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Second Look

Chapter Text

art by Savvage

 

“Is it possible to become a hero even if I have a useless quirk?!” 

 

He couldn’t look, didn’t have the strength to see the same pity and annoyance his question usually brought to peoples’ faces. Not on his face. All Might, the Symbol of Peace, the number one hero, Izuku’s idol. If he looked at Izuku the same way his mother, his teachers, and Kacchan did… well. That would be it, wouldn’t it. 

 

The shadow of the hero in front of him hadn’t moved away, and he hadn’t said no yet… 

 

“I’m a normal kid; my power is really nothing special. Could I ever hope to be someone like you?” He braced himself for what felt like the inevitable, but he had to know

 

Silence at first, and the ever-present spark of hope in Izuku flared as the hero considered his question. 

 

“With a useless quirk…” All Might still hadn’t left, and it looked like he was willing to indulge Izuku a little longer.

 

The wind carried the sound of the city below up to their rooftop as it blew gently through Izuku’s hair. Parts of it were still sticking to his skin uncomfortably, either from sweat or the slime villain he didn’t know. He pushed that out of his mind, though he made a mental note to take a particularly vigorous shower when he got home. Just in case. 

 

Other than the normal city noise, though, the hero before him had fallen silent once more. Maybe he was actually listening. Izuku clung to hope, had to clutch it close with all his strength. If he could make his case, if he could just show All Might why he wanted it so badly, maybe it wouldn’t matter that life had given him one of the most worthless quirks Izuku had ever heard of.

 

“People think I don’t have a chance, that not having a powerful quirk—or even a marginally useful one—makes me some kind of weakling. My classmates like to make fun of me…” A truth he hadn’t even really told his mom before, but he needed All Might to understand. “But you know what? That makes me want to prove them wrong. Ever since I was a kid I thought saving people was the coolest thing you can do.” Even though he hadn’t gathered the strength to look up at All Might’s face, he could feel the smile on his own begin to grow. Nothing made him happier than the thought of being a hero, saving people, just like the man in front of him. “I want people to see my fearless smile and feel safe, and be the kind of hero everyone in the world looks up to. Just like you!”

 

In an instant, the warmth of sharing his dream evaporated as he finally looked up. Instead of the broad shoulders and muscle-bound figure of All Might, he saw a skeleton of a man hunched over nearly in half. Instead of the iconic, upright bangs of his idol, he saw a messy mop of tangles over dark, sunken eyes.

 

Izuku was floored, stunned and stuttering in his confusion. He tried to deny what was in front of him, but the man himself confirmed he was—really and truly—All Might. The blood pouring from his mouth almost sent Izuku into a second panic, but he forced himself to calm down. 

 

The evidence was right in front of him, after all. He arrived on the roof with All Might, and the man was many things but quiet wasn’t one of them. Even his footsteps against the concrete were pounding echoes, reflective of his enormous presence. He hadn’t slipped away when Izuku wasn’t looking. In addition, the thin, sickly person before him was wearing the same white shirt and olive cargo pants, the same belt, and all of his clothes hung loosely from his frame, obviously meant to fit a much larger body. Even deflated, his hair had two long sections in the front, reminiscent of All Might’s signature bangs.

 

This shell of a man was All Might.

 

Then he sat down with an almost defeated sigh, “There’s plenty of fear behind that smile, kid.”

 

Surprised by the admission, Izuku took a tentative step forward and sat down across from the undersized hero.

 

“I’m counting on you to keep your mouth shut.” All Might continued. “Don’t go talking about this online or to your friends.”

 

“Promise.” Izuku whispered, still in too much shock to speak up.

 

When All Might lifted the edge of his shirt, Izuku reeled back at the gruesome scar that was suddenly exposed. Once he was over the initial shock, however, his curiosity took over and he leaned in. The scar took up almost the entirety of the man’s torso along his left side, leaving a crater the size of a golf ball near the bottom of his ribcage. The scar tissue branched out from there like a starburst. Izuku could even make out marks left from the stitches used to sew the skin back together. The skin itself was a mottled pink and purple, like a persistent bruise. 

 

“I got this in a big fight about five years back. My respiratory system was basically destroyed and I lost my whole stomach. All the surgeries have pretty much worn me out, and it can’t be fixed.” The small break in All Might’s voice at that admission sent a lump into Izuku’s throat that he quickly tried to swallow down as the man dropped the edge of his shirt, hiding the scar once more. “Right now, I can only do hero work for about three hours a day. Rest of the time? This is what I look like.”

 

“No way!” Three hours a day? That was impossible! Sure All Might hadn’t been seen in the hero circuit as often as he used to but…three hours? That was it? How had no one noticed? Who had done this to the number one hero?! Izuku thought back quickly. “Five years ago… So does that mean it was the fight with Toxic Chainsaw?”

 

That didn’t seem likely. From what Izuku remembered, All Might had won that fight pretty handily, but it was the only fight big enough that Izuku could remember.

 

“Wow, you know your stuff.” All Might sounded a little impressed. “But no, the punk may have landed some hits, but he couldn’t bring me down. Most of the world has never heard of this fight. I did everything I could to keep it under wraps.” 

 

Well, Izuku’s faith in his ability to analyze a fight was restored at least. Still… A bad guy so strong that he did permanent damage to All Might… Izuku hadn’t thought such a villain existed.

 

As he continued, All Might looked away from Izuku, maybe out of some sense of shame in admitting his vulnerability. “I’m supposed to be the guy that’s always smiling, right? I’m the Symbol of Peace. People everywhere have to believe I’m never afraid, but honestly? I smile to hide the fear inside. It’s just a brave face I put on when the pressure is high.” When he did look back at Izuku, the hero’s face hardened in resolve. The sudden change was enough to make Izuku jump a little. 

 

“This job isn’t easy. Pro Heroes are always having to risk their lives. Some villains just can’t be beaten without powers. So can you be a hero? Not without a useful quirk.”

 

It felt like he’d been dunked into ice water. His breath caught, his limbs went numb, and he felt cold all over despite the day’s heat.

 

That was it… All Might himself told him so. 

 

“I…see…” 

 

All Might stood and took a step towards the roof access door. “If you want to help people, there are plenty of other ways to do it,” he offered, not unkindly. “You could become a police officer. They get crap because the heroes capture most of the villains, but it's a fine profession.”

 

Izuku just sat on the concrete, still too numb to stand, but he looked over to All Might when the hero opened the door with a screech. 

 

Maybe something in his eyes gave away how utterly devastated he was feeling, because All Might sighed and looked away. “It’s not bad to have a dream, young man. Just…make sure your dreams are attainable. Realistic. Understand?”

 

Before Izuku could force a reply through the swirling knot of despair in his throat, All Might left, closing the door behind him.

 

Alone on the rooftop, Izuku sat still as a statue until an explosion about ten blocks away shook him out of his stupor. He shot to his feet and headed for the door, ready to race to the scene and watch the pros at work, until… 

 

He remembered. There was no point in learning how to be a hero. Chasing villain attacks and copying notes in his notebooks was pointless if he couldn’t apply that knowledge to something worthwhile. If he couldn’t be a hero, then what else was it for? Maybe it really was just a dumb, useless hobby like Kacchan had told him over and over again.

 

Izuku wiped the stray tears off his cheeks and set off for home.

 

But years and years of habit and stubborn determination wouldn’t just vanish with a single conversation, no matter how devastating, apparently. Izuku’s feet had carried him toward the villain attack. He registered with mild surprise that it was still going on; he’d dragged his feet getting here, and it wasn’t exactly close to the rooftop. Curious, he made his way through the throngs of bystanders to get a look at what was taking so long.

 

The alley was on fire. Pros were doing what they could to keep people safe and mitigate the spread, but no one was taking on the source of the problem. In the center of the alley, screaming and laughing with malice, the slime villain wreaked havoc. The same slime villain that had tried to take Izuku in the underpass, that had been defeated and captured by All Might, was here causing more trouble! Did that mean it escaped? But how? When? 

 

Thinking back, Izuku realized that he hadn’t seen the bottles All Might had kept the villain contained in once they were on the roof. It must have fallen out of his pocket when they were airborne, but just jumping wouldn’t have done that. No… It must have been when All Might tried to get Izuku to let go, before realizing that would be a bad idea mid air. Which meant…

 

“This is my fault.” Izuku whispered, horrified.

 

The crowd didn’t hear him, too focused on what was going down in the alley to pay attention to the worthless kid choking on his own guilt behind them. Listening to their despair, how no one was helping the sludge villain’s victim, Izuku only felt worse and worse. His desperation to talk to All Might, to ask him his stupid question, had caused the villain to escape and take another kid hostage.

 

How could he have been so naive?

 

It was then that Izuku saw what was causing the explosions, or, more accurately, who . “Kacchan!” 

 

Without a thought, Izuku raced into the alley dodging civilians and pros as they tried to stop him. The fire was blisteringly hot, all too familiar, but he ignored it as he sprinted forward. He had to do something; this was all his fault, and now Kacchan was paying the price for his mistake. 

 

But he needed a plan. As his feet carried him forward, his mind supplied him with a strategy, something he’d learned over all those years watching heroes fight. He tore his backpack off and hurled it at the sludge villain, aiming for the one solid point on its body, the one place that wouldn’t just immediately swamp the projectile in slime: its eye. 

 

With a howl of pain, the sludge villain flinched away, letting Kacchan break through enough to take a much needed breath of air and buying time for Izuku to close the remaining distance between them. As Kacchan gasped and coughed, Izuku began trying to tear his way through the slime to get to his friend.

 

“What the hell are you doing here!?” the fiery blonde demanded.

 

“I couldn’t just stand there and watch you die!” Izuku shouted back. It was futile, he knew it was pointless, but he kept digging, trying to reach Kacchan, trying to get a grip on his shirt or something solid to pull him out. 

 

The villain recovered from his distraction and redoubled its efforts to take Kacchan, dragging him deeper into its viscous body as it raised an enormous fist to bring an end to Izuku’s meddling. 

 

Izuku heard the slam of the sludge villain’s punch, but it hadn’t connected with him. Instead, All Might, back in his heroic form, stood between Izuku and danger. He grabbed onto both Izuku and Kacchan with one mighty hand and then sent a Detroit Smash into the villain’s face with the other. The resulting burst of wind completely blew the villain apart, freeing Kacchan entirely and putting out the surrounding flames.

 

As the number one hero released them, the other pros dragged the two of them off in separate directions. Kacchan was praised for his bravery and impressive quirk, while Izuku was scolded for getting in the way.

 

It was less than he deserved. It was his fault this had happened, after all, so he took their harsh words without complaint and headed home as soon as he was allowed.

 

He was almost home when Kacchan caught up to him. If Izuku thought a thank you was coming, he would be disappointed, but this was Kacchan, so he wasn’t all that surprised when the blonde just yelled at him instead. That was pretty standard for their relationship, after all. 

 

All Might’s arrival was much more surprising. 

 

Once he’d dropped his hero form and boisterous attitude—Izuku wondered if part of his personality changed with the transformation or if he was just used to being bigger in general while in the other form—he did something that Izuku was not expecting.

 

“Young man, I came here to thank you, and also to discuss your question from earlier,” All Might said.

 

“Huh?” Izuku was confused. Why would All Might want to thank him? He’d gotten in the way, he was the reason the villain had escaped and taken Kacchan. Izuku hadn’t done anything worthy of thanks, especially not from All Might. 

 

“If you hadn’t told me about your life, if you hadn’t run into that fight, I would have been a worthless bystander watching from the crowd. So, thanks.”

 

“No, it was my fault he was there to begin with!” Izuku argued. He couldn’t accept All Might’s thanks for this. He’d caused the problem, it didn’t matter if he’d also aided in the solution. “I got in the way of your hard work; I wasted your energy, and not to mention your time…”

 

“I’m not done.” All Might stopped him. “You told me you didn’t have a useful power, so when I saw this timid boy try to save a life, it inspired me to act too. There are stories about every hero, how they became great. Most have one thing in common: their bodies moved before they had a chance to think, almost on their own.”

 

It was just like that… In the alley, against the sludge villain. Izuku had rushed in without consciously telling himself to, even against all logic, because he’d needed to help, and his body had moved before his mind could argue. But All Might had said before, everyone had told him over and over again—Izuku couldn’t be a hero with his useless quirk. So why was he saying this? 

 

“Young man, you too can become a hero!”

 

It was all Izuku had ever wanted to hear, that he had a chance, that his dream was possible, but no one ever believed before. But now , All Might himself was telling Izuku he could do it. He’d changed his mind after seeing Izuku’s foolish stunt in the alley and he saw something in Izuku that no one else had. A hero.

 

The tears streaming down his face couldn’t be stopped, but he didn’t care. Izuku was going to be a hero! 

 

“I deem you worthy of my power. My quirk is yours to inherit.”

 

Wait. What?

 

Izuku looked up in confusion. Inherit All Might’s quirk? What did he mean? Quirks didn’t work like that. Only a parent could pass on a quirk to their offspring during fetal development, but even then, there was a chance the quirk would be completely different, or a combination of both parents, or even no quirk at all. A quirk couldn’t be gifted to someone like All Might was suggesting. Right?

 

“You should see your face!” The man in question laughed at Izuku’s reaction before turning serious once more. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to force this on you; it’s your choice. So listen well! Do you want to accept my awesome power or not?!”

 

Izuku cleared the tears from his eyes quickly and focused on All Might. If he was about to tell him something—something important from the sound of it—then Izuku would give it his all and learn everything All Might had to say.

 

Once it was clear he had Izuku’s attention, All Might began his explanation. He told Izuku the truth behind his quirk, something the hero blogs and fan community had hotly debated since All Might’s debut. No one knew what his quirk was, and—apparently—he’d hidden it for a reason. The quirk was called One For All, and it was unique in that it could be passed from holder to holder, gathering strength as it went to each new person, until it had culminated into the amazing power that All Might wielded. 

 

The power he wanted to give to Izuku. 

 

Despite—no, because —of what he’d done in the alley against the sludge villain, All Might thought Izuku was worthy of being his successor. He was asking Izuku to be the next holder of One For All, a hero. If he wanted it, the ability was within his grasp.

 

“Okay, I’ll do it! My answer is yes!” Izuku declared.

 

All Might smiled. “No reluctance. That’s exactly how I figured you’d respond. Before we begin, though, there is one thing I have to ask. What is your quirk?”

 

“Oh.” Izuku rubbed the back of his head as he looked down. He supposed it didn’t really matter, since All Might had offered him One For All already, so it wasn’t like hearing it was going to make him less worthy somehow. Still. His quirk was utterly unimpressive and had been a source of mockery since he was four. It wasn’t something he could really be proud of like Kacchan’s, and try as he might, he hadn’t been able to come up with a way for it to be useful for hero work. Regardless, All Might had asked, so Izuku would share.

 

“I can see with my eyes closed,” Izuku said. 

 

“Does it do anything else?” All Might asked.

 

Izuku shook his head. “No. When I close my eyes, I can still see, and my vision isn’t any better than it would be with my eyes open.”

 

“How do you sleep?”

 

“I can turn it off now, but when I was younger, I had to use an eye mask. I can’t see through things that cover my eyes, just my own eye lids.”

 

“Okay, yeah, that’s pretty useless,” All Might agreed.

 

Despite knowing All Might still thought he was worthy of being a hero, it still stung a little to hear that from his idol. It wasn’t like he was wrong, and it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d heard it, but still. 

 

“I know I’m pretty useless, but all I ever wanted was to be a hero. To help people. So, thank you All Might. For giving me this chance.” 

 

The hero took a step forward and placed his hands on Izuku’s shoulders, forcing him to look up—and up, he was so tall, even in this form—but he didn’t look at him with pity or scorn. “That’s not what I said.” For one heart stopping minute, Izuku worried that the past few minutes had been some kind of hallucination, that All Might hadn’t just offered him his dream, but then the man continued. “I said your quirk was useless, not that you were. You stood up and acted when no one else did, quirk or no quirk. You are not useless, kid. Remember that.”

 

“R-right. I’ll try, I mean, I will.” 

 

“Good. Now, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” 

 

Before he left, All Might traded contact information with Izuku, and promised he’d be in touch. It was getting late, and his mom was probably worried, so Izuku rushed the rest of the way home with one last wave goodbye over his shoulder.

Chapter Text

True to his word, All Might contacted Izuku the next day asking him to meet at Dagoba Municipal Beach Park Saturday morning. Clearing the trash off the beach was going to take serious time and effort, but that was the point. It would build sorely needed muscles and improve Izuku’s endurance while performing a service to the community. Izuku approved, and set to work with determination.

 

All Might’s plan included every detail of the next ten months of his life, but if that’s what it took to become a hero, then it was what Izuku would do. Thankfully, his mom was accommodating of his new nutritional needs without complaint. He felt guilty keeping One For All a secret, but it was All Might’s secret. If he got into UA, he’d ask if he could tell his mom, but for now, he had to focus on training. 

 

It was ten months of hell, but it was ultimately worth it.

 

The morning of the entrance exam, he finished clearing the beach and All Might finally declared him ready to receive One For All. 

 

All Might held out a strand of his golden hair and smiled in encouragement. “Eat this!” 

 

Izuku eyed the hair and then All Might with apprehension. “Uh…”

 

“In order to receive my power, you have to swallow some of my DNA, that’s how it works.” The hero explained. “So. Eat!”

 

Gingerly, Izuku took the hair. It was long, coming from All Might’s bangs, so he quickly rolled it between his hands until the strand was a small, tangled ball. Then, with a generous swig from his water bottle, Izuku swallowed it down as instructed. 

 

It was gross, but it was quick. After he was sure it was down, he looked to All Might. “I don’t feel any different.”

 

“Of course not. Your body has to process the hair first. It should kick in after two, maybe three hours.” All Might looked at the big clock at the entrance to the beach. It was a quarter after six, which still gave him time to process the hair before the start of the exam.

 

“At least I have time to go home and shower and eat something before the exam.” Izuku mused.

 

“You may have molded your body into a proper vessel, but you did it in a hurry.” All Might’s characteristic enthusiasm was absent, which caught Izuku’s attention. It almost sounded like All Might was worried. “So be cautious. You haven’t even taken it for a test drive yet. The physical backlash of One For All can be intense, and I don’t know to what extent it will alter your natural quirk.”

 

“It…can do that? Alter it how?”

 

“No way to know for sure. With a quirk like yours, I wouldn’t worry about it too much, though.”

 

Izuku hadn’t counted on All Might’s quirk doing anything to his own, though maybe he should have. Still, he couldn’t really imagine what an enhancement of seeing through his eyelids would look like. Like All Might said, it probably wasn’t anything to worry about. The backlash though… that could be troublesome. 

 

“What about the backlash? How bad are we talking?”

 

“There’s no time to go into the fine details, but take note: you’ve got to prepare yourself to use this quirk. So I want you to clench your butt cheeks and yell from the depths of your heart. SMASH!” 

 

Seeing All Might use his power was always exciting no matter how many times Izuku had seen it, and it effectively cleared his worries away. As the wind settled, he smiled up at his idol—his mentor—and nodded his head in affirmation. He could do this. He would do this. He would make All Might proud.

 

Pride was never something Izuku had a lot of, particularly in regards to himself, so tripping on his way into the building just seemed par for the course. Foolish, useless, embarrassing. Before his face could connect with concrete, though, a nice girl saved him with her quirk. He was too stunned to talk—a tragic habit he was discovering—but she didn’t seem to need his thanks as she made her way into the building with a friendly wave. It was strange. Thinking about it, Izuku thought that might have been the nicest interaction he’d ever had with someone his own age. He hoped they both made it so he could say thank you.

 

The written portion of the test was exactly what he expected, and he knew he passed. That was the easy part though. The real test was the practical. Gathered at the gates of the simulated city with the other testers in his group, Izuku felt intimidated. He knew he was at a disadvantage; these kids all had a decade of experience with their quirks. He’d had One For All for less than four hours and had never used it. Hopefully the backlash All Might mentioned wouldn’t be too bad.

 

Right, because Izuku was ever that lucky. 

 

Riding on the high of adrenaline, he didn’t even feel the pain of his three broken limbs until the zero pointer fell away, completely demolished, and gravity decided he’d had enough air time. He was so high up in the air that his mind had plenty of time to analyze exactly how screwed he was, but even if he had to break his left arm too, it was worth it. He’d saved the nice girl from earlier. She would be fine, and that was all that mattered.

 

She saved him again, halting his fall before he could pancake himself on the asphalt. It gave him a chance though, she’d saved his life and spared him from having to lose his last limb. Maybe he could get some points… Even if it was just one, he wouldn’t feel like a complete failure. 

 

He ran out of time before he could even try.

 

Defeated, he surrendered to the pain coursing through his body and let the darkness take him. 

 

He drifted through the following week like a ghost. Unable to contact All Might, he worried he’d let the hero down so much that he was regretting his decision to give Izuku One For All. Not that he blamed him. He’d failed the practical, after all. It was a major setback, but Izuku wouldn’t let it be the end. He’d show All Might he hadn’t chosen poorly for his successor. There were other schools, other hero courses, that he could apply to.

 

The front door slammed open, snapping him out of his thoughts. His mom scrambled through the door holding a letter with UA’s seal on it.

 

His test results had arrived.

 

Even though he felt like he knew what they would say, he still had to face the music. He took the envelope to his room and opened it. The projection was a surprise, as was All Might, but the more he listened, the more unbelievable it became. All Might teaching at UA, the girl he’d saved, rescue points … He’d passed.

 

He’d passed!

 

He did it! He got into UA! He was going to become a hero student at All Might’s alma mater!

 

Izuku shared the news with his mom and she cried. Which was fine because Izuku was already crying. He definitely got his crier tendencies from his mom. She was so proud of him, but as she went on, he felt progressively worse. He was lying to her. All Might and One For All were why he was able to pass; his own merits and skills wouldn’t have been enough on their own, no matter how much he might have liked to believe otherwise. 

 

He wanted to tell her the truth, she deserved to know, particularly if what happened at the entrance exam was going to be a common occurrence until he could manage the backlash. Coming home with broken bones and bandages every time he used One For All was going to give her a heart attack, but if he could tell her it would only be for a little while, maybe she wouldn’t worry as much.

 

Thankfully, the next day, All Might contacted him asking to meet.

 

After their conversation about joining the UA faculty and learning control, Izuku asked All Might about telling his mom.

 

“You want to tell your mother about One For All?” 

 

“Yes. Keeping it from her doesn’t seem like the right call. I know keeping the secret is important, but she’s my mom. If I suddenly start using a completely different quirk, she’s going to notice. Not to mention the injuries,” Izuku reasoned, though he couldn’t make himself look away from the sand at his feet. He felt strongly about telling her the truth, but if All Might said no, he’d respect his wishes.

 

The hero hummed in thought. “I have reservations. One For All is a potentially dangerous secret, not just for us wielders, but for any who know it. If you feel like the risk is acceptable, I cannot refuse you confiding in someone you trust completely.”

 

“Dangerous how?” Izuku asked, looking up.

 

“Knowledge like that is a burden, young Midoriya. It asks all who know it to never reveal what they know to anybody, and that can be hard. One slip, one mistake, and your mother could inadvertently lead villains to the truth as well, and then you would be in direct danger. The fewer who know, the less the chance the secret gets out, the safer you are.”

 

Izuku gave All Might’s warning serious consideration. He knew his mom would never reveal the secret intentionally, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t happen accidentally. Then, if he did get hurt, she would feel guilty and that wasn’t what Izuku wanted at all. In addition, if his mom knew that this was a possibility, the stress of keeping the secret could affect her as well. It would be just one more burden on her. Could he really do that? Would the stress of the truth be too much? If he didn’t tell her, she would worry about him getting injured all the time, but he was going into the hero course at UA. Injuries were going to be a fact of life from here on out and there was nothing he could do to keep her from worrying about that. Would he really be doing her any favors by telling her about One For All, or was he only trying to lessen the burden of his own guilt by keeping such a big secret from his mom?

 

A solid hand on his head snapped him out of his musings and he looked up at All Might.

 

“It’s good you’re giving it thought, but you don’t have to decide right away. Think about it for a while and let me know what you choose. Either way, I support you,” All Might told him, ruffling his hair gently before removing his hand.

 

“I will. Thank you.”

 

“Good. Run along home. There’s still a few months until term begins at UA, so don’t slack off on your training. If you need to talk or have questions, feel free to reach out. Otherwise, I’ll see you at UA, young Midoriya.” 

 

Izuku bade All Might goodbye and thanked him again, turning for home. He would think more about whether or not to tell his mom, and there was still the rest of his middle school term to finish, but he felt like everything was going to work out.

Chapter Text

In a turn of events that surprised absolutely no one, Kacchan was also accepted into UA’s hero course. Izuku was ready to congratulate the blonde when the Aldera school principal called the two of them in to talk about their acceptance, but the glare that he received was severe even by Kacchan’s standards, and Izuku kept his mouth shut.

 

Once they were released, Kacchan cornered him outside. The blasts of his explosive quirk sent Izuku scurrying away, more out of habit than because he’d actually been burned. Kacchan’s explosions hadn’t left a mark on him in several years, but the threat was always there, and it was one Izuku always took seriously. Being slammed up against the brick wall of the building was painful, but not anywhere near as painful as his most recent injuries, so Izuku was able to ignore it. 

 

“What did you do to pass the exam?” Kacchan snarled, shaking him by the collar as he slammed him up against the wall again and again. “You must have cheated somehow, right? I’m supposed to be the first and only student from this crappy school to get into UA! But you had to go and screw that all up.” He pushed him firmly, holding him up against the brick as he got mere inches from Izuku’s face. “I warned you not to apply!”

 

For once, Izuku was not going to sit there and take Kacchan raging at him. He silenced the explosive teen with a firm grip on the wrist holding his shirt. When he had Kacchan’s attention, he leveled his own glare and stated, clearly, without his usual fearful stutter, “Kacchan. Someone I look up to told me I can become a hero. That’s why I applied. That’s why I’m going. So like it or not, you can’t stop me!

 

With a swift application of force, and taking advantage of Kacchan’s temporary disbelief, Izuku broke free of his hold and pushed past him. 

 

It wasn’t how he wanted the conversation to go, but there was nothing he could really do to change Kacchan’s mind. Not at the moment. He’d have to prove himself at UA, but… that presented its own unique challenges with his childhood friend. 

 

Kacchan knew what Izuku’s quirk was and—more importantly—what it wasn’t. It wouldn’t take long at all for Kacchan to realize that Izuku was using a quirk completely unlike the one he was born with, and Izuku had no idea what kind of trouble that would cause. As it stood, Izuku didn’t think telling Kacchan about One For All was a good idea at all, but he’d have to tell him something. He doubted he could pass it off as an evolution of his quirk since the two really didn’t have anything in common. 

 

Maybe…maybe he could lie? Tell Kacchan he’d made up his original quirk because he used to think he was quirkless and even a lame, useless quirk was better than no quirk at all? Then he’d discovered his real quirk, but couldn’t control it so that was why he’d never shared it with Kacchan and the other kids? That sounded reasonable—somewhat—but he doubted Kacchan would go for it, particularly since Izuku was a pretty lousy liar. Besides, he’d been there for a lot of Izuku’s early tests with his quirk. 

 

He should bring it up with All Might—maybe he could offer some advice.

 

You

I need your advice. It’s important. Can we meet?

 

All Might

Is tomorrow night soon enough?

 

You

That’s fine. Usual place?

 

All Might

7pm

 

With a plan to talk to All Might in place, Izuku put the problem out of his head as much as he could. The encounter with Kacchan had brought up another potential problem as well, but one that was much easier to solve.

 

He needed self-defense lessons. It was something he should have done years ago, but it was especially important now. Going to UA, he was already behind by virtue of his inexperience with using One For All. Adding combat training now, even just self-defense, would be one less thing he’d have to play catch up on. Izuku would ask All Might, but if he couldn’t train him, he’d ask his mom about signing up for a class.

 

The next night, he met All Might in his civilian form on Dagoba Beach at 7pm as requested. 

 

“What’s up kiddo?” All Might asked, worried line creasing his brow.

 

“My friend Kacchan—Bakugou Katsuki—got into UA hero course as well,” Izuku explained. “He knows my quirk isn’t this,” he sent One For All coursing through his arm, but didn’t try to do anything, releasing the power after a moment. “I don’t know what to tell him.”

 

“You want to tell him about One For All?”

 

“No.” Izuku shook his head immediately. “I don’t want to tell him about One For All, but I’m worried. Kacchan isn’t an idiot—rather the opposite, really—so he’s going to know something is up when I use One For All. I don’t know how to explain it to him, and I don’t want him to bring attention to it. If someone looks too closely, they’re going to realize that this power isn’t mine.”

 

“Principal Nedzu is aware of the nature of One For All already, and that I have chosen you as my successor. You don’t have to worry about the UA administration, if that was your concern.” All Might assured him. 

 

Izuku considered briefly, and while that was a relief, it wasn’t his only concern. “What about the other students? Kacchan…is good at getting people to see things his way.”

 

“You worry too much, young Midoriya. They will believe the truth as you present it. If you use One For All, they will have no reason to believe your quirk is anything else. And if all else fails, do what I do: deflect.”

 

“Right… I suppose I should start getting used to that. I’m going to have to update my quirk at the registry too; can’t have someone looking at my files and seeing such a huge disparity.” At that, Izuku eyed All Might with curiosity. “What did you put down with the registry?”

 

All Might laughed. “I believe my official record reads File Redacted.”

 

“Seriously?!” 

 

“Perks of being number one for so long.” 

 

Izuku sighed. “Oh well. I’ll think of something. Anyway, I had another thing I wanted to ask about.”

 

“Oh? Go ahead.”

 

“Can you teach me how to fight?”

 

All Might raised his brows in surprise. “You don’t have any training?’

 

“I’ve watched hero fights for years; I know how combat works in theory, tactics and how to identify weaknesses, which counters work best and how to get past them, but I’ve never tried practical application,” Izuku detailed excitedly.

 

“UA will cover combat training as part of the standard curriculum.” 

 

“I know, but I feel like I’m already behind. Even if it’s just the basics, I’d really appreciate it.”

 

All Might relented with a small nod. “Alright. We’ll start with your footwork.”

 

The next few hours passed with All Might going over the very basics of how to fight. He focused on Izuku’s footwork and stance, made sure that he could stay on his feet and balanced while dodging and throwing punches. When they finally called it quits, he promised he’d get in touch with Izuku when he had another evening free for them to continue. When All Might couldn’t meet, Izuku supplemented his education with HeroTube instructional vids. There wasn’t a lot of time before the start of term, but it was enough that Izuku felt like he could learn at least the basics.

 

The next couple of months were over before Izuku was ready, and the first day of class at UA arrived bright and completely indifferent to his nerves. He ran out the door as soon as his mom released him from her crushing hug, and he made his way to the Tatooin station at a jog. Stepping off the train at the station for UA was surreal in a way, staring up at the imposing and inspiring building that had been his dream for so many years. He’d made it. Shaking the fanciful musing from his mind, Izuku hurried through the gate. The hunt for classroom 1-A took a little longer than he would have liked, but he made it before the first bell. 

 

Not before the bulk of his classmates, however.

 

Opening the enormous door, Izuku froze as he looked over the other kids in the room. Most obviously was Kacchan and the stern kid from the entrance exam that had scolded him for mumbling during the presentation. The taller boy was in the middle of scolding Kacchan for putting his feet up on the desk, and neither of them had noticed Izuku’s arrival yet, thankfully. 

 

If he hoped to slip by undetected, though, he would be disappointed. 

 

Izuku somehow caught the taller boy’s attention, and he left off his confrontation with Kacchan to introduce himself as Tenya Iida. He also apologized for doubting him during the exam, swiftly praising his deductive reasoning skills in the next breath. Considering Izuku hadn’t even known Iida’s opinion of him had been so low, and he hadn’t actually known there were other parameters to the test, he was quick to wave off his apology and praise.

 

Next came the girl he’d saved from the zero pointer bot. She was the last of the class to arrive, coming in behind him while he was talking with Iida, and introduced herself as Ochaco Uraraka.

 

Before he could finish introducing himself to either student, their homeroom teacher, Mr. Aizawa, arrived. Izuku thought the man looked ready to pass out and sleep for a week, but whether that was more due to the bright yellow sleeping bag he’d arrived in, or the dark circles under his eyes was a toss up. Either way, he didn’t make the most imposing figure.

 

The man also apparently didn’t care for standard school norms. He handed each of them a gym uniform and told them to get changed; their first day of hero training was about to begin.

 

Izuku followed the others to the locker rooms, listening to the chatter of the other students as they speculated what was about to happen and why they were going to the practice fields instead of orientation. Not everyone participated in the discussion. Like Izuku, some were content to remain quiet. 

 

Sticking to the back of the class, Izuku took the opportunity to look over his classmates. At a glance, he counted a six-fourteen split between girls and guys, though he’d almost missed one completely on account of her being invisible . That wasn’t the only immediately impressive quirk he noticed either. One of his classmates was huge with six arms, while another had the head of a bird, and yet another was bright pink all over. Izuku couldn’t wait to see all of them in action! Quirk analysis was lame according to Kacchan, but Izuku loved it. 

 

He changed quickly, happy to be out of his tie, and joined the others on the practice field.

 

Once they were all gathered, their teacher told them what they’d be doing.

 

“A quirk assessment test?” several students parroted back, confused. 

 

Uraraka pouted. “But orientation! We’re gonna miss it.”

 

“If you really wanna make the big leagues, you can’t waste time on pointless ceremonies,” Aizawa said, shutting her down. 

 

Added with the way he looked and that he hadn’t immediately recognized the man’s name, Izuku thought Aizawa had to be some kind of underground hero with the way he regarded something as harmless as high school orientation. Not that Izuku minded missing out, exactly.

 

“Here at UA, we’re not tethered to traditions. That means I get to run my class however I see fit.” Aizawa warned them flatly. He scanned the class quickly, tired eyes appraising all of them. Izuku didn’t know what conclusions he’d drawn, but he looked unimpressed. “You’ve been taking standardized tests most of your lives, but you’ve never got to use your quirks in physical exams before.”

 

The phone that he held up to the class was just large enough for Izuku to read the screen. It was a list of typical physical fitness tests they’d taken most of their school careers. Izuku had never done particularly well before, but even without One For All, he’d improved his overall fitness significantly since middle school. Maybe he wouldn’t out-score most of his classmates, but he’d definitely do better than he had in middle school. 

 

“The country’s still trying to pretend we’re all created equal by not letting those with the most power excel. It’s not rational,” Aizawa continued. “One day, the Ministry of Education will learn.”

 

It was a harsh way of looking at it, but… he wasn’t wrong. Izuku had known that truth—that not all men were created equal—since he was four when his useless power had finally come in. Compared to Kacchan, and so many others, his quirk was a joke.

 

“Bakugou,” Aizawa turned to the blonde, “you managed to get the most points in the entrance exam. What was your farthest distance throw with a softball when you were in Junior high?”

 

“Sixty-seven meters I think.” 

 

“Right. Try doing it with your quirk.” Aizawa ordered, handing Kacchan a softball as he walked to the pitch. “Anything goes, just stay in the circle.”

 

Izuku held his hands up to his ears in preparation. Uraraka looked at him questioningly, so Izuku mouthed silently, He’s loud.

 

He’d been up close and personal with Kacchan’s explosions too many times to count; he’d had enough potential hearing damage, thank you very much. How Kacchan wasn’t completely deaf at this point was a bit of a mystery.

 

Interestingly, Uraraka followed his example and plugged her ears. 

 

On the pitch, Kacchan stretched his arms briefly before winding up. As Izuku expected, the following explosion—and shout of, “Die!”—was very loud. The ball sailed away, and Izuku was more than a little impressed. He knew Kacchan was powerful, but woah .

 

“All of you need to know your maximum capabilities. It’s the most rational way of figuring out your potential as a pro hero.” Aizawa held up the phone again to show them all Kacchan’s score.

 

Seven hundred and five point two meters.

 

The class shouted out in excitement and smiled, declaring their enthusiasm to give it a try and how much fun it would be to use their quirks during the tests. Looking at Aizawa, though, Izuku felt less cheer and more fear.

 

“So this looks fun, huh? You have three years here to become a hero. You think it’s all gonna be games and play time?” The smile that spread across Aizawa’s face sent chills up Izuku’s spine. “Idiots. Today you’ll compete in eight physical tests to gauge your potential. Whoever comes in last, has none, and will be expelled immediately.” 

 

Everyone gasped in shock. Expelled? On the first day? That was crazy! And definitely Not. Good. Izuku’s control over One For All was next to non-existent. He’d have to use it to avoid coming in last, but he could probably only use it once . Would that be enough to skate by? Was he about to be expelled before he could even begin?

 

Aizawa silenced everyone’s cries of concern as he continued to talk. “As I said, I get to decide how this class runs. Understand? If that’s a problem, you can head home right now.”

 

“You can’t send one of us home!” Uraraka shouted. “I mean, we just got here. Even if it wasn’t the first day, that isn’t fair!”

 

“Oh? And you think natural disasters are? Or power-hungry villains? Catastrophic accidents that wipe out entire cities?” Aizawa challenged. “No. The world is full of unfairness. It’s a hero’s job to try to combat that unfairness.”

 

It was harsh, again, but he was absolutely right. The whole reason heroes were needed was because the world wasn’t perfect. It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of them, but somehow it was. Expecting UA to play by the rules of normal academics was ridiculous. They weren’t here to join normal society, so the normal rules wouldn’t apply. Like Mr. Aizawa said: it wasn’t rational.

 

“If you wanna be a pro, you’re gonna have to push yourself to the brink. For the next three years, UA will throw one terrible hardship after another at you. So go beyond. Plus Ultra-style.” Aizawa beckoned them forward with a challenging smirk. “Show me it’s no mistake that you’re here.”

 

They might just be kids, but they were also training to be heroes . If they wanted to make a difference, if they wanted to save people, then they’d be thrown into the unfair world over and over again, and that meant pushing themselves as hard as they could to do as much good as possible. Izuku wasn’t confident he wouldn’t be sent home, but it was hard to feel resentful about it when everything Mr. Aizawa said was absolutely true.

 

The tests started in earnest after that. Setting up for the 50-meter dash, Izuku began to stretch as the first pair were called to run. Tenya Iida and Tsuyu Asui. At least he’d get the chance to observe everyone’s quirks. Even though it felt like his head was on the chopping block, Izuku held onto the sliver of silver lining. 

 

When it was his turn, he was called up with Kacchan. Thankfully, the competition had all of the explosive teen’s focus and he didn’t do more than sneer in Izuku’s direction. Since he hadn’t yet found a way to control his output, Izuku didn’t use One For All for the dash and came in at a depressing seven seconds. It was faster than junior high, but not by much. Running was a skill he’d picked up a while ago, after all.

 

Next up was the grip strength test. This one was a significant improvement over his previous scores, but it just…didn’t measure up to some of the other kids. He thought about using One For All, but it was so early in the tests. If he used it now, he wouldn’t be able to use it later. Of course, if he kept that reasoning, he wouldn’t use it at all, and that was worse

 

He was screwed.

 

After grip strength was the standing long jump, which, the less said about that one the better, followed by repeated side steps. Izuku pushed himself hard. His endurance wasn’t anything to sneeze at, but he wasn’t the fastest person by a long shot. 

 

Seeing Uraraka launch the softball into low orbit during the next test was so cool , but also very disheartening . No one was going to match her score of infinity, so everyone seemed to agree to ignore it in favor of the next highest score—Kacchan’s 705.2 meters.

 

When Izuku was called up, he considered his options. The remaining tests were the distance run, sit ups, and the seated toe-touch. Since he didn’t relish the idea of running on broken legs, the softball throw was really his last chance to use One For All and get any kind of impressive score. It was probably his only chance of not being sent home. If this were a normal physical fitness test, he’d probably score within the top half of the class, but with quirks… he was facing expulsion. He knew it. The class probably knew it. Aizawa definitely knew it. 

 

It was now or never.

 

Resolved, Izuku prepared himself for the pain, and charged One For All through his arm as he threw the ball with all his might. But… something changed right before he could release. The power, the surge of energy and strength he felt with One For All… disappeared.

 

He was so thrown by its sudden absence, he flubbed the pitch and only got a pathetic forty-six meters. Confused, Izuku stood frozen, balanced on one leg as he tried to understand what had just happened.

 

“What gives? I was trying to use it just now…” Izuku muttered.

 

“I erased your quirk.”

 

Izuku turned to his teacher and stepped back in surprise. The scarf around Aizawa’s neck was hovering along with his hair as his teacher locked onto him with glowing, glaring red eyes. 

 

“The judges for this exam were not rational enough. Someone like you should never be allowed to enroll at this school.”

 

It was then that Izuku saw the yellow goggles hanging around Mr. Aizawa’s neck and it clicked. “I know you! You can look at someone and cancel out their powers. The Erasure Hero. Eraserhead!”

 

The class murmured from the sidelines, but Mr. Aizawa ignored them. “You’re not ready. You don’t have control over your power. Were you planning on breaking your bones again? Counting on someone else to save your useless body?”

 

“No! That’s not what I was trying to do!”

 

The sudden binding of Mr. Aizawa’s scarf was a surprise and it yanked him forward until he was practically nose to nose with the hero. “No matter what your intentions are, you would be nothing more than a liability in battle. You have the same reckless passion as another overzealous hero I know, one who saved 1,000 people by himself and became a legend. But even with that drive, you’re worthless if you can only throw a single punch before breaking down. Sorry, Midoriya. With your power, there’s no way you can become a hero.”

 

The dressing down was thorough and blunt. Even the comparison to All Might wasn’t enough to soften the blow, but it also wasn’t the first time he’d heard someone say he couldn’t be a hero. It hadn’t stopped him before, and it wouldn’t stop him now. 

 

Izuku knew he shouldn’t outright challenge a teacher, but he couldn’t stop the determined look that crossed his face after Mr. Aizawa’s speech. With one last narrow-eyed glare, the hero released him from his scarf and closed his eyes, allowing Izuku to step back.

 

“I’ve returned your impractical quirk. Take your final throw. Hurry and get it over with,” Aizawa said dismissively, walking away to join the line of hero students.

 

Dejected, Izuku retrieved the softball and made his way back to the pitch as he considered his options. Aizawa wasn’t completely wrong. If Izuku couldn’t learn control—and learn it fast—he wouldn’t be any help to anyone. No one would be able to look to him and feel safe if he damaged himself every time he used One For All. He would be a liability, as Aizawa said. But. Just because he couldn’t control it now, didn’t mean he’d never learn. He’d only had One For All for a couple months, and he’d only used it once. With time and practice, he’d be able to master it, he knew it. For now though, he had to decide. Use One For All and break his arm and be sent home, or don’t use One For All and then be sent home.

 

No. Not good enough!

 

He couldn’t control how much power he used, but he could at least control where he used it. It wasn’t ideal, it was still going to hurt, but it wouldn’t be debilitating and it would still work. That was all that mattered. If Aizawa thought he couldn’t use One For All without taking himself out of the fight, then he’d show him he could. He’d show him that he belonged here!

 

Izuku grit his teeth and wound up, focused on what he wanted to accomplish. He channeled One For All at the last second, at the last point of contact only , and sent the ball soaring across the field as the bones in his finger snapped.

 

At a glance, Izuku wasn’t sure, but he thought the ball went as far as Kacchan’s. It was close at least. His finger hurt, it absolutely hurt, but it wasn’t too bad. He could deal with a broken finger for the next few hours.

 

“Mr. Aizawa.” He tried to smile through the pain, though he wasn’t sure how successful he was. The stunned look from his teacher and the rest of the class was encouraging though, and he felt the smile become a little more real. “You see? I’m still standing.”

 

The look on Aizawa’s face was definitely going on the top ten list of Izuku’s favorite memories.

 

He should have known something was about to spoil it though.

 

The pop of explosions instinctively drew Izuku’s attention to Kacchan, only to see his childhood friend charging at him. “Hey! Deku, you bastard! Tell me how you did that, or you’re dead!”

 

Izuku screamed, a knee-jerk reaction and not very heroic, but some learned habits were going to take a while to break.

 

Thankfully, before Kacchan could reach him, Mr. Aizawa’s scarf lashed out and caught the raging blond around the head and chest, holding him back.

 

“Why the hell is your scarf so damn strong?” Kacchan struggled in vain against the hold, glaring at Mr. Aizawa.

 

“Because it’s a capture weapon made out of carbon fiber and a special metal alloy,” Aizawa answered, eyes red and hair flying once more. “Stand down. It would be wise to avoid making me use my quirk so much. It gives me serious dry eye.”

 

Miraculously, Kacchan stopped struggling and, when Aizawa released him, he didn’t make another move toward Izuku. He took the opportunity to skirt around the angry teen and rejoin the class, though he watched with growing trepidation as Kacchan’s eyes followed him. 

 

He definitely had another ‘conversation’ with Kacchan coming in his near future.

Chapter Text

As expected, the last three tests were painful with his broken finger, but he managed without complaint. Standing with the rest of the class on the field where they’d started, he felt his chest tighten and a lump crawl its way up his throat. Despite the ball throw, he wasn’t confident he’d avoided last place. Even if he hadn’t, Aizawa might still send him home. The hero had made his opinion plenty clear earlier.

 

Seeing the scores projected above them, Izuku didn’t even bother to look at the other placements. His eyes zeroed in on 20th place and his own name: Midoriya Izuku. 

 

Well. He had sort of seen it coming. Still hurt though.

 

“And I was lying, no one’s going home,” Aizawa announced. At everyone’s stunned faces, their teacher had the gall to smile brightly. “That was just a logical ruse to make sure you gave it your all in the tests.”

 

Relief and disbelief and a small dose of betrayal raced through Izuku’s veins, sending his system into a semi-shock. He faintly registered Uraraka rubbing small circles into his back to comfort him as he calmed down, and he appreciated the gesture. It was new, receiving comfort from anyone who wasn’t his mother, but his emotions were too scattered as it was to parse through the novelty. 

 

Aizawa addressed the rest of the class, instructing them to get the syllabus from the classroom before they left. Before he left the field entirely, he stopped in front of Izuku and handed him a pass to go see Recovery Girl for his finger. Deciding to change back first, Izuku followed the others back to the locker room. 

 

He was a little slower than the others, still lost a little in his own head as he sorted through the mess of thoughts and emotions clamoring for attention after Aizawa’s… joke? Lie? Logical ruse, he’d called it, but it had felt anything but false when he’d ripped into Izuku after interfering with his softball throw. Maybe something had made him change his mind, but Izuku was certain Aizawa had meant it when he said he’d be sending one of them home.

 

As he stepped into the locker room, a pop of an explosion was all the warning he got before Kacchan slammed Izuku face-first into the nearby wall. Pain blossomed over his face as it met unforgiving concrete, and he closed his eyes on instinct. A reaction to the pain.

 

Izuku knew that Kacchan was talking to him, he could feel the hot puffs of breath over his ear, but he was too surprised by his sudden view into the girls’ locker room to listen properly. At first, Izuku wondered if Kacchan had somehow pushed him through the wall, but when none of the girls reacted to his sudden presence, Izuku realized he could still feel the cold concrete against his face. 

 

In an instant, Izuku turned off his quirk and his vision went blessedly black. Surprised and panicking a little, Izuku shoved off from the wall with all his unenhanced strength. It was enough to push Kacchan off of him, but he barely noticed. 

 

Izuku’s mind raced as he tried to process what had just happened. He’d seen through the wall with his quirk. That…that wasn’t supposed to be possible. He couldn’t see through anything but his own eyelids; he’d had to use an eye mask to sleep before he’d mastered turning his quirk off. He’d never been able to see through another object before. 

 

A white handkerchief fluttered in front of his face, finally catching his attention and bringing him back into the room. As he came out of his own head, all the sounds he’d been ignoring came flooding back and he nearly jumped at the sudden cacophony. Almost everyone was speaking or shouting, and the sound echoed off the concrete. 

 

Following the handkerchief, Izuku found Iida looking at him in concern. Wordlessly, he took the offering with a questioning eyebrow.

 

“You’re bleeding, Midoriya.” Iida gestured to his nose.

 

Now that it had been mentioned, Izuku could feel the blood trickling down and pressed the kerchief to his face to wipe it away. The brief spike of pain was enough to bring him fully back into the moment, and he turned to the others. Kacchan was against the farthest row of lockers, arms crossed and glaring daggers at Izuku while Kirishima, Sato, and Shoji watched him. Iida, Koda, and Sero were next to Izuku, looking at him in concern. Everyone else seemed to be staying back, but they were all watching.

 

“Guys, it’s fine.” Izuku brushed off their concerned looks and managed to silence the room.

 

“It is not fine! Bakugou shoved you into a wall!” Iida refuted.

 

Izuku shrugged and lied. “Kacchan forgets his own strength sometimes. I’m fine, really.”

 

“Shut up you damn nerd!” Kacchan snarled.

 

“Hey man, relax. You’re not helping your case,” Kirishima said.

 

Kacchan shifted his glare to the redhead briefly before leveling it back onto Izuku. 

 

“Dude, seriously,” Kaminari spoke up. “Whatever your problem is, you don’t go slamming people into walls.”

 

“Yeah, just talk it out,” Kirishima nodded. “Ambushing Midoriya like that was super not manly.”

 

Kacchan growled and stood up, uncrossing his arms. The three near him shifted too, ready to stop him if he made a move toward Izuku, but he didn’t. Instead, he spat his accusation. “You’re a lying, worthless piece of trash, Deku. Where the hell do you get off showing up with that kind of power? Huh? No way your useless quirk grew into that , so what the fuck?”

 

“N-no, that’s not what… I mean…” Izuku fumbled. He hadn’t actually planned what to say to Kacchan when this conversation inevitably occurred, and he definitely didn’t plan on the audience.

 

“So you’re a liar in addition to being a useless Deku.”

 

“I’m not–”

 

“Either you lied when we were kids, or you’re lying now!” Kacchan snapped. “And since we all just saw you, I think that makes it obvious which it is.” The blond stuffed his hands in his pockets before stalking forward into Izuku’s space. He didn’t look at Izuku, but he stopped just before he passed him toward the exit. “I don’t know why you lied, and I don’t care. No matter how strong that quirk is, I’ll still crush you. I will be number one, and you… You’ll always be a useless, worthless, lying Deku .”

 

Kacchan brushed past him and left the locker room in complete silence.

 

It was probably a full minute before Izuku regained control of himself enough to move, clenching his fist unconsciously which sent a shot of pain up his arm. He hissed quietly, remembering his broken finger. With that, the spell in the locker room was broken and everyone resumed changing, some murmuring about what just happened, others in silence.

 

Izuku made his way to his own locker and changed quickly, ignoring the pain in his finger. He just wanted to get out. Thankfully, no one stopped him or tried to talk to him, so he was able to finish and leave without delay. 

 

Recovery Girl tutted about his injury, but she healed him with a kiss, leaving him exhausted. He listened intently when she explained the way her quirk worked, but it was hard to muster his normal enthusiasm through the stamina drain. She gave him a kind smile and a gummy and sent him on his way.

 

Walking out of UA, Izuku contemplated his day. It was definitely more intense than he’d imagined his first day of high school being. Between fearing expulsion and Kacchan’s anger, he’d almost forgotten the truly important part of the day. Something had happened with his quirk. 

 

All Might had suggested his quirk might change a bit because of One For All, but neither of them had been able to predict how that would look. Being able to see through the wall was new and Izuku wanted to test it, to see exactly how it had changed. It wasn’t an impressive quirk, and was probably still pretty useless, but it was his and it would be a good idea to know what it was capable of now.

 

A hand on his shoulder stopped Izuku before he could get through the UA gate. Turning with a jump, he relaxed a little when he saw it wasn’t Kacchan.

 

“Oh, hey Iida.”

 

“How’s the broken finger doing?” he asked politely. 

 

Pleasantly surprised at his concern, Izuku smiled. “It’s doing fine thanks to Recovery Girl.”

 

When Izuku continued toward the gate, Iida fell into step next to him, and Izuku was surprised again. It wasn’t often people chose to walk with him. 

 

“I was a bit concerned by Mr. Aizawa’s approach to class, but I trust the school’s judgement.” Iida stated, apparently intent on conversing with Izuku in addition to walking next to him. “UA is the top program. Even so, lying is downright immoral.”

 

Izuku flinched, which Iida did not miss. He stopped and considered Izuku for a moment. Under his stern gaze, Izuku felt a little like shrinking. Maybe the only reason he’d wanted to walk with him was to accuse him of immoral behavior after what happened in the locker room. That would fit more with what Izuku expected from his peer interactions.

 

“About what Bakugou did… I do not know the nature of your previous relationship with him, but there was no excuse for how he acted. Attacking another student like that, it’s reprehensible.” Iida remarked. 

 

“Oh. No, that’s just— That is, he—” Izuku fumbled. “We’ve been friends since we were little, before either of our quirks developed. He feels betrayed, I suppose. I don’t blame him.”

 

“He accused you of lying,” Iida said, an unspoken question.

 

“You may not believe me, and I know Kacchan won’t, but I didn’t lie to him. The situation is complicated, but I never lied,” Izuku promised. 

 

Iida hummed thoughtfully beside him. “I believe you. Given what I’ve seen today, you seem like an honest sort, Midoriya, and I can’t say I approve of Bakugou’s method of handling confrontation.”

 

“Hey! Wait up you two!” Both he and Iida turned at the shout from behind them to see Uraraka running to catch up. “Are you going to the station? I’ll join you guys.”

 

They waited politely for her to catch up, but Izuku could feel a blush begin to tint his cheeks. His brief and accidental glimpse into the girls’ locker room had been an invasion of privacy he wanted to apologize for, even if he had no idea how without explaining more than he possibly could. 

 

“Oh, you’re the infinity girl,” Iida commented.

 

She nodded with a cheery smile. “I’m Ochaco Uraraka, and let’s see… You’re Tenya Iida, and your name is…Deku, right? Midoriya?”

 

All the blood from his blush left his face in that moment as he paled. Beside him, he saw Iida stiffen as well.

 

“Deku?” Izuku frowned.

 

“Uh, yeah. Isn’t that what Bakugou called you? During the fitness test, he said-”

 

Izuku quickly shook his head, gesturing with his hands as well. “My name is actually Izuku. Deku is what Kacchan calls me to make fun of me.”

 

“That’s unsportsmanlike.” 

 

“Oh! I didn’t realize that, I’m sorry,” Uraraka apologized. “But you know what? I like Deku. It would make a great hero name! Plus, I think it sounds kind of cute.”

 

He’d never ever in his life considered Deku to be anything other than the insult Kacchan meant it as, and it definitely didn’t sound like a hero to him. Maybe, maybe if the confrontation in the locker room hadn’t just happened, or if Kacchan had chosen to talk away from an audience, he might not have his words ringing in his ears— you’ll always be a useless, worthless, lying Deku —might have been able to see the name through Uraraka’s eyes instead, but he just couldn’t.

 

“I appreciate the thought, but it’s always been pretty hurtful. I don’t think I’d be able to hear it as anything else,” Izuku told her solemnly. 

 

“I understand. Sorry again,” Uraraka bowed.

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Izuku gave her a reassuring smile and the three of them moved on to other, more pleasant topics as they walked to the station. 

 

They all took separate trains, so Uraraka was the first to leave them as her train arrived first. She waved cheerily and got them to promise to sit together at lunch tomorrow before boarding.

Chapter Text

School began in earnest the next day, launching the students of 1-A into the academic curriculum in the morning. The courses looked to be challenging, but in a good way. Izuku loved to learn, applied himself to his studies rigorously, but there was one class everyone was eagerly anticipating. The entire afternoon was dedicated to one subject: Hero Studies.

 

After changing into their costumes, the class gathered at Ground Beta with All Might for combat training. The excitement was palpable. Between seeing everyone’s costumes, All Might teaching, and the assignment ahead of them, everyone’s energy was high. For most of the class, this was going to be a chance to show off in front of the number one hero and their classmates, to show everyone what they were capable of.

 

Izuku was excited to see everyone’s quirks in action, but was much less enthusiastic about potentially having to use One For All. He still didn’t have control, and he would not risk using it against his classmates. That was a good way to kill someone.

 

The partners were drawn and Izuku was relieved to be paired with Uraraka. He got along with her and was even reasonably sure how her quirk worked after experiencing it first hand twice now.

 

If he could avoid going against Kacchan, it would probably be a pretty good day.

 

“Our first match will be Team A as the heroes, and… Team D as the villains!”

 

Izuku groaned, head in his hands. He should know better than to even think things were about to be easy for him. Nothing for it. At least he knew Kacchan’s fighting style; that might be the only thing to save them in this fight.

 

He waited with Uraraka while Iida and Kacchan got set up in the building and contemplated the disaster that was about to unfold.

 

“You think they expect us to memorize this building’s floorplan? It’s so big!” Uraraka remarked, looking at the floorplan All Might had provided them earlier. She glanced over at him, ready to say something else, but she stopped. “Are you ok? You’re sweating through your costume.”

 

Izuku whimpered a little. “Oh… Sorry, yeah. It’s just because we’re up against Kacchan. Plus, there’s Iida too. We should be on our guard, who knows what they’ll pull.”

 

“Oh, right Bakugou. He’s the one that’s always making fun of you.”

 

“And he’s amazing,” Izuku sighed. “He can be a real pain, sure, but his strength and confidence…and his ambition, not to mention his quirk. They’re all so much greater than mine.” 

 

But Izuku was not the same scared little kid with a useless quirk. Now he had One For All and a foothold on the path to achieving his own dream of being a hero. This was the first time he and Kacchan were going to be fighting, not just Kacchan attacking and Izuku running away—though he was sure there would be plenty of that too. He had a few months of basic combat training and a hell of a lot more strength. This time… this time would be different.

 

“Despite that…I refuse to lose today,” Izuku resolved.

 

“So it’s a fated battle between rivals.” Uraraka smirked.

 

Izuku laughed nervously. Maybe he’d gotten a little wrapped up in his own head. “Sorry to drag you into this, Uraraka.”

 

“No way! We’re partners, right? So let’s win this.”

 

It was a nice feeling, having someone on his side. Izuku was grateful, and he hoped she didn’t get hurt in the clash that was about to happen.

 

All Might came over the intercom announcing the scenario’s start. In order to preserve Uraraka’s strength, Izuku cupped his hands and motioned for Uraraka to jump off. He boosted her up easily, and then he joined her with a running jump. From there, they climbed their way up to one of the second story windows using the fire escape. It was easy, and they gained access quickly. The building layout created a lot of blind spots, so they had to be cautious. Uraraka let him take the lead, and he made sure to be careful around corners while mentally reviewing notes he’d taken on indoor battles. He couldn’t use One For All, but he wasn’t helpless either. He would bet a decent sum of money that he had the most extensive knowledge of combat analysis, tactics, and strategy in the class.

 

When Kacchan came for them, it was just as Izuku expected. Sudden, explosive, and loud. Izuku had just enough time to grab Uraraka and dodge while Kacchan collided with the wall, leaving a scorching crater behind. Izuku lost most of his mask and cowl, but he and Uraraka were unharmed.

 

“What’s the matter Deku? Afraid to stand up and fight me?” Kacchan taunted.

 

“I knew you’d come at me first, and figured you’d try to catch me by surprise.” Izuku shifted, putting himself in front of Uraraka as he stood.

 

Kacchan’s smile was all teeth. “I won’t hurt you so bad they’ll have to stop the fight. Just close!”

 

As Kacchan closed the distance between them, Izuku met him halfway, ready for the opening attack. The explosive teen always opened a fight the same way, with a powerful right hook, so Izuku had learned and practiced the counter for it over and over again. Kacchan definitely wasn’t expecting to be flung over Izuku’s shoulder and slammed onto the ground, and a small part of Izuku cherished the look of utter shock on his face.

 

“How…” Kacchan gasped, struggling to force air into his lungs.

 

“I watched and analyzed every amazing hero, even you.” Izuku also had to regain his breath; it was a lot harder to fling someone of Kacchan’s build than it was a practice dummy, but he’d done it. “I wanted to learn everything I could about them. It was all in the notebook you burned and threw away.”

 

Uraraka met his eyes briefly, and he motioned for her to run as subtly as he could. She needed to find Iida and the weapon. Kacchan would focus on him, wouldn’t be able to help himself, and that’s exactly what they needed to win. Izuku would keep him distracted long enough for his partner to find the weapon and then he’d join her once he’d subdued Kacchan.

 

If he could. Izuku was still running the numbers on his success.

 

The brunette waited until Kacchan started to pull himself up off the floor before running, masking the sound of her retreat with his own labored movements. 

 

“Deku…” Kacchan growled menacingly. “You’re gonna fucking pay for that.”

 

“Call me Deku all you want if it makes you feel better, Kacchan, but that worthless, defenseless kid is gone.” Izuku steadied himself and put his hands up as he stared down his childhood friend and bully. “Come meet the new me.”

 

“What a joke.” Kacchan’s palms popped with rapid mini-explosions. He was angry, trying to intimidate Izuku into falling in line, just like he used to do when they were kids. “You’re shaking in your boots, Deku , just like you always did.”

 

“Being scared doesn’t mean I won’t fight!”

 

Rather than respond, Kacchan’s hand flew to his ear and he snapped at Iida on the other end of the communication device. “Just shut up and defend the weapon! I’ve got more important things to worry about.”

 

Just as Izuku always knew, Kacchan wasn’t an idiot. He knew another punch like before would just give Izuku another opportunity to put him in the dirt again, so he charged in with a kick instead. Izuku blocked and tried to wrap the capture tape around his boot before Kacchan could retaliate, but he was too fast. Izuku was forced to dodge another explosion propelled punch and abandon his capture attempt. He rolled to his feet about a meter away from the angry blond, and they stared at each other trying to strategize.

 

Whether Kacchan had noticed and didn’t care, or just outright forgot about Uraraka, Izuku wasn’t sure, but he seemed as willing to make this a one on one fight as Izuku was. The problem was Kacchan had more experience than Izuku did, and he wasn’t going to stay predictable. No matter what his opinion of Izuku, it wasn’t in Kacchan to give less than his best, and continuing to use a strategy that had already been countered wasn’t it.

 

Izuku was fast, but so was Kacchan and if he couldn’t predict what the blond was going to do next, he’d lose his only advantage. Time to retreat and turn the brawl into a chase. 

 

Kacchan screamed insults at him as he sprinted away, but he followed, which was what Izuku needed. The layout of the building worked in his favor for this. If he could stay ahead of Kacchan, lose him in the maze-like hallways, he could position himself to take him by surprise. Kacchan certainly made his presence known, shouting and releasing explosions like that; it should be easy to get behind him and launch a sneak attack. Then he could join Uraraka at the weapon, and the two of them could take on Iida together.

 

That was the plan. Now, to put it into action.

 

Izuku and Kacchan circled the floorplan for a few minutes while Izuku stalled, trying to give Uraraka time to find the weapon, but it didn’t take long for Izuku to discover a flaw in his plan. 

 

At some point, Kacchan had gone silent. 

 

Without knowing where his opponent was, Izuku was as lost in the maze as Kacchan had been. He could be anywhere, sneak up on Izuku from countless blind spots. This was not good… 

 

“Um, Midoriya?” Uraraka’s voice over the comm almost made him jump.

 

He put his hand to the comm, “I’m here. How’s it going?”

 

“I found the weapon, but Iida saw me.” Uraraka reported. “Right now he’s monologuing.”

 

Izuku filed that away for later. “Where are you?”

 

“Fifth floor, near the middle.”

 

He may have misplaced Kacchan, but he knew where he was. Looking up, he relayed, “You’re right above me then.”

 

Uraraka had done her job, she’d found the weapon, which meant he had to end this with Kacchan so he could join her. Izuku pulled out the capture tape again and ran through his options. He could announce his presence, try to draw Kacchan out, but that ran the risk of falling victim to a surprise attack. Just running another loop around the floor would waste too much time, especially since Uraraka had lost whatever element of surprise she may have had. Would it be better to head her way and trust Kacchan to engage before he could get there, then? None of those options sounded particularly good, but—

 

A deceptively cheerful ping sounded down the hall behind him, and Izuku turned to look with growing dread. His suspicions were confirmed when he saw Kacchan at the end of the hallway, much calmer than he’d been before, smirking down at his oversized gauntlet.

 

“I’m all loaded up.” Kacchan raised his right hand, brandishing the grenade-like costume piece.

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“Why aren’t you using your fancy quirk?” Kacchan ignored his question, the grin stretched across his face was borderline feral. “Don’t tell me you’re underestimating me, Deku. Get over here and show me this new you .”

 

Izuku turned to face him. There was no more time to run, he had to end it now. “You don’t scare me anymore, Kacchan.”

 

“Tch.” The blond’s smile turned into more of a grimace briefly, but rather than scream or yell like he would have before, he continued calmly. “Since you’re such a stalker, you probably know how my quirk works.” He leveled his right arm at Izuku. “I secrete nitroglycerin-like sweat from my hands and make it blow up. Imagine what I could do if I had a lot of it.”

 

The more sweat he produced, the more dangerous Kacchan became. It was one of the things that Izuku found most impressive about his quirk; the longer he fought, the bigger the explosions he could cause. Instead of wearing himself out, Kacchan became more dangerous the longer the fight went on.

 

Kacchan pulled the large handle back on his right gauntlet, exposing what was unmistakably a pin, and braced himself. Izuku’s eyes widened as he realized what he was facing.

 

“That’s right, the gauntlets aren’t just for show. They’ve been storing up my sweat inside for one monster blast.”

 

Over the comm, Izuku heard All Might yell at Kacchan not to pull the pin, but the blond brushed off his warning. 

 

“He’ll be fine as long as he dodges!”

 

The microsecond before Kacchan finished pulling the pin, Izuku threw himself to the side, dodging as Kacchan had suggested. That didn’t stop the resulting blast from knocking Izuku aside like a ragdoll as it shredded the hallway and wall beyond. The heat was almost unbearable and ripped the air from his lungs, but he was whole. Izuku stared in horror at the devastation in front of him. 

 

That had almost been him.

 

“Is that even allowed?” He wheezed. 

 

Through the smoke darkening what was left of the hallway, Izuku heard the surprised giggle that came from Kacchan as he walked through the obliterated structure. “These are awesome. The more nitro-sweat stored in these gauntlets, the stronger the explosion is.”

 

The same cheerful ping from before chimed and Izuku saw the left gauntlet flash red as Kacchan approached, which meant he had another of those insane blasts ready to go.

 

“Scared now?” Kacchan hissed. “Come at me with that quirk, Deku. It won’t matter. You’ll never beat me.”

 

The gauntlets enabled Kacchan to fight at range, so that meant Izuku had to get in close no matter how outmatched he was. He needed something, some way to throw Kacchan off his game. If he could unsettle him, hopefully force him down from that terrifying manic look in his eyes, then maybe Izuku could catch him off guard enough to get the capture tape around him.

 

He also needed more information. That blast was huge, there was a chance it had changed the situation upstairs. Decided, Izuku sat up more fully and held a hand out, raising his finger, silently asking Kacchan to hold on a moment, and then turned his head away just enough to make it obvious he was dismissing the very dangerous threat in front of him, but not enough to lose sight of him completely. He was bold, not stupid.

 

“Come in, what’s the situation?” Izuku asked into his comm.

 

Kacchan squawked in outrage. “Are you seriously ignoring me right now!? I’ll get your attention!”

 

While All Might yelled at Kacchan for his reckless attack, Izuku quickly and quietly ran through his new plan with Uraraka. It was risky and it was absolutely going to hurt, but he didn’t see another way this was going to end with a win in their favor. 

 

Izuku heard All Might finish scolding Kacchan so he hurried the last of his instructions to Uraraka. Kacchan was furious at All Might’s declaration to fight without his gauntlets, and he charged Izuku with a fierce battle cry. There was no time to dodge, so Izuku raised his arm to counter, but he was not expecting the aerial maneuvering that sent Kacchan sailing overhead to his vulnerable back. 

 

The blast was powerful and it hurt a lot, but worse was the way Kacchan followed up with another right hook. Unlike before, though, Kacchan used the heavier gauntlet rather than his fist and slammed it into Izuku’s elbow, sending shooting pain up and down his arm and staggering him forward. Before he could hit the ground, before he could think , Kacchan’s hand clamped around his throbbing joint and held on with a vice-like grip. 

 

“Deku,” the blond snarled as he increased his momentum, firing off a chain of explosions with his other hand, swinging Izuku around. Off balance and in pain, Izuku couldn’t counter when Kacchan picked him up by his elbow and sent him crashing into the unforgiving ground, shouting at the top of his lungs. “This is what you’ve always been, what you’ll always be. A weakling!”

 

He was too fast. Too good. He wasn’t giving Izuku time to think let alone counter. It was time to enact his fallback strategy. 

 

In spite of the pain, Izuku lurched to his feet and ran as best as he was able to the other side of the hall. He needed to be in the right position. He had to make an opening for Uraraka. At this point, even a full out sprint wouldn’t get him up there in time to assist, even if he didn’t have to neutralize Kacchan first, but he could still make it possible for Uraraka to win for them. 

 

“Why won’t you use your damn quirk against me? Still think you can stop me without it?” Kacchan taunted. 

 

“That’s not it,” Izuku objected. He didn’t want to use One For All, he didn’t have the control necessary to use it properly. 

 

“You’ve been lying for years , hiding your true power, pretending to have an utterly pathetic quirk. What’s the deal, Deku? Did you think you were better than me this entire time?”

 

Izuku frowned in confusion. That was what Kacchan thought? That Izuku believed he was somehow better than him?  

 

It was a fundamental truth of their world: All men are not created equal. 

 

That lesson had been hammered home again and again since he was four years old , largely due to the boy in front of him. Izuku was at the bottom, lowest of the low; worthless, useless, pathetic. Those words had been said to him, drilled into him so often by so many people that Izuku believed it, accepted it , as irrefutable truth. Only now, thanks to All Might, Izuku had been given a chance to stand on equal footing, to rise up and meet Kacchan and his other classmates at their level.

 

And Kacchan thought Izuku considered himself better.

 

“You idiot,” Izuku snapped, frustrated and offended. “You’ve always been stronger, Kacchan. I know you’re better than me. That's why I want to beat you! Because you’re amazing!”

 

“Well then come at me!” Kacchan roared, vaulting himself toward Izuku, fist cocked back, ready to fire.

 

Izuku raced ahead as well, forcing himself to move fast enough so he could meet his opponent exactly where he needed to be. There was no point in capture tape now, and no way he could use One For All against Kacchan directly without killing him, so he did the only thing he could do.

 

Raising one arm to protect his face at the last minute, Izuku took the full brunt of Kacchan’s rage powered blast while he sent a One For All smash up toward the ceiling, crying out in agony as the searing heat roasted his skin and the bones in his other arm shattered. The air pressure from his punch tore through the ceiling and then the next, and the next, all the way up and out the roof of the building. 

 

Over the sound of concrete, glass, and metal breaking, Izuku heard Uraraka’s attack over his comm as she took one of the freed support pillars and batted debris at Iida as a distraction before floating herself through the rubble to grab the weapon. 

 

The exhausted but pleased, “I got it,” over the comm was music to Izuku’s ears but he was in too much pain to celebrate.

 

“This…this was your plan all along. You tricked me-”

 

“I wasn’t going to use it.”  Izuku saw the stunned look on Kacchan’s face, the way he contorted his features into renewed anger as the surprise slowly faded. “I can’t control it yet,” he explained, voice tight with suppressed pain. “My body can’t handle the backlash. Mr. Aizawa said I’d be useless… But this was the only way…the only way I could win.”

 

Izuku was close to passing out, he could feel the tremors through his body and the way the world started to get wobbly around the edges of his vision. He wanted to stay conscious, fought to stay awake, but he lost. As the darkness swept over him, the last thing he heard was All Might announcing the hero team’s victory.

Chapter Text

Unconsciousness was interesting with Izuku’s quirk. More specifically, the moment his brain adjusted from unconscious to merely asleep . The brain essentially shut off while unconscious, processing almost nothing, unaffected by outside stimuli. Going from that nothingness to simply being asleep was jarring as his brain regained the ability to process input. Rather than a gradual transition from unconsciousness to sleep to wakefulness, Izuku skipped that middle step as the sudden input from his quirk snapped him out of any potential sleep.

 

Izuku hadn’t had many opportunities in his life to experience this, but the few times he had were definitely memorable. 

 

Waking in Recovery Girl’s infirmary was not a surprise. Izuku’s injuries still ached, so he probably hadn’t undergone any treatment yet; too exhausted for Recovery Girl’s quirk more than likely. He was about to turn his quirk off and let true sleep claim him when he registered the voices arguing nearby.

 

It seemed Recovery Girl knew about One For All. Izuku wondered briefly if the whole faculty knew, if Mr. Aizawa knew, but no. According to All Might’s list, only three people other than Izuku himself knew about One For All. It was a much shorter list than Izuku was expecting, but that made sense considering what All Might had warned him about when he’s asked to tell his mom. 

 

Three people though, two of which worked at UA and probably had to know either because of All Might’s time as a student or now that Izuku had been chosen as his successor. That was such a small number. All Might was the number one hero; were there really so few people in the world he could trust?

 

It wasn’t a pleasant thought, and he really shouldn’t be eavesdropping on their conversation. Rather than continue to listen, Izuku turned off his quirk and let sleep take over. He’d think about it later.

 

The next time he woke up, Izuku was given the first round of treatment. The damage was too extensive for Recovery Girl to heal all in one go, so Izuku would be going home injured. Nothing Izuku could do about it but be better next time. Control had to be his focus; he couldn’t keep getting sent to Recovery Girl and missing afternoon classes and worrying his mom with injuries that couldn’t be healed easily. 

 

Stepping into the classroom to pick up his backpack, Izuku was bombarded with cheerful greetings from his classmates. Surprised, Izuku stood a bit in shock as they praised his performance during the exercise and introduced themselves. 

 

Izuku had most of their names down from the quirk assessment test, but the refresher was appreciated. The ones that spoke to him seemed really friendly, and Izuku tried his best to be less of a stuttering wreck. He wasn’t the best at socializing, but it didn’t seem like anyone in his class looked down on him or planned to torment him, so Izuku tried his best to adjust.

 

Kacchan was already gone, of course, and that was probably for the best. Izuku doubted another conversation with Kacchan so soon after his loss would go well for him. Besides, he’d missed everyone else’s performances, and he wanted to hear how they did.

 

With only one working arm, Izuku couldn’t take notes like he normally would have, but he paid close attention and commented on tactics and strategies that had worked well or interesting uses of their quirks. He wanted to ask questions, but he didn’t want to push anyone away. Instead he made himself content just to listen to what they wanted to offer.

 

It was late enough that most everyone made their excuses and left after about an hour, even Izuku. If he was too late, his mom would only worry more, and coming home like this was going to be bad enough. Despite the pleasant conversation after class, Izuku’s thoughts drifted to darker thoughts as he walked home from the train station. He wasn’t sure whether or not his mom had been told about his injury; it was supposed to be standard procedure to contact the family of an injured student. Considering his past experiences with injuries at his other schools, however, he couldn’t be sure.

