“Izuku? How are you feeling?” Inko asks, tentatively. They’d spent the night in the hospital after the villain attack, just to be safe. Izuku refuses to talk about it. He hardly talks about anything really. Without his stream of consciousness muttering, everything is eerily quiet in the sterile hospital room.
“I’m fine. I just want to go home.”
He won’t meet her eyes. Izuku’s eyes always look too big for his face when he isn’t smiling. They’re wide pits, voids sucking all the warmth out of the room. Something is very wrong. Izuku has always tried to hide his hardships from her, but she knows. She knows about the burns and scrapes and his charred belongings. She knows he doesn’t have any real friends despite the fact that he’s goodness personified. Even still, Izuku has always had an unbreakable spirit. He never stops smiling. Just like All Might.
“Honey, please. I can’t help if I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“I don’t want to talk right now. I just… need some time to think,” he mumbles. His voice never sounded so weary.
She expected him to be over the moon about this. He was saved by his favorite hero! What could possibly have happened to make him this upset?
She ponders this the entire way home, sneaking subtle glances at her stoic son. The cab is silent and stifling. Izuku is sitting next to her, but he feels light years away. Guilt rushes over her when she recalls what she said that night a decade ago, I’m so sorry, Izuku!
Izuku takes two more days off school, though he insists that he’s fine. Physically, there’s nothing wrong with him, but the emotional exhaustion of that day is like a boulder atop his shoulders, visibly weighing him down. When he isn’t shut up in his room with the door locked, he walks around with a hunch, his head low, and his eyes hidden beneath his curls. It makes Inko worry, and worry and worry.
“Hisashi, I don’t know what to do. He’s never been like this before. I’m so worried, but nothing I say helps.” Inko speaks to the father of her child via their ancient landline, twirling and untwirling the cord around her finger. They only had the landline because it was the only way to get through to I-Island, something about registered numbers and tracing phone calls and high level security. She thought it strange, but having the phone cord to distract her was a godsend. Her sleek, small cell phone just didn’t offer anything remotely as comforting as the tangled cord.
“He’s a teenager. I’m sure it’ll pass. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’ll open up when he’s ready.”
“But— I don’t know. I can’t explain it, but something is wrong. I can feel it. Can’t you come visit him for a while? It’s been so long and I could really use some help.”
“Inko,” he starts, clearing his throat, “I don’t doubt your… motherly intuition, but I can’t come back right now. I-Expo is coming up and maintaining security is a nightmare. I’ll call Izuku when our time zones match up and do what I can from here.”
“Sometimes I really hate your job.” She unwinds the phone cord again. If it weren’t for his job, they might still be married. If it weren’t for his job, she wouldn’t have had to raise Izuku almost entirely on her own. Child support and monthly phone calls can only do so much. Their marriage is long over, but the mutual love for their son keeps them amicable.
“I do too. After the expo I’ll spend a whole week in Japan. Everything will be alright.”
He says “a whole week” like it means anything, she thinks uncharitably. A whole week is nothing compared to ten years alone.
“Don’t forget to call him. He...he hasn’t done much lately, so he shouldn’t be too busy to talk.”
“I won’t forget. Kiss him goodnight for me.”
“It’s eight in the morning, Hisashi. He just left for school.”
“Oh, right. Well, have a good day. And try not to worry so much.”
She hangs up without a goodbye. She’s just so frustrated! And lost. And so utterly worried about her son. And having the day off from the hospital only makes it worse. Craving distraction, she busies herself cleaning the apartment.
The days he spends at home following the attack somehow manage to drag on and speed by all at once. He remembers things in fits and starts. He remembers carefully taking down his All Might posters. He wanted to sleep, but he refused to sleep in the same room as a thousand mocking All Might smiles. Once his walls are as bare as his soul feels, he crawls into bed, burying himself under quilts and pillows, desperate for comfort. He’s desperate to get away from the jeering voices in his head, the same ones that have followed him around his entire life, the same ones he never really listened to until now. The loudest among them is the deep, booming voice of a hero. He says the same things all the other voices have said at one point or another, but they cut so much deeper coming from him.
What am I going to do now?
School is hell. It’s hardly any different than it’s always been, but now it feels monotonous, passing by with an aching slowness he couldn’t speed up if he tried. Izuku realizes that it’s always been like this. He’s the one that’s different. Because now he has no lofty dream to distract himself from the present. No hero notebook to fill with nonsense, no wide smile to ward off his classmates’ cruelty. He’s an empty chasm. He’d do anything to rid himself of the feeling.
