Izuku flops down on the common room couch, almost landing in Shouto’s lap. He’s tired, mentally and physically, and he didn’t even attend all his classes today. Aizawa-sensei stopped him halfway through training and sent him back to the dorms for reasons that Izuku would rather not think about right now. He’s had quite enough of feeling things too deeply for today.
“Where’d you go?” Shouto asks, scooting over so that he can sit more comfortably without Shouto’s knee jabbing into his side.
“Third year dorms,” Izuku answers. “How was class?”
“Fine. Are you all right?”
“I am now,” Izuku says. “Kind of. I mean, I’m better than I was when I left.” He’d been dissociating pretty hard when he left, and when he finally came out of it, he’d been standing in front of the dorm building with Hadou’s borrowed key card. And after that... “I, uh. Worked some stuff out.”
“Oh. Good.” Shouto considers him for a moment, as if debating whether to ask what kind of stuff was worked out. “Do you… want to talk about it?”
“Not with you.” He’s still working out the tangle in his own head at the moment; the last thing he wants to do is try to wrestle it into coherent words. He looks over just in time to see Shouto’s crestfallen face, and realizes belatedly how that sounded. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I mean… this isn’t really a friends and loved ones kind of problem.”
Shouto frowns at him. “What kind of problem is it?”
Izuku’s tongue catches in his mouth, and for a moment he considers not telling him. There’s no real reason why he shouldn’t. None of their classmates are close enough to hear, and it’s Shouto. He can tell Shouto anything. But… it’s embarrassing. He knows it isn’t bad, he knows he needs it, he knows plenty of heroes need it, but that doesn’t stop his stomach from shriveling up at the thought of admitting it out loud.
“It’s… it’s a, uh.” Izuku swallows hard. “So. Here’s the thing. There’s been a lot happening, right?”
Shouto stares at him.
“To me, specifically. A lot.” Izuku shifts to sit crosslegged, their knees bumping. He speaks quietly and hopes that Shouji and Jirou aren’t eavesdropping. “There’s the dead people thing, and that’s been around for… a long time. And then there’s everything else this year. Kamino, and what happened at my internship…” His voice trails off.
Shouto keeps watching him carefully, as if checking to see if he’s hiding an injury. “Has something changed?” he asks.
“Sort of. Not a bad change, though,” he says quickly. “It’s just… see, Aizawa-sensei knows about all of it, and he decided that it’d be best if I… go to therapy.”
Shouto blinks, realization dawning in his eyes. “Oh,” he says, and lets out a short breath. “Oh. Good .”
“Yeah, good,” Izuku says, swallowing a sigh of relief. “I-I mean, that’s what Aizawa-sensei says. It’ll be good for me.”
“It should be, if you find the right therapist,” Shouto says, nodding. “Make sure you do. The first one isn’t always the best.”
Izuku stares at him.
Shouto shrugs. “That’s what my mother says. She went through two of them before she found one that really helped.”
“I don’t think he cared,” Shouto says with a touch of bitterness. “He just wanted to keep her from doing what she did again, and to send her away before the media found out. But it helped her to talk to people who knew how to help her. She’s been able to heal that way. Didn’t hurt to be away from him, too.”
“Aizawa-sensei said something like that,” Izuku says cautiously. “Not about your mom, of course. But he says a lot of pro heroes do it, and it’s an unofficial requirement for underground heroes.”
Shouto hums thoughtfully. “Makes sense. Are you nervous?”
“Sort of.” Izuku pauses. “Does your mom, um… say anything else about it?”
“Not a lot. It’s private. I think that’s the point." Shouto shoots him an encouraging look. "But it helps, that’s the main thing she says. It helps and you shouldn’t be ashamed, no matter what others think.”
Izuku nods. The snarl of thoughts in his head is set aside for now, and the ones that drift in to replace it are clearer. “What do you think?” he asks.
“I think it’ll help you, too,” Shouto says.
“What about you?”
Shouto’s brow wrinkles in confusion. “What about me?”
“I mean…" Izuku hesitates, gives himself one last chance to bail before he oversteps, and goes for it. "Have you ever considered it? That it might help you?”
He doesn’t get an answer right away. He’s not sure whether Shouto’s silence means he has or hasn’t thought about it before.
“It’s just,” Izuku continues before he can stop himself. “Your mom’s not the only one he hurt, so…”
“He hasn’t hurt me in a while,” Shouto says shortly. “I haven’t trained with him since we started living here.”