 

Izuku held his broken arm close to his chest as he walked in an effort to stabilize it further. The bones were partially healed, so it wasn’t as painful, but he still didn’t want to jostle it. The skin on his other arm was still tender and the bandage chafed a bit, but it wasn’t so bad. It wouldn’t even scar. Izuku had some easily hidden scars from Kacchan’s early quirk use. He was glad there wouldn’t be one that he couldn’t hide. Overall, he didn’t look too bad, but his mom would still freak.

 

With a sigh, Izuku prepared himself for her reaction and opened his front door. “Mom? I’m home.”

 

“My baby!” His mom was already crying. UA must have called her. Izuku felt bad for making her upset, moreso because it wouldn’t be the last time, but he knew the risks. Hero work was dangerous. Injuries were inevitable.

 

He hugged his mom with the arm not in a sling. “I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t want you to worry too much, though. I’m okay, really, and Recovery Girl will fix me up good as new in the morning.”

 

“I am your mother; worrying is what I do. Oh, honey…” She looked him over with gentle hands, eyes overflowing with tears. “I know you want to be a hero, but you’re so hurt.”

 

“Mom,” Izuku used the cuff of his jacket to brush her tears away. “I know it’s scary, but I’m okay, and I’m only going to get stronger. That way I won’t get hurt so bad. I promise.”

 

“But without a good quirk…” her lip trembled and she shook her head. “Will it ever be enough? This is what training looks like, what will happen against a villain?”

 

Guilt and worry ate away at Izuku’s stomach. With just his own quirk, he’d essentially be fighting quirkless. There were a few heroes that didn’t have combat quirks, like Eraserhead and All Might’s former sidekick, Sir Nighteye, but even they managed to utilize what they had in a fight. There was nothing Izuku could do with his own quirk that would be useful in a fight. 

 

Maybe he should tell her. It would only replace one worry with another, but if it would ease her immediate concerns, then it might be worth it. If the biggest threat was that she’d tell someone, then what did he really have to worry about? It was his mom . All Might had only trusted three other people with the secret of One For All, but he’d also said Izuku had the right to tell his mom if he wanted to. If he trusted her completely, which he did, then the risk should be minimal, and it would allow Izuku to alleviate some of her concern for his safety.

 

It was still a burden; the knowledge in the wrong hands would be dangerous, but he trusted her to keep it a secret. Besides, it was his mom. She should know. This was a big deal, and he wanted her to know.

 

“Mom… I want to tell you something. It’s a secret, a big one, but it’s important.”

 

Izuku gave her his most reassuring smile and led her to the couch. Once she was sitting, he laid it all out for her. Running into All Might, the conversation on the roof, saving Kacchan, and All Might’s decision to pass on One For All to him. He left out All Might’s weakened state, because that wasn’t his secret to tell, but he explained how the quirk worked and that it had given him strength and speed like All Might. The news was a lot to take in, he knew that better than anyone, but he patiently answered her questions until she was convinced.

 

“So you don’t have to worry. With All Might’s power, once I get the hang of it, I’ll be just fine.”

 

“You’re still learning it though, and it’s doing this to you.” His mom ghosted a hand over the arm in a sling. She didn’t look wholly assured, but she wasn’t crying anymore either. “I wish you’d told me about this before you accepted, but...I suppose there was no changing your mind either.”

 

Izuku shook his head with a shrug. “I couldn’t turn him down; he was offering me my dream, Mom.”

 

“I know.” Weakly, she gave him a watery smile. “I am so proud of you. Also terrified, but so proud. You get that quirk under control, mister. I don’t know how many times I can stand seeing you like this…”

 

“Thanks, Mom. I will. I promise.”

 

Izuku felt lighter than he had in months.

 

The next morning, Izuku had to wake up earlier than normal so he could swing by Recovery Girl’s office for the rest of his treatment. It made staying awake in his morning classes a struggle, but Izuku managed to pull himself out of his haze by lunch time. Hero training that day was tamer than All Might’s combat exercise, and consisted of Mr. Aizawa and All Might taking them to one of the gyms on campus. The teachers wanted an idea of where they each were and where they could stand to improve. It was actually pretty relaxing—low pressure even. 

 

Everyone made the rounds between the various machines, and Izuku was happy to see some of the equipment had been altered to go above the standard weight maximums. He’d surpassed traditional limits to the machines at the little gym near his apartment, so it was nice to see he could actually train

 

“Woah, Midoriya!” Kirishima grinned, looking at Izuku adjusting the weight resistance on the rowing machine as the redhead wiped it down after finishing his own set. “Man, you sure you can handle that much weight? No offense. You’re kinda tiny though.”

 

Izuku shrugged good-naturedly. He could tell from Kirishima’s tone that he really wasn’t trying to make fun of him; there was just enough concern behind the comment. “I know; I’ll probably be short even after I’m done growing. Mom’s tiny, after all. But yeah, I started a super intense training regimen last year.” With a secretly knowing smile, he added, “I could probably carry All Might if I wanted to.”

 

Kirishima laughed, taking his entirely factual comment as humorous hyperbole, but he was amused rather than malicious. Izuku got the impression that Kirishima was just genuinely nice like that. The redhead waited for Izuku to sit and go through a few reps before he held his hands up in surrender and made his way to his next station.

 

That wasn’t the only comment Izuku got that day either, and he could feel a few of the others’ eyes on him occasionally. Uraraka, Asui, Kaminari, and Mineta all voiced their surprise at his deceptive physical strength. He could have done without Mineta’s crass suggestion that he could ‘get so much tail’ if he showed off a little more, though. 

 

Overall, the day felt about as normal as Izuku could have expected out of high school. He should have guessed it wouldn’t last.

 

The swarm of reporters at the gates the next morning was problematic. Izuku did not want to talk to the press, especially about All Might, too worried he’d make a fool of himself or say something he really shouldn’t. Izuku tried to keep his head down, but a few reporters still cornered him, throwing questions at him faster than he could even answer. If it wouldn’t break his legs, Izuku would use One For All to just jump over the wall behind him to safety. He was debating doing it anyway.

 

Thankfully, Mr. Aizawa and Present Mic showed up at the gate and distracted the reporters long enough for Izuku to slip inside. The chatter from the students was, of course, all about the media camping on their doorstep. Some of his classmates had actually tried to answer some of their questions. Izuku saluted their bravery, but he’d pass. Until he got better at speaking to people, he’d prefer to avoid making an idiot of himself on camera.

 

In homeroom, Mr. Aizawa announced the class was supposed to elect a class representative, and Izuku quickly ran through the pros and cons. Pro: exposure and leadership training. Both good and necessary things. Cons: public speaking.

 

Yeah. No.

 

The universe, of course, decided that it had other ideas. Somehow, Izuku ended up with three votes. Since he definitely hadn’t voted for himself, Izuku was shocked. Taking his spot up at the front with Yaoyorozu—the vice rep—he just wanted to curl up and hide. He didn’t have to make a speech, did he? No? Good. Mr. Aizawa dismissed them quickly back to their seats so class could continue.

 

Izuku managed to get his nervous energy down to manageable levels by the time lunch rolled around, so he wasn’t a stuttering mess as he spoke with Iida and Uraraka about the nomination and what made a good leader. In the conversation, Iida let slip that he was related to the Pro Hero Ingenium. Izuku immediately latched onto the change in topic, always interested in hearing more about heroes. The way he talked about Ingenium’s ability to lead and desire to help others with such pride and conviction made Izuku smile. Iida obviously loved his brother and idolized him as a hero.

 

After the absolute travesty of proper evacuation technique brought on by the security breach—reporters were really persistent, apparently—and Iida’s decisive handling of the situation, Izuku was even more convinced than he had been before. Iida was a far better choice as class rep than Izuku would be, so when they got back to class and it was time to elect the other officers, Izuku stepped down as class rep and put Iida up for the position instead.

 

The others quickly agreed, and Izuku took his seat, relieved that he’d managed to dodge that particular bullet. Maybe, hopefully, one day he’d be comfortable enough to be the kind of class rep that everyone deserved, but that wasn’t right now. He was glad the others agreed so easily, and Iida took his position at the front of the room.

 

Iida thanked him for his endorsement as they walked to the train station after school, and Izuku could happily tell him, “I voted for you anyway. I never wanted the job, and you definitely earned it.”

 

There was a definite air of excitement the next day that Izuku couldn’t pinpoint the cause of. Reading about All Might’s various appearances that morning on the train might have had something to do with it. Everyone always enjoyed reading about the number one hero catching bad guys and keeping the town—their town—safe, and that kind of excitement could be infectious. Izuku definitely heard more than one conversation about it on the way into school. 

 

Some of the kids were still talking about the break-in yesterday as well. UA was supposed to be one of the most secure places in Japan, but somehow the media had breached the gates. It wasn’t the best start to the school year, and Izuku had read a couple of articles that berated the so-called security of the top hero academy if it couldn’t even keep out a few overzealous reporters.

 

Either way, there was a distinctive energy on campus that lingered through morning classes and lunch. 

 

After lunch, Mr. Aizawa announced that they’d be doing rescue training at an off-campus facility, and that energy level ramped up even further. Everyone was excited. It was another chance to show off and, more importantly, it was a vital lesson on how to be a hero. The class practically ran to the locker rooms to get changed. 

 

With his costume still trashed after the combat training a couple days ago, Izuku changed into his gym clothes. The support company had sent a few pieces ahead, so he took the new mouth guard, elbow pads, and knee pads for what little protection he could get and then took the utility belt as well. He felt a little disappointed looking at everyone else in their hero costumes, but it was what it was.

 

Once on the bus, the conversation took a turn Izuku was not prepared for. 

 

“I’ve been meaning to say something about you, Midoriya,” said Asui. Izuku was prepared for something similar to his previous interactions with peers, something about his nerdiness, his mumbling, his weird analyzing habits. None of those comments were what he got though. “That power of yours. Isn’t it a lot like All Might’s?”

 

“What? Really? Y-you think so?” There was no way that Asui—Tsu—would guess the truth, but if she got close enough, it could still cause problems. Izuku nervously glanced around at the other students to see if any of them looked like they were paying the idea too much attention. 

 

From the seat behind Kacchan, he noticed a pair of heterochromic eyes focused on him. 

 

Todoroki Shouto, one of the most powerful kids in the class. He’d placed second in the quirk assessment and got into UA on recommendation. According to Uraraka and Iida, who’d watched his combat exercise on the second day, his abilities were off the charts. Those eyes… Izuku could see the intelligence behind them as he seemed to assess Izuku and the validity of Tsu’s claim.

 

It was more attention than Izuku wanted focused on him and All Might’s connection from anyone, but especially someone with as much potential as Todoroki.

 

“Wait, hold on, Tsu. You’re forgetting All Might doesn’t hurt himself. That makes a huge difference.” As Kirishima voiced his objection, Todoroki’s too-intelligent eyes slipped shut, and Izuku relaxed. “Still, it must be cool to have a simple augmenting-type of quirk. You could do a lot of flashy stuff with it. My hardening is super tough and can destroy bad guys in a fight, but it doesn’t look all that impressive.”

 

Eager to stay on this topic for more than one reason, Izuku excitedly launched into a discussion with Kirishima about his quirk and how cool it was. Other people jumped into the discussion about what type of quirks made for popular heroes too, and when Kirishima mentioned that Kacchan and Todoroki were the two with the flashiest quirks, Izuku snuck another look at the half-cold half-hot user. He still had his eyes closed, seemingly not paying any attention to the discussion, even though it included him. 

 

Why had an off-hand comparison to All Might brought his attention to Izuku while the class's comments regarding his own abilities and pro-hero potential went completely ignored?

 

Kacchan’s yelling and his classmates' laughter stole Izuku’s attention. The others were teasing the blonde for his explosive personality. That was new. UA was weird, but…a good weird. It was only the first week of school, but already, Izuku had made friends. No one—other than Kacchan—had bullied him, and he was training to be a hero. Izuku forced himself to calm down.

 

The yelling and teasing ended abruptly when Mr. Aizawa announced that they’d arrived and the bus pulled to a halt in front of a large dome building. Izuku filed out with the rest of the class, gazing up at the impressive structure for as long as he could before they were led inside. 

 

If the outside was impressive, it was nothing compared to what lay within. The area within was a marvel of construction. At a glance, Izuku could see a lake deep enough to hold a large boat, a collapsed city block, a landslide, a mountain, and several smaller domes that no doubt held other areas of disaster. It was amazing!

 

Meeting the Space Hero, Thirteen, was also amazing! Izuku and Uraraka were both practically vibrating with excitement at meeting the famous rescue hero and listened with rapt attention as they explained the finer details of the complex. They called it the Unforeseen Simulation Joint, or USJ, and from the sound of it, the idea for the structure had come almost entirely from Thirteen themself.

 

Izuku was eager to get started. Rescue work was the core of being a hero.

 

The only thing that could make it better was if All Might were here. Izuku was pretty sure he was supposed to be here, actually. Mr. Aizawa had said they’d have three instructors, including All Might, but Izuku only saw Thirteen and Mr. Aizawa. He recalled the news this morning. All Might had made headlines by helping people on his morning commute; he must have used up all his time in his heroic form already.

 

Regardless, it looked like class was going to continue without the number one hero, so Izuku paid attention as Thirteen warned them of the dangers of irresponsible and undisciplined quirk use. It was a lesson that seemed to curb the enthusiasm from a few of the students, but it definitely wasn’t a new concept for Izuku. He’d dealt with the painful consequences of irresponsible and undisciplined quirk use for most of his childhood, courtesy of Kacchan and the other bullies.

 

After Thirteen’s speech, Mr. Aizawa moved to start the actual lesson, but he was interrupted by a surge of electricity arcing along the lights of the dome, extinguishing all artificial lights. The fountain in the center also sputtered, struggling to maintain a constant flow of water as if something was messing with the building’s power. The class and teachers both looked around in confusion before a distortion in the air in front of the fountain rippled outward, turning into an ominous, swirling, purple and black shadow.

 

The figure that stepped out of the shadow set Izuku’s hair on end. Covered in severed hands that Izuku hoped were just really believable props, the thin figure spread out his arms and the shadow expanded until it encompassed half the courtyard. More and more people followed the thin, hand-covered man, stepping out of what had to be a warp gate of some kind and into the facility. The last to step out was a massive, hulking brute with a bird-like beak and exposed brain. 

 

“Stay together and don’t move!” Mr. Aizawa snapped. “Thirteen, protect the students.”

 

“Has the training started already?” Kirishima asked, brow knit in confusion. “I thought we were just rescuing people.”

 

“Stay back!” their homeroom teacher yelled again, moving between the students and the new arrivals. Izuku gasped in realization as he watched Eraserhead don his yellow goggles. “This is real. Those are villains.”

 

There were so many of them. Izuku couldn’t easily count them all, and he definitely didn’t like the look of the hand guy or the brain guy. Fear clawed its way up his spine, but Izuku stubbornly forced it down. Now was not the time to panic; he had to think, use his brain. If it came down to it, he would come up with a plan to keep his class and his teachers safe.

 

A deep, disembodied voice carried through the facility. “The only real heroes I see are Thirteen and Eraserhead. Perplexing. According to the schedule we retrieved from UA, All Might should be here as well.” As the warp gate shrank and reassembled into a vaguely human figure, Izuku realized the speaker was the warp-quirk user. 

 

“So they used the press as a cover and snuck onto campus,” Mr. Aizawa muttered.

 

“Where is he?” a harsh, dry voice asked. It didn’t carry quite as well over the distance, but it was still audible. “I went through the trouble of bringing so many friends who were eager to meet him. They want All Might. The great Symbol of Peace. I can’t believe he’s not here. Maybe if I kill a few kids, he’ll come out to play!”

 

Mr. Aizawa’s capture weapon flared up around him in response to the threat to his students.

 

“Real villains? There’s no way…” Kirishima objected. “How could so many of them get into a secure UA facility?”

 

“He’s right. Thirteen,” Yaoyorozu said as she stepped forward. “Why aren’t the alarms going off?”

 

“Good question,” Thirteen mused worriedly. “I’m not sure.”

 

“Is the entire campus under attack? Or is this their only target?” Todoroki wondered. “Either way, if the alarm sensors aren’t being triggered, then one of these villains must have a quirk that’s masking their presence here. They carefully chose this isolated facility as an entry point at a time when a class was being taught. They’re fools for trespassing here, but they’ve thought this out. Whatever their plan, they must have a concrete objective in mind. But what is it?”

 

Izuku agreed with his assessment. As he thought, Todoroki was sharp. His ability to make a quick—and accurate—tactical appraisal would definitely come in handy here. 

 

“Thirteen, get the students out of here and alert the main campus,” Eraserhead ordered. “Actually, if they’re blocking our sensors, they might be jamming our regular communications too. Kaminari, use your quirk to try to contact the school.”

 

“Yes, sir,” the electric-quirk user replied, following instructions.

 

“What’re you going to do?” Izuku stepped forward as Eraserhead did. “You can’t fight them on your own! There’s too many of them—even if you nullify their quirks—your fighting style’s not suited for this.” Izuku wasn’t normally one to speak against a teacher’s instructions, but he didn’t like the idea of Mr. Aizawa facing off against all those villains alone. “Your power works best in stealth and one-on-one fights. That’s not gonna help with a group.”

 

Eraserhead turned to look at Izuku over his shoulder. “You can’t be a pro if you only have one trick.”

 

Privately, Izuku thought you also couldn’t be a pro if you were killed by a mob, but he didn’t have time to object as Eraserhead threw himself down the stairs, charging the villains. The whole class watched as their teacher nimbly dispatched villain after villain. Dodging and punching and kicking all in conjunction with his capture weapon. It was an impressive display and Izuku reconsidered what he knew about the underground hero, itching to take notes to add to his analysis when he got back home.

 

The odds of getting back home, however, shrank dramatically as the warp-gate villain reappeared behind the students, blocking their escape. Thirteen was quick to place themselves between the villain and the students, but Kirishima and Kacchan jumped the villain before the pro hero could stop them. Their attack generated a lot of smoke and noise, but the villain remained smugly unaffected. After a few more threatening taunts, black tendrils of smoke erupted from the villain and engulfed the class. Izuku had just enough time to throw his hands up to try to protect his face on instinct before the ground disappeared from underneath him and he dropped, screaming, ten meters above the surface of the lake.

Chapter Text

Hitting the surface of the lake stung, but Izuku had definitely felt worse. He whirled around for a few moments trying to orient himself toward the surface before kicking desperately. Swimming in shoes was annoying. Swimming in shoes when he had little to no excess body fat to add to buoyancy was a challenge.  

 

Izuku’s lungs screamed for air, but he still had a ways to go when movement in the water caught his attention. At first Izuku thought it was a shark and panicked a little, but then he looked closer and realized it was a villain. Izuku would have preferred the shark.

 

Before the villain could reach him, Tsu slammed into his side, knocking the villain off course and stunning him long enough for her to wrap her tongue around Izuku’s chest and drag him up out of the water. Once they were on the boat and relatively safe, he coughed out his thanks. 

 

“This is turning out to be a terrible day of class,” Tsu lamented softly, dropping Mineta, who she’d also fished out, none too gently on the deck.

 

“Yeah, I keep thinking about what that villain said. They knew our whole schedule and who would be here. That means they’ve been waiting for the perfect time to attack, just like Todoroki said they were.” Izuku didn’t like this one bit. A well planned assault with this many villains could do serious harm. Even if All Might were here, Izuku doubted the rest of them would be safe from all danger.

 

Mineta flailed as he cried out his protest. “It’s not like these guys can really kill All Might. Once he shows up, he’ll pound these villains until there’s nothing left!”

 

“Think about it though. If the villains spent so much time planning this attack, then they probably figured out a way to kill him,” Tsu reasoned calmly. Izuku didn’t like to think about it, but she was probably right too. “Besides, didn’t you hear what that smoke guy said? Maybe we should worry more about not getting tortured to death. Otherwise, we might not survive long enough to see All Might again.”

 

Izuku remembered. Both the warp villain and the hand villain had mentioned killing students. It was a very real concern; regardless of whether or not they had a means to kill All Might, they absolutely had the means to kill the students. Izuku was determined to make sure that didn’t happen.

 

“The pros are gonna save us, right?” Mineta screeched. “Tell Frog-Boobs to shut up!”

 

Izuku shot him a withering glare but otherwise ignored his outburst. Besides, they didn’t have a lot of time. There were villains in the water, surrounding the boat on all sides, jeering at them as they clung to the temporary safety of the boat.

 

Izuku didn’t know why they were after All Might specifically, why they put together such an elaborate plan for just one hero—even if he was the number one hero—and he didn’t care. If their goal was to take out All Might, then Izuku planned to mess up their day.

 

“We have to stop whatever it is these guys are planning.” Izuku declared firmly. “We have to work together and keep All Might and our classmates safe. No one at UA knows what’s happening, so it’s up to us. Let’s be heroes!”

 

Tsu nodded in firm agreement, but Mineta started crying and screaming again. “Are you crazy? These guys might be able to kill All Might and you think we can take them?! Did you hit your head when we got warped here?!” Izuku and Tsu rolled their eyes and turned away from their crying classmate as he continued to rant about the futility of the situation. 

 

It wasn’t helpful input, so Izuku blocked it out. He understood why Mineta was worried, but it wasn’t like they had a choice. If their options were stand up and fight or wait around and die, then he knew which option he voted for. 

 

“Those villains have a clear advantage in the water,” he murmured to Tsu. “They must assume that’s where we’ll fight, or they’re prepared to force us there eventually.”

 

“Then they must have known what was in the USJ before they got here,” Tsu guessed.

 

Izuku agreed. It matched with everything they’d done so far. Getting the schedule, picking an opportune time and location, and gathering a group that had terrain advantage all spoke of meticulous planning. There was just one thing that didn’t make sense…

 

“For a group with such careful planning, there’s something that just doesn’t make sense to me.” Izuku confessed. “They sent you here. Of all the places to send you, they warped you to the shipwreck zone.”

 

“Why does it matter that she’s here?!” Mineta cried.

 

“It means the villains probably have no idea what our quirks are,” Izuku explained.

 

Tsu ribbited in surprise. “You’ve got a point. If they knew I was a frog, they would’ve sent me to that fire zone over there instead of somewhere full of water.”

 

“They probably separated us because they didn’t know what we could do and planned to overpower us once we were in smaller groups—easier to pick off that way—but we can use that to our advantage. They don’t know what our quirks are, so, for all they know, the three of us could be super powerful. Look,” Izuku watched the villains in the water around them critically, “none of them are trying to climb into the boat, which just proves they’re unsure. They’re being smart and playing it safe. For now.”

 

Tsu dragged him away from the edge and the two of them hunkered down next to Mineta to start planning. The first thing Izuku needed was information. Tsu offered up information on her own quirk first, and it was quite the list. Jumping, climbing, and her extended tongue, not to mention superb maneuverability in the water. Tsu’s quirk was pretty amazing. Mineta finally seemed to calm down as he explained his quirk. It was a great utility quirk, for sure, but had somewhat limited combat use. The sticky balls were excellent for capture and restraint, and Mineta could use them to augment his own maneuverability if properly applied. 

 

When it was his turn, Izuku hesitated. He had no trouble telling them about the uses and limitations of One For All, but strictly speaking, that wasn’t the only thing he could do. Admitting he had another or secondary ability could be bad though, and Izuku wasn’t sure if his own quirk would really matter here anyway. Maybe if it were just Tsu, she seemed like the trustworthy sort, but Mineta didn’t strike him as the type to be able or willing to keep it a secret. 

 

In the end, he decided to hold off. If it became relevant, which he doubted, then he’d tell them. 

 

Before they could get to the actual planning stage, the villains decided to move things along, wrecking the boat. As it started to sink, Izuku’s mind went into overdrive to come up with a strategy while Tsu and Mineta bickered behind him. When he thought he had something workable, he got the other two’s attention and ran them through the plan. 

 

Once they agreed, Izuku stood up and faced the edge of the boat. Planting his foot on the railing, he shouted out a battle cry as loud as he could, before launching himself over the edge as high as he could manage without using One For All. As he hit the apex of his arc, he braced himself and powered One For All through his thumb and middle finger and blasted a focused smash directly at the water. Even just flicking his fingers, the force was enough to create an enormous geyser of displaced water that turned into a swirling whirlpool as the water surged back towards the point of impact, catching all the villains in the water in the vortex.

 

“Tsu, Mineta now!” Izuku shouted, and Tsu jumped off the boat, carrying Mineta, as she wrapped her tongue around Izuku’s chest. The strength of her jump carried all three of them clear of the mess of villains and Mineta quickly threw as many of his sticky balls into the water as he could to trap the villains while they were unable to avoid them.

 

It worked. The three of them were able to trap all the villains in the water and clear the area in moments. It had cost Izuku a couple fingers, and Mineta’s scalp was bleeding, but it was worth it. They were safe for the moment and could turn their attention to the rest of the USJ and their classmates.

 

The shipwreck zone was the closest to the center plaza, which meant as Izuku, Tsu, and Mineta neared the edge of the water, the sounds of fighting got louder. It was almost a relief, hearing evidence that their teacher was still up, still fighting, but how much longer could he really hold out against a hoard of villains? Fear clenched Izuku’s stomach tight. Eraserhead was amazing, a pro-hero, but how long could anyone last, one against twenty? 

 

“The way I see it, we have two choices from here,” Izuku stated calmly as the three of them stopped near the edge of the water. “There’s a second exit that way. If we follow the shore, we can make it to that door, avoiding the central plaza entirely. It might be our best chance to get help.”

 

“That’s a good idea, ribbit,” Tsu agreed. “What other option would there be?”

 

Izuku glanced over to the sounds of fighting up ahead. “If Mr. Aizawa doesn’t get some backup, then he’s just going to overexert himself. He’ll end up defeated by those villains trying to keep us safe.”

 

“Wait…you’re seriously suggesting we fight more villains?” Mineta objected. 

 

“I’m not saying we jump into the middle of the battle, but maybe we can find a way to take a few of those guys out and lighten his load.” He understood their hesitation, considering they were only a few days into their first year of hero training, but Mr. Aizawa had been right. The world wasn’t fair. The sooner they accepted that truth, the better. 

 

“You’re crazy!” Mineta hissed.

 

“Look, there’s nothing that says you have to come with me. Option one is still open to you, if you’d rather not, but I can’t just stand by when I could have done something to help.” Izuku shook his head and started heading for the plaza. 

 

“You don’t know that he needs help,” Tsu argued. “Maybe you’re underestimating him, or overestimating the villains. I mean, the three of us were able to take out a bunch of them on our own. Mr. Aizawa’s a pro! He’s probably doing fine.”

 

Izuku considered her point, but kept walking. “If that’s the case, I’ll admit I was wrong and go for the exit. But if I’m right, leaving now would mean Mr. Aizawa could be hurt or killed while I chose not to try.”

 

Tsu joined him as he slowly made his way toward the plaza. “Then we check, and head for the exit if it looks like he has it under control.”

 

“Agreed.”

 

To Izuku’s surprise, Mineta followed them as well, though that might have just been that the shorter boy didn’t want to go anywhere alone.

 

As they neared the plaza, the three of them crouched down and swam the rest of the way to the shore to stay out of sight. Once they reached the edge, they peered up over the shore cautiously to get a look at the field. To Izuku’s surprise, most of the villains were already unconscious or out of commission. 

 

After Eraserhead knocked out two villains simultaneously, the hand villain that had been the first through the portal and the one to taunt them about killing All Might finally moved to engage their teacher. He was muttering times that Izuku didn’t have references for, but it sounded like he’d been timing a repeated action. When he and Eraserhead met in a clash of limbs, Izuku thought, for a moment, that that would be the end for the villain, but it wasn’t.

 

The weird villain caught Eraserhead by the elbow and leaned in close to whisper something. As far back as they were, Izuku didn’t catch the words, but he saw it clearly as first Eraserhead’s shirt, then his skin, and some of his muscles in his elbow slowly disintegrated at the villain’s touch. Before the damage could get even worse, he activated his quirk and shoved the villain back. A few thugs jumped in to try to take advantage of his injury, but even without the use of his arm, the hero was still able to knock them out.

 

It was costing him though. Izuku could see the blood seeping from the wounded arm and Mr. Aizawa was panting, clearly exhausted. 

 

“Look at you! You’re still standing!” the hand villain taunted with a laugh. “You really are so cool. Oh, by the way, Eraserhead. I am not the final boss.”

 

The brain villain was suddenly right behind Mr. Aizawa. Izuku didn’t even see him move! Before any of them could stop it, the brain villain raised one enormous limb and brought it down onto Mr. Aizawa’s head. The blood spray was alarming, but seeing Eraserhead’s signature yellow goggles split in two was downright chilling. Support gear for heroes was no joke; items were made to be extremely durable, particularly anything that also doubled as protection like the goggles did. The amount of force necessary to completely snap the goggles in half was immense and the villain had just brought it to bear with a single strike. 

 

Not that it ended there. 

 

Izuku, Tsu, and Mineta were all frozen in shock and terror as the brute slammed Mr. Aizawa repeatedly into the ground. If it weren’t for the groans of pain, Izuku would think Mr. Aizawa had died, but somehow he was still alive and conscious. The brain villain held a massive hand on his head, pushing him into the ground, while the other held the hero’s already damaged limb at a painfully awkward angle. 

 

“What do you think of him, Eraserhead?” the hand villain bragged cheerfully. “He’s the bioengineered anti-Symbol of Peace, but you can call him Nomu.”

 

Nomu let out an animalistic screech before twisting Mr. Aizawa’s arm and breaking it. The scream of pain from their teacher was awful. 

 

“You can erase people’s powers. That’s irritating, but it’s nothing impressive.” The hand villain was talking again. “When faced with true devastating power, you might as well be a quirkless child!”

 

Nomu broke Mr. Aizawa’s other arm in one swift motion, crushing it between his palm and the ground. Then he pulled Mr. Aizawa’s head up before slamming it into the ground. 

 

“No…” Mineta whimpered. “We should be leaving super fast, shouldn’t we?”

 

“Ribbit,” Tsu croaked her agreement. 

 

Izuku’s goal for coming here had been to see if Mr. Aizawa needed help and render aid if he could, but what was he doing? Sitting here, frozen, while his teacher was mutilated in front of him. He had to do something

 

Before he could convince himself to move, the warp villain returned. “Tomura Shigaraki.”

 

Was that the hand villain’s name? He really just…said his name in front of everyone?

 

“Kurogiri,” Shigaraki acknowledged. “Did you manage to kill Thirteen?”

 

“The Rescue Hero is out of commission,” Kurogiri confirmed. If nothing else, Izuku was learning these guys weren’t careful with their names or identities. “But there were students I was unable to disperse and one of them got outside the facility.”

 

Someone escaped! That meant help was on the way! 

 

Even better, it looked like Shigaraki realized that too. The villain began scratching at his own neck in agitation and scolding the other villain for his failure. When he finally stopped clawing at his own neck and dejectedly said they were leaving, Izuku was a little surprised. 

 

It didn’t make sense. This whole plan, all the prep, was to kill All Might. They were really going to leave before they got a chance to do that? A second attempt would be practically impossible, they wouldn’t be able to exploit the same weakness to get into UA after this. 

 

“I have a bad feeling about this, Midoriya,” Tsu murmured.

 

“Me too.” After all of this, there was no way the villains were just going to leave having accomplished nothing. So what could they do in the time they had left? What would be an acceptable consolation prize to killing All Might? Two things immediately came to mind. One, they could kill Mr. Aizawa. Nomu already had him dead to rights. All it would take was an order from Shigaraki to finish the job. A dead pro was still something , but it didn’t feel like enough. Eraserhead was an underground hero, not very well known or popular, so it wouldn’t have the same impact on the public. However, they were also, unfortunately, nearby. A student, a child , killed in an attack when All Might was supposed to have been present? 

 

Yeah, that would have impact.

 

“Get down,” Izuku ordered quietly, already pushing Tsu away from the edge. “Take Mineta and swim away, stay away from the edge. Do it now!”

 

Thankfully, Tsu complied, ducking under the water entirely and swimming away just in time. When Shigaraki turned towards the water, Izuku was the only one he saw. Just in case the villain got suspicious, just in case he had seen all three of them before and thought it odd there was only one now, just in case he needed a push to follow through and leave Mr. Aizawa alone, Izuku closed his eyes and pretended to cower in fear.

 

Izuku saw through his quirk when Shigaraki launched himself forward, hand reaching out for Izuku’s face. He only had about two seconds to get this right. If he messed up the timing on this, he was dead . He needed speed, just a little bit, just enough to do what he needed. A normal jump wasn’t going to do it, but a One For All powered jump would be too much. He wanted a little boost, not enough to launch him to the ceiling, and he definitely needed to be able to use his legs afterward.

 

Then it hit him.

 

Just like the quirk assessment test the first day of school, he needed to control where he focused One For All. If he used it all through his legs, he had the ability to jump buildings, but that’s not what Izuku needed. Instead, he limited the power to the last point of contact with the ground: his toes. There were significantly fewer muscles in his toes than there were in the entirety of his legs, which meant he was reducing the effectiveness of One For All, but in this case, that’s exactly what he needed. Just a little boost…

 

Once Shigaraki was close enough, Izuku jumped up and flipped over the villain, clearing him with room to spare. As he flew over Shigaraki’s head, Izuku grabbed the red cables that connected the hands around Shigaraki’s neck to the one on the back of his head and heaved , throwing the villain back across the plaza. 

 

When Izuku landed, he winced as his toes reminded him that his bones weren’t yet powerful enough to handle One For All, but he otherwise ignored the pain. He also noticed that he still held the costume piece in his hand and looked at it with disgust. Were those…real hands? From actual people? What the hell? Izuku dropped the cable quickly.

 

“Nomu,” Shigaraki coughed, rubbing his neck, sprawled across the ground where he’d landed. “Kill that brat.”

 

Oh, crap.

 

At least they were leaving Mr. Aizawa alone. Izuku would take the good news where he could get it.

 

In a blink, Nomu was in front of him, arms up to crush him into the dirt. Izuku didn’t think, didn’t plan, just reacted, throwing a One For All smash in an effort to knock the villain back. He connected with a solid torso, he could feel the reverberations of his fist hitting something, but Nomu didn’t budge. Was he completely unaffected? How was that possible?

 

If that weren’t enough to be surprised by, Izuku also noticed his arm wasn’t broken. If it hadn’t been for the fact he felt the power of One For All behind that punch, he might have thought the quirk was erased, but no—he’d successfully thrown a punch without injuring himself!

 

Too bad it was probably the last thing he was going to do before he died.

 

Nothing Izuku had done had discouraged Nomu from attacking. The brute took Izuku’s arm in one of his meaty hands and screeched in his face, raising the other hand up once more to squash Izuku like a bug. Tsu’s tongue wrapped around Izuku’s chest and he felt her try to pull him to safety—he was surprised, but grateful that she came back to help—but there was no way he was getting away unless Nomu let go of his arm.

 

Then the doors of the USJ exploded, and everyone froze.


For those few suspended moments, the only sound that could be heard were the steady, powerful footsteps of whoever had just arrived, until the dust cleared and there, at the top of the stairs, stood the colossal figure that was the Symbol of Peace, their light in the darkness. All Might.

Chapter Text

“Have no fear, students! I am here!” All Might’s proclamation broke the stillness around them, and the students relaxed, but the villains didn’t look worried. If anything, they looked eager.

 

Izuku noticed that All Might wasn’t smiling. Did that mean he was worried? Or was it anger? All Might had told him that he smiled to hide the fear inside, that the smile was meant to reassure everyone that things would be okay. If All Might couldn’t smile now… 

 

All Might had already used almost all of his available power for the day, even resting as long as he had, he wasn’t anywhere near replenishing that time limit. He was here, and that was great—amazing, even—but Izuku was worried.

 

Nomu was designed to kill All Might at his best. How long would he last when he was nearly at his limit?

 

“After all this waiting, the heroic piece of trash shows up.” Shigaraki got to his feet. 

 

He wasn’t the only one either. Several villains that Mr. Aizawa had fought were getting to their feet as well, though they seemed hesitant at first to go up against their intended target. One of them tried to rally the others, but All Might surged forward and took them all out in a second. He reached Mr. Aizawa and lifted him gently into his arms, before turning to face the villains, Izuku, and Tsu. The brilliant blue of his eyes shone with rage as he took in the scene, and then he moved again, this time lifting Izuku and Tsu free from danger and moving all three of them a safe distance away.

 

It was a little jarring, moving faster than the eye could really process, and Tsu stood a little stunned until All Might got their attention. “Get back to the entrance, and take Aizawa with you. He doesn’t have much time.”

 

Maybe Izuku was a little stunned too, because all he could think to say was a rather obvious, “You saved us, All Might.”

 

Shigaraki stalked over to the costume piece that Izuku had dropped and replaced it around his head and neck. It was so disturbing to think he willingly put real hands around himself. Izuku didn’t know how he could stand it.

 

As they watched the villains cautiously, Izuku lifted Mr. Aizawa up onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry like All Might had taught him a few months ago. He wasn’t too heavy, but he was significantly taller than Izuku, so Izuku made sure to keep his limbs tucked in close. The man was definitely unconscious at this point, which Izuku thought was a blessing. Those injuries? If the head trauma hadn’t done it, the pain alone might have been enough to knock him out.

 

Once Mr. Aizawa was secured, Izuku turned to his mentor. “All Might, be careful. That brain villain took a smash from me and it didn’t faze him at all. He’s the reason they think they can kill you.”

 

“Don’t worry, Young Midoriya! I’ve got this.” All Might smiled encouragingly, but Izuku wasn’t convinced. 

 

Still, he had his orders. Mr. Aizawa needed help now, so Izuku and Tsu made for the other students and the exit. Mineta joined them halfway across the plaza, cheering All Might on as he fought Nomu. Izuku could hear the other kids too, all cheering and care-free, so sure in All Might’s strength that it never occurred to any of them to doubt.

 

But Izuku knew the truth. That strength had its limits, and All Might had used all his power today. At any moment, he could run out of time, and there would be nothing Izuku could do. If he tried to help, he risked getting in the way, or worse, getting taken hostage. There was nothing he could do against Nomu, and he doubted he’d be lucky a second time against Shigaraki. He should just carry Mr. Aizawa to the exit like All Might told him to.

 

The ground shook as All Might suplexed Nomu into the ground, but as the dust settled, Izuku gasped in surprise and fear. The warp villain had opened a gate underneath Nomu, sending the brute’s upper body behind All Might. The clawed hands of the villain dug deeply into All Might’s side, and Izuku could see the blood spreading across his white shirt. 

 

“No…” Izuku whispered. That was the same place as the scar on All Might’s side. 

 

“Kurogiri.” Shigaraki signaled the warp villain.

 

“Normally I wouldn’t want blood and viscera flooding my warp gates, but I’ll make an exception for a hero as great as you. Since you move too fast for the human eye to see, Nomu had to restrain you. Once he’s pulled your body half way through, I’ll squeeze the gate shut!” Kurogiri explained. “I’m going to enjoy tearing you to pieces.”  

 

“Tsu.” Izuku didn’t have a plan. 

 

“Yeah, Midoriya?”

 

“I need you to take Mr. Aizawa for me.” Izuku gently shrugged his teacher off his shoulders and into Tsu’s arms. 

 

She struggled at first to carry his weight, but Mineta helped a little. “What are you going to do?”

 

Izuku didn’t know and didn’t answer. All he knew was that he couldn’t let the villains kill All Might. His feet carried him toward the center of the plaza, slowly at first, but then he was charging in with a yell. It was beyond foolish. He had no idea what he could possibly do to actually help, but he could not sit by and watch as they killed his hero!

 

He jumped, aiming for Kurogiri’s mist-like form. Maybe if he could knock him down, or distract him, he would be unable to follow through with his threat to tear All Might apart inside his gates. When the warp gate opened in front of Izuku’s path, he thought that that might be the end. Wherever the villain sent him, Izuku doubted it would be pleasant or safe.

 

The explosion to his left was an unexpected boon, even if it did come from an angry Kacchan. “Get out of my way, Deku!” 

 

The blonde slammed into Kurogiri’s body and managed to take him to the ground, which disrupted the warp gate in front of Izuku. Before he could comment on his childhood friend’s sudden appearance, a sheet of ice rushed across the ground and encased Nomu from foot to wrist along one side, completely immobilizing the villain. And ice could only mean one thing.

 

“One of your poorly trained thugs told me you’re here because you think you can kill All Might.” Todoroki was here! Calm and collected as if he were discussing something in class, he stared down the villains with undisguised disdain. 

 

All Might seized the opportunity to break free of Nomu’s grip and jumped clear of the warp gates to stand next to Todoroki and Izuku. 

 

“Are you okay?” Izuku asked, sending a cursory glance over All Might and Todoroki both. Wherever the teen had been sent to clearly hadn’t caused him any harm, though. Izuku didn’t see a scratch on him. 

 

A shout from Kirishima drew Izuku’s attention, and he watched as the redhead tried to get the jump on Shigaraki. The villain moved out of the way, though, and Kirishima was quick to jump back as well after his sneak attack failed. 

 

“Guess I found your body that time, ya smokey bastard!” Kacchan grinned, taunting Kurogiri with glee as Kirishima took up position to his left.

 

“The Symbol of Peace will not be defeated by delinquents like you,” Todoroki declared. 

 

Their arrival was very timely, and Izuku was pleased to see that none of them were harmed. They were eager to help, ready to stand up and defend, and Izuku was beyond relieved they were here. He wiped the tears from his eyes, and raised his fists in a loose guard. They were ready to fight, and so was he. No one was getting to All Might today.

 

“Kurogiri, how could you let this brat get the best of you? You’ve gotten us into a real jam here.” Shigaraki complained. 

 

“Heh,” Kacchan gloated. “You got careless, you dumb villain. It wasn’t hard to figure you out. Only certain parts of you turn into the smoking warp gate; you use that mist to hide your actual body as a kind of distraction. Thinking that made you safe! That’s why we missed, but if you didn’t have a body, you wouldn’t be wearing this neck armor, right? You’re not immune to physical attacks if they’re well aimed .”

 

Izuku knew Kacchan was intelligent, particularly when it came to combat. It wasn’t a surprise that he’d found the villain’s weakness before even Izuku had. 

 

Kurogiri was obviously frustrated at the frank assessment of his weakness, however, and tried to fight against Kacchan’s hold. 

 

Kacchan sent several small explosions into the armor piece under his hand. “Don’t move! You try anything funny and I’ll blow your ass up right now, you got it? They’ll be cleaning you up for weeks.”

 

“Oh, that doesn’t sound very heroic,” Kirishima teased with a smile. 

 

“They escaped uninjured and captured my two strongest men. Kids these days really are amazing. They make the League of Villains look like amateurs. Can’t have that.” Shigaraki praised quietly, drawing everyone’s attention. He was calm considering his previous outbursts when things didn’t go his way. It made Izuku nervous. “Nomu.”

 

At his order, Nomu retreated through the warp gate and stood up, breaking his own limbs off as he fought against the ice. It didn’t slow him down at all, either, and they all watched in horror as the beast regrew his arm and leg right before their eyes.

 

“What is this? I thought you said his power was shock absorption!” All Might demanded.

 

“I didn’t say that was his only quirk.” Shigaraki was smirking behind the hand on his face, Izuku could hear it in his smug voice. “He also has super-regeneration. Nomu has been modified to take you on even at 100% of your power. He’s basically a highly efficient punching bag that hits back.”

 

Todoroki and Izuku both moved, adopting defensive stances, as Nomu finished regenerating with a screech, but they didn’t have the chance to attack.

 

“First we need to free our method of escape. Get him Nomu.”

 

The next thing Izuku knew, he was flying across the plaza in a sudden gust of wind, though he also felt a tug against his collar, so maybe it wasn’t the wind that had moved him. When he could see through the dirt and dust, Nomu was standing protectively over Kurogiri, and Kacchan was nowhere to be seen.

 

“Kacchan!” Izuku panicked for a moment, but then he heard the surprised grunt of his childhood friend from behind him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Kacchan, unhurt, sitting behind him. “You...dodged him?”

 

“Shut up, no I didn’t, you damn nerd.” 

 

“Then how’d you get over here?” Kirishima asked. He and Todoroki were also with Izuku and Kacchan, several meters away from where they'd been before. 

 

“Isn’t it obvious?” Todoroki asked, pointing to the destroyed wall marking the entrance to the squall zone. As the debris finally settled, they could see All Might.

 

“These are kids, and you didn’t hold back?” the hero demanded angrily. 

 

“I didn’t have much choice,” Shigaraki protested. “He was threatening my companion. Besides, these kids are no angels. The plain looking one? He tried to kill Nomu with a maxed-out punch and threw me across the plaza like it was nothing, almost breaking my neck.” Izuku grimaced as Shigaraki pointed at him accusingly. “What kind of ‘hero’ does something like that?”

 

“Seriously, Midoriya?” Kirishima whispered. “Badass.”

 

Shigaraki either didn’t hear the commentary or chose to ignore it as he continued. “You think you can get away with being as violent as you want if you say it’s for the sake of others. Well, you know what, All Might? That pisses me off. Why do people get to decide some violent acts are heroic and others are villainous? Casting judgement as to what’s good and what’s evil. You think you’re the Symbol of Peace? Ha. You’re just another government-sponsored instrument of violence. And violence always breeds more violence. I’ll make sure the world understands that once you’re dead.”  

 

Izuku had some Opinions on that speech, but he kept them to himself for the moment, unwilling to draw unnecessary attention to himself or the other students by debating the morality of heroes and ethical violence with a villain.

 

“You’re nothing but a lunatic,” All Might decided. “Criminals like you, you always try to make your actions sound noble, but admit it: you’re only doing this because you like it. Isn’t that right?”

 

Shigaraki glared from behind his hand mask and then shrugged one shoulder casually, not admitting it but not denying it either.

 

Todoroki resumed his defensive stance. “We’ve got them outnumbered.”

 

Izuku nodded in agreement and followed suit. “Plus Kacchan found the mist guy’s weakness.”

 

“These dudes may act really tough, but we can take ‘em down now with All Might’s help.” Kirishima hardened his skin. “Let’s do this!”

 

“Don’t attack!” All Might ordered, striding forward calmly. “Get out of here.”

 

“You would have been in trouble earlier if it weren’t for me, remember? You need our help.” Todoroki pointed out.

 

“I thank you for your assistance, but this is different. I’ve got this. Just sit back and watch a pro at work.”

 

Izuku knew he was just trying to protect them, but Todoroki was more right than he knew. “You’re too hurt, you’re bleeding. And you’re almost out of ti-” Izuku cut himself off before he could finish that statement, but the fact remained that it was true.

 

Despite that, and despite his protests, All Might said nothing. Just gave him a thumbs up, as if that was supposed to calm Izuku’s totally legitimate concerns.

 

“Nomu. Kurogiri. Kill him. I’ll deal with the children,” Shigaraki instructed. “Let’s clear this level and go home.”

 

Shigaraki sprinted for Izuku and the others, and the students all braced themselves. 

 

“Heads up, we’re fighting after all,” Kirishima said with a sigh. 

 

All Might and Nomu moved at the same time, colliding in the middle, sending a shockwave of air powerful enough to knock everyone around them aside. Shigaraki went flying back the way he came while Izuku and the other students were sent the other direction. Izuku rolled as he landed, quickly getting back to his feet just in case.

 

“Weren’t you listening?” Shigaraki yelled at All Might. “One of his powers is shock absorption!” 

 

“Yeah? What about it?” All Might grunted, trading faster and faster blows with Nomu until they were constant. 

 

The air pressure kept up, unrelenting, preventing anyone from engaging with the others on the field. It was all Izuku could do just to keep from being sent ass over tea kettle. Kacchan and the others were right there with him as well, barely able to maintain their position on the edge of the fight.

 

“He’s really gonna fight that brain guy head on?” Izuku had to shout to be heard over the noise.

 

“They’re so fast!” Kirishima exclaimed, temporarily losing his fight with the wind, landing on his ass before digging a hardened hand into the ground to anchor himself.

 

At least the other villains were having just as much trouble as they were. It looked like Kurogiri was having difficulty and Izuku didn’t see any warp gates materialize. It was possible the wind kept him from creating or sustaining any. 

 

“He said your quirk was only shock absorption, not nullification. That means there’s a limit to what you can take, right?” All Might yelled as he continued to rain down blow after blow. They were trading hits almost faster than Izuku could see! How was All Might managing? A lucky hit to his weak spot paused the fight for a moment and Izuku worried that would be it, but All Might just grit his teeth and resumed wailing on Nomu. “So you were made to fight me, big guy. If you can really withstand me at 100% of my power, then I’ll have to go beyond that and force you to surrender!”

 

Somehow, unbelievably, All Might started moving even faster! Izuku was stunned, in awe of All Might’s resolve to keep going and do whatever it took to win. He knew the number one hero was a level above even the top pros, and he never lost, but it was another thing entirely to see it in person. 

 

The tide of the fight shifted, and what had been an even exchange of punches turned into a beat down as All Might surpassed a threshold that Nomu was incapable of matching and proceeded to lecture the villains as he laid waste to their careful planning. “A real hero will always find a way for justice to be served!” One solid punch sent Nomu flying, All Might hot on his heels to follow up with a body slam, turning mid-air to throw the unresisting brute to the ground. The gale force winds generated from their fight ceased as All Might tossed Nomu around, and they could all hear clearly as the hero spoke, landing next to Nomu as the villain bounced off the ground from the sheer force of it.

 

“Now for a lesson. You may have heard these words before, but I’ll teach you what they really mean. Go Beyond! Plus Ultra!” The final punch, delivered to Nomu’s gut as he was still airborne, sent the villain skyrocketing up and up and through the roof of the building! 

 

“That was like the finishing move in a video game! He beat the shock absorption right out of him!” Kirishima blurted out, stunned. “I’ve never seen that kind of brute strength before.”

 

“Imagine having power like that,” Kacchan muttered. “He must have been punching that monster so fast he couldn’t regenerate.”

 

The four students turned away from the hole in the roof to look at All Might. His clothes were torn, his side was still obviously bleeding, and his hair was the most disheveled Izuku had ever seen it in his heroic form, but he was standing, he was smiling, he had won .

 

“I really have gotten weaker,” All Might professed, straightening with a slight groan. “Back in my hayday, five hits would have been enough to knock that guy out. But today it took more than 300 mighty blows.”

 

All Might turned away from Izuku and the other students to face Shigaraki. “You’ve been bested, villains. Surrender. We all want to get this over with quickly.”

 

Shigaraki was shaking, but Izuku didn’t think it was with fear. No, the villain looked pissed .

 

“No…” Shigaraki sneered. “He beat me; he’s not any weaker at all. And look what he did to my Nomu. He cheated.”

 

The temper tantrum made another appearance as Shigaraki started clawing at his neck in frustration, muttering to himself too quietly for Izuku to hear. More worrying, however, was Kurogiri. The warp villain was definitely the calmer of the two, and his mist-like form was starting to spread out. Izuku didn’t see any gates yet, but there was nothing keeping him from forming one now. He could have a gate open to anywhere in a second, and that was dangerously unpredictable.

 

“What’s wrong?” All Might challenged. “Not attacking me? Didn’t you say you were going to clear this level earlier? Well, come and get me, if you dare.”

 

“Man…this is intense.” Kacchan whispered. 

 

“As I expected,” Todoroki agreed. “There’s no reason for us to fight now. He’ll handle this.”

 

They were ready to leave, even though the fight wasn’t actually done yet. Izuku knew how it looked to them though; the biggest threat was gone and All Might was standing between them and danger. It made sense to them to remove themselves from the field and leave the clean up to the pro.

 

“Come on, Midoriya,” Kirishima called. “We should regroup with the other guys. The last thing we wanna do is get taken hostage or get in his way.”

 

But Izuku could see the truth. It was well hidden—he only saw it because he knew where to look, but there was steam coming up from All Might himself, not just dust from the destroyed ground. His time was up. 

 

He was seconds away from changing back into his weakened form. All Might was bluffing. He couldn’t keep fighting; his only option was to make the villains leave on their own or stall until more help arrived.

 

“What? Are you scared?” All Might taunted.

 

Shigaraki flinched and then continued to scratch. “If only Nomu was here. He’d rush you right now, pound you into the ground without giving it a second thought.”

 

“Tomura Shigaraki!” Kurogiri leaned in to the other villain, getting in his face. “Please, do not fret. Look at him, he has definitely weakened. Nomu’s attacks were successful.” At this, Shigaraki stopped and began to listen. “He is alone,” Kurogiri continued. “The children appear to be frozen in fear, and look: our underlings seem to be recovering.”

 

It was true, Izuku could see several of the villains Mr. Aizawa had taken out before get back up. Their time was running out, and it seemed retreat was no longer in the villains’ plans. 

 

“We likely still have a few minutes before their reinforcements arrive; if you and I work together, we can do this. We haven’t missed our chance to kill All Might,” Kurogiri finished triumphantly, rallying the other villains around him.

 

Izuku definitely wasn’t leaving now. There was no way.

 

Several villains came up from behind them, but Kirishima and Kacchan spotted them before they could get close. Izuku could hear Kirishima’s quirk activating and the redhead spoke, “I think All Might can hold his own against those two main guys. Let’s make sure these dudes don’t hurt anybody else.”

 

“Will you be joining us?” Todoroki’s invitation to engage in a brawl was so polite, under any other circumstance, Izuku might have laughed.

 

Before Izuku could respond, however, Shigaraki charged at All Might, aided by a warp gate to close the distance even quicker. It was too late, time was up, and the only backup All Might had was him . Izuku charged One For All and threw himself across the plaza, shattering the bones in his legs without a second thought. He cleared the distance in a blink and began to ready a punch aimed at Kurogiri’s neck armor. 

 

“Don’t you touch All Might, you stupid villains!” Izuku screamed.

 

When the warp gate opened in front of him, and Izuku saw Shigaraki’s hand reaching for his face, he believed for the third, perhaps fourth time that day, that he was going to die. It was not something Izuku felt like he should be so calm about, but maybe that was the shock. 

 

Luck was on his side once again, though, as the other pros from UA arrived at that moment. Snipe shot Shigaraki, forcing the villain to end his attempt to kill Izuku as he clutched his injured hand to his chest. The teachers swarmed the USJ with a vengeful fury, rounding up villains and corralling students with extreme efficiency. 

 

The only villains to escape were Shigaraki and Kurogiri, disappearing through a warp gate despite Snipe and Thirteen’s best efforts to stop them. 

 

When the gate was closed and the last traces of Shigaraki and Kurogiri were gone, the adrenaline keeping the pain at bay drained from Izuku’s system, and he whimpered as his fingers, his toes, and his legs all cried out in agony. Regardless, though, Izuku tried to crawl his way toward All Might. “I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t able to help you.”

 

“That’s absolutely not true,” All Might said. Izuku looked up, surprised. The number one hero was a sorry sight, half deflated and bloody, but he smiled gently at Izuku. “You bought me a few vital seconds. If not for that, I’d be dead now. Young Midoriya, you’ve saved me once again.”

 

Izuku felt the tears pool quickly in his eyes. “Thank you, All Might. I’m just so glad you’re okay.”

 

In the end, Izuku and All Might were both carted away to Recovery Girl while Mr. Aizawa and Thirteen were rushed to a nearby hero hospital. The four of them were the only injuries, thankfully, and all of them were expected to make a complete recovery. 

 

The other students were returned to UA, and over seventy villains were arrested, including Nomu, who police found not too far away from the facility. 

 

Izuku and All Might avoided a lecture from Recovery Girl, though Izuku could tell she was not pleased that he was back in her office again so soon after the last time. Thankfully, she was able to fix his injuries in one session and Izuku would be able to make his way home under his own power once he’d rested a bit and finished a bag of fluids that Recovery Girl insisted on. All Might’s friend on the police force, Detective Tsukauchi, filled the two of them in on the aftermath of the incident and promised that both Thirteen and Mr. Aizawa were going to be fine. 

 

It had been a long day, but knowing his teachers were going to be fine and that no one else was hurt was a relief. Izuku let the tension and worry drain away. Even if Shigaraki and Kurogiri had escaped, Izuku hadn’t failed. Everyone was safe. That was enough for now.

Chapter Text

The school gave the students the next day off, letting them relax after the incident at the USJ. Izuku’s mom was happy to fuss over him for a day, but Izuku was unable to make himself take it easy. The incident at the USJ had shown him—shown all of them—just what was out there. Even if they’d been able to defend themselves against a few thugs, none of the students had stood a chance against Shigaraki, Kurogiri, or Nomu. One or two lucky shots didn’t count for much when it wasn’t enough to keep them down, after all. They had so far to go before they were ready for the real world.

 

Izuku had even further to go than the others. One For All was going to keep breaking him until he could master it. He had to make All Might proud, prove himself worthy of the gift the hero had bestowed upon him. Landing himself in the nurse's office after every use was not the way to do that.

 

So, what should have been a day to relax turned into an extended workout day instead. 

 

Back at school, Izuku swept his eyes over his classmates as they arrived. He knew no one was hurt—even his own injuries had been healed—but it was comforting to confirm it with his own eyes.

 

Several people asked after his own well being, which was nice. Izuku smiled and promised he was fine when Uraraka, Iida, Tsu, and Kirishima asked. 

 

Izuku was as surprised as the rest of the class when Mr. Aizawa opened the door when the bell for class rang. He was wrapped in extensive bandages and both his arms were in slings, but apparently that wasn’t reason enough to get a substitute. 

 

Mr. Aizawa was insane, but Izuku could respect that drive.

 

“My well-being is irrelevant,” Mr. Aizawa stated. “What’s important is that your fight isn’t over yet.”

 

The students all looked concerned, or, in some cases, downright frightened by that announcement. Izuku wasn’t sure what Mr. Aizawa meant, but he doubted it was anything too dangerous. 

 

“The UA Sports Festival is about to start.”

 

The cheer that rose up from the class was deafening as most of the kids went from nervous to excited in an instant. Izuku was among them, of course. The Sports Festival was a huge deal! Before quirks, the world watched and obsessed over the Olympics, but now, all that focus was on the UA Sports Festival. The competition aired globally, and it allowed students to show off to big agencies in hopes of getting recruited out of high school. Doing well in the Sports Festival was almost a requirement for making it as a pro.

 

The rest of the morning, it was all anyone could talk about outside of lessons, and no wonder. One chance a year, three chances in a lifetime; the Sports Festival wasn’t something any of them could afford to miss out on. 

 

The students weren’t the only ones talking about it either. All Might pulled Izuku away from his friends during lunch to talk about it with him.

 

“The problem is, you still can’t control One For All yet,” All Might said. “So then, what’s your plan?”

 

Izuku knew he was right, it wasn’t anything he hadn’t already thought about himself. His control, or lack thereof, was a real problem. Then he remembered. “I did once! When I landed a smash against that brain villain, there was no backlash at all!”

 

“What was different about that smash?” All Might asked.

 

“Well… We were facing real villains and there wasn’t much time to think, but maybe that’s part of it, since I knew this wasn’t just more training. It was also the very first time, ever, that I used my power against a person. I held back from attacking Kacchan directly in the combat exercise because I didn’t want to kill him, but—even though I was terrified—I didn’t want to kill Nomu, either.”

 

“Sounds like you succeeded in subconsciously putting on the breaks so you wouldn’t have to kill anyone,” his mentor mused. “Hey, that’s some kind of progress at least.”

 

It was, but it also wasn’t enough. He couldn’t rely on subconscious control when the stakes were people’s lives. 

 

All Might went to stand by the window when it was clear Izuku wasn’t going to respond. “To be frank, I don’t have much time left as the world’s Symbol of Peace. Soon, I’ll have to put that title to bed.”

 

Izuku didn’t want to think about what would happen when that time came. Their society relied, perhaps too heavily, on the Symbol of Peace. It always seemed like such an unshakable pillar of strength when he was a kid, but now… Izuku knew it was fragile. 

 

“Some villains out there are starting to notice that; someone has to step up and keep people safe.” All Might turned away from the window to face Izuku then and held out his hand as he had almost a year ago when he’d offered Izuku One For All. “I gave you my power for one reason: ‘cause you will be the hero that takes my place. Do you still feel the same way you did when we met? Do you still want to be a hero?”

 

“Yes.” Izuku was on his feet now as well, determination thrumming in his veins.

 

“Excellent.” All Might smiled. “The time has come for you to prove it. This Sports Festival: it’s something that the pros—no, the entire country—will be watching very closely. I want you to think of this Sports Festival as your debut. You are the fledgling Symbol of Peace, the next All Might! Izuku Midoriya, I want you to introduce yourself to the world and proudly say, I am here!”

 

That was a lot of pressure. Izuku really hoped that All Might was just being figurative, because there was no way Izuku could steal his catchphrase like that.

 

“But without control…what can I do? Honestly, it’s kinda hard to get excited about this after everything that happened at the USJ. A school contest, even one as big as the Sports Festival, just seems a little frivolous compared to a villain attack. Plus, I’ve already got the world’s greatest hero teaching me, so the festival probably isn’t my only hope of getting scouted by an agency. And besides, I don’t know that I can stand out right now considering I did so horribly on the fitness tests and can't control One For All very well–”

 

“Man, nobody is better at spoutin’ word vomit than you, kid,” All Might interrupted, beleaguered. 

 

“Oh, sorry.” Izuku ducked his head. It was hard to control his muttering, especially once he got going. 

 

All Might sighed and rested a hand on Izuku’s head with a small smile. “Some heroes always aim for the top, while others happily settle. The difference between those two mindsets has a big impact on how far you go in the real world.” He ruffled Izuku’s hair a little before dropping his hand. “I understand how you feel, and I may even be projecting a bit of myself onto you. However, I hope you haven’t forgotten the emotions you felt back at the beach during our training.”

 

The desire to be a hero, the resolve to follow through no matter how hard the task, the determination to push himself, all so he could proudly say at the end of the day that he’d earned the chance to achieve his dream. He wanted it so badly it burned

 

“I haven’t forgotten.” 

 

“Good. Bring those with you to the Sports Festival and you’ll have nothing to worry about.” All Might encouraged him. 

 

The two of them finished their lunch in companionable silence after that, and Izuku returned to 1-A with a pleased smile. All Might had given him a lot to think about, but he’d also made it clear that he believed Izuku could do it. Having someone in his corner like that made the overwhelming seem just a little less daunting.

 

At the end of the school day, it was a little harder to remember that when faced with the hoard of students blocking the exit of the classroom.

 

“Um, why the heck are you all here?” Uraraka questioned, voice higher than normal from confusion and stress.

 

“Do you students have some sort of business with our class?” Iida asked, authoritative as always, though Izuku could hear the confusion in his voice as well. 

 

“They’re scouting out the competition, idiots,” Kacchan drawled, making his way to the door. “We’re the class that survived a real villain attack. They wanna see us with their own eyes.”

 

Izuku eyed the mass of students and Kacchan with a little concern. “Let’s hope he doesn’t explode anybody.”

 

Kacchan stopped at the door, staring down all the students in the hallway. “At least now you know what a future pro looks like. Move it, extras.”

 

It was a calmer reaction than Izuku had been expecting, but insults were better than violence.

 

From further down the hall, a boy started making his way through the crowd to the front. He was a bit taller than most of the other students, so the first thing Izuku saw was his messy purple hair. His voice carried well enough though. “So this is class 1-A. I heard you guys were impressive, but you just sound like an ass. Is everyone in the hero course delusional, or just you?”

 

Kacchan growled in response as the boy finally made his way to the front. 

 

He looked kinda tired or maybe bored, a little like Mr. Aizawa always did. He assessed Kacchan with violet eyes before glancing at the others still in the classroom. “How sad to come here and find a bunch of egomaniacs. I wanted to be in the hero course, but like many others here, I was forced to choose a different track. Such is life.”

 

“Tch,” Kacchan scoffed. 

 

“I didn’t cut it the first time around,” the boy continued, “but I have another chance. If any of us do well in the Sports Festival, the teachers can decide to transfer us to the hero course, and they’ll have to transfer people out to make room.”

 

That was news to Izuku, but he supposed it made sense. There were probably a lot of people that wouldn’t have done very well against the robots in the entrance exam. Some quirks just weren’t suited for combat, or were completely useless against unthinking machines, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have the potential to be great heroes.

 

“Scouting the competition? Maybe some of my peers are, but I’m here to let you know that if you don’t bring your very best, I’ll steal your spot right from under you. Consider this a declaration of war.”

 

Looks like there was even more reason to stand out, if Izuku didn’t want his seat taken.

 

The purple haired kid wasn’t the only one to decide to speak up. A loud voice belonging to a boy with silver hair and pointy teeth like Kirishima’s broke the staring match that Kacchan and the other boy had briefly engaged in after the declaration. “Hey you! I’m from class 1-B next door to you! We heard you fought some villains, and I came to see if that was true, but you’re just a bunch of brats who think you’re better than us!”

 

“Does everyone hate our class now?” Uraraka complained quietly.

 

“Talk all you want! It’ll just be more embarrassing when you’re KO’d,” the silver haired boy taunted, but Kacchan just turned and walked away. “Don’t you ignore me!”

 

Kirishima jumped up from his desk and called out to Kacchan. “Dude, where are you going? You gotta say something, Bakugou! It’s your fault they’re all hating on us.”

 

“These people don’t matter,” Kacchan stated calmly. 

 

“Huh?” 

 

“The only thing that’s important is that I beat them.” Kacchan walked away without a backwards glance.

 

Kirishima grumbled in frustration. “I hate that that was such a manly exit.”

 

Izuku shook his head, amused by Kirishima’s reaction. Kacchan hadn’t made a good first impression on the class, which was weird, but it seemed like at least a couple of his classmates were starting to look past Kacchan’s explosive anger. No one in class followed him around like he was some de facto leader, and their classmates seemed to be genuinely good people as far as Izuku could tell, so maybe Kacchan having friends wouldn’t spell disaster for Izuku like it used to.

 

Besides, Izuku had his own friends now. He wasn’t alone, and no matter their history, Izuku didn’t want Kacchan to be alone either. And, who knows, maybe having actual friends instead of minions would curb some of Kacchan’s worst behaviors. 

 

The following two weeks before the Sports Festival were filled with rigorous training, in class and out. Hero classes were intense, allowing everyone to train how they wanted so long as they were training hard. Izuku spent most of those classes doing strength training with the modified machines since he didn’t have access to them outside of school, and then spent his free hours doing cardio and sparring with All Might. Days that he was forced to rest he spent watching the others train with their quirks.

 

Mr. Aizawa found him sitting with his most recent notebook open in his lap, pencil scribbling furiously while Uraraka, Ashido, and Aoyama trained together on the field in front of him. 

 

“Midoriya.”

 

Izuku turned his head briefly to acknowledge that he’d heard. “Yes, Mr. Aizawa?”

 

“Why aren’t you training?”

 

“In order to prevent hurting myself and doing more harm than good, my training schedule says I have to take rest days between major workouts, so I’m training my mind instead of my body today.”

 

It was hard to tell with the bandages around his head, but Izuku thought Mr. Aizawa’s eyes moved to his notebook. Instinctively, Izuku stiffened and held onto the notebook a little tighter. He didn’t mind sharing what was inside if someone asked, but he’d had bad experiences with people just...taking his notebooks before. Even teachers. 

 

If Mr. Aizawa saw his reaction, he didn’t comment on it. “What are you doing?”

 

“Quirk analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, fighting style, strategies to work with and fight against them, potential uses, and ways for them to improve,” Izuku listed, still writing his observations on Ashido’s quirk. “I’ve been doing it for years. I have an entry for every hero I’ve seen fight, either in person or online, and I started entries for my classmates after the quirk assessment the first day. It’s...a habit mostly at this point, but it’s come in handy a few times as well.”

 

“Do you have an entry for yourself?” Mr. Aizawa asked.

 

Izuku did. He had done a lot of updating of that entry recently, including adding how One For All had modified his own quirk. Thankfully, if Mr. Aizawa asked to see it, Izuku could honestly say he didn’t have it on him since it was in a different notebook at home.

 

“Not with me,” Izuku replied.

 

His teacher grunted. “A good grasp of analysis, strategy, and tactics will be greatly beneficial as a hero, but that’s not what I want you to work on right now. You can strengthen your mind and body as much as you want, but that won’t help you if you still break your bones every time you use your quirk. You still have minimal control, and you haven’t shown much in the way of improvement. That should be your focus.”

 

Izuku sighed. “I know. I’ve been working on it, but…” 

 

“If you’re struggling with something, ask. I’m your teacher. It is literally my job to help you.”

 

If only it were that simple.

 

“I did it once,” Izuku revealed. He wasn’t sure how much of the USJ Mr. Aizawa remembered or knew about. “At the USJ, right before All Might showed up; that Nomu guy was in front of me, about to…well… Anyway, I reacted. Threw a quirked punch and my arm didn’t break.”

 

“Build on that success,” Mr. Aizawa said. “If you can, look back at that moment and try to remember how using your quirk felt. How was it different? Can you replicate that feeling? If you can’t look at it, I understand. You kids shouldn’t have been put in that situation, and it’s okay to still be shaken up.”

 

“The world isn’t fair,” Izuku reminded him. “We were going to have to face real villains at some point, right? That’s part of being a pro.”

 

“It is, but you’re not pros yet. None of you have had the training on how to handle the aftermath of life and death situations, and no one expects you to react like you have.” 

 

Izuku hummed in agreement. It wasn’t like he hadn’t thought about it, but it also wasn’t the first time his life had been in danger. Even the bullying he’d gone through had been decent practice at managing his fight and flight responses and handling himself as adrenaline coursed through his body. Maybe he’d become desensitized to the aftermath of those situations over the years. 

 

“I’m okay, really. I’ll think about what you suggested. Thank you, Mr. Aizawa,” Izuku promised as he put his notebook back into his backpack. 

 

Izuku spent the rest of the class that day contemplating that moment with Nomu as Mr. Aizawa had suggested, but ultimately, he didn’t come up with anything new. The difference was he’d finally used One For All against a living target, which he knew already.

 

So why, then, had that made a difference? The answer was simple enough. He hadn’t wanted to kill Nomu, even though his own life had been in danger. Subconsciously, he must have reduced the level of power in his attack to avoid killing the villain, which, in turn, spared his arm from breaking under the strain. Since his conviction to avoid killing someone wasn’t likely to change any time soon, it was reasonable to assume that he could replicate the result when against another person.

 

The trouble then, would be every other time he used One For All. He probably wouldn’t be able to trick himself into pretending there was a person in front of him every time he used it. He needed to isolate how he mitigated the output, not why. Unfortunately, that answer stubbornly eluded him.

 

Then, sooner than any of them were ready for, the Sports Festival had arrived.

Chapter Text

A person could get used to a lot of things if they became routine. Abhorrent and appalling could become common given enough time; the mind and body could adapt with enough repetition. A survival instinct, probably. The same way skin develops callouses, the mind could protect itself against a frequent and repeated irritation.

 

Maybe that was why Shouto found himself more agitated than normal the morning of the Sports Festival. His routine had been disrupted. The usual patterns of his father’s behavior were altered just enough that it was grating on his nerves. Normally, Shouto could avoid seeing his old man entirely before heading for school by going on his morning run, grabbing a quick shower, a quicker breakfast, and then heading out the door before Endeavor finished his own morning workout.

 

But not today.

 

Shouto was woken by his father bursting into his room half an hour before his alarm was scheduled to go off.

 

“On your feet, Shouto. Meet me in the training room,” Endeavor ordered.

 

The bastard left, confident Shouto would follow his instructions, not even bothering to close the door behind him. Shouto dressed quickly; making him wait would only make whatever was about to happen worse, but he was tempted—so tempted—to go back to sleep and wait for his alarm.

 

His father waited for him by the free weights, putting him through a rigorous but not punishing workout with the weights as soon as he’d entered. Between one set of reps and the next, Endeavor threw Shouto across the room and their spar began. 

 

When it was over, Shouto was on all fours, panting, but nothing was broken. 

 

“Clean yourself up. Eat what your sister has prepared, and then we will leave for UA.” Endeavor turned, leaving Shouto on the floor, but stopped at the door to the training room. “Do not disappoint me today, Shouto.”

 

The threat was implied, thinly-veiled, and Shouto shook with suppressed rage as his father left him alone. He was determined to show that bastard exactly how strong he was without his damn quirk. Let him choke on his disappointment while Shouto grabbed the gold using only his right side.

 

After his shower, he met Fuyumi at the breakfast table. “Good morning, Shouto.”

 

“Good morning,” he replied. 

 

She set a plate in front of him and brushed a gentle, chilly hand through his hair. “I’ll be cheering you on today. I know you’ll do well.”

 

Shouto resisted the impulse to lean into her touch, as he always did, and ate his breakfast in silence. When he was done, Fuyumi took his plate before he had the chance and gestured for him to go ahead.

 

“He’s waiting,” she cautioned.

 

With a sigh of begrudging acceptance, Shouto nodded. “Thank you for breakfast.”

 

“It was nothing.” Fuyumi waved him away, hurrying him towards the door. “Good luck, and try to have fun.”

 

Fun. Right. He doubted a single moment of the competition would be fun, but he would enjoy seeing his father’s face contort in rage and offense as he carved his way to the top without his fire. A showcase in front of everyone to prove he rejected his father’s plan, and there was nothing Endeavor would be able to do to stop him. Not with the whole country as witness.

 

The ride to UA was silent, and Shouto made his escape as quickly as he was able, leaving his father behind in the gathering crowd to make his way to the locker room. He changed into his gym uniform quickly and then joined the few early birds in the 1-A waiting room.

 

Unsurprisingly, Iida and Yaoyorozu were the only other two there this early. He ignored them as he took up a position out of the way with a good line of sight to the door. He wanted to judge his classmates' dispositions as they entered. 

 

One in particular, actually.

 

Midoriya was one of the last to arrive. Shouto watched him as he cheerfully greeted a few of their classmates directly before offering the class as a whole a good morning. He received more than a few responses in return. Despite his slightly nervous personality, the boy had popularity whether he realized it or not. 

 

Considering Midoriya’s connection to All Might—whatever its nature—that wasn’t surprising. Shouto hadn’t decided yet if it was something about Midoriya himself, or if it was just the connection to the number one hero, however. His observations were limited, for the moment, to what he had seen in class.

 

Maybe it was time for a more direct approach.

 

“Midoriya.” Shouto stood and made his way over to the boy. It was the first thing he’d said to anyone in the class all morning, and it was enough to snuff out all other conversations as they all turned to watch.

 

“Uh, hey, Todoroki,” Midoriya stuttered a little. Shouto probably made him nervous. Good. “What’s up?”

 

“From an objective standpoint, I think it’s fairly clear that I’m stronger than you.” Perhaps not in terms of pure physical strength—Shouto had seen how much the smaller boy could lift—but in every other way that mattered, Shouto had him outclassed.

 

Midoriya knew it too, if his dejected, “Yeah,” was anything to go by.

 

“However, you’ve got All Might in your corner helping you out.” Judging by Midoriya’s surprised gasp, he hadn’t really expected anyone to make the connection. He should’ve been more subtle about it then. “I’m not here to pry about what’s going on between you two. But know that I will beat you.”

