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but you gotta get up at least once more

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Midoriya Izuku wants nothing more than to be a great hero. He wants to be like All Might, to help others, to save people, to do so with a smile and provide hope for all who see him. At four years of age, he dreams, and he waits anxiously for his Quirk to manifest.


It fails to do so. He is devastated.


In some universes, he clings to his vision, and it leads him to All Might’s tutelage. In some, he is taken in by Sensei and becomes a villain of the likes that no one has ever seen. In others, he fades into obscurity, gives up his dream.


However, in this universe, Midoriya Izuku refuses to let his lack of a Quirk dampen his ambition. He can still help other people. If he works hard, he can still fight.


Izuku enrolls in a martial arts class.


On the dojo floor, he is equal to his opponents, Quirk or no Quirk. Here, it isn’t a chance twist of genetics that determines how far he can go, but his own determination. And Izuku is very determined. This alone is enough to earn the respect and help of many of his fellow students.


For the rest, all it does is earn jealousy, as Izuku learns when one of them tries to target him on his way home. He calls for help, but it’s quiet and no one comes. Izuku is hurt, but it's not much of a surprise; no one ever stops to help when Kacchan is pushing him around, either. Izuku gathers his strength and everything he’s learned so far and fights back. He doesn’t win, but he doesn’t lose, because his assailant backs off and runs away when it becomes clear that Izuku won’t go down easily.


His teacher and the owner of the dojo, Tamanaha Chiaki, is furious when she finds out. “I’ll kick him out and make sure he won’t be able to come back ever again,” she vows.


It’s too late to change anything or heal any of his injuries, but all the same, he’s weirdly touched. That may be the first time anyone besides his mom has ever been so determined to protect him. It’s a rare gift, and so, it’s a gift that he never counts on.


Kacchan bullies him now that everyone knows he doesn’t have a Quirk. It hurts, that his lack of a Quirk was all it took for him to be cast aside. Well, it just goes to show. Izuku stops waiting and hoping for someone else to step in. The next time Kacchan tries to destroy his books, Izuku shoves him away and punches him. Izuku doesn’t win this time, either, but he won’t ever make it easy for Kacchan to bully him or anyone else again.


Izuku still tears up during their altercations. He does not tell the teachers or his mom anymore. He just swings, and ducks, and hits the floor. He wipes his tears and gets back up again. Kacchan and his group of new friends are taken aback by his change in attitude. After a particular vicious fight that leaves them with black eyes and broken noses and Izuku with a concussion, most of them tone down their confrontations. Now it’s just insults and mockery and occasionally being knocked around. Kacchan usually ignores him, unless he wants a fight or he’s particularly vindictive. Those fights usually leave Izuku staggering home with new bruises and burns.


Well, it’s nothing he can’t bear. Izuku goes back to smiling and being friendly, but he’s still ostracized for his lack of a Quirk, and it seems like it’s too late to repair his friendships. Kacchan is distant and aggressive. Izuku always jumps at loud noises, now. That’s how things stay for a long time.




When Izuku is ten, he begins a new routine: 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and 10 kilometers of running every single day.


At first, it’s the worst sort of torture. His arms make weird clicking noises as he does his push-ups. His muscles feel like they are going to melt off. His feet are lead and don’t want to move. But Izuku, when he makes a resolution, has an iron will.


The best part of his day is usually the 10-kilometer run, sometimes in the mornings, sometimes at night. It takes him to different places. Izuku sees a lot of things, and what he sees is this:


Villains are everywhere. Heroes are not. Sometimes Izuku is there when the heroes are nowhere to be seen.


Izuku has always had a penchant for self-destruction, and it is the easiest thing in the world for him to start stepping in.


It is hard, and at first he is constantly injured. His unreal levels of pain tolerance are perhaps his only saving grace. But the first time he helps someone and prevents a simple back alley stabbing, even though he’s slumping against the wall and clutching his bleeding arm and trying to breathe around the pain, he can’t help the happy grin that stretches across his face when the woman he helped thanks him from the bottom of her heart.


She calls the ambulance for him and pays for his treatment. She also introduces herself as Uemura Erize, and she gives him her business card. As it turns out, she runs a local cafe. He stops there the next day on the way home from school, arm stitched and wrapped in gauze. She gives him a free cake and tells him to come visit; he will always be welcome here.


The warm glow from that is enough to carry him through the week.


He helps others wherever he can. Not everyone thanks him, but most people do. He has a drawer at home full of business cards and a growing number of helpful contacts. He’s been given volunteering opportunities that otherwise would have been closed to him. It feels strange to be greeted by friendly faces in the street after all the bullying he’s suffered in school.


He mentions this to Tamanaha-sensei. She raises an eyebrow. “It’s as I’ve been telling you,” she says, “you deserve kindness and respect. It’s good to see that there are people who are finally seeing your worth.” Izuku ducks his head and clutches his water bottle. It’s a nice compliment, and he really wishes it were true. “Now finish up your water and run through that kata again,” Tamanaha-sensei orders him. “I want to see that last butterfly kick performed perfectly before you leave today.”


He runs into an aspiring villain when he’s twelve -- two years into his new training regimen. They’re on the edge of town, as Izuku is on his daily ten-kilometer run. Izuku sees the villain because he is in the way of an oncoming train, and the railroad itself is rising up and bending to catch the train and wrap it in an iron cocoon. Metal manipulation, Izuku’s brain whispers, not magnetic field manipulation, or every magnetic material in the vicinity would have been attracted to him at near-fatal levels, judging from the strength it would take to warp iron to this extent.


This is an unfortunate quirk, because that means that the villain could probably squash everyone in the train like a bug if he really wanted to.


Izuku doesn’t pause to process the screams or the train windows opening or the conductor trying to appeal to the laughing villain. He needs to take out the villain before he can do any damage to the civilians.


And somehow, he does.


The villain is knocked out cold, a bystander is calling the police, and Izuku -- with some volunteers -- is doing his best to untangle the railroad from around the train. It’s going...surprisingly well. He had no idea he could bend metal like that. It’s sort of terrifying.


“That’s an amazing Quirk, young man,” says an older man with a sprinkling of gray in his hair. “Your strength today saved us all from injury and fear.”


