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Frail, Like Shattered Bone

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Izuku wakes up the day after USJ to the loud cries of his phone. Before he can grab it, the All Might ringtone ends. Izuku sighs and slumps back onto his bed, only for the phone to start chanting “A phone call, is here!” again. He grabs it and answers without checking the caller id.

“Goo-”

“Don't greet me so casually, like nothing happened yesterday.”

“... Neito?”

“No, it's Bakugo,” Neito says dryly. “Of course it's Neito, who else would call an idiot like you this early the day after they were attacked by villains? Come outside so I can see your fool self in person before I come up there and drag you down myself.” Neito hangs up with all the force he can manage on a smartphone.

Sarcasm, two insults, and a threat. Neito was definitely worried. Izuku gets dressed as fast as he can, careful of his cast. He fully expects to hear Neito greeting his mom before dragging him from his room, but he tosses on a light jacket and slides his arm into a sling without interruption.

Izuku says his farewells and ducks out of his apartment. Neito is waiting, arms crossed and fingers tapping, at the bottom of his stairs. His brow furrows when he sees Izuku.

“Is that broken? It's broken isn't it. Did the villains do that?”

Izuku sighs. “Yea, it's broken. I, uh. I broke it.”

“You broke it.”

“Yea, with my quirk.”

“With your quirk,” Neito says slowly. Izuku nods. “Izuku. You don’t... have a quirk.”

Izuku looks away, unable to meet Neito’s gaze. In all of the work leading to getting into UA, and the excitement of being accepted, he had forgotten to tell Neito about his quirk. Even though Neito told him all about taking and later passing the exam, Izuku had merely corrected their assumption of him failing, citing rescue points. The two had gone out to celebrate, but still Izuku hadn’t said a word about his quirk. Even when Neito had lamented the unfairness of Izuku being in 1a while he was in 1b, Izuku kept One for All a secret.

A hand entering his vision startles him out of brooding, and Izuku finches away. His eyes snap to Neito's face just in time to see hurt flicker in his eyes, before it's hidden by a practiced sneer.

“I see,” Neito spits. “You suddenly get a quirk, and now. You don't need me. Clearly, you're better -”

“What? No!”

“- rest of us. Sitting in 1a. Fighting villains.”

“Neito -” Izuku’s hand reaches, but Neito knocks it away.

“I never thought you were one to look down on others but it looks like Bak-”

“Would you listen!” Izuku's fist clenches at his side. “You always do this! Assume the worst of everyone, even your friends. Why? All you do is drive people away!”

“Then tell me the truth! What is your quirk!”

Izuku opens his mouth to speak, to explain, the practiced excuse at the tip of his tongue. His quirk came in the day of the exam, out of nowhere. He reached for something, anything, and he almost literally exploded in strength. He doesn’t know where it came from; maybe he had it all along?

Instead, Izuku chokes on his works, only an aborted sound passes his lips. This was Neito. The one person who had never seen him as a burden or handicapped. Izuku clenches his teeth and his eyes shut as he turns a little away from Neito. He can’t bring himself to lie. He can’t not lie either.

“You can’t even tell me?” Neito is quiet. The bluster and callous words have past and all that’s left is hurt and betrayal.

“It’s not...! It’s … complicated.”

“Then uncomplicate it.”

Izuku snarls. He makes it sound so simple. It’s not though; it’s anything but simple.

The clang of a dumpster nearby makes both boys jump and look around. People hastily look away and shuffle on with their days. They were making a scene. A blush creeps onto Izuku’s cheeks as he hunches his shoulders; Neito straightens, daring someone to say something.

“Let’s ah, go somewhere else.” Izuku mumbles and rubs the back of his neck. Neito’s eyes drift back to Izuku and one eyebrow lifts into a perfectly indignant inquiry. Izuku hesitates, then jerks his head down the road towards Dagoaba Beach. Neito sniffs and strides ahead, leaving Izuku to sprint to catch up.

Neito moved to Izuku’s school when they were in second grade. Izuku’s classmates had wasted no time in warning Neito about the quirkless child among them. Neito had merely walked up to him, grabbed his hand, and stared, waiting for … Izuku hadn't known what. But Neito had pronounced him truly quirkless, to the amusement of the class.

In the days that followed, Izuku found Neito a persistent shadow. Izuku followed Kacchan, Neito followed Izuku. Inevitably, Kacchan turned his ire on another classmate and Izuku put himself in the middle. But when Kacchan reached for Izuku, Neito knocked him away, palms exploding into tiny firecrackers. Just like Kacchan. Neito and Izuku ended up in detention for starting a fight.