 

Despite his apparent surprise at the declaration, Midoryia didn’t avert his gaze or stutter through his words in an attempt to placate Shouto. Instead, the two locked eyes. Shouto felt no shame or regret for his words, so he felt no need to look away. Midoriya on the other hand, seemed to be searching for something. Shouto didn’t know what he was looking for, but he wouldn’t find it. He’d long since learned how to school his face into impassivity. 

 

“What’s with all these declarations of war lately?” Kaminari asked nervously. 

 

Kirishima stood and made his way over to Shouto. Unsurprising. Kirishima seemed to have a habit of trying to diffuse tense situations—primarily between Bakugou and Midoriya.

 

“Yeah, what’s the big deal? Why are you pickin’ a fight all of a sudden?” Kirishima put his hand on Shouto’s shoulder.

 

“We’re not here to be each other’s friends.” Shouto roughly brushed the offending hand off. He turned to head for the door. The festival was starting soon. “Don’t forget, this isn’t a team effort.”

 

“Wait a sec, Todoroki.” Shouto was almost to the door when Midoriya’s voice stopped him. It wasn’t the tone he expected. Normally whenever he confronted someone or attempted to defend himself, his voice would be tight with nerves, but not this time.

 

This time, he sounded...not confident, but determined. Shouto couldn’t help but stop and listen. “I don’t know what’s going through your head, or why you think you’d need to tell me that you’ll beat me. And, yeah, of course you’re better than me. In fact, you probably have way more potential than anyone in the hero course. That’s why you got in so easily.”

 

Kirishima stepped in again, trying to placate. “Midoriya, maybe you’re being a little hard on yourself, and us.”

 

“No,” Midoriya refuted quickly, “he’s right, you guys. All the other courses, they’re coming for us with everything they’ve got. We’re all gonna have to fight to stand out.” When Midoriya looked up and met Shouto’s eyes again, he blazed with confidence. The only other time Shouto had seen that look on Midoriya’s face was at the USJ. “And I’ll be aiming for the top, too.”

 

It was good Midoriya was taking him seriously; he’d hate for All Might’s protégé to prove an unworthy opponent. Shouto narrowed his eyes and acknowledged the challenge returned. “Fine.”

 

Stepping out onto the arena stage with the rest of his class, Shouto found himself walking next to Midoriya. He’d kept an eye on the smaller boy since he’d heard Asui compare his power to All Might’s. At first, he’d dismissed the similarities as coincidence—there were a lot of strength enhancement quirks, after all—but then the way Midoriya had reacted to All Might fighting the villains at the USJ, how he’d flung himself into danger to protect the number one hero, Shouto began to think there might be something to Asui’s comment. After learning All Might and Midoriya ate lunch together occasionally as well, Shouto was more convinced. There was something there, some connection, and whatever it was, Midoriya didn’t want everyone to know about it. Shouto was inclined to believe that meant it was a more personal nature than simply teacher-student, but like he’d said earlier, it didn’t really matter.

 

Shouto kept his expression calm. The stadium was filled with more people than he’d ever seen in one place, but it was hardly the first time he’d had strangers’ eyes on him. His classmates were also nervous, and bad at hiding it. Midoriya in particular. 

 

Over the last few weeks, as he’d watched Midoriya, he’d noticed the boy had next to no emotional filter. Whatever he was feeling, he wore it on his face and in his posture. It made Midoriya vulnerable and left him open to manipulation. A foolish risk, in Shouto’s experience. 

 

Gathered in front of Midnight with the rest of the first year classes, Shouto watched impassively as Bakugou gave his inflammatory speech, sparking outrage among the other students. It didn’t bother Shouto, though. Ego was hardly something he was unused to. Getting upset at the challenge was pointless; strength would win out, as it always did.

 

The first game would be an obstacle course around the stadium, and the students all listened closely as Midnight explained the rules and objectives before gathering at the door to the track outside.

 

Taking the lead in the obstacle race was child's play. Admittedly more people dodged his ice than he expected, but they still fell behind trying to escape the robots as they crashed to the ground behind Shouto. He could hear a few of them—Bakugou in particular—as they tried to close the distance, but he gave them no mind. If they were capable of catching him, they would. If they couldn’t, then they weren’t worth his notice.

 

The second obstacle was as straightforward as the last. His superb balance and ice made crossing the chasm a breeze. He barely slowed down as he glided across. 

 

Staring at the home stretch, Shouto was still in the lead, which brought him the opportunity to take his time. Minefields were tricky. Rushing would cost him either in injury or in leaving opportunities for others to close the distance. Annoyingly, Bakugou closed the distance faster than Shouto expected, meeting him halfway across the minefield and yelling something profane about how Shouto had challenged the “wrong classmate.”

 

Shouto hadn’t spared a thought for Midoriya the entire race until that point. In retrospect, that had, perhaps, been a mistake.

 

The cacophonous blast from the start of the minefield shook the ground, almost costing both Shouto and Bakugou their footing. The front runners paused, shocked, as Midoriya flew over their heads with a terrified—triumphant—scream. Shouto didn’t know what the green-haired boy had done, but it was certainly effective. Determined to take the lead back, Shouto threw caution to the wind and created an ice path to catch up. 

 

Getting slammed by a piece of robot hurt, the heat from Bakugou’s explosions also hurt, but Shouto was practiced at ignoring pain. It was a true race for the finish now, but he just wasn’t fast enough to pull ahead of Midoriya’s sudden lead. 

 

Second place. The symmetry was not lost on Shouto. 

 

Looking at Midoriya, Shouto didn’t see any injury. No broken bones indicative of the boy’s quirk. Had he won entirely without it? He knew better than to underestimate All Might’s protégé—or he thought he knew better. Still. He’d won the first game of the Sport’s Festival effectively quirkless. 

 

That was no easy feat.

 

Midoriya was resourceful, intelligent, and determined, even without the use of his quirk. He was truly a worthy opponent. As much as Shouto would have liked to sweep first place in all three events, he could see the merits of overcoming a proven adversary as well. All eyes were on Midoriya now; it would make Shouto’s inevitable victory all the better.

 

Gathering a team for the cavalry battle was easy. In second place, he was the first choice for a lot of his classmates since no one wanted to place a ten million point target on their back. Yaoyorozu was an obvious choice. Her creation quirk had a wide range of uses both offensive and defensive, and—even better—she didn’t have an ego to get in the way of taking orders. Kaminari might have seemed like a gamble, but his quirk was brutally effective at immobilizing multiple opponents. With Yaoyorozu’s ability to protect the team from Kaminari’s electricity, the cheerfully loud blonde was a welcome addition. Finally, for the front horse, Shouto wanted someone with both strength and agility. To his surprise, Iida readily agreed to join the team. As one of Midoriya’s closest friends, Shouto had wondered if that loyalty would keep Iida from seeking other teams, but—as he listened to Iida turn down Midoriya’s offer—he needn’t have worried.

 

Team set, Shouto removed his boots to spare his classmate’s arms and then climbed up. They had their marching orders, the plan was set, and Shouto felt confident they would take first place. 

 

He wasn’t foolish enough to go after Midoriya right away. The boy would be playing keep away with nearly every team the whole game, but Shouto knew he would have developed a strategy around that. No, going in right away would only fail. Let Bakugou charge in like a bull-headed idiot; Shouto would wait until the other teams wore Midoriya down first. In the meantime, there were other headbands to collect.

 

Shouto spotted his chance halfway through the game. An escape from Mineta’s quirk had damaged the support equipment Midoriya’s team relied on for mobility, and Bakugou had gotten distracted by someone stealing his headband. Shouto calculated where the green-haired boy would land and then told Iida to charge.

 

Face to face with Midoriya and his team, Shouto could see the tension in their leader as he eyed Shouto. They knew he was a strong competitor, they knew they were weakened. It was time. 

 

“I’ll be taking that now,” Shouto declared. 

 

Shouto could hear the other teams approaching their position as well, and given the way Midoriya’s eyes bounced to either side of Shouto, they were coming from all sides. Fine. He’d prepared for this. He gave Yaoyorozu and Kaminari the signal. As soon as it was ready, Shouto threw the insulation over himself, Iida, and Yaoyorozu as Kaminari unleashed his indiscriminate shock, crippling the surrounding teams. Except Midoriya. Dark Shadow had taken the hit for Midoriya and his team. That was alright. Taking the headband from a paralyzed opponent was less impressive than stealing it from a prepared one would be.

 

It wouldn’t do to have anyone else interfere however. Just in case someone else managed to dodge or recover from Kaminari’s attack, Shouto sent ice to encase the other students’ legs. Helpfully, Midoriya’s team was moving further away in an effort to outpace Iida’s advance. Once there was enough distance between Shouto’s team and the others, he erected a wall of ice to block the others from advancing and cut off Midoriya’s escape. He wouldn’t allow these other teams a chance to take what was his. 

 

Less than six minutes left, half his support gear damaged or malfunctioning, Midoriya should have been easily overtaken, but Shouto forgot to account for Midoriya’s observational and tactical skills. All Might’s protégé was keeping his distance, running down the clock, staying on Shouto’s left side. If he used his ice, Shouto would hit Iida, and Midoriya had no doubt picked up on Shouto’s refusal to use his father’s fire. It was a good strategy, as loath as Shouto was to admit it. Time was running out, and he couldn’t see a way to break the stalemate. 

 

Then Iida offered a surprise. “Everyone. We have less than a minute. I’m gonna do something that will make me useless to you, but it’s worth it.”

 

“What are you gonna do?” Shouto asked.

 

Rather than explain, Iida set himself for a charge and revved the engines in his legs, powering up for something. “Make sure you get that headband.”

 

Shouto didn’t doubt whatever trick Iida had up his sleeve. Iida was top of the class, and Shouto had chosen him for a reason. The sheer speed he unleashed however was still surprising. Before the class rep could finish calling out the name of his secret move, they had cleared the distance between them and Midoriya. Had Shouto not spent hours upon hours honing his reflexes, he might have missed the opening Iida had provided. Instead, Shouto grabbed the ten million point headband and maintained his balance on his unsteady horses. 

 

They’d done it!

 

As he tied the ten million points around his neck, Shouto asked Iida about what he’d just done. It seemed he’d been practicing a special move, kept it secret even from Midoriya so he could use it against his friend at the festival. Apparently, Shouto had started a bit of a trend in challenging Midoriya. 

 

Iida’s move did have a downside, however. His engines had stalled, so their superior mobility was gone. Time was almost out, but the game wasn’t over yet. Midoriya was already charging forward, a defiant battle cry tearing from his throat as he channeled his quirk. Shouto could see the distinctive red and green light spreading across the boy’s arm, reaching for the headbands. 

 

The power behind Midoriya’s strike, the energy coming from his quirk… It was just like All Might’s. Back at the USJ, Shouto had been near enough to feel the immense power radiating from the number one hero. The same power that now radiated from the boy in front of him.

 

Instinct took over, and Shouto reacted. His left arm raised, flame igniting, to intercept while his right struck out to counter attack. Shouto didn’t expect Midoriya to use his quirk to sweep away Shouto’s defenses. His flames extinguished and his arm moved to the side, blown away by wind pressure alone. It wasn’t until the flames were gone that Shouto even noticed that they’d been there. In his moment of distraction, Midoriya snapped forward and snatched a headband from around his neck. 

 

For half a breath, Shouto was worried his inattention had cost them the game, but no. The ten million points were still around his neck. Unfortunately, that also meant the game wasn’t over. Ten seconds left and Midoriya was coming back around for another attack. Iida was immobile, so they couldn’t run, but Kaminari was still functioning and they still had the insulation. Shouto shielded his team while lightning spread across the field, but it was blocked by Dark Shadow again. To make matters worse, Bakugou made a sudden appearance, blasting toward Shouto once he’d seen Midoriya missing the ten million points.

 

Attacked on all sides, Shouto was ready to encase the entire arena in ice, but thankfully, the buzzer sounded before either team could reach him. 

 

It was over. They’d stolen and defended the ten million points, they were in first place and moving on to round three, but it didn’t feel like a victory.

 

Shouto had sworn he’d never use his left side to attack, but as soon as he’d felt that overwhelming power, he’d broken that promise. That bastard had taken everything from him, forced him onto this path to become number one, but Shouto had vowed he would do it his own way, without his father’s quirk. 

 

Were his convictions tossed aside so easily? 

 

No…Shouto’s determination to reject his father hadn’t faltered, but that didn’t mean he could forget the slip. 

 

Shouto looked to Midoriya. His power—All Might’s power—had done what years of brutal training and conditioning from Endeavor could not. This morning, he’d been uninterested in delving into the specifics of Midoriya’s relationship with All Might, but now, Shouto had a theory, and he wanted answers.

 

“Midoriya,” Shouto approached the boy quietly, in a brief moment away from his friends. “Come with me.”

 

As Shouto turned, Midoriya followed. He was glad it didn’t take more than a simple command for the boy to agree, but at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel like Midoriya was perhaps a bit too trusting. Midoriya didn’t know him, had no way to know Shouto’s intentions, but he’d still followed without complaint or comment.

 

Once he’d found some place quiet and out of the way, Shouto leaned against the wall and regarded the boy in front of him carefully. Despite following, Shouto could see the nervousness in his eyes. Maybe he wasn’t as trusting as Shouto had believed. Interesting. If it wasn’t implicit trust, why follow? They weren’t friends; prior to today, Shouto couldn’t recall saying more than a handful of words to Midoriya. The boy didn’t want to curry favor with him, didn’t seem the type. As much as his acquiescence had benefited Shouto, he still wasn’t sure why he’d gotten it so easily.

 

“You brought me here,” Midoriya challenged softly. “Now what?”

 

Curiosity then. That made sense. Midoriya was intelligent; that level of intelligence usually steamed from or bred curiosity. Curiosity was good too. It meant that Midoriya would likely stay even if it took Shouto a while to gather his thoughts enough to speak.

 

Shouto’s continued silence clearly made Midoriya nervous as the boy started to babble about getting food before the cafeteria got crowded. It was odd to him that someone so powerful could be reduced to a shaking stuttering mess by a little silence, that he seemed to completely lack all confidence when confronted by peers outside of combat. What reason did Midoriya have to be so nervous? With his quirk, his strength, surely he didn’t have any reason to be afraid.

 

“I was overwhelmed,” Shouto’s confession stopped Midoriya’s chatter, and the boy stilled, listening intently. “It made me break the promise I made to myself a long time ago.”

 

Midoriya’s gaze fell to Shouto’s left hand. He understood what Shouto meant without having to elaborate. 

 

Taking his hand out of his pocket, Shouto glared at it balefully. “Iida and Kaminari, Yaoyorozu and Tokoyami, Uraraka…none of them felt it. In that moment, I was the only one who could sense your true power. It reminded me of something: experiencing All Might’s quirk.”

 

Looking at Midoriya through the fingers of his hand, Shouto could see the nervousness was back. “Oh, yeah? Okay… Is that all?”

 

“I’m saying the power coming from you felt the same as All Might’s.” The boy looked almost scared now. Clearly Shouto was onto something. Quirks could be similar, and there were a large variety of strength enhancement quirks, but that wasn’t what was happening here and they both knew it. The power coming from All Might and Midoriya was the same . Not similar, not just merely alike. That could only mean one thing. “Midoriya, tell me. Are you All Might’s secret love child or something?”

 

Rather than look scared or worried that his secret had been revealed, Midoriya just looked...confused. Confused and surprised. It wasn’t the reaction Shouto had been expecting, to say the least, and Midoriya’s silence meant he didn’t have an answer. 

 

“Well, are you?” Shouto pressed.

 

“No, no way! That’s not it at all!” Here came the stuttering and nervous flailing that Shouto was used to seeing from the boy. 

 

As he continued to quickly spout his defense, Shouto considered what the boy had unintentionally let slip with his first refusal. Despite their somewhat lax behavior around Midoriya’s friends, All Might and Midoriya had been careful about being overt around the other students. According to most of their class, the connection was just idle speculation. Rumor. Neither the boy nor the hero ever confessed to having anything beyond a favorite student-teacher relationship.

 

Except Midoriya just admitted it.

 

“‘That’s not it at all’ is interesting wording. It suggests there is something between you two that you’re not supposed to talk about.”

 

Midoriya looked away, ashamed at the slip of the tongue maybe. It wasn’t Shouto’s intention to shame the boy, and if he didn’t want to—or couldn’t—share the truth, then fine. For now, anyway. It was enough to know for sure that there was something there. 

 

“My father is the hero Endeavor. You must have heard of him.” Shouto hadn’t been looking for confirmation of that fact, but when Midoriya nodded, he continued, “So, then, you’re aware that he’s the number two hero. So if you’re connected to the number one hero, All Might, in some way…that’s even more reason for me to beat you.”

 

“Todoroki–”

 

“My old man is ambitious. He aims for the top.” Shouto spoke over whatever protests Midoriya was about to make. Maybe he should leave it at the renewed declaration and stop, but he couldn’t. “He used his power to make a name for himself as a hero, but he was never able to best All Might. The Symbol of Peace is living proof of his failure. He’s still at it though, trying to take down All Might. One way or another.” He needed to explain, he had to make Midoriya understand why his promise was so important. Shouto wasn’t fully aware of why Midoriya, specifically, needed to know this, but he wasn’t in the habit of ignoring his instincts.

 

“I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. What are you trying to tell me, Todoroki?” Midoriya asked.

 

Midoriya was intelligent. Midoriya was determined. He was strong. He was powerful. He...he shared so many traits in common with Todoroki, and yet still managed to be kind. Be trusting. Be vulnerable. Normally, those wouldn’t be attributes Shouto considered strengths, but there was something about Midoriya that said they weren’t weaknesses either.  

 

“Have you ever heard of quirk marriages?” Shouto reluctantly asked. At Midoriya’s blank denial, he explained, “They were a problem in the first few generations after superpowers became widespread. There were those who sought out potential mates solely with the intention of creating powerful children. Many people were forced into relationships; they were simply viewed as old-fashioned arranged marriages, but clearly it was unethical.”

 

Shouto was comforted a little in seeing the distaste of the concept on Midoriya’s face. The boy really couldn’t hide his emotions for anything. He hadn’t connected the dots yet though, Shouto could tell.

 

“My father has not only a rich history of accomplishments, but plenty of money to throw at his problems. He bought my mother’s relatives so he could get his hands on her quirk. And now, he’s raising me to usurp All Might.” 

 

There it was. The gasp of outrage and disgust. Shouto felt vindicated, but he couldn’t stop now. There was more, and Midoriya was going to hear it. If he understood Shouto, understood how he was raised, why he was the way he was, then maybe Shouto would be able to understand Midoriya, too. There were so many things about the boy he thought he understood, but he’d been wrong. Despite the faults that should have held him back, Midoriya triumphed. Shouto wanted to know how.

 

“It’s annoying,” Shouto spat. His usual mask of cold indifference slipped, and it was Shouto’s turn to wear his emotions openly. “I refuse to be a tool for that scumbag. In every memory of my mother…I only see her crying.” Unconsciously, he covered the scar on his face as the memory surfaced. “I remember she called my left side ‘unbearable’ before she poured boiling water on my face. The reason I picked a fight with you was to show my old man what I was capable of doing without having to rely on his damned fire quirk.” Shouto forced his hand to fall at his side and turned his full attention to the boy in front of him. Midoriya was horrified by Shouto’s story, he could see it written clearly all over his face. “You see? I’m going to show him that I reject his power, and I can take first place without using it.”

 

To his slight surprise, Midoriya didn’t immediately comment. Those green eyes were calculating, though, processing through the information he’d just received and cataloging it. In another person, Shouto might worry the knowledge would be used against him, but not Midoriya. He was starting to understand that the boy simply didn’t have a dishonest bone in his body. 

 

There was no getting out from under his father’s thumb, but Shouto could enact the only measure of control he still had over his own life. Midoriya would understand now.

 

It was time to get ready for the final event, so Shouto turned away, leaving Midoriya with a final promise. “You’re obviously connected to All Might, even if you won’t tell me about it, but no matter how fiercely you come at me in the future, I will defeat you using only my right side. I can assure you of that.”

 

He wouldn’t say he was content, but he felt a little better having explained his reasoning to someone he was beginning to respect.

 

“Wait!” It was that blossoming respect that stayed his steps when Midoriya finally spoke up. “I’m only here because others have supported me; I’ve been really lucky. In fact, I’ve had even more help since coming to UA.” Midoriya admitted softly. “All Might is constantly saving people with a fearless smile. He’s the greatest hero, and I wanna be just like him. In order to do that, I have to be strong enough to become number one.”

 

Shouto finally glanced over his shoulder at that. If this was going where Shouto thought it was, he wanted to look Midoriya in the eye when the boy laid down his challenge. 

 

“I know my motivation might seem stupid compared to yours, but still—I can’t lose either.” Midoriya was just so earnest. “I owe it to everyone who’s supported me to try my best. You declared war on me earlier. Well, right back at you. I am going to beat you!”

 

Shouto never believed Midoriya would do anything less than his best. The boy didn’t know the definition of holding back, if his abused bones were any indication. Still, it was gratifying to hear the direct challenge and acknowledgement of his own skills. A rival who didn’t consider you such was an insult, after all—just ask Endeavor.

 

Everything he’d wanted to say had been said, and their hour break for lunch was rapidly coming to a close. With that in mind, Shouto gave Midoriya one last, cold, calculated once over, and then left without another word. Both of them were aiming for the top. The final would determine which of them belonged there.

Chapter Text

The brackets for the final round were set. Midoriya was up first against someone Shouto didn’t recognize, but right after that would be Shouto against Sero. That meant he’d be up against Midoriya if they both won. His own victory was guaranteed. Sero wasn’t a bad hero in the making, but he wasn’t on Shouto’s level. Without knowing who Shinsou was or his quirk, however, Shouto couldn’t guess whether or not Midoriya would win.

 

It would be a shame for their rivalry to be cut short, so Shouto hoped Midoriya found victory in his first match. Winning wouldn’t be quite as meaningful if he didn’t face the green-haired powerhouse in the ring.

 

Shouto had no interest in the side games taking place prior to the final. He excused himself from the arena floor and found somewhere quiet to sit instead until they were done. He kept an ear out for Present Mic’s announcement that the finals were about to start before heading back into the stadium. Since his was the second fight, Shouto made his way to the waiting room instead of the stands. It meant he wouldn’t be able to watch Midoriya, but he could still hear Present Mic’s commentary, so he would know whether or not he won. That was all that really mattered anyway.

 

It was a relatively short match, all things considered. Going by Present Mic’s commentary, it had been close; whatever quirk Midoriya’s opponent had was powerful, but he still came out on top. Once Midoriya’s victory had been called, Shouto made his way out of the waiting room towards the arena.

 

Turning the corner, the very last thing he wanted to see was waiting for him just before the entrance.

 

“What do you want?” Shouto glared at Endeavor. How dare that bastard hunt him down before his fight!

 

“You’re acting disgracefully, Shouto.” 

 

Nothing new to say then. Shouto grit his teeth and kept walking. His old man couldn’t follow him into the arena, so the sooner he was there, the better.

 

“If you simply used the power in your left side, you would’ve had an overwhelming victory in both of the first rounds. It’s time to stop this childish rebellion of yours.” Why couldn’t he just stay in the stands and glower from afar? It was annoying, but it was far preferable to this critique of his performance. “You have a duty to surpass that imbecile, All Might. Do you understand what I’m saying? You’re different from your siblings.” Of course he is. If he were more like his siblings he wouldn’t have to deal with the flaming pile of garbage’s presence every day. Oh, to be so lucky. “You’re my greatest masterpiece.”

 

“Is that all you have to say to me, you bastard?” No wish for luck; Endeavor didn’t believe in such things. No encouragement to have fun; there was no time for fun when training to be a hero. No. Just ridicule and expectation. Same as always. “I’ll win this match and advance using only Mom’s quirk; I won’t give you the pleasure of seeing me use yours.”

 

“Even if that works for you in this tournament, you’ll soon find the limits of that power,” Endeavor droned. 

 

Even the chanting of the crowd as he made his way onto the field wasn’t enough to drown out his father’s words in his head. How dare he? Shouto would prove that rat bastard wrong. His mother’s ice was more than enough to reach the top; he’d show Endeavor how limitless it really was.

 

Sero’s opening move was fast; Shouto would give him credit where credit was due, but that wouldn’t be enough. Before the tape-wielder could throw him out of bounds, Shouto planted his right foot and unleashed a cataclysm of ice in the blink of an eye. There was absolute silence from the stands as half the audience was nearly frozen in their seats. 

 

Shouto exhaled a cloud of frozen air as his body fought to regulate his temperature without using his fire. Until the match was called, he wouldn’t. With a little show of force, Shouto shattered the frozen tape wrapped around him and stood tall.

 

“Um…don’t you think you went overboard?” The question from Sero caused Shouto to take another look at what he’d just done.

 

There was a glacier in the middle of the stadium, reaching far above the top stands, with jagged edges poised dangerously close to the audience. Sero was almost completely encased in ice, and Midnight was half frozen as well, caught in the eruption of ice Shouto had caused.

 

“Tell the truth, Sero. Can you move at all?” Midnight asked, so clearly unamused by her own entrapment. 

 

“Are you kidding? Obviously not. My body is freezing!” Sero stammered, shivering too hard to speak clearly.

 

At that, Midnight raised her non-frozen arm and called the match. “Sero has been immobilized. Todoroki advances to the second round!”

 

His victory had been assured. He’d known coming into the match that Sero was not going to win; there was absolutely no need for this level of response. He’d been so blinded by his desire to prove his father wrong that he’d entombed his classmate and endangered the audience in the stands. 

 

It was unacceptable.

 

“I’m sorry. It was a bit much,” he apologized as he made his way over to Sero. Placing his left hand on Sero’s chest, Shouto melted the ice on his classmate and himself, but he couldn’t meet the other boy’s eyes. “I was angry, is all.”

 

Once Sero and Midnight were free, Shouto made his way out of the arena. The finals would be delayed now, because of him, because he couldn’t handle his quirk when his emotions were high. It was shameful. 

 

Unable to join his classmates in the stands for fear of justly deserved recriminations, and unwilling to run into his father again, Shouto made for the only place he could safely avoid both. The locker room.

 

Yoga had been a suggestion from Fuyumi a few years ago. It was a steady, meditative exercise that required little concentration and allowed him to ruminate over his thoughts and emotions while still technically being exercise, so Endeavor hadn’t forbidden him from practicing it. Shouto used it most frequently as a post-workout cooldown, but he craved that calming center he normally found while practicing yoga now. 

 

The locker room was empty, and no one should disturb him here since the competitors had waiting rooms to prepare for their matches, so Shouto felt he would be safe to go through a few stretches here. He started with deep, steady breaths, focusing his tumultuous thoughts into something calm enough to drain away while he counted each inhale and exhale. 

 

Talking about his past with Midoriya had been necessary—Shouto still firmly believed that. Doing so, however, had knocked loose a few memories that Shouto would have preferred to keep buried, and exposing himself had left the wound raw and open. When he ran into Endeavor in the hallway, his reaction had been...more than he usually allowed himself. The anger, the hate, the frustration, the pain… It was all so much more , and he’d unfairly taken that out on Sero in the match. 

 

It was a competition, but that didn’t mean he could be reckless. The USJ had been an unmitigated disaster, but before it had gone to hell there was one lesson Thirteen had managed to impart to the class. Their quirks could be used to kill if they weren’t careful. It shouldn’t have been something he needed a reminder of; the ruthless training he received from Endeavor was all the proof Shouto needed to know how easily quirks could inflict damage on others. His fight with Sero had been a staggering reminder, however. He was lucky no one in the stands had been hurt. He couldn’t afford to be that careless again. 

 

Everything should be done with purpose. Shouto had a goal; his actions should be reflective of that goal. It was illogical to allow anything to stand in his way, even—on occasion—himself.

 

There was not an abundance of free space in the locker room, but he made do, the routine served its purpose. Shouto felt much calmer, balanced, and steady once more after an hour of yoga. 

 

Listening intently to the announcements just barely audible from his temporary sanctuary, Shouto discerned that the ice from his attack had been removed and the games had proceeded. From the sound of it, Bakugou and Uraraka’s match had already started. He’d missed most of the first round, but that was alright. He had his suspicions about who would come out on top in each of the other matches, but it didn’t particularly matter. The only real contenders in the lineup were Midoriya and Bakugou.

 

It was time to make his way back into the stadium. He needed to be at the ready when he was called for his second match. 

 

Shouto listened to the commentary of the current match with a detached interest. Bakugou won, but Uraraka’s strategy was clever. She was more formidable than he’d originally given her credit for. Midoriya had strong allies.

 

The arena needed to be repaired before the next round could commence, but that was alright. It gave Shouto more time to formulate his plan.

 

Midoriya was a far more dangerous opponent than Sero. Even if he did launch another glacial barrage, there was a chance that wouldn’t slow him down, and if he did break free that would place a sturdy wall between Midoriya and the edge of the arena. It would be a better strategy to focus on precision attacks, quick and efficient. If Midoriya got the chance to use his powerful quirk, Shouto would have a real fight on his hands. Of course, the more Midoriya used his quirk, the more bones he broke. Injuries like that would slow him down.

 

Shouto frowned. He’d only seen Midoriya use his quirk three times, so he wasn’t completely sure of its limitations. If it really was the same as All Might’s, it may not have limitations beyond how much Midoriya’s own body could handle. That was a problem, but it wasn’t his only challenge. Midoriya’s mind was likely as dangerous as his quirk. The way he dissected and analyzed his opponents put Midoriya on par with Shouto’s own abilities, and he’d proven capable of strategic thinking in the heat of battle. 

 

Considering all of that, it would be in his best interest to end it quickly. 

 

When it was finally time to step into the arena, Shouto could already see the resolute determination on Midoriya’s face. Any uncertainty or nervousness was either gone or well-hidden. 

 

At the call to start, Shouto didn’t hesitate. Ice raced down the arena from his right foot, growing larger and sharper with every centimeter as it reached for Midoriya. The cry of, “Smash!” from the other end of the arena preceded a tremendous wave of air, shattering his ice attack, and sending chunks of it right back at him. Thankfully, Shouto planned for this and had his ice barrier at his back to keep him from being pushed out of bounds.

 

Once the wind finally died down, Shouto looked for the injury. There, his finger was definitely broken. It was as he expected. Midoriya was willing to injure himself to stop Shouto’s attacks. Very well. Every broken bone only worked to Shouto’s advantage, after all.

 

Shouto sent another barrage of ice at Midoriya and braced for the inevitable wind storm that would follow. Even though he knew it was coming, it was still frustrating how easily Midoriya countered his attack. That couldn’t be his only strategy, though. Looking at the green haired boy, Shouto could practically see his mind race. He was thinking, planning, which Shouto couldn’t allow.

 

“Let’s continue,” Shouto challenged, sending another wave of ice at his opponent. 

 

Sacrificing yet another finger, Midoriya broke through the attack again. Shouto could see the slight grimace, heard the cries of pain that Midoriya uttered with every counter. Shouto knew what it was like to fight past the agony, but he doubted Midoriya had as much practice at it as Shouto did. He’d wear himself out at this rate. Unfortunately, Shouto could already feel the cold seeping into his limbs. Midoriya wasn’t the only one operating on a time limit. 

 

“You want an endurance match, but I’ll end this quickly!” Shouto came up with a plan; he had to end this before the cold claimed him. He sent another ice barrage at Midoriya and waited for the boy to smash it before moving. As his right foot hit the ground, he created a ramp and sprinted up to get in close. 

 

There was just enough time between when Midoriya prepared to counter and when he actually released his attack that Shouto could use to his advantage. As Midoriya aimed to take out the ramp under Shouto’s feet, he readied himself and jumped just as the air pressure shattered the ice, hoping to catch Midoriya off guard with an attack from above. 

 

The boy dodged, jumping away from Shouto’s fist, but that was fine too. As Shouto hit the ground with his right hand, he sent ice chasing after Midoriya, capturing his foot mid air. It likely wouldn’t hold Midoriya for long, though, so Shouto prepared a strong barrier behind himself. The last thing he wanted was to lose what ground he’d gained by being pushed back.

 

Instead of a finger, Midoriya broke the ice encasing his foot with a full punch. The shockwave was much stronger that time around. Thankfully, his barrier kept him in place, though he was less than pleased to be nearly buried by debris from his own ice. 

 

“That was much more powerful than any of your previous attacks.” Pushing the larger chunks aside, Shouto shook his head and stood up. “You’re trying to keep me away. Smart.” 

 

His breath was coming out as visible vapor and his right side was trembling; he was getting too cold. Shouto needed to end this, but he also needed to stall. Just a little. Just long enough to warm up a bit. The sun was bright and it was a warm day, he shouldn’t need more than a few moments. 

 

“What’s the matter? Are you really that worn out from defending against my attacks?” Shouto taunted. Midoriya was obviously in a lot of pain, hunched over, clutching his broken arm. He’d lasted longer than Shouto had expected, given the circumstances. 

 

“I’m sorry about this,” Shouto started, catching Midoriya’s attention, “but thanks for drawing it out.” He easily found his father in the audience; his outrageous flaming facial hair stood out against the stadium walls, and he didn’t need to be any closer to know the bastard was scowling. “Look at him. He’s furious I’m not using his power.”

 

A grunt of frustration from Midoriya drew Shouto’s gaze once more to his opponent. The frigid air around the arena moved in visible clouds around the both of them, but he could see the state the other boy was in. All the fingers on his right hand were broken, as was his entire left arm. 

 

“With your hands like that, you can’t fight anymore, can you?” Shouto had delayed long enough, and he was right; there was nothing left for Midoriya to break to counter or attack. “Why don’t we end this?”

 

Confident in his victory, Shouto launched another wave of ice at Midoriya.

 

“I am not done yet!” Midoriya yelled before another blast of weaponized air obliterated his ice and sent Shouto flying back. 

 

He cursed himself for not strengthening his barrier just in case, as he skidded along the arena floor. Thankfully, he was able to erect a blockade in time to keep him from flying out of bounds.

 

Shaken from the sudden onslaught, Shouto glared over at Midoriya. How had he done that? Then he saw it. Midoriya’s index finger on his right hand was a horrible, dark purple compared to the others. The stubborn fool had used his already broken finger! Didn’t he realize, even with healing from Recovery Girl, he could cause permanent damage that way? Why was he going so far? 

 

“You’re trembling, Todoroki,” Midoriya said, voice low and angry in a way Shouto hadn’t heard before.

 

He’d noticed. Of course he had! The moment Shouto had taken to warm up had been a moment he’d given Midoriya to analyze him, precisely what he didn’t want to happen.

 

“It’s easy to forget that quirks are physical abilities, and that means…there’s a limit to the cold your body can take, right?” Midoriya was talking through the pain, Shouto could hear it in his voice. He was talking about Shouto’s limits, but he had to have been at his own by now, surely. “I get it. Usually you’d make up for the drop in temperature by using the heat from your left side, but you refuse to do that now.”

 

Shouto growled quietly. Midoriya knew his reasons, he’d seemed to accept them earlier. What was he getting at?

 

“Listen. We’re all giving it our all to try and win, to make our dreams a reality, to become number one! You think you can win with half your strength?”

 

So that was it. He was trying to goad him into using his left side? Had Endeavor gotten to him?

 

“Look at me Todoroki! You haven’t managed to put a single scratch on me yet.” Midoriya shouted, clenching his broken hand into a fist. “So come at me with all you’ve got!”

 

“Midoriya…” Shouto hated the idea that he’d somehow misjudged the boy so badly. “What are you trying to do here? You want my fire? What, did that monster bribe you or something?!” 

 

Shouto was angry now, and he ran at Midoriya. He’d trusted this boy—this rival—with the truth about his shitbag of a father, and Midoriya was still siding with that piece of trash? Had nothing Shouto said meant anything? He thought Midoriya was compassionate; had he completely misread his entire personality? Or was he really just easily swayed by the promise of power Endeavor offered?

 

It didn’t matter. Shouto was cold, inside and out, and he would prove to his father and Midoriya that he didn’t need that bastard’s fire. Close quarters wasn’t his specialty, but he wasn’t bad at it either. If he got in close, Midoriya wouldn’t be able to dodge, so that was what he’d do.

 

Shouto got in close and lunged to clear the final distance, but as soon as his right foot was off the ground, Midoriya surged forward. Getting hit by one of Midoriya’s quirked punches was both more and less painful than Shouto had imagined. Considering it didn’t instantly kill him, Midoriya must have managed to control how much power went into the hit for once, but that meant that Shouto was left breathless from the pain and the punch to his diaphragm. In the moment he had before flying back, Shouto encased Midoriya’s left arm in ice, hopefully preventing the boy from using it later.

 

Shouto rolled as best as he was able when he hit the ground, and gasped trying to get his breath back as he stood up. He sent another wave of ice, but he was getting slower. Midoriya just jumped aside. 

 

Not allowing Midoriya to catch his breath, Shouto charged him, but Midoriya flicked his broken fingers, sending both of them shooting away. Shouto pushed past the assault and came at him again and again. Unable to bend the arm encased in ice, Midoriya was forced to use only his right hand, but that didn’t stop him from swinging wild punches and continuously rebreaking his fingers as the two of them relentlessly attacked. 

 

It was the hardest fight Shouto had ever had with anyone other than his father, but even some of those fights didn’t match up to this . Without the heat from his left side, or the heat generated by Endeavor himself, Shouto was getting colder, which meant he was getting slower. Midoriya’s own injuries were slowing him down as well, but the two of them still fought, facing each other over and over despite the pain. 

 

At one point, Midoriya used his thumb and cheek to blast Shouto away, no longer able to form a fist with his abused hand. The pressure from that attack broke through Shouto’s first attempt at a barrier, sending him nearly out of bounds until he was finally able to put up a strong enough wall of ice.

 

Panting he stood up, “Why are you putting yourself through this?” 

 

“I want to live up to people’s expectations,” Midoriya snapped, sluggishly running toward Shouto. “I wanna be able to smile while doing something good for them. I want to be a pro! Whatever it takes to be a hero!

 

Maybe it was the exhaustion, but… There was something… A memory? He could have sworn… Shouto.

 

The punch caught him off guard. When did Midoriya get that close? 

 

“That’s why I’ll give it my all, just like you should be !” Midoriya was still yelling at him. Why? Shouto dug his snowshoes into the dirt to stop his slide and tried to catch his breath. Midoriya took the opportunity to keep going. “There’s no way I can know what you’ve gone through, or why you’re even here. Your life has been so much different than mine, but right now…” Midoriya took a few clumsy steps forward, “Stop screwing around! If you wanna reject your father, fine, but you don’t have the right to be the number one if you aren’t going to use your full power.”

 

He said it so dismissively. Like he could just use the bastard’s quirk and still be a hero. Didn’t he get it ? All the pain, all the abuse disguised as training, all the torment his mother went through… Shouto couldn’t be his father, he refused to become like him. He didn’t reject his father out of pointless rebellion. It mattered! 

 

“Shut up.” Shouto couldn’t listen to this. 

 

There was nothing Shouto feared so much as the thought of being like his father. He didn’t want to be like him, he didn’t want to be someone who hurt people, who hurt his mother… 

 

But honey, you do still want to be a hero, don’t you?

 

The voice of his mother, as she smiled at him. He’d forgotten that smile…

 

Just remember, stay true to yourself. You can be the kind of hero you want to be when you grow up.

 

Midoriya was in front of him again, gearing up for another punch, but Shouto only vaguely registered that as relevant. He was still too frozen by the sudden memory of his mother’s smile to block or dodge. 

 

“That’s why I’m going to win this!” Midoriya sent him sprawling again.

 

He’d lost the good memories of her, hadn’t he. So many tears, they’d drowned out her smile in his mind. Endeavor had sent her away when Shouto was so young. To protect his masterpiece, he’d said. Shouto was six, and he’d treated him like a thing, like a tool! He’d driven his mother into a psychotic break and then hidden her away. It was Endeavor’s fault she’d hurt him. Driving a wedge between him and his siblings, driving his mother insane, driving Shouto to the breaking point again and again! It was all his fault.

 

Shaking from the cold, from anger, from everything , Shouto pushed himself up. He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t use his father’s quirk. “I refuse to use my left side.” 

 

“It’s yours! Your quirk, not his!” Midoriya screamed at the top of his lungs from across the arena, and Shouto felt like he’d just been hit with another punch to the solar plexus. 


You are not a prisoner of your lineage.

 

That moment... On the futon with his mother as she comforted him and encouraged him to be a hero. He remembered now. She’d told him then, hadn’t she? Told him that he could be a hero and not be like Endeavor. That it was his choice how he used his power.

 

It was his choice.

 

It was his quirk.

 

The ragged, heaving breaths of air filled his lungs, and he looked up at Midoriya with a clarity Shouto hadn’t known he’d lost. The flames— his flames—burst forth, engulfing his left side in much appreciated warmth. It was cleansing, in a way. For the first time in years, perhaps ever, the inferno contained in his left side danced across his skin and he didn’t feel fear. He didn’t feel hate. He didn’t feel anger.

 

Shouto felt rejuvenated.  

 

The fire melted the ice from his right side and even warmed the area enough to partially melt the ice cast that Shouto had put around Midoriya’s left arm, but that didn’t matter. With every breath, Shouto felt lighter, freer. It was almost euphoric.

 

“You’re helping your opponent. You fool.” Shouto shook his head in disbelief. “Even though you want to win this battle. Now which one of us is screwing around?” He called back some of the flames, lessening the intensity enough that he could see Midoriya, so he could look him in the eye. “I want it too. I’ll be a hero!”

 

Rather than look afraid or even uneasy at the sudden display of power from Shouto’s quirk, Midoriya smiled .

 

The light from his fire illuminated brilliant green eyes that shone with happiness, pride, and relief. Midoriya was exactly who Shouto had thought he was, and at last Shouto felt like he understood. At least a little. The kindness, the desire to help; the trust, the willingness to listen and learn and care about everyone; and the ability to be vulnerable, to give so much of himself in order to encourage others to do the same. They weren’t weaknesses. They were strengths, and Shouto finally saw why


He saw Midoriya, and he smiled.

Chapter Text

The explosion at the end of their fight was powerful enough to send Izuku soaring out of bounds and into the stadium wall. He lost consciousness before he heard what happened to Todoroki, but he imagined the other boy was declared the winner. 

 

Izuku woke up in Recovery Girl’s temporary office bandaged, achy, and conflicted. All Might was there, in his civilian form, and Izuku felt a wave of disappointment. He’d lost. He’d promised All Might he’d announce himself to the world, and he’d failed. The frustration and anger he’d felt during the fight had made him blind to his original goal, until all that mattered was getting through to Todoroki. 

 

Mission accomplished on that front, at least. 

 

The fire from Todoroki’s left side, seeing the boy embrace his whole self, was amazing and Izuku couldn’t regret that. Seeing Todoroki engulfed in his own power was worth all the pain Izuku felt at that point. He just wished he could have tried a little harder to keep his promise to All Might as well. 

 

All Might listened patiently as Izuku apologized. He was worried his mentor would be disappointed in him, or upset that he’d thrown away his chance by helping one of his classmates. Recovery Girl had already scolded both of them, after all, and Izuku couldn’t imagine that All Might would go against her instruction and offer him any praise.

 

Instead, All Might gave him absolution. “Meddling where you don’t technically have to is the essence of being a hero.”  

 

As Recovery Girl prepared the room for surgery, Izuku thought about what All Might had said, and he wondered if Todoroki considered him a hero.

 

There had been some pretty heavy reasons for Todoroki’s behavior before Izuku goaded him into breaking his promise, and Izuku doubted he’d told many people about those reasons. Todoroki struck him as a private person, and despite the outcome, not everyone appreciated having other people in their business. Izuku hoped that this was the start of great things for the dual quirk user, but one conversation—if yelling at someone while beating the crap out of each other could be called a conversation—was probably not enough to overcome all the trauma he’d experienced. Izuku wanted to be there to help him the rest of the way, if Todoroki would let him. 

 

Todoroki didn’t need to consider Izuku a hero, but he’d like it if they could be friends.

 

Once the surgery was done, Izuku stared down at his crooked fingers and the scars that wrapped around his hand. 

 

“That’s what you get for overusing your quirk in a short time frame. Consider your crooked right hand a warning from now on,” Recovery Girl admonished. There was something in her tone that didn’t sit well, but he was too tired to parse out why at the moment.

 

Izuku looked at the scars. He knew he should probably see it as a warning to be careful, like Recovery Girl suggested, but that’s not what he saw. Instead, he saw beautiful flames and an eager smile under excited two-tone eyes.

 

“And just so you know,” Recovery Girl continued, drawing Izuku’s attention back to the present, “I will not heal injuries like this anymore.”

 

That’s what it was. That uneasy feeling sneaking its way up his spine at her tone. It reminded Izuku of school nurses and teachers from before UA. The ones who turned a blind eye to the bullying, or blamed him for antagonizing the other boys, would always use that tone. The “this is your own fault” tone or the “why are you wasting my time” tone. 

 

Recovery Girl wasn’t going to heal him anymore; he’d reached the extent of her patience, it seemed. The next time he hurt himself, he was on his own. Without control over One for All, Izuku was practically guaranteed to injure himself, but learning control took time. He’d been trying, he’d even made some strides in gaining control, but it wasn’t 100% yet. Unless he somehow got perfect control right away, he was going to be hurt again.

 

It wasn’t fair, but… The world wasn’t fair. Izuku had learned that lesson many times already. 

 

Instead of voicing his objections, Izuku thanked Recovery Girl for her help and left. He wanted away from the twisting, angry feeling in his gut, but he’d settle for getting away from the nurse instead.

 

It was a good thing Izuku had practice taking care of his own injuries, though broken bones were going to be difficult to hide from his mom. Plus, if he got hurt, his hero course work would suffer too. Izuku could fight through pain, but broken bones just wouldn’t cooperate like that. 

 

Izuku sighed. It seemed his only option was to hope for an epiphany and sudden miraculous control. If he didn’t get mastery over One for All the next time he used it, he was screwed.

 

Pushing those thoughts away for now, Izuku made his way up to the student seats. There were still a few fights to watch, and Izuku wanted to check on Todoroki. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like Todoroki was in the stands. Considering his fight was up next, that wasn’t surprising. Izuku would have to catch him later. 

 

Izuku felt a little bad, but when it came to Iida’s match against Todoroki, he bet on the dual quirk user winning. Todoroki was just too well rounded of a fighter and had the advantage of superior experience. It was a close match, and Izuku cheered Iida on with Uraraka, but Izuku predicted correctly in the end. Even without using his fire, Todoroki won. 

 

Watching the next match, Tokoyami vs Kacchan, Izuku felt a certain sympathy for Tokoyami and Dark Shadow. Izuku was well acquainted with those explosions, and just like him, Dark Shadow and Tokoyami didn’t have a defense against them the way Kirishima did. It was a bad matchup for Tokoyami, and he surrendered once that became obvious. 

 

The final would be Todoroki against Kacchan. Part of Izuku felt like Kacchan would win simply because Kacchan always did. Excluding their fight during the combat exercise the second day at UA, Izuku had never seen Kacchan lose. He was relentless, brutal, and incomparably driven. On the other hand, Todoroki was a powerhouse with truly unbelievable strength, speed, and strategic thinking, plus a decade of some of the most merciless training Izuku had ever heard of. 

 

“So, how do you think it’ll go?” Ojiro leaned forward, propping himself up on the back of Izuku’s chair.

 

“Yeah, Midoriya. You’ve got the most experience out of anyone against both Bakugou and Todoroki,” Uraraka added. 

 

“Honestly, it’s hard to predict. Both of their quirks are so strong, and both of them are skilled combatants…” At this point, the whole class was looking at him for his answer, so Izuku took a breath and worked it out aloud for everyone. “If I had to decide, I’d say it’s going to depend on whether or not Todoroki uses his fire. Kacchan is able to learn so much about his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses during a fight, which allows him to be adaptive and develop counter strategies easily. If Todoroki only uses his ice, Kacchan will find and exploit that weakness quickly. If, on the other hand, Todoroki uses his left side, he’d be able to continuously change up the way he attacks. It would keep Kacchan from coming up with a solid counter, and the match would likely go to Todoroki since it’s hard to fight against two extremes like that without careful planning or more experience—neither of which Kacchan has.”

 

“So, Todoroki’s got this!” Uraraka cheered. 

 

“I dunno, Uraraka,” Kaminari shook his head. “You didn’t hear him talk about not using his left side. Dude was seriously intense; I’m surprised Midoriya got him to let loose.”

 

“It’s complicated for sure,” Izuku agreed. “He didn’t use his fire against Iida in the semi-finals, but he didn’t really need to either.”

 

“I’m kinda hoping he doesn’t,” Sero chuckled weakly. “I do not want to see what Bakugou's like when he loses.”

 

“I hear that. Bakugou is seriously scary sometimes,” Jirou said.

 

“No,” Izuku objected, silencing the chatter of agreement behind him. “If you’re worried about Kacchan’s reaction, you should hope Todoroki doesn’t hold back.”

 

“What do you mean?” Kirishima asked. “Bakugou doesn’t seem like the type to prefer losing.”

 

“As odd as it sounds, Kacchan would prefer an honest loss to a false victory, which is exactly how he’ll see it if Todoroki doesn’t use his fire.” 

 

As Todoroki and Kacchan stepped out onto the arena, everyone in 1-A contemplated Izuku’s analysis. The tension surrounding the stadium mounted as Present Mic announced the fighters, and the class was on the edge of their seats. 

 

The final battle of the Sports Festival was as fierce as the lead up promised it would be, but it became apparent that Todoroki wouldn’t use his fire. He hesitated, despite Kacchan’s taunts and accusations, which only served to make the blonde furious. Being on the receiving end of that anger many times before, Izuku flinched on Todoroki’s behalf. More than Kacchan’s reaction though, Izuku worried about why Todoroki was holding back and why he shouldn’t.

 

Seeing Todoroki hesitate again , Izuku sprang up from his seat and leaned as far over the stadium railing as he dared without losing his balance, ignoring the worried exclamations and grasping hands from his friends sitting nearby.

 

Taking a deep breath, he shouted and hoped his voice would carry to the dual quirk user far below. “Come on, Todoroki! Don’t give up! Do your best!”

 

In the relative silence of the moment—as silent as a stadium of thousands can really be—Todoroki heard him. Izuku saw Todoroki turn to briefly glance at him before adjusting his stance and igniting his left side to meet Kacchan’s next advance. Izuku was ready to cheer and scream his throat raw in support, but as Kacchan launched himself at Todoroki like a missile, Todoroki’s fire fizzled out and his braced stance relaxed. 

 

“No. Don’t let him win,” Izuku murmured, decidedly not talking about Kacchan. Worry and disappointment kept his voice below a whisper, however, and Todoroki couldn’t hear his pleas.

 

If nothing else, Izuku wished Todoroki would at least throw another wall of ice up to intercept the hit coming his way, but all he did was stand there and surrender to the inevitable. The explosion from Kacchan’s finishing move rocked the stadium, and Izuku prayed that Todoroki would be alright as they waited for the dust to settle. 

 

Todoroki was unconscious and out of bounds, but that didn’t stop Kacchan from screaming at him. As Izuku predicted, the explosive teen was not pleased with the outcome of the fight. Despite his shouting and threatening posture, though, Izuku knew that Kacchan wouldn’t actually attack Todoroki. There would be no point in beating on an unconscious opponent, no matter how angry he was over the match. 

 

The teachers didn’t seem to see it the same way, however, and Midnight used her quirk to knock Kacchan out rather than try to talk him down. Izuku frowned at that. Kacchan was angry, not unreasonable, but maybe she saw something up close that Izuku didn’t. 

 

The final match was declared in Kacchan’s favor and both boys were taken to Recovery Girl. Izuku wanted to go to the nurse’s office to check on Todoroki, but Iida pulled him and Uraraka aside as soon as the fight was called. He waited for the rest of the class to leave the stands before telling them he had to go.

 

Ingenium had been attacked by a villain and was in the hospital; Iida would be leaving before the award ceremony to join his family at his side. Unfortunately, he didn’t have details, didn’t even know if his brother would be alright, but he wanted to let Izuku and Uraraka know so they wouldn’t worry about him being unreachable for a few days.

 

Subdued, both Izuku and Uraraka wished his brother a speedy recovery before letting Iida depart.

 

The awards ceremony was outrageous. Seeing Kacchan chained and muzzled to the podium made Izuku sick. Surely people saw how atrocious that was. Looking at the other students, Izuku saw a mix of fear, surprise, and resignation on most faces. A few showed disgust, but whether that was at Kacchan’s behavior or his treatment, Izuku couldn’t tell. Class 1-A appeared to be the only ones obvious in their objections. As Midnight catered to the audience and the press, Izuku forced himself to keep his eyes on the podium, though he couldn’t manage to school his features. 

 

“This is wrong,” Izuku wanted to shout it, wanted to scream at everyone who looked at a fifteen year old boy in chains and thought it was okay, but his voice was barely loud enough to carry to his class.

 

“Agreed,” Uraraka whispered. “What were they thinking?”

 

“He’s been going nuts since he woke up,” Kirishima said. “ This was their solution.”

 

“I can’t believe Mr. Aizawa agreed to this,” Yaoyorozu cringed behind her hands, almost unable to look. 

 

Kirishima shrugged, but Izuku could see the tension he carried. Easy-going Kirishima was definitely upset. “He wasn’t there. It was some suits’ decision; I didn’t recognize them.”

 

When All Might arrived to present the awards, Izuku was soothed a little that his mentor and idol appeared to have issues with the treatment of one of his students. It wasn’t much, but Izuku comforted himself knowing that at least someone in charge recognized it as an overreaction. The hero removed Kacchan’s muzzle to present him with the gold medal, but it was obvious that Kacchan didn’t want it.

 

“Just let him refuse,” Izuku begged quietly. 

 

It was no use, however. All Might gave Kacchan the medal despite his objections and the awards ceremony finally came to a close. The cheers of the crowd and the other students’ excited discussion the day was deafening, but Class 1-A was silent as they made their way back to the locker rooms. 

 

To their surprise, Mr. Aizawa met them in the hallway outside the locker rooms. Their teacher never looked pleased from their experience, and it was particularly difficult to read his moods covered in bandages as he was, but right now he practically radiated disapproval and contempt.

 

“Mr. Aizawa?” Yaoyorozu stepped up as vice-rep with Iida’s absence. 

 

There was a suspended silence, the anticipation and collective held breath from the students faced with their angry teacher stretched for an endless moment until the man finally addressed the class. 

 

“What we just witnessed was unacceptable,” Aizawa stated. “I don’t want to see anyone in this class lay blame on Bakugou. His anger and frustration did not warrant that response–”

“We know, sir,” Kirishima said. 

 

When Mr. Aizawa didn’t scold Kirishima for interrupting, Uraraka added, “Yeah, that was super disgusting.” 

 

“Why does UA even have a muzzle?” Kaminari complained.

 

There was a general agreement from the others as well and Izuku felt a little better knowing his class was on the same page. Even the ones who didn’t get along with Bakugou were sticking up for him. Aizawa also seemed to relax a little as the others offered their support. 

 

“Alright. Get changed and meet in the classroom. There are a few announcements before you’re released for the day,” Mr. Aizawa dismissed. As Izuku passed, his teacher caught his attention. “Can you manage with your arms, Midoriya?”

 

It would probably be a struggle. Normally he would have asked Iida for assistance, but Iida wasn’t available. He had the use of one of his hands, though, so Izuku told Aizawa he could manage. He’d be slower, but he’d manage.

 

Izuku was able to open his locker and pull out his gym bag and backpack with only one hand. His arm was sore, but it wasn’t broken. Getting out of his gym uniform was easy. He wasn’t really wearing the jacket, so he was able to shrug it off without issue, stuffing it in his gym bag to be washed at home as he toed out of his shoes. Tugging at the drawstring on his pants didn’t prove complicated either, and he was able to slip out of them with only a little extra wriggling before shoving them into the gym bag as well. 

 

Kacchan, Todoroki, and Tokoyami joined the class at that point and the guys welcomed them with cheers of congratulations. Kacchan ignored them all and stormed to his locker, yanked his bag free, and changed into his school uniform before leaving the locker room as quickly as he’d arrived.

 

“Did…did he still have the medal in his teeth?” Sero asked.

 

“Leave him be, man,” Kirishima sighed.

 

Izuku silently agreed. Kacchan would work out his anger eventually, but considering what just happened, he had a right to still be fuming. 

 

Getting into his uniform slacks with one arm was not as easy as getting out of his gym clothes. Sitting on the bench next to the lockers helped, but he still struggled. Once they were up around his hips, Izuku grabbed his shirt and then paused. With his left arm in a sling, getting it into the gym jacket had been more trouble than it was worth, which was why he’d simply draped it across his shoulders, but this was his school uniform. He’d need to get his arm in the sleeves.

 

“Midoriya.”

 

Looking up, Izuku was surprised to see Todoroki in front of him, already back in his school uniform. “Oh, hey, Todoroki. Congratulations on placing.”

 

“Thank you.” The quiet words were quickly followed by, “Do you need assistance?”

 

Izuku ducked his head, a little embarrassed, but took a breath before looking back up and nodding. “If you don’t mind, I could use the help. Thank you.”

 

“I wouldn’t have offered otherwise,” Todoroki stated, taking the shirt from Izuku. He held it up for Izuku to slip his arm into the first sleeve, tugging gently to make sure it rested correctly on his shoulder. With a small frown, the heterochromic teen let the shirt drape half on, half off, and ran his hand along the sling supporting Izuku’s left arm. “I apologize for my part. I know your quirk caused these, but you only went so far trying to tell me something I was too stubborn to hear.”

 

“I’d do it again,” Izuku didn’t want Todoroki to feel any guilt over his injuries. It was Izuku’s choice, one he didn’t regret.

 

Todoroki shook his head, confused. “Why?”

 

A quick glance showed that the two of them were the last ones in the locker room, so Izuku spoke his mind. “You needed to hear it. Reject your father and his plan for you—you more than have that right—but don’t let that hate hold you back from what you want.”

 

“It’s...not that simple.” Todoroki sighed.

 

“Probably not,” Izuku agreed, “and I’m sure there’s even more going on than what you’ve told me, but I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Endeavor when he tracked me down before our fight.”

 

Todoroki’s eyes shot up to meet Izuku’s, a flurry of emotions racing through them before they carefully hid behind his normal stoic demeanor. 

 

“You are not your father,” Izuku told him. 

 

Despite his stony expression, Todoroki’s hands were careful when they lifted Izuku’s arm out of its sling and picked up the forgotten shirt. Izuku let Todoroki help him slide the sleeve over his left arm in silence. Talking about this was probably one of the last things Todoroki wanted to do, but he didn’t snap or lash out or walk away, and Izuku appreciated that. Instead, he rolled up the sleeves of Izuku’s shirt so they wouldn’t catch or strain against his bandaged arms.

 

It was only after they’d moved Izuku’s arm back into the sling—Todoroki’s deft fingers and guarded eyes on Izuku’s buttons—that Todoroki finally spoke. “When I was young, before she was sent away, I told my mother I didn’t want to be like my father. I didn’t want to be someone who would hurt people—hurt her. She smiled and told me that I could be the kind of hero that I wanted to be.” He slipped the last button through its hole and looked back up to Izuku’s eyes. “I’d forgotten that conversation entirely until you yelled at me during our fight.”

 

Warmth filled Izuku’s chest. Before, Todoroki had said could only remember his mother crying; that he could suddenly remember her smile just reaffirmed Izuku’s belief that he’d done the right thing. 

 

“She was right,” Izuku said.

 

“So were you. On all accounts. It...won’t be easy to let it go, and there’s something I need to do first, but I will try.”

 

Izuku smiled, proud. “That’s all anyone can do.”

 

Todoroki stepped back, giving Izuku a little more space as he tucked his shirt in and zipped and buttoned his pants. Izuku shoved his feet into his shoes and grabbed his bags, wrapping the undone tie around his neck. It wasn’t regulation to leave it loose, but he didn’t feel the need to mangle the knot one-handed. 

 

Once he was ready to leave, the two of them made their way out of the stadium and back toward the school. Izuku managed to get Todoroki’s contact information as they hurried across campus, but otherwise said nothing more, saving his breath for running. They’d already taken longer than they should have, but hopefully Mr. Aizawa would be lenient given the circumstances.

Chapter Text

Izuku and Todoroki were the last two to find their seats, but thankfully Mr. Aizawa didn’t comment on their tardiness. Izuku listened intently as their teacher praised everyone’s performance in his gruff manner, and told them they’d have the next few days off to recuperate. Even with Mr. Aizawa’s assurance that there would no doubt be pros looking to recruit them, Izuku couldn't muster enthusiasm. 

 

Seeing Iida’s empty chair reminded Izuku that his friend was hurting, worried about his brother who had been injured in the line of duty. While they were all competing in a festival, real heroes were risking their lives against real villains. That was the world they were all trying to join, and it was likely that all of them would be injured at some point in their careers, just like Ingenium. 

 

It was a sobering thought, and it didn’t make the weight of worry for Iida any lighter.

 

The class was dismissed shortly after Mr. Aizawa’s announcements, and Izuku made his way home, lost in thought.

 

His mother was a crying wreck when he got there, fussing over his injuries, but she’d made katsudon for dinner. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t won or even placed; he’d done well, and she was proud of him. 

 

“How are your arms?” his mom asked during dinner after she’d calmed down. 

 

“Sore, but I should be okay in a couple days. Recovery Girl wants to see me tomorrow to finish healing what’s left.” Izuku schooled his face to hide the anger threatening to drag his lips down. He appreciated that the nurse was willing to finish the rest of the recovery process, but he still didn’t feel right about her refusal to heal future injuries.

 

“That’s good. I was so worried. That Todoroki boy went too far, I think.” His mom frowned.

 

Reminded of Todoroki, Izuku actually smiled, which his mom noticed. She raised an eyebrow in question. “We got a little carried away, but it was worth it.”

 

“Look at you, Izuku. I think it went a little more than a little carried away.”

 

“Maybe, but you don’t understand… I wish you could have seen it up close, Mom.” He set his elbow on the table and propped his head up on his hand as he recalled that moment. “He’s usually so quiet and reserved, like he has to hide behind this cold mask, because of how he was raised, but then he finally used his fire and it was the first time he’d looked so...free. It–He was incredible.”

 

“Oh, is that how it is?” His mom smirked, amusement laced heavily in her tone.

 

Izuku sat up quickly and shot his mom an accusatory look. “How what is?”

 

His mom said nothing, just kept smirking as she ate a few more bites of her dinner. 

 

“Mom.”

 

“Izuku.”

 

He wasn’t buying her innocent look. She had that smirk, like she knew something, and now she wasn’t sharing. He stared at her suspiciously as she continued to eat, continued to smirk, but she refused to divulge her secrets. 

 

“Are you done with dinner, dear?” She reached for his empty bowl and Izuku pushed it toward her.

 

“You’re not going to tell me, are you.”

 

“Call it a hunch. I’ll let you know if I’m right.” His mom stood with both bowls and made her way to the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, “You should go rest, Izuku; try to relax.”

 

As much as Izuku would like to get the answer out of his mother, he was tired. The whole day had been long and exceedingly draining. It was a little early to go to sleep, but Izuku retreated to his room after bidding his mom a good night anyway. 

 

Izuku thought about texting Iida to check on him, but he’d told Izuku and Uraraka that he’d be unreachable for at least a day. Rather than bother Iida when he would be focused on his family, Izuku scrolled through his other contacts. Still upset over the awards ceremony, Izuku didn’t particularly want to reach out to All Might tonight. He’d be too tempted to express his displeasure over what happened, and All Might didn’t really deserve his anger. A very brief impulse to text Kacchan was quickly dismissed; there was nothing that Izuku could say that Kacchan would want to hear, particularly not from him. He was about to text Uraraka when he saw the newest entry in his contacts: Todoroki. 

 

Considering everything he’d learned about Todoroki recently, Izuku felt a sinking sense of worry for his new friend—they were friends now, right?—and how Endeavor might react to Todoroki’s performance at the festival. He was typing before he’d fully processed the idea to do so.

 

You

Hey, just checking in since I forgot to ask before. You healed up ok? I know from experience how hard Kacchan can hit.

 

The response came faster than Izuku expected.

 

Todoroki

I’m fine. You’re the one still in bandages.

 

You

With how often I’ll be in bandages, I should just make them part of my aesthetic.

 

Izuku grimaced in the safety of his own room, reminded once again that he needed to find some way to control One For All before he had to use it again.

 

Todoroki

You’ve used it without breaking anything before. The cavalry battle for instance.

 

You

I’m having issues with control. When I used it in the cavalry battle, and directly against you during our fight, I was able to limit how much power I used because I didn’t want to kill you. Without a living target though, I haven’t been able to hold back.



Izuku was sure Todoroki thought he was incompetent after that admission. Unable to control something he should have had for a decade. Some rival he was. It was a shame he couldn’t tell Todoroki the truth.

 

Todoroki

You’re very intelligent Midoriya. What’s keeping you from solving this control problem?

 

Todoroki thought Izuku was intelligent? The way he’d assessed the situation at the USJ, that he’d made his way through however many villains to join the group in the courtyard, not to mention the way he’d breezed through the obstacle course today, the strategic way he’d built his cavalry team… Todoroki was brilliant , and he thought Izuku was intelligent.

 

Fighting the blush on his cheeks, Izuku sent a response.

 

You

Experience. I haven’t used it against someone else much.

 

Todoroki

We could spar, if you’d like. 

 

The opportunity to practice his control was desperately needed; Izuku was inclined to accept. Not only would he get the chance to practice, but it would give him the chance to see Todoroki. After what happened at the Sports Festival, Izuku was eager to talk to him again. 

 

You

I’d like that. When? Where?

 

Todoroki

You’ll probably be too tired after seeing Recovery Girl tomorrow, and I have plans anyway. Tuesday? We’d have to go to UA if we want to use our quirks.

 

You

I can submit a request to reserve one of the gyms while I’m there tomorrow. Time?

 

Todoroki

Noon?

 

You

See you then! 

 

Izuku set his phone aside with a pleased smile. It had been a surprise that Todoroki offered to spar, but a pleasant one. With luck he’d be able to get a measure of control over One For All without having to break his bones. He knew better than to expect his issue with control to be solved with one spar, but any step forward was welcome at this point. 

 

The next day, Izuku made his way to UA earlier than necessary to fill out and submit the paperwork he needed to rent out one of the gyms. He handed his request to Mr. Aizawa himself with a quick explanation that Todoroki had agreed to help him with his control issue. His homeroom teacher nodded with a tired grunt of approval before signing off on the request. Izuku texted All Might as well to let him know of his plans, just in case. Whenever Izuku trained with One For All outside of class, All Might had always been there. This sparring match with Todoroki would be the first time he was trying something without his mentor present.

 

The session with Recovery Girl was short and left him pretty tired. He refrained from talking more than necessary, answering her questions of how he was feeling, how much pain he was in, if anything she’d healed yesterday felt off, and so on. Izuku kept his answers short and to the point, eager to get it over with. If she noticed his discomfort, she didn’t remark on it. Once she was done, she offered to let him take a nap on one of the beds before returning home, but he declined. He didn’t want to stay in her office; it no longer felt as safe as it once did. 

 

Izuku trudged home, exhausted, and face-planted into his bed. He’d warned his mom he’d be tired and to let him sleep, so it was well past dinner time before he woke up. He needed to eat, so he dragged himself to the kitchen and reheated some leftovers. It looked like his mom was already asleep, or at least in her room, so he tried to be as quiet as possible as he finished up and went back to his room. 

 

Feeling a little more human after eating something, Izuku stretched his disused and abused body until all the stiffness was gone. With full range of motion again, he worked his way through more and more intensive exercises until he was confident he was back to his normal level pre-injury. Despite the crooked fingers, he was still in top form, which was a relief.

 

Once that was done, Izuku sat at his desk with a sigh and pulled a notebook out of a drawer, flipping it open. With the Sports Festival finally over, he couldn’t justify putting it off any more. 

 

Midoriya Izuku

Quirks: Veiled Sight; OFA

 

The entry had been updated and redone a few times over the years, mostly with notes on potential uses or theories or anything that Izuku could think of to improve his quirk. They’d all been erased or scratched out as test after test had come back without any results. This version was relatively clean, however, since it was newer, and it was the only entry in the notebook.

 

He’d been so distracted with getting into UA, the USJ attack, and preparing for the Sports Festival that he hadn’t updated with the changes he’d noticed in either quirk. Mr. Aizawa wanted Izuku to apply his analysis to himself, and that was what he was going to do. 

 

The first paragraph simply detailed what he knew of how his quirk and One For All worked at the time he’d written it—which wasn’t long after receiving All Might’s quirk—so Izuku finally updated the information to include the new information regarding both quirks. 

 

The ability to see through objects and barriers placed directly against his skin was something he had tested when he was younger, without success. However, that no longer appeared to be the case, so Izuku ran himself through the same tests he’d done as a little kid trying to find the limits of his quirk. He started small, even though he’d already successfully seen through a stone wall several centimeters thick, until he found roughly where the new limit was. 

 

When making direct contact with the skin around the eyes, Veiled Sight will still activate and perceive through obstructions up to 30cm thick. No variation found in type of material yet, but without access to more materials, the current limits regarding obstruction type is unknown. 

 

It was a potentially useful enhancement; Izuku could reliably see through any standard wall. Unfortunately, he was still limited by the current restraints of his own eyesight. He couldn’t see anything without some sort of light source, so the contents of a lightless box would remain a mystery. One For All could further enhance his own quirk later, but Izuku didn’t know what that would look like.

 

Moving on to One For All itself, Izuku wrote down what he knew. All Might had guessed Izuku could only handle about 5% of One For All’s power without hurting himself. It was disheartening, but it also made sense. He’d had One For All for a little over a month; that wasn’t a lot of time to get used to that much power. Hopefully he’d be able to increase that limit with practice. For now, however, his bigger issue was control. Knowing how much of One For All he could safely use was meaningless if he couldn’t control how much he used at once.

 

Sparring with Todoroki on Tuesday would give him the opportunity to use One For All against a living target over and over again until he could understand how he subconsciously put a leash on his output. Once he had that, he should be able to do it reliably without a living target in front of him. If he could manage that , he could avoid breaking bones.

 

“Easier said than done,” Izuku sighed, setting his pencil down. He considered the consequences briefly before deciding it was probably safe enough and tucked his notebook into his gym bag. He’d take it with him; he was able to process and order his thoughts a little clearer by writing them down, and Todoroki wouldn’t pry too deeply if Izuku explained it was to help him analyze. 

 

Looking at the time, Izuku winced. It was pretty late, but he wasn’t tired. He’d completely ruin his sleep schedule if he didn’t go to sleep soon, though. Resigned, Izuku got ready for bed and slipped beneath the covers. It took him another hour, but he fell into a dreamless sleep at last.

 

Noon on Tuesday crept up on Izuku. He’d woken up with his alarm at six and struggled through his morning routine, and spent the rest of his available time in a blur of news articles and texts with Uraraka about what happened to Iida’s brother. He only barely pulled himself away from it in time to make his way to UA, thoughts consumed by the Hero Killer: Stain and worry for Iida.  

 

Izuku grabbed his gym bag and a bento for lunch as he left his apartment. As upsetting as the recent news had been, Izuku forced himself to set it aside for now. He couldn’t be distracted during his training or he’d risk his concentration slipping and injuring Todoroki severely.

 

Todoroki was already at the gym on campus when Izuku arrived at noon going through a few warm ups. Izuku waved and called out to him as he entered. Todoroki paused long enough to nod in acknowledgement before continuing his warm ups as Izuku made his way to the locker room to change. 

 

Following Todoroki’s example, Izuku changed into his UA gym uniform before heading back out. Todoroki was on the mats waiting for him. 

 

“Did you want to warm up first?” Todoroki asked. 

 

Izuku shook his head as he joined his classmate on the sparring mat. “I ran here from the station; I’m good. How should we do this?”

 

“This is your training, Midoriya.” Todoroki shed his jacket and tossed it aside. “If you need a living punching bag, I can do that. If you want me to fight back, I can do that too. It’s up to you.”

 

“I’m not just going to hit you over and over again!” Izuku objected.

 

Todoroki shrugged. “It’s up to you, as I said.”

 

Izuku shook his head at Todoroki’s offer. “Even at only 5% power, a direct hit sent you across the field during our match. Doing that repeatedly is going to hurt you.”

 

“Five percent?”

 

“Yeah, that’s about how much my bones can safely handle right now. It’s not a lot, but I can’t afford to keep breaking myself.”

 

Todoroki was silent for a moment before his lips twitched in what Izuku thought might be amusement if the slight wrinkling around his eyes was anything to go by. “Are you sure you’re not All Might’s secret love child?”

 

“I’m probably the biggest All Might fanboy you’re ever going to meet; do you really think I’d be able to keep that a secret if it were true?” Izuku tried to keep the amused smirk off his face, but Todoroki’s warm amusement—something Izuku had never heard before, but wanted to hear more of—was too infectious.

 

“I suppose not,” Todoroki conceded. 

 

So ,” Izuku continued, determined to get back on track, “I’d like to avoid hitting you directly as much as possible.” 

 

“If you need to–”

 

“Oh! I have an idea.” Izuku jumped off the mats briefly and jogged over to a storage closet labeled ‘Safety Equipment,’ purposefully ignoring Todoroki’s offer. Thankfully it wasn’t locked when Izuku tried the handle, and he found what he was looking for easily. Looking closer, he noticed that they were reinforced and thicker than standard boxing pads. Probably designed with strength quirks in mind.

 

He brought the pads over to Todoroki and smiled as he held up his find. 

 

Understanding, Todoroki took the pads from Izuku and slipped them onto his hands. “Good idea.”

 

Stepping back onto the mats, Izuku adopted a fighting stance across from Todoroki as he held up the pads. “They’re meant for strength enhanced hits, but I don’t know how much they’ll compensate for. Tell me if you need a break.”

 

“You hit harder than Endeavor, but not as relentlessly. I will be fine.”

 

Izuku dropped out of his fighting stance. 

 

Learning about Endeavor’s training methods and what he’d done to Todoroki had completely destroyed all respect Izuku had had for the pro. Witnessing it first hand when Endeavor had sought him out at the Sports Festival had poured accelerant on the smoldering coals of dislike, feeding them into a fire of rage that almost surprised Izuku with its intensity. He wasn’t sure he’d ever felt something like that before; he wasn’t sure what to do with it either. 

 

Part of Izuku wanted to call off their training—he didn’t want to hurt Todoroki—but that wasn’t fair of him. Todoroki had offered to help, it had been his idea. It wasn’t Izuku’s job or right to say what Todoroki could or couldn’t handle. Being a hero meant getting hurt, part of the job, and it was Todoroki’s choice to pursue his dream to be a hero. He wasn’t a delicate flower. In fact, given the muscle definition on display from Todoroki’s bare arms, it was clear the opposite was true. Izuku respected him and his strength.