“Oh hey, are we talking about Endeavor?” Hino pokes his head through the door—literally through it. “Did you know he’s been blowing up the kid’s phone lately? He’s been left on read for weeks, but he won’t take the hint.”
As if on cue, Shouto’s phone chimes. He checks it, scowls, and shoves it under his pillow.
“It’s not important,” Shouto says. “He’s just texting me, that’s nothing compared to everything else he’s done. It’s nothing compared to everything that’s happened to you .”
“It’s not a contest,” Izuku says dryly.
Shouto doesn’t answer.
“It’s just…” Izuku finds himself running his finger along the scars on his hand, tracing the lines from one end to the other. “When we first met, you weren’t exactly in a good place. You’re not in that place anymore, you’re—I think you’re—I hope you’re somewhere better, it feels like you are, but…”
“I am,” Shouto says. “Thanks to you.”
Izuku smiles weakly at him. “I’m glad I could help,” he says. “But I’m not that good.”
Shouto doesn’t agree out loud. But he does look thoughtful.
Coming here isn’t solely for Izuku’s own benefit. Obviously this is good for him and he has to do it for his own sake, but.
He’s also holding Eri’s hand as they cross the parking lot with Aizawa-sensei. She huddles close, and he won’t be able to stay with her the whole time, but he’s with her now, and it’s enough to get her in the door. Rei hovers on the other side of her, unseen, but Eri knows she’s there. Izuku made sure to tell her; it seems to comfort her.
Jihi Hospital looks no different from any other hospital that Izuku has ever seen. That’s the way it should be, heaven forbid they advertise it as a tempting target, but part of him feels that a hospital that caters almost exclusively to pro heroes and their families should at least look the part. Extra patrols, more security, something like that.
He mentions as much to Aizawa, who snorts. “Who says there aren't any?” He doesn’t elaborate.
Eri’s hand trembles in Izuku's as Aizawa leads them inside to the lobby, and Izuku draws her close while Aizawa speaks with the receptionist. She's not any less nervous than she was when she first got in the car.
“Are you sure you can’t stay with me?” she whispers, when Aizawa leaves the front desk to lead them down the first hallway. They’ll be in the same wing but different rooms. They might not even finish at the same time.
Izuku’s heart twists painfully. The first thing she ever said to him was a plea for him to stay; breaking that now feels wrong. “Aizawa will be with you,” he reminds her. “If you don’t feel good talking to the doctor, you can tell him, and he’ll take you to the room I’m in so you can wait for me.” She looks uncertain, which is better than terrified. “You know, Rei could stay with you again. You wouldn’t be able to see her, but she’d be with you. Would that make it better?”
Eri thinks this over, apparently very deeply, before finally shaking her head. “I have Aizawa-san,” she says softly. “If I have Rei too, then you won’t have anyone.”
Not entirely true; hospitals are never totally free of ghosts. But they’re all strangers to him, so Eri still has a point. “All right,” he says. “If you’re sure.”
She nods, her mouth tight and determined. It’s the same look she had when she tried to give herself up to Compress, and when she unleashed her power on Chisaki.
“You know something, Eri?” he says. “You’re one of the bravest people I’ve ever met.” She stares at him, shocked and confused, and he just smiles. “Remember, this is meant to help you. If it doesn’t, then you don’t have to stay. All you have to do is try.”
Eri nods and doesn’t protest again. She also doesn’t let go of his hand until the very last minute, when they absolutely have to.
“If your session finishes first, just wait outside,” Aizawa tells him when they're all called in. “Don’t wander off.”
It goes… not badly. The bar was already low: all Izuku wanted to do was tell her about his quirk without being laughed out of her office or squinted at and questioned about where he thought these delusions might be coming from. Dr. Kanayama does none of those things. She listens, she nods along like it’s the most perfectly sane thing in the world, and only barely smiles when Izuku stumbles over his disbelief.
(“It isn’t that outrageous,” she says matter-of-factly. “If a man can involuntarily warp into various alternate dimensions, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be communicating with the dead. I am not a quirk counselor, and it is not my job to question your abilities. I’m here to give you the tools your need to sort it out how you see best.”)
So it goes well. So well, in fact, that it ends a little early with Izuku running out of mental energy and things to say to her. He’s tired, but comfortably so. He feels helped.
