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Double Dare

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If what Dare heard coming from the upperstory window of Aldera Middle was any indication of a typical school atmosphere they were quite glad they had never been allowed to attend.


Classes had just let out for the day about 10 or so minutes ago, and they decided to use the crowd of children leaving as a convenient cover on the way to their daily patrol; but they were distracted by the sound of small explosions emanating from the classroom overhead. No one else seemed to look twice in the direction of the sound, so it must have been a regular occurrence, but something about it gave them pause. Dare elected to loiter behind, just in case their services would be needed after all. The popping sound of further small explosions sounded out in tandem with the smallest boy's whimpering cries, followed by the unceremonious tossing of a scorched notebook out the window. At first, Dare was unsure if the owner of the book was the one who had tossed it or not, could just be some brat rebelling against the concept of homework or something like that, but the words he heard next dispelled that notion for him.


“That's just sad, I would have thought youd have some fight in you.” The first boy said dismissively.


“He finally gets it, he'll never be a hero.” said the second with a sneer.


“Better to find out now instead of later I guess.” The first boy replied.


“You know if you wanna be a hero that badly there may actually be another way...” The third boy, the one Dare had instinctively pegged as the ringleader, said with an air of false hope. “Just hope you'll be born with a quirk in the next life and take a swan dive off the roof of a building.”

Dare recoiled at the cruel indifference in the boy's tone as he suggested the unthinkable. He said the words as if they were an obvious solution to an overdue problem, and in that moment Dare’s heart broke for the green haired boy in the window. It took every ounce of his self control not to leap through the window and dispense his usual justice on the vicious brats, but despite the hot bite of anger in his stomach, they reminded themselves that these were just middle schoolers and not actual villains. But that didn't mean they were completely powerless; in this moment two things were known to him about how to help the boy with viridian curls. The first was that he was in serious need of a friendly face to help combat the others' cruelty. The second was that that ruined notebook was almost certainly theirs and must be of some form of importance if its destruction left him so upset that he would just stand there looking gutted by the loss of it. So instead of charging into a public building in the middle of the day to fight three middle schoolers like he so desperately wanted to, Dare scaled back down the side of the building to start gathering the scattered pages.

--

Midoriya Izuku thought he was used to Kacchans bullying by this point. After years of snide comments and outright abuse by his former childhood friend, he thought that he had heard and felt the worst of what he and his cronies had to offer. He should know better by now that to ever underestimate Kacchan, he could always go above and beyond.


He was glad none of the teachers had stuck around to hear their latest fight, they had never done anything to stop his bullies in the past, in fact it sometimes felt like they had encouraged the other kids with more promising quirks to practice their powers on him. But openly baiting a student, even a useless quirkless one like him, was surely crossing a line, wasn't it? The last thing he wanted was to get Kacchan in trouble and get in the way of his dreams of being a hero.


Midoriya bent over to gather some of his pages from the koi pond in front of the school, muttering under his breath to himself.


“What if I really jumped, what would he do then?” He shook the bulk of the water gently from the page he'd grabbed, hoping against all reason the ink had not bleed too badly for him to transcribe his notes into a new notebook when he got home. “...My dreams have turned into fish food.”


Suddenly a shadow eclipsed the sun over the boy's shoulder. He turned hesitantly to see which of his bullies had stuck around to beat him up or push him into the pond this time, and instead saw someone he'd never seen before in his life.


His eyes widened in fear as he took in the form in front of him. They were holding his notebook in one hand and had extended another in Midoriya's direction, and while they were decidedly human, and did not look much older than he was, those were really the only two things you could tell about them from first look. Their skin was a patchwork of different colors and textures, their hair was a similar amalgamation, like that of a calico cat, and each eye was different in tone, shape and size. No one part of their face or body seemed to match the rest of them, and one fanged tooth hung lower than the rest over the top of their smiling lips. The clothes they wore were plain, dark, and dirty, with several patches that were sewn with little to no skill. Everything about this person set off the uneasy danger bells in Midoriya's brain, they looked entirely too similar to Frankenstein's monster from that ancient movie he watched with his mother for halloween last year.


When Midoriya stared at them stunned for an uncomfortably long amount of time without accepting the other childs hand, they retracted the offending collection of fingers and cleared their throat to speak. Their voice did nothing to help the uncanny valley effect currently sending Midoriya's heart rate through the roof. It was the true neutral of all speech he had ever heard, it did not reveal any age, gender, or dialect, it could believably belong to anyone you'd heard speak for the first time without much question, and as a result felt like it could never naturally belong to anyone.


“Uh, hey. This is yours right?” They said gesturing towards the still dripping and scorched notebook in their hands. It sounded fake, artificial, like a trap.


Midoriya could hold in his fear no longer, his base fight or flight instincts took over and they chose the latter. With a startled whimper they fled from the scene as quick as there nervous legs could carry him. They were sad to abandon notebook 13, but honestly between Kacchans explosions and the koi pond, he was gonna be transcribing everything over again anyway, so starting over from scratch instead wasn't that much extra effort, and it was preferable to whatever form of torture the zombie had planned for him.

He ran the full capacity of his lungs before realizing he wasn't being followed. He finally slowed down to a stop to catch his breath in the tunnel under the bridge. Only to come face to face with a third person who wished him dead. A sludge monster emerged from the sewer grate, and Midoriya had no more flight left in him to get away fast enough.


“You'll make a great skin suit for me to hide in, kid.” The sludge villain said as he quickly overpowered the already tired boy.


