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The Road Not Taken

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Izuku’s steps were heavy, the sound reverberating in the stairwell. He could hardly hear it over his heart thrumming in his ears. He reached the top with a sense of dread. He pushed the door open, and dragged in deep breaths of fresh air. They really should lock it. The clean air didn’t help, and he still found it hard to breathe. Each breathe carried less oxygen than the rest.

He made his way over to the ledge, his backpack falling from his shoulders on the way. Should I take my shoes off. Is that a thing people do. He stepped up, his toes hanging over the side. He read somewhere that people often feel calm when they make this decision. He didn’t feel calm. He felt like the world was crushing him under its weight. 

Maybe he thought that someone would magically show up and stop him. Save him from what he was about to do. He briefly entertained the image of All Might pulling him away from the ledge, just as he took that step.

Deep down he knew that wasn’t going to happen. No was was going to save him. He was useless. Why would anyone bother? 

They would be glad he was gone.

Izuku took a shaky breathe and stepped forward.

For a moment he regrets not facing up. The sky would have been a nicer last image. 

He hits the ground with a loud crack, and then he watches as he’s suddenly pulled back up to the roof, his steps rewinding, his backpack rising back onto his shoulder. He goes backwards down the stairs and the further he goes the faster everything moves, blurring together until suddenly it all stops again. And he’s standing in front of Kacchan. 

“—Have a quirk in your next life…Go take a swan dive off the roof!” Bakugo turns and leaves the classroom.

Izuku stands there for a moment, not moving. What just happened? Izuku looks around in confusion. Did I imagine it? How do you just imagine something like that? 

Izuku leaves the classroom and makes his way to exit the school building. He absent mindedly goes to the pond to fish out his burned journal. He regards the soggy journal with disgust. He’ll have to copy all his notes into a new one.

Why should he even bother, though? He’s just a useless deku, he’ll never be hero without a quirk. Everyone’s told him. Not even his mother thinks he can do it. 

He looks up to the roof. Was it real or did he imagine it? It doesn’t make sense. He could jump again. If he didn’t imagine it, it should happen again, right? And if he didn’t, what does he have to loose.

He looks down to his dripping journal. No, he can’t do it. He’s going to prove everyone wrong. He’s going to become a hero. He has to at least try…

But didn’t he already do it? There has to be an explanation. Kacchan’s words echo in his head if you think you’ll have a quirk in your next life…go take a swan dive off the roof. Could he have been right? What if it was a quirk? What if he did jump, and then what? He undid it?

Could it be possible that he really does have a quirk after all. He didn’t have the joint in his toe, so it’s not impossible. But to have gone so long without knowing… quirks developing after someone turns six is practically unheard of. For him to have developed one now? Izuku was scared to get his hopes up.

He was so caught up in these thoughts that he hardly noticed as the shadow passed over him and suddenly his body was engulfed in a thick sludge like substance. 

“Don’t worry, I’m just hijacking your body. Calm down.” The sludge shoved its way into his mouth and up his nose. Izuku clawed at it, but it didn’t do any good. “It’ll only hurt for about forty-five seconds…then it’ll be all over.”

Izuku’s lungs burned and black spots started to dance across his eyes. Izuku couldn’t help but see the irony in this situation. It was just moments ago he was debating his death, looks like the decision is out of his hands now.

His limbs grow heavy and he’s not sure when exactly he stopped struggling, but his thoughts become muddled before he can really give it much thought, and slowly everything goes black.

Everything goes backwards until he’s standing alone in the tunnel again. Izuku doesn’t even have time to process this when his body is once again engulfed with the sludge. He struggles with it, but it does nothing. And once again his limbs grow heavy and everything gets dark.

He’s pulled backwards again, this time slower, and he’s disturbingly aware of the feeling of the sludge being pulled from his lungs and he’s alone again.