He does make an earnest attempt to stay close to the other door; he really does. But he also really needs to go to the bathroom, and finding it hardly qualifies as “wandering off”, right? Aizawa can’t possibly get mad at him for using the facilities.
It’s just, he loses track of the route and Rei wanders off to bother some of the ghosts in the hospital, and he gets turned around on the way back. He’s furiously embarrassed by the time he realizes he doesn’t know how to get back, because of all the possible reasons to disobey Aizawa, this is definitely the dumbest.
Grumbling to himself, he glances around for Rei, or even a ghost that he doesn’t know, because anyone who haunts this place probably knows their way around. Soon enough, a pale figure slips around a corner, looking around furtively, and Izuku opens his mouth to call out to them.
A familiar face turns to him, and Hino freezes where he stands.
Izuku stares at him. “What are you—?”
“Shit. ” Immediately Hino’s shoving at him. “Go, go, you need to get out of here, right now.” He’s urgent but not scared, which only leaves Izuku confused as he stumbles to obey. There’s probably no danger, but then why…?
“Don’t freak out,” Hino hisses by his ear, as a second figure steps out from around the same corner.
Unlike Hino, this one is alive. Like Hino, he is also familiar, in spite of the medical mask covering the worst of the scars. There's no mistaking those eyes.
Izuku tenses as he’s grabbed and pulled out of the main hallway. His back hits the wall, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to jolt his hold of One For All. Dabi looms over him, glaring over the edge of the mask. He looks different when he’s dressed in baggy street clothes, his hair red and reeking of fresh dye. Not different enough for Izuku to forget being punched and kicked on a warehouse floor, but different enough that the average civilian wouldn’t recognize him.
Izuku glares up at him, tense but not terrified. Dabi isn’t like Toga, or like Compress. He doesn’t dig into any old traumas, and he’s never shown much interest in Izuku himself beyond his obligations as a member of the League. But he’s also an unknown. Izuku doesn’t know what he wants, or why.
Then again, he can guess.
“Don’t yell,” Dabi growls at him. He doesn’t follow it up with a threat, but seeing as they’re standing in a hospital, he doesn’t really need to. “No point. For once, I’m not here to start anything.”
“What do you want?” Izuku asks, proud of himself for keeping his voice steady. Maybe therapy really does help with regulating his emotions. “What are you doing here?”
After a moment, Dabi lets go and steps back, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets. Between the clothes and the slouch, he almost looks like a normal twenty-something. It's surreal.
“Like you need to ask me that,” the villain says, almost sullen. “What’re you so pissy about? I’m just following your advice.” Izuku’s confusion must show on his face, because Dabi makes a scornful noise. “What, you don’t know where you are right now?”
“Jihi Hospital?” Izuku almost forgets to be suspicious, because if he didn’t know better, he’d think they were having a civilized conversation.
“Really? That's all you got?” Dabi glares at him. “Guess it didn’t mean much that Shigaraki thought you were smart.”
Izuku’s eyes flicker toward Hino. The ghost hovers nearby, looking anxiously from one of them to the other. When he catches Izuku looking, he winces. “My sister’s here,” he says. “Fifth floor. He really isn’t doing anything; I’ve been watching.”
The confusion lasts a split second longer before Izuku remembers the last time he was face to face with Dabi. He sucks in a breath. “You’re visiting your mother,” he realizes. “I didn’t know she was here.”
“Yeah, you and the rest of the country,” Dabi spits.
“Seems like a risk,” Izuku says cautiously. Dabi rolls his eyes. “For Endeavor, I mean. Putting his dirty secret in a hospital that’s crawling with other heroes.”
Dabi’s eyes narrow. “Nobody asks about the permanent patients,” he says. “Secure hospital, secure records. Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Since we’re talking about how secure this place is,” Izuku says, “tell me why I shouldn’t start yelling to the nearest pros that there's a League member here.”
“Uhh, actually—” Hino begins.
“Because we’re in a hospital, and I’m a villain,” Dabi says, raising an eyebrow.
“A hospital with your mom in it,” Izuku says.
Dabi actually growls at him. “Fine. Because I'm not in the League anymore.”
“Do you know why?” Dabi asks. “Because there is no League. The shadow leader and the brains are dead. Shigaraki’s shithouse-rat crazy. The rest are being picked off one by one—Magne’s dead, and Compress and Toga are headed to prison. There was one thing I wanted out of that mess, and I can tell I’m not getting it. Not from Shigaraki.”