 

“Midoriya?”

 

Izuku met heterochromic eyes. “Sorry; got lost in my head. Anyway. We’ll keep it straightforward for a bit and when I tell you to, I want you to start trying to throw off my concentration.”

 

“Understood.”

 

Taking up a fighting stance once more, Izuku focused on One For All and made sure to keep Todoroki in his sights as he threw the first punch. At this point, Izuku no longer needed to think about his form or his footing. That was all muscle memory, and he wasn’t in danger or on a time limit, which meant he was free to analyze. 

 

Without the pressure of a high-stress situation, it was a lot easier to recognize what using One For All at 5% felt like. 

 

Izuku checked in with Todoroki after the first punch to make sure the pads were doing their job, but when the teen nodded that he was fine, Izuku continued to strike the pads with empowered hit after hit. After ten successful punches to each pad, Izuku stepped back and assessed. His bones were unbroken, and he didn’t feel any more strain than he would expect from a quirkless version of the same workout. 

 

“You have better control than I expected,” Todoroki remarked. 

 

“It’s a lot easier like this. I can focus on just holding back without anything else demanding my attention.” Izuku flexed his hands a few times to ease the minor ache of repeated punches.

 

“Ready for a distraction?” 

 

Izuku thought about it for a moment before agreeing. “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, and try to mix it up.”

 

“As you wish.”

 

They both returned to their ready stances, and Todoroki let Izuku get in a couple undisturbed hits before suddenly swatting at his head with a quick swipe of his hand. Izuku had expected something like that, though, and ducked under his swing. 

 

“You missed.” Todoroki wiggled the untouched pad Izuku had been aiming for.

 

“Dodged instead.”

 

“Do both.”

 

Izuku agreed with a determined noise and tried again. Aiming for the same pad that he’d missed last time, Izuku wasn’t expecting that same pad to be the one to move. This time Izuku managed to block the swing rather than dodge, but he’d been forced to use his other arm and hadn’t had time to call up One For All. Todoroki said nothing, but a slight tilt to his head meant he found something about Izuku’s reaction interesting. It only took a couple more instances of Todoroki going for similar strikes before Izuku just kept One For All flowing through both his arms. 

 

After five consecutive successes like that, Izuku released the power and backed off. He had a fairly good grasp of how it felt to use One For All at 5% now, and he wanted to try something. 

 

As Todoroki took the time to relax, Izuku practiced channeling only 5% through each of his limbs. He wanted to make sure he could do it on purpose, make sure he knew what it felt like, before he moved on to the next step.

 

“Let’s see if I can do it without a living target, and give your hands a break.”

 

Todoroki gratefully took the boxing pads off and worked the tension in his arms and hands. Despite the extra padding, Izuku could see the strain it was causing Todoroki, but he said nothing in complaint. 

 

“Punching bag?”

 

“That was my thought.” Izuku agreed. 

 

They moved to the nearest reinforced bag. “Should I get Recovery Girl, just in case?”

 

Izuku frowned before quickly schooling his features. “No, I think I have this.”

 

Todoroki nodded and stepped back out of Izuku’s sight. Izuku bounced on the balls of his feet a couple times, psyching himself up. He was fairly sure he had a grasp on control, but if he was wrong, he was in for an uncomfortable next few months as his arm healed on its own. Before he threw his punch, he called up One For All and tested the feel of it in his arm, making sure it felt the same as before. Once he was sure, he drew back and punched the bag.

 

Neither breathed for a moment while they looked at Izuku’s arm. 

 

Unbroken.

 

He’d done it!

 

Excited, Izuku channeled One For All in both arms and began to pound the bag with rapid hits, confident in his steady control. He continued until he was a little out of breath, and then stepped away, smiling brightly at Todoroki.

 

“Well done.”

 

“Thank you for your help, Todoroki! Really, I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own.”

 

Todoroki accepted his gratitude with a polite nod, and then crossed his arms. “I have a theory I’d like to test, if you’re willing to continue.”

 

“Oh? Okay. What did you have in mind?” Izuku snagged a water bottle from his gym bag and drank about half of it as he waited for Todoroki to explain.

 

Todoroki put the pads back on as Izuku drank, and then gestured to the sparring mats. “Same as before, with the boxing pads.” 

 

Izuku joined him on the mats eager to see what Todoroki had come up with. They both fell into a ready stance and began. They returned to the same pattern as before, where Izuku would have to punch and counter for a little while, getting into a comfortable rhythm.

 

Then Todoroki sent a short wave of ice forward with his foot, trapping Izuku up to his knees. 

 

“You should have been able to jump out of the way,” Todoroki said as he removed the left boxing pad so he could melt the ice. 

 

“Wasn’t able to activate it in time to jump.” Izuku frowned, disappointed in himself. 

 

“I noticed you only keep your quirk active in a limited area, and it takes a moment for you to activate it elsewhere,” Todoroki confirmed. “It slows your reaction time.”

 

Izuku nodded in understanding. He was starting to see what Todoroki must have observed right away. Turning One For All on and off like he was doing meant he would only ever be reacting, which just wasn’t good enough. “I won’t be able to do that in a real fight, you’re right. It’ll slow me down way too much, so instead…”

 

Izuku took a few deep breaths before he summoned One For All again, only this time he brought the power surging throughout his entire body. It was a lot harder to control like this, he could feel the struggle to keep it in check, but when he had it, he faced Todoroki with 5% of One For All: Full Cowling.

 

“I can see you straining. How’s your control?” Todoroki asked.

 

“It’s harder,” Izuku said honestly. “But I think I have it.”

 

Todoroki tossed both boxing pads to the side and shifted his stance. “How about a real spar then?”

 

Izuku grinned. “Yes, let’s do it.”

 

As much as they may have wanted to go all out, both Todoroki and Izuku had to hold back the destructive force of their attacks. Without a teacher present to referee, they couldn’t risk wrecking the gym or each other. Keeping that in mind, Todoroki’s first wave of ice was much smaller than what he’d used in the Sports Festival, but the distance between the two of them was also much shorter here, so Izuku had only barely enough time to jump up and out of the way. He used the ice as a launching point to propel himself forward faster than Todoroki could trap him, but the other teen was no slouch. Todoroki met Izuku’s charge with a wall of ice, but with Full Cowling, Izuku didn’t have to waste time, his arm was already infused with enough One For All to shatter the ice only to be completely surprised by the blast of fire that met him on the other side. Izuku was able to scatter the flames with a sharp wave of his arm, but he lost Full Cowling when he landed. 

 

“You used your fire!” he cheered.

 

“I’m trying.” Todoroki sighed, relaxing his stance and taking the time to melt the ice on the mats. “Sometimes I still can’t bring myself to use it, but…it is mine. I’m slowly accepting that.”

 

“That’s really great, Todoroki. Looks like we’re both making progress.” Izuku smiled brightly.

 

A small smile made its way onto Todoroki’s face as well before he readied himself again. “Keep going?”

 

“Plus Ultra,” Izuku agreed.

 

This new technique was a huge step forward, but it still needed work. His grasp on it last time was a little shaky and he’d lost it at the first distraction. This time, he wanted to maintain it long enough to finish their spar no matter what Todoroki threw at him. 

 

Drawing on One For All: Full Cowling, Izuku took a firmer grip on his mental focus in an effort to gain better control. As the power spread throughout his body, Izuku reminded himself that he needed the power everywhere, that it needed to always be on, for him to take full advantage. 

 

As soon as One For All reached Izuku’s head, something very odd happened.

 

One second, Izuku saw Todoroki standing in front of him like normal, and in the next Izuku’s field of vision widened until he could see everything . The door to the locker room that had been at the edge of his periphery came into clear focus, followed by the wall that was at Izuku’s back, wrapping all the way around to come full circle until Izuku could see a 360-degree view of the gym.

 

Then came the pain. The headache that ripped through Izuku’s skull drove him to his knees with a sharp cry, and he completely lost focus on One For All as he tried to breathe through the white hot ice pick currently stabbing him in the back of the head. The intense pain caused his stomach to rebel and he clutched at it weakly in an effort to keep the contents of his stomach where they belonged. 

 

“Midoriya!” Todoroki was at his side in a second.

 

Unfortunately, the normally pleasant voice was unbearably loud as the pain made everything too much . Izuku closed his eyes to block out the light, but it didn’t help. He could still see, and he could still see everything. He couldn’t process it all, his mind just wasn’t built for this kind of sensory input, and he felt like it was tearing his head apart. 

 

“H-hurts.”

 

“What hurts?” 

 

Try as he might, Izuku could not get his quirk to respond. What used to be as easy as breathing was impossible now, and he couldn’t turn it off!

 

“T-turn off-ff. W-why wo-won’t it t-turn off?” Izuku cried. 

 

He reached up and pressed his hands against his skull, trying to alleviate the pain, but that was a bad idea . As his hands touched the sides of his head, he could see the sides of his hands and through them as his new expanded field of vision assaulted his occipital lobe and forced it to adapt. He lost the fight with his nausea and only just managed to turn aside so he didn’t vomit up water and bile directly on Todoroki. 

 

“I’m getting Recovery Girl.”

 

“No!” Izuku regretted shouting immediately, but he needed to stop Todoroki from getting the nurse. She wouldn’t help him anyway, and Todoroki would only waste time asking. Taking as deep a breath as he could manage, Izuku begged, “A-All Might. I-I need All M-might.”

 

One For All had done something to Izuku’s quirk; he needed All Might. Hopefully his mentor would be able to do something, because Izuku was starting to seriously contemplate bashing his head against the floor until he lost consciousness just to make it stop .

 

Todoroki didn’t question him, thankfully, just ran toward the exit as fast as he could. 

 

As much as he didn’t want to move, didn’t want to see his perspective change in this new panoramic view, he couldn’t stay vertical anymore. The pain was sapping all his strength and making his limbs shake. He collapsed and whimpered as the jarring shift made everything worse.

 

Any time he tried to turn off his quirk or to focus enough to try to make better sense of his new field of vision, he couldn’t. The pain was just too great. Shattering his bones over and over again didn’t even compare to this, and if he could focus enough to use One For All, he might try to break something just to distract from the searing migraine. 

 

The only thing he could do now was wait and try to breathe through the pain.

Chapter Text

Shouto sprinted as fast as he could through the grounds towards the main UA building, ignoring the burning in his muscles and lungs that screamed for him to slow down. Tearing himself away from Midoriya had been exceedingly difficult, but leaving and fetching help would be far more beneficial for the injured teen than Shouto’s continued presence. 

 

What had happened? As far as Shouto could tell, there were no injuries, and quirk exhaustion didn’t look like that. One moment Midoriya was fine, and the next he was screaming on the floor. For Midoriya to be overwhelmed, the pain must have been unimaginable. Shouto’s first instinct was to get Recovery Girl, but Midoriya’s vehement refusal sounded a little too much like Shouto’s own mistrust of authority figures. 

 

If All Might was who Midoriya wanted, then Shouto would try to find the number one hero, but he didn’t even know if the man was on campus today. If he was, the teacher’s lounge seemed the most logical place to start.

 

Ignoring all deferential statutes, Shouto didn’t knock before throwing the door to the teacher’s lounge open with a bang. A quick scan of the room did not reveal All Might, so Shouto turned away with a frustrated growl, ready to try the cafeteria next. Before he could leave, his arms were suddenly bound to his chest in a white cloth, and he couldn’t take another step. 

 

Aizawa’s capture weapon. Looking up from the scarf wrapped around his chest, Todoroki met Aizawa’s glowing red eyes. It seemed he was free of his multitude of bandages at last, which meant Shouto got the full impact of his teacher’s unamused glare.

 

“Todoroki.” Aizawa tugged on the scarf in his hands, bringing Shouto closer. “What happened? Who were you looking for?”

 

Shouto opened his mouth to explain before another thought occurred to him. He honestly didn’t know what All Might could do for Midoriya, but Aizawa might be able to help. Midoriya had said he couldn’t turn it off; Shouto would bet that it was Midoriya's quirk, which meant Aizawa was exactly who he needed. “Something is wrong with Midoriya’s quirk. He said he can’t turn it off, and he collapsed from the pain.”

 

“Midoriya’s in too much pain?” Midnight looked deeply concerned.

 

Shouto nodded. “Midoriya wanted me to find All Might, but if it’s his quirk…”

 

Aizawa released Shouto and his quirk before turning to Midnight. “Nemuri–”

 

“I’ll send him your way. Go, Shota.” 

 

With that, the two of them were running through the halls. “How bad are his injuries?”

 

“He has none,” Shouto said, then added, “None that I could see.  He was in control of his quirk.  He’s been using it since noon and hasn’t broken anything. This is something else.”

 

“Of course it is,” Aizawa muttered. “Recovery Girl should still–”

 

“Midoriya said not to,” Shouto objected. Whatever Midoriya’s reasons for not wanting the nurse, Shouto was going to do his best to abide by his wishes. “I don’t know that she would be able to help. As I said, he isn’t injured.” 

 

“That you know of.”

 

Aizawa was faster than Shouto and began to pull away, but as soon as they hit the grounds outside, Shouto called on his ice to slide instead. With the natural slope and Shouto’s experience skating on his ice, he caught up to Aizawa easily. 

 

To Shouto’s surprise, Aizawa jumped onto the ice ramp as it manifested next to him. “You’re going to melt this later.”

 

Shouto agreed with a nod, and the two of them skated the rest of the way to the gym in a fraction of the time it would have taken them to run.

 

Used to rapidly jumping off of his ice, Shouto was the first to reach the doors to the gym and slammed them open with as little care as he had shown the teacher’s lounge. “Midoriya!”

 

The place next to the mats where he’d left Midoriya was empty, but a quick look around revealed a mane of green hair almost completely hidden underneath the jacket Shouto had tossed aside at the start of their training. Midoriya held the jacket’s collar in a solid grip up near the top of his head while the rest of it draped over his arms so that his head was completely covered, but the fabric itself was off his face.

 

Shouto ran to his side, but hesitated to remove the jacket. He’d crawled over to it for a reason, and if it was helping, then he didn’t want to take that away. 

 

A whimper from underneath the jacket told him Midoriya was at least still conscious.

 

“Move the jacket, I need to see him,” Aizawa ordered, kneeling on Midoriya’s other side.

 

When Shouto started to pull the jacket away, Midoriya tightened his hold on the fabric and kept it in place. “No, no, no, no, no…” 

 

“Come on, kid.” Aizawa’s normally gruff voice was gentler than Shouto had heard it before. “Don’t fight, we’re here to help.”

 

“M-Mr. Aizawa?” 

 

“Todoroki said your quirk is causing this, but you can’t turn it off. Let me help.” 

 

Midoriya’s chest heaved with a few deep breaths before he slowly began to lower the jacket. As soon as it was out of the way, Midoriya winced, but Aizawa quickly activated his quirk. The effect was immediate. The tight, tense muscles around Midoriya’s eyes relaxed, though he didn’t open his eyes, and he gasped with relief. 

 

“It’s off, it’s finally off,” Midoriya muttered, breathless.

 

“Are you still in pain?” Shouto asked.

 

“Headache, but it’s not as bad anymore.” Midoriya sat up slowly, resting his elbows on his knees. He bowed his head so he could put a hand on the back of his head and massage the area. 

 

“What happened?” Aizawa asked.

 

Midoriya finally opened his eyes and looked between the two of them sheepishly. His eyes scanned the room, looking for someone—probably All Might—before finally settling on Aizawa. “My quirk evolved. I wasn’t prepared.”

 

“Evolved how?”

 

“Was this from channeling it throughout your body?” Shouto guessed. 

 

“Sort of…” Midoriya hedged, looking away from Aizawa. “D-did you find All Might?”

 

“Todoroki made the logical decision to find me,” Aizawa stated, commanding Midoriya to look at him again with just his tone. “Answer my question, Midoriya. Evolved how ?”

 

Shouto could see that Midoriya was extremely reluctant to answer the question. The way he curled in on himself and avoided eye contact made it look like he was trying his best to hide without anything to hide behind. Unfortunately, it was just as obvious that Midoriya knew he should answer. Despite curling inward, Midoriya had shifted slightly in how he was sitting, and was turned a little more toward Aizawa than he had been before. 

 

“I have to blink soon, Midoriya; is your quirk going to incapacitate you again?” Aizawa tried a different tactic when it became clear that Midoriya couldn’t or wouldn’t answer his original question. 

 

“I don’t know,” Midoriya admitted. “It was like when my quirk first manifested. I couldn’t turn it off at all.”

 

Shouto pulled his jacket from where it had fallen onto Midoriya’s lap and held it up. “If you need to, you can use this, until Mr. Aizawa can erase it again.”

 

Midoriya gave him a grateful look and took hold of the jacket. “Okay. I’m ready.”

 

Aizawa blinked and pulled drops out of his pocket quickly, but Midoriya tensed and threw the jacket over his head. His quirk must have activated again, but Shouto didn’t see or sense anything like he normally did when Midoriya’s power activated. There was no glow, no aura of power, nothing. It didn’t make sense.

 

“Todoroki,” Aizawa caught his attention.

 

“Sir?”

 

“Cold will help a migraine. If Midoriya agrees, you could try to help him with the pain,” his teacher explained as he used the drops to rehydrate his eyes.

 

The huddled form of Midoriya leaned closer to Shouto at Aizawa’s words, so Shouto took that as permission. Remembering the spot that Midoriya had massaged earlier, Shouto slowly reached under the jacket so as not to let in too much light, and placed his right hand on the back of Midoriya’s head. Ignoring how soft his curls were, Shouto sifted through the thick hair until his fingers reached skin and then gently cooled the area to about the same temperature as an ice pack.

 

“Too cold?” Shouto asked quietly.

 

“S’good,” Midoriya mumbled from under the jacket, leaning into Shouto’s hand.

 

Suddenly the door to the gym flew open again, and the two not currently hiding looked up to see who had arrived. 

 

“I am here!” All Might announced loudly and Shouto felt Midoriya flinch under his hand at the volume. “Midnight informed me Young Midoriya was in trouble; where is he?”

 

Shouto pointed to the form under the jacket as Midoriya raised one of his hands to wave tentatively. All Might closed the distance between them in a few enormous strides and knelt behind Midoriya, though he seemed at a loss for what to do next. Shouto could see the concern on the hero’s face, and his hands were reaching for Midoriya, but—like Shouto had before—he hesitated to actually touch the clearly suffering boy.

 

“What has happened?”

 

“That’s what I’d like to know. Midoriya hasn’t been very forthcoming,” Aizawa berated, though his volume was low out of concern for Midoriya’s headache.

 

“My q-quirk evolved,” Midoriya offered again.

 

Aizawa pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

 

“We were training,” Shouto explained quickly. He didn’t know everything, but he could fill in what he did know, and then maybe Midoriya would fill in the blanks. “I offered to help Midoriya with control, and now he can control his power output at will.”

 

“That’s wonderful!” All Might cheered, though quietly. “Well done, my boy!”

 

“Except now he says he can’t turn it off, and something about how it evolved is causing him intense pain,” Aizawa said.

 

“He still doesn’t have any broken bones,” Shouto defended. “And it doesn’t feel like his quirk is on.”

 

“What do you mean, Young Todoroki?”

 

Shouto looked at the large hero. The way his eyes kept going back to Midoriya in concern, the way his hands still twitched toward the huddled form, it was blatantly obvious that All Might cared a great deal more for Midoriya than would be explained by only a month as student and teacher. If the situation weren’t so serious, Shouto would almost find this further proof toward his theory of their relationship amusing.

 

“When Midoriya uses his quirk, if you’re close enough, you can feel it. It’s like an aura of power and strength—not unlike your own, sir. I am actively touching him right now, and I don’t feel anything like that,” Shouto replied. Watching as closely as he was, Shouto definitely noticed a slight tic in All Might’s eye when he’d compared their powers.

 

“All M-Might,” Midoriya whispered. “My quirk evolved.”

 

Shouto did not understand the emphasis, but All Might did. The brief flash of surprise followed by understanding told Shouto that whatever Midoriya meant, All Might comprehended more than the simple words should have been able to convey.

 

“I see. That makes sense,” All Might rumbled. 

 

“I’m beginning to suspect I don’t know everything that I should,” Aizawa leveled a withering glare at the number one hero.

 

“Y-yes, well,” All Might stuttered, uncomfortable, “some privileged knowledge–”

 

“Save it,” Aizawa snapped. “Midoriya has reached the limit of his not-inconsequential pain tolerance. If you know something that will help him, then help him .”

 

The silence from the pro was almost painful. Shouto had no idea what could be so important that All Might would keep it a secret over Midoriya’s welfare. 

 

“Mr. A-Aizawa? C-could you…?” 

 

Their homeroom teacher sent one more contemptuous glare at All Might before turning to Midoriya. “Whenever you’re ready, kid.”

 

Like before, Midoriya took a few deep breaths before he removed the jacket, but Aizawa was quick to take away Midoriya’s quirk and, with it, most of his pain.

 

“I want to tell them,” Midoriya spun around hastily to face All Might, accidentally knocking Shouto’s hand away in the process. 

 

All Might furrowed his brows in confusion. “I understand telling Aizawa, but–”

 

“Todoroki too,” Midoriya interrupted. Shouto nearly jumped in surprise when Midoriya reached for his hand and put it back on his head. “He’s helping, and I trust him.”

 

Shouto chilled his hand again, digging a little to reach Midoriya’s scalp through his hair, and tried to tell himself the warmth he felt at Midoriya’s statement was due to using his quirk to compensate for the cold.

 

“My boy, are you sure?” 

 

“Yes. Absolutely,” Midoriya declared confidently, but then he began to fidget. “I don’t want Mr. Aizawa to have to use his quirk for too long. Could you tell them?”

 

All Might smiled down at Midoriya and placed a large hand on his shoulder before giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Still focused on the needs of others before your own, I see. Very well, I can tell them, but is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable?”

 

“Todoroki’s helping a lot. I’ll be fine.” Midoriya smiled weakly and then hid under Shouto’s jacket once more.

 

Aizawa blinked, releasing his quirk, and applied more drops with a quiet groan. “Get on with it, All Might.”

 

“Young Midoriya has two quirks.”

 

Shouto blinked. “Like me?”

 

“Not quite, Young Todoroki,” All Might replied. “Your quirk, or quirks, I suppose, are both yours naturally. In Midoriya’s case, one is his own natural quirk, and the other is the one that I gave him.” 

 

“Impossible,” Aizawa grumbled. 

 

“My quirk is a closely guarded secret because of its unique history and qualities. Its name is One For All, and it is a sacred torch passed from one holder to the next, stockpiling power as it goes. Thus with each holder, the power grows. I passed it on to Young Midoriya as it was passed on to me from my mentor, and so on through the generations; he is the ninth holder of One For All.”

 

A quirk that could be given to someone, one that accumulated power from each previous holder. No wonder All Might was so strong, he had the power of seven other users at his disposal. Shouto almost laughed at the ridiculousness of it. Endeavor never stood a chance against someone like that. Shouto doubted he would ever be strong enough to compete with that power either. 

 

And Midoriya would be stronger still.

 

“And exactly how long ago did you pass on this quirk?” Aizawa asked dangerously.

 

All Might must not have heard the underlying tone the way Shouto did, because he answered proudly, “He received the power three months ago, but I have been training Young Midoriya for over a year now.”

 

“I see. We’ll come back to that; please continue.”

 

“As I mentioned, One For All stockpiles power. This, of course, accounts for the enhanced strength you are accustomed to seeing from myself and Young Midoriya, but One For All also affects the natural quirk of the holder. I believe this is what he meant when he told us that his quirk evolved. His natural quirk has changed somehow.”

 

“What is his natural quirk?” Aizawa asked.

 

“B-bag.” Midoriya stuck one of his hands out and reached for his gym bag. All Might was closest, and he pulled the bag over as requested. Midoriya reached into the bag and withdrew a notebook, handing it to Aizawa. Unlike Midoriya’s other notebooks, Shouto noticed that this one did not have a number. Instead, it was labeled Hero Analysis for the Future ∑ . If this notebook was dedicated to Midoriya’s own quirks, Shouto supposed the mathematical symbol for summation made for an apt descriptor. 

 

Aizawa scanned the contents quickly and then shook his head. “It looks like this isn’t the quirk’s first evolution. Midoriya, we need you to tell us what’s going on now. Think you’re up for it?”

 

Shouto felt Midoriya’s response. “He nodded.”

 

“Alright. When you’re ready,” Aizawa coached.

 

Once he was out of the jacket and free of his quirk, Midoriya sighed. “It’s getting better, I think. I still can’t turn it off on my own though. I’m sorry, Mr. Aizawa.”

 

“It’s fine, kid. Just tell us what’s going on so we can work through it.”

 

“I can see everything, even with my eyes closed. Not like normal, not like I could before. I mean everything . Front, sides, behind me. All of it is in focus all at once. It’s disorienting, and the headache, I think, is from my brain adjusting to the new input. It was overwhelming at first, but it’s manageable now. Though, how much of that is Todoroki, I don’t know.”

 

“Full 360 field of vision?” Aizawa clarified. 

 

Midoriya nodded.

 

Shouto tried to process what that would look like, but he came up blank. No wonder Midoriya had trouble. From what else he’d said, Shouto gathered his natural quirk gave him the ability to see with his eyes closed. An interesting quirk, potentially useful in certain circumstances, though he imagined it made sleeping difficult at first. 

 

“That’s quite the improvement,” All Might remarked. 

 

“Yeah, I just wish it came with an off switch.”

 

“How do you see through your hair?” Shouto wondered. He knew first hand how very thick Midoriya’s curls were, there shouldn’t be anything for him to see other than hair.

 

Midoriya huffed what might have been a pained laugh. “I guess because it’s directly touching my skin I can see through it. That would be the first enhancement. I can actually see through things other than my own eyelids if they’re directly against my skin.”

 

“You could still turn that off, though,” Aizawa held up the notebook with Midoriya’s notes. 

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So why is this one different?” Shouto asked.

 

Midoriya crossed his arms and brought one hand up to his chin in a familiar pose. He was analyzing the problem. Soon enough, the thought processes running through his mind slipped through his lips as he began to mutter.

 

“It happened when I used One For All: Full Cowling, not coincidentally either, the timing was too conspicuous to be unrelated, but that was the second time I’d used it. So why that time and not the first time? What was different? I mean I can see where the 360 field of view comes in, the point of Full Cowling is to have the power everywhere all at once, so that’s a pretty obvious connection, so it must have been something else I want– Oh!”

 

“Midoriya?” 

 

“I was trying to focus on keeping it going, not turning the power off and on like I had been, and not losing it when I got distracted. If my quirk evolved based on what I wanted from One For All, then I must have accidentally removed the off switch I’d developed as a kid.”

 

“How long did it take for you to learn how to turn it off?” Shouto asked. Midoriya would need to get that control back soon, for his and Aizawa’s sake.

 

“A few months,” Midoriya answered. “I had to use a sleep mask until I had it down.”

 

“Young Midoriya, I believe we should give Aizawa a break,” All Might suggested, and a look over to Aizawa confirmed his assertion. Their teacher’s eyes were very red and he was visibly straining.

 

“Oh! I’m sorry! Please, blink if you need to Mr. Aizawa.”

 

Red eyes closed and stayed that way as Aizawa fished for his eye drops again. Midoriya meanwhile, tensed and began to take deep measured breaths, but he didn’t dive back under Shouto’s jacket like he’d expected. Instead he tried to work through the pain. 

 

“Alright kid,” Aizawa droned, head back as he used the eye drops to soothe his irritated eyes. “I was going to tell your class when we came back on Wednesday, but your internships are coming up. You’re to spend a week shadowing a hero at their agency as part of this, however, I cannot reasonably send you to intern with a hero, potentially facing real threats, in your current state. If you can’t learn to either turn your quirk off or manage with your new field of view permanently, then you’re not going.” 

 

Midoriya tensed even further under Shouto’s hand.

 

All Might frowned. “Aizawa, don’t you think that’s a little–”

 

“As Midoriya’s teacher, my primary concern is his safety—as yours should be. I have no doubt that he will master this new ability and use it to its fullest potential eventually, but, Midoriya, if you haven’t managed to do so before the internships begin, then I cannot let you go. You would be in too much danger. Understand?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Midoriya grit out.

 

“Good.” Aizawa’s eyes swept over Midoriya carefully. “How’s the headache?”

 

“Not as bad. I think the worst of it is over.” Midoriya confirmed, though Shouto didn’t know if he was just saying that to appease their teacher. With Midoriya's pain tolerance, it could go either way.

 

“Alright, I want you to try to relax for a bit. Let’s see if the headache goes away completely if you’re given time to adapt before we try to do anything else. All Might and I are going back to the main building for a bit, but when I come back, we’ll work on that control. Sound good?”

 

“Yes, sir.” Midoriya managed a shaky smile.

 

Shouto watched with interest as Aizawa stood and leveled the number one hero with a dangerous look. It looked like All Might was about to get a severe lecture from the other teacher, and Shouto almost wished he could be a witness to it. Learning about One For All and Midoriya’s involvement with All Might had been enlightening, to say the least, but there were a few issues that Shouto could think of with how the hero had gone about it. Aizawa no doubt had a few of his own if that look was anything to go off of. 

 

Once both adults were gone, Shouto turned to Midoriya. “So you got your quirk from All Might, and he’s personally training you.”

 

“That’s my secret, yeah.”

 

Shouto sighed and really let the truth of the situation sink in. Midoriya had the quirk of the number one hero, a quirk which could be passed from person to person, and was training as All Might’s successor. He would be set to take over as the Symbol of Peace one day, more than likely, so Midoriya was definitely reaching for number one, just like Shouto was. 

 

The Sports Festival had been the first time they’d really been thrown against each other in any sort of competition, and Midoriya’s connection to All Might had drawn Shouto’s attention enough for him to openly declare him a rival. He’d been more right than he’d realized at the time, but he hadn’t needed the full story then. Hadn’t cared. It was enough to know the two of them were tied to the top two heroes in at least some manner. He had been ready to use Midoriya to prove a point to his father.

 

Then they’d talked. Then they’d fought.

 

Now… 

 

He didn’t know what to think. He was fairly sure he and Midoriya were friends, but they were still aiming for the same goal, which only one of them could win. That competition didn’t make him feel less inclined to be friends though. In a way, it was like their spar—as short as it had been. The fight had been exhilarating, the challenge posed by Midoriya was difficult, but it was also fun . In the end, it didn’t matter who came out on top, just that they both pushed the other to do their best, and then do better.

 

“You have such an intense look of concentration.” Midoriya wasn’t facing him at that moment since Shouto still had his hand on his head, but with his quirk, it didn’t matter. “What are you thinking about?”

 

“You consider us to be friends, correct?” Shouto asked. 

 

“Y-yes, unless… I know at the Sports Festival you said you weren’t looking for friends, but–”

 

“I wasn’t, but it seems I found one anyway,” Shouto said, and Midoriya relaxed a little. Shouto wanted Midoriya’s opinion on his current thoughts, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t also try to make the other boy feel a bit better at the same time. “I ask because I wanted to know your thoughts on the future. With who our fathers are, we’ll both be aiming for number one–”

 

Midoriya laughed. It was a good laugh. “Todoroki! All Might isn’t my dad, we just told you–” 

 

“Yes, I heard. All Might passed his quirk on to you, and is grooming you to be his successor. More than that, he cares about you. You may have missed it hiding under my jacket, but All Might was distressed that you were in pain. You might not be his secret love child, but you are his son.”

 

The high pitched groan Midoriya released into his hands devolved into weak laughter as he blushed. “Crazy interpretations of my relationship with All Might aside, I think you had an actual question in there somewhere?”

 

“Yes. You and I both want to be number one someday. We’ll be in direct competition with each other for the foreseeable future. Does that hinder our ability to be friends?”

 

“It doesn’t have to.” Midoriya turned to face him, even though he didn’t need to in order to see Shouto, forcing Shouto to move his hand away from the back of Midoriya’s head. “I think if we want to be friends, it doesn’t matter that we’re both aiming for the top. We can help each other, keep challenging each other to improve, and support each other the whole way. What do you think?”

 

“If you’d asked me before the Sports Festival, I would have said it sounded naïve, but now I find myself agreeing with you,” Shouto admitted. 

 

“Glad to hear it.” Midoriya smiled brightly, and Shouto found himself returning it with a much smaller smile of his own.

Chapter Text

Izuku wasn’t sure if the chilled touch on the back of his head was the reason his headache faded, or if he was simply getting used to the new aspect of his vision. Either way, he was undeniably relieved the catastrophic pain was finally gone. This was only one of Izuku’s problems, however. Learning how to navigate his new 360 field of vision was a great deal more difficult. Pain he could handle, but this was bizarre. 

 

For starters, his depth perception wasn’t so much thrown off as it had been chucked into the stratosphere. If that wasn’t enough, it was surprisingly difficult to orient himself, to tell which direction his body was facing. Perhaps the oddest thing to adjust to, however, was how his new field of vision shifted along the y-axis. Shifting his eyes down granted him a view of the floor at his feet, but the view from behind him shifted up . The reverse was also true, of course. The see-saw tilt was dizzying to say the least. 

 

“This is so weird,” Izuku muttered, testing his ability to walk around the gym with Todoroki diligently at his side. He was already mentally running through all the tests he’d need to conduct to test the limits of this new ability. 

 

“Must be,” Todoroki agreed, his normal calm tone more soothing in the current situation that Izuku felt like sharing.

 

“Still, once I’ve got it down, this will be really helpful in the field.” Now that the panic and pain were subsiding, Izuku could definitely see the benefits. “Wish I had gotten this when I was younger; would have made it a lot harder for K– uh, the bullies to sneak up on me.”

 

“Bullies?” Todoroki prompted.

 

Izuku shrugged. “I was an easy target. Useless quirk, weird muttering habit, hero nerd, take your pick. I stopped asking why after a while.” 

 

There was a moment of silence while Todoroki absorbed his words, but eventually he seemed to come to some realization. “Bakugou used to bully you, didn’t he?” 

 

“Ah,” Izuku grimaced, “well… I know it sounds bad, but it wasn’t wholly his fault. No one ever told him not to, and he’s got so much potential to become a great hero.”

 

“That’s not an excuse. Great heroes don’t always make great people.”

 

Heaving a weary sigh, Izuku didn’t try to argue that point. There was evidence enough of the truth of Todoroki’s statement. “I know. UA has already done wonders for him, though. I think a few more years around people who don’t treat him like the gods' gift to quirks will actually turn him into a decent person.”

 

“And in the meantime?”

 

Izuku shrugged, “In the meantime I stay out of his way as much as possible, and if he pushes, I’ll push back.”

 

“I hope you’re right about him,” Todoroki mused.

 

“Me too.” Izuku really didn’t want to talk about Kacchan. Changing the subject, he asked, “Any other questions? I know I had several dozen after I learned about One For All.”

 

“I have a few,” Todoroki admitted. “It’s a lot to process.”

 

“Don’t I know it,” Izuku agreed easily. “Ask away.”

 

“All Might said he’s been training you for a while. How did you meet?”

 

Izuku shuddered at the memory of nearly dying in the sludge villain attack, but he shared the story easily. “He saved my life. I was attacked by a villain on my way home from school, but All Might was nearby, already tracking the guy, and got there in time to save me.”

 

“You must have made an impression for him to name you his successor.”

 

“Not a good one,” Izuku laughed. At Todoroki’s confusion, he elaborated. “I passed out, actually. The villain had a sludge quirk. He tried to suffocate me so he could wear my body like an Izuku-suit and get out of town, so when All Might arrived, I was nearly unconscious from lack of oxygen. He Texas Smashed the villain into tiny pieces and knocked what was left of my air supply away, but he made sure I woke up—even autographed my notebook—before trying to leave.”

 

“Trying?”

 

“I wanted to ask him a question, so I did something pretty stupid. I held on to his leg as he jumped away.” Todoroki coughed, choking back a laugh or in surprise, eyes wide. “Not my finest moment, I admit, but in my defense I was recovering from oxygen deprivation and had just met my idol.”

 

“So why choose you as his successor?” Todoroki asked.

 

Izuku paused, debating whether or not he should get into what happened on the rooftop. He couldn’t tell Todoroki about All Might’s injury; it wasn’t his secret to tell, and the rest of it wasn’t really a good memory. Still, it was an important part of what convinced All Might to choose Izuku as his successor.

 

“Before I tell you what happened next, I want you to know that I don’t hold this against All Might at all. Everything worked out in the end, and I know why he said what he did. In case what I say might make you think less of him, don’t. Okay?”

 

Todoroki looked vaguely concerned at that, but nodded. 

 

“Once he’d realized what I’d done, he landed on a rooftop to drop me off, but I was persistent and just shouted out my question before he could leave.”

 

“What was your question?” Todoroki asked.  

 

Is it possible to become a hero even if I have a useless quirk? ” Izuku smiled sadly. “He said no. He said that heroes get hurt even with quirks suited to heroics, and that I would be better off doing something else, something less dangerous.”

 

“I wouldn’t have expected that,” Todoroki mused. “Not from All Might.”

 

“It wasn’t anything that everyone else hadn’t already told me, but I was still pretty crushed. When he left, I sat on that rooftop and seriously considered just giving up. If a hero—if All Might —thought it was impossible, then what was the point of trying anymore?”

 

“But you don’t strike me as the kind to give up,” Todoroki remarked. 

 

Todoroki was right. Izuku was stubborn. He had been close to giving up back then, but even he could see that he’d never fully thrown the idea away. Izuku could have taken any number of routes home that afternoon, but he hadn’t. Even after the devastating conversation on the rooftop, some part of Izuku still clung tightly to his dream. He wouldn’t have gone towards the explosion otherwise. 

 

“There were other factors. That day was bad even before getting attacked, but you’re right. I didn’t give up.” Izuku grinned. “An explosion a few blocks away caught my attention, so on my way home, I walked by to investigate. Apparently when I’d stowed away with All Might, the villain had escaped the soda bottles All Might had stuffed him in and had found another kid to try to take over. The kid’s explosions as he fought back were making it hard for the heroes at the scene to do anything, so there was this crowd of people, including a bunch of heroes, just watching, doing nothing to help.”

 

“The kid...it was Bakugou, wasn’t it.” 

 

Izuku nodded. “I know the news covered the incident a little; do you remember what happened next?”

 

“All Might defeated the villain.”

 

“He did, but not before I ran in and tried to save Kacchan myself. I didn’t think about it, just moved . I knew what he was going through, I could see he was scared, and I couldn’t just do nothing. I had to at least try to save him.”

 

To Izuku’s surprise, Todoroki chuckled quietly. At Izuku’s curious look, Todoroki explained. “After our match at the Sports Festival, before the final, Bakugou found me in the waiting room. He said something about our upcoming fight, but I wasn’t listening. Instead of addressing whatever he’d said, I asked him about you.”

 

“Wh– me? What?”

 

“He grew up with you. I believed he’d have insight, so I asked him if you had always been so helpful.”

 

Izuku whined quietly in the back of his throat picturing Kacchan’s reaction to that. “I doubt you got an answer out of him.”

 

“I did not, but you have just answered my question.” Todoroki stopped walking, forcing Izuku to stop as well. “I think All Might was wrong, on that rooftop. A powerful quirk doesn’t make someone a good hero, just like being a pro hero doesn’t make someone a good person. I think you have what it takes to be a hero, and you had it before you met All Might. You could have done it, even if it was hard.”

 

Oh, okay, there was another weird perspective. Izuku’s vision blurred through his tears, but only in part of his vision. The unnaturally extended field of view remained unaffected by the tears. It was a little distracting, but focusing on the oddness of it let him curb the waterworks faster. 

 

“Sorry.” Izuku wiped his face in an effort to clear the tears.

 

“It’s okay.” Todoroki shrugged, unconcerned at the display.

 

He finished drying his eyes quickly and smiled at Todoroki. “Thank you. That really means a lot. All Might changed his mind after seeing me try to save Kacchan; he said that I could be a hero, that I was worthy of inheriting his quirk, but I...don’t actually know for sure whether or not he believed I could do it without One For All. You’re the first person to say I could.”

 

“Is that why you accepted his offer? Did you think you had no other choice?”

 

Izuku exhaled heavily as he considered how to answer the question. “I think if All Might hadn’t found me again, I probably still would have tried. I don’t think I would have gotten into UA. All the points I earned from the entrance exam were from using One For All while saving Uraraka from the zero pointer. I still would have tried to save her, but without One For All or the strength training I did with All Might, there’s probably nothing I would have been able to do to actually help. But the desire to help wouldn’t have gone away. Maybe I’d have found a way, but like you said, it would have been much harder. Not that I’m averse to hard work, of course!” Izuku cleared his throat as he realized his rambling had gotten a little off topic. “But to answer your question, no, I didn’t accept One For All because I thought it was my only option. I accepted because it was an option, if that makes sense.”

 

Todoroki shook his head.

 

“Once he’d offered it to me, I didn’t stop to consider whether or not I could still be a hero without One For All. I didn’t ask if All Might’s quirk was my only shot at my dream. All Might was asking me to be his successor; that was all that mattered. I accepted without hesitation,” Izuku explained. “There wasn’t really a lot of thinking involved.”

 

“I see.” Todoroki resumed their circuit of the gym. “Thanks for telling me all that. It was enlightening.”

 

“Thank you for listening. I doubt I’ll get the chance to tell it all that often.”

 

“You had to clear it with All Might before letting myself and Aizawa know the truth. Does that mean you aren’t allowed to tell anyone?”

 

“There are only a handful of people in the world that know the truth about All Might’s quirk, and I can understand why. A quirk with this kind of power, something that can willingly be passed onto someone else? It puts the current holder in danger if the wrong people were to find out. All Might said I could tell who I wanted, but that I should be really sure I could trust them not to share the knowledge with anyone.”

 

“So why tell me?” Todoroki furrowed his brow. “We barely know each other. In fact, the only thing you really know about me is my father’s obsession with besting All Might. Logically, I should be one of the last people you’d want to tell.”

 

“That’s not the only thing I know about you. I know we didn’t really talk before the Sports Festival, but I still noticed things,” Izuku refuted quickly. When Todoroki didn’t look convinced, Izuku went on. “You’re intelligent and driven, and you’re calm and composed under pressure. You offered to train with me when you didn’t have to, you helped me when my quirk evolved and even when I was too injured to change my shirt, so that made me think you’re kind. You teased me about All Might being my dad, so you’re funny, but you also used the joke as a way to remind me that All Might cares about me, so you’re compassionate. Maybe I don’t know your favorite color or food or what you like to do for fun, but I don’t believe for a second that you would tell Endeavor about All Might’s quirk. Like I said, I trust you, Todoroki.”

 

Izuku worried he’d said too much when Todoroki didn’t respond after a few moments. He watched the other boy carefully as they walked in silence, waiting for a hint of what Todoroki might be thinking, but he just looked deep in thought. Keeping a leash on his nerves, Izuku stayed silent, waiting for Todoroki to say something.

 

When he did, it wasn’t what Izuku was expecting. “Why do you do that?” 

 

“Do what?”

 

“You refer to One For All either by name or as All Might’s quirk. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard you call it yours.” Todoroki did look at him then, mismatched eyes observing him carefully. 

 

“I–” Izuku stopped himself. He honestly hadn’t noticed, but, thinking it over, he supposed that Todoroki wasn’t wrong. One For All had been given to him by All Might, and Izuku still considered the quirk to belong to the hero despite the fact that he was the current holder. 

 

Taking a breath, Izuku tried to explain. “It just seems so unbelievable that I could ever compare to All Might, you know? He’s so strong, and I can barely handle 5% of that strength. I suppose I’m still not convinced I’m worthy yet.”

 

“If I understand how the quirk works, it stockpiles power with each new holder. It grows and changes. Despite being directly passed to you from All Might, the One For All that is within you is a different quirk than the One For All that All Might possesses.” Todoroki shook his head. “You don’t need to compare yourself to All Might, Midoriya. There’s no threshold of ability or worth you need to reach. It’s yours. Your quirk. Not his.” 

 

Something inside Izuku’s chest clenched tightly hearing Todoroki use his own words against him. He stumbled a little as his feet abruptly stopped moving, though thankfully he managed not to trip over nothing, and his mind raced as he tried to untangle the snarled mess of emotions suddenly flooding his system. Todoroki stopped as well, and faced Izuku as he waited.

 

There was so much there to unpack. Todoroki had listened to his advice—that much was obvious already—and had taken it to heart. The reminder of that made Izuku happy and proud of his friend, but the advice had only been needed because of all the crap that Todoroki had endured at the hands of his father. The hate and resentment toward Endeavor was understandable, but had created a mental block in Todoroki’s mind that was holding him back from doing his best. The same couldn’t be said for Izuku. Right? He definitely didn’t hate or resent All Might, and there was no comparing the experience of training with All Might to training with Endeavor. Even the idea that they could be similar was repulsive, and Izuku rebelled against it immediately.

 

And yet.

 

Todoroki was intelligent, but more than that, he was observant. He analyzed situations just like Izuku did, and his conclusions were reliably correct and insightful. If Todoroki believed there was enough of a parallel to use the same argument, then there was probably something there that Izuku shouldn’t ignore. 

 

Maybe Todoroki wasn’t saying their experiences were comparable, but that the results were. Todoroki actively distanced himself from Endeavor, so unwilling to be like his father or accept Endeavor’s help that he had divorced himself from his own power. On the other hand, Izuku idolized All Might. No matter how much he strived to close the distance, the pedestal he’d placed All Might on—and, by extension, One For All—was simply too high. In doing so, Izuku had never allowed himself to see One For All as his own. 

 

Todoroki wasn’t wrong, though, just as Izuku hadn’t been wrong at the Sports Festival. It truly didn’t matter where the power came from. 

 

“It’s mine,” Izuku whispered, letting go of all his complicated thoughts and opinions regarding the quirk until all that was left was fact. “One For All is my quirk.”

 

Todoroki’s intent eyes watched Izuku as he assimilated this new truth, eagerly waiting behind a deceptively impassive expression. Izuku took a few deep breaths and called upon his quirk, letting Full Cowling’s signature lightning dance across his skin. He hadn’t tried to summon the power after the evolution of his original quirk, and he was pleased to see that it still came to him. 

 

“Thank you, Todoroki. I’m s–” he sighed and clenched his fists, disappointed and frustrated. “I’m sorry. It was pretty hypocritical of me, wasn’t it.”

 

“Unintentionally, but it doesn’t matter.” Todoroki called a small fire to his hand. “It was something we both needed to learn.”

 

 

The door to the gym opened and closed behind them as Mr. Aizawa returned. Izuku and Todoroki both released their quirks at the noise, instinctively turning to their teacher as he approached.

 

“Mr. Aizawa,” Izuku bowed, “where’s All Might?”

 

“All Might,” Izuku wasn’t sure, but he thought there might have been the slightest hint of distaste in Mr. Aizawa’s tone, “won’t be joining us. He’s giving Nedzu a report of what happened and will be otherwise occupied for the next several hours, I’m sure.”

 

“Of course, sir.” Izuku supposed it made sense to update the principal that Mr. Aizawa had been read in on the secret.

 

“Todoroki, since it looks like you’re no longer needed to soothe Midoriya’s headache, it’s time to go clean up the mess you made outside and then head home,” Mr. Aizawa ordered.

 

Izuku wasn’t sure what mess Todoroki had made, but he was disappointed that he would be leaving. 

 

“Yes, sir.” Todoroki bowed quickly to Mr. Aizawa, and then turned to Izuku. “Would it be alright if I texted you later?”

 

“Of course!” Izuku smiled, remembering at the last moment to actually turn his head to face Todoroki. As his new friend moved toward the locker room, Izuku turned toward Mr. Aizawa again. “Where do we start?”

 

Izuku expected to jump right into training with the quirk, but his teacher surprised him. Mr. Aizawa had him sit on the sparring mat and then took a seat across from him before asking, “Are you still in pain, or has the headache cleared?”

 

“No, it’s gone finally.”

 

“Dizziness?”

 

“Not really? Looking around or moving quickly can be a little disorienting still, but I’m not dizzy.”

 

Mr. Aizawa nodded. “If you’re feeling any ill effects, I can call Recovery Girl to take a look at you.”

 

“No. I’m fine. Thank you.” Izuku tensed at the mention of the nurse, but forced his shoulders to relax and unclenched his fists. Hopefully, if Mr. Aizawa had seen it, he’d brush it off as Izuku just popping his knuckles. “S-Sir. Shouldn’t we be doing something? Training or figuring out how to turn it off?”

 

“My first concern is your health, Midoriya. You were practically insensate when I first arrived. I want to make sure you’re actually okay and not just pretending or forcing yourself to be. It would be counterproductive to start training when you aren’t ready.”

 

Instead of working toward correcting the problem as quickly as possible, Mr. Aizawa seemed to want to make sure Izuku was okay first. Izuku didn’t know what else Mr. Aizawa might have originally planned for today, but he made no indication that Izuku’s problem was taking him away from anything important or that he was eager to be done with him. It wasn’t at all what Izuku expected of a teacher forced to deal with this so suddenly, and it left him a little off balance.

 

“Oh.” The soft exclamation escaped without conscious thought as Izuku considered Mr. Aizawa’s statement. Izuku was concerned about not getting control in time for the internship, but he definitely couldn’t afford to hurt himself. If he got hurt while training with Mr. Aizawa, his teacher would insist on a trip to Recovery Girl, at which point he’d learn that Izuku had worn out her patience. Izuku didn’t want Mr. Aizawa to be upset with him, so the longer he could avoid that scenario, the better.

 

With that in mind, Izuku took closer stock of his current state. “The headache is gone, and I’m not dizzy. The nausea I felt at first is gone as well. As I said before, moving quickly is still disorienting, but that’s all. The only other thing I can think of is some minor damage to the first layer of skin along my knuckles from the boxing pads and punching bag, but it doesn’t hurt.”

 

“Very well.” Mr. Aizawa accepted his self-assessment before moving on. “As useful as this evolution will eventually be once you’ve mastered it, I want to focus on retraining your ability to turn it off.”

 

“Yes, please,” Izuku agreed. Until he found a way to turn it off, Izuku didn’t know how well he’d be able to sleep, if at all.

 

Quirks were physical abilities, even ones that were classified as mental quirks, and control was trained until it became muscle memory. Izuku had had that muscle memory at one point, and now that he wasn’t as overwhelmed with the evolution of his quirk, he spent a while trying to exert the control he’d had since he was four. After an hour with no results, Mr. Aizawa had him stop. It was clear the quirk had changed too much for the same mental muscles he’d trained when he was four to still work. They’d have to create a new way. 

 

Guided meditation was a common tool used by quirk counselors to help kids develop the ability to visualize a way to turn a quirk on or off, but it was nearly impossible for Izuku to focus enough to stay in a meditative state for more than a few moments. Too much sensory input, too many errant thoughts; Izuku just couldn’t turn off his brain. He apologized profusely, but Mr. Aizawa told him there was no need, and they moved on. 

 

The next thing they tried was repeated Erasure to see if Izuku could hold on to the off state as Mr. Aizawa released his quirk. Izuku tried to object to this on Mr. Aizawa’s behalf, but his teacher assured him he was fine. Eventually, though, they both agreed it wasn’t working and moved on to the next idea. 

 

Since it was One For All that caused the problem, Izuku theorized that the quirk— his quirk —might also be the solution. Summoning Full Cowling was getting easier, but still required focus. That was fine though, for now. Izuku needed to concentrate on what he wanted just like he had before. He needed active control over his quirks, needed to be able to call on and dismiss both quirks with the ease he’d had since he was four. As easy as breathing. He used the original mental pathways as a foundation, but given the added complexity brought on by the evolutions, he’d need more. 

 

Using One For All to build the new mental pathways took surprisingly little time; Izuku almost got the sense the quirk was helping him, like it had helped him break free of Shinsou’s brainwashing. The specters didn’t make an appearance, but he felt like they were there anyway.

 

Now, to see if it worked. With a slow exhale, Izuku released his hold on One For All and the world went dark.

 

Blinking his eyes open, Izuku looked around and smiled, wiping the tears pouring down his face with a relieved laugh. “It worked!”

 

“Good job, kid,” Mr. Aizawa praised gruffly.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Aizawa. I’m sorry I pulled you away from what you were doing–”

 

“You’re my student, Midoriya.” Mr. Aizawa stated it so easily, like that fact was supposed to relate to his willingness to drop everything and help Izuku with a problem. A problem Izuku caused. 

 

Izuku wasn’t sure what to do with that. It certainly wasn’t something he was used to. He was used to reactions like Recovery Girl’s. After Izuku messed up or became too much trouble, he was used to teachers washing their hands of him. Some didn’t even wait for an excuse beyond his weak quirk. 

 

UA had been the first time Izuku had felt like it might be safe to trust the teachers to be different, to actually take an interest in his welfare, because they were also pros and that’s what heroes did. They cared. They helped people. Or...they were supposed to. Maybe that had been naïve. They were teachers, too, after all. Izuku just hadn’t expected them to act more like teachers and less like pros. When Recovery Girl had declared her refusal to help him when he got hurt, it had reminded Izuku of that fact, harshly. 

 

So, did that make Mr. Aizawa different? Could Izuku trust him? It seemed like he wanted to help and that he cared about Izuku, but Recovery Girl had been the same until Izuku had messed up one too many times. Was it just a matter of time until Izuku found Mr. Aizawa’s limit with his problems? What would happen when he did?

 

“–doriya! Hey, kid you alright?” Mr. Aizawa was trying to get his attention. Izuku must have zoned out. Was he mad? Did he think Izuku was ignoring him? 

 

“M’fine.” Izuku winced. That was too dismissive, wasn’t it? It definitely hadn’t been articulate. Izuku didn’t want to annoy Mr. Aizawa with his mumbling or make him think that Izuku wasn’t paying attention. 

 

Mr. Aizawa frowned—he had annoyed him—and knelt down so he was eye level with Izuku. “You’re beginning to hyperventilate. I need you to take slower, deeper breaths.”

 

This was bad. If Izuku was hyperventilating, it was because he was starting to have a panic attack. He needed to breathe. He needed to calm down. If he fell apart in front of Mr. Aizawa again , he might not be allowed to go on the internship. Or worse. If Mr. Aizawa thought Izuku was prone to panic attacks, he might think he couldn’t handle being a hero. He could expel him!

 

Izuku couldn’t let that happen. He shut his eyes to block out Mr. Aizawa’s reaction, and put his hands on top of his head to facilitate breathing. He just needed to breathe. He could do that; he’d been breathing his whole life.

 

Unconsciously, his hands fisted in his hair, and the scrape of his nails across his scalp suddenly reminded him of how Todoroki’s hand had been in his hair earlier. The gentle fingers combing through his hair, hunting for his skin, so he could apply blessedly cool relief to Izuku’s aching head. The memory of that comfort gave him something good to focus on, something that he used to calm his racing heart and even out his breathing before the panic could seize complete control. 

 

Free from the panic, Izuku lowered his arms slowly, and opened his eyes. He couldn’t look up, couldn’t see whatever expression was on his teacher’s face, so he kept his head down.

 

“I’m okay.” Izuku forced his voice to be calm and steady, even though he wasn’t. “Sorry about that.”

 

“You never need to apologize for having a panic attack,” Mr. Aizawa said.

 

Surprised, Izuku looked up. “Y-you’re not mad? Or annoyed? D-disappointed?”

 

“You’re not the first student I’ve had that gets panic attacks, and you won’t be the last. It’s a hazard of the job, truth be told. Lots of pros struggle with them too. It would be illogical to blame or punish you for that, especially considering how quickly you managed to get yourself out of it.” 

 

“I don’t understand,” Izuku confessed quietly, not really intending for Mr. Aizawa to hear him.

 

His teacher raised an eyebrow. “What don't you understand?”

 

Izuku would blame it on the drop of adrenaline resulting from the recent panic attack for actually answering. “You’re a teacher, and I’ve caused you so much trouble today alone. Your tolerance for me should be gone. Why are you still trying to help me?”

 

There was a quality to Mr. Aizawa’s deadpan expressions, something subtle that Izuku nevertheless could pick up to determine the hero’s mood. After asking his foolish question, Izuku cringed and watched Mr. Aizawa carefully. Rather than the deceptively blank expression Izuku expected, Mr. Aizawa was openly frowning. 

 

“Midoriya,” Mr. Aizawa began slowly, “would it be alright if I asked you a few questions before I answer yours?”

 

Izuku wasn’t really sure he had a choice, but despite the frown on his face, Mr. Aizawa didn’t sound angry. His voice was calm, soothing almost. Hesitantly, Izuku nodded.

 

“Have I done something to make you believe I would refuse to help?”

 

Mr. Aizawa had yet to show any of the same traits as his previous teachers, had even gone above and beyond protecting his class at the USJ, but there was still the looming threat that all teachers posed. It was risky to trust, even if he really wanted to. Izuku considered explaining this, but shook his head instead. 

 

Mr. Aizawa seemed to relax a fraction, though he was still very obviously angry. 

 

“Your previous experience with teachers, then. They refused to help you when you asked?”

 

“N-not just–” Izuku cut himself off. There was no point in going into detail, and there was nothing Mr. Aizawa could do to undo what had happened. It was better to answer concisely. “Yes, sir.”

 

“I know this is difficult, but it is important. You said ‘not just’ before simplifying your answer. What were you going to say?”

 

“Why does it matter?” Izuku asked quietly. He didn’t want to talk about this. 

 

“It’s a teacher's job to help, not just inform. We’re charged with the lives and growth of our students. If a teacher fails to do this, if they refuse to do this, then they are negligent. That in itself is unacceptable, but if there’s more than just negligence, or if there’s someone at UA who is guilty of this, then I need to know.”

 

Izuku dropped his gaze from Mr. Aizawa’s. His original thought hadn’t been about Recovery Girl, and Izuku still didn’t know whether or not telling his teacher about her refusal to heal him was a good idea. Still, he had to answer now. Izuku got the impression Mr. Aizawa wasn’t going to let this go until he had an answer. If Izuku could give him enough to satisfy whatever curiosity this was, then maybe he would leave it alone. The trick would be not giving too much away. 

 

“I had a useless quirk, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to be a hero. I guess that annoyed a few of my teachers. I didn’t listen to them when they said I wasn’t being realistic, so they would do the same. It wasn’t just when I asked for help, but if they saw me...struggling, if I tried to participate in class, they would ignore me,” Izuku explained. He was careful not to implicate any of the students or say he was bullied. Mr. Aizawa might want more, then, or worse, would realize Kacchan was a bully like Todoroki had. 

 

“Did you have anyone you could trust?”

 

“Some took longer than others to get to that point, but they all eventually realized I wasn’t worth the effort.”

 

“They were wrong,” Mr. Aizawa stated firmly. He sighed quietly and slipped his hands into his pockets, relaxing his posture, making himself less rigid before continuing, gently, “I understand your past experience will make this difficult to believe, but I want you to try. If you ever need or want my help, I will do whatever I can to give it to you. The same should go for any of the faculty or staff at UA.”

 

Izuku tried his best to keep his expression neutral. At the very least, Izuku believed that Mr. Aizawa believed it. Trusting the rest of the faculty and staff as a whole was too big a risk. Izuku could admit that the Sports Festival had done a lot to strip away his faith in the UA staff, but Mr. Aizawa could probably be trusted. Waiting for the other shoe to drop was exhausting, and Izuku wanted to trust him. To an extent, he already did. He’d told All Might to tell Mr. Aizawa about One For All, after all.

 

Of course, Izuku had trusted Recovery Girl too. Though… From what Mr. Aizawa had said, Izuku suspected he wouldn’t be the one in trouble if he told Mr. Aizawa that Recovery Girl had refused to help him further. Not that Izuku wanted the nurse to get in trouble. Not being banned from the nurse’s office would be a weight off his chest, admittedly, but he was pretty sure Recovery Girl would not appreciate Izuku getting her in trouble. 

 

Hesitantly, Izuku looked up and met his teacher’s eyes. Patient and sincere, Mr. Aizawa stared back as he waited for Izuku to make the next move. Those same eyes had watched over him, had helped him, when his quirk had left him a mess on the floor huddled under Todoroki’s jacket. 

 

He’d said it with such confidence earlier. He trusted Mr. Aizawa enough to let him in on the secret of One For All, to share with him the truth of his quirks. It was a monumental secret, something that could be used against him and All Might both if the wrong person learned about it, but he hadn’t hesitated then. He’d told All Might that he trusted Mr. Aizawa.

 

Logically, if he trusted Mr. Aizawa with the secret of One For All, it was because he trusted him not to use the knowledge against him. Izuku trusted him not to hurt him. And that was always the worry with teachers, wasn’t it? When they would use something against him? When they would hurt him? Through action or inaction, teachers would inevitably do one or both, but he’d given Mr. Aizawa the single best tool to do exactly that if he wanted to. There was no way to know that Mr. Aizawa wouldn’t, but Izuku trusted him not to.

 

“I trust you,” Izuku said slowly, allowing that truth to settle within himself more fully. With that admittance, he forced himself to keep talking. “I’m n-not great at t-trusting teachers . I th-thought UA would be d-different. The teachers weren’t just teachers. Pro-heroes are s-supposed to help p-people, they care , a-and now I d-don’t just have a useless quirk. I f-figured…all the a-annoying habits like the m-muttering, the noteb-books, would b-be less of a problem. I guess I f-forgot to account for n-new habits.”

 

Mr. Aizawa had most of his face hidden in his capture weapon, but Izuku thought he caught a glint of red as the man activated his quirk for a moment. “Someone at UA?”

 

Izuku knew if he answered, there would be no going back, but wouldn’t it be better for Mr. Aizawa to hear it from Izuku now rather than have to fumble with an excuse if—when—he got hurt later and couldn’t go to the nurse? Telling Mr. Aizawa about it when Izuku wasn’t in immediate need of medical assistance meant they’d have time to come up with whatever alternative to Recovery Girl Izuku would need when the time did come.

 

Unconsciously, Izuku rubbed at the scars on his right hand, but Mr. Aizawa caught the movement. His eyes narrowed in suspicion and Izuku hurried to explain before Mr. Aizawa connected the dots for himself. “I did a lot of damage to myself during the fight with Todoroki at the Sports Festival. I d-don’t know if you were told the extent of it, but it was…bad. After, Recovery Girl s-said I h-had to learn control, so she wouldn’t h-heal me anymore.”

 

Mr. Aizawa was very still. Izuku hunched in on himself a little, unsure what the fallout would be from admitting he’d made Recovery Girl so upset. He hoped what Mr. Aizawa said about teachers and neglect—though that seemed like a strong word for the situation—extended to non-teaching staff, but he didn’t know for sure. 

 

When Mr. Aizawa didn’t say anything, Izuku couldn’t stop his mouth from spilling out more words in an effort to mitigate whatever damage he’d just caused. “I d-didn’t mean to annoy her so much; I know control is important, which is why Todoroki and I decided to train today. I think I’ve really got it down now, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. I won’t need healing every time I use my quirk now, so it doesn’t really matter–”

 

“Midoriya.” Mr. Aizawa cut him off. Izuku flinched but looked up at his teacher. “We will do all we can to teach you how to avoid injury, but it will still happen. When it does, it’s important for you to trust that we will also do all we can to repair that injury. Answer honestly, do you currently trust UA to do all that it can to treat you if you’re injured?”

 

Izuku was pretty sure this was a trick question, somehow. Slowly, cautiously, he replied,  “I’m sure whatever alternative to Recovery Girl UA finds will be fine.”

 

His teacher shook his head. “UA doesn’t currently staff any other medical staff, and healing quirks as powerful as Recovery Girl’s aren’t common. What will you do if there is no alternative?”

 

“Um…” Izuku frowned and looked away, shifting on his feet and wringing his hands. In truth, he’d probably just avoid the whole issue by not telling anyone he’d gotten hurt if he could hide it. If he couldn’t hide it or if the injury was too severe, he’d probably have to make a trip to the hospital. The medical bills would become an issue if he had to do that too often, though.

 

“Midoriya.” Mr. Aizawa caught his attention again. “Your health matters. Do you understand? Finding an alternative is unacceptable. Recovery Girl refusing to heal you is unacceptable.”

 

He supposed Mr. Aizawa had a point; finding an alternative just for him was probably unreasonable. “What am I supposed to do?”

 

“Right now? Go home, relax, text your friend, or whatever you’d normally do on a day off. Leave Recovery Girl to me.” Mr. Aizawa set a hand on Izuku’s shoulder and squeezed once before pushing him gently toward the locker room. 

 

Izuku hesitated as he shuffled his way to his gym bag, unsure that he should really just be leaving. He’d created more work for Mr. Aizawa—again—but he didn’t think the man was upset with him. No doubt he’d also caused trouble for Recovery Girl, and he didn’t think she’d be as forgiving. Still, Mr. Aizawa said that he would handle it, which meant there wasn’t anything else that Izuku could do for now. He’d have to trust Mr. Aizawa to do what was best. 

 

Oddly, that thought made Izuku more comfortable with the idea of just going home. Taking a measured breath, Izuku picked up his pace. He made sure his notebook was inside before slinging the bag over his shoulder. 

 

“Thank you, Mr. Aizawa,” Izuku offered, waving awkwardly before jogging the rest of the way to the locker room. 

 

Today had been a lot, and Izuku was looking forward to getting home where he could relax and—for once—trust that his teacher had everything else under control.

Chapter Text

Izuku spent the rest of Tuesday updating his analysis journal with the progress he’d made that day. Full Cowling was exactly the breakthrough he’d needed to help him with One For All. He was still only using 5%, but the ability to summon it across his whole body meant that he was infinitely more adept at utilizing that power. 

 

He’d made sure to share the good news with his mom, too. No more broken bones caused by quirk-backlash! She cried, but that was expected. Izuku merely hugged her through it. 

 

Todoroki did text later that night as well. Izuku filled him in on some of what happened after he’d left, primarily that he’d been able to turn off the full 360 perspective, and Todoroki helped him brainstorm what to call the new ability. After a few discarded suggestions, they finally settled on one they both liked: 360 Veil. Happily, Todoroki also agreed to keep training together outside of class as their free time allowed. 

 

Wednesday started with a cloud burst. The deluge pounded against his window, but Izuku didn’t let it dampen his spirits. He was looking forward to class, to seeing his friends, and to learning more about the internships that Mr. Aizawa had mentioned. Once he was dressed for school, Izuku hugged his mom as she handed him an umbrella and then ran out the door. 

 

Running into Iida on the way to class, Izuku was struck with how awful the past few days must have been for his friend. Contrary to Izuku’s expectation, though, Iida seemed...fine. At first glance, anyway. He tried to brush away Izuku’s concerns and assure him that he was well, but there was a forced quality to Iida’s normal demeanor that set Izuku’s instincts on edge. His friend was hurting, but he didn’t want anyone to know. Izuku got that. His own impulse was usually to pretend things were fine, but Iida wasn’t him. Maybe it was foolish to say Izuku really knew his friend after only a few weeks of school, but Iida had always been very earnest and direct about his thoughts and feelings. Izuku was worried, but he also had no idea how to force Iida to talk, or if he even should.

 

Iida didn’t give him the opportunity to talk, hurrying to class once he was out of his rain gear. Izuku resigned himself to just...keeping a closer eye on Iida for now. 

 

Walking into homeroom, Izuku waved cheerily to Todoroki, pleased when he received a nod in return. Uraraka jumped on him in greeting, and he laughed at her enthusiasm. The whole class seemed to be riding the same high, too, getting recognized on the way to school. It had been weird for Izuku but a good weird, despite his nerves. 

 

Mr. Aizawa’s arrival sent everyone to their seats and a few members of the class remarked on his lack of bandages. The scar under his eye was the only hint they had that he’d been injured at all. Izuku hadn’t been in the best state yesterday to notice or comment, but he was glad that his teacher was doing better. 

 

“We have a big class today,” Mr. Aizawa announced, “on Hero Informatics.”

 

Izuku felt the tension in the class skyrocket as they wondered what that could possibly mean, and Izuku wondered if Mr. Aizawa did this on purpose just to keep them on their toes.

 

“You need codenames. Time to pick your hero identities.” Their teacher concluded after his dramatic pause. Izuku concluded that Mr. Aizawa not only did it on purpose, but probably enjoyed making the class panic. 

 

A few days ago, that would have made Izuku nervous, but today he found himself slightly amused instead. 

 

“This is related to the pro-hero draft picks that I mentioned after the Sports Festival. Normally, students wouldn’t have to worry about the draft until second year at the earliest, but your class is different. In fact, by extending offers to first-years like you, pros are essentially investing in your potential. If their interest in you wanes, however, those offers may be rescinded.”

 

“So, you’re saying we’ll have to prove ourselves after we’ve gotten recruited?” Hagakure asked. 

 

“Correct,” Mr. Aizawa replied. “Now, then. Here are the totals for those of you who got offers.” 

 

The projector beeped as it displayed the recruitment totals for the class. Izuku felt his eyes widen in shock as the list showed just how many offers had been extended to Todoroki and Kacchan. They deserved it, certainly, but the difference between those two and the others on the board was staggering. Not everyone was listed either, Izuku noted. His own name was absent, but both Iida and Uraraka had received offers. Izuku was happy for his friends, but it still felt like he’d failed.

 

“Despite these results, you’ll all be interning with pros. Even those of you who didn’t get any offers. You’ve already experienced what it’s like up against real villains thanks to the attack on the USJ, but it’ll still be helpful to see pros at work, up close and personal in the field.”

 

“And for that we need codenames!” Sato cheered.

 

The excitement level in the class was back up after the disappointing draft list had been posted.

 

“These names will likely be temporary,” Mr. Aizawa cautioned, getting everyone’s attention again. “But you should still take them seriously.”

 

The door slammed open, revealing a devilishly smirking Midnight. “Or you’ll have hell to pay later!”  As she made her way into the classroom, Mr. Aizawa stepped away from the podium and yielded control of the room to his coworker. “What you pick today could be your codename for life. You’d better be careful, or you’ll be stuck with something utterly indecent.”

 

“Midnight is going to have final approval over your names.” Mr. Aizawa stated, grabbing his sleeping bag. “It’s not really my forte. Just keep in mind, the name you give yourself is important. It helps reinforce your image and shows what kind of hero you want to be in the future. A codename tells people what you represent.”

 

Despite claiming it wasn’t his forte, Mr. Aizawa still had valuable information to offer on the subject. As the whiteboards were passed out, Izuku thought about what Mr. Aizawa had said. A hero name was more than just a call sign or a way to protect their civilian identities. It was a statement. A promise. 

 

When Izuku was a little kid, imagining his future hero name, he hadn’t been very creative. It had been fun and was a good memory, but he didn’t think he wanted to riff a name off of All Might’s. Not only would it be incredibly obvious that the two of them were connected, but Todoroki had been correct. One For All was his quirk. Izuku was All Might’s successor, but he was still his own person. All Might was an example, a role model, but Izuku didn’t have to be All Might. His hero name could and should be wholly his own.

 

As he contemplated this, several of his classmates presented theirs for Midnight’s approval with mixed results. The idea of presenting in front of the class was a little daunting, but if he couldn’t proudly declare his codename in front of his friends, then the name probably wasn’t good enough.

 

Curious to see how his friends were fairing, Izuku activated 360 Veil to give him a better look at Uraraka, Iida, and Todoroki who were all behind him. Izuku waited for the initial weirdness of using the enhanced perspective to fade as he adjusted. Thankfully it didn’t hurt, but it was still a little disorienting at first. 

 

Uraraka had put her pen down and looked like she was trying to psych herself up to go present. Izuku silently cheered her on, sure that whatever she came up with would be good. Iida was frowning intently at his board, pen hovering indecisively. Coming from a family of heroes, and given his proclivities toward preparedness, Izuku would have thought that Iida would have come up with a potential codename prior to today, but he was obviously struggling. Izuku hoped it was just the assignment and not something deeper. Todoroki stared contemplatively at his board before looking up directly at Izuku. He wondered for a moment if Todoroki was just staring off into space in Izuku’s general direction, but his dichromatic gaze was a little too focused for that. 

 

Izuku wrote a quick message on his whiteboard before shifting it so Todoroki could see it without making it obvious. He watched as Todoroki registered the message and surprise flickered over his features before his usual calm expression returned. 

 

Todoroki uncapped his pen and wrote quickly before casually turning the board so Izuku could read it. Practicing I see. I’d apologize, but you’re staring too.

 

Izuku stifled his laughter and cleared his board. Just checking on my friends. Need help? 

 

Thank you, but no. Todoroki waited only a moment before turning his board and clearing the message. Izuku worried the conversation was over and that he’d somehow offended Todoroki, until he felt his phone vibrate. 

 

Todoroki

The boards are a bit conspicuous. Yaoyorozu or Aizawa would catch on eventually.

 

You   

Mr. Aizawa is asleep.

 

Todoroki

That’s what he wants us to think.

 

You

He’s snoring.

 

Todoroki

A deception. He’s always watching.

 

Izuku shifted a little in his chair so that he could see Mr. Aizawa in his sleeping bag at the front of the room. It really looked like the man was asleep, but Izuku actually wouldn’t be surprised if Todoroki was right. Mr. Aizawa was startlingly observant, but also looked about two seconds from falling asleep on his feet at any given moment. It could go either way really.

 

You

It’s hard to watch anyone with his eyes closed.

 

Todoroki

Not for you.

 

You

True. Maybe I’m the one who's always watching.

 

Izuku chuckled silently at his own joke before a sudden thought stopped him. As he turned the idea over in his head, Todoroki went up to the front to present. Izuku was a little surprised that his codename was just his first name, but he probably had his reasons. Izuku could ask him about it later. Uraraka finally worked up the courage to present her codename not long after, and it was quickly approved by Midnight. Izuku thought it was clever too and made a note to tell her so. 

 

After Uraraka, there were only a few people left to present. Izuku watched as Iida started to write something, only to erase it and write something else before presenting. Just his first name, like Todoroki. Izuku’s concern for his friend grew, but he couldn’t say anything in class. He’d have to ask him about it later as well. 

 

Midnight called him up to present, so Izuku hurried to finish writing what he’d come up with before making his way up to the front. Before he faced the class, Izuku turned off his quirk, took a deep breath, and then planted his whiteboard confidently against the podium. 

 

The Watchful Hero: Vigil

 

“Ooh, that’s interesting.” Midnight hummed. “Care to explain your reasoning, Midoriya?”

 

“It’s a hero’s job to help people, to be a guardian against the darkness. I want to be a symbol of that protection. I want everyone to know that I’m watching over them, that I see them, and I’m ready to help whenever they need me,” Izuku answered. It was true, of course, but there was more to it that he couldn’t share with the whole class. 

 

“And so your watch begins,” Midnight smiled. “I approve!” 

 

Returning to his seat, Izuku caught Todoroki’s eye and his small nod of approval. Todoroki knew, more than anyone else in the class, exactly why Izuku would choose the name he had. Izuku was pleased that his friend approved of the name as well. 

 

The only person left to choose a name was Kacchan, but Midnight kept dismissing his ideas as too violent. Eventually, she decided to have him think on it a bit longer and passed the podium back over to Mr. Aizawa while Kacchan fumed silently in his seat.