Midoriya tried to scream, to struggle against the vile tendrils currently slithering down his throat, but all that came out was feeble whimpers.


“Don't worry, I'm just taking over your body. It'll be better for both of us if you don't fight back. It'll only hurt for a minute. You'll feel better soon.” The sludge villain tempted to coax him in a gravelly voice.


Midoriya thought back on all that had happened to him in his life. All the little doses of misery and discrimination that had peppered his days ever since he was four years old and found out he was quirkless. About his dream of being a hero that even his own mother didn't think he was capable of. Of the childhood friend who made it abundantly clear he wouldn't be missed. And all the other signs the universe seemed to be sending him even just in the past day. Maybe Kacchan was right, maybe he'd have better luck in his next life, he wouldn't even have to find a building to try, all he had to do was just stop fighting.


Just as Midoriya was beginning to come to terms with the opportunity before him, he saw something even more shocking than either of the monsters that had attacked him in the last hour.


“Have no fear, You're safe, now that I Am Here!”


ALL MIGHT?!?!


Midoriya could hardly contain himself as the number one hero, Midoriya's idol, All freakin Might jumped into action with the call of his catch phrase. Calling out one of his signature moves with gusto as he punched.


“Texas Smash!”


The force of the blowback combined with the excitement and lack of oxygen all came together at once, and against all his better wishes, Midoriya lost consciousness just as the villain was being scooped up into a plastic bottle.

--

Dare should have known better than to sneak up behind the kid like that. He was already in a fragile state and well, most people were afraid of them even with the best conditions. He hadn't meant to scare them, he hadn't even meant to sneak really, but several years of stealth training are hard to just turn off at a moment's notice.


They couldn't find it in themselves to be upset at the boy's reaction. There was a time that seeing the look of terror and unease on peoples faces when they saw them was deeply troubling to him, the frustration and loneliness weighed heavily in his heart with each failed attempt at pleasant introduction. But as time went on, and as their body morphed further any further with each injury or failed experiment, those emotions were replaced with understanding.


He looked to their reflection in the pond to see just how bad his current face had gotten. Admittedly it had been awhile since his last reset, and while most of his features had been damaged and reformed in the past month or so of work, none of it had happened in the same fight. When he saw the discordant features reflected back at him in the water, they let out a long suffering sigh.


“Yeah, I guess I’d’ve run too if I were you kid.”


He hated doing resets, the pain was short lived, but not nonexistent, so the mental energy it took to sike himself into it was usually more trouble than it was worth. But last night's patrol had tipped the scales from “that guys kinda funny looking” to full on conspicuous, so if he didn't reset soon people were liable to start taking notice of them. Plus, if he managed to track down the boy with the green curls to return his notebook, they would need a visage that was a bit more approachable to gain their trust.


Dare searched his surroundings for a suitable corner that could do the deed in one swing, they needed the damage to be simultaneous across their whole face if they wanted it to match when it regenerated, plus, he hated having to psych himself into it twice when he missed something. He tested out the dimensions of a possible contender, and when it seemed to fit nicely he shook out his hands and began his usual pep talk.


"Okay Dare, you can do this. Your pain is temporary, theirs isn’t. You can't save people if they are running from you. And if you get caught, then you won't be able to save them from inside a lab or a jail cell. Who would feed your cat? Nobody. The mission comes first. You can do this. You aren't even real. The pain is an illusion. Nothing mattress just-Just do it….just...Do ITTTTT!”


With a final desperate shout he rammed his face as hard as he could into the unforgiving bricks.


He barely had time to react to the blood splatter before his quirk took over, shuffling the broken bones and regenerating the bruised and torn flesh to create the newest iteration of their face. Dare squeezed down on his thumb to contain the rising bile, no matter how many times it happened, the visceral wrong feeling of bones shifting and morphing under your skin never got any easier to stomach, and while the skin regeneration was simple enough for their quirk to fix in mere seconds, the bones often took a minute or two to settle.


“God! I hate reset days!” He gripped to himself as he made his way queasily back to the pond to assess the new look.


Hmm, it's not bad, decidedly more masculine than the last one, but I can work with that. Maybe this jaw line will be more authoritative and reassuring...Nose leaves a little to be desired but I've had worse...Yeah, this'll do. He thought to himself before carefully flipping through the notebook the boy had lost.


Normally they would try to avoid such invasions of privacy, but time was of the essence to track down the kid before he had a chance to follow through on the tiny villain's advice. Normally kids would write at least a name somewhere in the front or back of these things, if Dare’s lucky there may even be an address or some sort of contact info.


There was no such extra info, but what was there was incredibly enlightening. While parts were difficult or impossible to read due to the damage and missing bits, what was readable was page after page of incredibly well done hero analysis, complete with detailed sketches of the heros and their gear. The more they read the more confused they became. He was pretty sure the bullies from earlier had called him quirkless, but surely skill and intelligence of this level would be impossible for someone so young without one. Wasn’t it?


What was once a simple wellness check had upgraded in his mind to full investigation, insight like this would go a long way in the field, and given that this notebook was labeled “hero analysis for the future #13” There must have been at least 12 more books full of knowledge he could read. Hopefully the Boy with the green curls would be gracious enough to let him take a look.


At a loss for a better plan, Dare set off on a light jog in the direction the boy had run, when he got into the city he could take to the rooftops for a birds eye view. Worst case scenario, they could always camp out by the school tomorrow morning and hope the boy showed up in one piece.

