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when, not if

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Midoriya Inko and her son are eating at the dinner table. Plain white rice for Izuku. The doctors said to stick to simple foods. 


He wants to ask her if she thinks about how easily she could die, but he already knows the answer. When she fusses over him, there isn’t real fear in her eyes. She’s just worried. 


He knows he’s been in more life-threatening situations than most, but that just gives him a unique perspective on it, he thinks. Less dramatic. He wonders how many near-death experiences people get into, on average – it doesn't seem like an "average" event, but if you broaden the scope, eventually everything becomes statistical. 


Maybe that’s the problem too. Death becomes numbers. You don’t get scared of a percentage. 


Izuku thinks about it like this: no matter how many times you escape death, eventually, you’re going to fail. And you only have to fail once. 


He used to think One For All would make him invincible. The successor of the Symbol of Peace can’t die just like that. But real people bleed out and suffocate under rubble and die in surgery, in the middle of their lives. It’s too insignificant and small a way to die, so nobody thinks it will happen to them. 


It's got to happen to someone, though, and Izuku’s been small and insignificant all his life. 


“What are you thinking about?” 


He wants to ask her if she thinks about how easily she could die. 


He doesn’t want to make his mom cry. 


“Just zoning out.” 



Izuku likes physical therapy. He’s the only kid there, but that’s okay. He’s never known how to interact with people his age. 


Dr. Fukunari is quiet, with strong hands. She always answers his questions when he asks them. He squeezes hand grips for strength, puts tape on his arm to keep the muscles in the right place, gets poked and prodded to massage and relieve tension. 


His favorite part is always e-stim. They put sticky pads all over his arm, and a buzzing relief spreads over him. It’s the only time in the week he’s completely pain-free. 


Izuku likes physical therapy. He comes in when the light is golden, does mindless, repetitive exercises, and lets the sticky pads take the ache in his bones away. Dr. Fukunari smiles when he says he’s been keeping up with it at home. 


It’s so easy to be good enough here. 


His mom picks him up in the car. 


“How did it go?” 


“Pretty good! Dr. Fukunari taped my arm, do you see?” The tape is a soft blue. It feels like the only thing keeping his arm from breaking apart. 


“When do you think you’ll be better?” 


She wants him to get better because she loves him. Izuku wants to get better too. It’s just sometimes he feels like his mom is just waiting for him to be normal again. 


“I dunno. She said that getting an arm brace would be a good idea, though…” 


“We’ll do that, then. You know I’d do anything to help you. I love you.” 


“Love you too.” 



He asks All Might about it. With his injury, Izuku thinks he’d understand. 


“Oh, physical therapy? Sure, I went a few times.” 


“A few times?” 


“Oh, don’t call this old man out on his flaws. I just didn’t have the patience to deal with all those damned exercises… Ah-h-h, but that doesn’t mean you should follow in my footsteps, my boy! Especially with you having such a, hem, unexpected reaction to One For All.” 


“Right.” All Might wants his successor. “But what if… I don’t get better?” 


“Don’t be so morbid, young Midoriya!” 


Morbidity is usually associated with death. Izuku’s not dead. 

All Might should be, though. Morbid, he means. Considering Nighteye’s prediction, Izuku would expect the man to fixate a little on the sword of Damocles hanging over him. But maybe he’s been a hero for so long, he’s forgotten what it’s like to be mortal. 


All Might’s not going to believe he’s dying until he’s dead. 


Izuku wishes he were like that. 



Some people consider quirklessness a disability. There’s a pretty hot debate about it among disabled people (Izuku’s done his research), but outside of that, people usually say it like an insult. Against who, Izuku can’t tell. 


He doesn’t know if he qualifies as disabled now, with the chronic pain and stiffness. Everyone’s got something a little bit wrong with them, and up to a certain point it comes down to personal distinction. Present Mic is deaf, but he doesn’t seem to be put out by it. 


“If anything, it helps me out! My quirk does crazy damage from point-blank range. I don’t even like doing that to villains!” 


Kacchan starts wearing his hearing aids after that. It settles Izuku, in some weird way. 


“Nothing I do is weak, because I’m not weak. I survived those League bastards, didn’t I?” 


Of course. Before, it was impossible for Kacchan to die because he was invincible. Now it’s impossible for him to die because he’s been saved before. 


But you don’t have to believe something’s going to happen to be scared of it. 



“You know, no hero can save everybody. That’s just a fact of life.” 


Inko can say that because she’s always been saved. She assumes that she’d be saved. 


He’s being unfair. There isn’t really any other way to live. But what Izuku’s been doing can barely be called living, anyway.