Shota watches Izuku open his eyes, turn his head, and be sick over the side of the bed. At about the same time, every spirit in the room - and there are too many to count - becomes physically present.
It’s an explosion of chaos, literally. Everything goes flying - chairs, beds, machinery - anything they had been partially phased through is pushed away as the spirits suddenly have matter that they did not before.
They also have voices.
Shota ignores the noise to catch Deku before the kid topples off of the bed, awkward as it is to manage with six inch knives coming out of his fingers. “Deku, are you all right?” Everything else can wait. His kid looks shaken.
“Aizawa…” Deku meets his gaze and shudders, tears collecting at the corners of his eyes. “It was - I - oh no -” he looks past Shota to the chaos around them and fucking hell but Shota watches as the kid pulls himself together and slides off the edge of the bed. Aizawa can’t stop him, not when he has fucking knives for hands, and so Deku is surveying chaos with a pained expression and Shota doesn’t know what’s happening. Deku gestures and it’s like he’s painting with light - the way he’d done in the other place with his blood, only this time his hands are clean - and a moment later, every single paper prayer they’d tacked to the walls and windows and ceiling and floor flame up and out in an instant, turning to ash and leaving a scorch on the wall but nothing else. Another glowing sign is sketched into the air above them and a wave of calm floods the space, almost oppressively, and Shota has to struggle to stay upright.
“Deku,” Shota keeps his hands down so that he doesn’t accidentally carve into someone or something. “What’s going on? ”
“I’m sorry,” Deku looks over at him, eyes wet and expression drawn. “I’m so sorry, I just have to fix this.”
‘This’, Shota discovers, is shooing out a zoo’s worth of spirits in all shapes and sizes, gently assuring them that they’re safe and they can go anywhere and that he’s not going to keep them. They seem to struggle with figuring out how to become incorporeal again, but they start to filter and fade away with Deku's urging.
Then Shota watches Deku approach Tamamo-no-Mae, shoulders slumped and hands held out, every part of him an apology. “I didn’t know,” Deku tells her, sounding broken.
“It’s all right,” she replies, gently patting his outstretched hands.
“I can fix it.” He’s looking not at her but at her kimono - now featuring green tucked into the layers and mixed into the scrollwork embroidery across the hem. “They were just lost. I can - I can find a way to help them out.”
“Kit,” The kitsune shakes her head and Shota manages a few unsteady steps closer, using the wall as support when all he wants to do is sit down. Nedzu is curled against the back of his head and mumbling about something unimportant. Chatora and Tomoko are likewise curled on the ground leaning against one another at the foot of her bed. “Kit,” Tamamo-no-Mae repeats, voice gentle, “I don’t think you can, right now. We’re very fragile. I’m sure it’s the same for the others.”
Shota doesn’t understand, but Deku clings to Tamamo-no-Mae and shakes and all Shota can do is cross the space between them - everyone else is dazed with whatever he did. “Deku,” he says again, fighting against the - spell? Magic? Whatever it is that’s made everything feel soft and slow and all right when it very much is not. “Please, what’s going on?”
Deku turns to face him, one arm raised to wipe the tears from his face. “I’m sorry,” he says to Shota, voice cracking. “I’m so, so sorry. I killed him. I killed him and - and they’re going to hate me, I can’t. I can’t stay.” He bows, and Shota stares, unseeing, into the crown of Deku’s messy head of hair. “You’ve been so - thank you, Aizawa.”
“Kid,” Shota reaches out - but his hands close on air. Deku’s just gone, this time without even the sound of crows around them.
The symbol in the air fades away and the feeling of calm dissipates as suddenly as it had come. The remaining spirits begin to do the same, but Tamamo-no-Mae looks at him before she does, expression fierce. “I will find him,” she promises, already starting to shift from human to kitsune. “I will find him, Shota, I promise. ”
And then she’s gone, the cats are gone, the octopus thing is gone, and Deku is gone.
“What was that?” Chatora asks, the single most useless question he could possibly posit at this exact moment. Shota gives a strangled growl that makes everyone look at him, while a handful of staff - orderlies, if Shota has to guess - all crowd around the now opened door to the room.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Nedzu says into Shota’s ear from his perch, still tucked into his scarf.
Shota would like to punch someone, and Nedzu is at the top of a very short list. Punching a wall would be an acceptable alternative, but currently he is rather certain that if he attempted to do so, he’d only end up slicing his hands open. Still, the fury that is building in him is too much to contain. He cannot scream, he has enough sense not to do that, but his blood is vibrating in his veins. Deku is out there - his kid is out there - alone and in danger and he’d purposefully held them back, kept him away, and Shota had told them all this would happen.
He kicks at the bed Deku had vacated, sending it crashing back into the other wall. It takes the edge off.
“Fuck, ” he finally manages, shaking in rage.
Then he tries to shove his hands into his pockets, forgetting why he can’t, and it feels fucking fitting that he’s just stabbed himself because he feels like it’s the least he deserves.
Izuku lies on the bank of the Takua river once more. There’s a willow tree above him that sways in the wind and he matches his breathing to the tempo of the leaves. It’s quiet. He can hear his own thoughts here, and no one else’s. It had taken time - he’s not sure just how much - for the power Ryujin had given him to fade, at least somewhat. It’s no longer overpowering, no longer more than he can hold on to.
It’s now a pleasant buzz under his skin. He could use it, he knows - maybe go back to the library. Maybe he could find a way to separate those scared spirits who had jumped onto the first human they’d seen. That had been his fault - poor Tamamo-no-Mae, and the others - they’d come because he’d asked them to look after him. They hadn’t agreed to be forced to hold another spirit inside themselves. He’d saved Ryujin and still hurt others.
He should have stayed. He should have done something, but he couldn’t - couldn’t bear to look them in the eye and admit the truth. Couldn’t tell Aizawa and the others what he was, or tell Tamamo-no-Mae and Oku and the others that he’d killed a dragon. Mizuchi’s own brother. Dragons were sacred. Dragons were - are - gods.
There will be a reckoning, he knows. There will always be a cost because there is always a cost, always a price to pay - he just can’t let it happen where Aizawa will feel responsible. It wasn’t his fault, after all. It wasn’t Ragdoll’s fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but Izuku’s own. He should have done better. He should have known. It’s his fault.
He’s been waiting, but he still tenses when he senses Mizuchi fly overhead. He doesn’t move. The dragon circles over the river and eventually lands. Izuku closes his eyes and waits.
It’s silent for too long. He swallows around the lump in his throat. Eventually he hears - footsteps. Mizuchi has become human. Why? It seems like a waste of effort, really.
