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A Penny for Your Thoughts

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Ever since a young age, though not that young, because Katsuki was only 7 and his mother had said that any age below the number 20 were still brats, Deku had always been sort of - not exactly in a bad way - obsessed with money. 

In Katsuki’s opinion, nothing came close to surpassing the sheer excitement that rolled in his veins at the mere thought of becoming or surpassing someone as great as the number one Hero in the world, All Might. Thus bluntly put, Kastuki fundamentally couldn’t empathise with the kid he’s known all his life when he got all… weirdly number-eyed.

Whereupon they’d just learnt to count till ten, Deku had already mastered counting till ten thousand because it was the biggest note Japan had. Whereupon people struggled with the rules of borrowing in subtraction, Deku was completing workbooks printed in fractions, eating every question up like a free for all buffet. 

His mother had let him participate in her charity sales the very next week.

It was a premonition for a time to come, he’d later swear crassly in odd understanding, but the present gave nothing away and the blond remained comprehensive on his bed after yet another day at primary school. 

Even more so than their shared ambition of becoming a Hero in the future, Izuku loved counting money, saving money, treating the increasing amount of money in his All Might piggy bank like it was Kami-sama in the flesh. He practically worshiped the numbers, creeping the hell out of Katsuki once upon a time before he quickly got over it. 

Yet Deku was still Deku, whether he gave Katsuki goosebumps or not. The scrawny kid who’d beaten him in only one subject since forever (mathematics) as he reluctantly allowed it - not without a fight first, duh - because for someone as uselessly Quirkless as Deku, Katsuki supposed being better at maths was the best he’d ever amount to. 

Besides, Katsuki wanted to be the number one Hero, right? And mercy may be somewhat important somewhere up in the list, he supposed.

And then Deku’s Quirk showed up - which pissed Katsuki off for an hour before rays of enlightenment befell upon him, educating him upon the universe’s reasoning behind Deku’s creepy obsession with anything remotely numbered and anything paper thin, possessing the face of the Finance Minister that single-handedly brought Japan’s economy back to life back in the year 2099.

In the latest animation of The Almighty Adventures of All Might that aired every weekend, one episode in particular stood out from the rest. The plot line had been action packed and stereotypical, differing very little from the countless other previous episodes, but a simple scene caused ripples among every other grade schooler out there.

In summary, having recently celebrated his father’s birthday, Katsuki and Deku had been lounging about watching the latest episode of their mutually favourite animation of All Might. 

Their relationship had certainly staled ever since the chasm between them grew larger and larger, but Katsuki knew he didn’t hate Deku per se. Merely experienced intense annoyance whenever he saw the other. Plus, he thought down of Deku because he’d been Quirkless. 

Note: past tense.

Throughout those lukewarm hours of tea and dinner, Katsuki had been quite civil due to Aunty Inko’s presence; Deku, ever the obedient child, even more so. A glint of admiration would filter through his doe forest eyes ever so often. Katsuki almost flinched. And the blond felt his chest tighten incomprehensibly whenever he imagined Deku walking off after this small celebration ended. 

That was the first sign.

Unbeknownst to their parents, he and his former best friend were coming close to cutting each other’s names off their respective lists. Deku had his numbers that didn’t require a Quirk he lacked to support him, whereas Katsuki found it beneath himself to persistently provoke the Quirkless kid who showed no reaction whatsoever.

The television played, splashes of bright colours colouring All Might and the city he loyalty protected. The Villain was clad in an uncharacteristically pale blue, but his setting remained almost identical to the canon fodder before him. The Villain of the day had a penchant for kidnapping young children who didn’t talk much - unnoticed and quiet by their peers, only remembered by parents who were too busy for anything. 

Katsuki didn’t pity them. Why won’t they fight back? He’s wondered since forever. Why are they so pathetically weak ? Even if they did not expect to win, wasn’t it only logical to at least die trying? Scream, scratch, struggle. Do something instead of just lying there and crying while the Villain carried you off!

Pathetic , he thought, before turning his head to catch Deku’s reaction. Unsurprisingly, the boy’s heart bled for the bunch of fictional losers. 

His concern was clearly the second sign. 

The third hadn’t even bothered being quiet about coming in through the entrance of Katsuki’s unceasing attention of Deku. No, not when that ridiculously excellent episode - for he was no liar to himself - had put in a phrase that although old, sounded damn cool to their immature vocabulary when All Might himself had said it. In both English and Japanese! - the third sign was traffic neon orange, followed by the wailing calls of those stupid pre-installed alarms inside a red and white handheld speakers.

Some would find the phrase funny, or educated, or maybe it was just because some top dog at school that wasn’t Katsuki brought attention to the phrase by mere coincidence and the rest followed. No one would ever know. Only, All Might’s line of “Have no fear, for I am here! A penny for your thoughts, my dear?” blew up. 

(The lines rhymed. God, he should’ve fucking known.)

Katsuki didn’t know many things. He didn’t know trends; he’d never wanted to study the subject. He didn’t know what tickled someone’s humour, what built it so they’d say it again and again because it made them happy enough to sacrifice their precious hours and money. Nothing came to mind if someone asked what made a particular part of a movie iconic to the crowd. Learning had never crossed his mind. 

The moment he impulsively snatched Deku’s hero-themed wallet to take out a 5000 yen to ask mockingly, “A penny for your thoughts, Deku?” Katsuki might’ve considered trying. 

He didn’t know why he hated the money Deku loved so much. Give him a little over a decade, and he’d find out. Cheeks flushed in dark scarlet, the line connected to his fuse would then have thickened and lengthened with time, wrapped prettily around Deku’s crooked fingers for the world to witness. 

The boy with eyes like shimmering forests took his money back, uncharacteristically robotic that the motion looked more like he was accepting payment instead. Katsuki expected the crybaby to burst into tears. He did not. On the contrary, Deku said softly, “The price isn’t right, Kacchan.”

Katsuki’s temper reared its noble head, sunshine scales upturned, fanged mouth brimming with smoke and outlined by the fire underneath its tongue. That wasn’t how their relationship worked, if they even had one remaining after the shit Katsuk pulled during then. Deku detested people that messed with his money.

“What did you say?” Katsuki growled in favour of expressing confusion (and guilt) he felt deep inside the many crevices of his dark as charcoal heart. 

“I- I said that the price isn’t r- right. You’ve paid me.” Deku fidgeted, voice gritty and somewhat agitated. Like he absolutely needed to say this. “Who’s thoughts do you wanna know, Kacchan? Who’s?”

Katsuki leans away taken aback and nevertheless did his best to not show it on his face. Revealing any weakness in front of the enemy wasn’t wise because currently, Deku’s expectant look was equally sharp as it was dull. Like he was searching or maybe seeing something that wasn’t there. The blond child curled his fists and puffed up his chest. 

The future number one Hero ain’t gonna be afraid of some Deku. 

“Tsk. Mom’s then.”

“Aunty Mitsuki?”

“You’re deaf now, Deku?”

In response, the freckled boy nodded absentmindedly and the 5000 yen note in his hand crumbled into dust. “Payment accepted.” He stated tonelessly and shoulders relaxed. “Bakugou Mitsuki, formerly Amano Mitsuki. Explicatives have been censored. Her thoughts expresses bliss in seeing Midoriya Izuku and Bakugou Katsuki get along. She wishes that this may continue in the future, if only for her best friend’s, Midoriya Inko’s, sake. Transaction completed.”