“Oh,” says Izuku, startled, and then, “Thank you?” He wonders if he would be so thankful if he knew that Izuku doesn’t have a Quirk at all.


“Let me give you my business card,” says the man. “If you ever need an attorney at law, I would be glad to help. What’s your name?”


“Um,” says Izuku, suddenly seized by an intense desire to remain anonymous and in obscurity. He spits out the first name that comes to mind, which is, unfortunately, “Deku.” He winces.


“Noguchi Harunobu. It’s good to make your acquaintance, and thank you again,” says the man, and then they shake hands and the man walks away. It’s sort of bizarre.


Izuku gets many more thanks before the Police Force shows up. They take away the villain and ask for statements from some of the train passengers, and inevitably, they ask Izuku to relay what happened, too.


He explains, nervously, that he had been on his daily run and then he’d seen what was happening and “someone had to help, and I didn’t have my phone, and…” He looks down, too embarrassed to detail the fight with the villain. Everything had been so slow and clear, and he had been so startled that he took a couple wounds to the leg before he managed to end the fight.


The police scold him for recklessly endangering himself, but they also tell him that he was very brave, and that he may have saved a lot of lives today. Tsukauchi Naomasa, the highest-ranking there, also approaches him with a solemn face. He tells Izuku, with some measure of regret, that since public use of Quirks is against the law, Izuku will have to face punishment.


Izuku’s never run into this problem before with anyone else, but it’s still not much of a problem. “Oh, that’s alright,” he says. “I don’t have a Quirk.”


Tsukauchi stares incredulously at him, and then looks at the iron bar that Izuku is currently straightening with his hands.


“I really don’t,” Izuku insists. “I just train a lot. You can ask Tamanaha-sensei, she’s my dojo teacher, and my paperwork says I don’t have a Quirk, and my doctor has X-rays of the extra joint in my toe. Everyone knows I don’t have a Quirk.”


“Alright,” Tsukauchi says, “but I have to investigate to verify your claims. I hope you don’t mind.”


“It’s fine,” Izuku says. “You’re just doing your job.”


Later, as he’s being bandaged up by some paramedics, he ends up talking to an officer with a cat head whose name is Sancha. “If you ever decided to be a hero, you’d make it,” Sancha says. “And if you did, we’d be happy to work with you.”


Izuku suspects that Sancha is just trying to encourage him, or butter him up, because of sympathy or a devotion to nepotism in the heroics community. He’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, though. “If that’s the case,” he says, and looks down at his shoes. “Could you help me with something?”


Sancha briefly raises his eyebrows. “What is it?”


“If the story, um,” and Izuku wrings his hands a bit, “if the news manages to get ahold of it -- is it possible to keep my name out of it?” He looks up at Sancha hopefully.


There is an expression of -- surprise, maybe, or respect, on the officer’s face.


“I’ll see what I can do,” he says at last.


The story does get out. It’s pasted all over the news for the next two days: Train of Passengers Saved by Local Middle School Student. The news stations say they do not know who the student is because they wished to remain anonymous. Tamanaha-sensei smacks him upside the head when she next sees him, because Officer Tsukauchi came and visited her and nearly gave her a heart attack, but then she tells him, “Good job. You did well.” Izuku beams. Her praise does not come lightly.


A week later, Izuku sees the Police Force arresting a villain while he’s on his way to school. Sancha is there. Izuku waves hesitantly, and tries to convey the full force of his thanks through his smile. Sancha pauses, and nods, and they go their separate ways.


Izuku decides to bring Sancha some cake as thanks. Uemura-san is more than happy to give him a free cake from her store. It’s a reject cake, but only because it got squished a bit in its box during delivery. Izuku doesn’t have much money of his own, so he takes it and walks to the police station and asks if Sancha is there. The cat man looks startled to see him, but accepts the cake.


A few weekends later and Izuku stops another minor villain. The Police Force shows up, and Sancha is there. Izuku waves. Sancha approaches and gives Izuku an entire pouch of coupons to different food vendors’ stalls -- it’s a treasure trove. Izuku is so startled and grateful that he gives Sancha a hug.


Izuku continues helping around the neighborhood and he keeps accidentally introducing himself as Deku. He needs to come up with a better alias, but he never gets around to it, so he resigns himself to the name. “I just -- don’t want anyone to know it’s me helping them,” Izuku tries to explain to Sancha one day. “I don’t want attention and I don’t want anything connected back to me.” He falls quiet.


“I know,” Sancha says. “That’s why all of us have been calling you Deku in public.”


Izuku calls the attorney who introduced himself during the train incident, and asks about all the legal technicalities that will let Izuku keep on with his unofficial hero work.


The man mails him an entire packet of laws. Izuku makes sure he learns them inside out. The good thing is, most of the laws don't apply to him because they're concerning Quirk use, and he doesn't even have a Quirk. The other thing he learns is that he's technically a vigilante, unless he only interferes in situations that are already underway and have imminent risk of harm or death.


It just means he can't do any investigating or preemptive strikes, which is just fine by him. He's not concerned with that, anyways.


The Police Force becomes more familiar with him. His acquaintance with Sancha continues. He even has Sancha’s number in his phone, now. They give each other sweets and pastries whenever they’re having bad days and sometimes they go get food together. Tsukauchi tells them to remain professional while in public, and seems a bit worried and resigned every time he sees Izuku at another scene.  


Izuku’s thirteenth birthday passes with little fanfare. He gets cake from Sancha, a one-on-one training session with Tamanaha-sensei, and some new books from his mom. Kacchan blasts him through a couple trees and proceeds to pick a fist fight. Izuku punches him in the solar plexus and escapes by jumping into a nearby river, and the teacher scolds him when he arrives to school late.


“Deku,” Tsukauchi says to him one day, “Why do you keep putting yourself in danger like this? Why can’t you leave it to the pros? You’re barely thirteen.”


Izuku gives him a quizzical look. “I’m putting myself in danger because there are people who need help,” he says. What other reason is there?


Tsukauchi looks earnest and sad.


“Besides,” Izuku rushes to assure him, “I haven’t broken any bones in nearly a year!”


Tsukauchi just looks sadder, and Izuku is about to try and fix whatever he said wrong when Tsukauchi hugs him and says, “You’re a real hero, kid. You know that?”


