Important content warnings: this fic will discuss explicit child abuse, as well as systemic discrimination. It will also deal with the fall out of a life altering medical diagnosis.
To Be a Hero
Izuku was four years old when his dreams started to die. A single x-ray and a doctor who preferred giving bad news like it wasn’t had left his mother and him clinging to each other in front of the computer screen playing an old video of a grinning hero pulling civilians out of burning rubble with a booming voice, neither knowing what to do in that moment.
Even they couldn’t cry forever though. A hero was what he wanted to be, and he would do it, even if he didn’t know how.
It was amazing what one doctors appointment could do to a life. His world shattered and he was left to pick up the pieces, only they were painful, jagged, and didn’t fit back together the way they were supposed to. He didn’t know if the puzzle would ever be finished again, but he was determined to try.
His precious Kacchan was so mean now. They were supposed to be heroes together, but now all he felt like doing when he saw Kacchan was crying. He just wanted his friend back.
He could see it as they got older, how everyone around them just kept on poisoning his friend. There was a point he could have been saved, but no. They were making Kacchan forget who he had the potential to be, helping him hurt people. Turning fireflies into bombs. Kacchan was supposed to light up the darkness, not be the thing that goes bump in the night. Izuku cried at the mean words just as much as the loss of what could have been.
Izuku watched him grow. Watched the world grow. Heroes go from sidekick to pro to headlining their own agencies, recording everything he could. He followed the course of vigilantes, seeing who succeeded in going legit, who got arrested, who became villains. Filling notebook after notebook with his analysis.
He was learning how to write in German, a way to write his observations so his notes couldn’t be used to hurt the people he was writing about as easily. He forced himself to learn, the foreign syllables swimming across the pages, stubborn in becoming coherent, but he was determined to get better and stronger. To learn and grow and keep people safe while he did it.
He didn’t just write, Izuku ran. From his problems. From the world. From the pain. He ran until his lungs burned and his body ached. He was fast. Faster than Kacchan. He couldn’t hurt Izuku if he couldn’t catch him after all.
He went under the radar. Invisible to most. Although which was better. Invisible or useless? Nothing or something. Deku was a misreading of his name, but it stuck on him like mud from the river.
So he ran. And he wrote. And he hoped. And he dreamed.
Then a day like any other came, but it wouldn’t be like any other.
“Midoriya-kun, please, be more realistic.” His teacher pleaded during their career counseling session, now in middle school, the future bearing down on them in earnest. “You’re a bright student, top marks, but your… situation is unfortunate.” Izuku hated that. The students had no problem calling him what he was, quirkless, the teachers however stumbled over the word like it was some disease, or something to be pitied. It sucked, but he was what he was, help him or get out of his way. “Being a hero is just not a good plan for you, there are so many other options for you, better and safer.”
And for once, no matter that he had heard this many, many times, from every teacher he’d had since he was four. Izuku thought to ask. “Sensei, I appreciate the advice, but I’ve heard it all before. Unless you can tell me why I can’t actually be a hero, then I don’t see why I can’t try. Everyone else can. The worst the school can do is tell me no.” It was the first time he had ever defended himself. It felt good, even if it was just his teacher and himself to hear it, and he had stayed polite.
The teacher blinked slowly, before letting out a slow sigh. “Midoriya-kun, have you ever looked up the hero regulations in Japan?”
Izuku’s heart sunk, “Do they require a quirk?”
“That tells me you haven’t.” His teacher muttered, before turning in his swivel chair to his idle computer, moving the mouse so he could log in. “Believe it or not, I do know how much you care about being a hero so I’m surprised this is a blind spot for you.” He continued while bringing up the internet and a search tab, a lot of information on licensing requirements was readily available if you knew where to look and thought to look for it. Teachers knew this as most children aspired to be pro heroes at some point in their lives.
Student and teacher were silent for the short time it took to bring up the relevant information, the steps it took to get a pro hero license and be legal for hero work in the country of Japan.
Izuku felt his heart break as he read down the bullet pointed list, because while he knew there were high hurdles to jump to be a hero. That list though, was looking more and more impossible the longer his eyes stayed glued to the screen.