“What the fuck.” Katsuki said. 

His mother threw a cushion at him. 

 

Chapter Text

For Izuku, life was starting to take flight and he was last bird on earth. The jabs from his peers had hurt, Kacchan’s unreasonable hostility downright excruciating when the blows and words landed, but because he’d awaken a Quirk he had an inkling of possessing - by the absence of a toe joint and the instinctive need to hoard money like no other - Izuku wasn’t an outcast, the outlier, anymore. 

He equally loved as he hated the newfound place on the social hierarchy because clearly, not everyone could be kind and good like Heroes. Children especially, even though he himself was one.

People left when times were hard, and they hated and discriminated against those who were deemed abnormal. If only to give them a common enemy to unite against. For over millions of years had passed since the Earth was created, and you’d think that because Quirks were unique to everyone that this sort of thing wasn’t that much of an issue anymore, but that was just another stage in life everyone eventually had to stumble through. Earlier, if not later. Izuku understood this. Really. 

None are born equal.

The pressing sadness wasn’t any easier to bear. 

Studying his Quirk was an excellent way to distract himself when the forced smiles made his cheeks ache too much at school. News had spread terrifyingly quickly because so many students would unintentionally press on Izuku’s button of compulsion to activate his Quirk. 

Inexperienced in any form of Quirk control, Izuku took and sold whatever he could. Self-control practically non-existent. 

Thankfully, no backlash had come as of yet. Izuku had a vague feeling that it may have something to do with the amount of money he could accept in a day, though - the building pressure in his head after every payment working as a strong indicator. And alongside it, vomit-inducing side effects should he not comply. 

Pointless for combat as it may be, everyone else found his Quirk fascinating. Reason: he was an entire repertoire of paid secrets. 

Izuku hadn’t put a name to the registry yet because currently, a lot remained a mystery. He sought to unravel the main points first rather than rush into the naming, and later damned to pay a fee in case of any changes.

Random people he’d never seen before were coming up to him now. They gave him their pocket money, asking for peeks inside their crush’s mind. Truthfully, Izuku discovered much regarding his Quirk this way. Practice was bountiful; volunteers throwing themselves towards him left, right, and over. Izuku was taught that his Quirk had no few number of cons in the most embarrassing way. 

“Tits,” He’d said, when someone shoved 1500 yen into his hands, asking what the most good looking person in the grade above them was thinking about while sighing oh-so woefully. The lesson of the day was that the human mind was an incredibly complex structure. 

The human thought process? Even more unpredictable. Izuku learned this after accepting the payment to know what was in the head of the prettiest girl of their grade another time. He spent 45 seconds screaming until his throat went hoarse. And in between random intervals, mumbling nonsensical gibberish that literally didn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Minako-chan looked totally normal on the outside. The boys who had crushes on her almost thought he was lying. 

One needed to pay more because seemingly, the price increased with the details or straightforwardness of the question - he hasn’t had very long with his Quirk - but if someone didn’t want to play Izuku’s Quirk lottery of correct but irrelevant, or a puddle of word vomit in general, they needed to be specific- specific with their questions. 

As for the incident at Kacchan’s place. Izuku guessed that summarised information counted at being more relevant and thus, more useful and worth its pricing.

He could somewhat see the reasoning when he didn’t have to quote everything word for word; because when he’d downloaded Aunty Mitsuki’s thoughts that day, the number of praises she had for his mother were plenty flattering if ultimately useless. It simply wasn’t the point of her thoughts. Well, Izuku thought so, unless he’d been mistaken and his Quirk reacted accordingly.

See? Specific- specific. He was the complete opposite of someone all-knowing.  

However, the pros of mind-reading when the payment was low would probably be the fact that there wasn’t any need for interpretation, Izuku guessed, when he simple needed to follow through pure quoting.

Anyway, Kacchan alone had been indifferent, treating Izuku the same. He still called him Deku, bursting angrily when Izuku tried to talk to him (maybe ignoring his existence less so than usual, but Izuku really didn’t want to admit that). It was an oddly comforting experience to grasp that Kacchan hated him because he was who he was, and not because of his Quirk, or lack thereof. Yet it’d also been terribly depressing to know they’ll never have that - that spark between them anymore. 

Into the wind went the butterflies in his tummy, sweaty temples and cheeks aching from too much smiling and too much laughing. Spontaneously decided camps on a summer's night, prickled by the blades of grass that caught rays of moonlight from the dew that hung at its tips. Forever and ever, someone promised.

(Forever and ever.Then, never.)

Things would have to be enough. He could pursue his ambition as a Hero, Izuku reasoned, whose impossibility had not hurt as much as he expected…? He remembered Kacchan’s mocking grin hurting more. 

Speak of the devil and he shall appear. For there stood the boy with his blond spikes standing like tails of the scorching sun, his personality reflecting the worst parts of the heat that the humongous star was identified by. 

Betrayal wasn’t always bitter. Hope never always sweet.

Sometimes, they’d switch places and Izuku would sleep not knowing which was which anymore.

Okay. Maybe, just maybe . Izuku could admit that some part of him wished for their friendship to mend when he’d gotten his Quirk that night. Acting as if his skin hadn’t peeled and blistered from burns smelling of mercilessness. As if he hadn’t spent time crying in the bathroom, incapable of understanding why everyone had been so cruel for something he couldn’t control. Why Kacchan, his Hero, abandoned him so easily when they’d claimed forever and ever.

Kacchan was always more observant than he led on, so Izuku knew he saw the deep dents on the strap of his yellow backpack. Marks of fear and anger and injustice. 

Even while waiting at the gate, the first one to leave wasn’t Izuku. Head dropping, he pacified himself by remembering the amount he had in his All Might themed piggy bank. 

Eyes shadowed by wild curls, he’d just arrived at class when a girl from the class next door - Aiko-chan - came running up to him, hands clutched against her chest. Izuku recognised the crinkle immediately. Money.

She looked guilty, almost terrified. “Deku-kun.” She gasped half-sobbing, shoving numerous 10 000 yen notes at him, making Izuku stumble backwards in the process. Forest eyes widened drastically. And wow, was that the most anyone had ever given him.

“Tell me. I- I want to know my kaa-san’s biggest secret. She still loves us, r- right? She’s not gonna l- leave …!”

Outline fresh and smooth, sound crisp by the newness of time, leaf-thin root of all evil was printed in faded beige and inked with a colour between black and green. Izuku had saved up more than the average kid, but they were all in coins or 5000 yen notes at most. 70 000 yen crumbled in his hands, coarse residue falling like the sand in an hourglass untouched by wind or rain, counting down for the lesson Izuku will soon learn.

His drying lips parted automatically, “Payment accepted.” 

From the corner of his eyes, Kacchan’s outline never faded. 

Class would start in 10 minutes; no teacher was present yet.

Aiko’s mother was someone he’d interacted before in passing. She had long chestnut hair, triangular ears on her head and two tails to match. Izuku remembered her because she’d given him money to buy lunch before. She was pretty and kind and smelled like lavender. 

“Haisegawa Chitose, formerly Amano Chirose. Mother of Haisegawa Aiko and Haisegawa Daichi. Greatest secret: in collaboration and lasting employee to the Villain All for One. Identity of the Villain All for One, payment insufficient.”