 

“Now that almost everyone’s decided on their hero names, we can go back to talking about your upcoming internships.” Their homeroom teacher pulled a large stack of papers out of his sleeping bag and set them on the podium as he spoke. “They’ll last for one week. As for who you’ll be working with: Those of you who received offers will pick from one of the agencies who extended you an invitation. Everyone else will choose from a list of about 40 agencies across the country who’ve agreed to take on interns from your class. Think carefully. Every agency has a different specialty that its heroes focus on, so keep that in mind as you make your decision.”

 

Mr. Aizawa split the stack and handed half to Midnight before the two of them went down the rows to hand each student their list and the form to select their top three choices. Once everyone had both, the teachers made their way toward the door.

 

“You have until the weekend to make your selection,” Mr. Aizawa told them. “Get started.”

 

After the adults left, the class immediately devolved into discussion of where they were going to go on their internships. There was a little bit of time before the first class of the day started, so Izuku didn’t see the harm in getting out of his seat and joining his friends on the other side of the room. 

 

“Hey guys,” Izuku smiled, waving Uraraka and Iida over to Todoroki’s desk. 

 

“We should be focusing on our internships, not making time for chitchat,” Iida rebuked, staying in his seat.

 

Izuku tried not to let his tone upset him, but he felt better when Uraraka joined him. “Your hero name is so good, Midoriya!”

 

“Oh, thanks! I really like yours too,” Izuku promised. 

 

“I was so nervous, but I’m glad Midnight approved it. It took me longer than I want to admit to think up,” Uraraka admitted sheepishly. 

 

“It suits you,” Todoroki said. 

 

Uraraka looked surprised that Todoroki had spoken to her at first, but she was quick to recover and beamed at him. “Thank you, Todoroki.”

 

“You’re welcome.” 

 

“Yours is just your name, right? Are you sure you’re gonna be comfortable with people calling you by your first name in the field like that?” Uraraka wondered. 

 

“It’s just temporary,” Todoroki explained. “I want to take my time deciding.”

 

“That makes sense,” Izuku conceded. “Congratulations to both of you, by the way. Are you looking forward to internships?”

 

“You bet!” Uraraka proclaimed. “It sucks that you didn’t get any offers though.”

 

Izuku’s eyes fell to his feet. “My own fault. Like Mr. Aizawa said the first day, a hero who gets hurt all the time is a liability.”

 

“You’re not a liability,” Todoroki argued quietly.

 

“Yeah!” Uraraka agreed. “You’re amazing, Midoriya, and those agencies don’t know what they’re missing.”

 

“Thanks guys,” Izuku blinked rapidly to keep the tears from falling. 

 

The door opened again as Present Mic made his entrance, cutting off whatever else they might have said. It was time for English, which meant it was time to go back to his desk. Izuku quickly smiled at both Uraraka and Todoroki before finding his seat.

 

Todoroki was right. He wasn’t a liability anymore, but he still needed to improve. Only using a small fraction of One For All saved his bones, but it wouldn’t always be enough to save others. There was only one way to improve his limits, though, so Izuku subtly exercised all throughout morning classes.

 

When lunch came around, the class went right back to talking about their upcoming internships. A few had settled on their top choices, including Uraraka. Izuku was surprised she’d picked the Gunhead agency, since it wasn’t rescue focused like he thought Uraraka wanted to be, but her reasoning was solid. There was nothing wrong with getting a new perspective, and definitely nothing wrong with improving weaknesses. 

 

Izuku still hadn’t chosen and probably wouldn’t until he could do a thorough breakdown of the agencies available to him tonight, but that was okay. He had until the weekend. 

 

There was something else on his mind though, and he knew exactly who he needed to talk to about it.

 

“Hey, Shouji?” Izuku gathered his courage and one of his notebooks before approaching. He hadn’t spoken with his masked classmate much, but he was hoping he could still get him talking.

 

Shouji was sitting with Tokoyami, but they both turned to Izuku curiously as he gave them a small smile.

 

“Midoriya,” Shouji created a mouth on one of his arms to speak. He didn’t say more than Izuku’s name, but it was an acknowledgement and invitation to continue, which Izuku took gratefully.

 

“I-If it isn’t too much trouble, I was h-hoping I could ask you a question? About your quirk?” Izuku held up his notebook. Shouji had been one of the students interested in hearing his analysis during the Sports Festival, so Izuku hoped he’d be willing to indulge him.

 

“What would you like to know?”

 

“Your quirk is amazing, with so many applications, and you use it really well already. I have...a lot of questions, really, but one has been on my mind recently.” Izuku took a breath and was glad he hadn’t annoyed or scared Shouji off yet, but he needed to get to the point. “You have the ability to create a multitude of eyes from your dupli-arms. How do you see? Is it just a wider field of view or does each eye offer a segmented view? Was it disorienting for you? How did you learn to adapt to seeing so much all at once?”

 

“That is more than one question,” Tokoyami teased and Shouji chuckled.

 

Izuku shot them an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I can get a little carried away.”

 

“It’s fine,” Shouji assured. “My vision changes, as you may have guessed. The eyes I create have a standard field of vision. If those fields overlap, then what I see is much like what any of you would see.” At this point, Izuku had opened his notebook and was fervently writing as Shouji answered his questions. “If they do not overlap, then it is as you described: segmented. Like watching several computer screens at once. When I was young, it could become overwhelming. Tolerance to increased sensory input came with time and practice. As I continued to use it, I could handle more, and eventually the disorientation passed entirely.”

 

“How about your depth perception? If you have overlapping fields of view, wouldn’t that affect depth perception?”

 

Shouji nodded. “Depending on how the fields overlap, I can improve both vertical and horizontal depth perception.”

 

“Do you ever fight with additional eyes summoned, or do you only create them for reconnaissance?”

 

“I will only have eyes summoned during a fight if absolutely necessary. Eyes are sensitive, and easily exploited weaknesses. Injuring a dupli-created eye still hurts. The potential benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks.”

 

Izuku’s own enhanced vision didn’t come with the same drawbacks, thankfully, but it meant Shouji probably wouldn’t be able to give him advice on how to adapt to fighting with 360 Veil. He was a little disappointed about that, but it made sense.

 

“Thank you! Sorry, this had just been on my mind lately...”

 

Shouji inclined his head politely. “You are welcome.”

 

Izuku left them to their previous conversation and returned to his desk. He’d hoped Shouji would have some insight into how to deal with the evolution of his quirk, but there wasn’t a quick answer. Time and practice would do for him as it had for Shouji. With luck, that’s exactly what he’d get at his internship.

 

At the end of the day, Mr. Aizawa asked him to stay behind as the bell rang. A little confused, Izuku agreed and waited quietly as the classroom emptied. A few of his class shot him inquiring glances, but all Izuku could do was shrug. He didn’t know what Mr. Aizawa wanted.

 

When the last student left, the door opened one more time to admit All Might. Once it was just the three of them, Mr. Aizawa finally turned to Izuku.

 

“You’re not in trouble Midoriya,” Mr. Aizawa began and Izuku relaxed a bit. He had been worried, so it was good to hear that wasn’t the case. “This is about your internship.”

 

“Oh.” Izuku perked up a bit. “I-I’m still allowed to go, right? I got control–”

 

“Yes, you can go,” Mr. Aizawa confirmed. “Given your unique circumstances, I had wondered if you shouldn’t be interning with a pro familiar with your situation. I don’t want a repeat of the mistakes made at the beginning of the term.”

 

“Mistakes?” Izuku asked cautiously.

 

Mr. Aizawa glared at All Might and the number one hero reverted to his smaller form as he rubbed the back of his head nervously. “Aizawa means the mistakes I made regarding your training and education. Young Midoriya, I really must apologize. I did you a great disservice.”

 

“I don’t understand.” Izuku was extremely confused. All Might hadn’t done anything wrong that he could think of.

 

“The first day of school, I fully intended to expel the student who came in last place during the assessment test.” Mr. Aizawa crossed his arms and leaned against the podium, relaxed if not for the dark look he was shooting the number one hero. “I also fully expected that student to be you.”

 

Izuku looked down at his desk and fought through the creeping panic. He hadn’t been expelled, Mr. Aizawa changed his mind, he wasn’t being expelled now. Izuku forced his breathing to remain steady.

 

“My reasoning for expelling you was based entirely on a very important misconception, Midoriya. Because I believed you had received your quirk—what you called Superpower on the quirk registry—at the age of four as the rest of the students had, your performance at the entrance exam appeared to be that of a reckless, lazy child with the power to level a building and no sense to control it.”

 

Izuku flinched. He couldn’t help it. 

 

“Young Midoriya, you are not in trouble,” All Might reminded him gently. “When Aizawa pointed this out to me yesterday, I objected. I told him that you were a brilliant young man with the heart and passion of a hero, only new to your power.”

 

“All of which is true. Except I had no way of knowing that,” Mr. Aizawa added. “Without knowing the truth, I was holding you to an expectation a decade beyond your experience. Do you understand?”

 

As hard as it was to listen and think past the insidious voice telling him he was a failure, a fraud, a worthless deku that had disappointed his teachers, his heroes , Izuku tried. Both All Might and Mr. Aizawa had stated he wasn’t in trouble, that the mistakes they were referring to weren’t his but theirs. He held onto that with as much resolve as he could and tried to parse through what Mr. Aizawa was asking him to understand.

 

“I… I was almost expelled, because you expected me to have a decade of practice instead of almost none?”

 

“Correct.” Mr. Aizawa nodded. “It isn’t logical to hold someone who's just received their quirk to the same standard as someone who’s had theirs for years. Similarly, I wouldn’t teach someone who’s just received their quirk the same way I would teach someone who’s had it for years. As a result, your education has suffered.”

 

“For which I cannot apologize enough.” All Might bowed deeply from the waist.

 

Izuku was out of his desk in an instant, urging All Might up. “No, you don’t have to apologize! That’s really not necessary–”

 

“It is,” Mr. Aizawa stated.

 

“It’s a secret, though! One For All is a dangerous secret–”

 

“Which is, frankly, even more reason he should have told me,” Mr. Aizawa interrupted him again. “Midoriya, as your teacher, I am charged with your safety, and while you don’t need to be coddled, knowing that you’re a potential target for villains is important for me to know.”

 

“Aizawa is correct, my boy,” All Might agreed.

 

Izuku still didn’t think it was necessary for All Might to apologize to him, but he could see he wasn’t going to convince either of them of that. “Fine, I forgive you. Now can we please talk about something else? You said something about my internship?”

 

“You’ve shown remarkable progress gaining control of your quirks, and an internship would be highly beneficial in improving that control further, but only if the pro you intern under is aware of your unique circumstances. As I said before, the method for teaching someone relatively new to their quirk is entirely different from teaching someone with a decade of practice.” 

 

Izuku frowned in thought. He supposed that made sense, but it did leave him with a problem. “None of the agencies on the list know about One For All. We’d have to tell someone else, or I’d have to intern with one of you two, but…your agencies aren’t on the list and I didn’t get an offer from you.”

 

“I strongly considered extending you an offer,” Mr. Aizawa admitted. “I didn’t for two reasons. One, I am already your teacher. The point of the internship is to gain experience you wouldn’t otherwise get from UA, so interning under me would be a little redundant. Two, I won’t have the time necessary to dedicate to your training as I’ve already agreed to take on another student looking to transfer into the hero course.”

 

“Shinsou?” Izuku asked hopefully. If Mr. Aizawa was training him, then the boy’s chances must be good to transfer. After their fight at the Sports Festival, Izuku thought Shinsou would make a great hero and he deserved the chance to join them.

 

Mr. Aizawa nodded. “Normally, I wouldn’t tell you about this, but I want you to make an informed decision. Despite both of the reasons I’ve just stated, there is still a chance you will intern under me.”

 

“Your other option only came through a few minutes ago, but you have received an offer from a pro,” All Might said. 

 

“Really?” Izuku felt his heart jump in excitement. An offer! Someone wanted to work with him specifically! “Who is it? Wait… Wouldn’t the same issue still apply? Unless…do they already know about One For All?”

 

“His name is Gran Torino. He was the sworn friend of my predecessor, and he knows about One For All. I suspect that’s why he extended his offer to you, in fact,” All Might explained. Izuku couldn’t help but notice that All Might had started to shake a little bit as he talked about the older hero. “The man taught at UA for a year, so he has experience teaching. I wrote to him at the start of term, informing him that I’d chosen you as my successor. After watching you at the Sports Festival, he’s likely picked up on my failings as a teacher and wishes to correct my errors.”

 

“You can either accept the offer made by Gran Torino, or work with me, but the choice is entirely up to you Midoriya,” Mr. Aizawa concluded. 

 

The choice seemed obvious to Izuku. As much as he respected Mr. Aizawa as a pro and a teacher, he wouldn’t want to impose on the man’s training with Shinsou. “I’ll intern with Gran Torino. If he’s already aware of One For All and extended an offer, he seems like the better choice.”

 

“I agree.” Mr. Aizawa handed him a paper with an address and the information on Gran Torino’s agency.

 

“In preparation for your internship, I will write to him again and explain your recent successes with control and the evolution of your natural quirk so he knows where you’re at before your arrival.” All Might gave Izuku a shaky thumbs up before resuming his hero form. “Now, I believe it’s time for you to head home, my boy.”

 

“Right.” Izuku nodded. “Thank you both for your support.”

 

“Happy to help!” All Might smiled.

 

“No need to thank us for doing our jobs, Midoriya.”

 

Izuku bowed anyway and then made his exit, eager to get home and see if he could find anything on this Gran Torino he was going to intern with.

Chapter Text

There was a depressing lack of information available on the retired pro-hero Gran Torino. All Izuku had been able to dig up was the man’s hero ranking on the billboard for the years he’d been active. He hadn’t been a chart-topper, but stayed consistently in the top 500. It was respectable, and there were even a few old videos of the man in action. 

 

Those had been...interesting. Gran Torino clearly had a speed enhancement of some type; a yellow blur was all those videos had really captured, but he’d definitely used it to devastating effect. Which made sense. Force equals mass times acceleration, after all. Someone moving that fast was gonna pack one hell of a punch.

 

Probably the most interesting fact Izuku had found was that the pro had officially retired the same year that All Might made his debut. It might have been a coincidence, but Izuku didn’t think so. If Gran Torino was the sworn friend of All Might’s predecessor, and he knew about One For All, it wasn’t too much of a leap to think he’d had a hand in All Might’s training. Learning from the same man who’d helped make All Might into the hero he was today was an exciting opportunity. 

 

Izuku couldn’t wait.

 

Anticipation made the time drag and somehow fly by at the same time. Soon enough, it was time to head to the train station and say goodbye to his friends for the next week. By this point, everyone had shared which agency they were interning with, and Izuku was eager to hear everyone’s stories when they got back. 

 

Only two choices had left him concerned. 

 

Todoroki had signed on with his father’s agency, which Izuku did not approve of, but Todoroki had a point about learning from the number two hero. If he was willing to push personal issues aside—though Izuku wasn’t sure how —then learning from the number two hero in the field would be a valuable opportunity. Izuku had to trust Todoroki to be able to handle it, and to know if he couldn’t. He quietly reminded Todoroki he was only a text away if he needed someone before wishing him luck.

 

More concerning, though for entirely different reasons, was Iida. Despite assuring his friends that he was fine, Iida had been colder recently. Distant. They’d had to drag the information out of him when asking where he’d decided to intern, and the answer only made Izuku more nervous. 

 

Hosu. Izuku wasn’t sure that was a good decision, but what could he do? Iida had received an offer from Manual, so it was entirely within his rights to choose to intern in that hero’s city, which just happened to be the same city where Iida’s brother had been attacked. The choice hadn’t raised any red flags with any of their teachers either, so maybe Izuku was overthinking it. 

 

Before they parted ways at the station, Izuku tried to reach out one more time. He gave Iida the same offer he’d passed to Todoroki. He was always a text or call away. If he wanted to talk, if he needed help, Iida had friends to reach out to. Uraraka backed him up, but Iida just thanked them for their concern and said he was fine before boarding the train.

 

Uraraka gave him a worried look, and Izuku returned the sentiment. They knew something was off, but there wasn’t anything more they could do now. It would be up to Iida to reach out if he needed them.

 

When it was finally time to board his own train, Izuku waved to his remaining friends and jumped through the doors just before they closed.

 

The building for the address he was given was...not what he was expecting. Run down and in need of repairs, it looked one bad storm away from being condemned. Izuku double-checked the address one more time, but when the numbers on his paper didn’t magically change, he stepped up to the stoop with a sigh.

 

The door was open. 

 

Instantly, Izuku went on high alert. Had someone broken in? A villain or just looters? He didn’t hear any fighting or any voices inside. Had whatever happened already finished? Careful not to move the door too much, Izuku pressed his face to the wood and activated his quirk to see if there was anyone inside. After confirming no one was in the immediate room beyond, Izuku pushed the door open wider and stepped inside.

 

The inside of the building looked trashed. Broken or overturned furniture, dishware shattered on the ground, a few cabinet doors hanging off their hinges, and Izuku thought the refrigerator door had a dent in it. No blood or bodies that he could see, but there were parts of the room he couldn’t see clearly through the broken furniture. On edge, Izuku made his way slowly through the room.

 

“Gran Torino?” Izuku called quietly. 

 

Noise to his left drew his attention. Turning his head quickly, Izuku couldn’t see what had moved, and it was difficult to tell if something was out of place given the general state of the room. More noise behind him had Izuku turning around, but he’d missed whatever caused the noise again. 

 

Frowning, Izuku activated Full Cowling and 360 Veil and pushed through the initial disorientation, focusing as best he could on the room. This time, when something moved to his right, Izuku saw it. Up on top of a bookshelf, mostly hidden in the shadows, a yellow blur zipped from the bookshelf to the overturned table behind him, hiding behind it.

 

Gran Torino. He was smaller than Izuku expected, but there was no mistaking that yellow blur for anything else. Was this a test then? The retired pro would know that Izuku was coming today, even roughly what time. Izuku was even still in his UA uniform, so it should be obvious who he was. 

 

With a BANG , the table came flying toward Izuku. On instinct, he dropped to the floor, ducking under the table as it sailed over his head and struck the far wall with a clatter of broken wood. 

 

Izuku pushed himself off the floor to his knees to get a look at the attacker, but by the time he was in position, Gran Torino was already on the move. Izuku had just enough time to throw himself to the floor again as the yellow blur streaked from behind him to the left, coming for Izuku this time. Hurriedly, Izuku flipped himself back onto his feet and prepared for the next assault. 

 

“Not bad, boy,” a gruff, aged voice said. Gran Torino stood still long enough for Izuku to finally get a look at him. Yellow cape, belt, gloves, and boots over an off-white jumpsuit with a black domino mask covering his eyes. The rest of his face was covered in age lines and a grey beard, matching the grey hair on top of his head. Before Izuku could respond, Gran Torino was moving again. 

 

Gone were the attempts at stealth as now the pro was in constant motion, bouncing and rebounding off walls, floor, and ceiling almost too fast to see. With 360 Veil, Izuku kept the yellow blur in his sights, able to dodge and twist away from his attacks no matter the direction, except when he went high. From above was a blind spot, and it seemed Gran Torino caught on to that fact about the same time Izuku did.

 

Boots slammed painfully into his shoulder. Unable to hold onto Full Cowling, the hit sent him to his knees as Gran Torino used Izuku as a springboard to keep moving. “You’ve got good reflexes, I’ll give you that, but you’re not gonna win a fight by dodging.” 

 

Re-engaging Full Cowling, Izuku launched himself forward, mimicking the way Gran Torino ricocheted off any available flat surface as he sped after the pro in a new game of high-impact tag. 

 

As helpful as 360 Veil was to keep an eye on his environment, moving at those speeds with it on was more than Izuku could handle. He managed to chase after Gran Torino for about ten seconds before it just became too much, and he fell to the floor, turned off 360 Veil, and breathed deeply to try to settle the unease in his gut. 

 

Eyes closed and quirk off, Izuku didn’t see Gran Torino land next to him, but he heard his boots hit the wood. Unable to do more than brace for the hit, Izuku tensed. After a few seconds without an attack, Izuku cautiously opened an eye and looked for the pro. He was still where he’d landed, watching Izuku with a critical gaze.

 

“That was almost adequate,” the old man grunted. “What happened?”

 

“Couldn’t handle moving that fast with 360 Veil active,” Izuku sighed.

 

“You’ll need to fix that.” Gran Torino nodded and crossed his arms. “All Might said your control had improved since the Sports Festival; since it would be difficult to be worse , I wasn’t too optimistic about his assessment. The improvement you’ve already shown is more than I was expecting, I’ll admit, but you’ve still got a ways to go.”

 

“Yes, sir.” No longer fighting to keep his stomach calm, Izuku slowly got to his feet. “I’m in your hands.”

 

Gran Torino harrumphed and kicked Izuku’s costume case at him. “Get changed. Let’s see what we have to work with.”

 

The new suit from the support department was almost a complete redesign. The utility belt, mouth guard, gloves, and knee- and elbow pads were familiar at least, after using them at the USJ, but the suit itself held little resemblance to the one his mom had made. Izuku read the note that came with the suit before setting it aside with a forlorn sigh. His mom’s suit hadn’t been high-tech or anything, but it had been sentimental. Instead of the mint green and white he’d been expecting, the new suit was dark forest green with black accents on his ribs, chest, and arms. It was made of more durable material as well, and was tailored to his precise measurements. 

 

It fit well. Very well, actually. The only real problem Izuku had with it was the hood. Instead of the fitted cowl he’d had before, it was loose like a regular jacket’s hood. Just resting against his hair, it would get in the way when he used 360 Veil. He left it down for now and made a note to request an adjustment later.

 

Suited up, he rejoined Gran Torino in the main room.

 

“All right. Let’s get started.” Izuku faced Gran Torino and fired up Full Cowling.

 

“You’ve got three minutes to try to hit me with a Smash. Let’s see what you’ve got.” The old pro taunted, clicking a stopwatch. As before, Gran Torino was no more than a blur as soon as he started using his quirk, but he was even faster this time. 

 

Izuku kept 360 Veil off. He’d seen enough of how the pro moved to trust his analysis, and he didn’t want to fight his body’s reactions and Gran Torino at the same time. Izuku waited for the old pro to make his first attack before moving. As he dodged the hit, Izuku pushed off the ground and jumped to the ceiling, quickly shooting off to the wall he predicted Gran Torino would use as his next rebound point. 

 

The yellow blur knocked him off course with a solid kick to the hip, sending him back to the floor while Gran Torino went up. Izuku was back on his feet in a second, holding onto Full Cowling by the skin of his teeth. A quick sidestep kept him from getting another boot to the shoulder, and Izuku tried to punch Gran Torino on his next pass. He was too slow and got a kick in the chest for his efforts, sending him to the ground. 

 

With a dual-fisted slam to the tile, Izuku pushed himself up, landing on his feet. He jumped, stepped, ducked, and dodged the next several attacks, but he had yet to successfully land his own. He couldn’t stay on the defensive forever. 

 

Luckily, he’d gotten better at predicting where Gran Torino would be next. Plan set, Izuku lept to the wall and bounced off, repeating the maneuver again and again, until the timing lined up perfectly and he met Gran Torino on the ceiling. Arm already pulled back for a smash, Izuku swung as soon as his target was in range.

 

Gran Torino dodged at the last moment, grabbed his arm, and sent them both to the ground. The landing knocked the breath out of Izuku’s lungs, and he struggled to fill his poor lungs and the old pro kept him pinned.

 

“Time’s up,” Gran Torino said, removing the stopwatch from a pocket on his belt. “You didn’t use your other quirk, did you.”

 

“No,” Izuku gasped, finally getting his breath back.

 

“I thought as much. You’re never going to get used to it if you don’t use it. That said, your analysis skills are sharp. You were able to predict my movements, and adapted your own to fight in a similar fashion.” Gran Torino released him and stepped to the side.

 

Izuku sat up, rubbing his bruised chest gingerly. “I still have a lot of work to do, though.”

 

“You use One For All well, for how much you can use it, but you have another quirk too. If you can utilize both of them in battle, you’ll be on an entirely different level.” 

 

“Time and practice,” Izuku reminded himself. 

 

“Our time is short, but trust me, you’ll be getting plenty of practice.” The old pro grinned. “We’re done for tonight, though. I’ll fetch us some dinner while you get cleaned up.” Gran Torino left, closing the door behind him before Izuku could respond.

 

“Right,” he sighed. Izuku took his bags up to what would be his room while he was there and got ready for the evening. 

 

After dinner, Gran Torino went to bed, but Izuku couldn’t. He was too awake, too keyed up to even try. During the meal, Gran Torino had given him a fairly frank evaluation of his performance that day. It was better than the old pro had been expecting, but since he’d been expecting something like he’d seen during the Sports Festival, that wasn’t really an accomplishment. Izuku had a lot to still work on. 

 

First on the list was 360 Veil. Both Gran Torino and Mr. Aizawa had said that it would be a powerful tool once he’d mastered it. After trying to use it during training, Izuku recognized that he was a far cry from claiming anything close to mastery.

 

Time was short. The internship was only a week long, but more than that, All Might’s time as the Symbol of Peace was dwindling rapidly. As his successor, Izuku needed to be ready to step up when the time came. He definitely wasn’t there yet.

 

Without an abundance of time, he’d have to compensate with more practice. 

 

Gran Torino had laid out his plan for training his new ability. Izuku would keep 360 Veil on as he ran progressively faster and faster. If he could get used to that, then they’d have him try to track a moving target while maintaining that speed. If he could manage both of those, then Izuku would move on to fighting while keeping 360 Veil on. 

 

Izuku saw no reason he couldn’t get started tonight. He was fully capable of running without supervision, and the sooner he got used to using his new ability, the better.

 

Walking with Todoroki around the gym had been easy enough, so Izuku started with a brisk power walk for a few laps around the building, confident that he could manage at least that much without issue. 

 

After two successful laps and no trouble, Izuku increased his speed to an easy run. There was some discomfort at first, but Izuku was able to ignore it until it was gone entirely. After two full laps around the building without issue, Izuku picked up the pace. Working up to a full sprint, Izuku was pleased the disorientation was fleeting. Excited now, Izuku fired up Full Cowling and took off at his top speed. 

 

The turn at the corner of the building was his undoing. The world spun, his stomach spun the other direction, and Izuku tripped over his feet, skidding to stop against a pile of trash bags with a pitiful groan. 

 

Izuku waited for his equilibrium to right itself before standing and brushing himself off. Despite the wipeout into the garbage, that hadn’t actually been a bad first attempt. Anything short of One For All speeds was manageable, but he’d still like to eliminate the disorientation entirely.

 

Backing up to the start of the alley, Izuku braced like a runner at the start of a race, and then took off at a full sprint. Adjusting to a sprint from a stationary position was a little harder than the gradual lead up had been, but Izuku adapted. Rather than increasing his speed, Izuku maintained his sprint until he needed to take a break. Catching his breath, Izuku relaxed against the side of the building until he was ready to go again. 

 

This time when he launched himself down the alley, the disorientation was less, but still present. He was getting there, but there was still room for improvement. Izuku repeated the process of running until he needed a break only to start over once he’d caught his breath five more times until he finally felt confident he was over the disorientation while moving at unenhanced speeds.

 

Good, but not good enough.

 

“Okay,” Izuku bounced on the balls of his feet as he popped his neck. “You can do this. Gradual increase this time.”

 

Izuku hadn’t ever tried One For All at less than 5% but it couldn’t be that hard. The general concept was the same, just a further reduction in power output. To be safe, he summoned Full Cowling before he started running and tried to concentrate on precisely holding back. Izuku was pretty sure he had a grasp on about 2% after a minute of concentration. Satisfied, he let the power fade.

 

At his imaginary starting line, Izuku gave himself a short countdown before starting with the same sprint as before. When he turned the first corner, Izuku activated Full Cowling at 2% and more than doubled his speed. It was a rush, to say the least, but nowhere near what he knew All Might was capable of. Blink-and-you-miss-it speeds were likely an order of magnitude away from what he could handle right now, but he’d get there. One day. 

 

As expected, Izuku still had to fight through a new wave of nausea once Full Cowling was active, but it wasn’t enough to make him stop. Turning the next corner caused his vision to swim, but Izuku grit his teeth and fought through the discomfort. There wasn’t time for him to go easy! All Might’s words before the Sports Festival dogged at his heels, urging his feet to keep moving, so Izuku kept running, determined to get used to it. 

 

The Symbol of Peace was on borrowed time. His ability to work as a hero was dwindling faster than All Might had predicted. Izuku didn’t know if All Might would even make it to Izuku’s graduation before being forced to retire. There was a lot of pressure on Izuku to be ready, but an insidious little voice told him he wouldn’t be. No one would be. 

 

He had to get stronger. He had to be better. He had to go beyond, Plus Ultra style. 

 

Izuku would make All Might proud, he would make Mr. Aizawa proud, he would make himself proud. Pushing through his discomfort, Izuku increased his output up another percentage and kept going. His speed increased, as did the disorientation, but Izuku breathed through it. Eventually, it passed, and Izuku whooped in triumph, taking one more lap in celebration before coming to a stop.

 

Izuku released his hold on One For All and 360 Veil, limbs shaky from his exertion. He was definitely tired now. Checking the time, Izuku winced. It was very late. Time to stop for the night. He took himself inside and showered before flopping down onto his bed face first, asleep in seconds.

 

Gran Torino was unimpressed that Izuku had taken the evening to work on his quirk instead of sleeping. He agreed the progress Izuku had made was commendable but scolded him for being reckless. Under Gran Torino’s strict and precise instruction, Izuku trained the whole day with One For All active until finally, just before it was time to call it a night, he was able to handle 360 Veil while moving with Full Cowling at 5%. It took longer than Izuku expected, longer than he liked, but Gran Torino reminded him that rushing progress would only result in him losing that progress. Izuku remembered training with All Might, getting his body ready to receive One For All. Izuku had tried to do more than he was ready for back then and it had taken its toll. Resigned, Izuku yielded to Gran Torino’s experience and didn’t push himself too far too fast. 

 

On day three, the two of them raced across the rooftops of Gran Torino’s quiet patrol area, and Izuku was pleased to find that it wasn’t all that hard to keep an eye on the yellow blur even while maintaining his own speed. Yesterday’s work had really paid off. 

 

When they broke for lunch, Gran Torino decided they’d move on to combat training in the afternoon. Combat training consisted largely of Izuku getting hit by Gran Torino while trying—and failing—to land a hit of his own. Considering how well he’d been improving up to that point, Izuku was disappointed, to say the least.

 

Izuku expected to be at it the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, but only three hours later Gran Torino called a stop. 

 

“We should switch up the training,” The old pro decided. “You’re a quick study, but you can’t get too used to fighting the same opponent. Might develop some weird habits.”

 

“I haven’t landed a hit on you yet!” Izuku objected, picking himself up off the floor. “I don’t think we can really say I’m used to fighting you.”

 

“No, I’ve decided,” Gran Torino smiled dangerously. “Get into your costume, boy. We’re moving on to Phase 2.”

 

Izuku thought they were already on Phase 3, but clearly, all of the training up to that point had only counted as Phase 1. 

 

Tiredly, Izuku dragged himself up to his room and changed as instructed. Once he was in his costume, he met Gran Torino at the front door and followed him outside. 

 

“Get ready, we’re off to fight some villains!” Gran Torino declared cheerfully.

 

“Just like that?”

 

Gran Torino led the way down the sidewalk as Izuku followed. “If you only ever fight against me, you’ll be in trouble when you come across someone who’s the complete opposite. The key is to let you get experience with different types of villains and situations. This is an internship, after all. You really shouldn’t be that surprised by this.”

 

“I get what you’re saying, and if you think I’m ready for it, then I’ll do my best,” Izuku promised.

 

“You already have combat experience against real villains,” Gran Torino reminded him. “You’ll be fine; we aren’t going after anyone that big.”

 

Gran Torino hailed them a cab and gave the driver the name of the nearest train station as Izuku got buckled in. He explained to Izuku that the small town they were currently in didn’t have the kind of villain population that they were looking for, so they were going to take the bullet train to Shibuya, a much larger district with a higher crime rate. 

 

Following the route the train would take in his head, Izuku realized they’d be passing through Hosu. He wondered how Iida was doing, if he was getting what he needed from his internship. Despite the offer he’d made at the station, Iida hadn’t texted Izuku over the last few days, but Izuku hadn’t really had the time to text anyone either, so maybe it was nothing.

 

Somehow, though, Izuku couldn’t stop worrying.

 

On the train, Izuku sent Iida a text saying that he’d be near Hosu and to ask how Iida’s internship was going. After an hour Izuku was still left on read, which Iida had never done before, and Izuku’s worry increased. 

 

“Woah, check it out! I think that building just exploded!” a passenger a few rows back shouted. 

 

Several other passengers stood up quickly to look, including Izuku and Gran Torino. Before they could do anything, however, the train jolted, sending Izuku and Gran Torino flying into the seats in front of them as the side of the train blasted inward. In the wreckage, an injured hero shakily tried to sit up, fear written in his wide eyes as he stared at the hole he’d made. As Izuku watched, an enormous, light green arm grabbed the hero by his face and slammed him to the train floor before the wielder bent the metal side of the train further to make his way in.

 

Four out-of-focus eyes settled disturbingly inside an exposed brain as the attacker gazed vacantly at the passengers.

 

“Nomu!” Izuku shouted, jumping to his feet.

 

“I want you to stay back, you hear me?” Gran Torino ordered before launching himself at the Nomu, knocking both of them over the edge and out of the train.

 

Izuku ran to the hole to see if he could spot his mentor, but he and Nomu were out of sight. Instead, Izuku got a good look at the Hosu skyline. It looked like a third of the city was on fire, and he could hear people screaming in the distance. 

 

If Nomu was here, then the League had to be as well. Izuku couldn’t just stand back and do nothing! Once the train limped to a stop, Izuku took off, ignoring the objections from the conductor. He fired up Full Cowling and jumped from the tracks onto the nearest roof with ease, heading as fast as he could into the city proper. It didn’t take long to see a crowd of civilians running away, and Izuku pushed his way through. The fight was probably wherever the civilians were coming from.

 

Izuku knew he didn’t have all the information, but he had to do something to help. He’d called the villain on the train Nomu, but other than the exposed brain and wild eyes, he hadn’t looked like the guy from the USJ. Still, there couldn’t be that many people with those characteristics. If they were related, or if that mutation was indicative of a similar quirk, then he could be as strong as the guy from the USJ. If that was the case, then the city was in a lot of trouble without All Might present. 

 

“Tenya!” 

 

The shout drew Izuku’s attention and he skidded a bit as he changed direction to follow the cry of his friend’s name. What he found left him frozen in fear. A whole host of heroes were battling fires and even more villains like Nomu. One was even bigger than the first guy had been, with no eyes, nose, or upper jaw at all. The other was smaller and had wings like a pterodactyl. They were tearing through the heroes with frightful ease.

 

A burst fire hydrant snapped Izuku out of his daze and he looked over as Manual manipulated the water to put out a nearby fire. Iida was interning with him, he should be nearby, right? Except Manual was berating Iida for being absent, for running off on his own. 

 

Why would Iida run off at a time like this? That didn’t match his friend’s personality at all. 

 

Unless…

 

Izuku took off, activating 360 Veil as he went. Iida hadn’t been acting like himself ever since his brother, Ingenium, had been attacked by the Hero Killer: Stain. That was understandable; a tragedy like that could mess a person up. Iida had been distant, wouldn’t talk to his friends, and Izuku worried he wasn’t as fine as he wanted everyone to believe. 

 

Choosing Hosu should have been a bigger red flag. Iida had chosen the city knowing that the Hero Killer was still around, that he hadn’t killed his usual number of targets here yet. If Iida wasn’t helping his mentor with the disaster currently spreading across the city, then that could only mean one thing: Iida had found the Hero Killer, which meant Izuku needed to find Iida.

 

Before it was too late.

Chapter Text

Izuku was grateful for all the training he’d done over the last couple of days, though he hadn’t realized he would need to put it to the test so quickly. Darting through side streets and alleyways looking for Iida or the Hero Killer would have been so much more stressful without 360 Veil, but thanks to his quirk, he could keep an eye on everything without having to worry about running past an alley or dark corner while his head was looking the other way. 

 

It might have been the only reason he spotted the gleam of white armor when he did.

 

Without a moment to lose, Izuku shot down the alley, bouncing from wall to wall to pick up speed before slamming his fist into Stain’s face just as the villain was about to bring his sword down on Iida’s prone form. The Hero Killer flew back from the force of the hit, and Izuku landed, planting himself firmly between Iida and the murdering villain.

 

“W-who’s there? Midoriya?” Iida asked, shaky and tear-filled.

 

Dropping Full Cowling for a moment, Izuku used 360 Veil to check on Iida. He was bleeding badly, but he was conscious, though he hadn’t made a move to stand yet. “Don’t worry, Iida. I’m gonna save you!”

 

“How d-did you find us?”

 

“I did my research after your brother was attacked. I figured the Hero Killer would be far from the panic so as not to attract attention, so I searched the back alleys. Looks like I was right.” Izuku tensed as the Hero Killer eyed him from further down the alley where he’d landed. This was not a fight Izuku wanted to have. The Hero Killer had way more experience than they did, and Iida was already severely injured. “Let’s go. Back toward the street. We have to get help from the pros.”

 

“I can’t move my body.” Iida groaned. “It must be his quirk. Since he cut me, I’ve been paralyzed.”

 

That complicated things. It was the type of quirk the Hero Killer had been suspected of having, and it definitely threw a wrench in the Get The Heck Out Of Dodge plan Izuku had intended. Another complication lay a little deeper into the alley. The pro-hero Native was slumped against the wall, also bleeding but awake. If it had just been Iida, Izuku could have carried him out of there, but he wouldn’t be able to get both of them out at once.

 

“Midoriya, please! Don’t get involved,” Iida pleaded through clenched teeth. “This doesn’t have anything to do with you!”

 

Izuku had known, before, that Iida wasn’t okay, but he’d ignored the signs, convinced himself he was overthinking. He should have brought his concerns to Mr. Aizawa or All Might, especially after learning Iida planned to intern in Hosu! His own failures aside, however, Iida had abandoned all reason and moral code to go after Stain himself! Even injured and paralyzed on the ground at the Hero Killer’s mercy, he was trying to claim the right to fight belonged solely to him. Izuku had never heard that kind of rage from his friend before. 

 

“Iida, I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.”

 

“You showed up to save your friend’s life,” Stain slowly strolled toward them, and he definitely didn’t look any worse for wear after Izuku’s punch. “You even made a big entrance. But I have a duty to kill him and this so-called pro. When your friend chose to fight me, it guaranteed the weaker of us would be culled. So, what will you do?”

 

The calm demeanor, the casual approach, the utter certainty in his mission… The Hero Killer was a fanatic, a zealot, and an exceedingly dangerous one. Unlike Shigaraki, he hadn’t thrown a tantrum when Izuku had interrupted his plans, and Izuku hadn’t made himself a target just by interrupting either. Stain was self-assured and unwavering in his self-appointed task.

 

Izuku was even more certain now than he had been before. This was not a fight he wanted to get into, but it also didn’t look like he had a choice. He couldn’t leave Native and Iida at the Hero Killer’s mercy, but he also wasn’t a match for Stain in a one-on-one fight. So what could Izuku do?

 

Call for backup.

 

With his phone behind his back, Izuku sent a location ping to every UA contact in his phone. Izuku was pretty sure none of his classmates were nearby, but he also had a few teachers on his phone, too. One of them should be able to send help in his direction if nothing else. Izuku would have to stall for time until backup arrived, though, and that could take a while, if it even happened. 

 

“Listen to me! Stand down, run away!” Iida shouted. “I told you, this has nothing to do with you!”

 

“If you really believe that, then why are you trying to become a hero? There are plenty of things I’d like to say, but they’ll have to wait,” Izuku growled, frustrated beyond belief. “It’s like All Might told me: meddling when you don’t need to is the essence of being a hero!”

 

The Hero Killer looked surprised for a moment, and then he smiled. Izuku didn’t wait for him to strike, charging in with Full Cowling at 5% to get past his guard. The Hero Killer drew a knife to try to counter, but Izuku slid between his legs and then jumped straight up before he could turn and strike. Out of his sight, Izuku brought down his fist on top of Stain’s head, sending him staggering to the ground. 

 

The taste of victory was short-lived, however, as the Hero Killer licked the knife he’d pulled and Izuku felt his body stiffen and stop responding. Izuku watched as the Hero Killer picked himself up off the ground while he was completely unable to move. One little graze was all it took. Then he saw the knife; a few drops of Izuku’s blood still clung to the blade after Stain had licked it. 

 

The blood.

 

Izuku hadn’t frozen until after the Hero Killer had licked the blade. It wasn’t the act of cutting that paralyzed him; it was consuming the blood! 

 

“You’re not powerful enough. It’s not that you predicted my movements. You just left my field of vision and positioned yourself so that you could get in a clean shot. I saw through your plan.” The Hero Killer drawled as he calmly made his way toward Iida. “There are countless false heroes around here who are all talk, but I think you’re worthy of staying alive. You’re different from these two.”

 

“Wait! Stop it!” Izuku begged.

 

Stain ignored him as he held his blade to Iida’s face contemptuously. Izuku struggled, but he couldn’t break the paralysis no matter how hard he fought. With growing horror, Izuku watched, unable to intervene, as the Hero Killer raised his sword and prepared to bring it down on Iida’s prone form.

 

Fruitlessly, Izuku cried out as loud as he could. “Don’t! Please!”

 

Suddenly, a brilliant jet of flame shot forth from further down the alley, sending Stain back away from Iida with a low mutter, “Someone else to get in my way. Today’s full of distractions.”

 

As the jet of fire dissipated, Izuku could just make out a figure a little ways down the alley. Distance, a dark jumpsuit, and the shadows in the area made it a little hard to see who it was even with the light of the fire across half his form.

 

Then the figure spoke and Izuku wanted to cry with relief. “Midoriya,” Todoroki said conversationally, as if he hadn’t just saved their lives , “you need to give more details in times like this. I was almost too late to stop this guy.”

 

“How did you get here?” Izuku asked. Not that he wasn’t grateful, but Todoroki wasn’t supposed to be in Hosu. 

 

“Good question. Your message took me a while to figure out. Next time, try to send more than just your location,” Todoroki suggested, bracing himself in a familiar manner. “Of course, you’re not really the type to send cryptic messages without a reason, are you. I figured you were in trouble and asking for help.” The ice shot from his right foot and the Hero Killer jumped out of the way, but that was alright. Todoroki used it to lift everyone paralyzed from the ground as he charged in with fire, chasing Stain further back. The ice formed a slide, gently guiding all of them to Todoroki’s feet. “Everything’s okay. The pros will be here any minute.”

 

Izuku couldn’t believe his luck. Of all the possible people from his class to answer his call for help, Todoroki was the single best option. Calm under pressure, a skilled tactician, and a powerhouse of a quirk. He was even using his fire with confidence! Izuku was so proud.

 

“You won’t be taking any more lives, Hero Killer,” Todoroki declared, placing himself between the killer and Izuku, Iida, and Native.

 

“You can’t let him get your blood!” Izuku warned. “I think he causes the paralysis by swallowing it. That’s how he got us!”

 

“That explains the blades,” Todoroki acknowledged. “All I’ve gotta do is keep my distance.”

 

But even as he spoke, a small blade shot across Todoroki’s cheek, scoring a line over his scar before sailing past Izuku to land down the alley. The Hero Killer closed the distance rapidly, “You have good friends, Ingenium. Or you did .”

 

Todoroki met Stain’s swing with a pillar of ice, blocking the knife, but Todoroki glanced up at the sword that the Hero Killer had also thrown, and in that moment of distraction, the villain grabbed him by his collar and reached his tongue out to lick the blood from Todoroki’s cheek. Thankfully, Todoroki was quick to ignite his left side, forcing the Hero Killer back before he could get a single drop. 

 

Izuku could only watch as Todoroki was forced to fight by himself. He was doing fairly well, forcing the Hero Killer back with ice and fire, but how long could it last? Todoroki couldn’t move without leaving Izuku and the others open for attack, and that left him at a disadvantage if Stain managed to get close again. Izuku had to do something, but he couldn’t break the paralysis!

 

“Just stop it. Why are you doing this? His fight is with me!” Iida argued and Izuku wanted to smack him. “I inherited my brother's name. I’m the one who should stop him. The Hero Killer is mine!”

 

“You’re Ingenium now? Strange,” Todoroki scoffed incredulously. “The Ingenium I knew before never had that look on his face.” Izuku wasn’t aware that Todoroki knew Iida’s brother—and apparently neither did Iida, from the surprise on his face. “You’ve got a dark side. Guess my family isn’t the only one.”

 

“Careful, Todoroki.” Izuku knew he couldn’t afford to split his focus. Scolding Iida was very tempting, but the Hero Killer was too skilled for him to be even the smallest bit distracted. To his surprise, Izuku’s hand twitched. He was starting to break free!

 

The enormous wall of ice that Todoroki had used shattered as Stain cut his way through it. “You blocked your own field of vision against an opponent who’s faster than you. Rookie mistake.”

 

“Come get me then!” Todoroki challenged.

 

The knives that embedded themselves in Todoroki’s arm sent Izuku to his feet in a rush of adrenaline, and he launched himself at the Hero Killer before he could get close to his friend. Izuku grabbed the villain by the collar and dragged him across the side of the building as he ran along the wall, getting him as far from the injured as he could.

 

“Midoriya!”

 

“I don’t know why I can move and the others can’t, but I won’t let him hurt you!” Izuku called back.

 

The Hero Killer got tired of having his face used as a chisel against the concrete and elbowed Izuku hard in the small of his back, knocking him off the wall and to the ground once more. The crackle of ice and Todoroki’s shout of, “Midoriya, dodge!” had Izuku rolling to the right to get out of the way and then hurrying to Todoroki’s side.

 

“He swallows a person’s blood to freeze them, but I was the first one freed. I have three guesses as to why. His quirk could be less effective the more people he uses it on, the amount ingested could play into how long it works, or it could be based on a person’s blood type.” Izuku assessed Todoroki’s arm as he explained his analysis. The cuts were bleeding freely since Todoroki had removed the knives, so Izuku applied pressure.

 

“If it’s the last one, I’m type B,” Native said.

 

“I’m type A,” Iida offered.

 

Izuku was type O. It was a solid theory, then, since they all had different types.

 

“So, you figured it out.” Stain smiled. “Bravo. Very impressive.”

 

“It doesn’t really help us that much to know how his quirk works, though,” Izuku muttered.

 

Todoroki put his own hand over Izuku’s on his arm, helping to keep pressure. “I thought we could hurry and carry those two out of here, but it’s no good. He’s too fast. He can avoid both ice and fire. I’d have to leave myself unguarded.”

 

“I could watch our backs with 360 Veil, but that will only do so much. You’re right, that won’t work,” Izuku agreed.

 

“Our best option is to hold until the pros arrive and avoid close combat.”

 

“No, you know you’ve already lost way too much blood. I’ll distract him while you support me from behind.” Izuku summoned Full Cowling and let Todoroki take over applying pressure completely. “Sound like a plan?”

 

“You want us to take a pretty big risk, but I’m with you.” Todoroki nodded. “Okay. We can protect them!”

 

“Two against one, huh?” Stain watched the pair of them with interest. “This fight won’t be easy.”

 

It wouldn’t. Still, there was no way Izuku was going to run. With Todoroki at his side, he felt like they could win, or at least stall long enough for the pros to arrive. 

 

“I’ve got 360 Veil going, so you don’t have to call out. I’ll see your attacks. Don’t want to give him a heads up, right?” Izuku whispered.

 

“I trust you,” Todoroki acknowledged. 

 

Springing forward, Izuku moved as fast as he could in a zig zag to avoid giving the Hero Killer an easy target. He went in for a punch to the side and whirled out of the reach of a knife aimed for his back before closing back in to slam his elbow into Stain’s diaphragm. Even slightly winded, the Hero Killer was fast, and Izuku had to jump out of the way of another knife. Izuku waited for the jet of fire to push the Hero Killer back before jumping up, rebounding off the wall, and coming down on the villain’s shoulder like Gran Torino had done to him so often in training. 

 

The Hero Killer was wise to Izuku’s tactic of going above, though, and nearly skewered him with the sword for his effort. Only quick reflexes and a slap of his hand on the flat of the blade to knock it away saved his hide. A wall of ice gave Izuku the time to recover his balance and re-engage. Stain had the advantage with his blades, and getting in close was difficult when he kept moving. 

 

It was only a matter of time before Izuku made a mistake.

 

The slice across his shin was painful and deep, and Izuku couldn’t stop the cry of pain and frustration as he fell to the ground. Todoroki’s fire chased the Hero Killer away from continuing his assault on Izuku, but it couldn’t keep him from licking the blade. Now there was nothing Izuku could do to protect his friends.

 

From the other end of the alley, Izuku didn’t know what Iida had said, but he heard Todoroki raise his voice and shout back, “You wanna make your brother proud? Then stand up and be Ingenium! Become the hero he wanted you to be!”

 

The Hero Killer raced toward the only opponent still standing. Todoroki managed to repel his initial assault with more fire, but all the ice in the alley gave the Hero Killer plenty of places to jump off as he kept moving toward the others. Izuku called out Stain’s location whenever he left Todoroki’s field of vision, but it was all just a delaying tactic. Todoroki was good, one of the best in the class, but the Hero Killer was better. 

 

Izuku watched in abject terror as the villain’s blade slipped under Todoroki’s guard in a swing that would sever Todoroki’s left arm at the shoulder. All Izuku could do was scream his friend’s name. 

 

Just before the blade connected with flesh, a blur of white collided with the sword, interrupting the attack and sundering the blade. Iida was quick to follow up with a kick to the Hero Killer’s side, sending him sprawling away. 

 

“Iida!” Izuku was so relieved to see both of his friends on their feet and intact.

 

“Todoroki, Midoriya. This has nothing to do with you. I apologize.”

 

“Not this again,” Izuku complained.

 

“I’m okay,” Iida said, voice no longer laced with rage and pain, and for the first time in a week, Izuku actually believed him. “I won’t let the two of you shed any more blood for me.”

 

“It’s no use trying to pretend you’re a hero now.” The Hero Killer sneered, “A person’s true nature doesn’t change in just a few minutes. You’ll never be anything more than a fraud who prioritizes his own desires. You’re the sickness that’s infected society and ruined the name Hero. Someone must teach you a lesson.”

 

“You’re a fundamentalist lunatic,” Todoroki snapped. “Iida, don’t listen to this murderer’s nonsense.”

 

“No, he’s absolutely right. I have no right to call myself a hero. Even so, I can’t back down. If I give up now, the name Ingenium dies, and I cannot allow that,” Iida declared, defiantly standing his ground against the Hero Killer’s glare.

 

“Pathetic.” The Hero Killer threw himself forward, but Todoroki responded with a stream of fire to push him back.

 

“You idiots. The Hero Killer is only after me and the kid in the white armor. Stop fighting back—just get out of here!” Native shouted.

 

“I don’t think he’d let me run even if I wanted to,” Todoroki protested, not backing down from his attack. “Something changed in him just now. He seems rattled.”

 

Izuku thought he looked desperate. Now that Iida was back on his feet, the Hero Killer’s focus had shifted from trying to get Todoroki out of the way to killing Iida by any means necessary. His attacks were faster, more brutal, and Todoroki was barely able to keep him back. 

 

A momentary distraction from Iida left Todoroki open and the Hero Killer sent a knife at his heart. Iida intercepted the blade with his own arm, though, saving Todoroki, but severely damaging himself. Izuku lurched forward instinctually to try to reach his friends, and was surprised when he actually moved. The Hero Killer’s quirk had worn off again!

 

Another knife practically pinned Iida to the ground, but the boy just shouted something at Todoroki and then ripped the blade out with his teeth. Izuku wanted to get to them, to help them, but his leg was too badly injured to run well. 

 

He wouldn’t let that stop him, though. Not now. 

 

Iida used his recipro move to jump high into the air to meet the Hero Killer, and Izuku followed suit with Full Cowling, using one of Todoroki’s ice pillars to push off. They timed it just right, and both Izuku and Iida closed the distance at the same time. Izuku pulled back and crashed his fist into Stain’s jaw just as Iida reared back and slammed his leg into his opposite side. The combined force sent the Hero Killer off balance, but it still took another kick from Iida and a direct hit of fire from Todoroki before the Hero Killer was out.

 

Todoroki created an ice ramp to catch Izuku and Iida as they fell back down, while another pillar caught and held the Hero Killer about a meter up the wall. 

 

“He’s gotta be knocked out after all that.” Izuku watched the still form of the Hero Killer cautiously. “Right?”

 

“Then let’s restrain him and get him to the street,” Todoroki suggested. “Maybe we can find some rope or something.”

 

Izuku nodded. “We should probably take all his weapons too.”

 

“Good idea.”

 

Izuku tested his arm with a wince. It ached, but he hadn’t broken it. His leg was still bleeding, and painful to put any weight on, but he had to push both of those aside for now. Until they had the Hero Killer secured, he couldn’t afford to care about his injuries. 

 

“Iida, can you move?” Izuku asked. His friend hadn’t moved after coming to a stop on the ice, he just sat there staring at the Hero Killer.

 

Iida blinked a few times and took a deep breath, coming back to himself, and looked between the two of them. “I… Yes, I can move.”

 

“Good.” Izuku pointed to a dumpster behind him to his left. “Check for something we can use to tie him up.”

 

Glancing at where Izuku had pointed, Iida nodded vaguely and made his way over as ordered. 

 

“How’s your leg?” Todoroki asked.

 

“Hurts. How’s your arm?” Izuku replied.

 

“Hurts,” Todoroki agreed. He seemed to get that Izuku wasn’t going to take the suggestion to rest until the job was done, however, and quickly melted the pillar that held the Hero Killer out of reach. “I’ll take care of his weapons, you go check on Native.”

 

Izuku did as Todoroki suggested and limped his way over to the pro hero. Native was mostly fine, if still frozen. There was only one wound on his shoulder, so Izuku fashioned a makeshift bandage out of the torn bits of the hero’s costume to help with the bleeding. As he tied it off, the hero finally regained the ability to move.

 

Behind him, Todoroki had made short work of divesting the Hero Killer of his arsenal of blades and he and Iida were securing him with rope Iida had found. Satisfied that they didn’t need more help, Izuku allowed Native to carry him on his back to take the weight off his leg, which had started to throb painfully.

 

Izuku turned off 360 Veil now that the fight was really over, and the four of them made their way to the mouth of the alley, dragging a semi-conscious Stain behind them, to wait for more pros to arrive.

 

They didn’t have to wait long. Almost as soon as they’d made it out of the alley, there was a shout from across the street. “What are you doing here, boy?!”

 

“Gran Torino!” Izuku called, surprised to see his mentor. “I was only–”

 

The boot to the face interrupted his explanation, though, thankfully, it didn’t actually hurt. “I thought I told you to stay on the bullet train!”

 

“Who’s this?” Todoroki asked.

 

“Gran Torino, the hero I’m interning with,” Izuku introduced weakly. “I don’t get it—How did you find us?”

 

“I was told to come here by someone else. I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m glad you’re not dead, at least.” Gran Torino was practically fuming, but he calmed down at the end of his statement.

 

“Me, too. And, I’m sorry.”

 

Before the old pro could reply, more pros arrived in a group, sent by Endeavor apparently. Izuku guessed that made sense. If Todoroki was here, so was Endeavor. Then the pros spotted the Hero Killer tied up at Todoroki’s feet and frantically began to call the authorities along with an ambulance.

 

Now that they weren’t moving, Izuku got down off of Native’s back. He could stand if he didn’t put too much weight on his leg, and he was tired of being carried. One of the pros came over to assess their injuries while a few others took control of Stain.

 

Iida ignored the pros’ attempts to assess his injuries as he made his way to Todoroki and Izuku, bowing deeply. Izuku made an aborted attempt to reach for him. As upset as he was with Iida’s behavior, the other boy was by far the worst off between the three of them and shouldn’t be aggravating his injuries further by prostrating himself.

 

“You guys,” Iida began, voice strained from pain and tears, “you were hurt because of me. I’m truly sorry. I was just so angry . I couldn’t see anything else.”

 

The apology was sincere, without question, but Izuku honestly couldn’t care less about his own injuries; given the choice, he’d step in to defend his friend again and again. It hurt to know that his friend had been in so much pain and hadn’t reached out for help, but Izuku couldn’t shoulder the blame on Iida alone.

 

“I’m sorry too, Iida. I could see you weren’t okay, but… I could have tried harder, or brought my concerns to a teacher. You shouldn’t have had to carry this alone,” he said. 

 

Iida’s tears increased with Izuku’s apology, and he and Todoroki grew increasingly more aware of the crowd of pros watching their interaction. It wasn’t a moment for them, and Izuku highly doubted it was something Iida would otherwise normally be comfortable with. Izuku shot Todoroki a concerned glance, looking quickly between Iida and the pros.

 

“Pull yourself together. You’re the class rep,” Todoroki counseled bluntly. Izuku wouldn’t have been able to say something like that, but the socially awkward, direct manner that Todoroki used when talking seemed to be precisely what Iida needed. 

 

The class rep wiped his eyes and stood, offering the two of them a grateful smile, and Izuku relaxed a little. Iida wasn’t okay, but he was admitting that now, so Izuku had hope that he would be okay soon.

 

The calm quiet of the alley was shattered as Gran Torino shouted a warning for everyone to get down. Confused, Izuku turned to his mentor. With his back turned and his quirk off, Izuku never saw the Nomu approach and had no chance to dodge. One moment he was on his feet, and the next he was airborne. Caught around his ribs in a razor-sharp grip, Izuku watched the ground pull away and the panicked faces of his friends get smaller and smaller as the Nomu snatched him up and away.

 

Izuku had no idea what to do. He was injured, caught securely in the claws of the Nomu. Even if he somehow managed to break its grip, he was so far from the ground that a fall could potentially kill him. Before Izuku could decide it was worth the risk and attempt to break free, the Nomu suddenly froze and movement on the ground caught his eye. 

 

Stain was out of his bonds and ran full tilt at Izuku and the Nomu, shouting his rhetoric as he charged. As the Nomu plummeted out of the sky, the Hero Killer leapt up and brought a small knife down onto the exposed brain, and Izuku felt an iron grip around the back of his uniform before he was ripped from the Nomu’s talons. Surprisingly, Izuku was held up as the three of them crashed to the sidewalk below, avoiding any injuries from the collision. 

 

The Hero Killer twisted the knife before pulling it viciously from the Nomu’s head, killing it instantly. “You must all be purged.”

 

Confused and more than a little terrified, Izuku watched Stain carefully. The villain had yet to release him, and Izuku was now pinned to the sidewalk under the Hero Killer’s hold.

 

“Everything that I do is to create a stronger society.” The Hero Killer’s manic eyes drifted to Izuku, watching him struggle. “You have been weighed and measured, and not been found wanting. See that it stays that way.”

 

“Let me go.” Izuku was too injured to properly fight against the pressure against his back, but he still tried.

 

Stain leaned down, looked slowly between the Nomu’s corpse and Izuku, and whispered, “There are eyes on you, Little Hero.”

 

Before Izuku could question what he meant, the Hero Killer’s attention snapped to the growing commotion behind them. Izuku couldn’t see what happened, but it was clear by the unbridled rage now on the Hero Killer’s face and the venomous, guttural snarl he released that the new arrival was someone the villain utterly despised.

 

“Endeavor.”

 

Izuku froze. The statistics of civilian injuries and casualties in Endeavor incidents flashed in his mind—wholly without welcome—and Izuku realized he was way too close to the Hero Killer.

 

Fortunately, the Hero Killer released him as he stood to face Endeavor. Izuku rolled over, so his face was no longer digging into the concrete, but his injuries made moving difficult. Looking up to see if the Hero Killer was going to let him go, Izuku saw the villain’s mask fall away, revealing a face of waxy, half-melted skin and scar tissue. He’d been burned before. Badly. The damage was extensive enough to have removed Stain’s nose almost entirely, and Izuku wondered if the villain’s hatred for Endeavor was more personal than professional.

 

“False hero,” The Hero Killer spat. “I’ll make this right. The streets must run with the blood of hypocrites . Hero! I will reclaim that word! Come on! Just try and stop me, you fakes!” His slow, staggering advance down the street caused a few of the pros to take an instinctive step back, and Izuku could understand why. The unfettered frenzy in the Hero Killer’s voice was enough to set Izuku’s hair on end; he didn’t want to know what it was like to look that level of madness in the face as it came toward you.

 

When none of the heroes stepped up to his taunting, the Hero Killer growled again and shouted, voice echoing oppressively off the silent streets, “There is only one man I’ll let kill me. He is a true hero. All Might is worthy!

 

Then, abruptly, the Hero Killer fell silent and still. His knife dropped from his lax hold and there was absolute silence for the span of several breaths as everyone waited for something to happen. 

 

“I think…he’s out cold.” 

 

Endeavor’s hushed assessment seemed to be enough to break Todoroki from whatever fear had held the others in place, and he shot down the street past the frozen Hero Killer without a second glance. 

 

“Midoriya?” Todoroki’s hand went to Izuku’s ribs, assessing the damage from the Nomu.

 

Izuku winced but gave his worried friend a smile. “I’m okay.”

 

“You’re not–”

 

“I’m okay enough,” Izuku corrected. “Help me up.”

 

Todoroki stood, grasping Izuku’s hands firmly to bring him up with him. Gran Torino joined them as Todoroki pulled Izuku close, helping him keep weight off his injured leg.

 

“Shouldn’t have to say this to you twice in one night, but I’m glad you’re not dead.” Gran Torino shook his head, but there was relief in his eyes. “You’re more of a trouble magnet than All Might ever was, kid, and that’s saying something.” 

 

There are eyes on you, Little Hero

 

Izuku frowned, recalling Stain’s warning. Taking anything the Hero Killer said at face value was a bad idea; Izuku hadn’t intended to give the words any more thought, but maybe he should. Gran Torino’s jibe had been mostly in jest, but Izuku couldn’t shake the feeling that he was probably more right than he thought. If he was right, and if the Hero Killer could be believed, it raised a couple of questions. 

 

Whose eyes? And why?

Chapter Text

Izuku was grateful he and his friends had been assigned the same hospital room to recover. After the fight with Stain, he felt better with Iida and Todoroki nearby where he could see them and know they were alive and okay. 

 

Sleep eluded him that night. Every time he closed his eyes, another memory from the fight would replay in his head. Finding Iida on the ground, the Hero Killer standing over him. The twin knives burying themselves in Todoroki’s arm while Izuku was paralyzed less than a foot away. The moment before Iida stood up, when Izuku had been so sure Todoroki was about to die. Iida using his own body as a shield. There were so many moments in that fight where it all could have gone so wrong.

 

The next morning, it was clear his friends had had about as much luck sleeping as he did. They were all tired, drained from the emotional fallout on top of their injuries, but the three of them were still alive. Despite the odds, they had survived, and Izuku was willing to take that as a win.

 

When the door to their room opened, Izuku was surprised to see Gran Torino and Manual. It was still incredibly early, and visiting hours hadn’t started yet. The reason for their visit became clear when Kenji Tsuragamae, the Hosu Chief of Police, joined them as well. 

 

By going after the Hero Killer, unlicensed and against orders, the three of them had broken the law. Technically, everything that happened in that alley had counted as vigilantism. It didn’t matter that they’d saved lives, or that they’d taken a serial killer off the streets. Izuku, Todoroki, and Iida weren’t licensed pros; using their quirks to injure the villain was illegal.

 

If they received the credit for the capture, the public would thank them, but they’d receive punishments harsh enough to ruin any chance they had at becoming heroes one day. On the other hand, if they allowed Endeavor to take credit, they would receive no accolades and no punishments.

 

Accolades were nice, but the point of being a hero—the point of last night—would always be about helping people, saving lives. If it had been any other hero receiving the credit, Izuku wouldn’t have thought twice. A bitter, ugly feeling crawled its way up his throat, however, at the thought that it would be Endeavor

 

Izuku looked to Todoroki. His friend had argued with Tsuragamae when the chief had told them what they’d done was illegal, his outrage written plainly across his face, but it looked like he’d calmed down a little now that there was a chance they could avoid punishment. Izuku didn’t know how Todoroki felt about giving his father credit, but he would follow whatever Todoroki decided. 

 

When Todoroki apologized and agreed to go with the Chief’s plan, Izuku nodded his agreement as well. Iida also agreed, and the plan was set. They were advised not to talk to anyone about what had really happened, and Izuku sighed. More secrets, just what he needed.

 

The official story was that Iida, Izuku, and Todoroki had run into the Hero Killer while in Hosu for their various internships, and Endeavor had saved their lives and captured the villain without their assistance or interference. Izuku was sure the police would have liked to keep the three of them out of it entirely, but apparently, the media had gotten footage of the very end of the evening that clearly showed Izuku, Iida, and Todoroki present as Stain had turned to face down Endeavor. 

 

Keeping the truth of last night from his friends in class was one thing; they didn’t really need to know anything beyond the official story. Keeping the truth from All Might and Mr. Aizawa was another matter. After their talk at the end of class last Wednesday, Izuku didn’t feel right keeping the truth from his teachers. Especially if what Stain had said was true.

 

“Gran Torino? Can I ask you a question real quick?” Izuku asked quietly, getting his mentor’s attention before he could leave. 

 

The old pro stopped and waited while Manual and Tsuragamae left, closing the door behind them. Gran Torino raised an expectant eyebrow at Izuku, but he hopped off his hospital bed and limped his way to the door, motioning for Iida to be quiet as the boy protested his hurried movements. 

 

Izuku activated his quirk and pressed his head against the door, checking to see if Tsuragamae or Manual had decided to stay behind and wait for the other hero. He watched them make their way down the hallway and let out a relieved sigh. 

 

When he moved his head away, Todoroki was at his side to help him back to his bed. “Clear?”

 

Izuku nodded, “Yeah, they’re gone. Thanks.”

 

“You shouldn’t walk on it yet,” Todoroki scolded gently.

 

Gran Torino eyed Todoroki and then huffed before turning to Izuku. “Well? What did you want,  kid?”

 

“I know we aren’t supposed to tell anyone who wasn’t involved what really happened, but I think we should tell Mr. Aizawa and All Might,” Izuku said.

 

“The Captain graciously allowed us to avoid punishment for our criminal behavior; we cannot tell anyone,” Iida protested immediately.

 

“I assume you have a reason. Let’s hear it.” Gran Torino grunted, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“Something Stain said while he had me pinned after s-saving me from the Nomu.” Izuku frowned and fiddled with the edge of his hospital gown, not looking at the others in the room.

 

“Rhetoric–”

 

“No, not what he was shouting at everyone. This was j-just to me.” 

 

“Are you sure?” Todoroki asked, concerned.

 

Izuku sighed and nodded. “He called me Little Hero, and told me th-that there were eyes on me.”

 

“If you’re concerned he planned to keep an eye on you, that would be very difficult for him to do from prison,” Iida said, attempting to console him.

 

“He might have just been trying to rattle you, kid,” Gran Torino added.

 

Izuku didn’t think so. Something about how he’d said it told Izuku it was a warning, not a taunt, and the threat wasn’t from the Hero Killer. 

 

“Midoriya?” Todoroki prompted. 

 

“I can’t shake the feeling it was more than that. I mean, you guys heard how he talked in that alley during the fight. He didn’t imply anything. He just came out and said what he wanted. What he was doing, why he was doing it, he owned up to all of it. This was...different.”

 

Gran Torino huffed in agitation. 

 

“Midoriya’s instincts are good. If he says there’s more going on, we should believe him.” Todoroki sat down next to Izuku on the hospital bed, and he looked between Iida and Gran Torino pointedly.

 

“You have a point, Todoroki,” Iida conceded slowly and inclined his head to Izuku. “Perhaps we should not dismiss your concerns so quickly.”

 

“Instinct is good, but you need to be able to convince a skeptic who doesn't know you like these two.” Gran Torino waved a hand at Todoroki and Iida. “So. Think carefully, kid, and convince me like I’m a skeptical, old bastard who ain’t known you more than a week.”

 

Izuku took a deep breath and sat up straighter, organizing his thoughts carefully before he started. “The media is already reporting that Stain and the League were working together after the attack last night—I sort of doubt they were, given the Hero Killer’s habits—but whether or not that’s true, I think Stain knew enough about the League to know that the Nomu was part of it,” Izuku theorized while Gran Torino, Todoroki, and Iida quietly watched. “I don’t know if you could hear him on the ground, but when he attacked, he said: ‘The world is overrun with fakes and criminals like you who chase petty dreams,’ only after he’d already killed the Nomu. Maybe it’s nothing, but it was almost like he wasn’t talking to Nomu, but to whoever was controlling him.”

 

“Interesting hypothesis.” Gran Torino rubbed his chin. “What’s it got to do with your worry?”

 

“After we landed, he said that I had been weighed and measured, like an affirmation of his judgment in the alley that I was worth keeping alive. His tone was the same as the rest of his rhetoric, so I just tried to get him off me, but then he… He looked at the Nomu and back to me before leaning in and whispering, ‘There are eyes on you, Little Hero.’” Izuku tried to imitate Stain’s inflection, though he wasn’t certain how well he’d done. “It was different. He wasn’t spouting ideology. It was like he was implying...the League was watching me.”

 

There was a short silence as Gran Torino considered Izuku’s evidence, but the old pro wasn’t very forthcoming with his thoughts. Izuku had no idea if he was convinced or not.

 

“I wonder if that was why the Nomu went after you,” Todoroki mused thoughtfully.

 

“What do you mean?” Iida asked. “It was random, wasn’t it?”

 

“I don’t think so.” Todoroki shook his head once. “There were quite a few people around; taking anyone at all would have been a risk, especially while injured and fleeing from Endeavor, but it didn’t hesitate. I’ve been trying to rationalize why Midoriya was taken, but I couldn’t think of a reason until now. If it was random, it would have made sense to take the easiest target. Someone near the edges, heavily injured, incapacitated, weak, or small. Midoriya was none of those. Despite being injured, he was in the middle of the group, and arguably one of the harder targets given his location, strength, and size.”

 

Izuku hadn’t even considered that, but now that Todoroki had pointed it out, he could see it. Put together with Stain’s warning, it left Izuku uneasy.

 

“Alright. It’s not a bad theory. I think I can let them know the important part without telling them everything, which is as good as you’re going to get, kid, so don’t go spillin’ the beans when you get back to school,” Gran Torino warned. “For now, rest up. Focus on getting better and leave the investigation to the pros. I’ve got a phone call to make.”

 

“Thank you for listening, Gran Torino.” Izuku bowed as best as he could from his seated position, but the old pro just waved him away and left.

 

“He’s right; we should try to rest,” Iida said after the door closed behind the old pro. “There’s nothing more we can do for the moment.”

 

Reluctantly, Izuku agreed, though he didn’t think sleep would be any easier to find than it was last night. His thoughts were a swirl of what-ifs and potential connections that left him almost nauseous with the implications. Squeezing his eyes tight, Izuku tried to silence the thoughts running rampant in his head. 

 

They’d survived. The fight was over. The danger should be passed.

 

Izuku just couldn’t help but feel that things were only getting worse.

 

To his surprise, Izuku did manage to get a few hours of restless sleep. When he woke, it was to the sound of his phone ringing on the small nightstand next to his bed. Groggily, he apologized to Todoroki who’d also been woken by the noise as he reached for the phone.

 

His mom.

 

“Sorry, this is probably gonna get loud.” Izuku sat up and hit the green accept call button. “Hey, Mom.”

 

“Izuku! Baby, are you okay? UA called me this morning, and I just saw the news. Why were you in Hosu?! Honey, what happened ?” his mom cried over the phone and Izuku hastily lowered the call volume. 

 

“I’m fine, Mom, really. It’s not that bad, no broken bones or anything like that. Just some cuts and bruises,” Izuku promised. “Me and Gran Torino were on our way to Shibuya, but we got held up in Hosu because of the attack.”

 

“Izuku, you were attacked by the Hero Killer! If it hadn’t been for Endeavor, you would have been killed!”

 

Izuku couldn’t stop the disgusted face he made at Endeavor’s name. “I’m okay, though. I’m sorry I scared you, but I promise I’m okay.”

 

“And your friends? Todoroki and Iida?”

 

Todoroki evidently heard his name because he turned and looked at Izuku inquisitively. “Mom wants to know if you’re okay,” Izuku supplied.

 

“Oh! Are they there with you?” his mom asked as Todoroki blinked in surprise.

 

“Yeah, they put us in the same room while we recover,” Izuku answered. 

 

“Put me on speaker.”

 

“Mom–”

 

“Now, Mister.”

 

Izuku sighed and hit the button, holding the phone out between himself and Todoroki. “Okay, you’re on speaker.”

 

“Hello, Mrs. Midoriya,” Todoroki greeted politely, still obviously confused.

 

“Hello! Are you boys alright?”

 

“It’s just me at the moment, Mrs. Midoriya. Iida is with the doctor,” Todoroki said, and Izuku looked over to see that, indeed, Iida’s bed was empty. That was good. One less person for his mom to embarrass him in front of. “I’m well, thank you. My own injuries were very minor.”

 

“That’s good to hear. I was so worried when I heard you boys were caught up in that awful incident.”

 

“Thank you for your concern, but it’s unnecessary,” Todoroki said.

 

“Of course it’s necessary! You’re one of Izuku’s best friends, he would have been devastated if something happened–”

 

“Mom,” Izuku whined, begging her to stop.

 

“Izuku, dear, don’t be shy about how you feel,” his mom advised. “You’re friends! It’s entirely reasonable to be upset when your friend is hurt. Right, Todoroki?”

 

“Right,” Todoroki agreed, though Izuku could see he was still confused by the conversation.

 

Izuku suppressed a smile and turned back to the phone. “Was there anything else you wanted Todoroki for, or can I take you off speaker?”

 

“Actually…” she hesitated, serious once more, “Todoroki, dear, I know it’s a lot to ask, but could you watch out for Izuku?”

 

“Mom!” Izuku buried his face in his free hand and resisted the urge to just hang up.

 

She ignored him. “He’s picked up a habit of running head first into trouble and doesn’t always take care of himself like he should. This path you boys have chosen… It’s so dangerous. I’m so proud, but so worried . It would ease my mind a little to know you two are looking out for each other.”

 

Izuku peeked through his fingers to glance at the phone and then up to Todoroki. His friend was looking at him already, face determined. As their eyes met, Todoroki nodded, even though Izuku’s mom couldn’t see him over the phone, and said, “I will, I promise.”

 

“Me, too,” Izuku added quietly. 

 

“Good. Thank you. Okay, baby, go ahead and take me off speaker.”

 

Izuku turned off speakerphone as he brought the device back up to his ear. “I’m here.”

 

“Do you know when you’ll be released? I don’t know if I can find someone to switch shifts, but I still have a few sick days, I think, so I can–”

 

“No, Mom, you don’t need to do that. I’m fine, really. Keep your sick days for when you need them. I was gonna be out the rest of the week for the internship anyway, and Hosu is pretty far just for a visit. I’ll be home before you know it,” Izuku assured her calmly.  