His teacher spoke more gently then he’d ever heard him, “You see Midoriya-kun, while they don’t say directly that a quirk is required; as that is outright discrimination that could get them sued. Multiple steps in the process, including the entrance exam to every hero school I know about, involve direct combat or conflict of some kind. With the sheer number of applicants every year it is virtually impossible to get into a heroics program in high school, let alone secure a provisional license, without a powerful quirk that sets you apart from the pack.”
Izuku’s eyes were now glued onto his teacher instead of the computer screen, so he kept talking. “You have to be above average in every possible way quirk and all, from the outset, just for the chance. Because you aren’t just competing against your one class or school, you are competing against every other person trying to be a hero in Japan that year. And they have to do this Midoriya-kun, because people die doing what they do. Sometimes before they graduate. Villains don’t hold back and then a hero loses their life, when they are the cream of the crop the beat the odds just to fight and lose. So yes, the system is weighted towards powerful and combat based quirks, for now it needs to be. There are people who work around it, underground and in the shadows, but they don’t get the recognition, the fans, the adoration. No child dreams of being the pro no one knows.”
When he saw Izuku’s eyes filing with tears again, he brought his point to a close, not trying to shatter his dreams, actually trying to give him a sliver of hope. “Your talents, and trust me, you have them, are not well suited to the tasks you have to get through to be licensed in Japan. You would be better off a detective or a lawyer, even a doctor. You are smart Midoriya-kun, very smart, and determined, I know you want to help people. Sometimes though what we want to do, and what we can do are two different things. Just because you aren’t suited for direct combat does not mean you can’t be someone’s hero in a different way.”
The tears Izuku had so far managed to miraculous hold back overflowed, his body was trembling, and he wasn’t sure he was breathing right.
“You marked down UA as your top school, well I think that is actually the right choice for you Midoriya-kun. You have a good chance of making it into their general studies program. They have an excellent curriculum that will give you the foundation to go on to the police academy or law school, if that is something you want to do. You do still have time to consider business or invention, but those programs are even more difficult to get into.” The teacher stopped talking when he realized Izuku was not absorbing anything else.
“Midoriya-kun, you’re excused, please think on what I’ve said. You have a bright future ahead. You really do, it just might not look like what you expected.” He reassured apologetically, looking on in a bit of worry as his student left, bowing robotically and leaving on autopilot.
He knew the boy was a bit fragile, it wasn’t like he was blind to the way the other children treated the green haired child. It was just difficult to rein in twenty children against one, and there was nothing he could do when it was outside his classroom. By the time they had reached his door the habits had already been so ingrained he hadn’t been able to do much to try and break them, only halt the worst of it. He was legitimately sorry.
It wasn’t the first time he saw a bullied child he couldn’t do much to help, and it wouldn’t be the last. He was just…tired. Wished there was more he could do, and hoped that once Midoriya gave his words some thought he found the hope in them because he really had been trying to give the boy a chance in a world stacked against him. A spark of something in a dark room was better than nothing anyway.
Izuku left the office without thinking, and just like anytime he let his brain turn off, his feet carried him away from it all. He ran without a care. Not for his uniform constricting his motion, or bag forgotten in the classroom, he just ran. Out of the building, across the courtyard, and burst onto the sidewalk, pounding down the pavement in his indoor shoes.
Something about the wind in the face and the rhythmic motion of his legs always helped him calm down, this time though, it took miles for him to process anything but footfall after footfall.
He found himself on a beach, more garbage dump than beach really, but the different texture under his feet brought him back to reality. That and his screaming lungs.
He had a teacher believe in him. Just not in his dream of being a hero. Well kind of. Now that he was calming down, Izuku could really think.
Would it really be so bad to be a different kind of hero? Save someone in a way All Might didn’t? He had spent so long watching every hero he could. He knew there was so much more out there then just All Might, but that video and the shining smile was still the beacon of hope that had kept him going through all the pain of his life falling down around his ears.
To his slight shame now, he had to admit, he never paid attention to anyone who wasn’t a hero on a scene; even the police. He would start doing that now, maybe see if that was something he would be okay with. If he was going to make a decision, he needed more information, and he just didn’t know enough now. All he did know was lawyer or doctor didn’t appeal to him at all, too stuffy, too out of the fight, he needed to be there on the street, be involved with his heroes as much as he could. Which meant if he couldn’t be a pro hero, then maybe, just maybe he would consider being part of the police.