Izuku comes to terms with his own understanding of gravity at a very young age, through no fault of his own. Five-year-olds should never be burdened with such a realisation, but children can be very cruel, and Izuku had committed the embarrassingly pitiable sin of being born Quirkless.
He had learned in school that gravity was a force – he liked that word, force, it sounded powerful – that kept things like cars and buildings and people stuck to the Earth. If it weren’t for gravity, everyone and everything would just float away into space, never to be seen again.
“So is gravity like the Earth’s Quirk?” asked Izuku, thrusting a grubby, paint-stained hand into the air to get the teacher’s attention. He doesn’t know if he’s more nervous at the amused laughter that bubbles around him or his teacher’s disappointed expression.
“Of course it isn’t, dummy!” shouts Kacchan. He’s gleeful to have another opportunity to tear Izuku down. “The Earth isn’t a person, so it can’t have a Quirk! The only reason you’re asking such a stupid question is because you’re obsessed with Quirks, since you’re just a Quirkless idiot who can’t do anything!”
The teacher is quick to step in and admonish Kacchan for talking out of turn, but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done. Izuku shrinks into his seat, prays for the ground to swallow him up, and frowns at his lap in an effort not to cry. He’s a big boy in big boy school and he will not cry.
Maybe if he closes his eyes tight enough, wishes hard enough, focuses enough, he can force his Quirk to show itself. It comes as no surprise when it doesn’t.
On the way home, Izuku swings his legs while he looks out the car window, gazing at each and every tree they pass, admiring each and every leaf, each and every colour. “Mom,” he says, “I think I know what my Quirk is.”
His mother’s eyes light up and she beams in the rear-view mirror back at her son. “Your Quirk manifested?! Izuku, that’s amazing! Tell me all about it!”
“I don’t have any gravity,” he admits.
“And how did you find that out?”
“Everyone floats away from me,” Izuku says nonchalantly.
His mother frowns then, her line of sight switching quickly between the road in front of her and her son in the rear-view mirror. “What do you mean? Can you fly? Is that it?” she asks.
Izuku shakes his head and says, “No, but everyone floats away from me. Today we learned that gravity is what keeps people on the Earth, and that if there was no gravity, everyone would just float away up into space forever, and that’s what happens to me.” He continues as if he were giving his mother any old summary of a schoolday’s activities. “No-one talks to me and they always move away from me and stay away, so that’s how I know. I don’t have any gravity.”
Izuku knows the drive between home and school like the back of his hand, which means he is taken by surprise when his mother suddenly veers left and brakes before turning off the engine.
“Mom? What’s going on? We have to go home.”
His mother is leaning forward in her seat, hunched over the steering wheel, gripping it with both hands. Her shoulders twitch and jump every so often. Her voice is warbled when she says, “I’m so sorry, Izuku. It’s not fair.”
Izuku doesn’t know how to respond, stunned into silence at the sight of his mother in such a state. He sits quietly in the backseat until his mother sniffles and straightens. Her eyes are red and puffy and they don’t match her smile. “Let’s go home now, shall we?” she says, her tone falsely cheerful. “I’ll make katsudon tonight, okay? Your favourite.”
Izuku’s eyes widen and he gasps happily. “Katsudon! Yay, katsudon! Thanks, Mom!” he cries, squirming excitedly as much as his seatbelt will allow.
They’re eating Mrs Midoriya’s famous homemade katsudon when Izuku’s father comes home from work and Izuku doesn’t know why his mother looks so sad when she sees him. “Hisashi, I need to talk to you,” she says.
“Dad!” Izuku interrupts. “I think if I could have any Quirk in the world, it would be to make katsudon appear magically whenever I wanted. That would be the best Quirk ever.”
Mr Midoriya chuckles at that and ruffles Izuku’s hair. “That would be the best Quirk ever. Your mother’s cooking could make any villain turn good.”
Mrs Midoriya smiles wearily before standing up and taking up two bowls and two pairs of chopsticks from the kitchen table. “Time to start your homework now, Izuku, you can’t fall behind in your studies.”
Izuku pretends he doesn’t hear his father say, “What do good grades matter for someone like him? It’s not like he’ll get into any of the top universities, seeing as he’s… y’know.”
“Hisashi, stop it. We agreed we would support Izuku no matter what, and that includes his studies.”