The footsteps stop. Izuku doesn’t need his eyes to feel the dragon spirit standing next to him. “Deku,” he intones.
“I know,” Izuku feels his voice crack. He’s not scared - he’s not scared - he’s just. Tired. Sad. It’s been too much for so long and he just…
There’s a pause. “You do?”
“I’m not warded,” Izuku’s hands are folded behind his head. They fist in his hair, close to his scalp. It hurts. It’s grounding. What he used Ryujin’s power for, mostly, was to hide from everyone but Mizuchi. He’d crafted the wards specifically when he realized Tamamo-no-Mae was looking for him, and then the other spirits too.
He could hide from them, maybe, but not Ryujin’s family. “I’m sorry.”
There’s another, longer pause. Then an exasperated sigh and a sharp fingernail prodding Izuku’s bicep. “You are an idiot child.”
Izuku’s eyes fly open against his better judgement. “What?”
“Why are you here?” Mizuchi asks, instead of answering. “Hiding. There are many looking for you, and you’ve hidden yourself from all of them.” There’s a pause as Mizuchi looks around. “But not me. Why?”
Izuku stares, uncomprehendingly at the spirit, speechless.
“Deku…” Mizuchi’s expression becomes surprisingly soft, and his voice is worried. “Were you really waiting here, unguarded, for me? ”
“It makes sense,” Izuku protests, shoulders slowly rising up to his ears, wondering if maybe he’s made a mistake, miscalculated. “I saw. I saw what he did, what - why everyone is afraid of me, why everyone attacks me. They’re all waiting for me to be the same thing, and I could! Maybe - maybe something bad will happen, or I really will go crazy, or just because I killed your brother but… but I shouldn’t be alive.” Izuku’s had a lot of time alone to think about this. “I did what I was supposed to do. All for One is in jail, he won’t be able to hurt anyone else, and Ryujin is free. I don’t need to exist any more.”
He looks up through his bangs to see Mizuchi frown and look away. Izuku knows he’s right. Knows that it’s only a matter of time, really. He’s done what he was made for, and now he’s just a threat to everyone.
“I came here to give you something,” Mizuchi says, still looking away. “I cannot give you a debt to call upon because of what happened to Ryujin. It makes me ill to think about it, but Lady - Tamamo-no-Mae pointed out I owed you nonetheless, for what you did for my human, and now my brother. I came to give you something in turn.”
“I told you, you don’t owe me -”
“I do.” Mizuchi cuts him off. “But if you think you owe me for Ryujin’s fate, then I call on you thusly: come with me.”
Izuku looks up properly and sees Mizuchi is now looking down at him, expression fierce. “What?”
The spirit steps back several steps until there is space between them for him to shift. He’s a dragon once more in an instant and he curls around the willow, under the low-swept branches. << Come with me. Climb on.>>
Izuku’s back to staring uncomprehendingly. “I can’t climb on you!”
<< Why not?>>
“You’re a dragon!”
<< And you are very observant,>> Mizuchi says, droll. << Are you telling me your legs won’t work? That you won’t do this for me that I ask of you?>>
That makes Izuku force his legs to stand, but he approaches cautiously. “This is just… it’s rude! You’re not an animal I should ride.”
<< I see you have read Jinsai’s treatise on proper behavior for spirits. I always thought he was a bit full of himself.>> Mizuchi cranes his head around to point his snout at the dip in his back just in front of his forelegs. << If you are invited, you are rude to refuse. Get on.>>
Izuku almost refuses again, but Mizuchi is right: if he refuses, he is being rude, and he owes the dragon whatever he wants. He climbs carefully atop the back and is surprised to find that he fits snugly there up until he remembers the spirit can change his shape at will. There’s even a bony ridge in front of him to hold onto.
<< Do not fall,>> Mizuchi says as Izuku feels muscles ripple and shift beneath him. He doesn’t get a chance to respond before Mizuchi leaps up and takes to the air.
The world goes white around them. “Where is this?” Izuku has to ask, recognizing the nothingness from before.
<< The space between spaces,>> Mizuchi says, and Izuku can tell he’s not trying to be cryptic - it’s just what this is. << The world between worlds. This is how we travel as fast as we do. Space is smaller here - it is time distilled into an arc.>>
Izuku has no idea what that means, but he nods anyway and a moment later they burst out of the whiteness into a clear blue sky. Izuku might cheer a bit. It’s an instinctual response.
Mizuchi laughs. << Enjoying yourself, are you?>>
Izuku knows better than to try to be heard over the wind. It’s frigidly cold and he curls closer to the warmth of the dragon’s back. << I’m sorry, it’s just - this is amazing!>>
<< Thank you, I am,>> Mizuchi preens, apparently unbothered by Izuku’s inappropriate joy. They bank towards what Izuku realizes is a storm, one with terrible swirling clouds and a clear haze of rain. He can see that they’re approaching home - Japan - but much of it is hidden behind the raging tempest. Closer to them, over the water, the storm is a vortex that looms ominously over the water.
<< Where are we going?>> Izuku asks, some of the exhilaration fading and shifting into concern as they draw closer and closer to the eye of the storm.
<< It will be obvious soon enough,>> Mizuchi gives no other clue and undulates as he flies on. Izuku clings to what grip he has as they pick up speed and dive into the clouds.
Flying into a storm is exactly as uncomfortable and terrifying as Izuku thinks it should be - he’s soaked to the skin in an instant and the wind whips around him, strong enough to blow his hair into his eyes even when it’s plastered to his head. Lightning cracks around them, shimmering sheets of it bracketed by long, jagged daggers, and Izuku flinches as one strikes Mizuchi - but nothing happens. Sparks gather around the dragon, crawl up and down his scales and gather on Izuku’s hands and he tastes tin, but they’re unhurt as they circle lower and lower towards the water.
<< Here,>> Mizuchi says, as they stop over a bit of rolling water that looks just like any other bit of water.
<< What’s here?>> Izuku’s grip tightens.
<< Dragons do not die, Deku,>> Mizuchi intones, with the weight of history in his words. << They simply go back to the place they were born. This is where Ryujin’s soul waits to return.>>
<< Do I…. have to find it?>> Izuku stares down at the frothing water. He can swim, but this is no public pool. << Does it need help? He gave me his power - too much of it.>>
<< Would you find him?>> Mizuchi asks, and Izuku almost can’t believe the way the dragon sounds disbelieving. << Would you give it back?>>
He looks down into the water again and - there is something there. There is something below them, an echo that is familiar the longer he looks and if this is what he has to do… so be it. Spirits always collect what they are owed, after all. Better now than later. Better to be his own choice, than someone else’s.
