Neon lights filtered through tattered curtains, glinting off of empty beer bottles and illuminating the small apartment. A freight train filled the apartment with rumbling noises and a godawful clattering noise. Shitty insulation gave way to the frigid chill of winter invading the decrepit apartment, and Izuku’s sole source of heating was a half-dead propane space heater. Had he not been dead-ass broke, this winter wouldn’t have been so awful, but anything that could have went wrong did.
Izuku took a quick swig of his beer, relishing in the acrid taste of the shitty brew. It gave a brief pause from the pain, until the raging fire that was his metabolism destroyed any trace of the bitter ambrosia. The TV was on low, the Heroics Commission spewing more and more toxic bullshit about their newest piece of legislation that was slowly dismantling the entire system from the inside out.
Izuku fumbled with the remote and turned the TV off, unwilling to listen to more of their bullshit and asinine ways of putting people out of jobs. It was hard enough with villainy being at an all-time high without a symbol of peace or really, any symbol at all. The closest they had, he mused, was Kacchan or maybe Shouto, but those two were already busy as is. Taking over a mantle like the symbol of peace would destroy any semblance of free time they had. It wasn’t like he had much of a life when he was a hero, but he also had several lifetime’s worth of strength and quirks running through his veins. It had made the job much easier, although the self-sacrificing tendencies did too, at least according to his psychiatrist. He slumped back into the lumpy couch, letting the acrid smell of trash and his own sweat wash over him.
“I should probably take the trash out.” He muttered, looking around at his trashed apartment. Boxes of cheap greasy take-out were sprinkled across his studio apartment, littering any surface that wasn’t covered in clothes or more trash.
The smell of cigarette smoke filled his nose, his neighbor must have gotten home.
He pushed his way up, setting his beer bottle on the coffee table as he went to the kitchen. He was tired, the weight of his shirked duties weighing heavily on his mind. He was supposed to be a hero, dammit, not some retired amputee at age 22. His shoulder ached, the nerve ends in his mutilated shoulder lighting up and causing him to double up in pain. He let out a low keen of pain, his right-hand ghosting over the expansive scar tissue.
“F-fuck.” He gasped out. The pains were slowly building up in intensity, the low ache growing into a stabbing pain. He stumbled his way over to his bathroom and wrenched the bottle of pain killers off of the counter. The pills spilled all over the counter, shit.
“Goddammit, I forgot I left that open.” He hissed out, picking up a few of the pills and downing them with a quick swig of water from the faucet. He shakily picked up the spilt pills and placed them back into the bottle. He sat down heavily on the closed toilet and just breathed.
The pain finally subsided after an indeterminate amount of time, simmering down to a dull ache in his shoulder. He stumbled out of the bathroom, completely avoiding looking at the mirror. He didn’t want to see what he looked like; he already knew it was bad. He already wasted probably like an hour waiting for the pain to subside, he didn’t want to see the scars, the bags under his eyes, all the weight he’s lost, none of it.
A sharp rap at the door.
Izuku tensed, did he have to open that? Was it another insurance person here to steal money he didn’t have? He barely was able to pay for the last round of medical bills and the psychiatrist; he hasn’t seen in months. He wandered over to the door, completely ready to not answer the door. He peeked out the peephole-
It was Shouta and Toshinori. Shit.
Izuku tried to rack his brain with the last time he had seen the two of them, and the only thing he could come up with was about 5 months ago when his psychiatrist was saying some concerning things about his mental health and how they needed to keep a close eye on him. That was before he had to get rid of his old apartment because he couldn’t afford it anymore…
He never did tell them where the new apartment was, did he?
Either way, he was going to be in some deep shit. If he answered the door, he’d get yelled at. If he didn’t, Shouta would definitely knock his door down and then yell at him. It really depended on how much he wanted to prolong the inevitable.
He opened the door to the dingy hallway, the look of anger on Shouta’s face and frustration on Toshinori’s quickly melting away once they actually saw him.
“Kid-“ Shouta tried to begin, but Izuku quickly cut him off.
“I know I look like shit. Don’t need to tell me that.” He snapped. He stepped out of the way and wandered deeper into the apartment, the other two hesitantly following behind him. He heard the door close and he slumped into the couch.