“He’ll have to work twice as hard just to be on the same level as the other children, Inko. What’s the point in working hard just to have his dreams crushed?”
His mother doesn’t have an answer for that, no matter how much Izuku wants her to.
“Mom! Darling! Look, I'm a planet!”
Uraraka Ochako, aged four-and-a-half, giggles gleefully to herself on her bedroom carpet, waiting for the nearing footsteps of her parents. The muffled thumping only serves to excite Ochako more. Her wooden bedroom door, covered in crayon portraits of everything she could imagine, creaks open and let's her mother’s voice leak through. “What's that, Ochako?
The door is opened fully and Ochako’s mother gasps, bringing her hand to her mouth. Ochako, still smiling, is sitting cross-legged on her rainbow carpet with about a dozen objects floating around in the air – a pencil case, a pink mug, a piggy bank, a teddy bear.
“Mom, go get Darling! I want him to see too!” Ochako says giddily.
Her mother’s voice is bright and cheerful. “Ochako, did you do this?”
“Yep! I just touch them and they float! Go get Darling!”
Her mother giggles and places a hand just underneath her collarbone. Leaning her head just outside the bedroom, she calls out, “Darling? I think you'll want to see this!”
Ochako doesn't know what Darling says next but it makes her mother say, “I think you should see for yourself!” Mother and daughter share a quiet smile while they wait for her father. When he comes, her mother pushes open the bedroom door as wide as it’ll go, watching her husband’s eyes widen just as hers did. “Ochako’s Quirk has manifested,” she says softly, happily.
Darling plants his hands in his trouser pockets and slowly lads around the room, staring at each and every floating object with wonder. “Oh! What is it, telepathy?” he asks, taking off his glasses and wiping them on his shirt before putting them back on, just to make sure he isn't seeing things. “How did you do this then, Ochako?”
Ochako shrugs and gets to her feet. “I dunno. I just touched them and they went up.”
“Are you keeping them up?”
“Uh, no. All I did was touch ‘em.”
Her mother asks, “Can you make them come back down again?”
Ochako shrugs again. “I dunno. I tried touching them again but I couldn't reach. Darling, lift me up, I wanna touch ‘em again!” she says, stretching her arms up towards her father’s chest.
Darling leans down and picks his daughter up – “Up we go!” – and brings her teddy bear close. Ochako grabs it and starts touching it all over but it doesn't fall.
Ochako hears her father say something in his Father Voice to her mother – “I don't think it's telepathy. I don't think she's consciously trying to keep them up.” – but she doesn't know what it means.
“We can figure it out later. For now, we should probably call her teacher and let her know,” her mother replies.
“Big clap for Ochako! She has her Quirk! Big clap!” says Darling, bouncing Ochako on his hip.
Her mother starts clapping, and when Ochako brings her hands together and starts clapping too, there’s a sudden loud clatter. All of the floating objects crash back to Earth, except for the piggy bank, which crashes into Darling’s héad in its descent. He winces and brings a hand up to his head.
Ochako’s mother, once the shock has passed, crosses the newly created minefield of her daughter’s room to check her husband’s wound.
“Well, I guess you were right. It's not telepathy. It's zero gravity,” she says.
From that day on, Ochako learns the importance of what it means to not only lift other things up, but also other people.
She's a relatively popular high and middle school student. She's well-liked by others thanks to her bright personality and positive attitude. When her friends hit a low point after a failed test or a rejected love confession, they go to Ochako. When they need someone to listen to them, really listen, they go to Ochako.
One day, one of them says, “Occhan, it's kinda funny that your Quirk is Zero Gravity.”
“Why is that?” Ochako asks, looking up from her bento.
“Because you're always lifting people up, y’know? Like, lifting their spirits. You always inspire people. And you can literally lift people up!”
Ochako laughs at that, calling it poetic justice or something, so no-one notices the barely-there tremble in her voice. It's my job to lift people up, she thinks to herself. But I can't lift myself up.
She concludes that it's the payoff of her Quirk, aside from the nausea. She is fated to remain tethered to the Earth, grounded while those around her rise up. The sky is open to everyone else, but not to her. Ochako doesn't mind, though. She doesn't mind being the one who stays on the ground if it means she can show everyone else the heavens.