“You don’t have to be in the League to be a villain,” Izuku retorts.
Dabi’s eyes glint. “Dabi’s a villain,” he says. “Good thing no one knows who Dabi is, hm? No one but you.” He steps closer again. “So, we’re at an impasse. Like you said, this place is crawling with heroes, so I probably don’t have time to cook your brain and get out before this places slams into emergency mode. And even if I did, apparently my brother’s attached to you.” Izuku bristles. “What? Mom says he talks about you. Also, hurt him and I’ll boil the fluids in your eyeballs.”
Izuku’s temper flares. “Like you have any right to talk,” he snarls back.
“Shit, touched a nerve.” Dabi sounds amused. “Good. Did you tell him about me?”
“I should,” Izuku snaps.
“You can, if you like. It won’t matter now.” Dabi leans against the wall. “I’ll be laying low for a while. There are things I need to take care of—as Touya, not Dabi. In fact, I could use your help.”
“You’re asking me for a favor now?” Izuku asks dryly.
“You might like it,” Dabi says. “All you have to do is pass along a message to Endeavor when you get the chance. Tell him all about me. Tell him I’m watching. If he doesn’t believe you, remind him of what happened on March 8th when I was twelve.”
“Because I’m watching, and Dabi can always come back if I don’t like what I see.” Dabi’s eyes narrow like he’s smiling. “If he hurts Mother again. If he hurts Shouto. How would his new adoring fans react if they knew he raised a villain? He's no All-Might. His pillar's made of toothpicks, and it's not gonna take much to crack it.”
“Look me in the eye and tell me he doesn’t deserve it,” Dabi says coldly. “Tell me it’s not a small price to pay for everything he’s done.”
"It's the fallout I'd be worried about," Izuku shoots back. "Losing another number one hero right after All-Might? Like the world needs more chaos."
In a flash, Dabi is looming over him again, crowding him back against the wall. "I'd burn the world on a spit if it meant that bastard couldn't touch my family again," he snarls. "Keep that in mind. You get in the way, I'll burn you too. Whether Shouto forgives me for it or not."
"I'll keep that in mind," Izuku says coldly.
Dabi holds his glare for a few more seconds before, at last, he steps away. “Well, so long,” he says. “And who knows? If we’re both lucky, we might never see each other again. Or if we do, you’ll be calling me Touya.”
With that, he’s gone. Izuku watches him go, fists clenched, and doesn’t shout for the nearest heroes. He doesn’t raise any alarms.
He probably should.
But he doesn’t.
“Thank you,” Hino breathes.
“There’s only one reason I didn’t try to stop him,” Izuku says. “Of all the League members, Dabi was one of the only ones who never had ghosts.”
“I’ll tell you if that changes,” Hino says grimly.
Izuku looks at him, surprised. It’s rare to hear him so serious.
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” the ghost assures him. “I don’t have to worry about Shouto; you have him handled. But Touya…”
“Thank you,” Izuku says.
“Are you going to do what he says?” Hino asks. “‘Cause I'm pretty sure that’d be blackmail. Not that Endeavor doesn’t deserve it and more, but…”
“I’m not going to blackmail him,” Izuku says calmly. Innocently. “I’m going to tell him who Dabi is, because as the number one hero, he should know. And I might remind him about what that means for him, because he should know that too. If he wants to take ‘blackmail’ from that, then that’s on him, not me.”
Shouto too, he thinks. Shouto deserves to know. Shouto deserves a say in what to do about it.
Rei finds him again shortly after that, and Izuku finds his way back just in time to see Aizawa stepping out with Eri at his heels, followed by a woman that Izuku assumes to be the child therapist assigned to her. He assumes that until another man follows her out, which leaves him wondering why there were two of them.
Aizawa catches sight of him walking back instead of waiting outside, and raises an eyebrow.
“I was in the bathroom,” Izuku says. The encounter with Dabi lingers in the back of his throat, and he weighs the pros and cons of speaking up before putting it in the “ask Shouto” file. Explaining the situation with Dabi means explaining the situation with Shouto and Endeavor.
Aizawa nods at him, then steps away to speak with the woman. Eri clings to his leg and follows, glancing back at Izuku as if weighing her options before deciding to stay put for now. Izuku can’t help but smile.
“You must be Deku.”