“Problem child.” Shouta said gruffly, and Izuku turned to look at him. The look of anger was back. “Do you know what everyone thought when you dropped off the face of the earth?! We thought you had died, that you had killed yourself. It took me five months to find the shitty apartment you’ve been holed up in. I had to keep telling your mother that you weren’t dead. That I’d find you.” He accused. He opened his mouth to continue his tirade when Izuku stood up and cut him off again.
“Yes, yes, I get it. I’m a massive fuck-up, you could’ve just said that. You think I wanted to drop off of the face of the earth!? I was broke, I could barely afford to pay my medical bills, and my last apartment was getting too expensive. I had to move, so I could actually afford food. I just thought I could stop being a burden on all of you if I just disappeared. I thought it would be better if you didn’t have to see how much of a failure I am. How much work you both put into me and how I put all of it to waste, because I fucked up!!” Izuku confessed, his anger burning a pit in his chest.
“I didn’t want to retire; I had my whole career in front of me! I still had decades of hero work in front of me, but the Commission fucked me over. I fucked myself over by getting hurt. I feel so fucking useless, and I thought it would be better if you’d never see me again.” He finished, his eyes burning with barely held back tears. He collapsed on the floor, the fight draining out of him, and he let the tears run down his face.
“Oh, my boy” Toshinori crouched down in front of Izuku, reaching out to grasp at his face. His weathered fingers brushed away the tears, one of his thumbs lingering on the expansive scar on his face. “You will never be a failure; I will always be proud of you. No matter what. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a hero anymore. I will never regret training you or the time I’ve spent with you. You’re such a brilliant young man, that could overcome anything if he put his mind to it.” Izuku opened his mouth to deny what Toshinori was saying, but Toshinori shushed him.
“Let’s get up, my boy.” He turned to Aizawa. “Aizawa has something he wants to tell you.”
Toshinori helped Izuku to his feet and they all moved to the kitchen, Aizawa already messing with the coffee machine to brew a pot of the shitty instant coffee Izuku kept on hand. Nobody said anything until Izuku and Shouta were settled at the table with coffee, Toshinori opting to just stick with water. Aizawa leveled him with an intense look.
“What I am about to say can’t leave the three of us. If any of this gets out, we could very well be on our way to Tartarus for even figuring this out. Legally, I cannot do anything with this information, because I am not supposed to have it at all.” Aizawa ran his hand through his hair, tugging at the roots of it.
“The League of Villains has taken over the Heroics Commission. They’re the ones passing those bullshit laws trying to cut down the whole system. Worst of all, they-“ Shouta took a deep breath.
“-They orchestrated your retirement.”
The words left Izuku stunned. He almost didn’t catch Aizawa’s next words, each them driving a stake further and further into his heart. His shoulder ached at the mention of the incident.
“They intentionally had you kidnapped and crippled just to get you out of their hair, but they still have loose ends we can exploit left from that attack.”
A feeling of fury bubbled up into Izuku’s throat and he made to get up, stunning the other two. He paced the length of the kitchen, his hand deep in his mane of hair. He didn’t even register the screech of the chair when Shouta got up or the vitriol he was spitting.
“Those fuckers, I’m going to find that crusty asshole and rip his damn hands off one by one, I wonder if he’d like to be an amputee like me-“
A hand on his shoulder wrenched him out of his fury, and he turned to see Shouta standing behind him a look of determination plastered on his face.
“Izuku, listen to me.” Izuku turned around to fully face the man, his fury still simmering under his skin. Shouta’s hand moved back to his side.
“What I’m about to suggest is against all of my better judgement, but for fuck’s sake, there was a reason people were calling you the next Symbol of Peace. Illegal heroics, vigilantism, whatever you want to call it, either way, I want you back in the field. I want you to go to the places I can’t reach legally and take out the League. I’ve already talked this out with Yagi and Tsukauchi, because if you tell one of them, the other is going to know in a heartbeat.” At this, he glared over at Toshinori. “Tsukauchi said he was fine with you becoming a vigilante as long as you stuck to your moral code. Yagi is going to funnel you money to get support gear, help pay off some of your bills, and get some goddamn food in you.” He leveled Izuku with a piercing gaze at this. “I’m going to stick around for a few months and teach you how to maneuver the underground. Hitoshi will help when he’s able. So, what do you say?”
To say Izuku was stunned was an understatement. The fury that was boiling under his skin subsided, replaced by a feeling of astonishment. A vigilante, huh? An illegal hero that works under their own laws and morals outside of the law, is that really what he wanted? Another chance to be a hero? Another chance to make a change?