He slides off of Mizuchi’s back. It’s not too far to fall, he thinks: he doesn’t have to worry about hitting the water too badly.
<< Deku! >> Mizuchi calls after him, but Izuku’s already under the water and this was a terrible idea, this was a very, very terrible idea. The water rolls and carries him to and fro and he barely knows up from down and it’s so cold but none of that matters. He doesn’t try to find the surface: he looks for the echo that is Ryujin and swims towards that.
The dragon is… small. It’s the strangest word to use but he feels small as Izuku finds him, feels his beating heart in the swell of the water and the crash of lightning overhead. He is small and asleep and Izuku reaches out and tries to give back what he never wanted in the first place. << Please,>> he begs, for Mizuchi’s sake, for his own sake. << Please wake up.>>
Ryujin pulses under his hands, once, twice, but then cold bands of iron close around his chest, squeezing tightly, and something hurts and he gasps and it’s cold water, cold cold water that floods his lungs. He’s going to drown, he realizes in blind terror - but then he’s wrenched upwards, vomiting water the moment he’s able, coughing so hard there are tears and snot and sea water all streaming from his face and he can’t see a thing, can’t see at all.
<< You’re impossible!>> Mizuchi sounds, between Izuku’s pained, heaving coughs, like he’s panicked and upset. << I cannot believe you!>>
<< Brother?>> Izuku wants to cry when he hears Ryujin’s voice, quiet as it is over the storm that rages around them.
<< Ryujin!>> Mizuchi - Izuku’s being held in one of his giant claws - roars in delight and the lightning seems to explode everywhere in response, blinding Izuku all the more. << Brother, my brother, I am here.>>
<< I can see that,>> Ryujin’s voice might be quiet but it is not weak, it is not tired the way it had sounded before, and it is somehow… very wry. << Why am I awake? What did you do ? >>
<< I did nothing. The human thought he ought to dive in and wake you himself!>>
<< Child?>> Izuku can feel Ryujin reaching for him, through the power he still has in his bones - he didn’t have time to give all of it back. << Child… When I gave you my power to use this was not what I meant!>>
Izuku’s not angry or scared, not at all. << How was I supposed to know that!>> he snaps, chest heaving and hurting and hands numb. << How was I supposed to know anything when the one person who might know died and it was my fault!>>
<< He thought I was going to kill him, Brother, >> Mizuchi says, like Izuku can’t even hear him. << I brought him to show that you would be reborn and he jumped.>>
<<...stars above he thought what ? >>
<< He is not what any of us expected, is he?>> The two of them just let that hang in the air between them while Izuku pants before Mizuchi continues. << Brother, he is painfully uninformed. No one has taken up his education.>>
Well, at least they’re not blaming him for being ignorant, Izuku thinks bitterly, hanging in a dragon’s grasp in the center of a storm. At least they can admit that he was left to do this on his own.
<< No one wanted to find themselves in my position, I suppose,>> Ryujin sighs. << Well, we will have to fix this.>>
Considering Izuku has just had the violent realization that he does not want to die, he likewise doesn’t want to be ‘dealt with’. He’s tired and done with dragons and spirits and he just wants to hide for a while, to stop hurting - both himself and others. He manages to raise his head, finally, and think enough to speak. << I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to be what he was. I don’t want anyone to have to do anything for me. I can manage on my own. I have managed on my own. Can you please just… let me go? I want to go home.>>
<< I am sorry,>> Ryujin says, and Izuku knows he means it - the words ache inside his own chest. << I am sorry you were not properly guided, child. I am sorry you think so little of yourself you can’t even see you need to keep what I gave you.>>
<< Why? So everyone can blame me that you died?>> Even if Ryujin is speaking to him now, Izuku can recognize that he’s… he’s not back. He’s tethered to that spot for who knows how long.
<< I had to die to be reborn, child. You gave me my freedom. They will understand that.>>
<<Oh, because spirits have been so understanding in my life so far.>> Izuku’s aware that he might be a little bit hysterical but he’s still flying and hanging above the ocean high enough that if he’s dropped this time he won’t slip into the water so much as splatter. He’s never been afraid of heights before and yet this is the worst thing ever in a series of very bad things to happen.
<< I’m a defiler,>> he reminds them, because now he knows why everyone has feared him from day one. << That’s why everyone hates me.>>
<<I do not hate you,>> Ryujin counters, sounding surprised at the suggestion. << Clearly your assumptions cannot be entirely correct. And if anyone chooses to have issue with you after I speak for you, then I will deal with them.>>
<< You heard me.>> Mizuchi climbs into the air and then turns toward land, but Ryujin’s voice doesn’t waver over the distance. Below them everything is a sea of tiny homes and swaths of fields and deep green forests, everything grey and wet as the storm covers all. Izuku can’t stop shivering, the wind against his wet clothing stealing away his breath and heat. << You made your choice,>> Ryujin continues, << and you have proven that you should not be held to what he was. You should not have been held to that at all, but some of our kind hold grudges.>>
<< Brother, I was completely justified!>>
<< I’m sure you were,>> Ryujin’s voice is so dry it reminds Izuku of Aizawa, and that makes him ache all over again because Aizawa made him feel safe. << I do not have it in me to bind myself to you, child, I hope you understand that.>> He almost sounds sad about it, but Izuku does not understand because why would he ever think that at all? << I am weak, and to regain my former glory will take time. This is where my soul belongs, for now, and where I must remain. But I hope you will allow me to teach you, and lend you my aid.>>
Nothing makes sense. None of this makes any sense. Izuku must make some sound - some noise to indicate that because Ryujin continues on, steadfast and certain. << You need a teacher. You need a guardian. Mizuchi tells me you have a human one, but not a spirit. I cannot offer you my bonding but I feel… responsible for what has happened. To my kind, to you. I was once his spirit, after all. I should have seen what he would become and acted quicker. It was my responsibility and I was blind.>>
They fly in silence, Izuku too overwhelmed to even process what he’s being told.
<< You have touched my core,>> Ryujin continues. << You held my whole self in your hands and let it free. I have seen your heart, child, and I know you are true. I cannot be your spirit, but I can be your guide.>>
It’s everything Izuku’s wanted for years - or nearly everything, really. Someone to answer his questions. Someone to make sense of it all. Someone to help. It feels impossible. It feels too good to be true.
<< How can you trust me? After everything he did to you?>>
The question hangs in the air. << I will stop you,>> Ryujin finally says after a long, pointed silence. << I won’t allow you to become what he was if you start down that path, but only if you start down that path, child. Deku.>>
Relief, gratitude, exhaustion, fear - it’s a combination of all of that at once that leaves him sobbing, trapped in a band of iron where he can’t even wipe his face. << I just want to go home,>> he admits, cold to his very core. << Can you take me home?>>
<< Of course,>> Mizuchi shifts and Izuku feels the world drop away and go white around them.