Neito explained that he didn’t have a quirk, not really. His quirk was other people’s quirks; if he touched someone, he could use their quirk for a short time. Without others, he was essentially quirkless, just like Izuku. So Izuku couldn’t be worthless, because that meant that Neito was worthless alone, and nothing would stop Neito from being a hero.

It was simple, and not really the same as far a Izuku was concerned, but it was honest and kind. And Izuku stopped following Kacchan so much. Neito and Izuku became a duo, alone in their “uselessness” according to Kacchan. But that was okay, because they weren’t really alone.

All good things come to an end though. Just before middle school, the same job that brought Neito’s family into Izuku’s life took him away. Izuku and Neito stayed close; text messages were sent regularly, social media accounts shared. Some days it felt like Neito never left. Others, the distance was a lonely abyss.

So Izuku didn’t really have it in him to hide anything from Neito. Not now that he had been found out. But, he had promised All Might not to tell anyone. He spends the walk to the beach debating how and what exactly to share with his long time friend. He obviously can't share about All Might. But One for All itself? That could work.

They walk to the end of the pier where Izuku sits down, one leg drawn close and the other one hanging just above the water. Neito mirrors him on the side of his good arm.

With some hesitation, All Might’s warnings about recoil being brushed aside (it would be fine ), Izuku offers Neito his hand, palm up.

“What do you feel?” Izuku asks. Neito glances from Izuku’s hand to his face and back, before slowly taking Izuku’s hand. It only takes a brief touch for Neito to copy a quirk, but he gently lowers their hands before pulling his hand back. Neito’s tongue sticks out briefly, as though tasting the quirk. Perhaps he does, Izuku thinks. It wasn’t an aspect of Neito’s quirk they discussed at length. It was, however, a habit Izuku thought Neito kicked.

“It’s … a stockpile,” Neito says finally. “That doesn’t make sense though. I wouldn’t have missed a stockpile when we were younger.” His eyebrows come together in thought. “You were always… empty. Nothing. Not an empty vessel.” He huffs, “There is a difference, it's just hard to explain.”

Izuku frowns, Neito was missing the point. “Look a little deeper, there’s more.”

Neito’s brows furrow more as he thinks and analyses. The tongue pops back out for a moment before he gasps. “What is that? The other part. I’ve never felt a quirk like it.”

“The ability to transfer a quirk.” Izuku meets Neito’s stare head on. Neito opens his mouth to say something, but Izuku speaks first. “I found someone, about a year ago. Some things happened and they said I could be a hero. They knew I was quirkless and they gave me a chance. How could I say no? You know what I was before. They said I’m not supposed to tell anyone; not even Mom knows...” His eyes shine, pleading Neito to understand and not be angry any more.

Neito’s mouth snaps shut with a click. He had wondered, idly through the years, what it was like for Izuku after he left. If Bakugo and the others had gone back to bullying Izuku with no one at his side. Izuku wasn’t one to speak about his own troubles though, and Neito wasn’t one to pry. How desperate had he been, to accept such a quirk?

Not for the first time, Neito thinks about what it would be like to have no quirk at all, and shudders.

“So… I assume the stockpile is preserved as the quirk is passed on. Which is how you suddenly have so much strength. Elsewise you would have to store it yourself, and you shouldn't be able to stash so much as to break your arm in a year. I wonder if anything else was stockpiled. Did the previous holder have their own quirk? Do you know if this is their original quirk? Ah, I bet this person told you not to share that either, didn’t they?”

Izuku hmms an affirmative. “It could be dangerous if someone found out. They could try to force it from me.”

“Could they?” Neito leans in, “They can’t, right?”

“Not… exactly…”

“Izuku!”

“They can’t!” Izuku hastily corrects. “I have to willingly give it up. But someone could still try to force it from me.”

Neito purses his lips and stares critically at his friend. A smile slowly wobbles onto Izuku’s face, just to spite Neito, he's sure.

“It’ll be fine. I’ll talk to them so I can tell you more later, okay?” An olive branch; it’s more than Neito deserves for the ass he’s been today. He still sniffs indignantly.

“I guess. They must be a horrible teacher though. You did break your arm.” Neito lightly bumps shoulders with Izuku. Izuku squawks indignantly.

“He’s a great teacher! Don’t say that!”

“Oh so it’s a he! How mysterious!”

Izuku sputters and shoves Neito off the pier into the water. It’s still shallow, so Neito springs back to the surface immediately. Izuku is already scrambling away, his laughter rings clear above the water. Neito drags himself to shore, exaggerating his wrath with empty threats.

Izuku is laughing. Izuku is safe. His arm is broken, but he is okay. And Neito will protect his friend until the end.