All he’s ever wanted to do is help people. He thinks of all the heroes he met a few days ago and how none of them really helped him in any way. Yes, All Might saved him from death by suffocation, but if he’s being honest he still feels like he’s suffocating. Like All Might himself has a vice grip on his vital organs and he’s draining the life from Izuku ever so slowly. He supposed words hurt just as much as villain attacks. Izuku hasn’t had a full breath since that moment on the rooftop.
And despite that, he did give Kacchan the chance to breathe, if only for a second. He’d never felt anything like that rush of adrenaline he’d felt running headlong into danger, and knowing he made even a small difference made it all worthwhile. And then the heroes yelled at him. Just about every encounter he’s had with heroes has ended unpleasantly. And then there’s Kacchan. He’s wanted to be a hero for as long as Izuku has, and they haven’t had a pleasant encounter since they were about three years old. If he thinks about it, heroes haven’t been the paragon of justice he always thought they were. So, maybe he doesn’t want to be a hero.
But if he wasn’t a hero, how could he ever hope to chase that feeling again? Is that what his mom felt every time she saved a life at the hospital? Do cops ever get that rush of satisfaction?
Izuku needs to know that feeling again. He just doesn’t know where to start looking.
Izuku’s never put much stock into destiny or divine intervention or whatever one would call it, but on his walk home from school he gets exactly what he needs. His walk is slow and without any urgency. He’s barely paying attention when suddenly he feels a gust of wind shoot past him.
A guy in an alarmingly shabby All Might limited edition hoodie is skating past him on all fours. It’s an odd, slightly off-putting sight. He watches as the guy comes to a stop next to a woman, and he holds up what looks to be a wallet.
“You dropped this, miss!”
“Oh, thanks Cruller Man.” She smiles, but is quick to dismiss him and keep walking.
“Ah, actually, it’s—“
All heads turn when they hear a shriek behind them. There’s an old woman on the ground shrieking about her purse. Izuku immediately goes to help her without much thought. He pays little attention to the man in dark clothes whizzing past him with a pink purse clutched under his arm.
“Are you alright?” Izuku asked her, concerned, as he pulls the woman up gently by her elbow and his efforts are repaid by a smack to his chest.
“Get my purse, boy!” she gripes while wiping dust off her sweater.
“O-oh, okay,” he says. He has no clue how he’s going to chase down the man who stole her purse. Even if he did manage to catch up to him, what would he do? Tackle him?
The boy in the All Might hoodie does just that. It’s by no means coordinated or flashy, and he looks a little ridiculous rolling on the ground trying to pry the purse from the other man’s grasp, but he gets the job done. The old woman shoves Izuku away and she busies herself by whacking both the thief and the hooded boy until they both relinquish her purse.
A small crowd of civilians pervade the scene, laughing goodnaturedly at the bizarre display of heroics that had unfolded before them. Some are even taking videos.
“Cruller Man strikes again!”
“He’s such a nice guy!”
“I thought Cruller Man and Nice Guy were the same person?”
“It’s the Crawler, actually!” The poor guy says as he dusts off his hoodie and massages the growing welt on his forehead.
“Vigilantes are always changing their names. They’ve got no concept of branding.”
The word vigilante runs through Izuku and nestles itself deep inside him.
“A vigilante, huh?” Izuku says to no one in particular. He feels like he’s just found the answer to all his problems. Midoriya Izuku has plans to make.
Inko iss just waking up from a nap when the front door bursts open. She jumps at the thud the door makes against the opposite wall.
“Izuku, what’s the rush?” she exclaims, hand on her heart.
“Mom! I just saw the strangest thing. I’ll be in my room!” Izuku sprints past her with the same buzzing, frenetic energy he once had. His week-long slump has, apparently, abruptly ended. She thinks back to Hisashi’s words when they’d last spoken, that he was a teenager in a moody phase. She wants to concede, to say he was right, and write off Izuku’s strange behavior as a one-time occurrence. Ultimately, she can’t. She knows her son. She certainly knows him better than Hisashi does. Izuku was broken before. She just couldn’t imagine what it would take to break him, and she couldn’t figure out what it would take to help him bounce back.
She was still worried, but above all, she was thankful he was smiling again.