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Shou Me You Care

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Izuku honestly couldn’t get up the enthusiasm to do very much after… well, after.  His mother noticed his decreased appetite (Christ, he hadn’t really eaten much of anything for the last three days, and what little he did eat never felt like it wanted to stay down).  His friends at school noticed his sudden turn for the taciturn.  He just kept telling them that he felt like he was coming down with something, and they left it at that.  Izuku wasn’t sure if they believed him at all, but at least they’d figured out that whatever it was, he didn’t want to talk about it.  He also explained away the crutches and the limp with the typical “I was in the wrong place when a villain-hero fight broke out”.  He spent enough time rubber-necking at those things, no one was surprised.

It was Talk About Your Future Day (Izuku couldn’t remember what the heck the teachers actually called it), and everyone had to meet with their respective academic advisors to figure out what they were going to do with their lives in high school and university.  His particular school was a magnet school with a program that funneled straight into Tokyo University’s undergrad programs.  It wasn’t UA… but it wasn’t the worst place to be, either.  Without Kacchan constantly ripping up his homework and shouting insults, his grades took an upturn and put him at the head of the class.  Most of his teachers had great expectations of him, and most of the students either thought he was the worst kind of nerd imaginable, or prime friendship material just in case a group project came up.

“Midoriya-kun?” called Kakumau-sensei.  She’d finished up with whoever’d gone before him.

“Coming,” he said.  The day was almost over, and then he could go home and stare blankly at the ceiling until his mom called him to help out with dinner.

Kakumau-sensei waved a hand at the chair in front of her cramped desk.  “Have a seat, Midoriya-kun.  I think we’ll knock this one out of the park today.”

“Mm.”  He decided leaning the crutches up against the wall was the best course of action for the moment.  Not really anywhere else to put them.

She gave him an unreadable look for a second.  “You look like death warmed over, short stuff.  Are you all right?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, I’m just not feeling great.”

“Hm.  I can tell.  Well, I’ve looked over the thesis you submitted.  You realize you don’t have to submit anything until your senior year here, and even then it’s not like it’s binding?”

“I know.  But I know what I want to do.”

“Yeah, I’ll say you do.  It looks great, and I approve of your decision to go with it earlier.  You want to do a vector analysis of the impact of villain-hero interactions?”

“Economic, socio-political, the whole thing, yeah.”

“Nice.  Department of Information Sciences is going to eat that up.  And vector analyses take forever, so by getting started early, you’ll have more than enough time to polish this up into something amazing.  Well, with your dedication, I can’t imagine it being anything short of perfect.”

“…Thank you, ma’am.”

Kakumau-sensei just sort of looked at him for a while.  Studying him.  Eventually she took a breath.  “Tell you what.  You’re going to want to start collecting data for analysis as soon as possible for a more accurate sample size.  Do you have any tests tomorrow?  Projects due?  Anything like that?”  He shook his head.  “Then here’s an idea:  you should go down to UA tomorrow and interview with all their undergrads.”

Izuku’s eyes flew open.  “Wait, what?”

“Yeah!  These are kids who are new to the whole hero scene, and they’ve already had some extensive scuffles with villains.  They’ve got a fresh perspective on the matter, and then throughout their careers, you can re-interview them and see how their responses change over time.  Might be a good tool for psych profiling, too.  Nobody’s ever done this kind of thing before, so a lot of industries will have a vested interest in seeing your conclusions.  Plus, I’ll think you’ll have fun and you need to get out more.”

Izuku spluttered.  She had him there.  It was a really good idea.  It was just… “I can’t waltz into UA whenever!  They have security clearances and stuff!”

“What, like this one?” Kakumau-sensei waved a card with Izuku’s name and picture on it.

“…Well-played, sensei.”

“Darn right.  So you’ll do it?”

He sighed.  “Sure.”

“Tomorrow, 9 AM.  Do not be late or they won’t let you in.  Good luck!” she said, smiling as wide as she could.

--

UA was huge.  Izuku kind of already knew that (what the hell kind of campus would have massive battlegrounds with giant robots for combat practice? Obviously UA), but it was one thing to see online pictures and quite another to see it in person.  The halls were immaculate and Izuku wanted to shove his face up against every window to see what each classroom was doing.

He was still pretty bitter that they’d rejected him without so much as a glance in his general direction… but this place was pants-shittingly cool.  How pathetic was it that all it took to pull him out of a nightmarish slump was fanboy fodder?