“NO!” 

But Izuku was incapable of stopping himself. The transaction mustmustmust continue; the payment had been accepted and he cannot stop - “She will leave her daughter Haisegawa Aiko and husband Haisegawa Daiki for a period of one month to fulfill the requirements of her given mission delivered 16 days ago through burner phone - number (054)-555-0197. Mission: Assassination of the Hero Eraserhead this year, on the twenty fourth of July at 3.45 am. Identity of the Hero Eraserhead, payment insufficient. Location: Japan, Shizuoka prefecture, Musutafu. Her love for Haisegawa Aiko is positive.” 

Chaos bloomed. Inherited from her father, Aiko’s shrill screams shook the air and the teachers were bursting in from the doors, anxiousness clear as day on their concerned faces. “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” Aiko begged, tears running down her face that resembled her mother’s. Ugly sobs and hiccups stole her breath, but she would not stop screaming. Unprotected, many others joined the noise fulled by panic, confusion, and anger (Kacchan, whose palms sparked dangerously). 

The pair of twins with an empathy Quirk collapsed, half-crying and ears bleeding. One-third of the class had the colour of their clothes inverted. Chairs and tables lit themselves on fire, the floor shaking when a vibration Quirk activated. Not to mention, the countless amount of stationary that started wobble precariously above their pencil cases. 

There was just so much going on and more.

At this point, most of his classmates were weeping by the ears; resulting in Hero-levels worth of damage by accidentally triggering their colourful palette of superpowers. 

Loud ringing filled his ears as Izuku recalled the last time he was unfortunate enough to stand close to the school bell. Thinking more into it, it was also like someone flatlined next to him. The sharpness was unbearable. Deaf to himself and others, he recognised what his Quirk ended with anyway: “Transaction-”

A glowing transparent roof of yellow flashed across the view above Izuku. He recognised it as their sensei’s Quirk. Well made for short-term confinement. She only used it when things got out of control. Izuku took a quick glance downwards, conscious pulling when he saw the pile of coarse dust. What a waste too… 70 000 yen… He could’ve bought at least 5 All Might figurines and have Yakiniku for dinner.

“- complete.”

… Eh, when did someone call the ambulance here? Why were there Heroes and the police?

Wait, Heroes? 

Heroes!

“Midoriya-kun.” Eto-sensei’s gentle voice called out to him. The boy turned, bewildered, he did not remember hearing or seeing anything out of the ordinary 5 minutes ago. “Midoriya-kun, I’ve called your kaa-san already. Sensei is going to need you to follow me to the hospital, okay? Your hearing is damaged and we’re going to fix it.” 

True, the ringing in his ears ceased to stop. “Where’s Aiko? What’s going on?” Izuku managed to mumble amongst the sea of warm bodies. Eto-sensei smiled warmly, “She’s with a Hero, Midoriya-kun. And she’s safe, so don’t worry. Come on, the ambulance is right up ahead.”

Noon was already ending by the time Izuku managed to get his ear drums healed. His mother stood by his side the entire time, nodding along what the doctors advised while Izuku remained curious about what happened specifically. It was the first time he’d accepted more than 5000 yen at once and his memories were floating in (mostly) pain and blurred images. 

Flinching from the terrible, terrible migraine, there remained this nagging feeling of guilt, despite everyone assuring him that everything was fine. No, things were not fine and he’d find out before stepping out of this room or help him - Oof. Gotta hurl right now - Thank the Gods and Goddesses for disposable scent absorbing buckets.  

“DEKU!” Kacchan roared, voice cracking from puberty. The sliding door slammed opened, mirroring thunder. 

“THAT’S DISGUSTING. WHAT THE ACTUAL… Heck. Hi Aunty Inko.” 

Chapter Text

He loved money because everything had a price. 

On the days he felt uncharacteristically cynical, even his mother’s love wasn’t spared. Engaged with the reality of betrayal and the following jab of empathy for Villains who had no other choice - Izuku, intellect and puberty acting like a glinting double edge sword, had read enough and watched more than enough news channels to just… know. 

Friendless, clubless, what else was a boy to do after finishing his homework at home? Why, analyse leaked footage of course. The Hero and Villain’s voices may have buzzed with the static of their Quirks, but Izuku heard it all. He heard and he saw and he listened . 

Commonly, people found understanding behind the saying ‘Money can’t buy happiness’. But Izuku knew that such was a privilege for the folk that had a roof above their heads, warmth surrounding their bodies, and food on the table. Because without money, it was hard to say if his mother wouldn’t be downright miserable raising him - the useless boy without a Quirk for well over a decade. 

Izuku didn’t think he was particularly smart or funny or handsome. With no friends to boost his worth in social connections on top of that. The reality was easy to accept when Izuku used to cry at the value of the popular kids when he ceased to be one. 

(Was he ever, really?)

He had Kacchan’s assured importance once and people had adored Izuku for who he could’ve been. 

Such was abandoned in the lush forests for the wolves to feast. And if Kacchan was generous enough, often acting as the pack leader that led the vicious hunt.

His family wasn’t poor, but Izuku has seen and experienced the start of unfairness right at the front row if was. Quirkless kids had no future, no one would accept them at this time and age. They were bound and fated to scrape by at the bottom of society, collecting scraps of charity that less and less Heroes did every year. He’d done the damning research. The numbers of Heroes that gave food and clothes rather than fight for public safety was steadily declining after All Might’s growing absence.

The mere image terrified him. 25 and Quirkless, having difficulty finding a job (much less his dream job) just because his hair couldn’t change colour or something? God, his mother would be so very sad. She’d cry all day and night for her useless son. Love flickering between disappointment and resignation. Plus, his father might've died in a ditch for all their family knew. Who would support them after? The government already had warehouses full of people in Izuku’s shoes who’d been there, done that on standby for years

… But who was he kidding. Izuku loved money not only because of the statistics or very possible possibility or the innate compulsion that told him so. He loved money because he sought for stability in a world full of instability. The importance of money had never changed since millennia ago. Quirks were wonderfully amazing, yes, but there were thousands of things money could buy that Quirks couldn’t. 

Insurance, his mother laughed, when Izuku asked her who the woman with files as thick as as her heels dropped by their home some time back.

Ever since turning 9, Izuku told himself this; come the next morning and the morning after that, he believed it little by little. Then his Quirk came and Izuku was more ecstatic than conflicted. All his insecurity and doubts set on fire like burnable trash. He forgot it produced smoke, harmful six ways to Sunday. 

Dark blue uniforms standing out from the stark white of the hospital room, Izuku’s vocabulary failed him. The two police - one lady and the other man - glanced at each other knowingly. The woman was holding a pocket-sized notebook in her hand, whereas the policeman turned his professional opinion to the nondescript man wearing a brown coat. 

“Midoriya Izuku, aged 11. He is one of the children involved in this case. We’ve interviewed several of his classmates and they’ve said that the information came from him.” 

“Nice to meet you, Midoriya-san. Thank you, Hada-san. I will take it from here, if you’d please lead Bakugou-kun out.” Smiling amicably, the gloved man took off his hat, “Thank you, Bakugou-kun, for leading us to Midoriya-kun. You’ve been very helpful to us.”

“I’m staying,” Kacchan insisted stubbornly, crossing his arms and puffing his chest. “ I was the one to lead you here and I wanna know what happened too.”