--

Midoriya stood in stunned silence, abandoned at the top of a random high-rise, feeling hollow and heavy all at once. He finally met his hero. All Might saved his life, and then he made that life seem pointless a mere five minutes later. It took the last vestiges of his courage to grab hold of the towering figure as he leapt up into the sky, it was reckless and stupid, and All Might had told him as much, but he couldn't bare to see him leave before he had a chance to ask him the one question he'd always wanted to ask him.


And then there was the shock of seeing his infallible hero deflate before his eyes in a puff of steam and tell him that he'd had this- This nearly fatal accident all these years ago that nobody knew about? How was that even possible? He swore never to tell anyone, and he meant it. Even now, he'd never dream of betraying the symbol of peace by telling his secrets. But then he got up to leave again and Midoriya once again panicked. All might had been vulnerable with him, so he laid bare the last shred of hope he had left.


“Sometimes I feel like I'm a failure. Like there's no hope for me...But even so, I'm not gonna give up. Ever!” He braced himself and asked him the question. “Is it possible to become a hero, even if I don't have a quirk? I'm a normal kid without any powers...Could I ever hope to become someone like you?”


There it was, no one else ever believed in him, but if All Might said he could do it, then it would be enough. He'd have a reason to keep fighting…


But All Might didn't say that. He told him, in no uncertain terms, he could never be a hero, “Not without a quirk.”


“It's not bad to have a dream young man. Just make sure your dreams are attainable. Realistic. Understand?”


And with that he left.


He left him standing alone on top of a tall building with nothing but his thoughts and his broken heart. He slowly slumped down against the wall by the vent shaft. Hugging his knees tightly to his chest willing his consciousness to eject from his body. To leave behind this useless, quirkless body and find a better one, one with a quirk, any quirk. Even a weak or passive one, he could find a way to make it useful, he’d find a way to make it a hero's quirk.


Midoriya was so lost in his own despair that he did not hear the blast in the distance. So used to the sound of resonant booms after a lifetime of knowing Kacchan that it had become white noise to him. So removed from the world around him that he hadn't even seen the boy approaching him until he was running past in front of him.

--

Dare had made it halfway across the city when he heard the blast in the distance. He wanted to continue his search, but he knew the first rule of heroism, prioritize the rescue. He may not be a hero in any official capacity, but even vigilantes had to abide by the code if they wanted to be a force for good.


Leaping from roof to roof allowed him to reach the fight faster and without being seen, so it was often his preferred method of traversing the city; plus he was already up here anyway searching for any sign of the boy with the green curls.


They were so focused on getting to the city center that they nearly ran right past him. Or more accurately he did run past him, but a blur of brilliant emerald from the corner of his eyes had him doing a double take and skidding to an abrupt stop.


The boy's eyes flushed wider in fear revealing eyes like a forest after it rains. He had clearly been crying, his eyes were puffy and bloodshot and tracks ran over his face clearing the dust and grime he’d somehow gotten on his face since he'd last seen him.


For a moment Dare stayed perfectly still, still in the awkward runner's knee he’d skidded to place in, eyes locked on the other child's. They feared moving too fast or saying the wrong thing would only scare the boy away again. But as the uncertain seconds ticked by, Dare watched the fear dissolve into hollow acceptance. Whatever self preservation techniques he'd considered the minute before was no longer worth it. He didn't say anything out loud, but his body language conveyed his message perfectly. It said 'This might as well happen.'


Taking reluctant advantage of this indifference, Dare readjusted their stance to instead sit criss-cross applesauce in front of the boy and pull the notebook out of his backpack.

Recognition flashed for a moment across the boy's freckled face as he looked at the tarnished book in Dare’s still mismatched fingers. Followed but utter confusion as he looked up at his new face. Still not wanting to spook them, Dare slowly extended the notebook forward in the boy's direction and gestured with his head for the boy to take it back. The boy swallowed, his barely peeking adam's apple bobbing with reluctance as he carefully took the book.


He flipped it over and back, as if inspecting it for booby traps, once he was content that it would not bite him his eyes locked back onto Dares.


“T-Thank you.” He stuttered out.


Dare smiled in a way that he was hoping would look reassuring, he still hasn't learned the intricacies of expressions with this new face.


“No problem.”


The sound of distant sirens sounded out in the distance and both boys instinctively gazed at its direction. But dare knew there would be plenty of other heroes and police there to handle that crisis by now, right now he was needed here. Prioritize the rescue.


“What's your name kid?” Dare asked to regain the boy's attention.


He seemed confused by the question, but Dare wasn't sure if it was from a stranger asking his name or from being called a kid by someone who was, presumably, around the same age as him. Whatever it was, he answered him anyway.


“M-Midoriya. Midoriya Izuku.”


They smiled at them again, hoping to convey warmth, but they knew right away that it was a bit too far stretched in the checks before they readjusted it. They extended their hand to be shaken, hoping this time the boy would not refuse his grasp.


“It's nice to meet you Midoriya. They call me Dare Dare.”

--


Midoriya was at odds with himself in ways he never expected to be. He was almost 99% sure that the person sitting in front of him was the same one he encountered in front of the school. But he was also about 80% sure that he looked completely different just under 30 minutes ago. Was he hallucinating? Misremembering? Was this the same person or were there two people with frankenstein bodies and calico hair?


His panicked lizard brain still thought there was something inherently off about the person before him. But on the other hand, they hadn't done anything particularly mean or harmful to him yet. In fact, they went way out of their way to return his notebook to him; So in a strange turn of events, they were the only person to show him kindness without adding to his ongoing mental health crisis afterwards...Or at least they hadn’t yet...The night was still young.