Izuku turns to the man, surprised but not alarmed. He’s not expecting to be addressed, but the man has a calming presence that keeps Izuku from getting uncomfortable over it. His eyes are a strange shade of yellow, and there’s a nick through his eyebrow, but his smile is soft and pleasant as he dips in a little bow of greeting. “Excuse my forwardness. But Eri-chan talked a lot about you during her session with Dr. Watanabe. She trusts you very much.”
“Oh,” Izuku says, still puzzled. He shoots a look at Rei, just for someone to share his confusion with, only to find her staring at the man with a blank look on her face. She doesn’t even notice him looking over. “Er, sorry, but Dr. Watanabe is Eri’s therapist, right?”
“That’s right,” the man says. “I’m a quirk counselor myself, but Watanabe and I often work together. Unique and high-risk quirks are my specialty, so she called me in to help with Eri-chan.”
“Oh.” Confusion neutralized, Izuku shifts into a more comfortable stance. The only odd thing left about the man isn’t even his fault; it’s the fact that Rei hasn’t started poking at him yet. “Yeah, Eri’s quirk is… something.”
“So is Eri-chan herself.” The man casts a soft look in her direction. “She has a ways to go, but she’s survived a lot for a little girl her age.” He sighs a little. “She’s so small, though. My Hitomi’s about that age.”
“I see.” It takes a moment for Izuku to register it. “Wait, sorry, who?”
“My daughter Hitomi,” the man says with a crooked grin. “She’s about six now. Old enough for me to really start worrying. But it feels better knowing there are heroes like you ready to walk the streets.”
Izuku’s heart quickens, and it shouldn’t, because it’s just a name. There are hundreds of girls with that name, so why—? “Sorry, what did you say your name was?”
“Ah.” He shakes his head, embarrassed. “Forgive me, my mind’s all over the place. I’m Morigawa Shizuo.”
He can feel the air around Rei vibrate. Her hair twists and curls like tangled snakes. She doesn’t take her eyes off of the man in front of them.
“Morigawa Hitomi,” Izuku whispers.
“N-nothing,” Izuku says. “Just… it’s a nice name, that’s all.”
Morigawa Shizuo’s face softens. For a moment, his eyes are distant. Yellow eyes, Izuku realizes. Yellow eyes and black hair.
“My older sister’s name,” he says. “Or at least it was. Maybe she has a different one now.”
“Oh?” Izuku answers. His own voice sounds very far away.
“Yes.” Morigawa purses his lips, as if wondering whether or not to continue. “She had a quirk that was simple, in its own right. Amplifying emotions. It was my opposite, in fact; I calm them. And the home that we grew up in was… not the best, for a quirk like hers. Our parents made a certain decision when I was far too young to do anything about it, and didn’t keep the paperwork afterward." He clears his throat. “So, Eri hits close to home for me.”
Behind his calm face, Izuku is reeling .
Out loud, he says, “You still remember her? Your sister?”
“Of course.” Morigawa smiles ruefully. “I think about her all the time. That’s why I’m here, you know. Helping children manage difficult quirks, so fewer parents make the same decision as mine, or Eri’s mother for that matter.”
“Oh,” Izuku says faintly.
“I don’t know where she is now,” Morigawa says. “Perhaps I’ll never know. But I hope she found her way to people who love her.”
Izuku can’t speak through the tightness in his throat, so he nods instead.
“Well, Eri’s in good hands, both here and with you,” Morigawa says. “Have a good day, Deku-kun. I hope to see you and Eri-chan again soon.”
He turns to leave, feeling nothing when Rei's hand catches at his sleeve and passes through it. She keeps her hand out as he walks away, reaching but not following.
"Rei?" he murmurs. "Rei, is that...?"
Her lips barely move, but her whisper reaches Izuku’s ears.
“He’s so big now.”
It’s about time for them to leave, and Eri brightens at Izuku’s approach. “Deku-san!” Her face falls when she looks at him. “Deku-san? Are you crying?”
Oh. So he is.
“It’s fine,” he tells her. “I think I just found out something happy.”
It is happy, isn’t it? It’s a happy thing, that someone remembers.
That someone cared about Morigawa Hitomi.
“Let’s talk,” he says, and Nighteye flickers the way most ghosts do when they’re startled.
“Oh,” Nighteye says, surprised and relieved and hopeful and worried all at once.