“I’m afraid not,” Mystery man said firmly. “Your mother will be here soon. It would be-”

Izuku swallowed back a nervous hiccup. He hoped the gulp wasn’t as loud as it sounded in his ears.

“K-Kacchan can stay. It’s fine. I- I don’t really mind.”

The boy in question smirked triumphantly. There was a moment of long silence that consisted of everyone staring incredulously at someone - Izuku especially - when he was finally given a name to the face. “I am Tsukauchi Naomasa. A detective from the police force. If you don’t mind, Midoriya-kun, Midoriya-san, I have a few questions for you.”

Oh, okay. “What h- happened to Aiko-chan?” Izuku asked first. The answer he’d received earlier gave him an abstract tug that said sensei’s wasn’t everything. And Izuku had always cared too much about the little things that could make somebody a Hero. 

Tsukauchi’s tone was tender when he did an admittedly good job at delicately delivering the news. His words were simple and straightforward and Izuku appreciated the - dare he say it - coddling when few adults bothered to cater to him anymore. Before he’d awakened his Quirk, specifically.

Shortly after half the class was set to the hospital for one reason to another, Aiko-chan’s mother was called into the police station because of the accident pertaining her child. Shortly after arriving in a room full of children to pick up her daughter injected with minor Quirk suppressants, painfully honest accusation of her being a Villain was flung about. 

The mother tossed her child over her shoulder and fled immediately. Sbe was then chased down and detained as the police stewed the pot of ‘Are there protocols for 2 truths and 1 lie by children - she tried to run, though?’ before Detective Tsukauchi was called on scene. The information that the children dubbed as ‘Deku’s’ wasn’t wrong as it was dangerous. All for One was supposed to be dead. In memory, if not body. 

I had no choice, the young mother admitted grimly, her long tail straightening amicably. Arrest me as you will. I am involved with the planned assasination of Eraserhead, but my family isn’t. They’re innocent. Please, they don’t know anything!

Truth. Truth. Truth.

Detective Tsukauchi sought for Izuku faster than Ingenium’s Engines. His car did, actually. But breaking traffic laws at 11 AM on a Wednesday were the least of his problems. 

“This is Eraserhead,” Izuku was introduced to a stubbled man whose eyes looked like they needed more than the monsoon season for moisture. “He was the Hero closest at the time and prevented many of your classmates from getting more injured.”

Izuku stuttered a shaky hello, receiving a repricatory grunt in return. Inside, his heart was hammering against his chest. Excitement threatening to spill from the confines of his veins like a near bursting garden hose because oh my god, this was the Underground Hero, Eraserhead! Winner of UA’s sports tournament, having fought his way up from the General Course to the Hero Course in spite of his Quirk that was considered weak because although its effects were undoubtedly deadly, its need to have Eraserhead’s eyes open somehow numbed that and Izuku was going to actually combust—!

“T- Th- Thank you so much for your help, s-sir.” Beside him, his mother giggled into her fist. She knew her son well. 

When asked about how he knew what he spouted in class, Izuku babbled away. 

Nope, he did not know how his Quirk priced things, but information became more expensive at yes or no questions and mind-reading was Katsudon cheap. 

The human mind was painfully unpredictable because of how quickly people’s line of thought zipped from one thing to another and honestly, no one actually thought in full, proper sentences. They had vague concepts circulating around nearly all the time, constantly reacting to what’s happening around them as it happens. Unless they were reading or alone unoccupied, then it was a different story. But that could be unreliable too as inside voice loved being sporadic. 

Some didn’t even think at all. They screamed into the abyss. Or fantasized about sex, in which was a whole moving picture that could hardly be expressed in words properly if the payment was too little. Izuku was never paid enough to moan like how the naked people inside someone’s head moan. 

Also, it wasn’t uncommon to have people that spoke gibberish, made up nonsensical language inches away from summoning the Devil in their heads; which, in Izuku’s humble opinion, was really scary.

Um, the extent of his Quirk…? Izuku faltered at the question. Tilting his head, the boy accepted the glass of water his mother offered. 

He couldn’t answer if someone wanted to know what was coming out in this year’s finals. So sure, we could say it works only on living things. No, he couldn't pay himself for the Quirk to work. Yeah, there should be a price limit to how much he could accept…? It’ll probably increase with time: said the Hero Eraserhead. Izuku took his word for it. The man was his more favorited idol, after all, when barely a figurine of him could be found. Eraserhead also had this air about him that told Izuku it was within his best interest to listen.

“Could you tell us more about the Villain All for One?” Detective Tsukauchi asked. 

“Er, yes? But you’ll have to pay me, and the money’ll become dust so I can’t give it back to you.”  

Just letting them know, not that he was afraid of getting accused of daylight robbery.

A genuine sounding chuckle escaped the detective and Izuku hoped he found him funny.

Right on time, a dizzy spell was thrown at Izuku, knocking all sense of usefulness from him. Kacchan caught on quickest, downright slamming the washed bucket back into his lap. “Get that crap on me and I’ll kill you,” He threatened, having seemingly forgotten about Izuku’s mother who was doing a fantastic job at soothing Izuku while he puked his guts and eggs into the bright yellow bucket. Vomit yolk smelled terrible.

“Kid’s unfit.” Izuku heard Eraserhead’s voice say. The words setting frantic waves of urgency off for the boy. No, he could still be useful. Jus... just give him one moment - 

“Leave it,” Eraserhead tiredly sighed. “Drink some water and go to sleep. Villain business are for us adults to handle anyway.”

“B- but I can -”

“Yes you can, but it’s not worth the risk. You’re still young, kid. Wait till you’re older to contribute. What are heroes for then, if not to protect kids like you so that they won’t have to use themselves. I recommend training up your body from now on. Run laps in the morning, keep yourself in good condition.”        

Izuku beamed. An unflattering sight when drool was trailing down his chin. “Thank you so much, sir! I’ll work extra hard to meet your expectations! Oh, but what happened to Aiko-chan? You only said what happened to her mother. What happened after that?” 

All the adults exchanged different, yet similar knowing looks. His mother moved her hand from his back to the top of his shoulder, pressure soon alleviating Izuku’s growing anxiety. Something went wrong, he easily grasped. And it was undeniable Izuku’s fault. 

“It’s not your fault.” Tsukauchi sincerely offered, gaze kind, understanding. Izuku’s expression fell. To make matters worse. Better, he couldn’t tell - instead of beating the bush, Eraserhead might as well have tore through the crippling silence by throwing a powered lawn mower at it. “The board of education transferred her over. She won’t be attending classes with you anymore. Having a parent as a Villain doesn’t give the school a good and safe reputation.”

Initially, Izuku loved money because everything had a price. But then, it suddenly occurred to him that there were prices that didn’t include money in its transaction too. The price, in this case, was the use of his Quirk in exchange for ruining somebody’s life.

Was it worth it?

Chapter Text

Deku did not take too well to the guilt that spun in his gut like silken threads from the feathers of the Crane Wife in ancient folklore. In Katsuki’s unquestionable opinion, Deku’s sense of compensation sucked and made no fucking sense more so than normal, yet he could not deny how in character it was. Like the stillness of uncut grass during spring, untouched and unravaged by warm winds, the class they shared for the years to come became unnaturally quiet.