 

Izuku heard her sigh over the line. “Alright. You call me if something changes, though, and text me when you know when you’ll be home, okay?”

 

“I will.”

 

“Okay. I love you, baby.”

 

“Love you too, Mom.” 

 

Izuku disconnected the call after they’d both said goodbye and flopped heavily onto the bed. “Sorry about that.”

 

“She seems nice,” Todoroki offered. “And she cares for you a great deal.”

 

“Yeah. I wish she wouldn’t worry so much, though. I know growing up with the quirk I had, she tried to be supportive of my dream, but it was hard for her. When I got One For All, I thought it would be better. She wouldn’t have to worry so much about me getting hurt, you know? Of course, then I used it.” Izuku sighed. “I told her about getting One For All, swore to her that the bone breaking would only be temporary, but I think seeing me use it at the Sports Festival really freaked her out.”

 

“Understandable. You did permanent damage to yourself,” Todoroki reminded him, a sad note in his voice. 

 

Izuku held his right hand up and looked at it. The scars carved into his palm and the back of his hand, the crooked fingers. He knew it would be that way for the rest of his life, but he didn’t mind. It was a reminder. Not the one that Recovery Girl wanted him to take from it—he didn’t need to disfigure his hand to remember how important control was—but something of his own.

 

“Do you know what I think of when I look at this?” Izuku asked, smiling softly.

 

“Our fight, my stubbornness and selfishness,” Todoroki replied.

 

“No,” Izuku turned to look at his friend. “I see your smile. That moment when you finally let go, when you stopped holding yourself back and embraced both halves of your power. You smiled. It was the first time I’d seen you smile, and I helped put it there. It was…” Izuku paused, searching for the right words to express what he’d felt in that moment. “Even after saving Kacchan from the sludge villain, and protecting All Might and Mr. Aizawa at the USJ, that moment when you smiled was the first time I felt like a hero. Which is probably taking more credit than I really deserve, since you did all the hard work reclaiming your power, but–”

 

“You definitely deserve the credit,” Todoroki said, interrupting his rambling. “I spent years building up my walls so high that it would have been impossible for me to free myself. You shattered all those walls in just a few minutes. Two sentences. If not for you, I would have been trapped in a prison of my own making, probably for the rest of my life. Midoriya, you saved me. Don’t ever doubt that.”

 

Izuku turned back to look at his hand to hide his blush and pleased smile. Todoroki’s sincere insistence sent Izuku’s heart racing. He took a few moments to calm himself before glancing briefly at Todoroki, but the small, soft smile there sent his heart right back into overdrive and he looked away quickly. 

 

Clearing his throat, Izuku continued to try to make his point. “A-anyway. What I was t-trying to say is, b-being a hero, scars are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean they have to remind us of the pain of how we got them. I prefer to remember why, and the why is because I want to be a hero. I want to save people. I want to see them smile.”

 

Todoroki hummed thoughtfully. “I wish I could see things as clearly as you do. Must be your quirk.”

 

Izuku laughed, caught off guard. With his completely deadpan delivery, it was impossible to tell whether or not Todoroki intended his comment to be a joke. But as Izuku looked over, he found the faintest hint of amusement in his friend’s eyes, so he supposed it didn’t really matter one way or the other. 

 

Taking a few moments to get his residual giggles under control, Izuku was struck with a sudden, intense sense of gratitude. By sharing the truth with Todoroki, he didn’t have to hide or make up excuses, and Todoroki had shown himself to be there for Izuku in a way that none of his other friends could be. Izuku had let him in on his secret, trusted him with it completely, and Todoroki hadn’t disappointed. He wished he could let the others in as well—someday, he hoped—but if it could only be one, he was glad it was Todoroki.

 

“Thanks, Todoroki.” Izuku sat up and looked at the long list of notifications on his phone. With a wince, he held it up briefly to show Todoroki the screen. “I should let you get back to sleep. I’ve got a few calls to make, it seems.”

 

“Keep off your leg.”

 

Nodding, Izuku hit the call button and asked a nurse for a crutch so he could walk around a bit. Once one was delivered, he tested and adjusted it in the room until he had it where he needed it, though he quickly decided walking with the crutch was not his favorite mode of travel. Izuku left their shared room with a promise to return shortly, and made his way down the hall.

Chapter Text

 

Most of the rest of the week had passed before Izuku was released from the hospital. Iida had gone home first, despite the severity of his injuries. After learning he’d have permanent damage in his arm, he opted to spend the rest of his recovery with his family. Izuku couldn’t blame him. He was also glad that the news hadn’t dampened Iida’s desire or drive to be a better hero. Todoroki’s injuries weren’t all that bad, and he was able to return to his internship with Endeavor after only a day of observation.

 

The rest of Izuku’s stay went by in relative solitude. When he was finally released, he wasn’t quite healed enough to continue training, so Gran Torino let him go home a day early. Izuku was a little disappointed, but he’d learned a lot regardless, so he thanked Gran Torino before heading home.

 

Izuku texted his mom on the train to let her know he was on his way home and then settled in for the ride back to Musutafu. 

 

The news covered the Hero Killer’s arrest pretty thoroughly, and Izuku made sure to watch so he could hear the official story. While it was mentioned that three students were involved in the confrontation, their names weren’t mentioned, for which Izuku was grateful. He’d agreed to let Endeavor take the credit, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be forced to sing the man’s praises for his supposed rescue. 

 

In addition to the official news outlets, there was also a video making its way through the internet. Izuku wasn’t going to watch it, but a screencap caught his attention. The media hadn’t used a lot of the footage of Stain’s arrest because they hadn’t wanted his ideology blasting across news channels, but someone had gotten a hold of it and used it in this video. It included the final moments of Stain’s rant, caught from a high angle, and Izuku could see himself on the ground behind the Hero Killer. It was small and poor enough quality that Izuku probably wouldn’t be identified, but it still sent an unpleasant shock through his system to see himself in a video essentially praising the Hero Killer.

 

More than a little disturbed, he quickly closed the video and did his best to put it out of his mind.

 

His mom already had dinner ready for him when he arrived and she showered him in hugs and tears, thankful he was alright and finally home. Izuku hugged her back just as fiercely. Nothing like a couple near death experiences to make him miss his mom. He kept conversation away from Hosu, instead telling her about Gran Torino and all the training he’d done, and the progress he’d made with both of his quirks. She listened intently, praising his accomplishments all through dinner, allowing him to direct the conversation for a while. 

 

Eventually, once the food was gone and the dishes were clean, she put her hand on his arm before he could retreat away into his bedroom. 

 

“Izuku… you know you can talk to me, right?” She looked up at him with such concern, tears already gathering in her eyes.

 

“Mom, I-I am talki–”

 

His mom gave him a stern look and pursed her lips. “Not just the good things. I want to hear them, of course, but… You don’t need to avoid certain subjects to spare my feelings. Izuku, baby, you were attacked by a serial killer.” Her breath hitched a little, but she soldiered on. “You don’t need to hide how you feel or bottle it up; you can talk to me.”

 

Izuku felt his shoulders sag as he looked away, swallowing down the guilt crawling its way up his chest. If he talked about it, he wouldn’t be able to lie, wouldn’t be able to follow the official story, and he wasn’t allowed to tell her the truth, as much as that burned at him. 

 

“Mom,” Izuku whimpered a little and cleared his throat. “It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t . It’s...classified, and complicated. If I could tell you without getting in trouble, I would, but,” he wiped a few tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand and glared at the floor, “I legally can’t talk about it.”

 

“Oh, baby,” his mom pulled him into another hug and ran her hand soothingly through his hair. “I understand. I’m sorry for pushing.”

 

Izuku had pushed for Gran Torino to tell All Might and Mr. Aizawa, which also wasn’t allowed. He wondered if that made him a hypocrite. Gran Torino had told him he’d only share the warning from Stain and Izuku’s theory, which didn’t compromise the validity of the official story. If All Might couldn’t know, then Izuku definitely couldn’t tell his mom. No matter how much he wanted to.

 

“I wish I could tell you.” Izuku relaxed into his mom’s hold. 

 

“You will, when you can.” His mom released him and kissed his forehead. “Go on and get some rest.”

 

Izuku took it easy for the next couple of days, letting his mom dote on him since it made her feel better. When it was time to go back to school, Izuku was more than ready to get back to training. Taking it easy just wasn’t in his repertoire anymore.

 

Izuku listened intently to his classmates as they shared what happened on their internships before class started, though—for obvious reasons—he didn’t share anything about his own. Iida and Todoroki were equally tight-lipped, but their classmates didn’t hound them for details. They all knew that they were the three students involved in the Hero Killer incident thanks to Izuku’s text, but they seemed content with the official story and details released. No one asked them to elaborate, at any rate. 

 

All Might was running their Foundational Heroics class again, and Izuku was excited to show his mentor what he’d learned. The exercise was a race; first to the middle of the city would ‘rescue’ All Might and claim victory. The class was broken up into groups of five to compete at a time and Izuku was in the first group up. 

 

At the starting mark, Izuku went through some stretches, grinning to himself as he imagined the faces of his classmates. There hadn’t been any practical exercises since the Sports Festival, so no one other than Todoroki and Iida had seen him use Full Cowling yet. Thinking on it, he didn’t recall even telling Uraraka that he’d developed the style, so it should be a big surprise for almost everyone.

 

On All Might’s signal, Izuku activated 5% Full Cowling and 360 Veil and then shot across the industrial terrain, keeping above the street easily as he hopped from pipe to pipe. With 360 Veil up, he was able to keep an eye on his classmates and the area around him with ease, and it didn’t take him long to steal the lead from Sero. Thanks to the spatial awareness training and rooftop running with 360 Veil during his internship, Izuku managed to keep the lead the rest of the way to the center of the city, stopping cheerfully in front of All Might and claiming his first place sash.

 

The class went nuts cheering and asking him when he’d learned to move like that. Izuku told the truth. 

 

“Todoroki helped me develop the Full Cowling style after the Sports Festival, and then I refined it during my internship.” Izuku shot Todoroki a grateful look. 

 

“Very impressive, Young Midoriya!” All Might clapped him on the shoulder, leaving his hand there as he addressed the rest of the class, “You all showed great improvement from the beginning of the year. Be proud. Group One, leave the field. Group Two, get into position and show us what you’ve got!” 

 

As the class dispersed to make their way to either the observation or starting area, All Might whispered, “Find me after class. We need to talk. There’s more you need to know about One For All.”

 

Izuku nodded subtly and then made his way over to the observation area with the others. He tried to pay close attention to his classmates as they ran the race, eager to see the way the others had improved over their internships, but his mind kept wandering. What more could All Might need to tell Izuku about their quirk?

 

After class, Izuku caught Todoroki as they made their way to the locker room and slowed their pace so they could talk privately. “All Might wants to talk to me about One For All. I don’t know what he wants to say, but he sounded pretty serious.”

 

“Do you want me to come with you?” Todoroki offered. 

 

“I don’t know. I don’t think All Might would like that.” Izuku would like Todoroki there, but All Might’s non-heroic form was still a secret. “But if I need to, can I call you later to talk about it?”

 

“I can wait for you before heading home.”

 

“Are you sure? I don’t want you to get in trouble,” Izuku said.

 

Todoroki nodded. “Let me worry about Endeavor. I’ll see you after your meeting.”

 

Decided, they hurried to the locker room. Not wanting to waste time, Izuku began to change, taking off his mouth guard and unzipping his suit before he’d even reached his locker. Despite his obvious hurry, Mineta got Izuku’s attention after he’d removed his undershirt and tossed it in his locker.

 

“Hey, Midoriya!” Mineta was practically vibrating with excitement. “You won’t believe what I just found. The jackpot! Someone Shawshanked a hole in this wall! A previous generation has given us a gift. You know what’s next door, right?”

 

Izuku did know, and he was not about to let Mineta peep into the girls’ locker room.

 

“Don’t even think about it!” Iida shouted. 

 

Mineta was already very graphically thinking about it, listing off what he’d like to see of the girls as he tried to get a good look through the hole in the wall. Izuku had heard more than enough, though, and grabbed the little pervert by the collar, pulling him away from the wall less than a second before Jirou’s earphone jack would have stabbed him in the eye. 

 

“As much as he would have deserved that, Jirou, it’s illegal for non-licensed people to use their quirks to harm others without express permission from a supervisory hero. I’d hate for you to get in trouble,” Izuku informed the girl, knowing that Jirou—and probably the other girls—could hear him. “That being said, I won’t be using my quirk.”

 

Izuku slammed Mineta into the wall and glared at him in disgust as the smaller boy sputtered, “Hey, whoa, Midoriya, chill out! Come on, you’ve gotta be kidding me.”

 

“Mineta, I’ve made allowances for your comments up til now because you’re a hormonal teenager and because—despite making the girls uncomfortable—you haven’t physically done anything. Peeping into their locker room crosses that line.”

 

“You seriously don’t want to see what’s on the other side? I thought you were cool–”

 

Izuku increased his pressure against Mineta’s windpipe just enough to cut the boy off. “No, I don’t want to see what’s on the other side of that wall. I don’t care how attractive the girls are, consent is a thing, Mineta.” He dropped the boy and stepped back toward his locker. “Do anything like that again, and I’ll petition to have you expelled. Open up a spot in the hero course for someone who doesn’t need lessons in basic decency.”

 

Mineta went scurrying out of the locker room, hopefully to reevaluate his life choices, but Izuku didn’t particularly care so long as he never tried anything like that again. After the pervert had left, chatter slowly picked back up in the locker room, but Izuku didn’t pay it any mind. He finished changing, slammed his locker shut, and left to go find All Might.

 

Izuku used the walk from the locker room to the teacher’s lounge to calm down. Whatever All Might wanted to say about One For All was bound to be important, and Izuku wanted to be able to focus wholly on the conversation ahead instead of what went down in the locker room. 

 

Mr. Aizawa was leaning against the wall outside the lounge as Izuku approached, and he straightened up once he got close. “All Might thought you might have brought Todoroki with you.”

 

“I wanted to, but All Might’s probably out of time for the day. Todoroki doesn’t know about his weakened form, so I told him not to come,” Izuku explained. “Do you know what this is about?”

 

“No details, but now that you’re here, we can ask him. Come on.” Mr. Aizawa opened the door to the lounge and ushered Izuku inside before closing the door behind him.

 

All Might was in his smaller form, like Izuku suspected he would be, waiting for them on the couch. He was hunched over, looking down at his hands as they entered. Izuku had never seen him look so weighed down before. He barely looked up as Izuku took the seat across from him and Mr. Aizawa settled by the bookshelf on the back wall.

 

“You went through a lot recently; I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” All Might said solemnly. 

 

“Oh, no. You don’t need to apologize for that.” Izuku shook his head. “But… You mentioned One For All earlier?”

 

All Might sighed. “I heard that the Hero Killer swallowed your blood in the attack.”

 

“Y-yeah.” Izuku honestly wasn’t sure how much either of them knew about what happened, so he didn’t go into details about how or what happened. “His quirk allowed him to paralyze someone after tasting their blood. Is that what this is about?”

 

“Do you remember how I gave you my power? What I said that day?” All Might asked.

 

Izuku saw Mr. Aizawa cock his head slightly in interest. They hadn’t really covered the how in their explanation before, so Mr. Aizawa was probably curious. 

 

“You told me to eat a strand of your hair.” Izuku grimaced. He could still remember how gross it was swallowing that hair. 

 

“Not that part. I told you the key was in my DNA. That’s why you had to swallow the hair.” All Might reminded him.

 

“A simple DNA transfer?” Mr. Aizawa stood up straight, taking his hands from his pockets to cross his arms over his chest as he glared down balefully at the number one hero. “Tell me there’s more to it than that.”

 

“The Hero Killer doesn’t have One For All now, does he?” Izuku panicked.

 

“No, no he doesn’t!” All Might promised. “I thought you might be worried about that, but I can see it didn’t cross your mind.” Turning slightly to Mr. Aizawa, All Might addressed them both as he continued. “One For All can only be passed on if the holder intends for it to be. It’s not something that can be taken by force, although it can be forcibly given.”

 

Mr. Aizawa rubbed his temples in agitation. “That sounds like something you should have told him before now. Do you have any idea how many quirks out there that use someone’s DNA? Not to mention all of the other ways DNA can be traded as part of everyday life.”

 

“Yes, well,” All Might coughed uncomfortably. “It slipped my mind at the time.”

 

“It’s good to know I didn’t give a serial killer my quirk.” Izuku opted to not think about how many different ways he could accidentally give One For All to someone if circumstances had been different, and tried to get the conversation back on track. “Was that all?”

 

“No.” All Might sighed heavily. “The quirk you now have is unique, and you should know its origin. One For All was derived from another odd quirk, one that is very old.”

 

“A quirk created a quirk?” Izuku asked.

 

All Might nodded. “The name of that quirk is All For One. It allowed its user to take quirks from others. He could then keep the quirks for himself or give them to someone else.”

 

Horrified by the idea, Izuku hoped he misunderstood. “He could steal powers?” 

 

“This was back when quirks were just starting to show up, before society had learned how to deal with newly powered among them. When quirks first appeared, suddenly it was impossible to say what it meant to be a normal person. Laws and human rights were hotly debated. Civilization’s progress stalled. Society decayed,” All Might said grimly. 

 

“This part of quirk history is usually covered during your second year, but he’s not wrong,” Mr. Aizawa added. “A sudden and fundamental shift in humanity’s perception of what was human came with near cataclysmic consequences.”

 

“If superpowers had never appeared, then humans would be taking interstellar holidays by this point,” Izuku quoted. He couldn’t recall the name of the scientist he’d heard that from, but All Might and Mr. Aizawa both nodded in agreement to his statement.

 

“During that chaotic period of change, there was one person who managed to rally many people together. He went by the name of his power, All For One. He stole quirks from others, and then, with his overwhelming abilities, he spread his influence across the country. He manipulated people to serve his purposes and committed evil acts with little resistance. In the blink of an eye, he became the leader of villains and ruled over Japan.”

 

“Don’t suppose that’s covered in the textbook.” Izuku glanced at his homeroom teacher.

 

“No,” Mr. Aizawa replied. “But there were always rumors of something like this.”

 

“I’ve read them online,” Izuku confirmed. “I thought they were made up, though.” 

 

“It’s the kind of shameful history people would rather ignore,” All Might groused.

 

“How does this all tie together though, and what about One For All?”

 

“I said that All For One could give quirks to others, remember? He made people trust him or submit to his will by altering their abilities, but apparently there were many poor souls who couldn’t bear the burden of the quirks they were given. They became like mindless living dolls, incapable of speaking.”

 

“The Nomus,” Mr. Aizawa realized and swore quietly under his breath.

 

All Might continued, “Meanwhile, some quirks actually evolved as they were passed on, some even combined with other power sets. This evil man had a quirkless younger brother. He was small and sickly, but he had a strong sense of justice. They couldn’t have been more different. It pained the brother to see All For One’s deeds, so he kept resisting him. And then, All For One transferred a quirk to his sibling, one that would allow him to stockpile power.”

 

“Probably thought he could turn his brother to his cause, or that it would render him mindless,” Mr. Aizawa guessed. “Either way, it would remove an opponent from the board.”

 

“Except the brother that everyone thought was quirkless wasn’t . He had a useless power that only allowed him to pass on quirks. The stockpiling ability merged with the brother’s natural quirk, and so One For All was created,” All Might explained. 

 

There was a lot of information there, and Izuku furiously tried to process it all. An evil crime boss from the dawn of quirks had accidentally created One For All, the very same quirk now used by the Symbol of Peace, the number one hero, All Might. More alarming, though, was the implication of All For One’s power. Stealing quirks and then forcing them on others, turning them into mindless drones. Mr. Aizawa was right—that sounded like the Nomu. 

 

If they came from All For One, then that would mean that somehow the man or the power had to still be around over two hundred years later. Somehow.

 

“I’ve always found it ironic how justice so often spawns from evil,” All Might mused.

 

“You’d better have a point beyond sharing irony, and it better not be the one I think you’re getting at,” Mr. Aizawa seethed.

 

Izuku really hoped an appreciation for irony was all this was because the only other reason he could think of All Might sharing this shouldn’t be possible. “I get how One For All was created, but why tell us this now? The man responsible for this is long dead by now, right? He’d have to be.”

 

“One who steals quirks has no limits. Anything is possible. There are quirks that halt aging; he probably has something like that. The Symbol of Evil seemed pretty much immortal. With the state of the world at the time and the huge difference in their combat abilities, the younger brother decided to entrust this new quirk to future generations. Even though he couldn’t defeat All For One, he hoped One For All would continue to grow in power until it was strong enough to stop his older brother.”

 

“Are the words informed consent even in your vocabulary? You passed on your quirk to a fifteen-year-old boy with no training, expecting him to carry on a legacy to defeat a two-hundred-year-old supervillain with unlimited power without warning him! ” Mr. Aizawa’s quirk had activated in his anger, and he looked about two seconds away from drop-kicking All Might out the nearby window.

 

“I thought I had defeated All For One six years ago! Young Midoriya was never going to have to–”

 

“Except you didn’t defeat him, did you,” Mr. Aizawa snapped. “He survived your fight and is now the brain behind the League of Villains, the same organization which is now targeting Midoriya . I wonder why that is?”

 

Izuku felt the blood drain from his face as he realized Mr. Aizawa was right. If All For One was behind the League, and they were watching him specifically, it was likely that All For One had figured out—or at least suspected—that Izuku was the new holder of One For All. So, in addition to inheriting All Might’s power, Izuku had inherited his nemesis, too. Unexpected and terrifying, but All Might had legitimately thought the man was dead when he’d passed on One For All. Izuku couldn’t fault him for that the same way Mr. Aizawa apparently could. 

 

Regardless of how he felt about it, though, it was done. If One For All’s purpose was to end All For One, then the sooner Izuku accepted that, the sooner he could start preparing for it. 

 

First step, stop Mr. Aizawa from killing the Symbol of Peace.

 

“I’ll do my best!” Izuku shouted, causing both men to pause.

 

“Midoriya–”

 

“I know I’m not ready.” Izuku panicked briefly, realizing he’d cut off a teacher, but he forced his nerves down until his chest ached with it and kept going. “I barely have control, and I can’t harness even a fraction of One For All’s power, but I have two of the best mentors I could ask for, right? With you and All Might in my corner, I’ll learn. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

 

Both pros were quiet for a heartbeat before Mr. Aizawa left his aggressive approach in All Might’s direction, dropping his quirk and capture weapon, shoulders slumping in resignation or defeat, to stand next to Izuku. He looked very tired in that moment.

 

“Lesson one,” he said, his hand landing in Izuku’s curls as steely black eyes held Izuku’s own determined green in an unwavering gaze. “Fuck destiny. Bring backup.”

Chapter Text

As promised, Shouto waited for Midoriya after classes were done. Midoriya hadn’t specified how long his meeting with All Might would take, but that didn’t matter. The more time away from that house, the better in Shouto’s opinion.

 

Passing time as he waited, Shouto read through a few chapters of his assigned reading in literature, but he was having difficulty focusing adequately. Giving in after rereading the same paragraph a few times, Shouto put the book away. His mind wasn’t focused enough to work on homework.

 

All Might could have asked Midoriya to talk at any time over the last few days; why today? What changed? The only thing Shouto could think of was the exercise they’d done in heroics. The week spent at internships had obviously done more for some than others, but the biggest change had been Midoriya. The class had been surprised when Midoriya successfully used his quirk without breaking any bones, but Shouto had told All Might Midoriya’s control had improved. Perhaps the way he was using it, then? If Shouto hadn’t already seen it in Hosu, he might have been surprised by the sudden improvement. Had Midoriya reached some level of skill that All Might felt was somehow required?

 

Trying to guess was pointless, Shouto relented. Midoriya would tell him when his meeting was over.

 

Reminded of the exercise, however, Shouto’s thoughts darkened as he recalled a potential problem that had arisen. Bakugou had been anything but thrilled with Midoriya’s improvement, claiming Midoriya had stolen his moves—as if aerial acrobatics belonged to him. Shouto had almost called him out for his petty jealousy but ultimately held his tongue. Nothing got Bakugou riled up faster than Midoriya; if a fight started, Shouto wasn’t sure he’d hold back. In a lot of ways, Bakugou reminded him of Endeavor. Flashy, hot anger that raged at any perceived threat to his own self-importance. For Endeavor, that was Shouto’s failures, for Bakugou, it was Midoriya’s successes. 

 

Midoriya’s future promised a lot of successes. Shouto would have to keep an eye on Bakugou to make sure he never got close enough to burn Midoriya again.

 

A text from his friend pulled him from his musings. The meeting was done. Shouto sent him a text telling him where to find him, and Midoriya was there moments later. 

 

“Midoriya.” Shouto noticed the tight lines of stress coiled in his friend’s shoulders. He’d been anxious before the meeting, but this was something else, something…heavier. “What happened?” 

 

“Not here.” Midoriya shook his head and kept walking, barely slowing down to open the door. Shouto matched his pace easily and swept concerned eyes over his friend. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but do you mind coming over? I would really rather explain everything in person, but if you have to get home, I understand–”

 

“I told Fuyumi I’d be late getting home. It’s fine,” Shouto promised. There would be consequences if he was home too late, but he’d handle it. If Midoriya needed him, Shouto would take Endeavor’s punishment. He was used to it and helping Midoriya was worth it.

 

Midoriya relaxed a fraction and nodded but otherwise stayed silent. 

 

Something in Midoriya’s posture set Shouto on alert. He was closed off, arms crossed close to his chest instead of loose at his sides, eyes carefully scanning their surroundings instead of on his feet or on Shouto, and his jaw was closed so tightly that Shouto could see the muscle twitch slightly as if he was forcing himself to remain silent. Shouto stayed close and kept a perceptive eye on everything around them; if there was a threat as Midoriya seemed to be worried there might be, Shouto couldn’t see it, but he trusted Midoriya enough to believe one might be present regardless. Midoriya noticed—of course he did—and shifted to stand just a little closer to Shouto as the train took them away from the school.

 

Midoriya gave Shouto a slight nudge when they’d reached their stop, and the two of them disembarked in silence. The absence of Midoriya’s normal muttering or conversation as they entered the sleepy neighborhood was glaring. There was no one around that Shouto could see, but the hypervigilance still did not abate. The boy was so silent for so long that when he did finally speak, Shouto nearly jumped. 

 

“Mom!” Midoriya called as he opened his front door, gesturing quietly to Shouto to enter behind him. “I’m home, and I’ve got Todoroki with me.”

 

A short, plump woman rounded the corner in an instant, and Shouto had to blink a few times to make sure his vision hadn’t somehow been affected. She looked so strikingly like Midoriya, Shouto briefly wondered if the boy wasn’t simply a male clone raised to be her son. 

 

“Good evening, Mrs. Midoriya. Thank you for allowing me into your home on short notice.” Shouto bowed politely.

 

“Oh, Izuku, he’s such a gentleman,” Mrs. Midoriya whispered to her son, smiling. 

 

“Mom…” Midoriya groaned quietly, and Shouto wondered if he’d missed something in the exchange.

 

“It’s wonderful to have you, Todoroki,” said Mrs. Midoriya, welcoming him in, and the two boys followed her into the living room. 

 

Midoriya’s apartment was small, but it felt more like a home than the cold, empty, cavernous rooms in his house. The couch wasn’t something chosen for its aesthetic, but rather for its comfort. The TV was an older model and not very large, but it fit within the space. The walls held pictures of Midoriya and his mother through several years; even a few pictures of what Shouto was surprised to see was a young Bakugou and Midoriya playing together. If Midoriya himself hadn’t still been wound tight as a spring, Shouto probably would have said it was downright cozy.

 

“Todoroki and I are gonna be talking about my quirk, so I’m gonna put some music on. Just in case. Text when dinner’s ready?” Midoriya asked.

 

Surprise covered Mrs. Midoriya’s face for a moment before she nodded. “O-of course. If you’re sure?”

 

“Todoroki’s trustworthy. Don’t worry, Mom.” Midoriya smiled briefly.

 

“Well, alright. I trust you know what you’re doing, Izuku.” 

 

Midoriya waved for Shouto to follow him down the hall and led him to a door that had an All Might nameplate hanging cheerfully from a hook. Midoriya twitched slightly at the piece of decor and hesitated with his hand on the door handle. With a determined sigh, he pushed the door open and let Shouto inside.

 

All Might was everywhere.

 

Shouto had known that Midoriya was a fanboy—he’d even called himself a fanboy—but he still was not prepared for the vast collection that now stared at him from every angle. Posters, artwork, figurines, DVDs, books, bedspread, rug, alarm clock, even the light switch. Everything was All Might themed or emblazoned with the man’s smiling face.

 

Midoriya strode to the desk and pulled out the chair, throwing himself into it before doing something on the computer. Less than half a minute later, music filled the space, and Midoriya put his head in his hands. 

 

Opting to ignore the decor for the moment, Shouto closed the door behind him as he walked into the room. “Midoriya?”

 

The boy pulled his head from his hands and sighed. “You’re free to sit on the bed, or the floor if you’d rather. There’s a lot to go over.”

 

Shouto set his bag down by the door and then sat on the end of the bed closest to the desk. Midoriya turned to face him, and Shouto gave him his full attention. 

 

“All Might told me how One For All was created,” Midoriya began. With the music on, he was almost too quiet to hear, so Shouto leaned closer, eager to hear whatever Midoriya had to say. 

 

Midoriya told him a story of two brothers from the dawn of quirks, the evil that lingered, and the accidental creation of a quirk destined to put an end to the evil once and for all. The idea of a quirk that could steal quirks, a man amassing power for two centuries, was terrifying. How was anyone supposed to fight against that kind of power? Even with One For All, it sounded like an insurmountable task. All Might thought he’d succeeded six years ago, but the villain had survived and was now the brain behind the League of Villains. Which meant it was likely that Midoriya would have to be the one to take the villain down. 

 

It was a lot to take in. It was too much for any one person to be shouldered with, but that was the burden now on Midoriya’s shoulders. Midoriya was adamant All Might had believed All For One to be dead before passing the quirk on, but Shouto didn't care about blame. All that mattered was that Midoriya—his only friend—was in danger. The thought sent a nasty, coiling fear in Shouto’s stomach.

 

"If—when—you fight him," Shouto was never one to fumble over his words once he chose to speak, but the worry for the green-haired boy in front of him was almost overwhelming. "I will fight with you."

 

If Midoriya was being targeted, and it seemed likely he was, then it might be impossible to avoid the so-called fated confrontation, as much as Shouto would prefer otherwise, but he was determined that Midoriya would not be fighting it alone. 

 

"He's the most powerful supervillain to ever exist, with untold numbers of quirks in his arsenal. He could kill you as easily as look at you, and that's if he doesn't steal your quirk first. I can't ask that of you." Midoriya's eyes were conspicuously shiny.

 

Shouto would not lie to himself and claim he wasn't terrified, but there were worse things in life than dying, and he'd risk a lot more to keep Midoriya safe. 

 

In the hospital, Midoriya had made a promise to Iida by offering his scarred fist for the other boy to lightly bump with his own. A show of comradery and support via shared connection. Shouto wanted to express the same now, to let Midoriya know he was with him in more than just words. 

 

Shouto brought his left hand up between them, calling forth a small flame long enough to catch Midoriya’s attention before snuffing it out as he closed his hand into a fist. Holding out his fist as Midoriya had done to Iida, Shouto stated, "You're not asking. I'm with you, Midoriya." 

 

With a shaky smile, Midoriya looked fondly between Shouto and his offered fist before firmly pressing his own—scarred, crooked, unwavering—to Shouto’s. “Thank you,” he whispered. 

 

The contact lasted only a few seconds, but Shouto felt it linger on his skin. A memory or phantom touch that weighed heavy with meaning and promise as it simultaneously lifted something in Shouto’s chest so high that breathing became difficult for a moment. He fought with uncooperative lungs, drawing breath into a chest that was suddenly too small, too full of something else, but thankfully the keen, too-observant, green eyes were too busy looking elsewhere to witness his struggle.

 

Shouto was pleased that Midoriya had accepted his promise, but the task presented before them was daunting. Knowing that Midoriya would accept his help really only settled a small measure of worry in Shouto’s mind. 

 

“Do you think the League knows you have One For All?” Shouto wondered.

 

“It seems likely,” Midoriya sighed. “I don’t know why else they’d target me, but I don’t know how they would have found out either.”

 

Shouto considered it, but there were too many unknowns to form an educated guess. Ultimately though, it didn’t matter. The result was the same. Midoriya was a target of the League for one reason or another. 

 

“If they don’t, you shouldn’t tip them off. It’s safer to continue under the assumption that they don’t know,” Shouto said. Then he sighed. He didn’t like feeling this helpless.

 

“You’re right, though I don’t really know how I’d tip them off short of shouting the name of my quirk when I use it.”

 

“You do use the same moves as All Might,” Shouto pointed out, recalling all the times Midoriya had yelled Smash or some variation before using his quirk. 

 

“Fair point.” Midoriya’s lip twitched slightly on a rueful smile. “I’m sure Mr. Aizawa will try to break me of that habit, now that he’s taking over part of my One For All training.”

 

That was news. “He is?”

 

Midoriya nodded. “He was there at the meeting today; he wasn’t thrilled about the whole All For One thing, to say the least, but he’s going to help how he can.”

 

“That’s good.” Aizawa was one of the few adults that Shouto actually respected, maybe even trusted; the man had earned it after the USJ and helping Midoriya when his quirk had evolved suddenly.

 

“I almost interned with him,” Midoriya admitted quietly. “If Gran Torino hadn’t put in an offer, I would have been with Mr. Aizawa instead and… Iida would probably be…”

 

Dead. If Midoriya had been with Aizawa instead, they wouldn’t have gone to Hosu, Midoriya wouldn’t have been there to save Iida, and Stain would have killed him. Shouto could maybe, tentatively call Iida his friend, but he was definitely one of Midoriya’s friends. Losing Iida would have been devastating for Midoriya, and even the idea of it was causing the boy obvious distress. 

 

“Iida is alive. You saved him,” Shouto reminded him carefully. “Thinking about what might have happened if things had been different is pointless.”

 

“I know.” Midoriya took a deep, shaky breath, and gave Shouto a wobbly smile. “Sorry, I hadn’t really considered that before. It just kinda snuck up on me.”

 

“You don’t have to apologize,” Shouto told him. He’d had a few nightmares about showing up too late, stumbling into the alley only to find Midoriya and Iida already dead. Waking from that nightmare always left Shouto trembling for hours afterward. 

 

Midoriya’s phone buzzed across his desk, drawing both of their attentions. Midoriya looked at the screen before locking it again. “Dinner’s ready.”

 

Shouto waited until Midoriya stood first and then followed him out of the room. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see walking into the small dining area next to the equally small kitchen, but it wasn’t Mrs. Midoriya wearing a frilly white apron setting bowls of cold soba on the table with a warm smile on her face.

 

“I hope you boys are hungry,” she beamed. “Izuku mentioned your favorite was cold soba, so I went ahead and whipped some up for dinner. I hope you like it.”

 

When did Midoriya tell her his food preferences? When did Midoriya know his food preferences?

 

“Thanks, Mom!” Midoriya gave her a hug before sitting down, gesturing to Shouto to take the chair next to him. 

 

Silently, still a little confused, Shouto took the offered seat and the bowl in front of him. To his surprise, Midoriya began to eat before his mother had even sat down. Rather than scold him, yell, or get upset, Mrs. Midoriya smiled indulgently at her son before turning to him.

 

“Go ahead; let me know if it’s any good,” she encouraged.

 

Usually, no one was allowed to eat until Endeavor had taken at least a few bites to confirm the food was acceptable. Shouto wasn’t used to the Midoriya’s dinner etiquette, but he found that he definitely preferred it. 

 

Shouto picked up the chopsticks next to his bowl and took a bite, taking the time to chew and swallow before he risked opening his mouth. “It’s delicious. Thank you, Mrs. Midoriya.”

 

Mrs. Midoriya clapped her hands happily and then finally took her own seat. “I’m glad you like it; I’ve never made cold soba before, but I found a recipe that sounded delightful.”

 

It wasn’t restaurant quality, but it was tasty, and Shouto appreciated that she went through the effort to learn a new recipe just for him. Sitting with Midoriya and his mother as they all ate cold soba at a tiny, somewhat cramped dining table was the most comfortable Shouto had been in a while. 

 

Dinners at Endeavor’s home were silent, but it quickly became apparent that was not the case at Midoriya’s. Mrs. Midoriya waited only long enough to take a few bites of her own dinner before starting a conversation. “Anything interesting happen at school today?”

 

“Foundational Heroics was fun,” Midoriya replied. “We had a race through an industrial center.”

 

“Midoriya won,” Shouto added. “His control over both his quirks has improved greatly since the Sports Festival.”

 

Mrs. Midoriya beamed at both of them, obviously proud of her son. Midoriya smiled as well, though his was reserved and directed at his bowl for some reason. 

 

“Todoroki’s made a lot of progress as well. The whole class has.” 

 

Shouto almost commented on that, but he let it be. There was no need to call out certain students on their failings over a polite dinner. Seeing Midoriya haul Mineta up by his collar and slam the perverted boy into the wall after he’d been even more crass than usual had been surprisingly entertaining, but probably wasn’t something that his mother needed to hear about. 

 

“Actually,” Midoriya continued, “that reminds me. I spoke with All Might and Mr. Aizawa after class about my progress with One For All.”

 

“Oh? I didn’t know you’d told your homeroom teacher as well.” 

 

Midoriya shrugged. “I sorta had to, and I trust him anyway. He wants to give me extra lessons, to help me catch up to the others since they’ve all had their quirks for a decade.”

 

“That’s a good idea,” Mrs. Midoriya agreed. “I thought about getting you back into quirk counseling when you told me about it, but the secrecy… Do you need me to sign something?”

 

“No,” Midoriya shook his head. “I just wanted to let you know. It might involve getting home late occasionally. I don’t really know how he wants to do it yet.”

 

“I doubt it will be entirely straightforward,” Shouto said. “Aizawa isn’t what I would call predictable.”

 

“True,” Midoriya mused. “Plus he’s got another student he’s working with too.”

 

“Really?” Shouto was surprised. Midoriya’s situation was unique, he didn’t think Aizawa would normally take the time out of his schedule to personally train a student.

 

Midoriya nodded excitedly. “Apparently Shinsou impressed him at the Sports Festival. Mr. Aizawa is helping him train to get into the hero course.”

 

“Shinsou… Where do I know that name?” Mrs. Midoriya murmured.

 

Shouto thought the name was familiar as well, but he couldn’t quite place it. 

 

“He was my first match in the Festival.”

 

That was it. Shouto still couldn’t put a face to the name, but at least he knew where he’d heard it before. “I didn’t actually watch that match; I know you won, but I think Present Mic said it was close?”

 

“It was,” Midoriya confirmed. “Shinsou’s quirk is amazing; it’s really a shame he was put in Gen Ed.”

 

“What is his quirk? They never announced it,” Mrs. Midoriya asked. 

 

“He can take control of someone if they respond to one of his questions,” Midoriya explained. “Just think of the possibilities! He could apprehend a villain with a single sentence! Completely diffuse a hostage situation! Or calm a panicking civilian! What if he could use it to interrogate someone? It’s so useful, and he really wants to be a hero. He deserves a shot.”

 

It was definitely powerful, and Midoriya was correct. It had the potential to be incredibly useful. A quirk like that could be used for a lot of less civilized things as well though; they were probably pretty lucky Shinsou wanted to be a hero.

 

“He caught you with it?” Shouto asked.

 

“He did. Ojiro warned me about how it worked, he’d fallen under Shinsou’s control during the cavalry battle, but…” Midoriya shrugged. “I lost my cool. Shinsou goaded me into a response, and then told me to walk out of the ring.”

 

“But you didn’t.”

 

“He stopped at the last second,” Mrs. Midoriya said. “It was so close.”

 

“I broke his control. It wasn’t easy, and I don’t think I’d have been able to do it without One For All. He definitely made it sound like no one had ever done it before.”

 

Powerful indeed, but Midoriya didn’t seem to hold any ill will toward the other boy after his stint under his thrall. 

 

“Is that going to be a problem?” Mrs. Midoriya asked. “A power like that… I know you said he wants to be a hero, but–”

 

“No, Mom. Shinsou’s a good person. He might be curious how I broke his control, but he wouldn’t use his quirk like that.”

 

Shouto knew Midoriya was very trusting, not to mention forgiving when it came to slights and harsh treatment directed towards himself, but he’d also proven to be unwilling to put up with reprehensible behavior directed toward others. If Midoriya thought Shinsou deserved to be a hero, then Shouto would reserve judgment until he could see for himself, but he would not allow Midoriya’s trust to be abused. 

 

He had promised to watch out for him, after all.

Chapter Text

Izuku was looking forward to his first training session with Mr. Aizawa. He didn’t know what to expect, so he tried not to speculate too much, but it was difficult to keep his mind from guessing all day. When the bell finally rang calling the school day to a close, Izuku bade his friends a cheerful farewell and raced off to the gym Mr. Aizawa had directed him to meet. 

 

After changing into his gym clothes, Izuku jogged into the gym, eager to begin. To his surprise, Shinsou was already there, stretching on the sparring mat. When his lavender eyes spotted Izuku, he froze, apprehensive. 

 

“Hi, Shinsou!” Izuku waved. He was pleased to see the other boy. After their fight at the Sports Festival, Izuku had wanted to get to know him more, hopefully become friends. His story was a lot like Izuku’s, bullied and judged for his quirk, desperate to be a hero despite the constant doubt and derision. Izuku wanted to show him that there were people out there that believed he could do it. 

 

He knew how much that could mean.

 

“Midoriya,” Shinsou slowly straightened up from his stretch, eyes never leaving Izuku. “This space is reserved.”

 

“I asked Midoriya to join us.” Mr. Aizawa arrived, form practically coalescing from the shadows. Izuku held his tongue, but he really wanted to know how he’d done that.

 

Shinsou’s expression was fairly blank, but Izuku had gotten pretty good at reading small signs from Todoroki and Mr. Aizawa. The other boy was less than thrilled at Mr. Aizawa’s announcement. 

 

“Working together offers the two of you the opportunity to train vitally important skills in a way that would be harder working individually,” Mr. Aizawa stated, giving Shinsou a look. 

 

The other boy’s shoulders dropped slightly and he nodded in reluctant acquiescence, getting to his feet. “You have to know why I’m here, Midoriya. You really okay with me joining your class? Even if that means someone else has to leave?”

Izuku thought briefly of his recent confrontation with Mineta and nodded decisively. “Absolutely.”

 

That seemed to surprise Shinsou, and he gave Izuku another once over. “You got a grudge or something? That Todoroki kid that kicked you out of the Festival?”

 

Izuku shook his head, horrified at the idea. “No! Of course not! Todoroki is a good person and is going to be a great hero.”

 

“Enough.” Mr. Aizawa cut off whatever Shinsou was about to say next.

 

“Yes, Mr. Aizawa,” Izuku and Shinsou said, snapping to attention.

 

“Before we begin, Midoriya,” Mr. Aizawa pinned Izuku with a serious expression, “until Shinsou’s transfer into the hero course is approved, you aren’t to discuss these training sessions with anyone in your class or anywhere they might overhear. Understood?”

 

Izuku immediately felt cold shame freeze his chest. He hadn’t even thought about it, but it made sense that it would be a secret. As Shinsou had told them before the Sports Festival, in order to move up to the hero course, someone else would have to be moved out. It could cause resentment or other issues among his classmates if they knew that Mr. Aizawa was actively training someone to replace one of them.

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Aizawa, Shinsou; I should have realized it would be a secret.” Izuku bowed low, keeping his eyes downcast as he confessed, “I told Todoroki about training with you to get a better handle on my quirk, and that Shinsou would be training to join the hero course. He wouldn’t have told anyone else, but I can tell him not to. Or… I understand i-if you’ve ch-changed your mind–”

 

“Midoriya,” Mr. Aizawa interrupted. “You’re not a mind reader, I should have expressed the need for discretion when I offered to have you join us. As it is, I shouldn’t be surprised you’ve told Todoroki.”

 

Izuku risked a glance to see his teacher regarding him. He didn’t look mad or disappointed, just resigned. Cautiously, Izuku straightened up. “I really don’t think he’ll tell anyone, but I’ll text him to be sure.”

 

“Better safe than sorry. Please make sure he knows not to spread the information around.” 

 

“No grudge then, I take it,” Shinsou grumbled. “You two beat the crap out of each other and suddenly you’re BFFs. That how you hero course kids make friends?”

 

Izuku grinned, unable to refute Shinsou’s frank assessment, as he shot a quick text to Todoroki. “Seemed to work.”

 

“Unbelievable.” Shinsou rolled his eyes. 

 

It was only a few moments before Todoroki replied that he wouldn’t tell anyone, and Izuku held up his phone to show both Shinsou and Mr. Aizawa that he’d received confirmation. Satisfied, his teacher nodded his head, and Izuku put his phone back in his pocket. 

 

“For today, the two of you are going to spar. Get your opponent to yield or go out of bounds, try not to render the other unconscious. Shinsou, keep what you’ve learned so far in mind, and watch Midoriya for openings to take advantage of. Midoriya, I’ll be testing your situational awareness, so keep your eyes open.”

 

Izuku caught what Mr. Aizawa couldn’t outright say and activated 360 Veil as he moved to the sparring mat. 

 

“Can I brainwash him?” Shinsou asked.

 

Mr. Aizawa looked to Izuku, eyebrow raised in question. 

 

Izuku smiled. “He can try.”

 

Shinsou grinned, eerily similar to Mr. Aizawa’s own disconcerting smile. “Which would you prefer? I’m a little teapot or the funky chicken? I feel like I deserve a little entertainment.”

 

Shinsou had crossed into the bounds of the sparring mat as he asked his question, so Izuku carefully kept his mouth shut. He’d also completely lost track of where Mr. Aizawa had gone, unable to see him anywhere in his extended field of vision. 

 

Facing Shinsou on the mat, Izuku dropped into a ready stance. The other boy copied him, apparently unconcerned that his opening gambit had failed. 

 

“So,” Shinsou started as he rushed forward to attack, “if it’s not Todoroki, who are you looking to boot from your class?”

 

Izuku dodged under his swing and sent a jab at his side in retaliation. Shinsou took the hit with a grunt, but didn’t back off or go down, coming back with an elbow at Izuku’s jaw. Izuku caught the offending joint before it could connect and pushed Shinsou back. Off balance, the boy took a few rapid steps back before catching himself.

 

“Come on, Midoriya, you have to have someone in mind; you answered just a little too quickly before. Shall we go through the roster?”

 

Movement from behind, just a quick shift of light, but Izuku caught it. He kept a closer watch on that area as he blocked Shinsou’s next attack. It was hard to focus on it while keeping up with Shinsou’s assault, though.

 

“How about Uraraka? She was on your cavalry team, and then she wiped out in her first fight. Was she just coasting on your success to get into the finals?”

 

Izuku clenched his teeth. He didn’t particularly want to listen to Shinsou’s inflammatory commentary on his classmates, but he also knew that was just how Shinsou fought. He had to get a response in order to utilize his quirk, and invoking outrage was an easy method and had already proven effective on Izuku in the past.

 

“Speaking of being handed victory,” Shinsou spat as he feinted left and then landed a hit to Izuku’s diaphragm with his right knee, temporarily knocking the breath from Izuku’s lungs. “Iida didn’t exactly make a good showing in that first round either. He’s from a hero family, right? Think they’re proud of his ten-minute stint as an infomercial?”

 

Shinsou had gotten close—careless—while Izuku fought for air, so he wasn’t ready for Izuku’s solid punch to his jaw. Despite knowing that Shinsou was just looking for a reaction, that he probably didn’t mean what he was saying, the remark about Iida’s family crossed a line. It took all of Izuku’s willpower to keep silent. 

 

Before he could follow up his punch with another, Mr. Aizawa finally struck, slinging his capture weapon out from directly behind Izuku. He only just noticed in time and sidestepped out of the way, but it allowed Shinsou time to recoup and come back swinging.

 

“No, you’re right. That was insensitive. Forgive me?” Shinsou managed to get Izuku in an arm lock while he was recovering from his distraction, but the hold was inexperienced and sloppy. Izuku pulled free and threw Shinsou over his hip.

 

The brainwasher didn’t land out of bounds and was surprisingly quick to get back on his feet. Izuku suspected he’d practiced that a lot recently. 

 

Shinsou chuckled as he stood up. “Take that as a no. So, if it’s not Todoroki, Uraraka, or Iida… maybe someone who didn’t make the final round? Or should I look closer to the top? Looking to remove the competition, Midoriya?” The lavender-haired teen popped his neck before dropping back into a defensive stance. His eyes darkened and his previously casual expression morphed into something threatening. “You one of those people who thought putting a muzzle on a high schooler was a good idea?”

 

Kacchan’s treatment during the award ceremony was still an unpleasant but vivid reminder of how even an institution Izuku admired like UA made mistakes. Izuku’s stomach churned every time he thought about it. The accusation that Izuku would approve of his childhood friend being chained and muzzled stung, but he took solace in the knowledge that Shinsou evidently found the whole thing as disgusting as he did.

 

Ruminating on the awards ceremony was a bad idea. He’d gotten a little lost in his head and missed as Mr. Aizawa moved somewhere behind him until the capture weapon was already around his ankle. He got a fraction of a second of resignation before his leg was pulled out from under him. The capture weapon released him right away, and Izuku was able to recover quickly by falling into a forward handspring, taking him closer to Shinsou in the process.

 

Rather than let Shinsou continue to set the pace, Izuku went on the offensive and launched himself at the other teen. Izuku was a little impressed when Shinsou managed to block or deflect most of his attacks—he’d definitely improved since the Sports Festival—but he managed to hook his foot behind Shinsou’s and shove him off balance, following him to the mat to get him in a chokehold. 

 

Unfortunately, doing so meant he lost sight of most of what was behind him. Mr. Aizawa’s capture weapon snapped around his waist and hauled him up and off of Shinsou, depositing him on the other side of the sparring ring. 

 

Shinsou was on him in the next breath, putting Izuku in the same chokehold he’d attempted moments before. This time, the hold was more secure, and Izuku wasn’t able to easily break free.

 

“You’re heavier than you look,” Shinsou grunted, struggling to keep Izuku in the hold. “Having a strength augmenting quirk wasn’t enough? You had to be built like a brick shithouse too?”

 

Izuku caught sight of Mr. Aizawa to his right, readying his capture weapon again, and rolled out of the way. Shinsou still had him in his hold, so he went with Izuku as he dodged. Izuku’s sudden weight slamming him into the mat was enough to loosen Shinsou’s grip, and Izuku pushed himself back onto his feet while Shinsou wheezed slightly from the impact. 

 

While Izuku would normally be inclined to let his opponent catch their breath in a practice spar like this, he was getting tired of Shinsou’s taunts. It was a good strategy, Izuku could and would recognize that, but keeping quiet was costing him more mental focus than he could afford to maintain. He decided to end it instead. 

 

Shinsou grunted in surprise when Izuku grabbed him by the collar, and his hands flew to Izuku’s wrists in an effort to force him to release his hold, but Izuku refused to let go. Instead, he hauled Shinsou up—he weighed quite a bit more than Mineta, but nowhere near Izuku’s limit—and threw him over the boundary line. 

 

Mr. Aizawa strolled over to Shinsou and offered him a hand up. “Not bad. You hesitate to press your advantage while you’re waiting for your target to respond. Don’t.”

 

“Right, I’ll work on that.” Shinsou rubbed his shoulder, rolling it slowly to ease the ache from landing on it. 

 

“Midoriya, you lose focus when your emotions get the better of you. No matter what your opponent says, you need to pay attention to your surroundings,” his teacher criticized bluntly. 

 

Izuku nodded. “Understood, sir.”

 

“Grab some water and we’ll move on.” 

 

Izuku and Shinsou complied silently, fetching their water bottles. It offered Izuku a moment to talk to Shinsou, which he took gratefully. 

 

“No,” Izuku stated quietly. At Shinsou’s look of confusion, he elaborated. “I don’t agree with what they did. No one deserves what they did to him.”

 

Shinsou’s shoulders dropped a fraction and he looked down at his water bottle rather than at Izuku. “You would be in the minority, then.”

 

“I think there’s more of us than you think. I know all of 1-A was appalled, and Mr. Aizawa too. Kirishima said it was some suits’ decision—he was there when Kacchan woke up—but he didn’t recognize them.”

 

“Probably school board or hero commission,” Shinsou guessed.

 

It had been pretty obvious how Shinsou felt about what happened to Kacchan, but Izuku was curious about the rest of it. He wanted to know, and Shinsou was responding, so he took a chance. “Did you mean it? What you said about Uraraka and Iida?” 

 

“No,” Shinsou admitted. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry for what I said, particularly about Iida.”

 

“You’re forgiven.” Izuku smiled. “I know you have to get a response, so I figured—or hoped, I guess—that you didn’t actually mean any of it.”

 

“Oh, I meant some of it,” Shinsou smirked. “You really are heavy as hell.”

 

Izuku laughed and shrugged apologetically. 

 

“When you’re both ready,” Mr. Aizawa called. Obediently, Izuku and Shinsou made their way back to their teacher. Izuku noticed that Mr. Aizawa had another capture weapon in his hands like the one around his neck, and he gave it to Shinsou as the boy approached. “You’re reliably hitting a stationary target; time to try a moving one.”

 

Izuku was jealous. Mr. Aizawa’s capture weapon was so cool! Shinsou was apparently more than just a hero course hopeful—he was Mr. Aizawa’s protégé. Izuku was happy for the other boy, but he would love to give the iconic support item a try himself.

 

“Midoriya, use Full Cowling to avoid getting caught; let’s see how long you can keep it going and stay free.” 

 

The next half hour found Izuku zipping around the gym as Shinsou and Mr. Aizawa tried to snag him with their capture weapons. It was more fun than Izuku expected it to be, even though he was caught more often than he would have liked—mostly by Mr. Aizawa, but Shinsou did get him once—and he was pleased that he didn’t have to drop his hold on Full Cowling at all. It was tiring though, and he was on his back, panting when Mr. Aizawa finally called a stop.

 

“That’s enough for today,” Mr. Aizawa announced, annoyingly calm and not at all out of breath. “Cool down stretches and then go home.”

 

With a groan, Izuku dragged himself up off the ground and began to stretch as instructed. Shinsou handed his capture weapon over to Mr. Aizawa as the man left before joining Izuku. 

 

“Over your bone-breaking phase, I see,” Shinsou remarked. 

 

“Thankfully.”

 

“Mr. Aizawa said you needed help with your quirk, more than you would get just from class, but you seem to be doing just fine to me,” Guarded violet eyes assessed him coolly as they stretched. “So why are you really here?”

 

Izuku chewed his lip as he thought about what to say. He liked Shinsou, thought he had the potential to be an amazing hero, but he didn’t know him. He couldn’t tell him the truth. Staying silent wasn’t an option either though.

 

“It’s complicated.” Izuku forced his breathing to stay steady as he fought his nerves. He didn’t know how much he could safely tell Shinsou, but just as important was to not hold too much back either. If he ever wanted Shinsou to trust him, to be friends, he had to tell him something. 

 

“Complicated.” Shinsou scoffed. “Just another way to say mind my own business.”

 

“No, Shinsou,” Izuku nearly reached for the other boy but decided that would probably be a bad idea. “It really is complicated, but I want to tell you. You deserve to know why I co-opted your training with Mr. Aizawa.”

 

“So tell me.”

 

Sighing, Izuku let go of his stretch and faced the taller boy. “Can you keep a secret?”

 

“Of the two of us, I think I have the better track record on that front.”

 

Izuku winced. “Okay, I deserved that. I’m sorry, again, for telling Todoroki. I just–”

 

“I don’t care, Midoriya.” Shinsou rolled his eyes. “I told your whole class that I was coming for their spot in the hero course already. It’s their own fault if they can’t keep their seat, and I don’t care what they think of me. I’m not here to make friends.”

 

Izuku smiled, reminded of Todoroki’s similar declaration. It hadn’t lasted long. He schooled his features quickly, returning his attention to Shinsou. “Regardless, I still shouldn’t have.”

 

“Whatever.” Shinsou dismissed his apology. “So what’s this secret?”

 

“The strength augmentation isn’t my only quirk,” Izuku said. 

 

Shinsou crossed his arms over his chest. “So the golden boy has two heroic quirks. Of course he does.”

 

Izuku frowned and shook his head. “My first quirk wasn’t really suited to heroics—wasn’t really suited to anything other than causing insomnia—but I still wanted to be a hero. So. My last year of middle school I started training. I figured I couldn’t use my quirk to be a hero, but if I got strong enough, it wouldn’t matter.” It was technically true, though the blatant lie of omission tasted bitter on his tongue. “The strength augmentation is…new. I didn’t know I had it until pretty recently.”

 

“How recently?” 

 

“The Entrance Exam.” Izuku shrugged haplessly. “Caught me a bit off guard.”

 

“No shit.” Shinsou ran his hand over his face. “So you’ve only had a few months with your strength quirk.”

 

“When I finally told Mr. Aizawa, he insisted on extra training for both quirks, so here I am.”

 

“What’s the other quirk?”

 

“I can see with my eyes closed, or– well…” Izuku rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. “I thought that’s what it was. It’s more that I can see through things that are in direct contact, like my eyelids, and walls if I press my face up against them, and…” Izuku hesitated, but he’d already gone this far, so he took a breath and continued, “and more recently, I can see through my whole head, I guess. Full 360 view. It takes some getting used to.”

 

Shinsou just stared at him.

 

“Please don’t tell anyone?” 

 

“Yeah, sure,” he agreed quietly, finally looking away. “Hey… Thanks. For telling me.”

 

“For what it’s worth,” Izuku smiled softly, “I really do hope you join 1-A. You’re going to make a great hero.”

 

Shinsou stared at him again before shaking his head and turning to leave. He tossed, “Later, Midoriya,” over his shoulder as he left, but Izuku felt good—hopeful. The antagonism he’d carried at the Sports Festival and at the beginning of their training was gone. It was progress.

Chapter Text

Training with Mr. Aizawa and Shinsou became routine. Three days a week, after classes were over, Izuku would make his way over to whichever gym Mr. Aizawa had reserved that day and spend an hour training. Sparring with Shinsou while dodging Mr. Aizawa’s capture weapon and Shinsou’s quirk was common, other times it would be Izuku and Shinsou against Mr. Aizawa; they always included a cat-and-mouse game to help Shinsou train with the capture weapon and Izuku train with 360 Veil and Full Cowling. 

 

After the first week of this, Mr. Aizawa added something new. 

 

“I’d like the two of you to try something for the next couple of weeks,” Mr. Aizawa announced as Shinsou and Izuku went through their cool-down stretches. “Shinsou, I want you to practice stealth training during the day. When you’re at UA and not in class, I want you to find Midoriya, tail him, but don’t let him catch you. Midoriya, you need to work on your situational awareness while distracted. Keep an eye out for Shinsou as you go about your day; make eye contact if you spot him. Shinsou, if Midoriya catches you, back off and try again later. See how long you can tail him without getting caught.”

 

The two of them regarded each other warily. Izuku was up for it, thought it was a clever idea, but he was nervous about how successful he’d be. Even with 360 Veil, spotting someone in a crowd could be difficult. At least Shinsou was tall. Spotting his lavender hair above the masses might not be too hard. 

 

Monday morning, Izuku practiced a few breathing exercises as he made his way to homeroom. Keeping 360 Veil active in a crowd was chaotic, to say the least. He’d arrived at UA a little earlier than normal to give Shinsou an opportunity to find him without making himself late to 1-C’s homeroom, but the mass of bodies in the hallway was a lot more densely packed than Izuku was used to seeing minutes before the bell. 

 

“Midoriya! Good morning!” Iida’s voice nearly made Izuku jump. He’d completely missed his own friend’s boisterous presence in the crowd, how was he supposed to spot Shinsou?

 

“Good morning, Iida,” Izuku smiled. “Have a good weekend?”

 

“I did, thank you. I trust your own was pleasant?” Iida fell in step with Izuku as they made their way to homeroom. 

 

“No complaints,” Izuku agreed. Keeping Iida at his side was a relief. His taller, broad frame managed to block a decent portion of Izuku’s vision, and it helped him relax. Though, of course, it meant Shinsou could more easily sneak up on him if he realized Izuku’s disadvantage. 

 

“You’re here rather early; I don’t normally see you until just before morning bell,” Iida observed, cutting through Izuku’s musings.

 

Izuku fought his natural reaction to duck his head, unwilling to lose focus on what he could still see. Instead, he shrugged. “Midterms are coming. I thought I’d get a little more studying done before homeroom.”

 

“An excellent idea!” Iida agreed, characteristic hand gestures emphasizing his statement further. “It’s important for a hero student to take their academics seriously.”

 

Izuku made a quiet noise of agreement, but Iida didn’t need a verbal response to shoot Izuku a proud look. Sometimes the seriousness with which Iida took school was a little much, but Izuku respected him for his determination to always do his best in every aspect of his life. Besides, it wasn’t like Izuku was a slouch academically either. Midterms were on a fast-approaching horizon, and Izuku fully intended to study as soon as he got to homeroom, just as he’d said.

 

They reached the door for 1-A without Izuku spotting Shinsou. Whether that was because the boy hadn’t followed him that morning or because Izuku failed to spot him, he didn’t know. Deciding not to worry about it, Izuku turned 360 Veil off as he sat at his desk and pulled out his notes to start studying. 

 

The teachers also seemed to be in the mindset of midterms. Study guides and revision schedules were floated as heavily weighted suggestions that had half the class frantic. Izuku wasn’t too worried, but he’d always been diligent in his studies. The same could not be said for Uraraka, apparently, and his friend bemoaned the possibility of failure on their way to lunch. 

 

Izuku was flanked by Iida and Todoroki as Uraraka walked backward in front of them on the way to the cafeteria. Once again, Izuku had 360 Veil up, but now with three blocked avenues of approach, he worried that he would miss Shinsou’s presence. Well. Mr. Aizawa said he needed to work on his awareness even while distracted. 

 

“Which subjects are you the most worried about?” Izuku asked, trying to keep up with Uraraka’s conversation while keeping an eye out for Shinsou.

 

“My English isn’t the best,” Uraraka confessed grumpily. “And history. And law and ethics.”

 

Izuku chuckled quietly. “So just the courses that involve a lot of reading.”

 

“It’s so boring!” Uraraka complained, throwing her hands in the air. 

 

“I’m fluent in English,” Todoroki stated. “I could help you study.”

 

“Me too!” Izuku added.

 

“Really?” Uraraka looked touched and reached out and grabbed Izuku’s and Todoroki’s wrists in a four-finger grip. “You’d do that?”

 

Todoroki looked surprised at the contact but didn’t pull away. Izuku nodded in response to Uraraka’s question. “Teaching someone is the best way to solidify concepts for yourself.”

 

“That’s true,” Iida mused. “In that case, it would be my pleasure to assist you with laws and ethics, Uraraka.”

 

With a delighted cheer, Uraraka released Izuku and Todoroki and bounced over to Iida. “Thank you, thank you!”

 

They made it to the line for lunch without Izuku catching sight of Shinsou, but he started to feel as though he was being watched somehow anyway. Curious, he tuned Uraraka and Iida out and tried to really focus on everyone around him. The cafeteria was crowded, which made it harder, but Izuku finally caught sight of a head of purple hair standing nonchalantly by one of the far tables.  

 

Izuku turned his head and caught Shinsou’s eye from across the room, and the other boy saluted him sarcastically before sliding down into his chair, unconcerned. Mission accomplished, Izuku turned his attention back to his friends and his lunch.

 

Iida and Uraraka were discussing days to meet up for their study session, so Izuku offered his own input. He wouldn’t be able to meet any of the days that he had training after school with Mr. Aizawa, but without being able to tell them why he felt a little bad. Thankfully, they didn’t ask for specifics, just took him at his word that he had other obligations and came up with another day that fit in his schedule.

 

It was nice to have friends.

 

To his surprise, Todoroki met Izuku at the gates the next day. 

 

“Hey, Todoroki.” Izuku waved, happy to see his friend despite his surprise. “Were you...waiting for me?’

 

“Iida mentioned you came to school early yesterday to study,” Todoroki said as he fell into step with Izuku. 

 

“So you decided to join me?”

 

“Was that wrong?” Todoroki asked nervously. “I could leave–”

 

“No!” Izuku hurried to assuage Todoroki’s concern. “It’s completely fine—great even! I just wasn’t expecting it.”

 

“Okay.” Todoroki relaxed.

 

As much as he’d like to give Todoroki his full focus, Izuku turned 360 Veil on and started keeping an eye out for Shinsou. Yesterday he hadn’t seen Shinsou until lunch, and even that seemed to have been deliberate on Shinsou’s part. He certainly hadn’t been subtle and didn’t look upset at being caught. Izuku worried that meant he’d been successfully tailing him for a while and had finally thrown him a bone. He was determined to do better today.

 

“Are you worried about midterms?”

 

Izuku thought about it for a moment but shook his head. “Not particularly. If I take my time in math, I should be able to avoid making mistakes, but I understand the material well enough. How about you?”

 

“I’m prepared as well,” Todoroki said. A small wrinkling between his brows appeared before he voiced his thoughts. “I’ve never studied in a group before. Offering to help Uraraka was...impulsive. I’m not sure why I did it.”

 

“She’s your friend. You wanted to help her out.” Izuku smiled. 

 

“Is she?” Todoroki seemed surprised but quickly schooled his features again. “I didn’t realize.”

 

“You’ve been sitting with us at lunch since the Sports Festival,” Izuku pointed out.

 

“I’ve been sitting with you,” Todoroki stated, and Izuku felt heat rush to his cheeks. Ignoring his blush—or maybe it wasn’t so bad and he didn’t notice?—Todoroki continued, “I thought they tolerated my presence for your sake.”

 

“They don’t just tolerate you, Todoroki. They like you for you,” Izuku corrected gently. He tried not to frown as he asked, “Do you only tolerate them for my sake?”

 

“No,” Todoroki replied. “I believe I also enjoy their company. Not as much as I enjoy yours, though. Is that normal? Am I still their friend if I prefer your company over theirs?”

 

Izuku was definitely blushing now. He forced his voice to stay steady as he answered Todoroki’s question. “It’s okay to be closer to some of your friends than others. It means you consider me your best friend, whereas you’re just friends with Iida and Uraraka.”

 

“I see,” Todoroki mused. “Thank you for clarifying that for me.”

 

“No problem!”

 

“Do you mind if I ask you another question?” 

 

“Go for it.”

 

“Why are you using 360 Veil?” Todoroki’s question made Izuku stop in surprise and the other teen moved to stand in front of him, mismatched eyes curious as he waited for Izuku to say something.

 

“H-how did you know I had it on?” Izuku asked.

 

“I wasn’t sure until you confirmed it just now, but you haven’t looked at me as we’ve been talking. I noticed you had the same problem when your quirk first manifested this aspect. You forget you aren’t facing whoever you’re talking to.”

 

Gods, Todoroki was observant, and Izuku was an idiot. Of course he was right. Izuku hadn’t turned his head that whole conversation. He must have looked like a moron. 

 

“I’m so sorry,” Izuku apologized. He lowered his voice as he explained. “It’s part of the training I’m doing with Mr. Aizawa and Shinsou. I’m supposed to improve my situational awareness while I’m distracted, to see if I can spot Shinsou as he tries to tail me on campus. Now I think I need to do it just to practice facing whoever I’m talking to.”

 

“Would you like me to remind you if I think you’re forgetting?” Todoroki offered.

 

“Yes, please.” Izuku nodded gratefully.

 

They resumed their trek to homeroom and Izuku made sure to face Todoroki and Iida when he joined them. Once again, Izuku arrived at the door to 1-A without seeing Shinsou. He’d have to ask him how long he managed to remain unseen at training after class.

 

The walk to the cafeteria was much like the day before, flanked on either side by Iida and Todoroki while Uraraka walked ahead, and Izuku lamented the reduced visibility. He knew this was all part of the training, to be able to keep a keen awareness of his surroundings even when distracted, but it was frustrating.

 

“Uh, Midoriya,” Uraraka squinted her eyes and practically leaned into Iida’s space as she peered over his shoulder, “I think that gen ed kid—Shinsou?—is following us. And glaring? But that could just be his face.”

 

“Again?” Iida frowned. “I noticed him yesterday, but since he didn’t approach I let it go.”

 

Izuku slowed his steps until he could see the area Iida had previously been blocking. Indeed, Shinsou was there. Izuku turned and caught his eye with a wave. Shinsou just rolled his eyes and slipped away, melding into the flow of foot traffic heading toward the cafeteria. 

 

“It’s fine,” Izuku promised, turning back to his friends. “You might see him again, but don’t let it bother you. It’s really okay.”

 

“Why’s he following you though?” Uraraka asked.

 

Izuku floundered for an excuse that wouldn’t reveal that they were training together, “O-oh, uh, well–” 

 

“Midoriya invited him to sit with us,” Todoroki lied smoothly. “I think he’s cautious about hero students, though. He might expect more of us to be like Bakugou.”

 

“Well, that’s silly!” Uraraka pouted. “He should just come sit with us and see for himself.”

 

“I agree,” Iida said. “Besides, it isn’t polite to follow someone.”

 

Izuku shrugged with a smile. “I understand his caution. He hasn’t had the best experience with people in the past judging him for his quirk.”

 

“Oh, right,” Uraraka tapped her chin with a finger as she thought. “It’s kinda creepy when you first think about it, but it does sound super useful, too. Not that I think he’d use it on us or anything!”

 

“He wants to be a hero, does he not? I do not believe we would have any reason to be concerned about him using his quirk,” Iida declared. 

 

“So…if I were to get him to agree, you guys would be okay with him sitting with us?” Izuku asked hopefully.

 

“You bet!” Uraraka smiled. “It’s always nice to make new friends.”

 

Iida nodded. “I think it would be good for Shinsou to see that not all of us are as ill-tempered as Bakugou.”

 

Izuku let out a relieved sigh and shot Todoroki a quiet, “Thank you,” for covering for him. If it ended with Shinsou sharing their lunch table, even better. 

 

After class, Izuku found himself walking with Shinsou the last few meters to the gym. The lavender-haired boy didn’t say anything as he fell into silent step with Izuku, so Izuku didn’t either. He opened the door for Shinsou and followed the boy inside.

 

“Midoriya cheated,” Shinsou drawled as soon as he caught sight of Mr. Aizawa. 

 

“W-what? No, I didn’t!” Izuku protested, surprised by the sudden accusation. 

 

“His friends saw me, pointed me out.” 

 

“Do you expect every target you track will always be alone?” Mr. Aizawa asked. “Stealth takes all possible avenues of discovery into account, Shinsou.”

 

Shinsou stuffed his hands in his pockets and frowned down at the floor, clearly less than pleased by his teacher’s unsympathetic response.

 

“And Midoriya,” Mr. Aizawa added. “Utilizing assistance is a good thing, but the goal of the training was to increase your situational awareness. Try to catch him on your own next time.”

 

“Yes, sir.” Nervously, Izuku looked at Shinsou. “How long were you following me? I only saw you at lunch yesterday, and I think you did that on purpose.”

 

“Yesterday, almost as soon as you left the classroom for lunch. Today, as soon as you got inside this morning. Your friends caught me after a few minutes of me following you during lunch.”

 

“Not bad,” Mr. Aizawa assessed blandly. “Keep it up, both of you.”

 

They started training as usual after a few warm-ups with Shinsou and Izuku teaming up to take on Mr. Aizawa. Izuku liked this setup because it meant he could use Full Cowling. He trusted Mr. Aizawa was able to take a hit at 5% One For All better than Shinsou could, and by constantly having his quirk erased, he practiced being able to call up the power more quickly until it was almost as easy as breathing. 

 

Izuku and Shinsou had yet to successfully take Mr. Aizawa down during any of their team spars, and today was no different. He felt like they were getting closer though, and he definitely learned something every time so he wasn’t going to complain. 

 

After sparring, they moved on to capture weapon training. Shinsou was getting better, but improvement was slow. Shinsou got frustrated on occasion, and he really didn’t like it the one and only time Izuku let himself get caught, but no matter how many times he missed, he still kept trying. He was easily as determined as anyone in Izuku’s class.

 

At the end of the session, Izuku caught Shinsou before the other boy could leave. “You should eat lunch with us.”

 

“What?” Shinsou looked at him as if he’d spouted complete gibberish.

 

“Lunch. You should sit with me and Todoroki, Uraraka, and Iida,” Izuku said again. “You don’t have to, obviously, but I wanted to offer. When Uraraka caught you following me, she wanted to know why. I couldn’t tell her about training, but I couldn’t think of another reason. Todoroki said it was because I’d asked you to sit with us at lunch, but you didn’t know us, so you were hesitant. It was a good cover, but it made me realize that I would actually like it if you sat with us. The others are good with it too, so you don’t need to be worried about imposing or anything.”

 

“I told you, I’m not here to make friends. As much as you don’t like it, any one of your buddies could be on the chopping block if I make it into the hero course.”

 

When you make it into the hero course,” Izuku corrected.

 

Shinsou sighed and shot him an exasperated look. “How well do you think that’ll go if I take one of their seats after sitting with you?”

 

“The hero course is by nature competitive. Even within the class, we’re always competing for the top spots, but just because we’re competing doesn’t mean we can’t also be friends. If you do take one of their seats it’ll be because you earned it, and they’ll respect that,” Izuku said earnestly.

 

“You really believe that?”

 

“I do,” Izuku replied. 

 

Shinsou stared at him. Izuku was sure he was debating the pros and cons of trusting Izuku at his word. He’d done it in middle school whenever a supposed olive branch had been offered; for Izuku, those olive branches had always inevitably been traps, but he was genuine with Shinsou. He hoped the other teen was able to recognize that.

 

“I’ll think about it,” Shinsou settled on eventually. 

 

Izuku shot him two thumbs up and a smile which had Shinsou rolling his eyes and wandering off, his customary, “Later, Midoriya,” and wave just as dry as ever. 

 

A subtle shift in air pressure over his shoulder had Izuku turning 360 Veil on to check who was there—Mr. Aizawa—before turning it back off. 

 

“You think he’ll accept?” Izuku asked, absolutely sure Mr. Aizawa was aware of their conversation.

 

“Eventually,” his teacher agreed. “Don’t give up on him.”

 

“I won’t,” Izuku promised.

 

Mr. Aizawa’s hand landed on Izuku’s head and ruffled his hair briefly before his teacher gave him a gentle push toward the door. “Go home.”

 

The train ride home was quiet and mostly empty given the hour. Izuku watched the city zip by in silence as his mind drifted in the dark. Somewhere out there, forces of evil more powerful than Izuku could comprehend were gathering, planning, waiting… A storm of apocalyptic proportions lingered behind the calm night. Izuku couldn’t fight a storm, couldn’t harness the power necessary to change the weather with a single punch. Sometimes the fear swept him up in a tide so sudden and so strong that he worried he’d never claw his way back to the surface, never take a proper breath again.