Tenya Iida is the fastest seven-year-old alive. At least, that’s what his parents tell him. He’s not quite as fast as his brother was at age seven, but that’s fine. Tenya has plenty of time to catch up.
At fourteen, Tenya is sick of playing catch-up. He’s tired of never being good enough, never being allowed to celebrate his accomplishments because, of course, nothing less would be expected of him. He’s so angry that his whole life will be spent constantly running, constantly striving for an impossible dream. How could he ever begin to compare to his big brother? How could he ever hope to be worthy of his name? He’s just a child.
It’s cruel, he thinks, that his Quirk would be something like Engine. But he won’t complain. He won’t waste time being bitter, that’d be shameful.
Tenya is always – always – running. Running with his Quirk, running after his brother, running towards the dream of his family’s legacy, running out of time. He’s tired. He’s being pulled in all directions towards all responsibilities, all loyalties, to be all things to all people. He must be a good son, an amazing student, herald of a new and better age for his family, a Hero.
One day, he decides to stop. He will be his own man in his own way. He decides to firmly plant himself in his ideals. He staunchly commits to the preservation of regulation. Authority has its core rooted in the idea of not moving. He likes that. He likes having the option of opposing the current, rather than getting swept away by expectations. He likes knowing that when the whole world comes up against him and tells him to move, he can root himself like a tree and say, “No, you move.”
Tenya knows that most teenagers his age despise authority, seeing it as constraint rather than protection. But Tenya knows better. Rather than seeing the stubbornness of authority as stagnancy, he sees a relentless dedication to order and justice. He often hears his classmates say, “For someone whose Quirk is running fast, Iida sure loves something as constricting as rules.” It winds Tenya every single time he hears it, knowing this is the reason he doesn’t have that many friends, but this is the payoff, he supposes. He can tolerate being alone if it means he can be true to himself.
Izuku and Ochako are the first people he meets who stand by him when he stands by his beliefs. They’re the first people he meets who don’t snort derisively when he reprimands a UA rule breaker. They’re the only ones who don’t frown disapprovingly when he tells Fumikage to get his feet off of the desk.
Ochako doesn’t have to ask what Tenya is thinking when a massive herd of UA students are crowding the cafeteria exit. All he has to do is say her name, make himself heard above the crowd. The two of them reach toward each other, inching closer and closer, just a little bit more – and then Tenya is floating up above the rest. He sets his legs to work and in the aftermath is lauded as a hero. He’s even made Class Rep after Izuku courageously steps down.
After class that day, he manages to find Ochako by the lockers.
“Oh, hi Tenya!” she smiles. “Nice work today, by the way! You were so cool, everyone was watching you and you were really heroic!”
“Ah, thank you,” Tenya says, bowing his head. “But it’s all thanks to you, Ochako. You’re the one who got me up there in the first place.”
“Oh, there’s no need to thank me!” Ochako counters, scratching the back of her head. “It’s my job to lift you up, isn’t it? That’s what my Quirk is for.”
Tenya grins at that, but Ochako looks uncomfortable. She won’t look Tenya in the eye and she keeps wringing her hands.
“I was worried,” he admits. “Everyone was so panicked, and there were so many people trying to get through one tiny door. I thought someone was going to get seriously hurt. I hope I wasn’t too heavy for you.”
Ochako giggles. “No, I don’t actually feel the weight of anything I put up, so it’s fine.”
“It’s kind of funny, huh? Everyone says I’m so stubborn, yet you were able to pluck me up off the ground and throw me wherever you wanted.” Tenya wants to laugh it off, but it just comes out as a harsh exhale through his nose.
Ochako’s eyes have gone large and round with sympathy. “I like your stubbornness, Tenya.”
He’s certainly not expecting that. No-one has ever liked his persistence.
“You… like it?”
“Uh-huh. I think a lot of people are afraid to stand up for anything because they’re scared of what other people will think. They don’t want to be unpopular or alone. You’re not afraid, though. You always do what you think is right, even if it’s unpopular. I think that’s pretty heroic.”
By the time Ochako’s done, Tenya has to remind himself to breathe. He never thought about it that way before, let alone considered his tenacity a heroic quality. He’s not quite sure what to say or how to say it.
“Um… then I’ll be more steadfast in future, I guess?” he tries.
