger, dreading the exercise ahead of him.

 

***

 

Tomura was shuffling the cards in his hands, thinking. Organising his party. Maximising the stats. He thought about the characters he had, setting down their cards on the bar.

Toga Himiko. High stealth. High agility. Reckless. Insane. Her bloodlust can be a good tool. Smarter and stronger than she seems.

Twice. Powerful but unstable. Can create clones of the others if needed. Precious resource. Won’t clone himself, but that can be worked around.

Mr. Compress. Valuable piece. High charisma, high intelligence, high agility. Not particularly strong, but able to remove threats quickly.

Moonfish. Brute force with not much brain. Predictable. Violent and volatile. 

Magne. Both long range and close range. High wisdom. High charisma. Can lead a small group. Confident. Ruthless. 

Spinner. Versatile but not very intimidating. Good with blades. Strong sense of honour, might be a problem if he has to go near those annoying kids. A Stain follower.

Mustard. Arrogant. Low perception. Long range with lasting poison damage. Weak on his own. Disregard for rules and authority.

Muscular. Violent. Unpredictable. Bloodthirsty. Joined just for the fun of killing and hurting. Not quelms regarding child murder. 

And a single Noumu. Just one, with Tool Arms quirk. But that was more than enough. 

Of course, when making a strategy, you need to think about the opposition. 

Eraserhead. High agility. High strength. High wisdom. A threat to the mission. His weakness is his love for his students. He will prioritise them, and that would make him weak. 

Vlad King. High agility and high strength. Again, same weakness as Eraserhead. Would most likely be grounded to the students. 

Mandalay. High intelligence, but she’s weak. Can alert the others and call for backup. Take down to cut communication off. 

Pixie-Bob. Strong, but less smart than the others. A vicious fighter. Can change the terrain. Take down from afar. 

Ragdoll. Physically weak but extremely dangerous. Can sense weaknesses. Can’t allow her to communicate with the rest. Sensei showed interest in that one. They should bring her back as a gift. 

Tiger. Strong and agile. His teammates are his weakness. Strong even in isolation. 

And then, of course, 38 annoying little hero students. Only the thought of them and their fanciful little smiles and fanciful little dreams made him itch itch itch the itch never stops itch it until you bleed itch until it stops destroy it destroy it all you need to-

“Shigaraki Tomura!” Kurogiri called him, and he paused, hands already scratching his neck. He put his hands down, taking Father in them. 

“It’s okay.” He said quietly, looking at Father from all directions. The severed hand that test on his face, an angry reminder of things he didn’t remember, but knew. Knew because Sensei told him. A reminder of his hatred and rage. Should he…? No, not now. He has enough of those now. Later. Once the planning is over. Yes. Back to planning. 

He knew where to set every piece, where to send everyone to get their objectives. It was a simple strategy game, and he had the best upgrades, some levels up characters, and the element of surprise. He could win. 

Which lead him, of course, to the objectives. 

Toga had her own side quest. Collect as much blood as she can from as many people as she can. It would help them defeat the main boss when they level up. 

He could spare a few people, maybe Magne and Spinner, to bring him Ragdoll before the main fighting begins. 

Spread fear and chaos. This was one of the main objectives. Sow confusion and distrust in heroes and their strength. Even if all other objectives fail, this one would be achieved just by the fact that they attacked. 

And, of course, the main objective. He flipped a card, putting it on the table. The expression of anger and bitterness in those eyes was unmistakable. Yes, he would make a good member of the party, if they can convince him to join, and Shigaraki Tomura was sure they can. 

From the card, the angry, mismatched eyes of Todoroki Shouto stared at him.