“This is Class A of the Heroics Division,” Principal Nedzu said.  “The room next door is open, so you can conduct any interviews there.  We just ask that you turn out the lights and lock it on your way out, and let the front desk know when you’re heading out.  I wish you well!”

“Y-yes, sir!  Thank you so much, again.”

“Oh, no problem.  What kind of educational institution would we be if we didn’t wholeheartedly support everyone’s vested academic interests?  You’re welcome back any time you like.  See you ‘round, then!”  And with that, he went off on his way, tail carefully held off the floor as his shoes squeaked (at least, Izuku really hoped the squeaking sound was from the shoes) on the polished floor.

His heart was beating so fast.  His sweating fingers clutched at the rubber grip on the crutches.  This was Class A.

Of the Heroics Division.

The one taught by All Might.

Holy shit. Hoooooly shit.  Deep breaths, Deku, you stupid bastard.  Deep breaths.  You can do this without passing out.  Or crying.  Or passing out while crying.

Yeah, it was going to be a long day.

Before he’d even had a chance to psych himself up to reach for the handle, the door opened and – HOLY FUCK THERE HE IS.

He was there, in all his shining glory.  Super tall.  A tiny chirping noise came out of Izuku’s throat and he had no idea how it happened.  All Might.  The literal coolest person on the planet.  Izuku was gonna die, but what a way to go.

“Ah!  You must be young Midoriya, as I can see from your visitor’s badge,” All Might said.

“Yeah!  Ahahaha,” Izuku waved the badge with a hand and started laughing almost hysterically.  He clapped a hand over his mouth and tried to pretend like he didn’t want to asphyxiate himself.

All Might led him to the front of the class.  “All right, everyone, for the most part, we’ll be conducting today’s lesson as normal.  Today however, you’ll be called out of the room one-by-one for interviews with Midoriya-kun here as part of an informational survey.  Just be honest and respectful, and remember you are representing UA.”

“Th-thank you for having me!” Izuku squeaked, bowing way lower than was necessary and unbalancing himself in the process.  Oh sweet mother of God and all her wacky nephews, this was cool.  A whole generation of future heroes, right here in front of him.  He needed to tone it down or else Kacchan would make fun of him for the next ever.  Although, being realistic, that would probably happen anyway.

Izuku consulted a paper that he’d had in a binder tucked in a satchel.  “Uh… first up… Could I h-have an Iida-kun?”

--

Most of the interviews went somewhat predictably.

With Iida, it went something like:

“What is your opinion of the villains you’ve faced so far?”

“They are the scum of the earth!  I will not rest until all evildoers are wiped from this planet and the good and kind can live in peace!  My brother will not have sacrificed himself in vain!”  Iida had slammed his hand down on the table several times for emphasis.  Izuku made sure to mark it in his notes.  Apparently, he wasn’t alone in his need to calm the hell down.

With Yaoyorozu Momo, the class president, it went like:

“What is your opinion of the villains you’ve faced so far?”

“Some of these guys are some major whack-jobs, I kid you not.  They are the most bizarre collection of societal outcasts I’ve ever seen in one place outside an anime convention.  N-not that I’ve ever been to one of those.  You just hear stuff.  On the internet.  Yeah.  Ehem.  Anyway, you know what I mean.  There are some that clearly have personality or developmental disorders, and then there are some with a perfectly understandable motive, course of action, all that.  Shigaraki, for example – he’s a guy who keeps showing up with the League of Villains – he’s off his nut something awful.”  Izuku’s breathing and heartbeat had paused with that one.  The tidal wave of guilt that he’d been trying to avoid crashed over him anew.  She didn’t know Shigaraki was dead.  Only three people in the whole world knew for sure, and Izuku was one of them.

Izuku was the one who had killed him.

“But then you get guys like Stain, who seem really coherent and sympathetic in their motives,” Momo was saying.  Oh, great.  Stain.  Izuku remembered the guy, even if they hadn’t spoken much in person.  Somehow, Stain had gotten the idea in his head that he and Izuku should be Best Buddies.  Izuku had told him to get bent.  Honestly, how was killing off heroes supposed to help them?  Izuku’s methods were far superior and did not (most of the time – wait, no, crush that thought) involve killing.

That interview had wrapped up okay.  Izuku was surprised he’d managed to keep anything suspicious out of his expression for the whole thing.

Katsuki’s interview was a different story.

“So… uh… what is your opinion of villains?”