From day one, Katsuki had told himself: I will not be angry.'  because the mini-explosions that would char his desk wasn’t worth the paint money. Deku wasn’t his business anyway. Why bother caring? Why take those second glances when he thought the other boy wasn’t looking?

Load of good that did.  

Gone was Deku’s incessant mumbling that bounced off the classroom’s walls louder than the teacher’s dull droning. It wasn’t as if he decidedly became mute one day, but Deku seemingly refused to open his mouth unless it was to eat or drink or answer when asked first. Katsuki couldn’t be sure if he acted the same at home; he was banned from the place, after all. 

Nevertheless, the process had been gradual until Katsuki came to the late realisation that none of his gloating mockery brought up any verbal reaction anymore. Deku just - in full tears - walked away. 

(They were twelve.)

And he let him. Lie close at heart, Katsuki convinced himself that bullying the not-so-Quirkless kid would bring undesirable repercussions. Especially since said kid had the authorities kissing his ass every two weeks. Deku had special permission to use his Quirk, for fuck sake; under proper supervision comissioned by taxpayer’s money - Katsuki heard the neighbours whisper. 

Currently attending his last year of middle school, he could hardly recall the last time Deku gave minutes of his obnoxious speeches about acting heroic. As if he knew what it was like to be a Hero. Then again, Katsuki’s didn’t either, but his greatness would assure him a place for sure. 

Stewing in uncertainty was something Katsuki wouldn’t boast about. Yet the pot had been stirred, so all he could do was kick the ringing tin until his toes bruised.

He should really go blow some steam. 

Recently, the weather during winter had turned for the worse. The weather reporter on television had waved his pointy stick, “There will be no rain today!” He cheerfully delivered - half-truth slick from his throat. Knowing better, having learned better at university or whatnot. “We’ll be back in 10 to interview Kobayashi-san about…”

Unfortunately, Mother Nature’s unpredictable nature was not his job to remind. Everyone would learn because nobody was excused from the experience. 

Katsuki included. 

Dusting his shirt and pants down, the boy had nodded towards the living room when his mother told him to come back home early. “I know,” Katsuki said, rebutting his mother’s laugh at her claim of his whining tone. Heroes did not whine. Pushing the door open, Katsuki’s running shoes squeaked on the tiled entrance floor. The clock’s hand pointed towards 5. 

The black face-mask donned over half his face was meant to keep the cold winds at bay; looking up, Katsuki saw the dense of grey clouds clump and fester, and resumed his stretches through the pathetically small breeze swept his way. 

He’d take chance believing the weather man. Not from of ignorance because if it rained - and he was quite sure it would. It will rain, and the fault would fall on him but the growing itch in his palms could not be soothed, so exercise it was. 

Today’s class had let him know about Deku’s noncompliance, the rebelliousness that nobody should’ve been surprised to see. Their homeroom teacher had grew more frustrated each day Deku failed to submit his high school hopeful paper. The freckled boy merely shrugged when questioned. Nonchalant expression making the teacher burn holes into Deku’s head if he could. Normally obedient and all-round good student, his childhood ex-friend had acted absolutely dickishly for some reason. 

Katsuki had been in the middle of his after-school run when he crashed into Deku. That wasn’t anything new. They’d been using the same - the only - route now since Deku concluded that although he had a Quirk, it did nothing for his physique and Heroes were very physical folk by trade. 

The warning flash of light came too late. Rain icier than snow suddenly curtained the entire town of Musutafu and the routine was (literally) coldly interrupted. Katsuki cursed everything from the sky onwards. The monochrome clouds, the prickling rain, the space beyond and the good-for-nothing sun. Inwardly, himself for (going when he’d already known - ) taking shelter underneath the same bus stop as Deku who was as soaked to the bones as he was. 

Their soggy footsteps made puddles on the grey concrete. Shoes squelching in protest. 

Katsuki curled his fists in their cold and heavy pockets, resisting the urge to wrap his arms around himself. It’d do no good as he was already wet. 

The cold needed to die immediately. 

Blond hair dripping, he glanced towards the right, eyes catching the water droplets streaming down the dessert of freckles that dusted Deku’s cheeks and felt his own burn. He was never one for awkwardness, yet his stomach dropped like an elevator going downwards without its cable. And then his heart squeezed. Jolting and jerking and jostling and Katsuki couldn’t bring himself to do anything than just breathe in spite of his restlessly trembling heart.

The feeling was exactly the same as when he’d stepped out from the showers in the morning. When the temperatures would drop real low no matter the season. Katsuki blamed his drenched clothes during winter. He blamed the way it seemed to absorb the unbearable chill until it shook his organs. 

As far as their last year of primary school went, Deku’s and Katsuki’s relationship started with words and ended without.

Both Katsuki and Deku wielded their silence for each other like weapons. Or could it be considered such? When he treated everyone else equally now. However subtle, losing that place of specialness grated. Deku’s eyes lowered to the point of Katsuki’s chin. 

Ask him what you wanna know. It’s just Deku.

His mother had asked (on what felt like) long ago if Katsuki felt guilt when he harmed another. She had been crying - the ugliest thing he’d ever seen - and tears were pouring down her youthful face like this particular crashing rain. Full of thunder and red lightning, mirrored by the bloom of transparent fireworks bursting on concrete, fated to die after only seconds of life. 

Aunty Inko's call had been the trigger. She wasn't sounding so good herself. Mitsuki hadn't taken the lashing out for what it essentially was because Inko was the sweetest thing on Earth. 

(She was also only human.) 

Domino events were something worth fearing.

Not long after the incident with Aiko, Deku started accepting money without activating his Quirk. Their schoolmates predictably grew upset whenever it happened and Katsuki, in a fit of all things unholy, exploded Deku in the face because the boy didn’t look one inch guilty pocketing cash that wasn’t his. Deku kept it like he had something to prove. 

He did. Katsuki knew. And unfortunately for green-eyed boy, he didn’t give a shit.

“Give the money back, shitty Deku!” He’d demanded, before charging in.

The brawl after was downright dirty. Katsuki left the infirmary in stitches where Deku had mauled him like the filthy, useless, thieving mutt he was. “IT’S MINE, KACCHAN. FREELY GIVEN!” Deku shrieked, nursing a blistering wound that would, in the foreseeable future, scar one-fifth of his face. His eyes were overwhelmingly difficult to forget when Katsuki saw them - harsh, too green and too old for their owner’s age. Carrying so much fucking guilt to the point Deku clearly did not know what to do with it. 

What, did he actually think that keeping money he’d stolen fixed things? Because they didn’t crumble? Didn’t indirectly ruin someone’s life?

Things weren’t quite the same afterwards. Katsuki returned home not understanding why his mother blew her fuse when he’d done something right for once that was quite unlike his usual feats of childish cruelty. Mitsuki secretly wept in her room for not listening to what her son had to say first. From her lenses, Katsuki’s tendency for unjust violence wasn’t subtle and she’d tried so hard to curb his arrogance and his potential to do harm. 

Throughout their fight, Masaru hadn’t been home to immediately dismantle the ticking bombs that dwelled in his most precious people, and their family had taken years to find normal again. 