 

His phone chimed, loud in the hush, startling him. 

 

It chimed a second time before Izuku could fish it out of his pocket. Uraraka was asking for help with homework in the group chat. Izuku hadn’t started on it yet because of training, but Todoroki had responded. As Izuku watched, Uraraka and Todoroki were eventually joined by Iida as well, and the three of them discussed the homework until Uraraka felt like she understood it and thanked them with an emoji. The conversation devolved from there as it was Todoroki and Iida’s turn to profess confusion, and Uraraka schooled them in emoji etiquette. The whole thing had Izuku stifling his laughter into his sleeve in an effort to keep from disturbing the few passengers sharing the train car as tears streamed down his face. 

 

Stepping off the train at his stop, Izuku took a moment to catch his breath and let his friends’ conversation carry him all the way home.

 

Despite the lingering threat of All For One and the League, school—and life in general—settled into a steady normality that Izuku hadn’t expected after the eventful start to the semester. Before he knew it, midterms had come and gone, and the students’ academic standing was officially declared. Izuku was pleased with fourth, but he suspected Uraraka was less happy about tenth. She told them at lunch that the extra studying had definitely helped, but a week of cramming wasn’t going to completely make up for a couple months of poor study habits. 

 

Their regular table at lunch expanded as Tsu joined them, but Shinsou still stayed on the fringes. Whenever Izuku caught him in the cafeteria, he’d gesture to a seat, but the other boy would just shake his head and slip away. It was discouraging, but Izuku wouldn’t give up and made sure to always leave an empty seat at their table in case he changed his mind.

 

Training with Mr. Aizawa and Shinsou was going well; Shinsou was getting better with the capture weapon, forcing Izuku to get faster to stay free. He pushed One For All as far as he could without injuring himself, still wary of what would happen if he needed to see Recovery Girl. (Mr. Aizawa had said he’d taken care of it, and Izuku trusted him, but he didn’t really know what exactly that meant.) The extra training was doing its job, though, and Izuku noticed an improvement in how much he could handle.

 

As often as he could manage, when he wasn’t with Shinsou and Mr. Aizawa, Izuku and Todoroki trained after classes as well. Worried about doing too much too fast, Izuku mostly opted for low-impact training on those days, and Todoroki seemed happy enough to lead Izuku through some yoga to help him improve his balance and flexibility. It was nice to do something relaxing for an hour or so with his best friend.

 

Because he was. Talking with Todoroki about his friendship with Uraraka and Iida had made Izuku realize that he considered the quiet boy his best friend as well. He considered both Uraraka and Iida close friends, and he cared about them a great deal, but he felt so much more connected with Todoroki than he had with either of them. And not just thanks to the secrets they shared with each other, either. It was hard to pin down, but Izuku felt almost like their fight at the Sports Festival had propelled his friendship with Todoroki years ahead of where it would normally have been.  

 

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t something to stress over. He didn’t neglect his other friendships; he texted regularly with Uraraka and Iida, talked with everyone at lunch, and got along with almost everyone in his class—Kacchan was...well, Kacchan, and Mineta had started avoiding him when possible. Izuku was just closer to Todoroki than he was to his other friends. It was what it was. 

 

All the training after class was definitely helping Izuku improve, and it wasn’t going unnoticed by the class. Several people commented on his progress, congratulating him even as he tossed them around in sparring or excelled during scenario exercises. Izuku remarked on others’ progress as well, always happy to talk about training and their quirks. It was like he’d told Shinsou and Todoroki. Just because they were technically competing didn’t mean they couldn’t also be friends. 

 

Kacchan—predictably—was an exception.

 

Izuku felt the explosive blond’s eyes on him in heroics more and more. He didn’t want to antagonize or challenge Kacchan—intentionally or not—so he tried to let it go, tried to ignore it as much as he could. The scowls and thunderous glares itched between his shoulder blades, though, leaving him on edge. They never meant anything good for Izuku back in middle school. Todoroki had developed the habit of getting between Izuku and Kacchan’s line of sight whenever he noticed Izuku growing uncomfortable. It helped, and Izuku counted his blessings that their interactions had been fairly limited, but there was no mistaking the tension that lingered between the two of them. He knew everyone, even Mr. Aizawa, had picked up on it over the term, but either Todoroki was a successful deterrent, or Kacchan knew better than to come after him the way he used to.

 

Izuku just hoped that it would last.

Chapter Text

Finally, the end of the term was in sight. If they could make it through finals, then summer break would be upon them. The training camp UA had planned for the break sounded like fun, though Izuku was sure the teachers would be putting them through their paces as well. 

 

Finals would be both written and practical like the entrance exam had been. Uraraka had already begged help studying from Iida, Todoroki, and Izuku just as she had for midterms. Tsu joined their study group as well, though she didn’t need a lot of help with academics. 

 

It was Tsu who brought up the other aspect of the final. “We should probably prepare for the practical portion of the final too, ribbit.”

 

“Right, Mr. Aizawa said the final would cover everything we’ve learned so far,” Uraraka mused, setting her chopsticks down next to her lunch tray to tick fingers as she listed off, “Combat training, rescue training, and basic training obviously. Is there a way to study for those outside of class, though?”

 

“Todoroki and I spar occasionally after school,” Izuku commented. “We could do something like that.”

 

“We’re an odd number, ribbit,” Tsu pointed out. “We should bring someone else in so we can pair off.”

 

“What about Hagakure?” Uraraka suggested.

 

“She and Ojiro spar together already,” Izuku shook his head ruefully. “We could invite them both, but that still leaves us with an odd number.”

 

“How did you know that?” Uraraka asked.

 

“I see them occasionally when I stay after to train,” Izuku said with a shrug. It was true, strictly speaking, though it would have been more accurate to say that he’d seen them when Mr. Aizawa had added reconnaissance to his training and had Izuku practice looking through walls to find which gym he and Shinsou were in. Speaking of… “What about Shinsou?”

 

“To practice sparring?” Iida rubbed his chin in thought. “I know he wants to move to the hero course, so it would be good practice for him, but we’ve all had more training than he has. Wouldn’t he be at too significant a disadvantage?”

 

“Plus, he doesn’t exactly like us,” Uraraka added.

 

Shinsou dropped his tray down in the free space at their lunch table that Izuku had left reserved for him and took his seat, smiling crookedly at their surprised faces. “I don’t need to like you to kick your ass.”

 

“Hey, Shinsou!” Izuku grinned, pleased that the boy had decided to join them at last. 

 

“Midoriya,” Shinsou acknowledged. “Overheard your little conversation. Thought I’d offer my assistance.”

 

“So you won’t eat with us, but you’ll agree to spar?” Uraraka asked incredulously.

 

Shinsou raised an eyebrow and pointedly took a bite of his apple. Izuku hid a quiet laugh behind his hand while Uraraka rolled her eyes. 

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Shinsou. My name’s Tsuyu Asui, but call me Tsu.” 

 

“And I am Tenya Iida. Welcome to our table.”

 

“Ochaco Uraraka.” She gave a half-hearted wave. 

 

“You do know I know who you all are already, right?” Shinsou said. “Even if your class weren’t the most talked-about group on campus, Midoriya hardly shuts up about you.”

 

All eyes were suddenly on Izuku and he blushed. “I thought if he heard a little about you, he’d be more willing to come sit with us.”

 

“Regardless, it’s still polite to introduce oneself,” Iida stated, turning back to Shinsou. 

 

Again, Shinsou just shrugged. “Like I told Midoriya, I’m not here to make friends. You want to train, fine. I’m not idiotic enough to turn down help from hero course kids when it’s offered.”

 

“Oh, so it’s like that is it?” Uraraka grinned challengingly. “You know what happened the last time someone said that to Midoriya, right?”

 

Shinsou glanced at Todoroki and Izuku before shaking his head and turning back to Uraraka. “Yeah, I can say with 100% certainty that that is not going to happen.”

 

“Ribbit?” Tsu turned to Izuku and Todoroki like she was looking for something until her eyes widened slightly and she nodded. “Oh. That makes sense, actually.”

 

Shinsou chuckled, but Izuku was officially confused. 

 

“Huh?” Uraraka seemed just as lost, which made Izuku feel a little better. 

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Shinsou said quickly. “So where’s this sparring happening?”

 

They discussed when and where to meet for the rest of lunch. Getting six different schedules to line up was a bit harder than Izuku expected, but they did finally come to an agreement. Shinsou left as soon as they’d decided, but the bell rang only a couple of minutes after that, so Izuku counted it as a win. Hopefully, Shinsou would sit with them again.

 

It wasn’t until the next day that everyone’s schedules aligned for sparring practice. After class, Todoroki, Iida, Uraraka, Tsu, and Izuku made their way toward Gym Theta eagerly. Shinsou slipped into the group almost without notice; if Izuku hadn’t had 360 Veil active, the gen-ed student would have snuck up on all of them. As it was, Izuku whipped his head around to make eye contact with a warm smile and greeting.

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes and took up position on Izuku’s other side, as far from the others as he could get.

 

“Good afternoon, Shinsou!” Iida said.

 

“Ribbit, glad you could join us,” Tsu added.

 

Uraraka bounced forward and began walking backward so she could look Shinsou in the eye. Her grin was as much a challenge as it was friendly and inviting. “Hope you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is.”

 

“That would be unsanitary,” Todoroki remarked quietly, a slight furrow to his brow.

 

Tsu tried to explain the idiom to Todoroki as Iida admonished Uraraka for the implication of gambling, stating it was unbecoming of future upholders of the law to engage in such immoral behavior. Shinsou heaved a sigh and shot Izuku an incredulous look. Izuku just smiled and shrugged, unapologetically amused at his friends’ antics. 

 

Their personalities were all so different, but entirely genuine. It was a relief for Izuku to not have to second guess their intentions even if that meant they were a little weird. It was their normal, and Izuku loved them for it.

 

Gym Theta was a fairly open space, lacking any environmental additions or weight training equipment. It was perfect for sparring, which was what Izuku and his friends had planned. “We should start with a warmup,” Izuku suggested once they were all in their gym clothes. 

 

Everyone agreed, so they started with simple stretches. Uraraka and Tsu were the first to move on to assisted stretches, but the rest followed shortly after. Iida requested Izuku’s assistance, which he gave, leaving Shinsou and Todoroki to pair up. Izuku kept an eye on them out of the corner of his eye, but other than obviously sizing each other up, they didn’t appear to have any issues working together.

 

After warming up to everyone’s satisfaction, the group decided to start with quirkless sparring to focus on basic combat training. They agreed to keep their current partners for the first round, so Izuku and Iida took up positions a little ways away from the other pairs.

 

Sparring with Iida was a challenge. Iida had years of training and a height advantage, but, without quirks, Izuku was faster and stronger. They went for a while, punching, kicking, and dodging until they were both a little bruised and out of breath, but Izuku eventually forced Iida to tap out with a cross-arm lock he’d learned from Mr. Aizawa. Once Izuku unwrapped his legs from around Iida’s chest so he could stand, and his friend helped him to his feet. As Iida shook his hand in congratulations, Izuku saw that the others were watching them.

 

“Wow, Mido, that was so cool!” Uraraka said, eyes wide with excitement.

 

“I don’t remember Mr. Aizawa teaching us that in class, ribbit,” Tsu mused. “Do you take classes outside of school?”

 

“Uh, sort of?” Izuku rubbed the back of his neck anxiously.

 

“You two were the last to finish,” Shinsou drawled, no doubt eager to get off the current subject. “Should we switch partners?”

 

“Sounds good,” Izuku agreed, just as eager to talk about something else. “How about you pick your partner first this time since you didn’t get the chance before.”

 

Shinsou shoved his hands in his pockets and looked the others over before smiling. “Uraraka.”

 

Uraraka smiled her determined smile and nodded, walking with Shinsou over to one of the sparring rings. Since he sparred with Todoroki rather frequently, Izuku took Tsu for his next partner while Iida and Todoroki moved off to the other side.

 

Quirkless sparring with Tsu was interesting. Iida could simply not use his engines, but Tsu’s quirk affected her whole body in ways that she couldn’t simply turn off. Thanks to her quirk, Tsu was abnormally flexible and could jump significant distances; holding back in either of those areas was just impractical. It made her almost impossible to pin, but that was fine. Izuku was still capable of simply throwing her out of bounds once he finally managed to get a decent hold on her.

 

“No quirks, Midoriya!” Iida scolded, pausing his spar with Todoroki.

 

“I didn’t!” Izuku promised. 

 

Tsu wasn’t injured from her short flying lesson and stood up easily before making her way back to Izuku. “I didn’t see his quirk activate, but I might be mistaken.”

 

“Midoriya is quite strong,” Todoroki defended calmly. “He’s thrown me before without his quirk.”

 

“Yeah, same,” Shinsou had Uraraka in a headlock while the girl struggled, but he still sounded as impassive as ever. “Besides, you don’t really think Midoriya would cheat, do you?”

 

“Of course not,” Iida agreed quickly. “My apologies, Midoriya. I should not have accused you–”

 

“It’s fine, Iida.” Izuku relaxed before turning to Tsu. “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to throw you that far.”

 

“I’m okay. It was sorta fun, ribbit,” Tsu admitted.

 

Uraraka finally tapped out, and Shinsou released her, stepping back with a slightly guarded look on his face. Uraraka pouted for half a second before jumping up with a broad smile, cheering Shinsou on his win. The gen-ed student seemed genuinely surprised that she wasn’t upset, but he was good about covering his shock behind a bland expression. Thankfully, the tension eased out of his shoulders as Uraraka went on about their spar and how good Shinsou had been.

 

Iida and Todoroki hadn’t finished their spar before Iida had paused things to scold Izuku for quirk use, but they both agreed to switch partners since the other teams were done and they didn’t want to hold up practice. 

 

To Izuku’s surprise, Shinsou claimed him for the next spar. Considering all the times they’d sparred together already, Izuku thought Shinsou would have moved onto one of the others. Not that he minded, but he was curious. 

 

“I sorta expected you to wait until the last match to pick me,” Izuku said once the others were out of earshot. It wasn’t the first time the two of them had held a conversation while sparring, and it was decent practice for Shinsou’s quirk since he needed to be able to talk and fight at the same time.

 

Shinsou rolled his eyes. “I wanted an opponent who’s actually focused on the fight.”

 

“Todoroki and Uraraka are two of the most driven people I’ve ever met, especially while sparring.” Izuku frowned, confusion clear across his face.

 

“They both lost because they got distracted, and I took advantage,” Shinsou stated. 

 

“How do you know I won’t get distracted, too?” Izuku asked, mostly joking.

 

Shinsou scoffed, “Because you are what distracted them.”

 

Izuku was surprised enough that he almost failed to block Shinsou’s kick to his ribs, but muscle memory picked up the slack, and he was able to deflect the attack. “Huh?”

 

Shinsou didn’t elaborate, much to Izuku’s frustration, and the two of them traded blows in silence for a little while until Izuku managed to get Shinsou into a decent hold. As the other boy struggled, Izuku tried to get an explanation. “What do you mean I distracted them?”

 

“Exactly what I said,” Shinsou grunted, breaking free of Izuku’s hold. 

 

Izuku didn’t understand. He hadn’t gotten hurt, he hadn’t made an excessive amount of noise, he hadn’t gotten close to their fights. Izuku couldn’t think of a single reason he would have been the cause of their inattention.

 

“Why?”

 

“So much for you being the observant one,” Shinsou muttered. Before Izuku could respond, he added, “Your friends are thirsty, Midoriya. Don’t ask me to elaborate beyond that; it really isn’t my area of expertise.”

 

Izuku was more confused than ever, but Shinsou seemed equally unwilling to explain. After taking a solid punch to his jaw, Izuku decided that whatever he meant, it wasn’t an immediate concern. Shinsou wanted someone who wasn’t distracted, so Izuku put the conversation out of his mind and focused on the fight. He’d do some research after finals when he had more free time.

 

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly. By the end everyone was tired and sore but pleased with their ‘study’ session. Izuku took advantage of the endorphins from a good workout and managed to get Shinsou to agree to join them for lunch before they all left to go home. Shinsou seemed suspicious when the others all voiced their pleasure at his acceptance, but Izuku hoped he’d come to realize they were genuine. 

 

Their last practical heroics class before finals was a relay race of sorts. The goal was to practice maneuvering quickly but safely with an injured or incapacitated person. They would need to think about the best way to transport whoever they came across given their size, injuries, and nearby hazards. Once they’d gotten the victim successfully to the next person, the first victim would then have to carry the next person as their victim, and so on until the final person in the relay had crossed the finish line with their victim. The team with the best time, and fewest points docked for bad practices, would win.

 

Mr. Aizawa and All Might split the class into four teams of five. Izuku’s team consisted of himself, Ojiro, Koda, Todoroki, and Mina. Uraraka was matched with Sero, Kacchan, Sato, and Mineta. Iida’s team had Tsu, Hagakure, Tokoyami, and Kaminari. Leaving Yaoyorozu with Kirishima, Jirou, Aoyama, and Shoji. From what Izuku could tell, there was someone on every team that would probably struggle with the exercise particularly if they were asked to move someone heavy. Still, Izuku was excited.

 

Each member of the team was given a number at random to decide their order in the relay, and then they took up their positions around the track. Mr. Aizawa stayed behind in the control room to analyze and critique while All Might went into the field to supervise in case something went wrong. Up first was Iida’s team, so the others stayed in the control room to watch.

 

When the call to start went out, Kaminari scooped a very surprised Tokoyami into a bridal carry and sprinted down the track. He was making decent time at first, but he started to slow before he’d made it halfway. As he crossed the end of his part of the relay, Kaminari looked well and truly winded and practically dropped Tokoyami at Hagakure’s feet. 

 

Wasting no time, Tokoyami called Dark Shadow to carry Hagakure securely, and then directed the quirk to get her to the end of their segment as fast as he could. Dark Shadow zoomed ahead, clearing their segment in seconds as Tokoyami stayed with Kaminari, coaching him through getting his breath back. Izuku applauded Tokoyami on his quick thinking; Dark Shadow was much faster than any of them and capable of getting his charge to safety without Tokoyami.

 

Hagakure used a backpack carry to get Tsu to safety. With Tokoyami and Dark Shadow’s time, she didn’t have to be super fast, but Tsu was roughly the same size as Hagakure, which made it easier. Her endurance and strength training had improved over the term, and Hagakure made it to Iida without slowing or dropping Tsu. 

 

As soon as she was on her feet again, Tsu wrapped her tongue around Iida and hopped her way through her segment of the relay, holding him aloft with seemingly no issue. Izuku knew first hand that Tsu’s tongue was strong, but Iida in full costume was not light . It was impressive. 

 

For Iida’s rescue, Kaminari was back at his starting line after catching his breath. Iida got Kaminari onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry and then shot down the track, crossing the finish line in under half a minute.

 

The class cheered and congratulated the incoming team on their performance before Mr. Aizawa gave them a quick rundown on what they’d done well and where they still needed improvement. 

 

Then it was Izuku’s team’s turn.

 

He’d drawn fourth position, so he wished his team luck before bolting to his spot. It wasn’t until he was already in place that he remembered he hadn’t asked what positions the others had drawn. Izuku felt a little bad for whoever was supposed to rescue him. Shinsou’s assessment was pretty spot-on; with all the muscle he’d packed on, Izuku was heavy as hell. 

 

Soon enough, Izuku heard the repeated thumping of Ojiro’s tail hitting the ground and he turned to see his approach. Clearing a hurdle easily, Ojiro came into view with Todoroki over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.

 

“Sorry for the wait, Midoriya,” Ojiro called. “Mina had a hard time getting me to Todoroki.”

 

“That’s okay, Ojiro. I can make up the time on my leg,” Izuku promised. 

 

Todoroki dropped to his feet as soon as Ojiro was over the line, and then pulled Izuku close with his left hand. “It’s going to get cold, but I’ll try to keep you warm with my left. Tell me if it’s too hot.”

 

That was the only warning Izuku got before Todoroki ducked down and threw Izuku over his left shoulder, holding his legs securely to his chest to keep him from flailing them about. Izuku definitely did not squeak as gravity inverted, and he was not blushing at the sudden view of Todoroki’s backside. Nope. That was definitely the blood rushing to his head from being upside down.

 

“Was this really the best way to do this?” Izuku protested as Todoroki started to skate on a sheet of ice.

 

“I need my right arm free to help shape the ice around obstacles,” Todoroki explained. “I can also maintain both of our temperatures by keeping you on my left. It seemed the most efficient.”

 

Izuku was slightly distracted by the rumble of Todoroki’s voice he could now feel through their contact, but he managed to force it out of his mind. As they picked up speed, Todoroki bent a little more at the waist, resting more of Izuku’s weight across his back rather than just his shoulder. It also allowed Izuku to breathe a little easier now that his shoulder wasn’t pressing so much into his diaphragm. Despite the chill from the ice and the wind, Izuku was comfortably warm thanks to Todoroki’s left side, just as he said. It was hard not to snuggle into his back.

 

“You know, it’s a good thing you redesigned your costume or this would have been super painful,” Izuku remarked with a faint chuckle.

 

“It was a poor design,” Todoroki agreed with a sigh. 

 

It didn’t take long for Todoroki to finish his leg of the relay, and he helped Izuku back to his feet. Todoroki hadn’t sounded like he’d struggled to carry Izuku, but Izuku could see that he was sweating a bit, and a few strands of hair were plastered to his head. Izuku wanted to brush them away, but he ignored the odd impulse and turned to Koda. 

 

It was time to go.

 

Izuku held Koda’s wrist and moved to get him into a fireman’s carry, but the boy balked. Concerned, Izuku asked, “What’s wrong? I promise I won’t drop you.”

 

Koda was probably the quietest student in their class. He was shy and he didn’t like to talk, which Izuku would never judge him for, but it meant that he wasn’t the best at articulating his thoughts. To help him out, a few people in the class had started learning sign language since that was his preferred method of communication, and because it would be useful in the field. 

 

Fortunately, that meant that when Koda signed that he was claustrophobic and couldn’t handle being restrained, Izuku understood him. 

 

“No problem!” Izuku smiled reassuringly. Instead of a fireman’s carry, Izuku knelt down and scooped Koda up so the quiet boy was on his shoulders. Izuku waited until he was sure he had a secure grip and that Koda was good before he fired up Full Cowling. 

 

Thanks to training with Mr. Aizawa, Izuku could comfortably handle 8% of One For All, but he had a lot of time to make up if they wanted to win this. Pushing his limits was one of the ways to expand those limits, though, so Izuku ramped up the power. Not too much, he wouldn’t get anywhere by breaking his bones, but just a little more wouldn’t hurt too much. 

 

One For All Full Cowling at 10% was a strain, but it was a manageable one. Izuku felt energized! He knew he was only using a tenth of what All Might could, but it was thrilling to move so quickly with full control. He was getting better, mastering this quirk a little more every day, and it showed. Izuku was proving he could do this, and All Might was watching! Izuku hoped he was making him proud.

 

Izuku finished his leg of the relay in eleven seconds. He was officially faster than Iida; Izuku let that realization sink in as he helped Koda to the ground. Logically, he knew it would happen eventually, but he hadn’t expected it to be now .

 

Koda broke him out of his musing with a very quiet, “Thank you,” before he picked Mina up in a bridal carry and took off to complete the final leg of their relay. Izuku watched them disappear around the first hurdle and then fired up Full Cowling at 3% and made his way back to Todoroki and Ojiro as they waited near All Might for their team to finish.

 

“Great job, Midoriya!” Ojiro patted him on the back as he reached him. “Dark Shadow was still faster, but not by much, man.”

 

“I did my best,” Izuku gave him a small smile. “I hope it was enough.”

 

“How much was that?” Todoroki asked quietly. “You were definitely faster than before.”

 

“Ten percent.”

 

Todoroki looked him over, probably looking for an injury. “How do you feel?”

 

“Like I ran a few kilometers instead of a quarter of one, but I’m not hurt,” Izuku promised.

 

Koda finished the last leg of the relay and the five of them made their way back to the observation room to receive their critiques. Overall, it was pretty good. Mina had a hard time moving someone as big as Ojiro, but the point of the exercise was to practice overcoming those challenges. Izuku received his own note regarding his transportation method, but Koda was quick to explain that Izuku had only been following his request not to be restrained. Mr. Aizawa conceded that was acceptable, but that carrying someone on his shoulders was not the best solution he could have devised. 

 

Once that was done, it was Yaoyorozu’s team. Up first was Yaoyorozu transporting Jirou, a fairly easy matchup. Yaoyorozu quickly created a pair of rollerblades and skated expertly through her leg of the track with Jirou securely in her arms. 

 

As she set Jirou on her feet, another pair of skates—the kind with four wheels in two rows this time—appeared and Jirou threw them on before hefting Kirishima onto her back in a backpack carry and rolling away. There was some outcry from a few students as to whether or not that was considered cheating, but Mr. Aizawa ruled in favor of utilizing available resources, so the debate was dropped. It took Jirou a little while to get up to speed, but she was adept at navigating around obstacles and made decent time. 

 

Kirishima gave her a fist bump and then picked Shoji up onto his shoulders and ran, straightforward and effective, just like Shoji’s rescue of Aoyama. When it was Aoyama’s turn to save Yaoyorozu, he detached his cape and had Yaoyorozu lay on it before dragging the cape through his leg of the course over the finish line.

 

During their critique, Mr. Aizawa praised Aoyama’s willingness to reappropriate resources even at the sacrifice of his aesthetic. No one on their team received any demerits, but their time still put them in third place as they’d only averaged about thirty seconds per leg.

 

Finally, it was Uraraka’s team. Sato drew first position, so he downed a few sugar cubes and then picked Uraraka up bridal style, racing through the first leg of the relay with ease. 

 

He set Uraraka down in front of Kacchan, and Izuku watched closely as the two of them quickly sized up the other. They didn’t waste more than a second, however, and soon enough Kacchan was in the air as Uraraka held onto his boot, running through the course with her “Baku-balloon” as Mina had dubbed it with a giggle. At the end of her leg, Uraraka released Kacchan in front of Mineta. 

 

At that point, something happened. Without sound, Izuku didn’t know exactly what had been said but considering who was involved, he could make a guess. Mineta said something, leering at Uraraka all the while, and Kacchan snapped. He picked Mineta up by the scruff of his neck and brought him up so they were nose to nose as Kacchan snarled something at the smaller boy. After that, he shoved Mineta into the crook of his arm like an American football and blasted off down the track, roughly setting Mineta on his feet once they reached Sero, before blasting away. 

 

Sero was probably one of the lighter boys in the class, but Mineta still struggled a lot, primarily because of their height difference. He trudged his way through his leg of the course, dragging Sero over his back until they finally reached Sato. 

 

Sero quickly stood and wrapped Sato up in a cocoon of tape, attached him to his back, and then ran. When he could, he’d send his tape forward, and then use it to pull himself and his cargo forward, but there weren’t always conveniently placed obstacles for that. The idea was good, though, and if he’d had more to work with, it would have boosted his time significantly. 

 

Thanks to Mineta’s time, their team came in last place. Kacchan was obviously pissed—especially since Izuku’s team eked out first—but he didn’t immediately blow up. He listened to Mr. Aizawa’s notes regarding the rest of their performances, and then stormed out as soon as they were released. 

 

There were only a few final notes given to the class as a whole once they were back in the classroom before the bell rang signaling the end of the day. Mr. Aizawa gave them all one more warning about upcoming finals, and then he left, leaving the class unsupervised.

 

Izuku had just enough time to push his chair back away from his desk, before Kacchan’s hand slammed explosively down on the wood. “Listen up you damn shit nerd,” he snarled, ignoring the outcry from their classmates. “I don’t know what the fuck is up with your quirk, but you’re seriously pissing me off!”

 

“Kacchan–”

 

“Shut your mouth!” Kacchan snapped. “You pretend to be some pathetic weakling our whole lives, why? Just so you could come to UA and try to make me look bad? Think you can show off now and be number one? Well think again! I’ll destroy you–”

 

“Back off, Bakugou.” The temperature around Izuku dropped as Todoroki stood next to him. 

 

“Don’t start something you can’t finish, Half-and-Half. You’re no better than this lying Deku, holding back, underestimating me when you should have come at me with everything you had.” Kacchan stood up, glowering at the whole room before he slung his bag over his shoulder. “Finals will be graded individually, no matter what they have us doing. Just know that I will crush both of you, so everyone knows I am number one, and you ,” he turned his blazing red eyes back to Izuku. “You’ll never be anything.” 

 

With that, Kacchan strode out of the classroom without a backward glance, leaving a heavy silence behind in his wake. 

 

Izuku focused on keeping his breathing even and his hands still even though every fiber of his being wanted nothing more than to curl up into a ball and block out the world as he worked through his panic. There were too many eyes on him for him to break down. He needed to go, needed to get somewhere hidden, somewhere safe—

 

A touch—cool, gentle, careful fingers snaked their way through his hair, sending a wave of goosebumps down his spine. The shock of it loosened the hold he had over his breathing, and he inhaled a deep shuddering breath. Todoroki’s eyes filled his vision as he moved in front of Izuku, keeping his hand buried in green curls. 

 

“Midoriya,” his voice was quiet, hardly above a whisper. “Iida is clearing the room, just a few more seconds.”

 

Faintly, past the rapid beating of his own heart, Izuku could hear the class leaving and Iida’s firm voice promising everything was under control. His eyes tried to catch a look at the door, but Todoroki, Uraraka, and Tsu were blocking his view and everyone else’s view of him. 

 

Izuku felt so much appreciation for his friends at that moment that he couldn’t stop the tears from falling. He met Todoroki’s eyes again and allowed himself to sink into the feeling of safety and comfort he found in their mismatched depths, sagging like his strings had been cut as the worst of the panic slowly drained away. 

 

The door closing was relatively quiet, but it still made Izuku jump. 

 

“They’re gone,” Iida announced.

 

“I thought Bakugou had been getting better, ribbit. It’s been a while since he’s been that angry,” Tsu said.

 

“His outbursts have always been worse towards Midoriya.” Iida shook his head, dropping a hand on Izuku’s shoulder and giving him a gentle squeeze. 

 

“Are you okay, Mido?” Uraraka asked, kneeling down.

 

Izuku tried his best to give her a reassuring smile, but it felt a little wobbly. “I’m fine.”

 

“You’re not,” Todoroki countered. 

 

Izuku sighed, sullen. He wasn’t. He wasn’t fine. He was coming down from a panic attack that he’d had in front of practically the whole class because his childhood friend-turned-bully had decided to verbally attack him. He was most definitely not fine, but he would be. He was surrounded by his friends, Todoroki’s hands were still gently stroking his scalp, and he could relax his guard. They wouldn’t let anyone get to him.

 

“I’m not,” Izuku agreed. “But this is helping. Thank you. All of you. You didn’t have to–”

 

“We’re your friends, Midoriya,” Iida interrupted him.

 

“Iida’s right! We’ve got your back,” Uraraka declared.

 

Izuku managed a stronger smile at that. “Thank you.”

 

“You know, after the first day of class, I think most of us assumed that you and Bakugou had some kind of rivalry going on, ribbit,” Tsu commented, finger on her chin as she thought. “But that’s not, is it. Not really.”

 

“No,” Izuku murmured, eyes downcast. The scorch mark on his desk from Kacchan’s explosion nearly sent him tumbling down darker memories, but the fingers in his hair kept him grounded in the present. Idly, Izuku wondered if he’d be blamed for damaging school property like he had in middle school. “It wouldn’t have been much of a rivalry when we were growing up. It’s...hard to explain, but there was no question which of the two of us was stronger as kids. Kacchan would win, hands down; I was pretty useless.”

 

“Don’t,” Todoroki tugged on his hair. “Don’t use his words to describe yourself.”

 

Izuku bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from refuting Todoroki. Kacchan wasn’t the only one to call Izuku worthless, but he had been the first. The other kids followed his lead, and the teachers certainly hadn’t corrected him. It was all he’d heard for ten years. 

 

But that didn’t make it true. 

 

Since coming to UA, Izuku had tried to leave his own negative labels behind. Here he wasn’t useless, he wasn’t worthless, his analyses weren’t creepy. He had friends and teachers who cared. Kacchan had called him a number of unkind things since the start of the term, but no one else had followed his example. No one else thought Izuku was a Deku. If it were true, then others would have said it, too, but no one had.

 

The only other person to use them had been Izuku himself, and Todoroki was right—not that anyone else who had tried to tell Izuku the same thing was wrong, but this was a heavier, sharper sort of promise coming from someone like Todoroki. Someone who had also been forced into a mold with words like legacy and masterpiece . When Todoroki said it, listening was easier.

 

Useless, Deku… Those were Kacchan’s words. Just his. 

 

“I know you’re right,” Izuku whispered. “I’m going to try to stop thinking that way, but that's all I heard for a long time. It’s going to take practice.”

 

“I’ll remind you if it looks like you’re forgetting,” Todoroki said with a small smile.

 

“We all will,” Iida vowed, and Uraraka and Tsu both nodded their own affirmations.

 

Izuku cried again, but none of them minded. He sat in the classroom with Tsu leaning against his legs, Uraraka holding his hand, Iida’s hand on his shoulder, and Todoroki’s fingers in his hair until he’d calmed down at last. As they separated, standing and gathering their things, Izuku wiped his eyes and silently thanked anyone who would listen that he had friends like these.

Chapter Text

Shouto contemplated whether or not he could get away with murder. He’d been performing his duties as Midoriya’s protector admirably up until recently, and it was more pleasant to imagine all the ways he could end Bakugou’s existence than to dwell on the self-recriminations of his failure. 

 

Tempting as it was, justifiable homicide was still homicide , and therefore something he, as a future pro-hero, should not engage in. No matter the target—or, perhaps, especially the target in this case—Midoriya would disapprove. Which would be…untenable. Sadly, that meant murder was off the table. For now, at least. 

 

Mrs. Midoriya probably hadn’t been thinking of Bakugou when she’d implored Shouto to protect her son. Judging by the family photos hanging in Midoriya’s living room, his mother was not aware of the dissonance that persisted between the two, but Shouto knew, so Bakugou was included in the wider umbrella of things he’d labeled a Threat to Midoriya.

 

Unfortunately, it was not so easy to protect Midoriya from Bakugou. The boy sat right in front of Midoriya, while Shouto was a row and several desks behind—the gap was barely tolerable on a good day. He hadn’t been fast enough to stop Bakugou from damaging Midoriya’s desk as he spewed insults and challenges, only getting to his side in time to redirect the attention onto himself and then steady his friend in the aftermath. 

 

Running his fingers through Midoriya’s hair had been an impulse he hadn’t thought too carefully about before following. Shouto hadn’t stopped to consider how many boundaries it crossed until Iida and Uraraka had given him startled looks as he ran his fingers through those green curls. He supposed it was...intimate. Considering how uncomfortable the idea of just anyone running their fingers through his own hair was, Shouto understood why his actions might have appeared presumptuous. Midoriya wasn’t just anyone, though. He was Shouto’s best friend, and they’d done this before. Now that he knew it worked to calm his friend down from his panic, Shouto decided he didn’t care what others thought of it. He would do it again, as often as Midoriya needed.

 

Between Midoriya’s friends closing ranks around him, Bakugou’s friends providing willing targets for the aggressive boy’s anger, and three days of written exams, there were no more confrontations the whole rest of the week. Midoriya’s shoulders gradually relaxed as each day passed in tentative peace, and Shouto started to believe they could finish the term without issue.

 

Until the practical final was announced.

 

As Aizawa listed pair after pair and which teacher they’d fight, dread began to fill Shouto’s chest. As the class roster dwindled down to the last few uncalled names, Shouto wished he could rip the list from Aizawa’s fingers and incinerate it. He wanted to believe his teacher wasn’t about to put Midoriya and Bakugou on a team together. He wanted to believe that his teacher—someone Midoriya trusted —wasn’t about to force Midoriya to work with Bakugou. Surely , Aizawa wasn’t about to pair a victim with his bully

 

Of course, the world wasn’t fair, and Shouto knew better than to believe it would be kind.

 

Shouto hadn’t known Midoriya for very long, but it didn’t take more than a few minutes in the boy’s presence to know that he let every little emotion show behind his wide, brilliant eyes. Shouto had never seen him be anything less than completely open and honest with his expressions, good or bad. Happiness, sadness, excitement, worry, determination, fear, pride, shame, Midoriya showed everything with an ease that simultaneously comforted and terrified Shouto. When Aizawa announced the final pair, Shouto watched the light drain from Midoriya’s eyes as the reality of the situation settled over him, and the normally expressive eyes became closed off and detached. Emotionless.

 

There was nothing Shouto could do. He’d promised to protect Midoriya, but this was outside his control. He felt helpless. Powerless. He leveled his teacher, the same man who had claimed Midoriya’s safety was his priority , with a dark glare and for once did not even try to shield the scathing disappointment and bitter betrayal from his eyes. He wanted Aizawa to see, to know that he’d crossed a line, and a vicious, petty part of him eagerly awaited the opportunity to beat the lesson into him during his own practical exam. 

 

As the other teachers made their way into the battle center behind them, Aizawa gave one last instruction to the class. “As you wait your turn to take your exam, you can either watch the other matches or take the time to strategize with your partner. It’s your choice. Use your time wisely.”

 

The other students paired off, most opting to talk with their partner and form a strategy. Shouto would normally have done the same, but he couldn’t care less about strategy at the moment. He found Yaoyorozu, ready to tell her to start without him, but she just waved him away, shooting a concerned look at Midoriya. He was grateful she understood and accepted his priorities.

 

Bakugou had already left, and Shouto was quick to go to Midoriya’s side, sliding his hand into his hair, gently urging the shorter boy to look up and meet his eyes.

 

“Midoriya?” Shouto wanted to see something, some emotion, even if it was negative. Anything was better than the empty, blank gaze.

 

Slowly, just a flicker at first, some emotion returned to the verdant eyes in front of him. Midoriya blinked once, then again, before his eyes focused on Shouto and the walls came down. “Sorry, Todoroki. I, uh, I th-think I spaced out f-for a moment. Did you s-say something?”

 

“Only your name,” Shouto replied. 

 

Midoriya gave a jerky nod and seemed to realize Shouto’s hand was in his hair. “O-oh, that’s–you d-don’t have to do that, if–”

 

“I don’t mind. Do you want me to stop?” He would, if Midoriya asked, but he would rather not. He found running the strands of fluffy, green curls through his fingers to be soothing for his own emotional state as well. 

 

“N–I mean, w-we should go inside, r-right?”

 

“There’s no rush.” Shouto took the aborted negative as permission to continue.

 

“Your final against Mr. Aizawa is fourth.” As he spoke, Midoriya slowly started to return to his normal self. Shouto wasn’t sure if he was really feeling better or if it was just a good front, but he wasn’t inclined to brush off what had just happened. “You should be strategizing, or at least watching the other matches.”

 

“I’m not worried about my final,” Shouto said.

 

Midoriya’s eyes shot to his own and his friend frowned slightly. “Mr. Aizawa isn’t going to be easy to beat. You rely on your quirk a lot when you fight, that’s probably why he chose to set you against himself. The student pairs and their assigned teacher opponents were all chosen with consideration–”

 

Shouto scoffed, causing Midoriya to stop and purse his lips. Resignation pulled down the edges of his mouth and he sighed. 

 

“Choosing to pair me and Kacchan against All Might makes sense for what they’re trying to teach us.”

 

“It doesn’t matter!” Clenching his teeth, Shouto looked away as shame made his throat tight. Midoriya was not the target of his anger, he had no right or reason to take it out on his friend. Shouto closed his eyes and took a breath before looking back. “I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

 

“It’s fine.”

 

“Nothing about this is fine,” Shouto stated firmly, eyes boring into Midoriya’s. “I understand putting you up against All Might; between your familiar relationship, his knowledge of your quirk, and his status as the number one hero, it will be a difficult fight. But forcing you to work with your bully is unacceptable.”

 

“They don’t know that though,” Midoriya pointed out. “I never told Mr. Aizawa about Kacchan… Everyone thinks it’s a rivalry thing, like Tsu said, remember?”

 

“So tell Aizawa it’s not a rivalry. Tell him the truth.”

 

Midoriya shook his head. “It’s too late for that. The finals have already started, the assignments are what they are. Besides, you know why I never said anything. That hasn’t changed.”

 

Shouto disagreed, but Midoriya was digging his heels in. He could tell his friend wasn’t going to budge on this. Shouto would never understand what Midoriya saw in Bakugou, and he would be damned if he didn’t at least try to prevent the oncoming disaster.

 

“It’s changed enough to warrant reconsideration,” Shouto implored. “You wanted to stay out of his way and let him grow as a person, but that isn’t an option this time.”

 

Midoriya’s eyes shone with unshed tears, but he shook his head, stubborn. “He doesn’t have to like it, but his grade is riding on this just as much as mine. There’s nothing Kacchan hates more than failure; not even me.”

 

It was obvious how much admitting out loud that Bakugou hated him hurt Midoriya. Shouto worried that whatever lingering affection Midoriya had for his childhood friend was clouding his judgment, but Midoriya was also an excellent analyst. If he thought Bakugou would suck it up and cooperate in order to win, then he might be right. Shouto hoped so, but he wasn’t sure.

 

“Come on.” Midoriya pulled Shouto’s hand out of his hair and tugged him toward the battle center. “Let’s watch the fights. It’s not every day we get to see our teachers in action, right? It will be fun.”

 

Shouto followed Midoriya, but he hardly spared a glance for the fights on the monitors. His eyes were on Midoriya, observing everything. The tense line of his shoulders, the way he kept his arms close or crossed over his chest, the way he stood with his feet apart. Midoriya was braced for a fight, like he expected someone to attack him at any moment. Even keeping himself between Midoriya and Recovery Girl didn’t ease his friend’s tension. Despite his supposition that the chance to watch their teachers and classmates battle it out would be entertaining, Midoriya looked the furthest from having fun that Shouto could imagine. 

 

As the third team wrapped up—Shouto couldn’t even remember who it was—Midoriya gave him a strained smile and wished him luck. 

 

“I’ll be back as soon as I’m done,” Shouto promised.

 

Yaoyorozu met him at the door to their arena. “How’s Midoriya?”

 

“Tense,” Shouto deflected. He liked Yaoyorozu well enough, but she wasn’t one of Midoriya’s inner circle. She didn’t have the necessary context to understand.

 

“I can imagine. Going up against Mr. Aizawa is daunting enough, I would hate to go against All Might.” Yaoyorozu waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. There was too much to say and it stuck in his throat. 

 

Instead of responding, Shouto led the way inside the battle center once they heard the buzzer to start.

 

“Do we have a plan?” Yaoyorozu asked tentatively.

 

Shouto hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything other than Midoriya since the final partners had been announced. A plan? No, he didn’t have a plan. But he did have a goal.

 

“Escape seems like a logical choice,” Shouto offered. The small alleys between houses and buildings granted them some cover, but they would have to leave the safety of the shadows eventually. “We’re both intelligent, we have a good concept of tactics and strategy, but we also both suffer from the same weakness. We rely heavily on our quirks.”

 

“Whereas Mr. Aizawa can still fight with or without his,” she agreed morosely. “We wouldn’t stand a chance in a direct fight.”

 

“No,” Shouto allowed, “but that won’t stop me from trying.”

 

“What do you mean? I thought the plan was to run.”

 

Shouto stopped and pulled Yaoyorozu next to the wall, deeper into the shadows. “I said it was the logical choice, but I’m not feeling particularly logical at the moment.”

 

“Because of Midoriya,” she guessed. She gave him a small smile and squeezed his arm comfortingly. “You really care for him, don’t you?”

 

“He’s my best friend,” Shouto said. 

 

“And because he’s forced to fight All Might, you want to fight Mr. Aizawa instead of run.” 

 

Shouto sighed, “Something like that. I know I’m not exactly clear-headed right now. Fighting instead of running could mean failing. But I honestly don’t care.”

 

“Okay.” 

 

“Okay?”

 

Yaoyorozu smiled again. “Like you said, we’re intelligent; we can come up with a way to win. In fact… I have an idea.”

 

As Yaoyorozu explained her plan, Shouto led them through the neighborhood. It was inevitable that Aizawa would find them no matter where they went, but Yaoyorozu’s plan required more room to work, so they had to get somewhere acceptable before then.

 

The little nesting dolls Yaoyorozu created constantly served a dual purpose, as both an early warning system and weapon. Shouto wasn’t sure what kind of weapon, but she assured him it would be effective.

 

“And you made them look like Midoriya, because?” Shouto held one of the tiny, green dolls in his hand looking at its cartoon rendering of his friend's brilliant smile and shining eyes, and he couldn’t stop the small smile that tugged at his lips. 

 

Yaoyorozu laughed quietly. “It seemed fitting.”

 

“Yaoyorozu,” Shouto warned sharply. The nesting dolls had stopped. “He’s here.”

 

“If you know I’m here,” Aizawa said from above them, “then you should be acting.” 

 

Shouto looked up to see Aizawa suspended by his capture weapon around the powerlines over their heads and he took several quick steps back as the hero dropped down to the street level. Seeing the man again, Shouto felt the anger from before roar to life inside him and he fell into a fighting stance.

 

As they expected, Aizawa faced Shouto first, leaving Yaoyorozu free from Erasure’s influence. She immediately sprinted for cover to get to work on their plan, and Shouto bared his teeth at his teacher before he jumped forward with a kick to keep his attention. 

 

Aizawa effortlessly dodged and threw his capture weapon, but Midoriya had shown Shouto a few moves he’d learned during his training sessions with Aizawa. Instead of catching his whole upper body, only his arm was trapped by the capture weapon. Shouto pulled his arm back and gripped the scarf firmly with his other hand, throwing his strength into disrupting Aizawa’s balance.

 

If Aizawa was surprised, he recovered quickly. Instead of losing his balance or letting go of the weapon, Aizawa threw another section of cloth around Shouto’s legs and pulled. The capture weapon wrapped his legs together faster than he could dodge, and Shouto slammed into the ground as his feet were pulled out from under him. The next breath, he was in the air, suspended upside down from the powerlines by Aizawa’s capture weapon.

 

“You’ve been training with Midoriya. Prudent, but ultimately insufficient,” Aizawa observed, taking a moment to put drops in his eyes. 

 

Shouto grit his teeth. He wouldn’t go down like this! Hanging the way he was, burning or freezing his way out of the capture weapon could be dangerous unless he took the time to do it carefully. As it was, he only had one limb free of the lengths of the scarf, but it still held the nesting doll. 

 

Which was a weapon.

 

Shouto did as Yaoyorozu instructed when she’d handed him the doll; grasping the top half with his thumb and index finger, he twisted it a quarter turn right, tossed the doll toward Aizawa, and then closed his eyes.

 

The blinding flash of light was almost painful even with his eyes closed, and Shouto heard Aizawa shout in surprise and pain as the flashbang grenade hidden within the nesting doll exploded. The flash rendered Aizawa blind for a few precious moments, allowing Shouto time to get free from the capture weapon without snapping his neck on the pavement below. 

 

Standing, Shouto tossed the capture weapon to the side and then ran for Aizawa before he could fully recover from the flashbang. His hands itched with the need to pummel his teacher, but he had to follow the plan. Slamming his foot down, a dome of ice sprang to life around the two of them, ten meters high, leaving only a small hole in the top to allow light to filter down. 

 

“A cage match?” Aizawa asked as he finally recovered from the assault on his eyesight.

 

“I thought you and I should talk.” Shouto didn’t want to talk, he wanted to hit something—wanted to hit Aizawa in particular—but he wouldn’t let his temper get the better of him. 

 

“A villain–”

 

“I’m not talking to a villain, I am talking to my teacher. A man I’m supposed to be able to trust, a man who is supposed to prioritize Midoriya’s safety,” Shouto snapped. Lashing out and expressing his temper physically wasn’t an option, but he was too agitated to modulate his tone into his normal calm.

 

Aizawa and Shouto began to circle around each other, neither one willing to drop their guard for the moment. “The finals are designed to test your ability to assess a situation and problem-solve, both areas that Midoriya excels in. Even against All Mi–”

 

“This isn’t about All Might!” Shouto’s voice reverberated off the ice in a cacophonous racket that stilled Aizawa momentarily. Shouto took a deep breath, releasing a fog of chilled air as his control over his quirk suffered under his temper. “I’m not concerned about what All Might will do; Midoriya’s opponent isn’t the problem. Bakugou is.”

 

“Heroes don’t always have the luxury of working with people we get along with.” Aizawa’s hand moved toward his capture weapon again. 

 

Before Aizawa decided to resume their fight, Shouto took the handcuffs off his belt and slapped them onto his own wrists. “Fail me, I don’t care, but listen to me. Please.”

 

Aizawa stood up straight, moving his goggles off his eyes to hang around his neck, brows furrowed in concern. There were a few tense seconds of silence as Aizawa appraised him sharply, but Shouto refused to back down from his teacher’s unnerving gaze. Finally, almost imperceptibly, Aizawa nodded for him to speak.

 

“Whatever you think is going to happen during their final, you’re wrong. You partnered them together because you want to teach them to set their rivalry aside for the sake of the mission, but there is no rivalry ,” Shouto insisted. 

 

“Cut to the chase, kid. If you know something, say it.”

 

“I can’t,” Shouto fumed between clenched teeth. He wanted to. He wanted to lay it all out for Aizawa so the man would finally understand, but he couldn’t. “I won’t be another person who’s broken his trust today.”

 

The muscle just beneath Aizawa’s left eye twitched, just a small movement, but for how careful his teacher was at schooling his expressions, it might as well have been a full-body flinch. Shouto had struck a nerve. Good. 

 

“I recognize that you don’t have all the information—Midoriya deliberately withheld the details from you—but I’m still so angry. At you. At Bakugou. At the situation.” The cuffs around his wrists weren’t quirk suppressors, they did nothing to stop the small wisps of flame that licked up the side of Shouto’s face as his control slipped slightly. “I hope that this will be sufficient because you have enough that you could put it all together. You just have to take a second look.”

 

Aizawa gave away nothing of what he was thinking, impassive and stoic as he ever was, but Shouto thought he’d gotten through. Midoriya might have to face the final as it was currently planned—it likely was too late to change it—but if Aizawa followed Shouto’s advice and reevaluated his preconceptions, then maybe some justice could be done regarding Bakugou.

 

“Why not come to me with this before, or wait until you completed your final?” Aizawa asked.

 

“A few reasons,” Shouto admitted. “One, Midoriya didn’t want you to know. He was content to stay out of Bakugou’s way, but I believe that’s no longer an option since you partnered them for the final. Two, I needed you to listen to me. I couldn’t risk you being too busy or brushing aside my concerns. Sacrificing my grade was a fair trade to get you to hear what I had to say.”

 

Before Aizawa could say whatever he’d opened his mouth to say in response, the air horn signaling the end of the final rang out with Nedzu’s cheerful voice, “Team Todoroki and Yaoyorozu have passed the final!”

 

Shouto’s mouth lifted in a small, brief smile. “And three, I needed to give Yaoyorozu time to get to the exit gate. I was willing to risk my grade, but not hers. This offered an effective distraction.”

 

Aizawa looked to the sky for strength before shaking his head and closing the distance between them. He unlocked the cuffs around Shouto’s wrists as he said, “I make time for my students, Todoroki. If you have concerns—about anything—you could have come to me. I would have listened.”

 

“You almost didn’t listen to me here. Until I put the cuffs on, you were ready to dismiss my concerns.”

 

“We were in the middle of your final. Anything you said could have been purely a distraction. If you had talked to me outside of the test, I would have listened without wondering if you had ulterior motives,” Aizawa scolded gently.

 

Shouto didn’t immediately respond in favor of melting a way out of the ice. Aizawa had proven to be trustworthy prior to his decision to pair Midoriya with Bakugou. Shouto knew it wasn’t entirely his fault, but that didn’t negate all of his culpability either. With his own issues trusting adults, the slight had been enough that Shouto really hadn’t felt comfortable risking Midoriya’s safety. 

 

“I promise, I will take another look at Bakugou and Midoriya’s relationship,” Aizawa added seriously when Shouto remained silent. 

 

“Before or after the final?”

 

There were only a couple hours at most until Midoriya’s final; it wasn’t a lot of time, and Shouto suspected that there was nothing Aizawa could do in that time frame. 

 

“I’ll do what I can.”

 

It wasn’t good enough, but it was all he was going to get. Reluctantly, Shouto nodded and left the battle area in search of Midoriya.

Chapter Text

Pride was not a sin that befell Shouta Aizawa. He did not compromise mission success to stroke his ego, he accepted help when he needed it, and when he was wrong, he admitted it. He wasn’t wrong often, particularly when it came to his students, but that was due to decades of finely honed observational skills, intuition, and experience rather than hubris compensating for inadequacy. 

 

And yet.

 

If he were to take Todoroki at his word—and the boy said so little, Shouta would be a fool not to listen when he did speak—then Shouta had miscalculated somewhere, to potentially devastating effect. 

 

It didn’t take a keen eye to see the way Todoroki had changed after the Sports Festival, or the reason for it—Midoriya had blasted through Todoroki’s walls and brought the quiet boy into both his friend group and his confidence with almost startling speed. In response, Todoroki had latched onto Midoriya with a fierce loyalty that Shouta didn’t normally see outside of trauma bonding or years of camaraderie. Their friendship was profound, and it showed itself in how well they worked together, how they encouraged and challenged each other, and how they looked out for each other.

 

Todoroki, in particular, was very protective of Midoriya. Shouta had witnessed a number of occasions where Todoroki put himself between Midoriya and whatever was making the smaller boy uncomfortable. Shouta would worry about him being overprotective , but he never interfered with Midoriya’s practical heroics lessons. Indeed, it seemed that despite, or perhaps simply in addition to, his protectiveness, Todoroki had full confidence in his friend’s ability to handle a fight or rescue scenario—which made his insistence that Midoriya would be in danger during his final all the more concerning.

 

The decision to pair Midoriya with Bakugou for the final was logical. The two of them were incredibly strong and intelligent, but their relationship was a problem. Shouta knew they came from the same school, and it was obvious that they’d known each other prior to coming to UA, but they were incapable of getting along. By forcing them to work together, he’d hoped they would learn to set aside their rivalry and cooperate.

 

There is no rivalry .

 

Shouta thought he’d had their relationship pegged, but Todoroki planted the seed of doubt in his mind. If he had missed something, then Shouta owed it to Midoriya to correct that error. The kid had been let down by enough teachers in his life, Shouta would be damned before he added his own name to that list. 

 

There wasn’t a lot of time before Midoriya had to take his final, and, regrettably, Shouta didn’t have the option to change the pairs now. But he also wouldn’t ignore Todoroki’s warning.

 

The drones and cameras UA used to monitor and record the finals weren’t equipped with audio receivers, but Shouta’s hero costume included a few bugs and an earpiece tuned to their frequency for on-the-fly surveillance. Shouta would plant one of the bugs on Midoriya before the kid left for his battle center and watch from a private viewing room. He didn’t want bias or distractions as he observed.

 

Before that though, he had a little time to gather both Midoriya’s and Bakugou’s files. Both student’s files were significantly heavier than they had been at the start of term, now filled with accomplishments, demerits, and Shouta’s own notes and observations. 

 

Shouta ripped out every note that had to do with the boys’ interactions with each other and set them aside, facedown. No bias included his own previous conclusions. Shouta would look at their interaction with fresh eyes, to try to spot what he might have missed before. 

 

As Mineta and Sero’s final wrapped up, Shouta slipped out of the room and made to intercept Midoriya. Planting the bug on Midoriya without getting noticed was easy; the kid was obviously distracted. He looked like he was walking to the gallows.

 

“You can’t stop it, can you?” Todoroki stood at the door to the observation room, watching Midoriya’s dead man march with uncharacteristically vulnerable eyes.

 

Shouta shook his head, resigned. Todoroki’s warnings were concerning enough that Shouta would have rearranged things if he could have, but it wasn’t just up to him. The final partner assignments were subject to approval by Nedzu and the other staff; any last-minute alterations would have required discussion and committee approval. There simply hadn’t been time.

 

Silently, Todoroki slipped back into the observation room, but Shouta heard the weight of his disappointment and anger in the words left unsaid. As much as he wanted to assure his student that he was doing everything he could, his words wouldn’t mean anything if he didn’t back them up with action. 

 

Slipping the earpiece into his ear, Shouta retreated to the private observation room.

 

Bakugou and Midoriya were still outside the battle center, waiting for the signal to start, so there wasn’t a visual yet, but the bug was coming in loud and clear. Bakugou was posturing, as usual–

 

Shouta pinched the bridge of his nose and reprimanded himself harshly. They hadn’t even started and already he was falling back into his previous preconceptions. Taking a deep breath, he refocused. Fresh eyes. No bias.

 

The buzzer to start the test rang out, and the monitors came to life. Bakugou was striding ahead of Midoriya by several paces as the other boy lingered by the entrance. The bug Shouta had planted on Midoriya was strong enough to pick up on the boy’s muttering. 

 

“I have to talk to him.” Midoriya took his first few steps forward as he talked to himself. “We’re a team, which means we have to communicate.”

 

Shouta shouldn’t be surprised that Midoriya understood the key concepts of teamwork; the boy was practically a poster child for cooperation with his classmates, but he’d struggled in the past when it came to working with Bakugou. Shouta had assumed the unwillingness to cooperate was part of their rivalry, but if he set that aside… It didn’t sound as though Midoriya simply didn’t want to talk to the other boy. It almost sounded like he was trying to psych himself up to do it.

 

Midoriya started running to catch up with his partner. “Kacchan!”

 

That nickname… Bakugou was not a boy with a good hold on his temper. There were several notes in his file regarding his tendency to shout at his classmates over every perceived slight or barb, but not once had Bakugou called Midoriya out for using that nickname. It was something that only Midoriya could get away with as well. At first, Shouta had thought that meant that despite their obvious issues, there was still genuine—if perhaps nostalgic—affection. After a while, Shouta wondered if it wasn’t something closer to manipulation on Midoriya’s part. A way to remind Bakugou of their shared history to invoke sympathy or something similar, but he’d dismissed that theory as well. Manipulation didn’t fit Midoriya’s personality. Whatever the truth, the nickname confounded Shouta.

 

Midoriya was trying to convince Bakugou that running was their best option. It was a fair assumption. Even handicapped and running out of power, All Might was a formidable opponent; two fifteen-year-olds with less than a year of formal training weren’t going to subdue the Symbol of Peace. Shouta was glad that Midoriya was trying to be smart about this after what happened in Hosu. Gran Torino had eventually told All Might what happened with Stain—the truth of what happened—and the man had wisely chosen to tell Shouta as well.

 

That had not been a good day.

 

“Stop following me,” Bakugou growled. He quickened his pace, but Midoriya caught up to him again.

 

Shouta listened and watched as Midoriya tried again—and failed again—to convince Bakugou that fighting was a bad plan. Bakugou’s tenacity was usually something Shouta commended him for, but there was a difference between being tenacious and the idiocy that Bakugou was suggesting. 

 

Bakugou talked a big game, but he’d always stayed on the other side of too much violence. The first combat training against Midoriya toed that line, of course. As reckless as it had been to use his gauntlet in an enclosed space against a live opponent, it had been pretty obvious that Bakugou hadn’t expected the blast to be as enormous as it had been. Shouta was willing to forgive the boy’s ignorance since he hadn’t used the other gauntlet, but he’d made sure the boy knew he wasn’t to use the gauntlets against another student without express permission. 

 

“Think about this!” Midoriya didn’t normally raise his voice, but it was clear he was getting a little frustrated with Bakugou’s refusal to listen. Shouta didn’t blame him, but yelling wasn’t going to change the blonde’s mind. “You know what All Might can do. Even with those weights, it’s impossible for you to win in a fight against him.”

 

When Bakugou stopped walking, Shouta thought for a moment that the two would finally hash out a plan, but that hope was very quickly and ruthlessly dashed. 

 

The pencil in Shouta’s hand snapped as he stared at the monitor in horrified shock as Bakugou backhanded Midoriya in the face with his heavy gauntlet. The cry of surprise and pain from Midoriya rang accusingly in Shouta’s ear, echoing harshly with Todoroki’s warning.

 

Midoriya’s opponent isn’t the problem. Bakugou is.

 

“I don’t want to hear another word.” Bakugou sneered down at Midoriya with vitriolic contempt.

 

Whatever you think is going to happen during their final, you’re wrong.

 

“Just because you think you’re getting stronger doesn’t mean you get to tell me what to do.”

 

I won’t be another person who’s broken his trust today.

 

“Why would I ever listen to a worthless Deku like you?”

 

There is no rivalry!

 

“Kacchan, wait! All I’m trying to do is get us to pass the final!” Midoriya begged, still on the ground nursing his bloody nose. 

 

“I told you, we don’t need your dumb power to pass! I can win it all by myself!” Bakugou screamed. 

 

Midoriya got his feet under him and pushed himself up angrily. “Will you stop!? You can’t just hit me and yell and expect me to fall in line anymore!”

 

All Might chose that moment to unleash his opening salvo, sending both boys ass over tea kettle in the ensuing blast of air. Shouta felt almost as equally off-balance. How many times had they been in this same position? Growing up, as Bakugou’s quirk continued to strengthen and Midoriya’s remained unsuited to combat or heroics, how many times had Bakugou put Midoriya down or struck him?  How many times had Midoriya offered a hand only to have Bakugou bite and snarl and lash out?

 

With All Might on the scene, the boys refocused on the new threat, but they still weren’t working together. Not that Shouta expected them to after that revelation. He kept an ear on the fight, but more pressing concerns occupied most of his attention while All Might had the boys distracted. 

 

Pulling Midoriya’s file in front of him, Shouta reviewed what he’d learned about Midoriya’s reluctance to trust teachers. He’d explained, vaguely, that he couldn’t trust teachers to help him. His requests for help were ignored, and when they’d seen him struggling, they’d done nothing.

 

Shouta rubbed his temples in a vain attempt to relieve the headache that was developing. Struggling, Midoriya had said. Being bullied, Shouta’s mind viciously corrected.

 

Todoroki had warned him that Midoriya kept important information from him, that he hadn’t wanted Shouta to know the full truth. Why? He’d shared the negligence of his former teachers, told him—however reluctantly—about Recovery Girl’s dereliction of duty, but he kept the presence of his bully in his class a secret?

 

Midoriya’s voice cried out, “Kacchan, are you okay?!” in Shouta’s ear and he looked up to see the boy pinned to the ground by a metal fence, looking worriedly at Bakugou who lay sprawled out further down the destroyed street.

 

Shouta sighed. That was why. Despite all the years of torment, Midoriya still cared. It was a foundational pillar of his personality. A truth in the universe. Immutable and absolute. The sun shone, the world spun, and Izuku Midoriya cared. 

 

If Midoriya had told Shouta about Bakugou’s abhorrent behavior, he would have removed the boy from his class. The option was still on the table, truth be told. Shouta did not abide bullies, and UA had a strict no-tolerance policy.

 

As Midoriya strained against the fence keeping him captive, All Might had begun calmly lecturing Bakugou. Shouta sent a silent thank you to his support developers for the strength and range of the listening device as the sound came through loud and clear.

 

“I know why you’re so angry, Young Bakugou. Because of Young Midoriya’s sudden improvement, right?” Bakugou had dragged himself up onto his feet as All Might spoke, but Shouta could see he was shaking. All Might ignored his plight and continued. “You have to remember your rankings when the year first began. It’s much easier to level up when you’re a novice. Do you understand? You’re wasting your full potential, don’t you see? You still have so much room to grow stronger, and I don’t just mean your quirk!”

 

“Shut up, All Might,” Bakugou snapped weakly. “If I’m so bad that I have to get help from a weakling like him, then I’d rather lose.”

 

On-screen, Midoriya stopped struggling in surprise. Shouta was surprised as well. There were very few things—maybe nothing—Shouta could think of offhand that Bakugou had shown he cared more about than winning, being number one. 

 

All Might seemed to be the first to recover. He stepped in front of Bakugou and prepared a punch for the already injured teen. “Remember you said that, hero .” All Might was catching on to the true underlying issue surrounding Bakugou and Midoriya if the derisive tone was anything to go by.

 

Before All Might could finish his swing, a burst of red and green lightning flashed across the street, and Midoriya—now free from his restraints—slammed into Bakugou, shoulder checking him into the ground and sending them tumbling away from their opponent.

 

“Don't you dare say you’d rather lose!” Midoriya yelled, frustration and anger and hurt bleeding into his voice. “We are going to win this together whether you like it or not!” 

 

Midoriya carried Bakugou away quickly. Shouta would have expected the boy to resist, but going off the wheezing groans picked up by the bug, Midoriya’s tackle had effectively winded his partner. With Bakugou too busy recovering to move, Midoriya was able to take him a fair distance away before the boy regained control of himself. Once he did, however, Bakugou hit Midoriya in the back of the head with his gauntlet, forcing the boy to drop him. 

 

Injured and panting, the two of them retreated to opposite walls of the alley they were hiding in. The reprieve that Midoriya had granted them would only last so long: already, on another screen, Shouta could see All Might looking for his students. 

 

Midoriya leveled Bakugou with a steely glare and said, “I can’t think of a way for us to beat All Might, or make a run for it without him swooping in and stopping us. But before you give up , we can at least try using my power.”

 

Bakugou bared his teeth in a quiet snarl, too tired and winded to form a more coherent response.

 

“You can’t say you’re okay with losing. ‘The most amazing hero always wins,’ remember? You’ve been saying that since we were little kids. How can you give up now?”

 

With an aggravated yell, Bakugou pushed to his feet and launched himself at Midoriya. The explosion and resulting smoke blinded the camera for a moment, and Shouta feared the worst until the screen cleared revealing that Bakugou’s fist had made a crater in the wall next to Midoriya’s head rather than his skull. 

 

“Listen up, because I’m not going to say it again, you useless nerd. All Might’s speed is insane; no matter where you try to run and hide there’s no way to avoid fighting him.”

 

“Fighting him is just as insane–”

 

“Shut the fuck up before I kill you!” Bakugou snapped. “He won’t be stopped by anything less than an all-out attack. I tested that earlier with my mini blasts. I have a plan, so you’re going to fall in line and do as I say.”

 

Midoriya straightened from his slight crouch and met Bakugou’s eyes. “It doesn’t matter whose plan it is; as long as it’s a plan that will work, you’ll have my full cooperation.”

 

“It’ll work,” Bakugou insisted.

 

Shouta listened as Bakugou laid out his plan for Midoriya. It wasn’t a bad plan, and it did require the two of them to work together. Shouta had been ready to expel Bakugou regardless of the outcome of this final. The bullying and complete refusal to compromise and cooperate with his partner were more than sufficient grounds for expulsion, but if Bakugou could create and execute a plan based on cooperation then Shouta might be convinced to offer him another chance.

 

Normally, Shouta wouldn’t, but there were a couple of reasons that he even considered an alternative. First, there was simply Midoriya. The complicated and fragile trust he’d gained from the boy would be gone if Shouta expelled Bakugou against Midoriya’s wishes. As much as Shouta worried for Midoriya’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing where Bakugou was concerned, he needed Midoriya to trust him if they were going to get through the threat presented by the League of Villains and All For One. Second was Bakugou. The anger and disrespect towards classmates weren’t new issues, but they hadn’t been on the level of bullying, and Bakugou had heaps of potential to be an amazing hero if he ever learned to curb that temper. 

 

With the declining health of the Symbol of Peace, the world was getting closer and closer to All Might’s retirement, and it could not have come at a worse time. Villains were getting bolder, more powerful. They would see All Might’s retirement as open season and Shouta was very sure society wasn’t ready. The world was going to need heroes more than ever, and it was Shouta’s job to make sure these kids survived to help save it.

 

Decided, Shouta watched the rest of Midoriya and Bakugou’s final. Both boys would need a trip to Recovery Girl’s afterward, but Bakugou’s plan had worked. Shouta left the observation room and headed for the nurse’s office. 

 

Midoriya was still awake when Shouta walked in, while Bakugou was unconscious a few cots away. Shouta tamped down on the anger that looking at the boy caused, and focused on Midoriya. 

 

“Mr. Aizawa.” Midoriya was faintly trembling, but Shouta didn’t know if that was from pain or nerves. 

 

“Midoriya,” he acknowledged. Green eyes shifted around the nurse’s office and Shouta guessed what was making him uncomfortable. “Recovery Girl will heal you, I promise, and you don’t have to worry about that ever not happening. I made sure of it.”

 

Shouta had never been so furious at a coworker as the day Midoriya had told him that Recovery Girl refused to heal his injuries, and he’d exacted appropriate punishment. After a discussion with Recovery Girl and Nedzu, he’d gotten confirmation from the nurse that she would never deny or threaten to deny treatment for a student ever again. She’d been lucky to walk out of that meeting with her job intact.

 

Recovery Girl walked into the small office not a moment later and tsked and fretted over the state of both boys, quietly scolding All Might for going too far. Shouta couldn’t disagree considering the injury to Midoriya’s back and Bakugou’s unconsciousness. Recovery Girl set Bakugou up with an IV before making her way to Midoriya.

 

“Now then, let’s get you patched up.” Recovery Girl planted a kiss on Midoriya’s cheek and monitored his status as the healing did its job. Midoriya fell unconscious, but that was to be expected. “I expect they’ll both be out for a while.”

 

“Let me know as soon as they’re awake. I’ll have to talk to both of them about what just happened.”

 

Recovery Girl sighed, “Of course. I’ll send word right away.”

 

As Shouta left, he caught Todoroki making his way toward the nurse’s office. He raised his hand to stop the boy, “Midoriya is sleeping off the effects of Recovery Girl’s quirk, and Bakugou is still unconscious.”

 

“You saw what happened.” Todoroki gave him a dark look. 

 

“You were right, and I am sorry for not seeing it before.” Shouta would be kicking himself for it for a long time.

 

“What are you going to do about Bakugou?” 

 

Shouta crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head, “That depends on Midoriya and Bakugou, but I promise you that he will not walk away from this without consequences.”

 

Todoroki took a fortifying breath and nodded. “May I see Midoriya?”

 

“He’s asleep, as I said.” Shouta considered denying Todoroki’s request, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. After what happened today, the mistakes he’d made, Shouta didn’t feel like he could deny Todoroki or Midoriya the comfort they’d get out of it. “But you can sit with him for a bit. If Recovery Girl tells you to leave, you leave. Understood?”

 

Todoroki dropped a quick, grateful bow and made his way into the nurse’s office without a backward glance. Shouta sighed as he headed for the entrance. He gave his students a brief confirmation that the day was over and they should go home. They’d discuss what happened next in the morning.

 

Once the last of the students not currently in the nurse’s office left, Hizashi draped himself across Shouta’s shoulders and let out a relieved sigh. “What a day. You see what your students did to me, Shou? Bugs. An army of bugs . You’re lucky you’re cute and I love you.”

 

“You lived,” Shouta smirked. 

 

“But at what cost?” 

 

Shouta knew what he was doing. His husband had a sixth sense for when Shouta was in a foul mood and made it his mission to get Shouta to relax. Shouta allowed it, for the most part, but this wasn’t something he could easily set aside. It was, however, something he could use some assistance with.

 

“Hizashi, I need your help.” Shouta should have done this the moment Midoriya told him about his teachers, but things had gotten busy with internships and investigating the League. He’d put it on his summer to-do list when he’d have more time. He wished he hadn’t waited.

 

Hizashi dropped the playful attitude and stood up. “What can I do?”

 

It was a well-known fact that Hizashi loved kids; it was one of the things that made him such a fantastic teacher. Another well-known fact was that he fought against things like discrimination; he donated time and money to several charities and organizations that stood up for those who were marginalized and fought for their rights. A lesser-known fact was that Hizashi was ruthless when pitted against a school accused of discrimination. 

 

These were things that they had in common. Over the course of their fifteen years as heroes, he and Hizashi had taken down seven schools for institutionalized discrimination. Nedzu had headhunted them both for a position at UA once he’d caught wind of their extra-curricular activities. With the principal’s help, bringing those schools to task had become much easier.

 

And now, Shouta had their next case.

 

“Aldera Middle School.” 

 

Hizashi took the files that Shouta handed him with a grave nod. “What are we looking at?”

 

“Neglect, quirk discrimination, and bullying. Midoriya brought it to my attention, but he’s likely not the only victim.” Shouta gripped the fabric of his pockets in his clenched fists in an effort to keep himself somewhat calm.

 

“The green bean? I knew the little listener had trust issues… How bad was it?” 

 

Shouta didn’t know, which was not doing anything to help his foul mood. Based on what he saw today, and what little Midoriya had told him, he was willing to bet it was bad. 

 

Hizashi must have seen it in his face because his husband pulled him close and bumped their foreheads together gently. “Leave it to me, Shou. You focus on the kid.”

 

Litigation took a considerable amount of time, so Hizashi headed home right away. Shouta planned to stick around for Midoriya and Bakugou to wake up, but it would likely be a few hours yet. He decided to review the video footage from the other students’ finals while he waited so he could finalize plans for improvements tailored to each of his students for the summer camp.

 

As predicted, Recovery Girl’s text that Midoriya was awake came a little over three hours later. He shot her a reply to keep him there until Shouta arrived and then made his way to the nurse’s office. Midoriya sat alone, cross-legged on the bed—Todoroki must have been sent home—when Shouta came in, hands in his lap, head down. The kid looked like he expected Shouta to punish him for something.

 

With a sigh, Shouta leaned against the edge of the bed and shoved his hands in his pockets. “You’re not in trouble, kid.”

 

“I know.” Midoriya didn’t sound like he believed it.

 

“I owe you another apology, Midoriya.” Shouta noticed the kid’s head shoot up at that, but he didn’t wait for the inevitable objection that would follow. “I misjudged your relationship with Bakugou, and you paid the price for my error. I’m sorry. It won’t make up for everything that happened, but I want you to know that Bakugou won’t walk away from this without severe consequences–”

 

“Please don’t expel him!” Midoriya cried.

 

Shouta knew the kid wasn’t going to agree to expulsion, but part of him still hoped. “I’d be well within my rights to expel him; UA has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.”

 

“I know, that’s w-why I n-never told you. K-Kacchan has so m-much potential; he’s g-going to be a g-great hero.” Midoriya’s stutter was back; Shouta hadn’t heard it in a while. His confidence had been growing, but it seemed this conversation was taking that from him. 

 

“He has the potential,” Shouta conceded. “But his attitude, and the way he treats others, are red flags.”

 

Midoriya looked down at his hands again, but that didn’t completely hide the tears falling down his cheeks. “Kacchan has b-been doing so well at UA. He has real f-friends instead of followers, and h-he respects them. I know he’s l-loud and he threatens to explode or kill them a-a lot, but he doesn’t mean it. That’s just how he talks.”

 

“He attacked you, unprovoked, not once but twice during your final.” 

 

“It doesn’t matter.”

 

“I think it does.”