Perhaps the strangest thing about him, besides, well, everything, was their name. Dare Dare? That just means who. That's like being named John Doe in America, it's not a name so much as it is the absence of a name. And he smiles like he's still learning how to, which would be unsettling if it weren't also somehow...endearing?


He may have literally ran away from him after their first meeting (assuming this was indeed the same zombie from before) but something about the obvious effort they were exerting to seem friendly in their second encounter gave Midoriya the instinctual knowledge that he meant no harm.


Midoriya had nothing left to lose, so when Dare offered his hand in greeting, he shook it.


“Sorry if I scared you earlier.” Dare said sheepishly. “I uh, know I'm not the most calming presence to have sneak up on ya…” They flexed their arm to rub at the back of their neck with a shy smile. Midoriya suddenly felt very guilty for his earlier reaction. He tried his best to formulate an acceptable apology that didn't seem too forced.


“I-its okay...I'm sorry I uh, ran away? You seem really nice and I didn't mean to offend you, I'm just...having a rough day. I guess I'm kinda jumpy?”


“God I hope not.”


“What?”


“What?”


The two stared at each other for a long moment before Dare broke the silence once more.


“You wanna like, get outta here? Go for a walk or something, somewhere more ground floorish?”


“Uhhhhh” A montage of stranger danger lessons he'd heard as a kid began playing in his head.


“I pinky promise I'm not a villain or anything.” He said extending a pinky that was a good 12 shades darker than the adjacent finger and 3 lighter than his palm.


It was at this moment that Midoriya gave a closer inspection to the boy's outfit. While the damaged and dirty assessment from earlier still held true, it also featured a lot of pockets and pouches, as well as a utility belt, and what he was pretty sure was a taser.


“A-are you a hero?” He asked before he could think better of it.


“Not exactly. But I'd like to be… So do you, right?”


Midoriya felt his stomach drop, this was it, the moment this person turned on him and told him his dreams were pointless. He wouldn't give him the chance.


“No.” He said it with a much colder tone than he’d intended. “I can’t be one. So it would be useless to want that. Right?”


“I don't see why not. I uh- I hope you don't mind, but I kinda read your notebook.” Midoriya panics and based on the rushed words that followed it must have shown. “I was trying to find a return address, I wasn't like, intentionally being a creep or anything I promise! But like, your super freaking smart dude. I've never seen such in depth analysis, especially from someone your age.”


Midoriya felt his eyebrows furrow on reflex. This was another strange thing about Dare, they kept talking to him as if he himself wasn’t also a kid. It was intriguing, but was hardly the most mysterious thing about him, so he elected not to question it.


“That's… Kind of you to say. But it doesn't matter.”


“Of course it does. A big brain and a bigger heart is the ultimate formula for heroism. I think you'd be great at it!”


He had said it so matter of factly, as if he really believed that was all it took. Against his better judgment, he asked him the question. The one he now dreaded the answer to.


“E-even if I’m not...If I don't have a quirk to back it up. You still think I can be a hero?”


“Of course you can still be a hero, Midoriya. Quirks don't matter, actions do.”


He doesn't know them. Not really. But Dare just told him the words he'd waited his whole life to hear. He didn’t mean to cry in front of this new acquaintance, he really didn't, but he weeps all the same. And before he can even think to stop himself, Dare has swung around to sit next to them and placed a reassuring arm around his shoulders.


And that's how he ended up crying ugly, giant, Midoriya family tears into the shoulder of a zombie he’d only officially met 5 minutes ago.

--

They stayed on the roof like that for another 20 minutes or so before Midoriya took Dare up on his initial offer to go for a walk. He thought about texting his mother, letting her know he was out with a friend. But he wasn't entirely sure if that was true or not. I mean, sure he'd spent 20 minutes staining his shirt, but he'd never be so presumptuous as to think anyone would want a deku like him as a friend. So instead he said nothing, it would hardly be the first time he’d stayed out late chasing heroes to fill in his analysis pages; so long as he made it home before dark he was probably fine.


Dare allowed Midoriya to choose the route of their walk, so he led them in the general direction of a park near his house, figuring he'd be near home in case of emergency but would still have something to do when they reached their destination. They made light pleasant conversation on the way over. Midoriya had a million questions he really wanted to ask Dare, but he didn't know which, if any, would be appropriate questions to ask him. Things like, why don't you have a real name? Or: Why do you look like a human quilt? Or: Am I nuts, or do you have a new face? All seemed like potentially sensitive topics, so he opted for the far less interesting inquiries.


When they reached the park they sat on the swings. Midoriya used to come to this park all the time when he was younger, but it had been a few years since his last visit. At least since he was about 7, that's when Kacchans teasing started to turn truly violent.


“So.” Dare eyed Midoriya on the swing next to him.


“So?” He asked back.


“Are you okay?”


Midoriya's face flushed in shame.


“Y-yeah, I'm really sorry if I ruined your shirt.”


“Midoriya?” Dare grabbed at the front of his shirt and gestured wildly at his outfit with his free hand. “You can’t ruin this, that's the point of the costume. Its made for kickin’ ass and consoling children.”
They did it again, this had become too big a pattern to be ignorable.


“How old are you?” He blurted out.


Dare seemed to consider his answer for far longer than necessary before he replied.


“15 I think...Why?”


“You think?”


“Yeah, they never told me. But you're like what, 14?” They measured himself from a distance against Midoriya's form for a moment before confirming. “Yeah, 15 sounds about right.”