Izuku freezes, and then he cries a little bit, because it means so much to him. “But I’m just doing what I can,” he says.


“Yes,” Tsukauchi agrees, and he gives him a pat on the head before being called away.


At age 14, Izuku is stronger than almost anyone he knows. He has to hold back in spars at Tamanaha-sensei’s dojo, and his blows can create winds strong enough to blow over a tree. Punches and kicks, and even Kacchan’s explosions, stopped affecting him a long time ago. There’s even a day when he gets hit by a car, pushing a pedestrian out of the way -- and instead of his bones breaking, it’s the car that crunches to a halt.


He apologizes to the driver, but the driver is too drunk to understand what he’s saying. The pedestrian says thank you. Izuku goes home and does his homework.


This year they’re deciding what high schools to go to. Kacchan wants to go to Yuuei, of course. No surprise there. Izuku’s first impulse is to apply to Yuuei, too, but then he hesitates.


Four years ago and he would have said he’d do anything to get into Yuuei. But he only wanted to go to Yuuei because he wanted to be a hero. He wanted to help. And yet, Izuku is already helping, right here in this city.


What would he get from going to Yuuei? Fame, attention, and money? He cringes at the thought of the first two, and while the third item would be nice, there are plenty of other jobs he can take.


And yet, Yuuei has been his dream school for so long -- and surely he could make it in if he tried?


“I don’t know what to do,” he confesses to his mom over dinner one day.


“You would be paid well if you went to Yuuei,” his mom points out. “And after all your hard work, you’d deserve it.”


Izuku frowns. “I don’t help others because I’m thinking about what I deserve in return,” he says. “It feels so shallow and greedy to help, just because I want them to give stuff back to me.”


His mom thinks it over and he’s not sure if she agrees, but she still gives him a hug and tells him, “Whatever you decide, sweetie, I’ll support you the best way I can. You’ve come so far, and I’m so proud of you.”


“Thanks, Mom,” he says, and hugs her back.


She pulls away and puts her hands on his shoulders, looking at him in the eye. “I mean it, young man,” she says sternly. “You may not be officially recognized by the Heroes Association, but you are a hero to everyone you’ve saved. You’ve made your dream come true. Now all you have to do is find another dream to keep you happy.”


It brings tears to his eyes, but it doesn’t bring him any answers.


He asks Tamanaha-sensei for advice. She thinks for a moment, and then she says, “You’ve been working so hard these past years, all for other people’s sake. Find something for yourself so you don’t burn out, and so you can be happy.”


Izuku furrows his eyebrows. “That sounds -- selfish,” he says, tentatively.


“Don’t be stupid,” says Tamanaha-sensei. “You won’t do anyone good if you wear yourself down to the bone, saving others. You gotta learn to be kind to yourself too. When’s the last time you did something unrelated to heroics just ‘cause you liked it?”


“Um,” says Izuku.


“See, that’s what I mean.” She raises an eyebrow at him. “Take a break, kid. You need space to rest. Heroics is already taking up so much of your time, make sure it doesn’t eat up all your personal life too.”


Izuku thanks her for the advice and spends the next two weeks thinking about it. He picks up some old notebooks and reads through them. He tries his hand at sketching, again. He makes some trips to the library.


Kacchan is cheered on when the class learns he plans on applying for Yuuei. After class, Kacchan asks him what kind of stupid nerd school Izuku is going to go to, and Izuku says he wants to be an engineer.


“What, not going to go for Yuuei like you always said you would?” Kacchan sneers.


“Kacchan, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you cared,” Izuku says with a straight face, and then he ducks the following explosion. “Now you won’t have any competition!” he shouts, pivoting on his heel and delivering a kick to Kacchan’s side.


Kacchan howls, so apparently Izuku said the wrong thing to diffuse the situation. “I never had any competition!” Kacchan yells, throwing a punch. “I’ve always been better than you! You fucking assrag!”


They brawl right there on school grounds until a teacher sees them and yells at them to stop. Izuku dutifully breaks away. Kacchan glares at him, snarls, “This isn’t over, Deku!” and storms away towards the rest of his waiting friends.


Izuku scrambles for something to say. He really didn’t mean to make Kacchan upset. “Good luck with your application, Kacchan, I have no doubt you’ll make it in!” he calls after them.


Kacchan turns around. “Is that sarcasm, motherfucker, are you making fun of me, I’ll fucking show you,” he yells. His friends hold him back, probably not wanting to get into another fight. Izuku decides it’s for the best to make an exit.


There’s a tunnel that Izuku passes through on the way home, sometimes. He takes that route today, humming a cheerful tune to himself to try and cheer himself up.


Something clinks ominously behind him. The hair on the back of his neck stands on end, and he turns around just in time to see a seething, roiling mass crash into him like a wave.


The muddy, rancid thing engulfs him with a triumphant hiss. Izuku thrashes around, but the mud only flows back around him again. It crawls into his mouth and nose and he wants to choke but he can't and he can't breathe, oh god he's going to die--


Think, says the distant part of his mind that has helped him survive so many fights. Izuku stops struggling; he needs to save oxygen. How do I get out of this? His eyes are clear. Izuku looks up at the muddy thing's face. He has a hand free -- he could just punch its eye -- NO, he panics, WHAT IF I KILL IT--


No. The villain has a body mostly made of some kind of mud. If he separates the head from most of the mass--


Izuku curls his left hand into a fist and punches.


The shock wave blows the villain's body apart, mud splattering everywhere. Izuku falls to the ground and bangs his knee. The villain himself goes skittering out the end of the tunnel, separated from most of the sewage-like stuff that it had gathered for a body. “What is this?” the face hisses, and Izuku notes with some hysteria that the face has shrunk to fit its diminished size.


Liquid body, his mind helpfully supplies, face size proportional to volume. Could contain in a bottle.


He latches onto the idea like a drowning man to a lifeline, eyes casting about for a bottle -- he has one in his book bag, doesn't he? -- he grabs his book bag and hurries to pull the half-empty water bottle out, unscrews the cap and pours out all the contents. There's a disgusting suctioning noise as the villain begins to ooze towards some of the mud splattered around the tunnel, presumably to rebuild a larger body, and Izuku panics again. He pulls his right hand back and punches, and the resulting winds peel sheets of droplets from the villain's body.


