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different, same

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The world is different from what he remembers. 

Much, much different. 

There are heroes. There are heroes, and they all have brilliant Quirks he could have never imagined. Heroes, who stand tall, who shine bright, who do the good he has always strived for. 

It’s no wonder that in this lifetime, a young Midoriya Izuku grows up and loves heroes. 

It’s been a long time since he could explore the world, taste it like it was something new. He packs away his old name and his memories in his mind and just lives. Midoriya Izuku does not have a brother, but he has Kacchan. Midoriya Izuku does not know the dark history of Quirks. Midoriya Izuku doesn’t know about One for All.

Or All for One. 

His brother’s name has been forgotten to time, he quickly realizes. As has his own. History barely remembers them. He doesn’t mind. 

He doesn’t need a Quirk, as much as he’d like to join the ranks of the heroes. He’s seen what Quirks can do to a person. 

Mom apologizes. Midoriya Inko is sweet and kind and gentle, everything the world needs, with an undercurrent of steel. 

I’m sorry, she says, when they tell him he’s Quirkless. Izuku just takes her hand and holds it tight. 

“At least I have you,” he tells her, and tears spring to her eyes when she wraps her arms around him. 

And for a while, that’s enough. Izuku lives. He chases after Kacchan, and they go in circles until they meet in the middle. Kacchan’s his what-could-have-been, his second chance, so Izuku holds his hand tight and doesn’t let go. 

“Do you think you can be a hero?” Kacchan asks. It’s a summer day, hot and bright, but the two of them are sprawled in the dappled shadow of a big tree. Izuku squints up at the pockets of sunlight that peak through the leaves. 

“What do you mean?”

Kacchan huffs. He props himself up on his elbow so he can look at Izuku. “I mean, dumbass, that I’m going to be a hero, and you should be a hero with me. But you’re Quirkless.”

Izuku rolls the thought around in his mind a while. Can he be a hero? What is a hero? Was his brother one? Was he one?

“It doesn’t matter if I’m Quirkless,” Izuku says softly, lifting his hands up. He makes a window with his fingers and peers through it. Then he looks over and finds Kacchan listening raptly. “It doesn’t matter what Quirk you have, Kacchan. Heroes don’t need to have, right? They just need to give.”

That is the folly of All for One. Always taking. Never giving. 

And then Izuku meets All Might for the first time. 

It’s not what he expects. Izuku admires All Might from afar; he is good, and his smile reminds Izuku of a different time and a better time. But then they meet under a bridge, then on a rooftop, finally in fire, and Izuku sees Yagi Toshinori and knows: this is his legacy. 

“You can be a hero,” All Might tells him. He looks weak and gaunt, but it’s still him. 

“I know,” Izuku says. 

When the hero offers Izuku his Quirk (his mouth closes around the words One for All), Izuku accepts. And things begin to change. 

Izuku tells Kacchan, because he knows how secrets fester. Then he trains and trains and works hard under All Might’s watchful gaze. He clears a beach, and remembers that heroes give, and sometimes giving is saving lives and sometimes giving is picking up a piece of trash. 

When he takes One for All, the circle closes. Izuku feels the power swell in his chest (so much greater now), rising and falling like the waves. When All Might asks him what it feels like, to hold One for All, Izuku wipes his tears and says, like coming home. 

When Izuku breaks his arm for the first time he laughs, because he has his Quirk again. And because, well, it’s funny how strange it has become, so different from when he first held it, a glittering piece of thread in his hands.

School comes and goes. Izuku meets friends and writes all their names in his heart. He meets his teachers and admires them for their bravery and tenacity. 

He meets villains, and realizes his story isn’t quite over yet. 

“I need to tell you something,” All Might says one day, voice grave, and Izuku knows in his heart what it means. “I need to tell you about All for One.”

Izuku looks back at his mentor, at this man who has been so kind to him, who has taught him unselfish love. Something he has never had. He looks into the face of a hero and knows that the world can’t lose him yet. 

“It’s okay,” Izuku says gently, and All Might startles. “I already know.”

All Might tells the story he knows. Two brothers. One for All, and All for One. A Quirk passed down from holder to holder, getting stronger each time. A blazing inferno of a woman, Shimura Nana, whose smile is the last thing All Might saw of her. 

Then Izuku tells the story he knows. Two brothers. One for All, and All for One. And before that, the two of them running through fields under the sun and chasing their dreams. 

“I loved him,” Izuku says, smiling, and tears shine in All Might’s eyes. “But he’s forgotten me, hasn’t he?”

Have you forgotten me? Izuku asks. 

The battlefield is streaked with ash. Kamino Ward, buildings crumbling around them. All Might, the last shreds of One for All like hope in his heart. Izuku by his side, on his side, and not on the opposite one. 

All for One stops. He looks different. Izuku can hardly see anything he remembers; gone are the dark eyes and the youth in his face. 

You forget yourself, All for One says, and Izuku steps closer. He reaches out a scarred hand, and All for One stills when green light sparks across it. 

“No,” Izuku says, “you forget yourself.”

He whispers a name that has long been erased from the history records, and his enemy, his brother, stumbles. Looks at him like he’s born anew. 

“Hello, brother,” Izuku says. “The world is different now, isn’t it?”