“That’s-” Midoriya wasn’t sure if he was about to say that's weird or that's not how age works. But he doesn't get the chance to say either, cause all of a sudden Dare is enthusiastically pulling a cell phone with far too many external attachments to be normal from his utility belt and practically tossing it into Midoriya's hands.


“You’ve got a cell phone right? Gimme your number so we can talk.”


Midoriya's face burns hotly for a moment, no one had ever asked for his phone number before, nor had anyone given him theirs. His contacts list was 5 numbers long, and two of those were just emergency services. It used to be 6 but Kacchan made him delete his number the second Auntie Mitsky was out of the room.


“Talk about what?” he asks in his stunned state, and then winces at his own awkwardness.


“I don't know, life and stuff? We’ll need to coordinate somehow for hang outs and training.”


The first two were already foreign concepts to him. Not that he didn't know people did those things, just that anyone would willingly do them with him. It's the last one on the list that has him truly stupefied.


“Training?” he croaks out the word as it gets stuck somewhere in his throat.


“Yep.” he pops the p sound for emphasis. “You wanna be a hero, then you gotta train for it.”


Midoriya doesn't know what to say to that, so he says nothing. Just kicks his feet in the sand.


“Unless…” Dare hesitates. “You would rather not?”


“No-no I want to! It's just…” Midoriya does not say 'I don’t want to waste your time trying to help a lost cause like me.' He doesn't think he needs to.


Dare's gaze drops to his own feet for a moment before he swallows with a small nod.


“Just... You’d rather find someone a little more qualified, and less...me shaped, to train you.”


“That's not what I meant!” Izuku panics as he realizes the insult his new acquaintance thought he was giving.


“It’s okay. I can help you find a better teacher.” Dare gives him a half smile that doesn't reach his eyes.


“I don't want a better teacher! ...Or wait, that's not what I mean either. I mean- let me start over?”


Dare gesture for him to speak. Midoriya takes a deep breath as he formulates his response.


“I'm honored that you’d ever consider trying to help me. Or even spend time with me at all. I guess I just don't understand why? Like, why me?”


“Couple reasons, most of them selfish really. For starters, I was hoping you’d let me read the rest of your notes, figured you’d be more likely to say yes if I was doing you a favor too.”


“Notes? Oh! You mean my analysis books. Y-you really want to read them? What for?”


“Well they’re fascinating, great reading material for trivia buffs and all that. But if I’m being brutally honest, knowing as much as you do about other heroes will make my job a lot easier.”


“I'm sorry, I still don’t understand.”


“Well, vigilante work isn’t exactly legal, so uh, knowing how best to out run, out maneuver, or just plain avoid the pros will be a big help.”


It makes more sense that he would like it to. Dare had said he wasn't exactly a hero earlier, and promised he wasn't a villain either, so being a vigilante was the only other explanation for his actions. He was a little disappointed in himself for not putting those clues together sooner. He was also a little conflicted, the notion that analysis he had done for the intention of helping the heroes, instead being used to make their jobs harder, wasn’t exactly his idea of a good first step on his path to heroism. But on the other hand, it's not like Dare would be using it to pick fights with them, just to evade capture. It's not illegal to help your friends avoid arrest. Wait, no, yes it is, that's called aiding and abetting! Would that make him a criminal? Would he get arrested for that? Maybe he should be writing his analysis in code to avoid them falling into the wrong hands. Wait, that's ridiculous, they couldn't be that dangerous. It's not like he was writing down any information that wasn't already common knowledge. Anyone with half a brain could look at the same articles and news clips he had and draw the same conclusions. And it's not like anyone else had ever shown any interest in reading them before so-


“I really didn't catch a word of that. But imma cut you off there.” Dare said suddenly.

Midoriya slammed his jaw shut and covered his mouth with one hand. He really needed to break his annoying habit of rambling when he didn't mean to. Dare shuffled in his swing to see Midoriya's face better before he continued.


“You don’t have to let me read them, you're allowed to just say no if it makes you uncomfortable. I’ll still train you either way.”


“You will?”


“Of course. You're gonna be a great hero one day, and when that happens I'll have the honor of saying I knew you before you made it big.” There were practically stars in his eyes as he said this, a huge grin, he’d finally mastered the use of, plastered across his face. Midoriya could tell he really meant it. A second bout of happy tears threatened to fall from Midoriya's eyes.


“Oh no. What's wrong? Too much pressure?” Dare asked when he saw the water in his eyes.


With a sniffle he replied, “No it's just. You have so much faith in me, but I've done absolutely nothing to prove I'm of any real value to you. What makes you so sure?”


Dare shrugged. “Call it a hunch?”


Midoriya gave a polite smile in response. He still didn’t understand any of this. But If Dare was willing to place his time, effort and belief in Izuku, then he would just need to commit 100% to making sure he didn't let him down or make him regret it.


“It's getting kinda late. Let me walk you home?” The possible older boy asked.


“Oh, you don't have to do that.”


“I know but I want to. Unless, you don't want me knowing where you live? In which case I could always just walk you a block or two away from your place to keep it safe.”


“No, I don’t mind. It's just, I don’t wanna burden you any further than I already have- and I'm sure you have places you'd rather be.”


“You’re not a burden.” Dare hopped up off his swing and extended his mismatched hand in an offer to help Midoriya off his.


Midoriya's face flushed for a second as he accepted the help, avoiding the other kids' gaze. He wasn't used to compliments. On second thought, it wasn’t really a compliment so much as it was the lack of an insult. He wasn’t used to that either.