He walked over to the window and looked out onto the frozen waste that Tokyo had become. His hand came back up to his shoulder and he rested his palm on his mutilated shoulder.
“I’m in.” He whispered, as he turned back to Shouta and Toshinori.
Izuku felt almost nothing in that moment, only a spark of elation that felt eerily similar to the day Toshinori told him that he could be a hero. Shouta smirked and Toshinori broke out in a wide grin.
“It’s good to have you back in the saddle, kid.” Shouta said with something like pride creeping up in his voice. “We’ll go over the specifics later, but first things first. You can’t use your quirk. At least, not like you used to. If the Commission catches word of a vigilante with All Might-like strength and several quirks, then we’re shit out of luck, because that just spells out Deku. We’ll go over some ways you might do this, but I’m going to leave most of it to you since you’re good at figuring this kind of thing out. Second thing, you remember Hatsume Mei?” Aizawa asked, a hint of exasperation coloring his voice.
“Yes, I don’t think I’d ever forget her. She used to make most of my gear.” Izuku responded hesitantly.
“Well… I approached her earlier this month about making a prosthetic arm and she is more than willing to craft you one-” Shouta pinched the bridge of his nose. “-and most of your gear, provided you pay her some money. Actually, she’d probably do if for free, hell if I know. It gives me grey hairs just thinking about her.” Shouta finished.
“O-oh ok.” Izuku floundered, unsure what to think of the manic woman crafting him a whole new arm. Shouta checked his phone and sighed.
“I have to head out, Hizashi is cooking and I need to get back before he sets the kitchen on fire again. Eri would have a fit if she came back from her friend’s and dinner was burnt. Don’t be a stranger, kid. Call me if you need anything.” He called out as he walked to the door and exited, giving a curt wave as he left.
That left Izuku with Toshinori, who was looking good for getting up in his years. He finally put on some more weight and wasn’t just skin and bones anymore. His hair had new streaks of white in it, but they were barely noticeable with his straw blond hair. Izuku didn’t know what to say to him but turns out he didn’t need to. Toshinori wrenched him into a bone-crushing bear hug, trembling slightly.
“Fucking hell Izuku, I thought I had lost you. When I heard you’d gone missing, I was devastated. I meant what I said earlier, I am so proud of you my boy. If you would have died, I don’t know what I would have done with myself.” He choked out. Izuku’s shoulder was getting wet. Izuku wrapped his arm around his old mentor, holding tight. “Don’t ever do that to me again, you hear me?” He said, a hint of steel creeping up into this voice.
“I’m sorry.” Izuku replied, knowing it wasn’t much of a response. Toshinori forced his way out of the hug to level Izuku with an intense look, his hands now gently resting on Izuku’s shoulders.
“No, none of this, just promise me you won’t do it again. You don’t even need to tell me anything, just that you’re alive. I can’t bear the thought of losing you, my boy.”
“I won’t” Izuku affirmed and Toshinori swept him back into a hug.
“I never did tell you this, but I’ve always seen you as my son.” Toshinori admitted into his hair. “I tried to be there for everything that I could, tried to be a positive role model. I tried as hard as I could after your retirement to be there for you, but I guess I didn’t try enough…I just don’t want to see you suffering like this, that’s why I agreed with Aizawa to see if you would want to become a vigilante. I always knew you were going to surpass me, and my boy, even with the few short years you’d been a hero, I could see how much you were made for that job. You shone brighter than I ever did, than I ever could even. And I know that you are going places as a vigilante too, as much as I hate to admit it.”
“I-I didn’t know” Izuku stammered out, his eyes beginning to burn with barely held back tears. “ I always wanted to believe that you were the father I didn’t get to have growing up.” Izuku sobbed, clutching tighter to Toshinori.
“It’s never too late, my son.” Toshinori said, running a hand through Izuku’s curls. “I know how much you wanted to be a hero. This is your second chance.” And Izuku broke, all of those months of pain and repressed emotions bubbling to the surface taking over Izuku in a tidal wave of emotion. And so, he sobbed for the injustice of it all, all of the pain he had to endure, all of the ridicule, all of those nights without sleep, the nightmares, all of it. He sobbed and it was a sweet catharsis of all that he felt. He still had a long way to go until he was okay, but this was his second chance, his new beginning.