Izuku shoves the bottle into the villain's face and scoops the gelatinous mess into it as best as he can, even as the villain screams at him and tries to crawl up his arm.


“You can't do this to me!” it yells and nearly tips the bottle over. Izuku shouts wordlessly and rights it, and scrapes the villain back into the bottle, even as it clings to him and his clothes and his skin --


“Get off me,” Izuku hears himself say, “get off -- get off -- get off --”


He grabs the cap from the ground next to him and slams it on top of the bottle with a squelch . The villain's yells are abruptly muffled. The sewage-like mud dribbles to the ground.


Abruptly, Izuku is aware of his harsh breathing and his heartbeat thundering in his ears. He gulps down air in an effort to calm down. The taste of the sewage monster still lingers in his mouth and it hits him full force again along with the memory of gagging and slowly suffocating -- his heart speeds up again, his breath comes faster -- he clutches his stomach and folds in on himself --


He throws up on someone’s bright yellow shoes.


“Woah there, kid,” says a deep, and deeply familiar, voice. “What is it?”


Izuku grabs at his school uniform. It’s slimy and damp. He can still taste sewage in his mouth. “Panic,” he forces out, and gulps in more air, “panic attack--”


He throws up again. The stranger bends down next to him and rubs his shoulder comfortingly and rumbles something inane that slips out of Izuku’s mind like water.


“Breathe with me,” the other person instructs when Izuku finishes with his dry heaving. “In, two, three, four, five, and out, two, three, four, five. In…”


They do this for a few minutes before Izuku finally makes it past the hyperventilating and the tears in his eyes. He immediately feels embarrassment sweep through him. “Sorry,” he says, and looks up at the person who helped him. He shrieks and flies backwards.


All Might?” Izuku gulps down more air and almost goes into another panic attack before he closes his eyes and makes himself count to ten, forwards and backwards. He opens his eyes. Yep, All Might, the hero himself, is still there and still smiling at him. “What are you doing here?”


All Might lets out a booming laugh. “I was hunting this villain!” he says. “But it seems you have done a fine job yourself; I could not have done better!”


“I just threw up on your shoes,” says Izuku hysterically. Then to himself, again, “I just threw up on All Might’s shoes.


All Might laughs again. “Perfectly understandable!” he booms. “Do not trouble yourself over it!”


“Oh god,” says Izuku, and makes an aborted move to bury his face in his hands before he remembers that his hands are covered in disgusting gunk.


All Might ends up taking the bottled villain, leaving when Izuku assures him that he can walk to the police station fine on his own. Before he goes, though, Izuku sheepishly asks him to autograph his school notebook.


He does. He even writes Izuku's actual name. It's the most amazing moment of his life.


The hero leaps away and disappears. Izuku clutches the notebook to his chest. Then he gathers his scattered belongings and makes his shaky way to the police station.


When he walks in, he sees Tsukauchi holding the bottled villain already, talking to an emaciated man with peculiar blond hair and very strange eyes. Tsukauchi turns to look at Izuku when he walks in. “Izuku! What happened to you?”


Izuku, knowing his uniform is a mess, points wordlessly at the bottle.


Tsukauchi’s brows furrow and he calls for a paramedic. Izuku dutifully makes his way to the room set aside for emergency treatment. The nurse checks his nose and lungs, then gives him a couple pills and antibiotics and tells him to avoid strenuous activity for the next couple days.


When the nurse leaves, Tsukauchi and the blond man come in. Tsukauchi asks Izuku if he’ll be alright (he will), and if he’s ready to give a statement on what happened (he is). Izuku has been through these questions before, so it’s nothing hard. He relaxes at the familiar routine.


The only non-standard thing to happen is that the blond man interrupts and asks a question. “Why did you choose to keep fighting the villain, instead of calling a professional?” he asks, a little chiding, a little scolding.


Izuku frowns a bit. “The villain could have escaped while I was gone, like through the sewers it attacked from. Leaving it alone wasn’t an option.” He paused. “And...well, the heroes don’t always make it on time.”


“If you had left, you would have been safe,” the man points out, though this time he sounds more curious than anything else.


“I would have,” Izuku agrees, “but what about everyone else? We were in a suburban neighborhood, anyone could have been attacked. If I have the power to prevent another attack, then it’s only right I do.” He sets his jaw and meets the blond man’s peculiar eyes.


The man looks at him, and then nods, apparently satisfied. He leans back against the wall and doesn’t say anything else for the rest of the interview. As Izuku leaves the room, he hears the blond man ask something. Tsukauchi replies, “He doesn’t have a Quirk.” Izuku ducks his head and moves away, not wanting to hear any more.


Sancha gives Izuku a ride home in a police car, even though it’s against procedure. Izuku says thank you. At home, he peels off his uniform and washes them, and then he collapses into bed. The next morning, he stops by the police station before school and drops off some cookies for Sancha.


He applies to some of the better, science-focused high schools. Between his high grades, his time at Tamanaha-sensei’s dojo, and the community service hours he’s amassed over the years, he makes it in.


Izuku stops by Masaki Tashiro’s real estate office to check in on him, because the day before, Izuku prevented him from being held hostage. Masaki offers to rent a high-quality apartment to him and his mother for a low price, at least for the next three years. “I’ll think about it,” Izuku says, “but I should ask my mom first. I think she’s happy where we are.”


They talk some more. Izuku tells him about his acceptance into a good high school and asks how Masaki’s work is going. Masaki complains about an unfortunate investment his company had made before he had been promoted -- an apartment complex near the beach, but the beach is covered in trash and no one wants to live there. “The view would be great, if not for the stench,” he tells Izuku.


Izuku has never been able to resist helping. “I could help clear the trash,” he offers. “I mean, it’d be slow, but I’m pretty strong.”


Masaki waves him off, but the more Izuku thinks about it, the more he thinks it’s a good idea. That beach has been a terrible sight for almost his entire life, and someone’s gotta do it.


It’s slow work, but by the end of the year, he’s cleared the beach, and he’s gained so many community service hours from Masaki. And more than that: the beach has given him ample space to test the limits of the strength and ability that his training regimen has given him. He experiments with different attacks and effects until he’s satisfied he can control them all.