From that point on, Izuku’s jog becomes a walk, not that he minds much. The UA campus is very nice, especially once you hit the surrounding trees. It’s like an arboretum all the way down the hill, which makes for better jogging scenery than a treadmill in a gym. The perfect place to wander along the paths and talk to thin air.
“Have you been okay?” he asks.
“As well as can be expected,” Nighteye answers, still with an air of faint surprise. “The others have been… welcoming. Shimura and Ingenium especially.”
“Yeah, they’re pretty great." Izuku grins, falling silent as he considers what to say. He hasn't talked to Nighteye much since... since the hospital really, and he knows that he should. He's tired of being at odds with him, and he's tired of feeling the remains of their conflict hanging over his head along with everything that came out of Nighteye's death. It's not that he doesn't blame himself for what happened anymore; he sort of does, and he sort of always will. There's a part of him that keeps running through every detail of the fight, pointing out every little mistake he could have fixed, and maybe no amount of pep talks and therapy will make it go away forever.
“Thank you,” Nighteye says, quiet but emphatic. “For what you did for Mirio and me. That was kind of you.”
Izuku makes a noncommittal noise. He doesn’t want to talk about what happened with Mirio, mostly because of what happened before he brought Nighteye into it. He hasn’t even told All-Might about what he offered to do, and he would be perfectly happy pretending that it never happened.
“Would you really have given One For All to Mirio, if he’d said yes?” Nighteye asks.
“At that point, probably,” Izuku admits. “And I definitely would have regretted it. It was stupid, and I’m glad he had the common sense to tell me I was an idiot.”
“He told you no such thing,” Nighteye informs him. “You’re not an idiot. You’re a sixteen-year-old boy and you’d just experienced something terrible. You panicked and tried to over-correct. It happens.”
Izuku tenses, if only because he’s not used to Nighteye trying to be comforting. It’s not bad, just odd and unfamiliar. “My therapist said something like that,” he admits, forcing himself loose again.
“Well, good,” Nighteye grumbles a little. “It’s long overdue that you had one, in my opinion.”
“I still have a long way to go,” Izuku admits. “There’s… a lot to get through.”
“You have a lot of healing and growing to do ,” Nighteye says. “I may have acted the fool, but even I could see that before." He pauses. "Hopefully the first lesson you learn is how to value your own safety.”
“Anything’s possible,” Izuku says with a shrug.
He doesn’t mean much of anything by it, but Nighteye turns to consider him for a moment. He’s almost smiling, and Izuku can count the number of times Nighteye has smiled at him on one hand. “Yes,” Nighteye remarks, almost talking to himself. “I’m coming to realize that, with you.”
And that’s almost a compliment, which is a step further than almost a smile. Izuku looks away, hoping his embarrassment doesn’t show on his face.
(Regret, too, because if he were really capable of impossible things, then Nighteye would still be alive—)
“I’m not just saying that,” Nighteye says. “You are impossible, and not just because you’re Eraserhead’s ‘problem child’. Nothing about you is probable or likely. After six years of playing things safe, you can imagine my frustration.”
“I didn’t have to,” Izuku says dryly. It’s a low blow, enough to make Nighteye flicker and wince, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
“I suppose not,” Nighteye admits, subdued. “And I am sorry. I know that I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Most of my frustrations had nothing to do with you, but you bore them anyway. And now…” He hesitates. “Now I have a chance to right my wrongs, and I wouldn’t if it weren’t for you.”
“It’s what I do,” Izuku says with a shrug. “You’re not special.”
“No,” Nighteye agrees. “No, you’d do this for any spirit who asked, wouldn’t you?”
“I mean, within reason,” Izuku answers. “I do have to sleep sometimes. But I do my best.”
Nighteye shakes his head wonderingly. “A while ago I compared this power of yours to autopsy, gathering information from the dead to bring them justice. But here you are, soothing restless spirits, putting souls to rest like a psychopomp. It’s remarkable.” He catches his breath, such that he has breath anymore. “I’m going to spend the rest of whatever this is kicking myself for not seeing it sooner.”
Better late than never, Izuku thinks. And the people around him can usually afford to be later than most.
He also thinks, Psychopomp. He’s never thought of a proper name for his quirk before, but he sort of likes the sound of that.
“And if that’s not enough, you had to go and twist the future,” Nighteye goes on. “You did, by the way. I saw Chisaki’s future play out. Your death, his escape from the tunnels. And none of it happened the way I saw it.”
