CHAPTER TWENTY: THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING
IZUKU spent the hours he was supposed to be asleep wide awake. He stared at the ceiling of the hospital, trapped in a vicious cycle of thoughts and emotions because he couldn’t claw his way out of them. He couldn’t turn his mind off now that the doubts had surfaced to his conscience. The floodgates had opened and the water kept pouring in.
Because he didn’t think he could ignore this. He’d turned a blind eye to a lot of things, but even Stain considered Tsubasa to be an abomination of nature. A fellow villain. And he had killed Tsubasa to save Izuku, who he apparently thought was the epitome of a true hero.
Throwing an arm across his eyes, Izuku groaned. His head was pounding, the back of his throat was getting sore, and it was two in the morning but his mind wouldn’t stop and let him rest, even if it was for ten minutes.
So. He was royally fucked in multiple ways because he had nowhere to run. If he told his parents he was questioning the motives behind the Family Business, he didn’t know what they would do to him. If he told the heroes, they would arrest him and probably torture him for information on his family. And he couldn’t betray them.
He wasn’t a traitor.
Except, now that he thought about it, wasn’t he a traitor? After all, he had been telling his parents about the heroes’ plans…
He hadn’t considered himself a traitor because he always thought the ideal his parents stood for had been correct. They were doing good. They were going to rebuild society so that way it would be fair for everyone; so that the crooks disguised as heroes would go punished and the ones who were rejected by society could be celebrated.
The thing was, he didn’t completely disagree with his parents. Endeavor needed to be punished. The entrance exam was made for kids who had combative quirks. And what about the politicians and businessmen and engineers who profited off heroism and therefore created laws to encourage disadvantaged people to be villains?
Some heroes simply shouldn’t be heroes. They belonged behind bars, punished for their crimes and for manipulating the system. For hurting other defenseless people. Some heroes, like Endeavor, were cruel and unheroic, simply put.
So. He didn’t disagree with the principle of the thing.
Would Endeavor create monsters out of little boys? Was All Might an egomaniac for deliberately putting himself on a pedestal? What about Eraserhead? Was he cruel for expelling those students or was it a kindness to protect them from an unforgiving field?
He was stuck. Because he agreed with the principle, but the methods…
He didn’t think he could stomach the lengths his parents and Tomura-nii went to anymore. Not if it hurt people who didn’t deserve to be harmed.
He couldn’t turn against them either.
“Midoriya.” Todoroki said abruptly, cutting into the silence of the night. The clock read 04:23. Izuku kept silent, hoping that Todoroki would think that he was asleep like any sane person. “I know you’re awake. Your breathing is too regular and you’ve been tossing and turning all night long.”
“Have you been watching me sleep? That’s a little strange, Todoroki-kun.” Izuku spoke into the gloom, hoping to tease a response out of Todoroki. Perhaps distract him. But Todoroki didn’t say anything, so he shifted so that he was on his side, facing his friend. “What is it?”
“You need to watch your step,” he said eventually. “The police force might think you’re a spy for villains since you recognized that noumu. Everyone heard you call him Tsubasa.”
Izuku’s blood froze. He hadn’t even realized he’d shouted Tsubasa’s name… he thought it had all been in his head. He hadn’t muttered.
“I, I..” he stuttered, his mind unhelpfully blank. “I’m not—”
“Izuku.” Todoroki’s use of his given name silenced him. The only person who called him Izuku was his father, sometimes his mother. Not even Kacchan used his name, instead, he always called him Deku. It was weird. “I don’t care if you had a shady past. You saved me, and you’re my friend. Actions always speak louder than words, and your actions are heroic. Not villainous.”
Izuku couldn’t remember the last time he cried – maybe as a very small child – but he felt like he was on the edge of a complete meltdown. From the stress and guilt, because he was a villain. His parents and brother was a villain; he’d been raised to be a villain.
He had thought it had been an honor or a mark of those who were misunderstood. Now…
“You’re not going to say anything to anyone?” he asked, feeling very small. He didn’t want the heroes to come after his family. But he didn’t want Todoroki to get hurt because of his slip-up either. He didn’t know what father would do to him if he found out that Todoroki knew something.
“I don’t care where you came from, Midoriya. I wouldn’t be a very good friend if I judged you without all the facts of your situation.”
A couple of tears slipped through his resistance and he curled up around his pillow. He didn’t know why Todoroki wasn’t more curious, or even why he cared… his father had warned him to never let a hint of his true allegiance show, otherwise he would be persecuted. Otherwise, the objective of the Family Business would fail.
“Please don’t say anything to anyone. I don’t want you to get hurt.” Perhaps he was tipping his hand too much and revealing too much, but he couldn’t in good conscience not warn Todoroki. Not when Todoroki had given the same courtesy to him.
He already felt sick with guilt about Tsubasa. His actions. His thoughts and the fact that he was contemplating how to get out. He didn’t want to add Todoroki to the list.
“… I won’t.”
Izuku could hear the worry in Todoroki’s voice, but he didn’t want to say anything else. He’d said too much already; two months ago, he would have been scrambling to find a way to silence Todoroki permanently through blackmail or by telling his father. Now…
He didn’t know why he wasn’t panicked that his identity had been compromised potentially, why he wasn’t trying to smooth it over or blackmail him, because he knew how to do that. He’d done it without thinking about it before.