He demonstrates his strength for Tamanaha-sensei one day. They stand facing the ocean, a pile of unwanted trash in front of them. She watches as Izuku breathes in, breathes out, and then punches forcefully at the trash pile.


His fist doesn’t even make contact, but the trash pile is obliterated, and in front of them, the water has parted in a large wake halfway to the horizon.


Tamanaha-sensei raises an eyebrow, and says, “I need a drink.” She looks at Izuku. “I suspected you were strong, but this is a surprise. Why are you even at the dojo?”


“Because it teaches control, and that’s what I need,” says Izuku honestly. “It would be terrible if I couldn’t adjust my strength to hold a fork or turn a doorknob. And besides,” he adds, and looks at her sideways, “I like learning from you, you’re a really good teacher.”


“Brat,” she says. She starts drilling him twice as hard at the dojo, and she teaches him precision above everything else. It helps.


Kacchan is accepted into Yuuei, to the surprise of pretty much no one. Izuku says congratulations. Kacchan tells him that he should stuff it, because he doesn’t need congratulations, since there was no doubt he’d succeed in the first place. Izuku says to make new friends and make sure to stop by sometimes, Kacchan, no need to be a stranger. Kacchan says to fuck off.


Izuku is about to do so, but then Kacchan yanks him back and stares at him intensely. He looks angry. Izuku tries to figure out what he did wrong this time. “Kacchan?” he asks hesitantly.


“Fight me, Deku,” he says, shaking Izuku by his school uniform’s collar.


“Why?” Izuku asks,confused, and backtracks at the stormy look that descends on his friend’s face. “I just mean, we fight all the time already -- we can fight if you want, but why is this time different, you usually just kind of start swinging--”


“Shut the fuck up,” Kacchan snaps. “It’s really pissing me off that a Quirkless wonder like you can keep up with me. I’m going to be a hero, and I can’t do that until I beat you once and for all.”


“But,” Izuku says, trying to understand. “You already win our fights all the time?”


“Do you think I’m stupid? ” Kacchan roars. “You’ve been holding back for months!” And with that, he attacks, leading with his right like he usually does. Izuku twists and uses his momentum against him, throwing him against a wall, and then Izuku shamelessly starts running away.


He hears explosions behind him and senses Kacchan propelling himself forward to catch up with him. “De-ku!” It’s a long, drawn out growl of a howl. “Get back here!”


“Make me!” Izuku yells back. He dodges to the side as a fiery blast shoots past him.


Kacchan manages to engage him a couple more times before he can make an escape. It’s only a temporary relief. At school, Izuku can feel Kacchan’s glare drilling into his head almost everywhere he goes, and Kacchan keeps trying to corner him into a serious fight. Izuku’s days become occupied with finding increasingly creative ways to escape that are still plausible for a Quirkless wonder like him to achieve.


Kacchan becomes increasingly irate, but when it becomes clear he can’t force Izuku into a fight, he starts taunting him instead. “Figures a cowardly little prick like you would hide, ” he yells up at Izuku one day, as Izuku is currently hiding on the top of an apartment building. “What, are you fucking scared that I’ll grind you into the dust, because that’s exactly what will happen.


More like I’m scared you’ll find out about everything, Izuku thinks. Maybe that does make him a coward. “Yes,” he calls back. “Please stop trying to murder me into a little puddle of blood.”


He tries throwing a fight with Kacchan once, but Kacchan notices, of course, and becomes even more pissed off. Izuku distracts him by throwing his water bottle at his head and runs away again.


School ends. It does not stop Kacchan from still trying to hunt him down. Kacchan somehow gets wind of his daily run and starts trying to ambush him while he’s working out. Izuku starts randomly varying the time of day he goes outside. Kacchan starts lurking with his friends near Izuku’s route and derails some of Izuku’s runs into high-speed chases. Izuku starts randomly changing his routes, too.


One morning after Izuku gets out of the shower, his mom calls him into the front room. “You’ve got a guest, Izuku!” she says to him just as he steps into the room. He freezes, still holding a towel up to his hair.


Kacchan is sitting there sullenly. He lifts his gaze to Izuku, and then his expression changes. Izuku suddenly becomes very conscious of the fact that he’s wearing nothing but his boxers.


“Oh dear,” his mother says.


I have to go, ” Izuku blurts and retreats as fast as he can to his room, feeling the heat rising in his face. He pulls on a t-shirt, shorts, and socks; the shoes are all by the front door, so he’ll have to go barefoot. Izuku opens the window, removes the screen, and climbs onto the windowsill.


His door is yanked open. “Deku, what the fuck are you doing?!” Kacchan yells, just in time for him to jump out the window.


He lands on the fire escape of the building behind his apartment building. Glancing back up at his window, he winces at the shocked look on Kacchan’s face and high-tails it before Kacchan can recover his senses.


Thankfully, that doesn’t happen again, but there is a memorable incident when Kacchan runs across him in a grocery store and tries to make him fight right there and then. The employees thankfully shoo Kacchan out, and when Izuku finishes paying for the groceries, one of them offers to let him use the back exit.


“We’re not technically supposed to do that,” she confesses, “but everyone hates abusers, we’re all in agreement about it.”


“Oh, um,” Izuku flinches at the word abusers. “H-he’s not...I mean, we’re not even boyfriends or anything, and he’s not -- doing that, he’s just like that all the time…”


She pats his head. “Sure,” she agrees, “but you don’t have to be dating or a family member to abuse someone.”


Probably sensing his discomfort, she shows him the exit and lets him leave. Izuku makes it home without incident, feeling unsettled, and decides not to think about it anymore.


The last straw comes when Izuku wakes up to the sound of rocks hitting his window. He rolls out of bed, turns on the light, and slides the window open just in time to be hit in the forehead with another rock. This is getting out of control, he thinks. “Kacchan,what are you doing here?” he demands, as much as he ever demands anything from Kacchan.


His friend scowls. “I’m not letting you run away from me again,” he growls.


Izuku sighs, closes the window, and climbs back into bed. He lies there with his eyes open, looking at the ceiling, listening to Kacchan throw more rocks and yell insults at his window. It only takes a few minutes for Izuku to wear down and throw the window open again. “Kacchan, get in here,” he snaps. “You’re going to wake the neighbors.”