They were a block into their journey when Midoriya realized he hadn’t exactly denied the claim that there were other places he’d rather be. But it seemed like it was too late now to worry about that. He would just need to add it to the rapidly growing list of favors he owed the other boy.


“Hey, you know Dagoba Beach?” Dare asked.


“You mean that little beach people dump all their trash on?”


“That's the one. I wanna use that as our base of operations for now.”


“Um. Okay.” Midoriya had no idea why that particular venue appealed to Dare as a training ground, but he was by no means an expert, and he wouldn’t dream of questioning the kind miracle stranger... Acquaintance? Friend? Mentor? He’d have time to figure that out later.


“Does tomorrow after school work for you?”


Midoriya's eyes widened for a fraction of a second. He wasn’t expecting to get started so soon. Then again, the less time before they began the less time Dare had to change his mind.


“Y-yeah that works for me.”


“Sweet. Wanna meet me there or should I pick you up?”


“I’ll meet you.” Izuku said a little too fast. The idea of adding one more favor to the list was unforgivable to him. “I know the way.”


Something on Dare’s utility belt beeped out at him. He glanced down real quick and then cursed under his breath. He glanced back up and bit his lip looking conflicted.


“I’m really sorry, but duty calls. Will you be alright making it back on your own?”


“Yeah, of course! Don’t let me keep you.”


“Right, uh, real quick. Make sure to bring extra water with you tomorrow. And some workout clothes to change into, don’t wanna mess up your uniform. Oh, and maybe a first aid kit if you have one? Just in case...What else? Hmmm... I think that should be all for now.”


The device beeped again.


“Shit. I gotta go. But promise me you’ll text me when you get home, so I know you're safe.” He was already side stepping nervously in the direction of whatever distress call he was getting.
Not wanting to hold him back any further, Midoriya nodded urgently and waved goodbye.


“Promise?” Dare gave him a look between a smirk and a glare.


“I Promise. Now go, I'll be alright.”


And with that he turned on his heels and started jogging back down the street and up an alley.

When Midoriya got back to his house he kicked off his shoes at the door and yelled “I’m home!” Into the empty house. It would be another hour or so before his mother got home from work, but he got into the habit of saying it anyway. He heated up some leftovers and parked himself in front of the coffee table so he could eat, watch the news, and get started on his homework; Pausing only for a moment to nervously text a quick “I’m alive haha” to Dare in an effort to fulfill his promise. When he turned on the TV his stomach dropped, face paling instantly as he took in the site.


It was the sludge villain from earlier, the one that All Might had captured, only he wasn’t captured at all. He had done a lot of damage to a whole city block, and to make matters worse, the reporter said a middle schooler had been taken hostage by the villain and was currently being hospitalized for the injuries he sustained before a hero with the right quirk was able to arrive on the scene. They kept the students' identity hidden for security reasons, but it hardly mattered.


This was all his fault. Looking back now, the plastic bottle All Might had captured the villain in was no longer in his pocket when they landed on the roof. He must have dropped it because stupid Deku jumped onto him as he was taking off. And now that sludge guy had done all this damage and injured some other innocent kid.


He stared at the screen like it was a train wreck. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t look away. His leftovers were getting cold again and his pen was hovering over his homework but he couldn’t move. An indeterminate amount of time later, Izuku was shocked back out of his trance by the sound of his phone buzzing on the table.


“Good, I'm glad :)”


Midoriya was still so dazed he had to look back at his own message to understand. He was saying he was glad he was alive. He couldn't help but laugh at that, he wasn’t so sure he agreed.

 

---

The following morning was equally rough. He nearly forgot to grab the supplies Dare had asked him to bring to the beach for their training. In his rush to go back to his apartment to grab it, he tripped and gave himself a bruise on his left cheek. But the worst part was when he noticed the empty desk at school. The teacher announced that Bakugo was gonna be out for a few days,

“I'm sure you've all seen the news by now.” was the only reason he would give.

Midoriya was sick to his stomach as he pieced together those implications. The anonymous middle schooler that his foolishness had gotten hurt, was none other than Kacchan.


He was so pissed off at himself that he almost didn’t show up to his training with Dare. He didn’t feel he deserved the chance he was being given anymore. But standing up the first person to willingly hang out with you, and throwing away the effort they had made already, seemed rude; so he kicked his feet remorsefully the whole way there instead.


When he got there he wandered aimlessly in the sand amongst the trash heaps, realizing only then that he’d never asked which part of the beach they would be meeting at. He sent a quick inquiry text to Dare and almost Immediately the sliding door of a half buried van slid open next to him. The sudden noise and movement startled him. He leapt up with an involuntary yelp only to realize the ambush was only Dare.


“Yikes dude, you scared me.”


Midoriya clutched at his rapid beating heart to settle it. He had a moment of secondary panic at realizing he had called dare ‘dude’ beyond being informal, he also wasn’t entirely sure if it was accurate in Dare’s case, he still couldn’t quite get a read on their gender, do to the androgenous, mismatched, and on second inspection, once again changed, parts. But he didn’t seem to react to it at all, so at a minimum they weren't offended. He made a mental note to ask for their pronouns later, for now he had to get his breathing back in order post scare.


“Sorry about that, I hadn't realized how close you were to the van.” They climbed the rest of the way out and approached. Their face morphing from a smile to a look of concern the closer they got. Dare pinched at Midoriya's chin with his thumb and carefully tilted his head to the right inspecting the bruise he had gotten that morning.


“What happened?”


“Oh, uh, I tripped.” He replied nervously. Embraced by both his own clumsiness and also the sudden contact.