<< I meant - UA. Not the spirit realm, >> Izuku swallows around the lump in his throat. << Somewhere I’ll be safe for a while. I need to think. About - about everything. >>
Mizuchi’s laugh is gentle as it echoes around them. << I am taking you there now,>> he says, finally twisting in this nothing space, his leg elongating and his spine turning until Izuku is placed summarily down on the dragon’s back once more. He clings to it instantly, glad for the reprieve from the cold and the vertigo in this nothing space.
<< Mizuchi will guard you while you rest and consider,>> Ryujin says, his voice able to follow even here. << You may take all the time you need. You have a piece of me, now, in my power. Reach for me and I will hear you, no matter where you are. I must sleep here, but I will do my best to wake for you, so long as you call on me.>> And that explains, Izuku thinks, how they’re even having this impossible conversation at all. << Speaking of power,>> Ryujin continues, voice suddenly almost scolding in tone, << I am ordering you to use the power I gave you for your needs, child, not others. Your mind feels like - like ->>
<< The phrase you are looking for, Brother, is ‘swiss cheese’.>>
Izuku finds himself laughing through damp eyes, pained but amused, finally able to clean his face on his sleeve and see. << I didn’t exactly have a lot of choice, >> he points out. << Memories were the only thing I had to trade for a long time. >>
<< Which reminds me,>> Mizuchi’s back grows warm and a scale in front of Deku begins to glow a brilliant green against a sea of white, beaconing to him. << This is yours.>>
Izuku doesn’t really think as he reaches out to touch it. Warmth, so much warmth floods him, filling him up in a way he had forgotten how to feel and Izuku can hardly believe it. “I didn’t think -” he says out loud, voice cracking - but then they appear back in the real world and the wind tears away the rest of his words.
It’s been raining for three days.
Aizawa is in the dorms, currently seated at the kitchen island with a mug of coffee that is not helping his exhaustion nor his pounding headache, but he can at least pretend it is keeping things from getting worse.
Class is subdued, at the moment - he knows it’s only time before someone starts something and they’ll forget he’s keeping an eye on them long enough to make a mess or start a fight - so he’ll be grateful for the quiet while it lasts.
Everyone’s gathered in the main lounge because UA is conserving as much power as possible. School itself is out - those generators have been turned to putting power back into the grid, to support the surrounding areas most hurt by the outages. Kaminari’s working with Higari, channeling his own power into the reserves, keeping himself from overloading while the storm rages on.
Lightning strikes and thunder crashes, bright enough to fill the room even in midday, loud enough to shake the windows. Everyone flinches, but it’s muted. They’re all numb to it, at this point - it’s been three days of lightning and rain across 2/3rds of Honshu and if it doesn’t let up soon they’re going to have flooding to worry about on top of the lightning damage. As it is, eight people are dead, two dozen more are injured, and the rain is the only thing that has kept fires to a minimum.
Everywhere affected is shut down. Not from the rain, which is bad but everyone knows how to handle rain - but because the lightning will not stop and seems to ignore all laws of nature and physics. Ignoring, for example, lightning rods specifically designed to protect buildings, or even the tallest structure in the area, to strike randomly. Everyone is scrambling to repair generators, car pools are being run to try to support essential workers and services, but it’s still hard going.
Everyone has theories about why - someone’s quirk on a rampage is an easy guess, of course - but whoever is responsible has yet to claim responsibility. Yet to be seen.
Shota suspects they cannot be seen.
The storm is a blessing and a curse: no one braves going outside unnecessarily, and so calls for heroes have been for rescues and support work, but Shota can’t go on patrol. He has kids to look after and it’s a stupid risk, everyone has told him, when it seems like the lightning aims at people. It’d be one thing if he knew where Deku was, or even had an idea of where to look, but the truth is…
The truth is he didn’t have time to get a read on the kid, not enough of one. Not to properly learn his bolt holes and his habits, not to figure out where he’d go to ground - and that’s forgetting the fact that all of fucking Japan could be his hiding place - and, Shota thinks bitterly, didn’t he mention ending up in France or something at some point?
The truth is Deku could be anywhere and as desperately as Shota wants to find him, drag him back to UA and tell him everything is fine, everyone is safe, he didn’t have to run…
He has 20 students who are looking at him to keep them safe too.
“Can you open this?” Hitoshi asks, standing across from him and holding out a bag of chips.
Shota squints. “Are you still running bets on getting me to use my new quirk? No.”
“But Sensei, ” Hitoshi manages to be both singsong and deadpan at the same time. Shota can hear smothered laughter coming from the couches as they no doubt have an audience. “How will you learn how to use it if you don’t practice?”
He looks at his smooth, shiny silver nails. He’s been complimented on his nail polish several times now: it’s getting old quick. “When I have a reliable way to retract them or it won’t inconvenience me for an entire day cutting and filing them down, then I will practice. We have more important things to focus on.”
“I don’t know,” Hitoshi takes his mug away and Shota doesn’t even argue - it’s cold, and his son empties it in the sink and pours him a new cup without a comment, sliding it back into Shota’s waiting hands before pouring a mug for himself. “If this keeps up, we’re not going to have much else to do.”
“Nedzu’s arranging for a lesson schedule and teacher rotation,” Shota counters, but he knows that isn’t quite what Hitoshi means, either. He takes the seat across the island and sits and Shota knows they’re not exactly mirror images of one another, but he also knows there’s enough resemblance that Hizashi would probably comment, if he was here.
“Do you think this is because of Deku?” Hitoshi asks, after they’ve both made a dent in their beverage of choice. In the sitting area around the television there is an argument about proper fort building and the necessity of such for optimal scary movie viewing. Ashido is leading the charge, and Shota doesn’t even consider stopping them.
“I don’t know,” he admits, because Hitoshi will wait forever for an answer and never forget that he’s asked it. You can’t outwait him, or ever think you’ve talked him into forgetting or being distracted. Directness is the only thing that works. “I have my suspicions.”
“They say he killed All for One,” Hitoshi puts forward.
Shota narrows his eyes. “They say that, do they?” He wonders who’s opened their big damned mouth. No one was supposed to know that information until they were ready to let it go public - and especially not during a storm where idiots on the press would always try to turn something into a Story.™
Hitoshi nods over the lip of his mug. “You know how kids on the internet are,” he shrugs, one shouldered. And fuck, but this is Hitoshi’s way of telling him he’s missed something, because even Nedzu can overlook the difference between a random fad and an actual bit of real information that hits whatever social media platform is popular that week. Hizashi keeps up with them for his radio and hero work, but Shota’s never had the attention span for any of them. He uses Instagram because he can post photos of the cats and no one needs to know who he is.