Deku twiddled with his gloved thumbs while Katsuki scowled defensively from lack of any other better expressions to use. The anxiety that brought him out in the first place simply refused to heel like the bitch it should and the unrestrained questions paced maddeningly inside his head. Without the relieving state of mindlessness he could achieve while running, the multitude of Deku why, Deku how, Deku where might as well be stamped on his forehead to let everyone within 500 feet of him know how close Katsuki was to just bursting into fuck-all and physically shaking the answers out of the shitty nerd.

The rain continued to be unrelenting on the plastic roof of the bus stop, and while bravery remained in him, Katsuki used the erratic rhythm to countdown from three.

A decidedly poor fucking choice on his part because one, two, and three had drummed by too fast. Way faster than the time it would take for him to blink. 

“Fuck it,” He cursed breathily. 

Nothing could be done now; Katsuki’s time for proactive civility had fucking arrived and he was going to own the bitch. Deku smiled tightly at him, the (currently) slowly moving belt of glowing seafoam green numbers in his eyes glowing faintly. Features Katsuki knew to become downright blinding when his Quirk was activated. They’d become much more prominent once puberty struck. Katsuki didn’t actually know until much later, of course. Between the building assignments and pop quizzes every fortnight, nobody had that kind of time at hand. He wasn’t paying particular attention to Deku, okay? Never. 

Amidst the sound of beaten wet pavement, neither really knew what to say. 

Words were difficult on good days and conveying small talk felt nigh impossible. When Katsuki spoke, it may be loud and bold and fouler than a sailor’s, but if anyone actually bothered to look deeper, they’d realise his tendency to keep shush unless the situation called otherwise.

Pretty much like Deku, so he honestly could not fathom what was making this unbearably hard. To start with, why was there even the need to fill the silence? To fulfill the question he wouldn’t have to ponder restlessly over if he’d kept their friendship because Deku babbled like everyday was his last. Once upon a time.

Currently standing stubbornly away from each other, 5 feet apart, felt enough . Deku could stay where he was and Katsuki would follow suit. But of course Deku hadn’t and as he took the first step and spoke first, shame burned lowly in Katsuki’s gut. 

He would remember this particular moment for the rest of his life. In which Deku’s voice had been soft and gentle and not at all hoarse from disuse: “How you’ve been, Kacchan?” He asked. 

God, he thought, that fucking nickname. How long had it been since he last heard that accursed thing?

Katsuki would dream the same dream for weeks to come. Sweat pooling on his pillow, blankets tossed on the floor. Hearing Deku speak like he was tiptoeing in a minefield had been scathing for reasons he’d rather not look into. 

“Why’d you do it, Deku?” Katsuki cut harshly, earning himself two puzzled blinks. Katsuki breathed in slowly and the words just spilled like the global tragedy of the elbow and the brimming cup of paintwater: “You take all the cash from those shitty extras, and then fucking donate to the fucking animal shelter. What’s the fucking point then, why bother taking if you’re not going to keep it? You tryna become a saint or some shit? You feel good about yourself? Acting like you ain’t done fuck in your life - you didn’t even tell dumbass what school you’re gonna go for. Why’d you do it, Deku. WHY -”

“I’m aiming for UA,” Deku stated plainly. Katsuki blinked. “General Course.” He continued calmly. “And I don’t keep the money because I know it’s not mine, but I can’t give it back either. I- I just can’t. I can’t. And you can’t make me,

“Why?” Katsuki looked downwards, watching how the water streamed into the drain, chaotically rushed but smooth nonetheless. Perfectly contradictory. He wouldn’t state more than that. Hopefully, Deku got the hint and explained everything. 

Deku did, in fact, understand because oversharing was in his nature and not because he understood Katsuki as a very flawed human being who couldn’t not act like an overbearing prat every time he walked or talked or existed in general. 

“I might lose control of my Quirk and… um, that’s not... good. Anyway, the general course is supposed to help me improve on my abilities in case anything happens. I’ll move to the Hero once I’m ready. I’ve done the research and they said that getting first place puts you under consideration for the Hero’s course. I’ve been training hard, and I’ll train even harder from now on. So I thought it’d be worth trying, because if I can’t get first place then it’d just mean I wasn’t ready and,” 

Deku inhaled. “And I don’t want anyone to get hurt because of me again, Kacchan.”

Katsuki exhaled long and hard, pinching the bridge of his nose till the bone ached: “Fucking hell, Deku.” He shot the boy a glare. “Your Quirk ain’t shit in battles. The fuck’s got your panties up in such a twist?! Y’know what, fucking none of my my business,”

“But you asked!”

“Is the money cuz of your Quirk?”

“No. Not really. Mom says I should get h-help but I, um, couldn’t.”

“Go home, Deku.” 

The rain stopped as abruptly as it came, pulling the sun from misty blankets of heavy greys. Katsuki basked in the heat although his fingers remained cold. He was already leaving the shelter of the bus stop when Deku stopped him, “KACCHAN!” Deku yelled, the glowing number in his eyes dimming in the presence of the evening light. “We’re friends again, right? I’m sorry I bit you. I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you for years . I’m sorry I can’t give back everyone’s money. I’m sorry I -”

(- can’t see the doctor normally without feeling like they’re there to fix something broken.)

“Shut the fuck up already. I said: Go. Home.” Katsuki ignored the crestfallen look headed his way, “We’re not friends, Deku.” He spat. However, “You’re better off skydiving off the fucking roof if you don’t make it to UA’s Hero’s Course.”

Chapter Text

There was a man named Toshinori Yagi that Izuku visited every weekend. Having met through a common acquaintance, Yagi-san was a close friend of Detective Tsukauchi, who’d come over for biscuits and tea when a particularly difficult case came knocking. Often times when the police were running on little to no information on anyone or thing. When the situation had become dire, and the least damage came at a literal price.

His mother appreciated the small act of consideration no matter how pleased Izuku assured he was whenever his Quirk received positive attention. Still, Midoriya Inko preferred it so much better if her son could live his life acting his age. Laughing and learning alongside friends he didn’t have. 

“You can do it, Izuku.” He could already hear her say, “Kaa-san believes in you!”

His youth was never supposed to be up for barter, she’d hissed when Izuku had protested. A rare occurrence. And he had felt the guilt tough to swallow. Fingers cupping the warm body of an All Might mug, Izuku held back his tears and pushed no further; while inwardly, he secretly lamented the song his sweet mother sang. Uncaring, almost, free from the troubles that plagued Izuku in its light and crisp notes.

Izuku loved her. 

But that didn’t change how Izuku needed the work, the practice. Helping those in need was important as well and Izuku promised to do as much as he could with the added bonus that may benefit him and another - 

“Two birds with one stone, Kaa-san!” 

Her disapproving frown did not smoothen. Even less did it hide the worry behind her eyes that may have seen too much of Izuku for her to recognise. 

Inko loved him. 

More reason to master his Quirk so that his mother may be the happiest woman in the world. She deserved it. And Izuku was determined to succeed in following his dreams and offering his mother everything money could buy. He believed that Midoriya Inko would probably be the only person kind enough to put up with him even if he wasn’t her son. 

During the night his mother had cried in her bedroom for his father, some part of Izuku also disliked being the vaguely pressing pressure of debt on his back. He had spent seven years burdening his mother, so it was only right that he paid her back for the trouble. Her love wouldn’t outweigh his in any way. 