“Please do. And know that I’ll be on your side when you do. See you later, Tenya.”
And then she’s gone, skipping out onto the asphalt, bag in hand. Tenya is alone. He doesn’t plan on leaving the school yet – he still has so much homework to do – but he feels… new. Bigger. Like he knows the next confrontation he has won’t weigh on him as much. He makes a mental note to thank Ochako next time he sees her for making him feel lighter.
“Mom!” Ochako calls, wiggling her key out of the front door. “We’re home!”
“Welcome home!” her mother calls back, wiping her hands on her apron. “Oh, your friends are here! Welcome, boys!”
Izuku and Tenya bow as they step inside and mumble a “Sorry for the intrusion.”
Mrs. Uraraka smiles at their politeness and gestures to the kitchen behind her. “Dinner is almost ready, if you start your homework now it’ll probably be done by the time you finish. Oh, Ochako dear, something came in the post for you this morning.”
Ochako smiles big and says, “It must be from Dad!” before turning to her friends. “He’s on a work trip right now in Keikei City but I made him promise to send me a postcard when he got there.” She hums to herself as she walks past her mother into the kitchen.
“You know,” Mrs. Uraraka almost whispers, like she’s sharing a juicy secret with Izuku and Tenya. “When she was little, Ochako thought her father’s name was Darling because that’s what I call him!”
Izuku’s blushing and has a hand over his mouth, but she continues. “On the day her Quirk manifested, she said, “Mom! Darling! Look, I’m a planet!” and it was just about the cutest thing in the world!”
“Mom, please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!” Ochako whines from the kitchen.
“Oh, I wouldn’t consider it embarrassing!” Tenya says, standing ramrod straight, shoulders back, but smiling nonetheless. “It serves as proof that Ochako grew up in a very loving home! It’s a testimony to your good parenting, Mrs. Uraraka!” he beams.
Once polite conversation has been made – complete with Izuku stammering a panicked “Th-thank you! Sorry for intruding!” – the three teenagers go upstairs and unpack their monstrous history textbooks. Aizawa will test them tomorrow on the effects of the economic crash on hero culture.
“What if there’s a practical part to the test? Wait, no,” Izuku mumbles, “You couldn’t possibly incorporate a physical component to a test on economics… Then again, Aizawa’s tests are usually unorthodox… Maybe All Might will have some tips about the specific effects on All For One…”
“Deku,” Ochako says, resting a hand on his shoulder. “Relax. There probably won’t be a physical part to the exam. And even if there is, it’s okay! I’ll just use my Quirk to send you up into the air so you don’t have to do the exam!” she says.
I’m strong enough to lift you up, Deku, don’t you worry, she doesn’t say.
“Thanks, Ochako. That puts me a little more at ease,” he sighs turning to her. “But if there is a physical part, let’s team up! How about we lift you up for a change? We’re stronger together, right Tenya?”
“But of course we are.” Tenya smiles proudly, pushing up his glasses with his index finger. “Not to worry, between the three of us we make a solid team.”
The two boys are so lost in their back and forth that they don’t notice Ochako’s sharp inhale.
“It’ll be like when we had to throw the baseball real far at the start of the year! Tenya, you hold Ochako up and start running towards me…”
How about we lift you up for a change?
“… and then when you get to me, I’ll use my Quirk and throw her as high as I can! That’s like flyng, right Ochako?”
She doesn’t answer. She can’t, not through the sniffles she’s holding back.
“Ochako?” Izuku asks again, softer this time.
She tries playing it off with laughter, but she can’t help it, she’s just so overwhelmed. She didn’t even realise she’d been waiting her whole life to hear someone say that. We’ll lift you up instead.
“S-Sorry, I’m… I’m just…” she sniffs. Her voice warbles. “I’m… really glad that we’re friends, that’s all.”
While her breathing is punctuated with staccato gasps, Izuku looks at Ochako fondly. He’s been here before, hearing what he has spent a lifetime waiting to hear.
Izuku pulls her hands away from her face, bending his head down so he can look up at her. Holding her hands, he says softly, “We’ll always be here to lift you up when you need it, okay? Always.”
Tenya’s presence had almost been forgotten, until he chimes in with, “And we’ll be there when gravity starts to take effect too.”