Dare squinted at him as if he didn't quite believe him, but said nothing to dispute it.


“Right...Did you bring the stuff?”


“Mhmm.”


“Cool, go ahead and get changed in the van. And don’t let patches, that's my cat, give you any sass. She likes to think she's the queen of the beach, but really she's just a big scaredy cat.”


Once inside the van Midoriya couldn't help but do some cursory involuntary snooping. The van was outfitted with a small workbench, a heavily modified laptop, a cooler and a beat up mattress. A beaded curtain separated the back of the gutted van from the drivers compartment in the front. A fat but dingy calico cat sat on the dashboard glaring at the intruder. Between the evidence here, and the things Dare had just mentioned, it was looking highly likely that this van wasn't just a hangout spot for the young vigilante, this was his home.


Izuku was suddenly overcome with grief and worry for his new friend/mentor. He was only a year older than him (presumably) yet he was homeless, living in a van covered in junk all by himself? (minus the cat.)


He contemplated asking his mom if there was any way for Dare to come stay in their spare room, but in all the excitement yesterday he never actually got around to telling his mom he had even made a new friend, much less a friend who was going to start training him to be a hero. And the idea of having to explain to his mom how they met, and why he still hasn't given up on his dangerous and likely pointless dreams was a task he was hoping he'd have more time to ease into.


One thing at a time. He'd get through his training today, and if Dare didn't give up on him and cast him aside immediately, then he'd bring up the idea of introducing him to his mom. Maybe they could have a sleepover this weekend...and then just keep having them, indefinitely? It would be an easier request than asking for a permanent placement anyway.


Once he was dressed he exited the van and helped Dare stand up from his sandy spot on the ground.


“Alright, so I guess first I'll just go over the overall game plan with you and we can workshop some of the details together, yeah?”


“Okay, what's your plan?”


“Well I’m thinking we start off your training with a 5 pronged attack, and we can edit as we figure out more about your strengths and preferences.”


Midoriya pulled out a pen and a fresh notebook he had shoved into his bag that morning. (He had preemptively labeled it “Hero training for the future #1” for a lack of a better title.) And then nodded for Dare to start. Dare was smiling at him with an unreadable expression but Midoriya elected to ignore it in favor of paying attention to what he said next.


“Prong one, getting you into shape. I know you're pretty fast, based on how quickly you ran yesterday, but regardless of what fighting style you choose, you're gonna need to build up a bit more muscle.”


The whiplash of guilt from the reminder at his less than tactful first intro to Dare, leading immediately into the shame of being so scrawny, had Midoriya making a queasy looking smile. But if Dare noticed it then he did nothing to acknowledge it.


“Which actually brings me to my first question. Did you have a particular style in mind?”


“Not really.” He admitted sheepishly. His favorite hero had always been All Might, and all his life he wanted to be like him. But realistically, he was never gonna be anywhere near strong enough to even think of imitating his fight style. He wasn't sure which hero, if any, he'd have any luck trying to copy without having access to a similar quirk. “Maybe you can just show me how you normally fight? I’m sure that would be easiest for you to teach right?”


“Hahahahahahahah! No, no, no, if you fought the way I fight, you’d come home in a full body cast every night. The recovery time alone would mean you only get to fight once a season; it would be inefficient as well as painful.”


“Oh.” Was all he could think to say about that.

He didn’t think he was all that fragile, years of taking a beating and then hiding the damage from his mother meant if nothing else that he knew how to take a punch and his pain tolerance was pretty high. But he didn’t think it would be wise to share that at the moment.


“Well, what do you suggest then?”


Dare steepled his hands together in front of his face, eyeing midoriya up and down as he considered the options.


Well, your current build is both wiry and a little short. And I've already mentioned the speed. I'm thinking we go for dexterity and stealth over brawn. That will be easier to build up and perfect in our current timeframe anyway. If you can outsmart your opponent and avoid getting hit, the lack of overall power won't matter so much.”


“Like a ninja?” he said a little too enthusiastically, causing Dare to chuckle.


“Yeah man, like a ninja. Sound good?”


“Mhmm” he said as he scribbled down some notes.


“Cool, well make sure to focus on that goal alongside your overall bulk up for the fitness prong. Then we can utilize the landscape to get some stealth and parkour practice in for prong two.”


Izuku nodded with enthusiastic focus as he continued writing.


“Prong three: I wanna try teaching you some basic mechanics and hacking skills. I have a feeling you'd be pretty good at it.”


“Really?” He had never considered himself all that tech savvy, but he wasn’t computer illiterate either. Maybe he could do it if he tried, he'd just never thought to try before.


“Heck yeah! But that actually brings me to my second set of questions for you.”


“Okay, shoot.”


“So obviously your first choice is going to try straight for the heroic course, However, the entrance exam for UA is notoriously unbalanced, it's hard for anyone who doesn't have a flashy damage inducing quirk to pass it. So as a backup you can also apply for one of the other departments and then test your way in during the sports festival. All of which is to say, General Ed. is the easiest to get into, but I'm hoping you’ll consider support instead.”


He knew getting placed directly into the hero course was a long shot, jumping the ocean in a single bound type long, so he had expected the need for a backup plan. But he once again was stumped on why he would go for support instead of gen ed.


“Why?”


“Well that's kinda multifaceted as well. Not many people know this because the support course is kinda known just for the inventing/ gear making track that gets advertised the most. But the support course actually has 3 tracks. There's one for designing costumes and such, which is the second favorite among designer hopefuls; and then there's the analytics and consultation track.”