(“W- what is this, Izuku?” Inko took the warmly coloured envelop her son had given her. The boy had gladly answered, pride bright in his eyes when Inko should’ve known better to let live. Because her son was stubborn, if little else. “Detective Tsukauchi gave it to me. My first paycheck!” He exclaimed excitedly. “I want you to have it, kaa-san. I’ll give you back everything one day, okay? I promise.”  

“No thank you, Izuku.” Inko tried to deliver as gently as possible. She did not want his money. Her love for him was unconditional; his value to her priceless. She didn’t need nor expect reciprocity, much less monetary compensation. Inko had said so, tone cajoling like she was speaking to a four year old, rather than thirteen. Izuku had looked at her like she’d dealt terrible blows to his heart. 

He could not look at her in the eyes for three days.

What must she (I) do to make him (her) understand?)

The envelope was later placed into Izuku’s desk drawer. Untouched, unused. It sat there thick and ultimately worthless. Izuku donated the cash to the local soup kitchen, two weeks later; the no-kill shelter several streets away, and then Inari Okami-sama’s temple before asking for guidance. He slipped 15 000 yen into the box that fed children that couldn't afford to eat like children. 

Worthless, he mouthed. Letting the conclusion curl on his tongue. Need he earn more?

Inko was more than troubled. Cluelessness snaking shadows over the invisible bonds of parent and child. 

Yagi-san played quite the part in helping Izuku achieve his dream while learning more about his Quirk. He was someone too skinny, too smiley, and too sad for a person who carried optimism like second skin that fit morbidly better than the clothes Izuku normally saw him wearing.

Izuku adored him.

Their first meeting was admittedly not as great as one would like, if humourous, although Yagi-san may not have believed the same. In terms of the humorous part, for he too agreed that his manners had disgraced him when he’d initially heard news of Izuku’s Quirk.

Tsukauchi had brought the news like the unsuspecting discovery of Nana’s death. Grimly delivered and tinged in worry by the damning crease between his brows, because his friend was more empathetic than he’d like for those in his line of work. 

Out of his best friend’s mouth no less, when word had finally reached him, it was an invisible clutch around Toshinori’s tanned neck; cold like his mentor’s fingers - when he hogged her blanket, sharing a bed when Toshinori was plagued with nightmares - and painfully reassuring. Nana was a woman who’d collected many regrets and she had told him she had no plans to die, but it certainly was the expected way to fall as One for All’s seventh wielder. He liked to think she’d regret leaving him enough to return as a ghost. 

Circumstances had been unfavorable and rushed. Donning the beloved persona of All Might, Toshinori had been towing through defeating villains and fan meetings for the short weeks after All for One’s near fatal strike on both of them. Pushing his body as if everyday was the last day One for All would permit him to host it, he’d missed many opportunities to meet Izuku because of his responsibility to the city. 

Scribbling on a square on the standing calendar, Toshinori finally found time catered to both parties three months after felling All for One. His smile was resigned when his Quirk refused to humour him any longer. 

“I was right.” He said, pouring Naomasa a cup of freshly brewed coffee. As of then, One for All would not appreciate working for more than three or four hours and Toshinori had deflated at the end of a convenience store robbery, bringing the knowledge to light. 

“Should I introduce you to the boy I told you about?” 

“For what?” Toshinori needed reminding. Weariness settled in his bones, feeling as if stress could harden every nerve spread throughout the sinew of muscles. Naomasa offered silver silence meant for the dead, or it was how the Hero interpreted it, anyway. He spoke when Toshinori finished coughing out another mouthful of blood at his own expense.

“To confirm that All for One’s actually dead.”

“He is.” 

Naomasa swept that confidence out of the door like new year's spring cleaning season had come early, “You said there wasn’t a body, old friend.” 

Maybe the fatigue had mistook his senses. “He’s dead.” Toshinori refused to bend, weak grip on the coffee pot tightening. 

“You can never be too sure. We found no body.” The detective said, and Toshinori found no words that didn’t belong to someone swamped in exhaustion and denial to refute. So he reluctantly agreed and marked the given date on his calendar. 

The red circle felt particularly damning on some days. Toshinori really wasn’t looking forward to meeting Midoriya Izuku.

The thought had days to settle and fester in his mind. Toshinori allowed himself to leave the house thirty seconds later than he originally planned to. Like his shoes had soles of lead, he dragged his footsteps and played future simulator with himself. Bias fogging his mind, every end was a bad one. 

The address Naomasa had given him wasn’t the Midoriya’s home address. For that alone, Toshinori was relieved. For some reason, he felt like a newbie Hero again - strong in body but not as much in mind, wallowing in abstract misery as he’d brought it upon himself to offer condolences to the families of people he failed to save. 

All for One was a sore spot for every One for All inheritor. Having lost someone or themselves to him in their respective ways unique to them before. The first lost his brother to the emergence of the power hungry alter ego. The second lost his loved one, the third had lost her freedom and the pattern went on and on. Nana herself had lost an entire line of descendants whereupon Toshinori lost her.    

Talking about All for One to a child who probably hadn’t even grown into his limbs didn’t feel right. Didn’t feel appropriate. But what did Toshinori know? He too was a child when Nana had sheltered him under her prickling wings. 

The meeting was at a middle-class restaurant that provided private booths. The reviews were good, solid four point five on the search engine’s results page. Craving Japanese cuisine, Toshinori ordered something light that catered to the pathetic thing known as his diet. Or what was left of it. 

Young Midoriya had appeared with Naomasa soon after the waitress served tea. 

The boy’s greeting was barely audible, demeanor reminiscent of the children at the mental wards in hospitals that found speaking terrifying. 

Nervous but anticipative for his first hospital service, there was a boy Toshinori had quickly grown attached to and vice versa. The boy was the first kid he met at the entrance of the ward. Quiet and skittish like Midoriya but according to the nurses, most open to meeting strangers. “Listen to him,” They told him. “He’s lived it. We work with these children but he can tell you more than we ever can.” 

Toshinori listened. “Don’t speak too loud, Mr. Hero,” The boy whispered like a secret. “The newer kids still don’t know that loud doesn’t always mean bad. Mean hurt and pain.”

Toshinori listened, but his wounds were still gaping. Furthermore, he had forgotten to return the green-eyed boy’s greeting. His best friend directed a disapproving frown at Toshinori, and the man opened his mouth to fix the problem before Izuku innocently interrupted. 

“How can I help you, Yagi-san?” Young Midoriya asked timidly, “Tsukauchi-san hasn’t told me anything.”

Smile terse, Toshinori barely forced the words out. He asked if young Midoriya’s Quirk can tell if somebody was dead or alive or somewhere in between and the answer was a quiet nod. “Yes, as long as the price is right.” Midoriya’s gaze flitted from Toshinori’s hair to his face, to his skinny frame cloaked by the oversized white shirt.  

He honestly felt a little bit foolish for asking. Naomasa had informed him about the abilities of Midoriya’s particular Quirk. Asking simply made Toshinori seem like an untrusting jerk. The man in question closed his eyes and sighed like he knew exactly what Toshinori’s cough of blood meant. Round two - and Toshinori fumbled once more to salvage this failing meeting. All Might was good at that, right? Right.

“Make it simple and as specific as you can,” the young Midoriya warned. “I don’t want you wasting your money.”