“I have a theory about that, actually,” Izuku says. Nighteye falls silent, curious. “More like a hypothesis, and I don’t really have a way to test it. But it’s interesting to think about."
“What do you mean?” Nighteye asks.
“Your quirk has never made sense to me,” Izuku says. “The way All-Might described it, anyway. You use your quirk, look into someone’s future, and… what? That’s it? It can’t change? There's only ever one option? It can’t work that way. The world can’t work that way. If the future is just one path and one possibility for every choice then what about probability? What about the quirks that affect them?”
Nighteye doesn’t answer, either because he’s listening too closely or because he doesn’t have one. Izuku doesn’t think there is one.
“You used your quirk on Chisaki,” he goes on. “That’s when you saw the things you did. When did it start going off the rails?”
“When… he killed you,” Nighteye says. “You died differently, in my vision. And he met no resistance, just took Eri and left the tunnels. I assumed that my quirk didn’t account for your ability to circumvent death itself.”
“Could be that,” Izuku says. “Or it could have been what happened right before that. Did you see it?” He smiles. “Did you see when Eri used her quirk on him, and turned him all the way back to before he’d taken Trigger? Before you used your quirk on him?”
Nighteye stops. Izuku stops too.
“What if your quirk wasn’t just about showing you the future?” he asks. “What if it let you pick a path, too?”
Nighteye is gaping at him as the full weight of what Izuku is suggesting descends upon him.
“I don’t think I twisted the future to save Eri,” he says. “I think, in that moment, she saved herself.”
“But if that’s the case, then… everything terrible that I’ve ever seen was my own doing,” Nighteye whispers. “Midoriya—if that’s true, then if Toshinori still dies, it could be my fault. It would mean that I doomed him.”
“Maybe. Maybe I’m wrong. Honestly, I’m almost hoping I’m not.”
“How can you say that?” Nighteye demands.
“Because it's just a quirk,” Izuku says. “I know about quirks and how they function. I know they have limits. If saving All-Might means fighting against some cosmic destiny, well, I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to fight against fate or destiny. I don’t know how to fight against the universe.” He looks sidelong at Nighteye. “But I think I could take you.”
Nighteye chokes out a laugh.
It doesn’t happen the way it did the first time. A city park is not a crowded mall. Fewer people, fewer risks other than himself. He isn’t caught off guard. He sees it coming long before it happens. A not-insignificant part of him almost wants it to happen. After all, it’s not as if he’d be facing it alone.
He’s never alone.
He’s sitting on a park bench, with an off-campus pass in his coat pocket and a bag of groceries hanging in his hands, breathing clouds of mist into the chilly air. He used to do this when he was tiny, pretending he could breathe fire just for fun. He sniffles, wrinkling his nose against the cold. The bench creaks as someone sits beside him.
“Hello, Shigaraki,” says Izuku.
The villain hisses beside him. “You knew I was coming.” His voice is a low, grating rasp. “Why didn’t you run and get help?”
“Same reason you’re here,” Izuku replies. “Thought it’d be nice to talk.”
He shoots a glance at Shigaraki again. For a villain with such a menacing reputation, he doesn’t have a lot of ghosts. It’s almost as if they avoid him. Izuku has to wonder if any ghosts still exist on earth that truly know him—that knew Shimura Tenko before he was Shigaraki Tomura.
“So how’ve you been?” Izuku asks. “I’ve been good, I guess. Therapy helps a lot. You should try it.”
Shigaraki snarls quietly. “Everyone’s gone.”
“First Magne got herself killed. Then you shits took Compress and Toga. Don’t know where the hell Dabi went. Spinner and Twice still hang around, but I know it won’t be long. I know it.”
“Sounds lonely,” Izuku says.
“I can start over,” Shigaraki says simply. “Build up a new league. Claw my way back to the top. You think I can’t?”
“I think a lot of things about you,” Izuku admits.
“Yeah? Like what?”
“I think something terrible happened to you,” Izuku replies. “I don’t know what. I haven’t met anyone who knows.”
Shigaraki coils up like a spring-loaded snake, tense and angry. “What’s it to you?”
“I’ll find out eventually,” Izuku tells him. “I want to know before I figure out what to do. What to fix, if it can be fixed.”
The villain goes quiet, though his coiled-spring spine doesn’t relax.
“It can’t,” he says, almost uncharacteristically quiet.