Kacchan scowls extra fierce. Izuku walks away from the window and starts looking through his drawers.


A few bright flashes and firecracker sounds later, Kacchan is climbing in through the window like a grumpy cat. Izuku greets him by throwing a clean t-shirt and shorts at him and telling him to take his shoes off.


Kacchan pulls the t-shirt off his head and scowls some more. “What is this?”


“I’m going back to sleep, and if you’re not going to leave, you might as well sleep in here too,” Izuku tells him. “The bathroom is down the hall to the right. Good night.” He turns the light off and crawls back into bed.


Kacchan seizes him by the shirt and hauls him back out, then pins him against the wall. “Is this some kind of fucking joke to you?” he snarls.


“Kacchan, it is one in the morning, ” Izuku says, and makes a cursory attempt at shoving him off. Kacchan shakes it off, and Izuku doesn’t want to use more of his strength because it would be an abnormal amount for a Quirkless wonder like him to have. “I’m tired, and I want to sleep, and I am not going to fight you just because you have something to prove.”


Kacchan’s grip tightens. “Why not? ” he says finally, and he’s never said anything like that before, but Izuku supposes that he must be tired of this cat-and-mouse game too.


Izuku tries to string together a plausible reason that doesn’t involve saying something like I’m pretty sure I could kill you if I tried and that’s pretty terrifying all on its own, and I don’t want you to find out about everything I’ve been doing, and also you’d never leave me alone if I did beat you, so there is literally no way for me to win in this situation. “Because it’s a stupid reason, and you’re just trying to reaffirm that you’re at the top,” he settles on.


Kacchan narrows his eyes, disbelieving.


“You’re the only person from our school to ever get into Yuuei. What more do you want?” Izuku says, frustrated. “Do you seriously think that I could beat you , even if I went all-out? You’re not using your full strength either. Stop trying to pick a fight and just go to sleep.”


Kacchan considers this, and seems to be on the verge of letting go -- his grip is loosening -- and then the door creaks open and Izuku’s mom says in a sleepy voice, “Izuku?”


Izuku realizes what a compromising position he’s in. It’s night. Kacchan is in the room. Kacchan is pinning him against the wall. He makes a strangled noise, his mom looks over, she lets out a gasp.


“It’s not what it looks like!” Izuku says, but his mom is already apologizing and backing out of the room.


Kacchan steps away and Izuku hurries after his mom to do some damage control.


“Mom, I’m sorry, I didn’t know he was going to show up,” Izuku says.


“Uh-huh,” she says blankly.


“He just wanted to talk,” he goes on desperately.




“Really! There was some stuff we had to work out--”




“Mom please it’s not what you’re thinking,” he says in a rush.


She doesn’t say anything.  


“I promise it’s nothing untoward and can we talk about it in the morning?” Izuku begs.


“Okay,” she says.


“Okay. Um…I don’t know if Kacchan is going to stay or go so he might sleep over I hope you don’t mind I’m sorry good night!” He rushes out of the room.


Kacchan has apparently taken him up on his offer to sleep there for the night, because he’s changed clothes and sprawled himself over Izuku’s bed. Izuku hesitates at the door, wondering if he should maybe go sleep on one of the couches in the main room, but then he remembers they don’t have any extra blankets, so he creeps over and eases himself under the blanket. Kacchan doesn’t scoot over. Izuku stays on the edge of the bed and tries not to breathe or fall off.


Eventually, Kacchan turns over, looks at him, and says, “You’re going to fall off, shitrag.”


Izuku startles, and then he says, “Um, I’ll survive?”


Kacchan rolls his eyes and then pulls him onto the bed until he’s in no danger of falling. “Go the fuck to sleep.”


Kacchan has no problem taking his own advice, but Izuku is tense. It’s hard not to be, with Kacchan so close. Skin pressed to skin. Izuku’s within grabbing range and he's having trouble relaxing enough to sleep, still half thinking a fight will break out any moment. So he lies very still and listens carefully to Kacchan’s breathing to assure himself that Kacchan is asleep.

Izuku doesn’t know how long he lies there, wide awake, but at some point Kacchan turns over in his sleep and flings an arm and a leg over him. Izuku envies Kacchan and the deep, restful sleep he’s apparently having.

It’s nearing four in the morning before Izuku finally admits that he won’t get any sleep, and five before he finally summons the courage to slip out from under Kacchan. He goes to the main room and makes himself some breakfast, looks out the window and watches the dawn, and decides he might as well do his daily workout now.


When he returns from his run, his mom is awake in the kitchen and making more breakfast. “Good morning, mom,” he greets hesitantly.


“Good morning, Izuku,” she says faintly, and smiles at him.


“I’m sorry about last night,” he says. “Um, I can explain now?”


He explains, over his second breakfast, about Kacchan getting into Yuuei and being determined to prove that he’s stronger than Izuku once and for all. He explains about Kacchan’s attempts to fight him. It just sounds worse and worse the more he tries to explain, so he just ends up burying his face in his hands and trying not to despair.


“I-it’s okay, Izuku,” his mom says, “I understand, there’s nothing going on between you and Katsuki.” She pauses. “But it does seem a little untoward…”


“It’s fine,” Izuku hastens to say. “I’m used to it.”


His mom looks a little sad.


It’s almost eleven before Kacchan wakes up. “Good morning,” Izuku greets.


Kacchan just rolls back over and says, “Fuck off.”


“Oh, okay.” Izuku pauses at the door and says, “Lunch is in an hour, if you want to come?”


Kacchan grunts. Izuku leaves.


Lunch is a quiet affair and Kacchan doesn't come to join them, which seems to make his mom quietly relieved. She also takes this as opportunity to say, “I know you told me you two aren't in a relationship, but are you sure neither of you are interested?”


Mom,” Izuku says, face flooding red.


“I know, I know!” She waves her hands around. “But Katsuki seems very determined to interact with you…”


Izuku shakes his head. “He's just stubborn when there's something he wants. There's no way he's interested in someone like me.” If he's even able to be interested in anyone…


“Anyone would be stupid not to be interested in you,” his mom declares fiercely. “You're cute, intelligent, and a good person!”


Izuku flushes again. “It -- it doesn't matter! I'm not interested, either!”