Izuku knew about the second track but had never heard of the third. He felt his heart flutter for a moment at the possibilities, it sounded perfect.


“Since when was that available?!” he asked excitedly.


“Hmm, about 20 years or so now. But hardly anyone ever takes it, they've only had a handful of students in it before, all of whom were scouted in from other courses.”


His heart sank, if scouting was required he’d never make the cut.


“Hey, don’t look so glum. I've got a plan for that if you're really interested, but it's actually not my main reason for trying to push support.” Dare said before Midoriya had a chance to get too sad about it.


“Oh?”


“Yeah, see, the thing is, a few well crafted support items can actually make or break a hero's effectiveness. Having a solid arsenal of tools and weapons designed with your wants and needs in mind could make your lack of quirk irrelevant. And the best way to get a bunch of high quality gear is to either make it yourself or make friends with the people who do. Either way, access to the first track of the support course will be a big asset for you. And even if you go for the analytics, there's so few students that they often share a home room with one of the other two tracks, so if you show up with a base knowledge of making support gear and stuff already-”


“Then they are more likely to pair me with them. So I'll still have access to the workshop and could potentially make connections with some good inventors. And even if I'm not scouted, I could potentially still learn to make my own gear as a last resort.”


“Exactly. See you're getting it.”


“Okay so I'll list support as my back up for when I fail the hero's entrance exam.”


“If you fail it, it will be hard, not impossible. But yes, you should test for support too as a backup. And I’ll handle plan C of getting you recruited straight to analytics on my end.”


“How are you gonna do that?”


“Don’t worry about it. That's strictly a me problem.”


“But-”


“But nothing. Moving on to prong 4.”


Midoriya grumbled but continued writing their notes anyway.


“Prong four is gonna be training you on whatever weapons and gear you end up making slash acquiring so you actually know how to use them. This is gonna be the last step of your training because building up the body and the skills to utilize them properly has to come first. So don’t get too excited about that just yet.”


“If that's the last step then what prong 5?”


“Prong 5 is the most important one of all. Self care.”


Midoriya tilted his head in confusion.


“You are gonna be asking your body and mind to learn and master a whole bunch of highly demanding skills in just under a ten month time frame. Not to mention the fact that you cant let your normal academics slip during this time either. If you don't take care of yourself properly, both physically and mentally, you're gonna crash and burn. We're gonna start each day with some yoga, end it with some meditation and at least one a week you're gonna take a rest day. Do nothing but chill out, or maybe do something fun but low impact. I’m gonna need you to make a promise that you’ll honor the sanctity of your rest days.”


“Okay I promise.” He doesn't hesitate to verbalize it. He had already learned last night that when Dare asks you to make a promise he expects you to verbally agree to it before he’ll leave you alone.


“Good. I also expect you to be honest with both me and yourself and take more than one day if you need it. We will adjust the pace and intensity of your training so that you get the maximum benefits with minimal burn out. It's gonna be hard work, but it shouldn't be so hard that you do more harm than good, yeah?”


“Okay. I can do that.”


“Good. I'm also gonna teach you some basic first aid, this’ll not only help you patch yourself up if you need it, but it'll get you ahead of the curve on rescue training.”


Midoriya wrote all this down as well.


“So to recap: we're gonna be building muscle, endurance, and flexibility during your regular workouts. We're also gonna train you in stealth, parkour, mechanics, hacking and first aid. I’m thinking of a rotating schedule where we focus on a different area each day once your workout is done. Then the sixth day can be whatever we feel needs the most work. That's gonna be your base level. The first four months of your training is gonna be getting a handle on all of that before you even worry about trying to throw your first punch. With me so far?”


“Got it.”


“Then we're gonna take those skills to develop a fighting style utilizing those strengths, followed by incorporating whatever gear you've come up with. That should be the next 4 months after that. The final two is gonna be all about putting it together, perfecting whatever hasn't already become second nature, and studying up for the entrance exam. Cause regardless of which course or track you end up in you still have to pass the same basic exam for gen ed stuff.”


“Right.”


“All the while you've also gotta keep your grades up and take good care of yourself. It's gonna be a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Think you can handle it?”


“I’ve got this.” He said with a confidence he wasn’t aware he possessed until he heard it for himself. Causing Dare to smile brightly at him.


“Hell yeah you do! It took us a bit to get everything planned out, so we're just gonna do the basic workout today. But tomorrow we're gonna get started on the rest of phase one. Please text me if anything comes up and you need to skip a day or start later than usual. Alright?"


“Right.”


“Sweet. Now go put your stuff in the van and follow me to the pier, we're starting with yoga.”

Three hours later they had finished their workout. Dare assured Izuku that once they got the routine down, this part of the training would only take half that time, but today it was almost 7 by the time he shuffled into his home. He was feeling a little sore, extremely tired, but he was also feeling determined and excited for more. He only had about 30 minutes left to shower and get started on homework before his mom would return home. But as he stumbled into the bathroom he caught an unfamiliar sight in the mirror.


A smile.

A genuine smile.

He wasn't forcing it to keep others from worrying or practicing it for some imaginary future interview. He was just, perfectly content enough for a smile to form on its own.


Wow.


He could hardly remember the last time he'd felt that.


Paradoxically, the realization of the emotion, and consequent realization of its previous absence, caused it to dissolve just as quickly as it arrived. But it was there. However fleeting it may have been, he felt it. And he was determined to feel it again. If sore muscles and fatigue was what it took, then it's a price he was beyond willing to pay.