Katsuki leaned back in his chair and put his legs up on the table, knocking the crutches onto the floor (Izuku gave him a stink face that went, as usual, unnoticed).  “Well gee, I fuckin’ wonder.  I go to one’s house every Thursday for Quirk training, so I guess it’s pretty ambivalent.”

“Shut up, man!  Do you really want the cameras to record that?”

“You’re flipping your shit way too much, De-“

“Izuku!”

“Right, whatever.  Hey, what’s your mom making for dinner tonight?”

“…Katsudon.”

“Sweet.  I’m coming over.”

“What?!  Not with that attitude, you’re not.”

“Yeah, I am.”

No!

“I thought you were supposed to be conducting an interview or some nerdy shit like that?”

“Fine.  I give up.  You win.”

“What?  Come on, man, drag this out a little longer so I don’t have to go back and listen to some boring-ass lecture.  Help a brother out, dipshit.”

And so that interview had ended predictably.

And then came the one Izuku was most nervous about.

Todoroki Shouto.

It had been a pretty long while since their match, and it had been nighttime, with emotions running high and Izuku wearing a mask and goggles.  It wasn’t like anybody’s mind would jump to ‘that’s a villain!’ right away, right?  Shouto wasn’t going to ID him.  Totally wasn’t.  Not a chance.

Didn’t do much to calm his roiling stomach, though.

“Uh, hi.  I’m Izuku.  Nice to be working with you,” Izuku said.  Minimal stuttering.  A-plus.

“Same,” Shouto said, offering a handshake before sitting down.

“Okay, let’s just – ah, go on ahead with it, yeah?”  He cleared his throat nervously.  “U-um, what is your opinion of the villains you’ve met so far?”  He wondered how suspicious it would be if he tried to hide his face behind his binder.

Shouto thought for a moment.  “I think most are dangerous idiots who don’t think much of anything through before blindly waltzing into bad situations, and they don’t seem to hold any of their companions in high enough regard to aim for low-risk operations.”

Izuku could feel himself turning red.  Shouto thought he was a dangerous idiot?  It somehow seemed more personal, this time.  He’d never gotten face-to-face feedback from a pet project hero before.

“But…” Izuku’s hand paused from his writing.  “…Some of them are genuinely good people trying to follow what they think is right.”

Izuku’s breath caught in his throat.  “Why do you th-think that?”

Shouto wasn’t looking at him, but rather an uneven spot on the wall by the door, an absent look on his face.  “I’ve gotten to meet some pretty odd villains.  Just after the sports festival, Deku called me out.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect at the time.  I mean, you hear so much about him on the internet, and on the news…  Some part of me fully expected that he wasn’t anything as interesting as the rumors painted him.”

“And then?”  Izuku’s voice sounded strange to his own ears.  Hungry.

Thank God, Shouto didn’t seem to notice anything was odd.  “And then he took my expectations and curb-stomped them.  He’s a brilliant man with good heart who takes an obscene amount of satisfaction from helping out others for no reason.  He expects nothing in return – the results of the investment of his time are reward enough, I think.  He fights evil just like we do, but in ways we can’t, or won’t.  I don’t think I have ever met or will ever meet a person with as strong a love for humanity as Deku.”

“…But what if you’re wrong?”

Shouto blinked.  “What do you mean?”

Izuku’s heart was pounding in his ears and throat, choking him out.  He wanted to be able to stop his own stupid mouth, but just… couldn’t.  He had to ask.  “What if Deku were responsible for something… not normal for him?  Something the public didn’t know about?”

“Like what?”

“Murder.”

Shouto carefully studied Izuku’s face.  Whatever he was looking for, he seemed to find.  “Then I would ask for the full details of the situation before passing judgment.  I won’t say Deku is morally flawless forever – no one is, and it’s unrealistic of me to expect that of him, or to put that kind of pressure on him.  But just from what I know of his character, he would never do something like that unless either his own life or the life of an innocent was in danger.  I also believe that he would take the action seriously, maybe too seriously.  I can’t imagine him being anything less than wracked with guilt no matter the circumstances.”

Shouto stood up.  “But he should know, sometimes life isn’t so easily navigable.  Being a good person isn’t something you’re born as – it’s something to strive to be with every decision you make for the rest of your life.  I believe Deku has devoted his life to being a good person, inside and out, regardless of what society tries to tell him counts as right or wrong.  And that is admirable.  Class is wrapping up.  May I go now?”

Izuku could only nod.  He couldn’t breathe.  Only after Shouto let the door click shut behind him did Izuku break down and start sobbing like a child behind his binder.