His mom thankfully drops it after trying to defend his eligibility a bit more, and lunch passes otherwise normally. He checks his room when he finishes eating; Kacchan is gone, the window is open, and there are scorch marks on the wall for some reason. Maybe from last night while he was talking to his mom? Why didn't he notice them?


Izuku shakes his head and puts it out of his mind.


Kacchan stops hounding Izuku for the rest of the break. He only sees him again once or twice. It's something of a relief, but something of a disappointment too. Izuku busies himself with some reading -- math and physics -- to get a head start for high school. He also spends more time wandering the neighborhood, and consequently gets into more incidents. But still…


“I know it's probably just the fact that I have more time to run around now, but I feel like the number of incidents is increasing,” he confesses to Sancha over sushi one day.


“It is,” says Sancha in a low voice. “So take care of yourself, and don't blame yourself if you aren't always there to help, alright?”


Izuku tries, but his panic attacks get a little more frequent -- not enough to hinder his daily activity, but enough that his mom notices and seem a bit more worried.


The school year starts. His new school is a town away, and he only recognizes a couple other people from his middle school, none of them the main instigators of his bullying. They stay far away from him, which is nice. In fact, the utter anonymity of the whole thing is nice. No one knows or cares who he is and it is such a relief.


Izuku introduces himself to some of his classmates, and it goes surprisingly well. He has new contacts in his phone and people who associate themselves with him without mocking him. He almost mentions this to Uemura when he visits her cafe, but it's such a pathetic sentiment that he feels bad just thinking about it. Uemura celebrates his new school with a box of cookies.


Occasionally, he sees Kacchan walking home. Izuku is tentative. Still, he greets Kacchan, and when he doesn't get any over the top challenges or death threats, he starts asking after his day. Kacchan usually snubs him, but he’s used to it, and he gleans some information from their interactions anyways.


“I fucking owned the training exercise today,” for example. “Kirishima is a fucking idiot,” for another. “Fuck off and die,” when something has irritated him especially that day.


The day that Kacchan comes back later than usual, Izuku is sitting on a bench, sketching. Izuku looks up and asks if something happened. Kacchan scowls. “Villain Alliance,” he snaps. “Go look it up on the news or something. I don’t have time to waste on Quirkless screw-ups like you.”


Izuku nods. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he says.


Kacchan gives him a weird look and walks away.


Izuku watches the news anxiously that night, absorbing information on the villains that attacked Kacchan’s class. It’s a worryingly audacious move.


Years ago, he might have worried about All Might and the other heroes who fought, but they have healers and resources and allies; they don't need his worry. His first thought, instead, is what will happen if the Alliance attacks someone in his neighborhood.


Uemura-san, at the cafe. Tamanaha-sensei and the dojo and all the students who go there. Tsukauchi and Sancha, and the Police Force they work on. Masaki and all the residents he looks after. Even everyone at his new high school. He isn’t arrogant enough to think that they’re under his protection, but sometimes the heroes don’t arrive on time and he’s the only protection they have. What if he can’t protect them, though? What if he doesn’t make it on time? What if they turn out to be too strong for him, and what if someone from the community he cares for so deeply is killed?


Villains, after all, don’t care about civilian casualties.


The first thing Izuku does is ask around for a motorcycle or some kind of fast transport he can use. Fujimura Shuko, a mechanic whose grandson Izuku saved from a rampaging shark villain a year ago, volunteers to fix up his old motorcycle for Izuku. “Give me a couple days, and she’ll be good as new,” he tells Izuku cheerfully, “and then I’ll teach you how to drive this motherfucker proper.”


He stays true to his promise. Izuku is mildly terrified as he steers his new motorcycle down the highway, screaming, and Fujimura sitting behind him and laughing wildly as they careen to the side. Miraculously, the motorcycle survives. Izuku thanks him. He grunts and says, “If ya need anything else tryin’ ta keep this city safe, you call me, alright?”


The second think Izuku does is seek out Kobayashi Ruma, whose husband he helped two years ago, and ask how heroes are able to arrive on time to stop villain attacks.


“It’s hit and miss,” the electrician tells him. “There’s surveillance cameras and social media, and high-visibility news coverage, too. They've got dispatchers combing through those things 24/7, or police officers to receive calls, but human error and the time it takes to call and dispatch heroes means it’s hard to arrive before anyone gets hurt. It doesn’t help that the pro heroes have their own agencies. It’s uncoordinated and inefficient.” Kobayashi sniffs.


It’s no secret that Kobayashi despises the entertainment-driven and competitive nature of the hero industry, which sometimes comes at the expense of civilian safety. Izuku personally agrees with her.


“Okay,” he says. “You saw the news about the villains who attacked Yuuei, right?”


“Who hasn’t?”


“Yuuei is worryingly close to here and I wanted your advice on creating a more efficient warning system.” He bites his lip. “I don’t want to be too full of myself, but if anything happens near here--”


“I know,” she says. “You want to help. I still think you’re too young to put that kind of responsibility on your shoulders, but I’ll see what I can do.” She pins him with a glare. “And if anyone gets hurt, it isn’t your fault, okay?” She crosses her arms.


Izuku gives her a smile. “Yeah, I got it, obasan,” he says, even though they both know that Izuku will feel guilty anyways.


“Good.” She uncrosses her arms. Her eyes slide to the wall and he can practically see the gears starting to turn in her head. “I’ve been thinking about this for years, ” she says. “However, I need some funding, or at least people who can work with metal. Better if they’ve got factory machines. Got anyone you know like that?”


Izuku thinks about it. “I think so,” he says, “but they might not help until you have a plan and maybe some contingencies first, so let me know when you figure that out, okay?”


At school, he talks to one of his friends, Hirata Mitoki. He is brilliant at coding and everything computers, but school doesn’t interest him much, and his grades don’t truly reflect his intelligence.


“Hey, Mitoki,” he says, “I’ve got a project for you, if you’re interested.”


Mitoki looks up. “Izuku!” he greets. “Whatcha got?”


“First, there’s someone I’m working with to create a more efficient alarm system in case villains attack. I think it would be useful to make a smartphone app for that, too, one that can sync with her system if it’s within range.”


Mitoki looks intrigued. “What are you thinking for the app?”


Izuku shrugs. “Something next to the emergency button on a lock screen; you press that button, and it automatically sends an alert to a list of contacts that you choose. It also contacts the nearest hero or hero agency.”