Specific was fine. He was fine. Toshinori first apologised for his rudeness and seeked to make no excuses to defend or explain himself. It was his fault, fully and complete. Young Midoriya who was so kind to put up with it didn’t deserve anything less from the number one Hero. Quenching his thirst, the sound of his gulp echoed. The man took out his wallet and put down one million yen in cash - already half his savings, because everything else was donated to those that needed money more than him - “Is the holder of the Quirk: All for One dead or alive?” 

Midoriya dragged the money towards him as his eyes started to glow and run with numbers, “Payment insufficient.” 

The loud breath of relief decidedly did not belong to him, but something on Toshinori’s face must’ve shown because Midoriya released his spacey look to say in say in sympathetic sadness, “This must mean a lot to you, huh? Sorry I couldn’t help.” Then quieter, likely to himself. Before Toshinori can convince the boy that it’s alright, “To you…?”

“Um,” Midoriya stopped pinching his chin. “C-can we call Kacchan here please? Anyone’s okay actually. But preferably someone not an adult. I think I know how to answer your question.”

Toshinori’s smile was warm when he assured Midoriya to not force himself, but the boy was adamant. Naomasa had nodded and said that the boy wasn’t lying by any means. He truly thought that he’d found a solution to the problem. “I’ll ask for my little sister.” He said, phone already on dial.

Tsukauchi Makoto was happy to help and well over the requested age range, but Midoriya didn’t really seem to care whatsoever. He repeated Toshinori’s question to her and the girl bobbed her head where she was leaned over slightly to be at eye level with young Midoriya.

“Should I write it down for you?” Midoriya asked nervously. His voice shook a little in the face of Makoto-chan’s cheerful atmosphere, her lips stretched into a wide smile as she crooned “Nah, it’s okay! Izuku-kun. I’ve had to remember more in less time. So! I give you the money after asking?”

“Yes. Thank you so much, Tsukauchi-san.”

“None of that! Tsukauchi-san is my brother. You can call me Makoto-nee!”

Midoriya flushed. “M-Makoto-nee…” He obediently repeated. 

“Good job!” She ruffled his nest of green hair. It was excellent news to see them get along so well. However, Toshinori was more concerned about the fact that in the woman’s hand, was a mere 10 000 yen. One-tenth of what he’d offered on the table. 

“Is the holder of the Quirk: All for One dead or alive?” 

Again, Midoriya’s eyes started to glow, the numbers on his imprinted on his darkening sclera running down faster than ever as he pupils dilated by the nanometer. If he looked closely, he could see that it was simply the representative of the amount accepted in repeat. “Payment accepted. Quirk user: All for One. Status upon request: Alive. Excess payment detected. Would you like to know more details?”

“Yes.” Toshinori’s throat was dry.

“Quirk user: All for One’s condition is at 15 percent. Movement: Discontinued. Senses sight and sound: Discontinued. Transaction complete.”

The truth was heartbreaking.

As a Symbol of Peace, All Might could not cry. As Yagi Toshinori, the man wept. Hot tears forming lines at the corner of his bright blue eyes. It became awfully hard to breathe because his nose was clogged and the sound of sniffling filled the booth. 

Murmuring softly, Makoto guided Midoriya out as Naomasa place a hand on his old friend’s shoulder. “It’s going to be okay, dear friend.” He said. Once, twice, in constant repetition. Toshinori hadn’t heard it, too busy reliving his day of the battle. The memory of standing alone at Nana’s grave interrupting every time he landed a blow on All for One. 

He had failed. Failed. Just like the rest of the users before him. And his time with One for All was running out while the man got to recuperate in peace in spite of his seeming poor condition. How long would it take to raise an heir strong enough this time? Would it be faster than All for One could heal? Or slower? Nana had said that no everyone was so well-suited to the Quirk like him. They may take years to even use 20 percent of One for All’s power.

Years only one of them could afford.

The door clicked open. Heads turned and there stood Midoriya, fingers clenching on the hardwood. “I can find him for you. Just ask.”

Right. Ask. All for One was simply one question away. Toshinori might as get it over with and hop over to whichever hole the monster had curled up in to lick its wounds. End his miserable existence once and for all. 

“How did you know getting Mikoto to ask would help, Izuku-kun?” Naomasa motioned for the boy to come in. 

Midoriya hugged himself protectively, “My Quirk it, uh, it’s very worth based. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time and I don’t think my Quirk’s actually about money and information. It’s more of… how much you’re willing to pay to get something. My classmates can get away with whatever because they don’t really understand the value of money, and their questions aren’t specific anyway. But adults? They know that money makes the world go round.”

Midoriya inhaled sharply.

“I-It's a matter of what you think your answer is worth. And when you ask me for answers about your cases, it’s what you normally think the information is going to be worth. And when I saw Yagi-san just now, I thought that knowing if this All for One is dead or alive must be pretty important to you. That maybe if we got someone who didn’t know All for One and put as much value in him as you, the price for the answer will lower? Sorry if I’m not making any sense. I just thought - Kami I haven’t spoken so much in-”

“You did an excellent job, Izuku-kun.” Naomasa praised in earnest. 

“I cannot express how much your intelligence has helped us, Young Midoriya.” Toshinori agreed.

Midoriya brightened, the flush returning to his cheeks. Eyes watering like he’d burst into tears at any moment. Toshinori felt his heart soften, tempted to ruffle the boy’s hair like Naomasa’s sister had. “Do… Do you think I can become a Hero?” Midoriya asked. Hoep sparkling in his eyes that have returned to normal. 

“I think you’ll make an excellent Hero, Midoriya-kun.”

The boy did burst into tears. Ugly sobs leaving him, hands shaking as he curled up on the floor. His wet and heaving coughs filled the room - making Toshinori step forward from concerned - and Midoriya cried like he had the intention to wash everything away with his tears.

Toshinori’s unexpected skill in comforting others came into play and that was how their weekly meetings started. From a promise to see him grow into the best Hero he’ll ever see. 

Sometimes, they’d meet at Young Midoriya’s house, sometimes at whatever lucky cafe selected that day. Toshinori was appropriately fascinated in Midoriya’s character. Midoriya oozed potential like an overfilled creampuff. The way he’d mindlessly help people without prompting, putting money inside donation boxes like second nature. 

Two of them had accidentally encountered a petty small-time villain's attack on the way back to Midoriya’s home when Izuku’s dropped his groceries immediately and charged to save the threatened civilian man. Midoriya trained, clearly, and his kicks had wrenched the life out of his target. Busy worrying, Toshinori selectively ignored Midoriya scavenging the villain's pocket, finding his wallet and taking out all the money and handing it to the baffled victim. 

The lecture Toshinori gave afterwards was quite the earful, but Midoriya didn’t look guilty whatsoever. “My body moved by itself,” He said when they arrived at their destination. “Sorry I worried you.”

Toshinori’s mouth moved by itself too. “Would you be my successor, Young Midoriya?”

Blinking, Midoriya’s expression was international for ‘what?’

Like she knew, Inko-san suddenly appeared at the door and warmly insisted Toshinori stayed for dinner this time. She’d made something light just for him and he hadn’t refused if only to explain what he meant. Midoriya had shocked him silly at the quick but polite refusal. 

“May I know why?” Toshinori almost sputtered.

“Because I already have a Quirk. One cannot be too greedy, Yagi-san.” Especially if it may cost you, he didn’t say, for fear of Yagi-san choking up another mouthful of blood.

Toshinori adored him.