And then it repeats. He doesn’t struggle this time. Instead he tries to figure out what the hell is going on. What is the sludge villain even doing to him. It repeats again, and Izuku starts thinking that maybe it isn’t the sludge villain doing this. Maybe what happened on the roof really did happen. Maybe it wasn’t so crazy to think he’s got a quirk after all.

Izuku blacks out again, and this time he tried to grasp on to the feeling of himself moving backwards. At this point he expects it, and when the sludge villain comes up behind him, he jumps out of the way.

It buys him maybe ten seconds, but then it’s on him again. This time, just before he blacks out, he becomes vaguely aware of someone shouting before everything rewinds again.

Izuku jumps in a different direction this time, and wonders idly if he can control how far back he can go. If it’s his quirk then he should be able to control it. He went further than a minute when he jumped off the roof. 

This time when he rewinds he tries to hold onto the feeling of moving backwards for just a few seconds longer than before. When he stops, he immediately turns to run out of the tunnel. 

He makes to the the edge of the entrance before he hears the slime villain crawl up through the drain gate. The villain calls out to him, and he dodges as it lunges towards him. It grabs him and Izuku struggles again. This time, before Izuku blacks out he hears a familiar voice call out, “Texas smash!”

Izuku comes to with someone tapping his cheek. “Oh good, you’re okay! I was worried there for a second that I was too late.”

Izuku stared up at All Might and oh god it was All Might deep breathes, don’t freak out. Izuku opens his mouth to say something but words escape him.

“I apologize for getting you caught up in this little squabble,” All might exclaimed.

Izuku scrambles to stand up. “You’re All Might.” Smooth Izuku.

Indeed I am. I must be off now.” All might holds up a soda bottle filled with what Izuku thinks it the slime villain. “I must bring this evil doer to the proper authorities!”

“Wait, um, an autograph!” Izuku grabs his notebook, but see that it’s already been signed. Izuku almost squeals in delight because oh my god he actually has All Might’s autograph. “Wow, thank you so much, I’ll treasure it.” Izuku looks up from his journal to see All Might’s retreating back. “Wait, is that it?”

“A pro hero battles not only villains, but also time.” All Might leaps into the air, and against Izuku’s better judgment, he grabs onto his leg and is pulled into the air alongside All Might. “Hey now! Release me! Such enthusiasm is a bit much.”

“If I let go now I’ll die,” Izuku calls over the wind, ignoring the voice in the back of his head telling him he already did that.

“Good point,” All Might says, and is that blood coming from his mouth? All Might grabs onto Izuku and lands them both on a roof of a building. “Of all the… hopefully the people of the building will let us down. I have no time left…damn.”

“Wait! Um…” Izuku fumbles for words. “It’s just, well, I was going to ask you if… well, you see, I’ve always dreamed of being a great hero like you, but everybody told me I couldn’t because I was quirkless. Though, I think, well, I thought I was quirkless, but now I don’t know, I mean I well this is all happening so fast…” Izuku is really fumbling this. Though in his defense he just discovered his quirk like two minutes ago, or was it actually more? He really need to think about this more thoroughly. What even is his quirk? Some kind of rewind thing. “I’m really fumbling this. It’s just I want to be a hero like y—what?” Izuku lets out a little stretch as he finally notices the smoke, and a tall skeleton like man standing where All Might was just a moment ago.

“What..where is…who are you? Where’s All Might?”

“I am All Mi—“ his words are cut off by a bloody cough.

“What? No you’re not, you can’t be you’re all shriveled up.” 

“You know how people hold their gut in at the pool…it’s like that.” The man, All Might?, says.

“No way,” Izuku breathes in shock.

“You’ve seen the real me, kid. Just don’t go writing about it on the internet.” He pulls the side of his shirt up to show a gruesome scar twisting up his left side. “Five years ago a villain did this to me. My respiratory system was nearly destroyed and my stomach was removed. I’ve wasted away because of the after affects of those surgeries. I can only do my hero work for about three hours a day now.”