“Won’t know that until I try,” Izuku says.
Shigaraki rounds on him, his ravaged face twisted in a menacing scowl. “What, you think you can sweet-talk me? Bat your little eyes and turn me good?” He bares his teeth. “Don’t make me laugh. You can’t… speech me into stopping. Sensei made me new. Whatever I was before then—that’s dead .”
Izuku laughs. “Maybe I have a chance then,” he says. “I’ve spent my whole life helping people who were past saving.”
“I could kill you first. I could kill you right now.”
“I guess you have a point,” Izuku admits. “There’s nothing I can do if you don’t want to listen.” Something settles inside of him. “And I can’t afford to risk people’s lives by trying. At the end of the day, I have a job to do, and you’re a danger to the people around you no matter who they are.”
His head is clear when he gets up from the bench. The bag in his hand swings heavy; the snack cabinet at the dorms needs restocking. His classmates might worry if he takes much longer.
“There are two ways I see this playing out,” he says to the man who used to be a child named Shimura Tenko, before All For One took him and twisted him into something new and vindictive and terrible. “I’m either going to take you down like any other villain, or I’m going to save you like any other victim. When I’m done, you won’t be a danger to anyone anymore." He smiles. "It’s really up to you to decide what that means.”
He feels light when he leaves. Relieved. When he looks back, the bench is empty and Shigaraki Tomura is gone.
It’s not fear that makes him run the rest of the way to UA. He simply doesn’t want to keep anyone waiting.
“It’s not that I’m not honored to be here for your rite of passage or whatever this is,” Tsuyu says. “I’m very glad to be in the fold. Really, I am.” She pauses, considering her next words. “But we are sneaking onto a school campus.”
“I have to agree,” Iida says weakly. He would probably put up more of a fuss, but he did attack a serial killer without a license once, so his position as a moral authority is a little weakened.
“I’m not worried,” Uraraka chips in helpfully.
“Ochako-chan, why \.”
“I dunno, but Todoroki’s my gauge,” she says. “He and Izuku are like, soulmates or whatever, so if he’s fine with Izuku doing this then so am I.”
The three of them turn to Shouto, who stares back at them blankly.
“I’m just thinking about how we might get in trouble if we’re caught,” Tsuyu says. “I know it’s a Sunday, but some faculty do work on weekends, you know.”
“Don’t worry,” Izuku assures them all from his position at the head of the pack. “If there’s one thing I remember about this place, it’s that they’ll let you get away with anything as long as you might become a hero in the future.” There’s a bite to his tone that makes little sense to anyone but Shouto.
And the ghosts, of course. The ghosts always know what’s going on, because there’s no keeping secrets from them.
“Still,” Iida says cautiously. “Midoriya, I know you said that you talked to your therapist about facing old fears in a new context, but I don’t see what that has to do with sneaking onto an elementary school campus.”
Izuku doesn’t respond, unless exchanging a meaningful look with Shouto counts as a response. (Hint: it doesn’t.)
He once walked these halls surrounded with people but all alone aside from Rei. Now he’s surrounded by friends, both living and dead. He even has heroes with him, for all that they’re dead. Of course, for what he’s about to do, being dead is an advantage for once.
Either way, he’s not alone. That’s sort of the point of this.
He still remembers it, even after nine years. It’s halfway between his old classroom and the cafeteria, along the quickest path that he always avoided. The old fear creeps in, because of course it does. But Shouto is letting him squeeze his hand, and Rei is squeezing his other. He’s surrounded by friends, and maybe—
Maybe, at this point, he can honestly say that he’s faced worse.
When they reach it, he stops. He looks at it, then left and right, taking in the hallway and its half-familiar walls. It’s been years, and it still matches his memory.
Even the sounds coming from behind the door are the same. And yet, they couldn't be more different. He remembers them being impossibly loud, full of vengeance and hatred and old, festering malice.
He’s heard worse. Far worse.
He’s even caused worse, to be perfectly honest.
“I don’t get it,” Tsuyu says cautiously. “It’s a janitor’s closet, isn’t it?”
“There’s something special about it, right?” Ochako asks. “What are we doing here?”
Izuku looks back to the others. A smile crosses his face when he sees them all still with him. He lets go of Shouto’s hand.
“Exorcising old ghosts,” he answers.
His hand trembles a little as it approaches the handle. He breathes, and it stills.
He opens the door.