(“Tenya, that’s kind of depressing…”
“Depressing? Izuku, it’s the natural order of the universe! Newton’s First Law of Motion quite clearly states that an object in motion will stay in motion, unless…”)
The three of them – yes, all three of them, again, the inseparable trio – decide to take a not-so-short shortcut home past the beach one day. They deserve it. They’ve just finished yet another set of exams, and tomorrow’s a day off anyway.
The sun is setting and Izuku, Ochako, and Tenya have their socks removed and, in the boys’ case, rolled their school trousers up to the knee. Six ankles and shins are lightly coated with sand, which Tenya is not a bit pleased about.
“My Quirk’s payoff is that my exhaust pipes must be kept clear of any and all debris in order to function. This gritty, uncomfortable nonsense should not be allowed,” he grumbles.
Izuku feels a smile sliding into place. Leaning back on his arms, he inhales and exhales deeply, welcoming the pleasant stench of seawater and rotting seaweed. If someone had told him a year ago that right now he’d have friends, and that it’d be so easy to make those friends, he wouldn’t have believed them at all. Yet here he is. He wishes he could go back in time and tell his younger self to just be patient, because great things were coming. He breathes out the tension from his shoulders. The clouds over the horizon are calm, too. Rather than looming bulbous over the coast, they are relaxed wisps of a rainstorm that never was.
It’s probably the tranquil atmosphere washing over him that prompts him to say, “You know, when I was little, I thought Zero Gravity was my Quirk.”
Ochako’s eyes widen inquisitively and she starts to giggle. “Wow, trying to steal my thunder ever since you were a toddler, huh Deku?” They all laugh at that.
“What made you think that?” Ochako asks, examining her ice-cream thoroughly, trying to strategically decide where her next bite should be.
“Ah, it’s… kind of embarrassing. My Quirk, um, manifested kind of late, so for a while everyone thought I was Quirkless. I didn’t have many friends, apart from Kacchan. Everyone else mostly just stayed away from me, so I thought I was pushing them away by not having any gravity.”
“Deku…” Ochako says quietly, because she doesn’t know what else to say.
“Pathetic, right?” Izuku tries to laugh but it sounds wrong. “I didn’t even think it was because I was Quirkless. I actually thought that was my Quirk. You should have seen my dad’s face when I told him, he thought I was so dumb.”
“Izuku, you’re not pathetic,” Tenya says firmly. “You were a child who was subjected to a lot of cruelty and loneliness. You didn’t deserve it.”
Izuku pauses, and then asks something he’s been afraid to ask for a long time. “Would you guys still like me if I were Quirkless?”
The question stuns Tenya and Ochako into silence for a few seconds. They both frown at the sand, trying to formulate an answer. Their silence worsens Izuku’s dread. He hasn’t felt like this for a while. He hasn’t had to prepare himself for the worst like this in a while. He’d almost forgotten what this old ache in his chest felt like. It seems to hurt more when it comes from them. A difficult silence stretches out, the whispering of the waves weaving through it.
Ochako is the one to speak up. “Deku… if there’s one thing I know about, it’s gravity. It’s my Quirk, after all. Before I met you, I only thought of gravity as a vertical force – it brings down the things that are up. But that’s not it. That’s not how gravity works.” She finally lifts his gaze to his and her eyes are burning with resolve. “Gravity doesn’t work up and down. It works inwards. It’s focused towards a centre point. That’s you, Deku. You’re our centre point. I think… I know that, no matter what, me and Tenya would find our way to you, Quirk or Quirkless. We’re a team because of you.”
Tenya clears his throat and comforts in the only way he knows how. “In his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein describes gravity as something that exists as a consequence of curvature of the space-time continuum,” he states. “Ochako is correct. We would find our way to you, eventually. Whether because of our natural force of attraction or some outside workings of the universe – we’d find you.”
In that moment, Izuku isn’t sure what he feels for Ochako and Tenya – tiny words like happiness, joy, and gratitude don’t seem to reach as far as this feeling does – but he knows he’s feeling a lot of it, and he knows he wants to feel more of it in future.
“I’d find my way to you two as well,” he confirms. “Both of you.” He sits up and grabs both of their hands.
The tide is pulled slowly, lavishly, across the sand before it slides away again, unending.