“Hmm,” says Mitoki. “I’ve got some radio towers to hack. Maybe even a satellite.” He looks delighted. “What’s next?”


“Second,” and Izuku takes a deep breath. It's time for his first foray into vigilantism. “Can you hack into the Yuuei security system and get me footage of the villain attack?”


Mitoki’s eyes widen and he lets out a whistle. “When you take something on, you sure go the whole way,” he says, but he’s smiling. “What if I get caught, what then?”


“You’re too good to be caught,” says Izuku. “But if you were, they should be hiring you -- or at least, paying you a little -- for finding breaches in their security.” He looks earnestly at Mitoki.


His classmate laughs. “I love this,” he says. “I’ll take on your challenges. I’ll even do it free of charge. But I won’t say no to bribery.” Mitoki winks.


Izuku smiles. “Thank you,” he says. Then he adds, “During the yearly Yuuei Sports Festival, I can slip in as a spectator, so if you need me to plant any bugs or machines physically, we can do it then.”


“Damn, you’ve really thought this through!” says Mitoki. “You are so illegal. This is why you’re my favorite.”


An hour before Izuku goes to sleep that day, he gets a text from Mitoki that says, might have to take u up on that offer to plant a bug + hook me up w ur friend, im down!!


Izuku sends back a couple smiley emojis and Kobayashi’s phone number. He texts Kobayashi to tell her everything he set up, and she texts back, Okay.


He lets out a sigh and sits back, closing his eyes, trying to ease his anxious thoughts.


Everything will be fine, he tells himself, and he retires to bed early. The next day he adds another 10 kilometers to his run to work off his nervous energy.


A week passes. Kobayashi texts him, saying, Meet me at Uemura’s cafe tomorrow with that friend of yours. I’ve got plans laid out. Izuku and Mitoki go to the cafe, where Uemura hugs Izuku and plants a kiss on each cheek. “Izuku! It’s been a while!” she says. “I’ve got a new kind of cake; want to try it out?”


Izuku smiles shyly. “If you don’t mind,” he says.


“Of course!” says Uemura, and bustles away. Izuku and Mitoki spot Kobayashi at the back, and they sit down, exchanging greetings.


Uemura slides a cake in front of them. “On the house, as thanks,” she says with a wink. Izuku reddens and ducks his head as Uemura twirls away.


“Damn,” says Mitoki. “What did you do to get that kind of thanks?”


“It’s not important,” says Izuku,determined to ignore Mitoki’s curious stare. “Um, Kobayashi, you said you had plans?”


The electrician is smirking at him, but nods and pulls blueprints out of her bag.


Mitoki and Kobayashi have been collaborating, it’s clear. In the end, they settle on simple buttons that can be stuck to walls, signs, lamp posts, and other surfaces. When the buttons are pressed, they’ll send out a signal to the nearest wifi network and contact a server that Mitoki will set up; the server will notify all phones within a two-block radius of the button that a villain is near, and it will also contact the police and nearby heroes. The buttons can be sustained by batteries that won’t have to be replaced for at least six months.


Mitoki will create an app that effectively does the same thing, but it can piggyback on any cellphone signal, regardless of the availability of wifi.


“We’ll need to create prototypes first, of course,” says Kobayashi. “Now’s the time for you to put me in contact with any metalworkers or mechanics or engineers you know, Izuku.”


Izuku nods dutifully, even as Mitoki laughs and says, “How many people do you know, man ?


The next day, Izuku puts Fujimura in contact with Kobayashi. They get along like a house on fire and it’s a little bit terrifying. He also calls Sancha and persuades him to collaborate with Mitoki on the app. Izuku assures him that he only needs to help Mitoki when the testing stage comes around. Sancha reluctantly agrees; Mitoki is worryingly ecstatic about the news.


Izuku is accosted by a tense Kacchan on his way up the steps to his home. “Kacchan?” Izuku says carefully.


“Deku,” Kacchan growls, like his name is a personal affront to existence. “Where the fuck were you yesterday?”


“Yesterday?” He casts his mind back. Why would Kacchan ask…Oh. His meeting with Kobayashi and Mitoki meant he didn’t see Kacchan and ask about his day. “I was -- meeting some friends, about something important,” he explains. “Um...sorry I wasn’t here?”


Kacchan growls and shoves him against the railings, and then goes storming down the stairs. Izuku has the faint suspicion that he was worried that he didn’t show up.


“Wait!” he yells, leaning over the rails. Kacchan turns back, glowering. “How was your day?” Izuku finishes, and grins sheepishly.


“None of your shitty-ass business!” Kacchan yells back and storms away.


After his daily run, Izuku retrieves the leftovers of yesterday’s cake and walks the short distance to Kacchan’s house. When he knocks on the door, Kacchan’s mother welcomes him in and gives him a hearty slap on the back, before yelling for her shitty son to get fucking down here, a friend has come to visit and for once don’t scare him away! Kacchan skulks down and tenses when he sees Izuku. “What are you doing here?” he demands.


“I have cake?” says Izuku, and holds up the offering.


Kacchan glowers at him for a moment more, before snapping, “Give me that,” and swiping the box of cake from his hands. They go to the kitchen, where Kacchan’s mom makes him get out plates and cutlery for the guest. Izuku is witness to another argument between the two before he steps in and tells Kacchan’s mom that it’s alright and he can serve himself.


As they eat, Izuku tells Kacchan more about his friends and his school. Kacchan listens sullenly at first, but slowly thaws out to his normal bad temper; apparently even his dark mood can’t stand against cake. “Mitoki has been a good friend, even if his morals and views on the law aren’t exactly conventional,” Izuku is telling him, “and he’s been great to work with so far. He’s even helping me to--” He breaks off, and coughs. “--do a school project. On. History. Yeah.”


Kacchan raises a disdainful eyebrow. “Getting into something illegal, Deku?” he sneers.


“Oh, no,” says Izuku. “Definitely not. I would never. I wanted to be a hero for years, remember? I can’t do that if I’m breaking the law.”


Kacchan clearly doesn’t believe him. He snorts. “Whatever, don’t come crying when you fuck up.”


It’s probably the most civil conversation they’ve had since the school year started.