“Well, let me know if they say anything else noteworthy,” he asks, a nod over his cup in an acknowledgement that in this his son is miles ahead of him. “And if anyone… sees him.”
“No.” Shota sighs. “And with this storm we’re limited.”
Hitoshi nods and stares at his mug. It’s one he brought from home, one they’d given him two birthdays ago. It was originally thermal reactive, black with the white outline of a cat that had raised middle fingers on his paws when the mug was warm. Absolutely ridiculous and Iida had gasped when he’d seen it and been equally scandalized when Shota had suggested that since a cat’s paw did not, by any real judgement, have a middle finger, the mug wasn’t offensive unless you were anthropomorphizing the cat and suggesting it understood the gesture to make it.
That had derailed into a conversation from several of his class, first suggesting that Iida was a furry, to much confused protests. Then they realized half their class didn’t know what a furry was and Shota had left them to it and had gone to get drinks with Hizashi before he tendered his resignation. He’d never been prepared to have dorm duty.
The mug’s been through the dishwasher a few times too many and so the paws are a permanent fixture.
“It’s not your fault,” Hitoshi says, while the windows rattle, the thunder almost omnipresent now. “Deku. You can’t… you’ve said it before. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, and you did a lot to try.” Hitoshi’s keeping his voice down, maybe because he doesn’t want folks to hear them talking about Deku - maybe because he gets personal when he adds. “I know. I know how hard it is, and I know you did your best, and I think he did - does - too. I don’t know what happened, but I hope he’ll come back. I promised him to take him to that cat cafe we like, the one with the boba.”
Hitoshi’d done his best to make Deku feel welcome, and Shota’s been so self absorbed he’s barely had the time to thank him when they’d literally thrown Deku into Hitoshi’s life without even a word of warning. “I should thank you,” he admits, watching as Hitoshi’s eyes snap up to meet his. “I’ve been so preoccupied with everyone, but you‘ve gone out of your way to welcome Deku, without any warning. I noticed, even if I didn’t-”
“Sensei?” Tokoyami is one of the only members of his class who can regularly sneak up on Shota and the worst part is that he very rarely means to and Shota has to do his best to never appear spooked or he’ll lose his edge.
“Yes?” he turns in his seat to look at his student who had been spending most of the early evening reading in the corner, taking advantage of the lights in the main room instead of siphoning energy to his personal dorm. “What is it?”
“Ah…” Shota’s surprised at the pause: Tokoyami does not, as a rule, speak to him until he has formulated exactly what it is he wants to say, and how he wants to say it. “Apologies, Sensei. Dark Shadow wished to speak to you.”
Another surprise, but one that this time makes Shota pause. “Dark Shadow?”
The quirk appears from Tokoyami’s collar. “Something’s coming,” it says, beady eyes staring straight into Shota, sharp and almost… familiar. “Think you wanna be outside for this.”
Shota slides off of the stool instantly, but something makes him pause. “Dark Shadow,” he says, while the shadow - the quirk - the thing he has always thought of as simply being an extension of Tokoyami’s subconscious and not, in any way, his own thing, looks at him with intelligent eyes. The question dies at the tip of his tongue - what is he supposed to ask - are you a spirit? Except…why the hell not?
“Are you a spirit like the ones Deku can see?” Hitoshi asks, reading Shota’s mind.
“What do you think?” Dark Shadow cackles and caws and then disappears into Tokoyami’s form once more.
The student bows slightly. “Apologies, Sensei. He would not tell me what this was about at all.”
“It’s fine,” the warning hadn’t been urgent or even sounded threatening - it had been amused, like the quirk - spirit - creature was laughing at them. “Iida,” Shota calls as he heads to the door. “Keep everyone downstairs, I’m stepping out for a moment.”
He trades his house slippers for shoes and heads outside where everything is grey, dull and overcast. The sun is already beginning to set but the thick clouds make it feel like hours later. They only have the one lamp directly at the dorm’s stairs lit, everything else dark to conserve power. There is no one to be seen, no traffic to be heard, just the roll of thunder, the crash of lightning, and the sheeting rain.
Thunder rolls overhead, rumbling deep enough to be felt in his bones, and sparks gather across the stones of the quad. Shota doesn’t hesitate as he slides his heels together and crouches down just in case. This is foolish and dangerous, he knows he’s being foolhardy, but something is telling him to wait, not to run inside.
He’s rewarded by a dragon landing heavily on the front quad. A dragon. A… dragon. It is silver and white and he wonders if this means it is Eri’s dragon by description but it really does not matter because Deku is on its back. The dragon’s claws are digging furrows in the stone underneath it but Shota doesn’t care - he’s already running before Deku can take off again.
“Aizawa?” and the kid sounds surprised that he’s here, that he’s come out, that Shota’s reaching up and dragging him off the back of a fucking dragon (he will deal with that fact later, he will deal with a lot of this later) and holding him by the shoulders in the rain and staring him down to make sure he’s all right.
Deku… does not look all right.
Shota swallows down a dozen questions and demands and the burning need to just pick Deku up and carry him bodily inside, but it’s hard. He can’t get this wrong. He can’t fuck this up again. “Welcome back,” he says, trying to put everything he wants to say into those words and into the grip on Deku’s shoulders. “I wish you hadn’t run off.”
Deku flinches and Shota curses himself because he’s so fucking bad at this and that wasn’t what he meant - “I meant - I’m sorry, Problem Child, I shouldn’t have let them drag you into any of that. Are you all right?”
Deku shocks the fuck out of him when he shakes his head. It shocks Shota enough that he drops to his knees and ignores the rain soaking his clothes and hair and the stares they are probably receiving from his students through the large bay windows because this is the first time Deku’s not shrugged something off as fine. “Problem Child, what -”
“I almost drowned,” Deku says, voice raw. “And I think I bruised my ribs, and I haven’t eaten in three days and I haven’t slept and I’m so cold -”
The kid’s clothing is soaked through and freezing and when Shota grabs Deku’s hands, they feel like ice. Even in this grey, dim light, the scar on Deku’s cheek stands out in sharp relief and his lips look - upon closer inspection - bluish as his teeth chatter. Shota gives up on doing things slowly once more - Deku’s going to have to tolerate a bit of speed and efficacy right now. He scoops the kid up in one motion that is still too fucking easy - and then glares at the spirit in front of him. “I’m taking him inside. You had better not bother him,” he declares, having no god damned clue if they’re actually a friend at the moment or just a foe waiting for a shot at the kid.