 

“No, you’re worried that if he attacked me when we were supposed to be a team, then how can you trust him to work with others? How can you trust him to help others if he’s a bully? But you don’t have to worry about that because it’s–” Midoriya wiped at the tears on his cheeks and took a shuddering breath. “It’s just me. He won’t do that to anyone else.”

 

“Even if what you say is true, it still matters that he does it to you,” Shouta said. 

 

Midoriya looked so lost and confused at Shouta’s statement, it broke his heart a little. This kid… Shouta was going to have to work hard to improve Midoriya’s self-worth, but that wasn’t something that would be corrected with a single conversation. Actions always spoke louder for Shouta anyway.

 

“I won’t expel him,” he began, and Midoriya relaxed in an instant. “Midoriya, what I said is true. It matters, you matter, and I can’t let him get away with what he did. There will be consequences. Whatever happens to Bakugou, you need to know that it isn’t your fault. He made the choices that led to this, and that’s not on you. Understand?”

 

“I–” Midoriya frowned, but closed his mouth and seemed to think it over. Shouta let him work the problem on his own, hopeful that he would come to the correct conclusion. Finally, his student nodded and said, “I trust you.”

 

Shouta felt a weight lift from his shoulders. He pushed himself up off the bed and stood in front of Midoriya. “You did well today, despite having the deck stacked against you. I’m proud of you.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Aizawa.” Midoriya gave him a watery, blinding smile. 

 

“Don’t forget to change before you go home; I’ll see you tomorrow in class.” Shouta stepped to the side as Midoriya hopped down off the bed. He jogged to the door and waved cheerfully before leaving, closing the door quietly behind him.

 

One conversation down, one to go.

 

Shouta got comfortable in a corner near Bakugou’s bed and waited.

Chapter Text

The atmosphere the next day in class was tense. Shouto couldn’t say with confidence whether or not his gambit during the final would result in failure, but he didn’t regret it either way. It was odd to realize he trusted Aizawa to keep his promise, that Bakugou would face punishment for his actions, but he couldn’t help the small ember of hope that burned in his chest despite his past and better judgment.

 

He blamed Midoriya. 

 

Shouto watched as his green-haired friend tried his best to comfort their classmates that seemed certain they were facing failure. Shouto hadn’t bothered to pay attention to anyone else’s final performance, so he couldn’t offer his own input even if he’d been so inclined. Instead, he observed, content to leave the social interaction to Midoriya. 

 

Yaoyorozu took her seat with a quiet smile in his direction. Shouto needed to thank her again for her cooperation during the final. If she hadn’t agreed to support his vendetta against Aizawa, he might not have been able to warn the man of the danger to Midoriya. 

 

“He’s so awkwardly charming,” she said, keeping her voice down. The general volume of the classroom ensured their conversation remained relatively private, or as private as a conversation could be with Jirou and Shoji in the same room. “I forget sometimes how strong he is.”

 

“You shouldn’t.”

 

Yaoyorozu’s gaze drifted from Midoriya to Shouto, and she smiled again. “You certainly didn’t. You knew before any of us.”

 

“It was obvious.” 

 

She hummed, amused, “I suppose it would be to anyone who watches him as often as you do.”

 

“He is worth watching,” he asserted.

 

“And worth watching after.” Yaoyorozu sighed, despondent. “You were never worried about All Might, were you?”

 

Shouto considered deflecting or disregarding the comment but ultimately shook his head in response. She’d deduced the truth for herself; there was no point in lying about it.

 

Yaoyorozu must have been in the observation room during Midoriya’s final. Shouto vaguely recalled a few alarmed exclamations as Bakugou’s gauntlet ruthlessly slammed into Midoriya’s face, but he hadn’t been able to focus on much that wasn’t on the monitors. He’d be hard-pressed to remember exactly who had been present.

 

“He’s lucky to have you, Todoroki.” Yaoyorozu placed her hand on his desk, and Shouto saw the shimmer of her quirk for a moment before she pulled away. 

 

Shouto felt his features relax—not a full smile, but as close as he normally came—as he looked down at the smiling Midoriya nesting doll. He picked it up carefully and examined his friend’s likeness with reserved delight. He’d have to keep it somewhere safe.

 

“Don’t worry, that one isn’t a grenade,” Yaoyorozu promised.

 

“Thank you,” he said, painfully sincere. 

 

Shouto tucked the nesting doll into his blazer pocket when the door opened, admitting Aizawa as the bell rang. There was a brief scramble as the class found their seats, but everyone was seated and silent by the time their teacher made his way to the podium. 

 

“Morning,” Aizawa greeted in his usual tired drawl. As was typical, he didn’t wait for a response before continuing. “Unfortunately, there were a few of you who did not pass your final exams. As you recall, I warned you that if you failed, you would not be permitted to attend the summer training camp with the rest of the class.”

 

There were a few students who visibly withered in their desks, disheartened at this reminder. Shouto considered for the first time that if he failed, he would also be forced to remain behind. The idea did not sit well with him for a number of reasons.

 

“Lucky for those that failed,” Aizawa paused to take a sip of his coffee, leaving the class on edge as they waited for him to continue, “that was just a logical ruse. Everyone is going to the training camp.”

 

Kirishima, Ashido, Kaminari, and Sato cheered loudly at Aizawa’s announcement, and Shouto was also relieved. At least, if he had failed, he would still be allowed to go to camp.

 

“Fortunately, no one bombed the written exam. Five of you failed the practical, badly. Two teams, of course, and then Sero failed as well. The challenge we put before you was designed to show us how you all worked together to approach the task at hand, and us teachers made sure to give each of you ample opportunity to succeed. No one would have passed otherwise.”

 

“But didn’t you say the teachers wouldn’t be holding back?” Ojiro asked.

 

“That was just to get you all to try your best,” Aizawa explained. “The training camp will focus on building your strength; those that failed need those lessons the most. The plan was never to keep any of you from going.”

 

Another cheer went up from the class, but their teacher wasn’t done yet. As his gaze darkened, silence crept back into the class and tensions rose. 

 

“Before you get too excited, I should remind you: Failure is still failure. We’ve prepared extra lessons for the five of you and Bakugou.” 

 

Almost as a whole, the class turned to look at the abnormally silent blonde in surprise. From his vantage point in the back of the room, Shouto couldn’t see Bakugou’s face, but he could see the tension with which he held himself. As he didn’t respond to Aizawa’s announcement, Shouto assumed Bakugou had been told about this already, but he was clearly unhappy.

 

“I will not go into details,” Aizawa headed off the questions from the others. “Suffice to say that I noticed an area where more education was required, and we will provide it. On a similar note, I have one more announcement. To better facilitate everyone’s educational needs, we are going to reorganize the seating chart for the start of the next term. If you feel you would benefit from sitting somewhere specific, please write your request on a sheet of paper and hand it to me before the end of the day. I will do my best to accommodate all reasonable requests.”

 

Aizawa met Shouto’s gaze briefly, but it was all Shouto needed to know that this was his teacher’s effort to correct his mistake. Bakugou would not only be forced to take remedial lessons but he would also be moved away from Midoriya with the new seating chart. If he was lucky, maybe Aizawa would place him and Midoriya next to each other.

 

As it was the last day of class before the summer break, most of their classes were spent reviewing the material on the final, going over questions that were most frequently missed or that someone requested help understanding. Shouto felt like the day dragged on, but it was better than trying to cram new material in before the break.

 

The final bell rang and the class was abuzz with talk about the training camp. A class trip to the mall was suggested by Hagakure, and most of the class agreed right away. Bakugou refused, which eased Shouto’s main concern, but when Midoriya asked if he was coming, Shouto regretfully had to turn him down. 

 

“I visit my mom on days off,” Shouto explained.

 

Midoriya beamed at him. “That’s great! Say hi for me! Uh-I mean, t-that is if you want t-to. I shouldn’t p-presume–”

 

“I will,” Shouto cut off the nervous—endearing—rambling before Midoriya could work himself up too much. 

 

His friend relaxed and gave him a relieved grin. “You don’t have to. She doesn’t even know who I am; it might be weird to tell her I say hi…”

 

“She knows who you are.” Shouto had told his mom about Midoriya, about how he’d helped him come to terms with his fire, how he’d befriended him, how they trained together. Come to think of it, there probably hadn’t been a visit yet that he hadn’t mentioned Midoriya at least once.

 

Midoriya blushed faintly. “Well, maybe if we’re still at the mall when you’re done, you could join us. But only if you want to! Don’t rush or anything.”

 

“Maybe,” Shouto agreed. He wished he could say for sure that he’d be there, but he didn’t get a lot of time with his mom. The chances were fairly low he’d be ready to leave in time to meet up with Midoriya at the mall.

 

Unfailingly kind and understanding, Midoriya didn’t press Shouto for a firmer commitment as they walked to the gates together. Before parting ways, Midoriya said, “I’ll text you tomorrow regardless. See you later, Todoroki!”

 

“Bye.” Shouto watched him walk toward the station for a bit before turning down his own path home.

 

A body blocked his path, surprising Shouto before he recognized who it was. Shinsou stared down at him, an amused smirk on his face. The other boy must have been tailing Midoriya again. Neither of them said anything immediately. Without Midoriya or training as a buffer, Shouto had no idea what to say, so he remained silent.

 

“His situational awareness is...startlingly bad considering his quirk,” Shinsou remarked.

 

Shouto blinked. The implication that Shinsou knew of Midoriya’s natural quirk threw Shouto off guard. He didn’t remember Midoriya mentioning that he’d told Shinsou about his quirk, and Shouto knew Midoriya hadn’t told him about One For All. It made Shouto uneasy. 

 

Secrets were valuable to the right—or wrong —people. The more people who knew about Midoriya’s quirks, the more danger his friend was in. They still didn’t know for sure whether or not the League knew Midoriya had One For All, but it was possible. If they did know, they learned it from someone. Todoroki hadn’t shared the knowledge, and he couldn’t see All Might, Aizawa, or Mrs. Midoriya divulging it either. But Shinsou… Shinsou was still very much an unknown. Shouto reevaluated the teen’s threat level.

 

Shinsou raised his hands from his pockets, holding them out in a non-threatening gesture. “Relax. Midoriya told me about his weird dual-quirk when he hijacked my training sessions with Mr. Aizawa. I know it’s a secret; I’m not gonna spread it around.”

 

“You told me.” Shouto did not relax out of his ready stance. He couldn’t attack Shinsou, but he also wouldn’t let down his guard.

 

“Technically,” Shinsou said, “I didn’t. I alluded to it, but unless you already knew, you wouldn’t have understood. Anyway, I was pretty sure you knew already; Midoriya tells you everything, even things that aren’t his to tell.”

 

Midoriya wasn’t supposed to have told him about training with Shinsou. Shouto had promised his silence on the matter, but Shinsou must still harbor some resentment toward Midoriya, or maybe Shouto himself, for the slip. 

 

“He didn’t know it was a secret.” 

 

“Yeah, he mentioned,” Shinsou sighed. “Look, you and the rest of the Izukrew”—Shouto blinked at the odd moniker—”have been disgustingly genuine and welcoming. It’s been weird, but. Nice. I suppose. I wasn’t trying to antagonize you.” 

 

“Then what was your goal?”

 

“I don’t like owing people.”

 

Shouto couldn’t recall helping the other teen with anything recently other than the training earlier that week, but that had been mutually beneficial for everyone. Still, if Shinsou believed that he was indebted to Shouto for something, then Shouto knew what he’d want to ask. 

 

“Keep Midoriya’s secret–”

 

Shinsou scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Okay, first of all, I wasn’t going to tell anyone anyway, so it hardly counts. Second, even if it did count, it would be for Midoriya, not you. Last thing I need is you deciding it’s suddenly not enough and demanding something else.” 

 

Shouto’s confusion grew. “Why would I demand anything else?”

 

“I know the whole lunch invitation thing was your idea. It was quick thinking, and I appreciate that you helped keep my secret. More than that… This last week has been...nice. Sitting with Midoriya and your group has sorta been what I imagine having friends is supposed to be like.”

 

Oh. That wasn’t what Shouto expected, but it was familiar enough that he felt like he understood a little better. It had been confusing for Shouto at first as well, but at least he could clarify things for Shinsou the way Midoriya had for him.

 

“They are your friends. They aren’t just tolerating you for Midoriya’s sake.”

 

Shinsou didn’t look relieved or like he’d had a revelation the way Shouto had. Had he said it wrong? He didn’t think so.

 

“I’m aware; that’s the problem,” Shinsou deadpanned. “You and Midoriya did something for me by dragging me into your circle of friends. Now, rather than wait for you to come up with something for me to do for you—it always happens, don’t try to deny it—I’m helping you with this.”

 

“This?” Shouto was confused again.

 

“Midoriya.”

 

“...I don’t understand.”

 

Shinsou heaved an aggrieved sigh and ran a hand over his face. “You’re both ridiculous.”

 

Shouto privately thought that he wasn’t the one not making any sense.

 

“You and Midoriya are circling around each other, waiting for one of you to recognize what is happening. Personally, I don’t think it’ll be Midoriya who sees it first—he’s a bit oblivious—which means it’s gotta be you.” Shinsou insisted, suddenly serious. “It doesn’t have to be today or whatever, but when you figure it out, my advice to you is to just tell Midoriya. Don’t waste time waiting for him to catch up on his own.”

 

Apparently satisfied that he’d successfully delivered his message, Shinsou gave Shouto one last scrutinizing once over and turned away, throwing a half-hearted wave over his shoulder leaving Shouto annoyingly confused. He cursed his inexperience navigating social interaction and resolved to get a second opinion. 

 

Maybe his mom? He would bring the conversation up with her tomorrow and see if she could help him understand. Decided, Shouto made his way home quickly. Invoking his father’s wrath was a poor decision on a good day, but Shouto didn’t want to risk the bastard preventing him from visiting his mom. He couldn’t bar Shouto access to the hospital—probably—but he could leave him too sore or injured to venture across town. Best not to risk it.

 

Shouto suffered through the role of perfect son for the evening until Endeavor finally retired to his bedroom. Once he was gone, the taught line of Shouto’s shoulders eased and he breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“Say hi to Mom for me tomorrow?” Fuyumi requested with a gentle smile. 

 

“I will,” Shouto promised. 

 

“Goodnight, Shouto.”

 

Shouto allowed himself to lean a little into his sister’s touch as she ran a hand over his hair. His previous reluctance to indulge in physical contact had hurt her—hurt them both—and it had only been a few months since he’d stopped keeping her at a distance. He noticed her faint, pleased smile, but was still too unsure how to acknowledge it. Thankfully, she didn’t ever seem to need him to acknowledge it at all.

 

“Goodnight, Fuyu-nee.” Shouto excused himself to get ready for bed. 

 

As his last act before settling down to sleep, Shouto carefully moved the Midoriya nesting doll from his blazer pocket to his bag so he wouldn’t leave it somewhere his father might find it. He’d like to be able to keep the doll in his room, but his privacy was invaded too regularly to risk Endeavor seeing it. Shouto could only imagine the fit his father would throw, and he’d rather not see the small figure of his friend engulfed in Hellfire.

 

The next morning, Shouto shared a pleasant breakfast with his sister before heading out to the hospital. Endeavor had left the house early to go to his agency, so Shouto didn’t have to worry about explaining where he was headed. The train ride out to the hospital was quiet, which suited Shouto fine. The quiet afforded him time to settle his nerves. Even after a couple of months visiting his mom on days off, Shouto still got nervous—or maybe anxious was more accurate. He was getting better, but it was still new. Still fragile. They were both relearning how to interact with and around each other.

 

The nurse at the front desk gave him a polite smile and waved him through. Shouto had been by frequently enough that they trusted him to know where he was going. 

 

Shouto knocked gently and waited for the quiet, “Come in,” from his mom before opening the door. 

 

“Hi, Mom.”

 

“Shouto,” she smiled and waved for him to join her at the small table in the corner of her room, “it’s so good to see you.”

 

“You, too.” Shouto took a seat in the free chair and slung his bag off, setting it gently on the floor next to the table. “How are you doing?”

 

His mom gave him an indulgent smile before telling him about her week. She never went into details about her therapy, just remarked that it had helped or that they were working on something new. Shouto understood that it was something personal and never pressed for more than she was willing to share. When she told him of her hobbies, she became more animated, and he asked questions to keep her talking. It was soothing to hear that she was able to find some happiness while trapped in the hospital, but Shouto hoped she’d be able to leave one day.

 

There was only so long she’d allow him to keep the conversation on her, though, and she seized her opportunity to get him talking. “Last time you mentioned finals would be this week. How did it go?”

 

“The written exams were fine,” Shouto said. “They had us fight the teachers in teams of two for the practical.”

 

“That sounds challenging.”

 

Shouto pondered how to respond; the test itself had been straightforward. The challenge had, of course, been dealing with the potential danger to Midoriya. He’d told his mom that he didn’t like Bakugou’s treatment of Midoriya before, so she had some context, but he hadn’t told her everything. Choosing his words carefully, Shouto explained what had happened that day. She listened intently as he told her what it was like seeing Midoriya shut down, how angry he had been, and his decision to confront Aizawa during his own test. 

 

“You care for him a great deal, to risk your grade like that.” His mom rested her hand gently on his own where they were clenched on top of the table. 

 

“Yes,” Shouto agreed. “Yaoyorozu said almost the exact same thing. I don’t know why it’s so remarkable.”

 

His mom gave his hands a squeeze, “You’ve only known Midoriya a few months. That isn’t very long to grow so fond of a person. It’s a good thing, Shouto,” she promised, “but I’m sure some find it surprising.”

 

Reminded of Yaoyorozu and the final, Shouto pulled his hands from his mom’s to reach for his bag. He pulled out the Midoriya nesting doll and showed it to his mom. “During our final, Yaoyorozu created these nesting dolls with flashbang grenades inside—that one’s empty, though. She said making them look like Midoriya seemed appropriate.”

 

“This is Midoriya?” His mom cooed over the little figure. “He’s adorable.”

 

Shouto couldn’t disagree. Midoriya was frequently adorable.

 

“May I leave it with you?” Shouto asked. When she looked surprised, he explained. “I don’t want it to get damaged. I can’t leave it at home; if he found it, I’m sure he’d incinerate it. I would keep it in my bag, but I’m worried it would get crushed by my books, or I’d lose it if it fell out.”

 

“Your father doesn’t approve of your relationship?” His mom asked, worry pinching the skin between her eyes.

 

“He doesn’t know,” Shouto shook his head. “If he did, I’m sure he would try to forbid it—for all the good that would do him.”

 

“Just be careful, Shouto.” His mom stood and made her way to the window to set the Midoriya doll on the sill where it would catch the light. The green was especially vibrant in the sun. “Keeping relationships secret, even for good reasons, can cause problems down the line. I don’t want you or Midoriya to get hurt.”

 

Shouto didn’t want Midoriya to get hurt either. There was only so much he could do, given their chosen career path, but Shouto was doing all he could to mitigate preventable problems. For now, Midoriya was safe from Endeavor, and Shouto would keep it that way.

 

“I promised his mom I would protect him, and I will.”

 

“I remember you mentioned your promise to protect each other,” His mother smiled, amused. “You’ve met his mother; when do I get to meet him?”

 

“Would you like to?” Shouto asked, surprised. He hadn’t thought seriously about bringing Midoriya to the hospital with him only because he imagined his mother wouldn’t want a stranger to see her here.

 

“I would,” she replied wistfully. “But I don’t believe it’s possible. I’m not allowed visitors that aren’t family.”

 

Now that the idea had been planted, though, Shouto wanted it. He wanted his mother to meet Midoriya, wanted her to experience first hand the warmth and sunshine and comfort that Midoriya brought so effortlessly to the people around him, wanted the two of the most important people in his life to be able to speak to each other.

 

“What if…” Shouto pulled his phone out of his pocket and held it tentatively in front of him. “If I video called him, the two of you could meet that way?”

 

His mother’s eyes sparkled with some emotion Shouto couldn’t identify and she took her seat at the table next to him once more. She brushed her hand over his cheek and smiled. “I think that’s a wonderful idea. If it’s not too early for him.”

 

Shouto didn’t think it would be too early. Considering Midoriya planned to meet with the rest of the class today, he had probably been awake for several hours already to get in his usual morning workout routine. Scrolling through his contacts, Shouto found Midoriya’s and tapped the video call option.

 

The phone opened up his camera, and Shouto’s own face stared back at him from the screen as a trilling ring echoed from the speakers. Shouto’s face shrank down into a small corner of the screen as Midoriya’s curious face took over.

 

“Good morning, Todoroki!”

 

“Midoriya; I didn’t wake you, did I?”

 

His friend shook his head and his curls flopped against his head. They were wet, Shouto realized. That’s why he looked disheveled. 

 

“You have good timing, I was just about to grab breakfast.” On screen, a towel—All Might themed, of course—engulfed Midoriya’s head as the boy rough-dried his hair. Since he was behind the towel, his words were a little muffled but Shouto could still understand him, “Are you done visiting your mom already? You didn’t rush, did you? Because the class isn’t meeting at the Kiyashi Ward mall until one. You should take your time to be with her like you’d originally planned.”

 

“No, I’m still at the hospital. That’s why I’m calling.”

 

Concerned green eyes appeared as Midoriya pulled the towel off his head, leaving his curls in complete disarray. “Is everything okay?”

 

“It is; my mom wanted to meet you.” Shouto itched to straighten those wayward locks, soothe the worry he’d unintentionally caused. 

 

“Oh!” Midoriya blushed and muttered, “Uh, should probably grab a shirt then, one second.” The view from Midoriya’s camera moved too quickly for details, but Shouto caught a wave of red, blue, and yellow until the picture resolved on Midoriya’s ceiling. “I’m s-so sorry Mrs. T-Todoroki! Just one m-moment!”

 

Shouto’s mom couldn’t see the screen since Shouto hadn’t turned it around yet, just in case he’d caught Midoriya unprepared—as he had. Since Midoriya was getting ready, Shouto took the opportunity to set his phone on the table, propped up against a few books so the camera could see them both.

 

“It’s alright, Midoriya. I apologize for interrupting your morning,” his mom said. 

 

“No, you’re f-fine!” The image on Midoriya’s end blurred again as he picked it up and then his brilliant smile was on camera.

 

“There he is,” Shouto’s mom smiled, amused. “It’s wonderful to meet you Midoriya.”

 

“You too! Wow, Todoroki really takes after you a lot.”

 

Shouto shook his head. This coming from the boy who was practically a clone of his own mother.

 

“Shouto’s told me so much about you. It’s nice to finally put a face to the name,” his mom said. “I wanted to be able to thank you in person for all you’ve done for my son.”

 

“Oh, that’s n-not necessary!”

 

She shook her head, “It is. I will never be able to repay you, Midoriya.”

 

“If y-you two are happy, that’s all the thanks I need.” Midoriya caught his eye briefly before turning back to Shouto’s mom. “You don’t owe me anything.”

 

Shouto suddenly recalled his conversation with Shinsou yesterday. He thought about bringing it up with Midoriya since he knew Shinsou better than Shouto did, but since Midoriya had been the topic of discussion, Shouto decided to wait until he could ask his mom.

 

“Sweet boy,” she smiled. “I’m so glad Shouto has you.”

 

Midoriya blushed but before he could say anything in response, they heard another voice shout, “Izuku! Breakfast is ready!”

 

“Thanks, Mom!” Midoriya called, holding his phone a little further away to avoid yelling too loudly over the line. He turned back to the camera with an apologetic smile. “I’ve gotta go, but it was really nice meeting you, Mrs. Todoroki.”

 

“You as well.”

 

“I think I mentioned, but we’ll be at Kiyashi Ward shopping mall at one, probably for a few hours at least if you change your mind, Todoroki. It’s totally fine if you don’t, though.”

 

“Your class is going shopping?” his mom asked.

 

“To prepare for the summer camp,” Shouto explained. “I don’t need anything, though.”

 

His mom squeezed his hand before turning back to Midoriya. “He’ll be there,” she promised.

 

Midoriya looked surprised but cautiously pleased. “It’s really fine if he can’t. I know you two don’t get a lot of time together.”

 

“Izuku!”

 

“Coming!” he shouted over his shoulder. “Sorry. Whatever you decide, Todoroki. I’ll see you later!”

 

The line went dead less than a second later and Shouto retrieved his phone. “I don’t need anything for the trip; I’d rather spend time with you.”

 

His mother giggled quietly. “More than you’d like to spend time with Midoriya?”

 

“I see Midoriya nearly every day at school,” Shouto reasoned.

 

“But that’s school, Shouto. How often are you able to be together outside of classes and training?” 

 

The answer was almost never. Endeavor restricted Shouto from what his old man considered frivolous distractions, like seeing his friends. The very rare occasions where Shouto was able to steal a few hours away from his father were limited to when the bastard was away from home, but Midoriya always had time—or made time—for him when the opportunity presented itself. 

 

Maybe Shouto should return the favor and make time. 

 

But he only had a few hours a week, at most, to see his mom. He was torn.

 

“I can tell Midoriya wants you there,” his mom said. “I think you’d make his day if you went.”

 

“The rest of our friends are going to be there; I’m sure he’ll have fun without me.” Shouto didn’t know why the thought made something in his chest hurt. 

 

“But he’ll have more fun with you.” 

 

“Why do you want me to go?” Shouto asked, curious why she was pushing so hard for him to go hang out with his friends.

 

“I love you, and I will never regret being your mother, but even though it breaks my heart, love is not the reason you were born. You were brought into the world for a purpose, Shouto, which is a burden no one should have to bear.” She gazed out the window with a forlorn expression, still as a statue, and Shouto floundered, with no idea how to bring her out of her sudden melancholy. 

 

This wasn’t the first time she’d slipped into a dissociative state or gotten lost in some distant memory in his presence, but that didn’t make it any easier to see. Shouto wished he could make it better.

 

Tentatively, hoping he didn’t make it worse, Shouto knelt next to her chair and slowly reached his hand out until his fingers brushed against her cold hands. “I never blamed you for any of it. That’s not what kept me away. You know that, right?”

 

“I do,” she whispered. After a handful of heartbeats, she turned away from the window and slid her other hand over his. “I will always be here, and I will always have time for you, but you have to make time for yourself.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“You embraced the career that was chosen for you, and I’m glad you’re working toward it the way you want to, but you’re still young,” she smiled, and he was relieved to see her return to the present. “Enjoy being young, Shouto. Be with Midoriya if he makes you happy; go to the mall for no other reason than to have fun. Go be a teenager, and then come tell me all about it next time you visit.”

 

If it would make his mother happy to hear about his time spent hanging out with his friends, then there wasn’t an argument he could pose to refuse.

 

“If that’s what you want, I’ll go,” Shouto relented.

 

“And I look forward to hearing about it.” She hugged him gently and Shouto returned the embrace. 

 

“I don’t know how interesting it will be, but I’ll tell you everything.”

 

“Even if it doesn’t make for a thrilling tale, as long as you have fun, I’ll be happy.”

 

Whatever else he would have liked to do or say while he was with his mom would have to wait until next time. Kiyashi Ward was a few hours away by train; if he was going to get there even close to on time, he needed to leave.

 

“Alright. I love you, Mom.”

 

“I love you too, Shouto.” His mom handed him his bag and gave him a gentle push out the door. 

 

As predicted, Shouto was about ten minutes late getting to the mall. It was enormous and crowded; finding Midoriya and the others would be difficult. The class-wide group chat gave him a starting point at least. Once he made it to their meeting spot, he’d text Midoriya to see where he was since he probably hadn’t ventured too far yet.

 

Finding Midoriya was surprisingly easy. As soon as Shouto made it to the designated meet-up point, he saw Midoriya’s characteristic green curls only a few meters away. Shouto didn’t see any of their classmates nearby, and he frowned. The point of the class coming to the mall had been to hang out and shop together, hadn’t it? So then, why was Midoriya alone?

 

Except he wasn’t alone.

 

As Shouto neared, he noticed another figure sitting next to—incredibly close to—Midoriya. Their hood was up and their posture hunched, so Shouto couldn’t make out a face, but their arm was slung around Midoriya’s shoulders in an overly familiar manner. Midoriya was tense; even from a distance, Shouto knew his friend well enough to see the taught line of his shoulders and stiff posture. 

 

Anger flared in his chest. Whoever this was, they were obviously making Midoriya uncomfortable. Shouto hastened his pace, ready to remove that arm by force if necessary. When he finally got close, the anger crackling through his veins evaporated, replaced by a roaring inferno of horror. 

 

Manic, red eyes. Pale, messy blue hair. And a four-finger vice-like grip around Midoriya’s throat. 

 

Despite every nerve screaming at him to freeze the bastard in place, he would never be faster than that fifth finger. Images of Midoriya’s neck decaying under the villain’s touch rose unbidden to Shouto’s mind, and suddenly, he felt as if his neck were the one being strangled. A fight would risk Midoriya’s life and no doubt the lives of the civilians nearby, not to mention the idiotic regulations regarding non-licensed quirk use meant that Shouto would be heavily censured or possibly arrested for defending his friend from a maniac. 

 

He couldn’t attack, but he had to do something .

 

“Shigaraki,” Shouto kept his voice low, but both hateful red and terrified green eyes snapped over to him. Recognition flashed in the villain’s eyes and he glared darkly at Shouto as his grip around Midoriya’s neck tightened. Shouto channeled every scrap of contempt and malice he held for the scum in front of him into his words. “Let. Him. Go.”

 

Shouto didn’t know—and frankly, didn’t care—if Shigaraki believed Shouto was a real threat or if he simply decided it wasn’t worth the trouble of fighting them, but he released Midoriya and stepped away. 

 

“Didn’t know you were here with a friend, Midoriya. Sorry to interrupt your day out.” Shigaraki smirked as Midoriya coughed. The villain took a few steps away, and Shouto moved closer to Midoriya. When they’d effectively traded places, Shigaraki added, “Don’t follow me, or I’ll really get angry. You wouldn’t want these sheep to get hurt, right heroes?”

 

Shouto knelt next to Midoriya and deliberately ignored the villain. His mission was accomplished; Midoriya was safe, and from the sound of it, Shigaraki would leave without fuss so long as they didn’t push him. 

 

“H-hold on. I have a question for you .” Midoriya’s voice was rough from coughing and anger, and despite the tears peeking out from the corner of his eyes, his scowl was fierce and full of determination. Shouto admired that determination, but he didn’t think provoking Shigaraki was a good idea. “What is All For One after?”

 

“Who can say, really.” Shigaraki shrugged, unconcerned. “But a word of advice for you: Be careful. The next time we meet, I’ll likely have to kill you.”

 

Shouto clenched his teeth to keep a retort from slipping past his lips. Threatening Shigaraki wouldn't help their current situation. 

 

Instead, he pulled Midoriya’s hands away from his neck so he could get a look at the damage. He kept his touch gentle, but Midoriya still flinched when Shouto brushed against his reddened skin. It would definitely bruise, but thankfully it looked like Shigaraki’s quirk never landed.

 

Shouto chilled his right hand and applied cold to Midoriya’s bruised neck delicately.

 

“Thank you,” Midoriya rasped.

 

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner.” Shouto was valiantly trying not to think about what might have happened if he had stayed with his mom as he’d originally planned. 

 

Midoriya’s hands wrapped around Shouto’s, keeping him from continuing first aid. Shouto looked up and met Midoriya’s eyes, but his question died on his tongue. There were so many emotions swimming in Midoriya’s verdant eyes that Shouto couldn’t identify them all, but he wanted to. He wanted to know what Midoriya was feeling, what he was thinking as he looked at Shouto with so much…so much

 

“You were here when I needed you; that’s all that matters.” Midoriya’s breathing hitched a little, and he turned his head into his shoulder to cough. 

 

“Here, let me.” Shouto was reluctant to pull his hands from Midoriya’s, but they were needed for other tasks. His right hand went back to icing Midoriya’s neck, but Shouto slipped his left into those curls and carded warm fingers through his hair. 

 

Midoriya smiled gratefully and watched him with that mysterious emotion again.

 

Whatever it was, it made Shouto feel warm and happy, and he would do whatever he had to in order to see it again and again, every day, for the rest of his life.

Chapter Text

There were a fair few moments in Izuku’s life up to now that he’d experienced heart-pounding, ice-in-his-veins terror. While never pleasant, he learned to keep his head during those moments. He was grateful—he supposed—for the practice, as it had helped him remain rational when Shigaraki had grabbed his neck and demanded to chat at the mall. Izuku’s fear hadn’t controlled him, and no one got hurt.

 

The fear was still very real, however, and the utter relief he’d felt upon Todoroki’s arrival was strong enough to knock Izuku off his feet. If he hadn’t already been sitting down, hadn’t been held up by Shigaraki’s hold on his neck, he was sure he would have collapsed right then and there. Todoroki would protect him, would fight with and for him, as he’d proven again and again. Part of Izuku had feared that Todoroki would be in danger as well, but mostly he’d just felt safe

 

Shigaraki left without a fight, and then Todoroki’s hands were on Izuku’s neck instead, and it was so gentle, so nice. With a chilled hand on his bruises to ease his pain and a warm hand in his hair to ease his anxiety, Izuku decided that Todoroki’s hands on his skin was one of his favorite things.

 

Probably for the best that Uraraka arrived when she did, otherwise Izuku might have actually said something along those lines. That would have been embarrassing. 

 

Uraraka was understandably alarmed by Izuku’s encounter with Shigaraki, and she apologized profusely for leaving him on his own. Izuku brushed her apology aside; he didn’t blame her. 

 

They called the police to report the incident, and then there was no more time to contemplate any strange, new feelings. The mall was shut down and searched, but Shigaraki was long gone by the time the police and heroes arrived. Izuku, Todoroki, and Uraraka were taken to the police station to give their statements given the sensitive nature of anything involving the League. 

 

Detective Tsukauchi conducted the interviews, and Izuku relaxed a fraction. All Might trusted the detective, and he was running point on the investigation into the League of Villains. He took them to a quieter, less busy part of the precinct to take their statements, starting with Uraraka since hers would be the shortest. 

 

Once she finished talking to the detective, she gave Izuku a hug and another apology.

 

“It’s okay, Uraraka, really,” Izuku promised. 

 

“It was so stupid of me, though,” she pouted.

 

“It was,” Todoroki agreed and Izuku shot him a glare. Todoroki met his glare without backing down, however. “Leaving you alone made you an easy target.”

 

“She had no way to know,” Izuku defended reasonably.

 

“No, Todoroki’s right. Even without all the crazy villain stuff, it was irresponsible of me to abandon you.” Uraraka sighed dejectedly, “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my folks talk about using the buddy system when I’m hanging out with friends without adult supervision, but clearly, I wasn’t listening as close as I thought.”

 

Before Izuku could say anything else, the detective came out of the interview room. “Alright, Todoroki. Are you ready to give your statement?”

 

“I have to get going,” Uraraka said after Todoroki nodded to the detective. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Izuku agreed easily. “Don’t be too hard on yourself, Uraraka. It turned out alright.”

 

She gave him a strained smile. Izuku could tell she was still upset, but there wasn’t anything else he could say. It hadn’t been her fault, but she still blamed herself. Izuku would feel the same in her place. 

 

“Would it be possible for Midoriya to accompany me for the interview?” Todoroki requested once Uraraka had left, surprising Izuku. Detective Tsukauchi and Izuku both gave Todoroki curious looks in response. “Perhaps it’s foolish considering we’re in a police station, but I don’t feel comfortable leaving you on your own right now.”

 

The detective looked to Izuku. “It’s not protocol, but it’s not against the rules either since these are just witness statements. Midoriya?”

 

“Oh, sure, yeah.” Izuku stood with Todoroki. “If it’s okay, I’d actually like that as well.”

 

The danger was well passed and they were in the middle of a police station, as Todoroki pointed out, but Izuku still felt better with Todoroki at his side. Besides, it would save him telling the story a second time since he would have told Todoroki later anyway. 

 

Izuku and Todoroki followed Detective Tsukauchi into the interview room. As they sat at the table, the detective pulled out a voice recorder. “I’ll be recording your statements for the case. When we start, I’ll introduce myself and my quirk and then both of you will introduce yourselves—just your name is fine. If you need to stop for any reason, we can pause and then pick up again when you’re ready. Sound good?”

 

“Yes,” Todoroki confirmed. 

 

Izuku nodded. 

 

“Great, but remember to respond verbally for the recording from here on in.” The detective smiled reassuringly. He set the device on the table and then pressed the little red button on the side. “Detective Naomasa Tsukauchi, quirk: Lie Detector. I will be conducting this joint interview with two primary witnesses to the events involving the appearance of Tomura Shigaraki at the Kiyashi Ward mall today shortly after 1 pm. After each question, I will give a verbal confirmation of true or false to verify the witness testimony.”

 

Izuku refrained—barely—from asking the detective the swarm of questions that he had about his quirk. Maybe he’d let him ask once the interview was over?

 

“Alright boys, go ahead and introduce yourselves for the record.”

 

“Shouto Todoroki.”

 

“Izuku Midoriya.”

 

“Both true. Excellent. Let’s get started.”

 

Detective Tsukauchi asked them to take him through a general description of events as they remembered them before going into specific questions. Since Izuku had spent the most time with Shigaraki, most of the questions were directed toward him, but the detective had a few questions for Todoroki as well. 

 

As he recounted his conversation with Shigaraki, how helpless and trapped he’d felt, Izuku found his hand reaching for Todoroki’s under the table. His hand was warm, soothing, and he held on without hesitation. Izuku marveled internally once again at how much the physical contact calmed him, and that Todoroki allowed it. 

 

When he came to the end of the encounter, Izuku made sure to keep his story relevant. His emotional response to Todoroki’s arrival didn’t need to go on record, but he made sure to include Shigaraki’s answer to his own question about All For One. It was confirmation that their fears were true; the supervillain was alive and involved with the League. 

 

Once they were both done, the detective turned the recorder off. “Thank you both for your time. You handled yourselves well despite the tense situation.”

 

“I wish he hadn’t gotten away,” Izuku lamented. “It feels like I failed.”

 

Todoroki squeezed his hand comfortingly. 

 

“You did everything right, Midoriya. You kept calm, kept Shigaraki talking, and prevented civilian casualties. We couldn’t have asked for more,” Detective Tsukaushi assured him. 

 

Todoroki turned to the detective. “Is there anything else?”

 

“No, I think we have everything we need,” Detective Tsukauchi smiled. “Your guardians have been called already and should be here to pick you up shortly.”

 

Todoroki stood, without letting go of Izuku’s hand, and addressed the detective. “My father?”

 

Detective Tsukauchi escorted them out of the interview room as he replied, “Your sister, actually. She’s listed as your primary emergency contact with UA, so that’s who we called. I imagine Endeavor’s pretty busy at the moment, anyway.” 

 

Since Izuku wasn’t eager to reclaim his hand, he walked next to Todoroki quietly enjoying the contact. The detective led them out a side door rather than through the front, and soon Izuku saw why. All Might met them just outside the door.

 

“Oh, they called your father.”

 

Izuku shoved Todoroki lightly with their connected hands as he fought not to laugh.

 

“Young Midoriya,” All Might called out, worry evident in his voice despite its normally boisterous nature in his heroic form. “Are you alright? I’m so sorry I wasn’t there, my boy.”

 

“I’m okay, I’m not hurt,” Izuku promised.

 

“That’s a relief. You’re unhurt as well, Young Todoroki?”

 

Todoroki nodded. “I am.”

 

“Good, good. Tsukauchi said you were both okay, but–” All Might deflated suddenly into his non-heroic form with a cough.

 

He must have been out of time for the day! Why would he risk coming here if he couldn’t maintain his heroic form? At All Might’s insistence, Izuku hadn’t told Todoroki, surely that meant he hadn’t wanted the other teen to know.

 

Glancing at Todoroki, the only evidence of surprise on his face was a slight widening of his eyes, but he quickly schooled his expression again. Despite his calm appearance, however, his tight grip on Izuku’s hand let slip his true feelings.

 

“I apologize.” All Might waved off Tsukauchi trying to hand him a handkerchief before facing Izuku and Todoroki again. “I’m out of time for today, but I wanted to see for myself that you were alright.”

 

All Might had exposed his secret to Todoroki just to make sure that Izuku was okay, even though the detective had already told him he was. It was that important to him? Izuku was that important to him?

 

“Are you...okay?” Todoroki asked slowly.

 

“As well as I can be. Don’t worry about me; this is the result of an old injury.” All Might gave Todoroki a strained smile, but he didn’t look like he regretted outing himself. “I suppose it was time you knew, anyway. Young Midoriya trusted you with the secret of One For All, and I trust his judgment.”

 

Todoroki didn’t say anything, at first, but it was a lot to take in. Izuku had definitely freaked out the first time he’d seen it happen. After a few moments, the vice-like hold on his hand relaxed to a more comfortable pressure as Todoroki adjusted to the new information. 

 

“This explains a lot,” Todoroki murmured quietly.

 

“Izuku!” Turning to the cry of his name, Izuku saw his mom running down the alley toward them. He had to let go of Todoroki’s hand to catch his mom as she threw herself into his arms. “Oh, baby, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

 

Izuku wrapped his arms around his mom and let her cry on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Mom, but I’m okay. Todoroki kept his promise.”

 

“If I’d been there from the start–” Todoroki began, but Izuku’s mom cut him off with a fierce hug. Izuku had to fight to keep from laughing at his friend’s bewildered expression. In an effort to help, Izuku mimed reciprocating the hug in an exaggerated manner. Todoroki slowly followed his instructions, but he looked to Izuku to make sure he was doing it right. Izuku fought hard to keep his face passively encouraging instead of laughing at Todoroki’s unsteady attempts to soothe Izuku’s mom.

 

“Thank you,” his mom said fiercely before releasing him and standing with Izuku once more. “I know it’s too much to put on you boys, but it really does ease my heart to know you’re looking after each other.”

 

Before either of them could comment further on it, another figure moved into the alley, followed by Sansa. Izuku guessed this new person was Todoroki’s sister; she had white hair with a few red streaks mixed in rather than Todoroki’s perfect split, and she looked enough like Mrs. Todoroki that it was fairly obvious.

 

“Fuyumi,” Todoroki greeted warmly. When she reached his side, he turned to Izuku and his mom. “My sister, Fuyumi. Fuyu-nee, this is Midoriya Izuku and his mother.”

 

“Inko,” his mother held her hand out, politely shaking hands with Todoroki’s sister. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“And you as well,” Fuyumi smiled. “I apologize; normally I would be eager to get to know you both, but it’s getting late. We should hurry if we’re going to beat Dad home.”

 

Todoroki scowled briefly before sighing. “Of course. I’ll see you later, Midoriya.”

 

“You bet, Todoroki. I’ll text you?”

 

His friend nodded, shooting him a small smile before following his sister out of the alley. 

 

“Sansa,” Detective Tsukauchi said. “Make sure the Midoriyas get home safe.”

 

“Yes, Sir.” The cat-headed officer saluted and then led them away.

 

Izuku sent All Might one more wave before following behind his mom. The warm smile from his mentor as he waved back filled Izuku with contentment. Todoroki liked to tease him about his and All Might’s relationship, but Izuku really wouldn’t mind if there was some truth to the joke. All Might certainly acted more like a father to him than Izuku’s actual father had.

 

Low bar, admittedly, but still. 

 

His mom held him close to her side as they rode home in the back of the officer’s car, and Izuku relaxed into the hold without complaint. Even if he didn’t have a father, he had an amazing mom. Izuku would forever be grateful for that.

 

There were a couple of weeks between the end of term and the start of the summer camp where Izuku and the others were free to indulge in normal summer activities so long as they stayed in Musutafu. There had been a few complaints from some of his classmates, but not many. Personally, Izuku didn’t mind. He took advantage of the free time to finally sit down and figure out something that had been bothering him all week.

 

Shinsou had claimed Izuku was a distraction to his classmates. He hadn’t meant it maliciously, and he hadn’t said it in an accusatory manner, but it bothered Izuku. The last thing he wanted to do was impede his friends’ ability to concentrate.

 

“He’d called them thirsty, right?” Izuku muttered to himself, opening his laptop. Somehow Izuku doubted Shinsou meant they needed to drink more water, so he decided to ask a more knowledgeable source: the internet.

 

Less than five minutes later, Izuku slammed his laptop closed, blushing furiously. That could not possibly be what Shinsou had meant. Could it? No way. There was no way his friends had been distracted because they were attracted to him. Him! The idea that Uraraka and Todoroki thought he was attractive was laughable. Hadn’t Uraraka even called him plain-looking at one point when they met?

 

You

You’re wrong.

 

Shinsou

Rarely. What are you referring to?

 

You

They aren’t attracted to me. That doesn’t make sense.

 

Shinsou

Okay, so we’re doing this.

 

It does because they are.

 

You

No, Uraraka called me plain-looking and she’s right. I’m not attractive.

 

Not like Todororki.

 

There’s no way someone that good-looking is attracted to me.

 

Shinsou

Huh, guess I was wrong.

 

You

Told you so.

 

Shinsou

No, not about that. 

 

You

Huh?

 

Shinsou

Unimportant. 

 

Look, if you want to go out with Todoroki, you should tell him. 

 

You

That is not what I said!

 

Shinsou

Yes or no, do you find Todoroki attractive?

 

You

Objectively, yes.

 

Shinsou

Ignoring that attraction is literally 100% subjective, next question.

 

Do you like spending time with him?

 

You

Yes 

 

I like spending time with all of my friends.

 

Shinsou

Do you share your weird quirk secrets with all your friends?

 

You

I can’t… also, how did you know I told Todoroki?

 

Shinsou

You tell him everything. 

 

And considering he looked ready to murder me and hide my body in the woods when I told him I knew about your quirk, I’d say there’s probably more going on than you’ve told me. 

 

Stop panic-typing and chill.

 

Whatever else is weird about your quirk or quirks is none of my business. I don’t care. 

 

My point is that you told him. Out of all your other friends, you chose to let Todoroki in on your secret. Why?

 

You

I trust him.

 

Shinsou

But you don’t trust the others?

 

You

I do! I didn’t mean it like that!

 

If I could tell them, I would, but I can’t. It’s… a lot. I can’t tell you the details.

 

Shinsou

And I’m not asking for them. 

 

All I’m trying to say is that you chose Todoroki for a reason. If you trust your other friends too, why was Todoroki the only one you felt like you could tell? 

 

You don’t have to explain it to me, but you should think about it.

 

Izuku wasn’t sure he had a clear answer for himself. Why had he told Todoroki over his other friends? It had felt right, and he certainly didn’t regret it, but he honestly wasn’t sure he could articulate why he’d done it. Now that Shinsou had pointed it out, though, Izuku wasn’t satisfied with not knowing.

 

So, Izuku did what he did best. He analyzed.

 

Their friendship had been extremely new. The connection he had with Todoroki now hadn’t been as deep back then, so Izuku couldn’t say he’d told Todoroki because he was his best friend. At the time, that simply hadn’t been true. Todoroki certainly hadn’t hesitated to spill his deepest secret with Izuku, but that had less to do with their friendship and more to do with Todoroki trying to get Izuku to understand why he had laid down his challenge at the Sports Festival. So was that it? Izuku didn’t think so, at least not directly. He hadn’t traded secrets quid pro quo like he had with Shinsou, but it had fostered an understanding between them. That seemed...relevant. It was definitely part of why he’d told Todoroki about One For All, but that wasn’t the whole reason. 

 

What was it he’d said that day? He’s helping … Izuku’s headache had been bad—skull-splitting agony—and Todoroki’s ice had helped, but by the time Izuku had asked All Might to tell Aizawa and Todoroki about One For All, the pain had mostly abated. Even though he hadn’t needed it for his headache, Todoroki’s touch had still helped him feel better. He remembered the feeling of Todoroki’s fingers carding through his hair clearly; it was still one of his favorite things, and it never failed to calm him down. 

 

That… That had merit. Izuku felt calm around Todoroki. His presence was one Izuku associated with safety. Even when they hadn’t known each other very long, Izuku felt safe around Todoroki because when he had been vulnerable, Todoroki had offered to help. 

 

That stood out, actually. Izuku had shared a weakness and instead of exploiting it or leaving him to sort it out himself, as Izuku was used to, Todoroki had offered his time and energy to help . Izuku had been vulnerable with someone and, for the first time, it hadn't backfired. The realization filled Izuku with a gentle warmth.

 

Or maybe he was blushing.

 

To distract himself from the autonomic responses of his traitorous body, Izuku went back to his phone and shot Shinsou another text.

 

You

I think I know why I told him. 

 

Shinsou

Good. Any other epiphanies or should I keep going with the leading questions?

 

Izuku dropped his phone onto his desk and groaned into his hands. This was not the direction this conversation was supposed to have gone. Though, honestly, Izuku didn’t know what he had expected. Shinsou to admit he’d just been teasing, maybe. Not that Shinsou would do something like that outside of quirk practice. Picking his phone back up, he shot Shinsou another text before his friend could follow through with more questions.

 

You

Give me a second, I’m processing  

 

The idea that his friends found him attractive had thrown him off balance. He would be the first to admit that his friends were attractive people, but that wasn’t an adjective he would normally associate with himself . There was also a big difference between finding someone attractive and wanting to go out with them. Kacchan, for example. Izuku knew his old childhood friend was attractive, but there was no way in all the hells that Izuku would consider dating him. Uraraka didn’t illicit quite as visceral a refusal in his mind, but he also didn’t hesitate in his answer. She was a good friend, but that was all. If she wanted more, he would have to turn her down and hope she was willing to stay friends.

 

Todoroki on the other hand… If the question had come up before the incident at the mall, Izuku would probably have said no. It also would have been a lie. A knee-jerk denial more than anything. The safety he’d felt at Todoroki’s arrival, the comfort at his touch, and the confidence that everything would be okay with Todoroki at his side weren’t new emotions. The incident at the mall had just…amplified them. This conversation with Shinsou forced him to confront them.

 

You

I want to date Todoroki

 

Shinsou

Thank fuck. I was not mentally prepared to lead this particular horse to water today. 

 

Or ever.

 

But here we are. Enjoy your drink you thirsty-ass horse and let me go back to sleep.

 

You

Normally I’d apologize for waking you, but it’s noon?

 

Shinsou

Time is a construct.

 

Izuku shook his head fondly at his friend and let him sleep. Shinsou had insomnia, so breaks from school were probably his only chance to catch up on all the sleep he missed during term. Izuku would text him later to see if he wanted to get together during break to train or hang out, but for now, Izuku needed to have a conversation with his mom.

 

If Izuku was going to entertain the idea of asking out Todoroki and Todoroki actually saying yes —and it was in his head now, no getting around that—then he had to tell his mom. Izuku was nearly 100% positive that she wouldn’t care, but his anxiety wouldn’t let him coast on anything less than that full 100%. 

 

She was in the kitchen making lunch, so Izuku started helping to give himself something else to focus on rather than the conversation ahead of him. 

 

“What’s on your mind, Baby?” his mom asked. She was too perceptive sometimes.

 

“Oh, n-not much. Just wanted your opinion on something I suppose.” Izuku kept his eyes focused on the vegetables on the cutting board. She made an acknowledging hum, but otherwise let him get his thoughts and words together. Taking a deep breath, he reminded himself firmly that he was pretty sure she wouldn’t care, and asked, “If I h-had a crush on someone… Would you care if it was an-another boy?”

 

His mom set the rice she’d been rinsing aside and gently pulled the knife out of Izuku’s hand, setting it next to the rice, before wrapping her arms around Izuku in a bone-crushing hug. Instinctively, he returned the hug, burying his burning face in her shoulder. 

 

“I don’t care one whit,” she declared. “Izuku, Baby, the only thing that matters is that they treat you right, and from what I’ve seen, Todoroki has done a wonderful job so far.”

 

“I didn’t say who it was,” Izuku grumbled. She really was too perceptive.

 

His mom laughed brightly, pulling out of the hug. “I suspected this was coming since the Sports Festival. Saw it on your face when you talked about your fight.” She gave him that same knowing smile she’d given him that night and Izuku’s blush intensified.

 

“I d-didn’t! Not that long!” Izuku sputtered. 

 

His mom picked up the rice and continued preparing lunch. “There was definitely something there, even then, but I’m glad that you gave it time to grow. You’re still so young, Izuku, but that doesn’t mean you have to be reckless with your heart.”

 

“I haven’t acted on it yet,” Izuku admitted, following his mom’s lead and resuming chopping vegetables. It was nerve-wracking to think about; the last thing he wanted to do was hurt his friendship with Todoroki. “I don’t know if he feels the same.”

 

“You’ll never know until you ask,” she mused. “But I think your chances are good.”


Izuku hoped she was right because if there was a chance that what they had could be even better , Izuku wanted to try.

Chapter Text

The two weeks between the end of term and the summer training camp could not end soon enough. A few months of attending UA, free from his father’s presence for most of his day, had spoiled Shouto. Now that he was released from his compulsory absence from the house, Endeavor had reinstated his old training schedule to keep Shouto from “slacking on break.” 

 

Shouto would have happily kept up with training on his own at the pace set by Aizawa and the other pros at UA, not that Endeavor bothered to ask. In fact, he’d been hoping to join Midoriya on at least a few of his daily runs. With the state of his battered body, even if Shouto found the time to steal away, his friend would no doubt notice his injuries, and he didn’t want Midoriya to worry. Shouto knew that the kind-hearted boy would want to help, but there was nothing to be done. 

 

Part of Shouto—the part that sounded an awful lot like Midoriya—whispered he could tell Aizawa what was happening. The man had gone out of his way to help Midoriya, and he did seem to legitimately care about his students. The pragmatic voice in his head reminded him that Endeavor was the number two hero. That status and power would be more than the underground pro could overcome, no matter how much anyone wished otherwise. He would try. Shouto believed that. But he would fail, and then things would only get worse.

 

A week left before he could escape and he’d already had to make excuses four times to avoid hanging out with Midoriya. Shouto would have to do something to make it up to him as soon as he was released from this hell. 

 

Shouto hated it, hated that he knew he hurt Midoriya with every feeble excuse, and it put him in a foul mood. He tried not to take it out on Fuyumi, but he knew he was more tense than he’d been in a while. More like how he’d been before UA. Before Midoriya.

 

He didn’t want this. He liked who he was at UA. He didn’t want to be the ‘ice prince’ again, but shutting down was the only way he knew how to handle all the pent-up anger and resentment from dealing with his father. His mask of indifference was all he had to protect himself and his sister. Without it, he would lash out and it would be everyone but Endeavor who would get hurt. 

 

For all the damage that bastard did, he reaped very little consequence. 

 

But there was something wrong. The mask didn’t fit the way it used to. He was out of practice, or he’d changed too much; it slipped and cracked and the control that Shouto had acquired over the years wasn’t there anymore. Shouto let loose some of that rage during training with Endeavor, but it was never enough to win. The bastard was too strong, too experienced, and all Shouto’s efforts gained him were more bruises and aches and words of pride that made Shouto sick. 

 

More and more, Shouto felt like he was crawling out of his skin. Urged to move while simultaneously weighed down with a bone-deep ache, and the dichotomy was driving him insane. 

 

It was late, near midnight, and his father would be at his door in six hours to drag him out of bed for training. Shouto should have been asleep, but he had a particularly painful array of bruises across his hip and ribs that were making it very nearly impossible. 

 

Gripped by a need for any form of comfort, Shouto reached for his phone before he could reason himself out of it and hit the call button.

 

The phone rang one and a half times only before the line connected, “T’doroki?”

 

“Midoriya.” Shouto hoped the involuntary sharp inhale at hearing his friend's voice would go unnoticed. “I woke you; I’m sorry. Go back to sleep–”

 

“No, no! S’fine I’m up.” There was a shuffling on Midoriya’s end of the line. “What’s up? Are you okay?”

 

“I’m–” Shouto cut his own lie short. With a heavy sigh, he changed track. “No, not really.”

 

“Where are you? Are you hurt?” Midoriya sounded much more awake all of a sudden.

 

“A little. That’s not why I called.”

 

There was a moment of silence from the other line, then, “Tell me what you need.”

 

“I need…” Shouto’s voice broke and he winced but he couldn’t lock his words behind his teeth; the restraint he had grown so used to abandoned him, replaced with a pain and longing so fierce that no wall could hold it back. “I need things to be like they were before. I can’t be like this; it’s too much.”

 

“Like what, Todoroki? Talk to me,” Midoriya implored gently. He was always so gentle…

 

“He hasn’t been this obsessed with my training since starting UA. It’s no worse than he was before high school, but I can’t–” Shouto flinched as the ache in his ribs protested his accelerated breathing. “I can’t manage my anger the way I used to. There’s too much else now.”

 

Somewhere along the way, Shouto had lost those callouses his mind had built to protect him and he just felt raw.

 

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya said, barely more than a whisper. Shouto was ready to tell him not to apologize, but his friend’s voice returned with conviction and he was helpless in the face of that voice. “I should have done something sooner. You’ve kept your promise over and over. Now, it’s my turn.”

 

“There’s nothing–”

 

“Do you trust me?”

 

Shouto rarely heard that tone outside of heroics lessons, but he knew what it meant. Midoriya had a plan. Shouto had thought his own situation over again and again and never found a solution that wouldn’t cause more harm than good, but… Midoriya had a plan. 

 

“Yes.”

 

“Good.” He heard the smile in Midoriya’s voice. “I’ve got you, Todoroki. I promise.”

 

Shouto felt himself relax for the first time all week and he closed his eyes, picturing Midoriya’s shining smile and eyes and let the feeling of safety and comfort suffuse his entire being. It was lulling him into sleep, but Shouto fought the siren song of rest for just long enough to thank Midoriya and wish him goodnight. 

 

The last he heard before sleep claimed him was Midoriya’s soft, “Sweet dreams, Todoroki.”

 

Not a bad way to end his night, honestly.

 


 

Once Todoroki’s breathing evened out into deep sleep, Izuku disconnected the call. Rather than set his phone down, he pulled up his contacts and hesitated. There were really only two people he could go to for something like this. Both came with pros and cons. Tugging on his bottom lip lightly as he thought, he worked through what he needed.

 

At first, he considered calling All Might. It was late, so he might not be awake, but he always left his ringer on, so there was a good chance he’d wake up if Izuku called. He’d be willing, more than likely, and as the number one hero, he had a lot of connections. A lot of power. Going up against the number two, it made sense to bring the number one, but… Endeavor’s grudge against All Might could prove detrimental to accomplishing anything. All Might didn’t really do subtle, either. If he wanted to protect Todoroki, then a direct approach wasn’t the best choice.

 

On the other hand, Mr. Aizawa was a master of subtlety. There was a better chance of success if Mr. Aizawa agreed to help, but therein lay the problem. Izuku didn’t know if he’d be able to convince him without a good reason.

 

Izuku would have to be careful. There was probably no way to phrase his request without raising suspicion, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Izuku wanted people to look closely at Todoroki’s home life; he wanted someone to see what was happening and put a stop to it. The tricky part would be giving enough away to get the help he needed without breaking Todoroki’s trust. 

 

Although, if the decision came down to one or the other, Izuku would choose Todoroki’s safety. It might break him a little to lose Todoroki’s friendship—and with it the possibility of more—but it would shatter him if he lost Todoroki entirely. 

 

To do this right, he’d be asking for a lot of trust. He just hoped he’d done enough to get it.

 

The call connected faster than Izuku had anticipated, but he supposed it made sense considering the time. It was right in the middle of his patrol, after all.

 

“Midoriya?” Mr. Aizawa asked, attentive and concerned.

 

“Mr. Aizawa.” Izuku clenched his right hand tight around the comforter in his lap, willing his heart to settle and his breathing to steady. “I need your help, but…it’s delicate.”

 

“I’m listening, kid. What do you need?”

 

“Ideally, a reason for Endeavor to be very occupied until training camp starts?” Izuku held his breath while he waited for a response. With luck, Mr. Aizawa wouldn’t push for a reason, even though Izuku knew his request was odd enough to warrant it.

 

There was more silence on the line than Izuku had hoped for, but the call was still connected, so maybe Mr. Aizawa was just still considering it. He tried to be patient. 

 

“I am going to assume that you would prefer not to explain why,” Mr. Aizawa said. Izuku was a little surprised that he didn’t sound annoyed. In fact, he almost sounded worried. 

 

“Y-yes, please.”

 

Mr. Aizawa made a grunt of acceptance. “I believe I can help arrange that, but Midoriya… Kid, I trust that your reasons for this are good, which means I’m going to try to find out why. If you can’t tell me, I’ll have to investigate on my own.”

 

Izuku breathed a hopefully inaudible sigh of relief. “I know.”

 

“Alright, I’ll take care of it.”

 

“Thank you, sir.” Izuku wiped the tears that had started to gather at his eyes and dropped gratefully back down onto the mattress.

 

“Get to sleep, Midoriya.”

 

The line disconnected before Izuku could say good night, but that was okay. Mr. Aizawa took Izuku’s request and hadn’t pressed him for answers, hadn’t forced Izuku to reveal more than he was comfortable with. He’d just trusted Izuku had a good reason and agreed to help.

Izuku probably wouldn’t make a habit of asking, but it was nice to know that he had the option.

 


 

It had been a quiet patrol. 

 

That should have been the first indication that something was going to go wrong, really. It was the start of summer and crime rates usually jumped with the heat. Shouta had been enjoying a relatively calm night until his phone rang. 

 

Midoriya’s name was not what he’d expected to see, and Shouta would admit his heart had damn near stopped—images of his student broken and bloody on death’s door flashing in his head as he accepted the call. Considering the boy’s history, Shouta had thought that would be the only thing that would drive Midoriya to reach out to him. 

 

As relieved as he’d been that Midoriya wasn’t hurt or in danger, Shouta wasn’t sure this situation was all that much better. 

 

Midoriya hadn’t offered any reason for his request, and Shouta had been correct to assume that he would prefer not to go into detail. If it had been any other student, he might have pressed regardless of their discomfort. Midoriya wasn’t one to ask for help without dire cause, though, and Shouta didn’t want to discourage the tentative trust Midoriya was offering by asking. 

 

It reminded Shouta of Todoroki’s final all over again, and gods, he really hoped it wasn’t what it sounded like. 

 

If the situation was even close to what Shouta suspected it was, he was going to have to have a talk with the both of them about the importance of peoples’ health and safety over keeping secrets.

 

Shouta found a secluded corner of a rooftop and got started on Midoriya’s request. His first step was to notify his agency that something had come up during his patrol that necessitated cutting his route short. It was a courtesy more than anything since Shouta dictated his own schedule, but if they had a less well-established hero on call, they could put them in the area to pick up the slack. Once that was done, he shot Hizashi a text letting him know the situation. His husband already had a lot on his plate with the investigation into Aldera, but Shouta would need to enlist his assistance with an investigation into the number two hero as well. The reply came almost immediately, but Shouta left it unread for the moment—he had a phone call to make.

 

“Aizawa! Something grave indeed must have occurred for you to be calling me during your patrol. How may I be of assistance?” 

 

“How quickly can you arrange to have Endeavor on a mission taking him away from the district for the next week?”

 

The principal of UA was a mammal of wide-reaching influence. If anyone were capable of getting the number two hero away from the house without raising suspicion, it would be him. Shouta had complete faith in Nedzu’s abilities, and no doubt he would be willing to help.

 

Not for free, though.

 

Nedzu hadn’t acquired his extensive network of knowledge, favors, and leverage by giving away his services for free. Because it was Shouta asking, and because it was for a student, the price would likely be something that Shouta wouldn’t mind too much, but it was a big ask. 

 

“Hmm…” The principal hummed pensively as he ran the calculations, but he didn’t take long to come up with an answer. “I believe there’s a situation developing in Fukushima that would fit your criteria. Endeavor should be receiving the call to report for duty within the hour.”

 

Fukushima was several districts north, too far to travel back and forth every day even by bullet train, but close enough that it wasn’t unreasonable for them to request help from Endeavor. It was perfect. 

 

“Thank you,” Shouta said. 

 

“The safety of our students is paramount, Aizawa. If you believe there’s cause for concern, I trust your judgment and will do everything in my power to ensure necessary steps are taken to protect them. That being said, acquiring favors from those inside the Hero Commission is costly, and while I am happy to call in those favors for a situation such as this, it does leave me at a deficit.”

 

Shouta had been worried it would involve manipulating the Commission; Nedzu’s influence within the HPSC was limited and he utilized those resources sparingly. “I owe you one.” 

 

“Speaking plainly, yes. I will collect, but it isn’t something you need to worry about for the moment,” Nedzu assured. “I’m sure you’re eager to begin what will be a tiring investigation, but do try to get some sleep. Nothing more can be done tonight.”

 

Shouta exhaled out slowly as the line disconnected. He couldn’t focus on what this would cost him, and ultimately, it didn’t matter. Endeavor would be gone by morning, and Todoroki would be free of his father until at least after the summer training camp. That was the important thing.

 

Glancing at the text from Hizashi, Shouta snorted softly. 

 

Hizashi

Sleep is for the weak anyway.

 

Shouta shot him a quick message to let him know he was on his way home before slipping the phone back in his pocket. There would likely be a lot of sleepless nights ahead of them if they wanted to gather enough evidence to launch a formal inquiry before the end of camp, particularly for his husband since Shouta would be occupied.

 

He definitely owed Hizashi something nice after this. 

 


 

Shouto woke slowly. 

 

It took his sleep-addled mind a moment to process why the warm light shining annoyingly in his eyes was significant, but once it did, he bolted upright with a start. It was well after dawn, but his father hadn’t woken Shouto for training. Fumbling for his phone, Shouto was more confused when it wasn’t on his bedside table as it should have been. Flinging his blankets off, there was a clatter as something was sent flying across the room.

 

His phone.

 

It had been next to him; Shouto remembered then. He'd fallen asleep shortly after talking with Midoriya. Pulling himself to his feet, he fetched the phone and inspected it for damage—none, thankfully—before checking the time.

 

9:32am

 

Not that Shouto wasn’t grateful for the additional sleep, but he was still confused. Hastily throwing a tank top on, Shouto dropped his phone into his pajama’s pocket and ventured out of his room cautiously. 

 

Keeping his steps as silent as possible, Shouto listened intently at his father’s study door. Nothing. The gym was similarly empty as well. Shouto’s confusion was slowly starting to give way to hope. Had his father been called away? Making his way toward the dining room, Shouto wondered if his father’s absence was somehow Midoriya’s doing. It seemed far-fetched, but at the same time, the timing couldn’t be a coincidence. 

 

“Fuyu-nee, was fath–” Shouto cut himself off as he took in the scene at the dining room table. 

 

The table had been set for four , as it almost never was. Only three place settings had been used, but there were still a few serving dishes with more food left for a fourth person to eat. Three sets of eyes turned to him as he’d spoken and Shouto was sure he was dreaming, because there was no way Midoriya and Mrs. Midoriya were sitting at Shouto’s dining room table sharing a pot of tea with Fuyumi.

 

“Good morning, Shouto,” Fuyumi smiled gently.

 

“Todoroki!” Midoriya beamed from his seat at the table and waved cheerfully. “Good morning!”

 

“Midoriya.” Shouto struggled to form words over his surprise, but that one came easily, always, like breathing. “I don’t– What are you doing here?”

 

“We’re kidnapping you,” Midoriya proclaimed proudly. 

 

Lost, Shouto briefly looked to the other two occupants, but neither Mrs. Midoriya nor Fuyumi seemed the least bit concerned.

 

Fuyumi, thankfully, took pity on him and elaborated, “Father was called away on hero business quite early this morning; he said it would probably be a week or so before he returned. I decided to let you sleep in a little since you’d been working so hard recently.”

 

That was certainly one way to put it. 

 

Obviously, Fuyumi wouldn’t air out their family’s dirty secrets with guests present, but she’d answered his initial question at least. Endeavor had probably woken her up to let her know he was leaving and when to expect him back, and Fuyumi had chosen not to keep Shouto on the insane training schedule his father had been putting him through since term had ended.

 

“When Midoriya and his mother arrived, they asked if it would be possible for you to stay with them until you and Midoriya left for camp,” Fuyumi continued. “It’s up to you, but it sounds like a wonderful idea to me.”

 

Looking back to Midoriya, Shouto asked, “How did you–”

 

“There was a Hero News Network alert this morning that Endeavor had been spotted in Fukushima,” Midoriya supplied. “I asked Mom if it would be okay to invite you to stay, and she agreed so we headed over. I wanted to surprise you.”

 

That was not what Shouto had been going to ask, but he saw the slightly forced cheer around Midoriya’s smile. Some of it was genuine, of course, the smile still reached his enormous green eyes, but he was exaggerating some. Shouto guessed Midoriya was involved in getting Endeavor to Fukushima and the other boy hadn’t told his mother or Fuyumi.

 

“I’m surprised,” Shouto confirmed stiltedly, giving Midoriya a small nod. He’d get the truth from him eventually when they were alone. “I’ll go grab my stuff.”

 

“No rush, Todoroki dear,” Mrs. Midoriya said. “Come, eat while it’s still hot. Your sister is a wonderful cook.”

 

Shaking the lingering confusion regarding the morning’s unexpected turn of events, Shouto sat next to Midoriya and filled his plate with breakfast. Fuyumi and Mrs. Midoriya returned to their conversation, leaving Shouto and Midoriya to converse with each other while Shouto ate.

 

Midoriya kept up a pleasant stream of chatter regarding his break so far and what the others in their friend group had been doing as well. As Shouto listened he felt himself relax more and more, basking in the peace and comfort of his best friend’s presence. He was still sore, the bruises along his ribs and hip in particular, but the pain was manageable and would fade with time and a little care—both of which he now had at his disposal.

 

Once Shouto finished breakfast, he and Midoriya excused themselves to gather Shouto’s things from his room. The task didn’t require both of them, but Shouto wanted to talk to Midoriya without Fuyumi or Mrs. Midoriya overhearing. 

 

“How did you do it?” Shouto asked as soon as his door was closed. 

 

Midoriya shrugged and let out a nervous little laugh, “I honestly don’t know the specifics. I called Mr. Aizawa after you fell asleep and asked for his help. I didn’t tell him anything! I swear! I just– I asked if he could find something for Endeavor to do for the next week.”

 

Shouto tamped down the immediate jolt of hurt he felt. Midoriya hadn’t betrayed his trust any more than Shouto had betrayed his during the final after all. He’d led Aizawa to the right answer without giving away the details, and from the sound of it, Midoriya had done the same.

 

“Thank you.” 

 

Shouto sank onto his futon. Despite the respite he’d been given, he felt despondent. Midoriya sat next to him, eyes full of care and concern, silently encouraging him to speak his mind. “Once camp is done, Endeavor will be back and it’ll be the same as it was.”

 

“It doesn’t have to be.” Midoriya offered his hand and Shouto took it automatically, seeking the comfort of Midoriya’s warmth. “I didn’t tell Mr. Aizawa anything, but you could. He’d help.”

 

“Against the number two hero? You trust him that much?”

 

Midoriya considered briefly, but nodded with a small amused smile, “Yeah, I do.”

 

Shouto had considered telling Aizawa the truth but had decided against it because he hadn’t believed the man would be able to do anything. “I know he would try, but do you think he’d succeed?”

 

“If last night is any indication? I think he would, yeah,” Midoriya said. 

 

It was impressive that Aizawa had managed to get Endeavor out of the house in only a few hours. Even better, he’d managed it in a way that likely wouldn’t raise his father’s suspicion, and Shouto wouldn’t face any reprisal for a sudden business trip. Maybe Shouto had been too quick to write the underground hero’s abilities off as ineffective.

 

Certainty was impossible, of course, but if Midoriya believed in Aizawa’s ability to help, then so would Shouto. “Okay. I trust you, Midoriya.”

 

“That’s a relief. I was worried you’d be upset that I asked Mr. Aizawa for help. I didn’t give him any details, but I know I made him suspicious.”

 

“Then we’re even,” Shouto confessed. At Midoriya’s inquiring look, he explained, “During my final, I told Aizawa that he’d misjudged your relationship with Bakugou. No details, but I strongly suggested he reconsider your match-up.”

 

Midoriya’s eyes shone with unshed tears and his breathing hitched slightly. “You did?”

 

Shouto nodded, clutching Midoriya’s hand tighter. “I should have told you sooner. I’m sorry if I broke your trust, but I’m not sorry for getting Aizawa to look closer at what was going on.”

 

“Right back at you, then,” Midoriya chuckled, wiping away a few tears that escaped. “I suppose we really are even.”

 

Relief slammed into Shouto. He hadn’t realized how worried he was that Midoriya might not forgive him for what he’d done during the final until that moment. But with his confession and absolution, Shouto simply smiled. 

 

Less than an hour in Midoriya’s presence and Shouto already felt more like himself again. 

 

Midoriya jumped to his feet, beaming, easily pulling Shouto up with him. “I really think this will work out for the best, Todoroki, and we get a whole week together to enjoy summer break before camp.”

 

“I’ve never had a sleepover before,” Shouto admitted. 

 

“I haven’t had one since Kacchan and I were still friends, so…” Midoriya shrugged. “We’ll learn as we go!”

 

Shouto was already packed for camp, but he put another bag together quickly for the week he’d be with Midoriya. Once that was done, Midoriya threw Shouto’s camp bag over his shoulder as Shouto changed out of his pajamas. He tried to be as quick as possible, but he felt Midoriya’s eyes on his injuries as he changed. 

 

“They’ll heal,” Shouto murmured. “I can use my quirk to help when it’s just bruising like this.”

 

“Mr. Aizawa might need– That is… If you’re willing, you should document it before it fades. To help the investigation.” 

 

Shouto hadn’t thought about it, but he supposed it would be considered evidence. Reluctantly, he nodded and held off putting a shirt on until Midoriya had snapped a few pictures. He trusted his friend to know what was needed and fought down his discomfort. He felt exposed, and every soft shutter noise made him flinch. As soon as Midoriya told him he was done, Shouto threw his shirt on.

 

“I’m sorry,” Midoriya said quietly. 

 

Shouto took a deep breath and shook his head. “It’s not your fault.”

 

Midoriya took a slow step forward and offered his hand once more. He left it there, a comfortable distance away, not encroaching further than necessary to let Shouto know he was there if Shouto wanted to close that gap. He didn’t think too hard about accepting, placing his hand in Midoriya’s gratefully. 

 

“Ready to get out of here?”

 

“Absolutely.” Shouto grabbed his second bag, and then the two of them made their way back to the dining room. 

 

Mrs. Midoriya and Fuyumi didn’t mention how long it took the two of them to throw a single bag together, or that they were still holding hands, for which Shouto was grateful. The four of them made their way to the front door, slipping on their shoes as they all said their goodbyes to Fuyumi. 

 

Before he could leave, his sister pulled him into a hug which Shouto returned, letting go of Midoriya’s hand to embrace his sister. “Text or call occasionally and let me know how you’re doing, okay?”

 

“We can’t take our phones to the training camp, but this week I will,” he promised. 

 

“Have fun, Shouto.”

 

With one last wave goodbye, Shouto followed Midoriya and his mother out the door and to the car parked by the gate. After putting both bags in the trunk, Shouto climbed into the back seat, closely followed by Midoriya, and they watched out the window in silence as the car pulled away. When he could at last no longer see the house, Shouto closed his eyes and relaxed.