Izuku tries to process what he’s hearing. “Five years ago? Was it the fight with toxic chainsaw? It didn’t seem that bad.”

All might looks at him in surprise. “Wow, you really know your stuff. But, no, this fight was kept off the record, that is I asked that it was never made public. A symbol of peace who saves people with a smile must never be defeated.”

“The reason I smile is to stave off the overwhelming fear and pressure I feel. A pro should always be ready to risk their lives for others. I didn’t really get all of what you were asking, but if you want to be a hero, you have to be willing to give up your life to save others, and you have to have the power to back it. Look at me, I have a strong quirk and this still happened.”

“I see…” Izuku says, more to himself than anything.

“But, hey, if being a hero doesn’t work out you can always be a police officer. They’re often mocked, but their work really is admirable. They do a lot to help people.” All might heads to the door and opens it. “Good luck kid.” And then he’s gone.

Izuku heads home in a daze, his brain trying to process everything that just happened. He honestly doesn’t know what’s harder to believe, everything he just learned about All Might, or that fact that Izuku just discovered his quirk.

He’s broken out of these thoughts by the sounds of explosions coming from a couple streets away. A villain fight? Izuku finds himself correcting his path to head towards the chaos, mostly out of habit. His eyes goes huge when he gets there only to find the sludge villain that had attacked him earlier rampaging in an ally. Loud explosions seem to be coming from inside him. He briefly hears people talking about a kid being trapped as he shoves his way to the front of the crowd. 

The sludge villain must’ve escaped when Izuku grabbed onto All Might. That means this is his fault. Izuku berates himself for being so stupid, and waits in vain for one of the heroes to save the kid. But they don’t. They just hang around the edges, putting out fires, and keeping the crowd away. Izuku thinks he hears one of them say something about their quirks not being suited for this.

Izuku panics, because he knows the kid doesn’t have much time. He knows what happening to them right now, it happened to him multiple times after all. Then he see’s the kids face briefly and all thought flies out of his mind, because oh god it’s Kacchan.

Izuku’s feet are moving before he even realizes it. He throws his backpack at the slime villain and in its moment of distraction, manages to shove Kacchan out of it’s grasp. The slime villain instead latches onto him. He’s vaguely aware of an uptake of panic in the crowd, and another explosion goes off right next to him. 

It happened a lot quicker this time. A lot more violent. The sludge villain, shoves itself down Izuku’s throat and into his lungs with much more force, and the pressure increases until Izuku can’t take it anymore, and instead of slowly fading to black, it’s more sudden. There’s a moment of pause, the moment where Izuku’s heart stops, and then everything rewinding. He lets it go easier this time. Playing past his talk with All Might, and he notes that he can see the moment the soda bottle fell from All Might’s pocket as they were flying through the air.

He stops it the moment before he grabbed a hold of All Mights leg, and when time moves forwards again he stays in his spot, and watches as All Might leaps away.

Izuku stops by an office supplies store on his way home to buy a new blank journal, this one green instead of his usual blue, and scribbles quirk analysis on the front.

 


 

Izuku stands in his bedroom, knife gripped in his his hand, knuckles white. This is so stupid. Izuku had filled his new notebook out with everything he knew thus far about his quirk. Which wasn’t much. All he knows is that when he died time rewound itself. From what he gathered nobody else was aware of the time manipulation. The slime villain didn’t seem like it noticed it was doing the same thing over again, and All Might didn’t notice anything amiss either. He also knew that he could alter events, obviously, because he wasn’t dead, and a quick skim through the news showed that the slime villain didn’t escape.

He tried with all his will to rewind it again, but it didn’t work. Nothing he tried did. And he was pretty sure he knew why. 

When he was five and his mother took him to a quirk specialist to see why his quirk hadn’t manifested he was informed he likely had a hidden quirk. A quirk that required a specific set of circumstances to be activated, and that it was likely he wouldn’t ever figure out what it was.