The dragon nods. << I will guard this place for him,>> he intones, in a voice that sounds like the crash of thunder and lightning and the roar of the waves.
‘For him’ is good, so is ‘guard’, but Shota is still suspicious of spirits and how they work and he’s learned enough to pay attention to those suspicions, now. He doesn’t think the way the dragon sounds is a coincidence, for example. “Are you the one responsible for this storm?”
There’s a pause. The dragon blinks. It attempts to look baleful. << No. It is the epoch of my brother’s rebirth. He is gathering his power once more.>>
“Well, tell him to tone it down,” Shota has no idea where this is coming from, where this gibbering insanity of yelling at a goddamned dragon is coming from, but he hasn’t slept properly in three days and Deku is curled in his arms and holding on, not fighting it, shivering. He’s going to have so much to explain because there is no fucking way his kids aren’t watching this and so he just puts every ounce of his years of teaching into his voice as he continues. “He needs to tone it down, people are getting hurt and if your lot flood this place I’ll find some way to make you pay for the damages.”
The dragon stares at him, head pulled back in affront before he laughs out loud. << You will be an excellent guardian,>> he tells Shota, like he’s passed some sort of test. << You will keep him safe.>>
“I sure as hell plan to, but it’d be easier if your lot would leave him the hell alone.”
<< I will ensure he has time to rest,>> the dragon nods and curls into a pose that Shota feels like he’s seen on a million frescoes through his life and never once considered how odd that might look in real life, in three dimensions. << I will ask Ryujin to… quiet his efforts.>>
The rumble of thunder in the distance stops. Shota decides to take that as a win before something bad happens, like he gets punted across the quad by a dragon tail because he’s run his mouth off. He’d always thought dragons were gods and he is absolutely not going to think about that too hard.
The dragon bows at him, and then starts to fade from sight. He’s actually a bit relieved - as nice as seeing physical proof that they’re not all crazy is, they can probably all do without being in the presence of something as long as a football field in front of the school. Of course, the claw marks remain. Of course they do.
Fuck but they need another long conversation about all of this and how the fuck spirits are now physical, don’t they? Later. It can be done later. Deku comes first.
Shota retreats back inside the dorms and of course, his class is absolutely pretending not to hover as he gets inside. “Sensei!” they cry as a group the moment the door closes behind him. At least they don’t swarm. If he gives orders now he can keep them from asking too many questions. He flares his quirk for effect, and to hopefully tell Tamamo-no-Mae to return, in case she hasn’t yet.
“Yaoyorozu, can you make a heating blanket?” He kicks off his wet shoes but the rest is going to just have to drip for now. “Shinso, we’ll need to borrow a change of clothes. Clear off a space on the couch, one of you. Iida, call Recovery Girl, we’re going to need her here; when that’s done call Principal Nedzu. Tell him I need Deku’s emergency bag.” Chiyo is staying with Eri and Mirio in the third year dorm, but one of the material manipulation students will be able to tunnel her here safely. Nedzu has all of his secret tunnels and who knows what else - and Shota knows Deku’s backpack has been prepped as his getaway bag since they came to UA. Those paper prayers are going to be important now: he’s not going to leave everything to a dragon. “As for the rest of you, give us some space. Shinso, you’re with me.”
They get Deku into the bathroom and out of his wet clothes - Shota ducks out to let Hitoshi help with that, because he doesn’t want to end up walking over a trigger on the kid without knowing it, using the time to quickly strip out of his own soaked things and into his spares. Then they bundle Deku onto the couch with blankets - including a heating blanket, thank everything for Yaoyorozu’s abilities coming through once more - and Shota gets a good look at the aforementioned bruised ribs. “How’d you do this one, Problem Child?” he asks while they get Deku comfortable and wait for Chiyo to arrive.
“Dragon claws. They’re bad at judging pressure, I think.” Deku winces. “It honestly didn’t hurt at first but I think maybe that was the adrenaline…”
“Dude, so that really was a dragon outside? That’s so manly!”
“There’s no such thing as dragons!”
“Tell that to Ryukyu!”
“Quiet, please, all of you, and give us some space,” Shota reminds his class who are hovering. Someone pushes into the crowd anyway and hands him a thermos with a lid. Shota looks up into Bakugo’s scowling face.
“Tea,” he barks out, like it’s an offence to admit it, instantly stepping back.
“Thank you,” Shota presses it into Deku’s shaking hands, then gives the rest of the room a significant look.
His students scatter, even if there’s only so far they can go while remaining on the main floor. Still, it affords Deku some privacy. “Recovery Girl will be here soon,” he tells him, crouched on the floor so he’s at Deku’s eye level. “You said you almost drowned - when was that? What happened?”
“I…” Deku flushes. “I fell off Mizuchi into the sea to find Ryūjin and that was actually very stupid in hindsight?” He looks up over Shota’s shoulder, eyes unfocused. “I know! I wasn’t… I wasn’t thinking right, it was stupid.”
Shota keeps his expression neutral because he almost wants to smile at the aggrieved tone and yet he’d fallen into the sea was hardly worthy of humor. “I take it Tamamo-no-Mae is giving you a scolding?”
“She’s fussing! It’s not like I wanted to fall! I was just -” he coughs, wincing. “It was dumb.”
Shota’s not even sure how else he could reply, so he settles for “At least you know not to repeat that.”
Hitoshi’s obviously listening, because Shota hears him snicker.
It drags a weak grin from Deku as well and Shota brushes his still damp hair back out of his eyes. “You had me worried,” he admits, now that they have at least some space and Deku’s looking a little less like death. “You didn’t need to run. It was all right - we’re all safe. You gave Ragdoll her quirk back. Nothing was your fault.”
Deku nods, but there’s still tension in his small frame. “I made a mess of things, though. And now you -” he looks at Shota’s new, shiny quirk nails. “That is my fault.”
“Why do I think it was an accident that you’re blaming yourself for?” Shota wiggles his fingers. “I can live with this, so can the rest who were affected. It’s a change, and it’s going to take some getting used to, but we’re all capable of dealing with change, Problem Child.”
Deku flinches and looks away. “It isn’t - I mean, it is you, but it’s not just you. It’s your spirits. I…” he swallows. “All for One - his spirit was Ryūjin - the dragon - and he…” Deku closes his eyes and shudders. “It was awful. ”
Shota almost asks how. Then he remembers this is the kid who took the hanging body spider hair woman, lion faced googley eyed giant spider thing and a river of disembodied eyeballs without flinching. He does not, in fact, need to find out what Deku thinks of as awful at this exact moment in time.