Maybe it was because Todoroki had become his friend.
“Izuku, darling, would you pull the soy sauce out of the pantry for me?” his mom requested, pulling several utensils toward her as she watched the sizzling pot with a mild frown. She twitched her finger and the refrigerator door opened, and a bottle of sprite floated toward the table.
“Sure.” Izuku stood up, stretching far enough out that the aches that had settled in his lower back from hunching over his homework popped. He walked over to the pantry and pulled the soy sauce out of it.
He stared at his hands. There were scars and callouses on them now, evidence of the effort it had taken for him to learn how to control One for All. He still had miles to go to completely master how his quirk worked.
All Might had given his quirk to him, because he had seen some unique quality in him that told him “I’m here, pick me, I’m meant to be a hero.” Stain had spared him because he considered him to be one of the few who were going to be a genuine hero. Todoroki thought he was a good person, even though he knew he had a connection with the noumu.
Yet here he was, passing information to his parents about their plans. Frozen in fear about what his parents would do to him if they discovered that his loyalties were beginning to shift. He was unable to turn a blind eye and dismiss everything his parents did as necessary, but he couldn’t completely disagree with them.
He wanted to talk to his mom, but he didn’t know how she would react. Before, he wouldn’t have hesitated because she was his mom. He and mom connected easily, while Tomura-nii and father were two peas in a pod. That was the way it had always been. Tomura-nii never got along with mom, and Izuku had always been a little scared of father.
He didn’t want to see her cry, but he also didn’t want to see her hurt one of his friends. Because he knew she would do anything to protect him, even if she thought she had to protect him from the bad influences of the people he knew.
“Izu?” Mom called out, and Izuku fixed a grin on his face.
“Here! How else can I help?” He slipped into the corner next to the stove and saw the vegetables laid out on the cutting board. “I’ll cut these for you.”
“Thank you, dear.”
No. He couldn’t ask his mother for her opinion.
She wouldn’t realize that she had to protect him from himself.
“Are you all right? You’re awfully quiet.”
“I’m fine, mom,” Izuku said. His mom frowned and looked at him, probably taking in the dark circles underneath his eyes and the pallor to his skin. He hadn’t had much of an appetite; everything tasted like cardboard or he felt like it would just come back out.
“You’ve been acting strange since you got back from your internship. You know we never would have allowed you to get hurt? Tsubasa was supposed to save you, but we didn’t account for Stain’s unpredictability.”
“I know.” Izuku didn’t know what else to say. “I’m just stressed about my homework.”
“If you insist, then I’ll believe you. Just know that you’ll always be safe. You’re my utmost priority.”
That was the problem. Izuku knew he wouldn’t always be safe; one day, he was going to slip up and the fallout of his wandering loyalties would be revealed.
Forget asking Tomura-nii what he thought about all of this. Nii-san would tattle on him to father immediately since he was always so angry with Izuku all the time. Besides, Tomura-nii hated heroes. His opinion would be biased and therefore it wouldn’t be reliable to test his hypothesis.
He might have asked Kacchan what he thought about his family and their objectives, but Kacchan didn’t know his family was villains. He never met his father, and he only knew his mom as Auntie. Also, he didn’t get along well with Tomura-nii.
He didn’t know if he could talk to Kacchan with the way things were between them now anyway. He didn’t know if Kacchan would listen to him, or if he would just jump to conclusions and start shouting.
God. He hated this.
Izuku’s dilemma could be boiled down into simple bullet points if he truly cared about it.
- He didn’t agree with the methods his parents used.
- He didn’t agree with the profession of heroism.
- If he said anything, his cover would be blown.
He couldn’t talk to his parents about his doubts about executing the Family Business’ objectives without any type of accountability. There had to be a line drawn in the sand that they mustn’t cross, otherwise, that would mean they were the ones who were harbingers of chaos and destruction. But the thing was… they had all crossed that line several times, and he didn’t think they were sorry for it.
Izuku had crossed that line when he had ignored Tsubasa’s pain. He didn’t think he deserved to be saved, but the other people who would be hurt in this conflict—they didn’t deserve the same suffering that Tsubasa had gone through.
If he said anything, he would betray his family’s ideals. If he did anything, he would betray the trust All Might, Eraserhead, Kacchan, and everyone else had placed in him. Any direction he turned, he would betray someone.
He was trapped. Whatever move he took, he would betray someone.
Toshinori-san had given his quirk to him with the expectation that he would do good. If he did nothing, he would betray the first person who had faith he could do something with his life even though he was quirkless.
He lied to Toshinori-san about his true identity and he… he didn’t know he could face All Might’s fury and disappointment if he found out why he had sought him out. If he found out that Izuku had tricked him into giving him his quirk. If he found out Izuku’s father was the person who had given him that hole in his stomach.
Father would recover from his injuries over time, but Toshinori-san wouldn’t.
He’d betrayed the trust everyone held in him—Toshinori-san, father, Kacchan, mother… Iida, Uraraka, Todoroki. Because he didn’t think he could stand aside and watch his father turn people into monsters because their quirks were well-suited, especially when he knew they were in agony. He’d been the one to devise a way to twist the quirks to minimize their pain, but he had seen the way Tsubasa had whimpered and cried underneath his bed.
He was trapped between a rock and a hard place—and he couldn’t find a way to free himself.