Well guess the doctor was right. But honestly, what the hell kind of quirk only activates upon death. How the hell was he supposed to discover this quirk anyways. By jumping off a roof and drowning via slime, apparently.

So Izuku had to die to use his quirk. It wasn’t that bad, right? Its not like he was going to stay dead. And if he really thought hard about it, he wasn’t even actually dying, because time would be rewound and technically speaking it wouldn’t even have actually happened. Right?

These thoughts didn’t make it any easier, though. Izuku brought the knife to his wrist, his breaths coming quicker and quicker with each second. He should just do it. The only way to learn more about his quirk is to test it. And the only way to test it is to activate it. He conjured the image of himself slitting his writs in his head but the knife didn’t move.

Why was this so hard? Izuku had already done this once today. He just has to do it. Like ripping off a bandaid. Izuku closes his eyes, and rips the blade through his skin. Oh shit oh shit oh shit, that hurts. That hurts a lot more than I thought it would and now blood is getting everywhere. Maybe I should have done this in the bathroom. Too late now.

Izuku’s hand shakes violently as he slowly slits his other wrist with much less grace than the first one which is saying something, and he swears it hurts even more. The knife drops to the floor, and Izuku is quick to follow it. He leans his back against his bed, his blood seeping into the carpet.

Izuku really should have done more research, because this isn’t working very well. Its been a few minutes, and he doesn’t feel to good, but shouldn’t he have blacked out by now? He’s pretty sure the bleeding is actually slowing down. Maybe he didn’t cut deep enough. What a mess. He should have just jumped off a roof again.

There’s an artery in your thigh right? Izuku reaches for the knife that he dropped, his wrists screaming in protest. He’s already in to deep. He’s pretty sure he’s crying, and he’s having trouble breathing. You wanted a quirk, well you got one, deal with it. Izuku cuts into the inside of his thigh with as much pressure as he can manage, cutting through his pants and into flesh. He’s pretty sure he hit it, because blood starts spilling out faster than he thought possible, and his head lolls back, the world going dark. Izuku tries to rewind it to just before he slit his writs, but he doesn’t stop it fast enough and ends up running back to when he was writing in his journal, and sub-sequentially losses half of what he wrote. Wonderful.

Izuku notes with a hint of dread that he’ll have to practice stopping exactly when he wants to. He sits down to start filling in his journal again. He wonders how far back he can go. How often can he use it? What happens if he uses it to much? Would he just die? Izuku really hopes not.

He’ll have to find an efficient way of dying, because that mess he just went through was not happening again.

 


 

Izuku debates telling his mother about his newfound quirk. He’s not stupid. He knows how she’s going to react to the fact that her son has a quirk that requires him to die. Not to mention that he had already died quite a few times that day. So he stays quite at dinner, and doesn’t mention it. He also doesn’t mention All Might, because that’s just a whole other can of worms he doesn’t want to deal with. So he skates through dinner with small talk and asks her about her day at work all while pretending his whole world wasn’t just blown away today.

When dinner is done Izuku escapes to his room to start planning. He has ten months until the UA entrance exam. Ten months to master his quirk and learn all its limitations. He also notes that he should probably get himself into better shape, and learning how to fight probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. The run in with the slime villain only showed how useless he is at this point, even with his quirk. He still had to rely on someone to save him.

Theoretically speaking, he could do both of those things at the same time, while also learning how to use his quirk. Izuku figures any kind of physical effects training would have on his body would be reversed if he turned the clock back, but anything he learns, he should retain. At least that’s what Izuku thinks. So if he spent a day learning different fighting methods, and then turned back the clock and instead spent the day doing physical training, he would still have learned how to fight, and the physical training would also stick.

Izuku maps out a rough schedule for the next month, he figures he shouldn’t get to far ahead of himself, seeing as he still doesn’t know everything about this quirk yet, but he should at least try some sort of schedule keep track of everything, if he was going to be rewinding so much.

This was going to be a long ten months.