“There were so many and they were trapped, and I should have thought of that - I should have realized the wards would keep everything in as well as out when they followed me back, but they were screaming, begging for help, and so I just - I didn’t think. Didn’t know that they’d cling to the first thing, first person who wasn’t me. ” Deku blinks away tears. “I did the same thing to the others - they’re all mixed up now. I have to - I have to find a way to fix it.”
“Deku,” Shota nudges the thermos of tea in the boy’s hands closer. “We can wait. They can wait. You don’t have to save the world today. No one in their right mind is going to blame you for what happened,” even if Shota doesn’t entirely understand what’s happened at all, he knows this much. “Humans or spirits. If they do, they can deal with me. Even Tamamo-no-Mae.”
Deku takes the world’s longest shaking breath and smiles up at him lopsidedly. “She’s saying the same thing. I guess Mizuchi was right,” he admits, clutching the thermos to his chest. “He said I - that you were my human guardian, and Ryūjin said he’d be my spirit one. If I wanted him to.”
Shota feels like he’s been punched in the chest. He sets his hands on Deku’s covered knees, for a moment reminded of a chasm and a rope and wood bridge and how impossible everything had seemed - had it really only been three weeks?
This is too fast, and yet - the idea of letting anyone else try to look after Deku is impossible to fathom. Everything has been too fast, with this kid, and if he puts it off who the fuck even knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? They can’t wait for normal. This is his normal. “Well, it sounds like Mizuchi has the right of it then,” he gentles his voice as Deku looks at him quizzically. “I’m your guardian. You’re my kid. If you want to be.”
“But I -” Deku shakes his head in disbelief. “I’m too much trouble.”
“Pretty sure you’re exactly the right amount of trouble,” Shota tells him, ignoring the way he can hear several of his female students stifling sounds.
“You can’t,” Deku ducks his head and drops his voice to a pained whisper. “I’m a monster.”
Well… at least Shota’s had to handle that particular train of thought often enough to know how to handle it. “Because of what you can do?”
Deku nods, not meeting his gaze at all. “I’m like - All for One is like me. He’s a bridge. I can do what he can do. We’re the same.”
He says it like it’s a death sentence, tense and balled up. On one hand, it’s an incredibly informative few words - Deku thinks All for One is alive, Deku did meet him in some shape or form and learned about him, All for One had some sort of spirit power, and Deku thinks they’re the same. Shota already knows the latter isn’t true - he’s seen Deku work without needing physical contact with someone, for example, and All for One relied on others to teleport him,. Similar, certainly, and that wasn’t a surprise - they’d considered that already. Same? Hardly. If anything, Shota suspects Deku might be the evolution of whatever the hell All for One was, or was trying to be, at least.
Still, the kid doesn’t need to hear all of that when what he means is something far simpler, and far easier to combat. “No, you’re not.”
“I am,” Deku protests. “Ryūjin explained it, before - before he died. The only difference is All for One had a spirit, had Ryūjin first, and he - he found out how to… shut them out so he couldn’t hear or see them, anymore.”
“Oh really?” And that was certainly an interesting piece of the puzzle - for later. “Seems to me there are a few things you’re missing.”
“It isn’t what you can do with your quirk that makes someone a hero, or a villain, Deku. It’s what you choose to do with it that makes you who you are. You are not a monster because someone similar to you did terrible things, any more than Eri is a monster because of what Overhaul did with her quirk against her will. And I have heard you explain to her exactly why that doesn’t make her a monster, so do you want to try to explain to me why you’re so different?”
“It’s not a quirk,” Deku protests - but it’s weak and he knows it. “I saw what he did, Aizawa, I can’t… I can’t let myself do that to anyone else.”
“So don’t,” Shota tucks the blankets a little closer around Deku’s shoulders. They’re still speaking lowly, heads very nearly pressed together. “And trust that we won’t let you. Remember that you don’t have to deal with all of this on your own, not any more. I promised you I’d help, and I meant it. Not just with school and food and clothes, Deku, but with your power and your friends. You don’t have to run off every time you’re afraid. I’m not afraid of you.”
Deku looks away. “I’m not… I’m not good at asking for help.”
Shota prods him gently in the chest as he hears Chiyo arrive at the main door. “Good thing you’re going to the best school I know of, then,” he says, watching as the idea chases some of the darkness out of Deku’s gaze. “How else are you going to learn?”
Deku’s lower lip wavers but he doesn’t cry, probably more because of the audience and Chiyo’s presence, if Shota has to guess - the kid looks exhausted. He steps back to let Chiyo do her best with her mobile kit and her quirk and is relieved to hear that Deku needs observation just-in-case but they don’t have to try to take him to emergency unless he shows any new symptoms.
Meanwhile, Nedzu arrives with Deku’s backpack and the stack of prayers Shota knows he’d stashed aside (along with a not subtle amount of other emergency items) just in case he had to leave in a hurry. Shota knows that he can’t break Deku of the habit all at once, but they can make a dedicated effort - that if Deku runs, he remembers he can come back.
He hands the papers to Sero. “My dorm room: one on each wall, one on the door, one on the window, one on the ceiling, one on the floor. Don’t have them overlap or touch anything else.”
“Sensei?” Sero blinks.
“I’ll explain later.” When Deku’s up for it, they’re going to need a long talk with his class. “When you’re done, do the same thing to the bathroom: make sure they’re somewhere they won’t get wet.
Tokoyami comes up and nods at Sero. “I can show you the best way to place them,” he says, formal as ever. He looks at Shota, expressionless. “I have more should he need them.”
Shota… files that away for later. “Thank you.”
Tokoyami turns Sero towards the dorm rooms and Shota turns back to Deku, which is a good way of ensuring the rest of his students don’t ask what the fuck, at least not quite yet.
They get Deku set up in Shota’s room once it’s warded, propped up on pillows so that he’s not horizontal per Chiyo’s orders. Deku’s sound asleep within five minutes, still pale and chill but no longer frighteningly so.
“I’ll sit with him,” Hitoshi says from the doorway. “I can keep watch, and you have to give everyone else some sort of answer, I think they’re going to implode if you make them wait on everything.”
Shota sighs and nods. Hitoshi pulls up the desk chair and pulls out his phone and slumps into position next to the bed. It’s not quite sitting vigil, which Shota finds himself eternally grateful for.
He heads down to the shared main space and, as expected the majority of his students are waiting for answers while attempting to look like they’re not.
“So was that really a dragon, Sensei?” Ashido asks, leaning over the back of the couch so far he’d worry she’d fall, except if she does it will be a learning experience. Next to her, Uraraka is poised, nervously tapping her fingers together but staring Shota down like she can simply glean information straight from his gaze.
Shota sighs. This is going to be a long one - and of course Nedzu’s still here, seated with Yaoyorozu and drinking tea from her personal tea set that Shota cannot believe she’d willingly risk in this dorm of all places, acting like this is normal.
“All right,” he says, and suddenly every head is turned to him. “I’m only going to explain this once.”
Very nearly drowning is exhausting, but maybe it’s also the bruised ribs and all the magic and the spirits and the knowledge of All for One and One for All and his nightmares that keep sleep from being restful. Izuku dreams about his mother, and her gentle spirit, dreams of taking the sylph as his own and then just stuffing more and more spirits into it until it is a monstrosity that drags itself along at his feet. In some dreams it looks like All for One, oozing lesions. In some dreams it looks like One for All, a fusion of parts that accept their whole but forget themselves. He wakes from every version in a cold sweat.
He spends a few days mostly sleeping in his dorm room, with occasional visits from Mirio and Shinso and Aizawa, and even Eri and Uravity who’s real name is Uraraka. The school hums with energy, everyone repairing the storm damage and getting things back in order and that’s all right - he needs time to think, and to process, and to accept that he does want help and he doesn’t want to keep running, and that he…
He believes Aizawa, and the promises he makes.
It’s still hard, very, very hard, but everything in his life has been hard and he’s never expected it to be easy, not for a long time. And it is easier with friends like Mirio and Shinso, and with support from Aizawa and Hizashi and the other teachers. It’s easier when he asks for help from people, not spirits, because finally he has people who will say yes.
Of course… he has spirits too.
<< Your hair is a mess,>> says Kaze, a sylph so like his mother’s spirit she sometimes hurts to look at. She’s a dainty slip of a thing, almost transparent, weak after a century of being held but almost never called upon by All for One. She doesn’t have much to offer Izuku, but she still checks on him every morning.
“My hair’s always a mess,” he admits, but he tries to neaten it up a little bit. Aizawa promised him a haircut this weekend that he’s actually looking forward to.
<< He’s introducing you,>> she says, fluttering around his head. << Are you sure you don’t need more help? There’s a lot of spirits in there.>>
Over the last few days he hasn’t been exactly alone. Tamamo-no-Mae had apologized, holding his hands and shifting between weeping and raging, angry at him for running and apologetic for not telling him about All for One or Ryujin before. She’d wanted to give him time, she’d said, and he believed her. She’d thought that he was still learning to understand his power and that Ryujin and All for One were too strong. He can at least understand that, even if he can’t agree with it. It was so obviously his duty, what he’d been made to fix, and she’d held it back from him - but she’d done so for his sake and he can’t find it in him to be angry about it. It is nice to have someone worry and care.
She’d kept him plenty of company after that, but it hadn’t been just her. They’d had to take the wards down, in fact, because there was a constant stream of spirits coming to visit him while he recovered. Spirits he’d rescued. Spirits who had passed under his hands and he’d freed. Spirits he could greet by name, and they did not flinch away from him when he did.
It was strange, to not be hated. It still wasn’t every spirit - Tamamo-no-Mae said that she and Mizuchi were spreading the word, along with the others he’d saved, but it would still take time and not every spirit would want to give him the benefit even now.
That was ok.
He didn’t need every spirit to like him. He didn’t need every human to believe him. What he needed was… was what he had.
A family, maybe, but friends for sure. Support. Belief from the people he cared about, who cared about him, and spirits who would protect him if he needed it.
Ryūjin, of course, was always just a thought away.
<< If they don’t believe you,>> he says, as if reading Izuku’s mind. << Then give Tamamo-no-Mae power to be physical and she will teach them a lesson.>>
Izuku has to shake his head. << If it really comes to that, all right, but the point is Aizawa is supposed to teach the lessons, not spirits, and it’s better if they can believe what he says after everything else that’s happened, I think. Besides, making everyone physical at the hospital was… a lot.>>
<< A bit too much power with nowhere to go,>> Ryujin’s mental voice shrugs. << That might happen again if you end up overwhelmed. You are different than the first.>>
<< Good,>> Izuku doesn’t feel so bad, these days, when Ryujin compares him to All for One. Ryujin is teaching him, not making comparisons and assuming the worst. It helps.
He might not have a bonded spirit that gives him a quirk, but for the first time in his life that doesn’t feel like the end of the world. He has a spirit guardian and a human guardian and they’re both going to teach him how to live with who he is and what he can do.
And even if he doesn’t have a quirk exactly, he has dozens of spirits who have offered him their help: all he has to do is ask. He’d cried a lot, the first day he’d spent properly awake, as spirit after spirit came to check on him and give thanks.
It means something amazing to be given trust, by so many. It means something amazing to not have to bargain and barter for it, giving away pieces of himself every time. For gifts to be given freely, not grudgingly, and to call a dozen new spirits something almost like friends.
<< Are you coming?>> Tamamo-no-Mae asks, head sticking out of the door. << Kit, did you get lost in your own head again?>>
Izuku swallows the last of his fear and slides the huge classroom door open and steps inside.
“Glad you made it. Worried you were having second thoughts,” Aizawa says from behind his podium.
Izuku steps up to the space next to Aizawa and surveys the class that he’d...well, he can’t exactly say being feverishly adopted in their living room counts as ‘meeting’ before, but he’s seen them. He recognizes them all from the Sports Festival and the USJ coverage and Nedzu’s observation lessons, and there’s Uraraka, and the ones he’d met in… somewhere, Yokohama he thinks, but the details have the fuzziness he usually associates with memory loss and he doesn’t try to force it, he’ll only give himself a headache.
Bakugo is glaring daggers at him, but the rest of the class at least have open expressions - some are blank, a lot are curious, and there’s smiles enough to make him feel a little bit at ease.
Tamamo-no-Mae at his back helps a lot to make the various spirits sprawled around the space feel much less intimidating as well.
“Hi,” he says, his voice a bit of a squeak, still sore from all the coughing he’s done. “I’m - I’m auditing your class, before next semester, I mean, Aizawa probably already told you that, but I -” he catches himself before he can ramble or stutter too badly. As first impressions go he’s not making the best one. “You know me as Deku,” he starts again. “And uh, Aizawa calls me Problem Child,” Izuku looks over his shoulder and smiles at his - his teacher.
In his chest, Mizuchi’s gift glows warm and bright and Izuku feels whole. “But my name’s actually Izuku. Izuku Midoriya. I can see quirks, and sometimes I can modify them. It’s nice to meet you all.”
He bows, and for once in his life the tears in his eyes are from happiness and are all too easy to blink away before anyone else can see them.